Standing Out

All these people were still living by faith when they died…admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. (Hebrews 11:13, NIV)

Do you ever feel like a foreigner and stranger on earth? In America — and many other countries — only a minority of people today:

  • Attend church service at least once monthly.
  • Pray at least once daily.
  • Read the Bible at least once weekly.
  • Believe the Bible is God’s Word that should be taken literally.
  • Look primarily to the Bible to decide right and wrong.
  • Talk about their spiritual beliefs.

While living for God brings us far more life, it may also leave us feeling like an outsider. Bible-based perspectives are not welcome in many conversations. Asking questions that reveal a Biblical worldview can lead to rejection or ridicule. Sharing a Bible-derived moral stance can get us cancelled. As we examine the Scriptures, we find this explanation for many of those experiences:

But the person who is not a Christian does not understand these words from the Holy Spirit. He thinks they are foolish. He cannot understand them because he does not have the Holy Spirit to help him understand. (I Corinthians 2:14, NLV)

In order to understand God’s ways you must be connected to God. Most people who do not have a relationship with Him will not value His perspectives and instructions. So when we base our decisions, morals, and values on the Bible, we stand out from many around us.

Jesus stood out in His culture, too. He said, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44) to people whose country was occupied by a foreign ruler. He said wrong thoughts are as sinful as wrong actions (Mark 7:20-23) to people who had over 600 rules governing their behavior. He built relationships with people who were unpopular and scorned (Mark 2:16-17). His focus was on fulfilling God’s plan for Him, not fitting in.

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. (John 6:38, NIV)

Jesus knew His message would resonate with some and offend others (John 6:60-69), so he was not swayed by people’s reactions to the content. He continued to share the truth with those whom God drew, but did not try to convince those who were not interested in His message (Matthew 10:14). He told His disciples to expect rejection and persecution — even from their own families.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. (Matthew 10:16-17, NIV)

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:21-22 and Mark 13:11-13, NIV)

Many people — including religious people — rejected Jesus during His lifetime. Today many people believe Jesus was a good teacher, a wise man, maybe even a prophet, but they do not believe He was God in the flesh. But Jesus’ own words left no question about His identity:

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (John 4:25-26, NIV)

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me…I and the Father are one.” (John 10:24-25, 30, NIV)

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)

We are called to represent Christ to those around us. So how do we live out far more life in a culture that is hostile toward God and the authority of His Word?

Far more life allows us to demonstrate God’s character, love, and power. When we are put under pressure of criticism, rejection, or persecution, people expect us to respond with hate, anger, revenge, or condemnation. But through God’s Spirit we are able to respond with truth, love, and forgiveness. We stand out as we represent Christ with integrity.

Far more life speaks the truth in love to those who are open to hearing it. We know that many of the problems our society faces are actually spiritual problems. We also know that only God offers the peace, joy, purpose, and fulfillment people are seeking. We stand out by speaking the truth in love, whether it is accepted or rejected.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (I Peter 3:15, NIV)

Far more life remembers who the enemy is…and is not. We may feel attacked or be accused of attacking others. We stand out when we remember the spiritual forces at work around us and focus on glorifying God:

We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. (Ephesians 6:12, CEV)

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4, NIV)

Far more life either attracts or repels people. As we live authentically for Christ, people will notice and respond. Praise God for those who find far more life!

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.  (2 Corinthians 2:15-16, NIV)

Sisters,
How do you stand out for your faith?
Where are you afraid to stand out?
Ask God for courage and wisdom to fully embrace far more life and stand out for Him.
-Shari

Let Your Light Shine

A friend’s picture of this light fixture caught my attention. The design reminds me of our lives: we are the socket, our relationships are the encircling rings, and God’s Spirit living inside us is the light. Before the Spirit indwells us we are dark, but He causes us to shine. No matter how many rings we have around us, the light can always reach them.

Physical light serves many purposes, including illuminating our surroundings and protecting us from harm by revealing danger. In the Bible, light is used as a spiritual metaphor. Spiritual light depicts salvation from our sins (Acts 26:18). Walking in the light means doing the right thing or following God’s instructions (Ephesians 5:8-9). The Bible is referred to as a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). Jesus calls Himself the Light of the world (John 8:12). Jesus also tells His followers:

You are light for the world. A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand. Then its light shines on everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, GW)

Far more life embraces the call to be light for the world. We are instructed to let our light — the aspects of our character that are like Jesus — shine for all to see. We should not hide our goodness, forgiveness, kindness, love, joy, peace, patience, and other Christ-like characteristics. He wants us to stand out and be noticed, just like a city on a hill. This brings Him glory and brings us far more life.

A Bible verse I read this week challenges us to let our light shine. I appreciate the directness of this translation:

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.  (Romans 12:9, NLT)

Shining our light is not just doing the right thing, it is having the right mindset and attitude. It is genuinely loving others, including those who are different from us or hard to love. It starts with seeing their God-given value and continues by putting concern for their well-being into action. This love can take many forms: volunteering for an agency or event that benefits others; giving money to a person or organization in need; giving hands-on help to someone; speaking up on someone’s behalf or in their defense when they are victimized, overlooked, or oppressed; listening to someone who others overlook; praying with and for someone in a hard place; and more. Far more life loves others with our attitudes and actions.

Shining our light also joins God in hating what is wrong while attaching ourselves to what is good. Satan wants us to get stuck on one side or the other and forget that God wants us to do both. We can get stuck hating the darkness and forget that doing good brings light to the situation. We may be tempted to voice our hate for sin, but not actively support the righteous alternative. We may be quick to point out the darkness in others’ lives, but fail to share God’s light so they can find a way out. We might hate people or blame a whole group for the evil of a few people rather than seeing the situation or people’s hearts as God does. We may seek revenge rather than truth, justice, and forgiveness.

We can also get stuck ignoring the darkness and selfishly basking in God’s light. We may be tempted to deny or minimize the depravity of sin and instead focus on puffing up our Bible knowledge. We may shy away from hard situations and respond with Bible verses that only address the surface. We may refuse to get involved in fighting evil, always insisting others are more equipped or prepared. Far more life seeks to hate wrong while holding tightly to the good that overcomes it.

A few verses later, Paul shares another practical — and challenging — idea that restates one of Jesus’ commands:

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. (Romans 12:14, NLT)

…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44, NASB)

This command is the opposite of our human response, so it must be the brightest light we can shine on injustice! God is glorified when we bless, love, and pray for those who hate us or intentionally harm us. Our enemies can be anyone who opposes the light shining out of us. We bless them by praying for them to experience God’s love and be drawn to His light. There may be practical ways we can show them love, too, but prayer is our most available and powerful option for obeying God in this. Far more life trusts God to use His light for good, even when it shines on our enemies.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:5, NLTSE)

John wrote this about Jesus coming to earth, but the same truth applies to the light shining from us. Our light — God’s presence in our hearts — is secure. No evil, sin, enemy, persecutor, storm or trial or difficulty can extinguish His light in us. Thank you, God, that Your light overcomes any darkness we face and reveals far more life to those around us.

Sisters,
How has God’s light changed your life?
In what situations are you tempted to hide His light?
Is there a person or group that you only pretend to love? What do you need to overcome to really love them?
How do you practically hate wrong while holding tightly to what is good?
Walk confidently in far more life this week as you remember that God’s light in you is secure and eternal!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Shonda Millender