Exodus 4:11-12 – The Lord said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
Luke 12:11-12 – “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say,  for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
In Exodus 4, God called Moses to be his mouthpiece. Moses would represent God to both the Egyptians as well as the Israelites. Moses would speak on God’s behalf and utter the very message God told him to pass on. Some believe that, when Moses first declined God's offer, he was practicing false humility, common in his day. Others believe he wasn't very eloquent and was simply scared. Who knows? Whatever the reason, it seems plausible he may have been a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of speaking to Pharaoh. Who wouldn’t?
I’ve been there. Such fear comes from relying too much upon myself and not enough on God. God says as much with these words,
“Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (verse 11)
God’s the sovereign One in the equation, not me. Our Lord made a similar point in Luke 12 when he told his disciples they would be persecuted for following him. How would they respond when they were caught and tried by the authorities? How would they reply to the charges? Just think of the pressure and stress. Would fear overcome them? Or would they find the right words at the right moment?
Jesus told them not to worry about such things. He said,
“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, (verse 11)
Our Default Excuse
The number of people who have told me they do not share their faith because they are “afraid they won’t know what to say” is higher than I can count. How often have we remained silent when we could and should have lovingly confronted a friend or family member for a particular sin in their lives? How many times have we avoided offering counsel to someone making a major life-decision because the pressure was simply too great? We’re afraid we’ll get tongue-tied for Jesus.
Those, and other examples, are often the result of leaning too heavily upon our own abilities (or fearing our inabilities) rather than trusting God and his Spirit to speak through us. But notice the reasons both
God the Father in Exodus and Jesus in Luke’s Gospel give for placing our trust in God:
Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (verse12)
for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (verse 12)
Trust God and Speak
You see, God never requires anything from us for which he does not also equip us. God wants us to witness to unbelievers as well as to minister to fellow believers. We are his hands and feet. More than that, we are his voice. We are not called to share our own opinions, however, but his words and counsel. Of course, as a seminary professor once reminded me, God seldom fills empty heads. If we aren’t listening to God through prayer and the study of his Word, then it is indeed doubtful we will have much to offer anyone.
And yet, as we dig into his Word and meditate upon what he has revealed to us, we will hear not only what he is saying to us, but also what he wants us to share with others. And that’s more than worth our effort.
Have you ever frozen in fear of what to say to someone who asked you why you are a Christian? Or have you not known how to counsel a friend who asked you for advice concerning a tough life-situation? Did either of those experiences make you more or less likely to “speak for God” when future opportunities presented themselves? Do you think you were leaning too heavily upon yourself? Your abilities? What are three things you can start doing today to prepare yourself to communicate God’s truth to another person when the next opportunity presents itself?
Grace and Truth,
2 Corinthians 2:15-16 - For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?
Here’s An Odd Question
How do you smell today? That’s a strange thing to ask someone. There are times when I smell rather pleasant, if I say so myself, like when I’m out on a date with my wife, Suzanne. There are other times when I’m quite sure I have smelled pretty awful to anyone within a country-mile of me, like after working in the yard all day or after a long walk on a hot and humid Florida day.
But there is another smell that every true follower of Jesus Christ has. It is the aroma of Christ himself. Indeed, we are dressed in his garments and they give off his glorious fragrance. But sadly, this aroma doesn't smell the same to everyone.
The Fragrance of Life
To those who “have put on” Christ, as well as those who are making their way to him to be fitted with his robe of righteousness, we are the “fragrance of life.” Only in Christ is there life – real life – for he is the author and sustainer of life and it is he who makes all things new. Those who have eyes to see, ears to hear, and noses to smell know the difference between life and death, and they want life.
However, in the nostrils of others there is a rotten, filthy stench about us. To those who are perishing in their own pride, wisdom, and efforts, we smell like death, for our very odor bears testimony to the One whom they have rejected, the One from whom they have fled.
The fragrance of Christ smells repugnant to them. They have grown accustomed to the foul smell of sulfur that arises from beneath the very ground upon which they are standing. Paradoxically, life smells like death to them, and vice versa.
Love for Our Neighbors
We could sit in judgment of them, looking down our “noses” at them. Or, we could have compassion on them for their self-inflicted predicament. We should, of course, remember how terrible Christ once smelled to us, even if we didn’t know it and never would have said so.
I think the beauty of our own scent ought to bring forth humility, gratitude, and service on our part, for our scent is not our own, but Christ’s. Once we remember this we will know there is no time for judgmental hearts or mere pity. Instead, love for our neighbors should move us to awaken those who are running from (or simply oblivious to) the sweet smell of real life – life in Christ and his beautiful fragrance.
Do you remember what you were like when you embraced the world’s “scent” and despised the fragrance of Christ and his followers? Humanly speaking, what first drew you to Christ? Who do you know today that rejects Christ? What are three things you can start doing to reach out to them so they too can enjoy the real life found only in him?
Grace and Truth,
1 John 4:1-6 - Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,  but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.  They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.  We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
But It Tastes So Good
We in the church are often a gullible people who far too easily believe someone because they give a heartfelt and moving testimony. Or, sometimes, we clamor after a person because he or she is a celebrity. Our day is not marked by a thorough vetting of content regarding what a person actually believes. This accounts for much of our cotton candy Christian culture. It doesn’t take much for it to dissolve into nothing.
We are, therefore, malnourished. This is lamentable, especially when we consider the rich legacy of Christian depth and commitment of bygone ages. We are contented to build our Christian lives and churches on the sand of easy-believism. But cotton candy and sand make for poor foundations and they will not, because they cannot, provide strength and safety for the storms of life.
Thus, John directs us to test the spirits to see whether or not they are from God – because not all are. Some of us entertain false prophets unawares. In verse five of 1 John 4, John says these false spirits or false prophets are from the world and therefore, speak from the viewpoint of the world.
And So the Question Is…
Why then does the church often try to look just like the world? Sadly, the church can even be worldlier than the world. I’m reminded of a comment actor, Macauley Caulkin made during an interview about his movie, “Saved.” He said he went to a few Christian concerts to check out what the Christian culture was like and discovered precious little difference between the Christian concerts he attended and those of the world. Sure, there were some differences in the lyrics, but is that the sum and substance of Christian culture?
Give Us Results
The church naturally wants to reach people for Christ. I am not against numerical growth by any means, but it can be a poor standard for biblical fidelity. Sure, some churches are growing rapidly. But how are they growing? And what are they growing? What are they producing? The apostle John states that the world listens to those who speak from the viewpoint of the world. What else would we expect? When the standards of the church focus almost exclusively on what is deemed relevant at the moment, couched in worldly trappings, and communicated in sermonic easy listening, then of course the world is going to respond favorably, even approvingly. But in a climate where truth is, de facto, offensive, worship services and sermons that are centered around God’s Word will be thought of as boring and irrelevant at best and intolerant, puritanical, and mean-spirited at worst.
Let us be as discerning as we can about who likes us and who does not. We must think about who it is that thinks we’re cool and why. For if we, as individual Christians or local churches, are very well thought of by the world around us, we may want to ask why. It might be for legitimate, God-glorifying reasons. But it could it be because we think, speak, and live too much like the world?
What are some reasons some Christians are timid about standing up for their faith in public? What are some ways local churches compromise with the world? What are some ways Christians and local churches can connect with folks they’re reaching out to with integrity? What are some ways you can stand for truth without coming across as a “jerk for Jesus”?
Grace and Truth,
Hebrews 9:26b-28 - But now [Christ] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.  Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,  so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
A Once-for-All Sacrifice
At the end of the ages, our Lord Jesus Christ appeared once and for all to do away with sin by offering himself as a sacrifice – a lamb without blemish. In so doing he ushered in the beginning of the end – the eschaton – the last days. We foolishly think to ourselves that because it is now 2,000 years later, Christ’s day could not possibly have been part of the last days. But what’s a thousand years to an eternal God? Make no mistake about it, Christ ushered in the last days indeed!
And how did he do so? As a once-for-all sacrificial atonement for sin. No longer did a high priest have to offer animal sacrifices for the temporary appeasement of God. God’s own Son, our High Priest, settled the issue once and for all by offering himself in our stead.
Because of this, those who are in Christ no longer face condemnation. We all will die. We all will face God’s judgment. But for those who are in Christ, our sin has been covered and our punishment has been taken by Another. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
Christ will come again. Even so, come Lord Jesus. This has been part of the liturgy of the Church for two millennia. At the end of all things, Christ will appear yet again, and with him will come a new heaven and earth for those who are new creatures in Christ. He will not return as a Lamb but a Lion. He will not come in humiliation but glory. He will come and claim the victory he won at the cross and gather those who have waited on him, are waiting on him, and will wait on him. And he knows each of them by name.
Past, Present, and Future Salvation
As followers of Christ and heirs of his covenant, there is a sense in which we have been saved and a sense in which we are daily being saved as we become increasingly conformed to his likeness. But when our Lord and King appears we will be saved in glory and will rule with him in his Kingdom that knows no end. Isn’t that incredible news more than enough to bring us to our knees in humble adoration, gratitude, and submission in the here and now? Where is our boasting? We boast only in our King.
Our Urgent Call
Finally, if Christ ushered in his Kingdom two thousand years ago, and the spoils of his victory belong to those who are in Christ, then doesn’t it make urgent sense that we who are his joint-heirs should labor, as long as we draw breath, to extend our Lord’s Kingdom into every sphere of life? We want those who do not presently know him, (and the goodness, truth, and beauty of his rule and reign), to have the opportunity to voluntarily bow before him and call him Lord.
Let us make great haste, for no man knows the time of our Lord’s appearing.
Who do you know who doesn’t know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? Write down their names and commit to praying for them daily. Pray also for God to provide opportunities for you to share with them the greatest news they will ever hear.
Grace and Truth,
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