Jesus spoke of this glory in John 17:22, when He said, “I have given them the glory that You gave Me that they may be one as we are one.” When we become Christians, we undergo a spiritual transformation…a invisible process, a metamorphosis if you will, where our very character is changed. And by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit we become a mirror, reflecting Jesus to others. But you’ll also notice that this Scripture says we are “being” transformed with “ever-increasing” glory…which means His work in us will never be completely done until that day we meet Him face to face.
Natural human love expects something in return. To sacrifice for you, you must first be really special to me, and then I also expect to be reciprocated for what I did. But in this Scripture, Paul was willing to give it all…that I may be able to get you to God. The real test here isn’t one’s willingness to teach or preach, but one’s willingness to serve. Service to others takes our time, energy, and emotional strength. It encroaches on our personal space…robs us of “me” time, and turns our carefully crafted schedules upside-down. Expending yourself for the Gospel… helping, and supporting others is a thankless job by human estimation…but it’s counted as everything in the eternity of God.
One of the pit-falls of any ministry is that we start glorifying ourselves, not God. Pride starts to push itself in…and soon our ego is searching for the limelight and honor. II Corinthians 4:1 states, “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” It’s only because of God’s infinite compassion on us that we have any kind of ministry at all. And it’s only because of the indwelling Holy Spirit empowering us that we can act as ambassadors, representing our Lord. When a ministry glorifies God…and not our egos, good things happen.
As Believers we are called to be a generous people…and this was displayed vividly this morning in Church. Our Pastor announced that as we left each family would be receiving a plain white envelope with cash inside ranging from $20- $100. We were to consider this a starting point to bless others during this holiday season. The Lord has called all of us to be missional…reaching outside the Church walls to help others. For we are to be His ambassadors… shining His light, expanding His Kingdom, and seeking to leave an eternal impact on our community and world. (A direct quote from the note enclosed in the envelope.) As I hold this bill in my hand, I know the Lord will not only direct us as to how much we are to add to it, but who we should bless with it.
The other day I helped at the local Food Pantry organizing all the donated food that’s coming in this time of the year from the many food drives going on… there was a mountain of food to find a place for. It struck me how willingly and joyfully the people of this area are in donating to this great cause…and because of their generous nature, many will have food on their tables this holiday season. We can’t be tight-fisted, just giving the bare minimum of what we have to others…for it’s really not ours in the first place…the Lord has blessed us with it. Instead, we need to be happy and glad to give, for it tells us in II Corinthians 9:7, “God loves a cheerful giver.” This Scripture shows us that they gave generously of all they had, not holding back but giving with a open hand and a big heart. I pray we may become that type of people.
I find it fascinating how people rationalize and marginalize their sins away. We’ll blame everyone else in order not to place the guilt where it belongs…on ourselves. “The devil made me do it!” doesn’t stand up well in light of such scriptures as Hebrews 4:15 which states that Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Taking ownership of our sins is the first step to getting right with God…as is conceding that a sin is a sin – there is no scale from 1-10 of severity of sins…so there’s no difference between a “little white lie” and a serious sin…both are missing the mark.
If you’ve ever seen oxen yoked together…you’ll see one thing quickly…they must move together as one. The yoke forces them to move in the same direction, even if they don’t want to. This hitch they are joined together by suddenly becomes a burden as they both pull in opposite directions. When we are unequally yoked with unbelievers, it soon becomes a wrestling match of the wills…a match between light and darkness…truth and deceit…with no one winning.