GOD’S OUTRAGEOUS CLAIMS is a spiritual classic written by one of New York Times Bestselling Author, Lee Strobel. In his book, Lee outlines thirteen phenomenal claims by God that have the capacity to transform the lives of individuals and their world entirely. The more reason I love this book is the fact that you actually read the very words of a once-upon-a-time avowed atheist who through his journey of investigating the authenticity of the Bible has become a solid rock in the Christian Faith. His book is of great value in the sense that the reader finds many practicable lessons (though challenging) embedded in his writing as he uses real life circumstances to communicate his thoughts. It’s an amazing read and I kindly recommend this book to anyone (both the believer and non-believer) who wants a better understanding of Christianity.
In the fourth chapter of his book, I came across this interesting but touching poem written by a woman named Maggie. Apparently, Maggie had spent her childhood life around a group of Christians who unfortunately gave her enough reason to doubt the genuineness of the Christian Faith. Have you ever met someone who leads a double life? That person can be very confusing. It’s like the doctor who looks at you straight in the eyes and says ‘Smoking is very bad for your health’ right after he takes puffs at his cigar (and probably winks at you in addition). Well, in the doctor’s case, you could still trust the integrity of his words because you may already have concrete facts (like images of lung and throat cancers), to verify his claim that truly smoking has bad health consequences. What about the Christian? What evidence does he (she) have to offer? Jesus isn’t presently here with us in bodily form to relive history for us. What do we do? Maggie has a fair idea as she starts off her poem like this:
Do you know do you understand that you represent Jesus to me?
What a heavy question! It’s one thing knowing about something and it’s a whole different ball game understanding (and applying) what you know. The Christian’s style of living is very important because it serves as a testimony that can attest to the truth that God’s Word is true and indeed has the potential to transform and shape one’s life totally. Our thoughts. Our words. Our actions. These go a long way to either solidify or weaken the cogent evidence for our claims that God’s Word is a life changer. We want people to come to the saving knowledge of Christ but our attitude is just sympathetically awful that we end up achieving the opposite result. Jesus had a good reason for saying “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” [John 13:35 NLT]. In other words, Jesus is telling us that the world has come to learn about a certain kind of conscious action (different from what every other person knows in both nature and degree) so unique to His personality that any other person found demonstrating that same kind of action will be instantly recognized as one who follows hard after Him. And that’s true. The testimonies are countless. Personally, I’ve had people say to me ‘you resemble Christ so much’ or ask ‘Are you a Christian?’ after my encounter with them. Why? Because when they compare what they’ve heard or read about Jesus to how I responded to a certain need of theirs, they see a tight linkage between my actions and what’s recorded in the scriptures. We aren’t supposed to just know this, we must understand how to make this knowledge practical wherever we find ourselves. In the end, what happens is we do not only justify the authenticity of biblical claims but we also succeed in promoting the gospel of Jesus in an irrefutable way.
In the fifth stanza, she said:
If you care, I think maybe He cares — there’s this flame of hope that burns inside of me and for a while I am afraid to breathe because it might go out.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, He replied with this interesting answer. That the first was to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And that we ought to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus put it in a sequential manner to inform us that without loving God first, the quest to love our neighbour is just pointless. What is your basis for showing love to someone in the first place? Simply put, you don’t accomplish anything proper once your first act of love isn’t directed to God. Does it come as a surprise then that Maggie writes ‘…there’s this flame of hope that burns inside of me and for a while I am afraid to breathe because it might go out.’? There are alot of people out there who show compassion just because it feels right. I daresay that an act of benevolence that brings a lasting fulfillment is one carried out in a God-exalting, truth-honouring way. It generates hope because it is fueled from the conviction that someone once demonstrated amazing love towards us when we didn’t even deserve it. That’s the driving force behind our act of love which compels us to go the extra mile. To turn the other cheek. To lose our lives for the sake of our neighbour. And immediately, you remind somebody of who you say Jesus was. That He healed, taught, fed and cared for people in His time even when He probably had to rest or attend to His own needs. You may not know this but the extra mile you go to show an act of kindness based on God’s Word goes a long way to inform someone watching you closely that there is hope for the future. It’s a tough one but Jesus has thrown the challenge to us because it is one of the surest ways to reveal Himself through us. We can only pull it off effectively if there is an upward allegiance to God (to validate our act of love) first before the horizontal spread unto men (to achieve its intended purpose of bringing hope).
Do you know do you understand that your words are His words?
Your face, His face to someone like me?
Do we say ‘No’ to tempting offers as Jesus did? Do we say ‘Yes’ to Righteousness, Holiness and Purity as Jesus did? Do we speak forgiving words to those who offend us? Do we tell people the truth in love? If we understand that we represent Jesus, that we are His disciples, then we have to speak the language of our Master. And about the face? Please I hope you haven’t positioned yourself in front of your mirror to imagine if Jesus had fat/bony cheeks as yours. Your face, His face…’ refers to your appearance. Your character. The kind of aura you carry around. Jesus was described as meek and mild. A man who practised what He preached. A man who was under authority yet exercised great power in humility. A man full of the spirit without measure yet stooped low to wash the dirty feet of His disciples—the spirit of servant hood. Isaiah described Him as ‘One who mends a bruised reed and never snuffs out a smoldering wick’. A man full of compassion for His people. A man of integrity. Dear reader, are you the proud and noisy type? Are you living a double-life? Are you power drunk with your gifting? Do you hate to serve others? Are you a habitual discourager? Are you very stingy when it comes to rendering service out of love? Do you love to compromise a lot?
You may not know this but all it may take for you to convince your neighbor to live according to the principles of God’s Word may be to present your life as evidence to support your confession –to be a little more like Jesus to them in your word and deed. This isn’t the first time this kind of wisdom has worked. The members of the council saw Peter and John preach and immediately perceived them to have been with Jesus. These were unschooled, ordinary men so what gave them out? Were they in jerseys with a ‘Jesus is looking for YOU’ inscription on them? Certainly not! The identifying factor was their BOLDNESS, an attribute of Jesus as He preached and taught in a manner that commanded real authority—unlike the teachers of religious law. That made the huge difference. That’s why Peter and John were easily identified. Their method of approach was similar to that of Jesus unlike the teachers of the Law. So now when the people saw what they did, it immediately confirmed something: they had been with Jesus. What an amazing revelation of Jesus in their character! This is something we all have to learn from the Scriptures so we can also give testimonies of how people came to know Jesus through our act of patience, self-control or some other fruit of the Spirit. It may be one of the oldest lessons in the book but the power to effect a change hasn’t waned one bit. The approach hasn’t expired so don’t move it from the shelf. You don’t have to pretend to be perfect in your ways to showcase Jesus to the world. Don’t feel shy to let people know you also encounter problems in life. Rather, be expectant to see God at work as you show them how you use His Word as a better tool to deal with issues that cross your path. Keep on reflecting the True Light that lights the whole world and see how God will work through you and in you (an imperfect vessel) to bring one to the saving knowledge of His son Jesus Christ. Beloved, what are you doing with your life as you read this piece? I ask because DO YOU KNOW, DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT YOU REPRESENT JESUS TO SOMEONE?