This week’s devotional is for the sermon entitled “A Life of Honoring Christ.” The readings have the theme of living in a God-honoring way. This week’s devotional also introduces a prayer from the Divine Hours as a way of giving voice to our longings toward God. Consult this devotional throughout the week as a way of being prepared for Sunday’s sermon.
Weekly Bible Readings:
Monday, October 3. Read Ephesians 5:15-20. What does Paul to be careful about? What are the characteristics of someone who is living with such care?
Tuesday, October 4. Read Colossians 4:2-6. To what did Paul say a Christian should be devoted? For what did Paul want the Colossians to pray?
Wednesday, October 5. Read Romans 12:1-2. What did Paul want the Roman Christians to do with their bodies? What warning did he give them?
Thursday, October 6. Read Philippians 1:9-11. What did Paul pray for the Philippians Christians? What effect would understanding have on them?
Friday, October 7. Read 1 Corinthians 5:9-11. With whom did Paul warn the Corinthians against keeping company? Why do you think that is good advice?
Saturday, October 8. Read Philippians 1:20-30. This is the text for Sunday’s sermon.
Prayer for the Week:
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve. Pour upon your church the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for whick we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Devotional Article: Living with the Gift by Patrick D. Odum
What difference does this gift make in your life?
By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:8-10 NRSV)
The gifts are opened and the wrapping has been thrown away. Christmas has come and gone for another year, leaving our house the same as it was before it arrived — well, a little more cluttered maybe because the new stuff hasn’t yet found its permanent places. But besides that, things are pretty much the same.
Except, of course, that we have a new member of the family. He’s small and furry, black and brown and white, all floppy ears, inquisitive nose, and chewing teeth. He’s a gift to our son from his mom and me. He’s unnamed as yet, a cute little beagle puppy. Josh was thrilled when he saw him for the first time Christmas morning. He was excited all day, can’t stop talking about his new dog, playing with him, and getting to know him.
But, for all the joy he brings, a new puppy changes lives. We’ve told Josh that this is his dog and that we expect him to take on more and more responsibility for his care. It’s started already: toys, shoes, and books can’t be left haphazardly strewn across the floor any longer or they’ll likely be chewed into oblivion. The dog will have to be fed, given water, played with, and taken for walks everyday. There will be baths to give, grooming to do, and trips to the vet to make. He still needs to be housebroken. Most of the other gifts Josh received can be ignored. They can sit on shelves, in bins, or in drawers and never be touched — but not this gift. This gift will demand Josh’s attention for the next ten years or more.
Now he has to live with this gift.
Oh, we know Josh can’t care for the dog all by himself yet. We know that he won’t be able to do everything that the dog will require for quite some time. We understand that this will be a learning experience for Josh. Our expectations are realistic. The gift is free, given simply because we love our son and want to make him happy. But, we’ve made clear to him that this gift comes with the expectation that he will do the best he can to live up to the responsibilities that receiving it carries.
The gift we’ve received from God, the gift of Christ which many of us celebrate this season, is like that. There are no strings attached; Christ was given to us freely by a Father who gives because he loves us. There was no pre-screening nor was the gift given secretly to only a select few. Jesus died for all of us — every human being on the planet — because the Father delights in us and because giving us this gift brings our Father great delight. It’s a gift offered with grace and received by faith — not earned or won by anyone’s good life.
But if you receive it, you have to be willing to live with this gift.
When a person receives the gift of Christ, that person is changed — re-created. Paul says that we are what God has made us; we are the results of his craftsmanship, the finished product of his artistry. Christ didn’t come just to forgive us, solve our problems, give us rules by which we are to live, or drop a syllabus of necessary religious acts into our laps. Jesus came to make us new.
God gives us this great gift expecting that we will live with it. He has in mind that we will do good — that we will “walk in” good works. It’s still a free gift, offered in grace with no strings attached. But this gift comes with responsibility — that those of us who receive it will live so that this gift occupies the central place in our lives and motivates us to lives of love, integrity, purity, kindness, and righteousness.
God understands, of course, that our new lives will not always be easy to live and that our old habits and perspectives may die slowly. He recognizes that we’re always learning about the implications that the gift he has given us has for our lives. His expectations are realistic. He understands that we won’t perfectly live with this gift we’ve received for quite some time, but he gives us this gift expecting that we will do the best that we can to live up to the responsibilities of receiving it.
The bottom line is that the gift we’ve received from God, the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, cannot be put away in the closets of our hearts and ignored any more than Josh’s new puppy can be. It cannot be placed on a shelf, dusted off and admired periodically, and then put back. Even more importantly, this gift will absolutely not conform to the old patterns of our lives. Our lives must be re-patterned to fit around the gift that God has so graciously given us.
This gift really is no burden. Living with the gift of Christ brings new joy with each new day. Each day we discover something new about God, about ourselves, about the people and the world around us. These new discoveries will thrill us, delight us, and surprise us. Before too long, we won’t be able to imagine living without God’s gift.
So now that the holiday has ended, the decorations have been taken down, and the Christmas CDs put away for another year, live with the Gift. All year long, live with this precious gift — the gift of Jesus.
For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life … and I can even promise you that this gift won’t chew on your shoes!
Hymn for the Week:
Sing On by Carrie M. Wilson, 1886
1 Sing on, ye joyful pilgrims
Nor think the moments long;
My faith is heav’nward rising
With ev’ry tuneful song;
Lo! on the mount of blessing
The glorious mount! I stand,
And, looking over Jordan,
I see the promised land.
Sing on; oh, blissful music!
With ev’ry note you raise
My heart is filled with rapture
My soul is lost in praise:
Sing on; oh, blissful music!
With ev’ry note you raise
My heart is filled with rapture,
My soul is lost in praise.
2 Sing on, ye joyful pilgrims,
While here on earth we stay;
Let songs of home and Jesus
Beguile each fleeting day;
Sing on the grand old story
Of His redeeming love,
The everlasting chorus
That fills the realms above. [Chorus]
3 Sing on, ye joyful pilgrims,
The time will not be long;
Till in our Father’s kingdom
We swell a nobler song,
Where those we love are waiting
To greet us on the shore,
We’ll meet beyond the river,
Where surges roll no more. [Chorus]