Living Epistles

Living Epistles

The Bible speaks to us about living epistles. “An epistle (Greek ἐπιστολή, “letter”) is a writing directed or sent to a person or group of people, usually an elegant and formal didactic letter.” Most scholars agree that Paul wrote fifteen epistles in the New Testament: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, the Epistle to the Laodiceans, 3 Corinthians and Hebrews. The epistles or letters in the Bible are living today in the hearts of Christians.

There is also another kind of living epistle that the Bible speaks to us about. These epistles or letters such as The Book of Sandra are living letters that are read by others every day. Christians are the living epistles that others read. “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men.” 2 Co 3: 2.

A letter is written to send a message. Have you ever thought about being an open letter that others are reading? What is the message you are sending to your family, neighbors, friends and strangers? The Spirit of God gives and uses the gifts given to each of us to speak to others. We are born and others begin to read us according to our actions and gifts. They might say that little girl has a strong will or that little boy is sure a smart kid. Whatever it is they have read the letter of that child.

When we ask Jesus into our hearts there is a new chapter that begins for us. “Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” 2Co 3:3. One day one of my kids said, “But how can Jesus fit into my heart Mama? I said, “If you want to ask Him in you will find out that He fits perfectly into the smallest heart.” That child did ask Jesus into his heart and we saw a new letter being written in his life.

A letter must be able to be clearly read. Are you sending out a clear letter? One child I was working with was writing alphabet letters one on top of another and nothing could be read clearly. Some Christians are like that. They say they are Christians and yet the letter of their life is overrun with the world. You cannot sing and clap at church and cuss and fight at home or with those around you. God calls us to be holy as He is holy. I Pe 1:15,16.

One Christian shared, “My dad, a contractor, was not one who believed in paying bills. But he would sure let my little fanny have it if he ever caught me in a lie. And yet, when Mr. or Ms. Bill Collector called, he would say, “Son, answer the phone. I am NOT here.” On the one hand, I learned, “Thou shalt not lie.” On the other hand, I learned, “Thou shalt not lie unless it’s convenient for thee or thy Daddy.” That child read his father to be inconsistent with his beliefs. The letter being read was confusing because of the lack of a valid relationship with Jesus Christ. When you know Him you will have a clear letter that others can read.

By knowing Him our life is transformed; affections, appetites and desires change causing others to read about the good news. It is as if Christ Himself dictated the letter and wrote to those around us speaking into their hearts. Ps 40:8. Christian lives are sometimes the only spiritual book that others will read. Lives can be lost by the actions or words of a person claiming to be a Christian and living a life other than what the Bible teaches. As a young girl while out with friends one evening, we encountered a religious man who was cross and mean. It was a time when we all needed to hear about the love of Jesus, but instead it turned into an experience that was well remembered in the negative. Thankfully God sent others whom were quite different and we were encouraged to walk with the Lord.
There is no sermon more powerful in this world than that of the life of a yielded Christian. You will remember that person among thousands and perhaps among millions you encounter over your lifetime. We had a lady in one of our churches that was such a person. The love of Jesus radiated throughout the letter of her life. Everyone who came in contact with Dorothy knew they had come in contact with the love of Jesus. At her funeral the huge church building was filled and there was standing room only. Others were saved through the testimonies shared about how their lives were touched by Jesus through Dorothy.

Is your life a letter that can be read of all men which doesn’t show any difference from other natural men? You can say you are a Christian and witness all you want, but it is that walking testimony that mirrors the Word of God which is powerfully read and remembered. God designed us to be the bearer of His Good News. The Good News is that “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son Jesus so that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” Jo 3:16. Many may reject words, but they cannot deny a changed life and the workings of the Christ in that life.

“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;

But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” 2 Co 4:1-4.

Others will read the music you listen to, what you view on TV, how you react to verbal attacks from others, how you treat others, how you treat animals, how you treat your family, decisions you make, your driving habits, how you work and your attitude at work. These are only a few things that others read in your letter. Have you ever read the letter of someone whom you know that claims to be a Christian and then gets behind the wheel of a car and has road rage? Or have you known a Christian working that takes a break, knowing that such a period ends after an hour, yet that person takes an hour and twenty minutes for break? Or have you known a pastor that get angry with God’s people and preaches a sermon aimed at His sheep? And take those who claim to be Christians who spread gossip and rumors. Where is Jesus Christ in their letter?

It has always amazed me to study older people. As you age in your face is set your life - thoughts, speech, actions. Some people I know have been Christians whom all their lives have walked with Him and their faces show it. None of us walk in perfection, but it is our willingness to keep on trying and yielding to His leading that produces the letter in our lives that comes from the pages of the Bible.

The beautiful part of being a living epistle is that we cannot write this letter. The Holy Spirit is the One who writes the letter on our lives and as we yield to Him the letter and the writing changes. I love those lift off pages, you know the kind you write on and then lift them up and everything is erased. That is kind of what the Holy Spirit does to us at the end of each day if we come to Him. We come before God to confess our faults and praise Him for all He has done. Daily we do this as a family in our evening prayers. The page is lifted and we find His mercies that show up each morning. Ro 12:1. Maybe that is why we are told not to let the sun go down on our anger. Eph 4:26. It would be a terrible thing to wake up to anger. Each morning a fresh letter is written on us for others to read.

Being an open letter does not mean you won’t go through any problems and others will only see flowers in your life. It means through good times, hardships, joys, sadness your life will continue to be that open letter expressing the love of Jesus Christ. Let your light shine before men for God says we are the light of the world. Mt 5:14,15. One thing is for sure fake Christians cannot shine through dark times, but those who know their God will not only shine, they will glow and reflect the image of Christ. 1Co 15:58.

Christians, your greatest opportunity as a living epistle lay before you each day when you wake up to bear the message of hope through Jesus Christ. There are people who do not know Him who are hungry for answers to life’s problems. Remember you are being read by them; family, neighbors, fellow workers, store keepers, acquaintances, friends and strangers. What are they reading in your letter? Step out each morning and let the world see Christ in you, changed by the God’s grace-a living epistle.