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If You Want to Make a Difference, You Have to be Different

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Coming off the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, I'm still amazed that He came to this world and lived among us as a human being with the primary mission of dying for our sins and redeeming our eternal souls. Through His death, He saved us, but through His life, he taught us how to live our faith. Jesus did this both by his actions and through His teachings, the most famous of which is, perhaps, "The Sermon on the Mount," found in Matthew 5-7.

In this passage, a sermon delivered to a large crowd of people who had been drawn to Him, Jesus covered a myriad of topics about how His followers should live -- not as was common, but differently. 

  • The world says repay evil with evil, but Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek.
  • Religious leaders of the time made a display of their prayers, charity, and fasting, but Jesus said to keep those things private.
  • The world analyzes and criticizes our every move , but Jesus said, "judge not!" (Matthew 7:1-5)

Do Not Judge Others

In 2012, when I first felt called to jail ministry, I questioned how I could possibly minister to a population of women with whom I had so little in common. Or at least that is what I wanted to think. I have never had so much as a speeding ticket and my only run-in with the law was my elementary school D.A.R.E. program. How could I relate? How could I develop a relationship with addicts and criminals?


I was judging them. I was judging myself. I was comparing them to myself. And though I was using the same standard for both, I was using the wrong standard.

The point of Jesus' sermon was to illustrate what it means to live a life just like He lived -- perfect in the sight of God. The sermon also illustrates just how impossible that is for us because of our sinful nature. I was comparing myself to the incarcerated women based on our society's legal standard. By that standard, I believed myself to be much better than they.

But if I compare myself (and others) ONLY to the perfect standard modeled by Christ, I had to admit that I am exactly like those women. I am a sinner. Romans 3:23 reminds us, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. "All," as in, "everyone, even me."

God convicted me that I am just like that cartoonish character described in Matthew 7:3, who attempts to remove a tiny splinter from another's eye, all while I have a giant log embedded in my own, blinding me to the reality of my situation.

When I started looking to the standard set by Jesus Christ and the standard He detailed in His sermon, I realized I have a lot more in common with every woman in the Hamilton County Jail than I do with Jesus Christ. The most common bond we share is that we all need a savior, not another judge. 

When I admitted my own weaknesses, my own faults, and my own sinful nature, and accepted my dependence on grace, I realized I was in no position to judge others and it is not my place to do so. Later in the passage, vs 12, Jesus gives, "The Golden Rule," imploring us to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated.

How do I want to be treated? Do I want to be met by others with criticism and harsh judgement? (And believe me, there is plenty to judge.) Or do I want to be met with grace and love? That's an easy one. And since I want to be treated with grace and love, that is exactly how I need to treat others -- even addicts and criminals. Especially addicts and criminals. 

Does Jesus teach us to ignore the speck in the eye of a friend? Does Jesus instruct me to ignore the actions of the women to whom He has called me to minister? Not at all! I can acknowledge it, but I am not to judge.

If I ignore the chains of addiction that are dragging another person down, how can I help her realize that Jesus can break them? If I ignore the fact that women have chosen alcohol, or drugs, or ______, or _____, or whatever has control on their lives, how can I effectively help them learn that Jesus loves them and offers a better way?

In Matthew 7:5, Jesus explains, "First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye."

He doesn't say, "then you can judge your friend," rather He says, "then you can deal with," it. And we deal with that speck the same way we deal with the log in our own eye -- through the grace afforded us through Jesus Christ.

It is in admitting our own sinful nature that we learn how to help others experience the same joy we have in Christ. It is in admitting our own faults that we come to realize we don't have the right to judge those of others. When we seek to help others, we can come from a position of loving humility, rather than from a place of proud judgement.

That is how we follow the "upside down" advice of Jesus Christ. That is how we live differently. That is how we can make a difference. 

Posted by Stacy Corwin with

Do You "Re-Gift?"

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After I married my best friend, David, in July of 1996, we celebrated our nuptials by riding some roller coasters, then settled into our first apartment. We eagerly tore into the mountain of wedding gifts we had received from our friends and family. We recognized several things from our Target registry and were surprised by a lot of other items.

As we opened a set of beautiful, silver candlesticks, a card fell out of the box.  I mean, another card fell out of the box in addition to that which had been attached to the giftwrap. At first I was confused, but as we looked at the second card, we chucked as we realized that this item had been re-gifted to us. The couple had likely received it their own very recent wedding and paid it forward to us. Maybe it's just the kind of people we are or the fact that they really are a beautiful set (which I still use), but we thought it kinda funny and in no way diminished our appreciation.  And of course, we never confronted our friends with the evidence. 

Most of us have done it and I would venture that most of us have also received a re-gifted item, whether or not we knew it at the time. I mean, how many bottles of Bath and Body Works lotion does one elementary school teacher possibly need, right? Maybe you have received something you already have or something you just don't need. Maybe you're just trying to save some money. Or maybe it's just the perfect item for someone on your list. 

I would like to encourage another kind of "re-gifting." I'm referring to the commission on our lives to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. We have received a priceless gift that is beyond compare -- a gift that is two-fold (at least). Acts 2:38-39 assures us that once we repent from our sinful nature and follow Christ's example to be baptized, we receive forgiveness of our sins. We are no longer condemned to an eternity separated from God. As if that weren't enough, we also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. What do we do with that gift?

We are saved by grace, not works. We are saved by what Christ did for us, not by anything we do. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Our eternity has been redeemed and we no longer have reason to fear death. (Romans 6:22)

But what about our life? How does this gift affect the way we live until that time that we enter eternal glory?

When we accept God's amazing gift, we die to our old nature and simultaneously receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit -- God's presence in us. Romans 6 explains how this in-dwelling should affect our lives. 

"Should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Do not let sin control the way you live, do not give in to sinful desires. Instead, give yourselves completely to God.... So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God." (Romans 6:1-4, 12-13)

Re-Gifting Encouraged

The grace that does not change my life will not save my soul. (Charles Spurgeon)

If you recognize the value of the gift you have been given, it should change the way you live your life. If you have given yourself completely to God as instructed, you should be moved to introduce that grace to others. You see, this is a gift that you can keep for yourself and re-gift to others!

We can re-gift the good news -- that Christ died to save us from eternal death. We have knowledge of the cure for a fatal epidemic. Moved by compassion for others, we should share it every chance we get! (Matthew 28:16-20)

We can re-gift our gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has many purposes in our life and if we allow him to do his work in us, we become world changers. 

As the Holy Spirit helps us look more and more like Jesus, we become a force for good in this world. We become people who care for the hurting, tend to the sick, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and give hope to the lost.

As the Holy Spirit reminds us that there is no condemnation for us because we are sons and daughters of God, we live a life of bold love. With no fear of death, we can live lives of service and sacrifice to reach others.

As the Holy Spirit unites believers (Ephesians 4:3), the church becomes the hands and feet of Jesus. United by the Holy Spirit, we have a heart for the hurting and can affect real change in our communities and this world -- and ultimately, for eternity.

As the Holy Spirit protects us with the armor of God, we live lives no longer controlled by sin, but we live as instruments to do what brings glory to God. We behave ethically in our professions. We are loving to our neighbors. We are faithful to our spouses. We are not perfect, but we are working to live righteous lives of obedience. 

And as the Holy Spirit equips us with spiritual gifts, we are empowered to do amazing things for the Kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us that everyone who receives Christ also receives the Holy Spirit and at least one spiritual gift. The Holy Spirit decides what gift(s) each should have and distributes them accordingly for the purpose of serving in God's Kingdom. 

For example, I have the spiritual gift of discernment, an ability to distinguish truth from lies. That gift has helped me to serve effectively in the jail ministry to which God called me. He has also gifted me with mercy, which breaks my heart for people who have made mistakes. Mercy also helps me use discernment sensitively. 

Do you know your spiritual gifts? You can find them with THIS ASSESSMENT

And once you have determined your gifts, use them! That is what they are for. We re-gift by using our spiritual gifts to help others and to win the lost for Christ. 

The greatest gift ever given was God's only Son, sacrificed to pay the wages of our sin. And it is God's desire that no one should be lost, so we need to share this gift with the world.

To whom will you re-gift this season?