A message transcript for Sunday, May 16, 2021 for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH:
There has been an ongoing theme that I have been shown over the past several months. This goes back into 2020, of course, as we were gathering together as a church in person and online. The ongoing theme has to do with the time you and I are spending in the living Word of Jesus Christ.
As we have spent more and more time at home, we have had greater opportunities to focus more upon our own situations—our careers (for those of us still working), our diets, our physical health and wellness, and we are, hopefully, using this time productively in looking more at our spiritual health. This involves a very important focus on our faith and our study time as we consider where we are in our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the midst of composing this message, I have a strong impression from the Holy Spirit that Satan is continuing to ramp up attacks of those who are both believers in Jesus and those who are leaning more upon God right now in the midst of stress and strain in their life. This is nothing really new, but my sense is that in the last few weeks, it has really seemed to intensify. My suspicion is that there are more people out there praying and making petitions to our heavenly Father about many aspects of life and where we all stand in it. Satan is on attack right now, and he has a lot of help.
Ephesians 6:10-18 CSB
10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. 13 For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the word of God. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.
Jesus reminds us that the struggle in the flesh is real.
Matthew 26:41 KJV
“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
The flesh is weak. It’s weak because of who we are and where we are. The primary description for our domain of residence is that of darkness. The darkness is also a representation of Satan, his deception and sin, which relies upon our weakness to succumb to temptation. Our sinfulness represents our fleshly behavior in what I will call our dark places. This is a darkness that must be overcome; otherwise, it can (and will) destroy you and all those who fail to escape from it. Jesus, through the deliverance of the Holy Spirit, is our rescue, our escape hatch, from the world of darkness.
Satan is an active adversary, for sure. He is actively attacking and subjecting us to distractions and temptations that rely upon our flesh, but believers are to stand firm and not allow him to defeat us, especially when we know we already have the victory.
John 10:10 ESV
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
With this in mind, it is very, very important for all believers to be ready to speak to those who need encouragement, or at the very least, remind these individuals that you will always be ready to talk when they are ready to talk. The stakes for these people—and their very souls—is very high indeed. The Spirit is compelling ongoing thoughts and prayers for our family members, friends and acquaintances. Remain in the Spirit, and He will guide you as to how to respond and live in accord with Jesus Christ. You are His vessels to reflect His love for each and every person you come in contact with.
2 Peter 3:9 CSB
The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.
We are to not lose focus on Jesus Christ, His gospel and His truths. We must be active in the faith and ready to live as James declares in his letter to believers in Jesus:
James 1:22-25 ESV
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
As you live in Jesus Christ through the Spirit and obey His commands, you are making a difference in the world. A difference in your world. The people who see your life and your actions should be nothing less than inspired by what God is doing in your life. It is God’s will for you to be a reflection of Himself, who He refers to as the Father of lights.
James 1:17-18 CSB
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 By his own choice, he gave us birth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
What was James referring to in using the term “firstfruits”? The firstfruits, which is one word, and sometimes used as two words, refers to a Jewish feast that was historically held in the early spring at the beginning of the grain harvest. It occurred on the third day after Passover and it was during the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The feast of firstfruits was a time of thanksgiving for God’s provision to His people. It is referred to in Leviticus 23:9-14, and it was to commemorate the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt and their captivity.1
The firstfruits was grain that was gathered for the priest, who would offer it to the Lord, and no other grain was to be harvested until all the firstfruits were brought forth.
Leviticus 23:14 ESV
And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
In the New Testament, firstfruits was referred to several times as the newest converts for Jesus Christ. It represents God’s harvest of souls. Jesus gives emphasis to the “harvest” in this manner:
Matthew 9:35-38 ESV
35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
We are the firstfruits that James is referring to. Believers are the manifestation of God’s glory. How we appear to the world means everything. We are to remain in earnest prayer for not just others to go out, but for each one of us to be used by God as we go out into the world.
How are we to go out into the world as the antithesis of those who represent darkness? It’s simple—we are to be the light in the world. We are to be a reflection of the Father of lights.
More than ever, believers do not just need to be the light in the world, but they MUST be the lights of the Word to reflect Jesus Christ and all that He represents. Love, care, concern, grace, mercy and of course, salvation and eternal life.
We must be the light because we must convey the gospel message to those willing to listen and hear its meaning.
Matthew 5:14-16 ESV
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Philippians 2:12-16 CSB
12 Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, 16 by holding firm to the word of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing.
We are to shine before others.
We are to shine like stars in our faith walk for Jesus Christ.
The light of Jesus Christ always prevails and overcomes darkness.
John 1:4-5 ESV
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
By all accounts, the world has embraced the darkness of those who seek after evil. Evil thoughts, vile behaviors and deceptive practices. Darkness is all around us.
This message is all about being a light before others.
We must proceed with the understanding that, due to God’s goodness and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, His blood has eternally redeemed us in order that we do not need to fear the enemy. He guides us through the uncertainties of this world.
Psalm 23:1-4 ESV
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
We are reminded of the importance of our regular, daily study of the Word. John reminded us that Jesus is the living manifestation of the Word of God.
Psalm 119:105 ESV
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
John 8:12 ESV
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
What does being a light for Jesus represent?
A. Staying alert
The Holy Spirit will be your guide as you actively live in faith in Jesus Christ. He helps us to be ready for any occasion, for any opportunity, for any situation where we are to speak the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the same way a police officer or a fire fighter must respond to calls at a moment’s notice, we are to be in a position of readiness as we move about. This is with the assumption that every believer is studying the Word each day.
2 Timothy 2:15 ESV
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
B. Pray and seek Him more
Every believer who is staying alert must have an active prayer life. Prayer is your ongoing communication with Jesus. Your investigation of God’s Word should be accompanied with prayer and meditation of what you have read. This is a quiet but meaningful phase of your practice of an active faith in Jesus. You follow this as a doer of the Word.
Joshua 1:8 ESV
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
In a dark world, look at the relevance and importance of this statement:
Philippians 4:8 ESV
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
C. Watch and listen
There was an old song that many of us learned as preschoolers or in kindergarten classes. It was referred to as “Stop, Look and Listen.” It was taught with symbols that helped us to learn the importance of safety as we walked to school. Once you get to a street corner, you were to remember the word “stop” before stepping into the street, “look” to make sure no traffic was coming in either direction, and “listen” in the event that there were sounds like cars and trucks coming. It was also used to watch out for trains at crossings, too. We remember the phrase “stop, look and listen” very well. In this message, believers are to watch and listen as we move about. I have seen how the Spirit brings people in our paths who need His counsel, and before you know it, you’re speaking to a stranger about something that is at the forefront of their thoughts or concerns. As for the listening, we are to listen to the person and be attentive to their words. This is where the Holy Spirit will provide guidance when you have heard the other person and give you the words to speak.
All of this can happen very quickly and at any given moment. When the time comes, we are to remember to watch and listen. Both of these actions are necessary. They reflect kindness and sensitivity–important attributes in your service for Jesus Christ. It is how we are to be light in a world of darkness and uncertainty.
Luke 12:35-36 ESV
35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.”
We are to remain focused as we live out our faith in Jesus Christ. Of course, this takes place even when we our doing well physically or not so well. We must remain prayerful that we are always representing the Father of lights where He is glorified. Whether we look good or not is secondary to God receiving the glory in our testimonies before others. A humble heart reflected in our speech must be the order of the day.
In these actions, as we speak as the Spirit gives direction, our light will shine before others.
Sometimes, we need a reminder that what we do on our own is not really about us. It is really about Jesus Christ.
I can’t promise you that if you haven’t been living in this matter that you will be able to get this practice down pat overnight, but I can assure you that being a light begins with taking the steps to truly follow Jesus Christ in humble obedience. He will affirm you as you seek Him and work out your faith and your relationship with Him.
Philippians 2:12-13 ESV
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
It is indeed His will for you to be His light of the world.
If you haven’t been doing this, it is time to repent and ask for God’s forgiveness. You don’t want to live outside of His will for your life. This is not meant to be a harsh statement, but if it applies to you, it is a corrective statement. We sincerely must remove any obstacles of our selfish design in order to be humble and of service for Him. Humble yourself before Him and give ALL of yourself to Jesus.
2 Corinthians 4:1-6 CSB
1 Therefore, since we have this ministry because we were shown mercy, we do not give up. 2 Instead, we have renounced secret and shameful things, not acting deceitfully or distorting the word of God, but commending ourselves before God to everyone’s conscience by an open display of the truth. 3 But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake. 6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
He wants every believer to be a light. You were bought for a price.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 CSB
19 Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.
Live in the light, and let Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, do the rest in faith. It is your God-given opportunity to represent Jesus Christ and the kingdom. Start today, and make the most of it right now and for the rest of your life.
Be a light for Jesus.
Copyright © 2021 Melvin Gaines.
1 “What was the firstfruits offering?” (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2021, from https://www.gotquestions.org/firstfruits-offering.html