By David Faust
Every day when I arrive home from work, there’s a pile of mail sitting on the kitchen counter. My wife has collected it from the mailbox and sorted through the bills, newsletters, and advertisements. After struggling to keep up with a flooded e-mail in-box every day, why am I drawn to the pile of mail on the kitchen counter? Because in that pile might be a card or letter from a friend. When you confront a stack of mail, isn’t the first piece you open the one with your name and address scrawled in familiar handwriting on the envelope?
Who can resist a letter from a loved one? Letters have long been treasured by soldiers stationed on foreign battlefields, by those who are lovesick and miss their beloved, and by collectors who value glimpses into a noteworthy individual’s private thoughts. Some day there may be a market for copies of unusual e-mails, but I can’t imagine they would surpass the worth of a handwritten letter authored by George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.
Early Broadcast System
Can you imagine the excitement that stirred in the first-century church when a letter arrived from the apostle Paul? In those early days when the Bible was still being written and compiled, a reverent hush must have settled over the congregation when a reader stood up with a roll of papyrus in his hands and began to read an apostle’s letter aloud for the first time. The gathered worshippers listened intently to every word.
Ron Walters serves as Senior Vice President for Ministry Relations with Salem Communications, a network of radio, web, and print resources. Walters calls the New Testament epistles “the broadcasting system of the early church . . . the church’s sermon notes and Sunday school curriculum all rolled into one.”
The apostle Paul told one congregation, “I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters” (1 Thessalonians 5:27). Elsewhere he stated, “If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command” (1 Corinthians 14:37).
What would it be like to receive a letter from God himself? If the Lord sent you a letter, it would be completely truthful. God never lies.
A letter from God would be practically helpful. The Lord is the supreme philosopher, but he isn’t a mere theorist. His Word is useful, doable, relevant to our real-life concerns.
And God’s letter would be spiritually powerful, for his Word is “alive and active . . . sharper than any double-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12).
Paul viewed the Corinthian Christians as personal letters of recommendation. Their transformed lives validated his ministry. He wrote, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2, 3).
Others may not read the Bible, but they can read the Lord’s message in our lives. “You are a letter from Christ.” A Christian is a walking memo from God.
Do our lifestyles bear consistent, compelling testimony to God’s goodness and grace? Like a letter from God, do our lives communicate a message that is completely truthful, practically helpful, and spiritually powerful?
1. Does your lifestyle communicate the power of God’s Word?
2. What messages do others “read” when they’re around you?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for May 4, 2014
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
1 Corinthians 15:29–58
Ruth 2, 3
1 Corinthians 16
2 Corinthians 1:1–11
1 Samuel 1, 2
2 Corinthians 1:12–24
1 Samuel 3—5
2 Corinthians 2
1 Samuel 6—8
2 Corinthians 3
1 Samuel 9, 10