Nobody said it would be easy!

If you agree with the premise that God sent you into the world, which includes your own household, to show and share the love of Christ, you have reached a major milestone in understanding the mission of Christ on earth.  It means you have made the connection between believing and moving out in faith. But as you try to exercise your faith, you may be thinking what a co-worker once said to me as we were discussing the subject living out our faith, “It was easy for the disciples…they lived with Jesus and witnessed His miracles first hand, the rest of are left to rely on what someone says He did.”  My friend did have a point, but had forgotten about the coming and indwelling person and power of the Holy Spirit.  This is what Jesus meant when He said, “And surely I am with you, to very end of the age.”  The Spirit was sent to live in us, to provide us first hand knowledge and direction and is as real as the very presence of Christ Himself.

In a very real sense, the indwelling Spirit of God can have an even greater impact on our conscience and behavior than if Jesus was walking among us today.  Not that we can hide from God, but it is like when Peter was standing outside around the fire while John was inside arguing on Jesus’ behalf after His arrest.  Peter denied his relationship with Jesus, not once but three times when confronted by a servant girl.  Do you think Peter would have betrayed Jesus, if he had been standing next to Him?  I don’t think so.  The Spirit is with you, day and night, no matter where you are or whatever you’re doing.  You can’t see him or touch Him, but he can see and touch you.

Not long after Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the twelve whom Jesus had chosen and sent to be His witnesses to the world (Matthew 28:18-20), found that they needed some help.  In Acts, chapter six, we read how “the twelve gathered all the disciples together” and said to them, “Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will turn over (a portion of) our responsibility over to them. This proposal pleased the whole group.  They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas.  They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.  So the word of God spread (Acts 6:5-7).”  We are not told specifically if any these new recruits had walked with Jesus or had heard His teaching first hand, but it really didn’t matter.  They were men who had a reputation for having faith, wisdom and most important, the Spirit of God living in them.

One of the things that can be drawn from these verses is that these newly chosen, were men of “reputation.”  They were known by their peers to possess faith, wisdom and the indwelling Spirit, but how were they known?  It was by the observations of those around them, of course.  It wasn’t just what they said, but also what they did or didn’t do.  I can testify from personal experience that I am not the man I was forty years ago.  My reputation then was not something to be proud of and although I often sought to conceal it, those that knew me best knew the truth.  It also became an issue when I became a follower of Christ and tried to share Him with those who knew me best. This is why in Proverbs we read, “A good name (reputation) is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold (22:1).”  But we also are taught by the psalmist that although it can be difficult, a reputation can be restored (25:9-10).”  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open about your faith with others during the restoration process; only that you shouldn’t be surprised if your past sins present a stumbling block to others.  This is probably a more serious issue with those within your own household, especially your children who observed, loved and sought your unconditional love, before your commitment to follow Christ. If they are teenagers, they may not say it but you can be sure they are saying to themselves or even their friends, “What a hypocrite!”  All you can do is to love them even more. If and when Christ and the Spirit begin to move in their lives, your children will be able to forgive you and see Christ in you because Christ forgave them as well. Like so many things in life, we want immediate results for our efforts, but more often than not it will require patience, perseverance and time.  This too comes from the Spirit through Christ our Lord.

Where do you begin to restore your reputation?  The good news is that you will only be dealing with people and not God.  He knows both your thoughts and the intentions of your heart so if you have reconciled with God, through Christ, it is finished.  The best place to start is with your own family; your wife, your children, brothers and sisters, maybe even your parents. Remember that this is a process, so be patient with both yourself and them.  The steps themselves, you already know.  They are the same that Christ asked you to take, when you sought to reconcile with Him. Confess what you have done wrong, ask forgiveness and try to not be a repeat offender.  As for mending your ways, ask those you have sought forgiveness from to remind you of your promise when you appear tempted to revert back to your old ways.  Also, don’t be surprised if your appeal for forgiveness and commitment to change is not warmly received.  Unlike God, they don’t know the condition of your heart and will sometimes make you feel like you’re under a microscope.  God’s love is infinite and unconditional as is his ability to forgive, theirs is not.

Tool #409  Building or restoring your reputation in this world is never over, since Satan is always trying to tear it down.  Don’t give in or give up.

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