One of the first concerts I attended as a youth was Jimmy Buffett. I will never forget the crowd singing fins to the left, fins to the right while holding their arms like a shark fin and swaying left and right. The concert was like a little vacation with Buffett providing the soundtrack.
Buffett was legendary across America, but particularly along the Gulf Coast. His songs talked about taking it easy, having no worries, and letting things go for a while. Building on his musical fame, Buffett launched restaurants, created Radio Margaritaville on Sirius XM, and opened a resort in Biloxi, MS. His music has helped millions of people relax and smile.
Some may say, however, that his music glorifies the party life, irresponsibility, and the escape from reality. There are a few of his songs that I wouldn’t be comfortable listening to in the car with my kids.
My goal in today’s writing is not to dissect his songs for what might have been more Christlike or less Christlike, but instead to point to his legacy. For better or for worse, everyone knows what Buffett was about. His life was his message.
What is the message that the world hears through you?
It’s always wonderful to gather with the family of faith on Sundays. I love the fellowship, the encouragement, the learning of God’s word together, and the worship we enjoy. In such a setting, it’s easy to believe in Jesus and commit our lives to God’s best.
But what about on Monday?
In my Sunday School class yesterday, we talked about the Transfiguration for Matthew 17. Jesus’ face was changed and His clothes shone like a brilliant light.
One of the group participants said that the word for “transfigured” is the same word used for the way that we as believers are also changed into Christ’s likeness: “We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 3:18, NIV).
Our lives should look different to those around us. People should be able to see on our faces — whether through a sense of calm, an easy smile, or a welcoming countenance — that Christ lives in us.
What we look like on Monday (and Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and so on) should reflect our experience on Sundays.
What do people see in you?
Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes
I have begun to gather some thoughts on what I feel led to preach on at the start of 2024. At this point, I’d like to focus on the fruits of the Spirit with a sermon series called Changed for Good. The big idea is while we are always changing — our bodies, our minds, our relationships — God helps us to change for the good.
God changes our attitudes of the heart and helps us to bear good “fruit” for the benefit of others — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23). These qualities help the world know that God lives in us.
David’s prayer in Psalm 51 reflects this desire to be changed for good: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10-12, NIV).
This verse suggests that God changes us from the inside out.
For some, the change needs to be in the way that you think. Your mind is cluttered and scattered. You can’t think of the things of God because your day-to-day experience is so distracting.
For others, the change needs to be in your speech. Your words come from an angry or worried heart.
Still others may need to experience a change in the way your day flows. It means starting the day with God, praying at various times throughout the day, dedicating your work to the Lord, and serving others with an open heart.
God’s desire is that over the course of your life, you will more and more share the message of Christ not only through your words, but through your actions and through the very fabric of who you are.
There is no greater testimony than a changed life. Are you being changed for the good?
Your Life is Your Letter to the World
When Paul commended the Corinthians for their faith, he said, “Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This ‘letter’ is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God” (2 Corinthians 2:2-3, NLT).
You are God’s love letter to the world. Through your life, people are able to see something of the love of God and the way that God is at work in the world.
Jimmy Buffett died on September 1st. He had been battling skin cancer for four years. Many people noted that perhaps his long days on the beach in the hot sun contributed to his death. It was one more indicator of the kind of life he chose to live.
The day before Buffett died, Sarah Young passed away. She was the author of the best-selling book Jesus Calling. Her inspirational writings touched millions of people worldwide. One writer said after her death, “Her legacy will live on through her words and the countless lives she touched with her faith and spirituality.”
What will people say about you after you are gone?
Perhaps the better question is: how will you use today to impact what people say about you one day?
In her book The Writing Life, Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing.
We are blessed to be part of a family of faith with so many faithful, loving, and creative brothers and sisters in Christ. I believe we are working today on a collective legacy that will last for many generations.
So let’s live full out. Let’s live for Jesus with joy. Let’s let the world know what’s inside us.
Pastor Brent McDougal