On Being Salt and Light

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My Musings – God has commissioned us to share the Gospel, so that others may know the way they can inherit eternal life. We should view this as a privilege, for that is what it really is. Not so much a command as it is an opportunity to share the best news anyone could ever hear.

People usually cannot wait to share a piece of good news with others or to introduce new friends to old friends. In the same way, we should be very eager to share the Gospel and to introduce others to the Savior. To play whatever part we can in rescuing them from eternal separation from God. Yet all too often we are hesitant to do so. Perhaps this is because we fear rejection and ridicule. Whatever the reason, we sometimes let our burden over these fears overcome our burden for the lost.

But it is not just failing to speak out when we should that prevents us from being the witnesses that we should be. It is also the way that we live our lives. Our external behavior is not always as consistent as it should be with the internal change that has taken place in us. So, if we dared to speak up to share our faith, would our testimony be credible based upon the evidence of how we live our lives day-to-day? The sad reality is that when we fail to speak out when we should, or when our conduct is inconsistent with our professed faith in Christ, we are actually being a witness – a poor one. This is certainly not the legacy we want to leave with our friends and family.

Apart from the rule of law itself, attorneys have two primary tools at their disposal when presenting their case before a judge or jury. The first tool is the personal testimony of a witness that is offered in support of the case being presented. The second tool is physical evidence that corroborates the case that has been presented. In a court proceeding there is also an adversary, an opposing attorney who will attempt to impugn the integrity and veracity of the witnesses and contradict or call into question the credibility of the evidence.

When it comes to faith in Christ, the Gospel is the case that is being presented. The Holy Spirit is the “attorney” that is presenting (convicting) the case. He uses believers as witnesses to testify about their own personal knowledge and beliefs (this is what I believe and this is why I believe it). He uses the Scriptures as the evidence to support His case (fulfilled prophecy, empty tombs, historical record of contemporaneous eyewitness accounts, etc.). The adversary, of course, is Satan. The individual lost soul is their own judge and jury, and this “courtroom” drama plays out in the conscience of every individual.

As it relates to our roles as personal witnesses, we must be prepared to testify when called to the “stand.” In the meantime, we need to make sure that the lives we are living will be consistent with the truth that we proclaim.

We must not only “talk the talk,” we must “walk the walk.”

The adversary the devil will take every opportunity to show that what we do does not support what we say. At stake is a life sentence – heaven or hell. So, it is very important that we speak up about what we believe and give it added credibility by showing how it has changed our lives. It is not our responsibility to convict or convince. But it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to make sure that our testimony (what we say) and the evidence in our lives (what we do) are working together and are both convincing and convicting

God has many witnesses that he can call to the “stand.” While it is our duty to answer the summons, it is also a privilege. It is a privilege because there are others He could call, but He called us. It is a privilege to be a play part in rescuing the lost from eternal punishment. It is a privilege to show our love for Him by showing love for His lost sheep. It is a privilege to demonstrate our thankfulness for saving us by answering the call to the Great Commission.

The case has already been made. It is recorded in the Bible for all to read and respond to the call. But “how, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14, 15, NIV 1978) God is sending us.

We may be sent across the ocean or merely across the street. But wherever He sends us, we are sent to be a light to the world and as salt to the earth.

These are two images used by Jesus to illustrate our task (commission) that He has called us to. Jesus did not waste words when He was here on earth. He chose them carefully because He understood how important it was for people to grasp the truth. In this case, his chose salt and light.  “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.(Matthew 5:13-14, NIV 1978)

SALT OF THE EARTH

Pray…that God may open a door for [your] message, so that [you] may proclaim the mystery of Christ. Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:3, 5-6, NIV 1978).

A Preservative – Salt is a preservative that prevents or retards decay. So it is with believers. We act as spiritual preservatives in a world that is decaying. While it is not in our power to save others, the positive influence that we have on non-believers should never be underestimated. Our behavior should positively impact the non-believer’s behavior, perhaps slowing the decay and preserving what righteousness remains. Who knows, whether or when the influence may eventually lead someone to the Lord.

Adds Flavor – Salt enhances or adds flavor where there is little or no taste. Christians should add spiritual flavor in a world that is tasteless. We cannot achieve this if we are overbearing in our witness. This only leads to bitterness, much like too much salt can ruin the taste of food it was meant to add flavor to.

Not Obscured – Salt is most noticeable if it is not obscured by other spices. We cannot control whatever distractions come into the lives of those within our sphere of influence, but we should be careful of whatever distractions come into our lives that might obscure our witness. We may be the only contact some non-believers have with the Gospel. If our witness is obscured by our worldliness, we are not helping their chances of entering the Kingdom of God.

Must Be Applied – Salt must leave the saltshaker in order to do its work. As witnesses to the Gospel, we must go out into the world. We cannot spend all of our time within the closed circles of church, small groups and Christian schools. If we are to have an impact on the world, we must go out into it.

No Substitute – While many so-called substitutes line store shelves, there really is no satisfactory substitute for salt. The taste may not be quite right, it may leave an after-taste or it might not work as a preservative. In a similar fashion, there is no satisfactory substitute for witnessing. While many things may point to God (nature, word, conscience, etc…), there is nothing like a life that has been changed to bear-witness. There is nothing like someone who has been there to show the way.

LIGHT OF THE WORLD

A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV 1978).

Gives Light – Sometimes you have to state the obvious. The purpose of light is to give light. It is meant to be seen. It is meant to attract attention in dark places. Christians should be a source of light to a world that otherwise walks in darkness. But the purpose is not just for our light to be seen and to call attention to ourselves, but for the light to allow others to see the redeeming work of Christ in our lives.

Dispels Darkness – When light is introduced where there is darkness, darkness is chased away. Interestingly enough, it does not work the other way around. You cannot introduce darkness where there is light and have the light chased away. Light can be extinguished, but not by darkness. This is the way we should live our lives, as witnesses for the true light. We should be dispelling darkness, not extinguishing our lights.

Contrasts With Darkness – Light is most noticeable the darker it is. In pitch-black darkness, even the faintest light is obvious. So we should not be too quick to dismiss the effectiveness of our witness or the impact that it has on those groping around in the darkness of sin and separation from God.

Do Not Hide – Darkness may not be able to overcome light, but light can be hidden. If hidden it cannot dispel the darkness or serve as a beacon to those lost in the darkness. We must not hide our witness, whether from fear or shame. We have nothing to fear and nothing to be ashamed of. We may be the only light that some ever see.

Noiseless – Light is quiet. It does its work without distracting noise. This does not mean that our witness should be nothing more than something to observe. We can verbally communicate the Gospel and our testimony. But it should be done with gentleness and respect. Not flashy or overbearing. The Gospel needs no added flash and our testimony need not be offensive.

My Advice – No one who is conscientious wants to be known as someone that shirks their responsibility. No caring person wants to withhold what they have to share from those who are in need. Christians who have not merely tasted salvation, who are no longer infants but have allowed the Holy Spirit to begin the process of transforming their lives are to some degree both conscientious and caring. So why is it that some shirk their responsibility to witness and in so doing withhold the good news from those who need it? There may be many reasons – fear of rejection, fear of ridicule, fears of inadequacy, fear of messing it up, fear of failure, fear of physical harm, etc. Unfortunately, not of these fears absolve us of our responsibility of failing to warn. And none of them an valid excuse that our warnings might fail. So we must confront our fears.

We had a lot more fears when we are younger. We also had a lot less ability to cope with our fears when we were younger. But healthy adults, as they grow, as they gain more knowledge and experience, overcome some of their fears and become better able to cope with their other fears. As Christians, it should be the same as it relates to our fears about witnessing. A healthy Christian is a growing Christian. As we grow, our old fears about sharing the Gospel will increasingly give way to a “burning fire, shut up in my bones, I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.” When we are “full grown” and “fully mature” perhaps we will get to the point where “we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” We may not be there yet, but in the meantime there are a lot of things we can try to be (available, willing, clear, natural, believable, consistent, prepared, sensitive, respectful, patient, truthful, faithful, encouraged, seasoned, shining, responsible, eager, humble, precise, uncompromising, loving, gentle). The good thing is that we are not alone. God wants us to be all of these things as well. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives He is working to make them be.

Be Available, Be Willing, Be Clear, Be Natural, Be Believable, Be Consistent, 

Be Prepared, Be Sensitive, Be Respectful, Be Patient, Be Truthful, Be Faithful, 

Be Encouraged, Be Seasoned, Be Shining, Be Responsible, Be Eager, Be Humble, 

Be Precise, Be Uncompromising, Be Loving, Be Gentle.

Be a witness.

 

 

Find The One Thing

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My Musings – “Do you know what the secret of life is? One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean %@$&*!.” This quote is known as Curly’s Law, from the movie “City Slickers.”  Curly is a hardened and grizzled cowboy leading a trail drive for urban “city slicker” cowboys on vacation.  When asked what that one thing is, Curly smiles (probably the only time he smiled in the movie – I don’t remember for sure) and says, ” That’s what you have to find out.”

Paul found out. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14).  What was behind?  Originally, a life obsessed with persecuting Christians.   What lay a head?  His reward.  Such a prize, such a reward for faithful service to Christ that Paul considered that “to die is gain.

In between “what is behind” that Paul was forgetting and the prize that Paul was “straining toward” lay another obsession of “fruitful labor.”  But it came with a cost. “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).  Ahead of all this was chains and martyrdom.

But He stuck to his obsession with “the one thing,” because he considered everything else “a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (Philippians 3:8, NIV 1984).  All of these things (imprisonment, floggings, beatings, stonings…) could have been “stopping stones.”  Instead, Paul used each one as a “stepping stone” “of sharing in [Christ’s] sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11).

All of these things that happened to Paul “served to advance the Gospel” and encouraged many others “to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly” from the first century until now.

My Advice – Your “one thing” can only be found in “one person.”  “That’s what you have to find out.”  Be obsessed until you find Him, and once you find Him, be obsessed with serving to advance the Gospel more courageously and fearlessly.  The cost of these obsessions might seem too high, but Paul also said, “therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles [yes, he really said light and momentary] are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV 1984).

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21, NIV 1984).

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon “Fueled Relationships” on September 15, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you too.

 

 

 

 

The Fellowship of the King (of kings)

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My Musing – “The world has changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost. For [few] now live who remember it.  Some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth.”  (Galadriel, The Fellowship of the Ring. J. R. R. Tolkien).

It exploded in the first century in the face of great persecution.  Later, persecution gave way to proclamation as Christianity was became the official religion of the Roman Empire. There have been times of retreat (the dark ages) and resurgence (the great awakening), but the “gates of hell” have never fully prevailed.

Yet in my lifetime, “the world has changed.”  I feel it and smell it. History, is now largely regarded as myth.  The age of “reason” has relegated Christianity to no more than a crutch to the superstitious.  Even those within the Church are abandoning the faith and “sound doctrine” in favor of whatever their “itching ears” want to hear.  Things that should never have been forgotten have been lost.  The “breaking of the fellowship” is well underway.  The “Return of the King” is near.  Yet much evil is yet to come.  Which also reminds me of these quotes from “The Fellowship of the Ring.”

Frodo – “I wish none of this had happened.”

Gandalf – “So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”

My Advice – What will you decide “to do with the time that is given to you?”  Be a beacon of light in an increasingly dark world?  Be a herald of truth in an age of deception and lies?  Be the salt that gives flavor to what is becoming more and more unsavory?  Be faithful to the end?  We’ve been given a commission to be the “ring-bearer” of the greatest story ever told.  Will you be part of the “fellowship?”

Stay-tuned for tomorrow’s blog – “The Two Powers.”

 

Garage Sale Fellowship

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My Musings – Spent time these past few days with my two older brothers as we helped our 85 year old mother with a garage sale (selling many items that she and my dad had accumulated over 66 years together).  We had many visitors to the sale.  Some were neighbors, some were dear friends, some were mere acquaintances, most were strangers.  They represented different ethnicities and social “classes.”  We exchanged pleasantries with all, joked with a few (which garage sale had the best “junk”), had warm conversations with many and prayed with a few.  At one point I remarked to one of my brothers “if more people went to garage sales, the word just might be a better place.”  What a great time of fellowship with those we knew and those we did not.

As a world becomes more and more polarized, we sometimes lose sight of the fact we all have one Father and Creator – who loves us all.  We have one Savior who did not just die for certain ethnicities, social classes or the “deserving” – He died one for all.  He will save all who believe and receive.

My Advice –  Forgive as He has forgiven you.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Give to those in need.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Entertain strangers. Do not oppress or mistreat the alien among you (ouch!).  Love your enemies (say what?). For “[w]hatever you did [or did not do] for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did [or did not do] for me.”  (Matthew 25:40, NIV 1978).  Finally, have a garage sale – just for the fellowship of it all.

The Elephant In The Room

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My Musings – “People primarily respond not to what we do but how we’re being.  It’s not that we do the wrong thing necessarily, but that we do what we do – maybe even if it is the ‘right’ thing – the wrong way.” (Leadership and Self-Deception, The Arbinger Institute).

My great fear for the Church today is that a lot of us spend a lot of time and energy “doing” Christianity, while failing to “be” Christ-like.  We pride ourselves with saying, supporting and doing the right things (the modern-day equivalent of a tenth of our mint, dill and cumin), but neglect to be those things (the all-time equivalent of, “justice, mercy and sacrifice“).  In the process, we are well on our way to alienating an entire generation from “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”  Given the appropriate “salt and light” there are many who would love to “be” like Christ, but are afraid of “doing” like “Christians.”  But unfortunately, the “salt” in many of us leaves a bad taste, and the “light” shining from us artificial and not a true reflection of its Source.

My Advice – There is nothing wrong with saying, supporting and doing the right things.  But we must practice these without neglecting “justice, mercy and sacrifice.”  Otherwise, we are merely a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”  Distracting noise and “fake news” in a world searching for the truth.  Woe to us, the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge.

Don’t just do, be.  People still might not acknowledge the truth, but what they are rejecting will be plain.

Prepared for Gentle Respect

1 Peter 3:15But in your hearts set apart Christ Jesus as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (NIV 1978)

My Musing – In a world with little hope, Christians should stand out because of their hope. This is likely to raise questions. Questions we should be able to answer (although many are unprepared). We should not be arrogant or condescending in our replies. The lost deserve our pity and compassion, not a “holier-than-thou” response.

My Advice – Be gentle in your responses. Respect their right to choose for themselves. Do not lose your gentleness if they do not choose Christ. There may be another time and how you respond to them now may make some difference later.

Study 6 – All Christians Believe In Evangelism?

Screenshot (187)Ephesians 2:1-5 – As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings (lusts, passions) of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive (quickened us) with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (NIV 1984)

Divine Initiative – 1st step of salvation brought to pass unilaterally and exclusively by the power of God.

Total Depravity – 1st of the five “Tulip” points of Calvinism (T – Total Depravity of Man; U – Unconditional Election; L – Limited Atonement; I – Irresistible Grace; P – Perseverance of the Saints). Does not mean utter depravity (man is as bad as he can be). Better term is radical (root, core of existence) corruption (sin affects the whole man – mind, body, will, soul, spirit). All of us walk or follow the ways of this world gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature.

But GodBut God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) (Ephesians 2:4-5, NLT).

The point is: But God, not but man, made us alive even though we were dead (not sick, not dying) because of our sins. Divine initiative – 1st step is accomplished by God not man.

Once made alive, man can choose, believe and repent because we are alive to God. Before we are made alive one cannot do any of this. Dead men don’t choose. Dead men cannot choose.

The question is: why do evangelism?

Pre-Destined – If some are chosen (pre-destined) from the creation of the world, and some are not, with or without anyone bearing witness, why do evangelism. Because Jesus commands it!

The question is: why command something that is not necessary?

God has not only sovereignly decreed the end (elected), but He has also sovereignly decreed the means (evangelism) of bringing man to salvation. He did not need us to accomplish His unconditional election, but He chose to include us as the means.

Evangelism – Both a duty and a privilege.

Notes from: Chosen by God, R.C. Sproul