Thursday, October 11, 2012

Day 12 - Snuffing Out the Light

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message)

My husband recently shared a sermon he heard while driving home from work one day.  The sermon was about our responsibility, as Christians, to be a shining light in a dark world.  In my arrogance, I thought I knew where the story was going.  I mean… let’s be honest… how many times have we listened to sermons about being the salt and the light?  But, I have to admit, where my husband went with Matthew 5:14-16 caused me to take great pause. 

His analogy was a familiar one.  We are called to be a light, like the solitary, luminous candle in the darkness.  As a glass cup is slowly placed over the candle, the flame begins to flicker, and then slowly dies as the last amount of oxygen is consumed.  In that moment, the light is overtaken by darkness.  In the countless references to this analogy in the past, the glass represented some sort of disobedience (not repenting for our sins, refusing to read our Bibles, not remaining in the Word, being influenced by the world).  But, in the sermon my husband listened to, the glass represented the church.

This same sentiment was voiced by Richard Stearns in The Hole in our Gospel: "If [there is no] outward vision to become salt and light in our world, to promote social and spiritual transformation, pursue justice, and proclaim the whole Gospel, then the Church will fail to realize its potential as an agent of change. It will become inwardly focused on meeting the needs of its members to the exclusion of its nonmembers.  It will be a spiritual cocoon, where Christians can retreat from a hostile world, rather than a “transformation station” whose primary objective is to change the world. (p. 179)  

With the religious climate what it is today, it’s far too tempting to stay within the safety of our church walls, surrounded by people that understand us.  It’s just easier.  If we are that light on a hill, we will shamelessly proclaim the Gospel and introduce the people we know, and interact with, to Jesus, even if it potentially exposes us to ridicule and hostile derision.  We will turn our backs on the things of this world as we turn toward Jesus.  It means being different no matter how difficult.  

With this in mind, we need to rethink the purpose of church.  Instead of seeing it as a place of enlightening pep-talks and encouraging words that will merely help us survive the week ahead, we need to begin seeing church through a different prism.  Without question, the messages and sermons are an encouragement, but I contend that these words hold more power... a far greater purpose.  They ready us for battle, equip us with the armor of God, and kindle our fire as Jesus prepares us to go out on the hill. If we only give praise to God within the safety of our churches ... if we only acknowledge His sovereignty in the company of believers, then our lights will never shine in the darkness of our world.  While digesting all of this, contemplate another quote from The Hole in our Gospel: "Even a small match lit in a place of total darkness gives off a blinding light."

What does it mean to you when you hear the phrase “be a light on the hill?”  Is it about being a moral person or is about pointing people to Jesus? Many people say that our actions can speak as loudly as our words… but, if Jesus is NEVER mentioned, do our actions mean anything?  Spend some time thinking about this… it will prepare you for tomorrow’s devotional!

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