Monday, March 7, 2016

This May Feel Implausible At First

In Matthew 5, Jesus refers to his church as "the light of the world."

Think about that for a moment, being mindful of the local church you know best.  "The light of the world."  At first, this may feel somewhat implausible to you.

Let's think it through for a minute...

John Stott is helpful here: "The need for light is obvious.... The world is evidently a dark place, with little or no light of its own, since an external source of light is needed to illumine it.  

"True, [the world] is always talking about its enlightenment, but much of its boasted light is in reality darkness.... 'You are the light of the world.'  True, he was later to say, 'I am the light of the world.'  But by derivation we are too, shining with the light of Christ, shining in the world like stars in the night sky....

"What this light is Jesus clarifies as our 'good works.'  Let men once see 'your good works,' he said, and they will 'give glory to your Father who is in heaven,' for it is by such good works that our light is to shine.

"It seems that 'good works' is a general expression to cover everything a Christian says and does because he is a Christian, every outward and visible manifestation of his Christian faith.

"Since light is a common biblical symbol of truth, a Christian's shining light must surely include his spoken testimony.  Thus, the Old Testament prophecy that God's Servant would be 'a light to the nations' is said to have been fulfilled not only in Christ himself, the light of the world, but also by Christians who bear witness to Christ.

"Evangelism must be counted as one of the 'good works' by which our light shines and our Father is glorified....

"It is healthy to be reminded that believing, confessing, and teaching the truth are also 'good works' which give evidence of our regeneration by the Holy Spirit.  We must not limit them to these, however.

'Good works' are works of love as well as of faith.  They express not only our loyalty to God, but our care for our fellows as well.  Indeed, the primary meaning of 'works' must be practical, visible deeds of compassion.  

It is when people see these, Jesus said, that they will glorify God, for they embody the good news of his love which we proclaim.  Without them our gospel loses its credibility and our God his honor."

Does that seem implausible to you?  That Jesus was thinking about US when he was talking about the light of the world?

But I will tell you a deeper mystery...

Can you picture the crowd before whom Jesus first said this?

It was just a relative handful of Palestinian peasants.  In an enemy-occupied land.  Who very justifiably felt like they had little to no influence over anything.  And this was some 2,000 years ago.

And yet... as theologian John Frame once said, "Christians down through the centuries, for distinctively Christian motives, have vastly influenced western culture in such areas as help for the poor, teaching of literacy, education for all, political freedom, economic freedom, science, medicine, the family, the arts, the sanctity of life.

"Without Jesus, without his gospel, without the influence of his people, all these areas of culture would be vastly different and very much worse."  

You are the light of the world.

But here's a question for you... how do you plan to stay enlightened?

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