We recently returned from a trip to Oregon to see our kids and grandkids and to visit some friends. It was dark when we arrived home and our car has no trunklight, so unloading was a bit of a pain. We had the choice of complaining about it or getting a light so we can see what we were doing. I can’t help but think of how often we complain about how dark our world is with all its immorality, corruption in politics, wars, crime, and spiritual decline. It’s much easier to sit around and discuss all that is wrong with society and how the darkness is increasing than it is to shine our light, that is to share our faith in Jesus Christ who is “The Light of the World” (Jn. 8:12).
When we get together with friends of like mind, we have no problem discussing how disgusted we are with the loss of Christian liberties, the increase of ungodly practices in our nation, and the apostasy taking place in the church. But, as I read Scripture, I see no directives to have a “pity party” or to “join a gripe group,” nor do I see any examples of such. What I do see are directives such as in Mt. 5:13-16, where Jesus, in His “Sermon on the Mount,” said: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. (You will be watched!) Nor do men light a lamp and put it under the peckmeasure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
It is our natural tendency to want to isolate ourselves from the corrupt world around us and just hide behind the walls of our churches and our homes and surround ourselves with others of similar beliefs so we can complain together about how bad it is out there, while we are basking in the light we share with our Christian friends. Jesus, however, sent his disciples out into the world, saying, “Go therefore (literally, “having gone”) and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” (Mt. 28:18-20). Just before He ascended back to heaven, Jesus gathered His disciples together and “He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised (the coming of the Holy Spirit)” (Acts 1:4,5), but then He prophesied: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (v. 8). The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost to indwell the believers just as Jesus had promised, but then they didn’t want to leave Jerusalem for they were having a great time meeting together, studying Scripture, praying and breaking bread together (Acts 2:42). So, God had to raise up the fires of persecution against the church to “catapult” them out. We read this in Acts 8: “…And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.” And guess what! “Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word” (v. 4).
It seems that it has always been our tendency as believers to just join together to shine our lights for each other rather than to go out and dispel the darkness which is all about us. Now, it is important that believers gather together for fellowship and teaching, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near” (Heb. 10:25), but don’t forget Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men (the unsaved) in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16).
In the October 2011 issue of Christianity Today, John R. W. Stott has an excellent article entitled “Salt and Light” in which he lists four ways Christians can influence the world. “First, there is power in prayer. The church’s first duty toward society and its leaders is to pray for them.” Paul wrote these words to Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (I Tim. 2:1,2). Could it be that much of the darkness of which we complain is due to the lack of prayer by the church? As individual believers and as congregations of believers we need to “bow down before God and bring to Him the world and its leaders, and cry to Him to intervene.”
“Second, there is the power of truth.” The Apostle Paul wrote:: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Ro. 1:16). All of God’s truth is powerful, much more powerful than the devil’s lies (Jn. 8:44), much more powerful than the philosophies and empty deceptions and traditions of men (Col. 2:8). When John, in his gospel, wrote: “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend (overcome) it” (Jn. 1:5), he spoke of the incarnate God, Jesus Christ, who is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). But, the Word of God is also the truth which cannot be overcome by the darkness into which it shines. Darkness will not be driven out of the world, not until Jesus comes, but light can swallow it up. The reverse is never true: there is no such thing as darkness swallowing up light. Light is light and all the world’s darkness cannot extinguish it, but must retreat before even the glow of a tiny candle! Don’t ever underestimate the power of sharing God’s truths in this world of darkness.
“Our third power as Christians is the power of example.” Truth is powerful when it is shared. It is even more powerful when it’s exhibited! People need to not only understand what God teaches in His Word, they also need to see how it works in the lives of believers, changing them little by little into the image of Christ (Ro. 8:29; II Cor. 5:17). The examples of Christian lives being lived out publicly in the workplace, on the playing field, are powerful influences for Christ. “Christians are marked people. The world is watching.” And God’s way of bringing light to the darkness and a preservative to the decaying world is to place godly people in key places to demonstrate His power, love and forgiveness. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16).
“Fourth, Christians have the power of group solidarity.” Robert Belair, at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, said, “We should not underestimate the significance of the small group of people who have a vision of a just and gentle world. The quality of a whole culture may be changed when two percent of its people have a new vision.” Remember, Jesus began with just a handful of disciples but within a few years, Roman officials complained they were turning the world upside down. “There is a great need for dedicated Christian groups committed to one another, committed to vision of justice, committed to Christ; groups that will pray together, think together, formulate policies together, and get to work together in the community.”
Are you disturbed by what is happening in our society today? I surely am! Well, rather than just getting together and complaining about it, let’s get together and pray, go out and share the truth from God’s Word, be an example of Christ-likeness, and join with other believers in making a difference as we are salt and light in the little world in which God placed us. Together we can have a major impact on our world and help to drive out some of the darkness and decay that we gripe about