"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Week 37: Let Your Light Shine

"You are the light of the world. A town built 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 others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matt. 5:14-16

Over the last few weeks, I've tried to forget the various evangelism formulas and strategies that I've been taught while taking a fresh look at what Jesus said about our role in helping others to know God. It turns out there are not seven easy steps to win people to Christ. There are only two steps. They are, however, perhaps not so easy.

Step One: Joyful Suffering

Jesus commands us Christians to live our lives in such a way that when others look at us they will glorify our Father in heaven. Jesus says, "let your light shine." Which, begs the question, what light? The answer, Jesus says, is that "You are the light of the world." In other words, letting your light shine is not about being something you're not. It's about being what God designed you and destined you to be. "You are the light!" Why would your light cause people to glorify God? Because God in you is the source of your light. What does all that mean in practical terms?

This passage of the Sermon on the Mount comes just after Jesus has given the beatitudes. The closest beatitude in proximity to this passage is: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matt. 5:11-12. I think what Jesus means when he says "let your light shine" is exactly what he suggested in the final verses of the beatitudes. Rejoice and be glad in the midst of insults and persecution and life's inevitable hardships. In other words, why would God be glorified by our joy in the midst of happy prosperous circumstances? Aren't even ungodly people joyful when all is right with their world? But, when we face hardships and difficulties and still have joy as a result of God in us, then God is glorified.

We shouldn't be surprised, then, that when we ask God to make us lights in our community or our workplaces that we face difficulties. God's light in us shines most brightly in the darkest of circumstances. The Apostle Peter put it this way:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

1 Peter 4:12-14. So, here is step one, in God's easy plan for winning people to Christ: suffer joyfully. That's probably not going to sell many books, but there you have it. It's God's plan; not mine.

How can we have joy in the midst of difficulties? The answer, Jesus says, is, "because great is your reward in heaven!" What awaits us in heaven? The presence of our Lord. When He becomes more precious to us than anything else, then we have a joy that will last in the midst of hardship. Then, our lives will be a light to the world.

Step Two: Joyful Surrender

Jesus says, "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds . . . ." Jesus is not saying that our good deeds by themselves will cause others to glorify God. Our good works are not the light. Good works are meaningless, unless they are done in the glow of God's light.

On the other hand, our "good deeds" are a necessary part of God's plan. When you follow Jesus and love Him, He demands that you take part in His work. What does it mean to take part in God's work? What I've discovered over the last thirty-six weeks is that God commands every part of our lives. He commands our thoughts, our emotions, and actions. He commands how we relate to Him, to our families, to our church, and to the world. He has a plan and purpose for every moment of every day of our lives. Above all else, he commands us to love God and love others. Following Jesus requires nothing less than absolute and complete surrender to Him. When we joyfully surrender our lives to him realizing that He is absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt much more than worth it, then others will see our good deeds and God will be glorified.


I've left a few very important questions about joy unanswered. What is Christian joy? Can it be commanded? It is, by the way. And, how do we respond to God's command to be joyful? More on all that, God willing, when we get to the final week of The Project and The Project's final command: "Rejoice in the Lord always." Philippians 4:4.