Live As Gospel Light

October 9, 2005 / No. 3275

Dear radio friends,

     Today we begin a three-part series on the calling of the church for evangelism.  Evangelism, which is the communication of the gospel to those who are lost and the giving of aid and instruction to other Christians who need to be shored up in their faith, evangelism lies at the very heart of the purpose for the church of God and the purpose for our own salvation.  The church has been formed by God, and the believer has been saved, so that we might be the means of God to communicate the gospel to those who are lost and to give instruction in the grace of God to other Christians who need to be buttressed in their faith.

     We read in Isaiah 43:12:   “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.”  Solomon, at the dedication of his temple, that beautiful structure built on Mount Moriah, called the church with the following exhortation:  “That all the people of the earth may know that the LORD is God, and that there is none else” (I Kings 8:60).   God has formed the church, and God has called us by His grace, so that we might, with zeal and sincerity, evangelize, spread forth the gospel, that we might communicate that gospel to the lost and be an aid to instruct Christians more clearly in the way of life.

     Evangelism is not a dirty word.  Evangelism is not something on the periphery of the church.  Evangelism is not something accomplished by having one’s church sign on the intersection of a major street.  But evangelism lies at the heart of our purpose as the church and our calling as believers.

     In the words of the Lord, a city built on a hill cannot be hid.  “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  We consider this day the words of the Lord in Matthew 5:13-16, the well-known words:  “Ye are the salt of the earth:  but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?  It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.  Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven.”

     In those words, Jesus is giving the fundamental, most basic truth about evangelism.  Our lives are to display the truth to this world.  Jesus teaches us the necessity of living before the unconverted the life that embodies and consistently displays the transforming power of the gospel.  “Embodies.”  By that I mean, “puts flesh on the bones of truth.”  Consistently, not perfectly, displays the truth.  We are to live with sincerity before the world the transforming power of God’s grace.  The world has the right to look upon the lives of those who confess the truth of Christ and to say to them, “You tell me that the one to whom you belong is the only Savior who has saved by a powerful grace.  You say that your God alone is to be worshiped and to be obeyed.  You tell me that His gospel is peace, His way is salvation.  You say that the Christian faith is truth, the only truth, and all the truth.  You say that only in Christ and redeemed by Him can one ever find any meaning for their life.  All right.  Let’s see it in you!”  The world has the right to say that.

     In II Corinthians 3:2, the apostle Paul says of the Corinthian church:  “Ye are our epistle,” known and seen of all men.  An epistle, he says, not written with ink, but written in the truth as you live it out of your heart.  This is most fundamental.  We are called to live as gospel light.

     Notice that Jesus mentions a fact.  He says, “Ye are the salt of the earth…ye are the light of the world.”  He declares as a fact what His grace has made us to be.  He does not tell us to become this.  He says that by His grace we are this.  He does not say, “You should be; you need to become this,” but “This is what I have made you by My wondrous love to be.”  And now this is the bearing that it must have upon your life:  “Let your light so shine.”

     The Lord is speaking what we call the Sermon on the Mount, or what is really the Magna Carta, the defining document on the kingdom of His grace.  And He begins with the Beatitudes, in which He describes those who are made His citizens.  He pronounces a blessing upon them.  He tells us what a spiritual citizen of His kingdom will look like, spiritually, what grace will make them to be.  He will tell us the spiritual birthmarks of the Holy Spirit.

     He says, “My citizens have distinct spiritual marks.  They are poor in spirit; they mourn; they are meek; they hunger and thirst for righteousness; they are merciful; they are pure in heart; and they are the peacemakers.”  All of these are not described as different rings that we climb in order that we shall at last get into heaven.  These are not the ways that Jesus describes how to get right with God.  No, all of these are the result of His grace bringing us into the kingdom.  By grace we are brought into the kingdom and the Holy Spirit makes us poor in spirit; meek; hungry and thirsty after righteous; merciful; pure in heart; and peacemakers.

     Then in that last Beatitude, the Lord says, “Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”  That is, He is telling us what is going to happen to such citizens of His kingdom in the earth.  You see, God’s purpose with His children is not that He whisks them away out of this world and puts them off in a corner in some special, secret place isolated from the world, without contact.  No!  The Lord anticipates that they shall be in the world.  And what shall the world’s attitude be toward them — toward those who are members of His kingdom — what shall the world think of them, that fallen world, that proud, boastful world?  Jesus says, “Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”  They shall be persecuted for His sake.

     The church, and believers, are not in isolation from this world.  They are now, according to God’s own will, in a sin-darkened and devil-dominated world.  The world will persecute us for righteousness’ sake.

     Then Jesus makes a transition.  What will be the attitude now of His people toward a world that hates them?  What will be their place?  And He answers:  “Ye are the salt of the earth…ye are the light of the world.”  In other words, “I have made you salt and I have made you light in a world that is putrid, rotten, corrupted in sin; where the decay of sin is found in every fabric of human life as micro-organisms and maggots infest meat and putrefy it.  So sin in this world (hate, greed, lust, and perversity) is a great stench in the nostrils of God.

     And, by nature, we are the same.

     But God says to us, “I have saved you.  I have sanctified you.  I have placed My Spirit within you.  Ye are the salt of the earth.  And in this world that is in darkness, where everyone is deluded and foolish in the vanity and emptiness of sin, I have made you light.  I have given you to know happiness and peace with God.”

     Ye are salt.  Ye are light.

     What is our calling?  Are we to withdraw from this world and be isolated?  No.  Are we to deny who we are and compromise with the world and become as they?  No.  We are to live as salt and light in this world, to the accomplishment of God’s purpose, which, by grace, will be the call of His own to Himself or the leaving of this world under the judgments of God.

     Jesus says, “Ye are the salt of the earth.”  There are many opinions offered on this passage.  It is very clear that salt is an agent that stops putrification.  That does not mean that we may look for the Christian influence to change this world outwardly.  We know that the Scriptures are plain that outwardly this world shall develop in the way of lawlessness and sin.  But it means simply this:  A godly life has its impact.  It leaves its testimony, as I said, for good — according to God’s grace — or for judgment.  A life of holiness, in which you put away the putrid deeds of sin that the world craves, makes an impact that the world cannot escape.  It leaves a testimony.  It may be that God brings one of His own to you to ask, “Why are you different?”  Or it might be that God will leave those who see your life without excuse, for they have seen the transforming power of God’s grace right before their eyes in you.

     The Lord is saying, “This is what I have made you.  I have made you salt.  I have given you repentance over sin in your life.  Now you are to live as a repentant sinner in this world.”  At the office, in the lunchroom, or at the jobsite; perhaps when the guys, the unconverted, pull out the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated and you show that you have no interest in that.  You have disdain for that.  When there is cursing going on, you say something.  Or there is a group of women, neighbors, and they are being catty and gossiping and you walk away or you rebuke them and say that that is not right.  “We must not be that way.”  Then that grace works in a consistent Christian lifestyle.  “Ye are the salt, the power, of that example.”  If a holy example is not seen in our lives, in our jobs, in our neighborhoods, among our friends, what good is our Christian profession?  Jesus says, “It is good for nothing but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men.”  Salt is the living of a repentant and holy life in this world.

     But Jesus says also, “Ye are the light of the world.”  Light is that which dispels darkness.  Light is that which points to the truth of God.  The marvelous light of Christ is shined upon our hearts to give to us the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ, says the apostle.  The Lord says, “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works.”  That is an imperative:  “Let your light shine!”  The Lord is calling us to a conscious effort that His grace works within us.  “Give out the light that you have been made to be.”  Let your light be a manifestation of the gospel of God’s grace, of what it does for sinners.  So live your life, as a member of His kingdom, that your life embodies and is a consistent example of the transforming power of His grace.

     The Lord is assuming that we are living in this present sinful world and we have tasted of His grace.  Now, as we go out to the store, as we go out to eat, as we live with the neighbor next door, as we are at the workplace or in college — let your light shine!

     The emphasis here is on the visual.  Let your light shine — how?  That they may see your good works.  The Lord did not say, “Let your light shine that they may hear your good words.”  Though that is true enough — we are to speak of Him whom we love.  But the Lord does not say that.  He says, “That they may see your good works.”  By God’s grace, we must display the Christian life before the world that they might see it.

     For God’s purpose.  It might be a purpose of bringing His own to Himself, or of hardening those who reject Him.

     Jesus emphasizes this as He continues in verse 14:  “A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.”  Why is a city built on a hill?  To display it, not to hide it.  The church is not to be hidden.  We are not a secret society.  The church must not say, “We don’t want anyone to know what we believe.”  The church does not lock the door to strangers.  Men do not light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that it may give light to all that are in the house.  It is obvious, said Jesus, why one would light a candle in a dark house — to give light.  So our lives are intended to be seen.  So the truth that God has given to the church is to be preached, is to be declared.  The church is to shine forth the gospel of God’s grace, as the mighty power of God unto the salvation of His church, and to the exposing of sin and to the leaving without excuse of all those who reject this only light that is in Christ Jesus.

     They are to see the light of the gospel in our good works.  When the Lord speaks of good works, He is not saying that these works are perfect works.  Our works, as Christians, are polluted with our own sin and we know that.  What are good works?  The best definition that I can give to you would be the definition that is found in a beautiful creed called the Heidelberg Catechism (Lord’s Day 33, Question 91):  “What are good works?”  To which is the answer:  “Those which proceed from a true faith, are done in obedience to the law of God and for His glory, and not such as are founded upon the institution or imaginations of men.”

     Good works are those that proceed from a true faith.  The source must be faith in Jesus Christ.  Thus the source must be the grace of God.  For true faith is the gift of God.  A good work is that which is done in compliance with God’s law, the Ten Commandments.  And a good work is that which is done for the motive of the glory of God.

     Now, that life of good works is to be found in the Christian in all that he does.  Our life is not compartmentalized.  Good works are not just for Sunday, in the church, or in the Christian school; but throughout all of our life we have one life to the glory of God, in obedience to the will of God, and out of faith in Jesus Christ.

     We are to do, in the words of the apostle in Philippians 2:14-16, all things without murmuring and disputing, that we may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom we shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life.  We are to do these things without grudging, without arguing, without whining, without griping.  We are to do all things as harmless and blameless children of God, in all things.  It must be seen that, by grace, we have been made Christians.

     Always the Scriptures are assuming the fact that the child of God is going to be observed on this earth.  You are watched.  You are watched at college, at work.  The world has its eye upon you.

     Now God is calling us, Christ is calling us, saying, “You are to be seen as one who does not complain, one who is different from others, one who does not murmur.  That is so counter-cultural today.  There is nothing but gripes; there is nothing but complaints; there is nothing but resentment; there is nothing but selfishness.  But we, by the grace of God, are to begin now living out of a new principle in Christ.  And the world, said Jesus, will see it.

     Let your light shine.  You are to live consciously as one who represents, embodies, the power of Christ crucified; as one in whom can be seen the transforming grace of God.  It will be a life that shows true love of God.  It will be a life that shows a prevailing joy and cheerfulness.  It will be a life that cuts against the grain of the culture in which we are placed — cutting across the grain of culture in marriage and family, where we see divorce and remarriage and broken homes.  By the grace of God, they are to see that you relate to your wife in ways that simply blow their mind.  You say to them, “I have one woman in my life.  That’s my wife.  She has my heart.  She has my ear.  She has all my care.  And I will be faithful to her till death.”  Let your light shine.

     Let your light shine in this world of sexual impurity.  You do not laugh at the jokes.  You have courage, whether they call you “a prude,” or “holier than thou.”

     Let your light shine in that your life is not ruled by greed.  The culture today is drunk with stuff!  You are not to live so that you show that your greatest excitement is the latest gadget that you bought.  You are to live in such a way that you show that the fountain of your joy is not flowing from Taiwan or from China or found at Wal-Mart or somewhere on Wall Street.  But the fountain of all life and joy is to be found in Christ Jesus, your Lord.

     Jesus says, “that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  That is the purpose:  that they may glorify God; that God, according to His will, a will of eternal grace, of sovereign election, of the atonement (the particular atonement of Christ), that God might save His own by His grace.  Jesus is saying that the Christian life before the world becomes a means for the salvation of others.  That is, others see that grace of God and are drawn by the Holy Spirit that they, too, might come under the Word of God, which is able to save them to the uttermost.

     God brings His children, very often, to the light of the gospel through the testimony and life of other Christians.  Do we say, “Well, the doctrine of election means that all of God’s people will be saved.  So I don’t care about it.  I don’t need to worry about that.  I don’t need to be concerned whether my life is a fit testimony of the gospel of grace or not.  I can live like the world.  I can live like sin because God’s going to save His people anyway.  And He’s going to save me, too.  So it doesn’t really matter how I live.”  Is that the way you think?  That is blasphemy!  All of it is blasphemy!  That is sin!  To think that way is sin!

     The life of the Christian, by the grace of God, is a means of God — a means whereby it might be that one comes under the Word of God.  We read in Romans 10:   Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  You witness to them.  You live your life before them.  They, perhaps, show a beginning interest in those things of eternal life.  You teach them.  You invite them to church.  When they come to church with you, you open the Scriptures.  You explain the sermon that has been preached to them.  And God, by His wonderful grace, saves.  But the first means, the first hook of God cast out to save His elect, is the life of His church in this world.  The lifestyle of God’s people is intended of God to be an arrowhead that He shoots into the hearts of those He has known and chosen eternally, that they might be pricked and brought under the gospel light.

     Ye are the light of the world.  Do they see something different about us?  Are our lives a silent rebuke to them?  Do we live in such a way that they come and ask, “Why are you peaceful in your trials?  How is it that you can stand up to things that simply are overwhelming to us?  Why aren’t you dependent on the artificial aids and pleasures that we are?  What is it that you have and we don’t?”  Then we respond with the psalmist:  “Come, and I will tell you what the Lord has done for my soul.”  And your Father in heaven is glorified.

     Let us pray.

     Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word.  Bless it to our hearts this day.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.