14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15
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. 16
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
In watching some worthwhile Christian TV last night, this verse was read to me. In the context of the show (Drive Thru History: America, You can become a Facebook fan of the show by clicking HERE), they were talking about the Pilgrims travails in getting to America. In that show it was mentioned that one of their driving forces was the verse above from the Sermon on the Mount. As the host read off this passage, the end of verse 16 stuck in my ears.
With all the talk the Lord has been giving me on making a difference as Christians, and applying God's will and righteousness to our freedoms, this verse played right into that theme. We have a calling. Not just to BE a Christian, but to make a difference as one. Our calling is not just to take dominion over the world, but to do so with Godly stewardship. Our commission is not just to make disciples, it is all of these things, and it is all of these things done in such a way that we reflect Jesus, and not ourselves.
Look at what Jesus says here. We cannot hide what we have, and what we are. We can try, but to do so, is to live a life contrary to what Jesus has called us to do. For those people who's Christian faith is "personal" to them (with personal meaning, I'll keep to myself, and my faith and fruit are none of anyone's business by myself), this verse obviously puts that discussion to a close. Jesus said, to show the world His light! We cannot do that while being hidden away, not going fellowshipping with believers, not breaking bread with believers, and not praying with other believers. If we think we can, we are denying the will of God in our lives, and creating a Christian-like faith that is not biblical.
But more to the point of what struck me last night. How do we decide about those gray areas? What biblical principals do we have to guide us in making those choices? The end of verse 16 helps us. "Let your light shine before men…" OK, we get that, we cannot be a self-sustaining Christian island. But Jesus goes on to say, "that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven". THAT is a tall order. What Jesus is saying is that whatever we choose to do as believers, that it must be done in such a way that people see it as Godly. Not just that it IS Godly, but that they see it and understand it to be Godly! The result of what we do MUST bring praise to God, not merely attention to ourselves.
A recent photo into the crowd of one of the largest "Christian" concerts in America showed a man in the front rows holding up a cast iron frying pan because the band playing was named "Skillet". I do not know much of the band, its members, or the music that they play. But if they are properly shining their light, using their talents, expressing their freedoms and liberties in Christ, the desired effect of what they would call 'worship' should have the crowd in prayer, meditation, reflection, or holding up bibles, rather than "moshing for Jesus", stage diving, and waving 6 lb. cooking utensils around like Sylvester hoping to whack Tweetie Bird. The effect was completely different, and the band made no attempt at adjusting it.
Don't get me wrong. I am not against us celebrating our freedom and liberty in Christ. We have been given it as a gift from God. It is ours to use, but let us not lose the understanding that we have a great responsibility to use it wisely, and in a Godly fashion There are limits and guidelines that too often get overlooked, all in the name of 'freedom' and 'liberty'. When this happens, Jesus' light ceases to shine, and any light that may shine from us at all, will be that of our self-exulted intellect in deciding that our way is better than God's. I say go for it! Go out and enjoy this life while we have it! But do not forget the life that Jesus has called us to and that you accepted when He became your Lord and Savior. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.