by Mike Ratliff
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Matthew 5:10-11 ESV)
A week ago or so I posted an articled titled “Are You Bearing the Marks of Jesus or the Mark of the Beast?”. I received one comment that caused me to reexamine my own walk and motives for doing what I do in the ministry and in all of my relationships. The commenter asked me to consider posting another article examining “what can the average Christian living within the cultural context with which you are most familiar do in his daily life to bear the marks of Jesus Christ?” The marks of Jesus are what each believer receives from our enemy and his seed as part of participating in Christ’s suffering at the Cross. The marks can be physical or even fatal, but more often than not, they are verbal assaults or exclusions because of one’s Christian witness. The commenter also asked, “…how many Christians actually perform these activities, thereby proving with their works that their faith is not dead but living (i.e. the book of James, John 13-17, the “fruitful vines” parables in the Synoptics, etc.)?”
I am convinced that we are not being commanded by God to seek persecution for our faith. If you carefully read Matthew 5:10-11, which I placed at the top of this post, you will see that persecution is inevitable for the righteous. Oh, it is very possible for a Christian to work and live here in this present age and never be persecuted for righteousness’ sake, but for that to be true, that Christian must either be around only other Christians all the time or he or she hides the fact that they are a Christian from those they live around and those with whom they work et cetera. Those Christians living this way will not be persecuted because that only happens to those who are marked as being of Christ in how they live, walk through each day, and their separation from all that is ungodly.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16 ESV)
So you see, the way the average Christian bears the marks of Jesus Christ is to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. This means that as we walk through our days in our jobs and our relationships with those who are of the world and not of Christ, we are not to hide or obscure the fact that we are salt and light. Salty Christians are those whose presence in a group of people causes the savor of Christ, the saltiness of Christ to become manifest there. The believers who do this will not compromise in order to get along. They will be gentle, kind, and never obnoxious to the lost, but they will never participate in the fleshly pursuits of their lost coworkers, friends, or relatives. They will always be ready to give an account of the truth and share their faith. This is being salt and light. This causes God to be glorified and will result in these believers eventually bearing the marks of Christ because all of this is being cross-grained to the culture they are in. The ways of Christ are not compatible with the ways of the world, no matter what the culture is and the believers who are salt and light will be persecuted for righteousness sake.
Believers who are salt and light are humble yet bold. Their primary focus is on eternity and the glory of God. They are praying Christians. They live by prayer. These are Christians with tender-hearts towards God. They listen and obey. This requires time taken away from the flesh and given to time in prayer and immersion in God’s Word. This post is primarily one to show all reading it the day-to-day things they can do to be the salt and light God wants them to be. Below is a prayer from The Valley of Vision titled “Living in Prayer.” I think it describes very well the heart focus of the believer who is used by God as salt and light.
Living in Prayer
O GOD OF THE OPEN EAR,
Teach me to live by prayer as well as by providence, for myself, soul, body, children, family, church; Give me a heart frameable to they will; so might I live in prayer, and honour thee, being kept from evil, known, and unknown. Help me to see the sin that accompanies all I do, and the good I can distil from everything. Let me know that the work of prayer is to bring my will to thine, and that without this it is folly to pray; When I try to bring thy will to mine it is to command Christ, to be above him, and wiser then he: this is my sin and pride. I can only succeed when I pray according to thy precept and promise, and to be done with as it pleases thee, according to thy sovereign will. When thou commandest me to pray for pardon, peace, brokenness, it is because thou wilt give me the thing promised, for thy glory, as well as for my good. Help me not only to desire small things but with holy boldness to desire great things for thy people, for myself, that they and I might live to show thy glory. Teach me that it is wisdom for me to pray for all I have, out of love, willingly, not of necessity; that I may come to thee at any time, to lay open my needs acceptably to thee; that my great sin lies in my not keeping the savour of thy ways; that the remembrance of this truth is one way to sense thy presence; that there is not wrath like the wrath of being governed by own lusts for my own ends.
The other part of this spiritual growth into a praying, usable Christian (by God) is to diligently pursue mind renewal. The Apostle Paul gave us a succinct description of this in Romans 12:1-2.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)
The Christian who is salt and light in this lost and dying world is so by the mercies of God. God’s grace is required or the best we can do is piety based in fleshly works. No, that is not what we are to do. We must become living sacrifices. This is the giving of ourselves, all of our desires, and pursuits, to God. We give Him our all and this is our holy and acceptable daily sacrifice, which is our spiritual worship. This is denying self, taking up ones cross, and following Christ daily. This is submitting to others from a motivation of love (Ephesians 5). When we live in prayer, this is what we are doing. We cannot live in prayer very long if we ignore God’s commands. If we will not submit to others out of love for God’s sake then we cannot live in prayer. The believer who can and does live in prayer is one who walks in repentance.
The wisdom, discernment, and direction that the praying believer has are gifts from God. These are enhanced and made usable by God in our role as salt and light as we are transformed by the renewal of our minds. We will not be conformed to this world if we do this. Instead, we will be conformed to Christ. The verbs and participles in v2 in Greek are all present tense. That means that this is describing continual or repeated action. This is the process God uses to transform Christians from fleshly, spiritual babies to humble, flesh crucified, praying, obedient mighty warriors that God uses as salt and light. The mind renewal part of this process takes place as we become immersed in God’s Word. We study it. We listen to godly preaching and Bible teaching. We submit all of this to prayer and as we do this, the Holy Spirit will work within to test us as God the Father puts us in circumstances designed to drive us to our knees and depend on Him. This is how we grow spiritually.
Several weeks ago I was involved in a small skirmish with a few who were determined to declare war on some of us who stand firm and refuse to allow what is not God’s truth to be presented as such and what is God’s truth to be presented as something less. This back and forth discussion started becoming personal so I told the one who was making the most noise that if he wanted to continue the discussion he must get out His Bible and use it to prove that I was wrong. If he was unwilling to do that then we were done. I will never forget his response. He said, “God gave us minds to use and we have all we need to discern the truth without having to resort to using the Bible.” That ended it. If God’s Word is discounted and Man’s “wisdom” is elevated higher or even equivalent to it then there is a very large problem. This problem is that there would then be no absolute truth. Truth would become whatever we want it to be. This is not God’s way nor are we ever to depart from His truth for when we do then we are in very dangerous spiritual territory.
Those who are salt and light will not be exempt from persecution. It is a given that the world hates God’s truth, resents Christ’s saltiness, and despises His light. Why? These three things are evidence against their unrighteousness. The righteousness of the believer whom God is using as salt and light will be plainly visible to the lost all around him or her. This will result in some form of backlash. We must not compromise in order to “preserve unity” or “preserve peace” with the ungodly even if they claim to be Christians. If professing Christians hate those who tell the truth and refuse to compromise then they are proving their wickedness and the test or trial that God allows in the life of the believer whom He is using as salt and light here will also be used by Him to grow him or her into a mature believer who has wisdom, discernment, and clear direction.
Those who bear the marks of Christ are salt and light. They do not have to seek it to be so, God will use them this way as they grow spiritually. They learn to live in prayer and immerse themselves in His Word. They become living sacrifices whose minds are being continually renewed. Their wisdom and discernment grows and they soon learn that their works that prove their faith is not dead are the ones that flow from being prayerfully uncompromised with the world and its ways. As they experience the world’s resistance to them being salt and light, they will receive the marks of Christ and God will use this to mature them through this testing. Faith that is alive manifests itself like this. Faith that produces some form of religiosity devoid of the salt and light evidence is dead. This is why we must disciple new Christians to live in prayer and in God’s Word while becoming humble, spirit-filled, living sacrifices. Those who have dead faith will not be able to do any of this, but those truly born of the spirit will.
I would like to close with a devotional by Charles Spurgeon, which describes the benefits of living in God’s Word.
Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD. (Proverbs 16:20 ESV)
Wisdom is man’s true strength; and, under its guidance, he best accomplishes the ends of his being. Wisely handling the matter of life gives to man the richest enjoyment, and presents the noblest occupation for his powers; hence by it he finds good in the fullest sense. Without wisdom, man is as the wild ass’s colt, running hither and thither, wasting strength which might be profitably employed. Wisdom is the compass by which man is to steer across the trackless waste of life; without it he is a derelict vessel, the sport of winds and waves. A man must be prudent in such a world as this, or he will find no good, but be betrayed into unnumbered ills. The pilgrim will sorely wound his feet among the briers of the wood of life if he do not pick his steps with the utmost caution. He who is in a wilderness infested with robber bands must handle matters wisely if he would journey safely. If, trained by the Great Teacher, we follow where He leads, we shall find good, even while in this dark abode; there are celestial fruits to be gathered this side of Eden’s bowers, and songs of paradise to be sung amid the groves of earth. But where shall this wisdom be found? Many have dreamed of it, but have not possessed it. Where shall we learn it? Let us listen to the voice of the Lord, for He hath declared the secret; He hath revealed to the sons of men wherein true wisdom lieth, and we have it in the text, “Whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.” The true way to handle a matter wisely is to trust in the Lord. This is the sure clue to the most intricate labyrinths of life, follow it and find eternal bliss. He who trusts in the Lord has a diploma for wisdom granted by inspiration: happy is he now, and happier shall he be above. Lord, in this sweet eventide walk with me in the garden, and teach me the wisdom of faith.
Soli Deo Gloria!