by Mike Ratliff
“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 5:14-16 ESV)
While Joel and Victoria Osteen believe that our Lord’s command to let your light shine before others in the passage above is to prosper and show everyone how God is blessing you, this is not what He was talking about at all. We are not to be conformed to this world, we are to be unified with our brothers and sisters in Christ while not being yoked to professing Christians who are not genuine, and we are to lay up our treasure in heaven not here on earth. Living like this makes one stand out because it is a way of life that is conformed to God and His ways, which are not the ways of the world. This will get the attention of the unregenerate.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:12-18 ESV)
When God saves someone, they are not automatically mature believers. God has designed each believer’s path of sanctification. Some may struggle with besetting sins that others mortify rather quickly. All of us have to learn to exercise our faith so that we can be strong in the Lord in the midst of fiery trials. These things are part of working out our salvation with fear and trembling. It is through this that God works in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure. We do not decide our role in the Kingdom. This is God’s purview. If we will devote ourselves to this denied, disciplined life without grumbling or questioning then our spiritual eyes will be opened much more quickly than if we resist and seek our own before submitting to His will later.
As we learn to walk this way before the face of God, He does something remarkable. He will make sure that we are made visible and marked out in the world as His children. They will see us much differently than we see ourselves. They may even think that we are just trying harder than them, but we know better. We know that we are where we are on this path because of God’s good work in us. Others may see us as blameless and innocent children of God without blemish, but we can live obediently like this only by the grace of God. In comparison to the unregenerate, we most certainly are shining lights amidst a crooked and twisted generation. God uses this for His glory as well as to draw others to Himself. The more Christlike we become, the brighter we shine. The more humble we are the more God uses us as examples to rebuke those who are not. Yes, this is shining our light before others. This will also cause us to be persecuted.
“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. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12 ESV)
There have been Christian martyrs since God has been calling the Righteous to Himself, Able being the first. If we are conforming ourselves to the world, fashioning how we look and act after the spirit of this age, then we are not shining our light before others. The light of the Christian is a reflected light that comes from God. Only those who are humbly working out their salvation with fear and trembling are reflecting Christ’s light into the world. These are reviled and persecuted by those who hate the light and love the darkness. They are persecuted even as they do good works such as feeding the hungry, helping the helpless, and leading others to Christ. This brings glory to God because it is by His grace that they can do this.
My brethren let us do as Paul did in devoting ourselves to obeying God with our entire being. As we minister before God this way we are pouring out our lives as a drink offering that others may learn to love and obey God as we do. On the other hand, if we live selfish, self-focused lives we are not reflecting Christ’s light into the world nor are we laying up treasure in heaven. No, we are living for the here and now and to have our best life now. The tragedy of living this way is that it is evidence of either spiritual immaturity or of an unregenerate heart.
Examine yourself. Ask God to show you the truth. Repent wherein He shows you. Stop living for self and instead, live for God’s glory alone in your life. The more you do this, the more humble you will become and will reflect even more of Christ’s light into the crooked and twisted society in which we live. God may very well use you to bring multitudes to repentance and belief.
Soli Deo Gloria!