“Ye be [the] light of the world; a city set on an hill may not be hid; So shine your light before men, that they see your good works, and glorify your Father that is in heavens.”
A most simple analogy – think of the world as a dark room with no windows. Inside this darkness, various Christians function as matches, candles, pen lights, oil lamps, electric lamps, street lights, traffic lights, flood lights, spot lights, lighthouses, stars, nebula.
Whatever our manifestation of Light, we always outshine Dark. The questions are: to what extent? and for how long?
“[Into] Without end I shall not forget thy justifyings; for in those thou hast quickened me. (I shall never forget thy precepts; for through them thou hast given me life.)”
Wonderful, isn’t it? – that word “justifyings.” And who is the justifier? Well, God of course. Who quickens whom? Well God of course quickens us. How? Through His own justifyings; His own precepts.
Always I think of God’s work as the preparation of the Gift – the salvation earned for us by His Son who sacrificed Himself for us – His enemies – on the Cross. And our work? Ours is hard and easy at the same time – we are called to accept the Gift from His hands.
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
What’s my prize? I used to buy Crackerjacks and open the box primarily for the little plastic prize sealed in cellophane – a small compass, a tiny magnifying glass, a delicate necklace.
What’s my mark? I used to run the 50 yard dash in third and sixth grades. I remember the command, “On your mark, get set, go” before taking off as fast as I could possibly dash.
What’s my high calling? Pressing forward? Seeking God in Christ Jesus? Is this the prize I was hoping for when I opened the Crackerjacks’ box? Is this the mark where I waited before the race? Am I understanding anything?
I guess it’s not my high calling; it’s God’s. His high calling is fulfilled in His Son, Jesus Christ. Press on to take hold of Him, for He does not fail. He does not break. He does not disappear. He is the mark; He is the high calling; He is the prize.
My anger at injustice, at the evil [in myself and in others] isn’t going to result in the righteousness that God demands. Turning away from injustice and evil is, however, a necessary consequence of receiving [in humility] the Word of God, which is joined to me.
Listening to the Word is not enough, says James. We must be “doers of the Word” and so not deceive ourselves. What is “doing” the Word?
Look to Jesus for the answer. Doing the Word has nothing to do with hate. Doing the Word has more to do with sorrow. Jesus rarely shows even His anger for evil; rather He shows sorrow over evil. He shows His longing to gather His children to Himself as a mother hen seeks to gather her chicks to herself. Jesus loves His enemies; He does good to those who hate Him. He prays for those who seek to destroy Him and His Kingdom. And, this love isn’t self-righteous or haughty. Rather, Jesus is genuinely humble.
In mildness, receive the Word of God which may save your soul.
20 for the wrath of man worketh not the rightwiseness of God.
21 For which thing cast ye away all uncleanness, and plenty of malice, and in mildness receive ye the word that is planted[and in mildness receive ye the word inset, or joined], that may save your souls.
22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Remember when Jesus asks what builder puts his hand to a construction project without first calculating the cost? Remember when He strongly suggests you [the builder] make sure you have the resources to finish the task before you start the work? Well, God does the same thing. Even before He creates the universe: the galaxies, the supernovas, the black holes, the quarks, the stars, our sun, our planet with its plants, animals, and mankind; God calculates the cost. After all, it’s not like He’s in the dark. He knows the cost before He begins to build. Paul writes to the church at Philippi:
“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”
“And to Him that is mighty to do all things more plenteously than we ask or understand, by the virtue that worketh in us [after the virtue that worketh in us], to Him be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus, into all the generations of the world of worlds [into all the generations of the worlds of worlds]. Amen.”
God is mighty. He is capable. He does “all things more plenteously than we ask or understand.” Almost goes without saying that we do not understand God. His thoughts are not like our thoughts; His ways are not like our ways. How many times do we fall into the trap of believing otherwise?
Jesus says for us to seek, for then we find. Paul says we don’t even know what to pray, so the Holy Spirit prays for us.
How can anyone think we are saved by anything we do? Rather, God declares His own virtue works in us to the praise of His glory.
“God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19, KJV)
The lights were out in my room; the dogs were settling down when I heard that little ding from my iPhone [which functions as my alarm clock.] I don’t know why I checked it; I was relatively certain it was a notification from WP and not a text message from my daughter or father or mother [the only people I know who might text me at that hour.]
I reached for my glasses [no! I don’t want to wear contacts; thank you], but couldn’t locate them in the near total darkness. I turned on the standing lamp, put on my now visible glasses and looked at my iPhone. I saw these words [in addition to the content that automatically comes from WP regarding comments]:
“By the way, I got your book this week. I’ll be reading it soon.”
Well, lo and behold, my little heart just lept with joy.
Jesus says, “heaven and earth shall pass, but My Words shall not pass.” What’s permanent in the universe? Jesus says that God’s Word is everlasting, unchanging, permanent just as He is everlasting, unchanging, permanent. Although parts of God’s Word are difficult to understand; nevertheless, they are not going to disappear. These Words of God can not be removed from the rest because they are inconvenient or hard to accept or a mystery to us.
What’s remarkable to me is how at one time in life a passage of God’s Word might be inscrutable and later become clear as crystal. Why the difference? Experience? Or perhaps blessing? Maybe a little of one, and a lot of the other? The eventual illumination of a previously obscure and even impossible statement in God’s Word makes Jesus’ promise even more precious to me. I realize that eventually God’s Word will be made fully known to those He loves. We will no longer see through a glass darkly, but we will know as we are fully known.
What is the problem with acknowledging that God chooses – that God has the final say, so to speak? Why does this truth bring us up short, if it does? We know from scripture that God chooses Abram from whom He creates an entire people – people He identifies as His own and who are identified by Paul as the original olive tree while the remainder of God’s people are grafted into this original vine. We know God chooses Moses over Pharaoh, Joseph over his brothers, Jacob over Esau. He chooses Mary over all other women to be the mother of His Son, Jesus. We acknowledge these choices of people, and do not balk.
“Blessed is the folk, whose Lord is his God; the people which he chose into heritage to himself.”
We recognize that ultimately God’s blessing is what sets these people and us apart from others. To think it is anything else – especially to think it is anything we do or say that is somehow better than what others say and do – is an erroneous belief. God chooses us “into heritage to Himself.”