It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone. As I reflect on last year, I am amazed at the events that took place throughout the world. While I am saddened by many of the things I have seen and heard, I am aware that the Lord is still at work. The condition of marriages, families and communities; the increasing hostility and division between people of differing ethnicities; and the continual disregard for the value of human life, born and unborn, are all things that I will remember from last year. While sad, I remain encouraged that the Lord knows, cares and expects His followers to have an impact on this world for His glory.
In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus speaks of the role that His followers would play in the world. He tells the disciples and anyone else that would follow Him,
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
What does it mean for those who follow Jesus to be salt and light in a world of decay and darkness? Jesus understood that His followers would need both character to influence a world in decay and an outward witness that points to the Father. Pure lives will act to hold back corruption, while dedication to spreading the Gospel and meeting needs with love will bring the love of God to the forefront.
In light of the times in which we live, I have three thoughts that I hope will be helpful as we move through the new year and engage the decay and darkness around us:
1. The truth of any matter is a matter of truth.
It is vital that we understand the source of the decay that we see and experience daily. It comes from the fall of man, and the fall was set in motion by a lie. The account can be found in Genesis 3. It is amazing that the enemy begins his attack by calling into question the Word of God: “Indeed, has God said…?” By doing this, Satan also calls into question the character and nature of God. Once God’s Word is questioned, the next step is to reject it. As we engage the issues dealing with ethnicity, marriage and life, let us remember that the main issue is an issue of truth. We must engage with truth; a lie has speed, but the truth has endurance. Indeed, God has said that from one man came all men; that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world; that marriage is God’s idea, a holy covenant that He established; and that human life is precious.
2. The Word is not only free from error but sufficient for life.
As we engage the decay and shine in the darkness, we must rely on the Word as the source of our message and director of our lives. There is a trend to view the Bible as holy and good, but not sufficient. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” The Word is sufficient and will provide the wisdom, training and help that is needed to make an impact for the Kingdom of God. We must be committed to conforming our lives to the Word of God.
3. It is not the truth you know, but the truth you obey that makes a difference.
To be effective for the Kingdom, it is vital that hearing the Word results in godly action. James 1:22 says, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Whenever an area of our life is in contradiction with the Word, we must quickly conform our life to the Word. As we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel, we reflect the light of Christ in the dark world in which we live and point others to the only source of hope for humanity. Let us exercise our faith with our feet so that the watching world can see and glorify our God.
The Lord does some of His best work in dark and dirty times, seeds grow best in fertile soil, and lights are most visible in the darkest night. Our disappointments many times will be opportunities for His divine appointments. As you move through the new year and engage tough life issues, my encouragement is that you look at and engage the issues through a biblical lens and framework.