“Ye are the salt of the world”…not just the salt of the sanctuary!
And the light…“but no one lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel.”
Strong words from Jesus!
Is this what we have done with our message, building a physical façade around ourselves and our fellowship as believers? Have those same facilities now isolated the “epistle(s) of Christ, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God”, our lives once intended as the living message of God while we worship and work among all men?
Is the context for the gospel now solely dependent upon our public lifestyles outside the sanctuary, though our target audience often misses the key elements that keep us coming back to church: fellowship, song and praise and the rich word often shared within. These elements so much better demonstrate the grace that helps us overcome our own sins; the setting also providing a much needed understanding as to what it means to interact with the living Body of Christ. There is something to be said for “gathering” and church provides that, much like holidays with family.
Outside that context, I am much too comfortable in my humanness, often leaving those who do not understand redemption to judge Christianity based on how I react sometimes in a traffic jams or my response to a political campaign. Ouch!
In preparing for a message on Sunday, I was just thinking how easy it is to flex our spiritual muscle in the church, or display our gifts before others who love us. Speaking in a church, teaching a Sunday School Class, even teaching in a Christian School takes preparation, prayer and sacrifice (all teachers seem to be there these days), but in my experience, the blessing of presenting the gospel is more often that of the presenter, than the audience. I am honored to occasionally be asked, but am always challenged when I think about how different it would be to deliver that same message in love, to an audience not so Jesus friendly.
Perhaps the reason for this blog, a public access venue, that keeps me honest.
How do we maintain our savor, the ability to impact lives outside the Body of Christ; Jesus compared those who live otherwise with a spice that had lost its strength, good only for the dung heap…the modern day mulch bed!
My life of late has been about seeking this out, though not driven by personal condemnation, for as John the Apostle of love, cites: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” Even the word “saved” has now been given a less than loving connotation! I simply want to make a difference with my spiritual life in a world that seems to have less and less regard for the Spirit.
When I pray of late, I am encouraged to “embrace the cross”…not meaning that I should buckle down and pull my weight in the church; or in the community, as in some additional volunteer work, but to fully embrace what Jesus did for me personally on the Cross, in fact, to let that love, demonstrated by the suffering Christ, embrace me! Affording opportunity for His righteousness to fully envelop my life, providing for me even the mind of Christ!
Our mind has such an impact on our behaviors, the gateway to our soul; the eye gate, the portal through which light enters our mind is critical to determining our first response toward others.
“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”-Jesus
Here Jesus cautioned us as to how our mind receives things; interestingly enough he tacks on a stinging comment about the love of money, and the way it can skew what enters our eye gate. That is a sermon for another day, but one that the America Church needs to hear!
Ever notice your first impressions (even the vibes you might feel as you read this blog post) and how they affect our initial response and ability to accept something new or even beneficial? Those first impressions are filtered through our mind’s eye.
Your first response to your first impressions, when acted out, then creates lasting impressions on others; often an indelible take away, that may determine what people think about you long term! Unless of course, they too are forgiving, as I hope my readers will be.
We are spiritual beings that live in human bodies; easily picking up a sense of another’s mind set long before they even speak or act. I recall a recent situation with a young lady with whom I had been asked to engage. When we met I could sense darkness, yet while I was feeling that darkness, I had to wonder what she was feeling from me?
I am quite sure that in my busy pace, I often lack the mind of Christ; even in that moment I found myself distracted by the failures represented by this young girls physical appearance. Life had battered her! Yet, when similar folk approached Christ, needing remedy for their life, whether it was water from a well or freedom from the demons, His response was one of compassion, wisdom and power…salt and light!
What if we daily possessed the “mind of Christ”, not just the access to his wisdom when making difficult calls in our own life; neither some momentary “word of knowledge”, though these spiritual attributes are powerful in times of making great decisions. What if we truly received the words Paul wrote to the Philippians (Chapter 2:1-9), in the nutshell: “let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.”
For those desiring the fuller version:
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (WOW!)
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
I wonder what our reaction to others, and theirs to us might be, if we fully engaged with the mind (attitude) of Christ. How would we view others that are without the awareness and the access to our Father that grace has provided us?
Would we find ourselves weeping over our communities as Christ did Jerusalem? Would we spend our days in service to others, seldom judging, always offering grace, love and whatever tangible remedy was within our power to meet their needs? Perhaps a read through I Corinthians 13 might be in order here…the love chapter!
James reminds us however of the need for balance, for praying when you have a larger capacity is not enough to be called love. If you only offer prayer when in reality you could meet the need, “how does the love of God dwell in you!”
Prayer can do great things for us and for our world. Perhaps Paul knew the difficulty of such maintenance and thus his “pray without ceasing” comment. Prayer is our reporting for duty; maybe why most pray each morning, when grace seems so renewed?
When you pray, embrace the cross or better yet, allow the cross to embrace you as you learn to love others.