Light Up the House – You are the Splendor of the World

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lightbasket“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5.14-16).

“Who said your light was little?” Ted Dekker

As we seek to follow Jesus in fullness, there may be no greater quest than to fully understand who we are in Him; to define our unique identity by His Word of declaration. I would suggest that from this proper understanding comes the freedom and power to live out the high calling to which God-Jesus Himself has called us (1 Thessalonians 5.23-24; 2 Thessalonians 2.16-17).

Our identity first comes from a relational understanding of who Jesus is – a task intended to start in this life and launch into eternity. It says much about the transforming power of the Christ message that Jesus describes himself as the light of the world (John 8.12; 9.5) and now here in Matthew declares that you and I are that light as well. He bestows upon us his nature because that is the outcome of His relational union with us. His mission has become our mission; His nature, our nature; His splendor – ours!

Notice the absolute Word of declaration that Jesus gives in the opening words of these verses – “You are the light of the world”. In seven English words, he tells us who we are without making conditions to it. He’s teaching a large crowd of people who are following after Him; people at varying levels of discipleship. He doesn’t single anyone out based on a higher degree of holiness and say, “Look at this woman! She is the light of the world because of her great deeds.” No, he is declaring to the whole crowd that they are the “light” prior to any acts of righteousness done on their part. He doesn’t say, “Follow me for 20 years and prove yourself…. Clean up your act and then you might have a hint of a shine…. Go to the right church…. Have your doctrinal beliefs fine-tuned – and then you will be the light”. No, He pronounces us as the light of the world separate from any accomplishment of our own. The next sentence takes all this a step further. The nature of a city built on a hill is that it is easily seen. Jesus speaks in the absurd when considering what it would take to hide such a city; to camouflage its place – it’s identity.

So it is with the follower of Christ. Not only is our identity not based on our works, it is ridiculous to think that that identity is hidden when we or others try to camouflage it by sin, condemnation and failure. Jesus’ Word of Declaration is so unequivocal that even the scars of this world cannot dim us or change who we are. What is more, collectively WE are the light of the world. One light is bright, two is better, three better still, a body of Christ followers – wow! It is the identity and purpose of the entire family of Christ to illuminate the whole world. May we reject with the authority of the Word any other false identification other than the one announced by Jesus – you (we) ARE the light of the world.

This understanding of identity does not lead us away from acts of righteousness but is the actual thrust toward them. All human beings live out of who they believe they are. Therefore, if I understand and believe that God has already defined and elevated my standing through Christ (“You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a city set on a hill”, etc.), works of love, kindness and radiance are mine, simply needing to be released.

Now what does this have to with marriage? Jesus said, “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” There are many assumptions we have to make when we read Scripture as to what certain characters fully had in mind when they said the things they said. So, I’m not sure, but doesn’t it make sense that Jesus would be thinking of our families when he uses the metaphor of physical light in the house. In fact, shouldn’t our identity as light bearers be first practiced within the relationships of our households? And don’t you see how understanding our identity and purpose given to us by Christ would radically affect how we esteem our wives/husbands? How we invest in our children?

Finally, it is our calling as believers in Jesus to let our light and our deeds shine in such a way that Abba is glorified. It has nothing to do with people looking at us and saying, “Oh, what a good husband he is! What a good wife! Or parent! If there is something supernatural happening in our house it is only because of the supernatural splendor of God who abides there with us. May His name be honored! Amen.

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4.6)

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Messy Relationships – the Call of Every Believer

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I am so glad that I have been loved when I have been so messy. This is God’s brand of love in us – “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5.6-8)

“We are well aware that we are smack-dab in the middle of God’s process of sanctification. And because this is true, we will struggle again. Selfishness, pride, an unforgiving spirit, irritation, and impatience will certainly return. But we are neither afraid nor hopeless. We have experienced what God can do in the middle of the mess. This side of heaven, relationships and ministry are always shaped in the forge of struggle. None of us get to relate to perfect people or avoid the effects of the fall on the work we attempt to do. Yet, amid the mess, we find the highest joys of relationship and ministry.”

Lane, Timothy S.; Paul David Tripp (2006-11-01). Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (p. 2). New Growth Press.

The Old is Better

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“He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:36-39)

When you have a hole in your favorite pair of jeans, you don’t sew a patch of preshrunk cloth over the hole, because the patch would rip away from the jeans, making the hole even worse. In the same way you wouldn’t pour fresh grape juice into an old wine skin, would you? If you did, the skins would not be able to expand as the juice ferments, resulting in both the wine and the skins to be ruined. No, we all know that you put new wine into a new wineskin so that both are preserved (Matthew 9:16-17, Mark’s paraphrase).

There are few texts in Scripture more intriguing and full of meaning than these. Throughout the ministry of Jesus – then and now – he calls us to a new way; to a path leading away from our tainted inclinations and toward maturity – from grape juice to well-aged wine.

It’s odd though … we often choose a different way, a foolish way, a “ruined” way.

Jesus begins this parable by stating a truth that anyone should know. Today He might begin by saying, “Don’t you see? ‘No one’ jumps out of an airplane without a parachute! ‘No one’ climbs a mountain in flip-flops! And ‘No one’ really believes that the Mariners will win the World Series!”

… and no one puts new wine into old wineskins!

In the first century it would have been common knowledge not to put new wine into an old wineskin. Everyone knew that in the natural fermentation process of wine the juice expands thus the wineskin must have the capacity to grow with it. An old wineskin has previously been stretched as far as it can go; it is rigid and brittle. Therefore the expanding wine presses the limits of its fabric and breaks through, wasting the new wine. A new wineskin has yet to be pressed to its limits and therefore has the plasticity and capacity to grow and expand with the wine.

So what is the message and how does it apply to marriage? I see the new wine as the new events and situations entering our lives – good or bad. In response to these circumstances do I have the capacity to respond with a good degree of flexibility or do I react to them with rigidity and stubbornness? If I am flexible I can receive the new wine, e.g., Robyn’s counter point of view – and allow it to mature me (us). The goal here is to get to the “old wine”; a wine of good taste, refreshment and maturity. In marriage, the goal is for us to produce a relationship that can expand over time; a relationship that allows each other to flex in the ways we believe God is leading us. In this way our union is created not out of uniformity and self-centered demands but with the firm belief God is at work in both of us to produce a mature wine – an ever-expanding bond of love. It is this love that will empower us to respond to one another with a wisdom not our own.

The call for this expansive capacity is especially important over time. It is natural for us to become regimented in how we respond to one another as the years go by. It is here where we must receive from the Spirit a new gift – an ability to respond to each other with grace and patience. Something inspired in our actions ten years ago may not be inspired today. It may be an old wineskin. The healthy exchange of ideas and beliefs will naturally cause a process in us that can be quite reactive. Without the “new gift” the events of our lives will pour into us and we will be ruined. With the gift those same events pour into our relationship resulting in the “good stuff” of marriage. Along with this, I must remember that the old wine and the old wineskins are not to be discarded. Indeed, the old wine is the “best wine” and it is found within the old wineskin. We must allow our marriages to age well. “Forsake not an old friend; for the new is not comparable to him: a new friend is as new wine; when it is old, thou shalt drink it with pleasure (Ecclesiasticus 9:10).

Personally, I am aware of my limited capacity to flex when my plans are interrupted by the daily interjections of my wife (or anyone else). I am amazed and embarrassed at how frequently this behavior shows up. Even as I am writing this paragraph I am sensitive to the irritation I feel from the interruptions going on in the next room. “Can’t you guys be quiet? I’m writing something here that will help us be more patient with each other.” Wow!

Could it be that the ultimate purpose of a new relational wineskin is to allow me to be interrupted by God when I am walking in my self-focused ways? Will I allow Him to “butt into” my agenda – my plans? Who is the better wine maker anyway? Do I dare miss the new work of God by remaining rigid and closed?

Lord, give us all we need to receive the mature wine of your love and presence. Teach us to receive the ordained circumstances of life as a new occasion to expand our souls and to remain in step with your will. Check us when we resort to the safety of our old ways; ways that will inevitably lead to loss and ruin. We rejoice in the fermenting work of your Spirit in our new wineskin. May we be intoxicated with the memories of young love, births of children, commitments maintained through storms and mutual fellowship in the Spirit. That’s the good stuff. “And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”

Through your name we pray. Amen.