Photo credit to Nheng Villanueva Rubio.
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 5:16
I’m starting to think that unless we read Scripture through the eyes of the whole Scripture, we fall into the danger of misrepresenting Scripture. Because, if I just start here, with Your “sermon on the mount” I’m left with the impression that I’m supposed to shine before others like a city lit on a hill or like an unconvered candle in a house. I’m left to think that it’s up to me do do all the shining and then as I do my wonderful shining, my wonderful shining is going to lead to me doing things that glorify You. Really? When was I ever able to shine that brightly on my own that whatever I did, people stood amazed and said, “Wow, that had to be of God!”? I mean, isn’t that what You are saying here, Jesus? Isn’t that what You are saying should happen as people see the light reflecting from me?
Yep, I’m still thinking about what it means to be the light of the world according to what You mean about it. And that part about glorifying my Father in heaven really stands out. I mean, this can’t just be talking about doing good things here. Good things aren’t what glorify God. God things glorify God. Acting in ways the world doesn’t act, glorifies God. Loving when others hate You, relying on God when circumstances tell you not to, that’s God stuff. I mean, if I want to know what You mean, I need to look back at what You did and what You thought about in Scripture. So that’s what I’m going to do.
I’m taken back to Mathhew 12 where Jesus meets the man possessed with a devil. He was also blind and dumb. And You heal him so he’s free and can speak and hear. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Is this the son of David?” See, this is a title saying that the people believed from this action that You, Jesus, were the promised Messiah. What You did was so amazing, “existemi” in Greek, that it put them out of their wits! I mean, no one, absolutely no one but God could do something like that. That was a good work that glorified Your Father in heaven. No man could do that on his own.
In Mark, You tell of another man who was possessed by a demon. Imagine this happening in front of your eyes! “And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, ‘Let us alone; what have we to do with you, you Jesus of Nazareth? Are you come to destroy us? I know you, who you are, the Holy One of God.’ And Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Hold your peace, and come out of him.’ And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What thing is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority commands he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.'” The people were amazed at Your works again. And they knew that the only One who had authority over spirits, over demons, was God. And You were as that One in authority. Wow! That was a good work that glorified Your Father in heaven. No man could do that on his own.
Let’s move on to Mark 2. Some friends bring a paralyzed man to see Jesus. They even rip apart a roof top to lower him into the room because it’s the only way they can get him near Jesus. So Jesus, You proceed to forgive his sins. But the Pharisees say that’s blasphemy because only God can do that. So You tell the man, “Arise, and take up your bed, and go your way to your house.” “And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw it on this fashion.'” That was a good work that glorified Your Father in heaven. No man could do that on his own.
Now here’s a twist. In Luke 2 we jump back to when You were 12 years old, Jesus. And You’ve remained back in the temple, while your parents were heading home. And there You were in the temple, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” That’s that same word, existemi, because the spiritual insight You had was so intense for a young boy that all they could say was, “This must be from God!” That was a good work that glorified Your Father in heaven. No man, or boy, could do that on his own.
You go to a house of a little girl who has died from a fever. You say, “She’s just sleeping.” Everyone laughs because they know she’s dead. But You take her parents and Peter, James, and John into her room and close the door. You take her by the hand and say, “Maid, arise.” And she does! “And her parents were amazed (existemi)…” That was a good work that glorified Your Father in heaven. No man could do that on his own.
Later in Luke, there were women standing outside Your tomb. And they amazed the disciples with news that Your tomb was empty. The women were bearers of that God news. That was news of a good work that glorified Your Father in heaven. No man could do that on his own.
Jumping ahead to Acts 2 we find the believers gathered together on the day of Pentecost, all in one accord, in one place. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” And those that were gathered around them that day, “were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, ‘Behold…we hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God’. And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?'” And then Peter told them what it meant. See, this was a good work that glorified their Father in heaven. No man could do that on his own.
But let’s not miss something here. Scripture also tells me that I can focus on the wrong amazement. My existemi can be be wrongly focused and when it is, my works will not glorify my Father in heaven. Why? Because I can do it on my own. Or because it focuses on other power. See, there was this certain man named Simon, and he was a sorceror. Acts 8:9 says that he bewitched the people of Samaria and posed that he himself was a great one. He astounded people with his works, his magic, his ways. That word translated as bewitched is our word existemi. And all the people paid attention to him and said, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” Scripture continues, “And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic.” But then Philip came to Samaria and pointed them to the Good News and they believed in Jesus. Even Simon believed. And Simon himself, as he walked life out with Philip and saw God working through Philip in signs and miracles, was amazed. Simon became so focussed on the miracles, since that had been his focus before, that one day when Peter and John prayed and layed hands on some believers and they received the Holy Spirit, Simon wanted that power and wanted to pay money to receive it.
Listen to part of Peter’s response. “For I percieve that you are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” Noah Webster says that phrase, the gall of bitterness, means that Simon was in a state of extreme impiety or enmity to God. He was standing in the door of apostasy. His attitude towards the works of God through the hands of man was ungodly, and irreverent toward God. His attitude actually showed comtempt to God’s character and authority. He was implying that man can control the acts of God. Poor guy. It’s so easy to fall into our old ways. That’s the bond of iniquity.
See, our sin wants to draw us back. You, Lord, want to take us forward. Before trusting in You, we controlled our own lives, our own destinies, or at least we felt we did. And if I’m not careful, it’s so easy for me fall back into controlling things again. What Simon did was wrong. If he didn’t handle that root of “bitterness” it would lead to him not letting God be in control, not letting You be You. But what makes me any different than Simon? Are there areas of my life that I try to control? If I’m so busy fundraising, am I really letting God show Himself to be my provider? Is there a point I need to step back and let God be God and let Him do the work? Am I busy manipulating people to get what I want God to do? Do I need to step back and let God move in people’s hearts, and stop thinking that the power is mine?
Yes, I think, as I sit and examine myself, I have to be very cautious to not be caught in the gall of bitterness myself. I’ve been sent to let God be in control, to let Your light shine, and not mine. I need to learn to do that and I can only do that as I learn to fully surrender to You. I’m not there yet Lord, but I’m so glad that You don’t give up on me, that this work that You began in me, You will continue until the day of Christ. You sent me to be a light and not just any light. You sent me to be a light for You. Teach me to let You outshine me. Teach me to just absorb Your light and reflect You to others. Guard me against my own selfish ambitions and desires.
Philip wasn’t busy doing good works. That wasn’t his focus. Philip was all about going everywhere and preaching the word. That doesn’t mean he was going everywhere giving sermons. Preaching, euaggelizo, means to announce the good news, and in this case it’s the Good News about Jesus, the Gospel. And when you start sharing the Good News for real because you’ve come to know the Good News, it effects more than your words. The Good News comes alive in your life. The Words shine forth in truth. That’s what Simon was missing. The relationship is so much more important than the stuff, but if the relationship is right, then the glorious stuff of the relationship will just naturally flow, not because we’re focussed on the “stuff” but because we’re living understanding and doing and walking in and sharing the will of our God.
It’s not just about announcing the Good News with our voices. If I am Your workmanship, if my whole being and my body are Your temple, then all of me must publicly declare Your goodness. I’ve got wonderfully blinding glad tidings to tell. I’ve got wonderful news of a coming kingdom of God and wonderful tidings of a glorious salvation in You, Jesus, because of Your death, burial, and resurrection.
Father, You sent Jesus into the world to be the Light of the world so that the people which sat in darkness would see a great light, and so that those which sat in the region and shadow of death , light is sprung up. (Matthew 4:16) Jesus, You said, “as the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you.” It’s true. You said, “What I tell you in darkness, that speak in light: and what you hear in the ear, that preach upon the housetops.” (Matthew 10:27) This time, that word preach, is kerusso, like the faith-based T-shirt company. I’m to proclaim, to herald, like a public crier, Your divine truth, the Gospel. And for me, to herald that, is to let You shine Your ways from my life. My life ought to speak louder than any “Christian” T-shirt ever could. See, I can do something a T-shirt can’t. I can love like You love. I can forgive like You forgive. I can let You demonstrate Yourself through me in every situation as I remain surrendered and dependent upon You. Lord, in the same way as You, by listening to my Shepherds voice, by letting You have Your way in me, teach me and make me to be a true light for You in this dark world. That is a good work that glorifies my Father in heaven. No man can do that on his own.