Saturday, January 19, 2008

Shine and Acknowledge

“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 NIV

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:32 NIV

I once did a word study to get a better grasp on what Jesus meant by “light” and discovered a strong corrolation between light and righteousness. Compare the passage above to Isaiah 62:1. “For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.” Jesus is saying, let your righteousness shine before men. Don’t hide it.

“In the same way….” In what same way? “You are the light of the world. A city 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 that way.

I turn this passage into a prayer each time I’m in my prayer room and one day it hit me. God has done some incredible things for me. He has changed me in some very incredible ways. Will I hide that and “put it under a bowl”? Not if I’m going to obey what Jesus says here. And so I have agreed to publish a book about what God has done for me. Talk about putting your light/righteousness on a stand for everyone to see! It’s a scary proposition. But my light, my righteousness brings glory to God if I allow people to see it—if I place it where people can’t help but see. Where does my righteousness come from? Where does yours? Nowhere else but from Jesus. It is a gift, is it not? Christmas has just passed. I was eager to tell others about the lovely things family and friends gave me. How eager am I to tell others about what Jesus has given and done for me?

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” Do I acknowledge Jesus or do I disown him? Certainly I acknowledge him in my book and in my conversations with other Christians, strangers I meet on the street and online but what about at work? I never mention Jesus there. Should I? Or is Jesus talking about when we’re pushed to a place where we must either acknowledge or disown him?

Is it wise to talk about Jesus everywhere I go? Won’t that alienate people? Brand me as weird? Make me less approachable when they need what I have? I don’t want to be thought of as strange or as a fanatic and yet I want to be fanatically devoted to God. In what circumstances am I to acknowledge Jesus?

My righteousness comes from Jesus and nowhere else so if I’m to let my righteousness shine before men, wouldn’t that include saying something about Jesus? Or would it? Jesus told his disciples, “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops. Do not be afraid….” (1:27, 28a) Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. I am afraid.

What is the context of Jesus’ statement about acknowledging him? It is part of the passage mentioned yesterday where Jesus lists all the horrible things that will happen to his disciples. It comes in the context of persecution; of choosing between life and death. Does it also come in the context of choosing between keeping my job or losing it? Of being liked and appreciated or being hated and despised? Between being welcomed or being ostracized? What am I willing to give up to follow Jesus? What am I trying to hold on to?

Oswald Chambers writes, “People are not persecuted for living a holy life, it is the confession of Jesus that brings the persecution.*” Peter called Jesus “a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” (1 Peter 2:8) Am I stumbling over this stone if I keep quiet and say nothing about the source of why I am who I am?

*“Approved unto God” in The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers, page 17.

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