As I write this, I have just put my phone down after looking through current headlines. The headlines lead me to an all-important conclusion: this dark world needs light. Murder, division, war, sickness, and corruption seem to be everywhere you look. So what can we do about it? First, the church can offer hope to this dark world. Jesus said, "You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14 NASB). Using a lighthouse as an analogy for the church has been shared. The lighthouse casts a beam to warn passing ships of the threat of land and to draw ships to land. I would caution us not to be like a lighthouse drawing people in but to be a vessel for the light of Christ to be taken into a dark world. When the church becomes a lighthouse casting a light, it becomes an isolated island with no visitors. A lonely church does not reveal the gospel message. The gospel is about taking the light we have in Christ to people who need light. The Apostles did not sit in Jerusalem and cast light. They went, bringing the light to the world.
Paul gives a beautiful hymn about Christ in Philippians 2. He takes the reader into the heavenly realm, reminding, encouraging, and exhorting his reader about who Christ is, what He has accomplished, and where He is now (Phil. 2:5-11). Paul then drastically changes his focus and brings the reader back to earth and our reality. While we hope to be with Christ, we still have work to do while we are here. Paul said,
"So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain" (Philippians 2:12-16 NASB).
While this passage is too much to unpack in this blog, Paul clarifies that we have work to do. God has given us a task: not sitting back and waiting for people to come to us. Our mission is more significant than just standing behind a pulpit preaching the gospel with our words. Our task is to live the gospel, offering the world a living example of what Christ offers. To work out our salvation does not mean that we must earn salvation. Salvation is God's gift through His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). To work out our salvation means trusting God with everything, revealing to those around us God's grace, love, mercy, and all the other beautiful things He is.
As a Pastor, I must believe that the church can make a difference in the world. If I don't, why would I continue in ministry? So much is to be done, and it begins by living the gospel and "appearing as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:15 NASB). So, as you plan for the new year, make your resolution to take the light of Christ into the world. We can make a difference by living a life devoted to Christ, not grumbling or complaining, trusting God to work in us and through us, and revealing the love of Christ. Merry Christmas!
May the Lord direct you into the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ (2 Thess. 3:5 NASB)
Pastor Josh May