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*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Ten- Salt and Light

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 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 the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

Ever meet a useless Christian? Not a person lacking any value. All have that. I’m talking about the kind of professing Christ-follower who doesn’t positively influence the world around him. I’m reminded of a friend’s coworker, Jim, who one might describe as “anything but salty and bright.” Though a faithful church attendee and an admitted follower of Jesus, Jim comes across as a typically glum, negative, irritable, and sometimes even surly guy. Sadly, unbelievers who come in contact with him might never see the power of the gospel in his life because of this disposition.

After years of observing my fellow Christ-followers and knowing well my own habits and tendencies, I smile every time I get to Matthew 5:13. Here Jesus moves from explaining the character qualities kingdom-livers should exemplify to reminding them of the powerful influence they potentially wield. Jesus says
that believers must positively touch a world that often finds our pursuit of righteousness ridiculous and even offensive. Even when surrounded by a culture
that despises us, we are to respond with “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). For many Christians, however, the idea of positively affecting our world sounds
either impossible or not worth the effort. How, some wonder, could a rather docile follower of Christ, one whose life reflects poverty of spirit, meekness, and a  love for peace manage to leave any lasting mark?

Jesus taught that the power of His kingdom within us creates—even demands—that we take every opportunity to influence our world for His glory. This obligation, in fact, encompasses much of life’s purpose. In choosing to ignore it, we disobey and miss out on tremendous blessing. In thinking ourselves too ineffective or too busy to try it, we ignore the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives (see Romans 8:13-16). And when we choose to live as part of our culture without exerting Christ-empowered influence, we trivialize the eternal destinies of those in our circles.

Christ used two metaphors to describe the nature of and power behind a believer’s influence. He chose to first compare us to salt. This preservative was used extensively in New Testament times for nutrition, for flavor, and for its ability to hinder the natural decay process of both food and the dead. Salt’s domestic uses point to a vital spiritual truth. Our immoral, decadent, condemned, and lost culture writhes in the process of rapid decay. Although we often hear that humanity’s evolving, the moral and ethical challenges we face suggest that mankind is more likely de-evolving than growing more perfect. (Consider, for example, the emphasis on technology and entertainment and politics. Why is so little energy given to overcoming some of the deepest issues humanity faces: war, poverty, and hunger?)

In the winds of immorality and rage against God’s standards, the world spins out of control. Total annihilation will come (see 2 Peter 3:10-12). Only true servants of Christ serve as a restraint against absolute chaos and anarchy, and the day will come when the planet will lose our influence and God’s compassionate protection (see 2 Thessalonians 2). In the meantime, the moral fiber and stand for kingdom truth that disciples of Jesus should extend can
bring compassion, help, and hope to people desperate for peace. The gospel message, when shared boldly in the midst of evil, serves to offset the tide of
deterioration that proves eternally devastating. By opposing rebelliousness towards God and demonstrating a life of Christ’s truth, Jesus’ disciples preserve and flavor our culture with a dash of hope.

Jesus called God’s followers the “light of the world.” Light, with all of its practical uses, symbolizes right and good. It contrasts with the Bible’s description of the lost, people who live “in darkness” (Luke 12:46). In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus hints that our light shines through good works, actions, and outreaches intended to point people to God. As we shine as lights, we stand for God’s truth and in opposition to the world’s dim philosophies and blind spiritual ignorance. As we courageously proclaim God’s Word and demonstrate its transforming power, we labor in the trenches of our dark and lost society. Little flames of hope in a cave of despair.

As servants of Christ boldly proclaim and live God’s truth, people see Jesus—the true light of the world (John 8:12). John the Baptist was the first to do this as he took the truth of God to a people in darkness, pointing them to the divine light of Christ (see John 5:35-36). As a result of his ministry, the hearts of many were poised to accept Jesus. I think this helps us understand Christ’s reference that lamps belong on stands. When believers courageously and publicly allow their lives to shine for the honor of God, they help guide other people to Jesus. As more men and women come to know Him, their lights ignite too. As we combine our influence for Christ’s glory, a bigger, lighted city on a hill glows brightly against the world’s darkness.

Apply It.

Sometimes salt irritates and light exposes unpleasant truths. At times the world won’t appreciate that Christ-followers are salt and light. What can you do—in spite of resistance—to stand for the Truth and live worthy of your calling? List practical ways you can busily shine so that they may “praise [our] Father in heaven.” The Holy Spirit and the supernatural leadership of our King will strengthen you

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form –    

Amazon Kindle –

Barnes and Noble in book form –

Other eReader formats –

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.”  So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron.  He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”  When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.”  So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry” (Exodus 32:1-6).

*Confession time: I have watched a good part of American Idol this year. I think Pia went home too early and Casey should have won it all. Can you believe Scotty won it? He was one of my favorites but is so young, still just an embryo!

I know American Idolatry is not the name of the TV show but, symbolically, maybe it should be. For our American culture is filled with idols. They may not look like the golden calf that the Hebrews erected and worshipped in Exodus 32 but they are real, very real. Although worshipping other gods is prohibited in the 10 commandments (see Exodus 20:3-5 for the broader implications of desiring something above the sovereign creator of the universe, God) and is the first of God’s commands, mankind has consistently violated this decree ever since it was first proclaimed. Claiming that even an attitude of covetousness qualifies, the New Testament is not silent on the danger of idolatry: “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5). Therefore, we must beware – I believe idolatry is probably more subtly pervasive in America than any other culture that has ever risen. How so?

Tom Steller aptly explains what idolatry is: “Idolatry is valuing any thing or any person more than the one true God. An idol is any thing or any person that takes center stage in our affections. God is a jealous God. He deserves center stage in our lives. Anything that usurps that place becomes an idol, whether it be a spouse, a child, a humanitarian project, or pornography, or drugs, or power over the poor, or religion. An idol is a god-substitute. Archeology limits idols to stone statues; biblical theology teaches that idols are any things that take the place of God in our lives. When understood this way, we can realize that idolatry is not ancient history but is alive and flourishing in America as we rush toward the twenty-first century.” Martin Luther captures the idea this way: “Whatever man loves, that is his god. For he carries it in his heart; he goes about with it night and day; he sleeps and wakes with it, be it what it may – wealth or self, pleasure or renown.”  And in America that could include TV, politics, careers, clothes, self-indulgent and consumptive pleasure, technology gadgets, entertainment, cars, hobbies, houses, sex, power, material possessions, “success,” popularity, and money, just to name a few.

The Apostle John earlier shared his motivation for writing this letter: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” He wanted us to know!!! That’s why I believe John concludes his first letter in the most perplexing way (see 1 John 5:21). He knew the subtle and insidious nature of idol worship. He knew his reader’s eternal destinies were at stake. So let’s be discerning – our culture woos us with false gods and idol worship at every turn. The lure is so fast, furious, and stealth-like it’s easy to miss before it has overcome us. And let us gaze inwardly with objective honesty and question what thrills us the most and what we seek after to fill and satisfy us, what we love the most in this world. We dare not presume that we, too, aren’t involved in some form of idol worship.

The penultimate verse (1 John 5:20) of this letter describes the understood purpose and priority of those who prize and worship Jesus above all other things. “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” Why then do we put nothing before God? Because He is God, the only true God as revealed in Christ Jesus, and true eternal life. Anything else we love, pursue, exalt, honor, or find more pleasure in than Him is just the opposite – a false god. And they keep us from Him and eternal life. That’s why John signs off with, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” Jonah sums this up well with his sobering reminder: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8, NIV).

“I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write.” – John Calvin

When I wrote the post below a little over a year ago only about 1,000 people had hit the Captivated by Christ blog. Less than a year and a half ago God encouraged me to get serious and consistent in blogging, committing to at least 2 posts per week. This practice has become my personal electronic journal. I never imagined that the counter would role over 10,000 so quickly (actually it is significantly higher; the counter doesn’t include email subscribers but only those who actually visit the site). I have only 3 things to say about this: glory to God alone, thanks for reading (I hope my ramblings have been used of God to challenge and bless you), and what I wrote in the post below, I believe, is still true today.

One of the coolest things about blogging and the nature of internet media is that I don’t really know who reads my ruminations. And I don’t know how God may be using what He compels me to write. That excites me because I believe that one day I will find out; that glorious day when I fully and permanently experience His presence. I can’t wait to hear what he has done with this little ministry! So today I celebrate Him and the 10,000 hits that He has produced on this site. He is truly good and worthy of all of our adoration and praise!

And now, on to the aforementioned post…

The Power is in the Word – 15 January 2010
“I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that” (2 Corinthians 11:1). 

Paul had a sense of humor. God’s greatest fully human theologian and missionary essentially says, “thanks for putting up with me and, by the way, you have already read 10 chapters of this foolishness” (now I know that Paul’s letters weren’t written in chapters but please indulge me). I can laugh along with Paul – you are reading this so I thank you for putting up with me and my blog. I read and write blogs (some would prefer me to focus just on reading them). Many folks call blogging a narcissistic exercise and I heartily agree that it can be (but not so much as the hyper self-absorbed, cyber abyss called Twitter – by the way, I’m @captivatedanew). But I guess it is all about motives, attitudes, goals, and methods. 

Although many blogs communicate the truth of Jesus, some “Christian” blogs have little to do with Christ or His Word. Often they are personal ramblings and man-centered opinions. I pray this is not the case with And this is because, like Paul, I don’t think I, in and of myself, have much to offer. In this same letter to the church at Corinth he humbly states that his speaking abilities are less than stellar (2 Corinthians 10:10; 11:6) and that he is accused of hiding behind his writing as opposed to a face-to-face consultation with the church (2 Corinthians 10:1:10). But he makes it clear that he doesn’t do business like the world (10:2) and his methods are not carnal but spiritual (10:4-5). 

So how does Paul wage this war? With the truth of Christ and His Word. He says, “For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.”  I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way” (11:4-6). These weapons are a constant in Paul’s teaching – the power of the gospel (the Cross) and a distinct emphasis on God’s Word and its truth. 

My point is this: if I ever venture too far from Jesus, Him crucified, and the use of Scripture (yes, I know that the references can be overdone and make the reading more tedious but…) then stop reading the Captivated by Christ blog. Why? Because that is where the power is – God knows we don’t need any more of man’s philosophy. Any potency in this blog will not be found in me or my opinions but the transforming power (the Greek term dunamis, meaning power, is where we get our English term “dynamite”) of the Word (logos – see John 1) and His Word. The writer of Hebrews says it this way: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). 

I know my grammar (Or is that grammer?  I forget.) is poor and my sentence structure and syntax is imprecise and cumbersome (that’s why I have a talented and godly editor for my books – stand up and take a bow, Bethany). Please, overlook all of that. Skip over all my verbiage if you’d like. Just take your Bible and read along with the passages and turn to every scripture reference and let God teach you through the real difference-making medium; His Word as it is enlightened by His Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 2:12-14). Saturate yourself in His truth because if I have anything of value to share it must be Him, about Him, from Him, and for Him (John 14:6). 

So there it is – my foolishness for this blog. By the way, thanks for putting up with it – you have already read 650 words! I hope that you had your Bible with you on this little journey and that you turned to and digested every passage and reference. For I know with certainty its power far exceeds any frail attempt of mine to demonstrate the wisdom of God. For it truly is His Word! David sums this up perfectly when he says, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7).

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:9-14).

As Paul writes to the Colossian church, although he didn’t know them all that well, he had heard of their faith and love (Colossians 1:3-8). This compelled him to pray nonstop for them. He desired spiritual maturity for these fellow believers and this is my prayer for all of us for 2010. I beseech God that we:

  • are “filled with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (v. 9). The Greek word for “knowledge” in this passage is epignosis and it signifies practical, personal and experiential understanding and not just academic or intellectual knowledge. I desire that we all become imitators of Jesus (Ephesians 5:1-2) and thus spread the sweet fragrance of His beauty (2 Corinthians 2:14). How do we do this? “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).
  • live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way (v. 10). The  Lord we serve, and the calling we have received, is certainly a worthy one! In Ephesians 4:1 Paul considers himself to be a slave to the Lord and this worthy calling. In a similar vein, Paul writing to the church at Thessalonica says, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
  • are bearing fruit in every good work (v. 10). Not just “one” or “some”, but “every” good work.  What sort of good works? Empowered by the Holy Spirit we demonstrate His fruit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25). These attitudes and attributes should permeate our every effort to please God.
  • are growing in the knowledge of God (v, 10). We need to grow in the knowledge of God Himself, not just His will. Knowing Him is man’s highest pursuit and the essence of seeking after Him as our greatest treasure. Paul said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death(Philippians 3:10). These are the desires of those so in love with their Lord that they are obsessed with knowing Him (in the most intimate sense) and all about Him. As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).
  • are being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might (v. 11). It is God’s desire that we demonstrate His strength in our living for Him. There is indescribable supernatural power available to the Christian. By trusting in Him and reliance upon the Holy Spirit Paul says we can “…be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10).
  • may have great endurance and patience, with joy (v. 11)  Paul captures the essence of joy and patience in enduring for Christ when he says “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;  in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love (2 Corinthians 6:45-6). Endurance with patience and joy is the mark of those that are “in Christ”.
  • are joyfully giving thanks to the Father (v.12). The Psalmist captures this so beautifully: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.  Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations (Psalm 100:1-5).

And why can we receive all of these marvelous requests? Because God “has qualified [us] to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” (v. 12). Because our Savior “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (v. 13). And, most importantly, because “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (v. 14).  Furthermore, how can we have the full experience of this New Year’s prayer?  Abiding in Him and His Word – “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).

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