I suppose there are many important questions in life – but perhaps none more important than three I want to address in this post. And they are important because the answer and our view of each of them will have a massive impact on our lives at every level. It will determine the kind of people we are, the things we hold dear in life, how we see ourselves as well as others and indeed how well we do life itself – to say nothing of eternal matters.
The questions then are these – who is God, who am I and what am I?
We live in a natural and religious world that has, very often, no clear and concise answer to these question. Mark Twain, probably quoting and earlier philosopher, said –
“God created man in his own image and man, being a gentleman, returned the favour.”
That is a very dangerous thing to do. And William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury: 1942–1944 said this –
“If your conception of God is radically false, then the more devout you are the worse it will be for you. You are opening your soul to be moulded by something base. You had much better be an atheist”
I think Mark Twain was right and William Temple correctly summarises the danger we face in doing so. We so often worship a god who we have created – a god we can shape and mould to our worldview. This links to the issues I raised in another recent post (HELL’S HAND BASKET).
So – knowing who God is – and what kind of God he is – is of paramount importance. I know again I have addresses some of the following issues in another recent post but they bear repeating.
Many of us were brought up with the implicit if not explicit understand that God is primarily a Judge to be feared. At the opposite end of the scale, in our own day, many see him as a big Santa Claus figure who, with a nod and a wink, approves of anything and everything. I believe it is of vital importance the we have a sound biblical understand of just who God is before we can move on in any direction in life.
So what has the bible got to say? Well I think Paul sums up the primacy of what and who God is. Writing to the early church he says this –
“For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”
1 Corinthians 8:6
The common prayer, taught by Jesus, as the model prayer begins – “Our Father”. Not our Judge who is in heaven, not our King who is in heaven, not our master who is in heaven – although these are all legitimate titles – but “Our Father”.
And as we take these words upon our lips a new and wonderful world of realities opens up before us. Not only do they reveal who God is – but also who I am! It is so simple – but so profound – if God is my Father then I am his child! I am not his slave – I am not his servant – I am not even primarily a subject of his Kingdom – although at one level all these things are true – primarily I am a son – a daughter of my Father in heaven.
The tragedy of history is that this truth was lost – and if not lost relegated to the third division very soon after the return of The Son to The Father! The religious life most of us are familiar with throughout history and down to this very day is, I would dare to suggest, a twisted, subverted form of the message of Jesus.
I believe we are living through days when God is longing to restore the true image of who He is – and days in which he wants the see that mirrored in his children. A day when we know both who he is and who we are! And such a realisation has a huge impact of how we see our world and those within it. Because if, as Paul says – there is only One God – and that God is Father – then it stands to reason he is the Father of all. Malachi 2:10 –
“Are we not all children of the same Father? Are we not all created by the same God?”
We are children of The father by creation – loved, valued, treasured! That is obviously not to say that many are not, as Jesus points out, “lost” in the “far country” far from the father’s house and his loving embrace. But for those of us redeemed – brought back from the futility, emptiness and hopelessness of a country without the love of a father it is into the family of God, as his beloved children, we are restored. I cannot work to restore myself to sonship, as the Prodigal Son perhaps thought – I am born into such a relationship – and it is what I am that matters – not what I can do!
And again that realisation, that comprehension, that experience brings us to a place of rest and freedom. Jesus does not say – come to me – join my merry band and work hard for me and my kingdom – he says –
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”
So what are we in this world if not primarily labourers in the Kingdom? Please note I am not saying we are not that – but if that is our primary function then we have a huge problem because among other things we exclude the old, the ill, the broken, the illiterate the disabled, children and a multitude of others.
So I ask again – what are we in this world? Primarily Jesus says you are two things – salt and light.
“You are the salt of the earth. “
“You are the light of the world.”
Matthew 5: 13 & 14
The mention of salt is an interesting one – because it is a reference to something in the OT –
“Season all your grain offerings with salt to remind you of God’s eternal covenant. Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings.”
Salt is a sign of the covenant under the old covenant – and by transferring the sign of salt to the new covenant Jesus is not only indicating that we are by default a sign to the world of that new covenant but also that in the world, often hidden as salt is – we bring flavour and wholeness simply due to the fact of who we are.
But the primary function of salt in the ancient world was that of a preservative. And in some mysterious way that is what the true christian is to the world in which he and she lives. Let me quote the late French philosopher Jacques Ellul –
“The fact that Christians are, in their lives, the ‘salt of the earth”, does far more for the preservation of the world than any external action.”
The Presence of the Kingdom C1 P4
So simply by your presence in the home, in the workplace, in the church, in your everyday interaction with the world around you – you, as a follower of Jesus, are a preserving, wholesome influence.
But the second thing Jesus says is we are light – “You are the light of the world.” The implications of this are many and perhaps we will come back to it another day. But put simply – light dispels darkness, light separates life from death and light gives direction. All these things are true of the genuine Christian. It is what they are.
But this truth is very practical as well. Listen to what Jesus says here –
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
Matthew 5:14 -16
I would like to suggest that we are, primarily, salt and light through our Godly behaviour. That includes our integrity, our honesty, our truthfulness, our morality, our graciousness, our loving, our compassion, our forgiveness, our giving – in other words our good works. And our being salt and light is a sign of hope to the world we live in. In so doing we are showing that we are in fact Children of The Father.