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A good witness

Does your lamp shine?

A few years ago I visited the London Olympics, just a short trip down the Central Line for me. As you arrived at Stratford tube station there was one constant thread on the twenty minute walk to the Olympic stadium. This was the volunteer crew of “games makers”, kitted out in distinctive red and purple tops and beige trousers. As we trudged slowly onwards, these folk – of all ages and races – were dotted among us, beaming away with their perma-grins, helpful instructions, singing or rapping little ditties and generally exuding an incense of bonhomie. They were in the crowd (i.e. one of us) but definitely not of the crowd – they both behaved and looked different to the rest of us.

Perhaps a bad example (particularly as I found them quite irritating), but an illustration of the need for us to be visibly different, in the sense of standing out from the crowd, even if this makes us unpopular (“… that is why the world hates you” John 15:19).

What this means is that not only must people know that we are Christians, but that we behave like Christians are meant to behave. There is no point doing all the good stuff and not allowing God to get the glory. Equally there’s no point folk knowing that we’re Christians and allowing God to get all the flak (when we’re behaving less than perfectly)!

Yes, you may be a paragon of virtue in the office, not gossiping or bullying, or laughing at the dodgy jokes and being seen as a thoroughly good egg, but if they don’t know you as a Christian then you are taking all the glory from the God who has been moulding you into the image of Jesus, through the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.

"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.” (Matthew 5:13)

Many years ago I started work in a computer centre (in the prehistoric days when it was all about punch cards and ticker-tape) and my boss quickly impressed me as a supportive and helpful person. But he was the constant butt of jokes and office gossip. Why? Because he had just become a Christian and, whereas his alcohol consumption before had been legendary, he was now tee-total and a witness to the power of Christ. They joked about him, but secretly they admired him.

By contrast, we may have “come out” as a Christian many years ago in our work environment but, as time rolled by and the World moved further on its current path of slackness, licentiousness and ungodliness, you found yourself caught up in its snares, suddenly unable to break free. Before you knew it, your saltiness has gone and your distinctiveness as a Christian has disappeared. Even worse, your workmates had noticed this and wondered, what’s all this fuss about being a Christian? I don’t see the difference!

You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

When the Church was birthed early in the 1st Century it was very separate from the World. Before it was forced underground through persecution everyone knew about this new sect of The Way, who were very active in teaching and training others. This changed when the Church was transformed from being a collection of individual believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, to a collection of buildings maintained by a rich hierarchy of priests, bishops and Popes (there’s more on this in my book, How The Church Lost the Way). The medieval Church wasn’t so much a friend to the World, as the World itself! Since then, there has been a return to the basic simpler model, but the World never really withdrew from the structures of the Church.

Earlier I asked us all, does our lamp shine? It’s a question that only we can answer and that only we as individuals can deal with. Not so with what has become the established Church, the expression of our Christian faith that is seen by the World, from the media to the “man in the street”.

How bright is the Church’s lamp?

According to Revelation Chapter 1, the Church is furnished with great golden lampstands, allowing its light to shine far and wide over all. Yet the Lord Jesus is able to remove these if an errant Church does not change its ways.

Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (Revelation 2:5)

These days I believe that it is up to individual Christians to polish up their lamps and rather than expecting a genie to appear to sort out their problems, get these lamps lit and blazing in witness to the World that surrounds us. We each have individual responsibilities for our own lamps, but there’s nothing we can do about the great golden lampstands. For most of us, that is beyond the scope of our lives. First we must get our own houses in order.

The lamps may be few but if they can light up the path of salvation for those with eyes to see, then what more can we do?

For the previous article in this series, click here.

For the next article in this series, click here.

To find out what is my favourite book of the Bible, click here.

You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.

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