Christians, You Weren’t Saved Just for Your Own Sake

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In the progression of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins with the offer of the kingdom. The kingdom is a gift of grace, given to the empty-handed, the poor in spirit. It is a blessing, a gift empowered with the quality of fruitfulness and the capacity to bring forth life.

This gift is transformational, bringing our lives into alignment with the heart and character of God.

But blessing is never given just for its own sake. The nature of blessing is to grow, to empower, to give life and bring forth more life. So a blessing always comes with a commission. Remember the first commission to mankind: be fruitful and multiply. Our commission is not so different.

In Matthew 5:13-14, Jesus reminds the crowd of their commission. This was not a foreign or new calling to them, particularly: it was as old as the blessing of Abraham, the law of Moses, and the calling of the Jewish people to be holy. But as Jesus warned, it had often been neglected and even lost.

At times in history, the cause of neglect was apostasy. In Jesus’s time it was an inward focus so strong that the religious leaders had forgotten that they weren’t called for their own sakes but to impact the world. The blessing of Abraham was to bless the nations.

Our calling is much the same.

The City on a Hill

After salt, Jesus uses the metaphor of light to remind the people of their purpose.

As Christians, this is also our purpose.

We were not called, saved, and filled with the Holy Spirit in order to escape this world and go to heaven. We were empowered with a blessing in order to bless.

You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

The “city on a hill” was easily pictured by Jesus’s hearers: it was a reference to the city of Jerusalem, which is literally situated on “a hill”–actually on a plateau, 2500 feet above sea level, and four different hills including Mount Zion. This is why the psalms speak of “going up” to the house of the Lord.

Jerusalem was a literal city on a hill. As such it was both highly visible and pretty much impregnable: armies can’t sneak up on a hilltop, and the enemy is always at a disadvantage when he has to come from below! The city on the hill has the high ground. By its very nature it’s a refuge, an inspiration, and a watchtower.

Lighting the Way

Jesus changes the metaphor a verse later by stating that no one lights a lamp and sticks it under a basket. This is not deep. If you turn a light on, it’s because you want LIGHT, not because you want to hide the light. To get the best effect, you put the light on a stand so it will spread its rays as far as possible and do the most good in the house.

Here’s the point:

You weren’t saved just for your own sake.
God didn’t fill you with the Holy Spirit so he could hide the Spirit in you.
God didn’t give you a kingdom so you could keep it under wraps.

The Sermon on the Mount lays out a powerful vision of righteousness and relationship with God through the gift of the kingdom. This is a gift. We need to learn to use it, of course; but at base it’s a gift of grace. This is clear from the Beatitudes. The gospel of the kingdom is intensely personal. It’s life-changing. But it’s also epic and grand. It’s world-changing, because your changed life is meant to light the world.

The Christian Call to Leadership

Whether we like it or not, a call to follow Christ is a call to become a leader. God doesn’t light lamps in order to hide them, but in order to lift them up and use them to give light to everyone else.

We have to speak up.
We have to act.
We have to have the courage to lead and not just follow.

Look around you.

People are stumbling around in deep darkness.
People are becoming deeply wounded because they cannot see, and what they do see they don’t understand.
Sin and Satan are wrecking lives.

There’s a simple solution to ending the damage of darkness.

Turn on a light.

YOU are the light God has turned on.

God’s Not Ashamed of You

I don’t know exactly what your individual “good work” entails. I don’t know how God intends to use you, in what circles, or in what capacity.

But I do know that you are blessed to be a blessing. I know that you are a light God has lit, and his goal is NOT to hide you. God is not ashamed of you. He has a purpose for your presence on this earth.

You are a citizen in the city on a hill, offering light, refuge, and high ground. You are a fire meant to dissolve the darkness.

Wherever and whoever you are, if you are a child of God, he has lit a fire in you and placed you on a lampstand.

There will always be people who hate the light and avoid it. Jesus said they do this because their deeds are evil. But there will always be others who come to it–who run with relief and gratitude to the light that can save their souls.

The light in you. The light that IS you.

The Father’s Face

The ancient Aaronic blessing speaks into the lives of people who look into the face of God and see his light:

May Yahweh bless you and protect you;
may Yahweh make His face shine on you and be gracious to you;
may Yahweh look with favor on you and give you peace.

Through our lives, the world around us may find the shining face of our Father, be blessed and protected, and find peace.

Jesus said the goal of your light was that people should “glorify your Father in heaven.”

Through your light, people will see God and respond to him. This is our purpose here.

(This is Part 34 in a series on the Gospel of Matthew, which you can access here. Unless otherwise marked, quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)




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