Jump Start # 2666
Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.”
In the news recently, yet another well known evangelical preacher is in trouble for moral indiscretions. This has given critics of faith another reason to boast that all Christians, especially preachers, are frauds, hypocrites, and are only interested in fleecing the flock of their finances. Lest we think that is only “among them,” and not us, our own fellowship has been hammered by unfaithfulness, divorce and broken promises, even among our preachers. Years of good in the pulpit can be wiped away by just a few fleeting moments of sin. And, the aftermath, is like a major bomb that has exploded. Reputation ruined. Confidence shattered. There are those who will use dark moments like that to find the exit door and never come back. It taints and colors people’s attitudes. It makes everyone suspicious of all the others. It’s hard as a preacher to follow a disaster in a church. I followed a preacher who borrowed a bunch of money from members and others and then skipped town. Boy, that left a sour taste in the mouths of the brethren. I was asked several times about my finances and if I ever borrowed money from individuals. It took me a while to figure out why they kept asking me all those questions. But I learned. They didn’t know if they could trust me.
Our verse is about the wonderful impact that a good influence can have. The Lord shows us the two step direction which people see. First, they see the good that you have done. You have helped others. You have been there. You have been an encouragement. But the second step, is not to praise you, or pat you on the back, but rather, to glorify God. Your good points to God. Now this is done as we give credit, honor and praise to God. People might not naturally do that, but with our lead they will. Don’t steal the glory that belongs to the Lord.
There is something special about influence. Right or wrong, people will make three judgments based upon what you do.
First, they will make a judgment about you personally. They will determine whether you are genuine and sincere or not. They will sense whether you are after something, want something, or whether you are truly a good hearted person. We must be careful about this in evangelism. We run into someone and we really want them to be a part of our congregation. We lay it on thick. We invite them out to eat with us. We have them over. Lots of attention is given. But when they decide not to be a part of the church, suddenly, we are finished with them. No more invites. No more getting together. And, it doesn’t take much to see through the smoke. You were trying to buy them and when they didn’t, you moved on to someone else.
How we act under fire often shows our true colors. How do we handle stress at work? How do we respond to gossip? The same is true when around family members. They see us. Does our walk match our talk? If we are seen to be “two-faced,” then there will not be much interest in what we say. How honest are we in business? How kind and generous are we when out to eat? Does anger change us and get the best of us? There are all kinds of eyes seeing you every day. Little eyes at home. The eyes of co-workers and business associates. The eyes of neighbors. And, from what they see, they make a determination about your faith.
Second, they will make a judgment about the congregation based upon what they see in you. I don’t know how many times through the years I’ve heard someone say, “Oh, I know someone that goes to your church.” And then what follows is negative. He lies. He’s a cheat. He cusses. He’s a big flirt, even though he’s married. It’s hard to overcome those negative judgments. People see you and they assume everyone in the congregation is like you. So, if the image is kind, friendly, caring, generous, helpful, that judgment will do more good than a mountain of tracts. Doctrinal truth is not as important to most people as is kindness, goodness and hearts that care.
So, this tells us that we must be careful about our influence. “Burning bridges,” leaving a place of work with ugly words, threats and things that just shouldn’t be said, might make you feel good for the moment, but it may well have ruined any opportunity for those people to ever visit the congregation. They will see the church through you. So if you have been dishonest to make a sell, cut corners that shouldn’t have been, bent the rules, the person of the world will conclude that the church is a bunch of hypocrites and fakes. The message from the pulpit can be ruined by the message of our lives. But, when you have gone out of your way to make things right, even if it costs you, people will remember. They will take note of that. And, that impression may open their eyes to listen to the message of the Gospel.
Third, people will make a judgment about Jesus and the system of Christianity from what they see in you. It trickles about to the Lord. Just as our good works brings glory to the Lord, our bad ways makes people want nothing to do with the Lord. We are a reflection of Jesus. This is why in this Matthew account Jesus said, “You are the light of the world,” and “you are the salt of the earth.” Jesus did not say, “You need to become that,” or, “you ought to be that.” His words were, “YOU ARE.” If indeed Christ lives in me, than the impression I leave with others is much more important than myself. Making a scene, loosing your temper, giving someone a piece of your mind, only distorts the perception one has of the Lord.
We have been blessed. And when we become a blessing to others, it shows the goodness of God. We have been forgiven. And, when we forgive others, we show the goodness of God. When we serve, we show the goodness of God. When we are thankful, we show the goodness of God.
Impressions. What we do outside the church building can be the greatest help or the biggest hindrance to everything that we do. People are watching. People are making a decision about what they see. Make sure, they see what God wants you to illustrate. You are the light…You are the salt.