Through our lives people learn the message of the Gospel. If what we say and what we do don't match up, we create confusion and cause people to reject the message.
Could a Christ who impatiently snapped at a waiter- someone who is likely tired from working for hours on her feet- then turn around and say to her, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."? Could a Christ who made a sarcastic remark about someone's taste in clothes be credible when he said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."?
Our lives are the message. The Gospel message is about transformation- the transformation of our lives by the life of Christ within us. Do our lives reflect the grace, truth, and love we have received through Christ? Or do they reveal that we haven't allowed the Spirit of Christ to transform us into His image so that only He shines through?
Jesus is the light of the world, but as His followers we are also described in the same way saying "You are the light of the world". Christ says, "Let your light shine". We to enable the light to shine. Once we lose connection with the source of Light (Christ), our light grows increasingly weak. To shine, we need to let Christ lift us out of the valley of ourselves and our own efforts and set us back on the Rock.
Christ is saying, "Remember who the Light is. Let me shine through you." A city on a hill cannot be hidden. The hill is Jesus, we are just the city. There is nothing about us that raises us higher than other people. Everything we are as the light of the world comes from our being set on the hill.
We are to be a holy nation, a people belonging to God, who declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light. Is our desire for proclaiming our faith motivated by a desire to be the light of the world? Or has it been the result of fear?
There has also developed a "macho Christian" attitude in our world. What started out as a desire to be bold for Christ is now promoting an arrogant attitude. It is like the parable Jesus told of the man who was forgiven a huge debt he could never repay, but then he went out and beat up another man who owed him practically nothing. Once we've been forgiven, we forget that the only difference between "us" and "them" is grace.
Sometimes we have the idea that wearing and displaying these messages of our faith is the sum total of what it means to be a witness, instead of recognizing that we ourselves are that witness.
I think we have also shifted our focus to what we are against rather than what we are for. If my focus is solely on not sinning, then I am also not going to accomplish anything for Christ's kingdom, and I may keep on sinning anyways. Jesus went from the glory of Heaven to a sinful world. His love for us caused Him to take extreme measures. We must do the same thing, motivated by the same love.
And another thing... today, many of us are tempted to make teh Christian faith into something that sounds appealing to people's self-interests, as if it's merely a self-help method. Yet this approach ignores the reality of our need to die to ourselves and take up our cross daily in order to follow Christ. If following Christ wasn't satisfying, would you still do it anyways?
In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. None of us has life in ourselves. All of us- the saved and the sinners- are equal in our need for God. There is no one righteous, not even one.
We will start being effective when we stop trying to change other people and instead change ourselves. To shine, you have to fill yourself with Christ, first by emptying yourself.
Remember-- your life is the message.
I think that is enough for today.