When it comes to the problem of influence, many disciples are suffering from a tremendous inferiority complex. Not many of us have ever come to terms with just how much influence we really wield in this world. Our thinking is that unless one has wealth, political clout, physical beauty, or belongs to the "right" group, that he or she will have little impact on the world about them. If "making a difference" depends on this worldly criteria, then it is doubtful that the lives of most Christians I know will ever make any difference at all. And that is just the point -- our influence in the world is not dependent on such earthly standards.
If we ever have any kind of influence on the world around us, it must be the kind Jesus wants His disciples to exert! Jesus tells us that we must make a difference! A portion of the sermon on the mount illustrates the influence Christ expects us to have on this spiritually dark and tasteless world. Matt. 5:13-16 states, "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven." This is the Lord's classic text on the influence of kingdom citizens.
When Jesus said this, those hearing the sermon could have immediately made the connection between the illustration and the lesson to be learned. The Greeks called salt "divine". The Romans had a saying that went, "There is nothing more useful than sun and salt." Likening the influence of His disciples to salt was a particularly impressive idea to the minds of those present when Jesus preached that sermon. Salt possesses three peculiar abilities. It is a purifier, and if the Christian is to be the "salt of the earth" he or she must remain pure and unadulterated. He or she cannot lose their "savor" (saltiness) through contamination by the impurities of the world. If he or she lose their ability to "make a difference." Salt also preserves. As a boy, I appreciated the preservative ability of salt when we "salted down" the hams in our "salt box" which eventually yielded that southern dlicacy -- country ham. Without the salt, the meat decayed and putrefied because the preservative influence was absent. Salt prevents corruption, and as William Barclay puts it, "If the Christian is to be the salt of the earth, he or she must have a certain antiseptic influence on life." Finally, salt changes what it touches. Nothing tastes the same when salt is added. It can enhance the flavor, or destroy it, depending on how it is used. Did you ever try and eat popcorn without salt? It's about like eating cardboard! if you add a little salt, it makes a lot of difference. The influence of the Christian should always be felt. If the Christian loses his or her "flavor", he or she becomes useless. We are meant to be the salt of the earth and if we do not purify, preserve, and change we do not "make a difference."
And then there is light. Jesus describes himself as the "light of the world" in Jno. 9:5. The text actually says that as long as Jesus was in the world He was the light of the world. Who could deny the illuminating influence Jesus has on the world? Is it not a great compliment then, for the disciples to be called the "light of the world"? Paul wrote the Philippian church and called on them to "shine as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:15). We are lights and wherever there is light, there is hope! The primary function of a light is to be seen to make a difference! Our light should shine, not to call attention to ourselves, but to bring glory to our heavenly Father. (Our light is a reflection of the light of the Lord. As the kerosene lamps that used to be on the walls of the church building, that had shiny reflectors behind the flame, we as reflectors of the true light, must keep our reflectors clean and unmired by the filth of the world around us, JWS). Our light should dispel the darkness so that men can see God. Christianity must be a visible commitment. It was never intended to be a secretive thing. Our lights must shine brightly through the fog of sin to bring men to Jesus. Our lights must mke the way clear. At our house, in each bedroom, we use a little "night light". What a tremendous difference their influences make in the middle of the night when you have to get out of bed for some reason. And, I can't tell you just how many monsters have been chased away because of the influence of those tiny little lights. Light is a remarkable comforting property.
"Do I really make a difference?" The world just has to be a better place because of the disciples of Christ. My neighborhood has to be a better place to live because I live there. The plant or office I work in must feel my good influence. The church of which I am a part just must be a better congregation because of my life. May we all live so as to have it said of us when we die: "It was easier to be good when he/she was with us."
By Mark W. White via Gospel Power, Vol. 11, No. 43, Oct. 31, 2004.
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