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Saturday, August 17, 2013

To be or not to be...

Perhaps the most difficult biblical instruction to follow is for us to be in the world but not of the world. This is one of those instructions that some folks will kick back and say, "That's not in the Bible." And they're right. There is no direct quote from Jesus or one of the Apostles that states, "You believers, be in the world and not of it."

However, the instruction is there, you just have to discover it. Joshua 1:8 finds God instructing the man who was stepping into Moses' huge sandals, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success."

The meaning of prosperous and success is a subject for a completely different blog...stay tuned. But, in fact, the Bible does instruct believers to be in the world and not of it. Here are a few examples...

In John 17, just before His arrest, Jesus prayed to the Heavenly Father on our behalf; the key verses for the purposes of our discussion today are John 17:13-16.

In verse 15, Jesus says, "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one."

More's the pity. The problem with being in the world is that it is hard not to be of it. Living on Earth is like constantly being at a carnival with hucksters and tempters drawing you in with their promises of amazing things behind the curtain.

So that's how they do it...

Life, with all it's booths and rides, with all the Internet, movies, television shows, games, music,'s not hard to realize that grabbing it all - or as much as we can - is just another way for us to give up our dollar in order to see the bearded lady behind the curtain, to ultimately be disappointed with the fact that we've fallen for yet another sham.

So what do we do? Paul gives us a practical answer in Romans 12. Verse 2 guides us to, "... not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

Easier said than done of course, but the instruction manual is freely available if we're willing to pick it up and read it.

In keeping with the more practical aspects of life, in the Bible Jesus also calls for us to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) to the people of the Earth, not cheerleaders for the enemy. I don't want to fall down the rabbit hole of expounding on the many values of, and references to, salt in the Bible. Briefly, salt was of tremendous value in ancient times. As something that brought flavor and zest to food, as something that acted as a preservative, and even as something used to establish binding agreements.

Salt was a precious commodity. But our ancestors did not have the luxury of popping down to the local Wal-Mart to pick up a bag of Morton's. It was collected from natural sources and didn't quite have the staying power of our purified salt of today. It needed to be replenished...refreshed.

We could easily chat for a couple of hours on all the connotations of Jesus' instruction to be salt and light to the world. My understanding leads me to the conclusion that Jesus is instructing his followers to add flavor to the lives of others, not with the things of the world, but with His teachings. He is asking us to share His light, His preservative, His flavor, with those in our little corner of the Earth.

Psalm 12:6 affirms that, "The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times."

That furnace could very well be fired with salt. Salt was often mixed with other materials because of its catalytic properties and used to start fires. How many fires have you started recently?

I know that some folks get tired of hearing Christians talk about Jesus. I'm not going to apologize for doing so because over and over in the Bible, Jesus tells us to do exactly that. If someone is a believer in Jesus, then they are duty-bound to do the same. I think one of the reasons people get cranky is that only a fraction of people that profess to believe in Jesus actually do what He says we should do. If every believer in the whole world talked to their friends, neighbors, family, co-workers and others about Jesus...just think how much salt and light there would be.

To be or not to be...that is indeed the question.

What do you think?


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