"You are the salt of the earth...You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill can not be hidden..." (Mt. 6:12,14)
While summer is over for me, it was still a great time of growing closer to God, hanging out with family and friends, and recharging my batteries for this last semester of highschool. I know many of y'all have started or are going to be starting classes very soon. I would like to remind you of some very important things as you enter this new year.
In the Wednesday night high school class at my congregation we are studying 1 Peter and one of the major issues being discussed in the book is how Christians are to conduct themselves. Peter is telling us to come out and "be holy, for I am holy" (1:16). Christians are to be different. I know that we live in a society where everyone just wants to fit in and be liked. Also, our society believes that you do good to those who do good to you and hurt those who hurt you. Peter says Christians are to do the opposite. In chapter 2, he asks, "For what credit is it if when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God." (v.20-21) There was to be a distinct line between the Gentiles (non-Christians) and the Christians. The Christians had been washed and sanctified. They, and we, have "put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander" no longer walking in the way the Gentiles walk for we".. are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people..." (2:9-10) Think about it: If it was a crime to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Be different. I know this is hard to do when you are suffering for doing good. Strive to remember this when, for example, someone spreads lies or rumors about you at school or at work. The "normal" response to something like this would be to turn around and do the same thing to the person that hurt you. But we are no longer Gentiles so, "Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God..." (2:12). When your conduct proclaims that you are set apart from the world-bought by Christ- you will be "the light of the world."
The Christians Peter was writing this letter to were going to be going through persecution for the name of Christ. To them this concept of turning the other cheek could have seemed impossible. Likewise, we may be in a situation this year where we do not think we can follow the example of Christ. It is true that it is hard, but the rewards of being different outweigh the pain for when others see you acting differently than everyone else there is a chance that they will ask you about it. Now, you may defend yourself, "Have no fear of them, nor be troubled but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you foa reason for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect" (3:15) Being different will open up many opportunities to teach others about the Gospel. It could be that someone sees you taking the punishment for something you didn't do without being hateful or talking bad about the person who is truly guilty and start wondering, "Why would you do something like that? What makes you act that way?" Peter says that the Gentiles will be "...surprised when you do not join them in the same flood od debauchery..." (4:4) Then you can preach to them Christ. Hopefully they will hear, believe, repent of their sins, confess Christ, and be baptized for remission of their sins. When you are able to teach others the Gospel, the error of their ways, and how to become white as snow-you will be "the salt of the earth"
Do not hide your light. Use every opportunity you have to speak "as one who speaks oracles of God" (4:11). If you hide your light you will not be the light of the world or the salt of the earth. When everyone is doing something you know is wrong, it is very hard not to give into peer pressure and stand up for the truth. This year work on developing the courage to "make a defense" for the gospel and adopt the attitude Paul expresses in Romans chapter 1, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written,' the righteous shall live by faith.'" (v. 16-17) As Christians, we have the most precious and valuable gift. Knowing that many of your friends and people you come into contact with are ignorant of this gift and are without hope, how can you be silent? When you "Contend earnestly for the faith..." (Jude 3), you will be a light of the world, the salt of the earth, and a city on a hill that can not be hidden. In doing so you will be obedient to your Father.
Determine this year to be a light, the salt, and a city. God's plan for you is to "Go...and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (Mt. 28:18) Work on fulfilling His plan throughout this year and the rest of your lives. When times do get hard and your light is dim, your salt has lost some of its flavor, and your city seems a little rundown remember what Jesus told his disciples right before he ascended into heaven:
"And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Mt. 28:20)
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