LCN Article
Let Your Light Shine

July / August 2016

Roderick C. Meredith (1930-2017)

Enraged at the evangelists, the bloodthirsty mob brought them to the city officials crying, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6).

With these words, the angry Jews at Thessalonica accused the Apostle Paul and his helpers of the same thing of which members of God’s Church are sometimes accused. Does true Christianity turn the world “upside down” or right side-up? Does the Holy Spirit inspire a spirit of a peculiar mixture of misguided religious zeal, unreasoning superstition and a rebellious attitude toward custom, society and other people in general? Is this the attitude of a good Christian?

We must face facts! We, as Christians, will ultimately change the whole world—but first we must change ourselves, with the help of our Savior and the Holy Spirit within us!

How should Christians live so as to gain the respect of unconverted neighbors and friends? How can we live the joyous, fruitful kind of lives that we should, without either “turning off” others with self-righteousness or “going along” and compromising our values in order to “get along” with the unconverted?

God’s Word contains the answers, which those who use sound-minded wisdom can understand.

Are You a “Light”?

Jesus told His disciples, “You are the light of the world.” Later, He said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16). Jesus taught that we are not to put our light under a bushel, but on a candlestick where all can see. But how do we let our light shine before men?

Notice that Jesus said men would see our good works and glorify God (v. 16). He did not say that they would hear our constant chattering about the Bible. Our “good works”—our kindness and thoughtfulness to others, our willingness to sacrifice, our Christian example in daily living—will cause even unconverted people to admire and respect us. Eventually, they will realize that it is God who is helping us live this way. Then they will glorify Him.

For arguing, disputing and trying to convince people they are wrong is nowhere referred to as “good works.” If your friends or relatives are not interested in God’s Church, they will in no way be helped if you constantly plague them with what they regard as “your religion.”

But what type of good works should we demonstrate in our daily lives?

Christian Works

In John 14:11, Jesus said, “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.” He was referring to the miracles that He performed, and said in verse 12 that one who truly believed on Him would perform even greater works.

Most of Jesus’ miraculous works were acts of kindness to others—healing the sick, feeding the multitudes and casting out unclean spirits. Paul wrote to the Corinthian brethren, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Today, Jesus is not here to perform good works in person, but God’s true Church comprises His body through which He can and does perform miraculous works. Many times, unconverted friends of our brethren have been moved to glorify God and His power when they have witnessed a genuine, miraculous healing according to God’s promise.

But aside from miraculous works of the ministry, there are many things that we should all be doing to glorify God in our lives. If we draw as close to God as we should, through constant study, prayer and fasting, He will grant His Church even more power to do the same miraculous works as the early apostles, and many more will learn to glorify God.

Be a Good Neighbor

One of Jesus’ most beautiful parables—which many of us learned as children but sometimes seem to forget as Christian adults—is the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–37). Set upon by thieves, a wounded and suffering man lay by the roadside. A priest passed by, feeling too holy to be bothered. Yet a compassionate Samaritan was not too “good” to help a man he had never seen before.

Notice Jesus’ instruction: “Go and do likewise.”

Just how good a neighbor are you? This is a vitally important factor in determining your ability to be a light to others—and, incidentally, in determining your own happiness.

You should realize from the outset that carnal-minded friends and neighbors are just naturally going to have a bad opinion of you—a true Christian trying to keep all of God’s commandments, against which their carnal minds rebel. They are going to look upon you as peculiar or fanatical unless you take positive action to counteract this attitude.

Go out of your way to be a really wonderful neighbor. Remember that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

The chief attributes of God’s Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace and longsuffering (Galatians 5:22). Put the love of God to work in your life. Try to be understanding, patient and always ready to be of service to others. Cultivate the attitude of joy and peace at all times. Try to make others feel happy in your presence.

God is more willing to give you of His Spirit—His love, joy and peace—than you are to feed your own hungry children (Matthew 7:11). Ask God to help you show more love, to give you His love and to help you be a better neighbor in every way. Upon seeing your good works—your kindness, love and willingness to help in time of need—your neighbors can then come to like and respect you in a way that could never be accomplished by your words alone.

Be Positive

One of the most striking mistakes some new Christians make is their failure to show a positive attitude toward life. Because they have come to realize that much of this world is wrong, they assume a negative attitude toward life in general. They do not take a real interest in their family, their friends or their community. Is this the way to be a light—the kind of example others will admire?

No! Instead of being against everything, strive to be for something. Have a positive program of developing your personality, your capabilities and your ability to help and influence other people for good.

James asks us, “Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith” (James 2:5)? Many Christians are poor and humble people when God calls them. Some have not had many educational opportunities, and are limited in their speech, their writing, their knowledge of this world around them, and in many of the “social graces.”

But does God wish us to remain that way?

First of all, we have to confess that if we had all been highly successful in this world, we would have been too proud to accept God’s truth and be converted. We would have had too much self-confidence to recognize our need for God. But now, that should all be changed. Now our confidence should rest in God, and in what He can do through us if we yield to His Spirit. Now that our confidence about any abilities rests in God—not self—can you see that He wants us to develop those abilities?

Jesus said that “you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We are to strive to become like God in every way. Through God’s help, we will finally achieve this goal when we are born of God in the resurrection.

Jesus was God in the flesh, setting a perfect example for us to follow. Did Jesus use sloppy speech or dress? Did He appear uneducated or uncouth to others?

In Luke 4:22 we find that when Jesus spoke in the synagogue, “all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.” People had to admire Jesus’ ability in speech, even though they later condemned what He said and tried to throw Him off a cliff (v. 29).

In reading the gospels, it is easy to discern that Jesus was a natural leader. He was a person whom people would naturally admire, even though those same people felt so much hate for what He taught that they had Him crucified.

Are you developing qualities of personality and of leadership? Are you able to deal with and influence people of all social backgrounds? The Apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

Each of us should try to do our work the best way possible, keep our homes and yards looking as neat and clean as we can, and dress as well as our means allow. We should study to use language well. We should broaden our interests and our general knowledge, and develop our personalities and abilities in every way. God tells us to develop our talents, to be like Him in every way. As we do this, our neighbors will notice the change for good in our lives, and will be moved to respect us more.

Show Common Sense

Many fail to realize that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Instead of demonstrating these qualities in their lives, too many Christians proceed in a hesitant, apologetic or sometimes a belligerent attitude to try to “talk people into” some of their beliefs.

Humanly, we all tend to do this to some degree, and it is hard to overcome. But God has given us the Spirit of power to do so!

From now on, instead of being “down on the world” in all your talk and actions, why not show the world by action that you have found something better? Show your neighbors that your faith works for good, by doing good to them.

Through God’s Spirit within you, live up to what you believe and set a shining example before others. They may not agree with all your beliefs, but they will respect the results you achieve in your life.

Certainly we must try hard not to give others the impression that we are odd or peculiar. Our job is to show those around us the spirit of a sound mind in everything we do. If people do ask you questions concerning your beliefs—which they will, if you are living them—be prepared by diligent study to answer them in a non-argumentative, clear and common-sense way. Show them that God’s way makes sense, and is based on a law of love that would prevent war, murder and most of humanity’s troubles, if it were only taught and obeyed. But only tell people what they ask you about. Do not try to force too much new truth upon them all at once. Instead, show them by your words and actions that God’s way is based on common sense and a sound mind.

Even though you will still be persecuted by many, this positive attitude in Christian living can gain you new respect from those around you. You can then be an even greater influence for good. More importantly, this way of living faith and action can give your own life more meaning, interest and joy, and will prepare you to serve more effectively as a king and priest under Christ throughout life eternal. Use it!