Don’t Waste Your Life (Part 6): The Antithesis
In my previous instalment I concluded that our Saviour also attached a serious warning of the consequence of not striving to be a salting salt in the latter part of verse 13: “But if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” If the salt loses its saltiness, if it is defiled by the surrounding elements — it loses its power and purpose to season, to flavour, to influence, to preserve. It is of no value at all.
Now apply that imagery to a Christian living in this world. If we Christians lose our saltiness, if we allow ourselves to become defiled, weighed down by the cares of this world, bogged down by sin and evil, caught up in temptation, swallowed by lust and desire, then we have lost our power to influence. That would be wasting our lives!
When we don’t perform our work in conscious reliance on God’s enabling power and with the deliberate aim to please and honour Him and reflect His glory so that our lessons are well prepared, our ditches are dug straight, our pipe fittings do not leak, our cabinet corners are flush, our word processing accurate and appealing and our meals nutritious and attractive, then we lose the power to exert Godly influence on a world where such motivation is pointless and meaningless.
When a Christian boy and girl defile their courtship, when our young people (and not so young) flirt openly and immorally with others and are not pure and holy in their relationship with each other, then they lose their power of Godly influence in a corrupt world where adultery and infidelity run rampant.
When our men do not focus their thoughts on that which is pure and holy but allow their eyes to take them to immoral and indecent sites on the internet, then they not only sin against the seventh Commandment and do incalculable damage to their ability to have a pure relationship with their wives, but they also lose the power of Godly influence in a corrupt world where sexual immorality and pornography are fast becoming the norm.
When at work, or on the road, or on the sports oval, or at the grocery store, or on the phone — we engage with another person in an argument of unsanctified words, or in a show of uncontrolled anger and rage, then we lose our power of Godly influence in a world where lack of self-control and anger management are rapidly growing societal concerns.
As salt, we then not only lose our power to positively influence others in the world, but our behaviour and attitude is unpalatable and unpleasant to the LORD as well. We bring dishonour to the Name of Christ and His Church. And if we persist in such an attitude, Christ warns us that He will eventually spit us out of His mouth like the lukewarm church of Laodicea in Revelations 3.
Likewise, as God’s Covenant children, Christ’s light is within us and is meant to be seen by others — not only by means of our righteous deeds, but also by our words of witness. When we are put in the position of speaking an edifying word about Christ, or pointing the way to Christ, or to defend His Name from being profaned but fail to do so, we also are hiding the light under a bushel. If we are fearful or reluctant or too timid to do a good deed, to speak a good word in time of need, to reach out and support someone who is down and out and placed on our path with Christian comfort and encouragement and even practical support where possible as in the parable of the Good Samaritan, then we are not letting our light shine. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.”
In other words, by being salt and light, God is pleased to also use us to bring the lost into a saving relationship with Him. God is pleased to use us to make the light of Jesus Christ shine in men’s hearts and minds and souls, piercing their darkness and bringing them to repentance, chasing away their dark deeds of sin and evil. The purpose of this being that God receives all praise and glory.
And let’s face it: who, having been graciously healed from all their sins by the Lord, does not overflow with thankfulness? Only he who does not yet fully understand what this implies! What the heart is full of, overflows from the mouth. What is it then, that overflows from our mouths? Is our heart indeed full of humble thankfulness for what Christ has done for us? Then let that determine our words and deeds, our lifestyle and our attitude, so that all who are placed on our path may see this and hear this and glorify our Father in Heaven. Then indeed, we may proclaim a message of joy to the world. And will not God Himself, Who has given us this calling — will He not also provide us with all that we need to fulfil that calling?
And what about that antithesis? It’s a false dilemma if we state on the one hand that we must maintain the antithesis, the enmity between the seed of the serpent and ourselves as the seed of the woman, the Church; and on the other hand see this as a reason that prevents us from being a powerful influence for good in the world around us. That would equate to the Church believing that we need to raise up bulwarks all around us against the world in a desperate attempt to prevent ourselves from becoming influenced by the world. That’s not what Christ prayed for in His High Priestly prayer and that ultimately won’t work either since the biggest ally of Satan exists in our own sinful heart. We need to prepare and equip ourselves and our children to be able to fight that spiritual battle in the world. For it is by the very act of being totally different from the world in the way of the Beatitudes, that we maintain that antithesis — and in that way we are indeed a salting salt and a powerful light that dispels the darkness around us and reveals the evil and corruption of a world lost in the darkness of slavery to sin and Satan.
How then do we prepare and equip ourselves for this calling? Allow me to briefly refer here to the well-known Ephesians 6: 10-20, which deals with putting on the whole armour of God. It does so within the context of life being a battle, a wrestling against “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (vs. 12). One of the most important elements in the following verses is that of equipping ourselves with the sword of God’s Word. We should never underestimate the essential importance of daily immersing ourselves in God’s Word as our daily spiritual food and drink. Studying God’s Word together in the Bible study societies is an invaluable aid to support us in growing together in faith and knowledge of the applicability of God’s Word to our daily life. When we thus together and personally are able to grow in fully appreciating the riches and the power of this Word as a sword to ward off and defeat Satan’s temptations and so equip ourselves for the serious challenge of being a salting salt and a light set high on a standard — then we will certainly be engaged in a productive and valuable use of our time and our life here on earth.
But how many of us truly appreciate the fact that we are constantly engaged in a spiritual battle? Christians living in Moslem countries or in China have no doubt about that reality in their daily lives. But we who live in the so-called safe and free West? We need to remind ourselves that we are involved in exactly the same struggle as persecuted Christians are — Satan is merely using different weapons for us than he is for them. But it can be argued that the weapons of post-modernism and secularisation and the seductive and pervasive influence of modern technology and evolutionary science are far more effective weapons of mass destruction of Christians than the cruel physical persecution suffered by Christians in Moslem countries. Piper observes that “in wartime, we ask different questions about what to do with our lives than we do in peacetime. We ask: What can I do to advance the cause? What can I do to bring the victory? What sacrifice can I bring or what risk can I take to ensure the joy of triumph? In peacetime we tend to ask, what can I do to be more comfortable? To have more fun? To avoid trouble, and, possibly, avoid sin?”
He then goes on to expose what he calls this ruinous ethic of mere avoidance which is so endemic in many modern Western Christians’ way of living. He points to the questions they ask themselves or others when warned about their slack lifestyle:
They ask, What’s wrong with it? What’s wrong with this movie? Or this music? Or this game? Or these companions? Or this way of relaxing? Or this investment? Or this restaurant? Or shopping at this store? What’s wrong with going to the cabin every weekend? Or having a cabin? This kind of question will rarely yield a lifestyle that commends Christ as all-satisfying and makes people glad in God. It simply results in a list of don’ts. It feeds the avoidance ethic.
The better questions to ask about possible behaviours are: How will this help me treasure Christ more? How will it help me show that I do treasure Christ? How will it help me know Christ or display Christ? The Bible says, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1Corinthians 10:31). So the question is mainly positive, not negative. How can I portray God as glorious in this action? (p. 119)
Piper then laments that clean noses and quality family time displayed by many Christians is not life! He writes: “Oh how many lives are wasted by people who believe that the Christian life means simply avoiding badness and providing for the family. So there is no adultery, no stealing, no killing, no embezzlement, no fraud — just lots of hard work during the day, and lots of TV and PG-13 videos in the evening (during quality family time), and lots of fun stuff on the weekend — woven around church (mostly). This is life for millions of people. Wasted life. We were created for more, far more.”
These words are thought provoking. When I personally look back at how I have spent my life over the past years and carefully analyse how focussed and self-disciplined I have been in using my time to the honour of God in His service, then I cringe in memory of some of the petty pursuits that have wasted so much of my time. I think many of you will be able to relate to some of my experiences. Did it really take me a whole hour (6.25% of my awake time!) to read the newspaper over a cup of coffee after work when my vegie garden was screaming to be weeded and I really needed the fresh air, sunshine and healthy physical activity to clear my brain for marking student’s work that evening? Was that newspaper really so stimulating, instructive and upbuilding? I think not! Or, perhaps even more to the point; did I really spend a whole hour and a half playing games of solitaire when I should have been doing my prep study for men’s Bible Study Club? Did that assist me to contribute anything constructive to my understanding of God’s Word and my ability to contribute positively to that evening’s discussion? These may seem like fairly innocuous examples, but please don’t ask, “What’s so wrong with that?”