Shining in Your Community
In the Panama Canal Museum, there is an old signal light. It was made in France in the 1800s and taken to Panama when the French were trying to build an overland canal. They were unable to continue the construction of the canal because of sickness and lack of money. However, the old light stayed on. It served for many years as a signal for ships at sea.
Inside the light is a place for a small kerosene lamp. Surrounding the lamp are rows of cut glass in long narrow strips which serve as reflectors. There are perhaps 800 reflectors around the lamp. They have no light in themselves, but they reflect and send out the light of the lamp. And so, the tiny light from the kerosene lamp is multiplied many hundreds of times to make a brilliant, shining light. For many years, ships and boats were guided to shore by this faraway light. It showed them the way to safety.
In the same way, we reflect the light of Jesus Christ to the world. The Bible compares a Christian to both light and salt. In this lesson you will see how you can be light and salt to your community. You will see that having your mind influenced by Christ will help you to reflect His love to the world.
Bring a Light to your Community
Jesus said, “I am the light for the world” (John 9:5). He also said, “You are like light for the whole world your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16). We have no light in ourselves, but we reflect the light of Jesus, much as the reflectors in the old signal light in Panama reflected light from the lamp.
One of the purposes of light is to shine on paths to make it possible for people to see and walk safely. The Bible says, “Your word is a lamp to guide me and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). People may not read God’s Word, but they observe our lives. As we study the Word and walk in its light, others will be better able to see the right path. We will be serving as reflectors of Christ’s light and helping others find the way to Christ.
Another purpose of light is to warn of danger. Lighthouses are built to warn ships of rocks beneath the water, or of rocky coasts. There are many such lights on the shores of the English Channel. Christians serve as lights to warn of the dangers of sin. Another Bible verse says, “I keep your law in my heart, so that I will not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Not only does God’s Word help us to avoid sin, but also it is reflected from our lives to warn others. Often it is necessary for us to give a warning against sin.
Light also makes it possible for people to see things as they really are. Hebrews 4:12-13 says:
The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together. It judges the desires and thoughts of man’s heart. There is nothing that can be hid from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before his eyes.
When our hearts are open to the Word, it causes us to see ourselves as God sees us. In turn, when people who are not Christians look at our lives, it should cause them to recognize their sin and their need for the transforming power of Jesus. “You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, as you offer them the message of life” (Philippians 2:15-16).
Being Salt in your Community
You are like salt for all mankind. But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample on it (Matthew 5:13).
One function or purpose of salt is to purify. To be pure means, “to contain nothing that does not properly belong.” When salt is used to purify, it destroys those things that do not belong.
Salt water is often used as a home remedy for removing infection or swelling. Once I had a badly infected toe. It was red, swollen, and very painful. My wife suggested that I soak the toe in very hot salted water. I didn’t like doing it, but I found that it helped a great deal, and the toe got better. You might say that the salt purified the toe.
Purity is a virtue or quality that Christians are to show to their community. To be pure means that our lives do not contain anything unholy. By being pure ourselves, we can influence our community towards purity. The spirit of the world is trying to lower the level of honesty and moral goodness. The Christian holds high the standard of purity in speech, behavior, and thought. Sin is like an infection. We are to act as a healing agent to destroy it and to keep it from spreading. When we speak out against sin, we are serving as salt in our community.
Salt is also used to preserve. For example, we use it to preserve fish and meat. This keeps the fish or meat from getting rotten. I was born on the island of Newfoundland. A common meal there is a “salt meat dinner.” This name is used because salt was used to preserve the beef.
Newfoundland is also a great fishing country. I can remember visiting the fishermen’s docks where they have tons of fish packed in salt. After much time the salt preserves the fish and it will not spoil. Then it is packed to be sold.
In both of these cases, the salt preserves the meat so it can be eaten later. The meat keeps its natural qualities. It does not lose its flavor. The Christian is to be the salt of the earth. He is to be a preserving agent in the world. In certain people’s company, it is easy to be good. They are good people. Others have a bad influence. A Christian must influence others for good. He or she must be a preserving agent, and make it easier for others to be good in an evil world.
The most common quality of salt is its ability to flavor. It has flavor in itself, but salt’s best use is to bring out the flavor of food. Christianity is to life what salt is to food. It flavors life. Take Christianity and its influence out of life and you have a very dull life with no meaning or purpose. Christianity gives flavor and meaning to life—it gives us something to live for.
We Christians should be pure ourselves and influence others to be pure. We should do all in our power to preserve that, which is right and good. Our own lives should show to others that Christianity gives purpose to life. Then we are serving as salt, as Jesus said we would.
Having a Renewed Mind
We have just learned that we have no light of our own we simply reflect Christ’s light. Neither do we have power to preserve, purify, or flavor our world. The power comes from God, who gives us wisdom to use His power for the good of others.
It is the same with your mind. You cannot really understand how it works only God can understand it. Therefore, the more your mind or thoughts are yielded to God, the more He can influence your mind.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.”
A transformation or complete change takes place in us when we find the Lord. Everything takes on new life. We see things differently. We think different thoughts. Our mind is renewed. That means it is fresh and clean, like a new mind. God is now in control of our thoughts and ideas.
We need to get into the habit of allowing God to influence us through our minds. Allow God to impress your mind with His thoughts. As you pray, you will become sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. He will give you wisdom in your relationships with others. As you follow His leading, your mind will be transformed and renewed, and you will truly be salt and light to your community.
In 1 Corinthians 2:16 the apostle Paul says, “We, however, have the mind of Christ.” He also says in Philippians 2:5, “The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had.” Then he goes on to tell about the attitude Christ had. Read Philippians 2:5-11, then study the chart below until you understand the attitudes of Christ and God’s response to those attitudes.
Do you have the kind of mind Christ had? Are you submissive, humble, and obedient? Ask the Lord to help you have a renewed mind—the mind of Christ.
Having His mind will help you relate His love and concern to your community.