The Presence of the Kingdom (6)
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. Ephesians 5.8-10
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5.14-16
The Presence of Jesus
As the Kingdom light of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit floods our soul, affecting all the operations of our mind, heart, and conscience, the Spirit will transform us increasingly into the likeness of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3.12-18). We will still be ourselves, of course, with all the distinguishing features of personality, habitual practices, quirkiness, and mannerism that define us as unique beings; however, the light of Jesus will shine within us so that even those features that make us uniquely ourselves will be purged of all darkness and made radiant with the Presence of Jesus.
In the time and places of our lives, therefore, we should expect—and seek and pray and work for—the Spirit to bring Jesus to light in and through us, filling our little world with Kingdom presence. And that can happen in ways we might not even plan for or be aware of.
I think of an illustration Keith Miller provided in one of his early books—one of the first Christian books I ever read, now more than fifty years ago. A man who worked downtown always caught the train to take him to his home in the suburbs. One day, running late, he dashed into the station and down to the railyard, looking to the last platform to see if his train was still there. As he saw the conductor pick up the portable step and heard him call out the final “All aboard!”, he began to run toward his train. As he did, his briefcase bumped a little boy who was holding a box, knocking the box out of his hand and spilling his puzzle pieces all around on the platform. As the man ran past, he looked back to see the little boy and his spilled puzzle. He turned to look at his train, then, setting down his briefcase, came back, knelt in front of the little boy, picked up the pieces of his puzzle, put the lid on the box, and, as his train pulled away, gave the box to the boy, with a smile and a little pat on the shoulder.
The boy looked at him in something like amazement and asked, “Mister, are you Jesus?” At which, the man realized that, for just that moment, he was.
The Presence of Jesus can shine through us into all the time and places of our lives, on all kinds of people in all kinds of ways. But we must make ready for this to be so.
Jesus said that our light must shine through the good works we do for the people to whom God sends us each day. Indeed, Paul insisted, God has saved us for this very purpose, that the light of Jesus and His Kingdom might glow with arresting power through the good works God has prepared for us (Eph. 2.10).
But we must approach the time God gives us and the places to which He sends us with the mind of Christ, the heart of His Spirit, and a commitment to doing good for God’s glory as our highest value. In the book of Titus, Paul was emphatic about the role of good works in the life of faith and every believer’s calling to let Jesus shine through in their works.
This is why Jesus died for us. He “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2.14). Jesus did not live, die, and rise again merely so that we could go to heaven when we die. He was not primarily concerned about our not having troubles or worries anymore. And He especially did not suffer, die, and rise again so that we could become happy and wealthy. Jesus gave Himself to create for Himself a people “zealous for good works.” In the Kingdom of God we have work to do, and the work we’ve been given to do is greater than the job at which we work. The work of the Kingdom—seeking righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit in all the time and places of our lives—is our reason for being saved. And we must be zealous for this work—eager and ready and adept at it, so that we will be like Jesus to all the people in our lives.
We must, Paul continued, “be ready for every good work” (Titus 3.1). This means study and preparation, intense and consistent prayer, thoughtful planning and taking initiatives. Only if we are ready for good works will we be likely to do them as the opportunity arises. And we “should be careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3.8), doing them to meet the needs of others and bearing all the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3.14). As often as we have opportunity, Paul wrote in Galatians 6.9, 10, we should do good works of love to let the Kingdom light of Jesus shine and the glory of God radiate in even the most ordinary and everyday of our activities (1 Cor. 10.31).
Making Jesus make sense
People will be more likely to believe the Good News of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom if they see the reality of it in how we live before them. Are we zealous for good works? Eager to be helpful or encouraging? Ready to listen, sympathize, share, and go out of our way to refresh and renew others? Genuinely loving and compassionate?
C. S. Lewis explained why he found Christianity to be so utterly and reliably true: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else” (“Is Theology Poetry? in The Weight of Glory). Whatever we say to people or try to explain or share about Jesus and the Christian life, whatever they observe in us that they wish they had more of in themselves, whatever want of hope or joy they may wish to fill, they will be more likely to find such matters resolved in Jesus when they see Jesus consistently lived in us.
Let the Sun of God shine with His glorious and warming light through all the works of your hands, and not only will people see those good works, but they will see by them the reality of Christ and His glory. Be zealous, be ready, be consistent, and be sincere in loving others and caring about their needs. Thus will the light of the Kingdom shine through you for the glory of God and Christ.
For reflection or discussion
1. We’re not saved by good works, but we’re not saved without them. Explain.
2. What can you do to make sure that you are “ready” for good works when the opportunity arises?
3. What do our good works contribute to our being witnesses for Christ?
Next steps—Demonstration: What opportunities for doing good will you have today? Are you ready for these? Zealous for them? Eager to do and maintain them?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study.