Nonconformity For His Sake
What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:26)
The world places little value on the soul. A body in the hand is worth two souls in the bush, according to the zeitgeist of our generation. The world spirit invites us to play now and pay later, though the emphasis is on the now. This is the popular way to go.
For the Christian to resist the seduction of this world, he must risk going against the tide. He must be willing to Fisk the loss of pleasing men to gain pleasing God. Hence Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). The key words in this beatitude are “for My sake.” The nonconformity we are called to is not simply nonconformity for nonconformity’s sake. Anyone call call attention to himself by being a maverick. It is the “for My sake” that separates the cheap nonconformity from the genuine article. There is no virtue in being “out of it” indiscriminately. Our nonconformity must be selective. It must be at points that matter.
The apostle Paul said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). The call to transformation does not withdrawing from the world. We need no more monasteries. We neither surrender to the world nor flee from the world. We are to penetrate the world with a new and different spirit.
We should not flee this world. But, oh, how many Christians try to do so. And in doing so, they may actually be displeasing the God who wants the world redeemed, not escaped.
Jesus in describing our mission as believers uses two elements that by their very nature change their surroundings. Neither can work from afar for both have to mingle themselves with the environment in which they are placed. These two elements are none other than salt and light.
“You are the world’s seasoning, to make it tolerable. If you lose your flavor, what will happen to the world? And you yourselves will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the world’s light—a city on a hill, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father.
Sometimes we have the idea that the life of a Christian is to be spent solely with other Christians venturing out occasionally to do some good work and then rushing back and quickly washing our hands lest we become contaminated by those we have served. We build exclusive clubs where we mingle with those like us week after week while the world that we shut out spoils around us. Sometimes it seems that we are content as long as life and faith are meeting our needs and desires and we are quick to make our displeasure known when anything threatens our comfort zones.
Jesus was clear that we are to be salt that seasons. You could buy a container of salt and put it up in the cabinet and go by everyday and look at it. You might be thankful that you have salt and maybe some day you will get it out and use it. In the mean time the food you prepare remains tasteless and bland for as long as the salt is in the container, it has no power to season or flavor that food. This is the purpose of Jesus’ teaching. We are salt and salt is designed to mingle with its environment, not to be changed by its surroundings, but to change its surroundings. It is the most natural thing salt can do. It doesn’t try to work from the outside bringing change. Instead it immerses itself and though it is not of the food it flavors it is in the food. Jesus says it this way:
14 I have given to them Your word [the message You gave Me]; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world and do not belong to the world, just as I am not of the world and do not belong to it. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but that You keep them and protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth [set them apart for Your purposes, make them holy]; Your word is truth. 18 Just as You commissioned and sent Me into the world, I also have commissioned and sent them (believers) into the world.
No matter where you place salt, it will change its environment for it is its nature to do so as long as it retains its flavor. Jesus was clear when He said that when salt loses its ability to flavor, it has no purpose and is cast out as something worthless. This doesn’t mean we are worthless. It means that if we lose our ability to affect the world with the gospel, then to the kingdom of God, we have no use. Every church and every believer has been called to be the salt in their community and life. It is easy to change the purpose of what God has called us to by substituting good works in its place. While it is true that we should serve and do acts of kindness, those are not our primary purposes. We have been given a single purpose for our existence and that purpose is proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every church must keep its focus on the the Great Commission. Failure to do do causes it to lose its purpose. There are many human agencies that do a great job providing material and social needs of society, but only the church has the capacity to provide the spiritual needs of mankind. It alone has the message of salvation and eternal life. I don’t think you will see any of the human agencies ever abandon their purpose for the sake of presenting the gospel so I think the church should never become so busy meeting social needs that it forgets its true purpose of addressing spiritual and eternal needs. This is not to say that we never give worldly assistance to those in need. In fact we are instructed to do so by none other than Jesus. However, even though He did so in ways beyond our capacity (the feeding of the 5,000, for example), He was never distracted from His purpose. As a matter of fact, the feeding was the result of the people sitting and listening to His message for so long that they missed dinner and so while meeting a spiritual need, Christ also met a physical need.
Light by its very nature transforms darkness. There may be great darkness surrounding a tiny light, but that tiny light by its very nature dispels darkness. You can try this at home.😊 Go into a dark room and strike a match and you will find that that little match overcomes the darkness. Again if you kept that match in the box, the darkness would still be unaffected but once you take it out and strike it, it affects the darkness. No matter how strong the darkness and how feeble the light, a little light has great power against the darkness. Like salt, the light must be placed in its surroundings to be of use.
So my beloved Christian friend, let us no longer fear to live as salt and light in this world. In John 17:15, Jesus prays that the Father will not take us out of the world but that He will keep us(guard and protect us) while we are living in this world. Just as those tiny grains of salt and the tiny light of a match have great power to transform everything they touch, so we too through the power of the Holy Spirit have also. What Christ and the apostles taught us is that it is possible to live in such a way that our environment can be changed. Not that everyone will be accepting. As a matter of fact, we see that not everyone was pleased with how Christ or the disciples lived their lives. Often their values were offensive to those around them. I’ve discovered, example, if you are around gossipers, if you choose to not participate or if you choose to speak well about the person they are shredding, you will offend them. Sometimes being honest and ethical is offensive, but our values are determined by our faith and the Bible and not by what’s socially acceptable or politically correct. To be in the world and yet not becoming influenced by the world is call to every Christian. God has not delegated this task solely to us but has sent the Holy Spirit to give us power to conquer darkness and flavor our world with the glorious gospel of Christ Jesus.
After Peter and John were released, they returned to their own [people] and reported everything that the chief priests and elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “O Sovereign Lord [having complete power and authority], it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything that is in them, who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David, Your servant, said, ‘ Why did the nations (Gentiles) become arrogant and rage, And the peoples devise futile things [against the Lord]? ‘ The kings of the earth took their stand [to attack], And the rulers were assembled together Against the Lord and against His Anointed (the Christ, the Messiah).’ For in this city there were gathered together against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined [before the creation of the world] to occur [and so without knowing it, they served Your own purpose]. And now, Lord, observe their threats [take them into account] and grant that Your bond-servants may declare Your message [of salvation] with great confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders (attesting miracles) take place through the name [and the authority and power] of Your holy Servant and Son Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were meeting together was shaken [a sign of God’s presence]; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness and courage.
Dr. John Thompson