On Sunday night at church, we were following up from a few weeks of talking about God’s grace upon us, upon our lives. We read together from Philippians 1:18-26 where we saw that Paul was writing a letter to the church in Philippi. He was writing the letter from his prison in Rome where he was in chains as a result of having preached the Gospel and then appealed for an audience with Caesar.
Now, Paul was writing to the Philippians saying that he was full of joy because of what had happened to him, that it would lead to his deliverance.
But wait… full of joy?!? How could he be full of joy while sitting in a prison? He is joyful that the Gospel is being preached? OK, yes, that is a good thing, but full of joy? Hmm….
What was more, Paul went on to say that he expects and hopes to be courageous because he may be near death, even saying that it doesn’t really matter to him whether he lives or dies. In fact, he says: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. What can you do to punish a person like that? Nothing. If he dies, he is even happier than if he stays alive. That person is truly an instrument in God’s hands because his priorities are directly aligned to God’s priorities.
As we were reading and discussing the passage, we were responding to the question: What do we learn about God? It struck me how radical Paul actually was in saying the things that he had said to the Philippians. But I wondered, was that how he started? Was he always this way? I don’t think so. I think God changed his heart as a result of Christ’s work within him. God loved him and had incredible grace and mercy upon Paul which, through a series of subsequent experiences and work to further the Kingdom of God, gave him the ability to say that if he continued living, it would be for Christ, but if he died, it would be to his gain.
So my observation was that we can learn that God desires to change us radically. He wants to make us “extreme”. He has given us such love and grace and mercy that he wants the same for us. He wants us to become “radical” and “extreme” in the same sense, that we would offer love and grace and mercy to others and desire Christ above all else. This is the type of person that God intends for each of us to become, just as we saw in the example of Paul.
So this morning, I was reading Matthew 5 where I read that Jesus calls his disciples the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Here is what he said:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.Matthew 5:13-16
Jesus is telling his disciples that they are the salt and the light. He is, of course, there with them at that point, but it won’t be too much longer before he will leave, so he needs them to know that they are the ones who will be continuing. They are the ones who will go on, continuing to carry the torch, in a sense, for him and for the Kingdom of God, once he has returned back to the Father.
And of course, we see that Jesus immediately after calls them to radical and extreme obedience:
Jesus says that he came to fulfill the law and that they should as well.
Jesus says that they shouldn’t just not murder, but if they are angry with someone, they will be judged.
Jesus says that they shouldn’t just not commit adultery, but if they even look at someone lustfully, they could be subject to being thrown into hell.
How radical is Jesus? How extreme is he? All of the way, and then some! Has anyone ever heard someone talk like this? No, the disciples hadn’t. The Jews hadn’t. The Gentiles hadn’t. No one had ever heard anything like this before.
But now Jesus is saying that his disciples are the light of the world. They are the ones who will be radical and extreme like him. They are the ones who will completely commit themselves to fully obeying God because of the love that they have for Him. They are the ones who will offer love and grace and mercy. They are the ones who will be the salt and light of the world. They will carry on his radical and extreme way of life.
And that is what we saw in Paul. And that is what we see he also calls us to be and to do.