When you are a Christian that loves Jesus, you want to share what you have found. Not only because the Bible calls us to it, but most of all because we are concerned and love our friends, family and all those who don’t know God. Driven out of this love, we want to do everything it takes to get them to experience God for themselves. We want our faith to look appealing to them, so that they will want it too. Now we want to share something with you that not only reaches unbelievers, but even takes your own faith-life to the next level.
When summarizing my life between age 12 and 23, it would be: obsessed with church and with reaching unbelievers. I volunteered more than anyone in church, organized all sort of events, led the team that put together the weekly services, invited many unbelievers to events and services, went to many international church planting and leadership conferences, bought numerous books from leading pastors of rapidly growing churches and even did my bachelor thesis on how to make church more attractive to unbelievers. I know what it is like to love those outside the church and do your best to try to reach them. But as God has challenged me (a lot) in this area, I found that there is a Biblical method for it of which its power is often overlooked or misinterpreted. A principle that if heeded correctly, will not only result in better outreach, but even have our own spiritual life grow drastically. Jesus Himself lays out His divine method and teaches us how to apply it.
The source of light
Our effectiveness of fulfilling Jesus’ commision to make all people His true disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) all stands or falls with the way we interpret the source of light. The Bible tells us that we are all sinners and walk in darkness ourselves (Psalm 14:3, Romans 7:18, Psalm 51:5, Isaiah 8:20, Romans 3:23, Ephesians 4:18, Ephesians 5:8). Even the wisest man of the Old Testament, Solomon, instructs us to not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-7). In ourselves we are so fallen, that even our good deeds are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). When we believe that we in ourselves have any light to share with others, we will not only fool ourselves but those around us too. Luke 6:39 “Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?” KJV. How then can Jesus say that we are the light of the world, when we don’t have light in ourselves?
Oh, how God teaches us through the laws of nature! We can understand the message of Jesus when we look at the fourth day of creation (Genesis 1:14-19). The sun is made to illuminate the earth during the day. But what about during the night? Then the moon illuminates the earth. But does the moon in itself shine light? No, it does not. How then does the moon shine on earth? The moon reflects to the earth the light that comes from the sun.
Jesus is the light of the world (John 12:35-36) and now that He ascended to the heavenly temple (Hebrews 9:24) we are to reflect His light to the earth. When we follow Him, we will have that light to shine to others. But it is crucial to understand that we are only a conditional light, for we have no light in ourselves. Can the moon reflect light where the sun does not shine upon it? No. In the same way, we can only reflect His light, in the areas where His light shines on us, where we follow Him. We are to be a full moon to the world in darkness! And Jesus tells us how we can be one.
The position of the light
The call to be separate
“You are the light of the world. A city on a what? Hill. “Cannot be hid”. In other words, it stands separate. Seperate from what? From darkness. Now this is very important to understand right. Before I explain why this is important and what it means, let’s Biblically firmly establish the idea of being separate.
Many of us know that the Israelites were called God’s people and that they were to live holy (=set apart) as individuals and a people. They were not to get close relations with the surrounding countries and their inhabitants or do the things that they did (Leviticus 18:1-5). Part of the reason why the Old Testament is so big, is because the Israelites did not heed those instructions. Time and again we can read how they were led astray and sinned, intermarried, broke the Sabbath, worshipped idols, etc. They became like everyone else, losing their light. Now we know about Israel in the Old Testament, but you might not have seen that this call for God’s people to be separate continues in the New Testament. I am presenting quite a number of verses, from eleven different letters, written by five different authors, to show you that this is an unmovable Bible teaching. After these verses we will get into what it means and why it is so important.
Used to the smell
Remember, our calling is to be full moons, reflecting God’s light to the world in darkness. The reason why during the night the moon it not always full, is because they are positioned in such a way from each other, that not all the areas of its surface are hit by the rays of light from the sun. Because there are parts that have not come in contact with the sunlight, it cannot reflect light. In order for us to then be full moons, we want every area of our lives positioned in such a way that we receive His light and therefore can reflect it. We do not want to compromise and have an area of our lives not positioned towards the light, so that it will be darkness and therefore cannot reflect the light. In order to protect our reflective capabilities, we are called to be separate.
When a certain brand was the first to discover a formula that could remove smells, they now thought they sat on a gold mine. After having released the product to the consumer market, they were puzzled when it turned out that no one bought the product. They started doing more market research and found the problem: the people did not notice that they were in need of the product. They themselves did not notice the smell anymore, because they had gotten used to it.
It’s just like enjoying spending time with someone who smokes. You might not be the one holding the cigarette but be around someone long enough that does and you’ll end up sick anyway. Even if on the surface you don’t directly see any bad consequences, the damage is being done on the inside without you noticing. Little by little we compromise and without realizing it ourselves we are only a half moon, and then a quarter moon. And when someone who is in darkness believes they are shining a light, it becomes again the blind leading the blind. Nobody wins. Just like when the salt loses its savour (Matthew 5:13), when it loses its distinguishable attributes, it’s good for nothing. Instead of taking our cleaning detergent to help clean up the smell in other people’s lives, we instead join them on the sofa, and after a while we do not even notice the smell anymore. We should therefore be very careful with who we place in positions of influence and how we deal with those around us that do not share God’s values.
Just like us
When unbelievers would tell me that I, as a Christian, was “normal and just like them”, I thought it meant that I succeeded in making God look more attractive to them. But, comments like those should actually trigger all alarm bells, for something is not right. If someone who is in darkness, tells me, who is supposed to be out of darkness and in the light, that I am just like them… that’s not a good sign. Unbelievers and believers from all over the country and surrounding regions, did not come to Jesus because He was just like them. They came to Him because He was different, He had something that they were looking for and could not find anywhere else. Why would those around us want what we have, if we are just like them? It apparently does not really do anything. Our lives should be so full of God’s light in everything we do (Colossians 3:17) that they look at us and see something they want, God. We should not be afraid to be different, because only when people see another way, it produces hope for they now know that they do not need to stay where they are. They too can accept God and step into life and it was meant to be. Listen to this inspired comment:
Yes, unbelievers are often drawn to this picture portrayed to them of God and church and many go to church and profess to be converted. But what kind of Christians does it create when giving a false and incomplete picture of God and the Christian life? They are the seed that springs up quick, but does not have root (Matthew 13:5-6), the house built on sand, instead of the rock (Matthew 7:26-27). They will not be prepared for times of trouble (1 Corinthians 10:12, Luke 18:8) and risk to lose their salvation (a blog post about this will hopefully come soon). Unknowingly they follow a man-made God and traditions of men (Isaiah 29:13). Churches and Christians in general no longer offer God’s deep life transformation that sets people free, but only entertainment and a form of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5-6) that keeps the unbeliever in darkness and ignorance and even leads the believer in the same direction.
Why we have problems with our calling
A personal struggle
Every person who accepts Jesus is on a journey themselves. Practically it is often not over night that your lifestyle, thoughts, passions etc. go from darkness to light. It is and probably will be a constant struggle between our flesh and the spirit of God (Romans 8:5, 1 Corinthians 15:31, Colossians 3:9-10). And because we have been so used to being in the dark, the light honestly does not always attract us (John 3:19-21). Our enemy is working full-time to try to keep you in darkness as much as possible (1 Peter 5:8). Just like a salesperson would not sell anything if (s)he just highlighted the bad parts of the product, so does Satan not present darkness as darkness. Satan knows how to make bad look good and desirable (2 Corinthians 11:14). Not only that, he even makes the good look bad (2 Corinthians 4:4). The love for things of the world, those things that we have gotten used to and had so much pleasure in, hold us in a grip and we tend to try to find a way to still hold on to them (2 Timothy 4:3, Isaiah 30:10, Jude 1:18). We try to belittle its effect, disprove Biblical principles, and bring in loads of excuses. I know what I am talking about, because I had been doing that for almost my entire life. But only if we personally really believe that God has something better for us and that the Word of truth leads to life are we even willing to position ourselves to receive His light. That is where it starts. Before you can reflect any light to others, you need to have received it yourself first. And friends, do not think we can win this struggle ourselves (John 6:44). We cannot be full moons on our own strength! It is when we look at Jesus, the more we will be changed by the Holy Spirit working inside of us and become more powerful witnesses (2 Corinthians 3:18, Acts 26:18).
A holy discontent
The world is a dark place, and it will get darker. God is more and more rejected and the world follows after the ways of evil (Revelation 13:3). A depressing reality that awakens a sense of urgency in a lot of God’s people. When friends turn their backs on God and the church loses its people, something needs to be done. The question is, what needs to be done?
The reality is maybe even sadder, as many of us take matters into our own hands. We try to win people for Jesus by making God look more attractive to those outside. To try to connect with the unbelievers many people and churches dim and compromise the light. Gradually more and more things are taken in from the world, to create a sense of familiarity for the unbelievers. However, by taking in practices from the world, the person or the church loses its capability to reflect His light and be a full moon to those around. The friend circle or the church may grow in number, but the compromised and distorted picture of God does not have the power to set them free from darkness (2 Timothy 3:5-6, 1 John 1:5, Ezekiel 22:26). To win people for Jesus is a good motive, but there is still a right and a wrong way to achieve this.
The simple principle of winning people for Jesus
We started with the Bible verse about the light and have learned that we do not have light in ourselves. The only way we can shine, is as a reflection of the light that God shines on us. As a lightbearer we are to be seperate from darkness, for our own sake and those around us. We are carefully considering who we allow in places of influence in our lives and we always look at the light in His word to make sure we do not smell darkness. The reason why we want every area of our lives to be uncompromised and positioned towards God’s light, is because we want to have everything God has for us and we reflect Him better. And this my friends, is how we reach the unbeliever. Allow me to share with you four last Scriptures to bring this point home.
Lift up Jesus
In everything we do, we are to lift up Jesus. When in our daily lives we do all in His name, in word and deed, even if no one is watching (Colossians 3:17), Jesus will use you to draw men unto Himself (Matthew 5:16). The most important thing is not ourselves, church or even those we want to reach, it’s Jesus. Lift up Jesus, work on your relationship with Him. Open up your whole life towards Him and receive His light. It will build you up in your faith, and He will draw men unto Himself through you!
The whole duty of man
You might not fully understand this connection yet. Allow me to take it bit by bit. What does it mean to fear God? Let’s have the Bible interpret itself. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil” Proverbs 8:13 KJV. This means to seperate yourself from evil, from the darkness. How about the commandments? “therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13:10 KJV. When we keep His commandments, it means we love, and God is love (1 John 4:8). In other words, we stay away from evil and we love. Why? Because that means you are a full moon, reflecting His light! That is our whole calling.
Jesus will build
Who will build whose church? Jesus will build His church. It is not our church, neither do we build it. He adds people to the church (Acts 2:47) and He does the transformative work (Jeremiah 24:7, Ezekiel 36:26). What then do we do and why does the church have such a hard time then? “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.” Luke 10:2 KJV. Is the problem external or internal? The people are ready to receive Him, that’s not the problem. The problem, Jesus says, is that there are not enough workers! We need more people who have surrendered every area of their lives to God, that they may reflect Him and be used by Him. Jesus builds and we are the building blocks (Ephesians 2:22). We do not make the blueprints, we do not decide what materials to use, we do none of that. That’s His job. We are not in charge of the outcome, He is, for it is His harvest. All we do is to make sure we are the best and most accessible building blocks He can find!
They shall come
This sums it all up perfectly. The Lord shines upon us, and it will be seen upon us, and Gentiles will come to the light. What a promise! What an exciting time to be alive. The darker the world gets, the more we will seek not to compromise with the darkness, but how to shine even brighter! The world is desperate for hope, and it can only be found in the true light as it is in our God.
The call to respond
Only the Word is a reliable source that we can trust that points us to the life we are called to live and method we are to use to reach unbelievers (Hebrews 4:12-13, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Look at your life through the lens of the Word of truth, and it will pierce right through all the smells. Set aside all your experiences, preconceived notions and your preferences, and let the Holy Spirit clean up your life as you behold Jesus in His Word. Every one of your actions, your words and even thoughts is either representing God’s character or misrepresenting it, taking you closer to Him, or further away. The way you spend your time either lifts Jesus up, or brings Him down. Time can seem like just time to you, but in the hands of God it can be a vessel used to help someone find eternal life. What an honor, privilege and responsibility, that we are called to show His light in these dark times. Let’s make shine it as bright as possible!