Survivor: Sunrise Part 4
Keeping Your Torch Lit
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 18, 2003

 

Main Passage: Matthew 5:13-16

Commander Hansen had no idea how or why his outpost was being attacked. The outpost where he was stationed was suddenly up against a very powerful enemy... one he had never encountered before. Oh, he had heard of them, sure, but he never expected that he would meet them head on. They had been at peace for over a hundred years. But there they were, attacking Commander Hansen and all those under his command. It was as if they would appear out of nowhere, stage an attack, and disappear again. And it would only be a matter of time until they completely destroyed the station, killing all of the inhabitants.

Commander Hansen, with his defenses already exhausted, did the only thing he could do: he sent out a plea for help. One ship received the communication and responded to it. Commander Hansen described to them what was happening, and the ship rushed to try to get there in time to help. But they failed. They were too far away to get there in time. The unknown enemy continued their assault on the outpost until there was nothing left.

The ship that Commander Hansen had been able to contact arrived too late to be of any help to Hansen or his outpost, but they were able to pursue the unknown enemy. And what was to follow was the first encounter between the U.S.S. Enterprise and the Romulans. Didn’t know you were getting a Star Trek Sermon today, did you? That episode first aired on December 13, 1966 and revealed a device that every Romulan warship would be equipped with: a cloaking device.

In Star Trek, a cloaking device is a piece of equipment built into space ships that has the ability to bend light around the ship so that the ship essentially becomes invisible. And only when they want to use their weapons do they need to disable their cloak and risk being detected.

One of the biggest problems that I believe we have in the church today is that we’ve got too many Christians living with a built in cloaking device. We go through life virtually undetected for what we are, and only occasionally do we lower our cloak so that we can be recognized as followers of Christ. And even when we do, it tends to be at very safe times, when we’re at church, when we meet another Christian for lunch, or when we attend religious events such as rallies or camps or concerts, women’s groups, men’s groups, Bible studies... and what we fail to remember is that we are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

That’s the way that Jesus describes us in the passage that was read earlier. Jesus uses salt and light as metaphors for how His followers should operate. So what is it about salt and light? Well, one thing that salt and light have in common is:

They both have a dramatic impact on whatever they contact.

Think about salt for a minute. What qualities does salt have that makes it salt?

PARTICIPATION

(It makes people thirsty, it spices things up, it’s a preservative, it enhances flavour.)

So what Jesus was saying was “Live the kind of a life that’s going to make people thirst for the truth about of Me, the kind of life that is going to spice things up by stimulating people to think about their values and their beliefs, the kind of life that is going to slow down the rate of moral decay in society, the kind of life that will show people that following Me will enhance their life... it won’t detract from it.”

Now think about light. What does light do?

PARTICIPATION

(It illuminates, it exposes, it draws people toward it.)

There’s something about light that attracts. I remember as a kid growing up at my family’s cottage that there were always moths flying around the light bulb in my room. They were attracted to it.

One of my hobbies is designing websites, and for the past three years I’ve been designing the site for Bedford Days in Nova Scotia. Bedford Days is an annual weeklong celebration held along the Bedford Basin waterfront and features all kinds of events and bands and competitions. But the biggest draw they have is the firework display they put on. They’ll have 10,000 people come out to see some lights in the sky.

What was Jesus saying? “Live the kind of life that’s going to illuminate my truth to people, the kind of life that will expose you for who you are: a follower of Christ, the kind of life that will attract people Me, because ultimately I am the Light of Life” (see John 8:12).

This morning we’re wrapping up our Survivor: Sunrise series of messages. Last weekend several of us got together and watched the finale to Survivor: The Amazon and saw Jenna win as the only one not to have to listen to Jeff Probst tell her, “The tribe has spoken,” while extinguishing her torch. She was able to keep her torch lit. So today, we’re going to talk about what it takes for us to keep our torches lit… what it means for us to be the light of the world. And since the passage we’re looking at refers to us as both the light of the world and the salt of the earth, we’re going to combine the two. We’re going to take a look at what will enable us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

 

We Can Be Salt And Light By Being:

 

1. Influential. (Matt. 5:13-14; Romans 5:8; Philippians 2)

We all have influence on others. I once heard that even the most introverted person will influence 10,000 people in a lifetime. And as Christians, our influence can be positive or it can be negative. It’s up to us to choose. So how do you make a positive influence?

Making A Positive Influence:

A. Live out your faith, even if it costs you.

Stand up for your convictions. Take responsibility for the wrongs you have done. Don’t use underhanded tactics to get ahead. Do what you do because it’s right, not because it’s convenient. That’s what it means to live out your faith, even if it costs you. Those are the people we used to call heroes. I don’t know about you, but those types of people inspire me. They demand respect and force people to ask themselves, “What do I believe, if anything, that is worth me taking a costly step like that for?”

There’s a scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves which has always stuck in my memory. Robin played by Kevin Costner and his friend Azeem played by Morgan Freeman had just arrived back in England from Jerusalem. They had both been in prison there and sentenced to death, but had escaped. So Robin was prying and trying to find out why Azeem was in prison in the first place. And Azeem wasn’t exactly cooperating. But Robin was finally able to figure out that it was because of a girl. And the line that I remember is when Robin asked Azeem if she was worth it. Azeem stopped, looked at him, and simply said: “Worth dying for.”

Is your faith worth dying for? If it isn’t, I’m not sure it’s really faith.

When you start taking your faith seriously others will, too.

 

B. Meet the needs of others, even if you must leave your comfort zone.

"If Salt stays in the saltshaker, then it's just a nice table ornament."
~ Becky Pippert

... filled with potential but with no impact. Because there can be no influence without contact!

“If light doesn't venture out into the darkness and shine out there where it's needed most, then God's truth will not be seen, lost people who matter to God will continue to lose their way, fear will continue to increase, and hurting people will not experience the healing touch of Jesus.”
~ Jay Mitchell

Matthew 5:14 (NLT)
You are the light of the world—like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see.

That means we must go to people on their turf, not ours. We can’t expect to influence the world by sitting back and waiting for the world to come to us. We need to be proactive and seek them out and find out how we can best help them where they’re at.

Jesus modeled this for us Himself. The Bible teaches that Jesus loved us so much that He left the safety and the comfort of His home in heaven to come on our turf and meet our need for forgiveness. What steps are you going to take to minister to the people around you?

Think about the places you go and the people you know. Do you put yourself in situations where you have the opportunity to influence others for Christ? Or do you tend to shelter yourself from the lost and hurting people who need you?

 

C. Display the compassion of Jesus Christ, even if you don’t want to.

If you read through the gospels (the first four books of the New Testament), you’ll see time and time again how completely moved with compassion Jesus was when he would see a person with a need. Does your heart go out to people in need? Do you welcome people with open arms? Or are there certain people you avoid because you don’t want to be seen by them? Are you more concerned with your own comfort than wanting the best for others?

 

We’ve talked about salt and light so far in fairly positive terms. But think about it: If you spill salt in a wound it stings, if you put too much salt on your food it makes you want to spit it out, if you get too much salt in your diet you get high blood pressure. Salt isn’t all together good.

And how about light? The glare of a light that’s much too bright and is shining right in your eyes makes you look away, doesn’t it? And the problem is that some Christians today, even with their good intentions are actually repelling people from Christianity instead of attracting them.

The best argument for Christianity is Christians -- their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the best argument against Christianity is also Christians -- when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug, when they are narrow and repressive. Then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.
~ C.S. Lewis

 

Making A Negative Influence:

A. In Your Face Christianity.

I once heard about and instruction manual for how Christians can take loud speakers and attach them to their cars and drive around preaching to people. You’ve heard of drive-by-shootings? This is drive-by-shouting. The guide actually offers this advice: “The faster your car’s speed, the shorter your sermon should be.” And it even gives sample sermon lines. For example, if you were to drive up beside someone stopped at a red light, this is what you’re supposed to say: “Pull over right now and ask Jesus to save your soul.” Can you imagine, you’re sitting in your car, and you don’t know where this voice is coming from, you’re just sitting there and all of a sudden, “Pull over right now and ask Jesus to save your soul.” It’d scare you to death. You just might be apt to do it. Actually, it might not be such a bad idea after all...

But the truth is that regardless of how well intentioned these people may be, it really does turn you off. I’m one of the already convinced and it turns me off.

 

B. Holier-Than-Thou Christianity.

These are the Christians who paint themselves to be much better than they really are and who paint pre-Christians as being much worse than they really are. As far as they’re concerned, every social problem we’ve got is because of people who don’t believe the exact same thing as them. They’ve got an “us vs. them” mentality. They’re the good guys and you’ve got to watch out for everyone else.

But that’s not what Christianity’s all about. Christianity's about loving and accepting and guiding, not condemning.

 

C. Cosmetic Christianity.

By that I mean people who have a skin deep spirituality that looks pretty good on the outside but it doesn’t penetrate deep enough to influence their lives on the inside.

You know what I’m talking about. We’ve got all kinds of people in our society that pay lip service to God, but they don’t allow Him to influence the way they live their lives. For them, God’s got His time and place, but never when it’s actually going to mean anything.

 

That’s the salt that stings and the light that repels. Those forms of Christianity do far more harm than good. You don’t want to be a negative influence. Strive instead to have a positive influence on all you come into contact with.

When I think of people who have had a positive influence, one of the people I think of is my grandmother. My grandmother died about five years ago. In fact, it was on this weekend five years ago that led to her death shortly afterwards. The funeral was on a Sunday afternoon, and in her church that morning, the pastor did a very interesting thing. He got members of the congregation to take pieces of paper and capsulize thoughts about my grandmother. She had attended this church all her life, and there were many people who responded. Let me read for you some of the notes that came in about her:

 

  • Her whole person smiled.

  • A true inspiration of how to serve the Lord: A warm caring woman who touched hearts and lives by example.

  • Glenna Woodworth was a kind, caring person. I never knew her to be malicious.

  • Will miss her beautiful smile and witness.

  • Glenna was an encourager.

  • Glenna was a true friend, always faithful, always the same. You could depend on her. She will be missed.

  • A true friend.

  • She always made us feel welcome.

  • A dear, faithful friend, an ardent supporter of the church.

  • She being dead, yet speaketh.

  • A woman of God, a woman of service.

  • She was a great model of living for Jesus Christ, a wonderful example of what a Christian should be like.

  • Her Godly influence certainly made a difference in our daughter’s life.

  • Glenna was a living testimony to her Saviour, Jesus Christ. She was a light to all people around her.

 

What will be said about you at the end of your life? What kind of legacy are you going to leave behind? It’s going to be determined by the influence you have today.

 

2. Intentional. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Matthew 5:15-16 (NLT)
Don't hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Salt is intentionally placed on food. Jesus said that when you light a lamp, you don’t place it under a bowl. Instead you put it up on it’s stand so that it can give its light to everyone in the house. It’s a choice you make to intentionally put that lamp where it will serve the most good.

A few years ago, Executives at Sears Headquarters in Chicago were facing a marketing challenge. You see, plenty of women were shopping at Sears for hardware and tools and plumbing fixtures, and that was fine, but the women were avoiding the women’s apparel department. And Sears Executives were convinced that if women only knew the quality of the new line of clothing they had for sale there, then they would become customers of that department, too. But how could they promote the clothing in such a way that would connect with their potential customers? Well, the marketing experts studied the matter, and they hammered out a marketing strategy. They developed a campaign called, “Come See The Softer Side Of Sears” and they developed a two page magazine ad. One side of the ad showed a car battery and the other showed a woman wearing a very dramatic evening dress, and the headline quoted the woman as saying “I came in looking for a Die Hard, and left with something drop dead.” So then they analyzed all of the demographic information of the various publications where they could place these ads and they decided the best ones in terms of the age of the women they wanted to reach were publications such as Working Woman Magazine and the Sunday Supplement to various newspapers. Then they looked what viewing habits women in the same age bracket had on television and they decided to place 30-60 second T.V. commercials on the annual Emmy Award Show, which apparently has a very large female audience. In all, they spent over $40 million on this marketing campaign. You know what? It worked. Sales of women’s apparel at Sears shot up dramatically.

Okay, so why am I giving Sears a free commercial here this morning? This is not a part of their $40 million marketing plan. The reason I’m doing it is because you can see how intentional their plan was. And God’s got his own plan for impacting the world with His love and forgiveness: us. God doesn’t have a plan B... we’re it.

And you can choose to look at that one of two ways. You can either consider it a great weight of responsibility or you can consider it a privilege that that God would trust us enough to be the ones to carry His message to the world.

Think about the lights on a runway. They’re intentionally placed there so that they can show the way for planes to have a crash-free landing.

God has intentionally placed us where we are in life so that we can be the light to show people the way to Him.

 

3. Incorruptible. (Matt. 15-16; John 17:14-16)

St. Augustine, talking about the quality of light, said:

“Although it passes among the impure, it is not polluted.”
~ Augustine

That’s what Jesus was talking about when he prayed to His Father:

John 17:15 (NLT)
I'm not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.

We can live every day being with and talking with people who have completely different beliefs and values than we do, but we don’t have to accept those beliefs and values as our own. But at the same time, we don’t have to avoid those people. In fact, there’s no way we can expect to have any kind of significant impact for God without being in touch with them.

Participate in the world around you... just don’t become corrupted by it. The power and presence of the Holy Spirit living in you can make that possible.

A few years ago I met a man named Tom. Tom was an up-and-coming leader in our denomination and was traveling around to young churches to encourage them and offer some insights. At the time, I was on staff at Bedford Community Church, which had begun in 1995. So we were one of the churches he came to visit. And he was quite an impressive man. It looked like he had a great future ahead of him.

But this past week I received an email from our denominational headquarter about Tom. He had been serving as a district superintendent in the Northwestern District (Idaho, Washington state, British Columbia), but this past week he was suspended from his responsibilities pending a criminal investigation. Apparently what happened was this: He had developed a relationship with a girl over the Internet, and crossed state lines in order to have sex with her. Problem was that she was a 13-year old girl. At least, that’s what he thought. In reality, it was an FBI agent posing as a 13-year old girl online, and when he went to meet her he was greeted by 10 officers.

You want to talk about someone’s credibility and integrity being destroyed. I appreciate the fact that the Wesleyan Church immediately suspended him as didn’t try to cover anything up, but it’s alarming to hear about something like this happening in our denomination. Granted, we have 4000 churches around the world including 250 000 members plus attenders, so with those kinds of numbers I guess it can be expected that something like this might happen. But what damage it does to the Church and the Kingdom of God.

We need to be Incorruptible if we are going to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We need to guard our hearts and minds… we need to live above reproach as the Bible instructs… beyond even the very appearance of evil, so no one can accuse us of any wrongdoing.


If you want to be a person who’s going to make an impact for Christ, you must be a positive influence, be intentional about it, and decide right now that you will be incorruptible. And as you live accordingly, the Bible tells us that people will see your life... and believe me, they are watching... and they will see the way you’re living, and they will be directed to God.

 

Close your eyes.

I’m going to ask you to commit to something this morning. Will you decide this morning that you will live a life that pleases God and influences those around you? And will you intentionally, with love and compassion, do your very best to guide your friends and family into a relationship with God? And is it your desire with the power and presence of God in your life to no be corrupted but instead to live a life that consistently glorifies God and values His Word? If you’re willing to commit to that kind of life today, raise your hand. I’m not going to mention you by name, but I want to pray for you.
 

 

 

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