This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Li An (from China, pseudonym used to protect this well-known Christian), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:17)
I have a brother-in-law who works for the government of China. He strongly believed in Marxism and rationalism. He tried to persuade me to give up my faith in God. And I tried to convince him of the truth of the Gospel. In the end, nobody won the argument.
But then he made a very interesting statement: 'I do not believe in God, nor that Jesus ever existed. However, one thing I do confess, is that I admire your father's deeds. If there is a God, your father surely will be Jesus' image.'
A few years later, he and his whole family became Christians. It taught me a very, very important lesson. My faith must be accompanied by works and deeds. 'Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.'
'Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven' (Matthew 5:16).
A moment of introspection: Let's consider what it means, to 'let your light shine before men.' So often in contemporary church settings, we hear choruses of "Shine, Jesus, Shine". We are wont to leave the shining up to Jesus. So what then could shine forth from us? In Matthew's gospel, Jesus called you and me "...the light of the world..." (Matthew 5:14-16) How could it be thus? In his next chapter, Matthew relates Christ explaining about the eyes being the lamp of the body (Matthew 6:22-23); what we perceive with our eyes brings either light or darkness into us. In keeping with this idea, what we behold or see can determine in part whether we are filled with light or with a great darkness. Do we see pornography, violence, lust, crime, rebellion, corruption, etc. (Mark 7:21-23)? Or do we see truth, righteousness, purity, loveliness, etc. (Philippians 4:8) The inward light can emanate outward to others, revealing Christ; or, our inner darkness may appear to others as emptiness. They look at us and see... themselves, perchance? We are light bearers. When others look at us, may they see Christ within us, shining forth with grace and mercy, truth and forgiveness, love and hope.
Just think--Christ within (God's Kingdom is within us--Luke 17:21), and Christ beside us (as He was when walking with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus--Luke 24:17), Christ with us (Emanuel - Matthew 1:23; Philippians 4:9). His light and His life, both filling us up--such is a Christian's walk. And it is in this walk that our works or deeds emanate from Christ within us, guided by Christ with us and beside us. We work and act partly, too, as a response to the depth of faith we have in Christ. We show our faith in our works (James 2:14-26). "What works?" one might ask. Perhaps the work of humility (Philippians 2:3-4), forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15), of encouragement (Acts 13:15,32), of showing grace under duress (Hebrews 4:16), of allowing God to do His work in and through us (Philippians 2:12-13), etc. Each of us is unique in God's sight; we all have different skills, talents and aptitudes. God works in us and makes use of these unique traits to both will and do--for His good pleasure. It is partly the light of Christ, of God, within us that expresses itself through revelation of our works. That divine light illuminates our actions, to the praise of our Father in heaven.
If we are faithful in allowing God to do His work in us; if we are faithful in emanating the light of Christ to the world; if others look at us and see that holy light; if we live out our faith (James 1:22-25) through putting into practice what we have learned in God's Word, then the world may much more easily see our light. They will see the face of Christ in ours; they will see our good deeds and recognize God's hand at work; and they will come to praise our Father in heaven. What a glorious result--increasing praise to an awesome and sovereign God! In time, even Li An’s brother and family came to praise God, their heavenly Father--not by argument or possibly even apologetics, but by seeing the works of a humble man--and the light of Christ that shone through that servant’s life and actions.