Text from this year’s first session (April 19) of the Spring Break 2013 seminar, Seasoning with Brightness!
This weekend, it is my desire that you will successfully begin the process of developing a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. This desire is not only rooted in an enhanced practice of prayer and in additional Bible study (for those elements are part of the picture), but, even more importantly, in how you see the world around you as Jesus Christ sees the world. If you see the world in the way that Jesus sees it, you are bound to see things much differently than how you have seen them up until now; in fact, your practical application of living a Christ-like existence will change everything that you understand today about your life in Christ and your relationships with others.
The thought process behind this seminar was actually born out of a group of sermons that I wrote last summer pertaining to personal growth in your relationship with Jesus Christ. Of these, one sermon in particular—Remaining in Him—emphasized the importance of a believer going beyond the basics when it comes to a relationship with Jesus Christ, and making every effort to stay in a close relationship with Him. In order to be distinctive in the world as a believer, you need to develop your godly knowledge and your practice of godliness in order to be available for use by God at any given moment. This requires a desire to grow and do more and go further as a believer than you may have ever imagined you could. This weekend, you will look at ways that will help you to see your relationship in Jesus Christ reach new levels that you can attain and maintain!
How can we achieve this seemingly formidable task in such a short period of time? The short answer is that we can’t do it in one weekend. The good news is that we will be developing personal skills that will help to provide focus on how to develop good habits to drive us closer to the goal. You will, however, need to have an open mind and a desire to develop your relationship with God through Jesus Christ in order to get something meaningful out of our discussion this weekend. We will need to discuss this before we even begin to address how we can be a greater influence in the world as salt and light for Jesus (Matthew 5:13-16).
Use this evening to reflect upon the following questions about you and your relationship with Jesus Christ:
· Why do you follow Jesus Christ?
· What are the benefits of this relationship beyond the promise of salvation?
· If someone were to ask you why you follow God through Jesus Christ, how would you answer their question?
What you may discover in your effort to answer these questions, you may see a correlation in your level of commitment to growing your relationship with Jesus Christ—not in a way where you are more or less charismatic in your worship, for example, but instead in your level of commitment to be successful in developing your love relationship with Him. The prayerful commitment to have the desire to seek Jesus more and more begins with faith in who Jesus Christ is…even to the point where every believer must begin with a childlike faith and build upon it.
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
To seek God requires a basic premise that faith must be in the entire process. Prayer without faith will not accomplish your goal to grow in Christ:
Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.
Growing in Your Love Relationship with Jesus Christ
In order to grow in your relationship with Jesus, you will need to grow in your love for Jesus. Your desire to grow will be simultaneous in your effort to love Him for who He is.
This entire process begins with prayerful consideration—beginning with greater understanding of God and His role in your life. This is a critical area for most believers, because it means progression beyond the message of Jesus Christ being your personal Savior. It means developing a deep desire to know and learn more about Jesus Christ—in much the same way that Jesus’ disciples had to grow and learn more about who Jesus was. Note that their complete understanding of Jesus did not occur until after His death and resurrection. This should tell you that learning more about Jesus and loving Him is far from an overnight process…it will take a long time—as it should. It is a process of developing a level of intimacy with Jesus, which requires time and effort. It is this time well spent that moves us to respond to God’s expectations for each of us in this love relationship.
“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
What are the important things that we are to be seeking in prayer?
Closeness with Him
Then He went up the mountain and summoned those He wanted, and they came to Him. He also appointed 12—He also named them apostles—to be with Him, to send them out to preach.
Ron Hutchcraft noted in one of his writings that while it was important for the apostles to assist Him in their actions of ministry, Jesus also wanted to develop a relationship—a close relationship—with his ministry team. When you spend time with someone you cannot help but get to know the person. This means spending time with them in fellowship and conversation. In the same way that you learn more about someone by spending time with them, you will accomplish the same thing with Jesus the more that you spend time with Him—a closeness that promotes building a valuable relationship.
Proverbs 3:13-14 Happy is a man who finds wisdom
and who acquires understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver,
and her revenue is better than gold.
Praying for godly wisdom may seem to be obvious, but it’s not. This type of prayer challenges a believer to truly think outside of his or her way of thinking. Our concept of godly wisdom is far from a certainty, for you will discover that how you see things is not always the way the God sees things. Your prayers to receive godly wisdom requires you to be open to direction from the Holy Spirit that can challenge your way of thinking.
Removal of Obstacles
You would naturally think that this item would be first on the list; however, God merely wants to see our desire, and then He provides us the ability to see what we need to do in the midst of prayer to call to our attention what we need to do within the process, including the removal of obstacles that prevent fellowship with Him. These obstacles include sin and the need for repentance, or even a more careful consideration of those less obvious obstacles, such as seeking God’s wisdom about the people in your life that will support your efforts to maintain a healthy relationship with God, and avoiding those people who do not think the same way that you do (2 Corinthians 6:14).
A Greater Desire to Seek Him
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
In order to fulfill the requirements of being salt and light for Jesus, there must be an active, aggressive and persistent approach to building your relationship with Jesus Christ. The desire to live for Jesus must be at the forefront of your way of thinking, and God will always reinforce your sincere efforts to seek Him with affirmation of your desire (Psalm 37:4-6).
Psalm 37:4-6 Take delight in the Lord,
and He will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in Him, and He will act,
making your righteousness shine like the dawn,
your justice like the noonday. Your growing relationship with Jesus Christ, through seeking His wisdom and guidance in prayer, provides a supernatural benefit to you as a person—before you even reach the first person in ministry.
Believers are Salt and Light
Jesus refers to the people who follow Him as disciples, as in “those who He is teaching.” Jesus was often referred to as Teacher, or Rabbi, which is the Jewish word for a teacher or instructor in the law. As His disciples or students, followers of Jesus Christ are also referenced in scripture as being the “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.”
Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.”
Salt is best known as a composition of the mineral sodium chloride, and while it is widely used on a daily basis as a seasoning for food, it was also used as a preservative for thousands of years prior to refrigeration. The oldest known reference of harvesting salt from a lake in China, for example, goes back to approximately 6000 BC. Even the use of additives within salt, such as iodine and fluoride, has provided additional health benefits for generations of users. Most people know about salt and pepper as seasoning for food throughout the entire preparation process and its flavor enhancing benefits for the end user.
So when Jesus speaks about believers being the salt of the earth, what does He mean?
Jesus also calls His believers “the light of the world.”
“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
The word light is a noun and a verb, and both parts of speech are used as such in this verse (the first reference to light is that of a noun, and future uses are verbs which communicate action. A light is a powerful reference as to the sheer importance of believers in the world, which many people have concluded is a world of darkness. There is a clear difference between light and darkness beyond the obvious. Scripture often portrays light as being associated with “good” and “righteousness,” while darkness as something that is associated with “despair” or “unrighteousness.”
“It is a land of blackness like the deepest darkness,
gloomy and chaotic,
where even the light is like the darkness.”
Psalm 18:28-29 Lord, You light my lamp;
my God illuminates my darkness.
With You I can attack a barrier,
and with my God I can leap over a wall.
Matthew 8:11-12 “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
That light shines in the darkness,
yet the darkness did not overcome it.
So, after reviewing Matthew 5:14-16 and referring to these verses about light and darkness, discuss what Jesus Christ means about the role that believers have as “light” in both uses as a noun and as a verb.
Why are we to be the Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World? The simple reason that we are to be salt and light is because we are being obedient and responsive in our relationship with Jesus Christ in communicating the gospel to the world.
Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Even though Jesus commands us to go into the world and preach the gospel, it should be our desire to willingly speak to others about the love of Christ whenever we are called upon.
2 Corinthians 5:6-9
So, we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight, and we are confident and satisfied to be out of the body and at home with the Lord. Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.