"City on a Hill"
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
“I love the New Testament (NT) because it is about grace. The Old Testament (OT) is too heavy with commands and laws.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this or some rendition of this idea since I entered ministry. We have a tendency to see the Old Testament as law-heavy and the New Testament as “all about grace.”
Another pet-favorite of mine is “man, that is OT!”
We talk about the OT like it is a VHS tape. The OT has become an irrelevant, outdated document that we only quote when convenient.
Yet, the Bible is a unified document that can only be understood as two parts that make a whole. The whole Bible is “all about God’s grace” and until we challenge our categories of Old and New we will be destined to miss the beauty and unity of our God in the Scriptures.
We began our City on a Hill Campaign in Providence to attack this very idea.
We spent an overt amount of time in the beginning of 2014 unpacking three ideas:
Who is God? à What has he done? à Who are we in light of these truths?
We talked about the character of God, the person and work of Christ, and our identity in him.
There is a final thread to this cord that is intricately important.
What are we called to DO in light of who we are?
Although the OT is known for its law-heavy text, the NT does not shy away from commands. In the NT alone there are over 600 commands from Jesus or an apostle about how we ought to live as Christians. Jesus goes as far as to say that we will know false teachers by the way they act, not what they say that they believe! (Matt. 7:16)
The early church was not uneducated on how Christians were meant to live. Letters from leaders like Paul, Peter, and John to “love one another” and to “abhor what is evil” constantly reminded them that citizens of Jesus’ kingdom were meant to be a light to the world. Our lives were meant to be seen by others and cause them to glorify our Father in heaven. The wisdom of God through us was Jesus’ plan.
There was no dichotomy between the NT church and OT Israel in the eyes of the apostles. Israel was chosen by God to be a light to the nations. The church was chosen by God to shine the light of Christ to the nations.
“[We] were created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Ephesians 2:10
So in an age where the argument has been fiercest over legalism and Christian liberty, or grace and law, Jesus’ words stand forth as our guide to truth.
There is no dichotomy between the God of the Old and the New.
Good works flow FROM salvation, they have no power FOR salvation. We cannot be saved on our own merit, and this is irrevocably true. Yet, we were saved for God’s good work in us to shine.
He has saved me from sin, rescued me from darkness, pulled me from the miry clay of shame and guilt, and destined me for eternal life with him. This kind of work cannot be hidden, even if I try.
I close with a few words from Spurgeon, the prince of preachers. May his words challenge you Providence.
“If Christ has died for me - ungodly as I am, without strength as I am - then I can no longer live in sin, but must arouse myself to love and serve Him who has redeemed me. I cannot trifle with the evil that killed my best Friend. I must be holy for his sake. How can I live in sin when He has died to save me from it?”
“In proportion as a church is holy, in that proportion will its testimony for Christ be powerful.”
“The grace that does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit. Christ saves His people, not IN their sins, but FROM their sins. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.”
May the testimony of Christ be powerful in the lives of Providence this Fall and beyond.