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TONY ELDER: Do good works to honor God, not yourself

Tony Elder

Tony Elder

One night recently I was driving down a local interstate highway when something caught my attention in the rear-view mirror. Amidst the various headlights of the cars traveling behind me, I noticed a strange, dark spot.

As I focused more intently on it, I realized it wasn’t simply an empty section of the road — it was actually a vehicle going along without its lights on. Needless to say, due to the potential danger I kept a close watch on that car until it had passed me and driven out of sight.

That encounter led my wife and me to comment on how we had both been witnessing a greater number of such incidents in recent times. Most of the time, it occurs around dusk rather than in the dark of night.

I suppose people think they can still see the road sufficiently, therefore they don’t believe they need their headlights. However, drivers should realize that the main issue isn’t about them being able to see where they’re going; it’s about others being able to see them.

Sometimes we forget about a similar truth in connection with our journey of faith. It’s not just about us receiving the light we need in order to successfully make our way to Jesus and eventually to heaven. It’s also about letting others see the light.

That’s what Jesus indicated in His familiar words in the Sermon on the Mount. He suggested that we are not to keep our light to ourselves. Rather He commanded, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

It’s all too easy for individual believers or entire churches to get so focused on themselves and their personal journeys that they lose sight of the need to shine their lights outward so others can benefit from it.

The Bible declares, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8); but that’s not the end of the road. It goes to say that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” The “good works” which result from our relationship with Christ can point others to Him and bring glory to Him.

What about Jesus’ later condemnatory words in that same Sermon on the Mount about people who did their charitable deeds and other good works in order to be seen by men (Matthew 6:1)? Wasn’t Jesus teaching that we ought to do our good deeds in secret?

In those cases, Jesus wasn’t referring to believers who were letting His light shine through them. He was referring to religious people who did their good works in order to draw attention to themselves and to receive the praise of men.

One of the main differences is between doing good works in order for us to be seen and glorified, or doing good works in order for the light of Christ to be seen and for God to be glorified.

Letting our lights shine doesn’t mean being showy. We can do good works with a humble spirit, not seeking recognition for ourselves, but for the Lord. Much of it comes down to our motives. Are we seeking to be the star, standing on stage in the spotlight, and receiving the applause of other people? Or are we seeking to let the light shine on Christ and He be the recipient of the praise?

So as you continue your journey on the road of following Jesus, don’t neglect to turn your lights on. People don’t necessarily need to see you, but they do need to see Jesus shining through you.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at revtelder@aol.com.