Today I was reading in Romans 13 and came across this verse: "Put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light."
Whoa. Armor of light. That brought my mind racing all the way back to Ephesians 6:10-18, the passage that talks about the armor of God. These two pieces of equipment are one in the same. The armor of God includes the weapons God has given us to fight the enemy: the Word of God, prayer, faith, salvation, righteousness, and peace. Only by equipping ourselves with every piece of the armor -- without one piece missing -- can we fight the spiritual battle that we are in.
The passage in Romans 13 shed new light (Haha, see what I did there?) on my understanding of the armor of God. By using the prepositional phrase "of light," after "armor," Paul is tying back to what he proclaimed in one of his letters.
"...Become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life..." (Philippians 2:15-16)
Basically, Paul is commending us to shine like stars as Christians. We are to stand out among the darkness in our world, and we do this by proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. As Christians, we are called into relationship with God and community with other Christians in order to go out and tell the world about Jesus' saving working on the cross.
But how does one go about this? How does one truly shine the light of Christ, and not of self?
Last week I was browsing Facebook when one of my mentors posted this quote. I don't know who it's from or where she got it, but it struck something within me.
"Shining is always costly. Light comes only at the cost of that which produces it. An unlit candle does no shining. Burning must come before shining. We cannot be of great use to others without cost to ourselves."
I don't know if this is a Christian quote or just a philanthropic quote, but either way, it provides an answer to my question.
Shining cannot occur without burning. And burning hurts.
What does burning entail? Paul gives the answer coincidentally -- or maybe not -- just before he talks about shining like stars. A few verse earlier, we read...
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped,
but made Himself nothing,
taking on the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death --
even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:5-8)
That is death. That is burning. That is what Christ our Savior did on the cross for us, and we are called to do the same.
That brings me to another quote (Sorry, the Lord just speaks to me through quotes a lot! Haha.): "Jesus did not die on the cross just to save us from our sins; He died on the cross to teach us how to die on our own cross!"
WOW. That's powerful. No, we cannot forget that Jesus saved us from our sins on the cross. That itself is salvation -- the act of trust and surrendering to God that gives us eternal life. But there was more to Jesus' act than that!
Jesus taught you and me how to die on our own cross by his own act on the cross. Philippians 2:5-8 (above) perfectly correlates with this.
So the call to shining, the call to proclaiming the Gospel among all nations, first involves dying on our own cross. And what does dying on our cross entail?
Surrendering our rights.
Seeing ourself as "dirty, little objects" as C.S. Lewis puts it.
Wasting our life at the feet of Jesus all for His glory.
There is a difference between Christianity without a cross and Christianity with a cross. At an event called "Secret Church" put on by an external ministry organization called IMPACT at my school a little over a year ago, the speaker spoke about just this.
He said that Christianity WITHOUT a cross is comfortable with role-based Christianity. Christians who identify with this type of Christianity do not do anything; they stay put and just go through the motions of church and spiritual disciplines with no real growth.
On the other hand, Christianity WITH a cross consumes, hurts and costs. Christians who identify with this type of Christianity are ablaze for the Lord; they deny their desires and only have their eyes fixed on Jesus. They are not concerned with what the world thinks; they are only concerned about what God thinks. Although they may face persecution, they press onwards towards Christ -- the goal.
What sounds better to you? For me, it's the latter. No, I'm not there yet and every day I must die to myself over and over again. Yes, there are days where I fail. There are days where my flesh wins and my spirit loses. But in the long run, I'm on the road to dying on my cross, because I know that the reward of following God is greater than any temporary reward won by my own strength.
And that's what Thailand is all about. Yes, it may look pretty on the outside, but really, this opportunity is going to be challenging. I'm going to be in a totally foreign location with nothing familiar -- not even the language. But I know this is where the Lord has called me to, so I will not disobey Him.
I would rather die on the battlefield serving my Lord by wearing the armor of light than die in the comfort of my own culture.
"The only call is the cross."