Thank you all for your prayers during my training at Haggai. Thank you for your love and care that you have demonstrated to Leslie and Neville while I was away. I know that many of you have personally visited her, and many of you have spoken with her regularly. Thank you. It feels good to be in the fellowship of believers who care.
I believe all of you are eager to hear about what happened there at Haggai. It was a great experience. It was great not because of the place that the training was in (The place is beautiful, and reminds one of God’s amazing creation!), but for me it was a combination of two of my passions. The training was all about Evangelism and Leadership (and focused on Servant Leadership), and as many of you know, I call myself the Leadership Evangelist in my ministry. The stated purpose of Haggai is to “advance the skills of qualified Christian leaders to more effectively evangelise their own people and to train others to do the same.” This purpose statement is very close to my heart, because of the focus on Evangelism and Servant Leadership, two subjects that I am very passionate about. The faculty is not western, but people from the third world countries with personal experience in evangelism. The participants also are from the third world countries and getting to know the challenges in evangelizing in different parts of the world in itself was a learning. The topics covered included; how to personally get ready for effective evangelism, how to understand the different faiths and world views prevalent in the world today, what models of evangelism are available to us, how to set goals for evangelism, how to take leadership for evangelism in the marketplace etc etc. I believe that there is immense value in what Haggai Institute is doing, and in faith, I have recommended many names from BBF for the future training sessions. So, in case you are contacted by them, please do consider participating, prayerfully.
I have four highlights to share with you about my personal experience at Haggai.
1. I have come back with a renewed fire to evangelise, a sense of urgency to evangelise, and with additional knowledge on methods of evangelising.
2. The Lord has confirmed my call to minister to and to train, many more leaders, through the Menorah Leadership Ministries that the Lord has entrusted me with. The call, the need and the tools to evangelise will be added as a essential part of training that I impart in future.
3. I am, more than ever before, sure that Servant leadership is the right leadership model to follow, if I have to evangelise more effectively, and also train others to do so.
4. This training has helped me to decide to continue in my job for as long as possible. As some of you know, I have toyed with the idea of quitting and getting into full time ministry at times. This was primarily driven by the need to balance between the pressures of the job, ministry and family. The easy thing to do, would have been, to give up the job, so that I have more time for ministry and (hopefully) for the family. Throughout the session the Lord continued to speak to me. John 15:16, 1Peter 2:12, John 17:18 etc gained a different meaning for me throughout the training. He continues to tell me that he has already given me a pulpit; He has placed me in this position in my company, in this particular job, all with a purpose, and His purpose. So I plan to surrender to His purpose and see how I can use the position and responsibility that He has given to me, to influence the thoughts of many in the market place.
Well that reminds me that I am supposed to deliver a sermon and not take up all the time in my testimony. I would be glad to talk about this to any one who has the time and the inclination.
It is the last point of mine that is the subject of my message today. Let me do a reality check. How many of us remember the purpose statement of BBF? It reads “We are a body of believers, making a difference, as light and salt, at the workplace, and in the community, under the Lordship of Christ.” Shall we all say it together once? It is based on Matthew 5:13-16. This morning, I wanted us to take some time looking at this purpose statement and renewing our resolve to follow that purpose statement. Keep your bibles open to Matthew 5 please. What do we really understand by being the salt and light? Most of us know what it means, but is helps in revising some time isn’t it? Let us also see if we need to prepare ourselves to be salt and light?
Jesus’ call to be the Salt and Light comes at the beginning of a series of His teachings more commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount. Scholars say that the book of Matthew contains five blocks of Teachings by Jesus. Some of the scholars even draw a parallel to the five books ( the Pentateuch) of Moses to the five blocks of teachings. For those of you who are interested the five blocks of teachings are; 1. Sermon on the mount (5:1 to 7:29); 2. The mission of the twelve (9:35 to 10:42); 3. Parables of the kingdom (13:1-52); 4. the community of the kingdom (18:1-35) and finally 5. the woes of legalistic religion and signs of the end (23:1 to 26:25). That is some scholarly information. Let us get back to practical life here. What does Jesus do, before he gives the call for salt and light? What are the verses before the Salt of the earth statement? Yes it is the Beatitudes, right? As in all cases with God, I do not believe that this is coincidence. You see, there were huge crowds following Jesus, and the disciples were seeing the popularity of Jesus. There was every reason for the disciples to feel important, proud and possessive. Being with Jesus not only gave them prestige, but also opportunity for receiving money and power. Jesus took time to warn the disciples not to fall into those temptations. He wanted to make sure that they did not expect fame and fortune (at least not in this world). You see; Jesus was building up the Servant Leadership message right at the beginning of His ministry. A message he will reinforce, for ever, later (Matthew 20:25-28) and demonstrate through the act of washing His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). But for now, he wanted to make sure that the disciples are not tempted to fall for the power and prestige that comes from being associated with a popular figure.
What is it’s relevance to us? Have we looked into our lives recently? Before we even begin to become the “salt and light” have we humbled ourselves? Have we become meek? Have we become pure in heart? Are there times when we feel “prestigious and proud” when we think about being associated with BBF? Have we ever thought BBF to be a “class apart” from other fellowships or churches? Is the Lord asking us to remember the beatitudes before we work to be the “salt and light”?
Having seen what we need to do “before” we try to be the salt and light, let us move on, and see quickly what does it mean to be salt and light? What are some of the qualities of salt that we know of? How many of you eat salt by itself? When we add salt to food, we do not taste the salt, but we taste the food. What happens when there is too much salt? We taste salt then, and it is not a pleasant taste. So salt is added to enhance or make a difference to, the taste of the food. What is the significance to us? Are we trying to be seen ourselves, or are we trying to make a difference to the work place or community that we are placed in?
Let us also read Leviticus 2:13: “Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings”. Here salt is a god symbol of God’s activity in a person’s life. Adding salt to the grain offering symbolizes preservation and durability. Salt is an offering to God. Have considered ourselves to be an offering to God, when we think of being the salt?
And it is common knowledge that salt is used as a preservative. How are we applying to this to our call to be the salt? Are we preserving the biblical truth? One of the key lessons that was reaffirmed for me during my Haggai days was the fact that, while there might be different methods of evangelism, and the methods could vary, there is only one principle and that cannot change. Many a times there is a temptation for us to dilute the message of Gospel to make it appealing for the modern world. None of us want to be termed “conservative”. Some times in the enthusiasm to be seen as non conservative, we can end up diluting the gospel. We need to “conservationists” even when we do not want to be conservative. We need to preserve the Biblical truth. Are we doing this?
Let us look at the call to be “light” of the world. The apparent meaning is clear to us. Show the way in the midst of darkness. Lead others to the light. But still, many of us allow ourselves to be covered by a bowl, and prevent others from seeing the light. Jesus asks us to be light on the stand, so that every one can have light. Just as in the case of salt, light is not to be looked at by itself. We do not keep lights to look at light, we keep lights on so that we can see other things around us. Are we enabling that? Or are we drawing more attention to ourselves, rather than to our father in heaven. Jesus says, let your light shine, so that they may see your good deeds, and glorify our father in heaven. Are we making sure that our works glorify God? Or do we seek a portion of that glory for ourselves? Also, light enables sight, not hearing. It is not our speech, not our eloquent words that the Lord is looking for. He is looking for actions which are visible for others.
There is another important aspect of light. Matthew 5:14 has to read and understood in the context of John 8:12. Jesus says “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So when Jesus asks us to be the light of the world, he is not asking us to do it by ourselves, but He is actually asking us to reflect His light. If we obey Matthew 5:14 in isolation, then the focus is on us. If we become the light of the world, knowing that Jesus is the “light of life” then we are reflecting our relationship with Jesus. How is our relationship with Jesus? Are we reflecting His light? The light of life?
In conclusion, let me encourage those of us who have already accepted Jesus to introspect our motives, our thoughts and our actions, and see how well we fit in with the BBF purpose statement. Are we preparing ourselves to be the salt and light by fighting the temptation of the worldly values of Pride, Power, strength, deception etc? Are we adding just the right amount of flavour to the place where we are placed, so that the world sees our good deeds and glorifies our father in heaven? Are we reflecting the light that Jesus sheds on this world? Are we right in our relationship with Jesus.
And for those of us who have not yet made up our minds about our personal relationship with Jesus, may I encourage you to know that He is the light of the World, and He alone offers the light of everlasting life. May I encourage you to open up your hearts and accept the invitation from Him for a personal relationship.
Let us Pray.
Benediction: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be Glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever, Amen!