Salt, Light, and Cement?

Jul 31 2020

By: David Milligan Topic: Messages Scripture: Matt. 5:13a, Matt. 5:14a Series: Newsletter

As we’ve looked at the 10 Commandments we see that they are addressed to each one individually—that each of us has a blessed duty to obey, to love God and neighbor.  We’ve explored a little bit of the breadth and depth of these Ten Words and seen how every one of them pierces our own heart.  Sin is exposed and the Savior exalted as we realize our guilt and God’s grace.  I pray we all embrace (and follow) this “pathway to freedom”1 and see that it is given for our good (Dt. 10:12-13).  What a testimony to those around us and what a real, honest-to-goodness way to glorify God when we live faithfully obedient lives out of gratitude for God’s free gift of salvation!

Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy all make it clear that God’s law is to be lived out in our daily community.  This is one important way that we are to be a blessing (and witness) to the world and one another: God’s people being totally obedient to their God!  And when we sin, God has provided a way of forgiveness (see especially Leviticus)!  God’s people are to be faithful to our Lord—obedient all the time in every relationship, but we are saints who still sin (until we’re glorified!) so God’s people are also to be characterized by repentance and humility.  Do those twin graces of faith and repentance characterize your life?  Our life together?

It is as we allow God’s revealed will (Scripture) to guide our attitude, words, and actions that we will be living as salt and light.  And our good works will bring glory to our Heavenly Father as others see them (Mt. 5:16; cf. 1 Pt. 2:11-12).  As we proclaim the Gospel and testify to its truth in our own lives, may God grant that we would “make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that [Jesus] has commanded” (Mt. 28:19-20).

Q.  What do we do that is good?
A.
  Only that which arises out of true faith, conforms to God’s law, and is done for His glory; and not that which is based on what we think is right or on established human tradition.

(The Heidelberg Catechism, #91)

J.I. Packer (July 22, 1926 – July 17, 2020) wrote numerous excellent books including the classic, Knowing God (which if you haven’t yet read, you really must).  A few years later he wrote I Want to Be a Christian (reprinted in 1994 with a new title: Growing in Christ), where he “offers a series of quick, brief outlines—“sprints” if you will—. . . covering the contents of the three formulae which have always been central to Christian teaching—the [Apostles’] Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, plus Christian baptism.”2  My purpose in bringing this up is that his section on the Decalogue is very helpful, and he ends with a short chapter entitled, “The Cement of Society”.

1The title of Alistair Begg’s book on the Ten Commandments
2I Want to Be a Christian, p. 13.


Observing that Israel is addressed corporately when the Lord speaks from Mt. Sinai, Packer writes, “what God was teaching was his will not only for individual Israelites, but also for Israel’s community life.”  He goes on to note: “This too is truth for us, because it is truth for humanity as such, God made us to live in societies—family, church, body politic, the communities of business and culture—and the Commandments show God’s social ideal, as well as his purposes for individuals.  Indeed, the furthering of good order in society was for the Reformers . . . the first use of the law.”3

               Remember that the moral law reveals God’s own character and humanity was created to bear God’s image in the world, reflecting His communicable attributes in every relationship and in everything we did.  Sin defaces, but does not eradicate, the image of God in each person.  And when the Holy Spirit regenerates a person, that individual is, in Christ, “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17) and adopted into the family of God—that is, now part of a renewed community!  So, even though we are not of the world, we are in the world and are to be salt and light for the glory of God and the good of others.

As we understand and obey the “law of perfect liberty” (see James 1:22-25) we will show others what it looks like to live free from the bondage to sin and free to serve God wholeheartedly and joyfully (Rom. 6)!  Relationships, in the family, in the church, and in the world are shaped by God’s good Word; our actions, whether at work or play, in public or private, should display a commitment to God’s righteousness and justice; our words, with the help of the Holy Spirit and flowing from a redeemed heart, will be full of grace and truth.  And so, by God’s grace, our communion of saints preserves and seasons the society around us; we bring to light evil and reveal God’s true way of flourishing.

Packer continues, “So God’s Commandments are in truth cement for society.  It is clear that where these values are acknowledged, communities (our own, for instance, in the past) hold together, even in this fallen world; but in proportion as these values are negated, society falls apart.  This can be learned both from the paganized world of injustice and revolution which was the norther kingdom of Israel (trace its sad story in 1 Kings 12-2 Kings 17, and the prophecies of Amos and Hosea), and also from the revolutions and counterrevolutions that rack the world today.”4

While we earnestly pray for revival in our land, my heart is closer to home.  Is the Christian faith “a viable basis for community life”?  The current cultural consensus is a resounding “No”.  In fact, the Christian faith is becoming increasingly less welcome in the public square at all!

What do you think?  Let me ask you a slightly different question, If our faith is a viable basis for community life, then do we prove it by how we live in community with each other?”  If God’s people are not committed to living according to God’s Law by His grace in our own community—in relationships with one another that only exist because of the Gospel—why do we judge the world for scoffing and disbelieving when we don’t seem to believe it ourselves?  If we did truly believe, wouldn’t we be blazing examples of repentance and faith and love in serving each other?

Does God’s Word, His Law and Gospel, make a difference in how we live with each other?  Does the Living Word transform us and every aspect of how we live or not?  Do we love God and one another?  What evidence shall we give?  The words we say or the doing of the thing itself?

May God grant us revival!  May we know the fruits of personal repentance and pursue holiness.  May Jesus Christ be exalted as the testimony of our love for God and one another is seen and spoken of in our community.  Can I get an “Amen”?

With much love in Christ
Pastor David

__________________________

3Ibid., 313.
4Ibid., 314, emphasis mine.


Further note on Pastor David’s article…

In addition to Knowing God, J. I. Packer wrote many excellent books; I’d like to highlight a half dozen for anyone who might be interested.

A Grief Sanctified: Passing Through Grief to Peace and Joy
Richard Baxter was a well known Puritan pastor and author who wrote about his wife’s life and death, memorializing her shortly after she died at age 45. Packer unpacks the spiritual wisdom of Baxter and helps us apply it today. Highly recommended if you want to learn more about “six of life’s realities—love, faith, death, grief, hope, and patience.” (p. 11)
A Quest for Godliness: the Puritan Vision of the Christian Life.

Speaking of the Puritans, Packer was a renowned scholar and leading authority of this movement with a passion that others would dive into the riches available from their lives and pens. In this book he opens up six aspects of their God-centered hope: introducing the Puritans to us and telling us why we need them today, and then looking at “The Puritans and the Bible”, “. . . and the Gospel”, “. . . and the Holy Spirit”, “The Puritan Christian Life”, and finally, “The Puritans in Minis-try”. Well worth reading and it will open the door to a lifetime of learning and appreciation!

Let me just list the last four I wanted to encourage you to look at (although he has many more!):
   – Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God
   – “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God
   – Rediscovering Holiness
   – Knowing Christianity

I hope that you have a chance to read something of Packer’s, you will certainly be edified! By the way, Knowing God has been also made into a 365-day devotional – Knowing God Through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional if you’d like to read these wonderful truths through the year. Take up and Read, Enjoy, and be Blessed!


additional information provided by your web-servant

James Innell Packer (22 July 1926 – 17 July 2020) was an English-born Canadian evangelical theologian and writer in the low-church Anglican and Calvinist traditions. He was considered one of the most influential evangelicals in North America, known for his best-selling book, Knowing God, written in 1973, as well as his work as an editor for the English Standard Version of the Bible. (Source From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, July 2020)

See also: (both have memorable videos of J.I. Packard – In his own words.)