DR. PHILLIP BRASSFIELD
Isaiah 42:6 “I am the Lord. I have called you for a righteous purpose, and I will hold you by your hand. I will watch over you, and I will appoint you to be a covenant for the people and a light to the nations.”
Daniel 5:11 “There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him;…”
Like many in the church, I feel like I have more questions than answers right now. Maybe you’re in that same boat. We are all contending with questions like: What is the future going to look like for the church around the world and, for that matter, around the corner? What do we do now, where do we go from here? And I completely understand the need for a specific strategy for the church moving forward into a post-pandemic world that seems to grow increasingly hostile to Christians and Christianity by the day. But, I also believe we must be careful, because in seasons of uncertainty, the good old days seem sweeter than ever, and where we used to be and what we used to do can command too much of our attention. But historically, going back to ‘what was,’ has never been an effective strategy for moving forward into ‘what will be.’
During uncertain times, I always look for foundational commands containing core truths that have been used to steady and stabilize the forward movement of the church through history, realizing that this is not the first sea change the church has endured. The church has survived, even thrived, through all sorts of challenges before. And if we look for them, we will find there are specific time-tested, crisis-proven strategies that have anchored the people of God to the bedrock of His purpose in times of change.
One such anchor is the directional command Jesus gave to believers during the Sermon on the Mount. This command is as true today as it was the day Jesus shared it. When in doubt as to what to do, we can go back to it and use it as a compass to find our way moving forward.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt (the church and believer) loses its flavor, how shall it (the world) be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”
Jesus’ clear illustration was about the seasoning value of salt. Here, we see a bedrock idea that is relevant to every generation and social setting. We, as individual believers and collectively as the church, are to season the world with the flavor of Heaven. This is our mission! This is our objective! Jesus’ use of this metaphor is not about the preservative or medicinal qualities of salt; it’s about taste. In every situation and circumstance, every encounter with people, with every church strategy, we are to taste like Heaven to a world without redemptive flavor. Finding creative ways to season every situation with the flavor of Heaven has always been and remains the mission of the church. And with His command, Jesus made this clear.
He went on to say, Matt 5:14-16 NKJV – “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all [who are] in the house. Let your light so (like a city on a hill and a lamp in a house) shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
This second statement is a restatement of the first using a different metaphor. Both statements drive home one core truth that is transcendent of time and circumstance. Our assignment as a believer and as a church is to always be present and influential. We cannot and must not surrender our presence and influence during changing times, regardless of the political or social climate, regardless of the latest trends, fads or what is in or out of vogue. Being politically correct has never been a consideration when evaluating our mission. We are to be like salt and season every environment with the flavor of Christ and His Kingdom. And like light, illuminate the darkness with Christ’s truth and glory. And yes, depending on the cultural circumstance, sometimes this role will put us at odds with popular culture and at other times, find its approval. But we must not be swayed by either.
While church styles may change, and times, location and methods may vary from age to age, our mission remains the same, to be salt and light. Dr. Martin Luther King once said it this way, “The role of the church is to be the conscience of the nation.” We cannot do this while absent, isolated or irrelevant. We cannot do this if our message is watered down or compromised for the sake of worldly approval. We bring contrast through being different, add color by being principled, and flavor by being consecrated to God and His purpose, first and foremost.
Equally, argumentative or bitter attitudes will never represent the savory flavor of the Kingdom well. Political vitriol and extremes filter the pure light of God’s Kingdom and cause distraction, creating shadows distorted by self-will and personal agendas.
We must belong exclusively to God and be exclusively committed for His purpose.
If we want to see what this looks like in high-definition, we can look at the book of Daniel and examine Daniel’s life and ministry in Babylon.
Daniel was among the members of the royal family taken from Judah by order of the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar. The King then ordered them to be examined, and the ones who were perfect in appearance and seemed particularly bright were to be deported to the Imperial City and then trained in a three-year university program designed to indoctrinate them with Babylonian culture and values. After graduation, they were destined to serve in the King’s court as liaisons for the empire.
Yet, Daniel demonstrated two amazingly salty, light-filled qualities that made all the difference and caused him to be sustained and incredibly influential through two successive world kingdoms and four powerful kings while remaining true to his identity and God’s purpose. These qualities were game changers for him, and will be for us as well, as we find ourselves in a world not that different from the Babylon of antiquity.
First, Daniel’s perspective was Godward. My driving proves that I always tend to move in the direction I’m looking. I bet you do, as well. Your perspective is always directional. It will define how you navigate difficult circumstances. Daniel’s perspective was always fixed on the sovereignty of God. His eyes were always on God first. This filled his perspective with light and produced a compelling flavor of God’s wisdom that tasted so different compared to the flavors of the popular culture around him. While he did not try to draw attention to himself, he stood out – head and shoulders above the crowd. It caused him to be better, ten times better, than all his Babylonian contemporaries.
Daniel’s perspective was one of great trust. He never believed that God was out of control, even though he was suffering as a prisoner. He demonstrated a great confidence that God had a plan and was working all things according to the counsel of His own will. Daniel believed that God had something bigger at work in his circumstances. This is still true today with what we are going through. God is working whether we see the evidence of it or not. Our job is to simply be who God has called us to be, regardless of our location, circumstance, or culture. Daniel knew that if God could rule over the rise and fall of nations and empires, He could handle Daniel’s future and his role in history.
Therefore, Daniel never honored an earthly king over the heavenly King. This commitment and focus on the King of eternity is what flavored Daniel and made him attractional and luminous to the King of Babylon. Being just like everyone else would have never opened the doors for Daniel that his Godly perspective did.
Secondly, Daniel lived a life of principle. He, along with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, purposed in their minds that they would not defile themselves with the King’s food or wine. They would not violate their spiritual principles, even if it cost them their lives. They purposed in their minds that only God’s opinion would define their reality. Yes, they would live and work within the Babylonian culture and serve the Pagan King, but there were lines they would not cross even if it cost them their lives.
As for Daniel, he decided that he would serve faithfully for the general betterment of the nation he served, but he would never sell out to Babylonian culture, believe their lies, worship their gods, or share their values. He was God’s man, filled with God’s purpose. This was the fuel of his life. It allowed him to speak with great respect, yet very directly, to the most powerful man on the planet. His principles compelled his dedication, and his words and actions came as a result.
Because of Daniel’s godly perspective and principled life, God granted him favor, wisdom, and incredible spiritual insight. This empowerment from God would open doors of opportunity, release the miraculous, shut the mouths of lions, and create amazing prosperity and favor that built a reputation for Daniel. As a result, he seasoned the world around him with the flavor of the Kingdom of Heaven. Further, this created a powerful and compelling Light in Babylon for over 80 years.
Today, we need men and women like Daniel. We, too, can become that influential. The challenges we face today, like those of Daniel’s day, are really opportunities for us to shine- for the Church to radiate love and truth. When the world takes a bite out of us, we should taste like Christ to a world hungry for something different. As the world around us gets darker, as in the days of Daniel, it will be our godly perspective and Christian principles that will empower us to light up the dark places around us.