It happens when shafts of light sent from the rising sun strike the long lean leaf of grass: you see how finely striped it is, perfectly paralleled veins tracing from stem to bowed leaf tips. Life stripes! You shine on us, Son, Light that brings life to your waiting world. You shine on us and suddenly we are revealed for who we are: lithe life-drinking light-soaking foliage, or dried-up worn-out fallen leaves.
God does know exactly who we are. We may put on a show to convince others that we are walking the straight and narrow path and are truly good people. But God is light, and where the light shines, everything is shown up for what it is. The Lord is never deceived by the camouflage someone is wearing when they do all the “right stuff” like going to church, observing the right holidays, speaking correct words, but at the same time choosing to indulge some rooted appetite or rationalized wrongdoing.
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb 4:13 NIV)
Yes, he knows us intimately, completely. And in our communities the truth also comes out, no matter how hard one tries to hide it. Who we really are will show up in some interaction, or a reaction to injury, or what we treasure most in life. When we think we are walking in the Light, as Jesus is in the Light, we should be models of healthy living. But it seems that all too often we stray off that well-lit path and the consequences are all too revealing. “Hah!” the onlookers say. “Looks like rotten fruit to me!” Jesus did say that the “fruit” produced will be the giveaway. He was talking specifically about “false prophets” in the message as it was recorded by Matthew:
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 15 Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matt. 7:14 NIV)
We’ve heard way too many disconcerting stories about pastors or Christian teachers who seem to be especially good servants of the Lord, but then their devastating sin is revealed. God knew all along what was inside. But his light reveals the true essence in other people as well. The version recorded in Luke’s gospel is more general:
No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Lk. 6:43 NIV)
Here it is clear that “fruit” is what people do or say, and it reveals what a person actually is inside. A true follower of Jesus must put his commands into practice! So, do we actually know what the Lord said to do, and take it seriously? This is where knowledge of him, and deep knowledge of what God has said we should be like in his Word, is essential.
That is one reason I spent my years of mission service devoted to translation of God’s Word into the Nyarafolo language. The new believers we were discipling in our first 20 years did not have access to that treasure. All that they knew was what they might hear in the message at church or what was passed on in a conversation. Some with more education could delve into the Bible in other languages. But as we began to produce drafts of Scripture texts in Nyarafolo and test them by reading them aloud, a very common reaction was: “Oh wow! So that is what that passage means!” They had only partially understood it until it was in their heart language.
And now the lack of true understanding by many Nyarafolo believers is becoming revealed as the Word spreads. When Moïse was preaching at a service we attended last month in Ferke, he said that lately it has been mostly nonbelievers who are eager to get the new Nyarafolo Scripture app on their phones! This is very attractive, a Holy Book in modern digital format that includes the audio version of the New Testament. They want to be in on this modern treasure! Several have come back to the Scripture-in-Use team to ask, “Is this book really the same one that you have in your churches?” “Yes,” they are told. Their reaction is not what is expected: “Well, you ‘Christians’ sure are not doing what it says!”
It made me wonder if these questioners had started by listening to Matthew, and when reaching the Message on the Mount, they had heard the Beatitudes and their emphasis on right living and peacemaking, the strong teaching about loving your neighbor and your enemies and about not judging others while refusing to pay attention to your own fault. And I wondered how many Nyarafolo believers have actually digested all those truths. Had they even heard them? They had only received their copies of the Scriptures two years ago. Many are still learning to read.
We all need to know what Jesus said we are to be like when we are his people. And not only that, we need to be serious about putting that teaching into practice. When we don’t, others who know what he said will look at us as though light is shining on us, showing us up either as healthy devoted Jesus followers or as withering branches. We are in a process of sanctification, it is true, but are we hungering for righteousness? Are we working at living out his instructions?
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matt. 5:6 NIV)
And if we are “filled,” it will be showing up in our actions and our character.
Jesus longs for us to be so attached to him that we have all the nourishment we need to produce good fruit (John 15). Otherwise, he told us, when a branch in the vine is diseased or dead, it will be clear that it is worthless and may as well just be cut off. That nourishment for the true follower, one solidly attached to Jesus who is the Vine, comes from the Spirit living in them and it produces good fruit:
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23 NLT).
Ah! How do my actions fit that paradigm? This is a good passage to use for self-examination. Am I demonstrating love? Am I joyful? Am I experiencing and making peace? Am I patient? Am I kind? Is goodness clearly an essential characteristic of my life? Am I faithful to my Master and to whatever promises I make? Am I gentle? Do I demonstrate self-control?
When we have entered through the narrow gate, leaving behind our attachment to the world’s values and our selfish nature, we are truly walking a narrow path. It is the one laid out for us through the Lord’s teaching. Let us put it into practice!
One thought on “Revealed!”
Such powerful important words! It’s such a blessing to be able to receive forgiveness when we need it and yet remember that we want to keep growing, not because we are afraid of the consequences but because we love Him back and want to please Him.