In Acts 1:8, Jesus told His followers, “you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
These instructions paint a picture of widening concentric circles spreading out to cover the globe. And indeed, the influence of the church spread out all over the Roman Empire and to the ends of the earth, and it continues spreading to new places to this day.
The church here in Mankato would like to see this as a model for our own efforts to spread the good news. Start in this city, then spread out all over the state, the country, and the world.
But there are times when the Bible would teach us to think smaller for a moment, instead of always thinking big.
In Philippians 2, Paul told his audience to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Some translations even say “work out your own salvation,” in order to emphasize the fact that this is a personal task for the Philippians to think about themselves.
The church has a lot of work to do, but we must make sure that we know where are we are going before we try to lead others there.
In Luke 6, a parable of Jesus is recorded: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”
If we go out to halfheartedly spread a gospel that we ourselves have not been transformed by, we risk succeeding only in converting people to the same apathy and hypocrisy that we are practicing.
If we go out with logs in our eyes trying to remove specks from the eyes of others, we may succeed only in making matters worse.
This is exactly what Jesus accused some of the religious leaders of His day of doing in Matthew 23:15, “You travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”
Consider also the common scriptural illustrations of salt, light, and leaven. Salt can be spread out all over a large peace of meat in order to preserve it, but what if the salt loses its unique quality? A lamp can shine out on a hilltop for all to see, but what if a bushel is placed over it? Leaven can spread out to affect an entire loaf of bread, but what if the leaven is dead?
Let’s be a light in our city, our state, and our world. But let’s also be a light in our local congregation, our own homes, and even when we are alone in our rooms with the door shut. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, then go and share what you have found with the world.