Puppet Strings

by Andy Wood on January 14, 2011

in Five LV Laws, LV Cycle, Principle of Eternity, Protecting Your Investment

Seagulls: Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine.
Nigel: Oh would you just shut up? You’re rats with wings.  (from “Finding Nemo”)

“Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night”  (Philippians 2:15, The Message) 

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Ever been haunted by words? 

I have.  Sometimes somebody expresses something so profoundly, so powerfully, that the power of their words lasts for years.

Randy Stonehill did that for me with a song he wrote 35 years ago, when I was a senior in high school.  In a couple of lines in one song, he described the desperation of the human condition.  The words and music still tear my heart out to this day:

Long ago He chose us to inherit all His kingdom

And we were blessed with light

But wandering away we disobeyed Him in the garden

And stumbled into night

And I can feel it in my soul

Now the end is getting near

I can hear the angels weeping

And it’s ringing in my ears

We are all like foolish puppets who, desiring to be kings,

Now lie pitifully crippled after cutting our own strings.

Jesus had his own description of the world we live in.  And He had some pretty clear ideas about how you and I fit into it – or how we can be molded by it.

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world – like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:13-16, NLT).

Jesus said that His followers relate to the world just as salt relates to the earth, and as light relates to the world.  Bottom line:  You are either influencing the world or betraying who you really are.

The World of the Puppets

What’s it like to live in a place where the inmates are running the asylum?  Where the course of events seems to be set by people who “now lie pitifully crippled after cutting their own strings”? 

It isn’t pretty. 

Jesus hinted that it was a decaying, rotting place that, left to its own devices, could only poison itself.  It needs a preservative; that’s what salt was in the first century.  What’s tricky about this culture is that it gives off an illusion of life.  It can make you  feel good enough to think you’re living, prosper you enough to make you think you have it made, stroke your ego enough to convince you that all your compliments and flattery must be true.

He also called it a dark place.  It isn’t stupid – just dark.  We live in an age in which knowledge is growing exponentially.  But it’s knowledge without a moral compass – education without transformation.  Knowledge may increase the weapons in our arsenal and the ease with which we use them.  But it doesn’t make us better people.

The World’s Hope for Survival

You’re it. 

You – believer in Jesus – are the salt.  You are the light in the darkness.  You, who Jesus described as poor in spirit, mourners, meek, persecuted for righteousness.

And in case you’re wondering, there is no “Plan B.” 

He must think pretty highly of what you have to contribute.  And even though you may be nothing in the world’s eyes, you are priceless in God’s.  Remember, salt was very valuable in Jesus’ day –much more than the stuff poured out of the blue box today.  It was a necessary preservative. 

Notice the paradox.  The world persecutes and speaks evil of its only hope for the survival.  That figures.

Salt has other uses, of course.  It adds flavor.  It makes people thirsty.  It purifies.  All of these speak to the influence you have on your environment.  The point is that salt, once it penetrates its environment, changes it.  Impacts it.  And it does it naturally.  You never see a box of Morton’s finest, jumping up and down under that umbrella and vowing, “I’m gonna season that chicken if it’s the last thing I do!”  It’s salt; it just does it. 

So do you.

Regardless of how bright you may feel, you are the light of the world.  Light is public.  It guides, and it warns.  More to the point, “light” is something you are, not something you do.  You are the light of the world because the Father of Light has worked in your life.  Consequently, it is only natural that others will be aware of the light in you.

Jesus said to let your light shine before men.  How do you do that?  Primarily by not getting in the way!  It’s natural for a lamp to illumine. It would take a deliberate act of concealment for a light not to shine.  So, too, it would take a shame-based act of isolation to hide the work that the Lord is doing. 

So much of the Christian life and Christian influence involves a kind of release.  You don’t have to make God look good, or manufacture converts.  You just have to let God be God, and let His work speak for itself.

Jesus is warning against two extremes.  First, He says, take care not to conform to the culture.  We are to be the influence, not the world. 

Second, take care to avoid a life of isolation.  Salt cannot preserve anything until you rub it into food.  Light isn’t light if it’s covered up. 

You are the only hope of survival in a desperately wicked world.  And the world will never be changed by your words, your politics, or your human wisdom.  It will only be salted by the life of Jesus in you.  But the world will also not receive your influence until you get out of your Christian cave and penetrate it.

What About Your “Strings”?

Don’t overlook the danger here.  Christians can lose their “flavor,” and you’re no exception. 

Did you know it’s possible for salt to lose its flavor?  We’ve learned that when salt is overexposed to the elements, or has too much contact with the earth, it loses its taste.  It still looks the same.  It’s still sodium chloride.  But it’s tasteless and useless. 

Know what people did with useless salt back then?  Paved the streets and sidewalks with it.  Walked all over it.  Just like they’ll walk all over you if you become overexposed to the values of the world you’re sent to preserve. 

The world may persecute you for living a godly life, but they will despise you if you lose your influence.  That, not persecution, is the greatest danger you face.

You’re a city on a hill, Jesus said.  You can’t be hidden.  It’s futile – and offensive – to try to hide the light he has placed in you.  That is true, even when you’re in a crowded public place, surrounded with strangers. 

Here’s a new definition of insanity – spending one day a week trying to pretend you are something you’re not, and six other days trying to hide what you are.  Do that, and you’re no better than a crippled puppet yourself. 

Integrity means living in full view, with lights shining.  Recognizing that, in Oswald Chambers’ words, there is no such thing as a private life.  It requires a careful balance:  In the world, but not of the world.  Penetrate it, and be yourself, under the Lordship of Jesus! 

God will take care of the rest.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric Chaffin January 14, 2011 at 6:07 am

Jesus said in Luke 14:34-35, “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.” If we are to take Jesus’ words literally, then he’s telling us that Christ-followers who have “cut their own strings,” don’t even benefit manure.

Andy Wood January 14, 2011 at 8:41 am

Oooh. Good ouchy point!

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