God’s People are the Light of the World – Matthew 5:13-16

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I can’t say that all of our Lord Jesus’ sermons were developed just like this Sermon on the Mount. But it appears that this message was developed in much the same way that I usually develop mine. There was an introduction, and now we are in the second subdivision of the first point. Or perhaps the beatitudes are point number one, and now we are in point two. I suppose it doesn’t matter much how the message was originally penned, there is a logical progression. Christ Jesus began with the character of the citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. His message begins with the things which are to be found in the saints of God – Spiritual poverty (humility), mournfulness (repentance), meekness and hunger for righteousness, etc. And now we are into the second sub-division of the Lord Jesus’ second point.

As children of God – as saints of the Lord – as citizens of God’s kingdom, we are here for a purpose. “Ye are the salt of the earth.” We have the opportunity to help make this world a better place – for the glory of God.. We can make the bland existence of a world sucked dry, just a bit tastier. We have the responsibility to arrest the growing corruption caused by sin. We are commissioned to be different – to stand apart – from the world. That means our most important work is outside the salt-shaker, as we are sprinkled throughout society. We may rejoice with God’s people in the fellowship of the Lord’s church, but our real work is elsewhere. Following that, our Saviour describes us in an even more astonishing way – “Ye are the light of the world.” “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

To illustrate this second aspect of our purpose Jesus used a very common article – a candle or light. After you have turned on the lamp, you don’t usually cover it – hiding the light. There is no purpose to a lighted lamp if its not to light a dark place. Christ is saying, “I have kindled you, now shine.” We don’t have to look for a place of darkness in which to shine, we are in one right now. “The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble” Proverbs 4:19. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness” – Isaiah 8. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Thankfully, these are very simple words, but they come in a very powerful context.

You are familiar with the fact that Jesus spoke of Himself as “the light of the World.” I believe that John was sitting there at Jesus’ feet that day on the mountain along with others. As Jesus spoke, it might have been that Andrew was struck with some things he heard, and Peter with others. That happens in the midst of any human congregation while the Word of God is being preached. Perhaps while Nathaniel was still thinking about the idea of himself as a grain of salt, John was struck with the idea of light. It became a favorite theme of his Christ the light and us as reflectors. John 1 – “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light (Christ Jesus). That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” When the Lord Jesus referred to Himself as the light, John’s ears pricked up, when Matthew’s didn’t. “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” “Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.” “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” Paul also picked up on this theme that Jesus is the light of the world.

But the Saviour said that you and I are lights as well. But comparing us to Christ is like comparing a candle to the sun. If modern candles didn’t include aroma therapy into their purpose, there would never be a need for candles – especially during the day. Their light can’t add to the brilliance which the sun provides, or to our 100 watt light bulbs. And there has never been a day since the beginning of creation when the sun didn’t shine. But a candle has a beginning and a relatively quick end. The sun was ignited once by the will of God, out of nothing, but the candle has to be ignited by an already existing spark of some kind. Comparing us to Christ is like comparing the sun with the moon or one of the planets. The sun actually shines out its own resources, while the moon can only reflect.

Christians are lights ONLY as they are lights in and of the Lord. Only by union with Christ have we got anything worth-while to share with the darkness. Close the curtain, and the sunbeam dies. Cut the switch, and the overhead lights all go out. Rob the candle of any oxygen, and it will not burn. The Christian will illuminate and glorify only as he abides in Christ. “Ye were sometimes darkness but now are ye light in Lord, walk as children of light” – Ephesians 5:8.

So why is it that we’re not shining as we ought to be? Could it be that the world, flesh and devil have convinced us not to shine – not to do anything in Jesus’ name and for His glory – not to speak in His Name? Society has been telling the Christian that he doesn’t need to shine – or that he shouldn’t shine. All that talk about the Creator, the omnipotent sovereign God, righteousness and judgment, are passe. The world doesn’t want to hear what we might say about the beginning of life and the eternal nature of the soul. Governments have been telling the citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom to keep their lights down. And of course there are thousands of religions around the world, each which claims to be the light. Each these man-made lights thinks that it is brighter than any other. And each of them thinks that its opponents should just quit shining. These and other things add up until most Christians loose the realization of their individual importance.

Now the world may think that you are a nobody. But Jesus said to you as an individual that YE are the light of the world.” I know that some might say that Christ is addressing the church, calling it the “light.” But the word “ye” is plural not singular. Even if we assume that the church began before this sermon, or as Jesus called these disciples to His feet there on the mountain side, there was only one church at the time – not two, or more as yet. There is no way to get around it,YE are the light of the world.”

“Oh, but I’m such a small light; I’m just a 10 watt bulb.” So watt? What is the most powerful light available today? It is probably some sort of laser. And what good is a laser at lighting up a darkened room? No good whatsoever. In some situations, a 2 watt candle can be more important than a laser costing $100,000. Or for that matter, it might be more useful than a room filled with 100,000 watts of light. Some lights are just too powerful to be of any use in reading a book. We, the weakest of saints, have a responsibility and opportunity in this sin-darkened world. And when fifty or a hundred candles fill a room, that room will be filled with light. Paul once tried to bring the gospel to the capital of culture and education, but he failed. He failed because he forgot to be a candle and tried to be a laser. When he left Athens and traveled west into Corinth, he had learned his lesson. He “determined not to know any thing among (them), save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Don’t be afraid to stand even on Mars hill – IF you plan to reflect Christ. But if you go there to compete with the philosophers, they will get the better of you every time.

It is the NATURE of light simply to shine.

A light bulb and even a candle can choose whether to shine or not, even after the energy is turned loose. It seems that I am replacing light bulbs around this church all of the time – bulbs may refuse to shine. But light itself hasn’t got the choice that a light bulb has; light shines or isn’t light. You are the light of the world – you are shining in some fashion every moment of the day. You cannot stop yourself from shining, but you can cover, hide, filter or reduce your incandescence. Watch out for sin; avoid distractions which divert your attention or your light.

There is not a Christian here who doesn’t have the potential of becoming, in a limited sense an “apostle.” Every major cause has it’s ambassadors. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, the communists, the abortionists, the feminists, the homosexuals, etc. Look at the saints in the early chapters of Acts – they were all lights, going everywhere teaching and preaching. “Daily in the Temple and in every house” they carried the Word of God. They simply let the light within their hearts escape; it grew and grew.

Don’t let yourself feel like Jeremiah: “Thy word shut in my bones is like a fire.” Have you ever been given some juicy gossip about someone – something which may or may not be true? Sometimes, the temptation to share that information is almost impossible to restrain. Why isn’t the same thing true of the truth? Shouldn’t the saint yearn to share the greatest news that this planet has ever heard? It is not natural that light not shine. “Ye are the light of the world.”

Use Jesus as an example – He did leave us an example that we should walk after his steps, didn’t He? In the synagogue before an hostile crowd, He read Isaiah and said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Among another angry crowd in the temple, he said, “I am the light of the world.” On the cross he was lifted up and ignited that all men might be drawn to him. He had grace to give, and pardon and love and the Holy Spirit. And He radiated and shone with absolutely no thought for His personal well-being. A candle is not lit in order to illuminate itself.

And the Lord Jesus made the point: don’t permit your light to be hidden.

You can blacken your light under the filth of sin. You can bury your light under a mountain of inconsistencies – or perhaps under lesser responsibilities. What was that bushel, but a means of carrying useful and helpful things – like food. Isn’t it possible to stifle the leadership of God by simple everyday activity? By jobs, kids, and household duties? Jesus mentions hiding the light under a bed – perhaps speaking of laziness. Isn’t it that some Christians just don’t care whether their lights shine or not? Others radiate Christ only at church, but are ashamed of Him the rest of the week.

If you are in possession of the light, then shine. The light-house keeper at times must even risk his life to warn of the danger to others. The world is only few a moments away from Hell, send the light. If you need to hear Jesus’ command, then hear, listen and repeat or reflect – “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Many Christians think that $25 in the mission offering is the same thing as personally shining. “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” If we don’t warn our neighbors of sin, righteousness and judgment then who will? But if we are engulfed in sin ourselves, we will have no visual blessing to share.

Clearly, speaking of our faith is not the only thing to which the Saviour refers. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Christ doesn’t intend that our light be confined to mere words. He raises the confusing subject of good works – deeds and activities done for Christ, in the Name of Christ and for the glory of the Lord. The Lord has not created us to be pretty decorations sitting on the mantle, but to be candles on fire. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

So again, Jesus begins His sermon talking about the character of His people, and then in the next breath He reminds us of our purpose. “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Are you an effective light, a tool in the hand of God? Are you serving the Lord in some way which brings glory to His name? Wipe the dirt off your lens, clean up the wick, let’s get close enough to the Lord to be reignited. We have a work to do!