The Light of the World
By Rev. Thomas Smith
In His Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus says, ìYe 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.î
Effectively, Christ declares there that being the light of the world is an important part of the Christian influence. In this message, weíll first determine what precisely is our Lord telling us to do with that statement. Weíll then look at the two examples by which He uses to amplify His command. And weíll conclude by examining ourselves whether we are indeed properly exercising our Christian influence.
The light of the world
In the first statement, notice the definite article before the word ìlightî. Ye are the light of the world. The implication is that the world is in spiritual darkness and is therefore in need of light. This is echoed by Proverbs 4:19, which says, ìThe way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.î The Bible also says in John 3:19, ìThe light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.î
That we are the light of the world also implies that we and we alone are the light of the world. We bring the only hope to those who are lost in this dark world.
But how could Christ say that we are the light of the world when He Himself is the light? To answer that, let me give you an illustration: Back in Genesis 1 God created the sun to rule the day and the moon to rule the night. As a result, we can see things in a moon-lit night. The moon, of course, does not have any light in itself. The light it gives is reflected from the sun.
Likewise, we believers have no light in and of ourselves. When Christ walked upon this earth, He was the only light in the world. But before He returned to heaven, He ordained that we, as His followers, should reflect His light to the dark world. It is in that sense that Christ says to us, ìYe are the light of the world.î
We can thus see that it is a great privilege for us to shine for Christ. But it is also an awesome responsibility. For every opportunity that God gives us, there is always a responsibility that goes along with it. We all have a certain sphere of influence in this world. Some are given a large sphere, some a smaller sphere, but we all have the responsibility to make use of that opportunity. We werenít saved just to sit around waiting for the Lord to take us home or for the rapture of the church. We were saved so that we could, among other things, be the light of God in a dark world.
Cannot be hidden
The second half of verse 14 says, ìA city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.î This is the first characteristic of the Christian lightóit is likened by the Lord to a city set on a hill. A city that is built on the top of a hill can be seen by people all around it many, many miles away. Thereís just no way for that city to hide itself from view.
This is how Christ wants us to be like. A Christian in a spiritually darkened world should be as obvious to those with whom he comes into contact as a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. Now, this does not mean attracting attention in an obnoxious way. There are Christians who try to draw attention to themselves by being fanatics or trying to shove their ideals down someone elseís throat. Thatís not what the Lord is talking about. All through the gospels, we never find the Lord or any of His disciples acting in a self-righteous manner.
Rather, we should become obvious to those around us because of our visible Christian lifestyle. Letís face it, there is no such thing as an undercover Christian. If you are light, people around you should be able to see in you the fruit of the Spirit. They should notice that more than the average person, you are loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, gentle and so on. So, if you can live and work with people without their knowing that you are a Christian, then something is terribly wrong with the light that you should have.
Attraction. The second characteristic of the Christian light is that it draws people in darkness to it. I can remember when I was in the service, a friend and I had to drive to the Coast across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and the deserts of California. One night, when the gas tank was about a quarter full, I started to look for a gas station. But for nearly an hour, we didnít pass one car, we didnít see one little village or even one little light in that dark desert. Then suddenly I saw a light in the distance, and I said to myself, if there is a light there are probably people living there. I was drawn by that light. When I turned the corner, as it turned out, there was a whole row of gas stations.
This illustration helps us understand that sometimes there are people who begin to realize that spiritually they are in the dark. And so they are seeking light. To such people, we should be that important light of hope that draws them to Christ.
Giveth light unto all
We next read in the first part of verse 15. ìNeither do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel but on a lampstand and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.î Here, Jesus is saying that the light that we ought to be serves a purpose. Instead of letting it be covered and snuffed out, it should be like a lamp in a house that gives light to everyone therein.
n this function, the light first of all helps to reveal truth, truth that could not have been seen in the dark. In Matthew 7, Jesus says, ìEnter ye in at the strait (or narrow) gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find itî (vv.13,14). As the light of God, we Christians have the responsibility of revealing to those that are lost in darkness the true way to salvation.
I had one of the greatest blessings of my ministry recently when a pastor in Allentown came and visited with me. He had long considered himself to be a Christian. But after having heard on the radio my message on Matthew 7ówhere the Lord Jesus says, ìNot every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven...îóhe discovered something about himself.
ìI know all the language of grace; I know all the terminology. Iíve been to the seminaries and Iíve been pastoring and preaching for years,î he said, ìyet, when I examined my own life, I came to the conclusion that I was never saved.î As the light of Christ, I had the privilege of showing him that narrow but right way that leads to life. By the grace of God, he is now truly a new man in Christ.
Exposing danger. Not only does light reveal truth, but light exposes danger. In Proverbs 14:12, God warns, ìThere is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.î Men in darkness believe theyíre going the right way, but as Jesus says, theyíre heading towards destruction. It is our responsibility, as the light that reveals truth, to correct them.
Now, in doing this youíre not always going to be popular. John 3:19,20 says: ìAnd this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.î
f a man is cracking a safe in a store, the last thing he wants is someone to come in and flip on the lights. Why? His deeds are evil; he wants the cover of darkness. Thatís exactly what happens when we, acting as light for Christ, expose that which is evil. Nevertheless, some will receive it; some will accept the correction. For the salvation of those few, it is worth our while to risk being unpopular with others.
Glorify your Father
Now, we come to the part where the Lord tells us how to exercise our Christian influence. In verse 16, He says, ìLet your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.î To find out if you are letting your light so shine that God is glorified, here are seven questions that you might ask yourself:
1. Do people know I am a Christian as they observe my lifestyle? Anyone can say, Iím a Christian, Iíve been saved, Iíve walked down an isle, Iíve raised my hand. But that doesnít mean theyíre going to see Christianity in you, because that doesnít make you a Christian. But if you are truly a child of God, the way you live will be as a city on a hill or as a lamp in a dark room.
2. Are you being used by God to draw others to Christ? The primary purpose of spiritual light is to dispel spiritual darkness. If we are lights in a dark world, we are going to attract men to that light. We are going to reveal the truth and expose errors. Individually, we each do that in different ways. You can be part of an evangelism team, or you can hand out tracts. You can give your testimony to people you meet, share Christian literature and tapes with unsaved friends, have a Bible study in your home, or just witness through your changed life.
3. Are you able to give an intelligent presentation of the gospel? Light implies knowledge and wisdom, and the knowledge we speak about primarily is the gospel. To shine into a spiritually darkened world, there have to be some facts that we can give to the lost. We should be able to logically and intelligently give them a presentation of the gospel. But make sure you present the whole counsel of God, not any easy formula for salvation.
4. Does anyone ever ask you questions about your faith? We read in I Peter 3:15. ìBe ready to give an answer to everyone that asks you of the hope that is within you.î Presupposed in that verse is that people should see something in our life that causes them to ask questions. And when they do, as Peter says, weíd better be ready to give them a correct answer.
5. Is your life sometimes a rebuke to others? As you live in this world as light, does it sometimes cause problems in the hearts and minds of some of your unsaved friends? Notice in the Beatitudes that the end result of living out a Christian life is persecution. Why? When you become merciful and pure in heart and youíre a peacemaker, you will sufficiently expose the hypocrisy of those you live around and theyíll hate you for it.
6. Are you popular with the world? Jesus says in John 15:18,19: ìIf the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.î
That doesnít mean that every time you walk outside your house, your neighbors throw rocks or tomatoes at you. But if you are living as light in a dark world, many of the unsaved will feel very uncomfortable around you. Youíre not going to be invited to their parties.
7. Are you ashamed of the gospel or of Jesus Christ? Have you deliberately let opportunities to share the gospel pass by because you were afraid that you might be laughed at? In short, are you ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ? Paul says in Romans 1:16, ìFor I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.î And Jesus says in Luke 9:26, ìWhosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed.î
Ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly. Your answers will show you whether you are truly the light of the world and whether your light so shines as to glorify our heavenly Father. May God give you the grace and the faith to be so. o
Rev. Thomas W. Smith is pastor of The Fellowship Church, 3rd and Cromwell Streets, Phillipsburg, NJ 08865
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