Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Matthew 5:14-16 The Power of Light

In these verses (13-16) of chapter 5, Matthew records Christ’s description of believers as being distinctive. As we saw when we studied verse 13, salt is distinctive and can become contaminated thereby making it unable to function. As we will see in this verse, light is also distinctive. If you were in a pitch black room and someone turned on a pen light, you would immediately notice it. Light instantly penetrates darkness. You and I live in a very dark world. If the light of the gospel of Christ is going to shine in this world, it must shine through us because, as Jesus continues to tell His disciples about their identity, “You are the light of the world”.

As Charles Spurgeon once noted:

“This title had been given by the Jews to certain of their eminent Rabbis. With great pomposity they spoke of Rabbi Judah, or Rabbi Jochanan, as the lamps of the universe, the lights of the world. It must have sounded strangely in the ears of the Scribes and Pharisees to hear that same title, in all soberness, applied to a few bronzed-faced and horny-handed peasants and fishermen, who had become disciples of Jesus. Jesus, in effect, said, — not the Rabbis, not the Scribes, not the assembled Sanhedrim, but ye, my humble followers, ye are the light of the world.

He gave them this title, not after he had educated them for three years, but at almost the outset of his ministry; and from this I gather that the title was given them, not so much on account of what they knew, as on account of what they were. Not their knowledge, but their character made them the light of the world. They were not yet fully trained in his spiritual school, and yet he saith to them, ‘Ye are the light of the world;’ the fact being, that wherever there is faith in Christ there is light, for our Lord has said ‘I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in me should not walk in darkness.’ ‘The entrance of thy word giveth light.’”

When He made this unusual pronouncement announcing their true identity, He also explained to them their visibility as His disciples. Matthew records that Jesus said “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden”. By virtue of its elevation, a city that was sitting on top of some high place would be visible to anyone. Nothing special had to be done to attract attention to the city. People would notice it simply because of its existence due to its location. As Christians, we will stick out like sore thumbs and be unquestionably visible if we are living according to God’s word. In fact, as we will see, we should use this visibility to bring glory and honor to our God. If we are the lights of the world (and we are) and we live in a world of darkness (no doubt about that) we not only should be visible but we MUST in fact be visible. There are those in the darkness that need to see the light and we, brothers and sisters, are that light.

Further, Christ does not simply call to their attention their visibility as lights but also their functionality as the lights of the world. Jesus says that lights are meant to be used. People don’t light a light to cover it up but they use it to give “light to all who are in the house”. We’re not called to sequester ourselves away from the world. The fact that God saved us and that Jesus refers to His disciples as lights of the world means that we have a duty to function as lights. We use lights to see, to read, to move around in our home so that we don’t trip over something or stub our toe in the darkness as we get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. If we don’t use a light and do stub our toe or bust our shin, it hurt’s—badly. As Max Lucado once observed we see people in pain in this world because they’re trying to walk in the darkness. Now, we don’t come to these hurting, angry people with Dr. Phil or Orprah style pseudo-psychology or self help garbage. Rather, we shine the true light of the gospel and call these people to repent of their sins and believe in the Son of God. That, my friends, is how we function as God’s light in the world.

Finally, let us further observe that Jesus didn’t simply identify believers as being the light of the world but rather He calls them to “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Dear brothers and sisters, this is an imperative—a command. He is not suggesting that we let our light shine before men; He is giving us marching orders. We are not supposed to hide our light, We are not supposed to withhold our light. In fact, we are supposed to go forth into the world living authentic Christian lives so that the world can see God living in us and through us. When we do that, people will see. Now, not everyone will cheer and pat us on the back. We know from verses 10-12 that when we go to living in this world in opposition to the world system that the world is going to mistreat us. However, there will be those who respond to the call of the gospel. They will repent and believe and they will give glory to God. We bring the saving light of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit uses that light to convict men and women of sin. We can’t save anybody but as we’ve seen in this verse we can be used by God if we will be faithful and obedient to live out the truth of our new life in Christ and shine as lights in a dark world.

No comments: