************ Sermon on Matthew 5:14-16 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 18, 2001
"The Light of the World"
The story is told of a lighthouse keeper who worked on a rocky stretch of coastline and who received his new supply of oil once a month to keep the light burning. Not being far from shore, he had frequent guests. One night a woman from the village begged some oil to keep her family warm. Another time a father asked for some to use in his lamp. Another needed some to lubricate a wheel. Since all the requests seemed legitimate, the lighthouse keeper tried to please everyone and granted them all.
Toward the end of the month he noticed that the supply of oil was very low. Soon, it was gone, and the beacon light went out. That night several ships were wrecked and lives were lost.
When the authorities investigated, the man was very repentant. To his excuses and pleading their reply was: "You were given the oil for one purpose -- to keep that light burning!"
Jesus says to us this morning, "You are the light of the world." Jesus has given us His light, Jesus has made us light, for only one purpose – to shine for Jesus. Like the lighthouse keeper we have no excuse if we do not keep the light burning.
I The Need for Light in This World
A We know that "in the beginning," way back at the start of time, there was no light; instead, there was only darkness. You remember what God did on the first day of Creation:
(Gen 1:3-4) And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. (4) God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.God not only made light, but on the fourth day He also made the light sources or producers:
(Gen 1:16) God made two great lights--the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.
Why did God make the light? The reason is that light is a necessary – even a vital – part of God's created order for the physical universe. Any grade school student can tell us about photosynthesis – how green plants take light energy and use it to convert water, carbon dioxide, and minerals into oxygen and carbohydrates. Without light there wouldn't be photosynthesis. And, without photosynthesis there wouldn't be life, at least as we know it today.
B Light is not only a necessary part of God's created order for the physical universe, it is also a necessary part of God's created order in the spiritual realm of life. There is as great a need for light in the spiritual realm as there is in the physical realm. Without light, physical life is impossible. Similarly, without light, spiritual life is impossible.
What we have to recognize, congregation, is that ours is a sin-darkened world that badly needs light. Examples abound all around us:
• An explosion Friday in a bus entering Kosovo from Serbia killed 7 Serbs and injured 10.
• Hezbollah guerrillas blasted an Israeli military vehicle in a rocket attack along the south Lebanon border Friday, killing one soldier and wounding at least two others. The attack in the disputed Chebaa Farms area provoked an Israeli artillery bombardment of south Lebanon that lasted more than an hour.
• A Falun Gong member in Beijing committed suicide by setting himself on fire Friday; this is the sixth self-immolation in Beijing in under a month.
• Islamic police horrified 208 Malaysian couples on Valentine's Day, when they raided hotel rooms and lovers' lanes to enforce rules against illicit sex and cuddling.
• California's Lieutenant Governor, Cruz Bustamante, used a racial slur last week in a speech about the black union movement.
• In November I went to Burma. In Burma 89% of the people worship Buddha. In the Buddhist religion man mistakenly tries to save himself and make himself divine.
Darkness is not something just overseas or in some other city. Without looking too hard we can see the darkness of sin in our own city as well. Just a little bit down the road is the remains of a mansion that authorities are sure was set on fire by an arsonist. Our public school system, according to recent newspaper reports, is filled with openly homosexual students and teachers who see nothing wrong with their lifestyle; and, the same schools are filled with students and teachers who openly and brazenly discriminate against such people.
Darkness. Darkness. Darkness. Darkness every where. So many people without the light of the Gospel of Christ.
C You know what happens in the darkness: you stumble around, you can't see where you are going, you are not sure of where you are at. You need the light. That's the condition of this world. It is in darkness. It stumbles around without hope and without God.
Sometimes it can be very dangerous to be in darkness. If you are driving down the road some night at 60 miles per hour and somehow lose your headlights you can have a very serious accident – especially if there is a curve in the road or a pothole or an unmarked object. The world is also in a very dangerous situation. Being in darkness it doesn't know it is headed straight for hell.
What our sin-darkened world needs is light.
II Christians are the Light of the World
A One day Jesus pointed to an unexpected group of people. He said to His disciples – a collection of simple fishermen, tax collectors, and the like – "You are the light of the world."
In Jesus' day the great centers of culture in Athens and Rome were seen as the light of the world. Ancient philosophers with their great learning and reasoning abilities were also acclaimed as the light of the world. Within Israel the Pharisees and Rabbis were called the "Lamps of Israel." In the Old Testament Scriptures we hear that God called His people Israel to be "a light for the Gentiles" (Is 42:6; cf Is 60:1-3).
In our text for this morning Jesus says that His disciples – representing the church of all ages – now take Israel's place as the light of the world.
B I want you to notice that in our text Jesus expresses care for all men. Jesus says the church, God's people, is the light of the "world." He says God's people are to give light to "everyone in the house." He says their light is to shine "before men." The church, in other words, is to give light and be light to all the world of men.
These words of Jesus contradicts the practice among the Jews. For the Jews in Jesus' day only a fellow Jew counted. He was counted as a brother whereas the Gentiles were reckoned as dogs. Among the Jews, the Pharisees took this idea even a step further. The Pharisees considered only fellow Pharisees to be brothers; the rest were looked down upon as part of the multitude which did not know and practice the law.
Jesus, in contrast, expresses here His love and care for all men. Christians should not only show love for one another but they are also to show love for all mankind. The church has a responsibility to be a light not only for its own members but also for those outside its doors.
C What is the purpose of light? Light has one basic purpose: to remove the darkness. You see, darkness cannot exist where there is light.
"You are the light of the world," says Jesus. This means it is the function of the church to shine for Jesus so that the darkness is chased away. The church must allow herself to be used of the Lord to lead the world from darkness into light.
Topic: Light"Poking holes in the darkness." What a marvelous picture of our task as the light of the world. It is our job to poke holes in the spiritual darkness of our sin-filled world.
Subtopic: Radiant Lives
Robert Lewis Stevenson, best known for his adventure story Treasure Island, was in poor health during much of his childhood and youth. One night his nurse found him with his nose pressed against the frosty pane of his bedroom window. "Child, come away from there. You'll catch you death of cold," she fussed.
But young Robert wouldn't budge. He sat, mesmerized, as he watched an old lamplighter slowly working his way through the black night, lighting each street lamp along his route. Pointing, Robert exclaimed, "See; look there; there's a man poking holes in the darkness."
"You are the light of the world." This means the church has the answers for the world's problems. This means the church has the solution to the chaos, hurt, and misery that surrounds us.
D "You are the light of the world." It isn't easy, what Jesus asks of us this morning. We might even be tempted to think it is impossible to be the light of this sin-darkened world. We are so few and the unbelieving are so many. Non-Christians outnumber committed Christians by at least five-to-one and probably more like ten or twenty-to-one. So how can our little light possibly have any effect on our sin-darkened world?
Jesus gives us a couple of examples that tell us not to lose hope. For instance, a little bit of yeast can make all of the dough rise (Mt 13:33). A little bit of salt can season a whole pot of meat. And, says the Lord, "A city on a hill cannot be hidden" (Mt 5:14). As you all know, even the smallest of lights chases the darkness away. For instance, in complete darkness the flicker of a match can be seen from twenty miles. Luci Swindoll encourages us with this example:
Title: Flashlights for the World
A friend of mine was caught in an elevator during a power failure. At first, there was momentary panic as all seven strangers talked at once. Then my friend remembered the tiny flashlight he had in his pocket. When he turned it on, the fear dissipated. During the 45 minutes they were stuck together they told jokes, laughed, and even sang. We don't even have to be big to be effective. We just have to be "on."
We may be a minority, we may seem small and insignificant, yet we can and should have a powerful influence on our world. This is so, of course, only because of God's grace and strength at work within us – for on our own we are nothing and can do nothing (Jn 15:5; cf Phil 4:13).
III Don't Hide Your Light
A "You are the light of the world." I hope you realize this means we need to be "shining lights." Jesus uses the picture of an oil lamp which stood on a table or on a stand. Today we would use the image of a street light. The Christian and the church should shine like a street light so that those who come by can walk by its light.
Do people light a lamp and put it under a bushel? Of course not! The purpose of a lamp is to shine. A lamp under a bushel is hid and its light is wasted.
The Gospel of Mark says that the lamp should not be put under the bed. The Gospel of Luke speaks of putting the lamp in a cellar or a closet or off in a corner. Again the result is the same: the lamp is not giving light to the people of the house.
"You are the light of the world." Think about this. If the light does not shine, it is not because of the darkness. Darkness cannot put out a light. Even if the darkness increases until it is pitch-black, it is still not dark enough to put out a light. No one has yet smothered a light by increasing the darkness. Rather, darkness gets darker only because the light fails. Darkness gets darker only because we put our lamp under a bushel or in a closet or in the basement. Our lamp is not shining "before men" if we keep ourselves isolated and hidden and away from the world. Christianity is something which is meant to be seen. As someone has well said, "There can be no such thing as secret discipleship, for either the secrecy destroys the discipleship, or the discipleship destroys the secrecy." A man's Christianity should be perfectly visible to all men.
"You are the light of the world." Think of whether you are a lamp on a stand or under a bushel.
B "You are the light of the world." I hope you realize this means we need to be different than the darkness. Light, you see, does its work only because it is different than darkness. Light does nothing in a place that is bright and sunny. Light has an effect, it makes a difference, only in the darkness.
The point is this: our light has gone out if we think and act and talk just like the world. Our light has gone out if we are not separate and different from the world. Our light has gone out if we conform to the pattern of this world (Rom 12:2).
IV Live and Function as Light
A "You are the light of the world."
We need to be sure we properly understand this. Jesus is not saying we are the light source. Jesus is not saying we are the sun or the stars or the lamp. I say this because it is Jesus Who is the source, the Sun, the light. Listen to these words of Jesus:
(Jn 8:12) "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (Cf Jn 9:5)
"You are the light of the world." You know what we are? We are light reflectors. We reflect Christ's light in the same way as a jewel or prism reflects the light of the sun. So what we must do is let the light of Jesus shine in us and through us.
Topic: LightThat's also the definition of a Christian. A Christian is someone the light of Jesus shines through.
Subtopic: Spiritual, Reflected
Title: What is a Saint?
A young boy about nine years old went with his parents to Europe one summer. Part of their tour was visiting the great old cathedrals of the past. As he would visit cathedral after cathedral he saw the massive stained glass portraits of the disciples and of other saints. He was so impressed as he stood in these great empty halls looking through the beautiful stained glass windows.
Upon returning home he told his Sunday School teacher about the great churches of Europe and the glass portraits of the saints. His teacher asked him, "What is a saint?" As his mind went back to those massive beautiful stained glass windows, he said, "A saint is a man the light shines through."
B "You are the light of the world." How is it that we are to reflect the light of Jesus? How are we to shine for Jesus? How does the light of Jesus shine through us?
The first and easiest thing I can mention is prayer and financial support for our missionaries. We function as light through our missionaries. Through our Faith Promise support (HOLD UP FAITH PROMISE BOOKLET) for the Boswells in Japan, the Vanderwal's in Honduras, the Suh's in Nigeria, the Tandayu's in Long Beach, the Uittenbosch's on the high seas, the Groen's in Brazil, the Christian Reformed Church of Myanmar, Rev. Godwin Akper in South Africa, Church Planters Romeo Jacob and Al Paypa in the Philippines, the Raugley's in Fresno, and Awet Tewolde of Eritea and Sanaz Rezaei of Iran at RBC. Of course, there is also the prayer and financial support we give our missionaries through The Back to God Hour, Christian Reformed World Missions, Christian Reformed Home Missions, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, and the Chaplaincy Committee. This is the first way we are light reflectors.
C "You are the light of the world." Tony Compallo in his book, "Hot Potatoes Christians are Afraid to Touch," tells us a second way we are light reflectors.
Topic: WitnessingIt is not enough to give prayer and financial support to our missionaries. We must be involved in missions ourselves. I don't mean we have to go door knocking. But what we need to do is tell the people we have daily contact with about Jesus. It makes little sense to do missions overseas if we don't do missions in our own homes and places of work.
On a number of occasions I have taken an informal survey to see how people have come to know Jesus. I ask how many became Christians as the result of listening to some Christian radio show. Seldom does a hand go up. When I ask how many were saved through a Christian television show, the response is not much better. Out of a crowd of several thousand people, usually just a few hands go up when I ask how many have become Christians because of a sermon they heard. Usually only two or three percent of the crowd responds.
But when I ask how many have become Christians because some person loved them and shared the gospel with them, the response is always overwhelming. There is never any doubt after such surveys that the best and most "powerful" means of evangelism is not TV at all, but ordinary people who love their friends and relatives enough to tell them about Christ.
I want to lay a challenge before you. As a family or household I want you to find someone who is not a Christian. Maybe it is someone in your own home. Maybe it is someone you worth with. Maybe it is a neighbor. Maybe it is someone you have daily contact with. Pick an unbeliever and as a family or a household love them with the claims of Christ. And watch our church grow over the next year.
D "You are the light of the world." In our text for this morning Jesus combines the light that must be shone with good works that must be done. This is the third way we can reflect the light of Jesus. Unbelievers are always impressed when we reach out with loving deeds. Many of you have done that. When we go to someone who is hurting or sick or sorrowing and we love them and support them and hold out our arms to them and enfold them – that impresses unbelievers. They see this and want to be part of our circle or family.
"You are the light of the world."
I want you to notice what happens when we reflect the light of Christ: men "praise your Father in heaven." In a sin-darkened world we are called to be light so all men may join us in the praise and worship of the one only true God.
"You are the light of the world."
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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