Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I am the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13,14) Part 2

In part two of this study, we return to Jesus' words from the Sermon on the Mount about how His followers were to live in this world.  He said in Matthew 5:14-16:

You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

In Scripture, we read that Jesus declared Himself to be the light of the world at least twice.  Interestingly, in John 9:5 He said, "While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."  The implication of that statement is that when He was no longer in the world, someone else would take over as the light of the world.  And we see from Matthew 5:14-16 that the "someone" is us!

Jesus actually uses two metaphors to illustrate the truth that His followers were to be the light of the world.  The first was a city on a hill.  The second was a lamp in a house.  

I can remember times when I was driving in the desert Southwest late at night where the road was pitch black, the terrain on either side of the road was pitch black and the sky was pitch black.  Mile after mile after mile of lonely travel through lonely country, trying to make it to a town with a motel where I could finally stop and get some rest.  With eyes drowsy, I would finally see a slight brightening on the horizon and the mileage sign would tell me that my destination was getting closer.  As I would near the city, the sky grew brighter, there would be more lighted billboards and other telltale signs of civilization until finally I could make out the street lights and building lights of the town.  What a relief!

Isn't that what we are to be in a dark, lonely world?

God wants us to be a welcome sight, a place of rest, a beacon of good news in a fallen world to lost people, weary from the lonely journey in a desert land without a city on a hill that can't be hidden because it is shining so brightly in the darkness.

We are also to be like a lamp in a house.  I don't know about you, but I love lamps.  Forget fluorescent lights.  Give me a small lamp on a bookshelf or a brass lamp on a table with the warm glow reflecting on the wood.  Walking into a dark, cold room and turning on one of these lights changes my mood and the whole atmosphere of the room instantly.  It even feels warmer when there is light.  The uneasiness of coming into a dark area is replaced by the assurance that all is safe.  The anxiety of tripping over something or bumping into furniture dissolves into confidence and security.

Light is warm.  Light is welcoming.  Light brings safety.  Light exposes and dispels darkness.  Light shows the way to walk.  Light enables us to see others as they are.  Light is pure and clean.

Light, in fact, is one of the metaphors the Bible uses of God Himself.  1 John 1:5 says, "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, in him there is no darkness at all."

And because we have been born again and smuggled out of the domain of darkness into God's kingdom (Colossians 1:13), we are "containers" of God, the Light, and are meant to radiate who He is to a dark world.  

Ephesians 5:8-11 says, "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them."

What a significant calling!  Now that Jesus has ascended to heaven, He has placed His mantle of being the light of the world on us!  And now we can let our light shine before men so that they will see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven.  When you allow God, who is Light, to fill you with His goodness, righteousness and truth, it will overflow in good deeds to people around you.  And you will so radiate the bright, warm, welcoming love of God that people will know that God the Father is real and that He cares.

So don't hide the light!  Tell people what a wonderful Father we have and demonstrate His love by meeting the needs of the needy around you and speaking truth into the darkness you encounter.  And you will shine like a city on a dark night or a lamp in a dark house.

The question is not, "Are you light?"  You are light in the Lord!  The question is, "Will you shine?"

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