You ARE the Light of the World!
14“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Winter is always a challenging time for those who live in these parts because of the weather. Cloudy cloudy cloudy, snowy snowy, cold cold cold, melty melty, sloppy sloppy, repeat…ad infinitum. In summer people are cheery, easy going, but in winter, we tend to get a little growly and short with one another.
Perhaps the hardest part is the limited amount of sunshine that we get... so little light up here in the Northland. To make our stand against the darkness, we have lots holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, News Years Day, And Super bowl Sunday. We get together in these times because, in them we hope to find a little light, a little light to help so that we might be more cheery.
You notice that when I use the word light, I speak not only of actual light as from the sun, but also metaphorical light coming from a gathering of people. People can lift our spirits in much the same way that sunshine does.
Both sunshine and other people can lift and brighten our mood. So it’s more than simply a metaphor, I think. It’s a reality that everyone can instantly understand. It is possible to get the same lift from another person as you get from the Sun hitting your face in mid-winter.
It is therefore most intriguing, that Jesus would say to you and to me and to all who are in Christ "You are the Light of the world." Instantly we understand. We are here to bring sunshine, to be a bright spot, and a ray of hope amidst the impending darkness.
What’s not to get about who we are and what our purpose on earth is as Christian’s? It’s not really all that complicated. But some like to make it so. Some upon hearing this would think that the church needs to launch into some big program with a catchy slogan, like “BE THE LIGHT” We could develop logos, name badges, and powerpoint presentations and three ring binders…accountability systems where we call each other up and ask “are you being the light?” We would use the same indoctrination techniques and philosophies that businesses use in training their employees to be nice to their customers
But that would be denying what Jesus said in the text. He said to that crowd of early followers, sitting on the side of mountain listening to his sermon; some hearing and believing in him for the very first time in their lives: “You ARE the light of the world."
How Can this be? They haven't had any training? They don’t have any logos or three-ring binders. How can he call them the light of the world? He could do this because he knew they were united to him by faith.
Remember Jesus once said? “I AM the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Jesus is light of the world. The union that is formed between the believer and Christ means that we share in what he has and is. Scripture says that we, the church, the assembly of all believers, form the body of Christ. So when he said "you are the light of the world” to those who were listening to him on the side of that mountain, he was referring to the light that would radiate from them as a result of their faith in him.
When a person is brought to faith in Jesus, its almost exactly like Creation. The spirit of the Lord hovers over the surface of the deep. And the Jesus says “let there be light.” The dark chaos of sin and death inside a person is cast out, banished, and taken away to the cross. The heart that was swimming in darkness is enlightened and warmed in the knowledge of a God who has loved it from the beginning. In a manner of speaking You and I, and all the people he has reached are like the sunlight peaking over the horizon at the beginning of the new day. We are the sunrise of the world made knew…testifying to what’s got in store for the world.
As a follower of Christ is not your heart warmed and cheered by the fact that is his not all there is, that you are set aside for eternity? Is there not at least some joy in knowing that despite your flaws and failings, that God forgives you justifies you and declares that you are a valid and worthy human being? That you are a somebody; in fact, one of his children? Have you not begun to learn that it’s not really about you? Have you not found joy in helping others; in seeking to love others; in friendship, kindness, marriage and family according to God’s design.
All of these transformations you have seen in your life are the result of the washing and renewal of the Holy Spirit connecting you to Christ. You have the light. You are the light. How can you hold it in under a bushel basket? It’s part of your life! How can you not let it shine?
And please please, don’t start guilting yourself for not shining enough. Already your light has been shining and you were not aware of it. It can be seen in the way you return the extra change given to you at the cash register. It can be seen in the kindness you treat someone who is hurting. It can be seen in your sincerity. The light of Christ has affected and permeated the way you think and act. You’re shining right now. You can’t stop it. Don’t be guilting yourself is not from yourself, but from Christ who dwells in you.
If anything you should be excited! Excited about the spiritual significance of your day to day lives! Day by day, you are testifying about your relationship to Christ by how you living! The world and many of it’s people are subsumed in darkness. They need light, light that you have. You can give it to them by simply being who you are in Christ. That's what Jesus means when he says "Let your light shine" He’s saying “Be yourself!”
That was advice my mom used to give me. I'd be fretting over something like the first day in a new school or my first date with a girl, or my first big speech. She would simply say "Be yourself!" Why was that good advice? Because if you seek to be yourself there will be integrity about you. People notice and appreciate integrity: accepting those who have it and rejecting those who don’t.
So when Jesus says "Let your light shine" He's simply saying what my mom always said "Be yourself!" In other words, be who you were created to be! God made each of us differently, each of us with bright possibilities. But this brightness is often squelched and squashed by original sin and by sinful attitudes that we harbor in our hearts. Jesus would forgive that stuff. Jesus would have us cleansed by his cross, and thereby releases us from the darkness so we can might more brightly.
In Jesus, we begin to truly be ourselves. We begin to shine as we reflect the one who created us. And when people catch a glimpse of that they see a glimmer, however imperfect, of the glory of God himself. So by your very existence in this world as a Christian, you give testimony of the world that is to come. And you are already doing this!
But sometimes and in some circumstances I think we do try to hide who we are, don’t we? Don’t we, sometimes, try to hide the light that we have in Christ and keep it hidden. All of us do this I think. And why do we do it? Because we are afraid…afraid of what people will think.
I myself am not immune to this fear. I used to dread it in social situations where I was having a good conversation with someone i just met and then they ask me what I did for a living. I was always afraid that the pleasant moment I was having with whomever would be stilted once they found out my secret identity and the source of my super powers which is God himself. I wanted to be a pastor only around Christians because they are part of my squad. it’s easy to shine in the presence of others’ who shine like I do. But that’s like taking two flashlights and pointing them at each other. Flashlights are meant to point outward into the darkness. “You are the light of WORLD.” We are meant to shine in all places.
With a lot of help from God, I’ve since gotten past that and now freely tell anyone who asks, what it is I have spent my life doing and loving. Very few have been mean to me. Most are surprised and curious. They have questions. Spiritual questions; questions I love to answer with truth that is dear to my hear. Oh how I love to be myself! (Myself as created and restored by Jesus) That is when I am most content.
Have I ever won anybody over for Christ in these conversations. I don’t know. It’s not given for me to know. I don’t keep score. I leave that to God. But I do know that I have helped in some ways. I do know that I have been able to make people think, I do know that I have changed some preconceived notions people hold about God and the people who follow him.
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Others. We have a God who constantly thinks of the others….he want’s everyone to come to the knowledge of the truth, just as we have. And one of the ways this knowledge is given to them…is through seeing the good ways in which his followers live.
At first they might come to the conclusion that we ourselves are good. And we might like the warm shower of praise that people pour over us. But honestly, we know better than that. We know that we are but sinners who have been enlighten by the Holy Spirit and that we owe him praise for that. With the psalmist we have learned to say “O Lord, apart from you I have no good thing” (ps. 16) or with James who says “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights.”
Our goodness is not self-starting, self-created, or self-sustaining. What goodness that is seen in us is given to us from above. Our goal therefore cannot be to lead people to glorify us, which is idolatry, but to glorify our Father in heaven. And how will they know to do so, if we do not reveal the ultimate source of our light; if we do not speak his name when the moment presents itself. Our goal is to have what we do point them to the true light, the light of life; the light of our salvation. Christ Jesus. AMEN