Matthew 5:14-16 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Have you ever been up here at the church after dark? This place is LIT! I mean, it is truly a “city on a hill.” I wonder what the view looks like from above. It is bright. It is beautiful at night. I love that our sign at the bottom of the road also lights up at night. Light that shines in the darkness makes for a stark contrast. It makes a strong statement. It is supposed to. Light is symbolic for so many things God wants us to know and embrace.
Do you realize that the very first spoken words we have in the Bible are “Let there be light?” In Genesis 1:3, God said, “Let there be light.” What should we conclude about that? I would say that God was very intentional about the order of things in creation. Light was FIRST in the creative order. Light is very important.
Genesis 1:1-2 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Notice the emphasis on the darkness here. The heavens and earth were created, and darkness was over the surface of the deep. Darkness was dominant. Notice that God didn’t speak to the darkness. He didn’t speak to the formlessness. He didn’t speak to the emptiness. He didn’t call out to the chaos. He simply said, “Let there be light.” Why was that first? God didn’t need light, right? He isn’t restricted by the darkness. I believe He was establishing light as the way to transform the darkness.
In the beginning, God spoke, and the light appeared. And just as the Old Testament began, so began the New Testament, with the Word of God and the light. Look at these verses from chapter one: John 1:1-5 1 In the beginning was the Word, (JESUS) and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
Jesus is the LOGOS (Greek for “word”), and He is the Light of the World. He has come into the darkness to transform it completely. When Jesus, the LOGOS or Word of God speaks, there is light. When Jesus enters into time and space, there is light. When Jesus enters into the hearts of men and women there is light. Light comes with the true Word of God. Light comes with Jesus. There is no true light without Jesus. He is called the “True Light” in John 1:9. If Jesus is the True Light, we can only conclude that other “false lights” must exist, right? Just an aside, but worth noting.
Jesus said of Himself in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Sometime later, He said that WE were the light of the world. He called us a city on a hill that can’t be hidden. He talked about how there is great purpose for light. It isn’t mean to be put under something and to be minimized, but light is to be displayed and to become a benefit for everyone around it. The purpose of our light is to enable people to see God and to give Him glory and praise. That is what our text from Matthew 5:14-16 tells us.
I want to give you three properties of light that I want to unpack one by one. Here they are:
Light eliminates darkness.
Can we all agree that when a light switch is turned on, darkness is eliminated or transformed? Even in the case of a room where you walk in, turn on a switch and some of the bulbs in the light overhead are burned out, darkness yields to light. Even if the room only becomes dimly light, there is light. Darkness has to yield to or give way to the light. Light dispels darkness as Darkness has to submit to light. It has to. There is no choice.
In that sense, darkness and light aren’t equals in that they are exact opposites because light can overtake darkness, but darkness cannot overtake a light as long as one is shining. Can we do an experiment? Everyone with an I-phone or Smart Phone, can you take it out. Don’t do anything with it. Just hold it. Can those of you who are currently on Facebook and Instagram take a break for a sec? Just messin’ with ya because I know no one is scrolling or snapping on their social media while I’m preaching, right? Can every person here stay in their seat for the next 60 seconds? Parents, can you put your arm around any little ones that may not be fans of the dark. I’m going to ask those who control our lights to let us experience what total darkness in this room feels like.
Now, we are in the dark. Would everyone agree that it is completely dark in here? Now, just sit tight. What happens if I turn the flashlight on, on my phone? There is now enough light for you to see where the voice you hear is coming from. There is at least minimal direction given from where you are seated to where I am. My light is an attention-getter because everywhere else around you is dark. Your eyes are drawn to this light. It’s distinct. It stands out. You can’t ignore it. You may be experiencing darkness, but you aren’t experiencing only darkness. You are also experiencing light, light IN the darkness. Even though 99.9999 percent of this room is dark, there is no way to overlook or dismiss the light. No one can say there isn’t a light on in this room.
Now, those of you with phones that have flashlights, turn them on and hold them up. Look around. In what ways is the darkness eliminated and transformed in the space around you? You now see a clear path to the platform. You now not only hear my voice, but you can stay engaged with me because you can clearly see where I am. You also easily can locate the exits, right? Hold on to that thought. Light is giving you better fellowship with the people around you because you can now see who is seated near you. Darkness is yielding even more now that hundreds of individual lights are shining. Instead of a room of darkness, this is now a room of lights.
Alright, go ahead and turn the lights back on.
Think with me about the fact that Jesus calls US the light. What does that mean? It means He has called us to eliminate darkness. That is, by virtue of our relationship with Jesus, the True Light, we have the properties or qualities needed to eliminate darkness as long as we are shining. The greater the number of us who are willing to shine our light, the more forcefully the light overtakes the darkness. Is anyone tracking with me this morning? I said, the greater number of us who are willing to share our light, the more forcefully the light will overtake the darkness.
Let’s equate darkness with the forces of evil. Darkness represents the devil and his demons. Do you understand what the mission of the devil is? Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. John 10:10. It is what it is. I cannot sugar coat it. We have a real enemy. He wants to assassinate as many people as possible. He is actually draping people’s lives with darkness. He tries to make their minds dark. He wants them to think hopeless thoughts about their future or quality of life. He wants them to think confused thoughts about their identities and who God created them to be. He wants them to think negative thoughts about their abilities and worth. Satan wants people in bondage to sin. He wants them chained to destructive, repetitive behaviors so that he can drain life out of them one puff, one snort, one hit, one drink, one sexual experiment at a time.
I am sure that throughout the course of human history there have been times as dark or darker than the times in which we live, but in my almost 50 years of life, I have NEVER seen such darkness of thought and darkness of heart. People are literally willing to throw their families under the bus for a few seconds of pleasure. People are willing to risk fines and jail times for a weekend of perceived fun. People are more sexually explicit and promiscuous than ever and then wonder why they feel lonely and unloved. Many people think it is fun to bully or harm other people. There are people who actually take pleasure in that kind of behavior. Some people refuse to acknowledge authority or respect those in leadership. They see no need for rule following, let alone no need to help someone like the Good Samaritan did.
The spiritual darkness of this day almost has a sound to it. It is the mocking, jeering sound of evil, satanic lowlifes who are laughing at Christ and at His church. I think it is time the church understands that the darkness with which we are faced isn’t simply ignorance or indifference to the things of God, but this pervasive and twisted darkness is the result of a highly strategic and sophisticated attack on the church of the living God by the devil and the forces of hell.
It is time that we truly moved from simply the saved ones of God to the army of God that is on the move to light up this world with the Gospel of Jesus and to dispel the darkness. You saw what happened to the darkness in this room as a few hundred people began to shine their lights. What if every person who calls this church home or better yet, what if every Christian in the three-county area would boldly shine for Jesus wherever they are, regardless of who they were with? Could we send the powers of darkness packing? Could we evict Satan and his demons that are assassinating our young people with disturbing and destructive thoughts? Could we kick out the darkness that is incarcerating people into lifestyles of sin and remove darkness from our homes and relationships?
As the people of God, we have authority to speak to the darkness. Do you know that? We have authority to rebuke the darkness in Jesus’ name. We have authority to bind the powers of darkness. Let’s do that, but how about we begin by shining the light because from what I understand about light, if we shine, darkness has to flee. Did you realize that light was a part of your armor as a believer? Romans 13:12-So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Sometimes we think about spiritual warfare as quoting Scripture, and it is. We think about it as praying, and it is. We think about it as pleading the blood of Jesus, rebuking the enemy, and binding Satan, and it is. But here we see that shining for Jesus is part of our warfare strategy. I am ready to see the darkness around us eliminated. How about you?
Light exposes what is hidden by the darkness.
From what I understand about Scripture, if we simply live to shine the light of Christ, intentionally and faithfully, then the things that are wrong with this world will be exposed. (I will give you a Scripture in a second.) If the church lives as light in the darkness, people will start to see what is wrong with sin. Right now, I could talk all day to many people about what is wrong with sin and back it up with Scripture and they would look at me as if I have four heads and am from planet Tiddleywinks.
Do you know how hard it is in this age of tolerance and political correctness to convince anyone that anything they are committed to or are engaged in is harmful to them or is wrong? In many cases, we might as well be Charlie Brown’s teacher (wah-wah-wah-wah-wah) If we are trying to just use words or arguments with many in today’s culture, it doesn’t work. They aren’t listening. Why aren’t they listening? I cannot give anything but my opinion. They aren’t listening because we live in a day and time when no one wants to be wrong or admit they are wrong. “I was wrong.” “I see now that I am wrong.” How long has it been since you have actually heard someone use those words? People don’t want to admit they are doing anything wrong. (Am I right? See what I did there?)
In so many cases, people aren’t listening, but THEY ARE WATCHING. That is what Jesus says we are to let our lights so shine before men that people will SEE our good deeds and glorify our Father in Heaven. When people see us shining consistently and faithfully, not just a flicker here and a flicker there, but a constant and steady blaze for the Kingdom, they will take note. Our constant flame for Christ in their lives will begin to reveal to them that something isn’t right. Darkness has to react to the light. I said I would give you a Scripture about how our light will expose what is wrong with the world. Here it is.
Ephesians 5:11-14-Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.
We need to shine our light not only because we want darkness to flee, but we want people to see for themselves what the darkness has been trying to cover. Satan wants to keep people in the dark, blinded to their sin because he doesn’t want them thinking very long about their brokenness. He doesn’t want people thinking about their need to be free of sin. He doesn’t want people thinking about a different path. He wants to cloak people in the darkness of sin. The devil wants to cloak people so he can choke their spiritual lives and potentials right out of them.
If we live as children of the light, people who are so messed up and confused and mentally abused by the prince of darkness can start to see what is truly wrong. They know something is wrong, but they can’t put their finger on it. He has blinders on their eyes. If we live well for Jesus in front of them, living in a way that is distinctly different, they are going to wonder why. They are going to wonder how. How do we have the power to live counter-culture? How do we have the self-control to do things that please God and stay away from the things that don’t? Where did our desire come from to walk with God? I promise you, they will ask! Your light will help someone else see the darkness in their soul.
One writer tells several years ago of going from a 100-watt to a 40-watt family. We have other options now for lighting our homes which are more economical. But when energy became scarce and prices shot up, they decided that they would save some money by dropping from 100-watt to 75-watt bulbs in the house, then to 60-watt, and finally to every lamp in the house operating at a mere economical 40 watts. “It wasn’t that hard,” he said, “because we didn’t make the change all at once. It was a slow, sensible change.” But then he said strange things started happening. He’d get dressed to go out to dinner and, sitting in the restaurant, he’d suddenly notice a spot on his slacks. He hadn’t noticed it at home and missed it again when he got ready for bed. That happened several times with various slacks and shirts and sport coats until they finally caught on to what he called the graying of their reality. If he had become comfortable in just enough light to get by but not enough to notice stains, how easy it must be to slowly dim the light of the soul. (Pulpit Digest, 1-2/89, p. 52).
Do you understand how it works? Light exposes what needs to be seen and dealt with. Our light can help someone else see the stain of their sin.
I like to think about our light as hope. When morning dawns, it is a new opportunity for something good to happen. The rising of the sun reminds me of the Resurrection of the Son. There is a positive aspect to light. It’s tough when the winter time comes around and the days are shorter. This coming Saturday, you need to turn your clocks back! There won’t be any excuse for missing church because y’all will get an extra hour of sleep. In fact, this would be a fabulous week to try a Sunday School class because it won’t set you back at all on your sleep! I digress.
Darkness impacts our affect doesn’t it? It becomes more tempting to stay in for the evening when darkness sets in early. We get comfortable in our homes with our fleece UK blankets and our Netflix binges. We probably engage less with people during the winter months, isolating ourselves, even missing out on some of the things we typically would enjoy doing. Sometimes it is easier to stay in the dark than to venture out, but when Spring rolls around, it is almost like our attitudes get re-set and we feel a burst of energy. All of that seems to come to us with the light and longer days. We feel a sense of confidence and contentment when we encounter the light. Light gives us a hopeful feeling. All of that led up to the last point. Are you ready?
Light illuminates the way out of darkness.
Exit lights are always clearly marked with light? Why? Because people need a way out in a moment of crisis, right? People need to see a way out when there is distress. Jesus called Himself the Light of the World, and He also said of Himself that He was the Way—the Way to God, the way to Heaven. His life blazed with the glory of God. It was clear that those who followed Him had a different experience with God or what they knew to be religion than those who didn’t. Even to those who couldn’t understand it all, it was obvious that Christ’s followers knew and experienced something special.
Jesus knows the way out of here. He has already taken His journey. Beyond death’s doorway is eternity for every person, but it isn’t eternity in Heaven for every person. Only those who walk in the light, as he is in the light, are purified from their sin (I John 1:7) and only those who are purified from their sin will join Jesus in Heaven forever. As we follow Jesus and shine His light, others will see the path out of a life of sin and into a life of peace with God forever.
Perhaps this is the most attractive attribute of light for people who are living in darkness because at the end of the day, we all need hope. We all need the hope of Heaven. We all need the hope of a new day and new mercy from a God who cares. The greatest gift you can give to anyone is to light their pathway to God. Be a glow-in-the-dark Christian, and show someone the way out of darkness.
And Jesus said, “Let there be light.”