February 9, 2020 Light Living
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
What Jesus taught to the prophets in the OT is the same thing that He taught to the Disciples in the NT. One thing He taught, which we hear today, both in Isaiah 58 and in Matthew 5, is this: While the faith of our heart is not visible to the human eye, what faith DOES in our life can hardly be missed. In fact, altho faith in our heart is not visible to others, what our faith does for others IS seen and is good advertising for God’s Church. This is by God’s design; our daily living faith IS to be seen in it’s love & godliness; and that is a big part of our witness to the world around us for His Kingdom.
The message that Israelites heard from Isaiah is that they are not to be self-centered, but to see other’s needs & help them. God’s people -then- would shine among all the world nations, not just because they have a particular religion, but because they live-out the mercy, kindness, & righteousness of that one particular Creator & one true God for all.
So God said thru Isaiah: I see you do ‘fasting’ ~ but it’s for your own pleasure; and then you oppress all your workers. Instead, your fasting should result in helping the oppressed, sharing your bread with the hungry, & giving clothes to those who need it; THEN your light will break forth like the dawn!’ That’s exactly what the Spirit wrote thru James: faith without works is a dead faith;
I’ll show you my faith by how I behave.
What the Eternal Word-of-God was teaching thru Isaiah, He expands on in Matthew 5 as He talks -in person- to His Disciples with the metaphors of salt & light. Like those Disciples, you & I have been baptized into this saving faith; but this faith also has a purpose beyond our personal salvation. It is an advertisement to those around us so that they too might hear & receive the same grace & gift & life in Christ. So, Jesus is using 2 metaphors, salt & light. We’re just going to focus on the ‘light.’
A metaphor is a comparison & figure of speech; like when we say = my life is a rollercoaster, or he’s a bear when he doesn’t get enough sleep. Jesus says that when you are connected to Him, ‘you are the light of the world.’ Your faith will be showing godly things = not bad things; so, ‘now let that light shine before others, that they may see it, and give thanks to the Father in heaven.’
So, *what kind of light do you like? For years, we just had the choice between incandescent and fluorescent. But now standing in the lightbulb aisle at the store is like standing in the cereal aisle; it seems like a hundred choices. /Soft white, bright white, daylight; /eco-incandescent, LED, halogen; /some light bulbs can no longer be made, because the government says they’re not efficient enough.
*Does God take note of your efficiency? Of course. That’s why we hear Jesus explain the difference between the ‘wicked & lazy servant’ and the ‘good & faithful servant’ in Matt.25 in how they treated the sick, the hungry, the poor & the stranger. *How much light have WE shined lately, compared to the energy God invests in us? God’s truth will make us feel guilty for our laziness = our dull-light; & now Jesus speaks to reenergize us, & says, ‘you are the light of the world…don’t hide it! Now let your light shine…’
He doesn’t say we should be light, as if the way we live is just up to us, however we want. By His grace & thru His gift of faith we ARE light. He also doesn’t threaten us by saying ‘you’d better shine brighter or I’ll replace you.’ Instead, He encourages us; He tells us who we are, & what good purpose He has for us to BE who we are. Thru us -His people- He will brighten up the world and shine on others.
In using this simple figure of speech, Jesus has just described how deeply blessed are those who have faith in Him, that we should be called His ‘light’. We realized this when we look in Scripture and see that LIGHT is a leading theme in God’s Word; and we can’t hardly talk about physical light without also referring to spiritual light.
It all began when God created the world, and the first words He speaks are “Let there be light.” (Gen 1:3) Three days later, He speaks & creates the sun; & the sun blazes with physical light, and moon & stars physically reflect that light for the earth every single day and night.
So, while the sun & moon & stars are still doing their jobs for creation, there’s a light-job they can’t do. When a person’s life is bad & going the wrong way, we say we hope they will ‘see the light’, & we don’t mean ‘see the sun’. Their life might be in a dark place in the middle of a sun-shiny day, because this life has 2 kinds of light. The existence of physical light is so dominant in human life that it becomes one of the most common figures of speech for life that all languages & cultures understand.
If a room is dark, we can bring light into it by opening the shades or curtains; or we can flip a switch & use electricity; or we can light a candle, or use a flashlight. But if the human heart or soul is darkened by sin & unbelief, none of those bring the proper light. When spiritual darkness threatened His creation, God spoke again in a similar way but with a spiritual promise. Essentially He said, ‘let there be My Savior.’ He gave that promise of the Christ to Adam & Eve; which was the promise of the Light of Life as they were faced with the darkness of sin & death.
When God-the-Son came on the scene, He came preaching ‘Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.’ That message pointed out that spiritual darkness is a real & present danger for all people. And when Jesus approached the disciples and said ‘follow me’, He was opening the shade to shine His light on them. That changed them.
We think of those 12 disciples as special, and they were. But that same Jesus has brought that exact same message to you & me. His word of light & life was joined with water to make your baptism new birth. And in your baptism, Jesus has called & changed you, bringing you out of the kingdom of darkness and into His kingdom of light. As Eph.5:8 says, “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”
That’s God’s good news for everyone =…. except at first. Light can be a painful wake-up call for those in the dark. Just like when you’ve been awakened from deep sleep
by a bright light. Every child knows this truth from when mom or dad comes into their bedroom in the morning, hits the light switch & says, ‘time to get up.’ Spiritual light hurts, too. That was how many reacted to Jesus when they heard Him speak. And how disappointed we are when those we love want to be left in the dark. Sin loves darkness. In the last few years, some large cities have installed thousands of new streetlights, and have succeeded in reducing crime in their neighborhoods. The darkness of sin likes to hide from the light; and light is what makes the difference for goodness & holiness.
*What was God to do to address our problem of spiritual darkness, disobedience & sin? Putting a thousand suns in the sky couldn’t make a dent in the real problem; but putting one Son (S-o-n) on the earth would fix it.
So, God’s Son, the Light of the World, would come among us, and gather up all the darkness that stood against us, and physically & spiritually carry it into the tomb. To do this, His own light would be snuffed out like a candle. Utter darkness had its hay-day as Jesus’ lifeless body was laid in a the light-less tomb.
It’s no coincidence that -at the break of day that Sunday- Easter victory dawned on
the earth. The earth’s sun has much control & authority over our lives; so even more, the Son of God has control & authority over our lives, either by His holy judgment or by His holy mercy & grace. So the Light of the World destroyed the darkenss of sin, death & the grave. That’s how He is able to say, that in Him, even tho we die yet shall we live; and whoever lives & believes in Him will never truly die. In Him alone is eternal life & light.
Now, the word ‘eternal’ doesn’t just mean ‘later’ = it’s for all time, so it also means NOW. By this Christian faith, you are now the light of the world, so that now you will not hide your light but let it shine before others. This is a purpose for God’s Church on the earth; that thru you & me God’s light of life will shine, and God will call others out of the darkness and into the marvelous light of Christian life in Jesus.
This is the connection between our own faith and the faith of others; our visible faith is supposed to affect those around us. Just like on one of those cave tours, where the guide shuts off all the lights, and turns on just his little flashlight, & everyone in the dark cave turns to look, and is drawn toward that light for guidance & comfort. Jesus is asking us IF our light is being seen or is it being hidden. We might not think that our little lights are enough to make a difference, but they DO make a difference because this world is dark.
Every little Christian thing we do will affect our family & friends, such as the godly standards we uphold in our households; the kindness we show to those who may not deserve it; or the priority we make of God’s church & worship each week; and investing our time & money in supporting the Lord’s Church because that’s what God’s people do. Those around us will be drawn, not because we are such good people, but because the Lord Jesus we live with is so good for all people, and the ways we live will show His goodness & truth.
In Jesus’ day, there were ALL the human sins & evils present, just as in our day. Nations were at war; / tyrants oppressed their people; / there was slavery & human trafficking;/ the Greek world was filled with all kinds of sexual immorality, prostitution, homosexuality & disdain for biblical marriage & family; / there was not only abortion, but there were religions of child-sacrificing; / there was a huge income disparity between the rich & the poor; / there were burdensome taxes; / there were false religions, deceptive teachers, & spiritual wackos; / there were gangs of thieves & violent political rebellions; / adults abused children & children rebelled against their parents; / people claimed to believe in God but ignored His commandments, and many were too busy to worship Him on the Sabbath Day.
The world was filled with darkness = and it still is.
So, as Jesus came surrounded by sin & evil, *what did He teach His disciples for their lives back then? *Did He say to hide away, keep your faith private, stick to our little groups & who cares about the rest of the world? No; He said, ‘I have made you to be My lights for this world; shine, so that others will see; that’s how I will call them out of darkness and into my marvelous light.’
Peter wrote down later something else Jesus taught. He said, “Dear friends, I urge you, as sojourners & strangers in the world, to abstain from all sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the unbelievers that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.” (1Pe.2compilation)
We will not join-in with unbelievers to live in sinful ways; instead, we will demonstrate what God’s good, right & holy ways look like. A covered lamp is a waste of light, and so is a concealed faith. Our good witness to the world around us is to not be afraid to live openly as God’s obedient people. And as we are moral & charitable people, we will let others know that we live this way, not because of human goodness, but because we are followers of the Son of God, who is their Savior as well. In this way, they will be influenced toward Him, and we will have been good servants in His Kingdom.
This reminds me of a ‘Peanuts’ cartoon, which shows Peppermint Patty talking to Charlie Brown. It’s just the first day of school, and already she’s been to the principal’s office. “It’s your fault, Chuck,” she says. He’s surprised & asks how it could be his fault. She says, “You’re my friend, aren’t you, Chuck? You should’ve been a better influence on me.”
Our Lord Jesus is not going to blame us for the bad behavior of those around us.
But He does want us to consider this: *what has been our influence on those around us?
We ask the Lord to forgive us for the times we’ve hidden our faith, and the opportunities we wasted. One of the reasons you & I have been given faith in Him is so that we can display & advertise Him and His truths to those who are watching == /to our spouse & children, /to our neighbors & co-workers, /& to those we only meet once in passing.
In this way, we will be good servants in His kingdom by serving our neighbor, and showing them that there’s a light at the end of every dark tunnel. That Light is Jesus, the Savior. For Him, we will let our lights shine.