Shining in the Darkness

2000 years ago, a new Rabbi gathered a crowd of common people on a sloping hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee.  In the bright sunlight, hilltop villages stood in clear view.  He spoke these words:

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”  Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT) 

The Sermon on the Mount was given to ordinary people, yet He said, “You are like light for the world.”  This would have been surprising to simple people, especially because the top rabbis of their day were called “great lights.”  Jesus was shifting the focus from the rabbis to the people: YOU are the light.  Why?  The Father loves the world.  He wants all believers to shine so all people will have light.

The world is in darkness.

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but…against mighty powers in this dark world…” Ephesians 6:12 (NLT) 
The darkness of the world is a spiritual darkness.  It is dark because it is evil - opposing the light of God.  War, addictions, violence, injustice, and disease seem to be filling the earth.  Darkness is hitting our families, schools, marriages and cities.  Spiritual darkness oppresses and endangers people.

Darkness brings death, but the light of Christ brings life!

The best news is people don’t have to stay in darkness, confusion, frustration and pain.  

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46 (NIV) 

We can choose light, we can choose life. Jesus promised that when we give ourselves to him he will put his light within us and his light will overcome our darkness and it will provide the direction we need in life.  Some of you remember your dark days before Christ.  I’m so glad we’ll never be in darkness again!

The church is a chosen light.

Jesus said “YOU (the church) are the light of the world.”  Isn’t HE the light?  Yes, but He’s no longer physically in the world, so we must shine.  As the moon reflects the sun’s light even when the sun’s down, 

We reflect the glory of Jesus and give light to the world.

Throughout history, the followers of Jesus have been more instrumental in freeing slaves, protecting women, children and the unborn, and elevating the rights of minorities than any other philosophy or religion.  By their light, millions have been lifted from illiteracy and ignorance.  God’s shining people have done more to reverse addiction, disease, starvation and famine than any other force known to man. The Red Cross was started by an evangelical Christian. Almost every one of the first 123 colleges and universities in the US were founded by Christians. The same could be said of countless orphanages, adoption agencies, shelters, hospitals and relief agencies around the world.  As a follower of Jesus, you are the bright light Jesus was speaking of.

“You are the light” is an affirmation of our worth and potential.  As light, we illuminate, reveal, clarify, give perspective, point the way, overcome darkness and save those around us.  What ahuge privilege!

“Here’s His objective: through the church, He intends now to make known His infinite and boundless wisdom to all rulers and authorities in heavenly realms.”  Ephesians 3:10 (TVT) 

It’s time for us to shine!

Jesus commanded us to shine:  “Be like a city on a hill—be like a lamp shining out in this dark world.”

“You used to be like people living in the dark, but now you are people of the light because you belong to the Lord. So act like people of the light.”  Ephesians 5:8 (CEV)

Aren’t you glad you belong to the Lord?  Now it’s time for us to live as the people of light!

How do we shine? Do walk up and say, “Hi—I’m a Christian” ?  No. Jesus said: “Men will see your good deeds and praise the Father.”  People want to see a sermon before they hear one.  Our message comes through in the daily acts of grace compassion we do for others.  We were born for this:

“Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” Philippians 2:15 (NLT) 

A Christian shines like a bird sings.  We don’t fake it and we don’t have to force it. We aren’t ashamed, we just shine!  In their pain, people are drawn to our light.