Let Your Light Shine Before Men

(Transcript of sermon Bob preached at Wildwood church 2 august 2020)

To watch the video CLICK HERE. It’s about 15 minutes.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5: 14-16)

The Light of the World

John’s gospel begins like this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The life of men is the light of Jesus, nothing else.

Darkness is what is outside of God’s light. Jesus talks about “the Outer Darkness” three times – it’s the place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” because you are regretting forever what you know you could have been enjoying. There aren’t degrees of darkness: you’re either in the light or out in the darkness. Forever.

Jesus is the light that God gave to the world because He loved it so much. God doesn’t want anyone in the outer darkness. He gave us His Son to live a perfect life in the form of a man full of light, full of the Spirit of God, to achieve perfection on behalf of the Human Race and then give His life willingly to pay the price for all of our darkness. God gave light for darkness, life for death. No-one can say He isn’t just.

His life is The light of Men

This isn’t mortal life that comes to an end; this is eternal life. What Jesus had in Him was eternal life, and He wants to give it away. When He was praying to the Father just before his crucifixion, He said this of Himself:

“You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as you have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)

Do you want eternal life? Here it is. You will never find a better free gift.

Romans 1:4 says that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.“ The light that’s in us is the power of God to everlasting life. And that’s not all: when we put our faith in Jesus we get to know Him and the Father, because the same Holy Spirit that raised him from the dead comes and lives in us. Because He lives in us we get to know God; not just know about Him. It’s a relationship. And what’s more, there’s no divorce; just grace. Do you know Him?

When Jesus talks about John the Baptist, He says “he was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.“ (John 5: 35). The Greek word He uses here is the same as the one for “light” in our opening scripture. Our light is the burning flame of God’s love for you and me, it’s the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Jesus tells us that WE are the light of the world, because we have Christ’s eternal life within us, which is the light of men. Church: are we burning and shining lamps? Are we on fire? Do people rejoice in our light? Do they even see it? Or is it under a basket?

Good works are the Father’s works

Jesus gave us a reason for not hiding our light: it is so that people would “see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” We need to understand that these good works are not our good deeds. Our good deeds don’t glorify the Father: it’s His own works that glorify Him. Jesus spent his entire ministry demonstrating that He was the Son of God because the Father was in Him and doing His works. Jesus said “if you don’t want to believe that God sent me because I say so, believe it because of the works that He’s doing through me!” He says this twice in slightly different ways, once in John 10: 38, and again in John 14:11; so it’s important that we grasp the point: good works are God’s works. They are demonstrations that the Kingdom of God is at hand.

 Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit so that the Father could do His works through Him, and he sent us the Holy Spirit so that the Father can carry on doing His works through us, because He doesn’t have another body on Earth – we’re it. We are the light of the world. The torch has been passed to us.

Paul tells us in Romans 14: 17 that “the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” We cry out to see these things in our communities; we know that they are the fruit of the Holy Spirit and that they only come from God, but we can’t expect our communities to turn to God unless we show them who He is in all His majesty. They can’t pick the fruit unless we plant the tree.

And if you’re still not sure about what I’m saying consider this: Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.“ (Luke 18:19) Good works have to be the Father’s works because nothing is good outside of Him. Acts 10: 38 says:           “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”

We are His disciples. That should mean that we are cast in His mould, not following from a distance out of instructions in a book. The Bible says that Jesus “revealed His glory” when He did the first of His signs, which was turning water into wine. Romans 8: 18-19 tells us:

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.”

Among other things, glory means radiant light. Creation is waiting. We can give it water, or we can give it wine. If we want to show the world good works, we need the Holy Spirit and power no less than Jesus did. God is with us too, but we keep hiding Him under a basket.

Two basket cases: fear and pride

So what are the baskets that we can use to stop this life from spreading? What makes us basket cases?

I’ll look at three. Two are old chestnuts and one might be a surprise. The first old chestnut is fear. We are scared to spread the light because of what people might think. We are scared to pray for healing in case God is not listening. We are scared to prophesy in case we get it wrong. If this is you, God says, and hear Him: “I’m with you! Yes, you will mess up sometimes, and end up on your backside. But I’m still with you! And the more you walk, the less you’ll fall.” And if you’re not a Christian and you’re scared of what bits of your life might get burnt, you need to know this: it’s the burning flame or nothing. You can jump into it, preferably now, or you can regret it in the outer darkness for eternity.

The second old chestnut is pride. It’s wonderful to be involved in seeing other people come into the light of God, but the minute I start congratulating myself or seeking praise from others, or seeking to advance my position and status in my church, I may as well just tip a bucket of water onto the flames, because they won’t last. It’s God who must get the glory because He won’t give it to anyone else. This isn’t because he is selfish or egotistical, but because the world needs to know that the only good works are His works. We all need to know the meaning of good.

The third basket case: what we have done to church

So fear and pride are baskets of flesh. They need to go onto the fire, because that is all they are good for. And what is the third basket? It’s church! Not the church of Jesus that He talked about, that the gates of hell won’t prevail against; but the Sunday slot that we’ve invented to suit our Western lifestyle. The apostle Paul does say that we mustn’t stop from meeting together, but the point of meetings is to equip us to take the light out into the darkness. We seem to have turned it on its head, and now we ask people to come into the light in order to go to meetings. But guess what: God has allowed the baskets to be taken away…

The model Jesus gave us is to be living Spirit-filled lives and discipling others to do the same. And it’s not a quick fix: little flames need to be shielded and fed with stuff that burns, or else they are likely to go out. Jesus said that the Father is always working. Not just in our meetings. When the church began, the light of the gospel spread in public places wherever and whenever ordinary people burning with the flame of the Holy Spirit went out into the darkness and set it alight. Whoever we are, now is the time to seek that living light like never before, and take it out with us into the darkness in the name of Jesus, so that the Father can do His good works through us and the world can see how much He loves it.

God’s bonfire

Right now, in the Church of Jesus all around the world, the match has been struck. There was a Cindy Jacobs post a couple of weeks ago saying “Baptisms in New York City! The revival has begun!” However it’s not going to keep burning at our convenience. Isaiah 60: 1-3 says this:

“Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.

For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the LORD will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you

The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.

That is for us, now. God is lighting a bonfire: if you’re not on fire yet let Jesus come: he is holding his match to your heart. And leaders – if we want to get with the programme we don’t waste time handing out sparklers. There was a song in the nineteen eighties to the tune of Chariots of Fire. It never made it into Songs of Fellowship, but it went like this. If you’ve been touched by what I said, say it as a prayer:

“I rise up to worship, I stand to proclaim.

The Lord of all glory, Christ Jesus His name.

Come ride on my life, Lord Jesus Christ, My Lord and my Master;

Come ride on my life, and I will be a chariot of fire.”

And if Jesus is not your Lord and Master, he died on the cross for you so that you could receive his spirit, and enter life, to know Him and the Father right now. Say those last two lines again, to Him, from your heart. He will show you what to do.

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