You are the light of the earth. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
When we studied the beatitudes, we saw that there are consequences, or promises, associated with the developing characteristics that should exist in those who belong to Christ, and this is no less true of the one we shall be looking at today.
I wish to state here that, as Christians, we have a responsibility for maintaining loving relationships both in the communities where God places us and in the church community where we have been planted. Put simply, give your brothers and sisters a break!! We are works in progress and not yet the finished article.
Don’t expect the finished article even 20 or 30 years later. None of us are the finished article in this life. So please don’t get an idea in your head about the qualities of character that I have been speaking about in these studies and then use them as a measuring stick against your neighbours and brothers and sisters in Christ. If you use them in this way, you better only be doing it to the person in the mirror. And even then, you need to be loving and merciful.
This should not be to discourage you in any way, even if you feel that you have a lot of progress still to make. Let it rather lead you to prayer, for help from the source of power that you need. Ask for a greater infilling of the Holy Spirit to empower you for greater things. Let it be a source of inspiration to lead you into a closer walk with Jesus.
The moment you begin to judge harshly, you can be led into thoughts and words like, “I’ll never be good enough…” Listen, words are powerful things. God created the heavens and the earth by speaking them into existence. And we are created in His image… Think about it! What we declare on earth can have a powerful effect in the spirit. It can affect our own lives and the lives of others. So when you say things like you will never be good enough, you can add a level of difficulty towards achieving what you desire in your heart. You don’t need this!
You should instead be encouraged by the knowledge that a closer walk with the Lord, and to love your neighbours and brothers and sisters in Christ, these things empower you and change you. It is not an overnight change however much you may desire it to be. And it will not be overnight changes for anyone you meet, which is why you need to walk in love and not in judgement.
BUT… when you really understand what today’s verses are speaking about, then they stand as a testimony against the church and especially in the western world. It shows how we have sometimes got a complete misunderstanding about what constitutes spiritual witness and spiritual warfare. I could write a book… but this is supposed to be a short study and it will be overlong as it is…
For many of you, these will be familiar words. Maybe it is even the familiarity of this text that robs it of it’s power and importance, and so the meaning just does not register and do its work in us as it should.
First think about what darkness and light actually are. One of these things is real and physical and has effects. The other is an illusion and is nothing in and of itself. Darkness did not even exist before God spoke the words of creation and said, “Let there be light.” Light is the physical creation. It is energy stored in physical particles named photons. It can also act like radiant wave energy. Some of you may have even done the experiments in the laboratory that demonstrate light and photons acting both as physical particles and as radiant wave energy.
Darkness only exists where there is an absence of these things. Darkness is nothing at all of itself. It was not created and so it does not actually exist! Do you understand what it means? It certainly means that it can’t have power unless you, as a creative being yourself, give it substance and infer power to that substance. Such was not given by god, and devils and demons and Satan himself do not have creative power so that the devil can’t do anything effective at all should he try to be like God and say, “Let there be darkness.” Why? Because he is not God, nor a ‘god.’ He was not, like mankind, created in the image of God. He does not have such power or authority.
From this, can you already see at least one way that the church, or people in the church, can deceive themselves?
I hear many people in the church complain that the world is becoming a darker place. They speak of the darkness growing, as if it is a part of creation. As if it is something in and of itself. As if it has power and, as a living thing, can grow or even spread like a disease. This is dangerous thinking and also reveals ignorance of the truth. Can you not understand that darkness was not created, and is not a part of creation? It is nothing and as such has no power or substance. It can’t ‘grow’ or ‘spread’ or ‘infect’ – because something that is not created nor part of creation does not even exist to be able to do those things.
The darkness is nothing of itself, it is only a word to describe the absence of something: the absence of light. So if the world seems to be darker than it was, it is only because the light is not shining as brightly as before.
It is a natural part of human behaviour to want to put the blame for things on to someone or something else. It is not nice, in our experience, to receive the blame for something. And so even since we were small children we look for someone or something else to receive blame. We even have become very expert at this by the time we are adults.
Some adults are so expert that they try to prove that they never do anything wrong at all, because it is all external influences and forces, other people or powers. And so it is that in the church so many are speaking utter and complete nonsense, blaming the devil or demons for all kinds of things in their life and experience.
Listen – look in the mirror and admit that you have plenty of power in your own character to do wrong, misbehave, treat others badly, and so on. And sometimes in life bad things just happen, whether accidents or illness or whatever. It is not right, and in fact plays into the hands of the devil, to say that the devil did this or that, or demons caused this or that. Sometimes it is simply human bad behaviour. And sometimes it was just an unfortunate occurrence, and nothing at all to do with demons or devils.
Please don’t misunderstand me or misquote me. I am NOT denying the existence of Satan or devils or demons. These things are VERY real and they DO affect the world that we live in. We are all, as Christians, in an ongoing warfare against these spiritual powers and principalities. But to give glory to these evil beings for things they had nothing to do with… That is raising their profile in the wrong way and they enjoy this. They like to be ‘magnified’. They like to be confused with gods and demigods, even though they are no such thing and do not have such power. By this indiscriminate imputing of power and authority to evil beings, you do some of their work for them…
And at the same time, you look at the growing darkness and place the blame where it should not be. And so you then do not take the actions that should be taken to make things right.
The blame for the growing darkness lies not with the world, not with devils, nor with demons, and not even with Satan himself. The blame lies with the church and the members in it. Why? Well you read it earlier, these words of Jesus: “You are the light of the earth.” That’s right, it is down to you and me, if we belong to the Lord and wish to walk closer with Him. This is a natural characteristic or quality of all those who belong to the Lord. Whether you like it or not, you are now light on the earth.
God created light, He did not create darkness. Darkness is not something that exists of itself, it is only the word to describe the absence of something. So if we see darkness in the world, we need to look in that mirror and ask the guy there why they are hiding their light. And at the same time to consider how to make that light become brighter.
It does not take much. A room may have no windows and so seem completely dark. But enter it with even a weak candlelight and now the room is no longer in darkness. And so it is with the world. So why is darkness growing in the world? Because the light is either being hidden (put under a bowl as Jesus explained) or it is being deliberately kept in a weak state. This is the sin of the church and of individuals in the church. This is my sin and it is your sin…
How did this happen? It happens when the ideas of the world seem like good ideas to Christians. It happens when we try to fulfil a certain natural and normal human desire: that of pleasing the people around us and wanting approval.
Such behaviour is normal and, I believe, God created. Why do I say that? Because the normal and perfect situation is that of being raised, as children, by good and godly parents. So having the desire to please such parents, and to have their approval, is surely helpful towards us growing into healthy, godly and good adults. And being surrounded by people raised in this way, it would also not be harmful to seek to be pleasing to those around us.
But, back in the real world, the one we have to exist in today, this natural and god-created part of our being becomes something that is dangerous in situations that we face every day. We should not be in any way desiring the approbation of the world, but of our divine parents and our godly family.
But we seek approval in the world. Even those who realise this and would strongly deny this, I believe still do this to some degree.
Remember the words about persecution that were part of the Beatitudes. These are things that are naturally going to happen and are going to be felt by those wishing to live lives pleasing to Jesus. There are so many things, so many ways, in which godly people become very different to what is ‘normal’ in the world around us.
And then there are the people who claim godliness while persecuting others who are perceived as living in a certain sinful way… not even realising that this persecuting and discriminatory behaviour is of itself a very ungodly and very worldly behaviour. It would be ironic if it was not so tragic… And so even the persecution of the confused sexuality of some, of gays and lesbians – even this behaviour is so ungodly and worldly that the only thing achieved in this way is a reduction of the light, and thereby an increase in ‘darkness.’ It even ignores a spiritual fact: that where you create martyrdom, you empower that which you martyred…
Even so, there will be those who read these words in the wrong way, and (even though they claim to be ‘bible-believing’ Christians) will say that I support certain sins and so on… And this I expect. Why? I already spoke about this earlier: how we all do not like to see blame as residing within us and so like to blame anyone or anything else.
If you have invited Jesus into your life, then you are light. Don’t hide it. Yes, some will make fun of you. Some may now discriminate against you. Others, even in your family or among former friends, may begin to do things that feel like persecution or are actual persecution. Jesus told us to expect it. No, it is not pleasant, but this is the expectation within the world that would deny the light and hides away from the light. Because light reveals the hidden sins and sinfulness.
And remember also that Jesus taught using these words: “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” So you don’t shine a light by criticising the behaviour of others. You don’t shine the light by discriminating against any sinful group. You do not shine light by persecution of anyone for whatever reason.
You shine the light by being who you are: a new a living creation in Christ. And your loving good works, not only to your fellow believers but to your neighbours who do not belong to your faith or who may themselves persecute you… The loving behaviour to all, without expectation of ‘rewards’ in return from those you treat with loving kindness, this is the manner of showing the good deeds Jesus speaks of. Your light needs to be more beautiful, more attractive.
You are the light of the world – so lift the light high and let it shine!