Calvary Road Baptist Church

“YE ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD”

Matthew 5.14-16

 

Our land is over spread with spiritual darkness. Sexual perversion is on the march in the form of homosexuals portraying themselves as a persecuted minority, who are being deprived of their civil rights. Jewish people and liberal Blacks are even embracing them as a legitimate minority, as if opposition to sexual perversion is somehow the moral equivalent to being discriminated against for being Jewish or having black skin.

The latest iteration of this assault on traditional moral values and the annihilation of the traditional family unit, as it has been universally recognized throughout human history, came when the California Supreme Court legislated that same-sex marriage is legal. If Proposition 8 fails to pass in November, same sex marriages will be a permanent part of our state’s moral landscape. How that will affect your children is a nightmare I do not want to contemplate.

Another illustration of our nation’s spiritual darkness. There have been three absolutely mind boggling Supreme Court rulings in our nation’s short history that defy all logic and strain credibility:

First, there was the Dred Scott case of 1857, whereby the obviously racist Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Roger B. Taney, wrote the majority opinion stating that not only could the federal government not provide for the freedom of slaves in non-slave states as was legislated by Congress in the Missouri Compromise, but that the rights of free blacks throughout the United States should also be denied.[1] This incredible ruling helped to plunge our nation into civil war.

Second, there was the Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896, whereby the Supreme Court upheld a Louisiana statute requiring segregated seating in railroad cars, despite the fact that the railroads opposed the added expense of separate cars for blacks and whites, and despite the fact that Plessy was seven-eighths white and only one-eighth black and could easily pass as white.[2] This ruling was crucial to denying blacks the civil rights they were supposed to freely exercise under law.

Third, there was the Roe v. Wade case of 1973, whereby the Supreme Court overturned restrictive abortion laws in the states of Georgia and Texas. Justice Harry Blackmun, who had once served as counsel to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, though he did not recuse himself from the case for a conflict of interest, wrote the majority opinion. Blackmun’s opinion found that both statutes that were overturned violated a woman’s right to privacy, which is astonishing in view of the fact that the U. S. Constitution nowhere even mentions privacy.[3] This ruling denied the protection of law to the most vulnerable of all, unborn babies, and has legalized the murder of perhaps as many as 45 millions of babies in the United States.

Thankfully, the first two Supreme Court rulings mentioned were eventually reversed in later rulings, with near unanimity among legal scholars that they were horrible decisions in the first place. Tragically, even though pro-abortion Constitutional law experts admit that Roe v. Wade was a very bad ruling, with Justice Blackmun seeking to enforce “a right not specifically spelled out in the Constitution,” and building his ruling at least partly on what is now recognized to be bad science, it remains in force to this day. So seared are the consciences of many Americans that their commitment to vote for one candidate for president seems not to be affected in the slightest by his support for what is undeniably the execution of the innocent by means of partial birth abortion.

Radicals are tearing down the very definition of marriage and reshaping families into something unrecognizable. Feminists are slaughtering their own unborn babies by the millions for convenience sake. The name of Christ is being erased from the public square, all the while, the comedians and Christ-haters readily admit that the reason they do not ridicule Mohammed and Islam the way they rip apart Christianity and mock Christians is the fear they will be killed for doing so.

On top of all that, the unethical and blatantly illegal conduct of greedy financiers, with the support of their political cronies, is pulling the rug out from under not only many Americans, but also people all over the world. My friends, our way of life is under attack. The assaults are coming from within, as well as without, at home and abroad, and Christians are afflicted, along with everyone else.

The question needs to be asked, at this point, what should Christians do when we are afflicted? Thankfully, that question is asked and answered in the letter written by James, in James 5.13: “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.” Are you suffering misfortune? Are you suffering trouble?[4] The first thing you should do is pray. However, what should you pray for? For relief? For grace? For money? For a job? Those are all excellent things to pray for, though you might consider the encouragement James provided to pray at the beginning of his letter, when he advised his beleaguered readers at the very outset to pray for wisdom.

James 1.5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Find yourself in a very tough situation? Why not ask God for the wisdom needed to know what to make of your situation, the wisdom to see your dire straits as not so much a catastrophe, but as a great opportunity? If you will seek God’s face, and ask Him for wisdom to deal with the situation you find yourself in, rather than going off halfcocked and freaking out with panic, then maybe the passage we take for this morning’s text will be particularly serviceable to you.

Matthew 5.14-16. When you find that passage, please stand for the reading of God’s Word:

 

14     Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15     Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16     Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

 

As we saw last week, when we considered Matthew 5.13, the Lord Jesus Christ once again surprises His audience. He designated His disciples to be the light of the world, a city set on a hill that cannot be hid, and the means whereby men, seeing their lights shine and observing their good works, glorify God. Jewish listeners would have expected the Torah, the Temple, Pharisees, or perhaps even Jewish people as a whole to be designated as light. But no, the Lord Jesus Christ designated His disciples, those who believe in Him, Christians, to be the light of the world.

Christian, this message is entirely for you, to you, and about you. There are many comments I would make related to this passage, quite a number of sermons that could be built on this text. However, and in response to the spiritual darkness that is so obviously enveloping our nation, I simply want to point out three of the more obvious implications of our Lord’s stunning announcement:

 

First, PLEASE TAKE NOTE FROM OUR TEXT WHAT YOUR PLACE IS IN GOD’S PLAN

 

Verse 14 begins, “Ye are the light of the world.” What an amazing statement this is by our Lord, in view of what He would later say in John 8.12: “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. “ Then, in John 9.5, He declared, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” If the Lord Jesus Christ is the light of the world, and if the Lord Jesus Christ is the light of the world so long as He is in the world, then it is apparent that His disciples, believers in Him, Christians like you and me, are the light of the world on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ now that He is no longer in the world.

Thus, our place in God’s unfolding drama of redemption is central. That means your place in God’s unfolding drama of redemption is central. I hesitate to point this out, for fear that the lost among us will accuse us of overestimating our importance, or that we are somehow inflated in our opinions of ourselves. However, please be mindful that I am not making this claim. No Christian has ever made this claim. Rather, this is a declaration made about His followers by the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself! Therefore, you cannot, Christian, assign to yourself the role of unimportance in God’s plan. You cannot conclude that you are a spiritual byway and a minor insignificance, for to do so would be to disagree with the Lord of glory, and to dispute the pronouncement of the Prince of Peace.

The verse ends with these words: “A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” Puritan pastor Jonathan Winthrop preached on this text aboard the ship named Arbella, as the Puritans sailing with him were about to land and establish the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in 1630. In more recent times, John F. Kennedy in 1961 and Ronald Reagan in 1989 delivered speeches in which reference was made to this statement. This comment made by our Lord is taken by some to be an allusion to the New Jerusalem, that city foursquare that will someday come down from heaven for all to see, that city with pearly gates and streets of gold. Such a conclusion may very well be true, however the context of the statement verifies the centrality of the place Christ’s disciples occupy in God’s dealings with mankind.

Our Lord says it is impossible for a city set on a hill to be hidden? As someone’s gaze is always drawn toward a city that is set on a hill, because it cannot be hidden, but is inescapably attractive to the eye, so is the disciple of Jesus Christ, that Christian living among the lost, always looked at, always gazed upon, always attended to, and always scrutinized. My Christian friend, you are looked at in your work place. You are observed in your neighborhood. Eyes are upon you at the super market. People pay attention to you at the gym, or wherever you work out. There are people who know who you are and what you are as you drive to work, though they will never know your name and you will never observe them observing you. How do I know this? Because you are light in darkness. Because you are, therefore, central in God’s dealings with mankind. Fearful of people looking at you? Shy about garnering the attention of others? Too bad. It goes with the territory. The only way to avoid being important in God’s dealings with mankind and being the focus of the attention of God, the angels, and the lost around you, is to reject the gospel and be cast into outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.[5]

Here is another indication of your place in God’s plan for your life. In verse 15, Jesus said, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” Lights are placed on candlesticks, but Revelation 1.20 shows us what is meant by the symbolism of a candlestick: “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” That is what Jesus said. My friends, a candlestick is a congregation, like this one. This church is where a light is placed to make best use of its brightness, so its illumination is not wasted off in some corner of the room. Therefore, not only are Christians central to God’s dealings with lost mankind, but they are collected for display with other Christians to more effectively cast their light in this dark world. Thus, a Christian who is not committed to involvement in his church, who is not held up for display with others in his congregation, is effectively putting his candle under a bushel, and thereby depriving those who are in the house of the light he gives off.

 

As Well, TAKE NOTE OF YOUR PRACTICE IN GOD’S PLAN

 

Look with me at the first part of verse 16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works.” Notice, if you will, that there are two parts, two phases if you will, of the Christian’s practice:

First, the Christian lets his light shine before men. Second, the Christian does good works that can be seen of men. These are two distinct practices, with the one drawing the attention of others, and the second validating what is witnessed by others. Let me explain: Light illuminates. Light shines. Light clarifies. Light distinguishes. When there is no light you may not think anything is there. When there is light you not only see that something is there, but that there are several things that are there, and they are not the same things. Thus, light brings understanding and insight. Light reveals truths that have always existed, but were never before seen.

So, what does it mean to let your light so shine before men? It means to talk. It means to communicate. It means to speak to people, to minister grace to them by speaking the truth in love. Thus, what the Lord Jesus Christ meant when He said, “Let your light so shine before men,” was for His disciples, was for believers, was for Christians to be witnesses, to testify, to talk. However, talk is cheap to most people. It is meaningless to many, because words alone do not cost anything. Therefore, when the Christian speaks, he is only halfway home. Speaking reaches the ear, grabs the attention, secures the audience. Once that is done, your audience needs to see your good works. When your audience sees your good works, they will compare what you say to the way you live, what words you speak with the conduct you exhibit, and they will then draw conclusions about what you say by means of the good works you do that they see.

Thus, your place in God’s plan is central, which cannot be divorced from your involvement in this congregation. Your practice in this place is to both speak the truth in love, and do good works. You are to witness and work. You are to say and do, with your saying and your doing harmonizing. In order for your saying and doing to harmonize, you must speak so as to evangelize and do so as to evangelize, you must invite people to church by speaking as well as invite people to church by going out with us. That is your practice in God’s plan. Your speaking is crucial, since faith comes by hearing. However, that which lends credibility to your words will be your actions, your good works, your deeds. The two must compliment each other, and exhibit a harmony that God will bless and the lost will appreciate.

 

Finally, YOUR PURPOSE IN GOD’S PLAN

 

Verse 16 concludes with these words: “. . . and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Do you see how all this fits together? We have always known the reason for our creation and continued existence here on earth. Revelation 4.11 is very clear: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” As well, the way in which our involvement in our church works to bring this about can be seen in Ephesians 3.21: “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” We also see this in Matthew 5.15: “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick.” The candlestick, Revelation 1.20, being our congregation.

On an individual basis, we see that God is glorified when we bear fruit, when Christ’s life in us works through us to bring others to Christ, John 15.8: “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” However, it is in Matthew 5.16 that we see it all come together: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Your witnessing, your behavior, in and through the local church, which bears the fruit of sinners coming to Christ, results and will continue to result throughout all ages in our Father which is in heaven being glorified.

 

Remember me pointing out to you how dark a time it is? Consider how grieved the Holy Spirit is by our country and how people have turned away from the truth of God’s Word. If we Christians who are afflicted pray for wisdom, as James directs us to do in James 1.5 and 5.13, then perhaps we can see the Lord preparing to do something in our midst. It will be difficult. Hard work is always necessary. However, ponder what God does in times like these.

Consider how dim each of our individual lights are. No one here is a Whitefield or a Wesley, a Carey or a Judson. Each of us is a rather dim light, making it all the more important for us to draw together to let our collective lights shine for the benefit of the lost around us, to attract their attention and to show them the way.

I am reminded of a comment I read from the diary of Robert Murray McCheyne. He wrote, “Read part of the Life of Jonathan Edwards. How feeble does my spark of Christianity appear beside such a sun! But even his was a borrowed light, and the same source is still open to enlighten me.”[6]

What McCheyne wrote is just as true of you and me. Though we are but feeble sparks of Christianity beside such a man as Jonathan Edwards, our dim light is borrowed from the same source as was his, and is of the same essence.

Therefore, however poorly we may individually represent the Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, we can so much more effectively shine for Him when we are hanging from the candlestick together, when we are engaged in the outreach of our church together.

Are these troublesome times? Yes. Does it grow darker and darker in our land? To be sure. However, as it gets darker and darker, our light shining becomes so much more noticeable, so much more attractive to seekers and those who tire of stumbling in the darkness.

Would you shine brighter and farther? Would you attract the seekers and those stumbling about, perhaps even those in your own family? Then move closer to others of us, draw together with us so our collective light will shine brighter, will shine farther, and will guide the lost home to Christ as a beacon in the night.

“What should I do, pastor?” Do what you have done this morning. Come to church. As well, come to church tonight. Then come to church Wednesday night. Finally, venture forth into the community with us on Saturday night.

I fear we are entering a second Dark Age. I know we are entering a second Dark Age. The way to conduct yourself in a time of thick darkness is not to hide your light under a bushel by staying home on Sunday nights, or on Wednesday nights, and by not reaching out with us on Saturday nights. Let your light shine with ours. Band together with us that we might together glorify our Father which is in heaven.



[1] The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, Kermit L. Hall, editor in chief (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), pages 929-932.

[2] Ibid., pages 739-740.

[3] Ibid., pages 862-865.

[4] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 741.

[5] Matthew 8.12; 22.13; 25.30

[6] Andrew Bonar, Memoir And Remains Of The Rev. Robert Murray M‘Cheyne, (Edinburgh: Olilphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1892), page 16.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org