Jesus Christ said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12 NKJV). He was talking to the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. After skillfully dealing with her accusers, He pointed the woman in the right direction – to Himself. In order to “sin no more” (Jn. 8:11), she had to commit her life to Him as her Savior and Lord. To do this she had to walk in His light. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus said, “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 shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:14-16). Both thoughts are true. Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, and we Christians are the light of the world. He said that we should let our light shine – in our homes and in all of the spheres of our lives. This light allows those in the world to see our good works, and more importantly, moves them to glorify our Father who is in heaven. Let us examine the Lord’s emphatic statement from the Sermon on the Mount.
The Light Of The World
The Lord declared that His disciples were light (Mt. 5:14). Moreover, He explained how Christians should live out that declaration (5:14-16). The world is in darkness. In fact, many in the world prefer darkness in order to cover their sinfulness. “And this is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn. 3:19). Just as there is a contrast between natural light and darkness, there should be a contrast between believers and unbelievers in morality, attitude, and actions. In figurative language, Jesus emphasized that Christians are light, yet His metaphor speaks of a spiritual reality.
Each believer is a light in this dark world; the light has become a part of his character. It cannot be denied, and his responsibility is to show who he is by letting his light shine. The essential difference between a believer and an unbeliever is that the believer has responded to the gospel. Paul said, “It is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). God has shone His light into the entire world and the believer has responded to that light by accepting Christ as Savior. Paul stated in earlier verses (4:3-4) that Satan has blinded the minds of “those who are perishing” and they “do not believe” the gospel. The Christian is a light by virtue of belonging to Christ.
A City On A Hill
The Lord’s second statement in Matthew 5:14 is powerful: “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” We can all see the lights of a city on a hill, or the lights of a particularly large city. People from all over the world travel to the city where I live to see the New York City skyline. It is breathtaking to see the stretch of well-lit skyscrapers in lower Manhattan at night. Those lighted buildings cannot be hidden. The Lord used the same analogy for the light that shines forth from a believer’s life. Even if he tries to hide his light, it will still be seen. Though it may be dim, it cannot be hidden. Our shining lights glorify God. Jesus said those lights are our good works.
The Lord stated that a person would not put a light under a basket – it wouldn’t make any sense! The purpose of light is to illuminate the area. Again, the Lord is emphasizing that the light is to shine. Further He said that the light should be put on a lampstand to brighten the surroundings. The believer’s light should be seen in the home! If all the family members are believers, they should let their lights shine on each other to make for a harmonious, loving family and also to be a fantastic witness for Christ (Ex. 10:23). The believers in a family of unbelievers should also shine their light as a testimony to their unsaved relatives. Even though it may be difficult, God is able to give the necessary “mercy and … grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). God also wants our light to shine in our communities.
Because I spend much of my time teaching in a public high school, I would like to relate a story to make a point. It was the end of the school year; the students were taking their state exams. One student, brilliant in math and science, was not as proficient in English. He had received a full university scholarship in engineering but had failed the English exam by a few points. I was in charge of the team of teachers who graded his state exam.
We tried to find some extra points on the subjective part of his test, but could not. Someone suggested that we change a few answers on the objective part of his exam so he could pass. As team leader I did not allow this. Although I felt badly for the student, as a Christian I could not allow the team to act immorally. I tell this story because the light had to stand against the darkness of cheating. I took the flack, but the Lord gave help. In the end, the school offering the full scholarship waived the English exam requirement for that student. God wants our light to shine; He wants our good works to be seen.
Shining Good Works
Paul said, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). The phrase “prepared beforehand” tells us that God has a list of good works prepared for each believer’s life. Doing them is how we let His light shine through us. We should not miss any opportunity to perform a good work from God’s divine list. The work does not have to be a so-called “great” work – like building an orphanage, becoming a missionary in a remote part of the world or giving a million dollars to feed the hungry. But it is to be a “good” work, like giving a cup of cold water in the Lord’s name to a thirsty individual (Mt. 10:42; Mk. 9:41). We should look for every opportunity to do any good work whether small or great. If we obey the Lord we glorify God. The gospel contained in those good works can introduce a person to Christ.
Believers have Jesus as their pattern and perfect model. Luke wrote that “Jesus … went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). He gave sight to the blind. He opened the ears of the deaf. He healed the sick. He raised the dead. He fed the multitude. He had compassion on the crowds. We cannot do what Christ did, but we can do what God has called us to do. Are you endeavoring to do the good works God has given you to do? Are you doing them joyfully?
God is glorified when the world marvels at the “good works” of Christians. And in their hearts unbelievers come to acknowledge God as a result of those good works! This is God’s purpose – to reach unbelievers through our lives. He has laid out the steps; they are clear. Christ is the true light that lightens every man (Jn. 1:9). God wants us to illuminate the world through our good works. Our shining light glorifies God and draws unbelievers closer to Him.
Called To Be Lights
Jesus, the true Light of the world, has ascended back to heaven. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, God has called us to reflect the light of Christ into this dark world. If each believer allows his light to shine as much as possible, collectively we (the Church) will illuminate this world and bring many to Christ. God has made it wonderfully simple: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:16).
By Albert Stuart
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org