It is an uncontested fact that the child of God does not always act as a child of God. We are children of God! God has made us his children. He has saved us by His grace. He has renewed us spiritually so that we are no longer dead, but alive. He has given us a place in His Kingdom so that we are citizens of heaven. He has given us the ability to love and to serve Him. We are His children. But we do not always reflect that in our day to day lives, do we? Instead of acting like children of God, we often act as children of the Devil. Instead of reflecting the grace of God in what we say and do, we often reflect the sins of our old nature. There are many times when those around us cannot tell any difference between us and the world. That is true not only of us, but of all God’s people. It was true of the saints in the O.T. and N.T. It is true of our parents and grandparents. And it is also true of us. There is no denying it. It is simply a fact. We do not always live as real children of God. It is for that reason that the Bible quite often reminds the child of God of what he is, of what God has made him; and then admonishes him to reveal that in his everyday life.
That is the basic idea of the text which we have for this year’s convention (Matt. 5:14-16). This text appears in the Sermon on the Mount. The theme is “The Kingdom of Heaven.” Christ begins the sermon by describing the spiritual characteristics of the citizens of that Kingdom. This is commonly known as the Beatitudes. God’s people are the poor in spirit. They are those who mourn and those who are meek. They are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. They are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peace makers. That is what characterizes the child of God.
But then Jesus begins to speak of persecution. (Cf. vss. 10, 11.) When the people of God reveal their spiritual characteristics in their day to day lives they will be persecuted. The world will speak evil of them. And what might happen? What often does happen? The people of God, to avoid persecution, will stop reflecting those heavenly characteristics in their lives. They will no longer live as the merciful, or the peacemaker, or the pure of heart. They will no longer live as children of the Kingdom.
To warn us against this danger, the Lord proceeds to use two figures. He compares the people of God, first of all, to salt: Ye are the salt of the earth. Then, and this is the convention text, He compares us to light: Ye are the light of the world. That is what you are as people of God. That is what you are as covenant young people. God has made us to be the light of the world.
After establishing that, an admonition comes: Let your light shine before men. You are light? Then let that reflect itself in your life. Light is meant to shine; not to be hid under a bushel. Thus, let your light shine before men.
And then Christ gives the purpose or reason for all this: that men may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.
Tonight we consider the first part of the text: “Ye are the light of the world.” Quite appropriately our host society has given me the theme: THE SHINING LIGHTS. Under that theme we consider:
- The Meaning
- The Source
- The Privilege
- The Meaning
When Christ says that the people of God are the light of the world. He is using a figure of speech. The Bible often speaks of light. In fact, the Bible speaks of light in three different senses. And in each sense of the word, light is always contrasted to darkness. There is, first of all, physical light. That is the light which God created on the first day of the creation week. Before the creation of light there was only absolute darkness. Thus, we read in the first chapter of Genesis: “the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep…and God said. Let there be light….” In the second place, we can speak of natural light. Natural light is intellectual knowledge and understanding. The opposite of this is darkness, which implies ignorance. We often speak of light and darkness also in this sense. When in history we speak of the “Dark Ages” we have in mind that period of history when there was little, if any, learning and the masses were terribly ignorant. But then again, we speak of various “Ages of Enlightenment” when there was a revival of learning, knowledge, and discovery. In the third place, and this is the idea of our text, there is spiritual light. Light in this sense expresses the idea of spiritual goodness and perfection. The Apostle John says in his first epistle: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” God is light. He is spiritual Goodness and Perfection. In Him is no darkness at all. There is no sin or evil or corruption to be found in God. Light is goodness and perfection. In contrast, darkness is sin, corruption, and evil.
Now, when the Lord says that the children of God are light, He means that they are essentially good and upright. They have hearts that are spiritually perfect. From the heart they love God and all that is good as God is Good. And that love is the deepest motive for all they do. That the child of God is light means that he has the ability to perform the will of God, to keep His commandments, and to do that which is good. He has the ability to serve God; and principally he does so.
When Christ adds that the child of God is the light of the world. He means that this is true of the child of God in every aspect of the life of this world. When the Lord speaks of the world here, He does not have in mind the world of ungodly men, or even of the godly. He rather speaks of the world as the sphere in which we live and move; the sphere of our earthly existence. And in that world, there are all kinds of different spheres and relationships. There is the sphere of the home, of the school, of the church, of government, etc. And within these various spheres there are all kinds of relationships. There is the relationship of husband and wife, of parents and children, of brother and sister, of employer and employee, etc. Furthermore, God’s holy law covers every aspect, relationship, and sphere of the world. There is no sphere or relationship which is not touched. God’s will has something to say and governs every aspect of our life in the world. That we are the light of the world means that we have the ability to keep the perfect law of God as it governs every aspect of our life in the world. Ye are the light of the world!
In direct contrast to the people of God is the rest of humanity, which is spiritual darkness. The Church of Christ is the light of the world. But in that same world live also the ungodly, the children of the devil, the citizens of the kingdoms of this world. They are spiritual darkness. This is suggested by Christ in that he designates the church as THE light of the world. The church is not merely A light of the world in distinction from various other lights. It is not this: that the children of God are a light of the world, but in distinction from the children of God there are also the children of Allah and the children of Buddha, who are also lights of the world. No, the children of God are THE light of the world, the one and only light of the world. And all the rest of mankind is spiritual darkness.
This is the truth of the antithesis. We have heard of this word often enough. Our ministers have used it from the pulpit time and again. There is an absolute antithesis between the believer and the unbeliever, between the church and the world (“world” now in the spiritual sense). They are spiritual opposites. Spiritually they have nothing in common. They are as different as radiant, shining light is different from complete and total darkness.
The child of God is the light of the world. This means, as we saw, that he is essentially good and upright. He loves the Lord God and all that is good. He is able to keep the law of God in every sphere of life; and principally he does so.
In absolute contrast are the unbelieving children of darkness. They hate God and His people. They despise the good. They love evil and corruption. They are not able to do the good, but only sin. And that they do continually in every sphere of life: in the home, in the school, in government, in business, etc. All that they have and all that God has given them in this world they use in the service of sin. There is no good in them: and they produce no good thing. Every thought they think, every word they speak, and every deed they perform is nothing but corruption. All their goals and aspirations are only evil. And as a corrupt tree can only bring forth corrupt fruit, so also all that the world produces — their art, music, literature, entertainment, etc. — is completely corrupt spiritually. It is shot through and through with sin.
We must be reminded of this fact over and over again. The truth of this antithesis cannot be emphasized enough. For we are often inclined to find much good in the world and much spiritual good in what it produces. The world has many good ideas. Many of its goals and endeavors are very commendable. There is much spiritual benefit to be derived from its entertainment and culture. There is much good in the world and from the world on the basis of which we co-operate with the world, work with the world, and play with the world. It seems as though we are always inclined towards that attitude.
There are usually one or two reasons why we are inclined to take this attitude. In the first place, we often find ourselves spiritually, in the world walking as the world walks. And to justify ourselves we are inclined to make the claim that there is after all much good in the world. But, in the second place, we often find much good in the world because that is exactly what the world wants us to think. The world does not want us to think that it is completely corrupt. The world would deceive the church into thinking that she is basically good. The world puts on a false front of piety and goodness. And often we are deceived by this false show. We conclude that there is much good in the world and much good in what it produces.
But do not forget that all that the world is, all that h does, and all that it produces is complete darkness. The minute we forget this and find some good in the world we are in real trouble. For it is exactly then that we are in real danger of being swallowed up by the darkness!
You are the light of the world. How is that to be explained? Is it by your own power that you love God and delight in His goodness? You are able to keep His will. Is that some innate ability you have of yourself? Perhaps the question can be best put this way: are you the source of your own light?
This is a very important question. For our answer determines who is to receive the honor and glory. If it is true that we are the source of our own light, then we have thereof to glory. We can boast in ourselves and be very proud of our own accomplishment. Besides, we are then in a position to be lifted up in pride over against all those who are spiritual darkness and to look down our noses at them. The principle here is: let’s give credit to whom credit is due. If we are the source of our own light, then we are in a position to congratulate ourselves and to boast. If not, then we must be very humble.
Let me assure you that we must not boast, but be very humble. Christ makes that very clear in the last part of the text: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Notice, Christ does not say, “Let your light shine that men may glorify you.” I am afraid, however, that deep down every one of us would have liked it had Christ said exactly that. We all like the praise of men. We like others to tell us how good we are and to congratulate us. There is a little Pharisee in every one of us. But Christ did not say, “Let your light shine that men may glorify you.” He said, “Let your light shine before men…that they may glorify your Father which is in heaven.” God is to be glorified and praised for the fact that we are light. And there is only one reason for that — He is the source of our spiritual light.
It is only of God that we are the light of the world. By nature we are all darkness. That is to be explained by the fall, when a terrible cloud of darkness descended upon all mankind. But God in Christ has enlightened us. Several times the Bible speaks of Christ as being “the light of the world.” Here in Matthew 5 the church is called the light of the world. But the Scriptures also speak of the fact that Christ is the light of the world. Being the revelation of God Who is light in the absolute sense, Christ is light in and of Himself. He is the source of light. And He is the source of our light. Through the power of His cross and by His Spirit. He enlightens us spiritually. He shines in us; and as a result, we are shining lights. We can, therefore, compare Christ to the sun and ourselves to the moon. Christ, as the sun, is a source of light. And-as the moon only reflects the light of the sun, so we only reflect the light of Christ.
God, in Christ, is the source of our light. And although being the light of the world implies a very high and lofty position, we have no reason for boasting. We must of necessity be very humble.
3. The Privilege
We must also be very thankful and grateful to God. For to be the light of the world is a great privilege. You are the light of the world. You have the ability to keep the law of God in every sphere of life. Others, the children of darkness, do not have that ability. That makes you, young people, very privileged.
For it is only in the way of righteousness and obedience to God that we can consciously receive the blessings of God and possess true joy and peace. The Scriptures emphasize this over and over again, in many different ways. Sin brings nothing but sorrow and grief. Do you want misery and trouble in your life? Then walk in the way of sin and disobedience. For the wages of sin is death. And death is the visitation of God’s wrath and just judgements. And under the heavy hand of wrath there is only trouble and sorrow. But, on the other hand, the Scriptures also teach very clearly that the blessings of God, as well as true joy and happiness, are to be found in the way of obedience to God and His will.
You, young people, are the light of the world. God has made you such. He has graciously formed you so that you are able to walk uprightly before Him and obey His will. Why He has made you and me to be light and not others, I do not know. It is not because we are more worthy than others. For we are all equally unworthy. But the fact remains that God has formed us into the light of the world. He has enabled us to walk uprightly before Him, to walk the way of His blessing and grace, to find true joy and peace both now and forevermore. And by His sustaining grace we so walk. We are privileged, indeed.
In that consciousness, let us daily bow before our God in humble thanksgiving. And let us show that gratitude by letting our light shine, that men may see our good works, and glorify our great and glorious Father which is in heaven.