“SERMON ON THE MOUNT – AND BEYOND !!!”
“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.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
We have now come to the second lesson in the “AND BEYOND !!!” part of the Sermon on the Mount.
Let me introduce this week’s lesson with a most unusual illustration. The date was Friday September 25, 1992 and the place was Beaver Meadow, New York, a very rural community about one hour south of Syracuse in the central part of the state. I was in the 7th year of my service there as pastor. It was about midnight. My wife and I were “long gone” in sleep when we were suddenly awakened to the noise of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles. We quickly dressed, ran outside, and followed the noise of the trucks. At the same time, we also heard a most unusual sound – one which we hoped we were wrong in our evaluation.
But we were correct – the garage of the neighbor directly across the street AND next to the church was on fire! The night was enjoying a confusing blend of light (from the fire) and dark (from the night). Mingled with the light and dark were the voices. There were voices of anguish from the family and community members who were concerned not only with the location of the fire, but also with the preservation of the family’s house to the north and of the community church immediately to the south of the burning garage.
It was a COLD early fall night. We quickly went to work! We set up tables and chairs and throughout the long night supplied drinking water and brewed massive quantities of coffee for the firemen and other emergency workers.
By morning the garage was a complete loss. Not only was the owner’s business gone – his woodworking shop from which he created amazing pieces of oak furniture. The elderly family dog – well, actually, he was the entire neighborhood’s dog! – had succumbed to the smoke just inside the garage door.
The next day we all commented how much light and darkness mixed together without distinction. My wife and I were blessed to serve in the pastorate here, and yet, and yet!, for a brief moment the light of the fire and the darkness of the night combined to show us just how quickly light and dark can mix in the hearts of those to whom we were called to minister, and to whom we were trying to make an eternal impact.
In a nutshell, that is what Matthew 5:14-16 is all about. LIGHT and DARK. They are designed by God to be distinct from each other. But our Savior is quick to note that sometimes, SOMETIMES, in His children they appear confusingly together. Sadly, though, the distinction God wants for His children is forgotten. Listen to that distinction during the Egyptian plagues in Exodus 10:23, “They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.” And when describing the separation of Israel from the Egyptians who were following, Moses wrote (Exodus 14:20), “So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.” As the Israelites were always in the light, God’s design is that the Christian as well is always to be in the light.
As I prepared for this message/lesson, I learned much about His usages of LIGHT and DARK in the Good Book. Allow me to collate a few of those amazing passages.
FIRST, let’s look at WHERE WE ARE – IN DARKNESS! Job said of the leadership of the nations (12:25a), “They grope in the dark without light…”. The prophet Isaiah warns (5:20a), “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil who put darkness for light, and light for darkness…”. Our Savior gives the heavenly assessment (the complete passage is John 3:19-21), “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil… But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” The prophet Isaiah put it all in perspective as he looked forward to the coming of the Messiah (9:2)- a prophesy which our Savior said referred to Himself (Matthew 4:16): “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” In direct contrast with the offer of His light, the darkness of the world is a vivid picture of death without Jesus.
SECOND, let’s look at WHOSE WE ARE – IN CHRIST! Even in the Old Testament, the psalmist David cried out about his relationship with his Savior. Note the amazing start of Psalm 27:1a, “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?” Once again, our Savior gives His interpretation, His application to Himself (!!!) (John 8:12), “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Throughout the psalms, the authors show the connection with our identification with the Savior, Listen to this sampling: “Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle.” (43:3). “For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.” (36:9). “Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance.” (89:15). So how is the child of God to reflect Whose we are, an identity that should be on display from the moment we trust Jesus as Savior? Listen to the Apostle John’s wonderful words (1 John 1:7): “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” We belong to the King of kings! He is pure LIGHT. And in His light we are, for we are “in Christ!
THIRD, let’s look at WHO WE ARE – THE LIGHT! We are a refreshing brightness! (How can that be?). David quoted the Lord’s words about himself in 2 Samuel 23:3b-4, “‘He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds,
Like the tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain.’” The Christian in turn is a REFRESHING BRIGHTNESS in a dark world! In 2 Kings 8:19, in spite of the description of King Jehoram’s wickedness, God gives a sobering evaluation of the nation: “Yet the Lord would not destroy Judah, for the sake of His servant David, as He promised him to give a lamp to him and his sons forever.” The Christian in the world is like the remnant of Israel – he is to be a REMNANT OF GODLINESS AGAINST SIN. In the book of Esther, the nation had won the victory against the evil of one of the members of its leadership. In turn, it was said of itself, “The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor…”. The Christian in the world is to be what we have – LIGHT: HOPE AMONG THE HOPELESS! And the Apostle Paul gives a reminder of the Christian’s position, as he says in Romans 13:13, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” Armor? What does that make the Christian? He is a SOLDIER OF LIGHT AMIDST THE DARKNESS OF THE WORLD!
TO CONCLUDE, let’s look at WHAT WE HAVE – EXAMPLES OF
ENCOURAGEMENT! How is it even possible for soldiers of LIGHT to be light in this dark world? Where are we to look when we KNOW that we ARE to be LIGHT, when there is so much DARKNESS around us? We look to the Good Book to see others who have gone on before, those who were LIGHT while living in the real DARKNESS of their world! Let’s listen to two of the classic lines of two of God’s choice servants:
Listen to DANIEL: “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.” (Daniel 6:10). In the midst of DARKNESS, Daniel knew where to find LIGHT – by maintaining his custom of walking with the Lord in prayer,
Listen to JOB: “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:20-22). Do you hear him, dear people? Eventually in this wonderful book, we will walk with Job as he loses EVERYTHING, even the support of his wife. Yet in the big picture, when he had NOTHING in the world, HE HAD THE LORD! And so do we.
The children of LIGHT who serve the King of kings in DARKNESS can follow our SAVIOR Who IS LIGHT! The children of LIGHT can be encouraged with those who have also served the King of kings in DARKNESS. Choice servants like Daniel and Job – and many others – are there in scripture to remind us that we are not alone!
Press on, child of LIGHT, in the DARKNESS of the world around us, a world without God and without hope. Be the LIGHT in the DARKNESS that will point those who are lost and without hope to the One Who is PURE LIGHT, the One Who gave Himself for our sin at Calvary,
Remember WHO YOU ARE…
“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.” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Ask yourself: “WHO AM I and WHOSE AM I?”