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Newtown Bible Church

Christian's Witness to the World, Pt. 2 (Matthew 5:14-16)

Christians are left in this world for one primary purpose: to be witnesses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (possibly note challenge of bad witnesses)

Last week we noted the Christian’s witnesses as salt - witness through the character and purity of life. This week it is the Christians witness as light.

 

READ: Matthew 5:14-16.

 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. THen God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light form the darkness. God called the light day, and darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.”

From the very first of God’s creative act we have, by eternal and divine intention, a distinguishing between light and darkness. Darkness lied over the face of the earth, light dispelled it and so became also the source of life to the physical creation.

From that creative act in the physical realm God provided and illustration in the spiritual realm.

In Scripture “Light” stands for: truth, holiness, righteousness, and salvation.

 

1 Tim. 6 “God dwells in unapproachable light …”

1 John 1:5 “In Him is light and there is not darkness at all”

2 Cor. 4:6 “Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”

 

The absence of “Light” is darkness. Darkness speaks of of deception, sin, judgment, ignorance, and spiritual blindness. The world sits in darkness (4:12).

Sin conceals, or blinds men to the truth of God. Thus, the world is said to be in darkness (4:15-16; John 12:35, 46).

Rom. 13:12 sinful “deeds of darkness”.

Spiritual darkness is also referred to as spiritual death (Eph. 2:1-3).

Hell is described as a place of darkness (& heat) (8:12).

 

Trans: In the darkness of this world the Christians are set as light; as truth in the midst of lies; holiness in the midst of sin.

 

(1) Christians are Christ’s Presence on Earth.

 

Trans: Metaphor: He is equating the general properties of light ot the nature of the church.

 

“You are the light of the world” - Again, the “you” is emphatic: “you and you alone” “you and no one else.” Light is what the church is; no one and nothing else can fill this role.

If this phrase sounds familiar to you, it should: it is the very same phrase used to describe Jesus:

 

John 8:12; 12:46 - “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life’ … I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”

 

Luke 2:32 - “A light of revelation to the Gentiles …”

 

John 1:4 “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it”

 

When the prophets looked forward to the Messiah, they looked for One who would be characterized as light to the nations (Is. 42:6-7; 49:5-6).

Now the One who is the light is saying to His followers: “You are the light”

As Jesus Christ was the true light of the World, the truest and highest revelation of God, even God clothed with humanity. So, Christians are the reflection of Christ in the world. As the moon reflects the brightness of the sun, so Christians reflect the light of Christ to a world that lies in darkness.

The Church is Christ’s body on earth; we are His presence; His ambassadors. The world’s perception and knowledge of Christ is directly related to our testimony of Him.

Therefore, as Jesus was in the world to reveal God, so we are His means of revealing Himself to the world. Apart from the church, the world has no source of truth.

The true knowledge of God; of sin; salvation; righteousness; creation; eternity; is only known to the degree that the church is faithful to being light and accurately reflects the knowledge of God.

Acts 26:18 (v. 23) “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light” - the ministry of the apostle Paul

 

Trans: This is critical to grasp in order for us t o understand our mission, to understand our task in the world. Thus, the Lord is going to give 3 examples, or illustrations, to drive this point home. 2 are negative; 1 is positive.

 

(2) It is ridiculous to hide the truth of Christ.

 

Trans: The Lord is going to illustrate this point by giving two illustrations.

(#1) “A city set on a hill is not able to be hidden” - light on a hill is impossible to hide. This is a simple statement of fact.

Often, cities were built on hills as a means of protection, but it also made them very visible.

This is not brain-surgery; not meant to be overly deep; does not take a great deal of insight or exegetical skill to determine his meaning.

There are two angles of the Lord’s statement.

(A) Houses were often built of white limestone that glistened in the sun, and could be seen from miles around. Most likely there were such cities in view even as Jesus spoke these words.

*(B) The more probable picture is that of the shining light of a city on a hill during the night. If you have ever been camping or far out into the wilderness you can picture the scene. The land of Palestine and Israel is very open and mostly barren, and at that time, with the absence of modern city lights, it grew very dark at night. Therefore, a light could be seen from miles and miles away.

This is to say that this is basic common knowledge, to think otherwise would be absurd.

Here is a reflection of His previous statement regarding the saltless salt. The only way the city can be hidden is if, in fact, there is no light in it. This would be the case of the Pharisees, the then external and hypocritical religion of Judaism (**[turn to] Rom. 2:17-24).

So, it is possible to have a form of godliness, religion, yet no nothing of its saving and transforming power. For these is it possible to be a dead, lightless building hidden by the darkness of night.

But His point here is: for those who are in the kingdom who do have the life of Christ in them, you cannot be hidden by your very nature you stand out in the world.

 

Trans: Based on this understanding, He is going to give another illustration:

 

(#2) “nor do they light a lamp and place it under the measure” - Just as the idea of city on hill being hidden it contrary to fact, so is the idea of men lighting a lamp and then concealing the light. It would be like putting a cap on the end of a flashlight while camping. It doesn’t make sense; it is a ridiculous idea; it defeats the purpose. This doesn’t need a great deal of explanation, the point is painfully obvious.

The Lord is simply using two absurd scenarios to make a point, which is simply this: Those who are in My Kingdom have My life within them among a dark world; it is absurd then to think that this light should or could be concealed. It is totally contrary to reason that you would want to hide Me from men.

Far too often we as Christians are like this: we have a message of hope, the only message of salvation; the message of forgiveness of sin and the coming wrath of God. It is truth; it comes on the blood of martyrs; it comes authenticated by the Spirit of God; it comes with a prophesied and resurrected Savior; and yet we are to often intimidated.

Why? Fear of man (1 Cor. 4:11-13; Acts 17 “idle babbler”); fear of consequences. Self-protection (10-12).

But God has placed in the world to be light to the world. Again, Christians are the world’s only source of light.

The warning: God will judge the church that fails to be the light she is called to be. Rev. 1:12-13, 20, 2:5 (a- doctrine w/o love; b- tolerate false doctrine c- be lukewarm).

 

Trans: The Lord now makes this transition with the illustration:

 

“BUT place it upon the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house and it illumines all those in the house” -

Lk. 8:16 (11:33) is the parallel: “Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lamp stand, in order that those who come in may see the light.”

This is a beautiful illustration: As a lamp is set on a lamp stand in the house to light the room, so the church, God’s people, are placed in the world to be light to the world.

Just as the lamp-stand present in the temple:

 

Heb. 9:2 “There was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place”

 

The light symbolized truth and holiness. Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of the symbol.

 

Christians are commanded to be light

 

“So let your light shine before men” - the Lord of the church is making a demand on His people. He is confronting His people, He is confronting us with a clear command, exercising His Lordship and authority. It is a command that He expects us to obey.

Though believers are “light” by nature, it is also something we are commanded to be, that is to be active to live out and proclaim and pursue who we are in Christ.

We are to recognize our position and then act upon it.

 

Prov. 4:18 “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.”

 

“They may see your good works” - genuine salvation produces visible fruit that flows out of a transformed nature. Here that fruit is defined as “good works.”

That a genuine believer will have works is an assumed reality. Scripture does not recognize any profession of faith that is not attended by visible fruit.

 

Acts 26:20 - “works appropriate to repentance”

 

Eph. 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ jesus for good works, which gGod prepared before hand so that we would walk in them.”

 

“good” - the term used has the sense of beauty, desirableness. A good illustration of this is found in:

 

Matt. 26:10 Speaking to the woman who poured perfume in His feet and them washed them with her hair, an expression of love and devotion, and after the disciples commented on the waste, Jesus said “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me.”

These are “works” that are the fruit of the Spirit, works produced from the inner heart and character described in the beatitudes; works that come with the flavor of the character of Jesus Christ, with all sincerity, humility, gentleness, wisdom, and love.

These “good works” are not just what we do. The Pharisees did many works, even religious works, but they were not “good works”:

 

Matt. 6:1, 5, 16 [Turn To]

 

Matt. 23:5 - “They do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments … Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law; justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”

 

Therefore, “good works” is not simply doing, but it is doing with the right motivation, doing for the right reasons, doing from a desire to obey and honor Christ. Those “works” marked by sincerity, humility, genuine faith: the beatitude heart.

 

What are some of these “good works” that adorn the gospel?

 

(1) Godly Character: Eph. 5:8-9 “You are light in the Lord … all goodness, righteousness, and truth” In other words, it is all that manifest new life in Christ.

Look back at: 4:24. (Go through qualities).

(2) Not Complaining: *Phil. 2:15 - “do all things without grumbling and complaining … crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights”

(3) Meeting the needs of others: James 1:27; 2:14 (1 John 3:14-19)

(4) Christian Love: John 15:8

 

This shows that God intends our lives to be examined and judged by unbelievers. Our lives are the best witness to our testimony of Christ. The “believe what I say not what I do” is both prideful and foolish. It is equally wrong however, to say that our lives are the clearest gospel many people will ever see.

 

Titus 2:7-14 “In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds with purity in doctrine , dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. Urge bond slaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, no argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to lie sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age”

 

Sometimes we just want to sit back – and say, “If anyone ask me for the hope that is in me…” well that is fine to a degree (and sometimes that is the right thing to do) but it can be used as an excuse for the fear of man, cowardice, and laziness.

No, Christians acts apart from the gospel message is nothing other than moralism - and that can be found in many religions and promotes self-righteousness. No, it must be both; the life (salt) with the message (light).

Salt without light is nothing but moralism; light without salt is nothing but hypocrisy. The life and the character of a person become the foundation and vehicle through which message (with is data, objective, doctrine) comes and is given validity.

 

How do we “Let our light shine”?

 

Trans: Light is the fruit of the ministry of the Word of God in our lives. So, there are really two components to this: Obeying & Proclaiming.

 

(A) Obeying the Word

Strong parallel here with the word of God in 2 Pet. 1:19.

 

2 Tim. 3:15-17 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate equipped for every good work

 

Ps. 119:105 - “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, I have sworn and I will confirm it, that I will keep Your righteous ordinances”

 

Prov. 6:23 “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light”

 

The light that shines is righteousness, righteousness is produced through the ministry of the Word. Therefore, the church and believers shine in as much as they know and reflect the word of God in their lives. Only through the ministry of the Word are we conformed to His likeness.

As a church, this makes our mandate easy: we are to be about the Word of God. But it is not just equipping, it is also proclaiming. Remember light reveals: we are also His ambassadors (Rom. 10:14 “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher”)

 

(B) Proclaiming the Word

 

The church shines in as much as she is a vehicle for the knowledge of God’s through His Word (2 Tim. 4:1-5).

Look back at 4:15-16 - notice the message that immediately follows: “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” The message of the Kingdom, the light of Christ was encapsulated in the call to repentance.

The message of Christ, the gospel is the only message whereby a person may be saved: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other Name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

We are light in as much as we are faithful to God’s Word. We as individuals and as a church must believe this. If we do not, then we will compromise the message and so dim the light and be less effective for the purposes of God.

**1 John 4:1-6 (speaking to the church!) -

Those who are of God listen to God and His servants (John 16); those who are not do not.

This also shows the utter foolishness of the church growth and emergent and everything else philosophy that seeks to hide the light of the gospel, the light of Christ, the light of the truth under the bushel of pragmatism, compromise, worldly wisdom and philosophy.

Look, those who are called by God will come to the light, those who are not will not.

That the church is light to a dead world echos the sovereignty of God: only those who the Lord grants eyes to see (2 Cor. 4:6) will be able to see the light. Otherwise it is like the sun rising in a graveyard. The sun gives the same light that shines on all, but only those who are alive, who have eyes to see benefit from it.

The Pharisees saw the light, but did not believe in the light because they could not see; they were of their father the devil (John 8:44); and the loved the darkness (John 3:19).

But those in whom the Lord does grant understanding: faith and the true knowledge of Christ into the heart of His elect. What was previously not understood becomes understandable; what was previously not believed, is believed; what was previously not loved, is loved (Act 9:1f is a fantastic illustration of this).

If a person does not come to the light of the Word they are:

Either unregenerate and have no spiritual organ or capacity to even want the light and rejoice in it.

Secondly, there may be a genuine believer who is so compromised in their spiritual values that they choose the superficial over the important, which is the ministry of the Word of God.

In either case, those who are of God come to the light of the Word, those who are not, do not. Our mission as a church and as Christians is to boldly, uncompromisingly, hold up the light of the Word, the light of the gospel of Christ in its fullness - Repentant faith, unto salvation; salvation in the light of wrath and judgment; true test of salvation, in light of perfect and completed grace in Christ.

 

Ultimate Goal of the Christian’s Witness: Glory of God.

 

“your Father” -

 

“We are so accustomed to referring to Godd as ‘the Father’ that we do not stop to reflect that this is a revolutionary way of thinking of the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy’ (Isa. 57:15). Jesus altered forever the way we think of God.” (Morris).

 

Those who know God as Father through Christ know that all things are from, through, and to Him; and desire that He alone be glorified.

It is the only right motivation for obedience. An unregenerate person will not be motivated by this objective - (i.e. motivated apart from self-righteousness [Phil. 3:3f]).

Jesus will later address those “good works” that are in fact hypocrisy and will bring only judgment and self-deception (7:21). But those motivated as a genuine response to who God is and what God has done in Jesus Christ and a real desire to see Him receive all the glory.

*1 Pet. 4:11makes this key: God is glorified through Jesus Christ as His children employ their spiritual gifts in service of one another.

In what way will an unbeliever glorify God for the “good works” of His children?

By acknowledging their righteousness (1 Pet. 4 “hope that is in you”).

By the reality of the fruit being verified on the day of Christ’s revelation & judgment

1 Pet. 2:12 “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

 

CLOSE:

Revelation 21:21-27

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