In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses two powerful metaphors to describe His people: He calls them salt and light. Both of these substances are valuable, and both are useful; however, they are vastly different in how they approach their respective functions.
Salt is hidden; light is obvious. Salt works secretly; light works openly. Salt works from within; light works from without. Salt speaks of the indirect influence of the gospel; light pictures its direct communication.
Both salt and light have the ability to alter their world. So does the Christian! Perhaps that is why Jesus used these common, everyday images to describe His people and the influence they are to have in the world.
I. THE POWER OF THIS LIGHT
Let’s look at a few ways light affects our world:
A. Light conquers darkness. Wherever there is the least bit of light, darkness is forced to flee. The same is true in the spiritual realm (Ps. 119:105, 130)—a godly Christian can bring rays of light into the darkest situation!
B. Light changes deadness. Trees burned in a forest fire sprout new leaves, and violets grow in the footprints of the flames. We know that the light of the gospel of grace brings life into our dead souls. Our hearts are warmed by the truth of the Word of God, and we are delivered from death and darkness by His light.
As we let our lights shine in a dark, dead world, the same phenomenon takes place. God uses the light of our witness and testimony to warm the dead sinner’s heart and to draw him or her to Jesus for salvation. Our light, which is really His light being reflected by us, is a means of bringing the life of heaven to the dead souls here on earth.
C. Light conditions dreariness. How many times have you seen days of gloomy, dreary weather suddenly brightened by the gleaming rays of the sun? How often have we felt the cold, chilling fingers of autumn instantly lose their grip as the sun brightens the sky overhead? We have all seen dreary days immediately transformed by the appearance of light.
This world can be a dreary place. In saying this, I am referring not to weather but to spiritual climate. But, however dark, dank, and dreary my life may be, when it is exposed to the light of the people of God, I am instantly brightened!
"THE CHURCH IS GOD'S APPOINTED AGENCY FOR THE SALVATION OF MEN. IT WAS ORGANIZED FOR SERVICE, AND ITS MISSION IS TO CARRY THE GOSPEL TO THE WORLD"
Ellen G. White, Christian Service, 15
II. THE PLACES OF THIS LIGHT
Since this light is so precious and powerful, where and how are we to let it be seen?
A. Through the light of an institution. Jesus refers to “a city set on a hill.” A city is not a single light but a collection of many lights. The cities in biblical times were often constructed of white limestone. The image of “a city on a hill” speaks of letting our lights shine as a community of faith. It refers to the influence of the church in the world around us. As a church, we let our light shine by our standards and our style of worship and by the things we represent.
You can know almost everything you need to know about a church by the preaching it has, the Bible it uses, the songs its members sing, and the activities they engage in. Like a city set on a hill, we cannot be hidden!
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is to be a city set on a hill. We are to be a vocal, visible, vibrant witness for the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of the world’s gathering darkness. God did not establish this church so that we could do our own thing and drift away from Him as many other churches have. He established this church to be a light for Him in the darkness of this place. Are we fulfilling our mission?
B. Through the light of an individual. Then, Jesus speaks of a candle. The word translated “candle” refers to ancient oil lamps. These were usually clay containers filled with olive oil in which was placed a piece of twisted flax to serve as a wick. Since most houses were windowless, an oil lamp was necessary for the occupants to be able to see. No one lit a lamp and hid it under a basket. To do so would have been foolish! The lamp was lit so that the people in the house could receive the light and see other objects and people in the room.
This verse speaks to the power of the individual believer’s witness. Just as a church has a testimony, so do you! Jesus saved us to be lights for Him.
This is our mandate (Mark 16:15). This is our mission (Acts 1:8). As an individual, are you fulfilling God’s call to be a light for Him? Don’t hide your light under a bushel!
In Luke 8:16, Jesus adds this phrase: “or, putteth it under a bed.” The bushel refers to the world of labor; the bed refers to the world of leisure. Jesus seems to be saying that some people are too busy to let their lights shine, while others are too lazy.
III. THE PURPOSE OF THIS LIGHT
Jesus tells us of the two-fold purpose of the light He has placed in our hearts:
A. It is a witness to the lost. When lost people see the light of Jesus shining through the lives of the redeemed, they will take notice. Jesus Christ really does possess the power to transform a broken life into a thing of immense beauty (Eph. 2:1-10)!
B. It is a witness to the Lord. There is no greater witness than a born-again believer reflecting the light of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no more powerful testimony than a life which displays the proof of His presence through the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23).
Just as light exists not to call attention to itself but to draw attention to the things it illuminates, our witness does not magnify what we have done. Our testimony is about a great God who loved us and saved us when we deserved damnation instead! Our purpose is not to make people look at what we do and say, “Wow, what great Christians!” No! We want them to see us and say, “They must serve a great God! I’d like to know Him, too!”
Are you a light for Jesus? Could you do better? Are there people in your life that you want to bring to the Lord? Whatever the need, respond to Him and let Him have His perfect way in your life!
General Conference Ministerial Association