Shining As Light
Sermon by Rev. George Darby, pastor of Calvary Church, Navarre, Minnesota.
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”—Matthew 5:14–16
“No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.”—Luke 8:16–17.
See also Mark 4:21–22 and Luke 11:33.
I have read of a little worm about a half-inch long, native to New Zealand, that is capable of emitting a pinpoint of light. When visitors who are taken into the cave where they have their habitation remain silent for a few minutes, these creatures begin to light up one at a time until millions of them give off an iridescent glow, creating a fantastic sort of light sufficient by which to read a newspaper. I believe that in the light-giving function of these little animals they suggest to us that collective witness and testimony of the people of God that Jesus had in mind when He said, “Ye are the light of the world.” Elsewhere He spoke concerning Himself when He said, “I am the light of the world,” but He qualified that in John 9:3 by saying, “as long as I am in the world.” The light shone in the darkness and the darkness overcame it not, until such time that He voluntarily delivered Himself into the hands of men to be crucified. Thank God, as long as He was in the world, He was the light of the world.
But now He is gone! And the world by consequence is dark; in one sense, darker than before He came. “This is the condemnation that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” But the darkness of this dispensation in which the Sun of Righteousness is absent from the world is the occasion for His people to shine as lights in the world. The darkness about us today is deepening. We know by statements that are made to us by leaders in all realms of life that men grope as blind men in the dark. We have lost our way, our sense of direction. This it is, however, that gives the people of God responsibility to shine as lights in the world, for the only light that is worthy of the name is that which has been communicated to us by God and which we are responsible to transmit to a dark world. We read in Isaiah 60 that there is coming a day when darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people. That prophecy, I believe, has particular and specific application to the Great Tribulation, but I suggest to you we can see even now the deepening of the darkness about us that presages the coming of that day of tribulation. When the rapture occurs, all that represents divine light in this world will be withdrawn; then what a dark place this will be, and the word of the prophet will find its fulfillment. Meanwhile, you and I are here with a function and responsibility to shine as lights in the world. In these passages of Scripture we have suggested four things concerning our ministry as “light bearers” in the world of darkness.
First, the supply of light. The Lord Jesus represents the Candle as being “lighted” from without. The light we desperately need today is that which comes from without and from above. The lights of reason and learning and science have failed us and we find ourselves in a situation of darkness and dismay that can only be relieved by the shining of the light that is from God himself. We call ours an age of enlightenment, but I wonder how much of the “light” of our modern civilization would find definition in Jesus’ words that “if the light that is in you be darkness how great is that darkness”? But here is light that is first of all the light of revelation. In Isaiah 8:20 we have a rather caustic reference to those who kindle sparks and walk in the light of their own fire. Concerning all such the Word of God declares, “they shall lie down in sorrow.” And because men have rejected the light of revelation that has come into the world in Jesus Christ they are walking in the sparks of their own kindling and finding their way into ever deepening darkness. The unique and perfect revelation is the light that shone in the face of Jesus Christ.
It is not only the revelation that is associated with this light, but there is regeneration, too. Proverbs 20:27 refers to the spirit of man as the candle or lamp of the Lord which searches all the inward parts. The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord. Just as a candle is before its light so is the soul of man in sin benighted; it has no light, it gives no light until it is lighted with light from above and from without. God, says the Apostle, has shined in our hearts to give light of the knowledge of the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
The light of revelation, the light of regeneration—and the light of reflection. We behold the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in Jesus Christ and we have this treasure in earthen vessels. What for? That Christ might be revealed and reflected through us. This is the objective, the divine purpose for which we have been enlightened, that through us Jesus Christ might be magnified and manifested to a world that does not know Him. Surely this is the hunger and yearning of every truly regenerated heart. In the closing verses of Exodus 25 we have the specifications of the golden candlestick to be placed in the tabernacle of God. One of the interesting things there concerning that vessel of light is that when the lights were placed in the candlestick they were to be so arranged that they would cast their light over against the face of it. The purpose was to reveal the beauty of the lampstand itself. God has communicated heavenly light to our souls, not that we might be seen, but that Jesus Christ in all the beauty of His holiness might be made manifest to a world that is dark and ignorant concerning Him.
Not only does He have something to say about the light supply, but about the light set. “No man when he has lighted a candle puts it under a bushel or under a bed but setteth it (on a candlestick).” Here is a tremendous, practical truth: God ordains and designates the place and sphere in which each of us is to be a witness for Him. The story of Gideon in Judges 7 illustrates this when he ordered his men with their earthen vessels containing a lamp and with the trumpets, to stand every man in his place ’round about the camp. At a given signal the vessels were broken and the lights burst forth creating confusion to the enemy and bringing victory to the hosts of God. God’s pattern for His people is that you and I might be shining, bearing witness for Jesus Christ. The candle does not choose where it shall be set or in what sphere it shall shine; neither does the child of God determine for himself where his sphere of testimony and service is to be. That is determined by the sovereignty and overruling providence of God. Where God puts you is the place He wants you to shine for Him. It is not for us to say, “I could be so much more effective a Christian if I were in other circumstances.”
My friend, don’t say it is hard to be a testimony because there is no one else in sympathy with you; that is why God has put you there. He has set you on His lampstand in that very place because that is just where the light is needed.
Another interesting avenue of inquiry concerns the word suppressed. In connection with that golden lampstand referred to earlier, God speaks of “snuffers” and “snuff dishes.” There were times when the wicks of the lamps had to be trimmed and cleansed in order that the light might shine. But while God appointed “snuffers” He appointed no “extinguishers.” The lamps were to be kept burning. It is the Devil who furnishes the extinguishers and Jesus tells us in these passages what some of them are. The first is fear. No man lights a candle, then puts it in a secret place. These secret disciples of the Lord, you know, who go to church on Sunday but don’t want anyone to know about it on Monday. Do you remember Shakespeare’s Falstaff? “Were it not for these vile guns I would have been a soldier.” Some who would be soldiers of the Lord think of the world training its guns of criticism and ridicule and scorn and social ostracism, and shrink back as one whose candle has been lighted and put in a secret place.
The second of these instruments the Devil uses is what we might call fullness of bread, the symbol of materialism. Has your testimony been doused under things that Jesus called “the cares of this life”? Once you were a bright shining witness for the Lord but today you are in big business and your witness has gone under. Is your light under a bushel? Or is it under a bed, which speaks of the flesh, of indulgence, of catering to all the desires of the self-life?
Just a word about the light seen, for that is the purpose of the light: that it might be seen, that somebody might see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ through your life and mine that there might be somebody in Heaven who will say, “I caught the knowledge of eternal life and Jesus Christ through your life and testimony and through your witness.”
This is the challenge of the hour: that our light as individuals might so shine forth that men might see our good works, might see the reality of Christ in us, and seeing might glorify our Father which is in Heaven and come to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Saviour. Shine!