Light of the World I
A Message by Pastor Eric Chang.
We read together Mt. 5:14-16 as we continue in our study of the Word of God.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
The Function of the Church Is to Be the Light of the World
That is this passage of the Word of God saying to us? What is the Lord Jesus saying to us? When you look at the Word of God, can you see the spiritual riches in it? There is a depth in the riches of God’s Word that to the casual eye, they never see, and to the spiritually blind, they never see even so much as one beam of its light, and it is light that we are talking about today. The Lord Jesus says that we have an enormous function as Christians: in this world, we are the light of the world. I wonder what that means to you? Look at the church today and ask yourself, “Does that look like the light of the world?” What has happened to the church? What has gone wrong with the church, not only in Montreal, but in too many places.
The Lord Jesus said, “You! You! That is, all of you who are disciples, who call yourselves Christians, you are the light! Not only of the church, but you are the light of the world! I have given you a task to do. I have given you a tremendous mission to accomplish. Let God’s light shine out into the world!” What a glorious mission! What a responsibility has been entrusted to us! The Lord Jesus did not say that there are many lights in the world. He said, “You are the light.” Singular - one light! If one light does not shine, from where is the world going to get its light? If the light does not come from you, from us as a church, where is the light going to come from? How are people going to know God?
Face God’s Judgement or Stand Out from Darkness as Light
We had in England many power cuts. It had become a sort of reputation in our part of England to have power cuts. So you are going along and suddenly all the lights go out! You are sitting in the darkness, groping for a candle. Around here in Montreal, there seems to be power cuts, too, from time to time, so it is not limited to England. Think about it: How do you have light? Power - power cuts! I think that spiritually, the church has suffered an enormous power cut. The light does not work and the world sits in darkness. I tell you this, brothers and sisters, God is going to hold the church responsible. He is going to say on that Day, “I sent you out as light into the world, and the world sits in darkness.” I think it is going to be more terrible in the Judgement for the church than for the unbelievers since the latter did not have the light to see. They still have an excuse of some sort. What kind of excuse has the church to present? If you are in the church of God and you are not giving forth light, you had better not turn up at the Judgement. But I do not know how you are going to do the trick by not turning up in the Judgement. Because God is going to require their blood at your hands! God said to Ezekiel, “If you do not warn these people and they perish, I am going to require their blood at your hands. If you warn them and they perish, your responsibility is finished.” But the church has been darkness rather than light. And it is time for us to weep that God may make us to be light. “To whom much has been given, much is required.” Much has been given to the church!
Light Exposes the Darkness
What the church needs today is not a word of comfort. What we need is a word of judgement. The church has become weak, corrupt, sinful, rotten to the core in too many places. And the people in the church say, “Give us a word of comfort!” I am not a prophet of peace. As in the OT, it says that [false] prophets come and say, “’Peace, peace’, when there is no peace.” [Jer. 6:14 & 8:11] But the [true] prophets of the OT rebuked Israel day and night, until the people hated them. The Israelites said to the [true] prophets, “Why are your messages so severe?” They took Jeremiah and threw him down in a pit and hoped he would die there because they did not like his message; he rebuked them day and night. But his word was truth. They asked, “Why don’t you give us a word of comfort?” Get first right with God and the comfort will be yours!
But then, if I do not warn you, when you stand on that Day in judgement before God, I would not like to be there, when God’s wroth will turn upon those people who call themselves Christians. He would say, “You dare to represent My name? You dare to call yourself Christian? You took My name in vain?” Oh, brothers and sisters, it frightens me.
Light Is Total
When the Revelation says these people will call upon the rocks to hide them, most translators, most interpreters say that that refers to the non-Christians. Oh, yeah? Sure there may be non-Christians. But I tell you, those who call for the rocks to hide them on that Day, a great proportion of them will be Christians - the ‘so-called’ Christians. That is why day after day, week after week, I preach about being a total Christian. Do you know that people have never heard such a message? I preached at a conference what it means to be a total Christian. The people were amazed. They were astonished. They asked, “What is this total Christian?” as though it was something they had never heard before. I told them there is only one kind of Christian - that is a total Christian. The Bible does not know any other kind of Christian.
You see, light is total! Look at the light. Is there a patch of blackness there? Light is either light or there is no light, which is darkness! You cannot have half a light. You try and cut a candlelight in half and see if you can produce half a candlelight or a quarter of a candlelight. Take a bulb and see if you can produce half a bulblight. Chop a bulb in half and see if it will work. A light is either whole or it is nothing. It is either shining or it does not shine. There is no way to be a bit here and a bit there. This thing we must really get clear. If God is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all. God does nothing by halves. It is all or nothing. That is the way it is. You look at your Bible, and you try to show me somewhere where it is different.
The Light Must Be Manifested in Our Life
Let us look at Ephesians Chapter 5. What do we read there? Paul says in Eph. 5:8: “for once you were darkness, but now you are light”. “...once you were darkness”, he is saying to the Ephesian Christians, “but now you are light”. He did not say, “You have become a little brighter than before. You have become a little bit more ethical, a little bit more moral; you have become a bit more pleasant; you have become more polite.” He is not talking about this external behavior; he is talking about what is inside of the person. Once, inside of you, you were darkness! Your whole character was darkness, “but now you are light in the Lord”.
Well, let us read the entire passage so that we get the context. Eph. 5:1 says this: “Therefore be imitators of God”. This is very relevant to our verse because God is light and we are called to be light. 1 Jn. 1:5 says, “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” And Jesus says, “...you are light”. You see, we become - when we become new creatures, i.e., when we are born again - we become like Him; like Father, like son. Thus, we are to be imitators of God. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” [Eph. 5:1-2]
But notice: “But fornication” - immorality “and all impurity or covetousness” - love of money - “must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints.” [v3] I hear that these things are being named among Christians, that these things do happen among Christians. Paul says this kind of thing must not even be named among you; it should never ever have the slightest possibility of happening. V4 says, “Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity,” - levity is behaving in a light and foolish manner, i.e., not solemn, not sober - “which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving.” V5 begins with, “Be sure of this”.
I want to drive home this point of Paul’s words. If you say salvation is not of works, okay, but be sure that your works are the works of light, because the works will prove what you are. Do not think that because salvation is not of works, it does not matter if you sin. If you commit adultery or fornication, if you steal or rob, you cheat and you lie, do not think that you are going to be saved because you believe in Jesus. Never! You commit sin and you are out, unless you repent quickly of it and see that it does not ever happen again. And be prepared to take the punishment - the chastisement - of the Lord upon you. God will forgive, but He will also chastise, believe me. Do not think to dare to sin lightly in the church! The church is to be light in the world.
So we read this in Eph. 5:5: “Be sure of this, that no fornicator” - immoral - “or impure man, or one who is covetous, (that is, an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” V6 reads: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Let nobody deceive you and tell you, “It does not matter as a Christian if you sin, because it is not of works. We are saved by grace and through faith. So it does not matter if you commit fornication or adultery, or steal, or rob or anything else. It does not matter; we are saved by grace.” Paul says, “Don’t let anybody deceive you with false and empty words.” We are dealing with the living God who is a consuming fire. The writer to the Hebrews tells us not to play around with the living God, that if we want to play around, we are to play around somewhere else, but not with God, for He is “a consuming fire.” [Heb. 12:29] You are not going to be saved by faith through grace if you are going to be immoral. Paul says there is no such person that is going to find any place in the kingdom of God.
Eph. 5:7 reads, “Therefore do not even associate with such people.” These people who are immoral, impure - he says if they call themselves Christians - do not have anything to do with them. We are fighting to establish the light in the world, the reputation of Christ, the reputation of the Gospel. Do not have anything to do with such people.
Now as we go into the riches of this passage in God’s Word (I have so many pages of notes here), it is a problem to know how to get through all this, but I want to just share some of the main points. We have seen that light stands out from the darkness. We have seen also that light exposes the darkness, as the prophets exposed the sins of Israel, and they get hated. True Christians are never too well-loved by those whose sins are exposed. I told you last time that there are some people in this world who will gladly poison me, shoot me, kill me by any means they can think of, because their sins have been exposed. I have been, through the years, by the grace of God, not a vote-catcher. I do not go out to win anybody’s votes. I am not here to please men but to please God. As a result of this, those who love their sins more than God have too often hated me to the core. I do not desire their friendship or their love either; I desire their salvation.
Darkness Is Overcome by the Light
Thirdly there is another thing we need to notice. It is this: that the darkness is overcome by the light. Darkness cannot win! You switch on the light; the darkness fades. The darkness cannot resist the light and stand up against it. The light penetrates whether the darkness likes it or not - it penetrates into the darkness. So the Christian light and witness must penetrate and overcome.
The Christian must stand out like light in such a way that the darkness really takes notice. I mentioned also last week that today, the world does not need to take notice of the church. There is nothing to notice. The church is so mediocre. It is so weak. It has so little light - if there is any light - that the world does not have to take any notice, let alone have the church overcome the world. We have to stand out in this generation as something different. If people live with you, do they notice that something is different about you? If not, then there is something wrong about my life or your life. They must notice that you stand out different from other men.
You do not have to stand out just because you say to a person, “Listen, have you believed in Jesus?” and hammer him away. Everybody can talk. When it says “We are the light of the world”, Jesus is not talking about talk. Everybody knows how to talk, including the false pastor, the false prophet, the false teacher, the false Christian worker. They all know how to talk. That is how they got their position: by talk. It is the life that counts. We are light! The Lord Jesus goes on to say, “that they may see your good works”, i.e., the quality of your life. Paul again and again appealed to the quality of his life as evidence that he was genuine. He said, “You know how I lived among you. Did I cheat you of any money? Did I take anything from you? Stand up and say it in front of the people.”
When Samuel challenged the people of Israel at the end of his ministry there, he said, “If I have wronged any man, let him stand up and say so now in front of all the congregation of Israel.” What did Israel say? The people said, “No, you have proved yourself righteous, a servant of God.” Our lives must stand out as light, not talking. Many people think that they have proved themselves true Christians because they have talked. They have gone somewhere, held the Bible and said, “Do you believe in Jesus?” It is very good to witness, but please do not witness until your life corresponds to your words. Otherwise, next time, when they see you doing something, they say, “That guy was the fellow who opened the Bible and was talking. He has a big mouth, but I do not know about the size of his heart.” We must stand out! And when we say that our lives stand up to examination, we are not boasting because we cannot live that kind of life except by the power we just talked about. Light does not shine [on its own power]. It cannot boast, “Look how wonderful I am. I am light!” You just cut the power and the light goes out. We have this light because God’s power operates in us. That is why we must stand out as distinct. If God’s power is in you, whether you like it or not, you are going to be different.
Testimony of Light Penetrating Darkness
I was on a ship coming over from Hong Kong many years ago when I went to Europe. On that ship there were only a handful of passengers because it was a freighter. One of the passengers was one of the most evil men I have ever met in my life. He was all of these things we saw just now: he was a fornicator, an adulterer, a deceiver and a swearer. He could not say two sentences without cursing and swearing. He could not say a sentence without swearing! He was vile and vicious and proud of it. He used to boast to me of his sins. I just looked at him, straight into his eyes. I did not preach to him; I did not lecture to him; I said absolutely nothing, except when he was taking the name of Jesus and swearing in the name of God. I said, “My friend, do you mind? It happens to hurt me when you talk like this.” We sat at the same table, you see.
This fellow was a doctor, a man of enormous size, a glutton and a winebibber, if there ever was one. I mean, his central diameter, I think he could put six of me around there in the middle. His enormous circumference was there. The language that went between him and his wife was enough to burst your eardrums, right there at table. His wife would say, “When we get to Vienna, you’ll buy me a sports car, won’t you?” His wife was old enough to be his granddaughter. She was about 19 or 20. He was in his 60’s. (This is his latest wife; I do not know how many others he had had before that.) She married him, of course, just for his money. He had plenty of money; that is why he was saying these things.
She would often say to him at table, “Look at your ugly face.” I cannot say he was the picture of beauty, but I mean one does not expect a wife to say that to her husband at table. He would turn around quite casually and say, with a lot of swearing words in-between, “Well, you didn’t marry me for my face. You married me for my money, didn’t you?” This sort of conversation would go on through the mealtime. It was absolutely disgusting what things were being said all the time.
Yet something [happened]. As I said, the light hit the darkness and somehow I made him feel very uncomfortable, just by being at the same table with him. I could not help being what I am, because I, by the grace of God, have been lit up. The Holy Spirit has come into my life that I shine. I cannot help it! It is no glory to me; it is His power. This man is darkness; he disliked the light. It hurt him; and yet he admired it. In a way he admired the light enormously.
I remember one day, I was standing on the Flag Bridge of the ship, the highest bridge of the ship. I was watching the ship plowing through the sea. He came up beside me and talked with me. He asked me many questions about God. And then after that, he said to me, “Eric, I don’t know what it is about you, but there’s something about you that amazes me.”
I said, “Really?”
He said, “Yeah! It really amazes me.”
I said, “Well, it’s not me; it’s God working in me. If you want to find the answer, you had better get to God.” He was beginning to get fascinated by the light. The light was beginning to overcome the darkness. He came to my cabin one day and said that he wanted to talk to me some more. I offered him a John’s gospel. He gladly received the gospel and said, “I’ll certainly read it. Sure! Sure, I’m going to read it.”
Imitating God as Light
This is how we need to stand out in the world, not because we are good, but God’s power must operate if you are a Christian. Don’t have any false humility! Stop being humble in a false way! Paul pointed to his life and said, “Look at me. Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” Where is the Christian who dares to talk like that today? “See who?” What do you think? Why does Paul dare to talk like that? “Because the power,” he said, “is not of me. It is of Him! If you see the light in me, you follow me, as I follow Christ.” What is the false humility we want today? What we want is to let the light shine out, [as if to say,] “There is the light! See it! Look at it! That is what God has done in my life. That’s what God can do in your life.” We are to be light in the world that challenges and overcomes the darkness. That is how people come to Christ.
Let me tell you something. If you are a wishy-washy sort of Christian, the only thing you can produce is the same thing like yourself. Total Christians produce total Christians. That is what we need today. Why is the church so full with wishy-washy Christians? Because they were brought in by other wishy-washy Christians! They were all the same thing. If the church were full of total Christians, the others who come in will also become total Christians. Light kindles light. That is what we need. It sets fire to the others.
Light - Giving Itself by Dying
[We have to ask another question then. How does light function? Before we answer this, do you recall what I preached on last week? ] It is about salt. The question is not: What does salt do? That is part of the question, but it is not the most important part. How does salt function? That is the part that nobody has ever thought of asking, for some strange reason or another. We saw that salt functions by its dying, by its being dissolved, by its giving itself away. We saw that salt cannot do anything without its giving itself away, without its dying. Now how does light function? Think about it. How does light function? In the same way! In exactly the same way! This is the self-giving principle of the Word of God. It functions in exactly the same way.
Think of the light. In those days, the light was an oil lamp. There is a wick there. The oil is usually olive oil. Olive oil, in the Bible, represents the Holy Spirit. The wick is inside the olive oil. The light, when it is lit, burns up what? It burns up the wick, and it burns up the oil. The Lord Jesus did not say, “You are the lamp of the world”, did he? A lamp may not have any light. You have a lamp and it does not do anything - until it is lit. He said, “You are the light of the world.” Light must mean fire - the fire which burns the wick and consumes the oil. Notice the spiritual lesson here. Jesus sends us to be the light of the world. The power is His. The oil is His. The Holy Spirit comes from Him. But there is one humble element that is needed in the light. The humble element is the wick. The wick! What happens to the wick in order to give forth light? You see what happens to it? It is burned up, consumed, burned away. Slowly by slowly the wick burns down, down, down. The wick dies to give forth light. Do you know why there is so little light in the church today? Because there are so few self-giving, self-dying Christians! If the wick does not die, there will be no light.
Look at the electric bulb. It is the same principle. The electric bulb there will not burn without power. So, replace the oil of the oil lamp by the power - the electricity. Replace the wick by that element inside the bulb. Do you know that that element in the bulb is burning away? It is dying as that light is shining. It is dying. A day comes that it is burned out. One day you look at it and you see it is black; it is burned out; it is broken; it is finished. All these lights are designed to burn maybe for 500 hours, maybe for 1000 hours. Some bulbs that you can buy today are called long-life bulbs. They last a little bit longer, but they also burn out eventually. The elements inside burn out - both the element and whatever that is contained in it.
Christian Life Burns Out for God
So in the same way the Christian, unless he is prepared to burn out for Christ, is not going to be light. No, no he is not going to be light. This is the important element. Why does your life not give forth light? It is because you are not willing to burn up. You do not want to burn up. No, you do not want to burn out. And if you do not burn out, you are not prepared to die - in the process of witnessing - there will never be light.
Do you understand this principle, brothers and sisters? This is the vital principle, the preciousness of the Lord’s teaching. We only live by dying. As the seed dies, it brings forth life. As we die, we bring forth light. That is to say, we are being burned out. Somebody called John Sung “a flame for God”. That’s right! Well said! He burned out! We all know that he burned out for God. This wick, this me, this body is being burned out day by day. I think I am burned out quite a bit already judging by my present condition. If you have ever served the Lord day after day for anything like a few days, the sheer exhaustion of it is incredible. You know that I have taught in school. I have been a teacher and I can teach several hours a day and it does not affect me. But preaching the Gospel is nothing like teaching. When you teach, you do not burn. When I preach the Gospel, I burn up. The energy that is drained out of me is astonishing. You feel yourself burned, exhausted, worn out - physically - at the end of it. Are you willing to pay the price of being burned out? Financially? Burned out in terms of your time? Burned out in terms of your health? Burned out in terms of everything you have to offer? Then you will be light! The Lord Jesus sent us out into the world to burn, to be the light of the world. No fire, no light!
Light Is Not Lit to Be Covered
In the next verse, v15, the Lord Jesus says that one does not light a lamp to hide it under a bushel, but he sets it up on a table or on a lampstand so that everybody can see. If the God you believe in is there like a heavenly grandfather - a grandfather in heaven - just to give material blessing mostly to you, that kind of a God I do not see in the Bible. God blesses us with every spiritual blessing, yes, not for you to enjoy, just selfishly there, but to send you forth to shine in the world as light. That is our task. Go out and shine! And then notice this, and here we have to close, for our time is gone.
The Lord Jesus said nobody lights a lamp and covers it. Who ever heard of lighting a lamp and covering it? If the light is covered, do you think God covered the light? God did not cover any light. It is we who covered the light. Why do you cover a light, do you know? Why would you ever cover a light? What would happen if you cover a light? Do you know what happens to it? You have an oil lamp there and you cover the light - put a bowl on top of it. What happens to the oil lamp? Well, you do not have to be a genius to know that. You do not have to study advanced physics to know that. When the oxygen is burned up under there, what happens to the lamp? It goes out. The light will be quenched. That is why Paul warned the Christians “Do not quench the Spirit”. [1 Thess. 5:19] And do not congratulate yourself that for the moment your life is shining, as to say, “Hurrah! I am good! My light is shining!” Yes, but keep on shining. Do not let any sin or disobedience or evil or temptation, whatever it may be, cover the light. You cover the light and in due time, it will go out, and you will be in the darkness. Be very careful, brothers and sisters!
Search Our Hearts If We Are Functioning as Light
But our time is gone. I pray that God will enable you to see the richness of His Word and His message. Let His word challenge you into the depths of your heart to ask yourself, “Am I a Christian?” You say, “You always make us feel uncomfortable. I do not know why I come back. Every time I hear your preaching, I don’t know whether I am a Christian or not”. I do not want to make life difficult for you. My task is simply to tell you what the Bible says, what the Lord Jesus taught. You decide in the light of His teaching, firstly, whether what I have said is God’s Word. Discern for yourself. You do not have to believe my words just like that. Compare the scriptures. Search the Word. And decide, “What he said, is it the Word of God?” That is the first step. Secondly, when you have seen that it is the Word of God, then say, “What am I going to do? Do I match up to the teaching? Am I a real Christian? Does my life match up to it?”
It is not what you do; it is what you are that we are talking about. So do not try and escape the issue by saying, “Well, I will go and preach the Gospel now”. That is not the point we are getting at. There are many people who preach the Gospel for the wrong reasons. They are not total Christians. It is not what you do, but what you are that we are talking about. You first become a total Christian, and then what God wants you to do, He will show you. That is what we are talking about. Let God’s Word speak to every heart!
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church