Light of the World II
A Message by Pastor Eric Chang
Today we continue to look at the Lord’s teaching in His wonderful words of life in Matthew Chapter 5. Last week, we looked at Mt. 5:14, as we studied what the Lord Jesus was saying to us in the words, “You are the light of the world.” Today what we read in Mt. 5:14b-16, which we will study today, is this:
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.
There are enormous riches in here. I wonder whether when you look into the Word of God, you can see those riches. If not, then pray that when you study the Bible, God will give you eyes to see. “A city set on a hill cannot be hid.” That statement sounds obvious enough. “A city...on a hill cannot be hid.” What more is there to be said about that? Well, there is an awful lot more to be said about that.
What Is the City Set on a Hill?
First of all, the Lord Jesus is comparing the church. He is speaking to His disciples - His church - and He is saying to them, “You are like a city set upon a hill” - or you ought to be - “and such a city cannot be hidden”. In understanding the wonderful words of God, the wonderful teachings of Jesus, you have to understand what is behind it all. You must remember that the Lord Jesus was speaking to a people who, since they were very small, were brought up in the OT. They knew the Word of God very well. And so, we see here these words: “You are like a city set upon a hill”. What does that mean?
Well, firstly, we have already seen, very obviously, the church is compared to a city. But what more does it have to say to us than that? Do you know of a city set upon a hill? What kind of city is set upon a hill? What would strike His listeners immediately? I heard one of you say, “Jerusalem”. Exactly! Jerusalem was a city set upon a hill. Here we begin to follow the clues out. You have to put yourself into the position of the listeners, who were brought up on the OT. When they were knee high to a grasshopper, that is, when they were that small, they were taught already the OT. They went to the synagogue. They listened to the Bible being taught to them and their mother would have taught them. Even Timothy was said to have been taught about the Bible upon his mother’s knee. They were well versed. “A city set on a hill” - to the Jewish mind means: “Surely, there is only one city set upon a hill that is worth talking about, and that is Jerusalem.”
There is a lot more significance in this. If we turn to Isa. 2:2-3, you will see about this city set upon a hill. Here we see that Jerusalem was to be a city higher than all the cities, all the hills in the world. Isa. 2:2-3 reads:
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
It must be that mountain that Jesus is speaking about. The mountain prophesied in Isa. 2:2-3: “In the latter days, the mountain of the Lord will be higher than all the mountains, and the multitudes of the people will come to this mountain. There the word of God will come forth to them.” So we see here that there are enormous riches. Also you know in Ps. 121:1, it says: “I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help.”[KJV] What hills? Well, again, of course, to Jerusalem. I will lift up my eyes to Jerusalem. He is not looking at all the hills. He is looking at one particular hill among all the hills. That is where God’s temple is. Now we see that we are speaking about a particular city of God. Maybe by now, you will have understood St. Augustine’s great insight when he wrote The City of God, which is a great big book. The city of God is the church. The whole book, of course, is about the church.
The City of God Is the Church
So now you begin to see that Jesus is saying, “You are that city upon the hill of which Isaiah had spoken under the Spirit of God, that hill which will be above all hills, to which all nations will come for their salvation. They will know that God is upon that hill in that city, the city of God.” So now we can begin see how again and again in the Bible, it speaks about a hill and about a city. That city is Jerusalem. More specifically, it is called Zion. That is why in the NT, the church is also called Zion. So, for example, you see the Lord Jesus speaking these words: “...upon this rock I will build my church”. [Mt. 16:18 KJV] That does not sound too significant until you compare it with the OT in Ps. 102:16. There it says, “...the Lord will build up Zion”, i.e., His church is Zion, the city of God.
So then we find that when we look into the OT, we see many things. For example, in Hebrews Chapter 12 the writer says, “We have come to Zion” [v22], that is, to the church. And then again, for example, in Gal. 6:16 Paul says that we are the Israel of God, the true people of God. And so forth. There are so many references to this but we have no time to stop. But what is sufficient for us now to notice is that this city upon the hill is a city of promise, and we are those whom God has promised will fulfil the function of this city.
What do all these mean? Again Isa. 60:1 says, “Arise, shine; for your light has come”. We are to arise and shine because our light is come. And do you know to whom those words are addressed? That is right! To Zion! To Jerusalem! Jerusalem is to arise and shine for her light has come. Can you now see the connection? That is why Jesus spoke, “You are the light of the world” and in the next sentence, “a city set on a hill”. You asked, “What is the connection? One moment you said light, the next moment you talk about a city.” The connection lies exactly here. Zion was to arise and shine because, as Isa. 42:6 has it, “I have given you as a light to the Gentiles”, that is, the world. The Gentiles were all the non-Jews - the whole world. “I have given you to be a light to the world.” Now you see all the connections. What does all this mean for us? What it means for us is this: Israel was given the high calling of being God’s people to shine as light in the world. Israel was not chosen for its own sake. Israel was chosen to serve. To serve in what way? To serve as a light for God to the Gentiles that the whole world may know the truth of God. But did Israel fulfil that function? No! They failed! They so badly failed that God has to, as Paul says in Romans Chapter 11, “cut them off and we were implanted into the olive tree.” [v17] That means we have taken over the function of Israel in the world today.
Israel Failed to Be Light - Christians Entrusted with the Mission!
We have to ask ourselves whether we understand this mission, this enormous mission that has been entrusted to us. That you and I as a church have not just been called in order to save ourselves, but to function as God’s light in the world. It amazes me that so few Christians understand this. They think, “God just saved me for my own sake. What happens to the rest of the world does not matter.” And if you think in this way, you have made the same mistake as the Israelites, who felt, “We are God’s people; we do not care for those people. If they perish, it is none of our business.” If you think like this, think again. Why was Israel cut off? Because they failed to obey God and to function as God’s light in the world! Remember Paul’s warning in Romans Chapters 9-11 when he says “Don’t boast in yourselves because if you fail, God will not hesitate to cut you off as well, if you don’t fulfil your function”. [specif. Rom. 11:18-20] That is a very serious message. Firstly, there is the enormous call that we have been called to be the light of the world, and then if we fail, the consequences are very severe.
Thus we have been called to this function to be God’s people. I would like you to be very clear about this. Christianity, to be a Christian, is not to form a little clique of religious people, but to be God’s light in the world, to shine forth for Him. So, ask yourself, are you shining for Him?
The Church Shines Only as Its Members Shine
This takes us to our second point. The church does not shine unless its members shine. The church is not an entity that stands apart from its members. In other words, if you and I do not shine, then how is the church going to shine - because you and I make up the church - unless we, all together shine?
The church is not just a pastor; it is no use to have one pastor shining there. It is not to say it is no use, but that is far from being good enough. If a church were equal to one pastor, then it is OK, just let the pastor shine. Everybody else does not need to worry. But the church is not just a pastor. A pastor is one small element in the church. It is you who make up the church of Christ. Unless you shine, the church does not shine. So do not try to pass the buck to someone else, saying, “He is the church. Let him go and shine. My time hasn’t come yet. One day I am going to shine but not just now.” I do not see anything like this around here. We are light from the moment we come to know God. We have been kindled by His spiritual light, His divine fire. We are light from that moment. We cannot help but to shine. It is our function to shine, unless of course, God’s light is not operating in us.
The reason [why the task of being light has been passed on to us] is that Israel (for this we must be careful), as the OT prophets said, “Because of your conduct, you caused the nations to blaspheme against God.” The Jewish people, unfortunately, have a very bad reputation. If you say you are ‘Jewish’, generally it means, in many parts of the world, that you are stingy and lots of other things besides, like being mean and being cunning and the like. How come the word ‘Jewish’ becomes equivalent to all these kinds of thing?
I wonder what ‘Christian’ means in the minds of many people. I know what it means in the minds of many people in China. It means imperialistic. It means Chinese who do not want to be Chinese anymore but want to be foreigners. It means all kinds of bad things in their minds. It means almost something equivalent to traitor. What have Christians done that their reputation has become so bad? How often have you encountered a non-Christian in that when you say to him, “Do you want to go to church?” the moment you mention the word ‘church’, he already feels bad. You have to find some other word like going to a movie or see a film. You say, “A Christian film”, and make the word ‘Christian’ look very small. The emphasis is on ‘film’ while making ‘Christian’ insignificant. “Nice film”, you say in a loud voice. “It is a Christian film, but is a nice film.” What has happened to the church today?
But do you know it was not so? When you look into the Early Church history, the name ‘Christian’ caused even such an apostate emperor as Julius, a very, very strange man, to admire the Christians. Though he hated it, he could not help admiring them. The Christians were well known in all the communities for the way they lived. You know that when Christians were dying of the plague, the other Christians would not leave them and stayed with that person until they themselves caught the plague and died as well. Not only did they attend to their own sick, they attended to the heathen sick as well. When nobody else wanted the heathen sick - even their own families threw them out in the streets to let them die in the streets - the Christians went and attended to them, until the Christians became sick and died as well. The non-Christians said, “Such love we have never seen!” We do not understand this. Everybody wants to save their own skin, but these people laid down their lives for others. We do not understand this.
As the years went by, the church got stronger and richer and more powerful, and it became more corrupt. So today, we find that, even until two centuries ago, the leaders of the churches were called ‘princes of the church’. Even today, the Catholic cardinals dress in the garments of the princes. That is why they wear those kinds of clothing. These were the clothing that the princes used to wear. They have long since forgotten the teaching of Jesus. They have gone completely off the track! The Protestants are not always so much better either, before they think themselves to be self-righteous. So we must watch the witness of the church. And we must remember this: the church shines only as the individual members shine.
Light That Is Hidden in Order to Be Revealed
Let us look at another question. Here we want to look at the second part [of the passage we are studying], which says this, “No man lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel.” What does that mean? “Well,” you say, “obviously nobody lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel.” If the Lord Jesus is talking about obvious things, then they are hardly worth mentioning. Of course, anybody can say, “I never light a lamp and put it under a bushel!” Thus, this kind of statement is not worth making! Well, it is very well worth making, especially if you were a Jew and had a little bit of understanding about what is going on.
But before we look into this, I would like you to have a look at Mk. 4:22 and there is something very, very interesting here. Mk. 4:22 reads like this: “For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light.” Unfortunately in the Chinese Bible, I am sorry to have to say this from time to time, but in the Chinese Bible [Union Version], the meaning has all but been washed away by a very poor translation. I just pray to God that God will give us the time and the energy and the men to revise the Chinese Bible. [Editor’s note: Pastor Eric Chang was giving this message with consecutive translation into Chinese, and thus his comments on the Chinese Bible translation are stated here.]
“No one”, the Lord Jesus said to the people, “that is, a person does not bring a light in order to put it underneath a bushel, or underneath a vessel, nor under a bed, but in order to put it upon a lampstand.” Notice here your English translation by far brings out the meaning which the Chinese does not, because nothing is hidden “except to be made manifest”. Notice the purposive statement, the intentional statement: “Nothing has been hidden except - in order that - it may be made manifest”. A puzzling statement, isn’t it? The statement is saying here, a thing is hidden in order that it may be made manifest. Do you see it? But the Chinese has completely lost the point there. It simply says, “Nothing has been hidden that will not be made manifest”. It is simply a statement that will happen in the future. It has lost the ‘purpose’ element in it, the intention that is expressed here. The English, of course, is accurate here: “Nothing has been hidden except - in order to - to be made manifest.” The intention is expressed. But what does this kind of intentional statement mean? That something has been hidden in order to be made manifest? What is that? Okay, we say there is the intention to make manifest something that is hidden. This same something that is hidden is light, of course, because it just said that the light is lit in order to give forth light. You do not put it under a bushel; you do not put it under the bed, but it is hidden in order to be made manifest! Where does the ‘hidden’ part come from?
The Word of God is something really wonderful. You have to ponder it, chew it over, think about it. What is it saying here? What is Jesus saying? Here, you will find the importance of this statement about things hidden in order to be made manifest - the light coming to be revealed. It is so important that it occurs many times in the teaching of Jesus. For example, apart from Mt. 5:15 (which we have been looking at) and Mk. 4:21&22 (which we have just seen), there is also Lk. 8:16 and Lk. 11:33. Again and again the Lord Jesus says that what is hidden will be made manifest. And He is just speaking about light! What is the clue? How are we going to get into this? Well, think about it. Back to the OT! If you want to understand the New, you need to go back to the Old. You see the OT is as much our book as the Jewish book because we are the new Israel. The old Israel has served its days. We are now the new Israel and the living, amazing Word of God speaks to us. The OT has a lot of riches there.
Think about some light that was hidden in order to be revealed. Have you got it? How about a Bible quiz? I wonder if anybody wins anything here. Light hidden to be revealed - have you got it? Think about Gideon’s light. Note that Gideon was not alone; there were 300 hundred men who were to be God’s army to carry out God’s work in the world, to save the people. What did God do? He used light to carry out His deliverance. Now notice, there we have light that was hidden with the specific intention of being revealed. Isn’t that remarkable? And Jesus is saying, “In that same way, “You are light” and God has not lit that light in order to hide it but in order that it will be revealed.”
The Old Self Must Be Smashed for the Light to Come Out
There are so much riches here but our time is short, but I will just give you the seed thoughts, as it were, for you to think it through. It is God who kindles the light. We see that for example in Ps. 18:28. God has lit the lamp! He hid it in order to reveal it. The Bible tells us in Prov. 20:27 that “The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord”. [NRSV] He lights us up! But how is the light going to go out from us? Think about it. We are a torch; the light is lit inside of us - in my heart, in my whole being. But how is the light going to come out of me - “the lamp of the Lord”? [Prov. 20:27] Well, in the same way as Gideon’s lamp - smashed! And the light will come out.
It is hidden in order to be revealed. That outer earthen jug, that old self, our old selfish nature has to be smashed before the light can come out. You can now see the connection that we saw in the last two messages. We saw that salt, in order to do its function, must melt away, must die in order that it can give forth salt. We saw last week the light, in the same way, dies in order to give forth light. We saw how the candlewick burns away, is consumed, as the light comes out. We saw that a Christian can only give forth light in proportion as he dies. The more you die, the brighter is your light. That is, the old self dies, the old way, the old nature, the old ways of thinking, the selfish self, that sinful self - that must die if the light is to shine. Why does the church not shine today? Because the church is full of Christians that do not die! They have not died to the old nature.
We Are Broken By Being Crucified with Christ
There is something very beautiful about this breaking of the vessel. You remember they put these torches inside the earthenware jars. When they came to the enemy, they smashed the earthenware jars and the light burst out. They cried out, “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon” and they won the day. Probably then it is the only battle in history that was won with light. Not a sword was drawn! Nobody fought! It was that the light shone and they won the victory by simply light. That is why it turns out, the connection with this passage is so close because, as I said, it is the uniqueness of that occasion in which light alone achieved the victory.
The beauty of the Lord’s teaching lies in this also, in the word ‘broken’. You have to break the jar so that the light will come out, as in Gideon’s case. Can you think of what the Lord Jesus said? “This is My body,” what? ‘Broken’. Broken how? Crucified, of course. How was His body broken? It was crucified. You can now begin to see the riches of the Lord’s teaching. We are broken, not because we take a hammer and smash ourselves on the head. I will break my head - physically - but I cannot break ‘me’. My old self will not get broken. How are we broken? By being crucified with Christ! Now you see. As Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ.” That through the cross, by taking up the cross - that is how we destroy the old self. Oh, the vastness of the riches in the Lord’s teaching as you follow it through! Now you can see why the cross is essential in the life of every Christian. The cross is not just to be believed in; it is to be applied. You are not going to be saved just by believing in the cross. You are going to be saved when that cross is applied to you.
Evidence of Believing - Applying the Cross to Our Life
So many Christians do not understand this either. I beg of you to understand this. For example, if I take out the finest medicine in the world, which cures all your diseases - a panacea of all ills - and I say, “Do you believe this? This is the finest medicine in the world.” After thought and analysis, that is, you analyze the content, you put it in your laboratory, you analyze this and say, “Hmm, this is it! This looks very, very good and I think this is right. This must be the curing of all ills. Thus, having analyzed it, you put it in a golden box in your room and you put a sign there: ‘Panacea of All Ills’. I believe in it with all my heart.” So? So, you are going to die just the same! Why? Because it is not going to help you until you apply it! Believing in that medicine with all your heart does not heal you. It does not save you one moment until you have applied it into your life, until you drink it or eat it or whatever you have to do with it. That is so obvious when it is said.
Yet so many Christians do not even understand the basics: that you do not get saved just by believing in the cross. The devil also believes in the cross. James was trying to tell the people all the time in his letter, “You believe in God, you are doing very nicely. But let me tell you something: the devil also believes. He believes more that you do; he even trembles when he believes.” You do not even get that far. Huh! And you think you are going to be saved? If anyone believes as much and is going to tremble, the devil will have a better chance than you will.
What is the difference between the devil and you? It has to be this: that he knows that this is the salvation of the world - this will heal all ills - but he does not take it! If you are going to be saved, you are not just going to say, “I believe in this medicine.” You are going to take it - that is the evidence of ‘believe’. Then it will do the work. So remember this: the cross does not save until it is applied. In the same way, the cross must be applied into our life. Then it breaks - it breaks the old self and then the light comes out. “I am crucified with Christ” - that is what Paul says. [Gal. 2:20-KJV]. I dare how many Christians to say that! Do you dare to say that you have truly been crucified with Christ? That it is not a legal fiction but a reality?
The Covering That Will Be Removed
The connections with OT of this beautiful teaching, which is so rich and marvellous that I really do not know sometimes how to go on with this, is this. You say, “Well, what is the connection with the city?” I intended to go into this but I do not think there is enough time. There is an amazing saying in Isa. 25:6-8 about a city, which is the light of the world.
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined. And he will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken.
There it speaks about a covering that will be removed. It is really remarkable! The covering will be removed and death will be taken away. Eternal life shall come, of course; that is what it means. It is quite remarkable to ponder about this, the removing of the covering, even in connection with the city. So you see all these connections.
But we have to rush on into the riches that we have as we conclude in our last point. And it is this: when you look into the teaching of the Lord Jesus, you will find that, if you compare verse by verse, [you will notice something]. That is why it is very good for you to have a Bible by which you can compare the various parallel sayings of the Lord Jesus in the gospels. Many people have asked me, “Why do we have four gospels?” Oh, I thank God we have four gospels. They give us, looking at the same thing from four different angles, a four-dimensional view. That is very marvellous. We have today 3-D, i.e., a three-dimensional view; in the Bible we have a four-dimensional one. There is an added spiritual dimension. The first three are physical dimensions; the fourth one is the spiritual dimension. Then we have perfect vision.
Four Things Light Ought Not to Be Covered With
Let us compare all these sayings of the Lord Jesus about covering. What did Mark say? In Mk. 4:21&22, he says, “You do not light a lamp....” Did you notice those words? Think! There is no word of the Lord Jesus that is pointless and meaningless. Everything that Jesus says is full of meaning and riches. Notice what He says there. You do not light a lamp and put it where? “...under a bushel, or under a bed”! You will find that as you compare the Lord’s sayings that He mentions four things under which it might be put. These are the four things:
(1) you do not put it under a bushel [Mt. 5:15; Mk. 4:21 & Lk. 11:33];
(2) you do not put it under a vessel [Lk. 8:16];
(3) you do not put it under a bed [Mk. 21 & Lk. 8:16]; and
(4) you do not put it in a cellar [Lk. 11:33].
Why does He mention these four things? It is just haphazard, huh? He just said it on the spur of the moment? Oh no! Nothing the Lord Jesus says is haphazard or on the spur of the moment. The moment we begin to think about it, we see something really remarkable. Let us get this thing clear. When the earthen vessel breaks, the light shines out, just as it happened in Gideon’s day. The light shone, Israel was saved - saved from the hand of the enemy. Was that the end or the beginning? That is only the beginning.
Salvation is only the beginning. Many people think that once they are saved, that that is all there is to the Christian life, but there is a long way to go yet. There is a lot more to the Christian life than just being saved. The great danger of that is that once you think that you are just saved, and that is good enough for you, you will forget to fulfil your function. What will happen is this: even if your light did shine, there is the danger that you are going to cover it again. You are going to cover it again.
There are four things with which you can cover it. These are the four. What does it mean? I have seen people who have been covered, who have lost their shining light, who have quenched the Spirit in a great number of ways. All these numbers will come under one of these four headings. I have met many people who wanted to serve the Lord for example, their light really shone, they were fine Christians but their light became dimmer and dimmer and dimmer until it went out. Remember in future, if you are a Christian and you are shining for the Lord right now, stop congratulating yourself! You are simply doing what you ought to do. But watch out for the things that will cover that light. Jesus said I have not lit that light to put it under a bed, to put it in a cellar, under a bushel, or under a vessel - four things. Let us then, in conclusion, look what these four things are.
Legalism Should Not Be Used to Cover the Light
You do not light a light and put it under a bushel. What is a bushel? It is a basket - a basket that you use for grain. And the Lord Jesus said that you do not light a lamp in order to put it under a basket. In fact that was done in those days. Maybe you do not know that, but it was done. Under Jewish law, there are certain times when a light requires to be covered. Take, for example, when somebody is dying in a Jewish household. Because death brings uncleanness, then anything that would be susceptible to uncleanness had to be covered under Jewish law. The light was supposed to be one of them. Therefore when a person was dying in the house, they would cover the light. A covered light symbolized death.
There were other occasions when light would be covered, for example, the Hanukkah light at Hanukkah. This was a Jewish feast that took place around the same time as we have in the Western world ‘Christmas’. The Jews have their Hanukkah feast - the Feast of Lights. This light then was to burn for eight days in your house. It must go on for eight days without going out. But the Law required that no manual work be done in its light. That presented quite a problem. Here the Hanukkah light is burning, but you may not do manual work. For example, how are you going to cook? If you cook, you may not cook by its light. Where do you put that light, for one thing? So, if you are going to cook and the light is burning, what are you going to do? Well, you have to put a partition, according to Jewish Law, between the light [and you].
You see how complicated Jewish law is. As we go on into the teaching of the Lord Jesus, you will gradually realize how complicated Jewish Law is. For those of you who want a taste of it, you can get hold of a book called The Mishna. It is a huge, thick volume. It tells you the details of Jewish Law. The scribes of the OT and the lawyers, as they were called, were experts in Jewish Law. They were not lawyers in the modern sense, but were OT lawyers. They had to also know the whole Pharisaic Law, which was extremely, extremely complicated. One of these laws prescribed that work may not be done in the light of the Hanukkah lamp. So you could cover the light - and hope that it would not go out - or you could put a partition between the light and you. In this way, you can carry on with your work. So you see, covering the light was a well-known thing to the Jews who were listening to Jesus.
But the Lord Jesus rejected this whole thing. How can light become unclean? He was saying, “Your Pharisaic teaching has really missed the point! Light overcomes darkness and uncleanness. You cannot make the light unclean, even if you find somebody dying in the room.” The Lord Jesus rejected much of the Pharisaic teaching. This He also rejected. The point here you must understand is this: that the light was covered, notice, by the Pharisees, on religious grounds. Do you get the meaning? Is it hard to follow? In other words, the warning is this: once your light is kindled, beware of religious reasons, because simple reasons are not likely to appeal to a Christian anymore, but religious reasons will appeal, and you may put out the light through religious hypocrisy or religious error.
Placing Our Livelihood as the Priority Will Make the Light Die Away
Notice these four things: the bushel - the bushel was for grain. Grain represents what? Food! Livelihood, of course! Secondly, it says you will not cover it with a ‘vessel’, which is a different word altogether in the original. A vessel was what? A vessel is made out of earthenware and was for liquids. The bushel was for dry grain; the vessel was for liquids. The vessel represents what? Again, food and drink! But the vessel was used particularly in connection with business. It was a most essential thing. So food and drink applies to our daily livelihood, and particularly, business - the business that we see and that we do.
Thirdly the bed, what does bed mean? When we search for the meaning of bed in the OT, in Bible days, we see it refers to marriage - “the bed undefiled”. [Heb. 13:4 - NKJ] There should be no sin in marriage. That is to say, let nobody who marries continue in sin - no adultery, no fornication. There must be purity in the Christian life.
And fourthly, we have the cellar. What did people do with the cellar? Well, you stored your goods, your valuables there. It is equivalent to our bank account nowadays. So here, there are four things that can cover the light and put it out, notice very carefully. We see that the Lord Jesus covers the entire range of all human life; nothing is left out. Notice that!
I have seen how many people have wanted to serve the Lord. They had good intentions, but their concern for food and clothing, their concern for getting on in their business, for making money - that has wiped them out. It has rendered them ineffectual. So many Christians today do not shine because they are concerned about getting somewhere in their profession. Their profession becomes an all-consuming passion, or consuming eighty percent of their passion, so that they have only leftovers for God. They are concerned about these things because they are concerned about the bushel, the vessel - their food, their clothing, their standard of living that they want to maintain. How many men have said that they do not want to serve the Lord full-time, not because they have not been called, but because they do not want to offer themselves. They are afraid of a much lower standard of living than they are enjoying now. Let us be honest about it: is that not true? How many are willing to take a cut in their standard of living? How many of you would like to have your salary reduced to one quarter in serving the Lord? That is not very attractive. So I can serve the Lord while I do my own thing and I will give my spare time to God. Now that is perfectly all right, there is nothing wrong with that, provided you do not use that as an excuse not to serve God fully and completely, when you know that He is pushing you forward to serving Him. So, these are in the first two points.
In the third point we saw the bed [covers the light] - marriage, family, children. How many people have stopped serving the Lord or refuse to begin to serve the Lord because they got married, they had children and now their responsibility, they think, is not to the world, not to God, but to their family, first and foremost. How many people have been put out of action in this way? In my own experience, I know so many people who would have served the Lord, but they got married and they were finished. Out! Gone forever from the work of God! They did not cease being Christians - they did not stop going to church - but their light was covered.
Lastly, notice the fourth one: the cellar - possessions. The stores of possessions with which they do not want to part. Possessions become the tremendous hindrance to many people. Remember the rich young ruler? When the Lord Jesus said, “Sell all you have and follow Me”, his cellar was so full. “Oh, no, no,” he says, “I can’t do this. Think of all the stuff I have in the cellar.” And the Lord Jesus said, “Well, give it to the poor.” “What?! All that stuff that I have stowed in my cellar give to the poor?! Waste all my years of labor?! No, not me!”
These are the four things that put the light out. Well, when light is covered, it is effectively no longer functioning as light. It is as good as if there were no light. Remember, if you cover anything with a vessel, the likelihood is it will go out. If you cover it by putting it under a bed, I do not know what might happen to the bed. So now we see that we must search our hearts to see what is the hindrance that is preventing our light from shining out. Somewhere along this four, something will have hit you. You come under one of these categories somewhere, if your light is being covered right now.
Our time is gone and there are so many riches yet. But let God’s Word search our hearts to see whether our light shines. To sum up, [we must see that] we have been given a glorious mission - the mission to be the light of the world, to have taken over the place that Israel once had. And Israel failed! So now we can see the Lord’s warning. Why did Israel fail? For the reasons that we have seen! Secondly, having been saved, we notice that the old self must be smashed! Has the old self been smashed in you? Has the cross been applied into your life? If so, it will be seen in your conduct. Thirdly, as we have seen, even though it may shine now, there is the danger that, as time goes on, instead of your light getting brighter as it ought to get, you might cover it because your heart is still with the world, as so many Christians have.
Being Light - Doing Good Works in God’s Time and In His Way
But in conclusion, the final point that I will not develop now is this: as the Lord Jesus says there in Mt. 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men” that people may see your good works and give glory to God. What are good works? Good works are the works that are good in God’s eyes. It is not just giving a few coppers to the poor, sending some money to help in a relief work; it is the kind of work that God wants you to do. Good works are works done in obedience to the living God. That is what we must be doing and not the just the works that we think are good - these are not going to take us anywhere.
Healing people, is it good? Yes! Praying for the sick, is it good? Yes! But none of this is sufficient. We always remember those words of Mt. 7:22-23, at the end of the Sermon of the Mount, “In that day, people will say to the Lord, ‘Did we not do this and that in Your name?’ The Lord answers, ‘I don’t know who you are. Depart from Me, evildoers.’” Evildoers - they did not do the good things! But you say, “Healing the sick is good, isn’t it?” Sure, it is good. “Doing mighty works in God’s name, is it good?” Sure, it is good. “Then why am I an evildoer?”
You see, it is doing the things in God’s way, in God’s time. It is doing things that He wants you to do. It is not enough just to do some mighty works; it is that our life shines out for Him; our whole conduct is right with Him. These people, as we will see when we get there, are the kind of people who did not have the cross applied into their life. Their life was still full of self and full of materialism. So now, let us look at this. Take note of this tremendous challenge that God has given to us, that we may go forth and shine as light in the world.
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church