Sermon: Light of the World
Scripture: Matthew 5:14-16
In this week’s lessons we learn that as Jesus is the light of the world, so he calls us to be lights as well.
Theme: “Ye Are the Light”
At this point you may be saying to yourself: “Dr. Boice, you began by quoting Christ’s statement that Christians are the light of the world, but ever since then, you have spoken only of him as the light and of the fact that we are in darkness. If this is true, how can we say that Christians are the light of the world? In fact, is it even possible?”
These are good questions and the answer is that in himself the Christian cannot be the light of the world. He can only show forth light to the extent that he first receives it from the Lord Jesus Christ and reflects it from him to others.
As I have studied this theme throughout the Bible I have been impressed by the fact that most of the images used to convey it make this point clearly. For instance, in the verses from the Sermon on the Mount that we are studying the Christian is described as a lamp or a candle. He gives forth light. But he does so only because he has first been kindled by Jesus Christ. In the same way, in John’s Gospel John the Baptist is described as “a burning and a shining lamp” by Jesus. Again, the point is that John’s light is secondary to that of Christ; John’s is a kindled light and exists only because of him.
One of the greatest illustrations that I have ever heard of this point was often used by Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse. He used to say that when Christ was in the world, he was a bit like the sun which is here by day. But when the sun goes down, the moon comes up. The moon is a picture of the church—of Christians. It shines, but it does not shine by its own light. It shines only because it reflects the light of the sun.
Jesus said of himself in John 8:12, “‘I am the light of the world.” But when he was thinking of the fact that one day he would be taken out of the world he said, “Ye are the light of the world.” And that is why the world is in such darkness today. At times the church is a full moon in the midst of revival when a man like Luther or Calvin or Wesley is here. At other times the church is a new moon and you can hardly see it. But whether it is a full moon or a new moon or only a waxing or a waning quarter, it glows because of the sun. In the same way, you and I can show forth light only if we reflect the real light of the Lord Jesus.
Do you do that? If you do, you will function a bit like Jesus himself did when he was on earth, only in a smaller version. For one thing, your presence will help to expose the evil and the darkness of this world, and you will find that you are not particularly popular for it. You will illuminate dishonest practices in business, gossip in the secretarial pool, loose talk and still looser morals at parties, corruption in local politics, racial prejudice, greed, selfishness, and other things. All those things will appear darker, even to non-Christians, because of what you reveal of the holy character of Jesus.
For another thing, you will help faith grow particularly among those of weak faith, just as a plant will grow even in a dark cave if a bright enough light is present. Friends should grow in the Christian life because of what you know and have learned of Jesus. And if you are married and have children, the children should grow to full spiritual stature in your home.
What is the reason that Christians can function as the light of the world? Explain how this becomes possible.
Describe how the church is functioning both when it is likened to a full moon and a new moon before the darkened world.
Application: How well do you reflect the light of Christ before those in your life who are not Christians? In what ways can you be a brighter light?