I’m on vacation! No, I’m not working while on vacation, ‘cause it’s fun to write.
This time I decided to drive rather than fly. It’s actually cheaper. Another plus is that I get to look at the scenery instead of overlooking it in a jet.
Sure, it takes time, but don’t many good things take time?
Because it’s such a long-distance drive, Jeanne (my wife) and I decided to add a stay in a hotel after the first day for two reasons. The first is I’ve done the overnight drive thing and it’s no fun. The last time I did that was through Nebraska and Iowa. No offense to Nebraska and Iowa residents, but I think that was on the torturer’s list during the Inquisition.
The second reason we didn’t drive through the night is that we car-travelers miss so much in the dark. Jeanne and I wanted to take advantage of the wash of fall colors across the national landscape, especially after my post, What Color Will You Be? We were not disappointed!
Wisconsin was gorgeous! We appreciated the gradually dimming of the colors the farther south we drove. But the colors never disappeared. The lower states just have to catch up with their northern neighbors.
What made this possible? Light! Daylight! Glorious, brilliant sunlight graciously delivered through crystal-clear blue autumn skies! No kidding. Not one wisp of a cloud to haze the day. Clear, robin’s egg blue for the entire first day.
Light is so good. Of course, it is. God made it and all God made is good. It’s so good, Jesus used it as an illustration of other good things His Father makes.
Now keep in mind that Hebraic (biblical) thinking is about what a thing does (how it functions), not necessarily what it is (it’s outward description). Read these verses carefully.
“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 CSB). Why did Jesus use light as a brilliant object lesson for His disciples?
The reason is found in verse 16, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” So, let’s talk about light, both what it is and especially what it does.
What is light? By definition, light is electromagnetic radiation of any frequency or wavelength. More specifically, visible (light), perceivable by the normal human eye as colors between red and violet, having frequencies between 400 terahertz and 790 terahertz and wavelengths between 750 nanometers and 380 nanometers. Reference (No, I’m not that smart. But are you impressed with my ability to copy and paste?)
In my previous post, I wrote that salt has an effect on the world around it. Light also affects the world. It reveals things not seen and it helps us see the world as it is. That’s the secular definition of what light is and what it does. But there’s a spiritual aspect to light.
The Bible often defines and describes light as spiritual awareness, the illumination of divine things. What is our primary source of spiritual awareness and illumination of divine things? “The revelation of your words brings light and gives understanding to the inexperienced” (Psalm 119:130). Other versions say the enlightening revelation of God’s word brings “understanding (discernment and comprehension) to the simple (childlike)” (Amplified Bible).
That’s why I like God’s word. It lights up the spiritual world to my understanding and gives me discernment and comprehension of things I can understand in no other way!
In short, God’s word functions like light, the effect of which reveals things not seen. It helps us see God as He is. It also helps me see the world as it is, not how the world wants me to see it.
This concept explains an interesting thing Jesus said about us who are born-again and who live as He wants us to live.
“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). That means WE shine the light of God’s revelation to the world around us.
Jesus was (and is) the original Light of the World, God’s fullest revelation of Himself (Colossians 1:15, 19). As God’s word is likened to a light that reveals things not seen, so Jesus, the Living Word of God in human flesh (John 1:1, 14) is the light that reveals the invisible God to us in a way that we can understand (John 1:4-9). Just as snapping on a light helps us see things more clearly, so Jesus snapped on the spiritual light so we could see God more clearly. Jesus reveals the answer to the question, “What would God be like if He were in our most recognizable form, human?” Comes the dawn!
How did Jesus reveal His Father? One way was His most effective. His good works.
“Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9).
In case you missed it, Jesus was giving Philip a “duh!” moment here. Going on, Jesus revealed to His disciples, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves” (John 14:10-11).
Did you catch that? God’s Word in action through good works reveals our heavenly Father.
Now back to Matthew 5, light, and good works. Jesus taught in verses 14-15 that a city on a hill cannot be hidden and a lamp should not be hidden.
First, who can possibly hide a city on a hill? Why would you want to? Yes, there are several good reasons to build a city on a hill, but a big one is so that it can be seen and found! That’s Jesus’ point!
Second, why shouldn’t lamps be hidden? The type of lamp Jesus is talking about was the simple, small clay oil lamp of His day. These lamps weren’t for daytime, but nighttime. That’s their purpose! And they were meant to illuminate the whole house. That’s their function!
Who would think of lighting an oil lamp at dusk only to hide it under something like a basket? Besides being an obvious fire hazard, that would be ridiculous! Wouldn’t that defeat the lamp's intended purpose and function? Again, that’s the point! Hiding a light makes it worthless.
And now Jesus delivers His punchline!
“In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16)
Just as cities can’t hide and lamps shouldn’t be hidden, neither should a serious disciple of Jesus hide good and godly works from the world. Our light-like purpose and function are to do good works so our heavenly Father can be seen through our lives.
As Jesus was God revealed in human form, so our godly good works display God through our human form. When that happens, the landscape lights up around us and gives “understanding (discernment and comprehension) to the simple (childlike).”
Our good works throw a spotlight on our Father! How will people know there’s a heavenly Father to praise if we don’t live His Word? Our best witness of God is not sharing the Four Spiritual Laws or our best theological arguments. Jesus says it’s good works from a godly life.
Do you remember I mentioned that light is a good thing because it’s something Jesus’ Father made? The same thing can be applied to our good works as God’s light to the world.
Everything we are and have come from God. He’s the source of all things. We can say we do good works and credit them as our own, but for Jesus’ disciple, the truth is our good works begin and end with God. Genuine God-created and credited good works come from Him and are intended to bring Him glory.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). There is the “source of good works” component.
“For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). There’s the “initiation and motivation” component.
And the topper is this, “…so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). There’s the “bringing glory to God” component.
We carry on Jesus’ mission as our heavenly Father’s “Light of the World” mobile oil lamps. As Jesus lives in and through us we have the same mission to shine God’s revelation to a very lost and very dark world.
A debate has burned in the science realm about how far a single candle flame can be seen in the dark. In 2015, researchers Kevin Krisciunas and Don Carona at Texas A&M University in College Station tested the idea. Their conclusion? A single candle flame could be seen by the human eye from 1.7 miles away! Reference
If people can see a candle flame from miles away, then how much more will they see the brightness of God’s glory in a good work performed a few feet away – a kind word or a loving deed. The profound philosopher Willy Wonka put it succinctly, “So shines a good deed in a weary world.” In truth, this quote comes from the Bard, William Shakespeare” in The Merchant of Venice, Act 5, Scene 1 in which Portia declares, “That light we see is burning in my hall, how far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” Reference
But doesn’t it take valuable time to do a good work? Yes, it can. But don’t many good things take time?
Like salt, light affects the world. Simply put, if our “salt loses its flavor (influence)” and we hide our light (good works),” we’ve lost our impact and extinguish our God-given purpose and function. BUT if we’re tasty and bright, then we affect the world and show the way to God. The words, Bland Christians and Work-less Disciples are oxymorons.
For the serious Christian, the idea of a “private faith” doesn’t exist. We are called to live full force in the public arena. We’re called to live out God’s ways through good works, impacting those around us, bringing praise to God, and leading the lost home to Father.
My vacation travels have shown me that the beauty of scenery reflecting God and His handiwork is like the beauty of a godly life reflected through good works. Our good works are the Father’s vibrant see-nery to a darkened world.
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts