Throughout the Advent season we’ve been focusing on the theme of Light. Today, we’re going to draw that all together and take one broad look at the light that God provides us as his children, from start to finish. We’ll start at the beginning, when light was new and perfect. We’ll see that light lost to sin. But then we’ll see God immediately light a candle of hope in the promise of a Savior. And then, throughout the centuries, that light will grow brighter as God expands on that promise, revealing more and more about the Savior, until at last we see him revealed in the flesh. Naturally we can’t possibly focus on every prophecy of Jesus today. But we’ll look at a select few and see the blessings the light brings for us today and always.
We begin at the beginning:
Light Destroyed: Genesis 3:1-8
It didn’t take long for man to ruin what God created. What they had was perfect. Not just the light that shone from the sun but the light that was in them. Adam and Eve did not know pain or suffering. They didn’t know want. They didn’t know anger or jealousy. And they knew their God. They were made in his image. Holy. It was paradise.
But the temptation was that it could be better. The temptation was that they could have even more. The temptation was that they could be like God himself. They did the one thing God told them not to do. “Love me, trust me enough not to do this.” was his command. But instead they loved themselves more. And light within them was destroyed.
Suddenly they did know evil. It was them. Suddenly they knew shame. Suddenly they knew fear. They ran from God. They hid from each other. Holiness was destroyed. Pain and suffering and death would be their lot from then on. God can only accept the holy, those in his image. Adam and Eve were not anymore. And their children were born in that image, not God’s. Down through the generations, everyone born naturally is not born in the image of God. We are born in the image of our fallen parents. That sinful nature meant Adam and Eve were cut off from God and his grace. It was a dark and dreary road ahead, one filled with nothing but misfortune that would end in eternal death.
3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Light Focused: Genesis 15:4-7,15
We don’t know exactly how much later it was when God revealed more about the Messiah to a man named Abram. It was a long time. The great flood had come and gone, and the earth was once again being populated. The promise of a man, born of a woman, who would crush the serpent’s head was the gospel until that point. But now, much later, God focused the light of that promise in on one place, and one family.
Abram trusted God. God made him a number of promises. Not the least of which was that he would have a son, born of his wife, and through that son would come a nation’s worth of people. And through that line, all peoples on earth would be blessed. The new news was that the Savior promised would come from his family line. And what’s more, we now had a place. The land of Palestine, which would be known later as Israel, was where this would happen.
It was during a moment of doubt, needing reassurance that God showed Abram light. He brought him out and showed him the stars to reassure Abram of God grace, mercy, and faithfulness. And Abram’s trust in God’s promise of the Savior made him righteous and holy in God’s eyes, just like our own faith that brings salvation.
4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
Light Brings Clarity: Numbers 24:15-19
God continued throughout the ages to illuminate the picture of the Savior. He used a prophet named Balaam to teach us what the work of this Savior would be like. He saw a bright star coming out of Jacob, one of the sons of Abram, shining its light on the world.
And then we learn here more about how the Savior would accomplish his task as the prophecy turns… aggressive. Yes, the first promise of the Savior said he would crush the serpent’s head. But here, it seems an even greater battle would be fought. Though the prophet uses the names of real nations at the time, the intent is clear. This Savior would fight as God’s chosen champion. He would wage a battle so fierce that none of his enemies could stand.
Sin itself. The Devil. Our own death that haunts each one of us. These are the greatest enemies we have. And through a fierce battle, God’s chosen would destroy these enemies for us and win our victory. You and I have the benefit of knowing this fight did not take place on a grassy plain with swords and shields but was fought on a cross for us. But the message is still the same. God’s champion will fight for us, and the victory will be ours through him.
15 Then he spoke his message:
“The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor,
the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,
16 the prophecy of one who hears the words of God,
who has knowledge from the Most High,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:
17 “I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
a scepter will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the foreheads of Moab,
the skulls of all the people of Sheth.
18 Edom will be conquered;
Seir, his enemy, will be conquered,
but Israel will grow strong.
19 A ruler will come out of Jacob
and destroy the survivors of the city.”
Light Brings Healing: Isaiah 9:2-7
Having all our enemies defeated is a great thing. But it is not our only problem. Removing all the outside forces does not fix the wound within. It doesn’t fix the darkness we are born in and it doesn’t suddenly make us acceptable in God’s eyes. The devil could not exist, there could be no outside temptation and you and I would still break God’s law every day. We would still be broken inside, born in human image, not the holy image of God.
And so, the prophet Isaiah further reveals the work of the Savior to us. There’s more to his work that just crushing the devil and his enemies. He has something for us too. Isaiah proclaims a light dawning that heals us. The light itself brings us peace with God. It heals us from within. It makes us whole again. The burdens we have within ourselves will be shattered and we will be at war with God no more. Instead we will belong to his kingdom. We are not holy. But the light makes us holy. The Savior heals his people, ends their struggle, and brings them in to his kingdom.
2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
Light Arrives!: Luke 2:8-14
It took a long time by our standards. Not by God’s. Throughout history God taught his people more about what to expect from the Savior. And he worked history until the everything that he promised would happen exactly as he said. When the time was exactly right, the very event we celebrate today came to pass. Jesus was born. God made man, come here as one of us to fight our battle and heal us from within.
This is our good news, our great joy. We do not see him from afar anymore. We know him. All these prophecies would be meaningless if nothing came of them. The angels, God’s heralds, announced his arrival in glorious light to the shepherds. And they proclaimed peace. Peace between God and man because the Savior would restore the light that was lost at the beginning. He would defeat the enemies and bring us healing. The baby born contains every hope we have worth clinging to.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Light Forever: Revelation 22:21-27
That we know Jesus, that we see him and have watched his work for us does not mean there is nothing left to be revealed. The light continues to grow brighter. There is still more to come for us. Yes, we saw God fulfill his promises. We have seen Jesus grow and live as one of us but not like us. He kept the image of God. He did what his Father asked. He was obedient where we are not. And we have seen him march into battle with death and the devil. We watch the serpent strike him on the cross, but in vain. We’ve seen the empty tomb. We know that death did not hold him. We know the serpent’s head is crushed.
The battle is won. And Jesus took his perfect life, wove it into a brilliant garment for you to wear, and gave it to you. It covers all your wrong and makes you holy to God. The image is restored. The relationship with God is restored. And there is one more promised to be fulfilled: eternal life with him. Yes, our greatest problems are solved by Jesus, but the fact is – we’re still here. We may be healed by the light, but this world is still broken and decaying. And so, we won’t stay.
That is our goal, the city of light. Light better and brighter than even the sun. The light of the glory of God. Where everything will be the way God always meant for us to be, before the fall. The baby born, Christmas, it’s a great thing to celebrate, but today let’s finish by celebrating what that truly means for us. It means paradise restored.
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Join us as we hear about the very special and important message: the arrival of The Light of the World? What does this mean for me? How does it apply to my life today? Listen and find out!
We are continuing our series called the Light of the World. We have already heard that the Light shines against the Darkness of this world and that it shines into the darkness of our own hearts. But today we want to unveil in Scripture how Jesus’ light shines through you.
Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Why Shine?
The lesson for this morning comes from Matthew 5:14-16. In this section, Jesus says: You are the light of the world… (v.14-16)
In context, the “you” is a reference to the people that were listening to Jesus out on a mountain.
By extension, it is a reference to people that listen to Jesus’ words in the 21st century.
By specific extension, it is a reference to people that are listening to Jesus in a cozy little church building in North Raleigh on December 23rd, 2018.
And Jesus has an important edict for you. He says, “You are the light of the world…Let your light shine.”
It’s similar to putting up Christmas lights. Maybe this happens to you. You put all of the lights up. You intricately string the lights around the tree. You pass over branches and under ornaments. You have it all nicely arranged and then? You gather the family around with a mug of hot cocoa to plug the lights in and…
You might say to the lights “SHINE! That’s what I bought you for. Shine already!” You might turn and twist and prod and poke and replace the little bulb that “I think it looks burnt out.” All along the way you start muttering: “Shine already.”
When you tell a light to shine, you are simply telling it to do what it is was made to do.
And when God tells us to shine, he is asking us to do exactly what he made us to do.
God tells you to shine:
Because that’s what light does.
Growing up, one of my sisters saved up some money and bought a little mechanical sunflower from Radio Shack. The little mechanical sunflower was an alarm clock that when it went it off – it didn’t make one of those loud BEEPING noises. Nor did it make one of those obnoxious CLANGING sounds.
It was worse.
Whenever the alarm went off it began to sing:
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey.
Haven’t you noticed, how much I love you; so don’t take my sunshine away.”
It always sang in this high-pitched chipmunk voice.
It always sang very early in the morning.
It always sang when I didn’t feel like being anybody’s sunshine!
Maybe Jesus’ words strike you like that.
Pastor, I don’t feel very much like shining. I’ve been really cranky this Holiday season.
Rather than jolly, I’ve been “jelly” of all the other mom friends on Facebook who have it together enough to get Christmas photos taken – and in the mail – and with actual words on them!
Rather than merry, I’ve been mercilessly badmouthing my coworker Fred so that I might get the biggest Christmas bonus this year.
Rather than cheery, I’ve been rather dreary. Because Christmas doesn’t distract from the fact that my life isn’t going so well right now!
And honestly…I FEEL like a screw up.
I FEEL like a sinner.
I FEEL like a no good, dirty rotten scoundrel.
I feel like a terrible husband, a horrible mom, and a very bad child.
I do not feel like a light at all.
How can I possible be one?
Do remember this phrase from a sermon or two ago?
“You were once darkness, but now…you are light in the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8)
Do you get it?
You are not a light based on what you do for God; but on what God has done for you.
You are not a light based on how you lived; but on how Christ lived.
You are not a light based on how you feel; but on what Christ felt for you.
And here’s what Christ did.
He lived perfectly when you could not.
He died innocently in your place.
He rose triumphantly – in a brilliant flash of light – conquering sin and death.
And now He has made you a light.
Like a match that lights a candle, Christ lights the fabric of our hearts.
He calls you forgiven.
He calls you his child.
He calls you HIS LIGHT.
Even when you don’t feel like light.
That is exactly what you are.
Because that is what Christ made you.
But that’s not even the end game. Look at the next point:
“You are the light of the world…Let your light shine before people that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (v.14)
Glorify is an interesting verb. It means to make brilliant. To light up. To exalt brilliantly.
It’s a word associated with hosts of angels shining brightly in the sky on the very first Christmas.
With Jesus’ face when it shone brightly on a mountain outside Jerusalem.
With the glory of the light filled resurrection of Jesus.
And the word has a subtle shift when it comes to those who don’t have the ability to manifest actual, physical, visible light:
When we see the amazing thing of our Savior’s birth, we glorify God.
When we see the brilliance of his face on the mountain, we glorify God.
When we hear of the amazing truth of his resurrection, we glorify God.
And when we let our light shine before people, they see it and sometimes – they glorify God too.
It’s like a chain reaction.
God enlightens your heart.
You become a light.
Then, he uses you to share the message of his glory.
He brings them to the light, too.
God wants us to shine, because that’s how the light spread
To put it differently:
God wants us to share our faith because that’s how faith spreads.
II. Tips on Shining
1) Hide it Under a Bushel? NO!
That’s a phrase from a famous children’s song, but I think it finds its origins in this section from Matthew. Jesus says, “People do not light a lamp and put it under a bowl.” (Mt. 5:14)
That doesn’t make much sense does it? I doubt, for instance, that any of you spent hours adorning your Christmas tree with Christmas tree lights only to cover it with a big, black shroud.
Nor would it make any sense to buy ask for a brand-new lamp for Christmas. One from Joanna Gaine’s collection. Open up the present at Christmas, run over to a nearby outlet, plug it in, turn it on, and then place a big old bucket over the top of it.
It doesn’t make much sense to cover any kind of a lamp.
Similar – it doesn’t make sense to cover up your faith.
And yet, it’s so easy to do.
Don’t cover up your light.
Don’t hide it under a bushel.
Or a bowl.
Or a non-Christian everyday life veneer.
Don’t hide your faith.
Let it shine.
2) Put your Faith in a Prominent Place
Jesus says, “People do not light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand so that it gives light to everyone in the room.” (v.15)
We’ve been talking about getting some new LED lamps in the parking lot. And I was talking to the Duke Energy guy and he started discussing with me the amount lumens, the wattages and the shine radius. The shine radius allows you to see where the light of the new lamps will touch. He even had graph paper with little lines to show exactly how far we might expect light to go and the best position to place the fixture on the pole to get maximum exposure.
Why not do the same with our faith?
Why not position ourselves to maximize the sharing of our faith?
Rather than hide it, place your faith in a prominent place of your life.
Talk about your Savior with a family member who doesn’t believe in their Savior.
Make sure your Christmas cards mention the reason for the season.
Tell your kids that Jesus loves them.
Don’t shy away from posting inspirational Bible passages on social media.
Don’t stop asking your spouse to join you for worship.
Don’t remove the Jesus’ background from your computer just because that one guy in the cubicle next to you doesn’t love it.
And let your faith shine through your actions -
Hold more doors than normal.
Make someone else a cup of cocoa.
Give a very generous gift to someone that you know needs it.
Let your light have a prominent place in your life and then…
3) Be Non-Selective in Shining
Because it is so easy to be picky and choosy with whom we want to share the message of Jesus.
Let’s see – I’ll invite that coworker who I know already knows about Jesus. But that one guy – that I’m unsure about? I’ll just wish him Happy Holidays.
And I’ll be sure to give a nice Christmas card to neighbor A. But neighbor B? He’s kind of my enemy. So…no card for him.
I will absolutely share the message of Christmas with my family – except for cousin Bob, because his sexual preference makes sharing Jesus, kinda, uncomfortable.
Jesus says that when someone puts a light on a stand it “gives light to everyone in the room.” (v.15)
Lamps aren’t selective.
They don’t stop shining when they are around someone who makes them uncomfortable is around.
You don’t stop shining either.
So, here’s the challenge. You still have time.
Think about someone that makes you nervous.
Someone that you don’t necessarily like.
Got them in mind?
Cool. Now, go and shine.
Shine the light of your Savior into their heart.
For motivation? Think of your Savior!
He died for you while you were knee deep in disgusting sins.
He rose for you while you treated him like an enemy.
He brought his message of love to you while you were doing the very things that he hates!
Because of his non-selective way of shining on us, we are non-selective in the way that we shine, too!
4) Share in Your “House”
Because it mentions that the lamp on a stand gives light to everyone in the house. (v.15) It doesn’t give light to people outside the walls of the house, because it’s just a small table lamp. It can only be expected to shine so far.
Because it might be impossible for you to let your light shine to someone in China.
it will be really hard to let your light shine to someone in Australia.
It may even be difficult to let your light shine to someone across town.
That doesn’t mean that we stop shining.
We simply shine wherever God has placed us.
That means in your literal home.
…With your spouse.
…With your children.
…With the guests that join you for Christmas meals!
But it also means…anywhere you have spherical influence!
…at the hair salon.
…at the Starbucks.
…in line at the grocery store.
…to your mail person.
…to your UPS guy.
…The FedEx guy.
…to your Amazon Prime delivery guy.
…at the health club
…at the brewpub.
…even with your fellow friends at Raid night!
Whatever your sphere of influence is, be sure to shine!
Show love with your actions.
Share the message of Jesus.
Because we have kind of a big task.
God tells us to shine around the world.
Even when we understand our sphere of influence and we aim to let our light shine in North Raleigh…
But remember – you aren’t shining alone.
You aren’t responsible as one little candle with lighting up the whole city of Raleigh.
You have each other.
You have other Christians.
You have your Savior.
And Jesus? He’s not just another candle.
He’s like one of those gigantic, 10,000 lumen LED spotlights at a football stadium.
He shines brighter than anyone.
He shines brightly with you.
He shines brightly through you.
Last Christmas I took a car ride with my family up in WI. When you go home to family, sometimes you assume the role that you did back when you were younger. Meaning that, on the car trip, I was relegated to the back seat next to my 2-year-old niece named Harper.
And she wanted to watch the Cookie Monster, “C is for Cookie” video on her mom/my sister’s phone. So, my sister passed it back to me and I thought I’d set it up.
I pressed what I thought was the YouTube button.
The screen stalled.
I tried to get to the settings.
It remained stalled.
I swiped up and swiped right.
I was stuck on a screen of death.
I said, “I think I broke your phone.”
I said to Harper, “I don’t think you’ll be able to watch Cookie Monster.”
I held up the frozen screen, “See? It’s stuck.”
Harper shook her head.
She grabbed the phone from me.
Touched a few buttons.
Cookie Monster Video.
Sometimes you can learn from a kid.
Whether that kids is 12, 6 or 2 years old, sometimes you can learn from a kid.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience – especially with technology or Paw Patrol character names.
But…what about theology?
What about the deep mysterious things about our relationship with the Almighty, All Holy, divine, eternal God?
That’s probably NOT a kid thing…
At Jesus’ time, the religious elite did not think they could learn anything from little kids.
They didn’t think they could learn anything from common folk.
They thought a relationship with God is something that only the best of us (and you probably aren’t the best of us) could accomplish.
They believed in ascetic morality. “I have studied the amount of beard hair necessary to properly please God and I have grown my facial follicles accordingly. Trimming them each at exactly 30 cm – the number of holiness.”
They believed in exponential giving. “Here is my 10% tithe of cash for the church. And here is my 10% gift of seasonal spices – cumin, dill, nutmeg. And here’s 10% of the nutmeg that I bought down at Food Lion. And here’s 10% of the candy cane that my toddler was just licking.”
They believed in master-level scholarship. “I got straight A’s in Hebrew school, studied under Professor Gamaliel, and have been a part of the synagogue’s Torah reading club for 20 years! I think I just barely have enough knowledge for God to kind of like me. You? A plumber? Hmm…Well…I’ll pray for you…”
Essentially, they believed that a relationship with God is something that only the best of the best, the top of the top, the most impressive of the most impressive could ever hope to obtain at the end of an 80 plus year life of impressiveness!
But Jesus spoke differently. He said:
I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden the things of God from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. (Mt. 11:25)
As in, God didn’t make His message some kind of Mensa level puzzle.
As in, God doesn’t need you to buy his love with a Fortune 500 stock investment.
As in, God doesn’t reveal himself ONLY to hermits, who live on some snow mountain in the Himalayas, sipping green tea, fasting, and meditating within himself to remove all sinful urges.
God reveals himself in a message so simple that children can understand it.
A while back one of my little friends was having a hard time with some of his friends. He had knocked down a block tower, called the teacher “stupid” and hit an assistant.
I asked him to calm down and when he did, we talked about how what he did was wrong. And God didn’t like it when we hurt other people that he had made.
And my little friend got very sad. Lip quivering. Tears in his eyes.
And I said to him, “But do you remember what that thing is on the wall?”
His eyes perked up immediately:
“And who was on it?”
A smile formed on his face: “Jesus.”
And what did he take away on the cross?”
He lifted his hands in the air: “Our sins!”
I said, “That means Jesus forgives you. I forgive you. And…”
He interrupted: “And God loves me.”
He was absolutely right.
But here’s the thing: I have sat in the counseling office with adults. Grown men and women – learned men and women – long time Christian men and woman -- who have confessed their sins to me – who have struggled with guilt and shame – who have been in tears over the things that they have done wrong…
And I have asked: What’s that thing on the wall there?
That’s a cross, but…that doesn’t help me?
Sure He’s the Savior…but Pastor do you realize how bad what I did was?
Pastor…I just don’t know if I believe it. Do you have a list of things I can do to make up for it?
Just because a child says it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
Just because a child says it doesn’t mean it isn’t DIVINE truth.
And here’s the divine truth – that those little children are about to teach us:
God looked down from heaven.
God saw our sins.
God sent His Son Jesus to be born as a human.
To live perfectly.
To die innocently.
To rise from the dead triumphantly.
To give us the absolute, complete forgiveness of sins.
And then…because God wanted us to have forgiveness and a peace filled eternal relationship with Him so badly…God made his message so simple, so divinely accessible that even a child could know it.
Even a child could teach it.
Even a child could preach it.
That is what is about to happen.
With the kids' program, you’ll probably see a couple things.
You’ll probably see a few kids cry.
You’ll probably see a few kids fidget.
You’ll probably see one kid in the back wave to his whole family.
It’ll probably be a bit off key.
It’ll sometimes be too quiet; it’ll sometimes be too loud.
It’ll probably be very, very cute.
It’ll also be true.
It’ll also be divine.
It will also be life changing.
It’ll also be eternal life giving.
Listen to them.
Because you can learn something from kids.
And today… you must learn something from them.
This isn’t just a kids’ message…
It’s God’s message.
Today we are continuing our series called the Light of the World. Last week, we heard that Jesus, the Light of the World, shines against the Darkness. He shines against the darkness or terrorism and racism, cancer and car crashes, guilt and shame.
But maybe, last week, you got done thinking:
That’s right pastor! You tell ‘em. I’m gonna take your message and share it with all those people who living in darkness out there.
I will share it with that guy who cut me off in the Belk’s Christmas Wrapping station line.
I’ll share it with that woman who honked her horn, waved her finger at me and cut me off in the mall parking lot.
I’ll share it with my brother who told me that he doesn’t want to spend time with our family at Christmas. He’s being the darkness and he needs to hear about the light.
To be fair…
That all may be true.
But today, Jesus says worry less about the Darkness out there; worry first about the darkness inside here. Our goal is to get help identifying the darkness in our own hearts, reconsider the uplifting message of Jesus and get some guidance on how to let our light shine this Christmas season. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Darkness that Was…
The lesson for this morning comes from Ephesians 5:8-14. Ephesians is a letter written by a Jesus’-commissioned pastor named Paul to Christians living in Ephesus. Look at what he writes: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. (v.8)
The reality is that no one’s heart is naturally filled with light.
Apart from Jesus our hearts are filled with darkness.
To prove that point – let’s think about it logically and then anecdotally:
Logically speaking, God creates Adam and Eve. They are sinless. Their hearts are filled with light. But then, before they have any kids, they sin. They choose to step into the darkness. They become greedy, selfish, prideful, liars. Their hearts become filled with darkness.
Then, these humans with sin-darkened hearts have children.
And just like crocodiles give birth to crocodiles…
And reindeer give birth to reindeer…
Humans with -sin-darkened hearts give birth to children with sin darkened hearts.
Darkness passed on.
Think of it like a Christmas light chain. If the first Christmas light goes out, then what does that mean for the rest of the Christmas lights? The whole thing goes out! The chain has been broken. The first light is not able to provide the power to power up the next Christmas light. The result? They are all darkness.
It’s the same with humans.
The first humans sinned.
All are sinners.
All have sin darkened hearts.
Including – you.
Anecdotally Speaking. Do you know the story of Scrooge? The Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol classic. There are many different versions of it. I, personally, enjoy the Muppet classic. In all of these versions, Scrooge is not very likable. He’s grouchy. He’s gloomy. He’s mean. He’s greedy. He’s Scroogy. You know you’re not doing too well when a verb is developed after your name that essentially means: “being a jerk.”
But here’s the thing about Scrooge. Scrooge is perhaps the most-easily-able-to-be-identified-with-character in Christmas mythology.
Because the difference with Scrooge and all of us isn’t that Scrooge was mean and we aren’t.
The difference is that Scrooge was just worse at hiding it.
Think about your heart.
Are you always MERRY and BRIGHT?
Or do you get unnecessarily angry at that coworker because if he did his job better you’d have more time for Christmas stuff?
Do you think things at your kids that you would never repeat in front of these good church folk here?
Do you have a hard time not wanting to gaze at the Victoria’s Secret window at the mall – even though you aren’t a woman and you aren’t shopping for your wife?
Do you think, “Man! Why do I have to buy a lousy gift for that lousy guy – They deserve a punch in the face. If only I could figure out how to box it…?”
Here’s the truth.
Humans hearts are naturally filled with darkness.
Our hearts are naturally filled with darkness.
The most urgent issue isn’t out there.
It’s in here.
II. The Light that is…
But look again at our text: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. (v.8)
Fellow believers, pay careful attention to the verb tenses to teach about what you are.
Those of you who don’t believe, pay careful attention to what the verb tenses teach about what you could be.
Meaning before Jesus.
Meaning before faith.
Meaning that was the case, but….
It is so no longer.
Meaning this is your NEW reality.
You are LIGHT.
And you aren’t light because you figured out how to go from light to darkness on your own.
It isn’t because you scrounged up your spiritual lighter of trying hard.
Or you rubbed a stick of “let’s do better” together with a stick of “try harder” in your heart and some kind of spiritual ‘good works’ fire was built.
You are light in the Lord.
Because in Jesus is forgiveness.
Forgiveness for the dirty sins of your hearts.
Forgiveness for the secrets you want no one else to know.
Forgiveness for those sinful thoughts you are deeply embarrassed that you ever thought.
In Jesus is forgiveness.
He cleans out the darkness of guilt.
He leaves us with the bright light of holiness.
It’s like a Christmas tree. When you light that Christmas tree up, even the wall next to it shines brightly. Think about it. That dead space of darkness that would otherwise be darkness becomes brighter when light shines upon it.
The same thing happened in our fellowship hall. We moved out the preschool stuff, freshened up the paint, and put a brighter color on it. Now, the light reflects off those walls and they are brighter than ever before!
Christ is the Light of the world.
You are light in Christ.
III. A “What Now” for Shining this Christmas
With all of that in mind, God gives us some very specific commands this Christmas. You might call it a host of “What Now” commands for shining this Christmas season.
It starts with this:
(1) Live like Your Dad!
Ephesians 5:9 says this: “Live as children of the light.” Because children tend to do what their family does.
Think about the royal family! They gather in Buckingham palace. They dress in the finest British fashions. They drink their tea with their pinky in the air and celebrate the Christmas season in a royal affair. If one of them wore one of those ugly Christmas sweaters to the ball at Buckingham palace, well…they’d be told: “Live as a royal child.”
Or if one of your kids comes home and says, “My Friend, Jonny said that his the Tarheels are the best! They’re house is covered in Baby Blue. They have coach bobbleheads throughout. I’m thinking for Christmas I want a Tarheel jersey.”
And you say: “Nope. You’ll get the Coach K Biography – and like it.”
Essentially God says to us:
You are my child.
You are my son.
You are my daughter.
You are a part of my family.
Live like you are a part of my family.
And how do I do that?
(2) Find Out What’s on God’s Christmas List
Look at what Ephesians 5:9 says, “the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness and truth, and Find out what pleases the Lord.” (v.10)
Because if you don’t know what’s on someone’s Christmas list then it suddenly gets harder to get them what they want. Christmas lists help you know what they want. It tells you that Cindy Lou wants a Rainbow Dash doll and little Bobby wants a Pokémon watch. Christmas lists prevent you from making the fatal mistake of getting Uncle Dan a Cabbage Patch doll.
The same thing is true with God.
We need to find out what he wants and give him the gift of living accordingly.
Because too often we think to ourselves:
“I know what God wants. God wants me to be happy. And what makes me happy is writing a nasty email to my coworker. Just living as the light God!”
“I know what God wants. God wants me to unstressed. So, he’s cool with me losing it on my kids – as long as I don’t leave a bruise.”
“I know what God wants. God wants me to be with my soul mate. So, I’m going to go ahead and cheat on my wife because it makes me happy and that’s what God wants. Just down here being the light of the world God.”
Find out what God actually wants…
Not what you want God to want.
And you can find it out by examining God’s Christmas list.
“Pastor! That sounds nice. But where would I find some kind of Christmas list. Surely, God didn’t write it down and preserve it for centuries for me to clearly and easily read.”
Yes, he did.
It’s called the Bible.
In it, you literally have a list.
A list of Ten Commandments.
Plus, all kinds of other insights – ways to please God and live as the Child of Light that He has made you.
But you have to read it to know what it says.
You have to study it to know what God wants.
Make that a key part of your Christmas preparation.
Spend time in God’s Word.
Here at worship.
At home on your own.
Have everything to do with Godly deeds and then…
(3) Have NOTHING to do with Dark Deeds
That’s exactly what verse 11 says, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness.”
Because if you’re going to bear fruit of righteousness, unrighteousness is fruitless.
If you’re are going to bear fruit of goodness, badness is fruitless.
If you are going to bear fruit of truth, deception is fruitless.
Notice it doesn’t say:
Have some to do with evil.
Or, a bit to do with.
Or even, mostly nothing to do with.
But…NOTHING to do with.
Block the old boyfriend on Facebook that always makes you think…just for a minute of leaving your spouse.
Getting rid of the alcohol that will cause you over the edge.
Avoid that party that’ll just lead to dirty jokes and four-letter words.
Drop that grudge that’s been ruining your family Christmas for years.
And in this area – give special attention to the deeds done in secret. Verse 12 says, “It is shameful to mention what the disobedient do in secret.”
This shouldn’t surprise us.
It’s easier to do dark deeds in the literal dark.
It’s easier to do dark deeds when no one is watching.
Hear God’s Word to you right now – don’t just clean up your public life.
Clean up your private life.
(4) Expose the Darkness to the Light
And…maybe you’re in the midst of a dark deed.
Maybe you’re dealing with an addiction or a vice or some kind of sexual impulse.
Maybe you know it’s wrong and you want to stop, and you yearn to stop, but…
…you just can’t.
Listen to God’s Word in verse 13:
Everything exposed to the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.
There’s a man who I once worked with who came into my office.
His eyes were bloodshot.
His hair was amuck.
He was downtrodden.
He took a deep breath. And said. “Pastor, I’m addicted to drugs.
And I can’t stop.
no one knows.
My family doesn’t know.
My friends don’t know.
I’ve wanted to stop, but I just can’t! And I’m so sorry.
I just feel like such…darkness.”
And I said.
You aren’t in the darkness.
You are forgiven.
You are in the light.
Because here’s the thing – now that he told me. I could offer forgiveness. I could encourage him in what he was doing. I could remind him of his desires. I could check in with him. I could connect him with others who could do the same.
He took the deed out of the darkness.
He took it into the light.
By God’s strength, he conquered that addiction.
Do the same.
Expose the dark deeds to the light.
Like mold that grows in the dark, but dies in the light, your sins will die.
Confess to God.
Confess to others.
And if someone confesses to you, don’t hold it against them.
Don’t withhold help.
That’s amazing they trusted you with that!
Share God’s Word.
Help them stay in the light.
Because you and I friends – we are a part of the light! Jesus made it so. That’s why Paul concludes:
Wake up, O Sleeper! Rise from the dead. And Christ will shine in you. (v.14)
Because beating these sins can seem like a daunting task.
They might seem like a challenging task.
It might seem like something that is absolutely impossible to do.
But you aren’t doing it alone.
Christ will shine in you. (v.14b)
That’s the one who defeated sin.
That’s the one who defeated death.
That’s the one who did the impossible for you now working to do the impossible through you.
Think back to the Christmas light chain. If the first light is dark, the whole chain is dark. But if you take that dead, broken light out and you replace it with a new, working light – then? The whole chain becomes bright. Every light that is connected to the first light is empowered to give light.
You are connected to Christ.
He is the Light of the world.
Therefore, you too, are light in the world.
Live as the light of the world. Amen.
Today we are continuing our sermon series on Isaiah’s Christmas prophecies. Last week we learned how the virgin birth makes the Messiah unmistakable. Jesus is THE Messiah, THE Anointed One. THE Savior.
And maybe you took that truth home and thought, “Cool! What does that do for me? My bank account is still low. My job still stinks. My family life is NOT awesome. And to be honest – some pretty awful stuff happened to me this week.”
Today we are taking a look at a prophecy that talks less about who the Messiah is, but what the Messiah has to offer. Before we do that, join me in prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Darkness that Was
The lesson for this morning is from Isaiah 9. A bit of context: The year is 733 B.C. and after years of warnings, years of rebukes, and years of trying to call the people of Israel back to faith…God has just brought judgment.
Armies have overtaken Israel.
War has overrun the land.
Most cities have been destroyed.
People are dead.
Houses are burned.
Families have been broken apart.
In short, things weren’t very merry and bright.
But now that destruction has come, Isaiah doesn’t respond with “I told you so.” Not at all. Chapter 9 is not about gloom. Look at what Isaiah prophesies: “There will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations.” (9:1)
Take a look at Zebulon and Naphtali on an Old Testament map. They are on the north east side of Israel. They have the wonderful blessing of being located right next to the Sea of Galilee, being located right near some great fishing and having some very fertile farm land. But they also had the less the wonderful blessing of being the very first bit of land that invading countries from the East would attack.
And attack they did. This land was known for being the sight of some gruesome battles and some terrible Israelite losses. Hence: “In the past God humbled the land of Zebulon and Naphtali.”
But in the future. “In the future he will honor Galilee of the nations.”
Fast forward 770 years. Same area of Galilee, only there isn’t war going on anymore. It’s the Pax Romana – the peace of Rome. There aren’t any battles. There aren’t any sword fights. There isn’t any bloodshed.
But to one man – there’s still war.
Meet John the Baptist.
He’s a soldier, but not the traditional kind.
Instead of armor, he wears camel skin.
Instead of MREs, he eats bugs.
Instead of a sword, he wields the law of God.
Because he’s not battling the Assyrians.
He’s battling sin.
John looks around at the crowds. Sin is everywhere.
Sin is what is ruining that family’s relationships. She yells at him; he yells at her and the kids yell at each other because they can’t deal with the anger.
Sin is what ruined that booze smelling guy in the corner – he did a horrible sin and he can’t deal with it; so, he drinks and drinks and piles up more sins and more sadness.
Sin is what ruined that lady’s life. The one by herself. She cheated on her husband. She cheated with her best friends’ husband. Now? She’s been ostracized.
Sin is even what ruined those nice, churchy looking guys – Their failures and their inadequacies are too much for them to admit; so they wear fancy robes and drip oil into their beards – just so their outward appearance can distract them from the inward awful.
Sin is the real reason for darkness.
So, John fights.
Repent every last one of you.
Repent of sin.
Repent of trespassing.
Repent of vileness.
Repent of harassing.
Repent of hatred.
Repent of lust.
Repent of gossip.
Repent of sloth.
Repent of addiction.
Repent of pride.
Repent of racism.
Repent of lies.
Repent of sin.
Put up a fight.
Come out of the darkness.
Come into the light.
And people listen. They repent.
“Now what? We can stop doing the sin…maybe… but our guilt is still there. There is no way to get rid of it. There’s no way to make up for it. I can quit doing the sin, but the guilt of what I’ve done. That’ll stay with me. It’ll overpower me. It’ll overcome me. Like a cloud of gloom, it will consume me.”
And John can’t help. At least not personally. Because you see when John looks at sinners, he also sees himself.
Unable to help.
As he stands on the banks of the Jordan River, in the land of Galilee, in the very spot that Isaiah prophesied about, at the very spot where John had seen sinner after sinner after sinner, John sees someone else.
John sees someone different.
John sees the Light.
“Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
On those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:3)
Galilee is where Jesus began his preaching ministry. It’s where he did all sorts of miracles. It’s where he battled the darkness of sin with the precious words of the light.
And that’s good news.
II. The End of Darkness
Have you ever been to a harvest party? I’m not just talking about the modern, city slicker equivalent where we drink pumpkin spiced lattes and wear flannel – but a real harvest party! Where after weeks of tilling, planting, irrigating, weeding, hoping for rain during drought and praying for a break during flood season, harvest comes, and you celebrate! You eat some corn dipped in butter. You drink some wine. You play toss the hay bale because there’s nothing to worry about anymore!
Or have you ever been to a plunder party? After years of fighting, years of sweating, years of sleeping in the dirt and cuddling in the mud, finally you conquer the city! Then, the spoils – the gold, the silver, the comfy chair, the fancy robes, the giant legs of ham and bags of delicious Doritos that were theirs are now yours!
Or have you ever been to a “I’m-not-wearing-a-yoke-and-puling-a-heavy-cart-anymore” party? Because a yoke is that big old wooden thing that they put on oxen so that they can’t go anywhere without pulling the giant load behind them. It’s tiring. It’s annoying. It’s awful. But when that is released, and you are finally free!
But none of that compares to what Jesus did for us.
After years of toiling in sin and guilt and shame, Jesus provides a harvest of righteousness.
After years of fighting and losing to temptation, Jesus provides the plunder of eternal life us.
After years of being burdened by guilt and shame and impossible demands of God’s law, Jesus removes that yoke. And sets us free.
6 For to us a child is born. (of a virgin – we’ve identified him) It’s Jesus.
To us a son is given. As in a gift. As in he came for us! As in his life is for us. As in his death is for us.
And the government will be on his shoulders. He’ll be in control after he comes.
Not whatever awful thing it is that scares you.
The One who is control is the One who loves you.
The One in control is the One who died for you.
The One in control is the One who conquered sin and death for you.
Darkness is not in control.
The One who conquered the darkness is in control.
III. The Reign of Light
And what’s the kingdom like under his control? What’s it like to live under the king of Light? Isaiah gives the answer in verse 6-7 by giving this king some Divine Titles. Let’s examine each:
(1) Wonderful Counselor
When you hear the word counselor, there’s really two definitions that you might think of. (1) The Counselor who sits in a chair and strokes his beard and says, “That’s interesting.” (2) an advisor in the king’s court who tells the king when to attack, when to defend, and when to hold a fancy party. This is the definition that we’re dealing with.
Which is very interesting. Because Jesus has already been identified as king and now he’s been identified as counselor too. He’s being identified as his own right-hand man.
Humans would do well to take note. Because we tend to think of ourselves as God’s right-hand men and women. As if we’re Jesus’ own spiritual advisors:
Jesus, I know you have everything under control, but you should probably give me a bigger Christmas bonus then everything will be fine.
Jesus, if you really knew what was best, you’d heal Aunt Clara in time for the holidays.
Jesus, if you really wanted to make a righteous judgment, you’d give that guy a lump of coal.
You don’t give counsel to the Wonderful Counselor.
You take counsel.
Because no one knows better than the one who knew enough to Creator this incredible world.
No one knows better than the one who knew exactly what it took to save it.
No one knows better than to guide your life than the one who knows where it will end up.
(2) Mighty God
I was at my gym the other day for a competition. There was a section of the competition (in which I didn’t compete at all) where people did powerlifts. Where they lifted barbells loaded with weight over their heads.
And when I got there, there was a barbell that had three 45-pound plates on each side of the bar. 90, 180, 270 plus the 45-pound bar = 305 pounds. And I thought – that’s a bit too much. Who’s going to lift that? Who’s going to be able to power clean that? Is this a mistake?
Nope. Some guys walks over, takes a breath and throws it into the air!
Jesus is MIGHTY GOD. That means he’s a lot like a powerlifter. In fact, he’s THE Powerlifter.
No matter how big your sin is.
No matter how big your sin was.
No matter how much it has weighed you down.
No matter how much it is weighing you down.
Jesus can lift it. And he did. In fact, he lifted it up and dragged it through the streets of Jerusalem and carried it to the cross.
And if you think your problems are too heavy for him to deal with?
Think again. He’s MIGHTY GOD!
(3) Everlasting Father
A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the batteries in this microphone were getting a bit old. But when I went to the closet to check for batteries we didn’t have any. So, we bought some new ones and switched brands. Good idea. The last brand that we had would last for about one Sunday of preaching – or 2 services. The new set? It’s still going strong.
Jesus is like that. He’s still going strong. He keeps going and going and going and going…and always will go.
And remember he’ll be going for you! Because look at the second part. The word Father does not point to a Trinitarian, theological controversy, but to the reality that believers are God’s children.
And he’s not a Father that runs off.
He isn’t tainted by sin.
He doesn’t get drunk.
He doesn’t slap mom around.
He doesn’t hurt or harm you in any way.
He loves you.
He cares for you.
He disciplines you – sure – but He does so with your eternal interests in mind – aka—that one day you’ll come home.
(4) Prince of Peace
Because unlike how a lot of royalty are portrayed in current shows like REIGN and GAME OF THRONES, Jesus isn’t about violence. He isn’t about blood, violence, political gain and power – not even dragons rampaging the village.
Jesus is different. He doesn’t break peace to bring war.
He brought war to bring peace.
He fought sin. Beat sin. Violently beat it on the cross. And rose triumphantly in order to bring you peace with God.
You don’t have to worry that your God is going to enact divine judgment on you.
Not when you believe in Him as your Savior.
Because then you have peace.
“Repent!” That’s John the Baptist’s cry. That’s the cry of Scripture. That’s what God, our King is imploring you.
Don’t just hear it today. Take a moment. Meditate. Turn from sin!
Because what we tend to do is choose a sin that we don’t struggle with and repent: “I repent of getting together with a group of teenagers to gossip!” That’s not repentance.
Look at your life. What do you struggle with? Where do you lose the battle? Where have you given up fighting? Where is there darkness?
Cry out to God for help.
And trust Him.
Because REPENT is a 180. It’s not a 90 degree turn from sin to another sin. But from sin to trust in your Savior. Trust in the Messiah. Trust in the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
And when you trust, well:
You walking in darkness have seen a great light.
On you living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
There are quite a few famous families in the history of mankind.
Take politics. Families like the Clintons and the Bushes have officially etched their names in the history of American politics. Right alongside the earlier versions of the Adams and the Harrisons.
But famous families aren’t relegated to the realm of politics:
The Wright Brothers were known for their incredible invention of the airplane.
The Jackson 5 helped to shape the music scene.
The Baldwins are known for B-level comedy.
What is your family known for?
Think about that for a bit. What is your family known for?
Causing a ruckus at the Olive Garden?
Taking awkward family photos and posting them online?
Always being late for everything?
Is it possible that what you’re known for isn’t exactly what you want to be known for? If so…maybe you need to reexamine your family’s purpose.
Today we’re looking at God’s Word and he’s going to give you and your family – all of us as a Christian family – a Greater Purpose. Before we look at God’s Word, let’s say a prayer:
Strengthen us O Lord by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you want us to believe. Amen.
I. The Purpose of Salt
God teaches us about the purpose of his family in the great Sermon on the Mount. That’s in Matthew 5. This sermon is all about how God’s children who are a part of his family act. I want to focus in on verse 14. It says this, “You are the salt of the earth."
Check that out again. God calls his family “Salt.” Salt is an important part of the cooking experience. Salt makes a risotto taste perfecto. Salt helps Southern cooking taste just right. Salt is a dad’s secret ingredient. Salt even makes lima beans tolerable.
Salt is important because it keeps things from tasting bland. It was the same back then at Jesus’ time as it is now. People didn’t like bland food. Salt makes it taste different.
That’s what God’s family does. God’s family makes this world different.
If it wasn’t for people who loved God, this world would get pretty bland. If you turn on the TV, it already is. Murder after murder after murder. Crime after crime after crime. Hatred after hatred after hatred. Sin after sin after sin after sin after sin after sin after sin.
It’s like our world is stuck on a permanent set of reruns – the same sins over and over and over again.
But Christians are to be different. You are to be different.
Because that’s how God made you – different? Not innately. You were a sinner, too. You were apart from God and against God just like everyone else in this world. But Jesus lived perfectly when you could not. He died innocently in your place. He rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of all of your sins. Then, he worked through his Word – through a friend, a family member, a church goer – whoever to bring you to faith. In Baptism he sealed you as a member of his family. He called you his own!
Now he says Live differently. Live the #SaltLife. That’s your purpose. To be different.
Why would you want to be bland? Why would you want to be just like every other family?
A family motivated by getting the latest iPhone and the coolest new car? Dull.
A family filled with filthy language? Boring. Heard it before.
A family Friday movie night watching the same old violent, sexual R rated movies? Seen it so many times, I’d rather sleep.
A family rushing from here to there to do extracurricular after extracurricular but skipping church because that’s more important than God? That’s so generic!
And look at Jesus’ warning. If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? That’s a real warning. If you spend too much time in the things of this world, you start to lose your saltiness. You no longer have the same flavor you did before. You start to resemble an everyday, ordinary, of this world unbeliever, and then…well... The salt is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
God’s made you for so much more than to be trampled on.
God trampled on Satan that you might trample on him, too.
You are forgiven. Live the Salt Life.
Be the family that reserves Sunday mornings for worship.
Be the family that ends the night with devotion not TV.
Be the family that says prayers instead of swears.
Be the family that follows God’s Word instead of society’s whim.
Be the family that puts God and one another ahead of what society tells you that you should be.
Be salt. Be different.
II. The Purpose of Light
Salt is not the only thing that Jesus calls for us to be. Look at the next verse. 14 You are the light of the world.
Do you know what’s kind of annoying? At our house there isn’t a light switch when you enter the apartment. In order to turn on the light you have to walk into the dining area right in front of the door and pull the little hangy thing that is hanging from the ceiling fan. What’s annoying is that sometimes when you pull it – nothing happens.
That’s because across the way beside the kitchen is a light switch that controls the electricity to that fan. If that light switch is off, the fan doesn’t turn on. So you head over to the light switch, stumble in the dark, trip over a dog bone, and flip the switch – ONLY THE LIGHT DOESN’T TURN ON! Because you just turned it off when you pulled the string!
Light is important. We need it to see, to move, to work, to eat, to live! When you are expecting light and you don’t have it, it’s really disappointing.
Jesus say, You are the light of the world. You have been enlightened. Again -- this isn’t innate! You were born into the darkness of sin like everyone else. But God worked through his Word. He worked through Sunday school lessons and Bible stories. He worked through sermons and Bible readings. He worked through conversations with your family and friends to light up your eyes and help you to see the True God --Jesus Christ – and the True Way to Heaven – Jesus again!
Now. God says it’s your turn. It’s your turn to light the way. It’s your turn to help others see.
Jesus says, A city on a hill cannot be hidden. If it’s up on a mountain side, you see it. You can’t ignore it. It’s like going to downtown Raleigh. You will see the Wells Fargo Tower. It’s big enough. It can’t be missed. And that’s the way it should be when we live our lives! It should be obvious in our families and to our families that we love our Savior Jesus Christ!
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand and its gives light to everyone in the house!
That doesn’t make much sense does it?
Who of you would go to JC Penney, Sears, and Home Goods, find the perfect lamp, go to Lowe’s for the right brand of LED light bulb, get home, open up the box, read the instructions, put the lamp together, try it out in 5 different spots until it fits the feng shui of the room, then grab a big old tarp and drape it over the lamp?
If you are hiding the fact that you are a Christian, that’s exactly what you are doing. Whether it’s on purpose or self-consciously – you are throwing a big old tarp over the very light that God put into your life – the very light that can guide others to the Light – Jesus Christ!
Don’t do that. Let your light shine.
That’s exactly how Jesus ends this section. He says, 16 In the same way – the same way as the lamp that’s put on a lampstand to do its job – let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
That’s a key point. Because we aren’t living lives of light for our own sake. We aren’t doing it so that we can people will say, “My aren’t they are a grand Christian family!” If that’s the motivation, then we’re still in darkness.
Instead, we live lives of love. We point others to Jesus. We post things about Jesus online. We talk about him at our table. We go to church. We say prayers in restaurants. We put fish on the back of our minivans – so that others might learn about our Savior and have the same comfort in the forgiveness of sins that we have.
III. WHAT NOW?
Why not make this section of God’s Word a motto for your family? Even if you are single – why not make this your motto? “Be light.” “Be salt.’ “Let your light shine.” You could post it on the fridge. Write it in your Google calendar. Talk about it at family dinners. Pray about it with your kids before you go to bed. Ask that question, “How was I a light for God today? How can I be a light for God tomorrow?”
The more this is on your hearts and minds – the more it will be a part of your day to day life.
2. Be the Light In Your Family
Now for some of you – you might be the only light in your family. You may be the only one who knows Jesus’ love. Even if you have a family who already knows Jesus’ love – listen to this encouragement. Be the light in your family.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your Savior! Don’t start thinking, “Well, we don’t really talk about that stuff. We just keep it light. We talk about sports and our favorite America’s Got Talent Act but we don’t talk about Jesus.”
Why not? He’s not afraid to talk about you.
He tells his heavenly Father how much he loves you…
…and how he took away your sins…
…and how you are now righteous in His sight…
…and how you are the jewel of his eye?
Don’t be afraid to talk about your Heavenly Family in your earthly family.
3.Help your Family be the Light.
We recently got a candelabra that we placed over the mantle in our apartment. Beforehand, we used to put up one candle for ambience sake. One candle doesn’t give a lot of light. But this candelabra has room for 5 candles. It’s a lot brighter!
That’s what happens when your family is united. That’s what happens when you are all burning as light for Christ. God is using you to be a regular torch in your neighborhood. A bright shining light on your block.
So what’s your family known for? Wouldn’t it be cool, if the answer was simply…Faith in Jesus?
And as we wrap up this series on Family Matters – may we ask God for forgiveness – because we haven’t always been known for Jesus. Then, let’s receive his forgiveness – because we are known by God as forgiven – and live anew. Ready to take our purpose and use our earthly family to make our heavenly family known. Amen.
I don't know any other word. This past week in Chapel hill three young Muslim students were killed over a parking spot.
This was tragic for so many people and so many reasons.
Tragic for those students. They had so much promise and a full life ahead of them.
Tragic for their families. Their hearts will be broken and struggling to heal for years.
Tragic for our community. Fear, racism, and anger continue to divide us.
Tragic for our country. Politicians and the media will use this death to confuse issues, meet agendas, and make campaigns successful.
But you know who this was most tragic for?
Take a look at the following Bible passage:
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life...but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Do you see what God did? God loved these three so much that he came to earth to live perfectly for them when they couldn’t. He died innocently for them the death they deserved. He rose triumphantly for them to proclaim that heaven is theirs as his gift. He has been calling out for them to believe that his Son did this!
They were Muslims. Their faith didn't believe this.
And someone ripped them away from this world before they could.
That’s an eternal tragedy.
But there is more at stake than that.
Our world was already filled with enough hatred, misunderstanding, racism, and mistrust. This tragedy will only heighten all of that ugliness. It will segregate, dissect, and separate our society even farther. Conversations will be harder. Dialogue will be tougher. Sharing the message of Jesus will be all that much more difficult.
As God’s spokespeople – as Christians – we might be tempted to give up:
“It’s too dangerous out there.”
“No one will trust me.”
Our world is very dark right now. Bu do not hide in the darkness.
As God’s spokespeople – as Christians – we might be tempted to give in:
“I’m not responsible.”
“I’m being blamed?”
“Who cares then!”
Our world is very dark right now. But do not become a part of the darkness.
Jesus said this. I think it's as important now as it was when he spoke it:
“You are the light of the world…People do not light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mt. 5:14-16)
As God's spokespeople --as Christians -- we might be tempted to give up or give in, but we must do neither. We must give out.
The Bible records another dark time.
It was evening. Jesus was in a lonely garden. A band of men came to arrest him. Torches, swords, and anger surrounded him. He was handcuffed, slapped and arrested.
Then it was night. He went to a dimly lit courtroom. Still dark. He was blindfolded. Even darker. He was punched. “Who hit you!?!” He was hated.
Then it was morning. It was bright for a moment. Then, he was whipped. Then scourged. The pain from his back beckoned for him to black out.
Then it was noon. He was nailed to a cross. The cross was jammed into the ground. The sky turned to darkness. Jesus’ eyelids grew heavy. The light was slipping.
Then it was afternoon. He shouted. He sighed. Then….he was silent.
The light was gone.
But three days later, the light returned. Jesus burst forth from the tomb. He had conquered the darkness of death. He had defeated the darkness of sin. He had destroyed the sad darkness of this gloomy earth.
He had a new message. A message centered in the light of forgiveness. A message surrounded in the love of God. A message promising the eternal light of God’s presence to all who believe!
Then he left.
But before he left he made this command and promise. “Go and make disciples of all nations…and surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” (Mt. 28)
The point? The light never left. The light is in you. The light is with you. Let HIM shine!
Be kinder than you’ve ever been.
Care more than you've ever cared.
Prayer more vigorously than you've ever prayed.
Tell others about the hope you have in Jesus more confidently, more lovingly, and more often than you ever have before.
Let your light shine brighter than ever!
*Over the past couple of months, we've seen some creative hash-tags used to draw attention to different struggles:
God doesn't have a Twitter account. But if he did, I think he’d have his own spin on this:
May this heart of God be our heart as well.
Join me in saying prayers for the families of all involved with this tragedy.
Join me in staying calm and patient in the midst of heated anger.
Join me in bringing love to every person we encounter in the Triangle.
Join me in shining brightly in the darkest of times.