14)Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.Matthew 5:14 (KJV)
This singular verse is one of the most recognizable in the Bible. It comes from Jesus’ teachings on salt and light which are also some of His most recognized and powerful teachings from His earthly ministry.
Christian do you know that “you are” the light of the world? More importantly do you know that your identity has changed since you became a Christian? Notice the question was not asked do you feel that your identity has changed or do you think your identity has changed but do you know your identity has changed? Let us learn that we can know this truth in today’s lesson and what this knowledge of being a light of the world means for our lives.
It is magnificent that Jesus says to us “you are” regarding our new identity as lights of the world. The statement is direct and intentional. Jesus did not choose to be allegorical or symbolic here, no He goes straight to the point: “you are the light of the world.”
Reader have you thought about the immensity of that statement? Often we can overlook shorter verses like this because we do not slow down to read through them carefully and critically. As a result the words can lose their impact.
This is where meditating on scripture and slowing down comes to our aid. When you read the Bible being able to comprehend what is going on is vital, and the best way to do that is to take it slow to let the meaning(s) be revealed to you. The verse above is one such verse where when you slow down you really see just how powerful it is.
This is no ordinary message, it’s an extraordinary exclamation and a supernatural declaration from the Creator of the universe and yet who are we that we should have the honor and privilege to have Him tell us something like this? We former slaves to sin are now called lights of the world, it’s astonishing. And the reason why He tells us this is even more astonishing; He is telling us so we may learn about our new identity in Him.
9) But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;I Peter 2:9 (KJV)
He can tell us this because we have a new identity in Him. We are His children, His holy citizens that have been called out of darkness.
Not only does what He says to us underscore our new identity but it also demonstrates God’s choosing of us for we are a chosen generation. Think about it, He is not saying “someone is” or “they are” not someone else at all, but “you are”, you Christian are the light of the world. And why “are we” the light of the world? Because we are His and He chose us, He chose you to be set apart into His marvelous light. That is what salvation, coming to Jesus in faith, believing on Him and asking Him to forgive you of your sins, does.
However we must know that “we are” for the statement is also the bestowing of an enormous responsibility to us as servants of our savior. It carries a tremendous weight to it for Jesus does not just call us lights of the world and then leave it at that, no there is tremendous meaning behind this statement that we must know and understand.
You see by Him telling us this He is teaching us something and teaching does not just stop at the fact, facts have discernible meanings behind them and this statement is no exception.
For example many times people need to tell us things about ourselves so we may learn something about ourselves. All of mankind thirsts for some semblance of purpose and meaning, it is ingrained in the fabric of our souls and yet without our identity in the One Who created us we will fail to attain an understanding of our true selves. Jesus says to us “you are” so we may know just one of the many new and great things about our new identity in Him after we accept His gift of salvation.
Yes, we are the light of the world, and how amazing that is! Yet what does it mean? What is Jesus trying to teach you reader by declaring this to you? You may know you are a light of the world but what does that really mean? It is a fact yes, but what lies behind that fact?
1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2) And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.Romans 12:1-2 (KJV)
You see being a light of the world is not an end in itself, not at all, it involves much for light has a purpose.
When you become a Christian it is just the beginning of a journey towards Christ-likeness, that is sanctification or put simply adjusting your thoughts and actions to be more reflective of Jesus’ thoughts and actions by learning and applying His Word to your life.
It’s not perfection for the Christian does not attain that until heaven but it is a process with hills, valleys and mountaintops along the way that is all for Christ and His glory. “All of mankind thirsts for some semblance of purpose and meaning, it is ingrained in the fabric of our souls and yet without our identity in the One Who created us we will fail to attain an understanding of our true selves.”
His living in us in the form of the Holy Spirit after we become Christians enables us, even while still sinners in the flesh in this world, to press on by following Him and serving others for being a light of the world means service to the world. Again, light serves a purpose, it shines and illuminates, it shows the way.
So the Christian life is series of lessons and learning, in fact you never stop learning as a Christian. This is why so much of Jesus’ ministry was a teaching ministry, because learning is central to Christianity. Learning who you are, learning what life is all about, learning sound doctrine, all of this is vital.
If you are not committed to learning in your Christian life you will become stagnant and become preyed upon by sin and the enemy. What is more you will not be able to experience the joy that comes only by growing as a Christian and drawing closer to God in the process. In fact one of the most dangerous things in life is to have just a little bit of knowledge about something yet without a true understanding.
12) For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13) For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.Hebrews 5:12-13 (KJV)
You must go from taking in the milk of the word to the meat of the word, that is being able to discern scripture and teach others, and as a light of the world both of those qualities are essential.
If you are to be of service to the world you must be dedicated to learning and to growth especially as it pertains to your new identity in Jesus. Remember that worshiping God with all of your mind is a precious privilege and something we all must do.
30) And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.Mark 12:30 (KJV)
So we know that we must be taught that we are the light of the world. Now then why is that?
First as we have alluded to it is because being taught this truth instills confidence and lifts us up, it shows us who we are and this is a good thing indeed for many Christians struggle with their identity as believers.
Each and every day is a choice to identify with God or man, each and every situation a test. Sometimes this causes Christians to struggle with the fact that they are in fact redeemed and made new, it is hard to wrap our minds around at times, how can we really be redeemed? Is that really our new identity? How can we be lights of the world?
Yet when Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world, it not only adds a dimension of true meaning to our lives (one of many that a life in Christ provides) but it also provides us with clarity in terms of our identity.
In fact that is what all of Jesus’ teaching should do for us, it should make things clear. This is why going back to the Bible alone is always necessary along with getting instruction from sound Christian friends and churches.
So then reader are you really good enough? Does God really think highly of you? Can you really effect any change in a lost and broken world? Yes! Why? Because “ye are” the light of the world! And do not take my word for it, for He says it and He is never wrong. That is our confidence.
Jesus is teaching us here about our new identity in Him yet it does not end with this. He is also teaching us this so we can learn about our truest vocation in life and that is to love God and people through service to the world. “Each and every day is a choice to identify with God or man, each and every situation a test.”
The fact is your identity is in Jesus for “you are the light of the world”. This means that as a light you must cultivate and develop a life of service to mankind. How do we do this? By being exactly what He says we are, by being lights of the world. However it is not enough to know you are the light of the world, you must be what you know you are, be a light to the world, apply what you know about yourself in this way to help others by being a light for them.
I like to think of being a light of the world as being a beacon first and foremost for that is why Jesus teaches us that we are lights of the world, because we are beacons for the lost and for mankind. We stand out, we are different.
Remember light has a purpose, it shines and illuminates on the lives of the lost and shows them who they are and how they too can come to the Father for salvation and it also brightens their lives and provides as a lighthouse a safe haven for them, it shows them the way and calls them out of darkness.
Our light is not just meant for one person or people or a singular place but to the entire world. We are beacons to the one and only race, the human race which God created. The gospel never discriminates. What is more it is not selective, it is for the entire world as we must be too.
In terms of personal application you must realize that you are the light or beacon of your workplace, town, family, friends, church, and community. You see Christianity has no borders, never has, never will. In fact it reaches across two worlds, earth and heaven and across all time (eternity).
You have a responsibility to be what Jesus has told you that you are, He is teaching you to be more like Him by being a light for others. He is also teaching us (that is the church) to be more like Him and to serve others. Now what does this look like? How are lights of the world seen in the world?
Individually it is someone sharing the gospel to a friend, it’s the Christian praying with someone, it’s the Christian being an open ear or simply being there with another who is going through the impossible. Collectively it is a city upon a hill, a metropolis if you will of believers for that is what a city is, a city is composed of many and its structures are all unique.
Just as we individually are unique with different talents for serving Jesus, each of us is a unique light and building within the city upon a hill. When each of our talents and lights are combined the city shines forth and collectively accomplishes amazing things for mankind and most of all for God and His glory alone.
How does this city manifest itself on earth? Christians are lights of the world individually and also collectively through the coming together of individuals to form establishments that point to Jesus and that help mankind. Think about Christianity and philanthropy as just one example, the two have gone hand-in-hand together forever.
Look at human history, across Europe hospitals were first founded by Christians, in Asia multitudes of orphanages have been established, the slave trade was abolished due to Christians, in Africa education has been brought to millions – the list of examples is endless.
Social reform, medical aid, education, the core beginnings of all such causes went hand in hand with the gospel and still do today. Heal the body, help the poor and infirm, be a voice for the voiceless, train the mind, build up the family, all are Biblical and all are hallmarks of true civilization. This is what the light of the world accomplishes for God.
Every institution built upon God’s rock is a beacon because its members are lights of the world and those members have collectively banded together to be a beacon for the lost, the downtrodden, the abused and the hurt no matter race or creed. The hospital, the orphanage, the nonprofit and college, all are beacons for the lost world, they are harbors of safety.
We must remember however that it is not necessarily these institutions that are the lights, though they certainly play a role, but any organizations most powerful component are its people, and we must remember that we are the lights of the world, both individually and collectively. And in addition God is our great leader who is always in charge and is to always receive the glory, that is what being a light is all about.
Also note that Jesus tells us the location of where He has set this city – upon a hill. This is because God’s truths, God Himself and His people stand above the calamities of this world.
8) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
9) For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.Isaiah 55:8-9 (KJV)
Just as a hill is above the landscape below God’s ways are higher than man’s ways, this is why His power and “cities” in this world appear as foolishness to the lost in this world.
14) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.I Corinthians 2:14 (KJV)
And yet reader we know all the better for we have come to Jesus in faith, belief and repentance to save us from our sins and have been set on a new course in which we can spiritually discern the real truths of life and of God.
This is why we have been set upon a hill, so that mankind may see us. Even if man thinks what we are doing is foolishness again we know better and are here to provide clarity and help through love to the lost of the world.
God intentionally sets us and his groups of believers and subsequent institutions upon hills, where we can see out and beyond. From below the hill the lost come to us for they see us for miles and from our vantage point atop the hill we can see them coming to us. We know that if we will serve God that He will bring the lost to us.
Even when they are not yet come to us we know they will come for God draws them. Even when they have come but are unaware just of what they really need, we know why they have really come, they are seeking help that ultimately only God can provide. We know their souls are lost and that God is using us as stewards of His message to save and redeem them, to point the way to Him, to care for not just their bodies but their souls as lights of the world.
You see we are watchman looking out for what the lost of this world really need, soul care and a savior. Glory be to God for giving us that truly awesome privilege for His glory alone!
I suggest reader that most who climb the hill to come to us know not of their sinful condition but we know better, we are set upon a hill, we can see above what this world thinks and does not realize. We see and know the way for them to join us as fellow lights upon the hill and that way, the only way, is through Jesus, the one and only savior.
You see God draws men to us through the Holy Spirit residing within us. Let us not be vain and think that people come to see us, it is He who is in us that shines and whom the lost need to see, that is how and why we are lights of the world.“We will never know just how great and far God’s reach has been for those whom we come in contact with until heaven where we will be pleasantly surprised and can rejoice with everyone who has been touched by His light through us forevermore.”
Let us not forget then that our light cannot be hidden for we are set upon hills. Once more it is God’s intention to do this. You see the Christian life is not about hiding, or isolation, no it’s about being visible, in fact reader if you are a Christian you cannot hide who you really are nor should you want to, you cannot change your new identity in Christ and especially because the world needs you.
Those who are climbing the hill by asking you about your faith, those that are climbing the hill for rest, healing, solace, food, shelter, and knowledge – to all we must be ready and willing to shine the light of Jesus upon their lives in service to them. Never prevent any from coming into our cities or lives for we have what they really need in this life and for eternity.
You have been set upon a hill for a purpose. It is part of your new identity in Christ. In addition knowing that a city cannot be hid shows us that even when we do work for Jesus and it seems as if the message does not go anywhere, that the harvest will not come, that we are struggling to do any work for Him, thinking that mankind simply does not see us or care about what we have to say, it is here that you must remember that a city upon a hill cannot be hid.
People can look away yet they still see our light and God is still working through us to help them. We will never know just how great and far God’s reach has been for those whom we come in contact with until heaven where we will be pleasantly surprised and can rejoice with everyone who has been touched by His light through us forevermore.
Those who work in the church, in the hospitals, at the orphanage, at the university and all over, those parents who are trying to raise their children up in what is right, any and all who feel like their trying is in vain must remember their work as lights in the world cannot be hidden and that we cannot always see God working in others. Even when we don’t feel like we are making a difference or it does not seem like we are making an impact for Jesus He is still and always working.
“You are” a light of the world and your light will always shine no matter what. Remember this is your new identity in Jesus, He has told you “you are”, always hold that close when it seems as if you are not making any progress for Him, for while it seems you are not rest assured that you are making progress for you are not hidden and God is always working.
May each of us know we are lights of the world, that we are set upon a hill for all mankind to see and to know that God’s work never goes unnoticed both by man and by Him. May we serve Him today and forevermore as lights of the world. Amen.