Jesus sat teaching His disciples one day, and He made a statement which perplexed them to a great extent. He said, - “You are the light of the world.” It is a statement that is still very applicable in the dark society of the present age. It doesn’t take much imagination to identify the darkness in the world in which we live, but do we really understand what it means to be the light to that dark world? In another context, Jesus said “I am the Light of the World”. We can readily recognize how Jesus could fit such a description, after all, He was the Son of God. But how can we be the light of our world?
To understand such a concept, it would be helpful to know the meaning of the word that Jesus used for “light”. The Greek word in this context is “phos”, from which we derive our English word “phosphorescent”. Quite simply, it means generated light as opposed to reflected light. The idea of reflected light is easy to relate to when we consider how our lives should be a mirror image of our Lord. One of the critical questions that each of us must face is – “does the world see Jesus when they look at us?” Certainly, the answer to that question should be considered as a guide to the effectiveness of our daily spiritual walk. But now we must face the question – “does my life generate enough light in this dark world so that others can find their way to the Light of the World?”
Jesus said “a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid”. In this context we see that light gives direction. If people are lost in the darkness of the night, they simply need to follow the glow in the sky – which will lead them to the nearest inhabited community. The location of the community will become obvious to the disoriented travelers, and they will soon be in a position to receive instruction and direction in their search for survival. Ours is a society in which many people are searching for direction for their lives. It is our Lord’s desire that we would be the source of light that will direct those lost souls out of the darkness into His glorious light.
At the same time, we must realize that light overcomes darkness. If we mix light with darkness, we are naturally left with light. Light and darkness cannot co-exist. Jesus, who declared “I am the Light of the world”, could also affirm “I have overcome the world”. The darkness of this world must give way to the Light of Life as we yield ourselves to His control. Note that yielding ourselves is a voluntary effort on our part. It is left entirely to our will as to whether we set our lighted candle on the candlestick, or hide it, unobtrusively, under a bushel basket. Certainly, the latter choice is more comfortable in a world that is already filled with darkness. After all, it does not offend anyone, and we can rightly claim that the light is still burning. However, such an action is contrary to the original purpose of making us to be lights in a dark world. Rather, it was in the plan of God that we be set on a candle stick, so that we could give light to the whole house. Such a concept is scary to many Christians, because it leaves us feeling vulnerable, out-of-place in a world where we are taught to “conform to the norm”. Perhaps that is why Peter says that we are a peculiar people, so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His glorious light.
Light causes growth - is a concept that we learned in our high school science class. “Let there be light” are the first recorded words of Almighty God, even before He set about creating the world and all that is in it. Without the proper amount of sunlight our gardens become stunted, and may well refuse to bloom and bear fruit. Bearing fruit was a concept about which Jesus had much to say. It is a process that is the very basis for our existence in the kingdom of God. Jesus said that every tree that does not bear fruit is cut down and burned. On the other hand, every tree that bears fruit is pruned by the skillful, loving hand of the Master Gardener so that it will bear more fruit. But, in order to bear fruit at all, we must be exposed to a generous amount of the Light of the world.
We can judge the effectiveness of our light, Jesus said, when people see, or begin to take notice of our good works. “But, I thought that we didn’t rely on good works”, some may say, and that is quite correct as to our eternal salvation. However, the good works that Jesus was talking about on this occasion is a natural product of the Light of Life that resides within each believer. It is not something for which we need to strive. A burning candle doesn’t have to try to be a source of light – but, because it is burning, it naturally emits light. So it is in or Christian experience. Since we have been ignited by the power of the Holy Spirit, we naturally emit a radiant glow that is immediately evident in a world of darkness. And people will notice a “difference” in our manner of speech, our lifestyle, our response to specific circumstances, and a variety of other criteria by which we are examined under the microscope of humanity.
Finally, Jesus said, we know that we are being effective as lights when people, having seen our good works, glorify our Father in heaven. To bring glory to the name of God was the initial purpose of our creation. As a result of sin, man got hopelessly off track, until God introduced His plan of Salvation. Now, those of us who have been “regenerated” by the Holy Spirit have a responsibility to redirect the glory and adoration of man back to our Creator. As we all know, the enemy would like us to keep some of the glory for ourselves, thereby satisfying our human pride. In such times of temptation, we need to make a conscious effort to readdress the accolades of man to the original Source of the light that burns within us.
To complete the analogy in 21st Century terms, consider the incandescent light bulb that burns in the lamp beside the bed. We are like the bulb that glows, dispelling the darkness and giving light to the inhabitants of the room. The actual source of the light is the burning filament within the bulb. This is the love of Jesus that is shed abroad in our hearts. Finally, we need a source of power that keeps the filament burning continuously. Such is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of each believer. In a world that is filled with the darkness of sin – would somebody please turn on the lights !
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