THE LUMINOUS LIFE
By Pastor Glenn Pease
William Sangster, the great British preacher, tells of one of the strangest taxes ever imposed. He asked his father one day why so many of the homes in London had blocked up windows. His father explained that back in 1695 every house that had more the 6 windows was taxed for the extra ones. Many people blocked up those extra windows to avoid the tax. Imagine that, the government put a tax on sunshine, and by so doing they shut out the quantity of light in many homes.
Man does some strange things with God's gift of light. John tells us that the life of Jesus was the light of men. He was the true light that enlightens every man, yet when he came into the world men loved darkness rather than light, and so though he came unto his own, his own received him not, but they shut out the light.
Man in his folly resists the light and rejects it, but John says the light goes on shining in the darkness, and the darkness cannot put it out. The sun does not cease to shine because of the dark clouds that cover it, and Jesus does not stop being the light of the world because of the dark valley of man's fallen nature that covers the world with a blanket of blackness that blocks men from seeing the glory of the Gospel.
Jesus has a plan to penetrate this world's night of ignorance with the light of knowledge. The plan is very simple. It is to advertise. Every Christian is to be a living commercial for the Producer of the program of life. Most everybody watches TV, but absolutely everybody watches the program of life, and this is where the Christian has a chance to shine and be advertising for the Sponsor of history.
The church is the biggest business in the world, and long before Coke and Pepsi, and hamburger businesses ever dreamed of going into all the world, Jesus made his church international. Go into all the world Jesus told His disciples. There is no exception. The Gospel is to be taken to every tribe, tongue, and nation. Christianity is to be universal, and like any big enterprise Jesus knew there had to be a program with advertising of the product. That is why Jesus said to His disciples, and says to all of us we have joined His company of the committed: "You are the light of the world."
If men are to come to God out of the world of darkness, they have to see the light. They have to have before them the evidence that the Gospel is real and valid. They need to see lives that have been touched by Christ, and now radiate the love which He expressed in, coming into the world, caring for the world, and being crucified for the sins of the world.
Jesus saw the power of video long before TV was even a dream. He knew the best advertising was not just audio; just the preaching of the good news. He knew men would want to see the Gospel in motion. Jesus, therefore, launches His world wide campaign by making every believer an advertisement for His kingdom. Your life is to be an audio-visual appeal to the world so that by the power of sound and sight men in darkness might see the light, and turn to God with a spirit of praise.
Without radio, TV, computers, satellites, or any other modern technology, Jesus launched the first truly world wide advertising campaign to bring light to all who are in darkness. The goal of Jesus is the same goal that all of your large businesses have today in their advertising plans. The whole idea of a commercial is to portray people enjoying the values and benefits of a product so that others desire is to experience those benefits for themselves. I see a miserable sufferer of sinus congestion who is smiling and breathing freely after taking a certain product. Naturally, I want in on that experience as a sinus sufferer, and so I go to get the product, and when it works for me, I praise the maker of this product, and bear testimony to others of what it can do for them. This is the power of advertising, for it enlightens and spreads the word.
Jesus says we are commercials for God. Men see the goodness of our lives, and the benefits of the Christian life, and our good deeds, and they are impressed with the Gospel, and desire to be in on it. What a challenge for every Christian to recognize that they are a key part of the world's most universal business. You and I are into advertising for the Universal Power Company, better known as the kingdom of God. To better understand our job we want to focus on two aspects of light that can enlighten us as lights of the world. A salesman, or actor, or anyone dealing with a product will do a better job if they are sold on the product, and are convinced of the value of it. Let us, therefore, focus on-
I. THE NEED FOR LIGHT.
Johann Wolfgang Goethe was the last of the so-called "Universal men.''He was knowledgeable in every major area of human learning. When he laid dying in 1832 he suddenly sat up in bed and cried out, "Light, light, more light!" Then he fell back dead. His last words were a cry for more light. He was one of the most learned of men, yet he longed for more light. The cliche is true that the more you know the more you realize how little you know. All geniuses know that their knowledge is a puddle, and their ignorance is a Pacific. All men who really know cry out for more light. There is a desperate need for answers in a world plagued with problems.
Jesus is saying to his followers that they help meet this need for light. Be part of the answer, and not part of the problem. The world has enough problems, so don't add to them. Reveal instead that there is an answer in Christ who is the source of all light. You reveal this by your own luminous life. That is, by a life that shines and radiates a love for people. The luminous life is the life that advertises the love and goodness of God. It is easy to say, God is love, but people must see it to believe it. Does God care? Does anybody care about all of the desperate needs of this world? These are the questions that come to every mind at sometime or another. The Christian is to be the evidence that the answer is yes, God does care, and He has provided a way to show it. The question all of us need to ask ourselves is, are we convincing evidence to the world that God cares? Are we good advertising, or are we so poor that we add to the darkness?
Jesus says the Christian who is a good ad is the Christian whose life benefits others through good deeds. In other words, the world is not impressed with a Christian vocabulary as much as with their visual display of love and caring. It is so easy to learn to talk of love, but not show it. We can do it in relation to our family and to the world. We see so many commercials where a celebrity says a product is great, but in the back of our minds we wonder, do they really use it themselves, or do they just say these nice things for a fee? We are skeptical and rightly so.
The world looks to the Christian life with the same skepticism. The Christian faith sounds pretty good, but do these people just say all this good stuff to please their Sponsor, who is God; in hopes of a reward, or do they really mean it, and live by the love they so eloquently speak of? Jesus says the world has the right to expect the Christian to reveal the depths of his commitment by good deeds. It is doing good that penetrates the skeptical darkness of the world. As with Sarah Lee, nobody doesn't like doing good. I have read of Mafia leaders who use money they steal from others to do good. Everybody can appreciate good deeds. They may not understand theology, but they can see the difference between doing good deeds and doing harmful deeds.
Even the non-Christian wants to see his children be good and not bad. Everybody can be reached by the message of good deeds. That is a frequency all men can pick up, and that is why the Christian must operate on that frequency if they expect to reach the world. The world is not tuned in to which Bible translation is best; which denomination has the best missionary program; or which Christian college is the best. The world can only judge the value of Christian life by what they see, and if they do not see good deeds, they do not see anything for their needs.
Good works do not save the person who does them, but they are a vital part of saving the world, for they attract the world to Christ who alone can save them by faith. They will seldom come to Christ, however, if they never see the light in Christians. Advertising a car does not get people to travel, but it gets them to buy the car in which they can travel. Advertising a cough medicine does not stop anybody from coughing, but it gets them to buy the cough medicine that can stop coughing. So advertising of the Gospel does not save anybody, but it brings people to Christ where they can be saved. Good deeds are, therefore, a vital part of God's plan to save the world.
Seeing is believing to the world, and so Jesus says to let your light shine so the world can see. You cannot convey the beauty of a flower show over the radio, because beauty is not verbal, it is visual. So you cannot convey the love and goodness of God by the verbal means only. There must be a visible demonstration that men can see. The world cannot grasp the reality of the unseen realm of the spirit. But they have the capacity to see tangible works of good. Not all Christians can speak effectively, but all Christians can be loving, kind, and do good deeds.
Has someone seen Christ in you today?
Christian, look to your life, I pray;
There are aching hearts and blighted souls
Being lost in sin's destructive shoals,
And perhaps of Christ there only view
May be what they see of Him in you.
Will they see enough to bring hope and cheer?
Look to your light! Does it shine out clear?
Robert Louis Stevenson remembered how, as a boy, he would look out of the window of his home and see that lamp lighter going down the dark street lighting the lamp posts. His nurse called one day as he was doing so, and asked, "What are you doing?" He responded, "I am watching a man make holes in the darkness." That is the job of all Christians in this world. They are to be lamplighters making holes in life's darkness. People need to see these holes to be aware that life is not all dark. The only way to make people aware of hope is by means of light.
Light gives people a choice. If you had to go into a dark store and pick out a suit or dress, you would not have much of a choice. You might be able to feel the kind of material and the style in which it is made, but there is not much of a choice in the dark. It is light that gives you a meaningful choice. The world needs to see that there is a choice between the life style of darkness and the life style of light. If there is no example of light before them, they really don't have a choice. They live in the dark and follow the ways of darkness. It is only the light that can give them a choice.
In 1944 Switzerland did not want the allied bombers to bomb their territory, and so they marked the boundaries of their land with lights. The pilots could see the boundaries clearly, and they had a choice as to where they let their bombs fall. The world needs to see clearly where the boundaries are between the life that will bring down the judgment of God, and the life that will bring down His blessings and peace. The Christian is to give the world the benefit of this choice by their luminous life, that is, the life that is pleasing to God, and of benefit to man.
The only way the lost can become aware that they are in darkness is by seeing the light. The contrast of their life with the Christian life can make them aware, and can give them the choice they never had without the light. The need for light is the world's greatest need, and the answer of Christ to this need is His disciples. He said to them, "You are the light of the world."
The question is not, does anyone use a certain medium because you use it? Does anyone wash with a certain product because you do? Does anyone go to a certain doctor or dentist because you do? Does anyone drive a certain car because you do? We all become a part of the advertising process for those things we like and enjoy, and which feed our affections. The real question for the Christian is, does anyone praise God and love Jesus because you do? Is anyone sold on the love and goodness of God because they see in you the luminous life?
The need is there, are you part of the answer? The second aspect we want to focus on is-
II. THE NATURE OF LIGHT.
Light is very complex and paradoxical. Scientists do not understand the nature of light. There's nothing quite like it in the universe. It is both a wave and a particle. It is supposed to be one or the other, but it won't cooperate. It keeps acting like both, and so science must accept light as it is. Light seems quite simple to us as we look at it, but it is very complex. Light has all different degrees of strength. The reason you can have a red light on in a dark room is because the photons coming from red light are so weak they do not set the chemicals in motion. If only red light came from the sun you could look straight at it. In fact, that is about the only time you can look at the sun, when it is large and red, and about to go down. The ultraviolet rays that come from the sun are very strong, and they can damage your eyes. They are the rays that cause sunburn. Other rays, like x-rays, and gamma-rays are stronger yet.
The point is, light is complex and full of variety, and this has important implications for both science and the Christian life. God made light visible, and He also made His children visible. We are not all alike just as light rays are not all alike. This is important to grasp because we can lose our sense of self-esteem and feel guilty if we try to be something we are not, and strive to shine the same as another Christian we admire. The study of light leads us to the same conclusion as the study of gifts. God loves variety, and each of His children need to discover their gifts accordingly, and not try to conform to gifts they do not have. They also should not try to force others to conform to theirs.
As lights of the world Christians will differ. Some will radiate with such strength they will produce warmth as well as light. Others will be more subdued and not have that kind of impact. There will be variety even in the same life. The radiant Christian will sometimes not shine very brightly. They will be tired and run down, even as Jesus was. And they may be angry even as Jesus was. Jesus, as the light of the world with a capital L could become angry and create a storm in the temple as He expressed judgment on the injustice of man. Even Jesus did not radiate love 100% of the time. Love was behind His anger, but it was not love for those doing what was unjust.
The reason I point this out is so we can keep balance as we look at the ideals of this great sermon. If we strive to live on a level of absolute radiance, we will only fail, and end in a state of despair. This is not the goal of Jesus in this sermon. The goal of the Christian is the same as the goal of the scientist. Keep working with light, and learn of its nature, and develop it for higher ends. Science has done marvels with light in recent years. They have learned how to use the power of light that has always been there, and this is the challenge for the Christian to understand light so as to use its power more effectively. In the realm of science man has discovered the laser beam. It is simply light developed to a higher power.
Ordinary light comes off the light bulbs with all the different wave links mixed together. It is just a mass of variety all mixed up. Laser light is different. There is no mixture. It is light waves all on the same frequency. It is pure light not mixed up with all the others in degrees and colors. It's oneness is the source of its power. It is concentrated light. Regular light goes off in all directions, but laser light all goes the same direction. Regular light is more like a mob, but laser light is like a column of soldiers marching with precision. It sticks together, and with the power and unity it strikes its object. Because of the oneness and unity of the laser beam it can be focused with such precision that man has been able use it to heat a cup of coffee a 1000 miles away.
There are many marvelous things men can do with this form of light in medicine, industry, and in the military. The so-called death-ray is a reality. The point is, what is true in the natural realm is also true in the realm of the spirit. Jesus said that He is the light of the world. Then He tells His disciples that they are the light of the world. Does this mean Christians are equal to Christ? Not at all. No more than general light is equal to laser light. Jesus is pure light. He is one and consistent, and thus, powerful light. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. In us there is still the shadow, if not the night. We are visible and inconsistent, and thus, we cannot penetrate as the light of Jesus does. The Lord is the laser, and we are the regular light. But regular light is all that is necessary for the primary task of the Christian in the world. All regular light needs to do is help people see the Laser in Christ.
Jesus is the light people must come to for laser power. He alone can cut out the sin of their lives. He alone can heal their blindness. He alone can penetrate to their innermost soul and bring healing. Our task is to help the world see what Jesus can do. Advertising does not do the job of the product. It just points to the product. Christians are not the saving and healing light. They are the light that points the world to Him. Jesus does not say that when the world sees your good works they will praise you and honor you. They will praise God and glorify Him, for if you do your job right, the glory will go to Him. Your light is to point to Him, and not yourself. You are not the answer to the world's darkness, but Jesus is, and only as you point men to Him are you part of the answer.
The light from a lighthouse does not save the drowning sailors. That light just shows the way to go to be saved. If they do not get to land they will drown in spite of the light. So the Christian cannot save the lost sinner. He can only point to the one who can. The poet wrote,
The world is in a crisis today.
The powers of hell are set in stern array.
Men are blind and cannot find the way.
Christ, our Lord, will help us in our plight.
Christ, for the Crisis! He is the Source of Light.
You and I are like Andrew coming to Peter his brother, and saying, "We have found the Messiah. Come and see." We point to Jesus, but the only reason they have to listen to us is because we reflect His light and enable them to see there is power in Him. There is a lot to complain about in the world, for the power of darkness is great, but let's remember the only reason there is need for light is because of the darkness. If the world was not a rotten place, there would be no need for Christians to be the salt of the earth. If the world was not a place of darkness, there would be no need for Christians to be the light of the world. So the point is, don't wine, but shine.
His lamps are we
To shine where He shall say;
And lamps are not for sunny rooms,
Nor for the light of day,
But for dark places of the earth,
Where shame and wrong and crime have birth;
Or for the murky twilight gray,
Where wondering sheep have gone astray;
Or where the light of faith grows dim,
And souls are groping after Him;
And as sometimes a flame we find,
Clear shining through the night-
So bright we do not see the lamp,
But only see the light,
So we may shine-His light the flame,
That men may glorify His name. Author unknown.
You are the light of the world. The question we all have to ask ourselves is, are we hidden light, or are we helping light? Does anyone in the world love Christ and praise God because of our life?