Phil Cox

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You are the light of the world

9th January 2009

During the Sermon on the mount, Jesus said:

Matthew 5v14-16
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people 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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

We – the church – are God’s chosen people. But it’s not enough for us to live separate from the world, happy in our fellowship with God and with each other. We are called to make a difference in the world.

Jesus calls us to let our light shine in the world. But we’ve made the mistake of thinking that we do this through our words alone. We’ve thought that letting our light shine is just about evangelism, and evangelism is just about getting someone along to a meeting where they can hear the gospel. All that’s good and important, of course. But we let our light shine far brighter, and to far more effect, if we communicate God’s goodness in our lives, as well as our words. For example, Jesus speaks here about good deeds. We love each other, and we love those outside the church, when our deeds match our words – when we do acts of loving kindness, as well as talking about love.

But as well as what we say, and what we do, we communicate God’s love – we let our light shine – by who we are or, rather, by how we are.

As Christians, we’re called to enjoy and manifest certain attributes. They’re listed in:

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control...

These attributes are not the fruit of our own goodness or our own effort; they're the fruit of the Spirit. As we co-operate with God, the Holy Spirit produces this fruit within us, and continues to increase it. All Christians should have all these attributes of the fruit of the Spirit in increasing measure. And if we haven’t, then something's wrong and needs to be put right.

When a Christian or, better still, a church manifests this fruit, then those around can see Jesus in that Christian or church. Equally, when we fail to manifest this fruit, we can mask Jesus and His message to others. How many people have turned away from the Good News of Jesus Christ because the church was not demonstrating the Kingdom of God by showing the fruit of the Spirit?

There are, of course, two reasons why we can fail to manifest the fruit of the Spirit:

  • Firstly, we can fail to cooperate with God, so that there is very little of the fruit of the Spirit within us.
  • Secondly, we can hide the fruit away.

As James teaches in his letter, if we love someone but it doesn't translate into action, then it's of no value to them. Similarly, if we know God's peace in our hearts, but don't live peacably, then our light is not shining. And if we claim to have joy in Christ, but we don't smile or sing or dance about it, then no-one will ever know.

Let the world see what God has done for you. Let your neighbours see your love, peace, joy... Don't keep it to yourself.

To be the light of the world, we need to shine.