Preach the Gospel, Then Use Words
Dr. Jim Denison
Last weekend, on the Saturday before Valentine’s Day, I bought Janet a red rose in a bud vase, along with some other things. Clinging to the vase was this cute little red bear. I was in a hurry, so I bought it without a second look and smuggled it all home.
The next morning was Valentine’s Day, so I handed Janet the rose with its cute little bear. She started to laugh and said, “You gave me a little devil?” I had no idea what she meant, then looked closer. The “bear” I bought was actually a stuffed red devil, with horns and a tail. If I’d known that I would never have bought the thing, but in my haste the day before I didn’t even look. It boils down to this: your pastor gave the pastor’s wife a Satan doll for Valentine’s Day, as an expression of his love.
Janet was very nice about it all, but she did make one comment: “If you want to appear thoughtful, it’s best to be thoughtful.” Our lives must back up our words.
Last week we focused on the need for close proximity with lost people. Today we’ll look at the kind of “high potency” faith required for maximum impact in their lives. Why? Because we all want our lives to back up our words. None of us wants to be a hypocrite. But most of us are afraid that if we start telling more people about Christ, they’ll look at our lives and be turned off. We think our lives are not good enough to share Christ.
So, what is required to be “high potency” Christians? The answer may surprise you.
Who is the “light of the world?”
When Jesus said, “You are the light of the world,” believe it or not, he was speaking of us. Now, this is a great compliment. The Bible says that “God is light” (1 John 1:5), and Jesus repeatedly called himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5; 12:35; 1 John 1:7ff.). And the Jews typically called themselves the “light of the nations” as well.
But now Jesus says that you and I are the light of the world. Not the Jewish people; not Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Gandhi, the New Age enlightened; not the good and moral people we know; not politicians in Washington, Austin, or Dallas. You and I, sitting in this sanctuary today, are the light of the world.
This compliment is his grace gift to us. Remember that the first hearers had only followed Jesus a few days. They had virtually no training, experience, or contribution to make. They were the “light of the world” solely because they were related to him. The same is true of you and me. “You” is plural, referring to all of us. No matter our mistakes or failures. By his grace, every Christian here today is the light of the world.
Why? A lamp cannot light itself. What is the source of our light? Ephesians 5:8 is clear: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” Because we are children of God, we now have the light of God in our lives, shining to others.
II Corinthians 4:6 says that God “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Our “light” comes from Christ in our lives. And so ours is a reflected light. Think of the moon and the sun. The moon has no light of its own—it merely reflects the sun, which it can “see,” but we cannot. In the very same way, Christ has returned to his Father and we cannot see him now, but his light is reflected in the lives of his people, Christians.
Here’s the point: if you are a Christian you are already “the light of the world.” Believe it or not.
What can our light accomplish?
Now, what can this light in your life actually accomplish? Isn’t “high potency” Christianity really reserved for the Billy Graham’s and Mother Teresa’s of the world? For the missionaries and the monks, those few who are really “sold out” to God? If I knew your problems, your mistakes, or what’s in your mind right now, I wouldn’t call you the light of the world, right? But God does.
And he says that your light can defeat the darkness of your fallen world. Right now, you already have within you all the light you need to be a “high potency” believer.
“A city on a hill cannot be hidden,” according to Jesus. Their houses were made of very white limestone, and reflected the sun’s rays even from a great distance away. They were built on the hills around Galilee, so that you could see them at a distance. And at night, the city lights were visible from even farther away. Just as you cannot hide Dallas as you’re driving toward the city, so we cannot hide the light of Christ in our lives, unless we want to.
Jesus continues: “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” (v. 15). Their “lamps” were small clay pots, with a tiny wick floating on olive oil. They were hard to light, so people didn’t extinguish them at night. Instead, they put a bushel basket over them so the flame could get air while hiding the light.
But you don’t light a lamp to hide its flame. You put it on its “stand,” a rock or ledge built into the wall of the home. Then, because theirs were one-room houses, one oil lamp would give light to “everyone in the house.”
The point is obvious: Christianity was never meant to be lived in secret. The purpose of a lamp is to give light. The point is not what the lamp looks like, how big it is, how much oil it possesses, what kind of wick it uses, or how much it costs. The point, the purpose is not the lamp but the light. And if the lamp does its job, its light will always defeat the darkness.