When the Lights Go Out
Dr. Jim Denison
The flashlight can be the most valuable possession in your home.
In 1896, Mr. David Misell invented a device which connected the just-created “D” cell battery to a bulb. The bulb and batteries were so inefficient they could not provide a steady stream of light, so the device was called the “flash light.”
On Thursday, August 14, you could have sold Mr. Misell’s invention to 50 million people. The worst power outage in world history has cost New York City alone as much as $750 million dollars in lost income, taxes, and overtime costs.
No one thinks about a flashlight until the lights go out. And they often do. Last Sunday’s and Tuesday’s storms left thousands in Dallas without power, many through the night. Mr. Misell’s invention is what we need most.
It is a fact that you and I live in a world which is absolutely pitch-black with regard to the future. We do not know when the next power outage will occur. In fact, we don’t know what will happen an hour from now, or whether we’ll even be alive to witness it. Not a single human being knows with certainty what will happen tomorrow. Of all we don’t know, our greatest ignorance regards the next minute.
When the lights go out and all is dark, we have three options. We can feel our way alone; we can follow others who are just as blind as are we; or we can listen to the only One who sees the way, who is already where we want to be.
The psalmist chose wisely: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). Let’s make the same decision.
Live by God’s word
When Jesus finished the discourse we have studied for more than a year, Matthew says that “the crowds were amazed at his teaching.” “Amazed” translates a word which means to be beside yourself with astonishment, to be spell-bound, literally “struck out of themselves.”
Why? Because “he taught as one who had authority.”
“Authority” means literally “out of your own being.” It is power which you possess, which no one need confer on you. I have authority to call a staff meeting, but not a special session of the Texas Legislature. You have authority to do some things, but not others.
Jesus had “authority” to speak these words.
“Not as their teachers of the law.”
The prophets typically began, “Thus says the Lord.” Jesus never did, because he was and is the Lord.
The priests and professors quoted the Law, the Prophets, and writings about both. They collected verse-by-verse commentaries (Midrah), topical commentaries (Mishna), commentary on legal matters in Scripture (Halakah) and devotional applications (Haggadah). Then they made commentary on the earlier commentary (Gemara), and collected it all into their Talmud.
A rabbi would quote a rabbi, who quoted a rabbi. If my sermon today were to quote Barclay quoting Bruce citing the Greek New Testament, I would teach as their “teachers of the law.”
Not so with Jesus. Twelve times in this Sermon he says, “I say unto you.” No rabbi in Jewish history had ever done this. His words were the word of God.
They will be so forever: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8); “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
They lead us to salvation: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
They keep us from sin: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11); “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word” (Psalm 119:9).
They instruct and guide our lives: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Choose now to live by the word of God.
What decision is facing you today? Decide that you will consult Scripture before making it and live by the light of God’s word.
What actions or attitudes in your life are unbiblical? Where is there bitterness toward another person, coveting toward a possession, lust of eye or mind, pride of heart? Decide that you will confess it and live by the light of God’s word.
You face a future which is dark. Trust the only light you own.
Listen to God’s word
Now, listen to this, the greatest Sermon ever preached.
See the Galilean hillside, sloping gently down to the Sea of Galilee. Hear its waters as they lap the shore; listen to the calls of the birds as they circle overhead. Smell the flowers and grasses of the spring fields. Feel the sun on your face, the wind in your hair.
Join the crowds as they jostle together for a closer look at the One who is speaking. Close your eyes if you wish. Travel back 20 centuries. Join the first hearers of Jesus’ first sermon. Hear it again, for the very first time. And choose to live under the authority of these words, today and for the rest of your life.
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.