December 2020

From The Pastor's Heart

Jesus told His followers, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14).

By Charles F. Stanley

One of the most beautiful sights of Christmas is all the glittering lights. They instantly transform an ordinary setting into a wonderland that catches our attention, lifts our spirits, and builds a sense of anticipation. Although Christmas lights are only on display for a few weeks of the year, did you know that God has provided even brighter lights that are always shining, no matter what the season? Those lights are the Christians He has scattered throughout the world.

Jesus told His followers, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). Have you ever thought of yourself that way? Perhaps you’re wondering what it means to be a light. After all, didn’t Jesus say He was the Light of the world (John 8:12)? Both statements are true, but Christ’s light originates from within Himself as the Son of God, whereas our light is merely a reflection of His life in us. As Christ’s life is displayed in our character and conduct, His light shines through us to those around us. That’s how, both as the church and as individual believers, we are the light of the world.

To better understand this concept, consider what light does.

First of all, it dispels darkness. If you were in a pitch-black cave, and someone lit a lantern, that flame would instantly eliminate the blackness. No matter how small a light is, it always overcomes darkness.

That’s what believers are like in the world. The Bible uses darkness to illustrate the sinful condition of society and mankind, and describes them as “being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart” (Eph. 4:18). Christians throughout the world dispel the darkness and are used by God to show others how to come into Christ’s light through faith in Him.

Second, light guides the way. If you’ve ever been on a trail at night, you know how important a flashlight is. Without it, you’d stumble over obstacles and probably become lost. In a similar way, believers are flashlights for those walking in spiritual darkness, showing them the way to Christ through their godly lifestyles and their testimony.

Together the body of Christ is like a city on a hill whose lights are a beacon of hope for travelers seeking refuge (Matt. 5:14). We have the only message that can save human souls and lead them to eternal life. The goal is to let our light shine in such a way that others see our good works, glorify God (v. 16), and ultimately, find salvation for themselves through faith in Jesus.

Third, light exposes what is hidden. Although we’d like everyone to be attracted to Christ through our witness, the reality is that many don’t want anything to do with Him. In fact, some people are very antagonistic toward Christians because a righteous lifestyle exposes their own sinfulness. Jesus said those who won’t come to the Light hate it because it exposes their deeds as evil (John 3:19-20). If you’ve ever turned on a bedroom light and seen someone pull the covers over their eyes to avoid the brightness, you’ve seen an illustration of what can happen when unrepentant sinners are presented with the gospel.

Fourth, light is meant to be seen, not covered up. It makes no sense to light a lamp and then cover it with a basket, since its purpose is to illuminate the room (Matt. 5:15). Yet, this is sometimes what Christians do. They shine brightly when they’re gathered with fellow believers at church, but during the rest of the week, they try to keep their Christianity private. As a result, their light is covered up with the values, language, and practices of the world around them. Instead of displaying the light of Christ in their lives, they begin to blend in with the darkness around them

Being the light of the world isn’t optional for believers. If Christ dwells in you, you are light even if you cover it up in order to avoid rejection or ridicule. You may think your life is small and inconsequential, but God has placed you exactly where He wants you in this world to reflect Christ and influence those around you. Even if you feel you aren’t making a difference, remember you can’t always see the impact you’re having. God can use you in unseen ways as long as you’re seeking to walk obediently and faithfully before Him.

This Christmas season, let the holiday lights remind you of your responsibility to let your light shine before men. As you allow Jesus’ life to radiate throughout your words and actions, God will accomplish His will through you. He’s the only one who can open a hard heart and transform a sinner into a saint. And never think that your light is too small to make a difference. The power to transform lives is not dependent on the strength of your light, but on Christ’s ability to use you for His glory. So let your light shine and watch what He will do.

Prayerfully yours,

Charles F. Stanley

P.S. I’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas this year as you celebrate our Savior’s birth. May the joy of the season fill your heart as His light shines through you, and may His perfect peace guard your heart in Christ Jesus all year long.

14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;

12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."

18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;

19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.

20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

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