Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matt. 5:14). In the immediate context of this verse Jesus set His followers in contrast with the rest of the world. This verse calls attention to a world that exists in darkness due to sin. The lives of followers of Jesus, in contrast, radiate the light of righteousness. The difference between His followers and the rest of the world is so stark that Jesus uses the illustration of a city built on a hillside. At night, when the sun goes down and the residents of the city light their homes for the evening, the city naturally stands out in the surrounding darkness. There is no way to hide a lit up city situated high up on a hillside at night. Its light calls obvious attention to itself.
Christians are to be illuminating light in a dark world. Their righteousness should naturally call attention to their presence in a world engulfed in the darkness of sin. Christians should not be arrogant, but neither should they be ashamed of their difference from the world around them. In fact, Jesus instructs in vs. 16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Christians need to be aware that they are different from the world, and they should cherish and nurture that difference. At the same time, Christians need to have a deep desire to use their own light to help others see the way to salvation. How can Christians let the light of righteousness in their lives shine sufficiently to help others find the way to salvation and glorify God at the same time?
One obvious way for Christians to let their lights shine is to continue to live in righteousness. Christians have to remain faithful in the way they follow the Lord. They cannot live any old way they please, they must live in a way that pleases Jesus. They must live by His teachings. John calls it “walking in the light.” Only thereby can we have fellowship with our Savior (1 Jn. 1:7).
Closely related to this, Christians must continually study and learn God’s word (2 Tim. 2:15). Only by learning God’s word can they live by God’s word. Christians let their lights shine as they exemplify God’s teachings in their lives. They can only exemplify God’s teachings if they know God’s teachings, and they can only know His teachings by studying and learning His word. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
Another way Christians can let their lights shine is by serving God in a dedicated, openly committed way. The words inactive and Christian should not go together. Inactivity in service to God does not describe a spiritually mature, faithfully dedicated Christian. As Christians we are to be “zealous for good works” (Tit. 2:14). James pointedly emphasizes the truth that “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:20).
A fourth way Christians can obviously let their lights shine is by teaching the gospel message of salvation to the lost of the world. As one learns and obeys the gospel, his life naturally transforms from one that is lost in the darkness of sin to one that shines with the light of forgiveness and salvation. What a wonderful way to let one’s light shine! Help other souls become Christians. Then their lives will also help dispel the darkness in the world.
Each of us should continually check the light switches in our lives to make sure they are in the on position. If our lights are not shining, then we too stand to be lost in the darkness of sin...
Gary L. Hutchens