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You Are the Light of the World

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
February 23, 2024 3:00 am

You Are the Light of the World

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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February 23, 2024 3:00 am

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We are the lights holding forth the Word of life.

Jesus illustrates this thought right here in Matthew 5. He says we've got to be visible, folks. We can't just be secret influence. We've got to be visible. And the light has to shine openly. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. It seems that every week there's a news story about a horrific crime followed by a national and often fruitless conversation about what caused the violence and what to do about it. The world has problems that politicians, academics, and popular media simply cannot solve.

They can't even explain it. Thankfully, there is hope. And if you're a believer, you not only have this hope, but your life can point others to the same hope. And of course, that hope is in Jesus Christ. And today, John MacArthur shows how you, as the light of the world, can shine in a way that helps draw others to Christ. It's part of John's current study, How to Live in a Dying World.

And so, with a lesson now, here's John MacArthur. Let's look at Matthew chapter 5, verses 13 through 16. Here our Lord, in His Sermon on the Mount, directs His attention away from the multitudes to the group of disciples gathered closest to Him. And He says to them, And ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt have lost its savour, with what shall it be salted? It is thereafter good for nothing but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden, neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a lampstand, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. A magazine once carried a series of pictures and that series of pictures depicted one of the saddest stories imaginable. The first picture was a picture of a vast wheat field in Kansas. It was a farm in western Kansas and from horizon to horizon, all you could see was the wheat waving in the wind.

The second picture was of a mother in distress inside her farmhouse in the middle of that wheat field. She had a small boy who had somehow wandered away from the house into that wheat field and the little fellow was so small that he couldn't be seen. She couldn't find him. She had called for her husband and the two of them had searched all day long for that little fellow. And they finally decided that they should call the neighbors who began to search frantically all over the wheat field with no success.

And they knew the boy was too little to see above the wheat and find his own way out. And so the picture showed her in great distress. The third picture depicted all the people who had heard of the little boy being lost gathered in the morning, joining their hands hand to hand and in a great long line of humanity linked only by their hands, sweeping from one end of that wheat field to the next. The last picture was a heartbreaker. The last picture was a picture of the father standing over the body of his little son. They had finally found him, but he was dead. But it was too late. The cold, cold night had claimed its victim. And underneath the final picture of a weeping father were these words, Oh God, if we had only joined hands sooner. What a heart searching story that is. Listen, people. Jesus said as He looked out over the fields, the field is white unto harvest, but the laborers are what?

Few. You know, I really believe there's a world of lost men. There's a world of lost women. There's a world of lost boys and girls way out in the field of the world and they can't find home.

They can't find the father's house. They can't see above the wheat of the world. And they're perishing in the night of sin and when the cold morning dawns, it'll be too late. And the Lord Jesus Christ, I believe, right here in Matthew 5, 13 to 16 is saying to us, Join hands. Join hands. Be salt and light.

Sweep through the field of the world to find all of those who are desperately in need of your influence and your message. And I don't think one can do it. I don't think two can do it. I don't even think a handful can do it. I think the whole church has to join hands and be collective salt.

Salt is useless as far as one grain is concerned and light is a combination of fluorescence. We've got to take hands and sweep through the world and that's the message that Jesus is giving us right here. We are salt and we are light to reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is the vital message contained right here in our Lord's words. He has followed up the beatitudes. In the beatitudes He says, Here's the character I expect you to have. And if you have this kind of character, then you're a child of My kingdom. And if you have this character and you are a child of My kingdom, here's your job.

Sweep through the world as salt and light and make a difference. Jesus is calling on us, as we saw in our last study, to influence the world for His glory, to find the lost before it's too late. And the key is in what's gone on in the verses before, having magnificently come to know the principles and the qualities that render us effective for God, that bring us into His kingdom, that make us distinct from the world. He now tells us, Move out into the world with that marvelous distinctiveness and find those that are lost and bring them to Christ. The supreme matter in the kingdom is character.

Character is the issue. The character described in the beatitudes makes it possible for us to affect the world. The emphatic is here. We are the only salt and we are the only light the world will ever know. So you notice that the final beatitude is transitional, don't you? The final beatitude is in verse 10, Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake.

Verse 11, Blessed are you when men shall revile you, persecute you, say all manner of evil against you falsely. In other words, the world is going to hate us and the world is going to persecute us. We expect that to happen. We don't expect it to be easy. And I believe it'll get harder and harder all the time. It isn't going to be easier.

I think the price is going to be paid. I think that just because the world makes it tough on us, we don't crawl in a hole. We don't keep our mouth shut.

We don't hide. We come right into verse 13. We are salt in the world and we are light in the world. Now to better understand this concept, I told you last time there are four great truths you need to grip.

First the presupposition, then the plan, then the problem, and then the purpose. The presupposition in this text is the decay and darkness of the world. The very text presupposes decay and darkness of the world. Where you need decay and darkness.

Where you need salt, you have decay. And where you need light, you have darkness. And so our Lord is saying here's the presupposition. We are living in a decadent, dark world. We can't affect the world unless we're different. Our lives have to be different. Our relationships have to be different.

Our homes have to be different. And God could look at our world as He looked at that antediluvian, that pre-flood world and said, God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of His heart was only evil continually. We live in a dark and a decadent world. That is the presupposition to what Jesus says. Our world is a desperate world. And just because they make it hard on us, we can't stop preaching because there's somebody lost out there in that field and we've got to sweep through the world no matter what the price.

The second thing we talked about last time was the plan. The presupposition is the darkness and decay of the world. The plan is the dominion of the disciples.

We've got to move in the world and dominate it. Notice in verse 13, ye are the salt. Verse 14, ye are the light.

Verse 16, let your light so shine. What is God's plan to deal with this dark and decaying world? His plan is us.

It's us. There isn't anybody else. It isn't going to be given to anybody else. It doesn't belong to famous evangelists.

They'll never touch the people you touch. It doesn't belong to great preachers. It doesn't belong to people on the radio and television and people who write books. It belongs to all of us.

This is God's divine plan. The pronouns in verses 13 and 14 are emphatic. Ye only are the salt. Ye only are the light.

If you don't do it, there's nobody to do it. Now look closely at the symbols. Last time we studied salt. Salt speaks of influence, of influence. Salt is the silent testimony. Salt is our moving through the world and affecting it with our very life.

We said that salt basically has five functions, purity, flavor, sting, in a wound, thirst, it creates thirst, and a preservative. And we are to be in the world pure, glistening white against the darkness of the world. We are to flavor life with a wonder of God's presence among us. We are to sting and convict the sinful wound of the world. We are to create a thirst for Christ by the very way we live, as Israel is to be provoked to jealousy by the church. And we are to be a preservative. We are an antiseptic in the world to retard the spread of its corruption.

If it weren't for Christians in the world, the world would be far more corrupt than it is now. We preserve it. And by the way, you notice it says in verse 13, you are the salt of the earth.

This covers the whole earth. We are the only salt the whole earth will ever know. And Jesus is saying that the earth is like a carcass, slowly but relentlessly deteriorating, rotting, and in great need of some power to restrain that corruption, to create a thirst for God, to sting sin's wound, to flavor life, and to bring purity to some dark and decaying soul.

We are that salt. This is our witness as the silent impact of a godly life. Listen, the way to change the world isn't to change it politically. The way to change the world isn't to rewrite the laws. It isn't to march, and it isn't to try to use all of the technical paraphernalia for altering society. The way to change the world, people, is just to infiltrate it with godliness and righteousness and holiness and affect it from the inside out. Now, those other things aren't wrong, but they are going to be powerless unless our lives are what they ought to be.

Think about it this way. Never has the church been more involved in social action in our country. Never has the church been more involved in social action in recent history in our country. Never have we been so preoccupied with endeavoring to see Christianity in government.

And what is the result? A society that's more immoral than it's ever been, because that's not the way to do it. The way to do it is the influence of a godly life. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says this, and I quote, Most competent historians are agreed in saying that what undoubtedly saved England from a revolution such as was experienced in France at the end of the 18th century was nothing but the evangelical revival. This was not done because anything was done directly but because masses of individuals had become Christians and they were living this better life and they had this higher outlook. The whole political situation was affected and the great acts of parliament which were passed in the last century were mostly due to the fact that there were such large numbers of individual Christians found in the land, end quote.

What he's saying is that they dominated the land by the power of their testimony. It's wonderful to think of the fact that God could turn around a whole nation, He could turn around a whole world by using us. God uses simple things, you know that. God uses simple, mundane, everyday, routine, common things for the most amazing purposes. You know, when He made man in the garden, He didn't use gold, He didn't use silver, He didn't even use iron, He used dirt.

That ought to give you, right from the start, a kind of an idea how He works. When He called David to deliver Israel from the Philistines, He didn't want Saul, the great king, and He didn't even want Saul's massive armor. He used a shepherd and a couple of stones, that's all. And when He came into the world, He didn't enter the family of the wealthy and the noble, and He didn't find Himself born in a castle. He simply chose a peasant girl and a stable. And when He chose the twelve, He didn't choose the elite and the educated and the affluent. He just chose a group of ignorant Galileans. And the Bible says, not many mighty and not many noble. And that's the way it always has been because God gets the greater glory and the humbleness of the one that He uses. So He uses us, grains of sand, to influence a corrupting world.

But it doesn't stop with influence. And now we come to the second thing, and that's light. Verse 14, you are the light of the world.

You know, and now we move to another thought here. Salt and light balance each other in this sense. Salt is hidden. You don't see it at all.

It just melts away into whatever it flavors or whatever it preserves. It works secretly to preserve from the inside, but light shines on the outside and light is open and light is working visibly. In other words, the salt is the influence of Christian character.

It is quiet, but it is powerful. Light is the communication of the content of the gospel. And so you have both sides. On the one hand, we live it. On the other hand, we preach it. On the one hand, from the inside we affect society's thinking and society's living by the power of our lives. On the other hand, we turn on the light so that everybody can see the message we want to give. And it isn't just in our words, it's in our very overt, open, godly conduct. We are not to just be a subtle influence like salt.

We are to be a very open and blatant influence such as light. Because, you see, salt can't change corruption into incorruption. Salt can only retard the corruption.

That's only a negative function. Salt only holds back the corruption. We have to turn on the light of the gospel to transform that corruption into incorruption. And, of course, our light is primarily indicated in verse 16. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. That implies, first of all, that they see our good works. Secondly, they glorify our Father in heaven. That means they've heard something about our Father in heaven. It implies both a life and a message, lived and spoken.

And so here we are as salt, retarding the things of corruption in the world. But at the same time as light, we speak the truth of the light and we live the truth of the light so there's an overt and positive testimony as well. You remember back in Acts 1 where the apostle writes, where Luke writes and he says, the former letter have I made unto you, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began to do and to teach. And ever and always, people, those two things go together, the living and the speaking. Our light is a matter of living the righteous life and of uttering out the righteous content, the righteous truth. If you study the Bible, you'll find that light is related to the knowledge of God. Light is related to the true knowledge of God.

For example, just a couple of scriptures in Psalm 36, 9, it says this, for with thee is the fountain of life. In thy light shall we see light. So the first thing we have to realize is that God is light, right?

1 John chapter 1. In thee is the fountain of life and in thy light shall we see light. God is light. So if we are to be light, then we must manifest God.

In Psalm 119 verse 105, it says, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet unto...what? Light unto my path. God is light.

The Word is light. In the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ says, I am the light of the world. He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall see the light of life. So we see that God is light. And the Bible or the Word of God is light.

And Christ is light. And that is the light that we are to shine on the world. We're to tell them about God. We're to tell them about God's Word. And we're to tell them about God's Christ. That's letting the light shine. And it's got to be spoken and then it's got to be supported by a life, doesn't it?

That is consistent. So the fact is, if you want to know what light is in the Bible, it's just a comprehensive term referring to all of God's revelation, the revelation of Himself, of His Word and of His Son. That's light. And so we are to proclaim the message of light in a dark world as well as to be salt in a decaying one. In Luke 177, the purpose for which Christ came, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins through the tender mercy of our God whereby the day spring from on high hath visited us to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. That's why He came, to give light to them in darkness. And so what our Lord is saying here is that collectively we manifest the light. He's the sun.

We're just moons, right? He is the real light. He is the essence of light. We're reflectors.

That's all. John 1 9, Christ is the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He's the only true light, but we are reflectors of that light.

He's the sun and we're the moons. And beloved, I think this is the primary duty of the church, to be light in the world, to spread the message of salvation, not just to sit around talking to each other. That's wonderful. And having fellowship is wonderful.

And that's rich and that's exciting. But sooner or later we've got to be light in the world and we've got to be salt in the earth. We've got to get out from just being wrapped up in ourselves. In 2 Corinthians chapter 4 and verse 6, let me give you just a free rendering of that verse. God who first ordered the light to shine in the darkness has flooded our hearts with His light. We now can enlighten men only because we can give them knowledge of the glory of God as we have seen it in the face of Jesus Christ.

I'll read it again. God who first ordered the light to shine in darkness has flooded our hearts with His light. And we now can enlighten men only because God has given us the knowledge of His glory as we've seen it in the face of Christ. So you see, God passes the light all the way down through us.

So important. The Jews in Romans 2 claim to be light. The Apostle Paul denies that. Their light had gone out. They weren't lights anymore. The Jews used to say that Jerusalem was a light to the Gentiles. In fact, a famous rabbi once called the city of Jerusalem the lamp of Israel.

But it wasn't true anymore. When Jesus spoke these words that day on the hillside, Jerusalem wasn't any light. God's light wasn't there anymore.

That was no lamp. The world was in darkness. And so Jesus says, it isn't Jerusalem anymore that's the light. It isn't Israel anymore that's the light. It isn't the Jewish people anymore that are the light. You only are the light. The church would be the light. The ones who follow Jesus Christ would be the light. And so it's been all along.

We're the light. Philippians chapter 2 verse 14 puts it this way, do all things without murmurings and disputings that you may be blameless and harmless children of God without rebuke. Oh, that's it, folks. You've got to live the life.

You've got to live the life, see. The life has to be there, a blameless life, harmless and blameless and without rebuke. Listen, if they're going to criticize us, let them have to make up something because there's nothing they can use. If we have to be hated, let us be like Christ, hated without a what? A cause.

Why? Because we are to be blameless, harmless children of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked perverse nation among whom ye shine as lights in the world. See, we are the lights holding forth the Word of life. Jesus illustrates this thought right here in Matthew 5. He says we've got to be visible, folks. We can't just be secret influence.

We've got to be visible and the light has to shine openly. Verse 14 of Matthew 5 says, It says, A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Now if you ever travel in the Holy Land in the time of the Lord and perhaps even today, you'd be impressed with the fact that the villages are built on the tops of the hills. I'll never forget going through Galilee and it seemed like every village you saw just kind of sat up on a little hill. I remember going to Cana and seeing Cana up against a hill. And then further up to the left a little ways to the north, I saw Nazareth up on a hill. And all the little villages were set up on a hill.

And they could be cooled on the hill by the breezes that blew in the day and they could be more easily defended. And when night came, it was very common custom for them to light a lamp in the house. And it just made the little village sparkle and anybody who was walking through the night could find his way very easily to the village because he could see the light sparkling on the hill. So the point is the city couldn't be hidden.

Everybody knew that light was for the purpose of manifesting. And it's amazing to think about the fact that a Christian would say, well, I know God's light is shining in my heart, but I don't see that I have any need to shine anywhere else. You're light, my friend, and light isn't supposed to be hidden.

You're a city on a hill. The point is conspicuousness. We're not just subtle salt. We're very conspicuous light. Every traveler knew where the refuge was.

Every traveler knew where the little village was because the light sparkled like diamonds in the sky. We're not masons in a secret society. We're not pagans with mysteries only for the initiated.

We don't have a cult known only to the few. We're a city set on a hill. The whole world ought to see us.

We're a city set on a hill. And, you know, we've got to be salt before we can be light. We've got to have the character and the influence before we have a message.

It's believable. So that's the divine plan. That's the plan. Timely words from John MacArthur, chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. His current series here on Grace to You is titled How to Live in a Dying World. And now, John, with your current series in mind, I have a question about evangelism.

Very foundational. What are some practical things that believers can do to grow in their evangelism? What does it look like to improve in this fundamental Christian discipline?

I obviously don't have a lot of time to give a broad answer, but let me say this. I think the most effective instrument in evangelism is the character of your life. I mean, that's exactly what our Lord said. Let your light so shine that men may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. In other words, the most effective evangelism is a transformed life that causes people to say what happened to you, what makes you different, where does that joy, love, peace, and all of the things that are the fruit of the Spirit come from. So I think rather than spending your time perfecting some strategy of how to open the door to a gospel presentation, I think evangelism is most effective when somebody sees a transformed life. And again, Paul says essentially the same thing to the Philippians.

Your light's in the world. They need to see the light, because that then poses the question, what has happened to those people? What makes them joyful in the midst of all of this? What gives them so much peace, so much hope? Why do they love? Why are they kind? Why are they generous? Why are they gracious? Why are they forgiving? And all of that is the stimulus to a real conversation about the gospel.

Thanks, Jon. And friend, as you think about the unbelievers you know, let me make a suggestion. Go to our website and download a lesson titled Fifteen Words of Hope. It may be one of the best messages you'll ever hear for equipping you to give the gospel and explain it clearly. Get this lesson when you contact us today. You can download Fifteen Words of Hope for yourself from our website, or you can share it with someone you know.

You can find it at gty.org. This lesson looks at just one verse, and it's one that contains profound gospel truth. Again, to download Fifteen Words of Hope, visit our website, gty.org. And keep in mind that being a faithful witness for Christ means studying and knowing God's Word. To help with that, consider getting a copy of our flagship resource, the MacArthur Study Bible.

It has nearly 25,000 footnotes that tell the truth, it has nearly 25,000 footnotes that can help you understand Scripture like you never have before, from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount to passages that will strengthen your evangelism, from Genesis to Revelation and everything in between. Place your order at gty.org or call 800-55-GRACE. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Remember to watch Grace to You television this Sunday on DirecTV channel 378, or you can watch anytime at gty.org. And be here Monday when John continues his series called How to Live in a Dying World, showing you how to let your light shine in a dark culture. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth from one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-23 05:58:39 / 2024-02-23 06:09:37 / 11

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