A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
We talked last week about Jesus saying that we are the light of the world, and how giving light as a Christian is not optional, it’s what we are as a Christian.
A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;
A city set on a hill takes deliberate purpose to build. Many of the ancient cities were set on hilltops for one main reason: they were defensible. It also was an announcement to everyone in the area that if you want control of the area, this is the place you should attack. As a Christian, you take the high ground with you wherever you go, since spiritually, there’s no higher ground than Calvary’s hill. That’s where you stand, and that’s who and what you stand for, as a Christian. We have one central message, one light to give the world, the same light that Paul proclaimed in 2Corinthians 2:2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. If you truly bear the light of Jesus, then you’re going to be a target for persecution. This verse doesn’t say a city on a hill should not be hidden, it says cannot be hidden. This means that any attempt on the part of a true Christian to hide their light is only going to meet with failure. Hebrews 10:38b And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. This shrinking back is the opposite of faith. It’s letting our fear (and generally this means fear of persecution) control us to the point that we try to hide who we are in Christ. Not shrinking back is the obligation of the Christian: (Heb. 10:39 39 But we are not among those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith for the safekeeping of the soul.
15 nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Remember that people in Jesus’ day lit their houses using terra-cotta oil lamps. The lamp must be filled with oil. Romans 8:9 makes clear However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
One of the things that I find interesting about Jesus’ example is that it’s a domestic example that everyone is familiar with. The first place that gets to benefit from the light that we shine is around the house. And this means that we are a light to our families first. And that can mean our natural family, or our spiritual family. In Ephesians 4:11, Paul emphasizes that the ministries empowered by Holy Spirit filled believers is regarded as a gift to other believers in the church saying in verses 11-12 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; So, strengthening our spiritual family is expressly stated as one of the reasons for the gifts. And this means that if you don’t use yours, then the Body, other believers, are weakened since the ministry you have is not being done.
Now, the word used in Mathew 5:15 for measuring bowl, or basket, or bushel means a particular quantity of grain, as measured by a bowl or basket. The idea is that placing the lit lamp under a basket or bowl would defeat the whole purpose of lighting a lamp. Since God doesn’t do anything that is useless, if you are a true believer, sooner or later you will shine the light of Christ. The only question is what God’s going to have to allow into your life to break that bowl or basket covering your light!
16 Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.’
It is the nature of light to shine, and we have the light of Christ within us. Jesus said in Mathew 5:16 that our light must shine. The second thing to notice is that it must shine before people. That means that being a closet Christian doesn’t cut it.
And the last thing to notice is the one and only ultimate purpose for our being a light to the world is to bring glory to God. We are to let our light shine in such a way that God is glorified. Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us to do our good works in secret, saying in Mathew 6 vs. 1: Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
When we minister, we must make sure that the glory is given to God. It’s borrowed light that we shine, reflected light, it doesn’t originate with us. Glorifying ourselves will harm us in terms of our reward in heaven, but it will also harm us now, allowing pride to swell, and arrogance to form. We are all subject to this, and so we must all guard against it. By pride Lucifer fell. And we must be careful, if we think we stand, lest we fall. Mathew 23:2 says Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. Galatians 6:3 For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Proverbs 25:27 says It is not good to eat much honey, Nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory. Seeking your own glory will make you sick. The purpose of man is to glorify God. We were made to glorify Him.
And there is a consequence for not fulfilling this mission, both individually and as a church. Jesus says to the Church at Ephesus: 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. We must overcome the spirit of complacency that wants us to coast to the finish line. We must wake up, and stay awake.