There is a sense of finality to the scene in Survivor when Jeff Probst walks over to someone’s torch, says, “The tribe has spoken” and snuffs out the persons flame. There is a sense of finality when as believers we see another believer whose life style is in direction contradiction to the commands of Christ. And because of that they are no longer the light they are supposed to be. Two differences being that the believer snuffs out his own flame and secondly it’s not a game.
This morning I want to look at protecting your flame. In the scripture that Larry read this morning Jesus made the statement “You are the Light of the World” but what does that mean and what is our responsibility as light. To put the entire thing into context we have to realize that the word light was used repeatedly throughout the gospels. But in the vast majority of cases it was referring to Christ not Christians. Time and time again we see Jesus referred to as the light, either in reference to Old Testament Propecy like when Matthew quotes from the prophet Isaiah in Matthew 4:16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.”
Or when John described Jesus pre-existence in the first five verses of John 1:1-5 In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He was in the beginning with God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make. Life itself was in him, and this life gives light to everyone. The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
Jesus himself made reference to this in John 8:12 and 9:5 when he said “I am the light of the World” So it’s interesting that he would call tell his disciples that they were the light of the world in Matthew 5. And the essence of the entire thing lies in whom he made this statement to. Was it the multitudes that gathered to see him perform miracles? Was it the crowds who gathered to hear his teachings or was it a little more narrow then that. Let’s go back to the description of those who were there that sunny Palestinian afternoon. We refer to this teaching as the sermon the mount, but the if we look at where this took place that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. If we pull up a map here put on some familiar spots, like the Sea of Galilee, the Dead sea, Jerusalem and Capernaum. And about four kms North East is a hill which is about 100 metres at its peak. This is what we now refer to as the Mount of Beatitudes and has traditionally been seen as the sight of the Sermon on the Mount, which could be more accurately called the “Sermon on the Hill” but that doesn’t sound nearly as impressive.
Anyways that was all free. Matthew 5:1 One day as the crowds were gathering, Jesus went up the mountainside with his disciples and sat down to teach them. The crowds have started to gather again, they’re pushing and shoving trying to see the carpenter from Nazareth that some called the Messiah. And Jesus takes his disciples and moves up away from the crowd to the apex of this hill. And it’s there that he unveils his master plan for the Kingdom. It’s not easy teaching, anyone who thinks that it is has obviously never read it. And it is to this disciples, not the crowd, not the multitudes that he makes the statement: Matthew 5:14 You are the light of the world—like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see.
A little boy was sitting in church with his mother, and as he looked around at the beauty of the stained glass curiosity finally got the best of him and he asked, “Who are all those people?” To which his mother responded, “they are saints.” And then sensing that this was a teaching moment she asked “Do you know what saints are?” He pondered for a moment and then responded, “They are people the light shines through.”
Excellent answer. Who are the Saints, we are. Throughout the New Testament the followers of Christ are referred to as saints, nothing mystical or mysterious. Turn to the person next to you and say hello Saint. And so we are the people who light shines through. And the light of course is Jesus. And the reason that we are supposed to be a light is given by Christ in Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
And so your light, in the darkness will help direct people to God. You are God’s secret weapons. And in order for us to be effective in that task we need to keep our light burning bright. Not just on Sunday, he didn’t tell us to be the light of the church, instead we were told to be the light of the world, the light of work, of school, of shopping. Not just a Sunday light, but a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday light. And we need to be warned up front that Satan wants to snuff out our torch, he wants to say, “The Tribe has spoken.” But we’re not a part of his tribe. And the only person who can put out your torch is you. And that is why we need to “Protect our Torch.”
How is our light displayed?
It is Displayed In Our Behaviour. You realize of course that the depth of your spiritual commitment will be measured by your behaviour? That how you act, what you do, how you behave in certain situations will be the measuring stick that people use to determine your relationship with Christ.
Now anytime you talk about behaviour in referring to a person’s relationship with Christ you are immediately accused of being a. Judgemental or b. a Legalist. And I say yes. Exactly. Don’t try to brow beat me with those words. Listen to what Paul wrote in
1 Corinthians 5:12 It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways. And as for a legalist, if that means that I want people to obey the bible, then stick the label on. I get so tired of seeing people who profess to be a Christian but you’d never know it by their behaviour. And that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. People shouldn’t have to say “Look I’m a light.” Your actions should prove that. Lights’ don’t have to define themselves. All they have to do is be what they are supposed to be, a light. Jesus told his followers in Luke 11:36 If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight is shining on you.”
But the flip side of that is also true, it doesn’t matter how strongly you announce that you are a light if it’s not shining you won’t be believed. Nowhere are the words truer “What you are doing speaks so long I can’t hear what you are saying.”
Throughout the Bible we are told that there is certain behaviour that is not consistent with Christianity. You know what it is, and those around you in the church know what it is, and even those outside the church know what type of behaviour a Christian ought to exhibit and ought not to exhibit. Paul told early believers what type of behavior wasn’t acceptable in the life of Christians the lists haven’t changed. Ephesians 5:3-8
Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is really an idolater who worships the things of this world. Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible anger of God comes upon all those who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behaviour should show it!
Another list is given in Galatians 5:19-21 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
I didn’t have to show you those lists, you know what’s on them, it wasn’t a surprise. What is a surprise is how people justify it. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “That which we call sin in others, is experiment for us.” And Peter Marshall said “We are too Christian really to enjoy sinning, and too fond of sinning really to enjoy Christianity. Most of us know perfectly well what we ought to do; our trouble is that we do not want to do it.”
A couple of years ago we were at a wedding in Truro and during the reception we struck up a conversation with a couple we knew. He had been a pastor, she had been the piano player in the church. Without getting into a lot of detail they had left their respective spouses and were living together. Weren’t divorced, still legally married to other people, but living together. During the conversation we got talking about television and she made the comment that they didn’t let her children watch the Simpsons because of the morals that were communicated through the show. Excuse me. My dear wife, said she had to bite her tongue so she wouldn’t say, “Well at least Marge and Homer are married.”
I really wanted one of my points to be Keep Your Pants On, but decided that wouldn’t be appropriate, so forget you saw it. Jesse Jackson probably thinks that the recent disclosure of his affair hasn’t affected how people see him, but he’s only deceiving himself.
People are watching how we live, and when we blow it we are blowing out our light at least in their eyes.
But what type of behaviour should we be exhibiting? Read the book, check out Galatians 5:22-23 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.
Philippians 4:8-9 And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honourable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.
Displayed In Our Love The day before Christ was crucified he set out a litmus test for his believers. This is the way that people will recognize you he said, and it wasn’t by how you dress, or how long your hair is, or whether you are pierced or tattooed. Jesus didn’t say that people would know that you were his disciple by your church membership or political affiliation instead what he said was recorded by John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
St. Augustine made this statement “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
Paul defined love in the book of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
And so when we exhibit that type of behaviour toward other believers, both here in Bedford Community Church and in other churches we are being a beacon of light for those outside the church.
And these two, our behaviour and our love have to go together. We can be completely righteous but if we don’t show love, it’s like covering our light up. On the other hand we can love everyone but not be obedient to Christ in other areas and that puts our light out.
Maybe, just maybe your torch has gone out. Maybe you’ve been living a life that is at odds with the message of Christ. Or you’ve been acting in an unloving manner toward other Christians. What do you do? Well light the torch again, just cause it’s gone out doesn’t mean that it has to stay out. You may not be able to change what you’ve done, but listen to what John wrote in 1 John 1:9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.
Remember your sins can’t be undone, only forgiven.
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