Sermon Illustrations

The Lights Along the Shore

To me, lighthouses are among the most charming of man-made structures. Their unique and essential purpose makes each one a thing of exquisite beauty. Seafarers seeking a haven on a stormy night find a beam from the shore as precious as life itself. Perhaps Philip Bliss shared my appreciation of lighthouses, prompting him to write these words:

Brightly beams our Father's mercy

from his lighthouse evermore,

But to us he gives the keeping

of the lights along the shore.

In Bliss' imagery, what are the lights along the shore, of which the Father gives the keeping to us? Do we recognize the assignment? Who suffers if we do not perform it?

In the last century, D. L. Moody told the story of a passenger boat trying to make Cleveland harbor on a stormy night. The pilot knew he could find the harbor channel safely by keeping two lower shore lights aligned with the main beacon. But the lower lights had gone out. In the darkness, the pilot bravely tried to find the channel, but the boat crashed on the rocks, and many lives were lost.

If we visualize Christians as those on the land, and the rest of the world as those on the sea, we quickly see that each Christian is placed in a unique strategic position. While having direct access to some, but not all, of those sharing the land, a Christian has direct exposure to a large area, though not all, of the vast expanse of the sea. It is a Christian's specific duty to furnish guiding light to lost ships on that area of the sea.

Jesus is the light of the world. Further, John quoted Jesus as saying, "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all". But to the multitude He said, "You are the light of the world...Let your light shine before men..." Putting these statements together shows that the light we have to give to the world is the light which we have received. When we walk in that light, the result is fellowship with one another and cleansing by the blood of Jesus. Peter wrote these lovely words: "And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." The prophetic words concerning Jesus, made sure by His fulfillment of them, are light shining in the darkness, revealing to inquiring minds the solutions to great mysteries.

Jesus is the creator and supplier of light; those who receive it are the faithful keepers of the lights along the shore. We keep our lamps trimmed and burning by keeping our actions holy and our minds free from envy and hate. To people of the world, the light appears in some form of service--caring about and fulfilling some physical or emotional need, a word of encouragement and cheer, or praise for some worthwhile action. Then are we to make a show of religion? Certainly not. The "holier-than-thou" attitude does not attract; instead it repels. But a city set on a hill cannot be hid. Though we ought not go about shining lights into objecting peoples' faces, neither may we hide the light, as if putting a candle under a basket. Light in a dark place attracts those who prefer light over darkness. When they are drawn to it, the opportunity is presented to share the light that illumines the expanse of heaven. In this way the gospel, God's power to salvation, is spread just as it was in the New Testament. Jesus told the Jews, "No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him". Jesus knew some would prefer to remain in darkness, while others seek the truth and come to the light. Many campaigns to corral the lost into church buildings and flatter, entertain, intimidate, or educate them into coming to the light and walking in it overlook one fact: they simply must be drawn.

No religious thrust--personal, congregational, or worldwide--endures and flourishes for long when it turns its light inward. Love, the essence of our religion, reaches outward to others. Jesus emphatically commands those in the light to love one another. But churches must not cocoon themselves in God's light as an exclusive society, uncaring that lost vessels are searching for refuge in the night sea. Our mission is not solely to beam light upon those who have already received the "sun of righteousness." Time spent in worship and fellowship with others in the light is to build us up and enable us for life's challenges. If not all are evangelists, we all must be evangelistic. Let us “send the light” to those lost on the dark, turbulent sea by Christ-centered lives of service among neighbors, co-workers, bosses, employees, relatives, and acquaintances. The lost who seek the light will steer toward its beam, and be guided into the welcome embrace of a peaceful harbor.

Gen 1:3 cf John 1:3,5-7; John 8:12; Matthew 5:14-16; 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:5; John 3:19-21; Malachi 4:2

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