Foundations of the Christian Faith Series
by Matt Black (Message 4)
Proposition: The purpose of assimilating the knowledge of God into your life is to reflect God’s glory, thereby restraining sin in the world, and causing men to praise God.
Key Verse: Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:16). The world is a dark place. Every person in it is fully given to sin apart from God’s regenerating grace. In fact, if it were not for God’s restraining power, or what we might call His “common grace,” every person on earth would live like they were a citizen of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is God’s Almighty hand that holds back the unbridled wickedness of man. Today we will see that the Christian goes directly against mankind’s rebellion, and reflects the glory of God in this earth. The Christian is thus also used by God to restrain sin in the earth and to give glory to God.
Why is restraint needed?
Man must be restrained. He is naturally hostile against God from the womb. Man is God’s instinctive enemy. The only thing that can stop our innate hatred of God in man is an act of reconciliation on God’s part.
· Colossians 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
In short, God is the only one that can stop wickedness. God has provided at least three restraining forces in the world: God’s restraint through the light of man’s conscience, God’s general restraint of sin in the world through acts of His providence (like allowing you to hear the gospel, or letting you be born in a civilized country), and God’s restraint of sin through the lives of Holy Spirit empowered believers. God is holding back the tide of wickedness in this world. Mankind is much kinder and gentler than it could be. All this we can attribute to the kindness of God.
Look at Romans chapter 2.
· Romans 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
But instead of praising Him for the good that occurs on this sin cursed earth, we blame Him for our wickedness.
Many times we gasp at some of the horrible things that God allows on this earth. Children are abused. Innocent people are murdered every day. We shake our fist at God and attribute it to Him. But the truth of the matter is that man is not at all as wicked as he could be. Truly if God did not hold back the wickedness, it would be a thousand times worse. We would all be filled with Satan and be given to unspeakable wickedness. Look at what God says:
· Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
· Jeremiah 5:22-23 Fear ye not me? saith the Lord; will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it? But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone.
The point God makes is clear: God is the restraining power against sin. Just as He holds back the waves by the sandbars, He holds man back from being as wicked as he could be. And yet man is SO wicked, that any freedom God gives to man, he takes it and revolts against God and displays his rebellious heart.
We could say much more about this, but for now, we are going to see a miracle in the midst of this darkness. We are going to see God’s goodness working out through the life of regenerate man, and wicked rebels giving glory to God for it!
This series that we are in is called “Foundations of the Christian Faith.” We have not yet begun to study the great doctrines of the Bible, but are instead right now proving WHY we should study these doctrines. Well, today we shall find the greatest reason of all to study the doctrines of God: that we might live out the truth of God in our lives, thereby restraining sin in the world, and causing men to glorify Almighty God.
Now let me repeat my proposition before we look at our text.
Proposition: The purpose of assimilating the knowledge of God into your life is to reflect God’s glory, thereby restraining sin in the world and causing men to praise God.
Look again at Matthew chapter 5.
MATTHEW 5:14-16 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Our text does not directly state this, but we see implied here God’s great mercy toward mankind. We see wonderful light in the midst of oppressive darkness. Let your light shine, Christ says, and let God have glory! The reason God created this earth and allowed mankind to fall into sin was to demonstrate HKLFDSJDSAFLis great mercy toward the sinner, and His great hatred of sin. Why does the Christian have light in his heart? Why is he not a rebel like everyone else? It is due to nothing else but God’s free mercy. Nothing in us caused Him to have mercy on us. There was no light in us whatsoever, but God put the light of salvation in our hearts through regeneration, and now we must demonstrate it before the world for a memorial of His mercy! We deserve the darkest dungeon of hell with fire and brimstone as our reward, but what has God given us? He has given us His mercy! He has thrown our sin as far as the east is from the west. He has buried it in the deepest sea. And on the positive side, God has given us light, great light! We have reasoned together with the Merciful One, and though our sins were as scarlet, they are as white as snow; though they were red like crimson, they are now as wool (Isaiah 1:18). There is brightness in that pure white snow and a glory in that brilliant wool! And God says “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven!”
The Source of the Light
Christ says “Let your light shine before men.” He does not call it God’s light, but man’s light. He says, “You have a light that must shine before men.” Now let me be clear about the nature of this light. It is only man’s light because he possesses it. Man is not the source of the light. Mimi may give our family a loaf of bread. Mimi gave us this bread, and so because we possess it, we may call it our bread. It is ours; we own it. If you were to take it from me you would be called a robber and a thief, because you took my possession. But among ourselves, we say that it is Mimi’s bread. We say, “ Have some of Mimi’s bread! It’s the best bread in all of Basque country!” You see, Mimi is the source of the bread, but we are the owners of the bread. Mimi made the bread—she labored in is—she had all the right ingredients to make it taste just right, but we get to have all the benefits of the bread; we get to eat it!
It is the same with the light within us. It is ours only because we possess it, but God is the source! But we are the possessors of the light. In that sense it is our light. What a miracle that God could give us His light and make it so much a part of our nature, that God could rightly call it “your light.” And God says “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven!” He says when men see this light, they are going to recognize that it is not from man. Man is not capable of this! This kind of light can only come from God, therefore, they praise the Source of the light, and they give Him Glory!
The Nature of the Light
Christ says that this light shines—it is a brilliant light. “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” This light is none other than the nature of God born in a Christian through regeneration and manifested by a life that reflects the glory of God. It is not that God has simply forgiven our sins. Yes, praise Him, He blotted out all our sins, but He has also given us a new nature, or as the Bible says in another place, “a new heart.” Look at Ezekiel 11.
· Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh.
God says, I’ll take that hard heart of stone out, and put a tender heart of flesh in. I’ll put in them a nature to do right. I’ll not only forgive their sins, but I’ll put active righteousness in them, so that from their heart, they will passionately do what is right.
The New Testament tells us that this light is the very Word of God.
· 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
Brethren, when something is written in your heart, if something is right in the center of your soul, you will passionately pursue it! So we see that the essence of this light is pure righteousness, born in the heart by regeneration through the Spirit of the living God. It is really the righteousness of God, but it is our insomuch as we possess it. And so truly, we are putting forth, not our righteousness, but the righteousness of God. This principle is found throughout the Bible, and it is called “imputed righteousness.”
· Romans 4:3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works. 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
God says, apart from anything Abraham does, and in fact in spite of what he had done (he was an idol worshipper in the land of Ur—Joshua 24:2), he would give him righteousness.
And in truth, this righteousness is the very righteousness of Jesus Christ. This light shall be seen in all it’s glory when we are before the throne of God with all the redeemed of all the ages.
· Revelation 7:9-14 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. 11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, 12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. 13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
And so what is the essence of this light. This light is the very righteousness of Jesus Christ! This light is the robe of pure white that we were which was purchased with Christ’s very blood!
The Responsibility of the Light
God says “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven!” Our responsibility is to let our light shine. How do we do this? It is found in the phrase “good works.” Let me briefly address the heresy in the hearts of many men. Any time a man sees this phrase in the Bible, he is prone to believe that he himself is good! What a laugh! And we would laugh if it were not so terrible a state that man were in! Man is as good as a criminal is! Man is as good as a liar. Man is as good as a lawbreaker! Man is guilty, and nothing good comes from man, except it be from God himself.
· Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
And so we see that it is God that does the good works!
· Romans 9:15-16 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
Again we see that it is not in man to will to do that which is right, but God that shows mercy to man, giving Him a new heart and a nature of light! Now what are we to do?
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven!”
Let your light shine! We find this as a command! God has done it all for us, but there is something we must do, we must “let.” We must allow God to work through us His good works. We must yield to God. Romans 6 says that we must become God’s instruments of righteousness in this world. This is our responsibility! This is why we must study the Word of God. This is why we must assimilate every page. We must live the Bible before men in the power of God. We must look into the mirror of God’s Word, and reflect its glory into this dark world.
The Reaction (or response) to the Light
When we manifest God’s righteousness in this world, men are awed. To see God’s righteousness in a previously rebellious person is amazing! They glorify God. They recognize it as a work of God.
Learn the Scriptures. Meditate on them day and night. Assimilate God’s knowledge into your life. Yield to the God in the new nature that He has given you. The Spirit of God lives inside you. Listen to His voice. Do righteousness in His power. Do what the Word of God says. Reflect God’s glory! Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and men will give glory to God!