Why do we do this?
Matthew 5:16 – It is to bring glory to God. This has to do with motive.
We have been in a teaching series called Brighten With Flavor, which we conclude today. And, we have been talking about how to bring flavor and light into our world.
Since COVID, I don’t know about you, but my screen time has increased significantly for the worst… or the better, depending on how you look at it. But one of the things I have found interesting, especially in shows on Netflix/TV/Disney+/etc. is the filmmakers perception of faith and those who practice their faith.
Shows like Waco or The Blacklist or Grey’s Anatomy (yes, I love my wife and tolerate Grey’s… okay!?!) These shows depict religious people to be anything but attractive. Or live the kind of life that you and I would hope NOT to live. I’d use words like “judgemental” or “legalistic” or “self-righteous” for the people who play the roles of the religious in these shows.
Now, I’m not blaming the filmmakers or Hollywood for the way they articulate religious people. I actually think they may be portraying the truth in a lot of cases. But it’s more than just filmmakers. It’s social media. It’s sprinkled throughout our entire culture. It’s ingrained in the way we think and live, right? Just go ask a neighbor or a coworker what their view of religion is and you’ll probably hear something similar.
A Gallup survey asked people this question, “Do you believe religion can answer all or most of today's problems, or that religion is largely old-fashioned and out of date?” And what they found was 47% of people answered “No, largely out of date”, “Other” or had no answer at all. Now that’s depressing!! What they are saying is faith has little to no influence on their lives. That’s almost half of Americans!!
But what if that isn’t the way faith was supposed to be? What if faith and acting on our faith was actually the most life giving, freeing and grace-filled thing we could ever do?
When I read the Bible, I see a life full of passion and impact for good. I see the most exciting journey with the most powerful being in the Universe. I see following Jesus as a full contact sport!!! A lifestyle!!! An everyday thing!!! Full of transforming relationships and opposing dead religion.
Maybe you have never experienced this kind of faith before. Well, my hope is you see the real kind of faith Jesus calls us to have and then act on it. Maybe you’ve been at church for a while and feel guilty because you don’t feel like you’ve shone enough light… Or maybe you are thinking of somebody else who needs to hear this message… I would ask you to consider your own life, not anyone else’s, and come with an open heart to what God might want you to hear today.
We are going to look at a passage of scripture that is going to talk about this stuff. And what we are going to find is the kind of faith Jesus intended us to have. Faith that is sacrificial, influential and honoring...not egotistical, trivial and ugly.
In Matthew 5, Jesus shared a message that is commonly referred to as The Sermon on the Mount. His audience would have been his disciples and a large crowd of people. And Jesus gives the greatest sermon, greatest ted talk, most earth shattering speech in history in my opinion.
Jesus said, “let your light shine BEFORE PEOPLE.”
I’m just going to stop right there and ask… Do you believe your light can shine? That you are “the light of the world” like Jesus said?
Or, let’s do this, what if I asked you to be real with yourself and fill in the blank. I am ___(blank). What would you say? Maybe you would say things like, “I am 'my job' OR “My family” Or “my financial portfolio." But, if we went a little deeper than that, I’d be willing to bet some of us in this room and watching online wouldn’t write in the blank, “I am the light of the world.” I think some of us (if we are being honest) would put things down like, “I am no good/I am a failure/I am my past/I am that awful thing that was done to me/I am a disease or sickness.”
In the verses we read together, the people who would have been with Jesus were his disciples and a large crowd of others. Jesus had a knack for attracting hurting and broken people. They could have ranged from criminals to cooks to construction workers. Even with the disciples, they were an interesting group… right? You had loud mouth, Peter. You had cheating Matthew. You had Simon who was a zealot which was a political renegade group of Jews. Doubting Thomas… and the list goes on! And who knows who else was in Jesus’ audience!!!! And BEFORE these people ever changed or got their lives together, Jesus said to them and he is saying to me and you, “You are the SALT of the EARTH." “You are the LIGHT of the WORLD!"
Before we can go any further talking about bringing flavor to our lives and being light in the darkness, we have to understand this first. This isn’t “feel good”, fluff and stuff preaching okay? This is real. If you don’t know your identity in who God says you are, then your actions will never bring flavor and light!!!
Many of us think we need to get our lives figured out before we can be light and make a difference. But it’s not about being clean it's about believing who God says you are and then act on your God-given identity.
Jesus said, “Let your light shine before people.” Notice, he doesn’t say, “Let your light shine in private" or “only on Sunday morning” or “before the church." No! He said to let your light shine before people!!!!
When Jesus said this, he would have been near the Sea of Galilee in the Middle East. And there was a group of people in the time of Jesus called the Essenes who believed they should withdraw from society. Their mentality was to not be influenced by the darkness of culture but to live in holiness away from the world. The rest of the world was bad and they wanted to escape the bad in order to be good.
This group isn’t the only group who has done this. Over the years, groups including monks, priests, the Amish, have tried to withdraw from the world and not be influenced by its darkness. But the truth is, if not careful, we can fall into the same thinking and disengage ourselves from the world. I’m not talking about moving into the sticks or the hills, okay? I’m talking about a natural pull in every Christian to be inward focused and not engage a hurting and broken world. We stop hanging out with our non christian friends and we keep to ourselves at work and in our neighborhoods and sooner or later, the only people who knows us are people who already know Jesus and are full of light!
One of the things that intrigues me the most about Cincinnati is the close, long-term relationships and connections people have. Unlike most cities, for many of you, you are still in close contact with people who went to the same high school as you!!! Some have years and decades of connection with people. What a great opportunity for you to influence them and share hope in Jesus!
Jesus said, “Let your light shine before people!” This isn’t a withdrawing from the world but going into the world to bring flavor and light. Somebody say, “I’m going in!” Post in the chat right now, “I’m going in!” I’m going into the storm. I’m going into the darkness. I’m going into my neighborhood. I’m going into my work place. I’m going into my school and I’m gonna shine some light!
This is the heart of the gospel, by the way. Jesus didn’t turn his back on our messed up world, on you and me... No! The opposite. He said, “I’m going in!” He came to our dark and broken world. He died on a cross. He took on the weight of your sin and darkness and put it on Himself and died with it. And he rose from the dead! The light of the world. And now those who follow Jesus are supposed to be like him and bring light into the darkness! Jesus actually said, “You are the light of the world!”
What is one way this week you could shine your light and make a difference in somebody’s life? You can start small and go from there. Maybe it’s a tray of cookies to your neighbor who is struggling. Maybe it’s flowers to a depressed coworker. Maybe it’s giving your stimulus check away to someone who needs it more than you.
Maybe you take home one of our food pantry bags TODAY. You have the opportunity to shine your light by providing food for our backpack club - our ministry that supports and feeds under-resourced children within our school districts! Even those joining us online - you can order things off Amazon and have them delivered! If you have any questions or need help participating in this, please reach out to us! This is such a practical way to care for those in our community and point them straight to Jesus!
Jesus said, “Let your light shine before people, SO THAT they may see your good works.”
Notice the heart behind what Jesus is saying. It’s not about the person who is the light. It’s about others and letting them see your good works.
Later on in The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about privacy when you do things like giving to the poor, fasting or praying. He said things like, “When you give to the needy, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” OR “When you fast, don’t let others know how miserable you are (fasting is a spiritual discipline of refraining from something like food) but take a bath (some of you, that’s your word today!) OR “When you pray, go in your closet or private room and pray to your father in heaven.”
Jesus told a story of two men. One, a pharisee who was a religious leader and the other a tax collector who was known for ripping people off in their taxes. Both men went into the temple to pray. The way Jesus describes the story was as if the Pharisee was in the front of the temple or the church making an uproar, loud voice, hands raised and said, “Thank you God that I am not like these sinners… I give and fast and do all these things for you. Look at me!!!...
And the tax collector, a much different picture. It was as if he was in the back of the room, knelt down where no one could see him and was beating his chest saying, “Have mercy on me, God, for I am a sinner.” And Jesus said the tax collector was right, not the pharisee.
But in the verse we read together, it’s different… Here, Jesus wants us to be in public where people can see us but the attitude isn’t like the Pharisee but like the Tax Collector. For the Pharisee, the attention was all on him. But for the Tax Collector, the attention was on God. The attention isn’t on me. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about God and others.
Contrary to “Look at me!" Like on a phone taking a selfie. Social media is a great example of this. By the way, a great question to ask ourselves before posting is, “Why am I posting this?" Is it so people look at you or look at Jesus? Just ask the guys who took selfies in the Capitol and posted on social media… Not an awesome move on their part...
See, you don’t turn on a light to look at the light! In my kitchen, we have this light over our kitchen sink and when we turn it on, I'm pretty sure Cincinnati’s power grids are affected by how bright this light fixture is. You turn it on and “BAM!!!” It hurts your eyes when you look at it. But we still turn on the light so we can function and see what we need to see.
It’s… not... actually... about... the... light... It’s about SHINING light. It’s not about me!
Jesus said, “Let your light shine before people so they may see your good works and give GIVE GLORY TO YOUR FATHER who is in heaven.”
Something I love doing with my son is taking him outside at night when it is dark and looking at the moon and the stars. He’s 18 months old now so when he sees the moon, he goes, “MMMM!” What is interesting are the nights when the moon is full and it gives off SO much light when in darkness or in the middle of the night. And the moon isn’t even shining on its own. The moon is a reflection from the sun and then it reflects on the dark of night.
This is a picture of how we are to shine our light. Our light isn’t about trying hard or being a good person. It’s about a relationship with the Son of God, Jesus! His light shines on us, which in turn (like the moon) shines on a world that desperately needs light.
I called a pastor friend of mine who lives in Indy and we were processing this verse together and sharing some of the things. And he stopped me and said, “Dude, you gotta talk about PDA!” And that caught me off guard… “What kind of sermons are you preaching in Indy…?” And he said, “No not like that… PDA is Public Display of Affection, right?” I said, “Last time I checked.” He said, “When someone is dating or in love, they just don’t care what other people think. They don’t care if it's in private or public. You actually want everyone to know that you are in love, right?”
And my friend said, “That’s a good picture of what Jesus is saying here. Because we love Him so much and because He loves us so much, we can’t help but love people and have good works where we live/eat/play.” And I think he is right. Salt and light are all about a relationship with God. It’s not about you and it’s not about me. It’s about Him and He helps us live a lifestyle of flavor and light.
Our world is in desperate need of people who love Jesus and reflect His light on the world!
When I think about this verse, I can’t help but think about my good friend, Tom Hahn. Tom loved to work out! He looked like an action figure! And he was 60 years young in this picture. He was a long time engineer for Ford. He loved cars. I actually got to ride in the Viper in the picture. We were driving down a back road and he asked me if I was ready… and I was not ready. He punched it and I thought we were going to fly or die!
But what I loved most about Tom was his love for Jesus. It was contagious! I would call him from Cincinnati (he lived in Louisville) and ask him how he was doing. And I loved hearing what he had to say. He would things like, “Okay so I’ve got a lunch tomorrow with this younger kid. Met him at the gym and he grew up without a father and I’m older so I’m gonna try and set in and mentor him.” Or he’d say, “You know, I’ve been working on my neighbor for so long and I just want him to come to know Jesus so bad. I don’t know what I would do if I left this earth without him coming to know Jesus." Or he’d say, “This guy is thinking about divorcing his wife but after his first workout with me, He’s back on track now.” He reflected his love for Jesus.
A few years ago, I got a call from my dad and it was clear something was wrong. My dad told me that Tom had a heart attack in the gym and passed away. A few days later, there was a funeral and there were SO many people there for Tom. One of the younger guys that Tom stepped in as a father figure was speaking and asked something out of the ordinary for a funeral. He said, “If there are any younger guys in the room who came to know Jesus or was invested in by Tom, would you stand?” And I stood up but I was FAR from alone. Half the room stood up too!
But in that moment, yes we were celebrating Tom but it was so much more than that! We were celebrating him reflecting his light and his love for Jesus. When I think about that moment, it takes me back to what Jesus said in this verse. “Let your light shine before people, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven." This was seeing that happening right before my eyes. We all gave glory to God.
My prayer for you is that when your time on earth is up, people would say about you that you let your light shine. That you brought flavor to the world. That’s why we spent 4 weeks talking about 3 verses!!! And we should probably keep talking about it until we GET it.
And there might come a day when your neighbor or coworkers are watching TV and see the religious people on the screen and they will have a very different opinion of Jesus and faith. They would think, “Nope, my neighbor is into his faith but it’s not about him or she’s not judgmental or they aren’t self righteous…” And maybe just maybe they come to know Jesus because you let your light shine on them!