THE GOSPEL IS A SHINING LIGHT
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 27, 2017
16 “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. 18 Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”
— Luke 8:16-18, ESV
When preaching through the Bible, it is usually best to take a text and make it stand on its own two feet. This one, however, walks with the assistance of the one that went before and the one that comes after. The entire context concerns how we hear, and respond, to the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the previous parable, four different responses are characterized by four different types of soil (ref. Luke 8:4-15). It should be clear that only the latter, good soil actually hears and properly responds to the gospel. The first three are in big trouble, unless they are converted into the fourth kind of fruit-bearing dirt. Only then can they consider themselves planted in the kingdom, or family, of God as depicted in the next passage (ref. Luke 8:19-21).
But can dirt really change? Yes, it can. Laser surgery is required, however. In this short passage of Scripture, God is the surgeon and the light of the gospel is His scalpel.
Christianity is Light
I used to keep this lamp in my office, even though it did not work. I thought it looked nice, took up some necessary space on the table, but it never lit up. Eventually I got rid of it and replaced it with a lamp that actually shed some light.
Lost people are like unlit lamps. Most of them look nice. They occupy necessary functions in society. But they do not shine the light of God and the gospel, which is the very purpose for which mankind was created.
We should all love the first answer found in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It reads, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” This, however, requires light.
In this parable of the lamp after the parable of the soils, God goes from being the sower to being the lighter. Man is the unlit lamp, spiritually dead and dimwitted until properly connected to a power source.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation” (ref. Romans 1:16).
God, the Holy Spirit, turns on the light through the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived for our righteousness, died for our sins, and rose again for our eternal life. When the word of God and the gospel are properly preached, rightly heard, and truly received with repentance and faith, the power is connected and the light comes on.
Sometimes the light comes on gradually, like a slow summer sunrise, like believers who grew up in a good Christian home and evangelical church. Other times, it flashes on like lighting, like it did to the Apostle Paul on the Damascus Road. In any case, God turns on the light, the light changes your life, and the light shines so that others can see it.
Christianity Shines in Public
God does not save us to hide us. God does not give us the good news to keep quiet about it. God turns on the light of Christianity in our lives in order to use us to give light to the world.
“I am the light of the world. You are the light of the world” (ref. John 8:12 and Matthew 5:14).
In our lifetimes there has come this tremendous pressure placed upon Christians to make their faith a completely private matter. There are no Bibles in our public schools, no prayer in the public square, and in our own Bible belt state of Arkansas the Ten Commandments have been run over with a pickup truck. It is okay to be Christian, says the spirit of the age, just keep it to yourself, in your home, and within the walls of your church building.
How are we to respond to this juxtaposition between the word of God and the whims of this present world? Our options are cowardice, obnoxiousness, or courageous obedience.
If you profess faith in Jesus Christ, but are afraid to share it or show it in public, you are a coward. And worse than a coward, you are almost certainly an unbeliever, like the ones described in the bad soils of the previous parable. If no one knows you are a Christian because you never speak of God and the gospel, because God and the gospel really do not interest you, or because you simply love worldly things more than godward things, then whatever profession of faith you have made is shallow and worthless. Cowards don’t keep professions of faith.
On the other hand, if all of your Christianity consists of public displays, like Pharisees praying loudly on a street corner, or the kid who carries a ten-pound Bible to school but never reads it, or the politician who panders to the religious right after a night with his mistress, the you are an obnoxious hypocrite who does more damage to the cause of Christ than a hundred cowards.
Light cannot be hidden, but light does not have to brazenly glare in people’s faces. It just has to shine, simply and consistently. It has to be lived, with a public life that fairly well exhibits your private life. It has to be lived and spoken when the opportunity presents itself. Other people should know when light walks into a room. Most will ignore it, some will seem threatened by it or make threats to it, but those whom God is calling will follow the light, the light you shine, into the kingdom of God.
Margaret Thatcher famously said about leadership, “If you have to tell someone that you are in charge, then be assured you are not.” If you have to tell someone that you are a Christian, at least after they’ve known you for a good while, then you may well not be, for no one can really follow Jesus in secret. But if your light is on, let it shine, live it and tell it, and great will be your reward.
Public Christianity is Rewarded
Christ closes this short sermon with a thread that ties it together with the other two texts. It weaves a dire warning and the promise of a great reward. Again, it all depends upon what kind of soil you are, what kind of light you shine, and to whose family you truly belong.
“Take care then how you hear,” Jesus said in verse 18. God has given us the gospel to speak (or write) and hear (or read). Other sections of the Bible give us instructions on careful preaching, but these three texts in Luke emphasize careful hearing (and response). How have you heard the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Of course there is no reward for those who ignore or reject the gospel, only the opposite. The real shock, however, is for those who delude themselves into thinking that the silent, impotent faith they essentially abandoned years ago is going to get them into Heaven. It will not, and even their little ray of false assurance will be taken away from them at death or when Jesus comes again.
The reward, however, for the true lights of the world, will be great, even exponential. It is not quantified in this passage. Jesus only says we get “more.”
I have read of financial booms enjoyed by people who invested on the ground level, like first offerings of stock from Coca Cola or Apple. I have heard of cases of compound interest that enabled a small investment years ago to yield big dividends for the present and future. Investments are good.
The best investment you will ever make is to give your life to, and for, the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is free but the cost of following Christ is very great. Shining the light will sap you of energy, cost you investments in other areas, and sometimes put you at risk from people who like to shoot at lights. But I cannot imagine my life without the Lord. It is meaningful, if not successful. It is comforting, if not comfortable. And it is rewarding, though the reward cannot be calculated at any monetary rate of exchange.
All I know is that for all of the greatness of knowing Christ in this life, in the life to come there is “more.” I want it. You can have it. Just let the light of the gospel shine in you.
Copyright © 2017 Lake Hamilton Baptist Church, All rights reserved.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org