by Edmund Chan
A widely influential Singaporean pastor and author, in 1995 Edmund launched the Intentional Disciple-Making Church (IDMC) Conference. Started as a seminar with 320 participants, it has become a sold-out conference teaching disciple-making to 2,500 participants from 20 countries.
Understanding “Light of the World”
The second discipleship-metaphor Jesus employed is equally profound: “You are the light of the world” (5:14-16). This metaphor itself is accompanied by the stirring call of our Lord: “Let your light shine.”
It applies to all arenas of life. When things around us are confusing and difficult, “let your light shine.” When you face problems and difficulties, “let your light shine.” When someone needs the Gospel, “let your light shine.” That’s the radical calling of the church.
Let your light shine! A hidden light is a useless light.
Thus Jesus tells us in verse 15, “a city on a hill cannot be hidden, nor do men light a lamp and put it under the peg measure.” A peg measure is a small bowl, a measuring for grain. Put it under a peg measure means to cover it with this bowl. It’s not the right thing to do. The purpose of the lamp is to give light. And to light up a lamp and put it under a bowl to hide doesn’t make sense. It’s incongruous. It misses the whole point.
Not under the bowl but on a lampstand! That’s our destiny. To glorify God. To bear witness to His grace and greatness. And Jesus Himself gave us the reason for shining: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (v.16)
Living with a Sense of Destiny
Without a sense of destiny, and a desire to glorify God through it, we would tend to hide our light. But the opposite is also true. When we live with a sense of destiny, and a burning desire to glorify God, we will rise up and let our light shine.
Now, when Jesus said “you are the light of the world”, there are at least three things I find rather surprising. It grabs our attention.
Notice who this message is being addressed to. Notice what is actually being said. And notice how it is being addressed.
The first surprising thing is that this glorious declaration was addressed to an inconspicuous, insignificant ragtag band of disciples. They were not among the world’s elite. To this inconspicuous and insignificant bunch, Jesus said: “you are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world.” This is a biblical principle. The Almighty God uses ordinary people to live extraordinary lives for His extraordinary purpose!
The second surprise is that the term “light of the world” is used of Jesus Himself. In John 8:9, Jesus said of Himself, “I am the light of the world” (reiterated in John 8:12; 9:5). Now, we ask ourselves, who exactly is light? Christ or us?
As far as Jesus is concerned, He had two tasks. One is totally exclusive to Himself – to give His life as the perfect sacrifice on the Cross as a manifestation of God’s light, life and love. He is the light that, coming into the world, brings light to all men.
But there is a second task. In fact, originally this task was given to Israel. They were given a task to be a witness, to be a light. But they failed miserably in their task. So, God gathered His Church, the spiritual Israel, and said to her “Look, you are the light of the world. You are the witnesses of God.” What a privilege!
The third surprise is the scope of the task. God gave it to an ordinary group of people and said “you are the light of the world.”
To a small group of ordinary people, God gave a world vision! He did not say, you are the light of the home; or you are the light of your region. He says you are the light of the world. You are to be the light unto the nations. For a small band of Jewish disciples, that’s staggering!
God not only has a mission for the church, He has a master plan for the church. His strategy is in four simple words, “let your light shine.” That’s His strategy. Wherever God has placed you, let your light shine. If you do not shine where you are, how could you shine elsewhere?
Let your light shine wherever God has placed you. That is His strategy! Whenever it gets dark around you, you can either curse the darkness or light a lamp. Let your light shine. Wherever He places you, you shine as a light everywhere you go. People will be attracted to your light.
A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. It attracts people.
If we allow God to work in our life, to shine where He places us, we will shine – not because we are good – but because Christ will shine through us. We may have the same problems, the same difficulties, but the joy of the Lord, the strength of the Lord, will shine through us.
The lamp shines best when the darkness is darkest. Let your light shine!
That’s discipleship of “a certain kind”!