Sunday, October 2, 2022

The Lamp under a Basket: How to be a Light-Shining Kingdom Agent

While I was on vacation in Cancun we were swimming in the ocean everyday and it was simply wonderful and beautiful and really fun. The first few days the waves were very low, you could just sit out there in the waters and it was so calm and peaceful. But then slowly a hurricane began forming south east of us, eventually named hurricane Ian, and we went out swimming the day before hurricane Ian would pass by us, and the waves had grown much stronger.

As I waded out in the water, the waves would crest and crash down into us, and the closer to the shore you were, the harder the waves would hit. But I noticed that as I got deeper and deeper out, at first it got harder and harder, the waves kept cresting and hitting me. I was in to my knees, then to my waist, and the waves were hitting harder and harder. I almost turned back because I thought the waves are too strong. But then I went in deeper to about the depth of my upper chest and shoulders. And as the waves came, they were just forming, and they wouldn’t crest and crash where they turn white, until after they got past me.

So I could simply float over the waves as they formed, because I was out deep enough to avoid the crest of the waves.

And I realized at that moment that this is the picture of the Christian life in regard to our relationship with God. If we have a shallow relationship with God, we barely pray, we hardly ever seek God, we read the bible very rarely, the waves of life will crash into us, we’re not in very deep, and those waves will threaten to knock us over and even drive us out of the water all together, away from God. But wise Christians then begin to fight for their walk with God, they push into prayer they push into bible reading and study, and church, and at first seems to get even more difficult. The pushing doesn’t seem to get anywhere and the waves hit even harder, because the enemy wants to prevent our breakthrough.

But wise Christians KEEP PUSHING into God, KEEP SEEKING God, and suddenly they breakthrough, to a deeper relationship with God, a more passionate intimacy, they spend hours with God, they fast and pray, they study the word diligently and their closeness with God is deep and powerful, and as the waves of life hit, and hit, and hit, they’re so deep out, the crests don’t harm them, and they float over the troubles as they come.

And that’s super important to understand in our parable today of the light under a basket, to live this out will seem very hard if your relationship with God is poor, but if your relationship with God is deep and intimate and close, this will just naturally happen as you lovingly obey the Father.

Our Parable today is from Luke 8:16-18. But the parable also appears in a brief format in Matthew’s gospel, as part of the famous sermon on the mount, it’s rendered like this: “Matthew 5:14-15 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

The parable also appears in the gospel of Mark, rendered very similarly to how Luke renders it, almost exactly the same, in Mark 4:21-25 if you want to take a look.

But we’re going to focus on the way it’s rendered in Luke, which is almost exactly the same as Mark, I think it’s likely that Jesus also made mention of this parable in the sermon on the mount, but later shared it as a separate parable to give further detail. So we’ll focus on the greater detail version for today.

It says this: “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.” –Luke 8:16-18 NIV

I want to draw your attention first to something Jesus says here, he says be careful how you listen. Let’s talk about that first, then we’ll get to the light.

Why does this Jesus say this? What does he mean?

Well, think about it, when we study a particular portion of scripture, whether at church or by ourselves or at a bible study, how do we look at?

Here’s how I think we should look at it, then I’m going to show you how we shouldn’t listen to it.

1. This is God’s perfect timeless word – I need to see this as inspired of God, a gift from God, perfect and something of infinite value. That’s studying in faith.

2. This is wonderful, righteous, and true – I should see this as righteous, absolutely right, beyond human wisdom

3. This is command – I want to see this as a command to be obeyed in love

4. Believe it – I want to incorporate this into how I see the world, I want to incorporate this scripture into my own worldview, my personality, how I see everything and myself

5. Live it – I’m reading this scripture and immediately applying it to how I can live it out in my life, what does this look like in practice?

6. Urge to Share – Train yourself to find an urgency to share what you’re learning – immediately if I see something powerful in scripture, I think to myself, someone else needs to see this too. That urgency will grow in strength as you share and reshare it

7. This is who God is – big picture – I add the scripture I’m learning to my overall understanding of the picture I have in my mind and heart of who God is. How does this scripture either confirm or alter my view of who God is?

Now, here’s how not to respond to God’s word:

1. Responding in Emotion/Responding in the Flesh – Sometimes we see the scripture from a human perspective, we even get mad, or disregard it, we think oh that’s not right, I don’t want that to be so. We read it as a human.

2. This is suspect – As we read it, we think I don’t like what it’s saying there. And let’s all admit we’ve all done this from time to time we’ve read a portion of scripture and not liked it. Particularly if it upsets our moral compass, well that’s not loving, that’s not righteous, and instead we should let the bible correct us instead of trying to correct the bible

3. This is nice suggestion – 3 I think may be the worst danger on this list, I often catch myself doing this, I read something and think oh that’s nice, like with this parable today, oh let your light shine isn’t that nice, that’s nice, then move on. Wait a minute, that’s a command. It’s not a nice suggestion, like oh forgive your enemies isn’t that nice that Jesus did that, then move on, no, stop, that’s a command for you to follow.

4. Not incorporated into worldview – Sometimes we read it and we don’t put it in our worldview, we leave it on the page. No, apply it into your heart and into your brain as your attitude for life

5. Not Living It – Also a huge danger, one Jesus mentioned numerous times, Jesus said blessed are you if you hear my words and put them into practice. So often we hear it in church, think oh that’s nice, but we never apply it to our lives.

6. Lack of sharing – Most of us don’t share what we’re learning in church, but we’ve got to learn to do that, to have those conversations. I’ve caught myself doing that too, you leave church, and never talk about what you learned there, maybe at church you should sit down with family and have a time to talk about what you learned.

7. Refuse to adjust view of God – This is something I see with Christians caught up in theology, they refuse to adjust their view of who God is. They find a scripture that goes against their view of god, and instead of adjusting their view of god, they toss out the scripture and say no I don’t want that one, well you do that enough and you create an idol of god is that false and not resembling to the real living God.

Alright let’s move on to the top portion of the scripture, that says, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.”

Let your light shine, don’t hide it. What does that look like practically?

A perspective first from Irish Catholic clergymen John McEvilly who said, "These words have the object.. to stimulate the Apostles to shine as lights before the world, to enlighten the surrounding darkness, and impart to all the world the light of a holy, spotless life, and of pure teaching. As a city on a hill cannot be hid, so neither can the Apostles, from their exalted position, be concealed from the eyes of men; and, hence, their duty, to live so as to edify men. As no one lights a candle for the purpose of concealing its light, so neither did God constitute the Apostles as the lights of the world, in order to hide their light and detain the truth of God in injustice. Their duty is quite plain, viz., to diffuse this light far and near; to be deterred by no obstacles, in the free exercise of the exalted commission confided to them by God Himself, and to show forth the brilliancy of their virtues, and by their example to allure others to God." - John McEvilly (1818–1902) an Irish Roman Catholic Church clergyman

If we are shining our light toward others, they see it and hunger and thirst for a similar righteousness. They inevitably will thirst for Jesus Christ well, not inevitably, but hopefully.

As Christians, we should be going about our cities and our towns, among our families and our friends, wisely, discerningly, boldly, gracefully shining our light toward others.

And they will see the light. Most dwell in darkness, they have no light. The goal then is that the light would burn brightly in you, be seen by others, and then those people come to Jesus Christ, and a light bursts to life in them, and then they shine that light to others. And it’s supposed to spread that way, so eventually, even as a single Christian in a dark place shines their light, and others see it, and their candles catch fire as well, that this light would spread more and more, to new people everywhere,

And soon there are several Christians burning brightly, others see that light, come to Jesus, and they starting burning as candles as well.

Pretty soon you’ve got 10-15, then 20, then 30. And pretty soon there are a hundred, then 150, then 300, and eventually entire cities are burning brightly.

That’s really how it plays out.

So in a city like Owosso, maybe you have 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 people who have lit candles burning as they go about. The enemy is always seeking to stop people from coming to the light. Angels are assisting us in bringing people to the light of Christ, and that’s where you see the spiritual warfare, the cosmic battle taking place.

Some people come to the light, and catch fire, others refuse the light and the light is an offense to them. Others are drawn off by schemes of the evil one, they’re drawn to false light. Some candles burn out, and they drift back into darkness. Some put their candles under a basket, and the candle goes out, because they are not shining it out toward others.

A slogan in 12 step recovery is, to keep it, you have to give it away. A paradoxical statement, that one of the most powerful forms of spiritual growth is sharing the message of recovery with others. Particularly in 12 step groups, when someone gets inwardly focused, it starts to spiral, this spiral of selfishness that gets worse and worse, and pretty soon they are near relapse. And the solution ironically enough is to go work with someone else and help someone else, and that gets the selfish mind off the self and toward another, and it suddenly solves the internal crisis by replacing selfishness with selflessness. Quite amazing.

Unfortunately many Christians are deceived today, they don’t share their light like they should.

On a very practical level, then, how can we as Christians shine our light and not hide it under a bushel. The world, the media, the society around us is always trying to communicate the lie to us: Don’t share your faith. Don’t talk about religion. Keep your faith private. Keep it hidden behind closed doors. Don’t bring that into the public sphere.

Those are lies of Satan. Satan wants our light hidden under a dark basket. And what happens when we put a cup over a burning candle, the candle has no more oxygen to burn from, and it goes out.

One famous Salvation Army officer said that if the Salvation Army ever leaves the streets it will die of lack of oxygen. That if we start to hide away in our church buildings we won’t have any impact anymore and our churches will dry up and disappear. I think that’s true for any body of believers, not just salvationists. But it’s a good reminder.

So again what does that look like practically then for each of you? It’s being an agent of God’s kingdom, an angel, submitted to the Holy Spirit’s leading. This is the secret hidden in plain sight, the fundamental difference between a true Christian and a false convert, a true Christian is an agent of God’s kingdom, meaning very practically God is at work through them on a daily basis.

There are numerous people in this church, that I watch operate, and they are kingdom agents.

God brings them to the grocery store, and they run into an old friend. They recognize immediately in that moment, as the Holy Spirit guides them, this is a divine opportunity. And in the conversation that starts, the holy spirit brings up opportunities to talk about Jesus, talk about healing, invite to church. Boom, at God’s business.

God takes them on a walk, and they see someone who looks sad, God nudges them, pray for that person right now. In their heart they pray in that moment, boom, at God’s business.

They get a call from Lt. Justin, God inspired hopefully, hey can you go pick up this person here and bring them here, they say yes, I can do that, they do it, at God’s business.

God touches their heart while they’re at home to study a portion of scripture from Romans 9, and they flip open their Bible and start reading.

God touches their heart to attend church, they go, God touches their heart to attend an outreach event, they go.

That is the difference, that is a kingdom agent, one who is actively shining their light. And it’s not brutal, it’s not excessive, God is not a cruel taskmaster. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. But he has good deeds for you to do today, and you will do them in His power if you are of Him.

Shining your light then is to be a kingdom agent. And if you spend all day everyday doing whatever you want, and aren’t listening for God’s leading, then ask yourself, am I really a kingdom agent?

If you aren’t right now, that’s ok, repent, say God, help me to be very sensitive to your Holy Spirit’s leading, grant me new willingness and desire to live as a kingdom agent today, and forever, in jesus name, amen.

He will help you to live that way, as one who shines your light.

Lastly we do see a warning in this parable as well, usually all we see preached on is the first line, shine your light, but what about what comes right after, it says, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”

The majority of this parable is actually a warning for us from Jesus to remember, hey, anything hidden is going to come out on judgment day. Everything is going to come out on judgment day. Why does he say that right after talking about shining your light? Really interesting. He says then be careful how you listen. Are you listening as a spectator or as a participant? Amazing statement.

Then Jesus draws a hard line here, on the day of judgment, it’s going to be a hard line between those who had me as their savior and were really living righteously, and those who did not really have me and were not living righteously.

Whoever has will be given more, you really had Jesus as your savior and you really walked it out in your practice, you’re going to be heaped over with blessings and gifts, you’ll be amazed. A wonderful final union with Jesus Christ. Eternal life.

But for those who didn’t, even what little you have will be taken away, and you’ll be set out with those in outer darkness. What little you had will be taken and give to those who have the abundance. We’ve seen that in other parables as well, that concept of a hard line drawn between those who have and those who don’t.

It’s a good reminder for us today, abide in Christ, and live it practically, shine your light brightly, don’t hide it under a basket, because that basket will eventually put it out, no oxygen, the candle goes out. Share your faith! Share it! People need this message so badly! Get it out there, shine brightly, do so humbly, not with pride, but shine brightly

And recognize this as well, some will be angry at your light and rebel against it. Others will be drawn to your light and Jesus will then light their candle as well. Some will try to get you to hide your light because they hate your light, don’t do it, shine brighter, everywhere, in the real world! Shine bright and brighter! Don’t let the world trick you into hiding it! We can’t hide it, it will never be hid, shine brightly in the public world! The Lord is with you, causing you to shine brighter and brighter and his angels are helping as well to guide the light out to those who need it. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! God is greater!