Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 June 21, 2020
We continue to endure a grim, even dark, time in God’s providence. We live our lives under the specter of the coronavirus and all its miseries. We pray to heal from the old racial wounds of our land—wounds recently re-opened by tragic encounters between law enforcement personnel and African-American citizens. We continue to lament and to adjust to the curtailment and amendment of our usual activities—with the possibility of such lingering for a long time to come, depending upon the jurisdiction involved. The pandemic continues to induce many financial and material shortfalls and worries. Add to all of this a wholesale declension from Christian faith and values—a declension increasing in exponential fashion—and you have our grim, dark time.
The thoughtful Christian may well ask this question, or one like it: “In our increasingly dark time, what’s a Christian to do?” One answer, a very helpful one in my view, rises from today’s text: “Shine!” Let’s see how in today’s text we may shine for God’s glory.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Jesus tells us in today’s text, “Ye are the light of the world.” We are the light of the world because Jesus is the Light of the world, the One in Whom no follower of Him may walk in darkness (John 8:12). Note, therefore, when Jesus declares we are the light of the world, that our light is not original, but derivative. Yet we indeed are the light of the world (the Greek text is emphatic)—and that because we reflect the glory of the risen King, Jesus Christ.
Therefore, shine—for, to judge from today’s text, God does not intend otherwise. Just as a city set on a hill cannot be hidden, and just as a lamp is not kindled to be hidden under a basket, but is to be put on a lampstand to give light to all in the house, so we are to be visible—even highly visible—in our culture. God calls us to shine in this way, and He gives us the very light and empowerment whereby we shine.
We, however, are tempted not to shine. We are tempted to throw shade upon the reflected glory of Christ in us. We feel the pull of this temptation, first, due to our sense of sin—both inward and outward. Each of us knows, better than anyone else on earth, the dark recesses of our own souls. Add to this our sins committed in the plain sight of all, and we become very reticent to shine for Him, lest we invite attack and scorn. Second, we are tempted to shine because we lack confidence. We lack confidence in our persons and presentations—in who we are and how we present ourselves to our world. We lack confidence in our abilities, especially as we would used those God-given abilities for His purposes. If the truth be told, we lack confidence, at least at times, in our God. We despair that He will—or even is able—to use the likes of us to accomplish His purposes.
All of this notwithstanding, God calls us to shine, and He shows us how to shine in today’s text. We shine, according to today’s text, when we perform good works. Good works include obedience to God’s moral law. We do not obey to earn God’s favor, for that is granted freely in Christ, but we obey Him to display that His favor rests upon us. Good works also include the discharge of the various ministries He made you to do. When you operate within your giftedness to glorify God and to bless others, you do in fact glorify God and bless others—but you receive exquisite blessing for your own soul as well. God, moreover, will see to it that others see your good works—your fellow Christians, for their joy and encouragement, and those outside, that the Spirit may compel notice of the Lord and may draw such as should be saved.
We also shine—and that as stars in the universe (Philippians 2:15-16)—as we hold fast to the Word of life (1 John 1:1). We may think of this Word in two senses: first, the Word living, Jesus Christ (John 1:14), Whom we display by our testimony, and, second, the Word written, the Bible. As we hold fast to the Bible both by our conduct and by our speech (Colossians 4:6), we shine as stars in the universe—and, just as Jesus shines in the darkness that overcomes it not (John 1:5), we too pierce the darkness with Christ’s reflected light.
The end of all of this, of course, is that God may have His rightful glory (cf. Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q/A 1). As the Psalmist cried, so also we cry, “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your Name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness!” (Psalm 115:1). Indeed, may the Lord have His glory even as He cause His glory to reflect off our lives.
The Newsboys, an Australian Christian rock band, encourage us much along this line with their song “Shine,” from their album Going Public. Here is the chorus of that song:
Make ‘em wonder what you’ve got
Make ‘em wish that they were not
On the outside looking bored
Let it shine before all men
Let ‘em see good works and then
Let ‘em glorify the Lord.
May our three-in-one God so shine through our lives that those around us, when they see us, see the glory of God in the face of Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6). When those around us see God’s glory reflected from us, may they either be drawn savingly unto Him or be further strengthened in Him, as the case may apply.
 Newsboys, “Shine,” from Going Public (1994).