Jesus is called the Light of the world because, without Him--without all that Jesus did for us on the cross so we would be free from slavery to wrongdoing/ sin--the world would remain in darkness. If we look around us, we might see beauty and wonder in, but it doesn`t take much looking to also see we live in a dark world.
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men
What does it mean to shine?
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. —Philippians 2:14-16, ESV (emphasis added)
In the Gospel of John, Jesus is called “the true light, which gives light to everyone” (John 1:9). Throughout the New Testament, the followers of Jesus are called to be lights in the darkness. So, what does it mean to shine? It means:
· Being counter-cultural. We live in a dark world, full of lies, hate and confusion. But God’s Word tells us to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). While others are chasing after physical pleasures and selfish gain, we’re commanded to live a different way—to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).
· Putting yourself out there. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others” (Matthew 5:16). He explained that no one lights a lamp just to hide it under a basket. A lamp is meant to be placed on a stand to give light to everything around it. Whether you’re timid or outgoing, you’re called to be a light to the people around you. That’s only possible if you’re taking time to interact with people and cultivate relationships.
Always pointing back to the light source. When Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others,” that wasn’t the whole sentence. He went on to give the reason why it’s important to shine: “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Our goal should never be to bring recognition to ourselves, but to bring glory to God. There’s a fine line between being a light and putting on a show to get attention. It’s a matter of the heart.
What keeps you from shining?
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? –Matthew 7:3, ESV
It’s easy to see the shine of a new diamond ring from across the room. But over time, that shine can dull as dust collects on it.
In the same way, sin can dull our shine as lights for Jesus Christ. Our lives which once sparkled with the joy of Christ can become clouded with a love for things of this world.
Before you can be a light to others, take a look at your own life. Has sin dulled the evidence of Christ in you? Maybe it’s time to stop, take a moment and ask God to reveal any sins you might be ignoring. If there’s a sin you repeatedly struggle with, write it down and pray over it continually. Ask God for His forgiveness and help in changing your heart.
So how exactly do you shine?
Do not be conformed to this world … —Romans 12:2, ESV
“Being a light” sounds great, doesn’t it? But it’s also a little abstract. How exactly do you become this brilliant beacon to people around you? Here are 4 practical tips:
· Be careful what you say. The Bible calls the tongue “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Yikes! That’s pretty serious. And that’s how we should take our speech—seriously. Maybe a parent once told you, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” It’s not bad advice, even as an adult. Words are powerful and can be used for good or bad. You might even post this verse somewhere as a reminder: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
· Consider your entertainment. Where do you go for fun? What shows or movies do you watch? What kind of music do you listen to? Would you go to the same places, watch the same things or listen to the same music if Jesus were sitting next to you? Or would you be embarrassed? It might sound silly, but asking those questions is a good way to keep yourself in check, whether you’re alone or with others.
· Use social media wisely. People are watching what you post, whether they interact with your posts or not. Think about the things you’ve posted recently—articles, comments, photos and so on. Could they be seen as prideful? Self-centered? Rude? What’s your motive? To put others down or make them jealous? Hopefully not.
· Think of others. Consider other people’s needs and help meet them. Encourage instead of criticize. Be patient. Give others the benefit of the doubt. If you hear gossip, distance yourself from it or change the subject. When you encounter a difficult person, remember that they were made and are loved by God. Above all, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31).
Believers today don’t pay much attention to sins of the tongue—gossip, slander, lying, exaggeration. Perhaps it’s because we so mindlessly commit these “respectable sins” that we don’t regard them as seriously as we do sins such as adultery or drunkenness.
Also, let’s admit that bridling the tongue is tough.
When I was a child, my mother read me the storybook “Bambi,” which contained a famous line: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Nevertheless, I grew up speaking “rashly like the thrusts of a sword” (Proverbs 12:18). When I became a believer, I tried to follow the advice in “Bambi” by cutting back on my cutting words—behavior modification. But I discovered I was focusing on the wrong organ.
I got help from the New Testament writer James, who calls the tongue a fire, a world of iniquity, a restless evil full of deadly poison (James 3:6, 8). That’s serious!
James continues, saying that although many birds and reptiles have been tamed, “no one can tame the tongue” (James 3:8). And James leaves it at that—without a how-to formula!
Then James seems to switch subjects. In 3:13-18, he says that evil behavior comes from “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart.” This heart-mouth connection sounds like the teaching of his half-brother, Jesus: “For his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (Luke 6:45).
Imagine if you will this diagram: A bicycle chain connecting heart and mouth.
Our mouth is driven by what preoccupies our heart. Bridling our tongue means dealing with our heart first—not merely avoiding blurting out unkind words.
Years ago a buddy and I launched a sanctification crusade to clean up our speech. We were sick of how our loose lips wounded others and boosted ourselves. I had high hopes for success—I had accountability! On the appointed morning, I rose from bed determined not to say anything bad for a whole day. Minute by painful minute I focused on what I was not supposed to say. But that evening my friend and I sadly admitted failure.
Years later, after many battles with temptation, I discovered what I had missed. James 4:7 stopped me cold: “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
During my self-sanctification day, I tried to resist the devil, but I failed to first submit to God. The order is important. First submit, then resist. Though we may have momentary victory, any battle with temptation is doomed unless we first submit to God. James gives three benchmarks that check our motives.
“Do not speak against [slander] one another, brethren” (James 4:11). The word brethren refers to fellow believers. That’s us! Why do we “speak against” fellow believers? I confess I am prone to slander when I feel insecure. In some morbid way, putting down another person helps me feel better, showing how little I understand God’s love for me.
Today when I am tempted to slander, I pause and ask myself, “Do I feel secure in God’s love today?” That question puts the brakes on the bicycle.
“Do not complain, brethren, against one another” (James 5:9). Over the years I have been complimented for not being a complainer. I’m grateful for the commendation—but you should hear what goes on inside.
Years ago I started “now-and-then” journaling. When I feel frustrated, I write my complaints in my quiet time journal, explaining how I feel about certain people or incidents. I end with a one-sentence prayer of surrender. The Lord can handle my ranting. By telling Him, I don’t need to tell others.
This discipline reminds me that God is sovereign over the cause of my complaints—lying politicians, annoying co-workers, late airplanes.
“But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no” (James 5:12). This sounds like Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:34-37: “Make no oath at all, either by heaven … or by earth … but let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no.'”
I used to think this was about cussing, but it’s more than that. The Jews of Jesus’ day could hardly speak without invoking oaths to give their statements credibility. For example: “My camel is the fastest in the land, and if not, may I die without children!”
Similarly today, we “pad up” our statements because we don’t think we have enough personal gravity to simply say yes or no. Some people bolster their words with a “by God,” wordy exaggerations, threats or emotional displays. Padding our words shows that we do not believe God is for us. To apply this, I simply try to give short answers. Too simple? Try it.
To sum up, James says:
Further, three benchmarks check my motives:
Where to start? Should we simply keep quiet? Proverbs 17:28 says, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise.” Though keeping silent lessens embarrassment, it prevents you from edifying others or speaking up in the presence of evil.
The chain connecting heart and tongue cannot be broken. For good or bad, it will always be there. But try this: Before you speak, pause and ask, “Why did I almost say that? What is my motive?” Then honestly submit: “Lord, I confess I was about to slander Mary because I am jealous of her good looks. Amen.”
This momentary silence may invite stares from your friends. Simply tell them you are confronting your sins.
“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26). This is serious!