The Kingdom of Light (4)
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who arein the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5.14-16
As we have seen, the Scriptures speak often of the “works of darkness” (cf. Jn. 3.19; Eph. 5.11). Such works arise from and sow seeds of self-interest, confusion, uncertainty, doubt, corruption, and worse. It is sadly obvious that works of darkness are a prominent feature of life in our world.
But light has dawned with the coming of Christ and His Kingdom, and, over the long run, works of darkness can neither overcome that light nor stand against it. But how does the Kingdom of light make progress in and against a world of darkness?
The apostle John insisted that those who have come into the Kingdom of light do the works of the light – works of love and the will of God (1 Jn. 2.1-11). The works of darkness shall not be found in them; instead, citizens in the Kingdom of light have renounced the works of darkness and have nothing more to do with them.
John is simply explaining what Jesus taught when He said that those who believe in Him must understand that He has appointed them as the light of the world. Light penetrates darkness in countless, minute photons and waves, one after and upon another, supplanting darkness with radiance, gloom and confusion with clarity. Light stands out in darkness, exposing everything the darkness hides, whether ugly or beautiful, and sending those who prefer the darkness seeking its safety once again. Wickedness flees from the light of Christ, as He shines through His people into the pervasive, but retreating, darkness of our secular and unbelieving age.
Jesus said that the light His followers bring to the world comes in the form of good works. He has lit up our souls by His Word and Spirit, revealing to us the ways of grace and truth and fitting us to live for Him. We are a light-filled city, situated on a high hill. We are lamps brightly lit and carried into a dark room, radiating photons and waves of true, spiritual light in a continuous stream of good works, small, constant, and filled with Spirit and truth. We must resist every attempt to cover or squelch our light, and persevere in shining it into the world. All our words and deeds are to be vehicles of light into the darkness, and this not for our own glory, but for the glory of God.
The glory of God
For the larger purpose of Jesus’ coming, the greater objective of His growing and advancing Kingdom of light, and the overarching goal of the lives of those who know Him, is that the knowledge of God’s glory should fill the earth as water covers the seas (Hab. 2.14). The glory of God is everywhere present in the creation, in an infinite array of forms and expressions (Ps. 19.1-4). Yet most people, including most Christians, have never learned to discern that glory, much less to appreciate and celebrate it.
This is the Christian’s calling as light to the world – to discern, discover, display, and disseminate the radiant glory of the unseen God, like light flooding a dark room (Prov. 25.2; 1 Cor. 10.31).
The glory of God is the presence of God made visible to human beings in surprising ways and with astonishing effects. In Scripture, God’s glory typically appears in familiar forms – fire on a mountain or in a bush, bright pillars of flame and smoke, the face and clothing of Jesus as He glowed on the mount of transfiguration. God makes His presence known in such familiar forms by super-exaggerating the forms, so that there is no mistaking the fact that something more than what is merely natural is present here. Some times that presence is undeniable on display; at other times, those who discern must point it out to those who do not (cf. Acts 14.17).
When Paul, therefore, commands us to do everything for the glory of God – even down to such mundane activities as taking a meal – he means that we should prepare and live in such a way as that Kingdom light will shine through our words and deeds, and the glory of God will be refracted to those around us. What may seem like an ordinary task, a simple word, or an unexpected gesture of appreciation or concern will radiate with the light of God’s glory when we live as lights in the darkness of our unbelieving age. Jesus’ breaking the bread before the two disciples in Luke 24 is a perfect example of what can happen when suddenly the glory of God shines forth in an ordinary event (see Caravaggio’s painting of this, and note the astonished response of the two disciples).
Preparing to live for God’s glory
This requires understanding and preparation on our parts. What makes the way we take a meal stand out from the way our unbelieving friends do? Is there more grace in our conversation? Elegance in our manners? Restraint in our diet? Do we evidence in our faces more of the peace that passes understanding, and in our words more kindness and grace than others typically encounter? Are we easy about giving thanks to God for what we eat, and the company in whose presence we eat it? And are we careful about the subjects and manner of our conversation over meals?
How does such thinking and living translate into every other area of our lives, so that whatever we do, the glory of God radiates like light from within it?
Doing works that glorify God is not like falling off a log. The good works to which we are called and for which we have been redeemed (Eph. 2.10) will bring glory to God when we engage them with that objective in mind. But to do this we must study God’s Word faithfully, seek Him in prayer, talk with our fellow believers and seek their advice, encourage one another to the love and good works that will show the glory of God to the world, and prepare faithfully each day, committing all our works to God and His glory (Heb. 10.24; Ps. 90.12, 16, 17).
We are the agents of light. We are the light of the world. Isn’t it about time we began to live that way?
1. Describe some ways you observe the glory of God in a typical day. How do you know when you are in the presence of God’s glory?
2. Can the knowledge of the glory of God come to the attention of our unbelieving age apart from Christians talking about it? Explain.
3. Meditate on Psalm 90.12, 16, 17. How might these verses help you in preparing to live for the glory of God each day?
Next steps – Conversation: How do you experience and express the glory of God in your life? Talk with some of your Christian friends about this question. Encourage one another to seek this glory of God more diligently.
T. M. Moore
God can reveal Himself and His glory in even the smallest everyday acts. This includes all our involvement with culture. Order a copy of Christians on the Front Lines of the Culture Wars (click here), and learn how you can prepare every area of your life as a staging-ground for the glory of God.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.