Pastor David B. Curtis


Protecting Your Torch

Matthew 5:14

Delivered 04/29/2001

How many of you have tuned in to watch the CBS program "Survivor"? When they meet at the tribal counsel, what is the thing that they don't want to happen? They don't want their torch put out. Each person at the counsel has a lit torch, and if they are voted off they take their torch and snuff it out. There is a sense of sadness and loss to the scene in Survivor when Jeff Probst walks over to someone's torch, says, "The tribe has spoken" and snuffs out the person's flame. There is also a sense of sadness and loss when believers live in a way that is in direct contradiction to the commands of Christ. And because of that are no longer the light they are supposed to be. Two differences being that the believer snuffs out his own flame, and secondly, it's not a game. As Christians, we are called to be light to the world in which we live.

This Sunday marks the fourth anniversary of Berean Bible Church, so I thought it would be good to review our mission statement. Our mission is: to influence friends who are living in spiritual darkness, that they also may know the joy of loving the Lord Jesus Christ.

We believe that this is why we exist as a church, and this is also why we exist as individual Christians. We are to be an influence on those living in spiritual darkness - or to put it another way, we are to be a light. What does it mean to live in spiritual darkness? Spiritual darkness is used in the Bible in two ways:

1. Those who don't know God, the unsaved, are in spiritual darkness.

Colossians 1:13 (NKJV) He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,

The "us" here is Christians. As believers, we have been delivered from the power of darkness. By our faith in Jesus Christ, we have been brought into His Kingdom and given eternal life. We are children of light. So, spiritual darkness is used of those who are lost in sin, the unsaved. Our mission is to share with them the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Believer, could you share the Gospel with someone? What would you tell them?

A good question to ask is, "Do you know where you will spend eternity?" There are only two options, in the eternal presence of God in heaven, or in eternal separation from God in the lake of fire.

Most people believe they are going to heaven, because they believe in God, they attend mass or church services, or they try to live a good life. But these people only hope that they will make it to heaven, they do not know. The Bible teaches that you can know that you have eternal life:

1 John 5:13 (NKJV) These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

But how can someone know if they have been good enough to get to heaven? The answer is that your eternal destiny has nothing to do with how good you are. In fact, the Bible teaches that no one is good enough to get to heaven:

Romans 3:10 (NKJV) As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one;

Righteousness is defined as: "God's standard of perfection." According to the Bible, no man meets this standard.

Romans 3:23 (NKJV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Any disobedience to God's law is sin. Whether you admit it or not, you know that you have sinned. That is bad news. But that is not the end of the story.

Romans 1:16-17 (NKJV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

The word "gospel" means: "good news." The good news is that God has provided redemption for sinful man. The gospel is not something that tells us what we must do to save ourselves. It is God's power "unto," signifying result, resulting in salvation to everyone who believes.

What is it that they need to believe? They need to believe that Jesus Christ has done for them what they could never do for themselves. He has paid their sin debt in full. Salvation is God's gift to all who trust in Him:

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

God's gift to man is faith to believe in Jesus Christ:

Acts 16:30-31 (NKJV) And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31 So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."

This is a command. We are to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is more than simply believing that He exists. It is trusting that He is the Lord, the savior of all who put their trust in Him. It is understanding that apart from trusting completely in His finished work on Calvary for my sin, I will pay for my own sin throughout eternity in Hell.

Why is the gospel the power of God to everyone who believes?

Romans 1:17 (NKJV) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

The righteousness, which the gospel reveals is God's own righteousness, which He gives to all who believe:

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

God solves man's problem by giving him the very righteousness that He demands. God takes out our stony heart and gives us a heart of flesh. He makes us new creatures with the capacity to love and obey His laws. That is the gospel and that, people, is good news.

Do you believe that the gospel is God's power to transform lives? Sure you do. Let me ask you another question: "When is the last time you shared the gospel with someone?" Paul asks this question in:

Romans 10:14 (NKJV) How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

Who is the preacher? All believers are to be proclaiming the Gospel. The word "preacher" is from the Greek word kerusso, it means: "to herald (as a public crier), especially divine truth, to preach, proclaim, publish." People can't believe what they haven't heard, and they can't hear if someone doesn't tell them. We are all to be "preachers" of His Word.

2. Spiritual darkness is also used to refer to believers who are walking in ignorance of, or disobedience to God's Word:

Romans 13:11-13 (NKJV) And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.

Paul says, "Let us cast off the works of darkness...." which would be speaking of believers living in disobedience.

1 John 2:10-11 (NKJV) He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

A Christian, someone who has been delivered from the power of darkness, can walk in darkness by living disobedient to the Word of God.

So, our mission is to take the gospel to the lost, and also to exhort believers to live in obedience to Christ. We are to be involved in calling both the saved and the lost to live in the light of obedience to God's Word. If we are going to do this, we must protect our flame. We must keep our light burning.

Notice what Jesus said about believers:

Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV) "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Jesus said, "You are the Light of the World." but what does that mean, and what is our responsibility as light? To put the entire thing into context, we have to realize that the word "light" was used repeatedly throughout the gospels. But in the vast majority of cases it was referring to Christ, not Christians. Time and time again we see Jesus referred to as the light, either in reference to Old Testament prophecy like when Matthew quotes from the prophet Isaiah in:

Matthew 4:16 (NKJV) The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned."

Or when John described Jesus' pre-existence in:

John 1:1-5 (NKJV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Jesus himself made reference to this in John 8:12 and 9:5 when he said, "I am the light of the World." So, it's interesting that he would say, "You are the light of the world" in Matthew 5. Who did he make this statement to? Was it the multitudes that gathered to see him perform miracles? Was it the crowds who gathered to hear his teachings or was it a little more narrow then that? Let's go back to the description of those who were there that sunny Palestinian afternoon. This teaching is referred to as the sermon on the mount:

Matthew 5:1-2 (NKJV) And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

The crowds have started to gather again, they're pushing and shoving trying to see the carpenter from Nazareth that some called the "Messiah". And Jesus takes his disciples and moves up away from the crowd to the apex of this hill. And it's there that he unveils his master plan for the Kingdom. It's not easy teaching, anyone who thinks that it is has obviously never read it. And it is to his disciples, not the crowd, not the multitudes, that he makes the statement:

Matthew 5:14 (NKJV) "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.

A little boy was sitting in church with his mother, and as he looked around at the beauty of the stained glass, curiosity finally got the best of him, and he asked, "Who are all those people?" To which his mother responded, "They are saints." And then sensing that this was a teaching moment, she asked "Do you know what saints are?" He pondered for a moment and then responded, "They are people the light shines through."

Excellent answer. Throughout the New Testament the followers of Christ are referred to as "saints", nothing mystical or mysterious. All believers are saints. And so we are the people who light is to shine through. And the light, of course, is Jesus. And the reason that we are supposed to be a light is given by Christ in:

Matthew 5:16 (NKJV) "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

And so, your light in the darkness will help direct people to God. We are God's light bearers. And in order for us to be effective in that task, we need to keep our light burning bright. Not just on Sunday; he didn't tell us to be the light of the church, instead we were told to be the light of the world, the light of work, of school, of shopping. Not just a Sunday light, but a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday light. And you need to know that the only person who can put out your torch is you. And that is why we need to "Protect our Torch."

How is our light displayed?

It is displayed in our behavior. Do you realize that the depth of your spiritual commitment will be measured by your behavior? That how you act, what you do, how you behave in certain situations will be the measuring stick that people use to determine your relationship with Christ?

Now anytime you talk about behavior in referring to a person's relationship with Christ, you are immediately accused of being judgmental or a legalist. But we have a right to judge. Look at what Paul wrote in:

1 Corinthians 5:12 (NKJV) For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?

And to be called a legalist, because you say Christians should obey the Bible is ridiculous! A legalist centers only on rules. He leaves no room for liberty. He has formulated a code of rules and regulations that cover every area of his life. For him, every aspect of life fits under one rule or another. Everything is either black or white. He has formally arranged the external aspects of his life in order to gain some kind of righteousness with God, or in order to appear righteous before men and women.

I grow weary of seeing people who profess to be a Christian, but you'd never know it by their behavior. And that's not the way it's supposed to be. People shouldn't have to say, "Look I'm a light." Your actions should demonstrate that. Lights don't have to define themselves. All they have to do is be what they are supposed to be, a light. Jesus told his followers in:

Luke 11:36 (NKJV) "If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light."

But the flip side of that is also true, it doesn't matter how strongly you announce that you are a light, if it's not shining, you won't be believed. Nowhere are the words truer, "What you are doing speaks so loud I can't hear what you are saying."

Throughout the Bible we are told that there is certain behavior that is not consistent with Christianity. You know what it is, and those around you in the church know what it is, and even those outside the church know what type of behavior a Christian ought to exhibit and ought not to exhibit. Paul told early believers what type of behavior wasn't acceptable in the life of Christians. The lists haven't changed:

Ephesians 5:3-8 (NKJV) But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

Another list is given in:

Galatians 5:19-21 (NKJV) Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

I didn't have to show you those lists, you know what's on them, it wasn't a surprise. What is a surprise is how people justify their sin. Ralph Waldo Emerson said "That which we call sin in others, is experiment for us." And Peter Marshall said "We are too Christian really to enjoy sinning, and too fond of sinning really to enjoy Christianity. Most of us know perfectly well what we ought to do; our trouble is that we do not want to do it."

A pastor and his wife were attending a wedding, and during the reception they struck up a conversation with a couple they knew. He had been a pastor, she had been the piano player in the church. Without getting into a lot of detail, they had left their respective spouses and were living together. Weren't divorced, still legally married to other people, but living together. During the conversation, they got talking about television, and she made the comment that they didn't let her children watch the Simpsons because of the morals that were communicated through the show.

That is the height of Hypocrisy. At least Marge and Homer were married.

Jesse Jackson probably thinks that the recent disclosure of his adultery hasn't affected how people see him, but he's only deceiving himself. People are watching how we live, and when we blow it we are blowing out our light; at least in their eyes. But what type of behavior should we be exhibiting? Read the book, check out:

Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Paul called believers to imitate him:

Philippians 4:9 (NKJV) The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

The day before Christ was crucified, he set out a litmus test for his disciples. "This is the way that people will recognize you," he said. And it wasn't by how you dress, or how long your hair is, or whether you are pierced or tattooed. Jesus didn't say that people would know that you were his disciple by your church membership or political affiliation; instead what he said was:

John 13:35 (NKJV) "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Augustine made this statement, "What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like."

Paul defined love in:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJV) Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

And so, when we exhibit that type of behavior toward others, we are being a beacon of light for those living in spiritual darkness.

And these two, our righteousness and our love, have to go together. We can be completely righteous but if we don't show love, it's like covering our light up. On the other hand, we can love everyone but not be obedient to Christ in other areas, and that puts our light out.

Maybe, just maybe, your torch has gone out. Maybe you've been living a life that is at odds with the message of Christ. Or you've been acting in an unloving manner toward other Christians. What do you do? Well, light the torch again, just cause it's gone out doesn't mean that it has to stay out. You may not be able to change what you've done, but listen to what John wrote in:

1 John 1:9 (NKJV) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Believers, we need to guard our torch. Living as light is the most important thing we can do - it is our mission.

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like without light? It's almost impossible to imagine. When New York City had that massive power failure, the whole city shut down. Under the cover of darkness there was rampant looting and violence and widespread panic until the power was restored and the lights came back on. People will do things in the darkness that they would never do in the light.

In our text, Jesus looks at his followers, and he says to them and to us, "You are the light of the world!" In other words, "As my followers, I want you to live a distinctively different kind of life in the midst of a dark and decaying world. You are my only strategy for transforming the world!"

So, our mission is: to influence - we do this by how we live and through the proclamation of the gospel message. We are to influence friends - those who know that we love and care about them, those we have spent time with building relationships. Who are living in spiritual darkness - those who don't know Christ, they have never trusted Him for their salvation. And also, those who are Christians but are not living in obedience to the Lord. That they also may know the joy of loving the Lord Jesus Christ - please note that the word "also" implies that you know the joy of loving the Lord Jesus Christ. Everybody wants to be happy. And the only way for man to truly be happy is to live in fellowship with the God who created him. Our happiness and joy comes from God, and God alone.

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