350 Under a Bushel
One of the most remarkable statements which Jesus ever made was when he told his followers in the Sermon on the Mount – that “THEY were the light of the world” ( Matt 5:14) I say remarkable, simply because the statement appears to contradict the earlier assertion made by Jesus at the beginning of his ministry – that HE was the light of the world? ( John 9:5)
Listen to what He says:
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven“.
My Sermon today, entitled “Under a Bushel” is about hiding your light. Let me begin by saying that God does not automatically or unilaterally come into action to resolve or dissolve the plight and perils of men. God moves only in response to prayer. Prayer is what moves God to do what he otherwise could not do had there been no prayer. Let me explain.
Supposing you own a house, but having no need of it yourself, you lease it or rent it out to a tenant. In doing so, you relinquish your right to occupy or manage the property during the term of the lease. If the tenant does not open the blinds in the morning, you (although the owner) have no legal right to
go in and open those blinds. But if the tenant says there is a problem with the blinds and asks you to fix the problem, then you have the right to intervene and solve the problem.
God has leased this world to our humanity, He handed it over to Adam, (Gen 1:28) and regretfully Adam and Eve, in turn, gave it over to Satan and to his control. So God cannot come into our broken world to fix it, unless and until we invite him, until we ask for his help. In preparing these messages for this season of Advent, I am thinking particularly about light coming into the darkness of our world. The world had lain in darkness for over 400 years before Jesus was born, there was no Prophetic vision and no Prophetic word between Malachi and Matthew. Yet into that deep darkness came the light of the star, the light of life, the light of the world, Jesus Christ – and the Glory of the Lord was revealed that all men should see it. And Jesus could say in John 9:5 “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world“. It is unquestionable and undeniable that Jesus brought us much needed light in our darkness, hope in our despair, answers to our questions and salvation from our sins.
But while we recognise Jesus as the light of the world, (and He is) he himself reminds us that he was only the light of the world as long as he was in the world. A point sometimes overlooked by the Church. He cannot any longer be the light of the world since he is no longer in the world, – but the point I am trying to make is that now in his absence, he has appointed us, the Church, the Christian to be the “light of the world”.
Hence his comments in Matt 5:14-16.
This being said, you will know as I do that there are many of us within the Church who are hiding that light “under a bushel”?
(incidentally a bushel is a bit like a bucket – used for carrying and measuring grain or farm produce – not something to be used as a lamp shade!) So this is why Jesus says when you light a candle you put it on a candle-stick and raise it high so that it gives the best light possible… how foolish it would be to put it under a bucket!
So in the moments left to me today, I want to talk with you about your LIGHT – and to ask you, what are you doing with it?
Without doubt, we are living in very dark times. It seems that the next news bulletin, or the next news-paper carries even more horrific reports than the last. Yesterdays news was bad, but today’s news seems worse, and tomorrows news is likely to be darker still. The rising threat from some extreme terror groups, the advancing spread of the Ebola Virus, Cancer and HIV Aids – the crumbling world economies propped up only by insecure derivatives and deceptive money markets, not to mention the growing hostility to the Church and anything Christian – where we find ourselves caught between prosecution and persecution, all signal the onset of what the Bible calls the Tribulation Period.
We stand on the verge, on the very precipice of Hell, a hell that is coming to our world. A darkness like never before that is advancing at breakneck speed. Some laugh, some scorn, some bury their heads in the sand and some are hiding their light under a bushel. But unless we begin to shine, and shine brightly, our neighbourhoods and our nation will be swallowed up in this darkness. It is time for the Church to come out of its comfort zones and take on the evils that are plotting to shut us up and shut us down. Make no mistake, there are moves afoot even as I speak in the highest echelons of Government, to silence the Church, and to close her doors. Christian Broadcasting too will have to fight to keep on air. Media is being controlled and Government officials are being manipulated like puppets on a string, and unless we get up, stand up and speak up now,
it may soon be too late.
Every single day the “covers of deception” are being rolled out over us, and we are being forced to swallow pills we don’t need and solutions we don’t want. This is why at Stormont we have our Local Assembly members at each others throats over new budget cuts and austerity measures. The Problem is not theirs, it has been forced on them. The Government have been deceiving us by massaging figures and statistics telling us that we are out of recession, when they know full well that we are in the deepest recession ever, and that it is deepening every single day.
If you want proof – just look around you in the high street at the number of businesses going to the wall and the numbers losing their jobs every week – resulting in falling tax revenues. The estimated budget deficit of £87bn for the current year, has been revised this week to almost £92bn. Our international debt grows by the hour and we are powerless and penniless to pay it off. We may be able to stay a day of reckoning and buy ourselves time and favour with our creditors, but one of these days they will come after us and take our businesses and our properties and our “greatness” will have evaporated overnight!
This is true also in the United States and in other European Economies. Do you realize that on October 8th, China became the worlds strongest economy. America is in in debt to China by about 30 trillion dollars. The national debt in the US now stands about $1m per household. Most US companies will soon see Chinese CEO’s in their board rooms. Many of our European cities have more Mosques now than Churches, and Dublin, just an hours drive away, has more Muslims going to Pray than Christians going to Church. Nevertheless we must stand up for Religious freedom for all, not just for ourselves, and Muslim leaders must also take that stand. I purpose to stand up for the civil and religious freedom and equal rights for every man or woman on this Island, as long as breath remains in my body – but allowing YOU your rights should never rob ME of my rights. If you have light – let it shine by all means, but don’t throw water on my candle – after all if you are throwing water about over my light, you might accidentally distinguish your own.
Now my dear friends, into all of this doom and gloom we must bring light, into this hell, we must bring heaven. Jesus commands it! But we cannot do it without him. – I have never been able to understand how some people imagine they can have ministry without the Holy Spirit? God willing I shall speak next week on the Love that moves and motivates us. If we do not walk in love and love our neighbour as ourselves, if we do not care about the lost and lonely of our society, if we do not hurt when they hurt and cry when they cry, then we have no light – we are still in darkness and while as Christians we may no longer live in Sin, some still vacation there?
The life that Jesus gives us, if we are born in Him and transformed by him – sets us apart from the darkness and empowers us to shine. This all is made possible by the Holy Spirit who lives and abides in us as a consequence of the new birth experience. Allow me to explain how this works – so that today may be the day when I lift that bushel from off your light and raise it to a lamp stand. In other words, allow me to help you shine!
There is a very important two fold Biblical Principle regarding the work and witness of the Holy Spirit in the believer which is often overlooked in our Bible Studies. The Holy Spirit lives IN the believer to empower him, and the Holy Spirit rests ON the believer to empower others! Let me repeat that …
The Holy Spirit lives IN the believer to empower him, and the Holy Spirit rests ON the believer to empower others!
Jesus himself says in John 14:16 & 17 “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” Most of our focus has traditionally been on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. This is important, for without that indwelling transforming grace, we remain infantile, immature and stuck at the Cross where we were saved. Tragically many find themselves there, never having made any progress in the Christian pilgrimage, and never having entered into all that God has in store for his children and heirs. Are you one of them?
If not, then it is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring you to full maturity where you transition from being a Child to being a Son
or Daughter – (in the sense of being able to take over the Fathers business) In this maturity God desires not only to live in you, but to rest on you. This “resting on you” becomes visible to the world around you, and thus you begin to shine!
There’s a beautiful pictorial record of this in the book of Acts in the 2nd Chapter on the day of Pentecost. (incidentally Pentecost is not meant to be seen as something past, rather as something present) We read there ….
(1) And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
(2) And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
(3) And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
Notice that this sign, this fire sat on “each one” of them. It was not only for the clergy, or for the deacons, or for the elders, or for the rich, or for the influential, or for the educated, … it was for all. Gods blessings and benefits are for all who want them and all who desire them. God has a “fire” for you too – but it must be kindled first within, before it can shine without. There must be a burning in your heart, before it can be seen on your head!
Now, although some of you may question or query all this, I have to say that such a fire CAN BE SEEN, it can become visible to those who are ripe and ready for it. God will never give you what you are not hungry for. But (as we read earlier today) if you seek the Lord with all your heart, you will truly find him. Jeremiah 29:13 There is a “glow” and a “glory” that can be seen on Gods Sons and Daughters that is not present on all who are his children.
When Jesus preached that Sermon on the Mount telling his followers to let their light so shine, – shine in such a way that (the world) may see their good works, and glorify their Father which is in heaven“. Matt 5:16 … He was saying that while some may have light, not all would shine? Some have been elevated to a lamp stand, while others hide under a bushel or bucket!
So then we must ask the question – how do we get the glow and the glory, how do we get to shine. Again, I must refer you back to the book of Acts. Notice that they were waiting on God, – this was not merely prayer, but prayerful expectation of “more of God”. Are you hungry for more of God? Do you want more of God in your life, more power, more passion, more purity, more potential, more purpose, more peace and more of his presence – because when you carry his presence on you, you carry these things with you into every situation in life, …
To put it simply and succinctly, YOU CARRY GOD!
You shine. Did you not notice that the Bible says in Acts 2: verse 3 that the tongues of fire were “cloven tongues“. I’ve told you before that I struggled with this phrase for a long time, and prayed that God would help me understand its meaning and message. Then one day the Holy Spirit opened my eyes. I saw my Mother light the lamp on the kitchen table. I grew up in the days before electricity flooded our homes with light, I grew up in the dark ages of the Oil Lamp! I recalled how my Mother would remove the glass globe and shade, and set a match to the oiled wick, then quickly replacing the globe, she would turn up the wick and if it was too bright, replace the shade.
At some times, particularly if Mother were doing some tricky needlework, she would sit beside the lamp and remove the shade and turn the wick higher. This would increase the flow of oil to the flame, and then, the flame would become cloven or forked. Instead of there being one point to the flame, like a candle flame, there would be two points, a cloven tongue of fire. Seeing this picture helped me to understand that at Pentecost, the flame is all about the flow of the oil within. (and I’ll be saying more about the oil next week also) If the Holy Spirit is not flowing and functioning as he should within us, there will be no fire without. Only those who have the flame within, can display the fire without.
You may remember that in Numbers 11:17, God put the “spirit of Moses” on 70 men to help them minister along side Moses. God did not get more spirit from another, he considered Moses to have enough spirit for 70 men. In exactly the same way on the day of Pentecost, God put the “spirit of Jesus” on 70 men waiting in that upper room for the power, – and if you and I will have the courage to step out in the power of Jesus using HIS name and not our own, then the people in the street will see us, but the demons of hell will see Jesus. That‘s what I call shining!
It could be today as you listen, that you do truly desire to shine for Jesus, to glow for him in the darkness of the world around you – but try as you may, there simply is no shining in your life. Yes, you are conscious of a “spark” within, but by no means could you be described as being “on fire” for God. My dear friends, could it be that the Spirit within, is being quenched? Something is putting out the fire, something is dampening down the embers, something is killing the flame, something is preventing the light from getting out? This is why I bring you this message, because I know that in my own life I had to deal with all kinds of things, uncomfortable things and unprofitable things and unhealthy things and unwholesome things that were blocking the flow of the Oil of the Holy Spirit. Pride, Jealousy, Bitterness, Selfishness, Unforgivingness, and a host of other ungodly baggage has to be lain down and cast aside for ever, if I was to enjoy the unhindered flow and function of the Holy Spirit within to give light without. Is your light shining, and can others see it?
NOW THIS FINAL WORD.
We read earlier today in Marks Gospel Chapter Eight, that they brought a blind man to Jesus in a place called Bethsaida, and Jesus spat on the mans eyes and induced healing, then asked him what he could see. (v23)
He replied “I see men as trees, walking! In other words he was better but he was not whole. Some of you are saved, but you are not yet whole. You are saved but you are still bitter, saved but still jealous, saved but still angry, saved but still spiteful, saved but still hooked, saved but still crippled by your past. We read that Jesus had to touch this man again for the second time before he could see clearly. Some of you need a second touch from the Lord today, you need MORE of him. The Spirit truly is IN you, but not yet ON you. Until that happens, you will have little impact on the world around you – because you are still walking in a blindness that persists from your past. If you and I are to know and experience the FULLNESS of the Holy Spirits experience – then we must first know an EMPTYNESS from self and sin. Then and only then can the oil fill and flow and the light shine brightly. So the question remains … What bushel is hiding your light?
God bless you. Amen