Lesson 12 June 14-20
"You Are the Light"
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: John 3:19; 2 Cor. 4:6; Eph. 5:8; Matt. 5:14-16; John 17:4; Luke 11:13.
MEMORY TEXT: "In him was life; and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4).
KEY THOUGHT: God has called Seventh-day Adventists to share with the rest of the world the remarkable insights He has given them into the history of the great controversy, the knowledge of His character, and His distinctive message for this time.
LIGHT AMIDST DARKNESS. Imagine that you are attending a non-Adventist gathering. Someone there asks you: "What do you Seventh-day Adventists mean when you call yourselves the true church, or the light of the world for the last days? Do you mean you are better than the rest of the Christian world?" Contemplate what answer you would give that would draw him or her to-not away from-Christ.
In terms of their responsibility to be the light of the world, members have three alternatives. First, they may become religiously exclusive, arrogant, and selfish. They may hoard their blessings under the guise of maintaining internal purity.
Second, some church members may conclude that the cost of discipleship is too high. They drift into the ways of the world, allowing it to influence them instead of their influencing it.
Happily, there is a third alternative for those who wish to take seriously the commission to be the light of the world. It is a Christlike missionary motive, which balances humility and a sense of service with gleaming confidence in the values of the kingdom of heaven.
In order to light the world effectively, God's people must understand what constitutes the spiritual darkness of their world. In order to establish evangelistic priorities, we need to consider what the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy have singled out as the world's main problem. Our world is plunged in spiritual darkness, desperately groping for some direction. Have we become light in Christ's light? Do they who are in spiritual darkness see His light in our lives?
How is darkness defined by Paul in Romans 1:19-25?
Let us refer to a cornerstone passage in The Desire of Ages as we attempt to set priorities for witnessing to our non-Adventist friends. "The earth was dark through misapprehension of God. That the gloomy shadows might be lightened, that the world might be brought back to God, Satan's deceptive power was to be broken. ... To know God is to love Him; His character must be manifested in contrast to the character of Satan. This work only one Being in all the universe could do. Only He who knew the height and depth of the love of God could make it known."page 22.
What does Paul say most sinners have chosen instead of the revelation of God's character? Rom. 1:26-31.
Unhappily, relatively few people in every generation have accepted Jesus' revelation of God's character. Few have been willing to accept Jesus' life as evidence that the law of God-the value system that sustains the universe-offers the best possible way of living. "As the evil passions and purposes of men banished God from their thoughts, so forgetfulness of Him inclined them more strongly to evil. The heart in love with sin clothed Him with its own attributes, and this conception strengthened the power of sin. Bent on self-pleasing, men came to regard God as such a one as themselves-a Being whose aim was selfglory, whose requirements were suited to His own pleasure; a Being by whom men were lifted up or cast down according as they helped or hindered His selfish purpose."Education, p. 75.
Are your personal witnessing efforts well directed at the main problem facing men and women-the problem, of depreciating the values God stands for? If not, how can you, make them more so?
Clearly, Christians are the light of the world only in the sense of service and not in the sense of having something that draws attention to themselves or even their church. Even as they are reflectors rather than sources of light, they should seek to draw the attention of the world, not to themselves, but to Heaven.
What did Jesus mean when He referred to His disciples as the light of the world? Matt. 5:14.
Just as a mirror can reflect light only by being close to the light, so the disciples of Christ can reflect the light of Christ only in beholding Him. The moon shines brightly only as it reflects the light of the sun. "No other light ever has shone or ever will shine upon fallen man save that which emanates from Christ. Jesus, the Saviour, is the only light that can illuminate the darkness of a world lying in sin."Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 39.
Consider the impact Jesus had on His hearers, when they could see shadows disappearing at the very moment they were listening to the Saviour. The message was plain; consecrated individuals would clear away misconceptions about God that had enslaved the world.
Are we really the light of the world? 1 John 1:5.
As we study 1 John 1:5 we notice that God is referred to as "light, and in him there is no darkness at all." But in Matthew 5:14 the disciples are referred to as the light, as well. This point can be clarified by studying Ephesians 5:8. "For ye were some times darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord..." It is interesting to note that without the Lord we are darkness, but we become light in His light. "The life of Christ in the soul, His love revealed in the character, would make them [His disciples] the light of the world. ... As Christ is the channel for the revelation of the Father, so we are to be the channel for the revelation of Christ. ... The church of Christ, every individual disciple of the Master, is heaven's appointed channel for the revelation of God to men."Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, pp. 39, 40.
What must you do to be become an effective channel for the revelation of God and His values to the world? Have you become light in His light? In what ways are you brightening the corner where you are?
Ever since the fall of our first parents, the human family has needed a point of reference to check the trustworthiness of God's values and requirements. Being the guardian of freedom that He is, God does not ask men and women to do anything without first giving them evidence of His love and concern for them. Hence, He has always sought to have a people who would communicate His love, thus demonstrating His trustworthiness. In modem times the word works has come to have a negative connotation because it is often associated with pride and the attempt to earn salvation by obligating God. Actually works is a good word when it results from a saving relationship in Christ and our union with Him, demonstrating the benefits of living God's ideals.
Was Jesus taking a risk in encouraging His disciples to let the world see their good works? Matt. 5:16; 23:5.
The crucial question here deals with the motivation and consequence of others' seeing our good works. You see, Christ did not ask His disciples to try hard to make their light shine. He simply invited them to let their light shine. For when the light of Christ is in the heart it cannot be hidden, it shines through good works. It is not a matter of parading our good works to glorify self, but that Christ shines so brightly in our lives that others take notice. Notice that they see the good works, and seeing them, they glorify only God. As if we could hear them say: "Look what God can do through them! May His name be praised!"
"Let us remember that a Christlike life is the most powerful argument that can be advanced in favor of Christianity. ... Men will believe, not what the minister preaches, but what the church lives. Too often the influence of the sermon preached from the pulpit is counteracted by the sermon preached in the lives of those who claim to be advocates of truth."Testimonies, vol 9, p. 21.
What makes works "good"? What constitutes the right motive in doing good works? Matt. 6:1-3.
"Every ray of light that we shed upon others is reflected upon ourselves. Every kind and sympathizing word spoken to the sorrowful, every act to relieve the oppressed, and every gift to the needy, if prompted by a right motive, will result in blessings to the giver."-Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 218.
The highest compliment that can be paid any person is that he or she speaks well of God. (See Job 42:7.) Often God is portrayed as being like an earthly despot who demands praise and adulation from his subjects. But Jesus' life revealed a different picture; in it we see God wanting nothing more from His created beings than that they know Him and share His love for them.
What does the Bible mean when it refers to God's glory? Exod. 33:18, 19.
"The word of God reveals His character. He Himself has declared His infinite love and pity. When Moses prayed, 'Show me thy glory,' the Lord answered, 'I will make all my goodness pass before thee.' Exod. 33:18,19. This is His glory."Steps to Christ, p. 10. If God's glory equals His character, then the process of glorifying God amounts to speaking well of His character by faithfully living out His principles in our lives. Glorifying God means worshiping Him as our Friend and Saviour rather than as a harsh and tyrannical ruler.
"Satan led men to conceive of God as a being whose chief attribute is stern justice-one who is a severe judge, a harsh, exacting creditor. ... It was to remove this dark shadow, by revealing to the world the infinite love of God, that Jesus came to live among men."Steps to Christ, pp. 10, 11.
Sometimes there is an emphasis on admiring God without much action in sharing His character with others. Is it true admiration when it does not lead to action? How can we strike a balance?
True admiration for God involves a compulsion to share what we know to be true about Him with others. We become so moved by what He is like and what He has done for us, that we sense this compulsion to do something about it. Indifferent admiration is not admiration at all. Ellen White reminds us, "We are not only to contemplate the glory of Christ, but also to speak of His excellences. Isaiah not only beheld the glory of Christ, but he also spoke of Him. ... Who can by faith behold the wonderful plan of redemption, the glory of the only begotten Son of God, and not speak of it?"Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 43.
Does your life glorify your Creator? In what ways is this made tangible?
Contrast the consequences of hiding our light under a bushel as opposed to setting it up on a candlestick. Matt. 5:15, 16.
We cannot give what we do not have. If we do not have the light of God's love and truth, we cannot give anything but our own darkness to others. We must continue to behold the light in the face of Jesus in order to reflect it to others. And the more we share it with confidence, the brighter it shines. We behold His light in feeding on His Word. Life is not static, for day by day we become more and more like that which we think about and admire.
How does the Word of God make us wise unto salvation? 2 Tim. 3:15. Why is this the only true wisdom in the world, and how can it help us to dispel the darkness of people to whom we witness?
"It is a law of the mind that it gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is trained to dwell. If occupied with commonplace matters only, it will become dwarfed and enfeebled. If never required to grapple with difficult problems, it will after a time almost lose the power of growth. As an educating power, the Bible is without a rival."Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 596.
As church members we need to have firm confidence in the study of the Bible. As the Holy Spirit makes it a part of our being, it will refine and polish us and make our light shine even brighter.
God greatly desires to give us His Holy Spirit to set our witness on fire, and to help settle us solidly in Christ. What are some things that hinder us from receiving such a great Gift? Luke 11:13.
"The promise of the Holy Spirit is casually brought into our discourses, is incidentally touched upon, and that is all. ... This subject has been set aside, as if sometime in the future would be given to its consideration. ... This promised blessing, if claimed by faith, would bring all other blessings in its train."Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 174, 175.
How seriously do you take your need for daily spiritual nourishment from the Word of God and for a fuller measure of the Holy Spirit?
FURTHER STUDY: Read Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 35-38, 463, 464, 825-827; Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, "The Beatitudes" (Matt. 5:14), pp. 38-44; "True Motive in Service" (Matt. 6:1), pp. 79-83; The Acts of the Apostles, p. 576.
Some religions speak of sanctifying things, places, animals, seasons, and heroes of the past, while the character development of believers is virtually ignored. However, growing in our knowledge of Christ and becoming more and more like Him should be our first and foremost spiritual priority. "To honor Christ, to become like Him, to work for Him, is the life's highest ambition and its greatest joy."Education, p. 297.
"It is not by looking away from Him that we imitate the life of Jesus, but by talking of Him, by dwelling upon His perfections, by seeking to refine the taste and elevate the character, by trying through faith and love, and by earnest, persevering effort-to approach the perfect Pattern. By having a knowledge of Christ-His words, His habits, and His lessons of instruction-we borrow the virtues of the character we have so closely studied, and become imbued with the spirit we have so much admired."Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, pp. 1098, 1099.
1. What are some specific ways in which Adventists can serve as lights in the world.
2. Are you sometimes afraid to let your light shine in the world? How can you make your light shine brighter?
3. Can you share an experience in which you or someone you know allowed their light to shine? What were the results? In what ways was God glorified?
SUMMARY: Christians lighten the world by reflecting JesusHis character, His words, His actions. Additionally, Seventh-day Adventist Christians have been called to disseminate the light of God's end-time message to a dark world.
Thirteen-year-old Hitomi lives in Okinawa, Japan. She enjoys school now. But it wasn't always so. She used to attend a public school, but competition for grades was fierce, and Hitomi began to show signs of stress. Her mother worried about the effect the stress was having on Hitomi's health. She discussed her concerns with her neighbor, who suggested she send Hitomi to the Okinawa Saniku Elementary School, a Seventh-day Adventist mission school. Hitomi's mother was not a Christian; in fact she was an atheist. But she wondered if a Christian school really could help her daughter.
Hitomi was not sure she wanted to change schools, but right away she noticed a difference. Her classmates and teachers were kind and helpful to one another, not competing. In fact, when one boy had difficulty with a subject, other children helped him. Hitomi began to relax and enjoy her studies.
Public schools held classes six days a week. But at the Adventist school, Saturday classes met at the church. Class was not compulsory, but Hitomi had heard her friends talk about Sabbath School, and she decided to go to see what it was like. Hitomi enjoyed Sabbath School it was actually fun! She told her mother about it. Mother decided to go. She wanted to know what her children were being taught. Little by little, Hitomi's mother was led to Jesus.
As Mother studied the Bible, she became convicted that she needed to make things right with her mother-in-law. For all her married life her mother-in-law had made her life miserable. But now she knew she would have no peace until she asked her mother-in-law's forgiveness. After months of struggle, she called her mother-in-law and made amends. What joy and peace flooded her heart!
Soon Hitomi's mother was baptized. Now Mother, Hitomi, and her brother attend church together. Everyone is happier, even Father, who sometimes goes with them. He likes what the Adventist school has done for his children, and what the Adventist faith has done for his family. For Hitomi's family, the price of tuition was little enough to pay for changed lives.
Hitomi (center), her mother, and brother. Hitomi would like to be a missionary nurse. Hatsue Kinjo lives in Okinawa, Japan.
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