July 30, 2007


by Professor Robert J. Barth

We all know what happens when you take the lampshade off of a lit lamp. The light is no longer diffused by the shade and the brightest spot, the bulb, is often (depending on the wattage of the bulb) too bright to look at directly. A lamp (or candle) illustrates certain important truths about light, which also have spiritual analogies.

First, light travels wherever it is not blocked. With no lampshade, the light from a lamp shines equally in all directions and brightens all the space around it enabling one to see more clearly whatever is located in the surrounding space.

Second, the light is brightest near the source of the light. In a dark room, it is much easier to read a paper next to the lamp than it is 15 feet away.

Third, light has a source of energy other than itself. The light from a light bulb is basically a product of electricity flowing through filaments in a vacuum. The same source of energy when redirected for other uses can result in heat, magnetism, refrigeration, communication systems, and other useful technologies.

Spiritually speaking, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). But Jesus also said to His disciples, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). How can both Jesus and His disciples be “the light of the world”? The answer becomes evident when you consider the source of spiritual light. We know that God dwells in unapproachable light (I Timothy 6:16) and that light is part of His nature (Revelation 21:23). When Jesus was confined to a human body, the light in Him was the Holy Spirit. Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit before He began His public ministry of declaring the gospel of the kingdom of God (Luke 4:1). While Jesus physically lived with His disciples, He gave them power and authority to heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim the gospel of the kingdom (Luke 9:1-2). Jesus shared His light and power with His disciples.

After He was crucified and rose from the dead, Jesus told His disciples to wait until they were “endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) before they began preaching the gospel (Acts 1:8). For Jesus knew that until they received the Holy Spirit, they would have no light or power. The Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11) was given to the disciples on Pentecost. That same Holy Spirit of light and power is available to each of us today. Jesus said, “If ye then, being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13) The Apostle Paul tells us to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), which produces the joy that leads to “speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). It is the “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2) dwelling in believers that is the light Jesus commanded us to let shine.

Light overcomes darkness and spiritual light overcomes spiritual darkness. But just as we have a choice to turn a light switch on or off, we have a choice whether we let our light shine or keep it hidden. (Actually, it is not our light, but it is the light of Christ in us because of the indwelling Holy Spirit.) We can do things to hide or hinder the light of Christ from shining in our life. This is the opposite of what Jesus told us to do.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 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. (Matthew 5:13-16)

The darkened shade or “bushel” that quenches or hinders the light is SELF. By this command, Jesus is directing us to have an open spirit of love toward all people and to do good works to demonstrate that love for Him and others. Each of us choose, either knowingly or unknowingly, whether we have an open spirit toward people in each situation we encounter during a day. It may be in telephone conversations, interactions with family members, work relationships, or even people we meet “on the street.” In each situation, we let or not let the light of Jesus shine through us by our countenance, our words, and our actions.

Why do we not always have an open spirit of love toward people? There can be several reasons. We may have been hurt by the person and have not yet forgiven them. We may be fearful of what they will think of us, or fear possible persecution. It may be because of pride in that we think we are somehow better than another person. It may be judgment of another because of appearances or actions. It may be because of selfish desires for gain. It may be fear of rejection, or fear of failure. It may be because of customs, culture, or tradition. All of these reasons for hindering the light of Jesus boil down to more concern for SELF than for Jesus and others.

In my own life, I know that when I allow SELF to control rather than the Holy Spirit, the light in me only highlights my imperfections and faults. When I am concerned about my reputation or when I am fearful about doing what the Lord wants me to do, the imperfections in SELF are highlighted and the light of Jesus is hindered. It is like covering a lamp with a lampshade that has a dirty spot on it. The light from the lamp only highlights the spot. The solution is to remove the lampshade or bushel of SELF (or remove the spot) and let the light shine bright, attracting others to the Light.

There are other reasons for not letting our light shine that deal more with the connection to the source of light than the manifestation of selfishness that hinders the light. If we withdraw ourselves from the power supply through lack of prayer, praise, Bible study, and Scripture meditation, the light will become dimmer over time. In such a state, the cares of the world tend to take on more of a priority and can choke out the seed of the kingdom preventing it from being fruit in our lives (Matthew 13:7, 22). Without spending time with God, there will be less wisdom and understanding to handle daily situations according to the light and love of Christ. If we are going to “let our light shine” we need to stay connected to the power source of the light.

Secret sin and the lack of a clear conscience also hinder the light in our life. The Apostle Paul emphasized the importance of a clear conscience in connection with love and faith. “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (I Timothy 1:5). Sin grieves and quenches the Holy Spirit in us (Ephesians 4:30; I Thessalonians 5:19) because it manifests a choice to please self rather than God and others.

Thanks be to God who is gracious and loving to forgive us of our sins if we have godly sorrow (II Corinthian 7:10) and repent (I John 1:9), whether it is for sin that hinders the light or for sin that weakens the brightness of the light.

The key to letting your light shine is fellowship with the Light. When people see the love and good works of a surrendered servant of Christ, they are attracted to the light because they really want to experience the same light being demonstrated. This is what Jesus wants us to do. We are to let the light of Jesus through the indwelling Holy Spirit shine through us to glorify the Father. The rewards are the “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17) of the kingdom of God in us now and the eternal rewards or crowns in heaven (I Corinthians 2:9).

Is the light in you shining brightly, or is there a bushel or shade covering or hindering the light? As we put off the old man and put on the new (Ephesians 4:24), as we walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh (Galatians 5:16), as we rejoice always and in everything give thanks (Philippians 4:4; I Thessalonians 5:18), we can say with the Apostle Paul, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place” (II Corinthians 2:14).

John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). The same is true of us if we are to be a bright light for Jesus. Next time we will consider what Jesus meant when he said that to be a disciple of His one needs to “Take up his cross” (Matthew 16:24).


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About the Author

Professor Robert J. Barth
A graduate of the University of Illinois (B.S. 1976), Professor Robert J. Barth received his Juris Doctor from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1979. He received his Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Regent University in 1986. From 1986 to 1995, Professor Barth was associated with Regent University School of Law in several capacities, including assistant dean for academic and student affairs, and editor of the Journal of Christian Jurisprudence. He has written several articles, and as the director for academic programs, he has authored Oak Brook College’s book, Renewing Your Mind as You Study Law.


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