[SW386] 07/06/2019 message notes by
Pastor Susan J. Wynn ©2019
“The Unlit Church”
Text: Matthew 5:14-16, etc.
How can it be? Most of today’s church is unlit! That word means “not set alight.” Why? The truth is that Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, is on the outside of many church buildings and many churchgoers.
Why? I will show you, through what He has shown me.
Verse 14 —
Jesus prophesies to His disciples about what they will become. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”
In order to light the whole world, you must be able to shine so brightly that no one can miss your light. The light of the world must be a light that can be seen even in the darkness. It must be a light that drives out darkness.
But most of the church has joined the darkened world instead of being a light of the world. Why? They have not been set alight by being filled with the Light of the world, Jesus Christ (John 8:12). If He is not within them, they cannot shine with His light in the spiritual darkness of this world.
A city on a hill rises above the world that surrounds it. A city on a hill is lit brightly. A city on a hill can be seen from a great distance.
The church buildings built by man can be seen in the natural. They often rise above nearby buildings, and many are built on natural hills. In the natural, some have beautiful lighting that washes the exterior walls of the building, and chandeliers inside their sanctuaries. But those who are inside are not cities on the Lord’s holy hill, for they cannot ascend to His holy hill because of their sinful hearts —
Psalm 24:3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive a blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Only those with clean hands that are not soiled by sin, and pure hearts that are entirely the Lord’s, can ascend into the holy hill of the LORD. It is then that they are set alight and become His city on His hill.
And those who have ascended to His city on His hill cannot be hidden! They have been set alight with His light, and are visible from a great distance, for all the world to see. I tell you the truth, for those who set alight, for those who are filled with His light, it is impossible not to shine!
You may say, “Pastor Sue, you are judging the church.” Do you not know that we are supposed to judge sin in the church? We do not judge the world, for God judges them —
1Corinthians 5:12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.
So, I judge those in today’s church and believers by their actions, for their actions and words reveal their hearts (Matthew 12:34). If the believers and teachers and preachers and leaders in many churches had ascended to His holy hill, they would not do what they do, and say what they say. They would not teach what they teach, and lead as they lead.
They would not worship man’s wisdom and man’s ways, and the culture of the world in which they live. They would not be unlit, but set alight. But by their actions, they show that they live in the world, not in the kingdom of heaven.
Verse 15 —
Jesus continues to prophesy, saying, “. . . nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.”
But if there is no light in the lamp, it cannot provide light to all who are in the house. There is no light in many churches and believers, because Jesus is not in them. Such churches and such believers, therefore, cannot give light to all who are in the house, because they are not set alight.
O church, Jesus Christ walks among you who are commanded to be His lampstands (Revelation 1:13). He calls you to repentance, as He did five of the seven churches, in chapters 2 and 3 of the Revelation!
There is plenty of excitement in some churches, and there are plenty of sermons about how the Lord wants to bless believers, but no mention of the repentance that must come first, and no mention that they must be set alight by being filled with His light. So those who go to such churches enter an unlit place, and leave with their hearts still darkened by sin.
There are some, though, who hear Jesus Christ’s voice in spite of the darkness in their churches, and open the door and He enters their hearts. He calls out to those in the church at Laodicea —
Revelation 3:20 ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
He will set such ones alight, filling them with His light, and they will become lamps that give light to all who are around them! Hallelujah!
Verse 16 —
There is no “let” in the original Greek. Jesus issues a command, not a suggestion, beloved! His command? “Shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Do you see it? The purpose of shining is to glorify your Father in heaven. You cannot glorify Him if you have not been set alight.
The natural “good works” done by most churches are no different from what any unbeliever can do. And lest they offend, most church workers do not mention the name of Jesus when they do natural works. Therefore, the Father receives no honor and praise, but the church workers are praised for their goodness.
Beloved, you are commanded by Jesus Christ to be set alight so you do God works by which your Father in heaven is glorified. God works are works that only He can do, in and through you. When you are set alight, He works through you to do what Jesus did when He walked the earth, and greater things (John 14:12), He is glorified.
He does God works through men and women who are set alight by Him, by being filled with the light of Christ. His light shining from them is undeniable evidence that God has done a work that only He can do, in them.
So, their Father in heaven is glorified both by the God works He has done in them, and the God works which He does through them.
Do you see it? You can only shine and do God works, thereby glorifying your Father, if you have been set alight.
I used to think it was noble, when I heard some preacher say, “Hide me behind the cross, so all they see is You, Lord.” But those words are contrary to Jesus’ words. Jesus commands “Shine!’ In order for your light to be seen, you must be seen!
Some of the believers at Philippi were complaining and arguing, thus revealing that they were not yet set alight, not yet filled with the Light of the world, Jesus Christ, not yet ascending to His holy hill because they were not yet pure. So Paul exhorted them to become blameless and pure, without fault —
Philippians 2:14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.
May these words cause you to cry out to be filled with His light, so I may boast on the day of the Lord that have not run or labored for nothing!
I used to think some hid their light, out of fear. I used to think they hid it because of concern for “what people might think.” I used to think they hid it out of a desire not to offend. I used to think they hid it out of fear of persecution.
But those things are not even a thought in the heart of those who are set alight by the Holy Spirit. And I tell you the truth, it is impossible for those who are set alight to hide the Light of the world who indwells them permanently and fully (John 14:23)!
Believers will fear, until they are set alight. It was the same for the Eleven, after Jesus Christ was crucified, but before they were set alight —
John 20:19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
They were afraid of being persecuted and killed by their Jewish leaders, who hated them. But after they were filled, they openly and boldly preached repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Where? In the temple, in view and earshot of those who hated them! And they exhorted the leaders to repent and believe into Jesus Christ!
They were set alight, they became the light of the world, cities on His holy hill, they could not hide His light. The light with which He had filled them surely did shine from them. And their Father in heaven was glorified!
Of course, they were brought before the Sanhedrin, who told them to stop talking about Jesus. Here was the response of those who had been set alight —
Acts 4:19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
They kept preaching, and were again brought before the Sanhedrin and were commanded to stop talking about Jesus —
Acts 5:29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Then orders were given for them to be flogged and again, the apostles were ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus —
Acts 5:40 They took his (Gamaliel’s) advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. 41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
Ah! These were God works, and by those, their Father in heaven was and is now glorified!
The cure for your darkness, O believer, to cease from your unbelief and rejection of the Holy Spirit. When you are set alight by being filled with the Holy Spirit, you will shine! You will do God works that glorify your Father in heaven, and you yourself will be evidence of God, who has worked in you by setting you alight!
You, O believer, must personally ask your Father in heaven for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13. You must have your own personal Pentecost, just like the 120 in that upper room in Acts 2!
The organization known as “the church” will continue to be unlit unless the Lord mercifully steps down as He did in the Hebrides Islands off the coast of Scotland, in the 1950s. Then, both churchgoers and the unsaved stopped and fell to the ground — in streets, in bars, in dance halls, in fields, on roads, and in houses! They suddenly felt the weighty presence of God, and began to repent and cry out for mercy, right where they were!
But as powerful as that revival was, it faded after the Lord called home the generation who experienced God’s weighty presence. After they died and went to be with the Lord (2Corinthians 5:7), God once again became just a theological idea. The only permanent and eternal revival is the revival that will happen in your heart, when you are set alight by the Light of the world!
So repent, and believe, and wait for the Father’s promise (Acts 1:4-5). Jesus Christ commands that you wait! Obey Him, and you will be filled with His Light, so you are a light of the world, a city on a hill, a lamp on a lampstand that gives light to everything around you! It is the command of Jesus Christ!
O Lord Jesus, my Beloved, You are the Light in me! May Your works in and through me be seen, so my Father in heaven is glorified through the words I have spoken. And may these words prick hearts, so they repent and obey You. Amen.