Matthew 5:14-16 says:
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lamp-stand and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
I was listening to a much anointed preacher, Pastor Joseph Prince, speaking on the grace of God. He was preaching in Israel. He was describing his location and it was clear from his description that it was the same place where the telling of this parable took place. Pastor Prince had a photo of where he was and it showed the place where Jesus would probably have been when He preached. At the time when Pastor Prince was talking there was a hill from which he could see the city lights. He believed that perhaps it was the very hill where Jesus had been. If Jesus had of been preaching from the same spot, He would have seen the hill and the lights of the city.
Therefore when Jesus said, “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden,” He was talking about a literal town that was on a hill. The people knew that the city glowed at night. It could not be hidden.
Have you traveled through dense bush country and came out of a valley to see bright lights up on a hill? The world is steeped in darkness and needs light, especially the wonderful light of Jesus: that will never burn out. Have you been to a city where there is light all over the place? That is an example of a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.
I believe that I have the gift of exhortation or encouragement In order to illustrate this parable I will share some things in my every day life with you.
Once leaving my unit my daily routine begins by walking towards the suburb where the train station is. I first pass by a Real Estate office on the right-hand side and I wave my hand to those at the reception desk. I come across a hairdresser and give her a smile and a slight wave. If she is outside having a smoke, I have a short conversation with her. I come to a Lebanese chicken shop and I pop in and say hello to the people there. At the video store, I actually go inside to have a two to three-minute conversation with a very gentle salesman who appreciates my friendship.
Arriving at the train platform, I greet the man who owns the News Agent kiosk. Then I head for the Ticket Office and have a conversation to my friends there, depending on how soon my train is due and how busy they are. On the train I make it a point to have eye contact with the passengers and if the person next to me is not reading, I greet them with a few words. Depending how they respond I usually enter into a conversation with them.
Everywhere I go, I say “Hello” to people, encouraging them to have a happy day. Nearly all of the people who I meet every day are well aware that I am a practicing Christian.
Why do I do that? About thirty years ago, when I was about fourteen years of age, I heard a testimony from a visiting Pastor about being the light of Jesus. This story happened to him when he was at a supermarket checkout in a local shopping center. The woman in front of him didn’t have sufficient money for her goods that day and began asking the cashier to deduct certain items from her shopping to suit her budget. The pastor felt her embarrassment as she nervously began to eliminate everyday, essential items, including washing powder, toilet rolls and basic household needs.
This Pastor noted that the whole trolley was full of things she obviously needed: they appeared to be all essentials for there were no luxury items among them that he could see. The Pastor casually said to the cashier, “I will pay for her bill. Put all her things through the register. I want her to have them all.”
The woman profusely said, “No, you can’t do that sir!”
The Pastor said, “But I want to do it!” So he paid her whole bill and then he further told the woman, “Go and get another trolley and fill it up. Makes sure you put a few luxury items as well this time. I am more than happy to pay for them.”
The woman went off and she came back three times, embarrassed with a quarter of a trolley, half a trolley, and three-quarters of a trolley, respectively. Three times, he sent her back to the aisles until she filled the whole trolley. Despite her objections and embarrassment, he paid the bill and helped her load them into her car. The lady said her name was Betty.
This Pastor was a loveable guy with good communication skills. As he was sharing his story, the whole church was listening with anticipation. Then he said, “I know what all of you are waiting for. You want me to share with you how I told Betty that I was a Christian, or how she broke down in tears and became a Christian too. But no, I didn’t say anything about that to her. I didn’t even tell her that I was a Christian. But do you know something, that day Betty met Jesus.”
He continued: “All Christians need to do, is to go out each day with the attitude that they are going to be Jesus to the world. Maybe then one day, someone else will be sharing the Gospel with Betty and the Holy Spirit will cause that obedient believer to describe the love and compassion of Jesus to her by innocently illustrating it with the exact kind of scenario that had happened to her so long ago in my presence. Don’t ever under estimate the power of the Holy Spirit and the way His love and memory works.
I believe that it would suddenly dawn on Betty that it had indeed been God who was at work helping her that day with her purchases and that it wasn’t just the result of the generosity of a kind stranger at all: it was God’s gift to her because He loved her. She may even break down in tears and say, “A total stranger did that for me one day!”
As I left the church service that night, I was so challenged. I realized that all I needed to do was to be Jesus to people. Every day I still try to do this everywhere I go. One time, one of the people I have made it my business to befriend, asked me to pray for him when he was in a bit of a crisis situation. Do you know that when people are really desperate and searching for answers, if they know that you are genuinely interested in them, they will come to you when they have problems? Always remember that God’s number one priority is all about developing good relationships with others. God is always reaching out to people and He wants us to do the same.
Many people criticize the “mega” churches. These churches are growing exponentially; they are filled almost beyond their capacity. It is said that they have loud music and all they are doing is “dulling” down their sermons and creating loud worship music to be popular. It is also said that there is no “meat of the Word” in these churches but, you know what? Every time I go to one of those so-called mega churches here in Sydney, people are being saved. Every single service! The sermons I’ve heard are not “wishy washy” – they are great!
I have sat in a Baptist church that taught basic theology for two years or more, but no one was saved during that whole time. People say that they want the “meat” of the Word but what about saving people? Churches must be relevant to today’s culture. What worked in the past is not going to cut it today. I know that the Word of God never changes but fresh ways of application must be appropriated to the age and type of person in the congregation. I realize that this is a hobby horse of mine, but I am positive God approves of it whole heartedly.
For example, a Pentecostal church called “Hills-Song” in Sydney produces many Christian worship songs that are known throughout the whole world. I truly believe that they are an excellent example of a city set on a hill. Their light shines so brightly that people all around the world worship God with the music that God creates through this much criticized church. There is a good chance you have heard Hills-Song praise and worship music and Hill-Song United Band.
The Pastor of this church is a man with a vision to impact this generation and the whole world with the love and saving power of Jesus. I believe that preachers like him have been raised up for such a time as this.
The opposite of being Jesus to someone, would be to deliberately hide your light or to be so full of your own agenda that you take no notice of those who pass you by.
What shines out to others in your life? Is it the love of Jesus? Or are your conversations always based on negative situations all around you? Be consciously aware of the things that shine out to other people through you. Will these things bring them closer to the Savior or will they lead them further away from Him? Despite what is going on around us, our mission is to always shine our light for Jesus. Don’t be side-tracked by the negativity of the world and of the flesh.
Most people like to be noticed: they light up to a non-threatening remark. We all need to find answers in Jesus. We all need to undergo spiritual healing. We all need to find a purpose in life. No one is meant to be an island all by themselves!
Now, one way of being happy is by being friendly to everyone you meet. Smile! Do you know it is amazing how smiling can even cheer you up? You do not even have to be happy. Just know enough people; walk down the road and acknowledge people with a genuine smile and a brief “Hello” or some other applicable comment. By doing so, you will have enough people smiling back and waving at you. Suddenly, you are feeling good. It is amazing how being friendly can really lighten your mood. I quite often suffer from depression and I know first hand how a stranger’s smile can pick me up!
Jesus says, “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify the Father in Heaven.” He loves our good works done with the right attitude.
Nearly all of the people I chat with on the way to the station ask me what I am doing that day. They probably all know by now the type of things I do on a regular basis and have a good idea of my day to day life. It’s so easy to chat to them. I will briefly share with them my immediate plans.
They all know what I do. I make videos. I write articles, do all sorts of Christian research. They all respond to my friendliness and are jovial with me. None of them ever say to me: “You need to go and get yourself a real job Matthew!” No, they know I am busy doing ministry and doing other worthwhile things. They are all happy and they are all my friends.
My Pastor, Narelle, came to see me one day and we bought a pizza for ten dollars that would normally have cost twenty three dollars. I was given the discount because of my relationship with the owners of the gourmet pizza store. She reported back to everyone at church. “You should see Matthew. You should see how cheap he buys his pizza for. You know everyone employed there knows him. I think he must know everyone in his suburb by now. Everyone says hello to him.” She was pleased to boast on my behalf and I was hearing it from everyone that they want to come to my place for pizza. That to me is all part of being a light in the world.
Because I am happy doing what I do, I smile a lot in my parable video series. I don’t smile just to do a better presentation. My life is fulfilled and Christ-centered. I feel the presence of God. He watches out for me and leads me in all my conversations. I enjoy peace because I live with purpose. I have no personal financial needs. I know Jesus and He is my constant friend and He knows the things that I need.
We live in a very dark world today. The good thing is that light penetrates the dark even brighter in such a time as this. The light of Christ is noticed more because people are used to the darkness surrounding them. Many people won’t or cannot read the Bible. If they do, they may not understand it, but they can very easily read you. You can be their living Bible! To many people, you are perhaps the only Bible that they will come across. Be aware of that. Stand out from the crowd. God freely gives us the power to go the extra mile with people and be kind to them. Through this, you will be a light to all men and a city on a hill in times of need.