The 16th Sunday after Pentecost September 13, 2015
2 Timothy 3:1-17
4, 629, 625, 785 (TLH alternative: 53)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
[Jesus said], “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 lampstand, 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.”
In the name of our heavenly Father who has loved us with an everlasting love and with that love has made us His dear children, dear fellow-redeemed:
It is hard to escape the news of violence and tragedy that takes place, seemingly weekly, when someone somewhere shoots and kills people at a former workplace, a military establishment, a school, or wherever it might be. Each time this occurs, there is almost no end to the commentary and opinion about what to do with an ever-growing, ever-intensifying problem in our country.
There are all kinds of political agendas and theories that are put forth after some big news story. As children of God listening to the various theories and proposals for new laws that are going to do this or that, we realize how blessed we are to know the truth of God’s Word. Hours and hours can be spent wringing hands and talking about what could possibly be the solution—where can we spend more money, where can we make political change. In the end, some of those things might be helpful, but the bigger picture is that it all comes down to sin and grace.
Until we have a conversation and a broadening understanding of the depravity of human beings, the sinfulness with which we are born, and the sinfulness which we produce day-by-day, nothing will improve. Until we understand the genuine nature and absolute root of all the woes in our world, and until we also have the truth of God’s Word and the solution through Christ Jesus, we’ll continue to have the debate. As society tries to solve all of this with human ideas, there may even be limited success here and there, but the genuine, root, and foundational problem will not be touched.
This was brought home in an interview that I heard a few days ago. An individual talked about once again staring down a dark tunnel with no light at the end of it because we have experienced this kind of thing so many times in our country and it keeps happening. As I thought about his comment, I realized that without his knowledge, that man had accurately characterized exactly what we are seeing. It is a tunnel of darkness because sin and its effects are darkness. But where is the light at the end of the tunnel? The light for that darkness is Jesus, the Light of the World.
John Adams wrote in 1778: “The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families…In vain are schools, academies, and universities instituted, if loose principles and licentious habits are impressed upon children in their earliest years.”
Nothing has changed since John Adams wrote those words well over 200 years ago, and what he wrote is biblical. We can do all kinds of things as a society and country but if the place where children are nurtured, if where they are established and started in their life’s process is darkness, then change later in life will come with great difficulty, no matter how great public institutions might be.
Today, using the words of Jesus which we have read from Matthew, we consider the encouragement to LIGHT UP YOUR HOME.
These words of Jesus are frequently and rightly used in terms of evangelism, in terms of taking the light of God’s Word out to the world of darkness. This is an absolutely good and right application of these words. But today we are going to keep it a little closer to home. We are going to take the light that Jesus encourages us to be—the light of the world—to our own little world right near us.
For those who aren’t parents, or those who have graduated into grand-parenting, or those who are single, or whatever your life circumstance—lighting up your home still applies to you. It applies to every one of us regardless of family circumstance or size. This applies first of all, because it is in the best interest of all of us to nurture home-life the way God describes it and directs us. This will benefit the overall effort of spreading God’s Word and, as a side benefit, will be a great blessing to us and our nation. We all, regardless of our marital or family status have every reason to pray for fathers and mothers, for homes, for the instruction of each new generation in that foundational place of our society.
What God directs fathers to do as the leader of the home also applies to every one of our own individual hearts and souls. When God directs parents to bring up their children in a certain way, that is no different than what He directs us to do individually. Whether our home is filled with husband and wife, or husband, wife and any number of children, or if it’s just “me” —wherever we live is our home. Whomever we bring into that building is coming to our home. Whatever contact I have with others is part of my opportunity with the light. So when we consider LIGHT UP YOUR HOME, it might be just you living in an apartment, it still applies. It might be you living in a house, it still applies. It might be you living in a house that is bursting at the seams with children and a large family, it applies. We pray that the Spirit will be with us as we study in God’s Word; and that He will move each of us to light up our homes regardless of our circumstance.
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” Being a light in the world implies that there is darkness. As we have said, the darkness is sin and its effects. When we consider our own lives we know that we are sinners, we are born with sin. God tells us that, so how can we be light?
Jesus characterizes us as light, but we know from elsewhere that He is ultimately THE Light. In the opening chapter of the Gospel account of John, we read “In Him [the Word, Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4-5). This world of unbelief, this world tainted by sin is darkness, Jesus is THE Light who came into this world of darkness and sin.
John continues in his Gospel account, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world…as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:6ff).
Jesus spoke of Himself and said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). He is that light. He is THE one and only solution to everything that is darkness. He is the eternal Son of God, the light of the world, who came to redeem every sinner from the darkness, to set us free, and to enable us to be children of God by His grace and mercy.
When Peter describes our status as children of God he speaks also of our purpose and role as light-bearers: “…you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
When Jesus came preaching and teaching there were those in the world who because of their blind unbelief did not recognize Him as the Light. They remained in darkness, but the sadness is that even we who are in the light sometimes grow tired of being in the light. We might crave darkness. At times we slip into darkness, we need the ongoing renewal of going back to THE Light so that we continue to reflect Him and are lights.
So, when we hear Jesus say, “You are the light of the world,” we understand that we are lights like the moon is a light. Jesus is the sun. He is the light-producing body. We are lights in this world only because we are reflecting the light of Jesus in our lives. By confessing our faith, by living that faith in how we speak, how we act, by sharing the life-giving message of the Gospel with those who are still in darkness; and also with one another to encourage even those who are already in the light to remain in the light and to be lights themselves.
As we heard in the New Testament reading, the only thing that can do this is the inspired Word of God. That inspired Word is able to make us wise for salvation. It is what is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, and to equip us for every good work. When Jesus says in our text, “you are the light of the world” we are the light because Jesus has made us that way, we are the lights because we have that Gospel Truth—the Word of God to shine into the world and reflect our Savior’s love and salvation.
Jesus continues: “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 lampstand, 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.” Having been brought into the light of Christ—the light of salvation—we become reflective lights not to hide, not to begrudgingly admit that we are Christians and children of God only when we have to, but to let people know. To use God’s Word regularly to shine that light, to let shine out as bright lights in a dark world. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians and said: “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…” (Philippians 2:14-16a).
We have that very basic understanding that we are reflective lights of Jesus and we are lights not to be hid but to be shining brightly. How are we to light up our homes?
We need to understand the darkness which we certainly do, but we are under a constant barrage of temptation to underestimate the darkness. This is partly because it is what the world is telling us to do, and partly because we can become so used to the barrage of darkness around us we begin to take its existence for granted; and we may stop realizing how the Devil is using this very darkness to try to pull us back into darkness.
Quite a number of years ago, the now-deceased commentator, Paul Harvey, wrote an essay titled: “If I were the Devil.” He first wrote it in 1965 and updated it a number of times after that. In this essay, he provides an interesting way with insight into seeing daily things—things we’ve become accustomed to—that are really tools of darkness. I’ll read an excerpt:
If I were the devil … If I were the Prince of Darkness, I’d want to engulf the whole world in darkness (which we know from Scripture is true). And I’d have a third of it’s real estate, and four-fifths of its population, but I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — You. (We know from Scripture that the darkness is going to keep on trying to infiltrate our lives)…I’d subvert the churches first — I’d begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’ “To the young, I would whisper that ‘The Bible is a myth.’ I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what’s bad is good, and what’s good is ‘square.’ …And then I’d get organized. I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting, so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice versa. I’d pedal narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills. “If I were the devil I’d soon have families that war with themselves… and nations at war with themselves; until each in its turn was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames. If I were the devil I would encourage schools to refine young intellects, but neglect to discipline emotions — just let those run wild, until before you knew it, you’d have to have drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door. “Within a decade I’d have prisons overflowing…And in [God’s] own churches I would substitute psychology for religion, and deify science…If I were the devil I’d make the symbols of Easter an egg and the symbol of Christmas a bottle…I would caution against extremes and hard work, in Patriotism, in moral conduct. I would convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun, that what you see on TV is the way to be … In other words, if I were the devil I’d just keep right on doing on what he’s doing.”
Nothing has changed. The darkness continues to make its way. As we begin to think about how we are going to light up our homes, we need to never forget the danger of the darkness. We need to realize how easily we can pulled into the darkness, or at least begin to downplay its seriousness. As we think about our own lives—individually, and our lives of our families and our homes—listen again (the New Testament Reading) to the list of things Paul gave to Timothy as examples of what will be common in the last days:
“…men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power—even looking externally godly and good but not really paying attention to the power of God and His Word. And from such people turn away!…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.But you continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of…” (2 Timothy 3:2ff).
We ought not be surprised when the darkness continues to grow. We ought not be surprised that the darkness threatens to creep into our very homes, and it has and it does. Light up your home. Be aware of what the darkness is and be prepared to work to keep it out.
One of the ways we fail in doing this is how we let darkness in—actually invite it, even bring it in ourselves. We can do this through what we watch, what we read, the things to which we expose ourselves through a variety of media—TV, movies, internet—and more. We may try to convince ourselves that the darkness won’t matter: “It’s OK, I know what’s wrong, I’ll ignore it.” Consider the darkness. Light up your home. Darkness and light have nothing to do with each other. Think about the ongoing effect if we continually barrage ourselves with darkness—even with darkness we know is wrong—it is ultimately a lie of the darkness that “I can skip it, not pay attention, and it won’t affect me.” “He who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). A little bit of darkness begins to erode the light. Think of twilight in the evening and compare that to high noon. It’s still light at twilight, you can still see—somewhat. You can still see the big things, but not so much the small and finer detail. But at high noon when the sun is shining brightly and you can see everything. A little bit of darkness clouds the vision. A little bit of darkness leads to a little bit more and eventually, threatens complete night. Lighting up your home, letting your light shine in our own hearts and in our own homes begins with understanding the darkness and fleeing from it.
Applying the light in our homes brings to mind the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians: “Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children (exasperate), but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 HCSB). A parallel passage in Colossians says: “Fathers do not provoke your children lest they become discouraged /do not exasperate them so they don’t lose heart” (Colossians 3:21 NKJV/NASB). Martin Luther wrote his Small Catechism to teach the main truths of Scripture “As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to those of his household.”
We are called upon to not exasperate, not to stir up anger, not to make it unduly hard on our children—this does not mean to compromise God’s Law or turn a blind eye to sin, or fail to discipline, but to bring children up in the training of the Lord in love, with patience, care, and consistency lest we exasperate them, discourage them, or cause them to lose heart.
In Proverbs God says, “The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him” (Proverbs 20:7). Lighting up the home begins with fathers because that is where God places that responsibility first and foremost, but it extends to whatever the situation of the home might be. A man of integrity walks uprightly and his children are blessed. Bringing up children in the training and admonition of the Lord, using God’s Word to distinguish between right and wrong, being the watchman at the gate of the home to keep the darkness away, but also to instruct and to nurture the truth of God’s Word –the Word of God which is the power of God for salvation. To bring the source of light into your home.
And this certainly begins with studying the Bible, devotions, time spent in the Word of God, studying, meditating upon it. But it is also, in part, applying it, making use of God’s Word in ways that go beyond just reading a section of Scripture or devotion book once or twice a day. It is having that truth of God’s Word—the light of God’s Word—infiltrate every part of day-to-day living and home life. God gave the command to Israel: “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul…you shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates…” (Deuteronomy 11:18ff). In other words, have the Word of God before you and make use of it in every way possible.
There are a number of practical ways in which this direction of God influences our home. What am I putting on my walls? God doesn’t require me to put Bible passages up on my wall, but if I am keeping the darkness out and letting our homes light up, it certainly does mean not having décor that does not glorify God, or robs Him of glory, or that glorifies darkness.
Having the light in our homes—lighting up your home—is in the conversations. Not every other word has to be a quote from the Bible but all words should be spoken in truth and love. When our sinful nature rises up and angry words are spoken which does happen even in homes that are well lit, applying the Light makes all the difference—looking for forgiveness, repentance, apology, and making it right. Enlightening our homes, applying God’s word is to characterize conversations not in terms of “this is what I’m going to do” as if I am going to decide this; but rather, these are our plans, “if the Lord wills we will do this or that” (James 4:15).
Lighting up our homes and applying God’s Word, letting that Word of God, that light breathe through every aspect of our lives is how we are going to about planning things. Making that time spent in God’s Word important, taking all the busy-ness of life but first and foremost asking, “How will I set aside time in my day-to-day home life, in my worship life with my fellow Christians.”
It is to take opportunities, those lessons, those perfect learning opportunities and applying god’s Word. Last night I walked out my door to get something out of a vehicle and as I opened the door I was stopped in my tracks when I the doorway framed a brilliant picture—a bright crescent moon and two bright planets in close proximity to one another on the dark blue canvass of the evening sky. Our children were all asleep or I would have called them to take a look. So instead, I called my wife, “Come, take a look at this.” There framed in my doorway was a live picture of what the psalmist said: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). We will be able to find all kinds of living Bible passages such as that with which we can light up our homes!
When God sends rain after a long drought it is an opportunity to give thanks when so many people pass by it as another weather forecast either right for a change or wrong as usual. Instead, frame it in the context of what it is—God’s gracious answer to a prayer for rain. Let the truth shine. Light up your homes. Live, talk, and conduct yourselves in the context of God’s Word—in the context of sin and grace, then we have this whole world opened up to understanding. Why are we naughty? Why do we say things that we don’t really, truly mean? Why do we do this? Why that? Oh! In the light of God’s Word, the light shines, and it makes sense. Then I’m equipped to realize my sin, to repent of them, and seek forgiveness from my Savior and from one another.
Bringing God’s Word, instructing, applying it, and another part is discipline. If mine is a home of one, this means primarily self-discipline, which is something each one of us rightfully seeks to cultivate. Our sinful flesh seeks its own, likes to go wile and wants to do its own thing, but out of love for Christ, letting our light shine we seek to rein-in ourselves and practice self-control.
But if there are members of the next generations in our home, we also recall God’s direction to discipline, to correct what is wrong, to nurture what is right. The writer to the Hebrews quoting Proverbs said, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”…always and regardless of whether it is love to God or neighbor” (Hebrews 12:5). Our heavenly Father also disciplines us, chastens us, allowing hardship to come in order to train us, to build us up. Chastening—discipline—is a mark of love; the one chastening loves the one chastened enough to correct and rebuke and help him. This is true of God’s chastening of us and it is true when discipline is lovingly administered in a well-lit home.
The writer to the Hebrews continues: “…we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:9ff).
Discipline is an act of love. It is an act of love realizing that we are charged with the responsibility of being the earthly caretaker of that precious soul. This too applies in a very vivid way to parents specifically, but to all of us. Every single one of us here, every child of each new generation is a soul redeemed by Christ. The Son of God shed His blood for that soul and if I have contact with that soul in my life, it is an opportunity for me; I am called upon my Savior to do what I can to shine the light of God for that soul with the goal that the soul will be preserved all the way to eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus.
At home, that means teaching right and wrong. It means correcting. It means saying, ”no.” It means establishing earthly consequences. As the writer to the Hebrews states, receiving discipline and chastisement is not fun. There’s not a one of us, I don’t believe, would think that discipline administered by our parents was fun, or does not. But when done in the fear and admonition of the Lord, when done by the light of His Word, it is a life-saving activity and a great blessing who is so served.
Light up your home. The whole range of applying God’s Word is part of letting your light shine. Yes, we shine in the world around us, but it starts here. Shine the light of God’s word into your own hear. Shine it into your home if it’s just you, if it’s you and your spouse, if it’s you and a single child, if it’s you, if it’s you and the whole family—whatever the context, Jesus is the light of the world. He has made us lights. Light up your home. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®. Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations marked HCSB®, are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. HCSB® is a federally registered trademark of Holman Bible Publishers.