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LESSON 12 - YOU ARE THE LIGHT (MATTHEW 5:14-16)

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: Do you love light?  When the days get longer, do you
feel better? I think I do. When I think about light, a couple of
business trips stick out in my mind. Once I was flying during the
winter from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles.  Another time I flew
to Orlando.  In each case, when I stepped out of the airport I was
struck by the brightness of the sun!  The light seemed to be
several degrees brighter than normal in Los Angeles and Orlando.
This week our lesson is about light, so let's jump into our study!

I.   YOU = LIGHT

     A. Read Matthew 5:14-16. Last week you were called "salt." Now
     you are called "light." Do you see a relationship between the
     two?  What relationship do you see? (Both improve the
     situation. Both make things better. But too much can be
     unpleasant.)

     B. What are the characteristics of light? (Help you to see.
     Necessary for all things to live and grow. Light is energy and
     warmth. Medium of communication.)

          1. For each of these characteristics of light, what do
          you see as a parallel for your Christian walk?  Do these
          parallels give you a "job description" for what you
          should be doing?

               a. What can you do to help people "see?"

               b. What can you do to help people live and grow?

               c. What can you do to energize people?

               d. What can you do to facilitate communication
               between man and God?

          2. Is it possible to make an unpleasant situation by
          providing too much light? (See, for example, Luke 9:44-
          45. If the disciples had known exactly what was going to
          happen to Jesus, it would have been very discouraging.
          Giving light to a person is a measured thing. We should
          not "dump" everything we know on a new believer. We need
          to have some sense of what and when to teach.)

II. YOU = CITY ON THE HILL

     A. Our text (Matthew 5:14) says, "A city on the hill cannot be
     hidden." What does that have to do with light? (Light reveals.
     Jesus says that if you have "light" in your life, you will be
     like a city on the hill. People will notice you.)

          1. Do you want to be noticed?  I have a friend who says
          he learned in the army the advantage of not "sticking
          out."

               a. Should you, as a Christian, want to be noticed?

          2. Outrageous people like Madonna get noticed.  They draw
          attention to themselves.  Is this the way the Christian
          life is supposed to be?

               a. Our lesson suggests (Monday) "Christians are the
               light of the world only in the sense of service and
               not in the sense of [drawing attention to
               themselves]."  Do you agree?

               b. That statement separates us from Madonna, but is
               it true that we are only "light" in the sense of
               service? Let me ask you a few questions to see if
               we can understand this better.

          3. When you eat in public, do you obviously pray? Or do
          you pray in the same instant as you wave your napkin in
          front of your face?

               a. If you were obviously praying, would that be
               drawing attention to yourself in a context outside
               of service? (Yes.)

          4. When you talk with your friends about religion in a
          public place do you lower your voice?  Is that because
          you do not want to draw attention to yourself?

          5. Do you fear that if people know that you are a
          Christian they will think less highly of you?

          6. Have you ever been in a large group of unbelievers and
          someone told a joke that made fun of God.  Did you laugh
          because you did not want to seem odd?

          7. What if you are out with a small group who did not
          believe in God and they decided to do something you
          believed was sinful. Would you go along so that you would
          not be different?

     B. All of these examples involve drawing attention to yourself
     in a way that makes you "different," "odd" or "peculiar."  You
     are not really doing anything for the people around you. You
     are just making a statement, making a stand, drawing a line in
     the sand.  Is that the same as being a city on a hill?

          1. If you agree that being different from the world is
          fulfilling your obligation to be a "city on the hill,"
          how do you rate? Are you standing up?  Or, like my
          friend, are you trying to just blend in? Not make waves?

III. LIGHTS AND BOWLS

     A. Notice again Matthew 5:15. Jesus says that a person does
     not light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Why not? (It makes
     no sense. If you wanted the light to be hidden, it would be a
     lot easier not to go to the trouble of creating the light in
     the beginning!)

          1. What is Jesus message to us in the "lights and bowls?"

          2. Is Jesus suggesting that if you are not going to try
          to influence others with your light, you would be better
          off not going to the effort of becoming a Christian in
          the beginning?

               a. Is Jesus suggesting that "light-bearing" is
               essential to the Christian life?

     B. Recently, I have been reading and hearing the idea that
     religion is something for the "home" and "church" -- and no
     where else.  Generally the people saying this seem to be
     enemies of the gospel who are discussing the proper place, as
     a public policy matter, for religion.

          1. Can religion ever be confined to the home and church?
 
          2. Would anyone who read Matthew 5:14-15 suggest religion
          could or should be confined?

          3. Is it true religion if it is confined?

          4. What about the person who says "I should not have to
          put up with hearing your religious ideas?"  "I should not
          have to worry about my children being exposed to your
          religious ideas?"

          5. I have a case right now involving a religious
          objector. One of the recent decisions that I read in
          preparing to defend this man of faith was about a woman
          who was fired for sharing her faith at work. She lost her
          case because the court essentially said other people
          should not have to put up with hearing from her.

               a. Is society losing sight of the fact that an
               essential aspect of Christianity is witnessing?

               b. Are we failing as "light" when people think
               they can logically say, "You can be a Christian,
               but we expect you to keep it to yourself?"

IV. LIGHT = DEEDS

     A. Let's re-read Matthew 5:16. What is equated with our
     lightbearing in this verse? (Our "good deeds.")

     B. Remember that earlier we discussed whether we could be
     light apart from our "service?" I thought we agreed (contrary
     to what the lesson said) we we could be light even when it was
     not just "service." DoesDoes this text prove that we were wrong
     and the lesson wasright?

          1. Would the world have any problem with our "light"
          being outside our homes and churches if our light was
          just "deeds?"

               a. The woman that I referred to earlier, who was
               fired because of her religious beliefs, was being
               "light" by her words. She was not fired for her
               deeds.

               b. Is Jesus teaching us that we should be
               lightbearers primarily through our deeds and not
               our words?

               c. How essential are deeds to "lightbearing?"

               d. How essential are words to "lightbearing?"

     C. Notice the linkage in v.16. Your good deeds are followed by
     them praising your Father in heaven. How do they get to know
     your Father in heaven? (Words.)

          1. Is Jesus saying that in our witnessing (our
          lightbearing) we should lead with our deeds? (If Jesus is
          not saying this, He is at least suggesting that people
          can see our "good deeds" a lot more easily than they can
          hear our "good words.")

          2. Have you ever done a "self-audit" of your witness at
          work?

               a. Are you leading with your deeds or your words?

               b. Do you have any good deeds that would catch the
               attention of others at work?

          3. How about your witness to your neighbors? Are you
          leading with your good deeds or your words?

               a. Can you think of a single "good deed" you have
               done for your neighbor?

               b. If not, what kind of light can you expect them to
               see?

          4. How many of you have seen bumper stickers proclaiming
          faith in God?  I do not remember seeing any of those in
          the church parking lot.  Ever consider putting one of
          those on your car?

               a. If you have considered it, and decided against
               it, tell me why?

               b. I have considered it and rejected the idea
               because my driving is not consistently (or maybe
               even mostly) "good deeds." I know I would be
               creating trouble for God to put one of these
               stickers on the bumper of my car.

               c. How about your life?  As a practical matter, do
               you have a "bumper sticker" on your person? How
               carefully should we consider our witness? (We need
               to consider this area very carefully. Good deeds
               are the opening by which we can explain our
               relationship to God.  Bad deeds are an excellent
               way to block our co-workers and neighbors from
               knowing God. We need to strive to be light!)

V. SUMMER BREAK: The lesson outline will be suspended until July
23, 1998. (You can expect a new posting on the web site on that
day.)  Will see you again then! Study the Bible in the meantime!