City on a Hill


“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14

Do you ever struggle with how you’re supposed to shine the light of Jesus when we’re surrounded by so much darkness? Jesus compares our light to the penetrating glow of a city! How can we possibly shine with that kind of strength?

One thing is certain; we can’t do it alone. But then again, we weren’t meant to.

I remember as a child in Sunday school joining with the other children to sing a favorite song, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” As we belted out the words in unison, we would point our fingers toward the sky and boldly declare that we’d never allow our light to stop shining. Together we would radiate Jesus like a city on a hill until His return.

I meant those words when I sang them; I’m pretty confident most of us did. But something happened between my own grand declaration and my reality. My light never turned on. My problem was not so much that I allowed my light to become hidden or blown out by Satan as the song suggested. My issue was that I never actually let Jesus ignite the flame.

When we put our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior and receive the gift of His Spirit, we receive all the potential we need to shine brightly. Jesus said in John 8: 12:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Did you notice the one action required of you in that verse? Your job is to follow Jesus. He is the light itself. In order to possess that light and illuminate the darkness, we must choose to follow Him.

I used to think it was my job to produce the light. I thought that by trying to live according to God’s ways and by doing good things, I could make the light shine. What I didn’t understand is this:  If I could do that, I wouldn’t need Jesus.  

Let’s discover together how to let Jesus shine. Consider the words of Isaiah 58:6-8.

 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice 
   and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free 
   and break every yoke

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— 
when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear . . .” 

Verse 8 announces the promise of what we seek: your light will break forth like the dawn! The Scriptures leading up to it reveal our path to get there: freedom from chains and oppression, followed by loving the world through good works.

Dear one, Jesus came to set captives free (Isaiah 61:1). Our freedom from bondage to sin plays an integral role in whether Christ’s light will burst forth from our lives to illuminate the darkness. Yet we often ignore that part of the equation. We overlook the biblical call to freedom and go straight to producing works for the kingdom. Good works, after all are tangible—something we can control and manage ourselves.

Yet in this passage, the loosing of chains and freedom from oppression precede our call to produce good works.  Why do you think that is? Perhaps because true spiritual freedom can only be reached through Jesus. (“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36) Anyone can produce works, but an atheist who helps stock a food pantry or donates clothing to a shelter isn’t shining Christ’s light; he’s demonstrating self-righteousness.

Release from our bondage to sin is the only way to allow Christ’s light to truly shine. When we daily choose to follow Jesus and submit ourselves to the authority of His Spirit, He frees us from the sin that has held us captive. As He releases our hearts from bondage, we are free to love with His love. And as He prompts us to serve others from a pure heart, we begin to shine with the glory of the Lord.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

When we become Christ’s light instead of trying to reproduce it ourselves, His glory cannot be concealed. And another beautiful miracle occurs among the hearts of believers who have been set free. Jesus said,

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”

John 17:22

Like a city on a hill, our individual lights shine as one, unhindered by selfish chains. And we, His church, pierce the darkness with glory.


The Son Rises


 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. 
See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, 
but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”

Isaiah 60:1-2

Have you ever had the joy of watching the sunrise? Of witnessing light splitting the darkness on the horizon?

I’ll admit that until recently, I’ve never been much of a morning person. Opening my eyes to welcome the day while darkness still blankets the earth never offered much appeal to me. I’d much rather wait until the sun is shining. Somehow, rising to the bright radiance of its warmth seems much more inviting.

But on a few occasions when I have allowed the Lord to draw me out of bed before the sun made its entrance, I was greeted with a spectacular sight. My willingness to rise in answer to the Lord’s invitation made me privy to a special blessing: I witnessed the waking of the earth.

Have you had the privilege, dear one? Have you observed the glorious transition from night to day as the sun draws back the heavy curtain of darkness? It’s wondrous to see. Anticipation stirs the heart, kindled by a hazy glow forming on the horizon to announce the sun’s ascent. Then light begins to pierce the blackness, illuminating the earth with shades of yellow, orange and gold. After washing creation in a glorious array of color, the sun takes its place in the sky.

Beloved, we miss the glory of the sunrise when we refuse to awaken while the sky remains dark. And yet, that’s often what we choose. We’d much rather pull up the covers and settle back into sleep, waiting out the cold blackness that lingers before the dawn. We decide that we’ll rise from our slumber when it’s a bit more comfortable out there.

We often take that approach as believers in this dark world. The evil that we see penetrating the earth makes us want to wrap a cozy blanket around us and just sleep through it. We’ll get up and stand for Jesus when circumstances are a bit more agreeable. Yes, we’ll wait for His light to rise and shine brightly, and then we’ll emerge from our slumber to bask in its warm glow.

There’s one problem with that line of thinking.

“You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14

If we do not rise to bear witness to the glory of our Lord, the world will remain in darkness.

Take a moment to revisit our opening Scripture for today. Christ’s glory is rising. The hazy glow forms even now on the horizon. Can you sense it? For that glow to pierce the darkness and fully illuminate the sky, you must do your part. Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you” (Isaiah 60:1).

It’s time to awaken from our slumber. Sure, we can remain in our cozy beds and wait for someone else to step up. We can let someone else experience the heavenly glory of the “Son rise” as it unfolds and continue on with sleeping. But we will miss the blessing of witnessing His revelation, and our complacency will only prolong His coming.

“What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” 2 Peter 3:11-12

Let’s answer Jesus’ call to shine His light and usher in a new day. He’s poised and ready to reveal His glory. Will you allow Him to do it through you? 

Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. 
Put on your garments of splendor . . .
Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. 
Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion.

Isaiah 52:1-2