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.

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