The Candlestick Principle

I want you to take your Bibles with me this morning and turn to Matthew 5. We are going to take a break from our regularly scheduled program and look at a few verses from the sermon on the mount this morning. Matthew 5 and when you get there look for verse 13.

I had two huge “light bulb” moments while I was away at camp this week. Two really big ideas that come from the Bible that I am very, very excited about. I’m going to share one of them this morning and the other one tonight.

The idea I want to talk about this morning is a mindset I want our church to adopt towards our community. The idea I am going to talk about tonight is a mindset I think our families should adopt toward their children. Both of them are simple ideas, but they have huge implications in how we act as a church and how we act as parents. I cannot remember how long it has been since I have been more excited to share something with you.

Matthew 5 - let’s read verse 13-16:

[Mat 5:13-16 KJV] 13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

The Bible teaches that Jesus came to this earth and died on the cross so that we can be saved. We were guilty of sin and alienated from God, and that sin must be punished by God in Hell. So God sent His only begotten Son to live the perfect life we cannot live as fallen humans and then poured out all of the wrath towards our sin onto Jesus while He was on the cross and that Jesus died, was buried and rose from the dead after three days - defeating sin and winning our Salvation.

That’s the gospel. And when we believe the gospel the Bible teaches that we are born again. We are converted. God changes us from the inside out. Here, Jesus says “Ye are the salt of the earth” and “ye are the light of the world.”

Jesus isn’t saying that to anybody - He is saying that to Christians who have believed the gospel and been converted. We go from being part of the rot of the world to being the salt - the preservative and flavorer of the world. We go from being part of the darkness to being the light - the antidote to the darkness.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

As part of being those new creatures, we are now salt and light. But I don’t want to talk so much about conversion this morning as the purpose of conversion. I don’t want to talk about what we are so much as what that means we are to do.

In other words, God has made us salt and light for a reason. Salt and light have a job. Salt and light have a purpose. In particular, I want us to think this morning about our purpose as “the light of the world”

Look again at our text, verses 14-16:

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Jesus wants us to be the light. He wants us to be a “city set on a hill” and Jesus makes a very clear application here that up until this week, I never really thought about.

I’m calling this message “the candlestick principle” and I think it is something you will probably hear me talk about a lot in the future.

There are three basic parts to understanding the candlestick principle. The first part is this…

1. We are the light

Jesus said “Ye are the light of the world”.

I believe we have something special. We have Christ and the free Salvation He offers. We have the Bible and in the Bible we have the answers and direction for all of life. We have each other - the closeness I have seen in this church is truly special.

We, as born again Bible believers, we have the light and we are the light. That might sound arrogant, but that is what the Bible teaches.

Listen, CNN doesn’t have the light. Fox News doesn’t have the light. The New York Times doesn’t have the light. Talk radio doesn’t have the light. The public universities like Harvard and Yale don’t have the light. The psychiatrists don’t have the light. We have the light.

Bible believing Christians might be the most maligned people in society. We may be mocked constantly by those in the darkness. But we have the light and we are the light.

Now, let me apply this to our church…

The way we do things as a church is not arbitrary. We didn’t just through a bunch of variables into some kind of randomizer algorithm and come up with a way to do church.

The way we do church isn’t consumer driven either. We didn’t come to this by licking our finger and holding it up in the air to see what direction the winds of popular opinions were blowing.

It’s not just traditional either. Honestly, I think traditions can be a curse. We do church a certain way because we believe that that is what the Bible prescribes.

  • The Bible prescribes expository preaching.

  • The Bible prescribes deep, meaningful congregational worship through Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.

  • The Bible prescribes giving.

  • The Bible prescribes the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism.

  • The Bible prescribes teaching.

  • The Bible prescribes fellowship meals.

  • We do church the way we do church because that is what the Bible prescribes. You don’t need a book report from the Christian bestseller list - you need to know what the Bible says.

  • You don’t need a concert that makes you feel “worshipful”, you need to sing deep songs together that are full of doctrine so you have them in your heart throughout the week.

  • You don’t need a church to be hip and cool. You need a church to be biblical and real.

  • You don’t need to be siloed by age group, you need to worship God with people who are 10 and people who are 90 so we can all learn from each other.

We don’t have these positions arbitrarily - we’ve worked for these positions. We’ve dug these positions out of the Bible and they are very dear to us and we believe they are the truth and should color everything we do as a church.

So I am going to tell you - I think we have something special here. It’s not because of us - it’s because of what is in us and because of the Truth of God’s word. We have found what old school theologians used to call “the ordinary means of grace” and we aren’t letting go of it.

So the first point is…we have the light and we are the light.

That’s just point one of three, I promise I won’t take this long for each of the points. The second point is this…

2. If people can’t see the light then they will never benefit from it.

This is what Jesus was saying in verse 15:

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel,

I have this candle here. (Actually, it’s a fake candle that blows essential oils, but work with me.) Let’s imagine that it’s not the middle of the day outside in the summer, and instead the power is out and its the middle of the night.

So I go and light this candle and then I quickly take a bowl and put it on top of it. I take the light and I hide the light. I make the light difficult to see.

Why would anyone do that? Would you turn on a light bulb and then through cover it up with one of those light blocking curtains. That’s unbelievably counter-productive isn’t it?

Jesus said “No, you don’t light a light and then put it under a bushel, you put it on a candlestick” Why? Why put it on a candlestick?

So as many people can see it as possible. Listen, the very point of the light is to be visible. The very point of the light is to be seen. If you cannot see the light, it has absolutely no value, it has absolutely no purpose.

I’ve heard a lot of sermons in my life about the salt losing its savor from verse 13 - but it’s just as important that the light doesn’t lose it’s visibility.

You lift the light up so as many people can see it as possible so the light can do it’s job. That’s the whole point of the light.

Are you tracking with me?

Now let me give you the third point and try to bring this to a close…

3. We must make the light as visible and prominent as possible so it can do the most good.

If we have the light and if we are the light, then we have a job a to do. People need the light. People need the light so they can find Jesus. People need the light so they can raise their kids. People need the light so they can have hope in the dark times. People need the light so they have something they can hold onto in these times of confusion.

People need the light. And listen, we have to put the light on a candlestick. We have to make the light as prominent and visible as we possibly can.

It’s not because we want to be looked at, it’s not because we want attention, it’s because if people can’t see the light, then the light can’t do it’s job.

Now, let me apply this to the church for a minute and let me get just a little bit philosophical with you. Ok?

I hate the church growth movement. There was this movement that started in the 70s that made having a big church the goal at all costs and the church growth movement has been huge in churches for my entire life. But the church growth movement made having a big church the goal and basically was willing to kill everything about church that made it church. They were big - but not deep. Big - but not worshipful. Big - but not scriptural. Big - but not close.

I’ve spent the last twenty years running away from the church growth movement.

I also hate church marketing. There has been this related movement to “market” the church and I absolutely despise it down to my bones. Many of the most prominent church marketing gurus aren’t even in church - they couldn’t make it in secular marketing so they are selling fish stickers instead.

The movement in churches for the last thirty years has been let’s dumb it down, let’s blow it up, let’s put a coat of cool paint on it. I hope you know me well enough by now to know how much I despise all that.

But here is where I think we have gone wrong church and here is where I want you to really think about this candlestick thing:

I think we have reacted so strongly to this church growth stuff and this church marketing stuff that we have gotten ok with being under a bushel. We see these other churches that seem to be saying “look at me, look at me, look at me” and we are like “ew, gross” and our reaction is to hide out in our comfort zone. To be ok with obscurity.

We’ve done the classic reactionary thing were we try to avoid a ditch on this side of the road and steer all the way over to a ditch on the other side of the road.

Church we are the light and people need the light. Let me ask you this:

  • Do you love Bible preaching? Has Bible preaching helped you?
  • Do you love church fellowship? Has having a church family helped you?
  • Do you love the songs we sing together? Do those songs help you?

I know some of you really do love this and I know it’s valuable to you. Other people need it.

People need the gospel and people need the light.

  • We have a couple of hip churches in our town everyone knows about. Everybody knows about the fields. Everybody knows about broadway.
  • We have a big charismatic church in our town everyone knows about. Everyone knows about Apostolic Center.
  • Why is it that no one has ever heard of Bible Baptist Church?

Every week I meet people who have never heard of our church - and it’s been here for 50 years!

So here is the candlestick principle: If we really have something, and I believe we do, then we have an obligation to make it as prominent and visible as possible so other people can find it.

It can’t be “us four and no more.” We cannot be comfortable in our bushel. We cannot be comfortable trying to stay out of the limelight. We are supposed to be the limelight. We are supposed to be up where everyone can see us.

And this is what I’m telling you church - we need to do everything we can as a church to put ourselves up on a pedestal so that people can see the light. Because if we have the light, we have an obligation to make it visible.

We can’t limit ourselves to what we have done in the past. We need to do more than we have been doing to put ourselves out there. We have to put the light on a candlestick.

So I’m going to be praying about things we can do, and I just want you to know, anything is on the table. If it isn’t going to conflict with our preaching and our worship, if it isn’t some sort of compromise, I’m going to pray about it.

Moving our services around? praying about it. Maybe having Sunday morning services somewhere else after Covid is over? Praying about it. Putting up a bigger sign? Praying about it. Getting on local tv? Broadcasting our services on the radio? Writing letters to the editor? Yes, yes, and yes.

We have the light, but the light does no good if no one can see it.

But listen, this isn’t just a principle for our church. It’s a principle for each one of us as individuals. If you are a Christian and you have the light - you need to put it on a candlestick. Everyone at your work should know about your faith and what you believe. Everyone in your family should know. It should be a central part of your identity - and you should seek out any way you can to put that light up on a bigger pedestal. Not for your own ambition, but so Christ can be made known.

Listen, in the last few years God has given some of our people some bigger pedestals - Jeff just got made the fire chief. Be the light there. Ernie now owns the most famous restaurant in the county - be the light there.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if that kept going? If God gave us more influence in our community?