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May 05, 2024

Light the World!

Passage: Mark 4:21-25

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Gospel of Mark

Category: Mission

Keywords: missions, word of god, witness, obedience, light, hearing, sight


Jesus uses the metaphor of a lamp and light in several different ways in the Gospels. This message looks at the two main ways He challenges us to both handle the light He gives and let the light He is in us shine. The applications are present, personal and plentiful in this message.


Light the World

Mark 4:21-25 & Matt. 5:14-16

May 5, 2024

Fellowship Question:

Of all the noise and sounds you heard this week, tell someone about one you particularly enjoyed?


INTRO Story:  moving into the college apartment on 82nd Ave. at Multnomah.  The distance between the bedroom and one of the busiest streets on the east side of Portland was the width of a narrow sidewalk. 

            But what happens to our sense of hearing when we live in anyplace over time?  Our brain learns to “filter out” the noise. 

Story:  Hearing-aid test this past week.  Different tones and various levels of volume.  (It actually improved a bit from the last time I was tested. Specialists wondered if it might be because I’m not using so many power tools at the house!)  

            Over the remainder of this service, your spiritual hearing is going to be put to the test.  Like my hearing-aid test, every time you hear the Word of God spoken or preached or read or talked about, God is testing your hearing.  How so?  Let’s read one of the 2 main passages for today.

Mark 4:21-25

21 He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”

24 “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

            Jesus uses this imagery of an oil lamp lit for the purpose of giving light in a house several times and different ways in His teachings.  We’ll look at one of those in Matthew 5 in just a moment.  But first I want us to see how this Mark passage is using light to talk about our hearing more than our sightnot our physical hearing but rather the ears of our hearts…our spiritual hearing. 

REVIEW:  About a month ago, when we left our journey through the Gospel of Mark, we had talked about the parable of the sower or soils.  The seed was the word of God.  And Jesus whole purpose for giving that parable was because He wanted his disciples to be good soil and bear great fruit. 

            This metaphor of the lit lamp is given to underline to His disciples that when He teaches, He is giving them light.  Failure to really listen and understand is like putting that light under a bowl on a dark night.

ILL:  I’m going to tell you a riddle.  I want you to listen carefully and answer just one question at the end.  It’s a math riddle so feel free to write down numbers.

 “You’re the ticket-taking conductor of a commuter train. There are 36 people on board. At the first stop, 10 get off and 2 get on. At the next stop, no one gets off, but 5 get on. At the third stop, 4 get off and 2 get on. Now for the question: What is the name of the conductor?” 

If you’re thinking, “How should I know!”, you weren’t listening.  If you know the conductor’s name, you were. 

ILL:  that’s a bit like the wife who was complaining to her husband that he’s always looking at his phone and not really listening.  The husband would say, “Uh huh”, when his wife paused every now and then when she was talking to him. So, she finally said, “You never listen to me.”  So, the husband set down his phone, looked directly into his wife’s eyes, and gave her his full attention while she was speaking. “Stop it,” she snapped. “You’re deliberately listening just to confuse me.”

            Unlike this wife, Jesus isn’t confused when we set aside life’s distractions and really, really focus on ‘hearing’ His word.  While His word may, at times, seem like a riddle, the reason He spoke in parables is so that He could teach us to really listen well. 

            It’s impossible for us to hear every sound that is coming our way.  Sound-waves tend to compete for our attention.  Just go outside today, stand there and identify as many sounds as you can hear in 60 seconds.  Between the sounds of nature and the sounds of city life, there are sometimes dozens of different ‘voices’ speaking to us at any given time. Our brain must choose which ones to pay attention to.  The same is true when God speaks. 

ILL:  How many of us have sat down sometime in the day to read God’s word, only to get halfway through the chapter and realize that our mind has been somewhere else? 

ILL: How many of us have been sitting in a service, listening to the Word taught, only to be distracted by our phone vibrating…or someone else’s going off…or someone wandering into the service…or the firetruck passing by with its siren on…or the fire alarm going off because someone’s little kid pulled it in the lobby???  (That happened one Sunday when I was preaching.  I found out later it was the Youth Pastor’s kid at the church.)

Life makes it hard to hear the voice of God.  That is why you and I must do all we can to limit distractions when we or someone else is listening to/reading God’s messages to us…His Word.  This is why Jesus said in vs. 24, “Consider carefully what you hear….” He wasn’t talking about life in general.  He was talking about HIS VOICE…HIS TEACHINGS.  It’s not enough to just “hear” the sounds and syllables of God’s Word/truth.  We must do the hard work of “considering carefully” WHAT God is trying to say to us.  This is why, whenever we are specifically around the Word of God, we must be asking

  • WHAT is God saying here?
  • SO WHAT? WHAT do I need to DO with what God is saying to me?  How do I need to APPLY/OBEY God’s message to me today?

Mark now points to two main reasons or purposes for God’s word as a light to us.

22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.

The reason God’s word is given to us is…

  • To illuminate or reveal what would, without His truth and teaching, be indiscernible or not understood about life.
  • To expose or uncover what is normally hidden, buried or covered up in our lives or life itself.

First, illuminating or revealing reality both in time and eternity, is essential if we are to know what really matters in life and how to handle it.  For example, in the previous parable of the soils and seed, what did Jesus want to reveal about what makes God’s Word fruitful or unfruitful in our souls? 

  • Rejection of it; hard-heartedness
  • Cares of the world
  • Wealth
  • Unpreparedness for troubles and persecution in our journey with Christ.

ILL:  For me, for instance, one of the things Jesus’ parable of the soils has been speaking to me about is a danger I’ve been confronting the past 10 months in the “weediness of my life” in the renovation of our house.  It’s taken a toll on my sabbath rest, my physical energy to attend to obeying God’s call to pray, be still, wait on Him, lead the church, etc.  Without “considering carefully” that God is warning me from His word about letting my house take precedence over Him, I could easily spend ALL my energies, disposable time and undo attention on physical projects over spiritual projects in my life.  I have to fight, sitting under the teaching of others just like you have this past month, to keep my attention on what God has been saying these past weeks (when I haven’t been preaching) rather than let my mind wander to this or that project waiting at the house.

            Additionally, the light of God’s word/messages to us must be met with ‘spiritual eyes’ that can see that light.  It isn’t enough to just have a lot of light.  Ask any blind person.  They don’t have less light around them than any of us.  The difference is that they lack the proper equipment to discern that light

            Transferring that to our souls and spiritual light, we desperately need God to give us “eyes to see and ears to hear”.  Apart from Christ and a living relationship with Him, we all lack the hardware spiritually to ‘see’ what God is trying to illuminate to us. 

[Call to faith/trust in Jesus…to get spiritual sight and hearing.

Call to pray “Lord, give me spiritual eyes to see your truth today.”]

So, “considering carefully” what God is saying to us will make spiritual realities discernable and understandable to us. 

Take advantage of TOOLS you have to help you ‘consider carefully’ God’s truth to you in His Word.

  • Study Bibles
  • Sermons
  • Bible discussion groups
  • Bible study tools—on-line info and good sites, books,
  • Prayer/asking God to speak and listening to the H.S.
  • Taking notes on what you are hearing from God.

The 2nd purpose and reason the Word is spiritual light for us is to expose or uncover what is normally hidden or buried in our lives.  This has to do with the convicting work of God’s word in our lives. 

ILL:  Ephesians 5:3--But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

If I’m reading this verse and asking God to convict me of anything in my life that is out-of-order with His best for me, I’m going to be asking, “Where are there hints of sexual immorality of any kind...or impurity of any kind…or of greed of any kind in my life?”  Maybe it’s not full-blown yet.  But sin starts with hints

  • what my eye might linger on while on the internet…or driving…or watching people at the beach or in the park;
  • what my mind might be mulling over about someone who has offended me or bothers me or makes me angry;
  • what I might be spending a lot of time looking to buy or hoping to find or protecting and managing.

Not even a hint” is a very convicting phrase! 

We need to stop being afraid of conviction. Conviction is a work of grace in our souls.  It’s God loving us enough to speak with us about something.  It’s God coaching us into a fuller life in Christ.  What we need to be afraid of is failure to repent (i.e. change direction away from sin), not conviction of the Word and Spirit. 

            So, in a nutshell, Jesus’ use of the lamp on a lampstand imagery here is to call us to a handling and hearing of God’s word that 1.) shows us what we need to see of reality that, in the flesh apart from God, we wouldn’t grasp.  And 2.) reveals darkness and hidden sin that will damage us so that we can turn to God to escape it and find real life. 

            When we “have ears to hear” and actually “consider carefully” what God is saying through the ‘light’ of His Word, then the other usage of this metaphor of light that Jesus loved to use comes into play.  So now let’s look at the other major usage of the oil lamp light in the Gospels.  Here is where I want us to drill into the application of this metaphor for each of us at Mosaic in some specific areas of our shared life.

Matthew 5:14-16

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

            I think Jesus is using a little humor here.  When he says, “A town built on a hill cannot be hidden,” It’s like saying, “It’s impossible to fly in ‘stealth-mode’ with your landing lights on.”  Or, “If you don’t want your neighbors to know what you’re doing. try turning all the lights on in your house and leaving the blinds open.”  It’s just impossible to hide reality when light is shining from you or on you.

            Jesus reinforces that with his illustration of the oil lamp in his day.  (Picture).  You don’t trim the wick, fill the lamp with oil and light it so you can stick it under a bowl, bushel or bed.  An oil lamp’s whole existence is about providing useful light.  Placement of a lit lamp is everything. 

ILL:  When the power goes out and you go searching for a flashlight, when you finally find it in the dark, how many of you have ever found a draw, thrown it in, closed the drawer and gone on complaining about how dark it is? 

That would make as much sense as needing light bulbs because they all burned out in your house, going to the store, paying hundreds of dollars to by new LED bulbs…and storing them all in the basement when you get them home, leaving you still bumping into things every night when the sun sets. 


  • the nature of light bulbs is to put them in light sockets and use them when it’s dark.
  • The nature of cities on hills is so everyone can see where they are and get home.
  • The nature of Christ-followers is to let the life of Christ, the light of the Holy Spirit, so shine from us to others that they notice the difference between their darkness and our Christ-light…and end up glorify God by surrender to Him and/or hunger for Him in their lives.

            This metaphor of us being “the light of the world” follows naturally from the metaphor of Christ and His Word being our light.  When the light of Christ and His word is active in our lives, we literally become the moral and spiritual light of God in this world.  When Jesus is obscured and hidden in us by sin or unfruitfulness or apathy or any distance-building from Him, we are like a light bulb put in a drawer in the basement or an oil lamp stuck under a cast-iron bowl. 

Any ‘light’ we may give to others is only because we have a relationship with the One who is the Light of the World.  Scripture clearly teaches us that

  • God is light (1 John 1:5), that
  • He dwells in light unapproachable (1 Tim. 6:16), that
  • Christ is the light of the world (John 1:7, 9; 8:12--“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”), and
  • that God covers himself with light as a garment ( 104:2).

This is the only basis for any of us being any good in bringing light to this world.  We must be close enough to God to have His presence, His light, residing in and emanating from us. 

ILL:  In one way we are like the moon: we have no light in ourselves.  We’re not like the sun that, by its nature emanates light.  If the moon didn’t have the sun to light it, none of us would benefit from moonlight. 

So too, the human soul is only able to reflect the light of God into this life due to the presence of God in it.  Without that, our hearts that are darkened by sin are as void of divine, useful, spiritual and moral light for others as a million moons in the emptiness of sunless space.  

But, as a result of being related to God through adoption in Jesus Christ, we are told in Ephesians 5:8-- For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.  13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 

We are only light “in the Lord.”  Only as we walk with the Lord, are filled with and controlled by His Spirit, are we “the light of the world.” 

Think about what light does, physically and spiritually?

  • Phys: Illuminates reality, allows us to see the true nature of things (colors, shapes, reality, this life as God actually created it to be, eternity)

Sp.—illuminates/reveals life as God has designed it to be, as it actually functions, as it should be lived in time and will be lived in eternity.

  • Cleanses, purifies, heals (mentally, physically, emotionally)
  • Creates, grows, causes to germinate and flourish.
  • Exposes darkness/evil: John 3:19-20—sinful people love darkness because their actions are sinful.

Matthew 5:16—“…. let your light shine before others, that [in a manner that] they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Let” = in Greek a ‘permissive imperative”, i.e. “permit/allow” something to happen that is already in play.  God isn’t calling us to work up light in ourselves or our life with Jesus.  This passage indicates that we actually have to do some things negatively in order to not be that light in the world. 

  • We have to move away from God in order to not have His light shine through us.
  • We have to abandon the life He invites us into in order to not have a life of good works that others will see and experience as blessing.

“GOOD WORKS” = lovely, beautiful, helpful, useful, well adapted to its purpose/function.

Greek word for “good” here (kala) is used over 100 times in the N.T.  Its stress is on the outward appearance of something as well as the usefulness or purposefulness of what is viewed as “good.” 


  • A beautiful woman--appearance
  • A safe harbor--useful
  • Good fruit—useful, acc. to its designed purpose

The whole idea is “winsome”—morally and aesthetically good in a way that is attractive to others.  We as “vessels of clay”, were meant to be God’s light-bearers in this world.  Our “purpose” is to bring God’s presence, His ‘light’, into the lives of everyone around us and this entire world in a way that anyone who has any kind of spiritual vision will find themselves attracted to the light. 

ILL:  Seeing a beautiful sunset painted across the sky.  The difference between the response of someone who can see what is unfolding and a blind person who cannot.  The light is still there.  For those who have the physical capacity to “see” the light, it is moving. 

People without Christ may not always “see” or desire the light of Christ working through if they don’t have “eyes to see.”  But if the life-light of Christ is present in us…and the people around have “eyes to see” what that light is illuminating, then they will “glorify our Father in heaven.”  They will see Christ and respond to Him.  They will honor him by putting their trust in Him.  They will at least admit that God is doing something good in and through us. 

The Gospel must be preached in word and deed.  God’s word IS light. It gives light.  And when we stop speaking it into our daily conversations, whether with secular people or our own families, we are choosing growing darkness for everyone around us.

“Good works” that invariably flow from the hearts and lives of those who have genuinely been changed by Christ are also light.  Perhaps one of the chief reasons the Gospel has lost traction with so many people in our American culture today is that the church has also shut off a lot of the light of attractive “good deeds”.  The combination of a decrease in both lights (God’s Word and Christian’s good deeds) has led to a time when personal affiliation with Christ is in the single digits among youth today. 

Anybody want to turn that around here today?  If you do, if you don’t want your children and grandchildren to grow up in an utterly secular, spiritually dark world, I’ve got a few challenges for you to think about. 

Let’s start with the “world” and move closer to home.

God’s World:  (Missions)  For the past 3 weeks we’ve heard about the desperate need for Jesus that exists among billions of fellow humans in our world.  I’ve heard the Spirit asking me, “John, what are you going to do?  How are you going to obey My call to make disciples of ALL peoples, even the ‘uttermost parts of the earth?”  What will my obedience be to the “light” God has given me about this Great Commission we’ve been hearing about?  Or will I close my ears and go about my life as if I haven’t heard a thing of God’s voice these past three weeks?  How will I let the love of God for lost people all over the world emanate from me?

Let me make it SIMPLE!

            Repeatedly we were given several possibilities for Great Commission obedience…not putting that commission ‘under a bowl’:

  • Going: actually going on a short-term serving team (Brian J), living overseas for an extended period of time (Elizabeth, Brumleys, Ottossons, Wegners), taking your vacation or retirement and investing it for the Gospel.
  • Giving your resources: Explain and challenge to Faith Promise
  • Praying for lost people:
    • In specific countries, cities, tribes, etc.
    • For the effectiveness of our missionaries—Wed. Missions prayer; prayer letters/emails; Mosaic Missionary Prayer Booklet; Prayer cards in your Bible.

HOW can we “let our light shine” in ways that people near us will see the truth of God and be drawn to Him? 

Our neighbors, classmates, coworkers.

  • When we show the beauty, attractiveness, holiness of God in the fruit of the Spirit, especially when we’re being treated poorly, it always draws attention to the light of God. Kindness, patience, hospitality, love, grace, mercy, service, sacrifice, selflessness—all ramp up the wattage of the presence of God in us. 

ILL:  I’ve been praying about how to show grace and patience to one of our neighbors who tried to turn the entire neighborhood against us when we first moved in and, according to another neighbor, cast a spell on our house. Too bad for them, it’s just made us pray more for them!  But unfortunately for our next-door neighbor, their big old hardwood tree did wither and die out of the blue in the middle of summer.

  • Salt our daily encounters with people with our praises for what God is doing and how He is filling our lives with light and joy. In a day when people are fearful and tired of all the negativity, living in the light of the presence of Christ is one of the most counter-cultural lights we can turn on.  No matter what happens to our country, our Kingdom has never been brighter.  And no matter what pressures come against Christians in the days ahead, our lives just get to grow deeper and richer in Jesus.  We must be a people who don’t hide the brightest future available to anyone in the world under the dark bowl of negativity and pessimism.
  • Haven Family Days: in 7 short weeks, every one of us in this church will have an opportunity to “let our light shine” into the lives of hundreds of children, teens, singles, and parents struggling with the darkness of this life. For four days running, we get to choose ‘good works’ of serving, feeding, playing with, listening to, helping and cleaning up after dozens of struggling families in the Haven buildings.  We’ll get to build relationships that can lead to ongoing friendships for years to come…and hopefully eternity.  OR you could stay home and watch TV!  Imagine what a simple loving conversation could do for a parent who is at their wits end…or living with an abusive spouse…or a child who is about to fall into a life in the CPS system.  You don’t need any  You just need to “LET your light shine” by obeying God’s call to love as you would want to be loved. 

But you don’t have to wait 7 weeks.  Every one of us will have opportunities today and every day this week to obey God’s word and ‘let the light out’ through loving those closest to us--our families & loved ones…our brothers and sisters right here.  Too often our families get the worst of us, the leftovers.  Don’t let that happen today or this week.  Give them the light of Christ even when your own darkness threatens to envelope you.  More than anyone, our physical and spiritual families need to “see your good deeds and glorify our Father who is in heaven.” 

PRAY—for obedience TODAY to God’s calls.