Grace For The Journey
Have you ever said, “God, would You please just give me a sign?!” As followers of Christ, we sometimes look for God to give us a sign, but we need to be reminded that God has given us His Word to find His will. Roughly 75% of God’s will is already revealed to us in His Word. As believers if we will do what He has already revealed in His Word we find that He will guide us in the other areas, too.
But what about unbelievers asking God for a sign? What about when an unbeliever says something like, “God – if there is a God up there – if you will just do this or that, I will believe.” What about that? This is the context for what we are studying here today. This verse is a foreshadow of our passage. Look back at verse 16 which says, “Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.” Jesus was casting out demons from people, demonstrating that the Kingdom of God had broken into this world, but it was not enough for some of these folks. They were like, “Do something else. Give us a sign from heaven,” and the implication is, “and then I’ll believe you are who you claim you are.” Some people are that way today: “God, do this or do that and then I’ll believe and follow you.”
But did you know the Bible teaches that signs alone do not produce faith? Supernatural signs from heaven do not make believers out of unbelievers. The Bible tells us in Luke 16:19-31 the story of the rich man who died and went to hell. Remember what he asked? He asked whether someone might be able to visit his family from beyond the grave, in order to warn his unbelieving family about eternal judgment. He said, “If they see someone come from the dead then they will believe.” And what was he told? “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets” – that is, the Old Testament, the Word of God . . . if they do not listen to the Scriptures – “they will not be persuaded to believe, even if one comes from the dead to warn them.” Signs alone do not produce faith nor guarantee faith.
Then you have that reaction of some of the Jews to Christ’s having risen Lazarus from the dead. You read about it in John chapter 11: Christ raises Lazarus from the dead. Then you turn to John chapter 12 and you read where some of these Jews went to Bethany for the express purpose of seeing the risen Lazarus they had heard about. The Bible says that the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death – Why? – because “on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus” (John 12:9-11). Christ’s raising Lazarus from the dead resulted in some to think more deeply about following Him, but resulted in others hardening their hearts. Signs alone do not produce faith and signs do not guarantee faith.
This is foundational for what we read in verses 29 and following as these verses teach us . . .
1. If You Want A Sign From God … Look To Jesus And Believe Him – Verses 29- 32.
Jesus says in verses 29 and 30, “And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, ‘This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Johan the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.” Jesus is saying, “I refuse to be your entertainer, doing things to satisfy your whims. You want a sign? Do you remember Jonah?” Most of us know the story well. Jonah is called to preach to the Ninevites, the people of Nineveh, and he is to preach a message of repentance. But Jonah disobeys and gets on a ship going in the opposite direction. God sends a storm and Jonah knows it is his fault. He instructs the captain and crew about what is happening and he is thrown overboard and the sea becomes calm. God prepared a big fish – probably a whale – to swallow Jonah and Jonah is inside the belly of the whale for three days. Then the whale spits Jonah onto dry land and off he goes to preach to Nineveh. Maybe you prefer the children’s rhyme:
Come listen to my tale
Of Jonah and the whale
Way down in the middle of the ocean.
How did he get there
Whatever did he wear
Way down in the middle of the ocean
Preaching he should be
At Nineveh, you see –
He disobeyed – O what a foolish notion.
But God forgave his sin
Salvation entered in
Way down in the middle of the ocean
Elsewhere Jesus speaks very pointedly about the sign of Jonah. In Matthew 12:40 Jesus says, “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” There is your sign. Jesus will die for the sins of the world and be buried three days and nights in the heart of the earth.
It is certainly worth noting that Jesus believed in the historical accuracy of the account of Jonah and the big fish. He refers to the entire event as that which actually and literally happened. To those who say there are some things in the Bible that are not to be taken as actually history, but merely as figures and metaphors, we must reply that we have no cause to do so when such things are recorded as having actually happened. Jesus never once questions the historicity of the account of Jonah. Whatever His view of Scripture should be His followers’ view as well.
Jesus says in verse 32, “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.” The people of Nineveh heard Jonah’s message and they heeded it. They repented and turned to the One True God. Jesus says these Ninevites will put you to shame at the judgment because they repented at his preaching, but you do not – even though “a greater than Jonah is here,” that is, Jesus is greater than Jonah. Jesus is the ultimate prophet and Lord of the prophets. The Ninevites will put you to shame at the judgment – a reminder, incidentally, that there will be a judgment, a final judgment. God will judge the works of all people. Only those who are safely “in Christ Jesus,” clothed with the righteousness of Christ will be safe in the last judgment. All others – all unbelievers – whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).
Jesus also says in verse 31, “The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them,” – Why? – “for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.” You can read later in 1 Kings 10:1-13 for the background to this statement of Jesus. Some of you will remember the Queen of Sheba who traveled hundreds of miles just to visit King Solomon and to hear of his wisdom. Jesus says just like the Ninevites, the queen of the South will be there at the judgment too, to laugh you to scorn, to shame you for not listening to Christ. She traveled hundreds of miles to hear the wisdom of Solomon and “a greater than Solomon is here,” Jesus in whom, the Bible says in Colossians 2:3, “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Jesus is Himself the embodiment of wisdom.
Do not miss the point of verses 29-33! Jesus is the only sign you need. Hear Him. Hear His Word. If you want a sign from God, look to Jesus and believe Him.
Secondly . . .
2. If You Want A Life from God… Look to Jesus and Receive Him – Verses 33-36.
Elsewhere Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus is the light of the world. The light of Christ which shines for all to see makes any other sign pale by comparison. Verse 33 says, “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light.” The word “lamp” here is a metaphor for Christ and His mission. Jesus Christ is the lamp that shines for all to see, that gives light to all who will come so that they may see. Jesus is saying that the light of Christ which shines for all to see makes any other sign pale by comparison.
But you have got to receive that light into your life. Verses 34-36 describe two very different ways of responding to the light of Christ. Either we allow the light of Christ into our lives or we do not. Consequently, we are either filled with the light of Christ or we are filled with darkness. Verse 34 tells us, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.” If your eye is “good,” or “healthy,” which is to say, “if we have a spiritually healthy way of looking at things, if we are open to Jesus and His teaching,” what is the result? Verse 34 tells us, “Your whole body also is full of light.” Christ reigns within us. But – note the last part of verse 34, “when your eye is bad,” which is to say, “if you have a spiritually unhealthy way of looking at things, if you are not open to Jesus and His teaching,” what is the result? Last part of verse 34 tells us, “Your body also is full of darkness.”
Jesus concludes this teaching in verse 35, where He says, “Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.” Wow. This means it is possible to think you have the light when you do not. Jesus is addressing religious people here. You can be religious and morally upright, striving to keep the 10 Commandments and so forth, but be filled with darkness.
I grew up in the country. One of the things I really enjoyed about that is being able to see the many stars at night. Those of you familiar with living in the country know what this is like. At night it seems you can see every star in the sky! Now are those stars not there when you are living in the city? Of course, they are there. Those stars are always there, but it is the light of the city that keeps you from seeing them. You have light, but the light of the city hides the true light of the stars. You have light, but it hides the true light. Take heed that the light which is in you not an artificial light that keeps hidden the true light of Christ.
Listen, Christian. Too many of us have the wrong kind of light filling our bodies. We let in the light of pleasure, the light of fame, the light of material stuff, the light of pride, the light of sport and recreation, the light of worldliness, the light of things that obscure and hide the true light of Christ. Take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.
Verse 36 says, “If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.” Jesus says make sure your body is full of light. Make sure you respond positively to the light of Christ and His mission. Make sure you receive the light of Christ into your body. And if you do, your “whole body will be full of light,” as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light. You will shine the light of Christ upon others just as a lamp gives light to others.
In my notes this week I wrote down this phrase: “When I am filled with the light of Christ, then…”
What happens when we take heed that
The light which is in us is not darkness?
What does it look like when our bodies
Are full of light, when we are
Taking in the things of God?
Four things happen when I am filled with the light of Christ . . .
1) I Think Differently.
I think differently because Jesus Christ and His mission fills my mind and my heart! My body is filled with the light of Christ, so I think differently than I think when my mind and heart are filled with an artificial light or with darkness. My thoughts are filled with the things of God, the things that please God. I am going to be a learning and living by the Word of God. Remember what Jesus said last time in Luke 11:28, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it. We listen to the Word.
I am going to think differently because I have the light of Christ and His Word in my mind and heart. The Bible says in Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You.” I think differently.
I think differently about what I’m pursuing in this life. I am making sure each and every day that the light that is in me and not darkness. Jesus Christ is Lord of everything in my life – Lord of my stuff, my ambitions, my goals, my money, my agenda, my everything. I think differently.
Number two . . .
2. Talk Differently.
Because we think differently we talk differently. Because the light that is in us fills us, the light of Christ within us, we cannot help but talk differently. The light spills out of our mouths. The Bible says in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight.” Because the light of Christ fills me, I am filled with His Word, and it comes out.
We should be soaking up the Word of God, the Bible so that when the world squeezes us, we drip Bible. We talk differently. The Word of God informs us how to talk. People who talk to us hear the Word. Scripture just comes out because we are taking heed that the light that is in us is not darkness.
When I am filled with the light of Christ, I think differently, I talk differently and, number three . . .
3) I Trust Differently.
Because the light of Christ is in me, I know that God is in control of my life, and I can trust Him. If other things fill me – worries, concerns, anxieties – I am filled with darkness because I am not trusting God. When the light of Christ is in me, I know that God is in control and He always does what is right. The Bible says in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” You can trust Him when you are filled with the light of Christ.
I think differently, I talk differently, I trust differently. Finally, when I am filled with the light of Christ . . .
4) I Treat Others Differently.
Jesus teaches in verse 36 when our body is full of light we are like a bright lamp that shines light for others to see. This is what Jesus says elsewhere in Matthew 5”16, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify the Father who is in heaven.” You and are to reflect Christ’s light.
You reflect the light of Christ by treating others differently than you would if your body were filled with darkness. When you are filled with the light of Christ, you treat others differently.
- You love others.
- You forgive others.
- You pray for others.
- You give to others.
- You share the Gospel with others.
- You are missional to others.
- You live an others-focused life because you are filled with the light of Christ.
And your light shines upon others pointing them to the True Light of Christ that you have received.
Even as the whole person is filled with the light of Christ to those who receive Him so does darkness fills the life of the person who rejects Him. Have you received the Light of Christ into your body? Can you say . . .
I saw the light, I saw the light.
No more darkness; no more night.
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight.
Praise the Lord, I saw the light!
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”