Gospel Light for our Present Darkness

August 13, 2023

Gospel Light for our Present Darkness

Passage: Gospel of Matthew 5:14-16
Service Type:

A Gospel Light for our Present Darkness

A sermon on Matthew 5:14-16 by Dwight A. Moody
Providence Baptist Church, Hendersonville NC


Today is the seventh in my series on the common practices of a gospel church. We here at Providence consecrate ourselves to these practices and to this ideal. Our nation needs us to be faithful to Jesus. We want to be a gospel church. As we embrace these nine practices, we become the people God wants in the world. As we focus on our calling with these nine community habits, we become the people our nation needs today.  We can shine gospel light into our present darkness.

Bible reading places puts us into the narrative of God and God’s purpose for the world. Gospel-telling voices our story of following in the way of Jesus our Lord. Convert-dipping initiates us into God’s mission in the world. Supper-eating creates a compelling image of the community and camaraderie God wants for all people. Hymn-singing empowers us to sing for joy and live in hope. Prayer-lifting opens us to hear and obey the voice of God who commissions us to love our neighbor. Money-giving inspires our investment in the structures of justice for all creation. Ballot-casting symbolizes our search for discernment in the mission to which we have been called. Hand-shaking is the first and last of the gospel acts, acknowledging each other as children of God and empowering everyone to shine a gospel light for our present darkness.

These nine practices of a gospel community keep the light shining in the darkness.

These nine practices of a gospel community push back the darkness of religion, the darkness of economics, the darkness of politics, even the darkness of disaster, even the darkness of the human soul.

These nine practices of a gospel community light our candles of joy and hope.

I want to preach for you today this message, “A Gospel Light for our Present Darkness.”




The first act on the first day of the universe was the voice of God sounding through the dark stillness, “Let there be light!”

Darkness covered the face of the deep, in the early eons of the universe. Darkness and Light have, from the very beginning, struggled to determine the nature of all things. Still today, there is darkness and there is light: in the universe, in the nation, in the world, and in your own soul.

The Hebrew prophets picked up this theme. “You will be a light to the nations,” Isaiah declared. And again, he said: “The people who walked in darkness, upon them a light has shined.”

It was natural for those first Jesus Jews to use this imagery when talking about Jesus. Jesus taught plainly and simply, “You are the light of the world. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.”

Paul the great apostle put it this way, in the Letter to the Philippians, “Live as children of God, shinning like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”

John the disciple wrote many years later, “The life of Jesus brought light to everyone. That light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

We still need that light today. There is too much darkness in our world and not enough light, not enough true light, not enough gospel light.

To this very day, that is the gospel sound we still need. Let there be light in our darkness!

Let there be the light of truth in the darkness of our ignorance. Let there be the light of kindness in the dark night of meanness and violence. Let there be the light of courage breaking into the darkness of fear and intimidation. Let there be the light of friendship to dispel the darkness of loneliness and isolation.

Help us, O Lord, to be shining lights in the darkness within us, the darkness among us, and the darkness around us.





Think about this week, all that has happened. Think about this week and all the darkness that surrounds us, surprises us, stuns us.

The week began in Montgomery, Alabama. Darkness covered the riverfront when the riverboat tried to dock. The dock hand asked the men to move their small pontoon boat. Instead, they ganged up and attacked him. A melee ensued, video recorded for all of us to watch. Four people have been arrested. It was shocking. It was a dark day on the riverfront in Montgomery.

For weeks and months, a political darkness has covered Ohio. Political bosses were trying to stamp out the freedom of people to make their own medical decisions. To intensify that darkness, they set in motion a state-wide vote to make it more difficult to amend the constitution. It was a cynical ploy designed to further limit the freedom of the people.

In Michigan, the light has been battling against the darkness for years. It came to light this week that state representative Matt Maddock hosted a fund-raiser, around his swimming pool. He was trying to raise money to defend his wife who has been accused of subverting the presidential election in 2020. He asked the attendees, what is going to happen if the government keeps arresting and prosecuting people like us?

He gave an answer to his own questions: “Someone’s going to get so pissed off, they’re going to shoot someone,” Maddock continued, according to the recording. “Or we’re going have a civil war or some sort of revolution. That’s where this is going.”

During my zoom prayer meeting his week, somebody spoke about the new book, How Civil Wars Happen and How to Stop Them, by Barbara F. Walter. Dr. Walter is the Rohr Professor of International Affairs at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California. She holds the PhD from the University of Chicago. She writes a blog with the title, Political Violence.

In an interview last year with the Washington Post, she said, “There are definitely lots of groups on the far right who want war. They are preparing for war.”

A different kind of darkness swept over Hawaii this week. Wind and fire conspired to set ablaze the island of Maui.  Have you ever been to Maui? It is one of the most beautiful and compelling places in all the United States.  But no more. Fire completely destroyed the tourist town of Lahaina, taking at least 100 lives. It is the worst natural disaster in the history of Hawaii. Our language is too limited to adequately describe the darkness that has fallen over the island.

Closer to home, a go-fund-me account has been set up to cover the funeral expenses of two people, 15-year-old Matt Creech and 21-year-old Jessie Harrington. They were driving home from Walmart in Raleigh on Thursday when an on-coming car swerved into their lane causing a horrible head-on collision. I remember meeting Jessie when she came to church here with her college roommate, our very own dear Holly Obermiller. Tomorrow is the first day of her senior year at college for Holly and also the funeral day for her friend Jessie.

Is that enough darkness for one week?

If I were to pass around this microphone, I am confident we together could add another five examples from our own lives: meanness in our own families, illness in our own bodies, or rudeness in our own neighborhood. When we look inward, we know ourselves. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” The Bible says that in the book of Jeremiah. Paul the great lion of God wrote about himself. “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. O, what a miserable person I am.”


You are the light of the world, Jesus said. You are the light of the nation. You are the light of your neighborhood.

You remember Palm Sunday? We walked around our neighborhood, singing, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.” It was a simple thing. It was a joyful day. It was a small thing. But we sang something important. It came from deep down inside of us.

We want to be a light to the nation. We want to shine like the stars. We want to sparkle with joy and hope. We want to radiate hospitality and justice. We want to light up the best in people. We want to shine a light of Jesus and on Jesus. We want to shine a light on our brothers and sisters who are naked and need clothes, who are thirsty and need water, who are incarcerated and need a visit, who are sick and need healing, who hungry and need to eat, who are strangers and need a friend.

This is the religion of Jesus. Is this your religion? This is the faith and practice of Jesus. Is this your faith and practice?

Not all who have claimed the name of Jesus have this kind of religion. This week, Russell Moore wrote an article for Christianity Today and described people who are repudiating the religion of Jesus because it is too weak. They want a strong-man religion.

We have a name for this strong-man religion: Christian Nationalism. It is our variety of Religious Nationalism. Islam and Judaism have their own version. Some who claim Jesus want not to serve but to be served; they want to dominate, rule, and control. Their response to the darkness around us is not a candle but a black plastic tarp thrown over the faith and freedoms of citizens, thrown over the needs and aspirations of neighbors, thrown over the hopes and dreams of people.

You want to be a gospel light in this dark world?

Every time you speak the truth into a cacophony of craziness, you are shining a gospel light into our present darkness.

Every time you act with generosity to help those crushed by cruel fate, you are shining a gospel light into our present darkness.

Every time you stop to listen to somebody who’s struggling to become all that God designs, you are shining a gospel light into our present darkness.

Every time you lift your voice in praise and adoration, you are shining a gospel light into our present darkness.

Every time you respond with kindness to the rudeness of self-centered people, you are shining a gospel light into our present darkness.

Every time you stand with courage and confidence against those who threaten violence and death, you are shining a gospel light into our present darkness.

Every time you sing for joy and live with hope, you are shining a gospel light for our present darkness.

Shine on, dear friends, shine on, for the glory of God and the common good.

Go to Top