CITY ON A HILL: Part #2: THE COST OF BEING A LIGHT

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

A CALL AWAY FROM ISOLATIONISM: Exploring Matthew 5:14-16

REVIEW:

In the previous post we discussed some of the basic understanding to lay a good foundation for the frequently used Biblical metaphor of "light."

  1. Light is representative of holiness, righteousness, and truth.

  2. Truth can only come from God, He is the only source of the light of truth. This truth is made known in YHVH's instructions or Torah.

  3. The Torah then becomes the path by which we understand righteousness and holiness and how to walk in them. It points us not only to those truths, but the truth of the Messiah and His ultimate mission, reconciliation and atonement.

However, YHVH's truth was offered to us freely, but walking in this truth doesn't come without significant cost. To understand, walk-in, and teach this Biblically-rooted God ordained truth it will cost us every other version of truth we have accumulated along our way. Truth, by its very nature, is exclusive and comes at the expense of every single other contrasting idea (no matter how many other people believe and repeat it). In other words, I can't have and truly understand a specific truth without first abandoning my previous conflicting ideas or behaviors. Second, truth costs us all the work, time, and energy we have invested in building our own kingdoms around our own truths. Every action that was rooted in that previously held understanding is relegated to absolute waste and must be dumped accordingly. Real truth requires our absolute allegiance, anything less is futile and reckless. It is this reality that gives legs to the notion that real "truth" sets us free.


As we continue with this study, do not forget that while learning and walking in Godly Truth will require everything of us, trading God's eternal truth at the expense of our finite fiction is a worthwhile trade we should all be eager to make. A house built on sand has no value or shelter, but a house built upon the rock of YHVH's truth will stand no matter the wind and waves.

 

OUR OWN "TRUTH" MUST BE EXPENDABLE:

Of course, the now institutionalized mantra, "live your truth" is not true, and its fallacy is easily exposed with just one question, "when my truth collides with your truth, who's truth is enforced?" Multiple truths sound nice, but the reality is it cannot be enforced and is as futile as building a house upon a sand foundation. Consider the following story as an example.


A boy spends his days exploring the forest behind his house, let's name him Jeff. One day while exploring Jeff stumbles upon a glorious treasure. It's gray, brown, and rough on the outside. It's dense, but not heavy, and bears the marks of wear, scrapes and blemishes. He quickly stuffs it into his bag and runs back home. Bursting through the door, he exclaims, "I have found a great treasure in the woods!" He runs to the table where his family eagerly gathers for the reveal. His face beams with pride as he unveils his prize. The room falls silent. Jeff's exuberance quickly melts into concern. "What," he asks, "What's the problem?" His mother, reaches for his shoulder, and gently replies, "It's just a rock Jeff. We have thousands of them in our forest." Jeff angrily recoils, forcing his rock back into his bag. If his family didn't see it, then certainly his friends would. Friend after friend, stranger after stranger, the answer was always the same, "It's just a common rock." Dejected, Jeff grows to despise those who disagreed with him, because he knew deep inside what he had was no ordinary rock. Having found his treasure Jeff never entered the woods again, he was convinced his common rock, was anything but common.


This is obviously just a story, but the principle connects to our topic, there is only one single truth, and we can't change it. No matter our personal belief or other people's opinions. No matter how many people we tell, or how many people agree, a common rock is just a common rock. You can believe with every ounce of your soul that it is something more, but you cannot change the truth. The same thing is true about faith, the Bible, and truth. There is only one truth, and by its very nature, truth is exclusive and eternal.

1 Peter 1:22-25 esv

"22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for

“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you."


Matthew 24:32-35 esv

"32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."


Isaiah 40:6-8 esv

"6 A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever."


The Word of God stands forever. This is a sure foundation, a worthwhile and tested rock that we are given to guide our lives. Yet we clutch onto our common rock theology when YHVH has given us this great jewel, His Word, which is the light of truth. What we must understand is that by accepting His truth, it requires that we willingly relinquish our own. In other words, we cannot accept and believe YHVH's truth and hold onto our own version of truth as well.


Let's go back to our boy Jeff for a moment. Jeff believes he has a bonafied treasure in his common rock. How do you think Jeff will react if someone tries to take his rock away? How do you think Jeff is going to respond if someone tries to trade his rock for one of greater value? Exchanging our "truth" is a difficult process, and takes personal conviction and faith to accomplish. Consider if someone attempts to wrestle that rock away from Jeff, he believes it is a valuable jewel. He will fight with all his energy to keep it. Even if someone attempts to exchange it with him for a more valuable one. It requires that Jeff have faith that this other person is making a "fair" trade and that what they say about his rock is true, and what they say about their rock is true. Before Jeff gives up his rock he must first have the conviction that he was wrong, then have the faith to accept the message of others who carry the truth about his rock.


This is exactly how our lives work, and can offer a simple example of why it is so hard for us to accept truth, and why it is often so hard for others to accept it as well. While giving up our truth is difficult, it is not the only cost to walking in the light of God's eternal truth.

 

HOLINESS WITH COST US OUR MAN-MADE KINGDOMS:

As we explored in Part #1 of this series, the light of God's truth directly bears the fruit of holiness and righteousness in our lives as we learn and begin to follow His ways. This is why the Bible also relates holiness (click here to see our series on Biblical holiness) and righteousness with light. Without eternal truth our lives cannot produce light, but only lies, deception, and darkness. Yeshua says this fruit is not that our father YHVH, but of Satan, who is the father of lies (John 8:44). To be truly set apart (holy) as the Scripture instructs us, we must first die to the deception and darkness in our own lives and be reborn into the light of truth. The result is a life built, guided, and subservient to that eternal truth, God's Word.


When we begin to walk in the way of light/truth, we must burn our own kingdom to the ground, and begin to seek the Father with all our heart. Just like truth is exclusionary, walking out the truth really causes us to be separated from the masses, resulting in true holiness. Holiness is being fully set apart. When giving the Israelites the Law of God, Moses beautifully explains how hearing, knowing, and following God's instructions makes the Israelites truly set apart from all the other nations. They are so set apart, holy, the nations cannot help but notice their God, YHVH.


Deuteronomy 4:5-8 esv

"5 See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?"

Leviticus 20:22-26 esv "22 “You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them. 24 But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. 25 You shall therefore separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not make yourselves detestable by beast or by bird or by anything with which the ground crawls, which I have set apart for you to hold unclean. 26 You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine."


As a light on a stand or a city on a hill, we must look distinctly different than the darkness around us. We cannot both occupy the mental space and behaviors of the darkness and still operate as an effective light. It is only following YHVH's holy instructions that we learn what it means to be a true beacon of hope, a light to the nation, and when we do that, YHVH is truly glorified by those in darkness. Paul says it perfectly in His letter to the Romans.


Romans 7:12 esv

"12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good."


YHVH brings the people from Egypt to the mountain and gives them His instructions, the Torah, then leads them to the land He promised their forefathers. During this journey God is extracting the "Egypt" out of His people and truly setting them apart for Himself. Part of that separating process was revealing His ways and instructions to the Israelites and teaching them how to walk in them. We cannot forget during this wilderness experience they had to rely on God for everything. They witnessed Him doing amazing things on their behalf, yet the people still longed for bondage. In Egypt they had everything the needed, and they longed for the ease of their bondage because the pruning they were experiencing was painful. However, in the wilderness they were being taught how to trust YHVH and follow His ways. It is in the wilderness God was teaching them, and likewise teaches us, how to lay down the kingdoms we have built for ourselves and learn to walk in and multiply His kingdom. Deuteronomy 8:1-6 esv

"“1 The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him."


You may be thinking just now, "yeah, well that's all great, but all that Old Testament stuff doesn't apply to me." Think again, Yeshua models this exact same system in the New Testament. Remember, He called the disciples to leave everything they had built for themselves and follow Him. They left their income, their lives, their families, their previous ideas about God, and the teachings of their Rabbis to follow the Son of God, Yeshua. What did Yeshua teach them? He taught them His Father's commands, and told them to do the same.


John 12:44-50 esv

"44 And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”


Yeshua/Jesus only taught the commands of the Father. Those who truly believe in Him, follow and obey Him, and they too will walk in light just as Yeshua walked in light. You see, we cannot follow our own will and God's will at the same time, one of them has to go. If we truly want to be that city on a hill as Yeshua talks about in Matthew 5, then we must relinquish our lives to Him and trust the process as He prunes and refines us in the wilderness just like He did with the Israelites. He called His disciples out, He calls you out as well.


Matthew 10:34-39 esv

"34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."


Matthew 16:24-27 esv

"24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done."


The apostles understood this reality as well as they sought to bring understanding to the believers who had come to trust in Yeshua as their Messiah.

Colossians 3:5-10 esv

"5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator."


Romans 12:1-2 esv

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."


2 Corinthians 6:14-18 esv

"14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”


Hebrews 11:23-26 esv

"23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward."

1 Peter 4:1-6 esv

"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does."


True holiness requires completely renouncing everything within us that is of "Egypt" and all its provision and worldly grander, but this transformation is costly. In some form or fashion it will require a wilderness journey, a complete separation from all we once trusted in to save us, where we learn to trust and follow the Father of lights and His ways. The city on a hill doesn't get there by crawling down into the valley of darkness. If you, or I, or anyone else desires a life of true holiness, it will cost us our own defective version of truth, and it will cost us our own will and self-established kingdoms. We must fall at the feet of the Savior, Yeshua, repent of our own ways and knowledge, amend our deeds, and follow Him with our entire being.

 

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