* * * *
“And when the people were gathered thick together. He began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of Man be to this generation. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas, and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light. The light of the body is the eye, therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, die whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light”—Luke 11:29-36.
* * * *
We are taught throughout the Word of God that our responsibility depends upon the light that God graciously gives us. The other day a young soldier wrote me from far-off New Guinea. He said, “I never in my life realized the true condition of the heathen until I got down here in New Guinea.” He told me that he had gone out among the raw heathen who had never heard of Christ or known anything about the gospel. He said it is awfully hard to believe that these men are going to be lost because of their ignorance. *’I can’t understand it. Have you anything that would help to cast light on this problem?” he asked. One can turn only to the Word of God for light; there is none to be found anywhere else. In the book of Job (34:23) we read definitely that God will not lay upon any man more than is right. In the day of judgment He will deal righteously. We are taught that, “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” In the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans we read that paganism is not a step upward in the evolution of religion as many try to make it appear, but it is a definite declension. It is a degradation; it is a condition into which men have fallen, because of having turned away from the light which they once had. Man did not begin as a pagan, reaching up out of the darkness and seeking after God. He began with a full, clear revelation of God. In the beginning all men had the truth of the one living God. But many do not like to face that knowledge today; they do not like to realize that they have to do with God and that He is infinitely holy and righteous. This was so in the past ages when men turned away from the truth because they did not like to retain the knowledge of God.
In that first chapter of Romans we get the expressions, “God gave them up” and “God gave them over,” four times. Why? Because they gave Him up; they turned away from Him. They refused to walk in the light He had given them, and so He gave them up to darkness. But even today, although men are in darkness, everyone has a conscience. Every man knows something of right and wrong. His own conscience tells him he should love his fellowmen; that he should be pure, and kind, and true. But instead of that, men turn away from God and become impure, unkind, and untruthful; and all the time their consciences are convicting them of wrongdoing. In the day of judgment God is going to deal with men according to the light they have had and the light they have rejected. He will not cast the heathen into hell-fire simply because they never knew and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ when nobody carried the message to them; but the heathen are lost because of their own sin, because of their own wickedness, the vileness of which they are guilty. Thank God, “the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” That is where our responsibility comes in. We are to go to them and tell them how they may be saved. But let us suppose there is a heathen man living in darkness who wants to know the right way, who wants to be right before God; then I dare to say and believe that God will make Himself responsible to give him light enough to be saved. We may be sure that God will never allow a man to be lost who desires to be saved; He will give him light in some way or another.
But we at home need to be concerned about ourselves. We who have heard the gospel and have had the knowledge of Christ, we who know what our responsibility is, who have heard it all through the years, yet have done nothing about it! When our Lord Jesus was here on earth, those to whom the revelation of the Old Testament had been given came to Him wanting to see a sign from Him. They had a sign. They had the Bible. They should have known who Jesus was; they should have known when the Messiah was to come, and where He was to be born, and what kind of personality He would be. Though professing to believe the Bible, they did not search the Scriptures to find out whether or not Christ was the Son of God. They said, rather, “We would see a sign from heaven,” a sign to gratify their curiosity.
I can remember when I was a lad, deeply concerned about my own soul, I read in my Bible of angels appearing to men, and I went to my room, closed the door and said, “O God, if You will only send an angel to me to reveal things to me I will be saved.” But no angel appeared, and I am glad of it now. Instead of sending an angel He sent me back to His Word, and not long after, through the Word, I was saved. Just as these Jews came to Jesus seeking a sign, so many in our generation seek a sign. It is the evidence of our unbelief and unwillingness to rest on His simple promise. Jesus said, “There shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet, for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea-monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” In other words, the sign that was to be given was that of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. Alas, many people still come seeking for a sign, refusing to believe in the risen Saviour in the face of the evidence of the empty tomb. He said that the Queen of the South, that is, of Sheba, who came to hear the famous Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, “shall rise up in the day of judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here.” Sheba’s queen dwelt a long way from Jerusalem, but she had a hungry heart, and she was anxious to know the truth of God. She had heard that there was a great king in Jerusalem to whom great wisdom had been given, and who knew the true God and would be able to answer her questions and solve her problems. So she, at great cost to herself, came to Jerusalem, and when she met Solomon and communed with him, she was so stirred that she said, “The half hath not been told me.” The Lord Jesus said in the day of judgment Sheba’s queen will rise up against the men and women who have had every opportunity to know God, to know the truth, to know Christ, and yet they do not avail themselves of their privileges. In the day of judgment, if you who are living in a Christian land, go on as you are, you who have heard the gospel read and expounded from babyhood and yet have never opened your heart to Jesus Christ—if you go into eternity like that, how terrible it will be when you see standing beside the Son of God, the Queen of Sheba who gave so much to hear the truth. She will point her finger at you and say, “If only I had lived when you lived and had your opportunities how gladly would I have availed myself of them.” It is a terrible mistake to sin against the light that God gives us.
Then our Lord Jesus said to the self-righteous Jews, that in the day of judgment, “The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas, and behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” Many men reject the story of Jonas, and some who even stand at the sacred desk in our churches would cast out this story as false; but our Lord Jesus, God manifested in the flesh, said that as Jonas was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea-monster, He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Thus He has placed His seal of authority upon that little Old Testament book which has been rejected and ridiculed by agnostics throughout the centuries. Jesus knew Jonas, and Jesus knew the men of Nineveh, and it is recorded that the men of Nineveh repented. Think of facing the men of Nineveh and having them look at you and say, “You had so many privileges and opportunities and yet you spurned them. We believed the first message from God that we ever heard. We believed the first time a prophet came to proclaim the divine truth, and God had mercy on us and saved us; but you have heard the Word expounded over and over again, and you turned away because of your love for the world. You were more concerned about gratifying your natural desires on earth than about obtaining a holy home in heaven.” The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented, and you have repented not. God grant that you may repent today and say to Him, “I have heard the Word so many times. I have had so much light; yet I have gone far from it; I have walked in darkness. Now I come confessing my sins and trusting Thy Son.”
When we receive light then we are responsible to pass it on to others. Our Saviour gave the parable of the lighted candle, “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.” If I have received light from heaven I am not to hide my light under a bed or a bushel or in a secret place. I am not to allow anything in my domestic life or in mgr business to hinder me from shining for God. Wherever I am and whatever my circumstances, I am responsible to pass on to others the light which He has given to me. Let us face this very seriously, my Christian brethren and sisters. Are we allowing anything in our behavior which is dimming the light? How about our next-door neighbors? Do they believe in our Christian profession, or is our light so hidden that they cannot see it, and do not even know that we are Christians?
I once knew a man who was going away for the summer to cut timber, and expected to be back in the fall. I said to him, “You will find yourself among the ungodly, and may the Lord help you to stand firm in your testimony.” He said he would be all right. He came back after three months. I said, “I am g]ad to see you. How did you get along this summer; did you find any other Christians there?” He said, “I was the only one, but I did not have any difficulty with the unsaved men. As a matter-of-fact, I managed to keep it so quiet that no one ever found out that I was a Christian.” That is hiding your light, and that is the very thing the Lord tells us we are not to do. If I know Christ as my Saviour, instead of keeping quiet about it I am to speak for Him, speaking not only with my lips but with my life as well. If lips and life do not agree, the testimony will not amount to much.
The Saviour uses another beautiful illustration: “The light of the body is the eye.” Therefore when my eye is single (“single” really means “sound”), that is, when it is healthy, the whole body is full of light. My feet do not have any eyes, but my feet know where to go if I have sound eyes; my hands do not have eyes, but my hands know how to perform aright if I have sound eyes. If I have sound eyes my whole body is full of light. On the other hand, if my eye is evil, that is, if the eye is diseased, then the whole body is full of darkness. When my eye is diseased I cannot see where to go, and I do not know how to use my hands; I need someone to direct me all the time. As Christians we are to have a single, or sound, eye. We will keep our eyes fixed on Christ when the eye is sound.
“When my eyes are fixed on Jesus
I lose sight of all beside;
So enchained my spirit’s vision,
Gazing at the Crucified.”
When I am occupied with Him I have no difficulty finding my way through this world and doing that which He would have me do, but I need to be careful lest something come to spoil my eyesight. It is so easy to fall into habits that lead to moral darkness, or take up with things that will darken the spiritual eyesight. Give attention to God’s Word; cultivate the desire to read the Word of God. Nothing will kill the desire to read the Word of God so much as the habit of reading the trashy literature that prevails in so many places today. You cannot get spiritual light in this manner. People say, “I read my Bible, but I do not get much out of it.” The reason is that the eye is not sound; it has become dull, partially blinded and occupied with things that are opposed to the truth of God and the Holy Spirit who dwells within you. If, on the other hand, your eye be sound then your whole body will be sound, having no part darkness. So our blessed Lord stresses firmly the importance of walking in the light that He gives. Think of the responsibility of those who have already come to God in Christ, to pass that light on to others, and to so live before God that they will always have clear vision themselves to do what the Lord would have them do. If you have not received the light of life, if you have never trusted Christ as your Saviour, oh, I warn you, be careful! All men by nature are in darkness, but there is something worse than that. When you refuse the light that is offered you the darkness becomes far more serious than that darkness in which you were born. We read, “Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.” That is wilful darkness. If men persist in going on in darkness, turning their backs to the light, the day may come when God will give them up to judicial darkness. In Jeremiah 13:16 we read, “Give glory onto the Lord your God before He cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and while ye look for light, He turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.” If you persist in loving darkness rather than light God may some day say, “If you want the darkness you may have it,” and you will enter into the darkness forever. That is the doom of those who have refused the light— eternal darkness!