Let Your Light Shine
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
(Matthew 5:14-16) NASB
Many of us have heard this verse countless times within the space of our Christian lives, but we often don't have a proper understanding of what it means to "let your light shine". It doesn't mean, necessarily, that you are always happy; neither does it mean that you are always singing--though that may be part of it. It has to do with you proclaiming Jesus Christ in all that you do. Jesus is the one who is the True Light:
"In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man."
Jesus is the True Light. Why? Because "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all". (1John 1:5) The world does not want the Light to shine though. In fact, it will actively seek to snuff it out.
""For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."
Nevertheless, it is your role as a Christian to reflect to glory of Christ in all that you do. Sometimes it is how you deal with hardships, and other times it involves the difficult and culturally unacceptable task of telling others that they are wrong in either their beliefs or practices.
"Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;"
Many today believe the false notion that the best way to reach out to the world and be a witness is to participate in the same practices and pass-times as them. Whether it be movies, music, or hobbies, etc., those who hold to this ideology believe that in order to reach the world you must be like the world. "Don't rock the boat." "Don't be too radical!" "Don't be a fanatic!"
The question must be asked though: If you're not different than them, and you aren't obsessed with Jesus, then how can you rightly say that you are different than them? In speaking about a man's riches, pleasures, indulgences, and recognitions, William Law said this, "And yet if Christianity has not changed a man's mind and attitude with relation to these things, what can we say that it has done for him? For if the doctrines of Christianity were practiced, they would make a man as different from other people as a civilized man is different from a savage. If the doctrines of Christianity were practiced, it would be as easy a thing to know a Christian by the outward course of his life as it is now difficult to find a person who lives the Christian life." (from A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life)
Think about that statement. If a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ, then they would be gradually growing to be more like Him. This is exactly what the scriptures tell us"...but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15). This is the light that you are to shine: a devoted love and committment to the teachings and ways and salvation in Christ Jesus.
We are told that "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12) According to Jesus, you are not walking in darkness. That means that you are not of this world and do not belong to its system, ways, or habits.
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14)
If you are to shine your light, then make sure that you actually are in the light.
"If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:6-7)
The only way to shine a light at all is to follow Jesus with all your heart. Give everything in your life Jesus, and follow His ways instead of your own. Ignore the pull of the world to conform to it, and ignore the cry of your flesh to satisfy it. Commit to Jesus, and He will let His light shine in and through you.