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Dec 17, 2017

Light of the World

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Light In the Darkness: Christmas 2017

Keywords: fingerprints of god, goodness, gospel, light, nature of god, righteousness, truth, witness

Summary:

This second of three Christmas messages about "Light in the Darkness" deals with what the Bible has to say about light, everything from physical to spiritual light. What does it mean that we are called to be, like Jesus, "the light of the world"?

Detail:

Light of the World

Christmas 2017, #2

December 17, 2017

 

REVIEW:  John 15:7—If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask what you wish and it will be given you. 

INTRO:  Interview Dan Croskrey, our resident astronomer. 

Questions:

  1. Physically speaking, what is light?It is energy in the form of electromagnetic waves.  It is virtually the same kind of energy as radio waves, microwaves, infrared light, ultraviolet light, x-rays and gamma rays.  Visible light occupies a very tiny slice of the entire electromagnetic spectrum.  This energy has a number of properties that can be measured, including intensity, direction of travel, wave length and polarization.
  2. What does it mean that photons are a physical property but have no mass?To describe light to the current limit of our understanding requires a solid grasp of quantum mechanics, an endeavor that I have chosen to postpone until I am far smarter than I am right now.  The simple answer is that light is energy which is emitted and absorbed in tiny "packets" called photons and therefor exhibits certain properties of matter as well.  Dictionary.com defines a photon as "a quantum of electromagnetic radiation, usually considered as an elementary particle that is its own antiparticle and that has zero rest mass and charge and a spin of one".  The fact that light energy also acts like matter is a mystery to me.
  3. How does light behave? Naughty or nice?J The same in all situations?  What other things affect light?  Our universe consists of matter, energy, space and time.  These four building blocks are governed by the laws of nature which dictate the manner in which they interact.  We all know that light travels at approximately 186,000 miles per second...   in the vacuum of outer space.  Light interacts with matter.  It does not travel through opaque objects.  It slows down when it encounters translucent or transparent objects.  It can be reflected, refracted, scattered and bent.  Sunlight contains a myriad of wavelengths, each of which represents a specific color.  These colors are separated by refraction through water droplets to create the rainbows that we all enjoy.  I would put light on the nice list!
  4. What are some of the more interesting things you have learned as an astronomer about light?Gravitational lensing and Einstein's relativity are near the top of the list.  The most fascinating thing that I have learned through astronomy is that by studying light from distant objects we observe events that occurred in the past.  Since light travels at a finite speed, it takes a finite amount of time to reach our eyes.  Sunlight, for instance, takes about eight and a half minutes to reach Earth.  So, when we study sunlight (which must be done with special filters), we see the Sun as is was about eight and a half minutes ago.  This gives us the opportunity to directly witness events that occurred some time ago.  What we have discovered is that our universe, in it's entirety, began to exist at some finite point in the distant past.  Now, most of you already knew that, right?  My point is that we now have irrefutable evidence that strongly supports the Genesis account of creation!  Atheist astronomers remain atheist, not because of a lack of evidence but because, by their own admission, they don't want to be accountable to a higher power, specifically, the God of the Bible!
  5. When and where is the best time to study light in our universe?Right next to your favorite astronomer, any time that he or she is near their eyepiece!  The best place in the universe is the cold darkness of outer space.  The best time and place on Earth is the middle of the night in the darkest place that you can find.
  6. Where does light come from?Photons are generated by the change of the orbital level of electrons.  I'm sure that you recall that electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom in discreet levels, specific distances from the nucleus.  These levels represent a specific amount of energy.  Electrons move to the next higher energy level when they absorb enough additional energy.  A photon is emitted when an excited electron falls back to a lower energy level.

Light is amazing!  Like darkness, the Word of God presents light as a created thing.  It hasn’t always existed.  Physical light was brought into existence at the beginning of the universe and the beginning of time as we know it. 

Genesis 1:3 tells us, “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” 

            So how are we supposed to make sense of the parallel biblical truth that “God is light”?  If you were listening carefully last week, I gave you the answer to that.  =

The Apostle John wrote in I John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”  John is using light metaphorically as many biblical passages do.  Light is synonymous with holiness, goodness and moral perfection just as darkness in many passages is synonymous with evil and all that is contrary to God’s perfect nature.  God is not some physical, created entity we call photons.  But morally He is perfectly pure. 

Last week we talked about how God uses darkness to accomplish a number of things.  What were they?  Thinking both physically and spiritually/morally/emotionally/etc…

  • Darkness hides God from us but it does not keep Him from being present in it.
  • It puts us in a place where we are different and God may be experienced differently.
  • It is distinct from God but used by God.
  • He can and does deliver us from darkness. (Daily…seasonally …personally, relationally, emotionally, etc.)

So let’s take a look at the different ways “light” is presented in the Scriptures. 

  1. Light = Physical light

Of the roughly 70 times the N.T. uses the Greek word phos meaning “light,” about 10% of them are references to physical light either of a lamp, a star, the sun or some other natural light source. 

When it comes to physical light and God’s dealing with us as people, I just have a couple of observations. 

  • Physical light, as Dan has mentioned, is one of the stronger “fingerprints of God” on the universe. God could have created the entire creation without light. He already made animals who exist without sight so the “seeing” part of light isn’t a creation requirement.  He could have created something other than plants that require photosynthesis or animals that live off of plants. But he didn’t.  Instead, he chose to create light as probably THE most important singular thing in the universe necessary to sustain plant, animal and human life as we know it. 

It is also a reminder of who He is and what He does.  Light itself immitates so much of what God does:

  • It cleanses and purifies. (Tomato-stained plastic bowls or clothes put in the sun bleach clean.)  Our God is constantly in the business of cleansing and healing both the physical and spiritual realities of life.
  • Light heals. Vitamin D is one of the most essential components of the human immune system. I started taking it about 2 years ago at the suggestion of our family physician and I’ll tell you, it has had a dramatic positive impact on my immune system.    
  • It illuminates the otherwise unseen. Things could exist in total darkness, at least inanimate things, and we might never know it. (EX: “Dark matter” we discussed last week.) God would have had to make a different creation if he hadn’t created light.  God could have made us all blind as bats.  But then He would have had to make insects that don’t need light for us to eat.  I’m sure He could have done that, too.   But sight without light would be useless.  So God created sight and light so that we would be reminded most of our life, millions of times a day, and particularly when we saw a sunrise or sunset, a fresh snowfall, a child’s face, the stars at night…that all creation shouts about the power, majesty, creativity, beauty and much more of God. 
  • Light moves along at full “light speed”—186,282.4 miles per second—only in a vacuum. In the dense matrix of a diamond, it slows to just 77,500 miles per second. Speaking of diamonds, diamonds are the Afghanistan of gemstones: Any entering photon quickly gets bogged down. It takes a lot of pinging back and forth in a thicket of carbon atoms to find an exit. This action is what gives diamonds their dazzling sparkle.  Might this speak of the fact that God is a god of action and movement, always “at work” doing something good?
    • Eyeglasses can correct vision because light changes speed when it passes from air to a glass or plastic lens; this causes the rays to bend.
  • Visible light makes up less than one ten-billionth of the electromagnetic spectrum, which stretches from radio waves to gamma That means that we are almost blind when it comes to how much light we can actually “see” with our naked eyes.  Might this not be a reminder that what we can perceive of God and all eternal reality is but a minute fraction of what actually will and does exist beyond the human senses?  [http://discovermagazine.com/2010/mar/20-things-you-didnt-know-about-light]

Just like the plant and animal kingdoms and just like many things in our physical universe, physical light carries within it messages from God about God.  They are incomplete messages.  They are muted and distorted messages.  But to any soul who is hungry for a connection with God, they carry messages that can help us connect to Him.  So enjoy the light!

  1. Light is figuratively and literally associated with the nature and presence of God.

Let’s start looking at this from the end of the N.T. backwards. 

  • 21:23—Speaking of the New Jerusalem, John writes, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” Light is viewed here as something that comes from Jesus Christ (the Lamb) and the “glory of God.”  God’s glory is simply his the visible splendor of his invisible nature.  God’s presence in eternity will be what actually provides illuminating and sustaining light to the new heaven and earth.  There is this quasi-physical connection between light (at least in eternity) and the presence of God himself.  That kind of light will actually flow from the essence of God and give vision, life and visibility to the new heaven and earth.
  • Paul tells us in I Timothy 6:16 that God “lives in unapproachable light.” Speaking about “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time…” Paul goes on to describe God—“God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords,16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.” 

But haven’t humans seen God (Adam & Eve, Moses, Ezekiel, Daniel, Apostles)? 

I believe he is talking about mortal people who live in a sinful world and are still sinners cannot be in the “unfiltered” presence of God’s blazing glory.  It would not only blind us but obliterate us.  To ask God to reveal himself to us in this life in all his glory is to ask for a death sentence. 

  • Peter, James and John experienced this intersection of divine glory and physical light on the Mount of Transfiguration. Matthew 17:2-- After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 

Only when God has completely sanctified and glorified us to our immortal state will we be able to encounter this unfiltered presence of God and not die.  The Bible speaks of specific aspects of God’s nature related to light. 

This intersection between physical light and God’s presence occurs throughout the Bible. 

  • The same happened to Saul in Acts 9 while on the way to persecute, imprison and kill Christians in Damascus. He encountered the glory of Jesus in person and was literally blinded by that light. Listen to his own account of it years later, before King Agrippa, as recorded in Acts 26.

12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

            So God gives Saul a life-altering experience with the light of His presence.  It was something everyone saw at the time, but it’s effect was particular to Saul.  We keep reading:

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’  “ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

            This account doesn’t talk about the 3-day effect of Paul’s vision when he encountered Christ.  But Acts 9 does.

Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 

For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

ILL:  We all know what it’s like to look at something extremely bright.  What happens to your vision?  (Everything goes blank and all you see is the bright outline of whatever it was you were looking at imprinted on your retina.)

            Don’t know if that’s what happened to Saul and he had that imprint of Christ speaking with him for 3 days or whether it was 3 days of darkness.  Either way, what do you think God was trying to teach him about Himself, Paul’s calling and future ministry, the lost in the world through the light, the darkness, the blindness and then the message that he, Paul, would “open the eyes” of the Gentiles and “turn them from darkness to light”? 

  • That the church was the presence of Christ in his world. That doing damage to the church was, to God, the same as physically doing damage to Jesus Christ.
  • The need to have God lift/cure his own darkness.
  • The power of God to do just that.
  • The reality of the darkness people without Jesus were in unless they encountered the light of Christ.
  • That bringing Christ to people was the same as bringing light to a dark world.

Which brings us to our third truth about light in the Bible:

  1. Light is figuratively associated with the Gospel.  (2 Cor. 4:4; 2 Tim. 1:10).  Look at 2 Corinthians 4:

2 Corinthians 4:4—“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

The Gospel is like a spotlight of God’s grace piercing the dark theater of human existence that shines upon the souls of human beings acting out their lives.  It illuminates our sin and neediness before a holy God while at the same time “turning the lights on” to God’s forgiveness, grace and offer of Himself through Jesus Christ. 

Q:  Do you remember the day/chapter in your life when God ‘turned the light on’ spiritually for you through the Gospel? 

WHO shared the light of the Gospel with you?  Thank God for them right now!

This is the power we have in our tongues when we speak about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There is something divinely powerful about the simple Gospel.  (Which is one reason why Satan does everything in his power to silence us from sharing it.)

There is another very interesting correlation between God’s nature & light and our nature & light. 

  1. Both God and His children have a unique role as spiritual light in this world.

When Jesus walked this earth, God tells us that HE was “the light of the world” (Jn. 8:12).  This is obviously speaking in spiritual, not physical terms.  Jesus didn’t replace the sun.  But he did bring spiritual illumination to the world by being God-in-human-flesh. Jesus again affirmed that in John 9:5 saying, While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  John introduced that truth in John 1:5 identifies Jesus as “The light [that] shines in the darkness” of this world, the spiritual darkness.  And thankfully, “the darkness has not overcome it.”

            So what happened to that light of God in our world when Jesus went back to heaven after His resurrection?  In John 12:36 Jesus said, “Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” Here is the process by which God has chosen to continue His light in this world.  It’s YOU!  It’s all of us who have “believed” in Jesus by faith.

            Jesus talked about your importance in this dark world when he gave the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:14ff--“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Ephesians 5:8, 9-- For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)….”

So now the way this spiritual light that helps people see spiritual realities about God, life, people, etc. gets disseminated in this world is…surprise, surprise…US!  As we live “as children of light,” displaying the spiritual family traits of God’s nature, our world literally experiences the light of God.  Instead of Jesus himself showing a few people in Israel of old the light of spiritual realities in life, millions of us who know him personally as Lord and Savior now are THE VERY SAME LIGHT that God wants to illuminate this world. 

But we are only that as we actually live out the life of Jesus, the same qualities of Christ that have attracted people to God in Christ for 2,000 years.   That’s “the fruit of the light” that Paul mentions here.  He calls it by name: “… the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth.”  Those are absolute qualities of God.  He is perfect goodness, perfect righteousness and perfect truth.  We, unfortunately are a mixture of both that light of Christ and our sinful flesh’s darkness. 

To the degree that I am walking in Christ’s nature, to that degree the world around me gets to see the light of God.  But when I falter, when I step back into my old nature and process life in the flesh or just concern myself with what I think helps me, the power supply of God’s life-giving energy gets interrupted.  God’s light wattage goes from a 100 watt experience to a weak night-light experience where people can barely see God’s light in me.

Think just a moment longer about those three characteristics of “the fruit of the light.” 

  1. Goodness: doing God’s good to others. This is why we put so much emphasis at Mosaic on ministry, on being part of a serving team.  You may be a really “good person.”  But the proof of that “goodness” is action, not declaration. It’s doing good, not thinking about doing good.  Don’t settle for what most of “the church” in America settles for:  going to a building once a week to be entertained by music, stories and coffee, and going home thinking that has made me like Christ.  We become like Jesus as we actually become a Jesus-like servant of people displaying the goodness of Christ. 

APP:  When did you serve others this week?  Today?  When did you engage in good towards others in ways that built them up and illuminated their path to God?    

Going forward:  Where do you plan to “practice goodness” this week?  When you pass the Salvation Army kettle while Christmas shopping?  When you come to prayer meeting and pray for other people?  When you take someone to a doctor’s apt or visit a lonely person in the hospital?  How about practicing goodness weekly by serving food to YFC youth on Wed. or Thur. nights? 

Goodness is “love in action.” It is “light” turned on!   It is the opposite of selfishness or apathy towards the needs of others. Like Christ, who is the light, we’ll have to go out of our way to serve the needs of the world, both believers and lost people.

Are you bearing the fruit of goodness…or are you cultivating apathy and selfishness?  It’s finding a need and meeting it. 

  1. Righteousness: this deals more with the motivations and moral drive that leads to moral thoughts, decisions and actions. Righteousness is absolutely impossible apart from Christ.  This isn’t just looking good to everyone around us.  This is being good before God who knows our every thought, daydream, plan and emotion.  It is allowing the light of Christ to scour every nook and cranny of our inner being so that everything that pours out of the windows and doors of our soul is healthy and upright.   

ILL:  We’re seeing Hollywood, the media, politicians, even the church implode before our eyes because of a lack of righteousness today.  Actors and politicians who helped young men and women get parts and internships and jobs looked like they were good people…until they started asking for sexual favors or demanding them with their actions.  Priests and pastors who looked like they were counseling and helping youth or women were really grooming them for sexual exploitation.

            Without being dominated by the Holy Spirit, we will not illuminate a dark world morally.  Too many times we, the church, verbally demand that the world hold to God’s moral standards and then turn around and fail to live those same standards out ourselves. 

  • As we call our culture out of sexual confusion, are we harboring sexual impurity in our own thoughts and lives?
  • As we call our culture to civil discourse, are we speaking civilly in our homes and work places?
  • As we send Christmas cards that proclaim “peace on earth,” are we growing in the peace of Christ and bringing peace to the conflict and chaos in our homes, streets, schools, businesses and churches?   

Growing believers practice a fresh, growing lifestyle of righteousness from the inside out.

Lastly…

The fruit of a life lived in the light of God will be…

  1. Truth: understanding life accurately from God’s perspective.

Truth has to do with honesty, reliability, trustworthiness, and integrity—in contrast to the hypocritical, deceptive, and false ways of the old life of darkness.  Here, again, is where the Word of God is absolutely essential as are the people of God

  1. God’s Word is light:

Ps. 119:105--God’s  word is “a lamp to my  feet and a light to my path.”

Psalm 119:130—The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”

  1. God’s people illuminate the truth to us.

This is why we are placed in a body of believers.  We really need people who see life differently than we do so they can shine God’s light on our blind spots.

APP:  The need for mentoring, for man-to-man and woman-to-woman wise counsel. 

I must be particularly slow in this department because God has put me in 2 different groups of very wise and good men:  Thur. a.m. Pastors’ Group and Fri. a.m. Peer Group.  (Now I know why I used to see older retired guys sitting around having breakfast together at Denny’s or something.)  There is something tremendously enriching, encouraging, revealing and helpful to get input from other seasoned believers.  I’ve never really found a substitute for that at any season of my life.  The times it was missing, I ended up struggling alone and failing a lot more than when I had that “light.” 

ILL: 

  • President’s Group of guys at Multnomah.
  • Struggled in Spain without it.
  • Had it off-and-on at 1st pastorate here in Spokane. Really helped with Joe W. and Woody G.  Really struggled without them.
  • Have been deeply blessed the entire time here at Mosaic with the previously-mentioned 2 groups.

APP:  What are you doing to have the Word of God regularly and meaningfully illuminate your path with truth? 

  • Radio/podcast teachings?
  • Daily devotional readings?
  • ???

What are you doing regularly to have the truth of wise people illuminating your path? 

  • Home group that gets to the heart and doesn’t dance around the hard stuff?
  • Same-sex groups?
  • Mentoring relationships? (Couples, marriage, life, etc.)

CLOSE:  The beauty of the physical light God makes every day.  Imagine the beauty of spiritual light he wants to make in and through us every day! 

Invite Him to do a fresh, moving, living work of light in and through you as you watch this. 

YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6zR2T9vn2c from 1:56-3:44.