One phrase I frequently pray is, “Thank you for bringing us from darkness into light.” It’s an incredible blessing that each believer partakes of. Without God the Father drawing us to His Son, the Light of the world, we wouldn’t even know the world around us is in darkness.
Do we really understand and value this light, though? And, equally important, do we live in the light now that we’ve been called to follow the Light?
It’s not a popular thing in today’s society to make distinctions between right and wrong, holy and profane, light and darkness. But that’s something we must do because it is something God does. We have to know the difference between light and darkness so that we can choose the light and live in relationship with God.
Confusing Light and Dark Hurts God
When we read the phrase “woe to those who ___” it seems like a scary, sobering pronouncement. It means great sorrow or distress, which is what comes on those who forsake God. Hebrew carries another shade of meaning as well. “Woe” is hoy (H1945), which is an exclamation like ah! alas! ha! O! In the sort of context we’re looking at today, we can read this word as a cry of grief and despair from God at seeing the evil His people are doing that’s leading them away from the light.
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! (Is. 5:20-21, WEB)
God has good reason to exclaim hoy! over these people, for He knows what happens to those who “have rejected the law of Yahweh of Armies, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel” (Is. 5:24). Spoilers: it’s not pretty.
Those who can’t tell the difference between good and evil, light and darkness, are consumed in the Lord’s anger (v. 24-25). And not just in the Old Testament. Hebrews says that for those who willfully choose darkness, there is “a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which will devour the adversaries” (Heb. 10:27, see v. 24-31).
We must do things differently than those in darkness, having “grace, through which we serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29, WEB). Our respect for God should be high enough that we don’t insult Him by choosing darkness over light or getting the two confused.
Walking in Light Means Following Jesus
Our character is proven by the choices we make between light and darkness. This has been true for all God’s people for thousands of years.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore choose life, that you may live, you and your descendants, to love Yahweh your God, to obey his voice, and to cling to him; for he is your life, and the length of your days (Deut. 30:19-20, WEB)
Choosing life always means choosing to walk in God’s light. In the Old Testament, that involved conforming to the Torah. In the New Testament, it involves conforming to Jesus. Since the cross, there’s been a shift in the way God relates to us that enables us to walk in the light more fully. The law is important, but it couldn’t make us righteous. Only Jesus and His sacrifice could do that. And now because we are washed clean in His blood, we can have a closer relationship with the Light than ever before.
Again, therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, WEB)
John also tells us at the beginning of his gospel that in Jesus “was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4, WEB). Today, a light-defined life is one lived in Jesus the Messiah. Choosing life involves choosing to follow Him in every aspect of our lives.
Be Light Inside and Out
When we believe in and follow the Light, we become children of light. Through Jesus, we have the opportunity to walk in the light of God’s way of life fully, having no fellowship with darkness.
For you were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth, proving what is well pleasing to the Lord. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather even reprove them. (Eph. 5:8-11, WEB)
Many teach that because we are (in Paul’s words) “not under the law,” that means we can do whatever we want with no regard for what God says is and is not right. But that’s far from being the case. We do not rely on the law for justification, but we are meant to align our lives with the Lawgiver. When we begin a relationship with Jesus, we enter a covenant with the God family that involves Their law being written on our hearts.
Being in Christ means following Him in the light, which involves taking on the character traits of God. In the New Covenant, we end up keeping the law more fully because it’s now on a spiritual level and we keep all God’s commands by living in His love (Rom. 7:6; 13:8-10). God wants us full of light on the inside as well as walking in the light on the outside.
Asking for More Light
If you want a more detailed list of works of the flesh/darkness and works of the spirit/light, you can find one in Galatians 5:17-26. In God’s mind (and therefore Paul’s writings) there is a very clear distinction between traits that are acceptable for those following God and traits that are not. We must stop living in or with darkness and walk as children of light. It’s essential in order to have a relationship with the Father and the Messiah, Jesus.
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7, WEB)
In order to have a relationship with God, we need to know the difference between light and darkness, and then choose light. Walking in light is part of being like God. Thankfully, He hasn’t left us in the dark regarding how to walk in His light.
Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path. … The entrance of your words gives light. It gives understanding to the simple. (Psalm 119: 105, 130 WEB)
If we want to know the difference between light and darkness, we just need to look in the word of God (preserved for us through scripture) and ask the Light of the world (Jesus Christ) to shine into our minds. He will enable you to choose light over darkness and grow ever closer to being like God.
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