Shine! Let the Light Come Into Your Life

The word began with darkness overcome by light. Millenia after that, Light once again entered a world that had become dark and chaotic to start another great transformation–a recreation that will ultimately result in God’s kingdom being fully present here on earth. The opening sections of Genesis and John’s gospel both describe God as an active creator bringing light into darkness, and they talk about that action as profoundly meaningful. The contrast between light and darkness, and God’s role as Light, is mentioned again and again in scripture from psalmists and prophets to New Testament letter writers.

If you’ve ever had the power go out at night and couldn’t find a candle or flashlight, or been in a cave and turned out the lights to experience the profound blackness of being underground, then you know what a relief it can be to have light suddenly available when you’d been in darkness. But you might also know that light can hurt, such as when you step outside into blindingly bright sunlight or you’ve been half-dozing in a dark room and someone walks in and flips the light switch. In many ways, this is also how Light works on a spiritual level. We’ve all been in spiritual darkness, some longer or darker than others but all characterized by a separation from God. He’s in the business of bringing light to darkness, though, and when He enters our lives with Light it can be a relief, a shock, or both.

“Let There Be Light”

In the beginning there was formless emptiness, darkness, and chaos. Then God said, “Let there be light.” There’s depth to that phrase even in English, and it gets a whole lot deeper when we look at the Hebrew. First, right before God calls light into existence, the Hebrew word used in the creation story for water changes from “watery deep” (tehom, chaotic abyss, salty ocean) to “water” (mayim, general word for life-giving water). Then, “the first thing God does is correct the darkness; without light there is only chaos” (NET footnotes on Gen. 1:1-3). There’s also wordplay in the Hebrew so that “let there be” expresses “both the calling into existence and the complete fulfilling of the divine word” (NET). It’s a profound transformation accomplished by God speaking Light.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. The Word was with God in the beginning. All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.

A man came, sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that everyone might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

John 1:1-9, NET

Light and dark, order and chaos, life and death. The contrasts are sharp between what God offers and any other option available in this world. And just like God spoke light into existence at the beginning, so He’s offering to speak light into our lives today. The Word–the Light–“took up residence among us,” and those who come to Him will be God’s children (John 1:10-14). That’s just as true now as it was for all of Bible history.

Children of Light

One of the most well-known passages in the Bible is John 3:16. Keep reading after that verse, and Jesus talks about how He was sent to save the world and that people are condemned (or not) based on whether they believe in Him (John 3:16-18). Then, He talks about light.

Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God.

John 3:19-21, NET

When I read this, I think of that fantasy/sci-fi trope of having nasty, skulking, dangerous creatures that want to eat you being unable to walk in sunlight (think vampires, fyrnocks from Star Wars Rebels, and Tolkein’s goblins). Light can be scary and even painful for the sort of people we are apart from God. Even after we’ve started following God, I dare say most of us have felt that urge to shy away from His light and try to hide the more shameful parts of ourselves. But even if we’re scared, deep down the truest version of ourselves is not the sort of thing that light kills. God’s light only burns away the things that don’t fit with who we’re truly meant to be–people made in the image of God with glorious potential to be just like Him one day.

for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live like children of light—for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth—trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:8-10, NET

Arise! Shine!

If we want to live as children of light, we need to be the sort of people who come to the Light. That’s just another way of saying we need to believe in and follow Jesus, who said “I am the light of the world! The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, NET). It’s impossible to understate the importance of this idea; it’s at the center of the gospel.

Now this is the gospel message we have heard from him and announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:5-7, NET

As I write this , we’re about a week away from Passover–the day commemorating Jesus’s sacrifice and the renewing of our commitment to follow Him. Before that day, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11 to examine ourselves. Here, in these verses about light, we have a question we can ask as part of that: “I say that I’m walking with Christ, but is my life more reflective of His light or the world’s darkness?” If we can’t honestly answer that we’re walking in the light, then we need to change some things.

Arise! Shine! For your light arrives!
The splendor of the Lord shines on you!
For, look, darkness covers the earth
and deep darkness covers the nations,
but the Lord shines on you;
his splendor appears over you.

Isaiah 60:1-2, NET

I don’t know about you, but it often feels like there’s chaos and darkness pressing in on me, and I certainly see it filling up the world. But there’s good news! Our God is light. We can choose to walk in His light, and as we do the blood of Jesus covers our sins. We are not helpless victims of the darkness. We’ve been rescued and empowered. We get to shine, like Jesus does, because we’re sharing His light.

Featured image by DarkmoonArt_de from Pixabay

The Light From The Beginning, Part Two

Jesus Christ identified Himself as the light of the world. This would have been no surprise to people familiar with the scriptures, for God has always connected Himself with light. It’s a common analogy in scripture — light is found with God and whatever is not of God is in darkness. As I’ve studied this concept, I’ve been excited to realize the Light connection goes even deeper than I originally knew (and probably far deeper than I’ve yet discovered as well). To quote Paul, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!” (Rom. 11:33, WEB)

Last week, we started with a side-by-side comparison of the opening verses from Genesis and John’s gospel. As we learned in that post, John and several Jewish rabbis identify the Light spoken of in Genesis with the Messiah. We know this Messiah is Jesus (Messiah and Christ both mean “anointed, who says He came to this earth in human form as “the light of the world.” You’ll want to make sure you’ve read last week’s post before continuing with this one. Click here to go back and read “The Light From The Beginning, Part One.”

From Darkness to Light

God has “called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” for a reason (1 Pet. 2:9). God longs for a relationship with us, but “God is light” and we cannot enter the relationship that He wants to have with us if we are walking in darkness.

This is the message which we have heard from him and announce 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 the darkness, we lie, and don’t tell 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)

It is one of the central truths of the Christian faith that God loves us and wants us to be in relationship with Him. Light does not, however, fellowship with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14). Apart from the work of Jesus in us as the Light, we would not be able to draw close to God. Following Him is what takes us out of darkness to walk in Light. Read more

The Light From The Beginning, Part One

Let’s start today’s post by comparing two passages of scripture:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. Without him, nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3, WEB)

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep and God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Gen. 1:1-3)

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t overcome it. (John 1:4-5)

God saw the light, and saw that it was good. God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light “day”, and the darkness he called “night”. There was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Gen. 1:4-5)

Clearly, John meant us to connect the opening of his gospel with Genesis through his phrase, “in the beginning.” But that’s not the only connection. Light also links these two accounts. It’s not until later in the creation story that God makes the sun, stars, and moon, so this first Light must be something else. And it’s something powerful enough to cause Day and Night before any of the physical light sources we know of existed.

Messiah in Light

John identifies this Light at creation with the Messiah, Jesus (John 1:6-16). (Language note: Messiah is the Hebrew word for Christ. Both words mean “anointed”.) It’s not just Christians who’ve made this connection, though. Even Jewish rabbis who are still waiting for a Messiah other than Jesus recognize the Light in Genesis does refer to the Messiah.

God’s first words in the Bible are: ” ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good.” When we study the creation account closely we notice that it was not until the fourth day that God created the “two great lights”, the sun and the moon. The Sages understood this too to be a Messianic allusion, and so the Midrash known as Pesikhta Rabbah, which was read from the 9th century on in connection with feast days, asks, “Whose is this light which falls upon the congregation of the Lord?” and answers, “It is the light of the Messiah” …

The Rabbis considered the Aramaic word Nehora, ‘light’, to be one of the secret names of the Messiah, since we read in the Aramaic part of the book of Daniel that, “He knows what dwells in darkness, and light dwells with him” (2.22). (from “The Messiah In The Old Testament In The Light of Rabinnical Writings” by Risto Santala)

The Yalkut, a rabbinic anthology from the medieval period, says this:

‘And God saw the light, that it was good.’ This is the light of Messiah … to teach you that God saw the generation of Messiah and His works before He created the universe, and He hid the Messiah … under His throne of glory. (quoted in “What The Rabbis Know About The Messiah” by Rachmiel Frydland)

Even without knowing who the Messiah is, these rabbis understood that the Light in Genesis points to Messiah, whom they saw as the “center of all creation”

Read more

Why Does God Expect So Much?

Newly converted Christians (and even many of us who’ve been in the church for years) often struggle with God’s expectations for them, especially when reading the Old Testament. And I’ll admit, the Law can look really daunting. The Jews traditionally say there are 613 commandments, or mitzvot, in the Torah. Because there’s no temple or priesthood anymore, some have estimated only about 270 of these laws are still applicable today.

Why Does God Expect So Much? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Reading the “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” might feel overwhelming (“How could I ever keep track of them all?”), or sound unfair (“These don’t make sense; is God setting me up to fail?”), or seem stifling (“Why would He dictate my behavior in this area?”). To get around this, many modern Christians have rejected the Law completely and adopted the mentality that once you accept Jesus Christ as your savior there’s nothing else you need to do in order to be called a Christian.

This belief is mistaken. Jesus told people, “if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17). He also said He did not come “to destroy the Law or the Prophets” (Matt. 5:17) and that those who love Him will keep His commandments (John 14:15). Jesus thought the Law was not only relevant but also vitally important, and if we claim to follow Jesus we have to agree with Him. But how do we reconcile 613 (even “only” 270) commandments with Jesus’s statement that “My yoke is easy and My burden is light”? (Matt. 11:30). Where is the love and grace of our Savior in the strict rules of the Law? Read more

What If …

Instead of my usual Bible Study type post for Saturday, I thought I would share a few of the Bible-related thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind lately. It would be awesome if these sparked a discussion in the comments 😉

Green and Blue

What if the sky and oceans are blue and plants are green because those are God’s favorite colors? I know about the scientific explanations for why chlorophyll in plant leaves is green and how the atmosphere scatters blue light, but I’m thinking about when the science behind the colors was created. I’m sure God could have set up the world so it looked purple and orange, or red and yellow, or any other combination of colors.

The really cool thing is, if you Google “Which colors are the most relaxing?” the top results are green and blue. Psychologists, designers, and certain philosophies all agree these are the most calming, peaceful colors. Blue triggers feelings of serenity, lower blood pressure, and people are more productive in a blue room. Green is calming, refreshing, and the easiest color for our eyes to look at. Isn’t it amazing that God surrounds us with colors designed to make us feel better?

Planks in Eyes

Reverendfun.com 01-23-2001What if the parts of the Bible we avoid the most are the parts we need to listen to the closest? Perhaps the verses that make us angry are the ones which should inspire us to search for planks in our eyes (Matt. 7:1-5).

Here’s  a couple examples I’ve been thinking about. The Bible teaches that women are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22-24), not teach in church(1 Tim. 2:12), and maintain a physical appearance that clearly shows they are women instead of men (Deut. 22:5; 1 Cor. 11:2-15). Perhaps feeling threatened by such verses is a sign that we could be doing better at exercising Godly femininity. Similarly, there are plenty of verses instructing Christians not give the people of God a bad name by resisting human governments (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:17). Yet these verses are often ignored or scoffed at by those in the church who are most vocal politically. It bothers me.

Jesus and the MBTI

For my last “What if …?” I want to talk about a question that has lead several people to my blog recently. Looking at a summary of search terms used, I see “Jesus infj,” “is Jesus an infj?” and “was Jesus an infj.” Since people are ending up on my blog because of this question, I thought I would address it. To me, it seems almost sacrilegious to claim we’ve pinned down Jesus’s personality type. If there was ever anyone who couldn’t be classified or put into a single box, I think it would be Him. If, however, we accept the idea that personality types exist and people can be categorized by them at least loosely, having a specific personality type could have been part of Jesus’s experience when living a human life. With that as our foundation, I think it would be safe to say Jesus is most like the group David Keirsey called “Idealists.” Of this type, Keirsey says in the description on his website,

Idealists (NFs), as a temperament, are passionately concerned with personal growth and development. Idealists strive to discover who they are and how they can become their best possible self — always this quest for self-knowledge and self-improvement drives their imagination. And they want to help others make the journey.

From there, we have four Myers-Briggs types: the Teacher (ENFJ), the Counselor (INFJ), the Champion (ENFP), and the Healer (INFP). Though I’ve read arguments that go back and forth on whether Jesus was an introvert or an extrovert, I’m not going to offer my opinion or try to narrow this down any more.