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

Shining as Lights on Fire for God

If we want light in our homes today, we just have to turn a light switch and the lamp comes on. Back in Bible times, though, a lamp involved fire. You had a container for the oil, a wick to carry that oil, and when the wick was lit the fire gave light. In the familiar parable of the 10 virgins, the reason they needed to have oil was to keep the fires in their lamps burning.

In this parable, 10 virgins take lamps and go out to meet the bridegroom. I assume they were friends of the couple, probably the women who watched with the bride as she waited for her groom to arrive on an unknown day at an unspecified time (in keeping with Jewish tradition). The five foolish virgins took lamps, but not extra oil. The five wise ones had lamps and extra oil. When the bridegroom took longer to arrive than they’d expected, all ten of them fell asleep.

When the shout announcing the bridegroom’s arrival woke them, the wise virgins had enough oil to keep the flames in their lamps burning but the unprepared women’s lamps were going out. In the time it took them to run out and buy more oil, the “bridegroom arrived and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. Then the door was shut.” When the other virgins showed up and knocked, they did not get in. They weren’t even recognized (Matt. 25:1-13).

Jesus ends this parable by saying, “Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour.” It’s one of the kingdom of heaven parables (like we talked about last week) which teaches us something about what we must do if we want to be citizens of God’s kingdom. In this case, one thing it teaches is that we need to be prepared, with our lamps burning and properly fueled.

We’re Supposed to Shine Like Lamps

The idea of Jesus’s followers having or being light comes up more than once in the gospels (Matt 5:14-16, to mention one). We’re supposed to shine as lights, having been illuminated by Christ’s light.

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a hidden place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, so that those who come in can see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is diseased, your body is full of darkness. Therefore see to it that the light in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, with no part in the dark, it will be as full of light as when the light of a lamp shines on you.”

Luke 11:33-36, NET

Jesus’s intention after “lighting” us is not to hide us in a cellar or snuff us out with a basket or bowl (NET footnotes). He wants us visible, shining with His light. Therefore, we need to be constantly watchful to make sure the light in us does not become darkness (the “therefore see to it” instruction is an ongoing, “present imperative” [NET footnote]). Like our eyes take in light to let us see, our minds take in Christ’s word to let us live in His light. Internalizing His words puts light inside us too, so it can shine out. If we internalize other (especially ungodly) things, though, that can change the way we shine. What we let into our eyes, hearts, and lives matters to God and it can affect the way our lamps are burning before Christ’s return.

Fueling our Lamps with the Word

If we want to fill our eyes with light and keep our lamps well fueled, we have a source for light readily available. Whether you use print Bibles, apps, or search online, for most of us in the modern world God’s word is right at our fingertips. The more time we spend with His word, the more exposure we get to the Light.

Your word is a lamp to walk by,
and a light to illumine my path.

Psalm 119: 105, NET

Your instructions are a doorway through which light shines.
They give insight to the untrained.

Psalm 119:130, NET

For the commandments are like a lamp,
instruction is like a light

Proverbs 6:23, NET

One of the ways that we fulfill Jesus’s instruction to shine as lights in the world is by internalizing the light that God has given us through His word. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all,” so if we want to walk with Him in the light we need to listen to Him (1 John 1:5-7, NET). Getting “dressed for service” and keeping our “lamps burning” as we watch for the Master’s return (Luke 12:35-38) involves filling our minds with God’s commands, instructions, and teachings while asking Him to help us understand His mind through His spirit. It is only by spending time in God’s Light that we can be light (Ps. 36:9; 43:3).

Clothed With Jesus’s Light

When writing his second letter to Timothy, Paul urged him “to rekindle God’s gift” because “God didn’t give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:6-7, NET). The spirit in us is like a fire, and we can either stir it up (i.e. rekindle) or let it die down to coals. That’s up to us. God gives us His spirit and His word, but whether or not we are on fire for Him is a choice we get to make.

And do this because we know the time, that it is already the hour for us to awake from sleep, for our salvation is now nearer than when we became believers. The night has advanced toward dawn; the day is near. So then we must lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the weapons of light. Let us live decently as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in discord and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to arouse its desires.

Romans 13:11-14, NET

The statement “our salvation is now nearer than when we became believers” is as true for us today as it was for Paul’s first readers. The work God the Father and Jesus began in us will come to completion either with our deaths or at Christ’s return (Phil. 1:6), and that time is getting closer each day. We mustn’t waste any more time before we put off darkness and clothe ourselves instead with the true Light of Jesus Christ (John 1:4-5; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). The more time we spend with Him and becoming like him, the more we will shine as lights on fire for God.

Featured image by Hans Benn 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

Put on the Light: Choosing to Walk with God Instead of Darkness

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. Read more

Don’t Be Something Jesus Would Throw Out Of His Father’s Temple

Let’s take a trip back to the early 1st century. It’s a few days before Passover and the Jews are heading to Jerusalem for the Feast. As they travel, they sing the songs of ascent like they do every year. On this particular year, though, there’s an extra level of excitement. A man named Yeshua (Jesus) arrived on the scene a few years ago and many think he could be the Messiah. He’s even riding into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, as Zechariah said the Messiah would.

Hoshiya-na! Baruch haba B’Shem Adonai!” they call. Save us now! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

As Yeshua rides in, the people spread their garments in the way. They also cut palm branches as if they were here for the Feast of Tabernacles instead of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They’re expecting the Messiah to kick the Romans out, redeem Israel, and restore the kingdom. They’re hoping for the fulfillment of Tabernacles — the Messiah, son of David, ruling in power and might.

Instead, this Yeshua turns his donkey toward the temple. Once there, he “drove out all of those who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the money changers’ tables and the seats of those who sold the doves.” Instead of driving the pagans out of Jerusalem, he drove corruption out of God’s house, saying, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers!” Read more