Jesus, The Gift Of LightErwin W. Lutzer | December 2, 2012
Selected highlights from this sermon
Throughout the Bible, we see light and darkness contrasted. While Satan’s realm is darkness, the realm of Jesus is light—light we have access to.
Through Jesus, our spiritual lives can flourish, but God’s light is not always comfortable because He often exposes what we try to hide in the darkness. When we come to the light, darkness flees. It is only then that we can experience true fellowship with God.
Have you ever thought about what would happen if an alien from outer space were to come here and be given the assignment of parking his space ship in the Daley Plaza, and then being asked to figure out what the Christmas season is all about? He, of course, would emphasize the fact that it’s a very busy time, and that a lot of merchants are making a lot of money. There’s a time of revelry, but I don’t know that he would ever get to the real heart of what the Christmas spirit and what Christmas is really all about. And if he were to go into some of our town halls, or some of our plazas, he would discover that there are no Christmas trees. There are only holiday trees that are available, and that are lit up. You know, to those who just want call it a holiday tree I want to ask the question, what holiday is it that you are talking about? Would you at least say the word Christmas?
Who would have ever dreamed that a Christmas tree in public places would be considered to be a threat to the First Amendment? But the real purpose of Christmas is that Jesus Christ is the one who gave us gifts that we can enjoy, gifts that bring us to God, the Father, and that give us a whole new purpose in life, and actually even change our destiny.
The Bible says in John 1 that Jesus Christ came and He brought light and the darkness did not overcome it. Darkness cannot overcome light. No matter how dark it is in a cave a candle can make a great difference because darkness never overcomes light. You can go into Ace Hardware today and you can buy a flashlight but you can’t buy a flash dark. You can’t say, “Well, you know I live in this house and it’s got so many windows, and oftentimes I just need a little bit of darkness. Could I buy a flash dark?” No, you can’t buy a flash dark, but you can buy a flashlight, and the light overcomes the darkness.
In the New Testament we read that when Jesus Christ came, the people who sat in darkness, the Bible says, had seen a great light. And those who have been sitting in the realm of death, to them light has come. Jesus Christ is the one who brings light to darkness. And when the Bible plays off of this motif of light and darkness what we discover is that darkness actually is a realm in which people live. There is such a thing as moral darkness. That’s where some of you who are listening to this message are. There’s a sense in which you are living in moral darkness. You are in relationships that you know are sinful and you are trying to assuage your troubled conscience, and you are doing the best you can in moral darkness. There is emotional darkness. There is depression. There is hopelessness. There is even spiritual darkness where you recognize that something is wrong but you don’t know what it is, and you go looking for the answer in all the wrong places.
Jesus is indeed the one who brings light. Would you take your Bibles please and turn to John 8:12. “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” Even in the Old Testament God was spoken of as being the God of light. “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” I think it was the prophet Micah who said, “Rejoice not against me, oh mine enemy. Though I fall I shall rise again and the Lord shall be light about me.” But even though light is mentioned in the Old Testament in connection with God, when Jesus Christ comes, suddenly there is this burst of light. Rather than the flashlights of the Old Testament, what you have is the glory of God personally revealed. It is as if Jesus brought a floodlight to the entire world.
What I’d like to do in the next few moments, and my remarks will be brief, is to give you five characteristics of light, or five necessities, five reasons why light is so necessary, and let’s think about each one of them in turn.
First of all, light is necessary for life. You know, of course, that this is so true in the physical world. If you were to take the plants that are growing in your window and you take them into the basement, take them into a cave, and cut them off from light, what you will discover is that they will die. Photosynthesis is so important. That’s why it is that the grain that was in the pyramids that was there for thousands of years didn’t grow. It needed moisture, but it also needed sunlight. And in the very same way, what the sun is to physical life, Jesus Christ is to spiritual life.
The Bible says that He came to give us life, and to give it to us more abundantly, and just indeed like a seed may grow in the ground and then the sunlight nourishes it, in the very same way by His own word He begat us, the Bible says, by the word of truth. So God begat us and granted us life, and this life that Jesus gives is not life after we die, though it is that most assuredly. It is life right now because eternal life is granted to all those who believe on Jesus, even at this moment. Eternal life is given to us, and that is a relationship with God, a connection with God, and finally we find the answer to our quest. Light is necessary for life.
Light is also necessary for guidance. Jesus said that if you follow Me you will not walk in darkness. Light is necessary for guidance. As many of you know, I was brought up on a farm in Canada, and there was a time when we did not have electricity. Later on I’ll tell you what life was like once we had electricity, but we used to use lanterns, called oil lamps in the house, and lanterns on our way to the barn and the other buildings, and I remember as a boy being with my father as he carried that lantern. That lantern gave us enough light for the next steps. We couldn’t see too far ahead but bless God, we knew where we were walking, and we knew that we were on the right path.
The Bible says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” There is a verse in Proverbs I have often contemplated. It says in Proverbs 4 that the wicked walk and they don’t know what it is that they are stumbling over. What a vivid picture! What a true picture of those who go about in life from one mistake to another, one sin to another, one addiction to another, one religion to another, and they can’t seem to find what it is that they are looking for because they are looking for it and they are walking in darkness, and when you walk in darkness you can’t tell the difference between a brick that might be made out of concrete, or gold. You can’t tell the difference, and so you stumble along and you can’t find out where you are going.
And so the Scripture is very clear here that light is needed for guidance. We need to know about our relationship with God. We need to know where we are at in terms of that relationship, and we need to know what life is all about, and for that you need light.
It’s in the very same Proverb in chapter 4 where the Bible says that the light of the just is like the dawn that gets brighter and brighter until the fullness of day. When you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior He guides you. He directs you all the way to your heavenly home, and the light gets brighter and brighter as you go along the path. So light is also needed for guidance.
Light is also needed to understand ourselves, to understand who we are. It was Goethe, and by the way don’t pronounce that German enlightenment philosopher’s name “Go-thee.” Okay? He wouldn’t recognize that. Learn a little bit of German, which will put you in some good stead when you get to heaven. (laughter), and it’s actually pronounced GU(R)-tuh. But he said this. “Only God knows who I really am and may he preserve me from finding out.” And that’s really true. You see, the fact is that you and I love darkness. We are born into darkness and we love it. Listen to what Jesus said in John 3. He said this. “And this is the judgment; 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 wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.” Wow!
You and I are darkness junkies. We are born that way. We prefer the darkness and we don’t want to come to the light for a number of reasons. First of all it’s because of shame. I’m thinking, for example, of a woman in a primitive country who took her bundle of dirty clothes to the river but because there were other women there washing their clothes as well, she did not undo the bundle. She simply took it as a bundle and put it in the water and then brought it up. And after doing that a few times she went home. That’s the way we are. We don’t want to even expose our sins to God because we have rationalized them. We have told ourselves lies and we have repeated those lies long enough so that we are committed to the darkness, and the Bible exposes us, doesn’t it?
Another reason is because of fear. We think to ourselves (And don’t all of us think this?) that if people really knew who we were, if they really understood our thoughts, if they really understood our motivations, if they understood the privacy of our own hearts and what we are doing, they would reject us? They would be shocked because of all of the evil that is really latent within us, even if we don’t live it out. And so we don’t want to know who we are. And the Bible comes along and exposes us and the Scripture teaches us that there is enough darkness in this culture that if you want to live in darkness you can. You’ll not only have lots of company, but you’ll be able to remain hidden in that realm of darkness with all of its delusions.
You know it was Luther who said that the problem with the common man who doesn’t know God is that he is blind, he is sick, and he is actually dead (and not just sick), but the problem is that he thinks that he can see, and he believes himself to be alive. What a delusion there is when you walk in darkness, the hidden life, unwilling to come to the light!
So light actually shows us who we are, but light also shows God for whom He is because God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all – none at all. And the Bible says that if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin. Walking in the light means that I expose myself to God. Everything that He reveals to me that is sinful I confess it to God. I own my stuff. I admit it to Him. He is the one who forgives me and cleanses me so that I can walk with God because God is light, and the only way that we can walk with Him is if we walk in light. And because of our sinfulness we constantly need the cleansing that comes to those who want to walk with God. And in order to see God, we must be willing to come to the light.
Do you remember that famous story in the book of Isaiah? Isaiah gave six woes to the people around him. He said, “Woe to the drunkards, woe to those who exploit the poor.” “Woe, woe, woe,” but when he gets to chapter 6 the seventh woe is “Woe is me,” because in the presence of God finally all pretense ends. In the presence of God finally we see our hidden sin. In the presence of God we see now who we are, and it is there that we receive the knowledge of who we are but also the cleansing that enables us to go on. Do you remember Job who was arguing with God and asking all of those philosophical questions? And then God came along and asked questions of His own, and finally Job said, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye sees Thee. Therefore I repent in dust and in ashes.”
As a matter of fact, it’s not possible for us to know who we are unless we understand who God is. Calvin, the great theologian said in the first sentence of his institute, “There are two questions that are paramount, and one is the knowledge of God and the other the knowledge of self, and it is clear that you can’t have one without the other.” If you’ve never come to God, if you’ve never been exposed to the Scriptures, you cannot have knowledge of who you really are because we walk in darkness.
Now there’s another necessity of light and that is that light enables us to follow Christ. You’ll notice what He says here back in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” You follow Me. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that remarkable statement, “And ye are the light of the world.” That’s why, if you come to our Christmas Eve service you will find that we all have candles and we begin with one candle, and then one lights another, and another lights another, and pretty soon all throughout the sanctuary here we have candles that are lit, reminding us that Jesus is the light of the world, but you and I also spread His light in so many different ways and with so many different opportunities. We live out Jesus to this world when we are willing to participate in Angel Tree, when we are willing to go to the school that is near us where we had a ministry this past fall. When we do those kinds of things we are representing Jesus in the world.
Remember that statue in the Kaiser Wilhelm Church in Berlin of Jesus, which was largely destroyed during World War II. When they were putting it together they couldn’t find the arm, and they decided to have it there (and it is there today) without one of the arms. Why? It’s because they said, “We are His arm and it’s because we are His representatives to the world.” So Jesus said that as we walk in light we represent Him as well.
Now how can we nail this down for ourselves so that our lives are changed and transformed? What about those of you who perhaps do not know God? You think you do because you know about Jesus, or because you’ve had a religious background, but you have never really come to Christ. Let me leave two transforming lessons with you.
The first one is simply this, and that is let us keep in mind that the light that reveals us is also the light that heals us. Now I began this message by telling you that there was a time when we did not have electricity on our farm, but I remember in November of 1962 when those great power posts came across the field and brought us electricity. You say, “Well, how come you remember November?” I think it was November 11, which has other meanings I think in our history, but I think that was the day when the power finally came on. It was unbelievable. We could go through this old farmhouse and we could flip a switch. There were no more lamps and no more lanterns.
One of the things that we had right in the middle of the farm was a lamplight. It was a light that lit the path – a floodlight really on a post that lit the path between the house and the barn. And what we used to do as kids is we would run toward the light and then we’d run far from it, and we noticed that the farther we ran, the more shadow we had. The longer the shadow became the farther we ran. But when we got close to the lamp our shadow became smaller and smaller under the yard light. And then what we’d do is stand directly under it and see whether or not we could actually have no shadow at all. Now we couldn’t have none at all because there would still be a bit of a shadow, but it would be very small, and very insignificant.
You see, folks, the further we get from Christ, the longer the shadows – the darkness. Remember this. We are only as sick as our darkest secrets, and that part of us that we deny, that part of us that we justify, that part of us that we don’t deal with, that sense of guilt and self-incrimination that we feel because we know that we have sinned and we have alienated ourselves from God, that part of us needs to be brought to the light so that in openness and humility, as we come to Jesus Christ, we then begin to walk in the light that He came to bring us. Remember the words of Jesus. “Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.”
It’s the old story of going into a musty basement and flipping on the switch, and suddenly you see all of these vermin scatter in all these different directions. That’s the way it is when you and I are exposed to the light. We want to maintain our darkness because it is in darkness that we are comfortable. But the minute we come to Jesus Christ isn’t it interesting that when we expose our lives to Him, when we open our life and our sins are uncovered in His presence, He is there now to cover them. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven and whose sin is covered,” the Bible says. And this happens as a result of our faith and trust in Him.
I urge you today to come to Christ. He knows all about you anyway. You may think that you are hiding from others, and you may be, but you cannot hide from Jesus because the Bible says that all things are naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. So you and I come to a Christ who already knows about us, but now we come owning our own sin and our own darkness, and we come to receive healing, forgiveness and help. And just like sunlight can bring about healing, in the very same way the Son of God brings healing to our own hearts. So remember that the light that exposes us, that reveals us, is also the light that heals us.
And then, finally, let us keep in mind that light and darkness cannot coexist. There is a legend about a cave that said to itself, “You know, there is darkness here, but the sun has never experienced any darkness.” So in the legend the cave invites the sun to come beneath the earth into the cave so that the sun might experience darkness. So the sun took the cave up on the opportunity and came, and of course the sun came and said, “Where is the darkness? It’s not here. It’s not any place that I can see,” because when the light comes darkness must dissipate and you cannot live with both light and darkness.
Now you and I all have some light and darkness within us, of course, because we are imperfect pictures of God and of eternity, but at the end of the day when we receive Jesus Christ into our lives as the light, it is then that we are able to walk in light and not walk in darkness, as He has indicated.
Remember this. Light and darkness throughout the entire New Testament are not only distinct in this life but also in the life to come. Remember that story that I told you in a different context about a miser who was dying? And as he was there about to die he told his daughter to blow out the candle. And she said, “But Daddy, you might need something,” and he said, “I don’t need any light to die.” He lived in darkness; he died in darkness. That’s why the Bible speaks about hell as outer darkness, darkness forever.
But then I want you to think of the contrast, and it is a wonderful contrast of the destiny of those who know Christ as Savior. What is their destiny? The Bible says in the book of Revelation, “They need no light of the sun, nor of the moon to shine upon them for the Lord God giveth them light and the Lamb is the lamp, and the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and their honor into it. And there is no night there because they walk with God in light.” What a difference light makes.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” Come to Him as somebody who has never experienced God, who has never experienced conversion. Come to Him also as a believer and know that you will be received and forgiven and cleansed so that you can walk with Him in light.
It was the famous philosopher and mathematician, Pasqual, and by the way, someday I’ll tell you about his conversion to Christianity (It was remarkable indeed), but he said, “In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe, and enough shadows for those who don’t.” There’s enough light if you want to believe. You come to Christ. He is the light, but if you want to retain your darkness there are enough shadows that can enable you to reject Christ and go on without Him.
In a moment we are going to be singing together,
“Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness.
Opened my eyes, let me see.
Beauty that made this heart adore You.
Hope of my life spent with You.”
Jesus came to dissipate the darkness. He said, “I, and I alone am the light of the world.”
Let’s pray together, shall we?
Our Father, we want to thank You today for Your goodness to us in giving us the gift of light. We ask today that You will help all those who have listened. May all of us come to the light! We pray, Father, for those who deny their darkness, those who continue on not knowing what they stumble over, not knowing that what they are looking for cannot be found in darkness. May they come to Christ as the light of the world.
And now, before I close this prayer, if you need to talk to the Lord why don’t you talk to Him right now about what God may have spoken to you about? Would you speak to Him?
Hear the prayers of all those, Lord, who are coming to You now in the name of Jesus we ask. Amen.