For all the learning that has taken place over the history of mankind, the world in which we live is in a great darkness of ignorance. People are ignorant of the true God. They are ignorant of his law for mankind. Millions grope in darkness, trying to figure out what life is all about because being ignorant of God they cannot understand how life is supposed to be lived. Without the knowledge of these truths, life cannot be lived successfully.
From the beginning, God has been associated with light. His first act on the first day of creation was to create light.
“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:3-5).
This light was not the light from the sun or the moon; it was independent of these sources of light we depend upon in our physical world today. Thus we know that God is the source of light. We see that association repeated in the Psalms …
“… covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent.” (Psalm 104:2).
“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:9).
There is also the comparison of God’s law and his revelation to light.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105).
“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130).
John emphasized the idea that Jesus, when he came into the world, came as light to the world.
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5).
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” (John 1:9-10).
One cannot help but be drawn back to the original introduction of light into the world at the beginning of creation. John is telling his readers that the coming of Jesus was the beginning of the new creation. He came as light into the world to give understanding of God and to reveal the way of life to man. Those who believe in him become, themselves, light to the world.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Christians are not the source of light. We only are light to the world because of our relationship with him. If we are “in him,” as one who has been saved by him – baptized into him – then we share in his character and partake in his work.
“… for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8-10).
“… that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,” (Philippians 2:15).
“For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” (1 Thessalonians 5:5).
How is it that Christians are to be “light?” As we observed yesterday in reference to salt; “Both light and salt do things. They have the power to affect whatever they come in contact with.” Salt penetrates food, imparting flavor and preserving it. Light affects everything it touches. Principally, light reveals whatever it falls on.
We might illustrate the value of light by thinking of a simple example. You know what very likely would happen if you were to attempt to walk barefoot through a room you have never been in in total darkness. That would almost certainly be a painful experience. But flip a light switch – or simply light a candle or turn on a flashlight and you can walk with complete confidence and safety through the room. The reason – light reveals the dangers the darkness hides.
When Jesus came into the world as the light of men, he gave understanding – enlightenment – to a world that did not have the light of the knowledge of the true God. Because of that lack of knowledge, neither did man have an understanding of what God expected from him. Jesus came to give the light of the knowledge of God so that man might not grope in darkness. By revealing God’s true nature he revealed God’s true will for man. The light he gave us illuminates the way we are to walk through life.
What does this mean in a practical sense for Christians today? It means that having received the light we are to “walk in the light”
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7).
To walk in the light is to walk in the understanding of God’s nature and will. The child of God partakes of the nature of his Father and shows in his life that he is like the Father. When people see a true Christian they should see in his life, his attitudes and his actions that there is a relationship between him and God.
This will mean that by the presence of Christians in the world sin will be exposed by the contrast between the life and actions of the sinner and that of the child of God. Paul instructed Christians regarding this responsibility in Ephesians 4:11-14 …
“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
There is a natural enmity between the light of the righteous and darkness of sinners. Those in darkness, Jesus said, hate the light. They hated him and they hate those whose lives reflect his likeness.
“For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:20).
Not only will the life of a Christian expose the darkness of sin, it will be a sign pointing to greater light. God created man to reflect his glory into the world. When Christians live as God intended we will not live in such a way as to call attention to ourselves, but to God. We are to be like letters from God to those in darkness.
“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3).
Christians are to enlighten the world because they have the light. They know God. They have “seen the light” as it were, and have been enlightened by the true light. They also know man – the depth of his depravity, the hopelessness of his condition, the darkness of his despair. They have seen their own ignorance and the world that lies in darkness. They know the remedy for sin because they know Jesus.
Christians are to enlighten the world because this is God’s plan. Jesus came into the world as a man in order that he might reveal the true nature of God to man. When he ascended back to the Father he gave that responsibility to his apostles and they in turn to the succeeding generations of believers down to you and me today. There never has been anyone come to faith in Jesus without the agency of one of God’s human messengers bringing to him the light of the gospel.
How are Christians to be light in the world? We don’t do it by our creeds, confessions, our pious look when we “go to church” or by any other of a thousand things men have devised that supposedly shows their superior knowledge and commitment to God. We show forth the light by our attitude and our actions as we live out the love of the Lord in our own lives. We show it in our steadfast opposition to all that is false – all that leads man away from God and from righteousness. We show it by our refusal to compromise truth with error. We show the light by resisting the constant pressure of the world to conform to its standards and give in to sin. We show the light by speaking out against all the things that hurt people. We show it when we speak up in behalf of those who cannot defend themselves and when we give of ourselves in their behalf. We radiate the light into the world when we live our lives by the law of God for all people – the “royal law” – the law of love.
“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” (Proverbs 4:18).
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (Philippians 2:14-16).