This message is used by permission from my good friend Brian. Brian is a former physicians assistant and shepherd. Now Brian is serving the gospel to the least reached. He is living the Words he wants you to hear. Be a light in darkness this Christmas…
2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
For the first time in my life I made the connection between this passage and the creation account in Genesis 1. The opening verses of Genesis are some of the most well known verses in all of scripture, right up there with John 3:16. And we’ve probably heard or read these words at least 100 times before. But now I was beginning to make the connection between God’s strategy for saving the world and that which He was breathing into a visible and tangible form at creation.
Genesis 1:1-5 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 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.”
Every time I’ve read this or heard it, I always thought, Wow, God is a powerful God. He is amazing. He is a creative and awesome God. For by the breath of His mouth, the universe and all of creation was called into existence.
But there is something even more amazing being spoken of in this passage. Something that I had never seen before. Something that pulses deeper than even the glory and majesty of creation. And its something that existed long before Genesis 1 ever did.
And that was God’s plan for redeeming the rebellion of humanity and winning His bride back to Himself. I want you to see that when God called forth light out of the darkness, it was pointing to Jesus. But not only was it poetically prophesying the coming of Christ, it was manifesting God’s design and call upon all those who would follow Him.
So I think there are 2 vitally important things we need to learn from this passage that relate directly to our lives as we pursue after God and seek to be imitators of Christ.
Light Shines in the Darkness
The first is that light was created to shine in the darkness. Genesis 1 paints such a clear picture of this. It starts out by saying that darkness covered the face the deep. In other words, it was crazy dark. You know, the kind where you can’t see your hand when it is right in front of your face. And it was into this that God says: “Let there be light.”
Now I want to be clear about this because the practical applications of this are costly. Its fun to talk about and intellectualize, but to change our lives to bring them in alignment with the truth of what this teaches is a whole other story. So I want to make sure we are all on the same page here.
God did not call forth light to shine in the light. It wasn’t because “light” covered the face of the deep that God says “Let there be light.” It was because there was darkness. God said, “Let light shine out of darkness.” Light has a created purpose and was designed to exist and shine in the darkness.
So now we have to begin to deal with the implications of this for our lives. Because we are that light. We are the light that was redeemed to shine in the darkness.
Matthew 5:14-16 says “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.”
Now I just want to make one clarification. We are not the Light capital “L.” When this passage says that “you (and I) are the light of the world,” it means we are the light of the world like the moon is the light of the night. The moon is just a big round pile of dirt. It has zero ability of producing light. But when you go outside on a dark night and look up into the sky, the moon’s brightness can light up the night.
And we say, look at the moon. Look how bright the moon is shinning. And in doing so, we ascribe or we attribute the ability to produce light to the moon, when in reality, it is only reflecting the light of the sun. It can’t make one tiny shred of light itself. And so it is no different for us.
In this passage and anywhere else in Scripture for that matter, when you see it referring to us as the light, just know that it is not us that is the light. We only shine when we are reflecting the Son, “S-O-N.” And just as the moon was created to shine in the darkness by reflecting the sun’s light, so we were made to do the same.
So the first issue we have to deal with is where are we shinning? I have to tell you. I was so convicted by this, that as a youth leader I had the audacity to be so excited about taking our students on summer mission trips. And I would get so excited about being this great beacon of light in those dark areas for one glorious week every year, but I did little to nothing to shine in the darkness the rest of the time.
And now Becky and I find ourselves living in the very neighborhoods that we served on our mission trips to those places and all I could think about is moving somewhere else. It was good enough to do for a week on a mission trip, but to actually live there and start to raise our family in such a place was hard to come to grips with.
God is not calling us to have an experience every now and then when we shine in the darkness. Its not about having this special little time in our lives once a week every year where we turn the light on for a little while and pretend this is how we live all the time or this is how we would live all the time if we only had the opportunity. Because we do have the opportunity. It just takes sacrifices that if we admit it, are probably not willing to make.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do these things. Engaging in short term missions is absolutely necessary. I’ll be the first one in line when given the chance and I’ll be the biggest cheerleader encouraging anyone and everyone to go. All I’m saying is that what happens in the that week should simply be a reflection of what happens in our lives every single day.
You see, I have come to the humbling place in my life where I began to realize I was doing all this “stuff” for the Kingdom, but it was all being done in the light. I was involved in this and I was involved in that, and it was all good and worthy stuff, but it wasn’t about shining in the darkness. I found I was just fooling myself behind this disguise of advancing God’s Kingdom without actually setting foot in the darkness.
His Kingdom is a Kingdom of Light. No matter how hard we work or what great things we accomplish in the light, His Kingdom is already present there. And if we are going to be a people who are about advancing His Kingdom, it can only be done in the darkness.
We were called into His marvelous light in order that we might shine in the darkness. This means that our lives must be lived out in the those places. Now I’m not saying that everyone needs to move to the inner city, but some of you might. Some of you may need to go home and start packing boxes. And don’t be looking round at your neighbor right now, cause I’m talking to you. And maybe its not about where your home is, but where you work or where you go to school.
What I am saying is that we need to take a good hard look at where we are shining. And we need to stop making excuses for keeping our distance from the darkness. Its not comfortable. Its too hot. Its not safe. The school district isn’t good enough. Its too far. Its too hard. Its too costly. It takes too much time. It doesn’t align with our goals, or our family or our future.
To be a light in the darkness is costly. It is not safe. It is not always comfortable. It is certainly not the easy way to live. But why would be dare be content with anything else? Don’t settle to be a light among lights. Don’t compromise for the sake of safety or comfort. We have but one candle to burn, and I’d rather burn it out where people are dying in darkness than in a place that is flooded with lights.
God Separated the Light from the Darkness
The second thing I want us to see is that God separated the light from the darkness. That is, God set apart the light to be different. While the light was created to exist and shine in the darkness, it was made to be fundamentally different from it. When God created the light, there was no question as to which one was which.
God didn’t make a light that most days of the week looks like darkness except on Sundays. Or one that maybe shines all week except for Friday and Saturday night. And He didn’t make a light with a motion detector so that when left alone it was identical to the darkness, but as soon as somebody came around, it would turn on as if it had always been on.
Light doesn’t look anything like the darkness. And there are some pretty hefty ramifications for our lives because of that. It doesn’t walk the same. It doesn’t talk to the same. It doesn’t act the same. It doesn’t spend its money the same. It doesn’t have the same goals or values. It is different from the darkness in every way, but yet was created uniquely to exist in beautiful harmony with it.
And this separation in essence is why we exist. Because this is what distinguishes light from the darkness. This is what separates believers from everybody else on the face of the planet. Because the goal of the darkness is to make much of itself, but the purpose of the light is make much of Christ.
How is it then that the lives of sinful humans can display the glory of our Almighty God to the world? How is it that we who are so little can make much of One who is so great? I believe the answer is to echo the cry of John the Baptist found when he said in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John Piper said this: “This is why we exist – to display the glory of God… It is our created nature to make much of God. Not to fulfill this purpose… is to be a mere shadow of the substance we were created to have. Not to display God’s worth by enjoying Him above all things is to be a mere echo of the music we were created to make. It is to be a mere residue of the impact we were created to have.”
The overriding thing that separates the light from the darkness is an unbalanced passion for the glory of God and the Kingdom of heaven. And I realize that for some of you that may make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Because a lot of times in our culture we associate unbalanced to mean unhealthy.
We talk about the need for balance in our lives all the time, right? Balance, balance, balance. We have to have balance. We don’t want to be too far one way or too far the other. And at times this is true, but I think sometimes we have watered down Jesus for the sake of balance.
There was a man by the name of Nee To-sheng, otherwise known as Watchman Nee. He was born in communist China in 1903. He came to know Christ at the age of 17 and spent the next 30 years traveling throughout China planting churches and shinning the Light of Christ in some of the darkness places on earth. But in 1952 he was arrested for his faith in Christ and leadership among many of the local churches in China. He sentenced to 15 years in prison, although he was never let go and died in his cell 20 years later. Some of his teachings have been complied together into a profoundly powerful book called “The Normal Christian Life.”
Average and normal are not the same. You see, average just means we look like everyone else. Normal means we look the way Jesus expected us to look. It means we shine the way Jesus expected us to shine.
Did Jesus really mean to love Him with ALL our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Did Jesus really mean to love our neighbor as ourself? Did Jesus really compare the Kingdom of heaven to finding a treasure in a field and selling everything for that field? Because that doesn’t sound very balanced.
There is a word for someone who becomes that fixated on someone or something, but it isn’t balanced. Its obsessed. It is being driven by an all consuming passion to the point that none of what Jesus taught even sounds remotely crazy. Quite frankly, it makes perfect sense.
If there is anything in life we need to be obsessed with. If there is anything in life we need to be consumed by. If there is anything in our lives that we need to be unbalanced about, it is the Jesus Christ. It is the glory of God. It is the Kingdom of heaven.
The more our lives display Christ’s worth above all things, the brighter He will shine in us. This is why it is so fundamentally important for the light to be separated from the darkness.
Because when we look like we care about the same things they do. When we look like we hope in the same stuff they do. When we look like our values are the same as theirs, Christ will never look great in our lives. Our lives must show that Christ is more precious than life.
To do this, we must make sacrificial life choices knowing that magnifying Christ is more valuable and more satisfying than protecting and preserving our own personal comfort or agenda. So we may need to start asking ourselves some tough questions. Questions that we may very well not want to know the answers to. Because I think all to often we are far more content desiring to justify our actions instead of seeking to magnify Christ with them.
Now this is the part of the message where I would normally tell you some inspiring story about a missionary in Africa or Asia or something who is living this out. The problem is, most of us really can’t relate very much to that. So let me give another example that may hit a little closer to home. Its a story about a guy who asked the right questions.
There is a pastor by the name of Francis Chan, maybe some of you have heard of him. He has a love and devotion for God that you will rarely find anywhere. He also happens to be an incredible speaker and when you put those 2 qualities together, it makes for a very dynamic pastor. Thus the church he started in California grew like mad quickly topping 3000+ people.
They were making plans for building a 50 to 60 million dollar facility when he took a little trip to Uganda that changed his life forever. He saw poverty first hand like he had never imagined. And it got real personal for him when he saw little girls the age of his young daughters rummaging through garbage for food.
And all of a sudden it hit him, what does it mean to love my neighbor as myself? Cause you know, Jesus said that. In fact, He said it was so important, it was only second to loving God first. So one of the first things he did upon returning to the states was to move his family of four out of their 2,000-square-foot house into one half that size so they could give more to missions and to the poor. He said: “I couldn’t reconcile how I could live in such a nice house while others were starving.”
The very next church board meeting Chan showed up with a one track mind. When their church, (Cornerstone) first started and for many years there after, they gave away 4% of their budget. Chan now walks in in the door and asked them to give 50% away. His salary was slashed along with all other staff taking pay cuts and serious sacrifices in their programs were made. But in less than 1/2 hour their budget was flipped on its head.
Instead of building a massive multimillion dollar building, they built an outdoor amphitheater saving countless of millions of dollars. They have worship outside every Sunday, rain or shine. And if it happens to rain on a Sunday morning, they get wet, but they know it is for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom.
Now here is a guy, living in the United States with the exact same pressures, the exact same influences, and exact same struggles that we face, but yet consciously and intentionally positioned his life to be separated from the darkness. While the rest of America chases after it’s illusive dream, he has refused to be seduced by it. Instead, his heart, mind, his soul and wallet are fixed on heaven.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”
My prayer is that Christ would be so prized in your lives that you would blaze so brightly it would fry the retinas right out of the eyeballs of those who look upon you. That your hearts be so fixed on Christ that everything else would pale in comparison.
My goal isn’t that you be moved by the stories of those people who are living radical lives for Christ, yet do nothing to act yourself. But instead, that you would earnestly seek the face of God for where and how He would have you to shine.
I don’t claim by any stretch of the imagination to be living this perfectly. That’s precisely why I had to preach it. Because this message is for me as much as it is for any of you. It is time we be the light we were created to be. Its time we let our light shine in the darkness. And its time that the only thing people see when they look at us is a life obsessed with Jesus Christ.