The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Encouraging Light or Fearful Darkness?

“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” – John 8:12

“Daddy, I’m scared! DADDY I’m scared!” When my kids were younger from time to time I’d hear their voice utter those words during the night. I’d get up, go to their bedroom and calm them. I’d pray with them. But sometimes, just to be sure, they’d ask, “Dad, can we leave my light on?” And of course we’d leave the light on.

There’s something about light that removes the fears cultivated in darkness. When the light is on there’s no shadows that can birth imagined or real scary images. I remember in 1973 a few friends and I went to see the movie The Exorcist. (I wasn’t a Christian at the time and don’t encourage any Christian to see such themed movies.) I remember the goofing around and joking about the scariness of the movie before it started. We were big guys; nothing would scare us. Well, we went in joking but came out scared and shaken. When the lights in the theatre were turned down and the movie started, our light countenance dissipated pretty quickly. Once that movie started unfolding, we got pretty serious. I have to admit there were some scenes where I closed my eyes. It impacted me. The sights, the sounds, the thoughts produced, were frightening. I was afraid.

When I went home from that movie I remember I had a hard time sleeping in the dark. There was a ceiling hatch door to the attic in my bedroom. I just couldn’t sleep with the lights off without being overcome with fear something was up there and would come out in the dark. Funny how you hear things in the dark. So I slept with my lights on. Of course when my parents would come and see the lights on in my bedroom I’d pretend I’d left them on by accident. They’d shut the lights off. But I’d soon get up and put them back on. That went on for some time. Interesting how the simple putting on of a light to dispel the darkness does away with the fear of the dark and what it hides. Light has a calming effect. I still don’t like that movie! Haven’t seen it since.

There is a greater application of light and darkness. There are things we would be wise to fear. There is a Prince of Darkness. He does oversee principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness of this age (Eph. 6:12). But there is Someone who can help us deal with the darkness and our fears. That Someone is Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world. Our Heavenly Father is the “Father of lights.” God’s light overcomes darkness.

In the Gospel of John Jesus attended the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. This was a weeklong festival to commemorate God’s provision during the time of wilderness wandering of His people. During the nights of the Feast there was an illumination ceremony. In the court of the women there were four 75 foot tall candelabras set up and lit up at night to commemorate God’s provision of light during the darkness in the wilderness. There was also a prophetic messianic implication associated with this ceremony. In the Talmud it states that when those huge candles were lit all of Jerusalem and the surrounding area was illuminated. It was the day after the illumination ceremony that John records: “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12). Jesus was speaking of spiritual light and spiritual darkness with these words.  What can we draw from this verse and the idea of Jesus as light in scripture?

To “follow” means an ongoing active following; a walking side by side; an accompanying. The Bible says, “Can two walk together unless they be agreed” (Amos 3:3). If you walk with Jesus you believe in Him. To follow Jesus means to actively live a life of ongoing trust in Him. It is to pass from darkness to light; ; from death to life; from the power of Satan to God having received forgiveness of sins and living a sanctified way of life (cf. Acts 26:18). All of this is what it means to, “have the light of life.” It means to experience a new life in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

The term “light” occurs 263 times in 228 verses in the Bible. The term “dark” occurs 205 times in 177 verses. “Fear” is found 468 times in 448 verses. “Afraid” occurs 216 times in 212 verses. Light, darkness, fear and being afraid are prominent issues in God’s word. The world can be a very fearful place. The Bible uses the contrast of light and darkness to illuminate us about some very important spiritual truths. These lights of truth dispel the scary darkness. Let’s turn the light on and see what God has to say about light and darkness.

First, light conveys the idea of illumination; darkness conveys the idea of ignorance. In darkness you fumble around and can’t see where you’re going. Darkness creates uncertainty. Uncertainty can be scary; fear producing. In the darkness of our world, people are fumbling around with no accurate sense of direction, purpose or meaning. This can be fear producing; frightening. It takes the light of God to dispel fearful unknowns. It takes the light of God to expose the darkness of sin. It takes the light of God to expose our need for a Savior. It takes the light of God to show us the way out of the darkness. It takes the light of God to show us the way through this dark world. “But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light” (Eph. 5:13).

Second, light is associated with holiness and truth. Darkness is associated with evil and falsehood. John is inspired to write earlier in the gospel the words of Jesus: “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20). Speaking truth openly is associated with light – “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:21). When we live in a way pleasing to God we are in the light of God. Deeds ‘done in God” are holy. So let’s cast off the “works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Rom 13:12).

Hell is described by Jesus as “outer darkness” (Matthew 22:13). When Jesus was paying the atoning redemptive price for our sins, “darkness was over the land” (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33). Peter writes, “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4).  Jesus stepped into darkness to shine His light and make a way of life for those lost in darkness.

Heaven is associated with light. The New Jerusalem is described as, “her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crustal” (Rev. 21:11). Heaven is described as – “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5). Light is hopeful. Light is encouraging. Light is an effective antidote to fear.

Third, God is the Source of light. God is the Creator of light. “Then God said, ‘Let there be light; and there was light’” (Genesis 1:3). The Old Testament speaks of the “light of Your countenance” (Psalm 4:6; 44:3; 89:15; 90:8). God is the One who “lights my lamp” (Psalm18:28). David said, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1). Here salvation and strength are connected to the light God provides. God’s light is our source of courage. With God, “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night . . . nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness” (Psalm 91:5a and 6a; cf. also Proverbs 3:25-26). Don’t fear; God has our back.

Light is a fountain of life that springs from the Lord (Psalm 36:9). God’s light is associated with His truth – “Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle” (Psalm 43:3). The Lord covers Himself with “light as with a garment” (Psalm 104:2). The Old Testament speaks of the “light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5). God’s light is revelation, life, all goodness and rightness. God’s light is salvation for all who live in darkness without Him. God saves us from the predators of darkness. God lights up the darkness when He walks in.

In the New Testament it states, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). This verse tells us that God is the Source of light which is a symbol of God’s grace (i.e.  “gift”), everything good and everything perfect, as well as the consistency, dependable and faithful (i.e. with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning”). If “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights,” then that which is bad and imperfect is from below and the product of darkness.

“God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5b). God is the Source of light. If you are in darkness having no sense of direction or purpose or meaning, if you’re under attack and feel beaten down by life, fearful, listen to the words of God through Micah – “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me” (Micah 7:8).  David was inspired to write, “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered my from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). God delivers us from darkness and fear with His presence and His light.

Fourth, Jesus is the Source of light; therefore Jesus is God. Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 8:12). The incarnation of Jesus is introduced in the gospels with mention of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy – “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region of the shadow of death Light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16; and Isaiah 9:1-2).  In the beginning of this gospel John is inspired to write, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:4-5). If God is the Source of light and Jesus is the Source of light, then Jesus is God.

In the night, when the seas of circumstance are rough and threatening, Jesus comes with His soft but strong voice and says, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). If we just keep our eyes on Him we won’t be afraid and we might even walk on water (Matthew 14:28-30). Jesus is there, in the darkness, for you.

Fifth, God’s word is a source of His light. Isaiah was inspired to write, “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Through the prophet God also said, “Listen to Me, My people; and give ear to Me, O My nation: for law will proceed from Me, and I will make My justice rest as a light of the peoples” (Isaiah 51:4). God’s word shines forth and lights a way of justice in a dark world of corruption.

God’s word sheds light to show us the way out of darkness. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). If you feel like you’re groping around in darkness, go to God’s word for light! “For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Proverbs 6:23). God’s word lights the path to safety through a dark scary world. God’s word is our spiritual flashlight. It helps us out of darkness.

In the latter days when the dark dealings of the god of this world get really scary and will seem to cloud out all light of hope, then we must pay heed to and cling to the prophetic word of God until Christ returns for us. “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

Sixth, light is a symbol of life. “Light” is a symbol of “life.” Job spoke of the “light of life” (Job 33:30). David spoke of walking before God “in the light of the living” (Psalm 56:13). We may have physical life without Jesus, but we will never have spiritual or eternal life apart from Him. Faith in Jesus and repentance from sin is the way to be forgiven and freed from sin and experience the spiritual regeneration of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 3). We need not fear the darkness of death when we have the light of the Lord.

Seventh, the gospel is a light source since it contains the truth of God. Paul speaks of sinners, “whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. . . . For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4, 6). We will never really live and find meaning and true purpose in life without the light of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need not fear uncertainties, a critics claim or skeptics sarcasm. God’s word is true; always has been; always will be.

Jesus saving redemptive atoning work on the cross was a magnificent mission successfully accomplished as witnessed by His resurrection defeat of death (1 Cor. 15). And He saves people out of darkness so that they can be freed from it – “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13). We don’t have to walk in darkness anymore. Indeed Paul writes, “What communion has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). He wrote, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). He says, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5:11). Don’t play with darkness. There are demons in the dark. Predators prey in darkness.

Eighth, walking in the light of Jesus brings us into fellowship with God. “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 1:7). Walking in the light of God leads to fellowship with Him and each other. Division therefore is the contrasting darkness to God’s light. Any time we allow ourselves to be divisive we walk in darkness (e.g. gossip).

The darkness may be scary, but when Jesus is with us and we are shoulder to shoulder with Him and each other, the darkness can be overcome. Together we can face the monsters of darkness. Together, with Jesus and each other, no matter what pounces from the dark, we are ready. Jesus will hold our hand in the dark. Jesus will guide us through.

Ninth, light leads to love. “He who says He is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now” (1 John 2:9). According to this verse hate is darkness. And apparently it is possible for someone to say they are walking in the light but actually be walking in darkness through hate. “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him” (1 John 2:10). When we love we walk in God’s light. When we love we grow in the Lord and become spiritually mature. And we need not fear anything or anyone one when we have such love. Nothing can separate us from God’s love, not even the darkness (Romans 8:31-39).

Tenth, we are the “light of the world” as we reflect God’s light in Christ in good works. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16). Christians are to be moons; they are to reflect the light of the Son. We do that with our good works. When we do all that we do in a Christlike way and to the glory of God we become God’s light reflectors (1 Cor. 10:31). We were once “darkness, but now we are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8). When we have the light of life in Christ we are commissioned to share it with those who remain in darkness. We are to encourage the fearful with the light of Jesus. Light exposes sin and it shows the way out of it.

Eleventh, we are warned to make sure that the “light” in us is not “darkness.”  Jesus said, “Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35). Later in the New Testament Paul was inspired to warn, “For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). Satan and his hoards are “rulers of the darkness of this age” (Eph. 6:12). “Light” that deviates from God’s truth as revealed in His word is counterfeit; a false light. We don’t want a false imitation light from a bulb. We want the light of the Son Jesus.

Twelfth, apart from Jesus we are in darkness. Jesus is the “light of the world” (John 8:12).  Without Jesus there is no light in the world. The world is in darkness without Him. Look at the depth of darkness in the world where Christ has been rejected:

  • Dark devaluing of life: millions of babies murdered in the dark of their mother’s womb.
  • Dark ruthless genocide of Christian men, women and children.
  • Dark ethnic cleansing.
  • Dark vicious beheadings broadcast in the media.
  • Darkness and confusion about how to handle the “distress of nations and perplexities “of life (Luke 21:25).
  • Darkness and confusion about who people are; even to the point where people doubt and deny their very gender.
  • Dark images of violence, perversion, pornography saturating the world through the media and Internet.
  • Dark rise in Satanism and the occult.
  • Dark religions and cults who mis-define the One True Triune God as polytheistic, pantheistic, denying the Father, His Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit of light.
  • Dark churches that have gone dark without Jesus. These are churches that call evil good and good evil. A “church” lost in darkness is often darker than the world. “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” (Isaiah 5:20-21).

It’s scary to see what Satan brings out of the darkness. It’s scary to see what the children of darkness are doing. Their dark heart is filled with diabolical schemes. There are demons in the darkness. They are scary. But they are no match for Jesus and His light. Demons of darkness are defeated and flee when we turn on the light of Jesus. “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

If to follow Jesus means we “shall not walk in darkness,” then it follows that if you don’t follow Jesus you walk in darkness. To follow Jesus means to walk side by side with Him; to never go where He wouldn’t go; to go where He would go. To follow Jesus means to walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). Jesus may lead you through darkness, but He will never lead you into darkness.

I drive an older car (276,000+ miles! Lots of memories in that vehicle.)  But as an older car the plastic headlight covers get oxidized. That makes the lights shine dimly at night. It can be scary and dangerous to drive in the night with dimmed lights. What to do? Well, low and behold I saw a commercial on TV for a two step liquid solution to my problem. You can treat the headlight covers with a liquid product that clears up the oxidation. Voila! Bright lights! The same thing can happen with us. Our spiritual eyes are the lamp to the soul (Matthew 6:22). Our spiritual eyes can become covered and clouded with the images of this world. When that happens we need the washing with the water of the word. Then His light will shine bright through us. Is God’s light shining through you? Do you need washing with the word of God? Let your light shine through brightly! It’s the only way to make it through the dark.

In the final words of the last book of the Bible it states of the New Jerusalem, “The city had no need of the sun or the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light” (Revelation 21:23). Jesus is not only the light of this world. Jesus is the light of eternity. There is no darkness in heaven. There is nothing to be scared of in heaven. Are you walking in darkness? Are you scared? Are you walking in Jesus light? Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” You don’t have to grope and fear any longer. Encouraging light or fearful darkness, the choice is yours. Come and follow the light of Jesus the Lord!


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