Light It Up

Every morning I try to read the news. I say I try because sometimes it simply becomes too much to bear. Often, the stories that pop up are just a display case for all the dark things happening – here and there and everywhere. At times, I can’t get past the first paragraph – especially when the dark news involves something happening to a child. That sort of darkness is just heavy.

I can only take so much of that sort of news – it is dark – and the darkness has a way of moving into our hearts. I’ve found that if I stare at the darkness too long – it begins to impact how I see the world. I can get a little cynical (or more than I already am), a little jaded to the world and others. I can get to empathy overload quick – because the darkness is just overwhelming – it is too much – too big – and yet…

Into the very heart of darkness, God speaks and He speaks to us.

In the opening chapters of Genesis – God spoke into the literal darkness, the void, the chaos – and the first thing he brought into the darkness was light -which in some ways is a metaphor for the rest of human history. In Genesis 1:1–3 it says, [1] In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. [2] 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. [3] And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (ESV).

God’s first action – God’s first words to the universe – was “Let there be light” – light to push back the literal darkness and chaos.

From Genesis on – all the way through the entirety of the Bible  – God breaks into the other kind of darkness – the sort of darkness that weighs heavy on the heart and soul – the sort of darkness that holds humanity in bondage – the sort of darkness that breeds fear and pain and misery and mayhem, etc.

And, when God breaks into the heart of darkness, just like in Genesis, he breaks in with light. This light is the more than just the hope of salvation – the hope of rescue – the hope of renewal and redemption. The light that God brings is a light that darkness can’t overwhelm – no matter how pervasive the darkness – it can’t overtake the light. The Bible declares again and again that darkness will not prevail; it will never overcome the light. And all throughout the Bible – God shows up with the light – and shows that the light is coming – and shows that the light has come – and the very heart of hell can do nothing about it but fall on its knees.

In the Bible, God shows up with the light all over the place – like in the Book of Isaiah.

People in Isaiah’s day knew darkness. They knew what it was like to feel the disorienting, shocking, horrifying feeling that comes when everything around them is wrong and awful, and godless, when fear rules, when the threats to life and freedom and peace are knocking at the door. Their government was corrupt and those in charge were fearful and messing up. People turned their backs on God and feared rather than trusted. Their religious exercises were just that; it did not affect the way they lived – or impact how they treated one another. They had ceased to be the witness for God they were supposed to be – and there was a threat of war that would soon come to reality. It was a dark time. It was one of the most turbulent periods in Judah’s history and Isaiah was God’s prophet.

Isaiah understood darkness – but Isaiah also knew that God speaks into the very heart of darkness and God spoke light into the darkness through Isaiah – just like He speaks through His people today.

God spoke to Isaiah – his prophet of light – and through him –God spoke light – as He spoke of the person that we are to speak of today – the very light of the world. God told Isaiah in Isaiah 9:1–2, “[1] But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. [2] The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (ESV)

And in Isaiah 42:5-7 it says, “5 Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6 “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.

The very same word that Isaiah spoke in the 700s BCE – Jesus himself spoke – and knew that the light that Isaiah spoke of was in fact – him. The light that was to come – the light that was to push out the darkness – the light that was to dawn on the people who dwelt in darkness – is Jesus.

In Matthew 4 – we read, “And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:” The land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” Jesus was the light that dawned.

It must have been a powerful moment because John, another one of Jesus’ disciples, filled his gospel with light. Over and over John tells his readers that Jesus is the light that overcomes all the darkness in the world. In John 1:4 & 5 he wrote, “4 In him was life, and the life was the light of humanity. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

• And in John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
• And in John 9:5, Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
• And again in John 12:46 Jesus said, “46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”

God speaks into the darkness – into the very heart of darkness – and He brings light – light that the darkness can’t overwhelm. He speaks light into the world through His prophets – and through His only begotten Son.

God is a God of light. Jesus is the light of the world. The darkness – no matter how pervasive – has no power over the Light. Darkness may creep and crawl and try to worm its way into our souls – it may worm its way into our lives – and try to weigh us down – but take heart – if your trust is in Jesus – you belong to the light – and the darkness has no power over you – none.

Jesus is the light that breaks into the darkness, which makes what He says about His disciples all the more compelling – doesn’t it?

Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world. Just as Jesus is the light of the world – so too are His people.

In Matthew 5:14 we hear the Lord Jesus say, “You are the light of the world.”

Have you ever really considered what that means and the responsibilities that being the light of the world brings to God’s people? Jesus isn’t simply paying us a compliment. This is a call to action.

Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:15-16. He said, “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 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.”

We should imagine that it is God who built the city on the hill. It is God who lit the lamp. He has no intention of putting you under a basket. God lit the light in your heart and He wants the light to be displayed and he wants that light to push back the darkness of the world.

Just as God spoke light into a dark world – just as Jesus brought the light to bear on the darkness – just as God used Isaiah to speak the light into the darkness of his day – God’s people today are to bring God’s light to a dark world. That means we can’t shrink from it. We can’t fear it. We can’t avoid it. We are to shine bright so that people are drawn out of the darkness into the light.

At least that seems to be the way that Paul understood it. In Acts 13:47 Paul says, “47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” And later on – Paul again in 2 Corinthians 4:6 writes, “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.”

In other words, Paul understood that we – as people who serve Jesus were to bring the light of the gospel to bear on the darkness.

The Lord Jesus intends for His people to be a community of Light – and the light shines all the brighter when the days are darkest. Think of a cave – when the lights are turned out – think of how bright one candle is in that dark place – think of how people are drawn to that light – that lone candle in a dark place.

As God’s people – as the church – we are made to be that light – one that shines brightest during the darkest days.

It is not a difficult thing for us to realize that the world is a dark place. The news around us – all the time – isn’t good. It is into that, God’s people are to shine the light of the gospel. When the darkness begins to creep in – we are to speak of Jesus – who is the light of the world. Just as Isaiah spoke of God’s light to people in his dark days – we are to speak of God’s light in Jesus in our own dark days.

We must remember -though – that the darkness hates the light and tries to put it out. But – as John reminded us – the darkness can’t overcome the light of Christ – not in our hearts and not in the world. The darkness may rage. The darkness may seem enormous – but take heart – Christ – the light of the world – has overcome the darkness.

We are to bring the light of Christ into the dark places of our own hearts and in the heart of our community. We aren’t to wait on someone else to bring hope and life – we aren’t to wait on someone else to bring the light to expose the darkness. That is the call of the Christian. And we can expect the darkness to push back – but – the darkness can’t overcome the light.

When darkness begins to creep into your life a bit – proclaim the light of Christ to yourself. When darkness creeps into your community – proclaim the light of Christ.

We have an active role in what God would have us to do. Let the light of Christ shine in you and in what you do – so that others – those who dwell in darkness may see the light of Jesus and find rescue in Christ.

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