Light of the World
Editors note: The following Christmas column was submitted by Scott Stewart, pastor of Grace Foothills Church (graceinfo.org).
Have you ever been interrogated? I have. Between 1987 and 2001, I can recall numerous conversations with various law enforcement officers. All of those conversations were light in nature (speeding, expired inspection sticker, breaking a noise ordinance, etc.), but anytime you are being reprimanded by a guy in a uniform and has a firearm at his side, it is a little intimidating.
This can be especially stressful when those conversations happen at night and the officer shines his huge flashlight in your face. Pretty uncomfortable. So when we hear that God is light, many of us believe that is terrible news because we see God as an angry and uptight police officer who shines his flashlight in our faces and interrogates us and then drags us off to the slammer.
But the gospel tells us that God being the light is actually good news. Like when it rains for two weeks and everyone slides into depression. Then the sun comes out and everyone is ecstatic and suddenly you see people throwing Frisbees and walking their dogs and saying hello to one another. &bsp;
In 1 John 1:5-7, the Apostle John is writing to a group of spiritually confused people who are saying that they are walking in the light, but their lives are incongruent with what they say they believe. Do you remember in Batman Begins when Rachel says to Bruce Wayne, Its not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you? This is what John is saying to his original readers, a mix of Greek folks and Jewish folks who are claiming to be followers of Jesus, but they have thrown their own theological baggage into the gospel that they had originally received from John 25 years before in the Gospel of John. Remember, John hung out with Jesus for three years and in those three years, Johns life and world were completely transformed. He knew that this man, Jesus, was no ordinary man. John is clear in his theology. Jesus was fully human and fully God. This idea didnt sit too well with the Greek or the Jewish crowd. So John says to both groups that they are walking in darkness at the same time they claim they walk in the light. In the film Elf, Buddy the Elf says to the department store Santa, You sit on a throne of lies. John says the same thing to his readers, both ancient and modern. John calls his readers out in truth and love.
There are two ways to walk in the darkness. In Johns context, the Greeks were walking in darkness by denying the humanity of Jesus and living a life of self-indulgence. Their worldview said that the material world was evil, so they ate at the Golden Corral everyday, had sex with whomever they wanted, and didnt recycle.
The other way of walking in the darkness was the way of moral conformity. The Jewish folks were walking in darkness by denying the deity of Jesus and living a life of harsh legalism. They were running laps for Jesus with their own moral performance. We walk in the darkness either by doing really really bad things or by doing really really good things.
I see in my own heart a mixture of both. I am the younger brother and the elder brother of Luke 15. We think that freedom can be found in the darkness, but we come to find out that we become enslaved by either a life of self-indulgence or a life of moralistic legalism. The false claim by both groups is that they had fellowship with God at the same time they were walking in darkness. Both groups did not understand the gospel. The gospel is neither irreligion nor religion, but is something different all together.
John doesnt leave us in our darkness. His tone is positive and hopeful. He tells us that THE Light of the World has come in the Person of Jesus to free us from our darkness of self-indulgent rebellion and moralistic legalism.
There are two results that come when we turn from our own darkness and walk in the light.
First, we have a deeper intimacy with one another. This means that we can be honest and open, transparent and authentic, with one another. Truth is more transformative when encountered in community.
Second, Jesus sacrificial death on the Cross removes the stain and shame of our darkness. This is tremendously good news for us. Many of us are paralyzed by our darkness. We believe that our darkness is too big for God to forgive and remove. Not believing that God can remove the stain of our darkness is the bigger sin. Jesus is enough.
On the Cross, Jesus went into the darkness of Gods fury and wrath at the worlds wrongdoing, so that we could walk in the light. In the film I am Legend, Will Smith is telling a woman about the power and impact of Bob Marleys music. He ends the scene by saying, Light up the darkness. The Apostle John says, Come into the light and allow your darkness to be exposed and come and be cleansed. Jesus comes and lights up the darkness by living the life we shouldve lived and dying the death we shouldve died.
The invitation of grace is for believers and unbelievers. Both are invited to believe the gospel and live in the light of the gospel. Jesus is the Light of the World.
This weekend as we gather with our friends and families, lets celebrate the fact that God does not leave us in our own darkness, but invites us to be in relationship with the Light, Jesus.
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