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Light, Darkness and Glory January 19, 2007

Posted by larrylaz in Scripture Meditation.
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I am posting a big portion of my sermon manuscript from this past Sunday; I preached on the Jesus’ words, “You are the light of the world.” And I was very blessed by the discoveries that God revealed to me as I prepared. Specifically, helping me to define light and darkness biblically in terms of our response to the glory of God. Here’s a portion of what I said:

This theme of light and darkness is a very prevalent one in Scripture. As we look at it, what I want you to notice is a very close connection between the ideas of light and darkness and glory, namely the glory of God. Understanding that connection will shed light on what it means for us to be the light of the world. Before we look at these themes in the Word of God, let me tell you what light and darkness mean; then I’ll try to give defense for why I think those definitions are valid based on the Word.

When the Bible speaks of light, it is referring to the knowledge of the glory of God. I don’t mean merely intellectual knowledge, but deep heart-felt, experiential, knowledge. The kind of knowledge that Paul speaks of when he says, “8I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… That kind of knowledge of God and His glory is light. Darkness, then, means ignorance of and hostility toward the glory of God. That may not describe every use of the words light and darkness, but it gives us a good summary of what the two words mean in the Bible.

 

What I want to do now is show you several places in Scripture which help me to understand light and darkness primarily in terms of how we respond to God’s glory. What the Bible says about humanity points to this; what the Bible reveals about the coming of Jesus into the world points to this; and the nature of conversion points to this. In showing you this, my hope is to show you from the Bible that being light means helping people to value (that is, glorify) God more.

 

An Objection

 

But before I get into these verses I want to address a question that may be rising in your minds. Maybe you’re thinking this is going to get a bit deep, and you’re wondering how relevant it is to get into these theological terms like “glory” and “light” and “darkness”.

To that person I would say this: is there anything more relevant than knowing why you are on planet earth? That’s what Jesus addresses here: you are the light of the world.

 

Is there anything more relevant than being used of God to rescue people out of eternal darkness? Well, you can’t do that if you don’t know what that darkness is! The Bible is beginning to end a story about God’s commitment to display His supreme, incomparable worth (His glory), and an invitation to you to join Him in rejoicing in His glory and waken others to embrace His glory. If you can’t get excited about that, you can’t get excited about the Bible. If it seems irrelevant to talk about light and darkness and glory, then your whole worldview needs to be adjusted to God’s agenda.

 

Darkness: Glory Forsaken and Veiled

 

So here is the first point, that the way humanity is described in the Bible shows that light and darkness have to do with our response to the glory of God. We’ve probably all spoken of unbelievers as “walking in darkness”, but what exactly does that mean? Two passages especially make it clear. In Romans 1:21 Paul is describing the wrath of God which is being revealed against all ungodliness as humans have suppressed the truth about Him. In verse 21 he says:

 

21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

The wrath of God is coming because though God had revealed a measure of His beauty to all people in creation, we did not glorify Him. And the failure to glorify God is called having their hearts darkened. Because of their darkness we exchanged the glory of God for images, for worthless substitutes. That is the essence, then, of our spiritual darkness.

 

Paul connects the darkness of the human heart to its response to the glory of God in another place, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4: “3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

 

The word darkness is not used, but we have the image of a veil which prevents us from seeing, and then the word “blinded” in verse 4. What are unbelievers blinded from? What is the cause of their darkness? They do not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. If they are blinded from seeing light, it’s safe to say they are in darkness; and the light that they are blinded from is the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. They do not see Christ as valuable, as glorious. That is the root of human darkness: ignorance of (“blinded the minds”) and hostility to the glory of God.

 

This hostility to God is called darkness again in Ephesians 4, “17Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. Again notice that there is hostility to God which is accompanied by ignorance, and that is called being “darkened” in their understanding.

 

The point of these passages is that human beings are in a condition called darkness, and that darkness consists essentially of an ignorance of and hostility to the glory of God.

 

Light: Glory Revealed and Displayed

 

That is a picture of the darkness of mankind, and we probably all know that the coming of Christ into the world was to repair that condition of spiritual darkness. Centuries before Jesus entered the world as a human, it was prophesied of Him, “I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, 7to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.

 

When Jesus comes into the world, Matthew tells us that He came in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 9, “16the 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. And Jesus testified of Himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

 

Those verses make it very clear that Jesus came into the world as a light, to shine light into the darkness. But in what way did He give light? What exactly did He do? We would expect that if the darkness He came to shine into was primarily an ignorance and hostility to the glory of God, then the light He would shine would bring the knowledge of the glory of God. And that is exactly what we find all over the Bible: “14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

 

Jesus’ aim in the world as the light of the world was to put on display the glory of His Father. This is clear both by His own testimony and by the effect that He had on others.

 

1Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…4I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do….6I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world…

27Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.”

31Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.

And everywhere He went, His life led to the exaltation of the Father’s glory:

 

8When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

30And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, 31so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.

16Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”

47Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”

You cannot read the gospels without realizing that everything Jesus did was done with a view toward making His Father look great. The real loving that Christ did for people was not to heal and raise from the dead; it was to show people His Father. That is the essence of what it means to glorify God; that is the essence of the light that Jesus came to shine.

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Comments»

1. Jim Weidner - January 21, 2007

Thanks, Larry, for those meditations.
I enjoy looking at God and how He reveals Himself through science. I recently finished a book called “More than meets the eye: Fascinating glimpses of God’s power and design” by Richard Swenson, MD. He addressed the issue of light, and I think it relates nicely to your meditation:

“Nothing in the created order is equal to the remarkable essence that God assigns to light.
It establishes the speed limit for the entire universe.
Its speed is the only scientific constant in the universe.
It is outside of time.
It never ages.
It anchors the laws of relativity.
It is both a wave and a particle.
It allows us to see.
It comforts us with its presence and depresses us with its absence.
It conveys energy and warmth that allows us to live.
It consumes darkness, but never is itself consumed by darkness.
It is mentioned as the first thing that God created after the heavens and the earth.
It, apparently, has a divine aspect to its nature.”

Rarely in Scripture does God equate Himself with a singular noun.
God is love.(I John 4:16)
God is spirit.(John 4:24)
God is LIGHT.(I John 1:5)

There is a metaphysical nature to light, therefore. We know that at the speed of light, time stands still. (Well, Einstein figured that out: I don’t really know how. Your astronomer wife can probably show us the equations!!) We strive to comprehend that God exists outside of time. Therefore, it is not absurd to think that, at the very “instant” that God predestined us to be adopted as sons, we made the decision to follow him, even if that predestination “occurrred” eons ago.

So my question that i have been pondering is this: What “light” does that shed on the age-old question of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will? Perhaps the very fact that God lives outside of time, in eternal light, makes this dichotomy a false one (i.e., the sovereignty-choice dichotomy). One day we will have full knowledge of these mysteries, though now we “see through a glass dimly.” (I Cor. 13:12)

And another interesting thought to ponder: Maybe, besides God the very Creator, there IS something that moves beyond the speed of light: our prayers.

Better be switchin’ to decaf,
Jim

2. larrylaz - January 22, 2007

Jim,

I’ve got so much to say in response that I am going to make into a whole new post! Check it out, I should be posting it in the next couple of minutes.

Larry

3. larrylaz - January 22, 2007

Actually I just noticed Joe made a post, so I will probably not post mine for a couple of hours; but it will go up today!

Larry


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