Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Ours to enjoy, ours to share

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

Many years ago, when our two boys were quite small, we visited some caves in Derbyshire. We joined a little party of perhaps a dozen, led by a local guide. Once he had got us deep underground (scary!) he asked us if we would like to know what total darkness was like. Of course we all said we’d really love to (ahem).

So he switched off the dim electric lights that were rigged up around the place. And yes - it was dark all right... After a few moments we heard his disembodied voice: it told us that if we had to be in such total blackness for any length of time we would probably go mad. No bearings. No sense of orientation. No idea of what might be going on around us. Creepies and crawlies. You could believe it.

Then we heard the faint, scratchy sound of a match being struck. And what a relief it was. Just that tiny flame, and everything was changed.

The Bible loves the image of light shining in the darkness. What were the first words God is recorded as speaking when, according Genesis1:2, “darkness was over the surface of the deep”? Answer: “Let there be light.” That shows how vital light is.

In general, of course, the Bible doesn’t talk about physical darkness, but spiritual: the darkness of sin, ignorance and falsehood. And so it is that the coming of Jesus at Bethlehem is likened to light coming into the darkness: “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:9).

And so it is too that anyone who has repented of their sin and trusted in Jesus has been “called out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

I do hope you can say “Yes, praise God, that’s me!”

What are we to do with this “wonderful light” in our lives? I suggest three things...

First, enjoy it.

The centuries-old “Westminster Catechism” (1647), a statement of basic beliefs, says that the reason we human beings exist is “to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever”.

I must admit that when I first heard that I was a little surprised. The people who drew up that document were sometimes known as “puritans”, and in many people’s minds that meant they were dour and stony-faced, severe kill-joys.

But no! They thought of almighty God himself as someone to be enjoyed. This reminds us that it’s good to follow Jesus, even if it isn’t always easy. 

All right, enjoying God is a bit different from enjoying your team scoring a goal or listening to some favourite music - it’s a whole lot deeper. Living in the darkness of sin may promise us shallow enjoyment, the kind that is quickly gone. But living in the light of Jesus is satisfying and fulfilling: deeply and truly enjoyable. 

May I ask: are you living in that light?

Second, reflect it.

I remember my surprise on learning at school that the moon has no light;  it is simply an enormous lump of rock. How come, then, that it shone so brightly? The answer, of course, is that it reflects the light of the sun.

That’s a perfect illustration of how we, hopefully, relate to Jesus. Of ourselves we have no light. But because the light of Jesus has shone on us, that light is reflected by us.

It’s a humbling thought that when people look at us they may see something of Jesus. Not that this happens automatically, because it’s possible for us to quench his light by continuing to live in darkness. But if we take seriously the challenge of holiness and purity, then the wonder is that it really can be so.

May I ask: do you seek and pray to reflect the light of Jesus?

Third, spread it.

The light of Jesus is for us to enjoy: yes. But it is not for us to keep to ourselves; it needs to be spread. Jesus spoke about the absurdity of a lamp being lit - and then placed under a bowl (Matthew 5:15). What would be the point of that?

The people around us need the light just as much as us. So it is our duty - and, of course, our joy - to spread it as far and wide as we can.

We do this by our Christlike living, as we have said. But we also do it by our words. As Christians we have a truth to communicate, and a story to tell. We need to look for opportunities to let people know who Jesus is, what he has done for us in dying and rising again, and how they too can come out of the darkness into his light.

May I ask: is this something you aim to do? 

Why not look for an opportunity as Christmas approaches?

Lord Jesus, you said “I am the light of the world”. But you also said to your followers “You are the light of the world”. Please help me to really grasp that great double truth. Amen.

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