This post is the second in a two-part series about the theme of light in the New Testament—Christ’s light beckons us to come forward to be forgiven, and in turn, we become lights in the world as representatives of Him. Read the first post, "The Light: Hiders are Beckoned Forward".
“For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”
In Part 1 of this series, we looked at Jesus, the Light of the World, who beckons us to come out of hiding and into His light. Once we have allowed His light to shine into our hearts and have committed ourselves to Him, His salvation covers us and His illuminating presence fills our hearts and begins to transform us (2 Cor. 4:6, 2 Cor. 5:17). But this light is not for us alone. He has given us the task of shining this light to the ends of the earth, that all might see Him and be drawn to Him.
Light Dwelling Within
What an incredible privilege that the God of the universe, who created the light of the sun and stars with only a word (Gen. 1:3, 14-19)—who Himself is The Light in the fullest sense of the word— would actually come and dwell within us. That He would allow us to carry His holy light within our fragile bodies. That He who is the Light of the World would call us the light of the world and allow us to participate in His work—beckoning all people to come to the Light of Christ, to come to Life.
“In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”
How can we accomplish this sacred task of bearing the Light to the world? Scripture tells us that by our good works others will see the Lord:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.”"
1 Jn. 1:5-6
Shining through Holiness
We do not earn salvation by what we do (Eph. 2:8-9), but obedience to God is the right response and expression of gratitude for what He has done for us. It is also our righteous behavior, in line with God’s own character and commands, which shows His truth and goodness to the world. Many people talk of showing the world Jesus by showing people love. Certainly this has its basis in Scripture, and loving our neighbor is an essential component of obedience to God. We are to live out our faith by walking in love, demonstrating the same kind of love with which the Father has loved us (1 Jn. 4:20).
Love should be at the core of all our works. However, this love is often confused with permissiveness. Of course our work is not to judge or to condemn. The focus here is to be on our own behavior as children of God. And the Lord tells us in His Word that there are standards of right living He wants, and rightfully expects, His children to live up to. Not for the purpose of making ourselves look good, as the Pharisees did, but because His ways are right and good and life-giving, and because this, done in love for the Father and for each other (Jn. 13:34-35), is how the world will know who He is.
Hebrews 12:14 tells us, “Without holiness, no one will see God.” This is a sobering statement. Our obedience to God’s ways is crucial in order for the world to see God. And oh, how much this dark and hurting world needs to see Him.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing, that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of Life.”
Holiness means to be set apart for a special purpose, and we as God’s children are set apart for the most important mission we could have—helping the world see Him. And in order to see Him through us, they must see holiness and light. This explains much of the stark content held within the pages of the Old Testament; the world no longer saw God—they were in darkness— as is our world still today. Out of love God chose to use a people set apart to be a pure representation of Him and to bear the light of the truth and hope found in Him to the people living in darkness. It is only light that can dispel darkness. The people around us cannot see God if we are not shining His light by living according to His commands.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.”
1 Pet. 2:9-12
Speaking His Message, Reflecting Him
Friends, we must walk in obedience to God. And we must do this humbly, always pointing to Him and not to ourselves (2 Cor. 4:5-7). Our unbelieving friends and neighbors might try to poke and prod us into joining them in behaviors that aren’t worthy of our King, and this can fool us into thinking that we need to join along in order to love them well and show them that Christians are "real people," too, and know how to have "fun." But the Bible tells us, and we know in our hearts, that rather, it is making the hard choice to stand firm with integrity that is going to show them there is something better, something more worth living for than the pleasures the world has to offer, pleasures deep down they are finding don’t really satisfy their souls. It may earn us persecution or lose us friends. But they will see Him, and we will have the joy of sharing in the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 4:13).
We are the light of the world because we bear the light of the only One worth hoping in, and He has chosen us to be His messengers to the world. Therefore, we look for every opportunity to speak His message to all who would hear it, and we seek to represent His character always.
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
Friends, let us spend all the time we can sitting at the feet of our Savior, learning from Him. Let us immerse ourselves in His Word so that we can understand who He is and how we are to live, and then let us walk forth in obedience. Let us not dwell in the darkness we’ve been rescued from. And let us not operate solely on our assumptions about what we think God would want or how “Christian culture” tells us to live. No matter how long we have been a Christian, we have much to learn. The time is short (Is. 60:22), and the stakes are high. Let us shine bright for Him.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”