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Faith Alive! | Commandments of Christ 9

9. Concerning the stranger: Let your light shine before others

From issue 87 (May 2007)

THE very first act of creation “Let there be light” reveals God’s purpose – to fill the world with glory. It also shows the process through which this purpose is achieved as then “God divided the light from the darkness”. The entire Bible follows this purpose and process, culminating in Revelation where we see no more darkness because “the glory of God gives it light and its lamp is the lamb” (Revelation 21:23).

Just as the physical creation began with light, so too did the spiritual creation under Jesus. It is no coincidence that Jesus explains his purpose on the earth in terms of light. He is “the light of the world” and without him the world is in darkness. He too spoke about the separating of light and dark. “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light …” (John 3:20-21). Note that the emphasis here is on action – ‘doing’, ‘coming’ and ‘deed’. Being in the light is about our approach to life.

Jesus’ command for disciples to “Let your light shine before others” comes in some of Jesus’ first teachings, given as part of the Sermon on the Mount. Just notice whose light it is. Jesus doesn’t tell us to help him shine, but he tells us to let our light shine. Jesus tells us that we can possess the light, when he promises that his followers will have the ‘light of life’: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

So the first question must be: what is this light? Paul helps us with this by telling us “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” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Paul tells us that our light is the knowledge of God’s glory. We can see this in the example of Jesus as he came to manifest God to us. To have this light we must look into the face of Jesus. If we try to understand God’s glory then we begin to shine. The God who created the world is completing His spiritual creation by separating light from the darkness.

The process

What does this mean on a practical level? Let’s link Jesus’ commandment: “… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven” to the words in 2 Corinthians 4:6. This gives us a process:

  1. look to Jesus, see God’s glory and receive light,
  2. follow Jesus by acting on his words and our light will shine
  3. the result is that others may glorify God. We can be a vessel to bring others to a knowledge of the glory of God – what an honour!

Think back to the principle though – it’s either light or dark. There is no half-way house. If we don’t act on his commands, we’re like the person who puts a bowl over a light. The light would flicker for a while but then eventually it would fade and die, becoming part of the darkness. Not acting on Jesus’ words is effectively hiding our light, the same as becoming part of the darkness. When we spend time thinking about the things of Jesus, do we allow them to impact on our lives and our characters? If we believe God’s purpose is to fill the world with light and yet are not prepared to join with this now, we’re really saying that we want no part of it in the future.

So it is important that we shine – but how do we do this? Paul teaches the new converts at Philippi how to shine, and effectively tells them to be stars: “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). The lives of believers should be different from those who haven’t accepted Jesus as their Lord and master. Our belief is shown in the everyday things. If we are trying to be ‘blameless and innocent’ there is only one example to follow – that of the goodness of the Lord Jesus, who shows us the character of the Father. The more we look to follow Jesus’ example, the more we shall stand out from the people around.

The pattern

There is an example of a man who had direct experience of the glory of God and, as a result, literally shone. Moses had asked God to show him His glory, yet we’re told it was God’s goodness which passed before him. As God then descended on Mount Sinai, He revealed His name and His purpose to Moses. As a result, when Moses left the mount, his face literally shone. Moses had looked into the glory of God – both the physical and the goodness of His being and character – and shone as a result. No one could fail to notice that Moses had been with God.

Although we’re not going to ‘glow’ physically, it is the same for us. God will shine in our hearts if we spend time in His and Jesus’ presence. We have the privilege of looking at Jesus’ face and seeing the glory of God. We need to look intently, to accept what God has done and we too can shine. It should be just as evident that we have spent time with God as it was for the Israelites to know where Moses had been. Just as Moses’ glory faded though and the shining could only be renewed by contact with God, so our light will fade. We need to keep ‘topped up’ by regular contact, thinking forward to the time when the glory will not dim.

The practice

So, Jesus’ command is to let our light shine and this is something that we need to check regularly – weekly, if not daily. Have I just studied Jesus’ character rather than trying to change mine? Have I stood out as being ‘blameless and harmless’? Have I ‘shone’ when I talked about the things of God – or did other things set me more alight? Have I spent enough time looking into the face of Jesus? Have I tried to be like Jesus, not just talk about it? Is it clear to others that I spend time in God’s presence?

Challenging questions – and, for me, challenging answers. Just think of the future though. For now, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” shines into our hearts. But then, in the kingdom, it won’t just be our hearts but all “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God”.

ABIGAIL LEAr

 

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