Children of Light--Bruce Grice
Long ago, there was a tribe in a dark, cold cavern. The cave dwellers would huddle together & cry against the chill. Loud & long they wailed. It was all they did. It was all they knew to do. The sounds in the cave were mournful, but the people didn't know it, for they had never known joy. The spirit in the cave was death, but the people didn't know it, for they had never known life. But then, one day, they heard a different voice. "I have heard your cries," it announced. "I have felt your chill & seen your darkness. I have come to help." The cave people grew quiet. They had never heard this voice. Hope sounded strange to their ears. "How can we know you have come to help?" "Trust me," he answered. "I have what you need." The cave people peered through the darkness at the figure of the stranger. "What are you doing?" one cried, nervous. The stranger didn't answer. "What are you making?" one shouted even louder. The visitor stood & spoke in the direction of the voices. "I have what you need." With that he turned to the pile at his feet & lit it. Wood ignited, flames erupted, and light filled the cavern. The cave people turned away in fear. "Put it out!" they cried. "It hurts to see it." "Light always hurts before it helps," he answered. "Step closer. The pain will soon pass." "Not I," declared a voice. "Nor I," agreed a second. "Only a fool would risk exposing his eyes to such light." The stranger stood next to the fire. "Would you prefer the darkness? Would you prefer the cold? Don't consult your fears. Take a step of faith." For a long time no one spoke. The people hovered in groups covering their eyes. The fire builder stood next to the fire. "It's warm here," he invited. "He's right," one from behind him announced. "It's warmer." The stranger turned & saw a figure slowly stepping toward the fire. "I can open my eyes now," she proclaimed. "I can see." She stepped into the ring of light. "It's so warm!" She extended her hands & sighed as her chill began to pass. "Come, everyone! Feel the warmth," she invited. "Silence!" cried one of the cave dwellers. "Dare you lead us into your folly? Leave us & take your light with you." She turned to the stranger. "Why won't they come?" "They choose the chill, for though it's cold, it's what they know. They'd rather be cold than change . . . and live in the dark." "Will you leave the fire?" he asked the woman. "I cannot. I cannot bear the cold. But neither can I bear the thought of my people in darkness." "You don't have to," he responded, reaching into the fire & removing a stick. "Carry this to your people. Tell them the light is here, and the light is warm. Tell them the light is for all who desire it."
And she took the small flame & stepped into the shadows.
Our task as well this evening is to take the flame & step
into the shadows.
After all, we remember what it's like to be cold. To live in darkness.
*Two little girls were attempting to make their way one evening across a dark room in their home . . .
"I didn't like it. It's scary going where you can't see." The other girl agreed. "I kept taking little steps to be safe."
You recall how scary it is to walk where you can't see.
We can't bear the thought of others stumbling through a dark world.
3. So, we take the flame and together we step into the shadows.
Into a world whose motto is:
Life is short. Play hard. Whoever dies with the most toys wins.
A world whose worst fears include: loneliness, hopelessness, death.
We too were once blinded by this world's bright lights that mask a heart of darkness.
Now, we have chosen the Light that dispels the darkness.
And we take that Light & step into the shadows.
C. Darkness. Light. Jesus made some bold claims about these: I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:12
Light is one of those great themes running through Scripture.
In the beginning, at the outset of creation, God commanded: Let there be light (Genesis 1).
And as the story closes in Revelation with an eternal beginning, we see a glorious city bathed in light where:
There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. Revelation 22:5
Jesus was the Light prophesied for centuries:
The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not. He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not. John 1:9-11
Into a world of shadows, Jesus came being the Light.
Illuminating who we are, why we are here, &, where we are going. Come to Me . . . He invited!
Come to the Light! Peace, hope, purpose, warmth, salvation, can be found in the Light.
Many did. Many more did not.
And in Matthew 5 Jesus charged His disciples, His followers: You are the light of the world.
Put your name where "you" is. Then He added:
A city 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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
The key thing about light is that its radiance can best be seen in the darkest places.
It's difficult to see a candle flame in a brightly lit room, but strike even a single match in the darkness, and every eye will be drawn to it: You are the light Not, you need to become the light.
We already are, by virtue of His presence within us. As the moon reflects the sun's light, we reflect the light of the Son.
As each Christian & family come together, we form communities of light which the world cannot help but see.
We then take the light to the needy & hurting places where the gospel flame is not already lit.
COMMITMENT & COURAGE
are involved in carrying out Jesus' charge in Matthew 5.
*Commitment to God's standards.
*You need more than "high" standards. You need HIS standards.
You step into the shadows with a life committed to rightness.
We penetrate the shadows not by hiding the light under a basket, but by lifting it high upon a lampstand.
When you feel outnumbered, rejected, & isolated in your beliefs, it takes courage to stand undaunted.
When so many love the darkness rather than light, it takes commitment to let your light shine.
Yet may we never use that hostility as an excuse for hiding our light.
It didn't stop Jesus. It didn't stop 1st century Christians from planting churches in wicked cities like Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome.
It must not hinder us: For He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1st John 4:4
B. So we take the flame, and we step into the shadows.
1. Through commitment & courage, we strive to: Shine Like Stars, Light Up the Skies
. . . Blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. Philippians 2:15
*The story is told of a lighthouse keeper who worked on a rocky stretch of coastline & who received his new supply of oil once a month to keep the light burning. Not being far from shore, he had frequent guests. One time a father asked for some oil to use in his lamp. Another needed some to lubricate a wheel. Since all the requests seemed legitimate, the lighthouse keeper tried to please everyone and granted them all. Toward the end of the month he noticed that the supply of oil was very low. Soon, it was gone, and the beacon light went out. That night several ships were wrecked and lives were lost. When the authorities investigated, the man was very repentant.
Yet, to his excuses & pleading their reply was: "You were given the oil for one purpose . . . to keep that light burning!"
God's Word calls on us to keep our light burning.
In fact, the Bible identifies Christians as "children of light" in Eph. 5.
OPEN IN YOUR BIBLES TO EPHESIANS 5, beginning in verse 8.
Read Ephesians 5:8-13
Do the Light Thing!
For you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.
But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.
How can we more effectively step into the shadows & reach those in the darkness?
In close to one hundred passages in the Bible, we discover the evil & the damage of darkness.
It reverses God's decrees, calling evil "good" and good "evil" (Isaiah 5:20).
Darkness imprisons people (Isaiah 42:7).
Darkness has the power to pervade the entire body (Matthew 6:23).
Sinners will be cast into outer darkness in judgment (Matthew 8:12).
People reject Jesus because they love darkness rather than light (John 3:19).
In darkness, people come under the power of Satan (Acts 26:18).
In fact, darkness is a power itself - a power from which we cannot escape by ourselves (Colossians 1:12,13).
Darkness blinds people (1st John 2:11).
Later in the Ephesian letter, we read that: Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Eph. 6:12
Darkness is behind every crime statistic we read in the news.
Darkness has been the power at work in every act of sin ever committed.
Darkness destroys marriages; gives birth to hatred.
It provides the breeding ground for lust, and it fuels abuse & violence.
Darkness encourages envy, stirs up strife, and causes selfishness to thrive.
It drives people to unthinkable actions. The Bible makes this clear:
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened . . .
And just as they did see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, full of envy, murder strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful. Romans 1:21, 28-31
*Before Christ, we were not just in darkness. We were darkness. Now we are to "walk as children of light."
You have been crucified with Christ and Christ lives in you (Gal. 2:20).
1. Light produces good fruit (5:9).
*Goodness--has to do with moral excellence. We serve willingly & sacrificially for the benefit of others.
*Righteousness - is giving to others & to God that which is their due. We act toward God & people the way we ought to.
*Truth - is not just something that we know, but something that we do. Light makes us strong enough not only to know the truth, but to live it.
2. Light finds out what pleases the Lord (5:10). "Trying to learn" could also be translated "discovers."
*The word came out of the market places of the Ancient East. The crowded little shops seldom had windows.
They were dark. The merchandise was hard to see. Careful inspection was almost impossible. People would take a clay pot, a piece of cloth, or whatever they wanted to purchase, and go outside to hold it up to the light. Then they could find any flaws or stains that they could not see in the dark shop.
Living close to Jesus does this for you. His light helps you to see what your motives, actions, and words are really like. His light enables you to see what is in you that pleases Jesus, as well as flaws & sins that exist and need to be removed.
3. Light exposes evil (5:11-13).
A. Exposing the "works of darkness" goes completely against the grain of our culture.
1. Yet, we can't "walk as children of the light", we can't epitomize "goodness, righteousness, truth", if we ignore evil.
To ignore sin is to encourage it. To keep quiet about it is to promote it.
How do we "expose" sin?
We can indirectly.
We give a reproof by the way we live.
*While others cheat, we deal honestly.
*While others speak coarsely, we speak with purity.
*While others lie, we tell the truth.
*While others corrupt, we edify.
We expose sin directly as well. Speaking & acting.
In order to expose evil, we must:
Take sin seriously.
Have our own spiritual houses in order. (Growing in the truth, etc.)
*In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin tells of wanting to convince the citizens of Philadelphia to light the streets at night as a protection against crime & a convenience for evening travel. When he failed to influence them by his words, he bought an attractive lantern & placed it on a long bracket that extended from the front of his house. Each evening at dusk, he lit the wick. His neighbors noticed the glow in front of his home. Travelers appreciated the way the light helped them make their way over the rough cobblestone streets. Soon others began placing lanterns in front of their homes, too. Eventually the city recognized the need for well-lighted streets.
May we shine that others will see the need for God's light in their lives as well.
How can you be a more effective light for Christ?
Recognize who you are
When you were baptized into Christ, some things changed in a major way:
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:27
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come! 2nd Corinthians 5:17
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me . . .Galatians 2:20
Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did. 1st John 2:6
You are the light of the world . . . Matthew 5:14
Understand the world you live in
We live in a fast-changing, uncertain world.
Not long ago people cooked on wooden stoves. And when grandma said, "Log on" she meant make the wood stove hotter. And when she said "Download" she meant go & get the firewood off the pick-up truck.
Satan has done an effective job convincing many in our world that truth is relative and that there is no right or wrong; that people can basically choose to live anyway they want.
He also has convinced our world that those who hold to moral absolutes are outdated, out of step, unloving, and, even dangerous.
The events of the past weeks have rocked the foundations upon which many have built their lives on & placed their trust in.
A world where people are still basically the same. They need the Light, Jesus.
They need what only He has to offer: hope, security, purpose, joy, fulfillment, salvation.
Live a life that attracts attention
A. Jesus attracted attention.
What is it about your life that will attract attention?
YOUR HOPE WILL ATTRACT ATTENTION (1st Peter 3:15)
Much of our world today is without hope.
2. Your unwavering hope shines in this uncertain world.
YOUR CONSISTENT LIFE WILL ATTRACT ATTENTION
Saying one thing & actually doing that one thing.
YOUR SERVANT HEART WILL ATTRACT ATTENTION
YOUR LOVE WILL ATTRACT ATTENTION
YOUR FAITH IN GOD WILL ATTRACT ATTENTION
When "we are sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" all eyes will be upon us.
*About 150 years ago there was a terrible potato famine in Ireland. Hundreds of thousands left searching for a new life. One of these was a penniless boy who hid as a stowaway on a ship bound for America. In the mid-Atlantic, the ship began to sink. Yet, there was enough time to get everybody into life-boats.
Deep down in the darkness of the ship, the boy wondered why the motors had stopped, & he wanted to go & find out why. But to leave the darkness of his hiding place would mean he would be discovered. He decided that he would leave his hiding spot & suffer the consequences. As he emerged, there was no one around. He came up on the deck just as the captain of the ship was about to step into the last life boat. In the highest tradition of the sea, the captain stepped back & put the boy in his place. As the lifeboat was pushed off, the captain said to the boy: "Never forget what has been done for you."
As the lifeboat pulled away, the boy could see the captain standing on the deck, and that vision never left him. He became a successful businessman in America, and when people asked him about the secret of his motivation, he always told the story of the captain giving his life for him.
Jesus died a long time ago in order that when you leave your hiding place in the darkness & come into the presence of God, you will not be rejected. You will be loved & accepted.
Will you leave your hiding place in the darkness & come into the light? It will hurt. It won't be easy. But that is nothing compared to the joy of being in the presence
of the living God.
"Never forget what has been done for you."