I used to take my kids camping all the time. When it got dark on moonless nights, camping was really fun. My kids and I would go out at midnight when it was darkest, with flashlights, to look around and explore.
When we used flashlights in deep darkness, they showed us things we’d never seen before! The lights revealed new sights, and they also protected us. The flashlights let us see things as they really were, helping us avoid ditches and tree branches, keeping us safe. Sometimes we’d think, the ditch was right here – but it would be several feet away from where we’d remembered it.
The lights kept us from falling and helped us see the truth of our surroundings.
But sometimes, I didn’t bring enough batteries and sure enough we’d be having a really good time, and suddenly, the flashlights went out. We had to find our way back to our campground without the light! Inevitably, someone got hurt, or fell down and dirtied their clothes. Walking in the dark meant we didn’t see the bad things for what they were, and it was often painful.
I was thinking about this memory of camping with my kids, because John’s gospels and letters often refer to God as light.
“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. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:5-10
John begins with, “God is light.” “Light” captures the very nature of God: that he is full of glory, that he is infinite, that he is transcendent and all-powerful, and that he is the source of all life.
Without light, nothing can live. God is the source of light and makes all life possible.
John 1:9 says: “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.”
Psalm 27 says, “The Lord is my light…” Psalm 102 says, “The Lord wraps himself in light…” Psalm 119 says the Word of God “…is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Jesus describes himself as light in John 8:12: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”
God’s presence in our lives is a light – like flashlights when we’re camping. He helps us to see the world as it really is. So, are we going to live in the light, or are we going to live in the darkness?
The reality is we all sin and we all struggle with the darkness, Christian or not. Sin is lawlessness, wrongdoing, that which is opposed to the truth. Sin alienates us from God who is good, who is light and who is perfect.
John 3 says: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”
Romans puts it this way. “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
To deny that humanity is inherently sinful is basically to practice self-deception. Not until you see the problem and understand the reality of the sin that’s within you can you understand what Jesus did on the cross.
As a follower of Jesus, we have to be different from good, moral people. You know, those who go to church, do nice things or serve others, but they use those things to say, “That’s what makes me good. My knowledge and enlightenment make me good before God.”
A Christian, however, knows that although we can do those things, they do not change our nature. They do not make us sinless. We still sin.
I know this self-deception well because I did it myself.
I did not become a believer until I was 40. For the longest time, I thought, “I’m a pretty good person. I’m nice to people. I don’t break the law. I give. I’m kind. I’ve done some things that aren’t so good, but come on – if God was good, he would forgive me. He’ll be okay with what I do.”
Even though I was trying to justify myself, I could never justify the obvious evil in the world. Just turning on the news reveals darkness that troubles every one of us, as it should. So what does this mean for us?
Do we really want to believe in a God who lets those things happen and doesn’t do something about them? Do you want a God who says, “Go ahead and sin all you want and do all the destruction you want”? Of course not!
God, if he’s good, must be just. He must do something about all of the evil we see around us.
We have a good God who is just, who will deal with evil and will eradicate its power for good – which includes the evil and sin in ourselves.
When I became a Christian, I realized that I’d been living in the dark, like camping with no flashlight. I asked God to redeem me, to show me the dark places in my heart with his light, and help me to see the world as he does.
With his light, everything changes. We still sin, and there is still so much evil in the world. But with the light of Jesus Christ in us, we can see clearly. We see how to help others, we see ourselves as we really are, and we get to see the love of God on display through his redemption, light and hope.
So today, let’s ask God for help to walk in the light.
How can the light of Jesus Christ impact your day today?