Light Shining in Darkness

December 7th, 2016

The the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:5)

The tense of the verbs in this sentence grabs our attention. The light shines, present tense, and the darkness has failed to apprehend it, past tense.

God’s Constant Witness to Mankind: The light shining is a constant on-going reality - it has shined in the past, it will shine in the future, and it is shining right now. It is the Greek Present Active Indicative, which means it is constant. God gives a witness through nature - “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1) - and through our human nature and moral conscience - “What may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them” (Rom. 1:19). Furthermore, He has given the message of salvation and of Jesus Christ to many who have chosen not to believe.

Humanity’s Rejection of God’s Witness: The tense of darkness’ response to God’s witness is put in the past tense, the Greek Aorist. This tense was often used as a snap-shot, or a single point description of a process. The word “comprehend” in English means for us “to understand,” and the negative seems to suggest that mankind simply did not “get it” or grasp the meaning of God’s witness. Yet the original Greek describes something darker and more sinister in the human soul than that. Katalambano is the word in Greek and it was used in Philippians 3:12 and 13 for “apprehend,” and in 1 Corinthians 9:24 for “obtain.” Albert Barnes wrote:

The darkness did not receive or admit the rays of light; the shades were so thick that the light could not penetrate them; or, to drop the figure, men were so ignorant, so guilty, so debased, that they did not appreciate the value of his instructions; they despised and rejected him. And so it is still. The great mass of men, sunk in sin, will not receive his teachings, and be enlightened and saved by him. Sin always blinds the mind to the beauty and excellency of the character of the Lord Jesus.

Humanity’s rejection was based not on a fair examination of the witness, but on the prejudicial blackness of the human heart and of sin. Darkness never can grasp or admit light. The past tense of the verb describing this spiritual hardness or blindness as a fact, emphasizing the reality of our need.

The Illumination of the Life of Christ: What is said in verse 5 in John 1 is a general observation of our human fallenness. He illustrated his point in the following verses with the birth of Christ. the witness of nature and conscience, even the witness of the Law of God, was not enough to pull back the darkness of the human heart. So God sent the Christ to become flesh and to “tabernacle among us,” the literal meaning of John 1:14.

He won people to Himself through His life and witness. They saw His manner, heard His preaching, witnessed His power over disease, and were won to Him. No man lived like Him, loved like Him, died like Him, or rose again like Him. Yet even then, in His lifetime, there was an internal witness by God’s Spirit, even though He had not come upon the world in His full strength. In His lifetime Christ said that no one could come to Him unless the Father drew that person (John 6:44). And from His words to Peter, that it was the Father who had revealed to him that Jesus was the Christ of God (Matt. 16:17), we know that the Father’s work of drawing people was done by an internal witness of His Spirit, and not merely through providential circumstances alone.

The Internal Illumination of the Spirit: Christ spoke in His lifetime of a future time when the Spirit of God would come upon the world with power (John 16:8-11), bringing conviction and conversion to the truth. Humanity cannot come to Christ without this work of drawing, convicting, and illumination of the soul. And we have a part to play in this encounter, for we must be the voice and feet of Jesus today. We must speak the truth of the gospel to the world so that they can hear the message of grace. Paul spoke of this process the clearest when in 2 Corinthians he wrote:

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing, among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ. (2 Cor. 4:3-6 NET)

The finest of men, the greatest of our non-Christian philosophers were dimly groping in their darkness for something that they could not fully grasp. Though we may be impressed by the words of Socrates or Aristotle, of Confucius, and find in them something to admire, they are weak and inadequate when compared to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Our response should be to receive God’s witness in Christ, to believe in Him, to trust that He can save, and to grow in this knowledge, faith, and obedience. The witness of Christ calls us to life, a new spiritual life, and this the world cannot give.

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The Witness of Christmas

December 6th, 2016

In Him was life and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4 NKJV)

Ever since sin entered into the human equation, mankind has been without true life. We have physical life and a soulish life of the mind, emotions, and will, but not a true spiritual life. Some part of mankind, some part in every human being since, has been missing.

And in life, we are very much like people who have entered into a senior course of study, without having first learned the basic prerequisites for the subject. We grasp that we have something to do, some great role to fulfill, but there always seems to be missing some fundamental element in our souls that will enable us to fulfill this great role, or even to understand it fully.

God gave us a witness to the true light in Jesus Christ. Humanity did not need some trinket that would supposedly ward off evil spirits, because the problem was not with the evil “out there” in the world, but with the evil “in here” in our hearts. Humanity needed not just an extra blessing, not just a more interesting food to eat, or a more comfortable life to lead, or better and richer forms of entertainment. We needed more the animals would need because we are more than they are.

Mathew Henry wrote:

Life in man is something greater and nobler than it is in other creatures; it is rational, and not merely animal. When man became a living soul, his life was light, his capacities such as distinguished him from, and dignified him above, the beasts that perish. The spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord, and it was the eternal Word that lighted this candle.

The coming of Christ into the world is the celebration of life coming into humanity - true spiritual life from above, the missing part of our hearts and souls that we cannot function entirely without. Christ redeems us from sin and regenerates the human spirit that has so long lay like a corpse in the human soul. He becomes a teacher but first He must resurrect His disciple, for until this work of regeneration is done, we will not be able to learn from Him.

Christ becomes our light through our faith in Him. Trust is not like a hand-grip on rope let down from heaven, rather it is like a door through which we enter into a new life, like a point of immigration by which we pass into a new land, a new spiritual life. “The old has passed away, behold, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Isaiah lamented that the “law and the testimony” have “no light in them” (Isa. 8:20). The coldness of a command cannot change and bring to life the heart - it can merely teach patterns of behavior and fear of guilt and punishment if not done properly. But Christ came to give true spiritual life, as he prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2).

The witness of Christmas is the life of God in Christ Jesus that gives true life to those who believe. His life is more than just a new start in life, it is more than just a continued existence after death, it is more than just illumination of the soul, a new way of thinking, a new ethos, a new direction, and a new purpose. It includes all of these things, but it is not these alone, or even these together.

Christ’s life is His presence within us. Paul called Him, “Christ, who is our life” (Col. 3:4). “He who has the Son has life” (1 John 5:12). It is a spiritual substance, the missing core of human existence, the very essence of the eternal nature of God, the possession of which transforms us into eternal living creations. It is often called “eternal life” (John 3:16; John 10:28; Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:11) for true life must be eternal in nature. The true life of God does not end, and cannot end, for it is the source and sustenance of all other life.

Up until we have received Christ, all of the information we have in life comes through our senses. But when we have trusted in Him then we have a new experience of His life becoming our light and our life. Now we receive an inner witness, an inner experience by the Spirit of God.

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