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The Light of Light

June 8th, 2018

For with you is the fountain of life; In your light do we see light. (Psalm 36:9)

God not only leads us and guides us in life, but He teaches us. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet” (Psalm 119:105), that is, God illumines the next step of life so that we do not walk in darkness. “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). But His word is also “a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105b), that is, He teaches our hearts that we might be wiser.

The proverb warns us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). Some have taken this to discount the growth in wisdom and knowledge, that our own understanding is always corrupted. There will always be the stain of sin in our human hearts as we live on this earth, but God also teaches us His ways, and instructs us as to what His plan is. Moses’ prayer, “Teach me your ways” (Ex. 33:3), is our prayer as well.

How does God do this? What are the aspects of this inner illumination?

We know ourselves better

God shows us to ourselves, including the painful revelation of the evil that is in our hearts, and the wonderful revelation of the work of God of transformation of our hearts. Of the evil, Paul wrote, “For I know that nothing good lives in me, in my sinful nature” (Rom. 7:18). He spoke of the painful unveiling of himself to himself. He had lost the illusion that he was some sort of good person. He had seen the evil that was there and despite his former religious sect, he was a pharisee of the pharisees, he had found that this had not made him different in his heart. He still was angry, vain, self-righteous, proud, and vindictive.

But the despairing realization of our fallenness is countered in God’s grace by the startling realization of what the Spirit of God is doing to our hearts. In Christ we experience the new life of love and selflessness, of consideration of others and of inner peace. “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers” (1 John 3:14). God imparts a new compassion and we see our thoughts changing from anger to love, from doubt and skepticism to confidence and peace, from the life enslaved to passions to the life of compassion for others. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim . 1:7).

We know God better

The illumination of our own soul is added to by our knowledge of God. The Lord illumines our minds through His Word to know who God is. We meet Him face to face through the gospel and through the Person of Christ. All Christians, those who are true believers, have been encountered by God through the gospel and by His Spirit. He has called out to our hearts in a personal way, with perhaps less drama than He did with Paul, but still with the same personal message: “I am Jesus Christ” (Acts 9:5). In our Christian life He says to us, “You have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). And the goal of our life becomes: “That I may know him (Christ) and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10).

As we grow in the faith we grow in our knowledge of and in our closeness to Him. There is no form of true Christian maturity that does not also include the inner spiritual personal knowledge of Christ. The goal of God for the maturity of the church is: “Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). Through Christ and through His Spirit we cry out to God, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15).

The better we know Him the greater our confidence rises in His provision and watchcare for us. As the psalmist said, “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 36:7). He comforts us in our sorrows and afflictions (2 Cor. 1:4). His provision to our souls is not merely the alleviation of suffering, or the avoidance of distress and difficulty, but the presence of Himself to our hearts.

We seem to know Him best and experience Him the deepest in the midst of our difficulties. In truth, to know Him better is such a profound benefit to our hearts that Paul even said: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).

We know life better

In the light of God’s Word we see the reality of life on this earth for what it is. We know that time is passing and that our life is like a vapor that disappears quickly. We learn that the plans of mankind do not stand for all times, but that the work of the Lord is eternal.

All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:6-8 ESV)

Our perspective changes and that which was once reality – that is, this material life – is now seen as mere shadows and a passing fancy, and that which we once thought to be merely imagination or theoretical – that is, God and spiritual life – we now see as true reality and eternal substance.

We see the spiritual warfare of this life. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). We see that sin and disobedience lead not to freedom but to spiritual enslavement: “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34), and if we abide in Christ and in His word “[we] will know the truth, and the truth will set [us] free” (John 8:32).

We see the mission that Christ has entrusted to us and His purpose in our life. The confusion about hardship and difficulties is removed and we know that God is at work in all our circumstances:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Rom 8:28-29)

We gain wisdom from Him on how to conduct ourselves with others, and the importance of honesty, integrity, goodness, patience, and faith.

And we see the future utter defeat of evil and the victory of God in the coming of Christ. We look forward to that day, and to the time that we leave this earth. “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). “Amen, come Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

 

Psalms