Isaiah 9:2 and 6: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
John 1:1-4 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
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.”
Winter can be very hard on people. I’m not diggin’ the darkness. This getting dark at 5 pm is depressing. I don’t drive as well after dark. I don’t seem to have the same amount of energy when it is dark so early. Getting up early in the morning is tougher for some reason. Add to that the overcast and rainy weather we have been having, and it has been a kind of “Blah Humbug” kind of week for a lot of folks. Darkness has a way of cloaking us. It is pervasive. It can cover and smother us.
Darkness was highlighted in the beginning at Creation. It was the condition of the earth in the beginning. Darkness wasn’t good. Genesis 1:1-2 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. It was this state, this condition that caused God to create the light. God wanted to bring light to the earth by separating the day from the night. He still longs for there to be light in every corner of the earth.
It’s clear from the passages Michaela has read from Isaiah and John that it was prophesied a light would appear and that the prophesied light was and is Jesus Christ. He referred back to Isaiah’s prophecy when he said of Himself in John 8:12 that He was the “Light of the World” and that whoever followed Him would never walk in darkness, but would have the light of life. Jesus IS the Light, and He says following Him will keep us out of darkness and in a pathway of light.
I see a lot of darkness in our world today. I actually posted the question on my FB page on Wednesday asking what people think others are in the dark about. Answers included politics, history, finances, relationships, church doctrine, the Bible, what is important in life, and how people are really saved from sin and eternal hell. Several people commented, for example, on the idea that our culture has embraced that we are all God’s children and everyone will going to heaven which is not what the Bible teaches.
Perhaps many people are in the dark because they haven’t been exposed to the Light.
When John wrote his Gospel he was compelled to use light and dark and day and night as major themes. It would be an interesting study to just go through and circle the references to light and dark and day and night in that fourth Gospel to see how often John highlighted the differences between them. He was compelled to make sure anyone reading his Gospel would understand that Jesus was the Light of the World and that living in the light and coming out of darkness were good goals to have. John didn’t want anyone reading his book to be ignorant about Who the Light was and how it made a difference in a person’s life.
Some people, quite frankly, just prefer being in the dark about things. They have adopted the “Ignorance is bliss” motto or have simply decided that being guided by feelings or impulses or by the wave of the culture is the best way to go. Maybe they think if they don’t know the truth they won’t be responsible to it. I am guilty of having this attitude from time to time. Before we left for our Thanksgiving vacation, Thom asked if we should take the scales to weigh ourselves while we were gone. To which I replied, “Umm No!” Without processing it, I was choosing to be in the dark. Who gains three pounds in five days? This girl! J It wasn’t until I stepped on the scales the day after our return that I realized and owned what I had done. What I hoped wouldn’t happen, happened because I chose to be in the dark. Because I chose quickly to get back in the light by weighing myself, those three pounds are now gone again. Choosing the light helped me get back on track. I wonder how much progress I could have made, though, during that week, if I would have just stayed in the light.
Some people avoid the light because too much light exposes who they really are. Too much light confronts what is wrong with them. Admitting weakness, flaws, inconsistencies, and imperfection would be the undoing of a proud veneer of success. In the dark some people think they can fool people into thinking they are something they really aren’t, and since the Light would expose their “issues” they stay as far away from it, from Him, as possible. That is why John said:
John 3:19-21 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
Are you walking in Light this morning? Or are you walking in darkness? How do you know if you are walking in the Light? Here are some questions to answer this morning to help you personally discern if you are walking in the Light with Christ. (Please turn to I John 1:5-10)
- Have you agreed with God about your sin?
1 John 1:5-10 5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 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. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
So, John doesn’t mince any words here. He says there are some people who are living a lie. They are claiming to know God and follow God by having a relationship with Jesus, but they are only playing church. John says if what we claim isn’t backed up by how we are walking, we are lying. (vs 6) He goes on in verse 8 to say that if we think we are somehow exempt from the status of sinner which the Bible teaches each one of us is at our birth, we are complete liars. He drills it into us a third time in verse 10 and basically says if we live as if we aren’t sinners in need of a Savior, we are calling God a liar and the last part is even more direct. “God’s Word has no place in our lives.”
What is being painted is total disregard for God and total disregard for truth. That phrase, “God’s Word has no place in our lives” is like saying, “I don’t care what God has to say about me, my sin, or my life.” I believe that person has believed the lie from Satan that in the end it really doesn’t matter what God has said about their life. What a dangerous, dangerous and dark path to be walking. For the God who has created us had the first say, and you can be sure of this, He will have the last one as well.
Three times in this I John passage John talks about darkness and lying and self-deception, and he alternates between those descriptions and the truth of what God wants to do for us if we will walk in the Light. Verse 7 says if we want to walk in the Light by allowing our sin to be out in the open, we can be cleansed of it by the blood of Jesus. Verse nine tells us if we will agree with God about our sin, God will forgive us and purify us.
Isn’t it crazy that we choose to walk in darkness because we don’t want our sin to be seen in the light when it is in the light that our sin is not just seen, but gets removed forever? In the light there are no more secrets. No more shame. No more guilt. No more regret. No more condemnation. No more hiding. Why continue to walk in darkness to try to hide sin when you can walk in the Light and have it removed from you?
I believe this morning God is saying it is time for some people to step into the light and admit they are sinners, broken, flawed, imperfect and in need of help. Without admitting our sin it can’t be taken from us. The Bible teaches us that our sin will forever separate us from God and cause us to be in eternal darkness forever. Without admitting our sin and having it removed from us, we will be forced in the direction that simply comes as a consequence of sin. We will cycle through the brokenness sin dictates. We will be slaves to sin and the unhealthy, evil, selfish patterns of darkness it creates. In the dark we will be forced to carry the heaviness of our sin, but in the light we are free.
- Do you live a forgiving life?
Turn to 1 John 2:9-10: 9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.
Verse 9 tells us when we harbor an unforgiving, unloving spirit we will harm ourselves first. We will be the ones relegated to live in darkness. Read verse 10 again. “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.” What John is saying is that believers who hold grudges and carry bitterness and anger in their heart toward others can actually become a stumbling block to others. So, un-forgiveness isn’t good for the believer (vs 9) because it puts him on a path of darkness, and it isn’t good for others in our lives because our bad attitude becomes a stumbling block to them.
Have you ever thought about that? Believers who won’t forgive stumble in the darkness, and they can cause others to stumble. How many times as a pastor have I heard, “Christians can be the most unforgiving, angry, nasty, bitter people to be around?” That negative witness keeps others from wanting to be near to Christ and forgiven of their sin! How does God view Christians who not only choose the sin of un-forgiveness, but how does He view us when we lead other people away from Him instead of near to Him?
A man who was walking down a dark street one night saw a pinpoint of light coming toward him in a faltering way. He thought perhaps the person carrying the light was ill or drunk; but as he drew nearer he could see a man with a flashlight carrying a white cane.
“Why would a blind man be carrying a light?” the man wondered, and then he decided to ask. The blind man smiled. “I carry my light, not so I can see, but so that others can see me. I cannot help being blind,” he said, “but I can help being a stumbling block.”
The best way to help other people not to stumble is to forgive and love them. Love and forgiveness make us stepping-stones; hatred (or any of its “cousins,” such as envy or malice) makes us stumbling blocks. (Bible Exposition Commentary-BE Series – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 2.)
Extending forgiveness is part of receiving healing. When people hurt us, we have a wound to show for it. It may be in our heart. It may be in our mind. But it is there. Part of the healing process for wounds like that involves forgiveness. When we take steps toward forgiveness, we take steps toward healing. People who say they want to move on from hurts, who want healed from the wounds of the past, but who refuse to forgive don’t realize they are sabotaging their own healing. Un-forgiveness doesn’t take away the hurt you have suffered, and it will only cause you to have a second wound that is self-inflicted. Why be hurt twice when you can be healed once?
Yes, it can be hard, but it is healing if you will ask God to give you the grace to choose it. People often wonder why God asks us to do hard things. This is a great example of a difficult thing with great benefits. God won’t ask us to do tough stuff without having a good reason. Because He loves us, He models forgiveness towards us so that we can extend it to other people for our own benefit!
A final reason that we must find a way to forgive is seen in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11. Turn there with me. 5 If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent–not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. (Are you seeing this? Our willingness to forgive is a test of our obedience to Christ! Are we passing the test?)
10 If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven–if there was anything to forgive–I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
Paul says that one of Satan’s strategies, one of his schemes, is to get you mad at someone, so mad that you will cut that person off and hold what they have done against them. Remember, Satan’s goal is to steal life from you, to suck the life out of you, to assassinate your life often by ruining your relationships which will impact your joy, peace, and contentment. This Christmas tell Satan you are on to him. Tell him the jig is up. Get out from under his influence by forgiving those who have hurt you.
Wouldn’t it be neat this Christmas to enjoy the season free from any bitterness or hatred in your heart? Wouldn’t it be neat if this is the Advent season you choose to fully walk in the light by forgiving those who have hurt you?
- Do you live a life of integrity and truth?
Seems our culture has become less and less fond of words and phrases like “the straight and narrow,” moral purity, integrity, or absolute truth. Finding wiggle room, getting away with things, looking for loop holes, these are things people even brag about to their friends. It’s almost as if there is a new respect for people who know how to use the system and get away with things they shouldn’t. It becomes a challenge for some to see how many corners they can cut without anyone knowing. Oh how deceived people are about the dark path they are walking in doing so. Lies and deception, like un-forgiveness, are the devil’s playground. John 8:44 tells us the devil is the Father of Lies. To lie and deceive is to walk in the darkness with the devil.
Walking in the light means we must avoid the shadows. We must stay away from the gray areas. We must stand so far from the line of compromise that it is obvious whose side we are on.
I want you to know temptation stares at every preacher every week when it comes to sermon preparation. There are literally hundreds of thousands of free sermons available on the internet. Some of them are even good! J How tempting is it for many preachers, rather than pray to receive revelation and rather than study to prepare, how tempting is it to download someone else’s work and pass it off as their own? It takes me about six hours from start to finish to prepare each Sunday’s message. Would anyone really ever know if I stole someone else’s messages and just preached them as if they were my own? One reason I write a manuscript each week and put it on the website is so you can have confidence that what you are hearing each week is something God has given to me for you.
There have been a few Fridays and an occasional Saturday when I was sweating what the finished product would be in Sunday’s pulpit, but God has always been faithful. Compromise may seem easier in the moment, but long-term it comes with a high price tag. It can cause people to no longer respect you and to reject you. It can cause you your job and livelihood. It can carry a stigma that causes your family to pay the price for years to come even if they are innocent. And it harms your witness which harms the church and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
Do you wonder why people lack integrity? What are the motivations? Fear has to be at the top of that list. People choose to say one thing and do another. They make a promise even though they know they can’t give themselves to that commitment or that person or whatever it is they commit to because they are afraid of the consequences of not being honest. Perhaps they are afraid someone won’t like them. Maybe they are concerned their reputation will suffer.
Along with fear has to be selfishness and an unhealthy tie to this material world. Wanting to keep up with the Jonses, wanting to maintain an image, wanting to be known for having a certain standard of living. What a lie so many people are living with cars and homes they can’t afford, clothes they buy hoping to return them after wearing them once to the party, taking vacations on credit and the list goes on.
The only way to walk in integrity and truth is to follow after Christ and to walk in the light as He is in the light instead of going our own way.
The Apostle Paul said that living a life of integrity was a priority to him all the time and in every circumstance. He said in Acts 24:16, “Acts 24:16, “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” What is of extra importance to note is that Paul made that statement when he had been brought to trial under the Roman governor. In his discourse in chapter 24, Paul just calmly and truthfully spoke. He didn’t try to change his story to save his skin or to get out of prison. He spoke the plain truth.
It’s time Christians commit to getting out of the spin business, the embellishment business, the impressing business, the false flattery business, the innuendo business and just speak and live the plain truth.
Following the words in the Bible will enable us to stay in the light and to walk with integrity. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). If we want to know the truth, if we value correction when we stray, if we are committed to righteous living we will make ourselves students of the Word of God.
Good students don’t take a test in school without studying their textbook. Successful Christians realize they won’t pass life’s tests and maintain their integrity without knowing what God has to say about their circumstances. It is that simple.
God wants us to come into the light to ask ourselves some hard questions. Is there integrity in our relationships? With our spouse? Our children? Our parents? Our siblings? In our jobs? With the IRS? With those we do business with?
Listen, when we walk in darkness we add to the darkness of the world and betray our calling not only to walk in the light, but to be as Jesus was, the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). But if we walk in the light, light transforms the darkness into light. Darkness adds to darkness making things darker, but light added to darkness transforms things and makes them better and brighter.
Perhaps what is happening isn’t so much that the world on its own is getting darker. Perhaps what has happened, even over the course of my lifetime, is that the church, the Christians have grown darker and rather than transform the darkness of our culture we have contributed to the increasing darkness.
Agreeing with God about our sin, forgiving those who hurt us, and living a life of integrity and truth, these are some of the ways we can walk in the light.
Isaiah 9:2 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Are you walking in that light this morning in every area of your life?