Into the Light

While I’ve never heard of a child being scared of the light, it is fairly common for a child to be scared of the dark. I was just having this conversation with my five year old the other night at bedtime. She was telling me that she was afraid of the dark, so I asked her why. She couldn’t articulate it, so I tried to reassure her that the only difference between the light and the dark is that in the light you can see what’s actually there. The light doesn’t change what’s there, it just makes it visible. All of the same toys, shelves, furniture, and clothing on the floor is there in the dark as is there when the light is on. Whether or not that was reassuring to her as she was going to sleep, I’m not sure, but I think there is a very good spiritual application to make from that, so in this post, we’ll be taking a closer look at how the truth is made visible by the light.

The Apostle John used the concept of light and dark in his writing quite often—especially in the gospel of John and the epistle of 1 John. In fact, of the seventy-two uses of the Greek word translated as “light” in the New Testament, thirty-three of them come from the pen of John. How should we—as the reader—be thinking of this concept? Perhaps most often, when we think of the contrast of light versus dark, we are thinking in the realm of good versus evil. Maybe we’re thinking about purity and holiness versus impurity and godlessness. Undoubtedly, these are dimensions of this multi-dimensional concept, but I would like for us to consider this concept of light and darkness from a position of spiritual life versus spiritual death—including all that pertains to each. In John 1:4, Jesus is identified as being life and this life (Christ’s life) was the light of men. So when we read that Jesus Christ is the light of the world (John 8:12), we would understand this to be saying that He is the wellspring of spiritual life to fallen mankind who was dead in sin and abiding in darkness.

The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). Paul purposed to preach the message of the cross—Christ crucified on behalf of sinners for the forgiveness of their sin. Undoubtedly, he proclaimed more than just this, but it was his stated purpose to make the message of the cross and the centrality of the gospel the focal point of what he preached. This message was interpreted by most as foolishness. The word in the Greek translated as foolishness is móros (μωρός)—which is where we get our English word moron. So, there were some who found the message of the gospel to be utterly moronic, completely absurd and rooted in stupidity, while others found this message to be the power and the wisdom of God. That’s a wide range of interpretation that we still see today. If we listen to the world, they are still saying the same thing about the message of the cross. They say it is a message for the weak-minded who are unable to function in the world today without some sort of crutch to help them through the difficulties of life. They make claims that the Christian faith is an invention of the human imagination and see themselves as intellectually superior for their rejection of the message. So, not much has changed since Paul penned 1 Corinthians roughly 2,000 years ago.

Have you thought much about why this is the case? What is it that leads some to hear the truth and respond with joy and gladness of heart—to hear the message of the truth and be saved—while others respond with indifference, sadness or even anger? Paul tells us the answer to this in the passage. In 1 Corinthians 1:22-24, Paul is looking at these two groups and to highlight the difference between them he uses the conjunction “but”. You’ve got those who are rejecting the message and calling it out as absurd and ridiculous over on one side, and on the other side you’ve got this group who is receiving this truth with joy. Paul refers to this group as “the called” in verse 24 (definite article present in the Greek). This is the difference between them. Those who are divinely called are demonstrably different than those who are not called in the manner in which they respond to the truth.

How does fallen man ever respond rightly to truth? This is the key question. We know that those divinely called do come (John 6:44), but how does one abiding in the domain of darkness in spiritual death come alive spiritually—into the light? This points us to the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who belong to God. Before anyone can respond to truth with joy, he must be born again (John 3:3-15). He must be made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-7, Colossians 2:13-14) and made to be a new creation in Christ Jesus (Titus 3:5). This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the called ones to take the dead sinner who abides in darkness doing evil works in accordance with his spiritual condition (Titus 3:3) and transfer that one from the domain of darkness to the Kingdom of Light in Christ (Colossians 1:13) by taking out the heart of stone and giving him a new heart of flesh that is responsive to spiritual stimuli (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26, Hebrews 8:10).

Not only does the Spirit regenerate man—making him a new creation in Christ—He also leads the new creation through the realm of truth through His ministry of illumination. This is the gracious work of the Spirit by which He reveals that which belongs to the light—the realm of spiritual life in Christ. He is shining the light on all that belongs to life and godliness in Christ. What is the primary means of this revelation? The Spirit of God indwells the one who He has made alive in Christ to testify to truth and to mediate Christ’s life to the believer through the Scripture. He is the seal of the believer (Ephesians 1:13-14, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22). The new creation in Christ now resides in the realm of the light as opposed to the domain of darkness (Colossians 1:13-14). However, the new creation in Christ must be taught about that which pertains to life and godliness in the light of truth (Titus 2:11-14)—he must learn the lay of the land, the culture, and all that is associated with life as a citizen in the Kingdom of Light. The revealed truth of the Word of God is central to the Spirit’s ministry of illumination in the life of the believer. The Holy Spirit inspired holy men to write down the truth of the Word of God (2 Peter 1:21), and He testifies to the human spirit of those in whom He resides of the veracity of the truth through inwrought faith. Through His empowering grace, He grants to the saint knowledge, understanding and wisdom through illumination.

Paul speaks to this ministry of illumination in 1 Corinthians chapter 2. It is not as though the words are hard to understand to one who speaks the language. The rulers of the age were very well schooled in regard to Scripture. They knew the law, the writings and the prophets. However, Paul tells us that these very learned men did not understand what was true because, if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8). Their lack of understanding is not attributed to a lack of intellectual capacity. Again, they knew the Scriptures and were very well versed in them, but they still missed Christ. They missed the whole point and what the Scripture was pointing toward. Their problem was not that they were lacking intelligence. Their problem was that they were in darkness and they were spiritually dead in their trespasses and sin (John 10:22-33).

Still in the darkness of spiritual death, they had no spiritual sensitivity to the truth. They were limited in their response by their spiritual condition—the dead cannot respond rightly because he is still in darkness. As Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, “truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [born from above—born of God] he cannot see the kingdom of God”. Their ability to see the truth of what was right in front of their faces was dictated by their spiritual state. They needed to be made alive in order to see what was true. It is the Spirit of God who illuminates truth to man in the realm of light. “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9), these are the things that God brings to light in the heart and mind of the one who has been born again through the illuminating work of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10). Paul goes on to say in v14 that the natural person does not accept things that are of the realm of light and life in Christ because they are folly to him, and he is powerless to understand them because they are spiritually discerned—meaning the Spirit of God must illuminate them through the giving of faith, wisdom, insight and understanding in regard to these high and holy things.

This is a frustrating concept for the one who is still in darkness and walks in darkness and doesn’t know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes (1 John 2:11). He has no idea of the truth that is there and is true regardless of his ability to see it. Remember my daughter’s room, light doesn’t change what is there, it only makes it visible. The truth is no less true just because one is in the darkness and cannot see it. Rather than the truth being something beautiful to behold in the realm of light, it is something to trip on while groping in the dark (1 Peter 2:6-8, Isaiah 28:16). For the natural man, there is no spiritual life, there is no indwelling Holy Spirit to lead and to guide through the realm of truth by the illumination of God’s revealed Word, and he has no other option than to reject the things of truth as folly since he is dead and abides in the domain of darkness without the ability to respond rightly to the stimulus of divine truth. While it is true that the one who is in darkness cannot accept the things of the Spirit of Truth, that very same person can come into the light provided that he is born again and transferred from the domain of darkness to the Kingdom of Light in union with Christ. The call goes out to all men to agree with God that they need to be delivered, to repent of their sin, to trust in the finished work of Christ and His righteousness as sufficient to save completely and fully. Once in the light, they’ll spend the rest of their lives on the earth walking in the ever-brightening light— growing in the knowledge, understanding and wisdom of the life that is theirs in the unfathomable realm of light by faith alone.

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