The Light of the World

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” -Jesus (John 8:12)

One of the most easy to understand and yet stark teachings of Jesus was when he referred to himself as the light of the world.  It’s such a simple analogy that we can easily comprehend…that Jesus, in his purity and perfection, in his eternal love and wisdom, is the light that brings clarity to our entire existence.  Through an intimate connection to him, we can come to know God himself and his love for all of his creation.  We can be transformed into people of light ourselves, reflecting the glory of God to the world around us and bringing the light of love and truth to all the dark places in the world.

Jesus says that whoever follows him will not walk in darkness.  The apostle John echoes that sentiment when in his first epistle he writes, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice 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 cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7).  This simply means that the light of Jesus should affect us in a drastic way.  It should cause us to live lives worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1) and walk in a way that brings honor to the one who has given us everything for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).  It also means that the blood of Jesus, offered as a sacrifice on the cross for us, continually cleanses us of our mistakes if we are walking in his light.

True, there is much darkness in the world around us (John 3:19-20).  But we are to be people who live in this world but are not of this world (Romans 12:2).  People who are aliens in a strange country as we await the glorious return of our Savior Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:11-12).  Our lives should be lived in stark contrast to the worldly desires around us, so much so, that the world cannot help but notice the light of Jesus shining through our example.

This is the true meaning of Christianity.

-Joe Butler

Exposed (Blogs Revisited)

“Exposed” (Originally posted January 14, 2014)

One of my all time favorite classes in middle school was the photography class I took in 6th grade.  Mind you, I was in 6th grade in 1987.  Digital photography was still a dream in the future so we students were taught how to expose film on an old camera.  We were taught how to manually do all of the things digital cameras do for us today.  I loved going out shooting photos, waiting for the right light, finding interesting subjects, but what appealed to me the most was developing the film.  There were no digital screens to preview the photos after taking them.  No, we were forced to wait patiently until a roll of film was spent before we could anxiously make our way to the dark room.  Best of all was watching photographs come to life in the different chemical baths.  The image just magically appeared right before our eyes and we could finally see the subject immortalized on paper.

Those who are photographers know that one ingredient necessary for all pictures to exist is light.  Light simply reflects off the object we are shooting and the camera, like our eye, registers this reflection.  According to God, He is the light and we should be reflecting God’s glory to the world around us.  1 John 1:5-7 says, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by 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.”  God reminds us of several things in this passage:

1. He is light.  It is impossible for darkness to even exist in his presence.  And yet we bring darkness to God all of the time.

2. If we claim the name Christian, God and others should see it by the way our light shines in our dark world around us.

Jesus, in Matthew 5:14-16, continues this theme by stating that, “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  Again, we cannot claim the name Christian and only let our light out during worship or when briefly helping others.  Jesus says our light, our example, should be evident to all, bringing light to a darkened world.  We do so, not to receive praise ourselves, but so others may glorify God.  We must be exposed to God in order to expose Him to others.  And best of all, one day we will no longer walk in darkness but walk in pure light, praising God for all of eternity.

Boy does the world need some light right now.  Not only the world, mind you, but even the church!  I was reminded of this point again after reading a wonderful blog post from a friend of mine today.  (You can find that post here.)  He mentioned how we in the church are looking so much like the rest of the world that you can’t tell the difference between the two anymore.  Which reminded me of this post I wrote back in January of 2014.  We must let the light of God expose our actions and motives and determine whether we have God’s interests at heart or merely those of our own.  We must no longer walk in darkness and the futility of worldly thinking and living, and instead walk in the light of God, allowing his word to reveal to us where our hearts truly lie.

-Joe Butler

 

An Electrified Christian

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter…it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

-Mark Twain

I have this quote from Mark Twain on a bulletin board in my classroom at school.  Because I teach language arts, I try to teach my students to expand their vocabulary and use words in their writing that are more powerful and effective.  Like the difference in strength between a lightning bug and a bolt of lightning, there is a major distinction between a weak word and a strong one.  Hopefully by the end of the school year, my students will have learned a whole new set of vocabulary words they can use in their writing and conversations.

In a way, we can reapply this quote to what it means to be a zealous Christian.  We really do have a choice to live our lives and let our light shine with the effectiveness of a lightning bug or a lightning bolt.  The Bible directly addresses this concept in several places as well:

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

 

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” (Luke 11:33-36)

We can learn from these passage that our light, our example and modeling of Christ-like behavior, is not meant to be subdued or covered up in any way.  Our lives are meant to reflect Christ living within us, to bring the light of Jesus into the darkness of our sin-filled world.  It’s not too difficult to visualize that to shine forth like a lightning bug only allows us to have a limited reach, while letting our light explode out into the world like a lightning bolt will reach many more people for Christ.  The lesson is simple.  The amount of fervor we have for Christ directly affects the environment around us and has the ability to win more souls for the Lord.

So where does this light come from?  What powerful force must we rely upon in order to positively light up our world?  This isn’t about the unique features of bioluminescence found in a lightning bug or the powerful forces of static electricity in a bolt of lightning.  The strength of our light is found in Jesus himself!

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”(John 8:12)

I don’t know about you, but I am in awe over the fact that I’m tapped into the most powerful force of light in all of creation.  You are too if you are in Christ.  The really important question is: Are you living in the power of that light and letting it shine through your life every day?

-Joe Butler

Spiritual Darkness

imageI finally know what real darkness is like.  I mean absolute, pitch-black, complete absence of any discernible light kind of darkness. The kind of darkness that leaves you feeling scared, disoriented, lost and confused.

It happened several years ago when I took my family to a state park nearby called Marianna Caverns. We made the drive down there on a crisp Fall day to go camping and tour the cave and it was an experience that I will never forget. The tour guide explained to us how brave the early explorers of this cave would have been. If they were to become lost in the maze of caverns without a light source they would surely be scared and may never find their way out.

He instructed us to stand still and then he turned off the lights. It was instant and utter darkness. Even after our eyes had a chance to adjust, there simply was no ambient light for our pupils to pull in. It was a compete absence of light and it was terrifying.

As a Christian, I couldn’t help but think of the implication of the absence of light if Jesus were not in my life. He said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). There’s an amazing comfort in knowing that the darkness of the world around me can never dampen the light of Jesus. There’s great hope in realizing that Satan will never snuff out the fire of love that Jesus has for me.

Jesus is the guiding light we must all live by. He provides light and sustenance to our very soul. There’s nothing in this world that can produce this guiding light for us. Without him, we are walking in compete spiritual darkness, lost and unable to find our way. “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” (1 John 1:7).

-Joe

There’s Light at the End of the Tunnel

I was speaking to a colleague the other day who is in her last year of teaching.  She’s retiring at the end of this school year and I could see the joy she had written all over her face.  I replied, “That’s great!  But there’s no light at the end of my tunnel just yet.”   I was of course referencing the fact that I’m only 38 so retirement is still a long way off and at times there seems no hope that I’ll ever get there.

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There’s light at the end of the tunnel

Those already retired from the workforce would remind me of how fast it actually gets here.  And the same is true about the end of our lives.  The bible reminds us that our life is but a vapor.  What we view as a long, productive life is just a fraction of the time we’ll spend in eternity.  So truthfully, we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Or at least we should.  It’s actually a matter of hope.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”

(Hebrews 11:1)

We should be constantly looking for the light of Christ and making every effort to get closer to that light.  And when the end comes and we will see him for who he really is, all will be revealed and we will have fellowship with him for eternity.  Now that’s a retirement plan I can look forward to!

-Joe

Walking in the Light (With Jesus)

Try to imagine an unapproachable light. The sun maybe?  I know I can’t wrap my mind around the idea of our God and Jesus being pure light, able to cast out all darkness. But that is exactly what they are.  In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  

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Notice in this verse that walking in the light is a decision we make.  In fact, that choice is made continually throughout the day. If we’re following Christ, we are not looking to make excuses or justify our sin. Jesus sheds light on our worldly actions exposing them as godly or sinful. Walking in the light is all about the process of change. With the help of the light of Christ, we can see where the world and Satan are trying to lead us astray and stay away from the temptations that attempt to drag us down. In the light we can see where the pitfalls lie.  Jesus says in John 11:9-10, “A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”

Walking in the light gives us direction, a clear path to follow to our ultimate destination…heaven. “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35-36).

Finally, we must walk in the light to really know God. 1 John 1:5-7 reminds us, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walks 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.”  We cannot have fellowship with God and walk in darkness. The two cannot mesh together. But if we walk in the light of Jesus, his blood will always cleanse us.

It’s a wonderful image, looking at our God and savior Jesus as light. Like our eyes need some form of light to be able to see, so our souls need the light of Christ to be able to know and see God. Think today of the ways that you can walk in the light, following Jesus in obedience to our God and Father in heaven.

-Joe

How Will You Be Known

Growing up, I remember occasionally reading Peanuts comic strips. I enjoyed them, but I enjoyed the television cartoons even more. There was always a Peanuts cartoon special for all the major holidays. Snoopy and Charlie Brown seemed to be fan favorites. Others liked Lucy or Woodstock, Peppermint Patty or Linus.  But I never heard anyone admit, at least not openly, that their favorite character was Pig Pen. I mean, it’s hard to relate to a kid who walks around with a cloud of dust and dirt hovering around him.

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Ironically and unbeknownst to some of us today, we walk around with a constant cloud of complaints or despair or discouragement. The problem with carrying those things around is that they’re bound to make others “dirty” just by having contact with us. Jesus gave us a different job though. He has asked us to give off an aura of light, reflecting him to the world around us. You see, the world and the people we come in contact with will be affected by what we give off…a cloud of dirt, or a perfect light. We’ll either be known as a Pig Pen, a person to avoid, or we’ll be known as a disciple of Jesus, a person of hope and faith and love. Most importantly, letting our light shine brings praise to God (Matthew 5:16).  That should be our ultimate goal.

-Joe

What is the Christian Life… A Life of Influence

“Actions speak louder than words.”  Have you ever heard that phrase before?  I would bet most people have, and I would also bet that most people agree. I can tell my wife Keri I love her all day, but I must back it up with actions for her take those words seriously. I can promise my boss that I’ll have some paperwork turned in by Friday, but  if I miss my deadline, he may lose trust in me, regardless of what words I use in my defense.

The same can be said of being a Christian. I can publicly proclaim that name and attend every church service and event and write wonderful things on this blog, but unless I put these words into practice, no one will take God or me seriously. As 1 Corinthians 13:1 says, “If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

So back to the phrase “actions speak louder than words.”  What is the most effective way to be a good influence for Christ?  Simply put…let your light shine!  “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

One very important thing about being a light.  It is the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit within us that shines. We are simply to be a vessel to carry that light to the world. When we shine, it is not us that the world sees but God’s love manifested through our actions. Remember…actions speak louder than words. To be a good influence, don’t just speak about Christ, act like him too.

-Joe