SURGE of Light
Pastor Tim Inman
Each of us who are delivering a message within this surge series have been asked to share a personal ‘life message’ - a spiritual principle which has become very present and personal to us.
The first time I remember flying alone I was sixteen years old - it was very exciting. I felt like independence and adulthood were nearly within grasp and this was my foretaste. The solitude also provided the opportunity to think about my future. I asked God what my story was going to be about - what did he want from me? I sat down at a table in an airport cafe and opened my Bible.
I read a passage, about John the Baptist, which, for the first time, seemed to jump off the pages. As I read John the Baptist express his own life purpose, I felt like the Lord was giving me the same mission. Don’t worry: I’m not claiming to be the next John the Baptist. I have come to believe that every Christian shares in his mission: to testify to the Light and prepare a path for our world to travel on toward God.
John testified to the Light
Let’s read together the words I read that day, from John 1:
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:6-13)
John the Baptist was Jesus’ first cousin. He was famous before Jesus. He stood out in a corrupt world. He lived according to higher principles and people took notice. He became a leader of a rapidly growing religious movement within Judiasm. His ministry instigated a new practice of water baptising people as a demonstration of repentance of sins, and people were finding that his teachings brought a new vitality to their faith.
As his fame grew, people began to wonder, “Who is this guy?” Is he a prophet, a teacher, or is he the messiah we have been waiting for?
John Prepared a Path
Let’s skip ahead to verse 19 to read what John says about himself:
And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
He was referring to a passage in Isaiah 40:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare[a] is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord's hand
double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries:[b]
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
John clearly communicated that he was not the messiah, but that he had in fact, like the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years before, come to prepare the way, to cry in the desert ‘make a straight path’ for folks to have access to God. In the days to come he would direct his own followers to put their faith in Jesus.
Isaiah’s prophetic poetry found fulfillment in the life of John the Baptist and his mission to prepare the way for Jesus, in his case, many admired is uncompromising life and heeded his call to repentance - many of his own followers became followers of Jesus.
We have the same calling
I believe that the Isaiah prophecy which applied John still speaks to us. John delivered the message and yet his own life was the message, his own righteous living was a straight path for his contemporaries to find Jesus through! We must ask ourselves: If people were to imitate my lifestyle, where would it lead them? God wants us to lead righteous lives which point people to Jesus living in us, in effect, paving a path to heaven!
From the beginning of time, God has been seeking a people who would shine a light and pave a path for the world to follow.
Since the before the beginning of the Jewish nation, God made an agreement with Abraham: 'I will be your God and you will be my people - and through you the nations of the world will be blessed.' Abraham and his descendants were chosen, not as favorites, but as examples of what it looked liked for a people to be in covenant with their creator. In a sense, they were a privileged elite who had access to God’s guidance and protection, but it came with a responsibility to be a ‘light to the nations’. Sometimes they did well, sometimes they didn’t.
Like lots of religious people, the Jews sometimes focused on the wrong things, like ritual and religious performance.
They fasted, but they bickered on fast days. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord delivered His response:
“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
(from Isaiah 58, The Message)
Study this passage and you’ll see that compassion and love makes us a light and living righteously paves a path for others to follow. God wants and our world needs to see a church which is both loving and righteous. In Isaiah’s day, and John’s day, and in our own day, many value one and not the other.
Some of my friends are so loving that they accept anyone and everyone and would never dare speak a word to which could offend anyone, but their lives are such a mess, they will struggle to lead anyone down the path of following Jesus. Others live moral lives and are never afraid to stand up for the truth, but they couldn’t care less about people outside their circles and sometimes just come off as downright mean! Don’t worry - I’m not talking about any of you! God wants to teach us to be both righteous and loving! Our love will shine a light for the world to see him, and like John the Baptist, our right living will create a path for them to follow us toward Him!
Jesus came to show the world what God was really like, firsthand. He blew the doors off access to God, making his forgiveness and guidance available to anyone who would put their faith in Him.
If you love someone, you care about what they care about, and you know what they care about by what makes them angry. We only see Jesus get angry twice in the Gospels, and both times it was at people who should have been giving outsiders access to God, instead got in the way. He was indignant and publicly scolded his disciples for sending the children away when they thought he was too busy to be bothered. When temple merchants blocked outsiders access to God by setting up shop in the court of the gentiles, he turned the tables and chased them away with a self-made whip.
Today, we His followers are the privileged elite - insiders on grace. We have access to His Spirit. Like John the Baptist, and the Jewish nation before him, we have a job to do: to build a road and shine a light.
May God help us if we, who have shared in his riches callously or thoughtlessly dismiss those He’s put in our paths.
Jesus himself confirmed this mission for us his followers:
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. -
- Matthew 5:14-16
In times like these we can be tempted to despair at just how depraved our world has become - we see war, inequities, self-serving politicians, and fellow Christians persecuted around the globe. But if we acquiesce and surrender our world our to go to hell in a handbasket, then we have more faith in the world’s wickedness than God’s power to save. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!”
We must not be intimidated. It’s not enough to ‘stand up for the truth’, we must also reach out. We must love. We must shine. Eleanor Roosevelt famously said: “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” You and I, we are the candles, By living holy lives we pave a road for others to follow. Whenever we live out the love that God has put within us, we shine bright and people are attracted to Jesus living through us.
If you’re like me, those scriptures are a blaring testimony that you’ve fallen short. Thank God for grace. Thank God for his Spirit, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Let’s tell him our intention and ask for His assistance!