Publication:Pastoral Letter, September 2020
Dear Friend in Christ:
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus! Last month, I wrote to you about “Light for Life.” It doesn’t take a prophet to see the darkness, but it does take God’s grace for us to see the light in the midst of darkness. This month, let’s look at the light of God: what is it? How can we walk in it? How does it shine through us in a way that changes our world? First, let’s re-visit one of the Scripture passages we looked at last month:
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and 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 Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:5-9).
We also saw from John 12 that Jesus tells us that we will have the light for “a little while longer,” so we must walk in the light while we still have light. Do you ever get the sense that the times in which we live are becoming more urgent? I do. But the instruction from Jesus is not to panic or become overwhelmed with fear. He says we are to walk in the light that He is giving us.
WHAT IS THE LIGHT OF GOD?
It’s sometimes hard for us to appreciate the blessings of God’s light unless we remember the terrors and dangers of walking in darkness. Once we were cut off, without light, without direction, stumbling in the dark without hope. Writing to the new Christians in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul says this:
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:8-14).
When we experience the new birth in Jesus Christ, we become new creatures. Our old sinful nature is dark and causes us to crave the darkness and to walk in darkness. Shame and condemnation long for the shadows. But, we discover that in our blindness, we stumble and fall over unseen obstacles; we are vulnerable to unseen enemies. Walking in darkness is the pathway to destruction and death.
In Jesus Christ, our hearts have been changed. Shame has been shattered! We have received the grace of God which has drawn us to His light. Where we once desired darkness, we now love the light. There is something about the glory of God that thrills our hearts and speaks to our very core. We can be called children of the light because that’s Who our Father is, as James writes:
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (James 1:16-18).
LIGHT REVEALS TRUTH
God is the source of all light, just as He is the source of all love. I believe that His love produces purity in our lives and that His light reveals truth. By His light, we see and understand reality. David prayed, “You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6). God desires that we have truth, wisdom, and integrity down in the very core of our being. And it is only by the grace of God that we can receive that. In fact, Jesus prayed to the Father for us, saying: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
We know that Jesus is the very Word of God made flesh. In beholding Jesus, we behold the Father and His Word, and we see the Light of God. Light reveals reality and transcendent truth … that is, truth that goes far beyond what the natural eyes can see or the natural mind can comprehend. Jesus not only shows us the way, but He shows us that He is the Way.
Walking in the light and having a right relationship with Him not only puts us on the path that leads to life, but directs us away from the paths that lead to death. Lovers of truth abhor deception or counterfeits. Conspiracy theories, gossip, and speculation have no attraction to those who know and follow the voice of the Lord.
The Light of the Spirit produces the fruit of goodness, righteousness, and truth. We are sanctified – made holy and righteous—by the Blood, Word, and Spirit of God. There is a positional sanctification we receive when we receive Christ as Lord and Savior; we are cleansed from sin and are adopted into God’s family. Because of the Blood of Jesus, we are counted as righteous by our Father. But there is also an ongoing behavioral sanctification that happens as we apply His Word in our daily lives and walk according to His Spirit. Remember: truth sanctifies, love purifies. Our very nature is changed! Our desires change, therefore our behavior changes.
In Christ, we not only desire to do good, but our motive for doing good has changed. Rather than doing good to please men or to “earn points” with God, we do good because He first loved us, He has accepted us as His children, and He is transforming our hearts and minds. We need not strive for His affection, but instead, we extend and radiate His love and character to others. Truth and love are not enemies but are, in fact, both necessary and complimentary gifts from God. He gives us these gifts because love and light are Who God is. As we saw last month, from 1 John 1, God is light and in Him there is no darkness.
HOW CAN WE WALK IN LIGHT?
First of all, we need to see that walking implies movement! The light of God is leading us somewhere. Coming out of slavery in Egypt, the children of Israel followed the visible cloud of God’s presence and the fire of His glory. Wise men from the East followed a star that led them to Bethlehem to worship the newborn King Jesus. We are not called to sleep in the light or to loiter in the light. We are on a journey into the light of God, led by the light, being transformed by the light from glory to glory. We certainly aren’t called to go backwards into darkness. Peter also declared this same call:
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Be confident of this: God chose you and He ordained you for service to Him. He calls you to be part of His family, a holy nation. As your Creator and Father, He has the right and the authority to choose you and to call you into right relationship with Himself.
You were not created to walk in darkness. As a child of the light, darkness is not your environment; you don’t “fit in” there any more, just as you aren’t suited to swim 1,000 feet down into the ocean. Paul said to the Ephesians, “Don’t have fellowship with the works of darkness, but instead expose them.” We expose darkness by living in the light and reflecting that light in our relationships and in our surroundings. And as we live in the light, we see areas in our own lives that still need attention. We are called out of darkness, individually and corporately, as God’s people. Why would we want to go back there? For specifics or a partial list of works of darkness to avoid, read Ephesians 5.
Walking in light means movement closer and closer to God and His purpose. And we are not walking alone, but with our spiritual family. We need one another in order to walk in the light. We share love and truth with one another that keeps us walking in the Way (see 1 John 1).
I believe everyone needs a spiritual Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy in their lives. What does that mean?
A trustworthy, wise, and loving “Paul” to disciple you, coach you, care for you, hold you accountable, and to help you grow.
An encouraging and brotherly “Barnabas” to walk beside you as a trusted peer, where “iron sharpens iron”; who laughs when you laugh, cries when you cry, who spurs you on, and you spur them on.
A listening, learning Timothy who can receive your investment of time, training, wisdom, and love; someone who has opened their lives to be discipled by you so they may grow in Christ and His ways, and be trained themselves to go and make disciples.
We are called to be disciples and to make disciples for Jesus Christ. This is a vital part of the process of walking in the light
LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE
How does the light of God shine through us in a way that changes the world. If Christ gives you light, then you cannot help but reflect His light. Jesus says:
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Invest in the light you’ve been given. Cultivate and shine the light of God that is within you through prayer, fellowship, reading of the Word, and seeking Him for understanding the times in which we live. Pray for boldness, that you may speak the truth in love to our generation. And don’t just prophesy with words, but live prophetically in such a way that the power, love, and wisdom of God is demonstrated tangibly in and through you. Living and walking in covenant community, in love, in integrity, in hope, and in courage will get the world’s attention, and bring glory to God.
The world is hungry for a genuine revelation of Christ’s Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. His Kingdom won’t be found in human ingenuity or power, but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. In Romans 8, Paul writes that all of creation is yearning and groaning and longing for the manifestation of God’s people.
Who and what are you reading, watching, and following; what is shaping you? Look to the light of the Lord! We’ve been called out of darkness and into light; to not only be set free ourselves, but to set others free. We’re not called to escape the world, but to be light in the world now. The times may seem dark, but light has overcome darkness and mercy has triumphed over judgment.
I want to say more, but to hear my live audio message, “Light for Life,” please visit our store. May I also ask you to pray for us this month, and consider a special gift to support the ongoing work of the ministry among the nations? Our challenge—and God’s grace—is to live this message we preach. Thanks for being on this journey with us!
Stephen Simpson, President
Scriptures: 1 John 1:5-9; Ephesians 5:8-14; James 1:16-18; Psalm 51:6; John 17:17; 1 Peter 2:9; Ephesian 5; 1 John 1; Matthew 5:14-16