Living Light (not living lite)

Light is a fascinating subject. We are drawn to light because our eyes naturally respond to light stimulus. Light is energy and, as many people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder will attest, (Is it proper to even suggest someone has a disorder these days?) light has an emotional and physiological impact which gives us energy. Light overwhelms darkness, but never the other way around. When you flip a light switch off, you’re not switching on darkness, your removing the source of light.

Scientists at MIT using our visual sensitivity to starlight theorize that the human eye can detect a lighted candle at night more than 1.7 miles away. (No word on how far an unlit candle can be seen.)

So it’s no surprise that the Bible talks about light and darkness as a way to help us understand God’s holiness and perfection (light) contrasted with the ungodliness and imperfection of a fallen world (darkness).

Our scripture text, today, is taken from a portion of Paul’s letter to the Christian followers in Philippi in which he emphasizes how God’s presence in our lives not only illuminates us, but brings light into the starkly contrasted world of sinful darkness.

Philippians 2:12-18
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing,
15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky
16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.
17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.
18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Paul begins this passage with the encouragement that we should take our relationship with Christ seriously. Following Jesus involves personal responsibility. No one else can follow Jesus on your behalf. No one else can be held accountable for your personal failures and sin.

Of course, there’s no denying that following of Jesus can be difficult and challenging at times. Sometimes we must deny ourselves. Sometimes we must assume the role of a servant. This may cost us time, money and energy; things we all hold dear. But the investment of ourselves is often the measure of our relationship with our Heavenly Father. That’s where the “fear and trembling” of which Paul spoke comes in. Sometimes we must ask ourselves the hard question: Do I truly desire to please God more than myself? Well, ICK! That’s pretty much a downer isn’t it? I must confess that all too often my answer to that question is, I choose me!

You see, I lose sight of the fact that God is working out His purposes in and through me. I forget that God is working all things for my good even when what’s happening around me or to me isn’t good! The problem is that sometimes the ways in which God works make me uncomfortable… and I don’t want to be uncomfortable. But I will never be a shining light if I refuse to allow God to scour the mud off of the windows of my life. The mud, of course, is my selfishness and sin.

Next, Paul asks us to check our attitudes. Anyone have a problem in that area? I know I do.

Few things are more conspicuous to the people around us than our attitude; our vibe, if you will. People will often pick up on our attitude before we ever speak a word. If my attitude is as nasty and vile and negative as the people around me who do not claim to be followers of Jesus, how will they know there’s something different about me on the inside? So Paul advises me to check my attitude. Stop arguing and complaining and take the high road. Sometimes we become so immersed in the culture that we forget that it is warped and crooked. If our attitudes reflect the culture and not the relationship we have with God, our light does not shine. But, be warned…following Jesus will necessarily put you at odds with the culture. Don’t be surprised by that fact and don’t allow it to cause you to hide your light.

Let me share the lyrics to the song “Wonder Why,” by Avalon.

Why, why tell me do you wonder why
some can look so hard and miss the truth?
Some will stumble over it a hundred times
and never, ever see the living proof.
Well, there’s a kind of love the world can never deny
Let everybody see it in our lives.

The world will wonder why if you and I
will shine His light.
Let hearts discover life when we decide
to let ours go.
We’ve got to give it up and live the love
that opened our eyes.
Live your life.
The world will wonder why.

Why, why someone try and tell me why
We would want it any other way.
A heart can change before our very eyes.
Well, I’ve seen the difference that love can make.
Where is the kind of love the world can never explain
It’s time to live the gospel unashamed.

If we were livin’ with a passion
What would be the reaction?
I know a single heart can change the world.
If we are lovin’ with a strong love,
then their eyes will see and the world might believe.

The world will wonder why if you and I
will shine His light.
Let hearts discover life when we decide
to let ours go.
We’ve got to give it up and live the love
that opened our eyes.
Live your life.
The world will wonder why.

Let me close with this observation about the world in which we live: on the whole, things are not getting better, they’re getting worse. True, advances in technology, medicine, and many other things have made our lives much better and easier. But the condition of humankind continues to degrade and opposition to Godly standards is more overt every day.

This, however, is not a reason to become discouraged. Rather, it’s an opportunity for light to shine into the darkness. It’s an opportunity for the contrast between God’s ways and man’s ways to become even more evident. As the world in which we live becomes darker, the light of the Kingdom of Heaven will become more and more conspicuous.

But we have a choice to make. We can live lite and coast through this world taking the path of least resistance, OR, we can live as lights that shine and overwhelm the darkness.

Jesus said,”…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Will you choose to live lite or will you be a living light to the world around you?

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