Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Light of the World

by bugblaster

I started this series on light here at Still Reforming on January 18, but never finished it. In typically lazy fashion I've since reposted the first five of seven at my own blog to avoid writing something new, but finally worked up the wherewithal to do number six. There is no telling when seven may be delivered, but here is six, simulcast on Chez Kneel and Still Reforming.

This is part 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 on the subject of Light
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

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 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.”
--- Matthew 5:14,15

So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
--- John 12:35-36

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”
--- John 12:44-46

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
--- Luke 2:29-32

Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles--
the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”
--- Matthew 4:12-16

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.
--- Matthew 17:1-2
In Acts 22, Galatians 1 and Acts 26, we hear from Paul’s own mouth the story of his conversion, starting of course with what came before…

First off, the former Pharisee formerly known as Saul was brilliant. He’s not shy about it, but neither is he groundlessly bragging. It’s just a fact. He exceeded all his peers in his studies. He learned at the feet of a master, and throws Gamaliel’s name around as if it isn’t really that impressive to himself, but knowing that it certainly is impressive to his listeners. Saul was an up and comer who upped, came, and kept on going.

Saul was a Pharisee of Pharisees, and he probably wouldn’t have been your best friend if you were a weebly-wobbly sort of Pharisee. Saul was the real deal, and he held your feet to the fire if you went apostate from the true Jewish faith, which was after all, the Pharisee manifestation of that faith. He was sort of like the Military Police of the Pharisees. His zeal for God was famous, and Christ-followers quaked at his approach. They did well to quake, because Saul would rather see them dead than continue in the Way of Christ. Hey, he had even held the coats of the mob that executed Stephen, so that they wouldn’t have to put on dusty jackets after they had smashed Stephen’s head in with rocks. What a considerate fellow!

In his own words, Saul acted violently.

Saul was traveling to Damascus in order to arrest male and female followers of Christ, imprison them, attempt to force them to recant, bring them back home in chains, and if necessary cast his vote for their execution. Saul was ruthless and relentless. He was a robocop. Saul was the embodiment of the wrath of God, or so he believed.

We despair to see Saul in our world today. Saul is everywhere. Yes, we have pharisaicism of a sort in our churches today (we call it legalism), but those aren’t Sauls. Think of your stoniest worstest new-law-imposing legalist name-of-Christian-wearer, and you won’t have a Saul. You see, Christianity is the way. Jesus said that He is the Light of the world. Jesus said that his followers are the light of the world. Not a light, but the light. True Christianity stands square in the circle of the only light that there is, but un-Christianity and anti-Christianity and post-Christianity stagger unawares in darkness. Saul was not a legalist Christian. No! Saul was anti-Christian. Saul was anti-Christ. Saul was in the dark, and he had no desire to approach the Light. He only wanted to quench it.

There are Sauls in our world today that are offended by the cross of Christ, and by the notion that it was necessary because of their sin. There are Sauls in our world today that are outraged at the stance against sin taken by Christ and by his true followers. There are Sauls in our world today that are quite simply against Christian beliefs and against Christ. There are Sauls in our world today that are prepared to make it their mission to impede the spread of the Gospel, and to fight against it. There are Sauls in our world today that ridicule or persecute the followers of Christ. There are Sauls in our world today that are prepared to impose forced recantation. There are Sauls in our world today that are prepared to injure, imprison, torture and yes, dance for joy at the murder of Christians. Some places afford these Sauls the circumstance and opportunity to follow their path to its chosen end. Some places don’t allow them that full opportunity. Yet.

Necati Aydin, Tilman Geske, and Ugar Yuksel encountered five well-developed Sauls in Malatya, Turkey on Resurrection Sunday (eastern dating) April 18, 2007.

But back to the road…without warning, as unexpected as any intervention could be, God changes Saul from the outside. God chooses and changes. God shines the light and banishes the darkness.
In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me.
--- Acts 26:12,13
"...a light from heaven, brighter than the sun…" That’s pretty bright, isn’t it? Set yourself on that road for a moment. There is none of the noise and bustle associated with our highways, just a grim group of men walking north in the silence and heat. Then, at the height of the day, when the searing middle eastern sun is almost directly overhead, the blindingly bright sun is suddenly only second best. A light that radiates more intensely than the sun is shining on you from above. Never before seen! What is your reaction?
And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” And I said, “Who are you, Lord?” And the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”
--- Acts 26:14,15
You’re not stupid. This can only be from and of God. Jesus, the very person that you revile, is the source of a light brighter than the sun. The people that you have been persecuting are his followers. They are on the side of light, which means of course that you are on the side of dark, and always have been. God Himself is saying that when you persecute his followers, you persecute Him. You’ve been trying to injure the God of the universe! The zealous hateful cause to which you have devoted your existence has been all wrong, and your lifetime of study in what you thought was wisdom has merely been one long fool’s errand. It seems clear that the gavel will now fall, and that you are about to experience the wrath of God in person, and that not through a self-appointed proxy. How do you feel at this moment?
“But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles--to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
--- Acts 26:16-18
God does not give the prostrate Saul much time to absorb the shock, nausea, remorse, regret and raw terror that surely must have been racking and washing over him. God does not give Saul time to consider whether he would like to choose to follow this light. No, as we said earlier, God did the choosing. “But rise and stand upon your feet…” God didn’t ask. God commanded.

God changed Saul into the man that we know as Paul. Saul had nothing to do with the transformation. He already knew the details of the Gospel, and had already rejected Christ repeatedly. Saul had already heard Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7, but instead of choosing light, he had embraced dark and decided to cheerlead a murder. On his own, Saul did not and would not come to truth. But God brought the light to Saul and enveloped him in it. Then He chased away the darkness, and matter of factly told Paul that Jesus was his new master.

Why was God sending Paul on a new life mission?

Answer: “…to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

To open the eyes of those in darkness, so that they can see the light, so that they can turn from the gloom to the glory, so that they can flee Satan and abide in Christ, and so that they can be justified by faith and rest with the righteous forever. In short, to preach the Gospel, to be another manifestation of the Light of the World, instead of just another dark and violent Saul.

This is what we should take from Malatya. God is not surprised by those events, and from days of old He planned them for his glory and our good. The Protestant Church of Smyrna did not ask us to pray for success in the war on terror, but they did ask that we pray for the church in Turkey, and that we pray for the five Sauls that murdered the martyrs. Remember, good came out of the stoning of Stephen, because God meant it for good.

We were all Sauls. That but for God’s grace would I be.

Reflect the Light of the world to the world today, okay?


rebecca said...

So, I was going through my bloglines subscriptions just now, and I had this weird feeling of deja vu.

BugBlaster said...

Hehe, sorry Rebecca!