Living in the Life and Light of Christ:
Responding to the Life and Light of Christ in Our Worship, Walk, Witness, and Warfare
Good morning. Please turn in your Bibles to the first chapter of the Gospel of John. This is my third sermon on John's gospel. In the first sermon, we addressed the first two verses of chapter one. Those verses deal with the relationship of Jesus to the Trinity. In the following sermon we discussed verse three. That verse deals with the relationship of Jesus to creation. Today we will be looking at verses four and five. In these verses, John begins to deal with the relationship of Jesus to man in his fallen condition.
Turning, now, to John 1:4-5 we read, "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
In this short passage, we note several words that need clarification: life, lights, shines, darkness, and comprehend. Let's take a closer look at these words:
These are the major words from this passage. In addition to these words, there are also major subjects that need to be addressed. Four subjects come to mind in a very natural way from the text.
These subjects seems very abstract when you first consider them. However, as we trace the key words from our text in John's writings, we gain insight regarding how we should respond to the life and light of Christ in our worship, in our walk, in our witness, and in our spiritual warfare.
Therefore, the title of this sermon is "Living in the Life and Light of Christ." The sub-title is "Responding to the Life and Light of Christ in Our Worship, Walk, Witness, and Warfare." So the four main points I wish to present are:
The more we know about our dependence upon the life of Christ, the more our naturally proud hearts should be humbled. The more our hearts are humbled, the better prepared we are to worship God. Worship is the logical response to recognizing that Jesus is the source of all of life -- natural and spiritual.
First, Jesus is the source of natural life. We have already seen from verse three that every created thing was created through Jesus. Jesus created matter, energy, time, space, and information. As a systems engineer, I am especially fascinated by the way God has created information. One strand of DNA from one human cell would stretch out to about six feet. DNA tells the body how and when to make different kinds of proteins, and it does this in a way that is very much analogous to human language. Within each DNA molecule we find combinations of atoms that are analogous to letters, words, and paragraphs. Four different kinds of atoms make up the letters, so there are four letters. We use letters to make words. In DNA, each word is made of three letters. When you take the four letters in groups of three, you have a language with sixty-four different words.
What do the words stand for? Some of these words provide operational instructions such as start and stop. Other words stand for the twenty different kinds of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins. Different paragraphs of these words provide instructions for how to build each kind of protein.
Proteins are both necessary and complicated. They are necessary, because proteins do most of the work in the cell. Many different kinds of proteins must be present at the same time for a cell to operate. Proteins are also complicated, because each protein consists of hundreds of amino acids, all of which have to be in the right sequence. To make sure that the proteins are constructed correctly, the DNA molecule has a paragraph for each different kind. Thus, with four letters, sixty-four words, and many paragraphs, the DNA molecule provides the instructions for building the proteins that sustain life. Each human cell contains DNA.
Do you realize the spiritual implications of this? Not only has Jesus given us the written word, but also he has given us His design documents, having placed those documents in the language of DNA in every cell of our bodies. Something like a library of books exists in the DNA of every cell. Each cell contains a stamp of ownership from the creator. When I think of this, it humbles me and makes me want to worship Jesus.
In addition to being the source of natural life, Jesus is also the source of spiritual life. Apart from Christ, every person is spiritually dead, and such was the former state of every believer, just as we read in Ephesians 2:1-2, " You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." A spiritually dead person is not able to worship God in spirit and truth, because he is blind to the truth and because his spirit has no natural inclination to please God. Only in Christ can his spirit be made alive. We need spiritual life from Christ.
Life within Himself.
Jesus is able to give spiritual life, because he has life within Himself. Life is intrinsic to His nature. It is a necessary attribute of His deity. Consider John 5:26, "For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself."
Jesus is life.
So much does Jesus have life within Himself that life is part of His very identity. He identifies Himself with it. Consider John 11:25-26, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die." Consider also John 14:6, "Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
Jesus gives His own life.
Although Jesus has life within himself, he had to pay a terrible price in order to be able to give life to others. In order to give life, Jesus tasted death. In order to save our lives, He sacrificed his, just as we read in John 10:11, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."
Jesus gives eternal life.
Because Jesus gave his own life to pay for our sins, He is now able to give eternal life, just as we read in John 6:40, "This is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
Eternal life is the most important life of all.
When John talks about life, the emphasis is on eternal life. For John realizes that eternal life is the most important life of all. As we see in John 6:27, "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal."
Eternal life is a present possession.
You can have eternal life right now. Yes, all of us must taste physical death. But eternal life has already begun. This is one major characteristic of John's writings -- eternal life is regarded as a present possession. It starts the moment you are born again. Consider these verses from 1 John 5:11-12, "And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life."
When I consider that because of Jesus I have eternal life right now, and when I consider that without Him I would be on my way to hell, it makes me want to worship Him. I want to worship Him because of my dependence upon Him for natural life, and I want to worship Him because of my dependence upon Him for spiritual life.
II. Walk - How Our Knowledge of the Light of Christ Should Effect Our Walk
Just as our knowledge of our dependence upon the life of Christ should motivate us to worship Him, our knowledge of our dependence upon the light of Christ should motivate us to obey Him. Here, I do not mean physical light, as in sunlight or lamplight. Rather, I mean wisdom and understanding. We are dependent upon the light of Christ, because Jesus is the source of all true wisdom and understanding. The wisdom and understanding that occurs naturally in created things is natural light. The wisdom and understanding that comes only through knowing God is spiritual light. Jesus is the source of both.
Natural light.Animal light
Jesus is also the origin of the light that exists in the human conscience. In the beginning, man's conscience was without error and was a reliable light. Since the fall, the conscience is corrupted. Nevertheless, much good remains in it. C. S. Lewis called this a sense of "oughtness." There is a sense in which man instinctively knows what he ought to do. At the end of chapter 1 in Mere Christianity Lewis makes two points:
First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.
As fallen humans, we continue to enjoy much grace from the natural light that is reflected in the consciences of unbelievers. Most people do not kill their neighbors or rob their houses. But that light is fading. It is fading because people have a tendency to ignore the light they have, a tendency that increases from one generation to the next. Paul describes what happens to people when they ignore the light that they have. In Romans 1:28 we read, "Just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper."
These are the consequences of ignoring the natural light of Christ. Even worse are the consequences of ignoring the spiritual light of Christ.
Light and life
The spiritual light of Christ is rooted in the life of Christ. We see this in John 1:4 when we read, "This life was the light of men." The connection between life and light is also seen in John 8:12 where we read, "Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." Those who have the life of Christ (eternal life) also have the light of Christ. Those who have the light of Christ will walk in that light.
Light and union
To walk in the light of Christ, we must be united to Christ by being born again. There is a vital connection between union with Christ and walking in the light. I note with sadness that many evangelical Christians teach, "Believe now; repent later." But in John, there is no possible separation between walking and believing. No one is born again by works, but works do reveal whether or not you are truly born again. Deeds reveal what you believe. Walking in the light is a necessary consequence and evidence of true faith. Consider these verses from John 3:19-21:
This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.
In other words, those who do evil hate the light. And remember, light is personified here. To hate the light is to hate Christ. To hate the way of Christ is to hate Christ Himself.
Light and assurance of salvation
Does this mean that Christians never sin? Certainly not. Even Christians make wrong turns and find themselves on the wrong road. The difference between a believer and a non-believer in this situation is the non-believer is content to stay on the wrong road. The Christian eventually repents and returns to the right road. And God has made provision for this repentance, as we see in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Meanwhile, those who remain in their sins have little basis for believing that they are born again, no matter how sincere their apparent conversion seemed at the time. This is what the verses just mentioned plainly show -- if I am not walking in the light of Christ, I have no basis for believing that I have the life of Christ -- no basis for believing that I am born again. Knowing this about the light of Christ, surely this is compelling motivation for believers to walk in that light. Therefore, let all of us who consider ourselves to be believers repent of all known sin and diligently seek to walk in the light of Christ so that we will have no reason to doubt our union with Him.
III. Witness - How Our Knowledge of the Power of Christ Should Effect Our Witness
But who are those people who walk in the light of Christ, and what was it that initially motivated them to begin to walk in that light? Was it some kind of self-improvement program? Was it their own determination to shape-up? Was it the persuasive power of modern evangelistic methods?
No. We are able to walk in the light of Christ, because, as John 1:5 affirms, "the light shines in the darkness." It has shone in the darkness of our own souls. Once our spirits avoided God. Now our spirits cling to Christ as the source of light and life. We are different, because there is a power behind the light of Christ -- the power of the Holy Spirit. Our hearts were changed through the power of the Holy Spirit, and it was this heart-change that enabled us to receive and believe the light of Christ. This gives me confidence when I witness. For it assures me that the results of my witness are not dependent upon the cleverness of my arguments. The results are dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
The power behind the light
Jesus, Himself, describes our dependence upon the Holy Spirit. We see this in John 6:63 where Jesus says, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing."
So why do people believe and receive the Gospel? When people embrace the gospel, it is not because their fleshly minds have special talents for receiving spiritual things, and it is not because their fleshly tastes have been exposed to special explanations that make the truths of God palatable; it is because the Holy Spirit enables them to believe.
We especially see this in John 6:54 when Jesus seems to deliberately confuse everyone with the statement, "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
Those of us who partake of the Lord's Supper are not as likely to be confused by such a statement; we understand that we partake of the body and blood of Christ in a strictly spiritual sense. But these people who heard Jesus speak of eating flesh and drinking blood were terribly confused. Nevertheless, they did not all respond in the same way. Many left, as we see in John 6:66 where we read, "As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore." But some remained with Jesus. For when Jesus confronted the twelve in John 6:67 saying, "You do not want to go away also, do you," Simon Peter, although just as confused as the rest, nevertheless was able to say in John 6:68-69, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." Why did Peter and the other disciples remain with Jesus? They remained, because they had truly been born again.
Those who leave the faith
There will be many times in our own lives when we will not understand God. We will be confused over what God has said, caused, or permitted. Many will be offended and will leave the faith they once embraced. Yet, the true believers will remain, as we read in 1 John 2:19, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us."
Those who remain in the faith
What is different about the people who remain in the faith? What is different about people who continue to hang onto God, no matter what kinds of trials and disappointments they experience? I submit that the difference is not to be found in their personal qualities. Nor are they sustained by strength of character. No, they are sustained by the light that shines in the darkness.
Wounded, broken, and bleeding, the true believer remains united to Christ no matter what happens. And even when the believer lacks the strength to hold onto Christ, Christ holds onto him. So it is that we read in John 10:29, "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."
In summary, this is how the light shines in the darkness. The light shines in the darkness of unbelief with regenerating light, and the light shines in the darkness of trial and tribulation with preserving light -- light that empowers those who truly belong to Christ to persevere in their faith.
So do not be discouraged as you seek to witness for Christ. It is your job to carry the light, but it is not your job to make it shine in the hearts of unbelievers. That is the Holy Spirit's job. Real conversions occur when the light shines in the darkness through the power of the Holy Spirit.
IV. Warfare - How Our Knowledge of the Target of Christ Should Effect Our Spiritual Warfare
Having discussed how the light of Christ shines in the darkness because of the power of the Holy Spirit, we will now consider how the light of Christ prevails in the darkness because of the target of the Holy Spirit.
There is conventional warfare and there is spiritual warfare. An example of conventional warfare is our present engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Targets are very important in conventional warfare. If the target were an enemy tank, we would attack it in order to destroy it. However, if the target were a city, we would more likely attack it in order to subdue it rather than to destroy it.
An example of spiritual warfare is the Holy Spirit's pursuit of unbelievers -- a pursuit in which God invites us to join Him. The target is sheep. The Holy Spirit does not seek to destroy sheep but to subdue them. He subdues sheep by changing their hearts. Once a sheep's heart is changed, the sheep willingly follows the Holy Spirit out of the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of light.
Who are the sheep
John talks about sheep at least fifteen times in his writings. In this context, sheep is a figurative term for people who are given to Jesus by the Father. There are two kinds of sheep. The first kind of sheep is those who are still in darkness. They are in darkness now, but they will eventually respond to the gospel. The second kind of sheep is those who have already responded to the gospel by receiving Jesus. They have the life of Christ, and they walk in the light of Christ.
What makes these sheep special? What makes them different from other people who are not sheep? The thing that makes sheep special is not contained within themselves. As Isaiah 53:6 says, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him [Him meaning Christ]."
The thing that makes sheep special is that they are loved in a special way by God. God demonstrates this love by giving them as a gift to His Son. Consider John 17:1-2, " Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, 'Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.'" From this verse, we see that Jesus is able to give eternal life to those who have been given to Him by the Father. Those whom the Father has given Jesus are sheep.
Sheep hear the voice of God
Because the target of the Holy Spirit is sheep, He enables them to understand the Gospel. When Jesus was on the earth, many rejected His words -- the darkness did not comprehend the light. Many refused to believe Jesus. To this, Jesus' explanation was very simple -- you are not my sheep. Consider John 10:26-27 where Jesus says, "You do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."
Sheep are scattered
Jesus has sheep all over the world. He wants to bring them into one flock He wants to somehow get the light of the gospel to the sheep so that they can respond. Consider John 10:16: "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd."
Why the darkness does not comprehend the light
Meanwhile, the darkness does not comprehend the light. Yes, the gospel is preached to all people, and it should be. Yet, no one comprehends the light unless the Holy Spirit regenerates Him. People do not comprehend the light unless the Holy Spirit makes the light shine in the darkness of their confusion. That is why we read in John 6:44, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day."
Opposition to the light
Meanwhile, those who remain in darkness hate the light and try to overcome it. There are many strategies for overcoming the light.
Some countries have been so successful in preventing evangelistic activity that God has intervened in unusual ways. So it is that for Muslim countries, a survey shows that 25% of all conversions among Muslims are associated with some kind of dream about Jesus. What does this tell us -- the Holy Spirit is going to find and rescue His sheep, no matter where they are nor what He has to do. Those sheep belong to Jesus, and every one of them will be found and rescued from the Kingdom of Darkness, just as it is written in John 6:39, "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day."
Meanwhile the light continues to shine in the darkness, and the darkness has failed to overcome it:
Standing firm against the darkness
The continuing victory of light over darkness should encourage us to stand firm against the darkness in our spiritual warfare. From Ephesians 6:10-18 we know what those weapons are:
The darkness is passing away.
As you stand against the darkness, be encouraged that the darkness is passing away. Its days are numbered and its time as short. As we read in 1 John 2:8, "The darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining." In addition, we have Jesus' promise from Matthew 16:18 that the gates of Hell will never prevail against the Church.
Meanwhile, darkness proudly boasts of its apparent victories:
But such boasting is in vain, for the darkness has not prevented the Holy Spirit from pulling sheep out of the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light. Every day, blind sheep begin to see, dumb sheep begin to understand, and wandering sheep begin to walk in the light of Christ.
How Should We Then Live?
Having considered the implications of John 1:4-5, let me summarize what they suggest regarding our worship, walk, witness, and warfare.
"In Him was life"
In our worship, let us remember that Jesus is the living God. He gives life, He is life, and He is alive. There is no eternal life apart from Him.
"And this life was the light of men"
In our walk, let us note that there is no such thing as having the life of Christ while walking outside of the light of Christ. The light shows us how to walk. Life and light are inseparable. What we believe is reflected in what we do.
"The light shines in the darkness"
In our witness, let us remember that the effect of our witness does not depend upon our own arguments and powers of persuasion. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that turns unbelievers into believers, and it is the power of the Holy Spirit that makes the light shine in the darkness of unregenerate hearts.
"The darkness has neither (comprehended nor overcome) the light.
In our spiritual warfare, let us remember that the target of the convicting work of the Holy Spirit is sheep; those sheep belong to Jesus; they were given to Jesus by His Father; and nothing will prevent the Holy Spirit from bringing those sheep out of darkness into life and light.
Having spoken so much about sheep and about how Christ died for His sheep, I can imagine someone asking the question, "What if I am not a sheep?"
Please understand that being a sheep is not something you see through the front windshield of your car. It is something you see through your rearview mirror. It is not something you see before you come to Christ. It is something you see as you walk with Christ.
Meanwhile, your duty is clear. It is not to try to figure out whether or not you are a sheep. It is to repent and believe the gospel. Hatred for the light of Christ might be the natural response of those who live in darkness, but being in darkness does not excuse them from being culpable and responsible for rejecting whatever light they have. The question for you is can you understand any of this -- are you able to see any light at all? Do you understand that you are a big sinner who needs a big savior? Then, do not reject the light you have. Repent and believe the Gospel. Come to Christ today.
Let us pray. Dear heavenly Father, we would see souls converted. Please make the light of Christ shine in the power of the Holy Spirit, and please make us bold to bear it, to proclaim it, and to walk in it. Amen.