1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
God did not create this world to be dark, but that’s the way it started. In this passage Paul takes us back to the origins of creation. The lack of light is called darkness.
Genesis 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
Into this dark and formless world God spoke light into existence, and once light was then in the world, He proceeded to put the world in order and shape it into an organised structure. The stars would help us designate seasons and the sun will help us determine days and years. Light enables us to see and to work with God’s creation. Creation without light would not be complete. In a sense you could say that creation was made and designed to have light in it, and the Light of the World spoke light into our world.
And in much the same way as God created the world and put light in it, He has done for us. God created us to have light in us as well. Jesus is the light of the world, but in Matthew 5:14 He says to His disciples, “You are the light of the world.” We are to be a people through whom God shines His light to others in the world. We were made in the image of God, which means that everything that God is would be reflected in us and come beaming out through us.
But of course, things haven’t quite worked out that way. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” The opening verses of Genesis 5 give us a striking contrast to this original plan: “When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, He called them ‘man.’ When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.”
Adam and Eve were created in God’s likeness and image, but Seth, who was born after sin came into the world, was born in Adam’s likeness and image. And this is what continues to happen to this day. Instead of being a source from which God’s attributes of love and mercy and wisdom would flow, Adam and Eve’s children and all their descendants, which includes all of us, have been tainted by the darkness of sin. Instead of God’s love and mercy and wisdom shining through us, we have turned into self-consuming beings who only want to serve ourselves. Instead of reflecting the light of God, we are full of darkness.
In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul uses the beginnings of Creation to compare what God does with us. He compares the human heart to the darkness of the unformed Creation, only it is even worse than that. Not only is it unformed and dark in a chaotic sense, in that people live without a purpose, but there is now a wickedness added to it where we see a pursuit of dark and evil things. The problem with the human heart is not only a lack of holiness and perfection, but the reality that it has exchanged these things for a desire of wickedness. Jesus said in Mark 7:21-23, “From within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.”
Paul also made mention of this in Ephesians 4:18 when he wrote that unbelievers are, “darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” Notice that he uses the words, “darkened” and “separated from the life of God.” These are powerful words. They don’t speak of an enlightened world that needs just a little guidance and improvement, which is how most people would describe the world. That is not a Biblically accurate picture of what the world is really like. And this is why Paul writes that we are darkened and separated from the life of God - a hardened and darkened world on a one-way road to hell.
If you don’t believe me, just have a look at what kind of TV shows are popular today. Watch the news. Just take a look around you at the depravity of the human race. All of these things that should be a repulsion to any trace of decency in us are all reflections of the darkness.
And what makes it even more of a challenge, is when we take a long, hard look at our own lives. Consider some of the thoughts that go through your mind when you aren’t even trying to think about such things. Even Christians can daydream about some pretty awful stuff from time to time and we find ourselves asking, “Where did that come from?”
Often we find ourselves caught up in a conversation that we know we shouldn’t be part of, but there is a dark side of us that enjoys it. The darkness still has a powerful hold on the heart of a Christian. How often do we defend our own sinful behaviour, even joking about it, as if to God it’s no big deal?
But God didn’t create the world to be dark and chaotic. His ultimate goal for the world was to have an enlightened and orderly place for us to live in. He didn’t create us to generate so much darkness either.
So when evil and spiritual darkness took its grip on the world, God didn’t sit idly by. He put a curse on His creation so that we would know that something isn’t right. We still bear His image. It’s a tarnished image, but it’s still there. We look at the world and we instinctively know that things are not what they should be. That’s no coincidence. God still seeks us, and He still shines His light in the darkness. Make no mistake – this is an awfully dark world, but God still shines His light on it. He shines His light on our world to show us how dark it really is down here.
But amazingly, He doesn’t shine
His light from a great distance away. He Himself came into this world and took on flesh. He reveals to us that Jesus is God who took on flesh. He did this to become an eternal beacon of light to lead people out of darkness.
He came, despite knowing full well what kind of darkness He was coming into. God knew exactly what He would find when He came into our world.
God willingly entered into the dark with Himself as the light. He knew what He was about to expose and He knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.
He also knew how the people would react, but He did it anyway. He came here to openly expose evil and shine on it with His light.
God knew that the light of exposure would make people angry and defensive, but He didn’t stay away. He came with His light and He exposed the darkness, even though it made the darkness and the people who love the darkness angry.
Jesus didn’t avoid the sick and the diseased. Nor did He stay away from the tax collectors and the prostitutes. He went in with His light and openly sought them. Then, at the height of His ministry, when His enemies were really getting angry, when His own disciples begged Him to stay away from Jerusalem, Jesus did nothing of the sort. Knowing full well what lay in store for Him just five days after riding triumphantly into Jerusalem, Jesus continued to shine His light. He went to the cross to expose the world to His light and to show it how much He really loved it. The Light of the World has shone in the darkness.
But He goes even further than that. Paul wrote that God “made His light shine in our hearts.” This is a personal mission God has for each of us as well. This is what Jesus wants to do in your heart. The problem is though that because of our natural preference for the darkness, we have put up barriers around our sin and our guilt, which makes it hard for the light of God to shine in our hearts.
Even though God still loves us and forgives us, there is still much guilt and many unresolved issues that often linger behind the walls of our hearts. We’re ashamed of what really lies deep within us, so we keep the walls up out of fear that our deeds will be exposed, so that no-one really knows us.
Jesus came into this world to break down those walls of your heart. He wants His light to shine in every area and part of your life, especially in the darkest recesses of your heart.
Listen again to what Paul wrote. “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
Darkness is, ironically, the best place for the light to shine. If a light shines where there is already light, it doesn’t make much difference. But shine a light into darkness, and you cannot help but notice that change.
Imagine for a moment the darkest and most disturbing things in your life that you try to repress and forget about. What if Jesus could replace that shame with His love and forgiveness? This is exactly what He wants to do. That is what His light is for. He doesn’t want any darkness to be in the hearts of those He has embraced and who have accepted His gift of forgiveness.
Instead, He wants us to reflect His light. His light is meant to shine not only in us, but through us.
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai after talking with God, his face shone as a result of being in the presence of God Himself. It looked glorious, and the Law which he carried down the mountain with him was glorious and perfect, but the people couldn’t obey the Law perfectly. The light of the Law’s exposure of their failures made them ashamed to be in God’s presence. But God has offered us forgiveness through Jesus, and it is Jesus who makes all the difference.
As Paul wrote, the light comes from “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
One commentator wrote this: “Paul tells you to look carefully at Jesus’ face, all covered with blood, dripping down from His forehead with the crown of thorns on the cross. He knows all of your dirty little secrets, but He is not looking away from you. He is looking directly at you. You are ashamed. You look down. You try to walk away from Him, as the woman who touched the edge of His cloak. But Jesus calls after you, just as He did the woman. He says to you, ‘Come back. Look at me here. I know it is sad and scary to see me dying here. I know your sins caused me to be here. But I volunteered for this. I wanted to be here for you. I am hanging here because I wanted to pay for your sin. I am dying here even for that one sin that has been bothering you for all these years. Can’t you see why I am here? I’m doing this because I love you, and I want you to see my love for you and to know that you are forgiven. It is for you - all of you, and everything you’ve ever done.’”
The light that Jesus brings into our lives is there specifically to break down the thickest of walls we’ve built around ourselves. All of the sin and pain and rejection that we’ve had to deal with, some of it for most of our lives – all of those things that bring darkness into our hearts – that’s why Jesus came, and that’s why He died.
Jesus wants to break into the darkest recesses of your heart and expose your sin so that you can know and experience the feeling of forgiveness that has always been yours. It’s a rhetorical question, I know, but are there still things in your heart that shame you? The reason is that you have yet to allow Jesus to shine His light on those things.
I found an interesting illustration which might help explain just what Jesus wants for each of us. When you receive an unexpected visitor, you might try to keep them away from the rooms in your house that you know aren’t very tidy. Or when you invite someone to your house, you might only tidy the lounge, the kitchen and one bathroom. All of the magazines, kid’s toys and other junk that were all over the lounge, you put into one room and close the door, hoping that your guest won’t go in there.
This is the way we sometimes treat Jesus without even realising it. We enjoy having Him in certain parts of our lives, but we are afraid to let Him into the hidden parts of our lives and let Him see us for who we really are.
But Jesus didn’t come for people who have everything together. He came for the lost. He came for you and He came for me. He came for dirty sinners who have messy houses and locked cupboards. He says, “I’ve seen your house. I know what a mess it’s in. I see your heart, but I love you. I have forgiven you. I want to live here.”
He already knows who you are and what you’ve done. Whether you open your doors or not He’s already seen what’s really in your heart. Incredibly, when we are honest with Him, instead of being shocked and disowning us, He does the exact opposite. He doesn’t walk out. He continues to shine His light of peace and forgiveness. And when you do finally open the door to Him, you find that He has already come and cleaned out the mess for you.
John 1:4-5 says, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
Jesus came into this world so that we could see the light and understand how holy and gracious God really is.
It has always been God’s greatest desire for us to turn from the darkness and to allow His light to bring healing and forgiveness.
As Christians we all know that we are called to take the Light of Christ into the dark world. It’s the mission He has given to His Church, but probably the hardest part of that is understanding that the healing must begin with us first. It’s an uncomfortable, but very important detail, but above all things, we must remember the grace of God. Remember that you have no secrets from Him. He knows all, and He sees all, which means that God will not be shocked or surprised by what you think you’ve hidden from Him. And because He is a God of grace and love, you will not find condemnation from Jesus, but mercy and healing.
Most Christians can recite John 3:16 with ease, but the very next verse is no less important, as Jesus tells us in this verse why He came, and why He died for you: “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”
Don’t miss the awesome truth of that verse. Jesus doesn’t shine His light into your life to condemn you, but to save you – to offer you forgiveness, grace and a new hope.
What is that one thing in your life that you need to allow Jesus to shine His light on today?
Homegroup Study Notes
Compare Genesis 1:27 with Genesis 5:1-3
What are the similarities in these verses, and what are the differences?
Pay particular attention to the images that Adam and Seth bore.
How has the tainted image of sin corrupted God’s original plan for the world?
Most people would say that the world has its problems, but generally speaking it is full of well-meaning people, and with a little effort, we can all contribute to making it a better place for all.
But this is not what the Bible teaches.
See Jeremiah 17:9, Genesis 6:5 and John 3:19-20.
What other passages of Scripture paint the true picture of the world?
What does the Bible mean when it says that “men love the darkness?”
Jesus calls Himself the Light of the World, but then incredibly, He says to His followers in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world.”
The call to us to reflect God’s light into the dark world is well understood by Christians, but why are we not seeing more of His light?
Why is God’s light more of a flickering flame, instead of the blinding searchlight it is meant to be?