Allen Jackson - Light Has Come
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What an honor to be with you on Christmas Day. God loves you. You know, Christmas is such an important thing. We have an annual celebration not because we forget but because we need the reminder. You know, the pressures of life they're real, particularly in the tumultuous, confusing world that we're walking through right now. But in the midst of that, we have this annual time to stop and remember that God loves us so much that he sent his son to become one of us to redeem us from the futility of life. Have you got to Christmas morning and life feels somewhat purposeless or like it's just a treadmill? That's what Christmas is about. Jesus came to redeem us from that. There's a purpose for your life. There's a value to you as a person not because of what you've achieved or accomplished or managed to gather around you but because God said you are of tremendous value. Grab your Bible and a notepad. Let's take a few minutes and ask God to give us his perspective on who we are. Enjoy the lesson.
We went to Bethlehem so many times over Christmas Eve. I want to take just a little different approach in this session. In Isaiah chapter 9 and verse 1, it says, "Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles by the way of the sea, along the Jordan. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; and on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned". It seem to me if we were ever going to celebrate Christmas Day together and not just the event of Christmas, that we should celebrate the light of the world.
We live in a time where it seems like darkness has intensified. At least there is less reluctance to give public expression to things associated with darkness or ungodliness. Things like embarrassment and shame seem a bit out of style. There is a brazenness to ungodliness that seems to be emerging in unprecedented ways, at least from my vantage point, and I find great hope in the words of the prophet Isaiah that those people walking in darkness have seen a great light and on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. I am looking forward to the light of God breaking forth in the year ahead in ways that we've never seen before, and I believe God is well able to do that.
In John chapter 8 and verse 12, Jesus spoke to the people and he said, "I'm the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life". It's a title that Jesus used for himself. It wasn't one attributed to him from someone else or somewhere else. He said he was the light of the world.
So I want to play for just a moment with this imagery of darkness and light because I think there is some confusion around it. Sometimes when Christians talk about, or God's people talk about the end of the age and that the conflict that will come between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light, we do it with a lot of trepidation, a great deal of angst and it seems to me it's an overabundance of worry. I don't believe that's the reason that we're told the story. I think it's a triumphant story. It's a story of a conquering king and an emerging kingdom; and the present world order that has left humanity ravaged by death and destruction and hatred and all sorts of things, the story that history tells so clearly that that present order of things will pass away and we're told there'll be no more crying or mourning or tears or death for all of those things will be swept away. Something good is ahead of us.
Now, there will be some tension between here and there because this present world order will not yield easily and the spiritual forces behind it certainly will not abandon their post without an expression of a power greater than that which they represent, but it's a triumphant story for the people of God. So this notion of darkness and light needs a bit of consideration. And I don't want to spend a great deal of time with it, but darkness can only come into a lighted room by extinguishing the light source. Darkness won't overtake us in here unless we turn off the lights. Don't do that. So how do you spread darkness? If you want to, we could light a candle. You bring a candle into a darkened room, and it's amazing how much light a single candle will bring. The lights went out in our house not too many days ago and Kathy was scrambling to find a candle.
It's amazing what two or three candles in the house will do. I mean, you probably wouldn't want to do surgery that way, but it brings an enormous amount of visibility compared to the absence of light. Well, it's interesting there's no equivalent in darkness to lighting a candle. There's not something you can do to bring darkness into the room. We can talk about spiritual darkness, but physical darkness there's no equivalent. See, we tend to think of darkness and light as opposing in equal forces as if they represent the same value, the same strength, the same momentum; much in the way we think about hot and cold. We understand that you could get warm water by taking hot water and cold water and mixing the two and you can moderate the temperature. And I think we kind of extrapolate that same sense of a balance or an equation into the discussion between darkness and light, but they're different.
Darkness cannot overcome or lessen the light. That's not how it works. They're not equal forces. Again, so how could someone spread darkness? What is required in order for darkness to intensify? If you can't light a dark candle or turn on a dark search light, you can't turn up the lumens of darkness, what is necessary for darkness to spread? Well, it only increases, one, by extinguishing the light source. If you can put out the light, then the darkness intensifies or if you can distance yourself from the source of the light. The further away the source of light is, the dimmer it appears. Or it seems to me there's a third option. If you can obscure the light source, if you can cover it, if you can diminish it, those would be the ways to intensify the darkness.
Well, the counsel the Scripture gives us is to love the light, to intentionally walk towards the light, to come into the light, to embrace the light, even to dance in the light, to celebrate it. So we're going to walk for just a few minutes through some aspects of that to see if perhaps we could gain some perspective. What a gift if on Christmas Eve we could see the world with a clarity on Christmas Day. Anybody here ever do an Easter service with us at Murphy Center? MTSU is the university in our community, they have a big arena. It's the fishbowl, all glass walls; and for many years we did our Easter services there. Thousands of people would gather from all over the community. It was kind of a neutral site.
And I don't know what happened, but one Easter, we would do a Saturday night service and then a Sunday morning service, and on Saturday night, it was not intentional, I wished everybody a merry Christmas and they were not as polite as you were. I mean, I got a belly laugh and I wasn't trying to be funny. It just kind of rolled out. So I dealt with the humiliation and rolled back on Sunday morning, and guess what? Came out again. So I'm thinking just wishing you, you know, saying Christmas Eve on Christmas Day I didn't miss so badly. I have no idea where I was. If on Christmas Day God would give us a perspective on our lives that represented an insight and an understanding that we didn't have. Seems appropriate with Christmas.
We're celebrating the birth of our king, the light of the world. You made the effort to be here on a holiday. When many people think it's a holiday from God, I don't agree. So why not ask the Lord for such a thing? Well, in John chapter 3 and verse 19 it says, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 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". It's not a complicated passage or a complicated concept. We have to choose the truth. We have to choose to walk in the light that we have.
The greatest way I know to gain greater insight and understanding into the things of God, the greatest way I know to attract the help of the Spirit of God to bring revelation to your life is to make a determined effort to walk in the truth that you know. Don't be sloppy. Don't treat it casually. Treat God with respect and dignity. And I enjoy many of the things that have come with a more casual society. Some of you have had as many birthdays as I have. We used to be a bit more formal. How many remember when you flew on an airplane you dressed up? First time I ever went to Israel I was in elementary school. We have a picture of the group taking off from New York. The women were all in dresses. We're going to make an all-night flight to Israel. The men were in coats and ties.
Do you know what it looks like when you board an all-night flight to Israel these days from New York? Everybody's in pajamas, and most of them are decent. All of our culture is more casual. And I think there are some very good things that have come with that, but it's also brought a casualness sometimes to our attitude about the Lord and I regret that. He deserves our respect. You know, manners are not a wicked thing. Respect for one another, respect for authority, the fear of God, they're very important concepts. And if you will practice them in your life, God will give you insight and understanding into the principles of his kingdom that will change your journey. Sometime we manage to boil that down to joining the right church and sit there frequently enough and you'll be good.
Folks, sitting in this building won't make you a better Christian. I wish it would. We'd sell tickets. We have to learn to show respect to the Lord, to walk in the light. God has given every one of us a revelation of himself. He's made some aspect of his person, his character, his truth. See, God's truth is not subjective. It's not your truth and my truth and their truth and this truth. God has given us some objective truth. He said you shall do this and you shouldn't do that, and he didn't take a vote. It's called the sovereignty of God, and walking in the light means we honor that truth. If you will honor the truth that God has made real to you, not me, because he's given you a perspective, an insight, an understanding not subject to your opinion. He's helped you understand a part of his Word. And if you will treat that with dignity, God will reach you.
In Luke chapter 22, there's a conversation between Jesus and Simon Peter. Jesus is trying to prepare his best friends for his passion. It's going to be an extraordinarily difficult season for Jesus obviously. He's going to be tortured to death, but his concern is for his friends. He really talks very little about what's going to happen to him. The only window we get into his anguish is when he's praying in Gethsemane, but we have lots and lots of verses about him talking to his friends about what's going to happen. "I'm going to be betrayed. They're going to arrest me. I'll be beaten severely. They'll crucify me. They're going to bury me in a tomb, but I'll come back to life". He has a last supper with them. He washes his feet. There's enormous effort Jesus invest in his friends and he's the one that's going to be tortured to death.
Do you know he has that love for you? He does. But there's a little window. He's talking to Simon Peter, and it's the night he's to be betrayed. So all of them are going to abandon him and Peter is going to deny him three times before the sun comes up, a heartbreaking circumstance in Peter's life in hindsight. That night it's a night of tremendous fear. But this was Jesus's comment to him. "Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. And when you've turned back, strengthen your brothers". I checked it today. The literal translation of that little phrase where your faith may not fail is that your faith may not suffer a complete eclipse, that the light won't go out, Peter.
"I've prayed for you that you won't step completely out of the light". And it seems to me that we can reduce the Christmas hope to that, just step a little more completely into the light. You know, one of the things I can do to annoy all this beautiful, wonderful, incredible technical people that help us around here is not stay in the light 'cause it's, oh, they can chase me with them, but I could get out of them 'cause I know there's parts of the room where they can do that and where they can't. And I can kind of feel it when it's on my face. And they can chase me with the light, but I can try to stay out of it if I want to, especially if I don't tell them I'm going to do that. It's more fun. They'll think I'm going to go that way and I'm really going to go over this way. Some of us do that with the Lord a little bit. "Peter, I've prayed for you, that your faith might not have an eclipse". Knowing the Lord ain't that hard.
We use such big words. And when they train us to be professional Christians, they teach us bigger words. You can always know when I don't know what I'm talking about. I use bigger words. The things I truly understand I can explain to a third grader. And if you will determine in your heart this Christmas Day that the season in front of us we'll do our best to stand in the light that we know, I assure you God will illumine a broader path in front of you. He's faithful. Then we're given permission to speak to the darkness. I like this a lot. Have you ever been afraid of the dark? Not so much in this season of my life, but there have been times when the darkness frightened me.
You remember when you were a little kid. There was a season in my life when I was younger and nighttime terrified me. We lived, behind our home was a cemetery. And I don't know what was going on, but I'm pretty confident there was a spiritual component of it 'cause there was a few months period of time when the sun went down I was terrified. I don't mean casually terrified and I wasn't pretending 'cause I wanted attention. I was terrified, and I tried everything. You pull the blanket over your head 'cause you know a quilt will protect you from almost anything. Right? And you're breathing that stale air and you think, "Oh, I'm either going to suffocate, but that's better than facing what's out there on the other side of the quilt".
So you try to make a little air passage so you can breathe, but they're going to get you through the air passage so you close that down. We come up with a few more sophisticated things like that, but we all know what it is to be frightened. And then we, you know, grow through some of those childish aspects of the fear, but life brings frightening things to us. It brings frightening diagnosis and frightening relational circumstances and changes in our world and pandemics and fear comes to us in many ways. And the question is, what do we do with that and how do we respond to it? In Psalm 118 and verse 1, it says, "Give thanks to the LORD, for he's good; his love endures forever. Let Israel say, 'His love endures forever.' Let the house of Aaron say, 'His love endures forever.' Let those who fear the LORD say, 'His love endures forever.'"
Now, Hebrew is a very simple language. It's very old language. It's not nearly as complex as the language of the New Testament Greek. The verb tenses are much simpler. So when they want to add emphasis to something, they just repeat a phrase or repeat a word. Sometimes it'll say listen listening. That means listen really carefully. Listen closely. And in this case, the phrase that is repeated over and over is let Israel say. What you say matters. Remember, as a child if you were afraid of the dark, do you ever talk to yourself? "I don't know who's over there, but I'm not afraid of you". I just told you I was. I remember that being sent to the barn when I was a kid. Barns make noises at night, especially if they got animals in them. Scary places. You can't remember where the lights are. Sharp stuff out there.
I'm talking to myself and the horses and whoever's in there, "Here I come". But the biblical prescription or one of the biblical prescriptions is we can speak to the darkness. We speak not out of fear and we don't speak in a threatening way, but there's an authority that is ours in Christ. I think it's helpful to think of fear as a person without a body. It's an uninvited guest, an unwelcome intruder. And if you understand your authority in Christ, maybe you fear that you are, because of some dark season of your past you'll never be forgiven, well, my Bible says that the blood of Jesus Christ continually cleanses me from all sin. That if I confess my sins, he's faithful and just to forgive me and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness.
So I don't have to be afraid of being guilty. So I can say to that fear, "In Jesus's name I'm the righteousness of God in Christ". And he will remind me all graphic images of my failures or my shortcomings or my inadequacies and I'll say, "That's true. That's me in the picture, but through the blood of Jesus I had been delivered from that". And your words have real power and authority in your life. If you can recognize what that fear is, speak to it. Don't yield to it. "You're not welcome here in Jesus's name. You're uninvited. I don't welcome you". I'm not frightened of a pandemic. I'm not being careless or reckless. But I trust Almighty God to watch over my life and to take us through. It doesn't mean to ignore the science. Ignoring science isn't wisdom. That's foolish. Now, science is consistent. There's not a science in New York and a science in Tennessee.
So not everything we hear is science, and we need some wisdom. But sometimes Christians confuse foolishness with faith. We've talked about that before. If you're out of gas, you don't need to pray. You need a filling station and something to pay for gas with. Now, you may need God to lead you to a filling station, but you don't really need wisdom. You need petroleum products. You know, people will say, "Do you believe in God or medicine"? Yes. Don't create stress, but don't yield to fear. I think we have to make a conscious effort to remember that the light has come. The light has come into the world, and we have been entrusted with that.
In Romans 13 and verse 12, it says, "The night is nearly over; and the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light". And I like that imagery a lot. You don't get a lightsaber, you get armor of light. I don't want a stinking saber, I'm going to put on the armor. To be a Christ follower is not cumbersome or burdensome or intrusive or diminishing. It's not only delivering, it's a force on your behalf. There's a conflict in our world, and if you sense that your senses are correct and appropriate. But you're not left alone or unprotected. We can stand in the armor of the one who is our Lord.
Look at Job 33 and verse 28. "He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light". It needs to be our declaration. If you've been walking through a difficult holiday, get Psalm 91 out. Take the passage from Job 33, begin to declare it over your life. "I will live to enjoy the light. I may have walked through a shadowed valley. It may have been a difficult season for my health or a difficult season for my family or a difficult season for my business".
So I may be chagrined about what's happening in the world or the condition of the church or whatever the challenge that you perceive is, but a great light has come into the world and we know him as Lord. We are not overwhelmed. The one who is with us is greater than whatever it is that stands against us. In the same way that light dispels darkness, the Spirit of God within you is a power and a force and an authority to overcome all those things that beset us. It doesn't mean we don't have problems, it doesn't mean that we don't face challenges, but it means we're triumphant. Isaiah 60 and verse 1 says, "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the people, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you". It's another wonderful declaration over your life in the same way that rising sun in the morning. When COVID hit and our lives got disrupted, for weeks I was outside walking the fields before, I wanted to see the sunrise. I loved seeing the horizon light up and the day begin to come to color and distinction become to the landscape. There's such a difference in being in the dark and seeing light break forth. And I read that passage and it says, "Arise, shine, for your light has come. The glory of the Lord rises upon you".
Wherever there's a dark space in your life, depression, discouragement, fear, lack, need, whatever it is, say, "God, show me how to walk in that aspect of your light". There's a new way to walk. It's the story of the arrival of the king. The glory of the Lord made manifest in the earth. We're not alone. We're not religionists. We're not here to organize a new way to worship. We didn't come out with a new set of rules. We are children of the king. The creator of heaven and earth watches over us. We've been entrusted with his name and his Spirit indwells us. Now, that's good news.
Hey, let's pray before we go.
Heavenly Father, may the joy of Christmas fill our hearts and our lives. You've blessed us in so many ways and we want to say thank you for it. For your love for us, the value you've attached to us, the purpose you have given our lives we thank you for it in Jesus's name.