John Bradshaw - Lightened With His Glory
It's good to have the opportunity to open the Bible with you today. Let's pray as we begin:
Our Father in heaven, thank You for Your Word, for the light that shines from its pages, and for Jesus, the light of the world. Let Your light shine into our heart now, we pray, and thank You. Guide us by Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus' name. Amen.
About five miles from Union College is the Extreme Light Laboratory at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Now, recently, scientists at UNL succeeded in producing a beam of light 1 billion times brighter than the surface of the sun. Now, that flash of light only lasted for 30 billionths of a millionth of a second, but still. There was some scientific utility arising from the experiment, but it's hard to get away from the fact that, at the end of the day, they created a really, really bright light. Now, light, as you are aware, is important in multitudinous ways. It materially affects our mood. Natural lighting has a calming effect. Poor lighting can trigger depression.
Serotonin levels plummet on dark days and increase when there's plenty of light and therefore impact our happiness. Light affects productivity and creativity. It affects sleep cycles, our eyes, even decision-making. And I'm sure you've seen impressive light displays or impressive lights. The Eiffel Tower, the London Eye, the Statue of Liberty, Niagara Falls, all of them lit up with magnificent displays of light. I'm sure you can think of others you've seen. We filmed a little Christmas greeting for It Is Written in a neighborhood in Chattanooga where someone makes the local power company very, very happy every Christmas. It's breathtaking. Once we drove to McAdenville, North Carolina, when my children were just small, and we marveled on several levels at the Christmas lights there.
And I remember taking the children out of town, and we would drive on the way to their grandparents' house, and there's a big old house on a corner. You could drive down the long driveway, right past the front of the house, and across the property to another road. Every year they would set up Christmas lights of all kinds and let you drive right through their place, and marvel at the varying things that they had on display. It seems that human beings are a little bit like moths in that we're attracted to light. Now, those old incandescent light bulbs you used to burn in your home would last for maybe 2,000 hours, which is not really very long. LED bulbs are supposed to last much longer. There is a light bulb burning in Livermore, California, that has been burning for 117 years.
The reason is it was engineered before the days of what is known as planned obsolescence. Light bulb manufacturers figured out that light bulbs that burned for 100 years do not make light bulb manufacturers a lot of money. And so they gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1924 and decided to make light bulbs that lasted considerably less long. Members of what was known as the Phoebus cartel were actually fined if they produced bulbs that burned for longer than a thousand hours. Of course, the Bible speaks of light, opens with the words that say, "In the beginning God created..." And the first thing God created during creation week was light. He spoke it into existence.
God gave Israel light during the plague of darkness. He sent with His people a pillar of fire to provide light. A seven-branch lampstand in the sanctuary produced light, which glimmered and reflected inside that beautiful vitally important structure. God's Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. David wrote that the entrance of God's Word gives light. Jesus declared Himself to be the light of the world. John 9, verse 5 says, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world". That was Jesus speaking. But the plot thickens when we hear Jesus say in Matthew 5 and verse 14, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid".
Jesus tells us our purpose. It's to give light, to shine light. Now, there's part of me that doesn't much like that because that selfish part of me that must be crucified daily wants time out, time off the clock, to not be on duty. God's injunction does not contemplate our being part-time lights, but full-time lights. It's because we live in this desperately dark world. How dark is our world? Dark. Isaiah 60, verse 2 says, "For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen on thee". Jesus goes on to say, "Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven".
The world needs to see light, a revelation of the character of God in a world where men shall be "lovers of their own selves," covetous, unthankful, unholy, false accusers, fierce traitors, "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God", in that sort of world. But wait. Perhaps Paul is saying that sort of...church because he speaks in 2 Timothy 3, verse 5 about people who have "a form of godliness but deny the power thereof". My goodness. Could that be us? "Denying the power thereof", the power of God's grace, the power of God's forgiveness, the power of God's presence in our lives, the power of the Holy Spirit working in us "both to will and to do for His good pleasure".
You'll notice...we're all guilty of that. There is an incivility in society today, and the danger is that that's going to bleed more and more into the church. Instead of light, there's too often darkness in the church, dark attitudes, dark disagreements, dark words. But that's not what's going to win the world to the love of God. Isaiah 60 and verse 3 says, "And the gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising". Isaiah 42:6, "I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the gentiles". Why was it that Jesus came into the world? Luke 1, verse 79 tells us, "To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace". John 1, verse 4: "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men".
You know, it can be easier to keep the Sabbath than to reflect the character of Jesus. Now, of course, you're going to say, "Well, you can't do one without the other," and you would be right, bonus points for that. It's easier to know the 2,300-day prophecy or eat the right food or give an offering than it is to manifest the character of Christ. "Observe the right day". Okay, I'll do it. "Sing in the choir". Yes, you've got it! "Love your enemies". Whoa, wait a minute. "Rejoice and be exceeding glad" when people persecute you and "say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake". Oh, hey, hey! That's not what I signed up for. Hold on a minute. Yes, it is. That's what we call taking away the heart of stone and giving you a heart of flesh.
Jesus is talking about working in us so powerfully that we aren't simply right, but we are light. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Jesus wants us to reflect Him. If all we have is religion, without having Christianity, if all we have is the form of godliness, but we deny the power thereof, if all we have is compliance, if all we are is assenters, then we don't have Jesus. There's a song we used to sing in the Catholic church where I grew up. It was called "Seek, O Seek the Lord". And the song troubled me. I've never forgotten it. There's a line in that song that says, "How can we love God above and not our brother"? That was not a good one for me. I hated my brother.
There were times I wished that I was adopted so I didn't have to be my brother's brother. But I would hear that song, and it would tell me that evidently I was to love him. I was happy going to church, happy trying to figure out how to go to heaven, but I did not love my brother. Nor did I want to. I'll be happy to tell you that in the intervening years things have changed, but I'm making a point here. Growth in your church doesn't prove you're a Christian. Your position, whatever it may be, doesn't prove that you're a Christian. We can sing, and we can shout, and we can preach, and we can give, and we can do outreach and run programs and attend conferences, and none of that is the acid test. People at a restaurant in China ordered a meal of fried fish. After the fish had been cooked and served, after the fish had been cooked and served, it started twitching on the plate. It looked like it was alive. People in that restaurant were shocked and horrified. Worse, you can find a video online of, of a squid served on a plate. The plate of food comes up with a squid.
Now, I don't know why anybody would want to eat that, but people do, so squid was right on top of it. And when the diner, the, the restaurant patron, poured soy sauce on the squid, it started moving like one of those kids who used to breakdance on the street on a piece of cardboard. It, it would look like it was going to walk right out of the bowl. It was dead, but it looked alive. It was dead, but it acted like it was alive. We can't afford to have a church that's dead but looks alive. Jesus spoke to that very church in Revelation chapter 3 and verse 1. He spoke to the church at Sardis, and He said, "I know your works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead".
Your name suggests you're alive, but the truth is that you're dead. Alive is possessing the righteousness of Christ. That doesn't mean we're beyond making mistakes. It doesn't mean that we don't still grow. But God wants to imbue us with life. And that life is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We can't afford to be sleepwalking today with a name that we live while we're actually dead, with a form of godliness but denying the power thereof, singing the right words but singing the wrong tune. We are in a great controversy here on planet earth, and the issue in the great controversy is the character of God. We can talk about it until the cows come home, but God calls us to demonstrate it. In this great controversy we see the signs of Jesus' return, and they indicate that He's not far away. We want to be about our Father's business.
Now, when I came into the church, I was thrilled that I'd been led to the light of God's Word. I was confident in the mission of the church and in God's leading of the church. I'm still confident. We see God doing the most remarkable things. I am still confident. We see God working miracles of divine grace. I'm still confident. We see the church growing numerically. I am still confident. We see the establishment of new universities and new centers of influence around the world. I'm still confident! We see missionaries offering themselves to go to difficult places. I am still confident! We see the baptisms. I'm still confident! We can point to once-dark places that now shine brightly with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am still confident! We are not finished. We are not anywhere near finished, but we know that.
Now, look, we might see things in the church that we don't like, they're not hard to find. All you have to do is look at your own heart, and you'll see that God's church is far from perfect. But we don't need to be discouraged by that. I was not even baptized when I was trying to figure out why I was seeing in the church things that I knew shouldn't be there. I was puzzled by church members who were involved in things that I knew they shouldn't be involved in, and I wondered, and I prayed. I said, "Lord, how can these things be? You led me! This all seems to add up. So why are these things happening that shouldn't be happening"?
And God led me to Revelation 12 and verse 17, which says, "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ". And the light went on! That explained it, I said to myself. Now I know why I see things that I don't think I should be seeing. We are in a war. We're embroiled in a great controversy. Satan is angry with the woman, the church. Of course he is! And so, like Paul, who was bugged by the demon-possessed woman, we don't want to get angry with the people.
You remember that story in Acts 16, though? A demon-possessed woman following Paul around and creating a scene, must have been getting on his nerves. But Paul turned to her, and the Bible says he spoke to the demon. He didn't rebuke the poor woman. He recognized it was the devil that was behind all the sin. You know, life happens to us. Life happens to the church. That can be challenging. At times we wonder why things are happening in our lives, or why God is allowing this thing or that thing. Let me read to you something from a book I recommend to you. It's a book called "The Desire of Ages". And if you turn to page 231 of that book, you'll read this: "God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning, and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him".
Now, you might find that encouraging, and so you should. But you might find it challenging. God will not lead you, which means God is not leading you otherwise than you would choose to be led, if you could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of His purpose. God is leading you. God is leading us. And even if we are not happy with it all right now, we will look back one day and say, "That's the direction, that's the path I would have chosen, if I was aware of all of my options". That means we can afford not to sweat the small stuff. That means we can afford not to be distracted by the small stuff. And there's a lot of small stuff. Committees where you don't get your way? Small stuff. Budgets that you don't like? Small stuff. Disagreements in the church, disagreements between you and somebody else? Some people want to go to war over that. No, no. Small stuff. A lack of cooperation? Small. Dysfunction? Small. Why? Because God has got it all figured out. He doesn't ask us to figure it out. He asks us to allow Him to work through us while He figures it out.
Let's take this a step further. Problems at home? Small to the God who brought down the walls of Jericho. Worries with your children? Wait! God opened up the Red Sea. This is God we are talking about! Money is tight? Come on, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and you know that it's true. Problems in your heart, defects in your character, darkness in your soul, small stuff to God, for He has promised you a way of escape. It was God who said, "I will do a new thing". Just two verses later, Isaiah 43:21, God says, "This people have I formed for myself; that they shall shew forth my praise". Yes, they will! Yes, we will! Because God will do it in our lives.
I have a question for you: Where do you see yourself in the Bible? Here's what I mean by that. You see yourself in Revelation chapter 20, inside the New Jerusalem, looking through those clear walls. See what I'm saying? Let me ask you again: Where do you see yourself, if, if the Bible was a picture, where would you be in the picture? You would be in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. The Resurrection happens, and then "we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air". Yes! You see yourself in Revelation 14, verse 12. Now, you're humble, and so you don't want to seem like you're bragging, but you see yourself there, keeping the commandments of God and having the faith of Jesus. Let me pause right there. That's a false humility. If I were to say to most church members, "Is that you in Revelation 14, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus"?
I have a sense, based on my experience talking with people, that most people would say, "Well, you know, hmm, I'd hate to say, and I don't want to..." No, listen: That's God's people. And if you're one of God's people, then that's you. Say, "Yes! In Jesus I'm confident. By faith I can say, Revelation 14:12, by the grace of God, I'm in that passage right there". And do you know where God sees you in the Bible? You know where He sees you? In all of those places, as well as in Revelation 18 and verse 1. I want to read it to you. Revelation 18 and verse 1. I shall turn, you might choose to, as well, Revelation 18, verse 1: "After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory".
The planet lit up, illuminated, lightened with God's glory. That's God shining out of you. That's God working in you so that you are the light of the world. Not just for mood and productivity and creativity and sleep cycles and your eyes or decision-making. Not some dim light like that one up the road from Union College. Hey, UNL, if you want to see bright, drive five miles down the road and see the light of Jesus working in a person's life. Jesus said that we're going to shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of our Father. And on this side of the parousia, God's people are going to shine, because we have told Him that we must, and we've told Him that we cannot without Him. He'll do it! He'll do the work. He must! We've got a message to get out.
If you want to get your message out, let me put it this way: If you want to send a text message from wherever you are right now to someone in China, let's say, what you do is you take out your device, and you type it into your device, press send, or whatever it is. It goes off to the nearest cell phone tower, where it's received. That electromagnetic wave is converted to light, and it goes to the nearest central office, where it's combined with millions of other text messages. A lot of those signals will terminate along the way, but yours needs to go into a fiber, a little strand of glass the width of a human hair, that goes across, or at least under, the Pacific.
The signal reaches China; your text message is identified; then the reverse process happens until it reaches your friend in China. That all takes 1/20th of a second because that's how long it takes light to travel, let's say, 6,000 miles. And that's just your little message, and it's being carried across the globe by a fiberoptic network you can't see. That's what light does. If you want your message to get out, use light. Listen to this: "I have heard articulate speech produced by sunlight! I have heard a ray of the sun laugh and cough and sing"!
Alexander Graham Bell said that. Bell believed that what the telephone accomplished with the aid of a wire, the photophone would accomplish with the aid of a sunbeam, with light. This was the beginning of the idea of using light for communication. Bell died almost a hundred years ago. His dream is a reality now. Now, let's think of that in the context of the church. Millions of members, and that number is growing. And we have a message to share. However we've been sharing the message, imagine how effective, how concentrated, how potent it's going to be when it goes forth as light.
God saw that in Revelation 18, verse 1: the earth "lightened with his glory," the message being transmitted more effectively than ever because it goes out as light, not just as sound, not just as noise, light! Not white noise, but a message that goes forth as light, with power! That's where God sees you. Hey, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, you thought that was bright? A billion times brighter than the surface of the sun? You ain't seen nothing yet. Soon you will see light like never before. Jesus is gonna shine out of God's people. He will light up the earth with a manifestation of the character of God Himself. Bright! A world lightened with His glory. That's where God sees His church. That's where God sees you. That's God's plan for you, for God to take your heart, your mind, your life, and make it shine with the bright righteousness of Jesus Himself, with the bright presence of Jesus in your heart. Remember that verse? Working "in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure".
That's what God wants to do. It's what God can do: take the individual components of the church, bring them together in Him, and work through them so powerfully that they are a light in a sin-darkened world, that the world will be lightened with His glory. That's what God wants for you. It's how God sees you. You know how that can happen? When God takes your heart and makes it His dwelling place. It's always bright where Jesus is. There's no darkness where Jesus is. Does He have your heart? Does He have this congregation? Does He have your church? Does He have your family? If you'll open up your heart to Jesus today, He'll do something in it that you've never seen Him do. All that darkness, the darkness that exists between us at times, it'll go. How about we pray now and tell God that we expect Him to do in us the likes of which no one's ever seen Him do? When He has us, He can use us; He can use His church in a powerful way. Let's pray:
Our Father in heaven, we thank You for Your plan for us. We thank You for Your goodness, Your power, Your Word. We thank You that Your Word brings light and that Jesus is light, and that You would have us as the light of the world. So please drive out the darkness. Lord, let us be bigger than to allow petty things to perpetuate and happen and develop. Drive out the darkness...in us. Fill us with Your presence, and use Your people so that this world will be lightened with Your glory. We pray and we thank You in Jesus' name.