When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the
light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will
have the light of life." John 8:12
One of the most important and difficult decisions we make in life is
choosing a name; choosing a name for a child, or a name for
a new business or an organization, a book, a work of art,
an event we organize, a song, on and on it goes . . . Everyone
and everything needs a name and if youíve ever had to be the one
making the decision you know how hard it can be. Names are important
and you want to get it right.
Take naming a child for instance. Lots of factors influence the
naming of a child. Heritage and ancestry (parents and grandparents) is
important. Meaning of the name, what does the name actually mean? (Who
would give their child a name that means "barrel maker?"). Familiarity
(will people recognize it and be able to pronounce and spell it?). Length (anything
over three syllables becomes an abbreviation (3M, Virginia, AIDS). Perhaps the
most important criteria to consider in naming a child is what will other
kids on the playground say about the name?
Last Sunday, on the way home from church I was riding in the car alone with
my nine year old son, Cooper. He asked me why we had given him
"Frank" as his middle name. I told him, well, itís my
middle name and Frank is the first name of his grandfather and
great-grandfather. Itís kind of a family name. He told me his friends
kind of teased him about it. I responded with a typical adult solution,
"Well, just tell them you are named for your grandfather, a man of
integrity, honesty, a many who works hard and loves God." Even as I said
it, I knew it wouldnít work. He told me, "Dad, I canít say
that!." So, I asked him what did he tell his friends about his middle
name, Frank? "Oh, I just say something about hot dogs."
Names are important to us. They are perhaps the most personal thing
about us. They tell others who we are and who we are connected to. Names
identify us, categorize us, define us and we go through a lifetime bearing
Jesusí name is no different. Jesus means, "The Lord is
salvation," and it is the Greek version of the OT Hebrew name,
Joshua. Jesus is actually only one of several names and titles given
Jesus in the Bible. I have devotional book that is based on 365 different
names and titles given Jesus in the Bible.
We all have given names, names others gave us that we had no choice
about. When Cooper was born Kris and I never asked him if he liked, Frank,
we just gave it to him. But you know, you learn a great deal about someone not
by how others introduce them, but how they introduce themselves, by who
they say they are.
Same is true for Jesus. Jesus never denied or dodged the names other
gave him, however, in the fourth gospel, the disciple John records Jesus
introducing himself to others. On seven different occasions Jesus
told others who he was and what his mission was when he said,
"I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry,
he who believes in me will never be thirsty."
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the
Father except through me."
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for
"I am the true vine and my father is the gardener."
"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved."
"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will
live, even though he dies."
Jesus reveals his identity and his mission to us in every one of these
Same is true when Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever
follows me will
never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Why did Jesus call himself the "light of the world?" For an
answer, consider what light does, the qualities of light. First in a list of
five is . . . .
#1: Light exposes faults
Light is indispensable to us. It is helpful to us in countless ways.
One of its most helpful uses is in testing and examining processes that
reveal irregularities, impurities and problems. Light is used in x-rays, MRIís
and cat-scans to help diagnose our medical problems.
Light is also helpful in revealing flaws in buildings. Have you ever
been in a dimly lit room or building that really impresses you with its
beauty, elegance and atmosphere? At first glance, in the dim light, everything
looks really great! Then, either in the light of day, or with the lights
turned fully on, or from a certain angle you see things you didnít see
before . . . things like stains on the carpet, gouges in the wall, paint that
is chipped, wallpaper that is pealing, trimboard that doesnít match. Thatís
one of the reasons building inspectors always carry flashlights with them. Faults
can be hid by shadows and darkness and light reveals faults.
Same is true spiritually. The Bible tells us that everyone of us sins,
has faults in our lives, that either through passive indifference or active
rebellion we go our own way ignoring God. The result of our faults is sin,
sometimes grievous sin, sometimes small sin, but still sin that separates us
from God. We are a company of sinners. Our situation is described well
by John, in his gospel,
"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved
of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the
will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But
by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what
he has done
has been done through God." John 3:19-21
Fortunately, Jesus has not just left us alone to wander in darkness, to
live in darkness, but has offered himself to us so that we might come into
the light, live by the truth and find true life. Jesus said, "I am
the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but
will have the light of life." When we choose to follow Jesus Christ his
light comes into our life and we experience true life, for light creates life.
#2: Light creates life
One of my favorite courses in college was horticulture. It was taught
by a retired biology professor, Russell Johnson, who had a love for life
and teaching. Dr. Johnson drilled a couple of things into our minds. One
was that there is a difference between soil and dirt. Soil, according
to Dr. Johnson is what is in the earth, it is the organic material from
which we grow food, flowers, trees, and shrubs. Soil has life in it. Dirt, on
the other hand, is what is in our homes, it is fit only for the trash
can or the vacuum cleaner, it is useless.
Dr. Johnson also explained to us the importance of light in the growth
of plants. In essence, he said, no light, no growth. If you doubt
his words, take your favorite plant and put it in your closet for a week and
see what happens to it. You will learn that for any plant to grow it needs
light, lots of light.
Light is also important to our emotional well-being. As you know,
winter is a hard season for us in Minnesota, not so much because of the cold
(call me crazy!), but because of the lack of sunshine, light. It doesnít
help that winter unofficially begins in November which is statistically our
grayest month of the year. Because of our long winters some of us even experience
a level of emotional depression due to lack of sunlight. So our doctors
prescribe trips to warm, sunny, climates! I remember a couple of winters ago a
Twin Cities company actually chartered a jet and filled it with
employees and all they did was fly above the gray clouds for a couple of hours
so they could see the sun. As wacky as the idea was, I was told that the stunt
really boosted morale and performance within the company. It emphasizes how
much we need light to live and light to grow.
Thatís what Jesus Christ, the light of the world, does for us
spiritually. When we submit our lives to him and obey him he sends his
light into us and transforms us from the inside out. You see,
being a Christian is letting God transform us, its not about us reforming
our lives and behavior. Itís not about me striving to make myself a
better person, itís about me submitting myself to Jesus Christ and letting
him live his life through me. Being a Christian is not a remodeling
project, it is a metamorphosis, a change in who we are that happens over time.
The Bible says it this way,
"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old is gone, the
new has come."
(2 Corinthians 5:17)
So, when we recognize our faults, our sins, and surrender our lives to
Jesus Christ and ask him to forgive us he promises that we will not walk in
darkness but have the light of life.
Jesus not only promises to do this, he can actually do it
because light overcomes darkness.
#3: Light overcomes darkness
Have you ever been in a place that is completely dark? A place where
you couldnít see your hand in front of you? Maybe it was in a cave, an
underground tunnel, or a room shut off from any light? Personally, I find it
unnerving, unsettling to be in places like that. Darkness, utter blackness
gives me the creeps.
Isnít it interesting the way we often talk about darkness and light?
Often, we will call a difficult time in our life a dark period. Or, if
someone says something disturbing to us, weíll say, "Thatís a dark
thought." Or, commenting on a person ho has committed a heinous crime
someone will say, "They have a dark heart." On the other
hand, when we are approaching the end of something hard and difficult often weíll
say, "I can see the light at the end of the tunnel." Light
represents hope because the end is in sight.
Generally speaking we view darkness as bad and light as good. Thatís
true also of people in the Bible. IN fact, they referred to God as light.
Psalm 27:1 says, "The Lord is my light and my salvation." 1
John 1:5 says, "God is light and in him is no darkness."
So, when Jesus said, "I am the light of the world," he was
claiming to be God. Twice in his gospel John records Jesus saying these words.
One time it was when Jesus performed a miracle, he healed a man who was
born blind, a man who had never seen anything or anyone in his life. Think
about that. After years of blindness living dependant on others, begging
for food and money, this man, one day received the gift of sight from Jesus
Christ. He could see the sky, he could see trees, he could see
his home, he could see his parents, he could see himself
. . . and he could see, Jesus, who said to him, "I am the light of the
world. " What would you do if you were that man? How would you respond?
John tells us he confessed his belief that Jesus was the Son of God and he
It seems to me that darkness can take many forms in our life. There is
the darkness of false belief about Jesus Christ that comes when we deny
what the Bible says about Him: that he is the Son of God who lived and died,
that he rose again from the dead to live within us so that we can know God.
There is also the darkness of ignorance of who Jesus is, about the fact
that he loves us and wants to full us with himself; so in our ignorance we
stumble along in life, wandering in the dark. There is also the darkness of
rebellion that says, I donít care about Jesus Christ, I wonít submit
myself to him, so in our defiance we suffer the consequences of our choices. We
reap what we sow.
The good news, however, is that light overcomes darkness. Just as
darkness vanishes from a room with the flick of a switch, so the darkness of
our soul vanishes when we believe in Jesus Christ and obey him. Jesus said
thatís why he came,
" I have come into the world as a light so that no one who believes in
me should stay in darkness." John 12:46
The best news is that we donít have to live life in darkness, confused,
bewildered, frustrated, unhappy, angry. We can choose light, we can
choose life. Jesus promised that when we give ourselves to him he will put his
light within us and his light will overcome our darkness and it will provide
the direction we need in life.
#4: Provides direction
Most Minnesotans know about the Split Rock Lighthouse on state
highway 61 on the drive between Duluth and Grand Marais. It is one of the most
photographed spots in our state. If you stop and visit it you learn that
there is a system of lighthouses throughout the Great Lakes whose purpose
is to provide direction and guidance to ships traveling the waters.
Same is true for aircraft. Runways are lit up so that pilots can see where to
land the plane. Our neighborhoods have streetlights to help us miss curbs, see
curves in the road and find the right driveway. Lights provide direction and
It seems to me that all of us need help in making decisions; we all
need guidance and direction to live well. We need help and guidance in making
decisions about jobs, marriage, about parenting, about money, about the future
. . . we need help, we need guidance in our quest to live well. In
fact, in looking at my own life, not a week goes by without my need for help
in making some decision about an important matter.
3. Where can we turn for the guidance and help we need? Jesus Christ,
the light of
the world. He provides help and direction through his Word, the
Bible. Reading it
regularly, studying it with others will provide tremendous help and guidance
He provides direction and guidance through prayer as we tell
God our concerns and
needs. He provides direction and guidance through others as we seek
and ask their advice. And he provides direction through his Holy Spirit
So, If you are in need of direction, guidance, help, ask Jesus Christ,
the light of the world, to help you. He promises to do it.
There is one more quality about light that fits our list and that is light
#5: Light attracts attention
Do you know why light attracts bugs? I assume it has something to do
with the warmth light emits. Whatever it is, light attract bugs. Not to
compare bugs to people but, lights also attract people. Thatís one of
the reasons advertising signs use light. In fact, some advertisers and
businesses use blinking lights because they really catch our attention.
Jesus called himself, the light of the world, but do you also know he
followers, us, the light of the world? Itís true. If you are a
believer, a follower of
Jesus Christ then Jesus has commissioned you to be a light to the world.
writes what Jesus said, "You are the light of the world . . . let
your light shine before
men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in
Illustration: Three months ago in late April a young Wooddale
missionary left for
A two year missions commitment in Africa. Three weeks ago she sent an e-mail
Sharing news about personal discouragement due to physical and
One of her friends, someone who is not a believer, in reaction to her e-mail,
back to her. Rebecca copied the e-mail and sent it to several people. It
"Jesus may have been the divine Son of God, but he was still human.
Iím sure he wanted to play with the other kids in his village, but from
little on up, he was different. He knew he was going to have to give more
than the ultimate sacrifice to help save a creation that really turned
away from every charity their creator offered. These people were not
serving Godís purpose, they were worshipping other false gods, and they
basically took every gift that Jesus had to give, and twisted it as going
against the government. He was whipped, and made to wear a crown of
thorns. He had to drag a cross through the crowded streets as he was
heckled by the by-standers. He was nailed to this cross, and erected atop a
hill for all the world to see. Even then Jesus felt forsaken by his
Father, and called aloud to him in his darkest hour. And, he was stabbed
in the side, and he died a human death. But then, he had to defeat
Death itself! Talk about tired! Rebecca, Iím very proud to call you a
friend, because you have shown me what faith can do to a personís life,
and it still makes me strive to believe a little bit more, and know what this
"ultimate gift" from God is really about.
Rebecca commented in her e-mail: Is there any suffering I would not undergo
to have all my friends and family say this? To have my loved ones believe, to
have their faith challenged and to see all the glory go to God would be the
highest honor! To know that my presence here is not only about what is
happening here, but also what God is doing all over the world is such a
humbling and awesome thought."
Rebecca understands what it means to be the light of the world; that as
Jesus Christ we have the grand opportunity to attract attention not to
ourselves, but to
Jesus Christ, our Lord. She has discovered there is no greater joy than being
God to help someone come to know Jesus Christ.
This past Wednesday, as a nation, we celebrated Independence Day. Wednesday
marked the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of
Independence. Across the country we celebrated with parades, picnics,
speeches, and fireworks. If you were like me you "oohed and ahhed"
during the fireworks display. You were amazed at the colors, sounds, spray
of light, how the fireworks lit up the dark sky and made the night time day time
for a brief second. Afterward, I thought, you know, as bright and spectacular
as the fireworks are . . . they shine for just a brief moment and then it is
dark again. And they shine for only a few people who are close enough to see the
How different it is with Jesus Christ, the light of the world. When we
follow Jesus Christ he shines permanently in our hearts, and he is a light
that never goes out, he is a light we carry within us forever. And,
the light of Jesus Christ shines around the globe, in the hearts and
lives of anyone who believes in him. Now that, is something to oooh and ahhh
Are you tired of living in darkness? Do you want to leave the darkness
behind? Do you want to come into the light and live in it? Then commit your life
and way to Jesus Christ who said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever
follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
© Brian Doten 2001