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A Study in Light

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 27, 2023 3:00 am

A Study in Light

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 27, 2023 3:00 am

What did Jesus mean when He claimed to be the “light of the world”? And why was this simple statement so divisive? Study along with Truth For Life as Alistair Begg investigates Jesus’ claim and determines what difference it makes for us today.


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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!


What exactly did Jesus mean when he claimed that he was the light of the world?

And why was this simple statement so divisive? Today on Truth for Life, we'll investigate the answer and find out what this claim means for us today. Alistair Begg is teaching a message he's titled, A Study in Light. I invite you to turn to the New Testament, to John chapter 8 and verse 12. 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. Here in the space of relatively few words, Jesus makes a quite remarkable claim, and he issues an equally incredible promise. Claim, I am the light of the world.

Promise, all who follow me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life. The opening part of the verse reminds us that Jesus has, within the temple precincts, been speaking already. If you look back to the thirty-seventh verse of chapter 7, you will realize there that on this last and great day of the feast, Jesus had spoken, making another quite remarkable claim, offering to them the resources that were found in himself.

And now it would appear that it is possibly the afternoon of that same day, and as the preparations have been made and will finally be concluded for the grand finale of this feast time, Jesus is taking the opportunity to stand and address the people, as John tells us once again. The feasts of the Jewish people were and are important. They delighted in obedience to them. They rejoiced in the symbolism that they represented. And central to the celebration that was taking place here in the temple courts was the event referred to as the illumination of the temple. And in a phenomenal display of light, which not only lit up the temple courts but also spilled out into the immediate environment, that then became the occasion of celebration, exuberant celebration.

The whole temple precinct was reverberating with life and with light. And for these individuals, that light was to them a reminder of God's goodness in their past. It spoke to them of the way in which God had guided them, their forebears, from Egypt to the promised land via the exodus, and how he had given them a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. And as they danced in the illumination of the temple courts, they were reminded of God's provision for them in their past. As they sang their songs, they recognized that their songs were symbolized in this light, because they loved to sing, The Lord is my light and my salvation. And in their celebrations, they also looked forward to the day when the Lord's servant would finally appear in Zion, when he would be a light to the Gentiles, when he would bring salvation to the ends of the earth, when the prophecy of Isaiah would finally come to fruition. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light on those living in the land of the shadow. A light has dawned.

And they were filled with expectation in these events. And then, with an absolutely wonderful and perfect sense of timing—at just the right time, if you like—in this context that is highly charged in celebration, Jesus makes this stunning statement, I am the light of the world. I know he says, in essence, that you are here in order to celebrate the illumination of the temple, and this is magnificent light, but it can only carry so far. Unlike me, I am the light of the world. There is a fairly powerful source of light here, he's saying, but eventually it will dissipate, it will dim, it will finally come to nothing.

But me, I never dim. My light will never go out. I am the light of the world. And as a result of making this dramatic statement, it is the genesis of debate, of division, and of faith. As the chapter ends, we read that some of them, even as Jesus was speaking, put their faith in him. Suddenly, if you like, the light went on for them. They realized, this is the very fulfillment of the prophecies from the Old Testament. And when they heard him saying, I am the light of the world, the truth dawned. Now, remember that what we have here in John's Gospel, as in the other Gospels, is material that was written after all the events of the life of Jesus had transpired. The Gospels are written not simultaneously with the unfolding of the events, but they're written in a short period of time after the ascension of the Lord Jesus. And you will remember that John, under the guidance of the Spirit, has chosen to begin his Gospel not in the way that Matthew and Luke do with the birth narratives, but he has chosen to begin his Gospel even further behind that. He has chosen to begin in eternity, and how God has revealed himself from eternity, and how into the darkness of time the light has come. Hence verse 4, speaking of Jesus, 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. Verse 9, the true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

Have there been other lights? Yes. Were there others who claimed to be shepherds? Yes. Others who claimed to be guides?

Of course. The distinguishing feature of the Gospels points to the uniqueness of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so the message is absolutely clear. There is no question that Jesus is declaring that his listeners live in darkness. After all, why would you say, I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness? The person puts up their hand and says, I don't walk in darkness. It'd be like coming into a room that is fully illumined with light, and someone says, you know, I have a flashlight for you.

Say, what possible use do I have for a flashlight? The place is ablaze with light. But if, of course, I'm living in darkness, if I find myself down in a cave or in a hole, and somebody says, Here, I have light for you. Follow this light.

Then, of course, it immediately takes on significance. So Jesus is declaring what the Bible makes clear—namely, that by our very nature we live in darkness. Darkness and light, the great contrast between them, are used throughout the Bible in order to contrast what man is by his very nature as alienated from God in rebellion against God, unbelieving of God, and therefore living in the darkness of his own rebellious heart, and the light which then pervades a life that is turned upside down—namely, the right way up—as a result of becoming the follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, of course, the annoyed people, particularly the religious people, the most favored of them, the most learned of them, the most exalted of them, say, What does he mean? I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness.

Doesn't he know who we are? Just in the same way as some of you routinely sit here in church, and as you listen to the story of the gospel, you say, This is a tremendous message for some people who are on skid row, you know. This is a great story for the folks who are, you know, the down and outers. This is obviously for the kind of people that can't make a go of it, but I'm so glad that I am fine.

You're not fine. It is an illusion. And for one nanosecond, if you're honest, you know that you love yourself too much, you don't love God, you break his laws, you can't keep your temper, you think filthy thoughts, and you're outrageous to your wife and your children. And I'm only addressing the men for a moment. You live in darkness.

And that's the point. I am the light of the world, he says, and it is only in following me that you will no longer walk in darkness but have the light of life. If you choose not to follow me, then you do not live within the realm of light, you live within the realm of darkness and death. Now, what we know to be true individually, we know to be true nationally and also globally. You don't have to go far looking for darkness and the evidences of darkness.

You can take any newspaper you want. We can have the story of rape and mayhem and prejudice and disappointment and fear and disaster and runaway children and broken down marriages, and so it goes on. Now, stand up and tell me that this is as a result of how well we're doing in Western culture. It's dark. By any standards, it's dark. Therefore, you would think, wouldn't you, that if somebody stood on the stage of history, as Jesus has done, and as he comes now through his Word, and he says, I am the light of the world, that people say, well, we must follow this.

But they don't. And John explains it. Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. He who does what is bad seeks the darkness. Only he who does what is good is prepared to come out into the daylight.

Have you ever gone anywhere that was worth its salt, that was all closed down and dark and fake and flimsy? Light has come into the world. This is the verdict. But men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. Only those whose torches have been kindled at the bright flame of Jesus can then shine into the darkness of the world. What Jesus is saying is this, that we, by our very nature, are like unlit sparklers, and we may want very much to try and shine. We may take courses on shining.

We may hang around with a lot of people who shine. But until our lives have been illumined, have been set on fire by the love and the grace and the power of Christ, then all of our light is a fake light. All of our shining is superficial and empty. You see, the distinction is very clear, isn't it?

It's not difficult to understand. Jesus says, I am the light of the world. I'm speaking to those who are in darkness. So today our congregation is divided between darkness and light.

It was divided in other ways by size and shape and aspiration and ability and age and gender and so on. But as God looks from heaven, he sees this congregation only in terms of light and darkness. And the other distinction is between those who follow Jesus and those who do not follow Jesus. By nature we are dark, and by nature we do not follow Jesus. Well, who do we follow?

Well, we may follow many gods, but essentially, the god we follow and worship is ourselves. We all, like sheep, have gone astray. Everyone has turned to his own way. Isn't that what you say to your friends when they tell you, I'd like you to come to worship, I'd like you to come, the talk is going to be a study in light, we're going to think about the light of the Lord Jesus, and if you follow him, you will not walk in darkness.

Please, thank you, I don't mind coming, but I have my own way. I have my own way. I have my own feelings, I have my own beliefs, and I'm glad that you have found your way, but I have my way. No surprise, each of us has turned to his own way. And Jesus says, if you follow me, you no longer go your own way, but you go my way. I have come into the world, says Jesus, as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. So, in other words, this is a radical change. In other words, if you're sitting out here this morning, you say, well, I'm not sure if I'm in the dark or in the light at all.

Let me tell you, 99% chance you're in the dark. Because when Jesus illumines our lives, when he touches us and he changes us, when he turns the lights on, then it is a radical difference. When Paul writes of this, he says to the Colossian believers, describing what has happened to them in following Jesus, he says, you have been rescued from the dominion of darkness. Someone has come and plucked you out of your predicament, taking you out of the darkness.

He writes to the Ephesians in the same way. Once you were darkness, now you are light in the Lord. There is a before and there is an after. Once I was going my own way in the darkness, and then I met Christ, and now I'm going Christ's way in the light. Are you?

Am I? Have you been changed? Have you been illumined by the great effulgence of Christ, as it were? Have you come, a little weeny little sparkler with your life, in all of the darkness and said, Illumine me, Lord Christ? My thoughts are dark, my deeds are dark, my end is dark?

I want to be your follower. Has the light overcome the darkness in your life? You see, there is a difference that we find.

And let me give the balance of my time to suggest to you that there is also, then, a demand that we face. When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he described them in wonderful terms. He said, you know, you wonderful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, as you go about your business there in Philippi, I want to remind you that you are shining like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of life. Shining like stars in the universe.

Has anyone come up to me lately and said, Excuse me? You know, there's just a shine here. There's just a conviction here. There's just a light here. There's just a story here. They twinkle for me.

I'm trying to figure you out. Not only did Jesus say, I am the light of the world. You remember in the Sermon on the Mount, he said to his followers, you are the light of the world. He says in John chapter nine, while I am in the world, I am the light of the world. The inference being, I am going to relocate. And when I relocate, the light which shines like stars in the universe holding forth the Word of life is going to be as a result of those who are illuminated as a result of their coming to me to be my followers as they turn away from their own way and turn to follow me.

Nobody, he says, lights a light and puts it under the bed. But he sets it up on a stand so that it would give light to all that are in the house. You're the light of the world.

A city set on a hill can't be hidden. Two perfectly understandable illustrations. So says Jesus, I want to make sure that you, in every outward invisible manifestation of your Christian lives, are showing people, are illustrating the fact that you are a follower of me, the light of the world. That you shine. That you're not concealing your light. When my light is concealed, one of four things is at play in my life, I can guarantee you. Number one, willful sin.

When I am actually doing something that I know is dead wrong to do. No surprise that the twinkle goes. Number two, by compromise. Trying to have it both ways, playing it down the line.

That way, nobody asks, except this question. I thought you were a… How come you're in a…? I thought you were a…? How come you do…?

See? So you can't, when you're trapped in that situation, start, Well, I'm actually a follower of Jesus Christ. He's the light of the world.

Because the response is obvious, isn't it? Well, if he's the light of the world and you're a follower of the light, what are you doing in here in this dark spot? Thirdly, your light is dimmed by laziness.

Laziness. I don't want to shine. I don't want to talk to that person. I don't want to do what Jesus says. I'm tired of this. It's someone else's responsibility around here.

Let someone else shine for a while. Or by fear. Fear. I'm afraid that someone will see the light and ask me questions. I'm afraid that someone will see the light and identify me with Jesus. I don't mind them identifying me with religion. I don't mind them thinking that I'm a very altruistic individual. But I don't want to be identified with he who is the light of the world.

So what happens? Fear, laziness, compromise, and sin dull our lights. Are you shining?

Are you shining? Salt in the cellar that doesn't touch the mashed potatoes is pretty well useless. And mashed potatoes without salt, as a connoisseur of mashed potatoes, are miserable things. Absolutely horrendous, especially if they go slightly cold at all. Cold mashed potatoes, unsalted mashed potatoes. Yuck!

Terrible. So you've got to get the salt on them very quickly. The salt is to be rubbed into the culture.

That's what we do to prevent the meat from putrefying. We're supposed to have an impact. We're supposed to be involved in the arts. We're supposed to be involved in science. We're supposed to be involved in secular education. We're supposed to go to public schools. We're supposed to be salt.

And we're supposed to shine as lights. Most people know the Dead Sea Scrolls. They haven't a clue what they are, but they know there were some scrolls somewhere around the Dead Sea. They emerged as a result of the work of the Dead Sea community.

The Dead Sea community took its name from its location. It was actually a gathering of monastic individuals, the Sin's, who dwelled in caves around the Dead Sea. The reason they dwelled in caves was because they had determined that the world was a big, bad place, and they had withdrawn from it. Ironically, they called themselves the Sons of Light, and the Sons of Light lived in caves.

Quite a strategy, wouldn't you agree? Now, we have a light here that is to shine into the darkness, but we don't want this getting out to too many people, so why don't we just come in here and keep it to ourselves? It's nice to have a little light, isn't it, on a cold, dark evening. Yeah, but there's something wrong when I don't want to go out of my well-illumined place and bring in someone who struggles in the dark and share the light of my fire with them.

It's just total selfishness. Men and women need to see the light through those who have been illumined. Men and women need to hear of Christ, the one who is the Redeemer. They need to hear of his amazing love. They need to have someone unpack for them the story of the gospel. They need to hear that the cradle pointed forward to his cross, that in his atoning death, Jesus dealt with sin, all that was necessary in relationship to sin. Jesus dealt with all that was necessary in relationship to the wrath of God, being the propitiation for our sin. Jesus dealt with all that was necessary in relationship to ourselves so that there is now in Christ no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, that the slate is clean, that the chapter is new, that it's no longer darkness, it's light. It's no longer doing my own thing and going my own way, but it's following the Lord Jesus Christ. So there it is.

I just stop now, I think. I think it's fairly straightforward, isn't it? The distinction is clear—darkness, light, following, not following. Do you walk in the darkness, or are you in the light of the Lord Jesus? Are you going your own way, or are you following the Lord Jesus Christ?

Those are important questions for all of us to answer. You're listening to Truth for Life, and that is Alistair Begg encouraging us to shine in this dark world. Well, Alistair is here with us today and has an important message to share.

Alistair. Thanks, Bob. You know, when Paul writes to the Corinthians, he says that God loves a cheerful giver. It makes me smile, because when I used to share candy with my sisters, one of them was cheerful, the other one was a giver, but she wasn't a cheerful giver. And I want to become a cheerful giver, because it's the obvious response to the work of God through the gospel, in the lives of men and women. And at Truth for Life, we have the privilege of seeing this again and again, and recognizing that your giving is underpinning all that we do. And so, unashamedly, let me say that as we close 2023, with resources needed to continue proclaiming the truth in 2024, we appreciate your support as much, perhaps even more than ever, as we continue to make the gospel fully known. You can give a year-end donation right now, and Bob will tell you how. Yes, I will. You can give your donation online.

Go to slash donate. There you can give any amount you choose, and as Alistair just mentioned, your giving underpins everything we do. In fact, our ministry, this daily program, it's all made possible entirely by way of your financial support. When you give a gift today, we want to say thank you by inviting you to request a three-pack of the Gospel of John. These booklets are designed as a convenient way for you to open the door to conversations with others about Jesus and the gospel.

You can keep copies in your car, or at your desk, or in your bag, so you always have them available to give away when the opportunity arises. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening today. Tomorrow we're going to explore the role of the Ten Commandments in the life of a believer. Are they obsolete? Are they the means of salvation? We'll hear more tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-27 07:25:59 / 2023-12-27 07:35:11 / 9

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