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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 20, 2020
Hope: A Light Shines in the Darkness
I was told on Tuesday that some of the news media was claiming the coming snow would be the “storm of the century.” I guess that says a lot about the hype and lack of truth in much of the news media. They have no sense of history and want to claim omniscience. It was a lot of snow, but I recall quite a few storms that were much worse. Weather forecasters have a hard enough time predicting what the next few days will be like, and here some news folks want to predict the next 80 years. It is such nonsense in reporting that has steered me away from any of the mainstream news outlets to find smaller news services that are more interested in accuracy and truth than hype to gain the attention of an audience in order to gain advertising revenue from companies wanting to sell you products, which judging by many of their commercials, have about as much quality as the news propagandist. I don’t know about you, but I don’t even understand some of the commercials, and sometimes even what exactly is the product they want me to buy. I am thankful for DVR technology that allows me to skip that stuff.
I spent quite a bit of time on Wednesday preparing for the coming snow such as making sure the church’s truck and plow were working properly, and then I spent most of the day light hours on Thursday pushing snow around and cleaning up. Snow plowing itself gives me mixed feelings. From the negative, I don’t want to destroy the beauty of a fresh snow fall. Everything looks so clean and crisp, and especially so when there is a foot or more that covers up everything laying on the ground. It is such a beautiful picture of salvation as Isaiah 1:18 describes it, “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white snow.” The snow covers up what was ugly and makes it look pure. Christ’s atonement covers my sin so that I am pure before God, and His Holy Spirit continues to change me so that internally I am becoming more pure as well. I would much rather enjoy looking at it than have to push it out of the way. Yet, from the positive side, I value our church family being able to gather together, even more so this year, so there is a joy in clearing a way for that to be able to happen. It is also pretty to see the snow flowing in front of and around the plow sort of like the wake of a barge as it pushes up stream. Then there is the personal challenge of seeing how high can I make that snow bank.
Our plow truck is relatively old, but I am older, so I actually enjoy using its cassette tape player which was cutting edge technology when I was in High School, and I still have a lot of cassette tapes. I wasn’t thinking about it when I started, but there was an old Maranantha! Praise tape in the player. I listened to all of it at least three times as the music and lyrics were such a good reminder of how wonderful our God is and how worthy He is of all our praise. I then listened to an old Southern Gospel tape which had quite a few songs about looking forward to heaven. Wonderful reminders of the hope we have in the promises Jesus has made to us. The refrain in one song in particular that I enjoyed was, “It does get better than this! I am just a heartbeat away from heavenly bliss!” Those songs helped a lot to melt away the stress of the crazy turmoil that we have all lived under this year. If tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, peril, demons, principalities, things present or to come cannot separate me from the love of Christ, then neither can disease of any kind of government no matter how evil. Nothing can separate the believer from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord! (Romans 8:31-39). We have hope.
Light and Darkness
.As I was thinking about what I should preach for Christmas Sunday, one particular theme kept coming back to me based in the prophecy of Isaiah 9:2 which is cited in a few places in the New Testament – “The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine upon them.” A few verses later, the prophet explains the hope of the light for “6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice a nd righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” Jesus is that light and our hope, and He is the contrast to the darkness that is upon and within mankind. He is the light that can remove the darkness.
Throughout the Scripture light and darkness are set in contrast because they are opposite of each other. Sometimes the contrast made is a physical one and sometimes it is metaphorical to distinguish between either knowledge and ignorance or good and evil. This morning I want to examine each of these and point out that God is the ultimate source of light whether physical or metaphorical, and that Jesus is our hope for He is the light that shines in a land of darkness.
As with everything except God Himself, light had a beginning which we are told about in Genesis 1:1-5. 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
Please take note that light is created on the first day and it is separated from darkness so that there is period of light called day, and a period of darkness called night. The sequence of dark and a light is also defined as a day. That completely eliminates the idea that a Genesis day can be vast amounts of time since it specifically defined as a sequence of night and daylight. Note as well that the Sun, moon and stars are not created until Day 4 of Creation week. Genesis 1:14–19, 14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17 God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
Going to the end of the Bible, Revelation 21:23-24 and 22:5 both note that the New Jerusalem, which will be part of the new heavens and earth that will replace the current ones which will be destroyed, has “no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” Isaiah 60:19-20 also describes this, 19 “No longer will you have the sun for light by day, Nor for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory. 20 “Your sun will no longer set, Nor will your moon wane; For you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And the days of your mourning will be over.”
There was light before there was a sun or stars, and there will be light after they are no more. Light emanates from the glory of God. There are several additional places in the Scriptures that speak of the light of the glory of God. It is also known as the shekinah glory.
In Exodus 24:17 when Israel was encamped at the foot of Mt. Sinai, “the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top.” When Moses returned from talking to God on the mountain, his own face shone in reflection of his being in the presence of the glory of God (Exodus 34:29). (Perhaps you could say Moses had a holy Son burn). That same glory of the Lord filled both the Tabernacle and the Temple when each was constructed, and it drove the priests out (Exodus 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:11). Psalm 104:1-2 includes this description of the greatness of God, ” . . . You are clothed with splendor and majesty, 2 Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak . . .”
Jumping to the New Testament, Matthew 17 describes Jesus’ transfiguration before Peter, James and John when His true glory was partially revealed including “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.” The Apostle Paul describes that same light when Jesus appeared to him when he was on his way to Damascus saying, “I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me.” It caused them all to fall to the ground, and the source of the light identified Himself as Jesus whom Saul was persecuting (Acts 26:13-16). Saul’s life radically changed from that point on so that he became the Apostle Paul. 1 Timothy 6:15–16 breaks into this hymn of praise saying, “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.”
A popular activity on a cave or mine tour is to let people experience total darkness by going deep enough and then turning off all sources of light. The principle of physics that darkness is the absence of light is then demonstrated. Your eyes cannot adjust to see anything unless there is a source of light, but even a single match or candle is enough to illuminate a large room to be able to see well enough to move around. The stronger the light, the easier it is to see clearly even small details. 1 John 1:5 announces the message “that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” James 1:17 describes God as “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation of shifting shadows.” Our God is the ultimate source of all light for He is its creator, and that includes the full spectrum of both visible and invisible wavelengths. Hebrews 1:1-3 states that Jesus, the Son, is the “radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” John 1:5 describes Jesus as the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. What is true physically, is also true metaphorically.
The Light of Revelation
Light and darkness are used as metaphors for knowledge and wisdom compared to ignorance and folly. For example, in Ecclesiastes 2:13 Solomon’s conclusion after considering wisdom, madness and folly was that “wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.” We use the same metaphor by calling the Medieval period the “dark ages” in part because of the general lack of knowledge among the people, and the age following it, the “enlightenment,” because of the increase in knowledge and general education.
Use of this metaphor in the scriptures generally equates darkness with knowledge that is hidden and light with knowledge revealed by God. For example, Job 12:22 makes a contrast between what is unknown which he describes as “mysteries hidden in darkness,” and what is known because God reveals it by bringing them “into the light.” The same metaphorical usage is in Daniel 2:22-23 in his praise to God for answering his prayer concerning King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream saying, “22 It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him. 23 “To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, For You have given me wisdom and power; Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, For You have made known to us the king’s matter.”
Often the revelation of knowledge and wisdom comes from God’s word as stated in Psalm 119:105 & 130, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path,” and “The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” The source is God as David states directly in Psalm 18:28, “For You light my lamp; The LORD my God illumines my darkness.”
John 1:1–9 includes several metaphors using light including this one. 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. 6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. 9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
Jesus, the eternal Word, the creator of all things, is that Light. Darkness cannot overpower light. Ignorance cannot comprehend wisdom, but revelation brings knowledge which enlightens man with truth. As already pointed out from Hebrews 1:1-3, Jesus is the revelation of God to man. To know Jesus is to know God. He is the only means by which man can be reconciled with and come to God the Father. John 1 continues on to explain that it is then a matter of faith. You either believe the truth and trust God to receive His message of salvation and become His child, or you continue in ignorance, which according to Jesus explanation in Matthew 13:11-15, becomes worse. Their hearts become dull and they close their ears and eyes so that they cannot understand or perceive truth. This brings up the next metaphorical use of light and darkness.
The Light of Righteousness
The metaphorical use of light and darkness is more often a reference to what is good or righteous compared to what is bad or evil.
Proverbs 4:18–19 illustrates, “18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day. 19 The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble.” Isaiah 5:20 uses it to give a stern warning that is as relevant today as it was then, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
Light and darkness are often used in this vein to distinguish between believer and unbeliever, the saved and unsaved. For example, 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5,4 “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness.” 1 Peter 2:9–10 is very direct on this, 9 “But you are a chosen race, A royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of god; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
Ephesians 5:6–14 makes extensive use of metaphor using light and darkness. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.” To summarize, except for verse 13 which is a factual statement with a moral application, Paul uses light for righteous and darkness for sin. Jesus is the light; He is righteous. By faith in Him, Jesus makes sinners righteous. Therefore, the righteous should no longer join in with sinful practices and instead let the righteousness of Christ within them shine in how they live. Or as Jesus expressed it in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:14-16, 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Because Jesus is the Light, those who believe and follow Him will reflect that light to others. He is righteous and we become righteous by faith in Him. That righteousness is then lived out in demonstration of the change He has made in us. Or to put it a little more poetically, Believers, like the moon, reflect the Son light.
Jesus, the Light of Hope
Jesus is the creator of light. Darkness disappears when exposed to light. Jesus is the light of revelation who declares God and truth to man enabling ignorance to be replaced with knowledge and foolishness to be replaced with wisdom. Jesus is light of righteousness who transforms sinners into saints.
These contrasts of light and darkness present clear analogies of Jesus’ nature and His purpose in becoming a man as expressed in the prophecies such as Isaiah 9 which I cited at the beginning of this sermon. We celebrate Christmas as the beginning of the fulfillment of those prophecies which brought hope to mankind.
Our Scripture reading earlier in our worship service was from Luke 2 and included the story of Simeon to whom the Holy Spirit had revealed he would not die until after He had seen the Lord’s Christ, the Messiah. When Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the Temple to fulfill the sacrifice for their first born, Simeon was guided by the Holy Spirit to them, and taking Jesus in his arms he blessed God saying, “29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light of revelation to the gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.”
As a Gentile, I am particularly fond of this application of the prophecies of Isaiah because it extends hope to me and my kin. The promise to Abraham that through him all nations would be blessed is fulfilled in his descendant, Jesus, who offers hope for the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God to all people. All that Jesus did in fulfilling the Jewish prophecies about Him bringing salvation to His people is also offered to Gentiles that we may be joined together as one people of God. What Jesus taught and promised therefore belongs to all believers including these from the Gospel of John:
John 8:12, Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
John 12:44–46, 44 And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 “He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. 46 “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
John 14:16–18, 16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
John 14:1–3, 1 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
That is why every believer has hope for the present and the future no matter how dark the circumstances may be or become. The spread of SARS-CoV-2 around the world has been a source of concern, but we should not fear. A pandemic is a cause for caution, not anxiety. Government over-reaction has been very troublesome not just because of loss of freedoms and economic disaster, but it has also resulted in far more deaths by suicide, delayed or abandoned medical care, and now starvation than deaths by or with COVID-19, yet we are not to be afraid for our lives are in God’s hands and He has promised to meet our actual needs as we seek first His kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Perhaps you join me in being disgusted by the politics this year and also have utter disdain for those who carried out and those who have failed to yet correct the election fraud perpetrated upon this nation in November. The prospects of a new national government headed by and filled with evil and wicked socialist is dreadful especially since their hatred of the righteous is displayed openly, yet we are not to despair for Jesus is still our king and our citizenship is in heaven giving us a purpose in this life in the present that has eternal value far beyond anything that can be stolen or destroyed by government whether that is community, material wealth, social standing, or even personal freedom.
For those of you who are not yet Christians, then you have every reason to fear and be in despair for your hope is placed in either yourself or other people, and both will surely fail. Even worse, you are still under God’s wrath in the present and will experience His full condemnation if you should die before you repent. It is time to be diligent to seek truth and decide if you are going to follow God or not. Figure out what is hindering you from believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and deal with it. Do not put it off. Do not be apathetic. You have no idea how long you will live for death can come very suddenly and unexpectedly, and then it is too late. Today, is the day of salvation.
The world and our nation are dark and getting darker, but the Light has come and it shines in the darkness bringing hope to mankind. Christmas celebrations include all sorts of lights, but the Light is Jesus Himself. And because He is the Light, He enables us to be reflections of Him so that each and every Christian is another light in this dark world shining forth truth and hope in proclaiming the glory of God in the Gospel. I pray that is what you celebrate this season. Enjoy being with family and friends, and may you have pleasure in giving and receiving gifts – but do not forget and do not let anything interfere with the real reason for the celebration which no man and no government can take away. Jesus, our light and hope has come. May every light you see remind you of this great truth.
Sermon Notes – December 20, 2020
Hope: A Light Shines in the Darkness – Selected Scriptures
Light and Darkness
Light & Darkness are opposites
Sequence of dark then light = 1 day
Light without Sun: Revelation 21:23-24; 22:5; Isaiah 60:19-20
Shekinah Glory: Exodus 24:17; 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:11; Psalm 104:1-2
The Transfiguration (Matt. 17)
Jesus appears to Saul (Acts 26:13-16)
1 Timothy 6:15-16
God is light – 1 John 1:5; James 1:17; John 1:5
The Light of Revelation
– knowledge vs ignorance; wisdom vs folly
Hidden mysteries: Job 12:22; Daniel 2:22-23
Revelation from God: Psalm 119:105, 130
Jesus is the Light
The Light of Righteousness
Good vs evil: Proverbs 4:18-19; Isaiah 5:20
Saved / Righteous vs unsaved / unrighteous: 1 Thess 5:4-5; 1 Pet. 2:9-10
Jesus, the Light of Hope
Luke 2:29-32 – Simeon’s Pronouncement
Hope is greater than all earthly causes of fear.
Hope in self or other people will fail
The world is dark, but Christ, the Light shines brightly
Be sure to celebrate the real reason for Christmas
– Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times light is mentioned. 2) Talk with your parents about the contrasts between light and darkness
THINK ABOUT IT
– Questions to consider in understanding the sermon and its application. Can the news media be trusted to tell the truth? Why or why not? What do you think when you see a new snow fall? How can good Christian music help you in your walk with the Lord? When did light come into existence? When did the Sun come into existence? Can evolution and the Creation account both be true? Explain. When will the Sun cease to exist? Will light cease to exist? Explain. That will the source of light be in eternity? What is the shekinah glory. How was it manifested? What is the significance of 1 Tim. 6:15-16? Have you ever experienced total darkness? Describe it. How are light and darkness metaphors for knowledge / wisdom and ignorance / folly? Explain the light / darkness metaphors in John 1:1-9. Explain the light / darkness metaphors in Ephesians 5:6-14. How does a Christian “let their light shine”? What is Jesus’ relationship to light? What do the metaphors for light explain aspects of Jesus nature / character? What is the hope given in Simeon’s blessing in Luke 2:29-32? What are the specific promises given in each of these passages in John: John 8:12; 12:44-46; 3:16; 5:24; 14:16-18; 14:1-3? Why should a Christian not fear SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)? How should a Christian have hope instead of despair even if the government does horrible things to believers? If you are not a Christian, why not? What hinders you? What will you do to overcome them? How and why will you celebrate Christmas?
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