December 2015, Family Life

The Light of Christ in Us

by Anne Hays

anne-headshotJohn 1:4-5; 8-9: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness but the darkness did not comprehend it….He (John the Baptist) was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light which coming into the world, enlightens every man.” Jesus is the Light of the World. He is the source of illumination and truth.

This Christmas Season we celebrate Jesus as Light of the World as discussed in John 1. Jesus is the originator of life. First, there is the idea that Christ is the one who gives life, both eternal life and abundant life right now, after we have received Christ as Savior. In this instance life and light are closely bound. The light of Christ illuminates everyone. As Dr. Tom Constable, whom my husband had as a Bible Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary years ago, remarks in his online Bible commentary: “Everyone lives under the spotlight of God’s illuminating revelation in Jesus Christ since the incarnation (cf. 1 John 1). His light clarifies the sinfulness and spiritual need of human beings. Those who respond to this convicting revelation positively experience salvation. Those who reject it and turn from the light will end up in outer darkness.”

Christ – “He is the source of illumination and truth.” (John 1:1)

At the age of 12 years old, through involvement in the Baptist church my family attended in Birmingham, Ala., I responded to the illumination about my need for Christ as Savior. The Light of Christ was presented to me, and in that light, I saw my darkness found in my sin. I invited Christ into my life at that time through a simple prayer. Forty-two years later, I now can respond ‘positively’ or ‘negatively’ to the illumination I receive daily. So, there is a one-time responding I’ve done with Christ when I was a child, confronted with my need for a Savior, and a moment-by-movement responding. I became a Christian once at age 12. Now daily, I receive divine illumination. I’m confronted with a choice to walk in the light or to stay in the darkness. This choice does not threaten my status in God’s family; I will not be un-adopted. However, I will suffer the relationship disconnect my choice involves, should I choose to stay in the darkness.

What does this moment-by-moment illumination look like? Last night as I contemplated an interaction with a friend, I felt hurt and anger at a lack of responsiveness from her. I pondered a passive-aggressive response; this anticipated response felt good, vindicating. Then the thought occurred to me ‘That’s not how you were designed.’ My owners-manual, found in the Bible, tells me that bitterness and resentment are to be cast aside. I take that instruction to mean that my nervous system and relationship system will work best, if I cast aside the temptation to carry my resentment. I began to pray that Christ would open the door and I would recognize it, if I should tell my sister about my pain. This prayer made me a little anxious as it involved what I considered conflict which I do not like. But I trusted that the light within me would continue to guide me. 

Even though Light shines, darkness can miss it – “And the light shines in the darkness but the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:5b)

This statement is astounding and alarming. The verse above contains the idea that the light came and was evident, but that there was refusal to accept it and an unwillingness to see what was plainly displayed. John 9 confirms this idea and specifies the blindness of the religious folks. John 9 is the amazing story of Jesus healing a man who was blind from birth. There is a Biblical sight that means spiritual sight. In this passage, Jesus heals the blind man. The blind man was able to see and by faith trust Christ. This is opposed to the Pharisees in this chapter who were the religious leaders and guardians of spiritual light. Yet they could not ‘see’ Jesus even though they had physical vision. The juxtaposition then was the man who was physically blind, but had spiritual sight to see and trust Christ. This was opposed by the religious leaders who had physical sight, but did not possess spiritual sight for the things of Christ.

How can I go spiritually blind?

I think spiritual blindness comes along gradually, like a slow boil. You don’t notice how you are affected until the effect is so great that’s it’s obvious to those around you. I’m struck, in my own relationships, at how clearly others can see me, but I can’t see as well. I think it’s simple – my eyes point out of my heard away from me! As a Christian professional counselor, I see that usually the bigger, consequential sins occur over time. Adultery typically starts out as a friendly relationship, with little sexual intention. The relationship crosses a line when personal information about one another’s spouse is shared with the other ‘friend.’

How can we avoid the slow boil and retain our sight?

Three items come to mind as follows: Picture a circle with concentric circles radiating outward. First is #1 below, the other circles flow from the central core.

1 – Spend personal, consistent time with the Lord involving study and mediation in His Word and prayer. Any relationship will wither when it is neglected. It’s my responsibility to tend my heart, to be disciplined, to have a personal time with the Lord. Some days I feel a strong connection, other days it feels distant. It is easy for me to pull back when I feel the distance, but I endeavor to be consistent.

2 – Have close-in, personal relationships with believers who are as mature or more mature in their Christian walk than you. You should have a handful of close friends/family/spouse that you can safely share your struggles with. Not everyone needs to know your stuff but a few absolutely do. For me, I share very personally with my husband. And frequently, he is letting me know by my behavior or attitude, what’s not working for him and vice versa. Marriage is constant contact. There is simply no other relationship like marriage on earth. I just cannot fake it with my husband for very long. I can only look good for so long with him. What a relief! I can fool a lot of you most of the time, but not him! He lives with me. If it’s not with your spouse then find someone else. I have a very close, female friend whom I confide in too.

3 – Be significantly involved with a local church. Every church has its struggles; you don’t get off that easily! It is up to you to find a church where you can experience the fellowship of other believers. Together, you are to do some degree of life together. I am astounded by believers who expect me to believe that they are exempt from significant involvement in a local body of believers. There is no reason anyone can give me in which I’d say “Yeah, don’t worry about the church thing.” This one item will practically guarantee some kind of descent into spiritual blindness. We simply were not designed to do life apart from a community. And it doesn’t count to consider your best friend as ‘your church.’

We are Light Bearers. We contain the Light.

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 says, “But we have this treasure (Christ, who has shone in our hearts) in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body.”

God’s design is that He shines through us as He increases and we decrease. This is the normal Christian life. We then become living advertisements for Christ. If anyone is thirsty and seeking, they can be drawn to Christ in you. The opposite can also happen; those who see Christ in you may be offended. The world will never ‘like’ Jesus, nor will they like us. It is one thing to be different in every good way and be rejected. It is another thing to be different from the world in weird and self-righteous ways and wonder why there is rejection. In my life, I have personally discovered that struggling and having problems has created a thirst in others to know more about the spiritual part of my life. Perhaps this was an example of being different in good ways.

My husband and I have served with two para-church organizations tasked with evangelism: Campus Crusade for Christ or “Cru” and Young Life. We know what it is to evangelize and to be evangelical. Oddly enough, the most evangelical we ever were, was when we were at our lowest point.

When I had young kids, I mistakenly assumed that having it together would proclaim Christ very effectively. When my kids brought their friends home and we got to know the parents of their friends, I thought we’d next need to invite them over to a well-decorated house and well- apportioned meal. I thought I had to have the house perfect, as if any of us ever lived like this.

When our middle child was in high school she got pregnant. It was like a bomb going off in our family. The shock waves emanated outward from us. I experienced intense emotional pain for a number of reasons. It’s not real cool when your husband is an elder in your local evangelical church and you’re in graduate school to become a Christian counselor, when your daughter becomes pregnant. Or so I thought.

It laid us bare. I was paralyzed. My friends closest to me knew that in extreme pain, I isolated myself. They came and pulled me back out into civilization. It hurt unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I felt a lot of shame and guilt. I remember avoiding a local grocery store with my now visibly- pregnant daughter. I could tell by the cars in the parking lot that a woman I knew from our neighborhood was also shopping there. I just did not have it in me on that day to see and talk to her.

On our first Sunday in church, I needed to have our friends all around us. Some of our close friends showed up, sitting behind us which felt protective. I felt safe, like I could ‘do this.’ I felt supported and cared for. If we had not shared our struggles then we would have lost that blessing of support and companionship. And that’s what we tend to do in our churches … keep our problems secret because it’s just too painful and shameful.

In this process of honestly and authentically walking this out, we inadvertently became evangelistic. Those who had minimal spiritual interest or none were suddenly asking us about our story. They wanted to know what happened. Our lid had been peeled off and you could see the real insides. We had problems, big problems like everyone one else on the planet. We just couldn’t make it look good on the outside anymore. Then we got to tell the truth of the matter that we could walk this out and talk about it because of knowing Christ. Through the brokenness, Christ became more real to my husband and me. When we hurt the worst, we could turn to Him; we could turn to our faith community and receive soothing. We weren’t a light because we had it all together; we were a light because the light shined through the cracks in our lives.

So I leave you this Christmas Season with various points to ponder as it relates to light. First, we start with Christ as the Light, the source that illuminates everything in our world, both the light in us and the darkness. Then we moved to the idea that even though Light is present and illuminating, darkness can ignore it. In fact, those of us most spiritual need to take heed lest we lose our spiritual sight. And finally, I end with the idea that light is meant to display through us the life of Christ so that those without the light will be drawn to Christ. It is often in our weakness and low points that we display Him the most profoundly to a lost and dying world in desperate need of Him.