Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

1 Peter 3: 8

 

There is one very important thing that should distinguish God’s people from the rest of our world. Followers of Christ are to be like Him; that is, we are to live in a manner that is closer than others do to the way that God intended for people to live in His original design for creation. When God made people in His image, the significant aspects of that crafting were not a strong chin or a commanding voice; rather, the deeper qualities of character were what truly mattered. We were to be loving, merciful, gracious, kind, gentle, and understanding with each other. We were also to be humbly submitted to God’s authority and mutually submitted to each other in much the same manner as that great and complex relationship that exists between the three persons of God.

 

It is in likeness of this relationship wherein Father, Son, and Spirit each operate in vital and powerful ways while they are still one being as God that people are called upon to live. This means that we each have special and even specific gifts and talents that we are given by God. We also possess interests and passions that drive us into the development and the utilization of all that God granted to us. Additionally, in what might be viewed as divine perversity but what is probably more simply an outworking of the great range of expression of that God image, we humans are a wildly diverse lot. Since we also have existed and continue to dwell in a world where sin and evil operate as an intentionally disruptive force, God’s gift of diversity has been turned into tension, distrust, and violence so that the ordained unity of people is disrupted and broken.

 

In response to the destruction of relationship and so of creation, itself, God the Father sent Jesus the Christ into this world. He calls all people out of our isolation, fear, and distrust and into the peaceful harmony of life within God’s kingdom of truth, grace, and healing love. Followers of Christ are to be different from our neighbors because we are to be unified in ways that are strange and even mysterious to the rest of our world. In Christ we are called into a form of oneness that is formed in our spirits and that should become the passion of our hearts as we know God and come to understand His desire for us to live in true unity. If we are to dwell fully as people who exist in that God image design of our creation, then there is ample opportunity for us to be different and to express our uniqueness, but there is no room for us to allow those differences to divide or to disrupt our unity in Christ.

At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

Ephesians 5: 8

 

Light and dark, images that describe the two ends of the day and that also depict the beginning and the end of our earthly days as we are born out of the darkness into the light of the world outside of the womb and then we end our days by returning to the darkness of the grave. This same light verses dark concept reflects the conduct of life during the hours in the middle of our days and in the days of our earthly journey. Although, people are faced with many decisions that seem to be shaded in gradations of grey, in fact, all of a person’s personal morality and its ethical underpinning is founded upon beliefs that are either darkened or enlightened.

 

The source of all light in this world can be traced to God. He is the author of all that is just, right, loving, and merciful on earth. In the Lord’s design for this world and in its original creation, these characteristics of God were universally present. Even the darkness that was the result of the way that the earth travels in its orbit about the sun was infused with the same holiness as was the day. Yet, rebellion and sinfulness shattered that perfection and brought a counter-God force into being in all of creation. Now, as people are born into that light of the sun, we are all still darkness dwellers in our hearts and to the depths of our souls. Thus, each person starts life in conflict with the light of righteousness that is the nature of Christ.

 

However, that same Christ from whom we flee is actively and aggressively seeking after us and pursuing relationship with each person on this earth. The light of the Lord seeks to replace the darkness of sin and death in the hearts and the minds of all people, and as we accept Christ, His light becomes who and what we are. Although we are now true children of the light that is the character and the nature of God, the darkness that was ours from birth still attempts to assert itself into our daily journey. So Christ implores His followers to reject the darkness that attempts to enfold us, to confess the times when it shows up in our thoughts and actions, and to turn away from its hollow allure as we claim the victory over sin that is found in the glory of Christ in us.

How can you believe when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God.

John 5: 44

 

Jesus is questioning how far we will go and what we would be willing to do in order to gain recognition, fame, and glory. We live in a culture that is constantly elevating individuals to places of notoriety and that seeks to find people who have accomplished something special or who have achieved something that sets them apart from the pack. However, the problem that we have in all of this is that we seem to have such an insatiable thirst for vicariously viewing the activities of these celebrities that behaviors that are noteworthy only for their stupidity, harmfulness, or lack of righteousness are too often the ones that gain recognition. The other element of this thirst for prominence that was troubling to Jesus and that should disturb us is that people, in general, will gravitate toward sources of easy praise and will set standards of behavior for themselves that are intended to gain it.

 

Sadly, we humans will settle for the dim light of this sort of recognition when radiance like the sun could be ours. There is only one source of true light, for it comes from the Creator of all lights. In addition, real, lasting glory is the reflection of the character of God, Himself. Since God wants to be with us and to engage with us in our lives, and He works in our hearts and minds to transform us from being darkened by the stain of sin and its death to being radiantly alive in Christ, we have access to the glory of God.

 

The question that Jesus posed and that we should be asking ourselves is why do I seek the praises of people and compromise God’s standards for living righteously when I already have the gift of recognition from the great and generous Father? God continually pours out His blessings onto His children, they rain down like an unending stream of brightly colored confetti, and the Lord celebrates each and every moment that we choose to follow Him and bring light into our world. Let’s take the glory of Christ into the darkness that is trying to surround us so that we can share our knowledge of it’s one and only source with people who are desperately in need of something to celebrate and of someone who will lovingly care for their needs.

 

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1: 4

 

The character quality that James is discussing, steadfastness, is often one that is used to describe God. In those instances it refers to the way that God does not waiver and is unfailingly consistent in His love, truth, justice, and grace. Situations and circumstances do not change His desire for relationship with all people. Even our negative responses to Him do not deter God from loving us. This deeply rooted love is an essential part of God’s nature. It is also something that He seeks to impart to us so that we can, in turn, be people who are lovers of God and of others and so that this love comes from deep within our character.

 

Living with our feet firmly planted on the character of God is not something that comes naturally for people. We may adopt various aspects of God’s nature as our own, but most of us are still prone to being influenced by what is happening in our lives. We are subject to forces that are outside of ourselves and that seem to be beyond our control. We engage with God and with others based upon what we believe to be best for ourselves or with personal safety and power as our primary objectives. Changing this core aspect of who we are is something that Christ does within us. This change is often worked out through the hard times and trials that come naturally in this world.

 

This is the process that James is discussing. The fact that anyone who lives more than a short time on this earth will encounter difficulties and trials of various kinds is a given. Although this world is a wonder of God’s creative hand, it is also seriously and fatally broken by sin. Each of us with our own brokenness will collide full on with that of this world. Yet, in those points of collision, Christ is with us, and He works to redeem the pain and the loss by taking us deeper into the center of God’s love, grace, and mercy. As we surrender our grief and pain to Christ’s healing embrace, we are made more complete in Him. The Spirit works in our hearts to bring about a new found capacity to live through the hardest of times with our feet firmly planted on that platform of God’s character and with praises of our Lord on our lips.

 

 

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

John 12: 46

 

These are the profound words of a man who knows that He is facing the darkest hour of His life on earth. Jesus is only a very short amount of time away from the cross, and He is aware of the sort of pain that His body and soul will endure. Jesus also understands the nature of the great darkness that will descend upon the land at that time. He is the source of true light in the world. The light that He brings comes from God, and it is the expression of the glory that continually fills the heavens with a radiance that is beyond all imagining. This is not just the light that comes from the sun, for it is more fundamental than that. The light that Jesus brought into the world is formed in the nature and the character of God.

 

Jesus gave tangible earthly expression to that light. His presence among us brought to life the love, truth, justice, and mercy of God. He demonstrated through words and actions the righteous nature of God, and Jesus brought all of that to culmination in His sacrificial death, an act of great love, which God redeems by an even greater act in Christ’s resurrection to life. It is after His death and resurrection that Jesus’ promise of giving light becomes real. Although He brought the light of God into the world, during His earthly life Jesus was limited by place and time. Now Christ, by and through the presence of His Spirit in all who believe in Him, grants this holy light to illuminate every corner of the world for each moment of the day.

 

People who know Christ also know God’s light. We possess it. Yet, this light is not the sort of thing that should be protected or secured away in some secret place. It is a gift that God gives to His people with the intention that we would share it freely and fully with others. The light of heaven was a part of what made Jesus the center of attention wherever He went. It brought comfort to the troubled, and its glory cut through the darkness of sin to open people’s wounded hearts to God’s pure and healing touch. Now that same light is available to the entire world in the presence of Christ in His people. We are to live each of our days in God’s light, and we are to be bearers of Christ’s perfect light of love in our world