Those in the Light Shine with Light
Sermon for the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany
Those in the Light Shine with Light
Text: 1 John 2:3-11
What does a Christian look like? Easy question, right? A Christian can look like anyone or anything. A Christian can be male or female, young or old, white or black or anything in between! That’s true. But that’s not what I mean. What does a Christian’s life look like? What does a Christian do? How does a Christian act?
Another easy question! We might assume that all who are here this morning likely call themselves Christians. So what do Christians look like? They look like this, don’t they? They are people who are in church and who are smiley and happy. They say prayers. They sing hymns. They have some coffee and say good morning. That’s what Christians look like! Right?
This morning the apostle John actually tells us exactly what a Christian’s life looks like. He says very simply, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.” If you know Jesus, if you are a follower of Christ—a Christian—then you will obey his commands. John also says it this way in verse 6: “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” What does a Christian look like? A Christian is one who obeys God’s commands and lives like Jesus did.
So here is a command of God: You shall have no other gods. That’s the first commandment. You could say it is the most important commandment. No person or thing should ever come before God. Ask yourself these questions then: Are you obeying God and living like Jesus if your job is the most important thing in your life, if it takes center stage and takes up all your time? Are you obeying God and living like Jesus if spending time with your family and having some fun is more important than Sunday worship? Are you obeying God and living like Jesus if 99% of your budget is spent on bills and entertainment and home improvements and only 1%, or maybe 2-3%, is given back to God?
Here is another command of God: Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. This commandment does not mean that, “you must go to church on Saturdays like the Jews.” No, Sabbath means rest. God commands us to get spiritual rest. Where do we get spiritual rest? Church and in God’s Word! Ask yourself these questions then: Are you obeying God and living like Jesus if you work on Sunday instead of going to church? Some say, “Well I have to work to provide for my family.” Ok fine. But out of 168 hours in an entire week, one or two hours on Sunday morning can’t be reserved to worship and praise God and strengthen your faith? Or are you obeying God and living like Jesus if Sunday morning is used to catch up on rest or family time? “I never get to sleep or see my family during the week.” Well what better place to get rest and to hang out with your family than in worship! Or, are you obeying God and living like Jesus if your Bible becomes a good paperweight or a dusty shelf decoration at home?
Here’s another command of God: You shall not murder. God is clearly protecting the sanctity of life and the crown of his creation with this commandment. But ask yourself these questions then: Are you really obeying God and living like Jesus if your words are filled with vengeance and rage? Are you really obeying God and living like Jesus if you wish that someone were dead? Are you really obeying and living like Jesus if you hate someone so much you do everything short of killing that person? That one is clearly answered for us today in verse 9, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in darkness.” Actually, in the next chapter it John even says, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.”
Here’s one more command of God: You shall not bear false testimony against your neighbor. That’s the 8th commandment—one that is often overlooked. It has to do with more than lying on trial in a courtroom and perjuring yourself. This commandment is meant to protect the good name and reputation of your neighbor. Ask yourself these questions then: Are you really obeying God and living like Jesus if you are spreading rumors about someone (whether the rumors are true or false)? Are you really obeying God and living like Jesus when you sit around with your friends and gossip about someone not there? Are you really obeying God and living like Jesus when you share private information just to get a laugh on Facebook or by E-mail?
We know what a Christian is supposed to look like. John tells us clearly this morning: “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands . . . Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” But what happens if we don’t do that? What happens if we don’t obey God’s commandments in some of the ways I just mentioned? What happens if we don’t live like Jesus? John answers that clearly this morning also in verse 4: “The [person] who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” If you say that you are a Christian but you are not obeying God and living like Jesus, that is a big problem. You are talking the talk, but you aren’t walking the walk. That is a very big problem.
Doesn’t it make you upset when you hear an unbeliever say, “Well, that’s a fine way for a Christian to act. Nice Christian attitude. Way to live your faith.” But even though those things are said in spite and hatred, those people are right. Even unbelievers can recognize the disconnect. If we are not obeying God and living like Jesus, but claim to be Christians, then we are really nothing more than liars. What does a Christian look like? Sometimes our actions make us look like liars.
John also describes it another way. Listen to the final verse: “Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where is going, because the darkness has blinded him.” When we are living contrary to our faith and not living like Jesus, it’s like we are walking around in the darkness. Sin is darkness. When we sin, that darkness covers us and blinds us. We have no idea where we are going because we are walking in darkness. Worst of all, though we may not know where we are going, walking in the darkness of sin usually leads to the fires of hell. What does a Christian look like? Sometimes we look like darkness and sin.
Is God demanding too much from us? Did he spring a quick one on us and trick us? No. There is nothing new here. Listen to verse 7: “Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard.” This command to obey God and live like Jesus is nothing new. This has always been God’s command for us. The problem is that we have always failed this command. We have always proven ourselves to be liars. We have always proven ourselves to be filled with darkness.
Ah, but this is why we are here this morning! This is why we are joyful and glad! This is why we are singing! We are singing for the Lord is our light, we are singing, for the Lord. We didn’t sing that with exuberance and excitement just because it’s cool for Americans to try out a Zulu song from Africa. How about the Verse of the Day today before the gospel: I am the light of the world, says the Lord, whoever follows me will have the light of life. What did we sandwich that verse with? Alleluia (which means Praise the Lord)!
Though our lives are often filled with sinful lies and sinful darkness, we can sing for joy and be glad. We can praise the Lord, because he is our light. Jesus is the Light of the world who came to shine in this sinful darkness.
In a world of imperfection and disobedience, Jesus came to live with absolute perfection and obedience. Jesus came to fulfill all of the 10 commandments. He came to show perfect love for his Father and he came to show perfect love for all people. His life shines with the brightness of perfection and holiness in this sinful world of darkness.
But that’s not the only reason that Jesus came. First he had to fulfill all of God’s commands, which we fail to do. But then he also came to pay for those sins we’ve committed. This reminds me of our altar here in church. Some of you know that on the top of the altar there are 10 little squares. Those squares represent the 10 commandments. The first three have wood grain that is going up and down and the last seven have wood grain that goes side to side because the first three commandments deal with our relationship with God and the last seven our relationships with other people. Each of the 10 wood squares is made of blood wood, representing the sinfulness in our lives as we try to keep those commandments.
Yet also on the top of this altar there are five crosses. There are five crosses that represent the five wounds of Christ on the cross—his hands, his feet, and his side. These also are made of blood wood, for on the cross Christ shed his blood. How fitting that these five blood wood crosses would be on the altar! Jesus himself was the ultimate sacrifice and payment for sins. He shed his blood because of what we have done. He died because that is what our sins deserve.
But darkness could not overcome. Death and hell could not contain. Satan could not win. On the third day Jesus burst forth from the tomb with light, and with life! Again the Verse of the Day this morning was: I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows me will have the light of life. You see, because of Jesus, we are now in the light. We are in his light. And when we are in the light we have life. In Jesus our lies, our darkness, our sin—it has all been forgiven because he shines brightly on us with the light of his love and mercy. Yes, We are singing for the Lord is our light!
John says in verse 8, “the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.” Yes, Jesus is already shining. He has conquered the darkness of sin, death, and hell. He shines on us with his love and forgiveness. And now, he shines through us. When we consider what Jesus has done for us—living for us, dying for us, forgiving our terrible sins—that only moves us to go out and shine with that same light. It moves us to love Jesus back with our whole heart every day. It moves us to love others, to forgive others, to be compassionate to others. As Christ has loved us, so we will love him and so we will love others. You see, Those in the Light Shine with Light.
So what does a Christian look like? Bright. Shining. Brilliant. Radiant. Forgiven. Washed. Clean. A Christian looks like light. A Christian is clothed with light. A Christian is covered with the Light. Thus, a Christian looks like Jesus—clothed with his forgiveness here, confirmed in perfection in heaven. So dear Christians, Go. Shine. Reflect.
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