Light is a fascinating thing, manifesting itself in many forms and levels of intensity. The bright rays of the sun, the quiet shine of the moon, the dangerous strike of lightning, the severe exposure in an operating room. Light explodes into brilliantly distinct colors or filters into muted shades. It can be the mesmerizing glow of candlelight or the terrifying torture of a house burning to the ground.
It’s quite a dilemma we face. What to do with this power? This light?
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” ~John 8:12 (ESV)
Using prudence as a dimmer switch, and trusting the Holy Spirit to provide gut-checks, we Christians venture out into the world carrying the light of Jesus. Maybe we’re a spotlight, protesting on the streets. There are times we get to be fireflies, happily twinkling at twilight. Other times we’re constant like an office light, bright enough to be productive and fruitful, but not so bright as to be offensive. Sometimes the light is at its harshest, necessary for removing a splinter or treating a gash left by sin. Maybe we’re soft candlelight, flickering together at a solemn prayer vigil.
But sometimes we wander too close to the darkness. Or the darkness wanders too close to us.
Evil (the absence of good) thrives in darkness (the absence of light).
No matter, we’ll just stay in the warm tones. Always keeping the lights on, but only enough to feel comfortable. Not too bright, not too dark. Not too hot, not too cold. Not too holy, not too sinful.
That may suffice for awhile. It keeps the weaker, obvious demons away. But there are some more sinister, who dare to creep into the dim light, attempting to build immunity. We need to shine Jesus’ light directly on them, sending the pigs back into the abyss where they belong.
And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” ~Matthew 8:28 (ESV)
Here’s the thing about the light of Jesus. It’s not just a soothing night light warding off monsters under our beds. It is a refining fire. We must come all the way into it to burn off the demons. But whatever we’re holding in our hands, or wrapping around ourselves in comfort, or dragging along behind us…if it’s not made of something holy, it will be devoured in that fire.
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. ~1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (ESV)
It can be terrifying, getting closer to the Light. Each step forward revealing another sin we didn’t expect to be lurking there. Maybe that fear is why there are so many of us still standing outside the fire, demons clinging to our backs.
Maybe we’re afraid of the pain, because deep down we know we are holding so tightly to unholy things our hands may get burned in the refining process.
Better our hands than our souls. Better to hear the demons scream now, knowing it could have been us later, as everything not built on His foundation is reduced to ashes.
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. ~Matthew 5:29 (ESV)
We must believe and trust Him in this. When we feel exposed and judged by the Light, we have to stop running away with the demons and start dragging them into the flames. We need to drop our unholy things and let Him refine us.
I’m not just playing with His light from a distance anymore, I’m stepping all the way in – following a path of lanterns left by saints gone before me. It does hurt at first, as deception is melting away to reveal truth. I experienced a moment of cold when I took off the blanket of worldly comfort, but I’m now securely wrapped in the superior warmth of His love. I’m suffering plenty of loss, watching things I worked so hard for burn to nothing. But being without those things has created a freedom I never knew I could have, the stress having been incinerated right along with the failed dreams.
And those demons I used to fear the most? I live in a Light so illuminating that I can clearly see them coming as He helps me fight them off. The pain I used to avoid? I now embrace those crosses, and confidently say, “I offer it up in reparation.” These things pale in the brilliant light of my King, so powerfully radiating in me, through me, and around me. I’ll never again be content with anything less.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
~Psalm 27:1 (ESV)