In verse four (1:4) the Holy Spirit is introduced as Gods menorah or seven-branched lampstand, meaning He is the one who brings Gods light to Gods people. Today as we read Johns vision of the glorious Son of God we are presented with a picture of the menorah once again, only this time its churches who are compared to lampstands. First John is told to write in a book what he sees and send it to seven churches. And then as he turns around hes confronted with a breathtaking vision of the resurrected Jesus standing in the middle of seven lampstands. Later when Jesus speaks to John He explains the mystery. He says, The seven lampstands are the seven churches. So if we remember what the lampstand in the tabernacle represented, we are confronted with a profound truth: we the church are placed by God in a city to bring His light to that city. The Lord is telling us we play a profound role in His plan to win the world. Through us as individuals and through us as a community of believers the light of God illumines the darkness in which we live. And I think most of us knew that before we read this passage. But I also think theres a lot of confusion about how this takes place, and a lot of doubt that imperfect people like us can really make a difference in someone elses life. Sure, we think to ourselves, if we lived perfect lives Gods light would shine, but since we still have flaws and weaknesses were not much use to Him. But the truth is imperfect but changing people shine the brightest
We are the light
You are the light of the world (Mt 5:14-16)
Through us both as individuals and as a spiritual family (church) Gods light shines into our dark communities. In us the world is given an opportunity to see God and hear Him speak.
1) Light: The truth about who God is, why we exist, what happens after death and how God wants to save us.
2) Darkness: Human speculation about all of these questions, combined with demonic lies which have been successfully inserted into human thinking. This leads people away from the true God (Eph 4:17-21).
How do we shine?
There are actually a number of ways churches shine Gods light into their communities, but today well focus on just one.
1) The way we love one another (including care for the poor). The gathered church should provide a foretaste of heaven (Jn 13:35).
2) Speaking and teaching Gods truth. We provide an opportunity for our community to hear spiritual truth as opposed to human wisdom or demonic lies (the church of the Living God, the pillar and support of the truth; 1Ti 3:15).
3) Practical evidence of Gods favor. When people live in obedience there is a blessing that rests on them that becomes obvious: peace, provision, protection, welfare of family
- Redemption and lift
- The message is: God is a good God who cares for His people
4) The personal transformation of individual believers. Through us people are given a glimpse of Jesus, through us they encounter Him, if imperfectly (Eph 4:20-5:16)
Where do we shine?
Individual believers carry Gods light to their schools and workplaces, but especially to their families. Those who know us best cannot deny the real changes God works in us. When they become desperate for their own change many will come to us because they know what we have is real. Some take decades, some a lifetime before coming.
Our best advertisement for Jesus is changed people. Yes, of course, unbelievers will question and test that change, some desperately hoping its not real because if it is it forces them to admit God exists.
What has to change?
The change that changes people is not becoming self-righteous, politically conservative, predicting the date of Jesus return, going to church or stocking the basement with guns and dried food. Its becoming kind, apologizing sincerely, being honest, submitting to authority, repenting quickly, changed vocabulary, showing the love of God, getting free from deep addictions, returning to work on a wounded marriage and bringing peace to a troubled family. But even as we say these things its important to remember that we dont have to be sinless people or emotionless people or ever-smiling robotsjust honest people sincerely trying to do the right thing and humbly admitting when were wrong. Everybody notices when:
Sad people become happy
Lonely people gain friends
Addicted people become free
Greedy people become generous
Habitual liars tell the truth and admit when theyre wrong
Sick people get healed
Sick people dont get healed but suffer bravely without anger
Angry people become patient with others
Proud people quit comparing and competing
Ambitious people spend more and more time doing missions and service to others
or just staying home with the family
Hard, inexpressive people weep when they worship and tell you they love you
John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but you dont know where it comes from or where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.
Notice we didnt list yet talking about our faith. This is because people arent interested in hearing what we believe about God until they see real change in us (Gods light). But when they do see it:
Some want it right away
Some dont want it now, but will in the future
Some may stay in denial until the last months or days of their lives
Some refuse to the end and step into eternity alienated from God
When do we shine?
Please, listen carefully. The answer is not what you might expect. Its not when we totally get our act together. In fact, people who apparently have no more problems are hard for most us to relate to. We tend to put them on pedestals and admire them, but we dont look to them as role models. Theyre so different from us their example can be discouraging rather than inspiring.
Its those who are still working through their problems, yet give evidence of a real change of heart who shine brightest. We still see their humanity, but we also see something new at work in them. And that awakens hope in us, that maybe their God will help us too.
But God can take it farther than this. When He brings healing to our scarred lives, those scars become beautiful testimonies to His power. God uses our sufferings to equip us to minister to others who are still trapped in bondage.
2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Notice: Jesus was not ashamed of His scars (Lk 24:38-40; Jn 20:27). In fact, He still bears them because they are a glorious testimony of Gods power. So are ours!
What brings real change?
Two things: real conversion (repentance and faith) and proper nutrition (Bread and Wine: the Word and the presence of the Spirit).
1) Describe someone who you watched God change. What were early signs of that change?
2) Name something that changed quickly in you when you become a Christian. Name something that Gods still working on.