Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

The Light of Life
Pastor Steve Schell
John 8:12
Soon after our family arrived here, nearly 25 years ago, someone shared with us a prophetic word that had been given to this church. The word was this, “You’ve been called to be a river, not a lake.” To be honest with you, my heart sank a bit when I heard that statement because I knew what it meant. It meant we were going to send people out about as fast as we took them in, which is a fine way to build the Kingdom of God, but pretty hard on the heart when you have to keep saying goodbye to people you love. And that has indeed been the case. Sure, some people have left for sad reasons, but most have left for good ones. We sent people off to school, we’ve planted churches, we sent missionaries to the other side of town and the far side of the earth. Some people even moved back home in order to win their unbelieving family to the Lord. Others followed job offers to distant cities and became part of what God is doing there. And some left us by stepping from this world into the arms of Jesus.

Thankfully, at least as many people have come in the door as have gone out, so there is still a strong community of believers here. But if we had somehow managed to keep all those people over all those years, we would have become a big lake, but that wasn’t God’s plan. His plan was for us to give away, not just receive; to bless at least as much as we’ve been blessed; to be a river, not a lake. This is a deep theme in the heart of God: He gives us something, so we can give it away. And that’s the way it is with His light.

Three truths
Let’s hear it again:
“I am the light of the world, the one who follows Me will not [at all] walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (literal).

How can one statement be so full of meaning? But it is. Today we look at three of the great truths contained in these words. First we’ll recognize Jesus as the pillar of fire who leads us through the wilderness. Second we’ll see Him as the One who shines light on our path to reveal the next step, so we won’t stumble. And third we’ll examine the phrase “the light of life” to discover that He wants us to become a source of light for others.

The pillar of fire • DBS (Fri, Sat)

As we read through the Gospel of John we repeatedly hear Jesus use images from the Exodus to explain His ministry. He is the serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness (Jn 3:14); He is the manna from heaven (Jn 6:32-33, 45-51); He is the rock that poured forth living water (Jn 3:37-38), and then on the eighth day of the Feast of Booths, when the great lamps had been extinguished, He compares Himself to the pillar of fire that led Israel for forty years (Ex 13:21-22; Ne 9:19). However in this case, Jesus says He is not only Israel’s light, but He says He’s the light of the world.

When Israel walked through the desert, a great pillar of fire lit their way at night. It led them through strange, unfamiliar territory and finally brought them safely to their destination. As they went it illuminated the rocky ground in front of them so that they wouldn’t stumble. And its very presence, hovering over their camp, assured them that God was with them. Listen: Numbers 9:15-23.

By comparing Himself to that pillar of fire, Jesus is teaching us about how He guides us. Just as Israel followed the cloud and the fire through the wilderness, we are to follow Him. He doesn’t give us a map and say, “Go!” He goes before us day-by-day, and says, “Come!” Such following requires great trust. When we don’t know where we are going, we have to trust that He does. We have to believe that if we’ll obey, step-by-step we will in His timing arrive at our promise.

This process forces us to become very dependent and requires us to stay in constant relationship with Him. It’s uncomfortable; it’s dangerous and it’s amazingly effective… when we do it. He takes us places we would never have the courage to go on our own.

The light on our path
Physical light illumines what is hidden in the darkness. Spiritual light reveals truth that has been hidden from the human mind. By applying the term “light of the world” to Himself Jesus announced that He is the One who accurately reveals the truth about God. By watching and listening to Him we are, in effect, watching and listening to the Father, because everything Jesus said and did was initiated by the Father and then perfectly expressed by the Son. Those who walk by that light will find answers to the most important questions about God and themselves. That light will protect them from being deceived or confused. They will walk and not stumble because step-by-step He will reveal His truth to them. They won’t walk in darkness. There will always be light on their path.

When faced with a decision we ask ourselves, “What has Jesus taught us?” Then whatever He says, we do, and whatever He forbids, we stop. The result of walking this way is a remarkable string of successes. Situations that could have turned out badly, because we walked in His light, turn out well. What might have been a stumbling-stone, because His light has revealed it and warned us that it’s there, becomes a stepping-stone. And a life so lived becomes an accumulation of such successes. Obedience to Jesus, of “walking in His light,” is the true source of blessing, of peace and of fruitfulness. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105).

The light inside us
I think one of the characteristics of Jesus that confirms to me that He is truly the Son of God, is that there is not only a depth to what He says, but there is always an element of surprise. He says things we humans, or at least I, would never have thought to say. He adds statements you have to stop and think about. And at first they don’t make sense, but then if you reflect deeply it suddenly dawns on you that what He said makes perfect sense… in light of the character of God. But neither you nor anyone you know would have ever thought to say that.

Here’s a perfect example: Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, the one who follows Me will not [at all] walk in darkness.” That makes sense, assuming of course He’s the divine Son of God; otherwise it’s crazy. He’s telling us that He’s the revealer of spiritual truth, so if we follow Him we won’t be deceived or confused. We will know the truth about God. Hallelujah! So far so good. But then He adds this, “But he (the one who follows Me) will have the light of life.” What does that mean? Everything would have gone smoothly if He had just said, “The one who follows Me will not walk in darkness… but I will light his path.” But He didn’t. He said those who follow Him will have the “light of life.” The phrase “light of life” is like “bread of life” (Jn 7:35). Jesus is the “bread” that produces life in those who eat that bread. And we would want to say, “And Jesus is the light that produces life in us,” and that’s true. But here comes that typical surprise that He so often inserts. He said those who follow Him will have the light of life. So what do we, His followers, have that can give off such light? I believe He’s speaking about the Holy Spirit whom He would place within those who come to Him. He’s saying that those who walk in His light will become a light for others.

There’s a pattern here. Earlier we learned that Jesus doesn’t just give us a drink of living water and leave it at that. He causes rivers of living water to flow out of us to refresh others (Jn 7:37-38). And now we discover that as the “light of the world,” He not only leads us and lights our path, but He also fills us with the Holy Spirit, with the One Paul calls “the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus” (Ro 8:2), until we become sources of light to others. He doesn’t leave us at the stage of being followers of God; He presses us further and places the Spirit inside us until we become carriers of God. He who said, “I am the light of the world” later said, “While I’m in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5). And then He said, “While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become sons of light” (Jn 12:36). And in case we miss the point, He said earlier in the Sermon on the Mount:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:14-16).

Let’s review what we’ve learned:
1) Jesus doesn’t give us a map and wait for us at the end. He guides us day-by-day like the pillar of fire guided Israel.
2) Jesus reveals the truth about God. He teaches us His ways, so choice-by-choice and decision-by-decision we won’t be deceived and stumble. He shines His light on our path, so we can become blessed and fruitful.
3) We receive from Him, but then we become a source for others. There’s an attitude adjustment in this. As a follower of Jesus I don’t come to Him only to receive the things that I need, but He wants to change me until there arises from my life an overflow of everything He has given me. You might say I become a river, not a lake.

1) Name an area of your life where you are following Jesus step-by-step. All you know is the next step, but He hasn’t told you anything beyond that.
2) When did you do something or not do something only because of what Jesus told you? Was it easy or hard for you to obey? How did it work? What did you learn?
3) How has God made you a “river,” a source of help to others? A river quickly runs dry if it doesn’t continually receive more water. How do you refill, so you can give out? 

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