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Chris Appleby Ministries

Chris Appleby Ministries

 

At our Christmas carol service Steve was telling us about how much his son is enjoying the bright lights of London in the midst of the dark winter season. And it’s not surprising. We often associate light with feelings of enjoyment or safety don’t we? There’s something very peaceful about sitting in a room lit be candles or in front of an open fire staring at the flames. When we walk into a dark house the first thing we do is to turn on the lights because they give us a sense of safety.

Light for Judgement

But in fact light isn’t always about giving us a sense of peace and security.

When Di and I bought our last house we decided we’d put in an ensuite to the bedroom. So we had an architect draw up the plans, and then we went to a bathroom shop to see what fittings we should include. One of the must haves was a set of lights above the bathroom mirror. You may have something like that in your bathroom. Now you don’t put lights above your mirror for the sake of safety or peace. Nor do you put them there so you feel like a Hollywood star when you’re standing in front of it, like you’re standing in the spotlight for everyone to see? You don’t put them there so you can admire yourself in the mirror. In fact the opposite: those lights are actually there to show you all your faults; to show you the wrinkles in your forehead or around your eyes or lips, the spots that would be much better covered up, the hairs that need to be removed, or the moles that might need to be looked at by your doctor. A good light will do that for you, much as you mightn’t actually want to know what it’s telling you.

Light is one of those themes that John loves to point out in his description of Jesus’ life and ministry. In the opening paragraph of his gospel he says: “4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

Jesus comes into the world to bring life and light to all people. Yet the coming of the light isn’t necessarily a good thing for all people, as we’ll see in a moment. The coming of the light for some is like us walking into the bathroom and turning on the light above the mirror. It shows up our flaws. It’s becomes the agent of judgement.

You know, John is very blunt at times in pointing out our human failings. It’s a bit like the way a skin specialist or an oncologist works. My GP sent me to a skin specialist a couple of years ago to check a sore on my ear that wouldn’t go away. And he went over me from head to toe, looking for moles and spots that might be skin cancers in the making. As he was doing that I wasn’t hoping he’d keep quiet if he found something. I wanted to know before it got worse. In fact when he looked at my ear he said it was a skin cancer that had gone well into the edge of my ear and would need to be cut out. He could have saved me the pain of the operation by keeping quiet but it wouldn’t have been helpful would it? I much preferred to hear the truth so it could be dealt with.

Well that’s the sort of approach that John takes throughout his gospel. His task is to reveal the truth of the human condition, then announce the cure. The truth as we find it here is that humans are living in spiritual darkness and need the light to shine on them

If you think back to what’s gone before in this chapter you’ll see that the theme of darkness and light have run all the way through it.

Nicodemus comes in the night

Last week you saw how Nicodemus comes to visit Jesus in the night, while it’s dark, presumably so no-one will know, so no-one will judge him.

The Pharisees failure to see clearly

Then we’re told what the Pharisees have recognised in Jesus: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God.” They’ve looked at the signs that Jesus has done and worked out he must be from God.  But it doesn’t seem to affect their behaviour towards him as time goes on.

Jesus’ Points out their Blindness

But then as the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus progresses we find that Nicodemus is floundering. Jesus is revealing truths about the spiritual world that he just can’t fathom. Finally Jesus asks him a question that reveals the way Nicodemus and his fellows have closed their eyes to the idea that Jesus, as a teacher sent from God, should be listened to: “10Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?’”

He says a similar thing to the Pharisees in John 9. There he’s just healed a blind man and the Pharisees criticise him for doing it on the Sabbath. The blind man has worked out that Jesus must have come from God to do such a thing but they refuse to accept it. Finally Jesus speaks to the blind man: “9:39Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ 41Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see,” your sin remains’”. (John 9:39-41) You see, their refusal to accept what was clearly apparent to this uneducated blind man was confirmation that they weren’t going to be able to receive the gifts that Jesus was offering them.

Self-imposed Blindness

And that leads us back to today’s passage. What do we find here in vs17 & 18? “17God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

There’s a natural tendency in fallen human beings to choose not to see, not to believe the truth if it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient, even when confronted by compelling evidence (climate change?); but the result is that they condemn themselves to the natural consequences of their decisions (climate change?).

I guess you know we live in a post-truth world now. I think that means that we no longer care about whether something is true. Rather what matters is the emotional response we have to what someone tells us. If they say it with enough conviction, or often enough, or maybe simply say what we wished were true, we’ll accept it. That may not matter much if it’s about something that has little real effect on our lives. If someone tells you that watermelon is the new super food, which apparently someone is saying, it won’t really hurt if you believe them. It’ll just make you feel even better about enjoying a summer treat you’ve enjoyed all your life.

But if it’s on a more critical issue it might matter a lot. Commentators have suggested that this explains much of what happened with the Brexit vote last year and the US elections. People in the poorer parts of Britain were looking for a way out of the tough economic situation they were in, they had a suspicion that this was due to the EU and that they’d be better off if they were out of it, so they believed the exit proponents without listening to any of the economics commentators. Similarly in the US the bold claims that the US could be great again resonated with voters in the so-called rust belt states so they voted for Mr Trump without any real analysis of whether he could do what he promised.

It’s classic isn’t it? And what will be the result?  The UK and US will have to live with the consequences of their decisions for years to come. If those consequences are bad, they’ll have only themselves to blame. The judgement will have been self-imposed.

And of course the same thing could happen here with the rise of neo-nationalism and ultra-right-wing politics.

But what about at the personal level?  How does what we read here in John 3 apply to us, or to our friends? “18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

As we’ll see in a moment the coming of Jesus into the world is a wonderful thing because it offers us a complete solution to the human condition; but it’s also a terrible thing because it forces us to choose.

Jesus comes into the world as light into a darkened world and people have to choose where they want to be. Do they want to live in the light or stay living in darkness?

It sounds like an easy choice doesn’t it? I mean, who likes living in the dark? Yet we’re told people actually choose that.

Why do you think your non-Christian friends choose to ignore the light that Jesus brings to the world? Are they like the people I’ve met lately who’ve decided not to watch the news anymore because it’s all too distressing? Do they think if they ignore Jesus long enough he might go away?

Or is it like the lights above the bathroom mirror? If you don’t want to see how bad you look you’ll never turn the light on.

“This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.”

There’s a myth that’s been slowly building over the past 40 or 50 years that the secret to happiness is absolute freedom. If you want to be happy then throw off all the strictures of social behaviour. If it feels good, do it. Ignore what others might think of you and live it up. If they don’t like it, it’s their problem. Have you heard those sorts of ideas going around?

By the way, the parallel myth is that Christians never have any fun, that they don’t know how to enjoy themselves. Well you can work out whether that’s true or not.

But you can see why God’s expectation of godly and moral and wise behaviour might be a problem for some people can’t you? It seems much easier to remain in the darkness of post-Christian morality and supposedly enjoy yourself, than to accept the standards of God’s kingdom. But of course the self-fulfilling nature of that wish is that if you exclude yourself from God’s kingdom, you miss out on the blessings of that kingdom.

Condemnation removed – Light as a cleansing agent.

You see Jesus coming into the world is not primarily to show up the evils of the world. It’s the opposite. It’s to purify it.

Light isn’t only useful for showing up things, it also acts as a purifying agent. I heard the other day about a new cancer therapy that uses light to stimulate the immune system.

Put a newspaper out in the sun for a while and you’ll see that the newsprint is being bleached by the sun. Sunshine can even be used as a disinfectant. Apparently leaving a bottle of water in the sun for 6 hours will purify it of bacteria that otherwise might make you sick.

Di noticed that our doona was getting a bit dirty a few weeks ago so she took it outside and hung it on the line so the fresh air and the sunlight would purify it.

And so it is with Jesus coming as light into the world.

We’re told that God sends Jesus, out of the great love with which he loves us. And here’s the amazing thing: his love is given to those who deserve his judgement, his condemnation.

16God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” He comes to take our place so we won’t suffer the judgement of God. The result of his love is that through the death of Jesus on the cross, our sins are washed away. He gives us his Spirit, who changes us to the point where we welcome the rule of God in our lives; where we recognise our failings and long for God to take them away. And we receive that eternal life that he’s promised to all who believe in Jesus Christ, through the power of his resurrection.

The metaphorical, spiritual darkness of this world is a result of it being under the judgement of God. When Jesus died on the cross you’ll remember there was a period of 3 hours of darkness signifying the judgement of God on him. When Jesus comes to our world it’s not to bring condemnation. It’s to bring life; to bring salvation; to free us from darkness and bring us into his light. The light he brings is light that purifies us in the eyes of God and that opens our eyes to see the truth about Jesus. 

So here is the question? Where do you stand? Do you stand in the light? Is your life exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ? Are you being changed by his Holy Spirit within you? Or are you avoiding the issue? To avoid the issue is to condemn yourself because it’s to flee from the one who is light of the world. On the other hand, if you are one who believes in Jesus Christ, have you fully understood the wonderful gift of love that he’s given us; the possibility of  life in the light? Have you asked him to use the light of the gospel to purify you: in your attitudes, in your language, in your behaviour towards others, in your home or workplace or school? And have you asked him to shine through you so others might be drawn to his light by seeing it in you. Let’s not miss the last bit of the passage: “21Those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” There’s a gospel proclamation aspect to us living in the light. In the sermon on the mount Jesus said don’t hide your light under a bushel but “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:16) That way we too can bring light to the world.

 Let’s pray that we might be those who live in the light of Christ and show his glory to the world.

 

Contact Details

Phone: 0422187127
 
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