Given as a Devotional at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on June 17, 2001
"Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17, RSV).
We have spent the last two Sundays talking about the Day of Pentecost, in which God poured out His Spirit on the disciples. Each of them received the baptism prophesied by John the Baptist, that the one coming after him, whose shoes he was not worthy to unlace, would "baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" (Matt. 3:11; Lk. 3:16). On that day of days, the infant church was birthed in fire and glory, power and might. Tongues of fire sat on the disciples' heads and they spoke in other languages as the Spirit gave them utterance. The fire and tongues were evidence of what happens when the power of God falls on ordinary men and women, the power to evangelize the world and spread the Gospel to every corner under heaven. The Apostle James has called God the "Father of lights," and I want us to consider today what that means for us, His children.
A good example of the effect of light is found in Acts 26, where we read the testimony that Paul gave to King Agrippa and Governor Festus, regarding his conversion. Paul was being held in Caesarea on trumped up charges by the Jews, and on this occasion, had the opportunity to give his side of the story and bear witness to God's power in his life. As you recall, before he met Jesus, he had been breathing out threatenings and slaughter on the young church. Bearing written authorization from the chief priests to arrest and imprison men and women who followed Christ and bring them back to Jerusalem to stand trial, he was traveling on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-2). Here is his first hand account of what happened on that road: "About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' "Then I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied. 'Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me"' (Acts 26:13-18, NIV). This light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blinded Saul of Tarsus, as he was known then, and he was led to the house of Judas in Damascus, where he prayed, neither eating nor drinking for three days. God sent one of His disciples, Ananias, to lay hands on him. He received his sight back and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ into his heart and life (Acts 9:6-18). He was baptized into Christ there; his life long ministry of carrying God's Good News to the Gentiles was begun in a blinding flash of light.
This story is very significant to me because it epitomizes the power and authority of the Gospel to change lives. Paul was a hard worker for God, but as he himself wrote to the Roman brethren, he had "a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge" (Rom. 10:2). I think we can learn a couple of things about light from Paul's encounter with it. 1) Whatever doctrinal or theological darkness there may be in our lives, is immediately swallowed up by the light of God's revelation or manifestation of Himself in our lives. This does not come by hearing something man may say, but by the very presence of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Did you ever wring your hands about family or loved ones who seem to be walking in darkness in relation to God? Pray for the light to envelop them, for no darkness can exist in the presence of light. And as an aside, be prepared for them to be blinded and knocked off their horse when they encounter the living God. He will take whatever measures necessary to get through to those whom He is calling in this hour. 2) Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 15:50), nor can we obey God after the flesh. No matter how much we think we are serving God with our zeal, our strength, and our own efforts, it takes but a moment for Him to show us THE WAY. When the kingdom comes, as it does each time a man or woman accepts Christ as Lord, then the one sitting on the throne of our lives is God Himself. This is often a process, a struggle between flesh and Spirit, until God prevails. There is never any question about His sovereignty, but sometimes it takes years for us to realize on a cellular level that He is in charge. We are not!
Saul of Tarsus was VERY RELIGIOUS and VERY DETERMINED. His credentials were these: "Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law blameless" (Phil. 3:5,6, RSV). Yet, because of the effects of the Light in his life, he says of all his former education and work, "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ" (Phil. 3:8, KJV). Think of it. Paul referred to all the power and prestige of his former religious life as dung, worth nothing as compared to "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." Those are strong words. As I was meditating on the effects of light in our lives, the Lord led me to a scripture in Isaiah that grabbed my attention. Listen to this imagery: "As a woman with child and about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pain, so were we in your presence, O LORD. We were with child, we writhed in pain, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth; we have not given birth to people of the world" (Is. 26:17-18, NIV).
Isaiah has several very graphic, somewhat gross illustrations of the futility of man's works. This one about our labor bringing forth only wind (a fart?) reminds me of the other one I have quoted many times, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away" (Isa. 64:6, KJV). The term "filthy rags" refers to a woman's menstrual cloths. Yuk! It hurts our fleshly ego and pride to think that God has no use for our efforts, our natural mind, our soulish abilities, but it is the truth, proclaimed in many ways throughout scripture.
The Law was all about man's efforts to please God, but a new and better covenant was established with Jesus' blood (Heb. 8:6; 12:24), to set us free from the treadmill of "repentance from dead works" (Heb. 6:1). In fact, it required the blood of Christ to purge our "conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Heb. 9:14). Think about that. Not only will works NOT bring us into the presence of God, but they are so deadly to our soul realm (conscience), that they must be purged in order for us to come into His presence. Why would that be, do you think? I believe it is because trying to please God by our works and self efforts is another way to build a glorified tower of Babel (Gen. 11:4). We are depending upon ourselves to reach heaven, rather than upon resting in the finished work of Christ to transport us into the throne room. "God is a Spirit" (John 4:24), Jesus said, and they who worship Him, must do so in Spirit and in truth. By His Spirit, our Father lifts us up to "heaven's table land," as the old hymn calls being seated "in heavenly places with Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6).
Along these same lines, I love the imagery in Rev. 12:1-6, where it says that after being birthed by the woman, the manchild was caught up to the throne of God and protected from the efforts of Satan to kill him. When times get tough and I feel down cast, I see myself caught up by the Spirit, to the throne of God, where I am safe and secure from all alarms, all harm, and all deception. It is a glorious place to take refuge, one that never fails to leave me refreshed and restored and ready to meet whatever my Dad deems necessary for my growth and His glory.
The principle of procreation set forth in the early chapters of Genesis, is that like begets or brings forth like. Apple trees produce apples; tomato plants bear tomatoes; and God, who is the Father of lights, sires light bearing sons. Because He is light, we are light. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12, RSV. See also John 9:5). The Apostle John takes this truth to the next level: "....as he is, SO ARE WE in this world" (I John 4:17). Jesus said of his disciples, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid" (Matt. 5:14, RSV). That being the case, we glorify our Father when His light shines forth through us. I said recently that light does not do anything. Light simply IS. We don't have to do anything or say anything to bring light into a room, a situation, or another person's life. We only have to show up and His light flows from us, through us, and in us to the waiting world.
IF we don't know that, the result is that we walk in darkness. Walking in spiritual darkness is dangerous. It is Satan's turf, Paul said, the domain of unbelief (II Cor. 4:4), where the god of this world has blinded men's eyes so they cannot see the truth. When the light of the glorious gospel shines in the hearts of those walking in darkness, they are set free from their bondage. They walk out of their prisons of fear and unbelief into the glorious "sonshine" of God's eternal day. The light shining in a dark place is "the day star" (II Pet. 1:19), Peter declared, arising in their hearts. Isaiah says of this momentous occasion, "And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isa. 51:11, RSV). This is not something that man can ever accomplish on his own. From our earthly parents, we got the color of our skin, eyes and hair, our intelligence and our talents.
From our heavenly Father, we receive LIGHT a gift that far exceeds all the pluses and minuses we inherited in our physical DNA. And yes, God is our Mother as well as our Father. I've known that for years as He has nourished me and loved me unconditionally. The New Testament writers describe our Christian inheritance as strictly "a God job," from start to finish. As He is, so are we in this world! There is nothing we can do to make it happen or to finish it, because it is already finished, and in fact, the Hebrew writer says God's "works were finished from the foundation of the world" (Heb. 4:3). Paul wrote the Corinthian brethren, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (II Cor. 4:6, KJV). Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit!
This is our heavenly Father's eternal mission, set down before the foundation of the world, that Jesus, who is the light of the world, should be "the first born of many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). God is our Father, our Dad, our "Abba" (Hebrew for Daddy, Gal. 4:6). We have been delivered from bondage to the spirit of fear and have received "the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:15). When the risen Lord appeared to Mary, He said to her, "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (Jn. 20:17). Christ is our elder brother who came to reveal to us the Father of lights. Before that, we did not know the Creator of heaven and earth as our Father. Through the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, we were birthed into His family; born, "not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (I Pet. 1:23).
By the Spirit, we know that Isaiah's marvelous prophecy has come true in our lives. "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising" (Isa. 60:1-3, KJV). This is our destiny, to "speak peace to the heathen" (Zech. 9:10), to bring light to the Gentiles, to all those who do not know our Father. The end result is found in this Psalm: "Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel" (Ps. 2:8,9, RSV). Lord, haste the day when, "....no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more'" (Jer. 31:34, RSV). Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
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and last edited on 11/03/08.