Light Has Come into the World
November 1, 2009
We are called to be salt and light. Listen to this well-known passage from Matthew, chapter 5. I’m beginning at verse 13 if you’re following along. "You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world—like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don't hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Jesus is the true light of the world. Listen to what Henry Blackaby has to say:
There is no mistaking the effect of light upon a darkened place. Light boldly and unabashedly announces its presence and vigorously dispels darkness. God's desire is to fill you with His light. He wants you to shine as a brilliant testimony of His presence and power in your life, so that the darkness in the lives of those around you will be displaced by the light of God's glory.
If, however, you notice the world around you becoming darker and darker, don't blame the darkness! It is simply doing what darkness does. The only remedy for darkness is light. If the world is becoming darker, the problem is not with the darkness. The problem is with the light. Jesus said His disciples should be the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). What an awesome responsibility—to be the ones through whom God would shine His divine light and dispel the darkness from around others! In announcing His own coming, Jesus said, “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, / And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death / Light has dawned” (Matt. 4:16).
There was no ignoring Jesus' arrival upon earth! Darkness was dispelled! Everywhere Jesus went, God's truth was boldly proclaimed, people were healed, hypocrisy was exposed, and sinners found forgiveness. The world was never the same once the Father introduced His light through His Son. Can that be said of you as well? Do your coworkers recognize the light that is within you? Does the presence of Christ radiate from your home into your community? When God's light is allowed to shine unhindered through your life, the darkness around you will be dispelled..
Now, please turn to John, chapter 3 and we’ll read verses 16 through 21. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.
The focus of this message will be on verses19-21. The main point is that there is a judgment that came into the world when the Son of God, Jesus Christ, came into the world, and this judgment reveals that the guilt of not coming to Jesus lies with man, and the grace of coming to Jesus comes from the heart of God. Listen to this story which reveals the heart of the non-believer.
GOD vs. Science
A science professor begins his school year with a lecture to the students, 'Let me explain the problem science has with religion.' The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.
'You're a Christian, aren't you, son?'
'Yes sir,' the student says.
'So you believe in God?'
'Is God good?'
'Sure! God's good.'
My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you answer that one?'
The student remains silent.
'No, you can't, can you?' the professor says. Is God good?'
'Er...yes,' the student says.
'Is Satan good?'
The student doesn't hesitate on this one. 'No.'
'Then where does Satan come from?'
The student falters. 'From God'
'That's right. God made Satan, didn't he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?'
'Evil's everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything, correct?'
'So who created evil?' The professor continued, 'If God created everything, then God created evil,
'Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?'
'No sir. I've never seen Him.'
'Then tell us if you've ever heard your Jesus?'
'No, sir, I have not.'
'Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?'
'No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't.'
'Yet you still believe in him?'
'According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?'
'Nothing,' the student replies. 'I only have my faith.'
'Yes, faith,' the professor repeats. 'And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.'
At the back of the room another student stands quietly for a moment before asking a question of His own. 'Professor, is there such thing as heat?'
'Yes,' the professor replies. 'There's heat.'
'And is there such a thing as cold?'
'Yes, son, there's cold too.'
'No sir, there isn't.'
Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat.
'What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?'
'Yes,' the professor replies without hesitation. 'What is night if it isn't darkness?'
'You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. If you have no light constantly you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn't it? That's the meaning we use to define the word.'
'So what point are you making, young man?'
You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought.'
'Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?'
'If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do.'
'Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?'
The student looks around the room. 'Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor's brain?' The class breaks out into laughter.
'Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain, felt the professor's brain, touched or smelt the professor's brain? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir.'
'Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?'
Now uncertain, the professor responds, 'Of course, there is.
To this the student replied, 'Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God.. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart.
The professor sat down.
The coming of Jesus into the world clarifies that unbelief is our fault, and belief is God’s gift. Which means that if we do not come to Christ, but rather perish eternally, we display God’s justice. And if we do come to Christ and gain eternal life, we display God’s grace.
And now my job is to help you see for yourselves the light so that we can exult over this truth together.
Loved opened a door to eternal life to those who were condemned under God’s wrath (John 3:36)—and that is everybody.
Love is the way to experience this eternal life simply by believing on the Son, not by working for the Son.
Or, to say it differently: This sending of the Son is love because it was deeply costly for God, infinitely beneficial to us, and absolutely free.
In verse 16.,Whoever believes on him will have eternal life. But whoever does not believe, Jesus says, will perish.
Now look at the way verse 18 describes these two possibilities: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already.” What’s the difference? The difference is that the result of believing and not believing is not described in terms of our living or dying, but in terms of being condemned or not condemned.
In other words, verse 18 shifts over to legal language—the language of the courtroom. The language of judgment. A judge says condemned or not condemned. So Jesus has moved from the language of life and death to the language of guilty and not guilty.
This shift in language had already happened in verse 17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” That’s the language of the courtroom, legal language.
Verse 17 raises the question: If Christ did not come to condemn, why are some condemned? It’s because they are already in that condition when Jesus came. Verse 18: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already.”
This is important. Look at verse 36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” The word remains makes the same point in verse 36 that the word already makes in verse 18.
Jesus did not come to a neutral world where some people moved from neutrality to be anti-Jesus, and others moved from neutrality to be pro-Jesus. Nobody was neutral. And nobody is neutral. We have all sinned. We are all guilty. We are all perishing. Therefore, we are all under God’s righteous wrath. And we are already condemned. There are no fence sitters. I’ve said if before, you’re either for Him or against Him.
Whether we stay that way depends on how we respond to Jesus. He came not to make neutral people into pro-Jesus people, but to make guilty people non-guilty, condemned people not condemned, and to make dead people eternally alive.
Now we are ready for verses 19-21. Jesus knows that there is something troubling about his coming into the world. On the one hand, he says in, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world.” The word is simply “to judge the world.” Jesus didn’t come to judge. He came to save.
And yet everybody knows that whenever Jesus opens his mouth, or whenever his name is proclaimed, there is a division. There’s the lingering sense that even though Jesus did not come to judge, judgment is happening—not just already happened, but is now happening.
Here in verses 19-21, that division is described, only this time instead of using the words believe and not believe as in verses 16 and 18, he uses the words love and hate.
Jesus is digging into our souls and explaining why some believe and some don’t. He is describing the kind of judgment that really does happen when light comes into the world. And it turns out that those who are condemned in this judgment are condemned by what they love and hate. And those who are rescued from this judgment are rescued because they choose wisely. They choose to love the light.
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world.” That light, of course, is Jesus, the Son of God, who was given to the world, and was sent to the world. Jesus said of Himself, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).
When the light comes, the truth about all things comes. The truth about God. The truth about ourselves. The truth about the way of salvation. The truth about what is good and beautiful. The truth about evil and ugliness. The truth about how we ought to live. All right thinking, and all right feeling, and all right doing is defined and measured by Jesus. That is some of what it means to be the light of the world.
Verses19-21 describe two kinds of response to the light. The first is negative,
1) “Their works are evil.” They“do wicked things.” (19)
2) They do not want their evil deeds to be exposed
3) They love darkness where there will be no exposure of their sin. See verse 20
4) And they hated the light. Verse 20: “Everyone who does wicked things hates the light.” Light exposes sin!
5) Therefore, they do not come to the light. Again, verse 20\
Now remember, this is Jesus’ explanation of belief and unbelief. So what we have just seen is how Jesus explains the inner workings of unbelief. Why do people not believe on Jesus?
We are all sinners who feel and think and do things that are not in sync with the infinite worth and beauty of God. That’s what evil is, isn’t it? We dishonor him everyday by falling short of loving him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. And it makes us very angry, or very guilty, or both, especially when sin gets dragged into the light. It begins to look as horrible and corrupt as it really is. Then we feel shame, for corruption is a very shameful thing.
But when Christ, the light of the world, begins to shine on a person’s life, it must either break him and lead him to repentance and faith, or drive him further into the darkness. Because it is simply intolerable when our sinful works and thoughts and feelings are forced out into the light of Christ. Sin is so ugly and so monstrous and so hideous that it must surround itself with darkness.
Darkness will not come to Jesus. And that, Jesus says in verse 19, is judged. This response of loving the darkness and hating the light reveals that the guilt of not coming to Jesus lies in the heart of man. It lies in us. We don’t come because we don’t want to come. There is bondage here, but these are chains forged in the furnace of our own desires—what we love and what we hate. Scripture is full of description of evil desires. From Adam on, sin abounds. Sin is our desire to go our own way. Isaiah describes it this way Your kindness to the wicked does not make them do good. They keep doing wrong and take no notice of the LORD's majesty. Colossians 3:5 warns So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. James 1:14 tells us how selfish desire becomes sin. Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. Romans chapter 7 describes man’s great struggle with the sin nature. I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. As I already said, “There is bondage here, chains forged in the furnace of our desires.”
Which leaves us now to see what the other side of this judgment is. We just saw what the inner dynamics of unbelief looks like. What about belief? Verse 21 says: “But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
This sentence expresses not so much a single act but a principle of ongoing action. “Whoever goes on doing what is true (acting in accord with the light) will always come to the light and not run away from it. And the reason he will come is so that it will be clear that this ongoing behavior—his doing what is true—has been the work of God, not himself.”
In other words, the ultimate contrast between the believer and the unbeliever is not that one hates the light and the other loves it. That’s true and vastly important. And the ultimate contrast is not that the unbeliever will not come to Jesus and the believer will come. That’s true and vastly important.
But, the ultimate contrast is that the believer, the one who loves the light, the one who comes to Jesus, comes by the grace of God. God in His mercy has wooed us to Himself. I love the way Micah 7 puts it. Where is another God like you, who pardons the sins of the survivors among his people? You cannot stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing mercy.
Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean! The man who comes to the light, he comes with a profound sense of God-dependent humility that every good thing he does he is able to do only “in God.” And that means only by God’s power. “Whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” Praise the Lord!
There is a judgment that came into the world when Jesus Christ came into the world. And this judgment reveals that the guilt of not coming to Jesus lies in the heart of man that loves darkness and hates the light. But the grace of coming to Jesus comes from the heart of God.
Unbelief is our fault, and belief is God’s gift. If we do not come to Christ but instead perish, we experience God’s justice. And if we do come to Christ and gain eternal life, we experience God’s grace.
Have you come to Christ? In your heart right now come to the light and say to God as you come: Without your work I would not be coming. I choose wisely. I choose to magnify your grace.
Lord, only You are worthy of honor and glory and power for you created all things and by Your will they exist. By Your will I exist! Thank you Lord. Amen.