Shining Brightly in a Dark Place

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by Scott Stake

Have you ever been in a dark room when someone suddenly turns on the light? If you were struggling to see, fumbling to find a switch, you are very grateful. But if you were relaxing comfortably in that darkened room, you squint at the sudden onslaught of brightness, shield your eyes, and possibly demand to know who flipped that switch! Light is not always welcome.

But light is exactly the metaphor that God uses to describe some of His most dramatic workings in our world, drama that we remember particularly during this Advent season. In fact, we light a candle during Advent to remember Jesus bringing light into darkness, to proclaim Jesus as the Light of the World, and to look forward to His return when He will obliterate all darkness.

First, we remember Jesus. Jesus the Messiah came into this world of darkness as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:32). God’s people were under foreign domination, poverty and injustice permeated the land, and Rome insisted these impoverished people travel far from home in order to be counted. Their only reward was the privilege of handing over even more of their meager resources to the foreign occupier. Here is where we find poor Joseph and his betrothed Mary, giving birth to a son in a dark and dingy place in the town of Bethlehem. Yet from that dark place and in that dark time, a bright light shone for the world to see.

When light pierces the darkness, it always causes a reaction. Do you remember the shepherds on the hillsides of Bethlehem? In the darkness of that night, they were suddenly overwhelmed with the glory of the Lord shining all around. Despite their fear, they were drawn in wonder to the darkened cave where they bowed to worship that baby who was born the Light of the World. Yet not everyone welcomed His light. Herod tried to snuff it out. Later, many of the religious leaders felt threatened by His light. But even though He was crucified and buried, lying powerless once more in a darkened cave, three days later the light of Jesus burst forth from the grave. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5)!

Second, we proclaim Jesus. God’s drama continues today as He shines His light into the darkness through His followers all around the world. Jesus told His people, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). This is our identity and our mission as those who have received the Light. We shouldn’t be surprised by the varied reactions or the drama that can erupt when we shine for God. Some look with joy toward that light, grateful to see what before had only been shrouded in darkness. Others raise their hands to shield their eyes or loudly demand to be left in darkness.

At Four Oaks, we are called to be that city that can’t be hidden, to shine brightly in a dark place—sharing Jesus with neighbors, serving the city with love, and going to the dark places both here and around the world. As things seem to grow increasingly dark in our culture, His light shines all the brighter. So as this grand drama continues to play out, we shine the light of Christ and call people to “pay attention to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises” (2 Peter 1:19).

Third, we look forward to Jesus’ return. Did you know that the light of the gospel is invading places that were once in darkness? In the last 25 years, over 6,000 unreached people groups that once had never heard of Jesus now have a viable local church presence. In fact, some people groups that once had zero Christians now have a majority of their people following the Light of the World! God is indeed moving, and the drama is building just as Jesus promised. He declared, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations [people groups], and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

Yet, the end has not yet come, because there are still people in our city and people groups (about 6,000) in our world in darkness. A story is still being written, and we have a part to play in seeing the light of Christ invade this darkness!

As the crescendo continues to build, we have hope that one day all darkness will be obliterated by the light of the glory of God. "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever." -Revelation 22:1-5

As we celebrate the true Light coming into the world, may we remember Jesus, proclaim Jesus, and look forward to Jesus’ return! Together, let’s shine out for Him that He might receive all the glory!