While my family was on vacation last year, we visited Forbidden Caverns in Tennessee. I’ve been on cave tours before, so I knew the routine. At one point, the guide would tell us that we were going to experience “cave darkness.” Then they would turn the lights off and everything would go completely dark. So dark that you wouldn’t be able to see your hand in front of your face. I remember it all from cave tours that I went on as a kid.
But something has changed from my childhood. We now live in the age of smart phones. When they turned the lights off in the cave, the glow of smart phones was everywhere in our group. We weren’t experiencing “cave darkness” at all. We were experiencing “cave light,” sponsored by Apple.
Eventually people started putting their phones in their pocket and we did get to experience “cave darkness.” If you’ve never experienced it, it is the most absolute darkness that you can experience on this planet. You really can put your hand right in front of your face and you’ll never see it. Our son, Brock, can attest to that. Because when the lights came back on, I looked down at him and he was like this. (Hand on his nose)
When I think back on that experience, I’m struck by the difference that such a little light made. The glow of a smart phone lit up the cave. I’m not talking about those flashlight apps that shine a ridiculously bright light. I’m talking about the simple glow of a smart phone screen.
If you take that phone outside on a bright, sunny day, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. But the darker it gets, the more powerful a tiny light is. The glow of a single smart phone could have led us out of that cave. The darker it gets, the more powerful a tiny light becomes.
You don’t need me to tell you that our world is dark. We are reminded of how dark this world is every single day of our lives.
As a pastor, the darkness of this world is thrown in my face all the time. I have performed funerals for children. People who have committed suicide. I was even part of a funeral for a child who was murdered by his step-father. It’s a dark world.
I have prayed with people who are dealing with incredible physical illness. People whose lives have been wrecked by addiction. Teenagers who have so much pain in their lives that they cut themselves. Spouses who are devastated because their husband or their wife just decided to pack up and leave. It’s a dark world.
But Jesus came to change all that. In John 8, the apostle John writes, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, NIV)
Jesus came as the light in this dark world. And He makes an audacious claim. “Whoever follows me will NEVER walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” That’s a heck of a claim. But then, He takes it to an even higher level.
In Matthew 5, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV)
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” A lot of us get that. But then, He turned around and said, “You are the light of the world.”
This is the only time in Scripture where Jesus used a description to describe both Himself and His followers. “I am the light of the world, and so are you.”
He never said, “I am the bread of life, and so are you.” Or, “I am the good shepherd, and so are you.” Or, “I am the resurrection and the life, and so are you.”
This is the only time where Jesus said, “I am…and so are you.”
This is a dark world. Jesus came to be the light, but He also told us that we are a light. It’s a dark world, and we’re supposed to do something about that.
But for a lot of us, that’s impossible. You can’t be the light of the world when your own life is full of darkness. A whole lot of us are living in the dark. We can’t shine a light to others because our own light is barely burning. Or maybe it’s gone out all together.
Jesus talked about that when He said that people don’t light a lamp and put it under a bowl. That defeats the purpose of the lamp. It keeps everyone in the dark.
But so many times, that’s exactly what happens in our lives. A bowl comes along that completely covers up our light, and our lives go dark. Instead of being the light of the world, we go through life like we’re groping our way through a dark room.
So here’s the question that we have to wrestle with…what is my bowl? What bowl has covered up my light? What is keeping my life in the dark?
Is pain a bowl that is keeping you in the dark? The light in your life has gone out because you’re suffering, and it doesn’t seem to ever end.
Maybe your bowl is unconfessed sin. Your life has gone dark because you’re living a lie. You put on your game face at church. You hide the truth from your family. You live in constant fear that you’ll be found out. And by the way, you will. Sin always finds you out. Always. But you put on a brave face. You act like everything is fine. But in reality, you know that things in your life are very dark.
Maybe your bowl is fear. Fear is crippling. It keeps us living in the land of what-ifs. What if this happens? What if this doesn’t happen? And as fear grows, darkness takes over.
A lot of us…even those of us who have given our lives to Jesus…are living in the dark. And the darkness never seems to lift.
And because of that darkness, you feel like there’s something wrong with you. You shouldn’t be feeling this way. You shouldn’t be experiencing this darkness. Some must be wrong with you. Maybe you’re not a real Christian. Maybe you’ve disappointed God in some way. Maybe you’re just a total and complete loser and a failure.
I want you to hear this as loudly and clearly as possible. You’re normal.
John Piper wrote, “It will be of great advantage to the struggling Christian to remember that seasons of darkness are normal in the Christian life. I don’t mean that we should not try to live above them. I mean that if we do not succeed, we are not lost, and we are not alone, as the fragment of our faith cleaves to Christ.”
Maybe that’s all you have left. A fragment of faith. That’s okay. A fragment is all that you need.
In fact, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20b, NIV)
Mustard seeds are crazy small, as you can see. But Jesus said mustard seed sized faith is all we need. If that’s all you have…if you’ve just got a fragment of faith…that’s okay. If you’re hanging on by a thread, that’s okay. If your light has all but gone out, that’s okay. If you feel like there’s nothing more you can do, that’s okay.
It’s okay because it’s already been done for you. Jesus really is the light of the world, but you need to personalize that truth. Jesus is not just the light of THE world. He is the light of MY world.
For example, if your pain…your hurt…your suffering is the bowl that is keeping you in the dark, you need to know this.
Here’s what the prophet Isaiah wrote about Jesus. “Surely [meaning this is certain, absolute, there is no doubt about it] he took up our pain and bore our suffering [when Jesus hung on a cross, He experienced every one of your hurts. All your struggles. All your pain. Every ounce of your suffering. He carried it all on His broken and bleeding shoulders], yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5, NIV)
This is an irony that only God could create. By His wounds, we are healed. The healing for your suffering is found in the One who suffered for you. The suffering of Jesus is the light for a life that is darkened by suffering.
It reminds us that when we suffer, we don’t suffer alone. And it also reminds us that this season of suffering is not the end of our story. After Jesus suffered, He rose. After He died, He lived again. After crucifixion, there was resurrection. That hope of Christ shines a light into our darkness. It removes the bowl over our lives. It doesn’t make life easy. It doesn’t mean that we won’t struggle. But it does give us hope…and hope removes our darkness and gives us light.
If you are living in the darkness of unconfessed sin, you know the darkness that creates. You know what it’s like to live a lie. You know the darkness that has invaded your life.
But that can change. Proverbs 28 reminds us, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13, NIV)
When you confess your sin, God promises that you will receive mercy. Not judgment. Not condemnation. Mercy.
And in the book of 1 John, the Apostle John writes, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. [You know how you think you’re fooling everybody by pretending that you’ve got it all together. In reality, the only one you’re deceiving is yourself.
You’re deceiving yourself into believing that you can keep this charade going. You’re deceiving yourself into believing that you’ll never be found out. You’re deceiving yourself by believing that it doesn’t affect anybody but you. You’re deceiving yourself by believing that the cost of uconfessed sin is not very, very high. But, if you’re ready to stop living in the darkness of this lie, there is another option.]
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9, NIV)
Jesus is faithful and just. And when we confess our sin, He forgives us. He purifies us. He restores us. He heals us. He takes the bowl off of our lives and the darkness retreats. He lets us live in the light.
Maybe it’s fear that has taken your life to a very dark place. Here’s what God wants you to know.
In Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything [And immediately, a lot of us are thinking, “Yeah, right.” But keep reading.], but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV)
Instead of fear, God wants to give us peace. But look where that peace is found. It’s found in Jesus. And that peace guards your heart and your mind. It can take you out of that very dark place where fear wants you to live.
In Revelation 1, John received a vision of Jesus. He wrote, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17-18, NIV)
John fell down as though he was dead. He was paralyzed by fear. But Jesus told him, “Do not be afraid.” And look at the reason Jesus gave. “Do not be afraid, because I am the Living One. I was dead. Now I’m alive forever and ever. And because of my resurrection, I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
If you hold the keys to something, then you control it. I have keys to my house, because it’s my house. I have keys to my truck, because it’s my truck. I control these things. They are mine. The keys signify my ownership, my control over these things.
Jesus holds the keys of death because He conquered death. And Jesus’ message to John…and His message to us…is, “If I conquered death, then you have no reason to fear. If I can conquer the greatest, most unconquerable force in this world, why should you be afraid? I love you. I am with you. And if I can defeat death, then there is nothing in your life that I can’t handle.”
And when we know that, the darkness lifts. It doesn’t mean that we know what is going to happen in the future. It doesn’t mean that we’ll never struggle with fear again. But it does mean that fear won’t be able to take us down that dark path that we’ve been on. If your God is bigger than death itself, then He is bigger than anything you might fear. And I’m praying that you can walk into that light tonight.
I don’t know what’s keeping your life in the dark. Maybe it’s what we’ve talked about tonight. Maybe it’s pain. Maybe it’s sin. Maybe it’s fear. Or maybe it’s something else all together. Whatever it is, here’s what I hope you’ve seen tonight. It all comes back to Jesus. Whatever is keeping you in the dark, the answer is Jesus. He is the light of the world. And that means that He wants to be the light in your world.
Go back to what Jesus said in John 8. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12b, NIV)
The key to living in the light is following Jesus. When we lose our focus on Jesus, our light starts to go out. We lose hope. We lose faith. Things start to go dark for us.
Every time we lose sight of Jesus, darkness starts to get a grip on us. Why is our world so dark? It has lost sight of Jesus. Why are there times when our lives go dark? We lose sight of Jesus.
But tonight can be a night of healing. It can be a night of joy. It can be a night of victory. It can be a night when the darkness flees and you start living in the light.
And when you start living in the light, you start being a light. When Jesus is the light of YOUR world, you become the light of THE world.
Here’s the way that Peter described it. “…you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9b, NLT)
A lot of people think that the church is the light of the world when we yell and scream and condemn. There are a ton of churches following that model. How’s it working? It’s not, is it?
The church becomes the light of the world when we’re willing to admit our struggles. When we’re honest about our pain. When we get real about our sin. And when we point to Jesus as the one who called us out of that darkness and into His wonderful light.
That’s how you can be the light of the world. That’s how our church can be the light of the world.
But it starts in your world. It starts in my world. It starts with seeking Jesus in our lives. It starts by allowing Him to work in us. And that’s what we’re going to do right now as we worship Him. Let me pray for us.
We’re going to spend some time rocking out in worship. And as we do, God is going to work in us. He wants to do something in your life. All you have to do is humble yourself and allow Him to do it. Let Him speak to you through these songs. Let Him love you. Let Him restore you. Let Him heal you. Let Him bring you out of darkness and into His wonderful light.