John’s Gospel Sermon Series: John 8.12-30
“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 light of life.’” – John 8.12 NIV
Mother’s Day has always been a difficult experience for me. I remember my first church mother’s day celebration which consisted of pink carnations being handed out only to mothers but not all the women. I cried. You see, I was struggling with infertility at the time. And, the next seven Mother’s Days would create a huge grief experience for me until finally my husband declared, “Enough!” So we quit attending church the second Sunday of May. For those of us who have lost children or struggled to conceive, days like Mother’s Day can be difficult. For those of us who have not had the support from our biological mothers, we may struggle to find an expression for our grief. For those of us who have a mother who experiences depression and mental illness we may grieve the loss of her companionship.
Even now my grief from years of infertility weighs on me every May when Mother’s Day comes around. I began calling Mother’s Day a secular Hallmark Holiday until I discover that it originated with the Methodist Church. So what is the biblical basis for Mother’s Day apart from our gift-giving and luncheons? God commanded that mothers and fathers be honored by their children. Moses wrote on the stone tablets the Ten Commandments and one of those commands is, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20.12).
Paul reiterates the command in his letter to the Ephesians, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6.1-4).
Paul reminds us that we can exasperate our children when we fail to bring them up in the training and instruction of God. Matthew teaches us that the way to a holy life is narrow. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7.13-14).
We as parents are called by God to inspire our children by living an exemplary life and never neglecting to correct our own faults in accordance with God’s word. As parents we are called to be responsible for the spiritual growth of our biological children. However, Paul lives out his responsibilities as a “spiritual parent” to his church pointing out that God becomes our Father and we are his children. Paul’s role was to parent the church.
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Baal? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 6.14-7.1).
Families are the backbone of society. As mothers and fathers we are given the task of raising children to live a life of holiness. That can be a daunting task if we do not know how we are to parent. When I look across the audience here today, I am reminded that some here are children, young adults, married with kids, divorced with children, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents… Yet, we are all called to walk in holiness of heart and life for the sake of our families.
John offers us a message of hope. We have a model to live by that guides us and shows us the way to being good parents. John describes Jesus as the Light of the World. John’s message for us guides us to become conscious of our responsibilities to live according to the Light of the World and not live in darkness. John points the way to our personal understanding of light and darkness. This is a major theme in his writing. John inspires us to live an exemplary life in the light of God, and not neglect to correct our understanding of darkness. John parents us in our understanding of who God is and how we should live.
We know John as the one whom Jesus appointed to take care of his mother. There must have been something very special about John for Jesus to have designated him as his mother’s caregiver. We know John was very young at the time of Jesus death, perhaps one of the youngest disciples. He was passionate so much so that he was nicknamed the Son of Thunder along with his brother. We may know him as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” John’s character gives us pause today as a young man who was exemplary.
John offers us an illustration of what was important to him in his relationship with Jesus. Of all the ways he could have written his biography about Jesus, he chose to write in analogies and stories. He has given us simple instructions that transcend time. He tells us that Jesus is the Light of the World. As a parent this illustration has great meaning in how I raise my children. When we think about raising up our children, our first obligation to them is to give them a moral compass, a plumb-line of right and wrong. John’s analogy may be the easiest way of nurturing children in understanding the Gospel. God is light and in him there is no darkness.
Even as we grow old, we must maintain our moral compass. Even as our children leave us to live on their own, we must maintain our moral compass. Even when we are great-grandparents, we must maintain our moral compass. The moral compass in life never changes. Even though the culture around us changes, God’s word never changes. We are to live in his Light.
Across the pages of the bible, prophets are constantly bringing the people back to the plumb line of righteousness rather than right according to their contemporary worldview. The Prophet Isaiah inspires us to grasp God’s word as a testimony of warning, “Bind up this testimony of warning and seal up God’s instruction among my disciples. …Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Isaiah 8.16, 20). Later in his writings Isaiah points out, “…those who with a word make someone out to be guilty, who ensnare the defender in court and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice” (Isaiah 29.21). In the very beginning of time and space God created light and then separated light from the darkness. Light becomes a plumb line.
When we became a Christian, God provided you and I with a reset button for your whole thinking process. John opens our hearts and minds to understanding this revelation of Jesus’ identity as the Light of the World. The testimony of Jesus lives inside of us. When we push the reset button on our thinking process, God is viewed as the supreme moral authority for our decision-making. We become hungry to discovery the will of God through revelation, the opening of our mind to become renewed like Christ. The first step in resetting our thinking process is to show up and pay attention to our worldview. How do you understand Christ’s involvement in your life?
Is Christ of culture, where people can be naturally good, and thus do not necessarily need salvation? Is Christ against culture, affirming only the activities in the church and secluding themselves from the general community? Is Christ and culture in paradox, a tension between the moral righteousness of Christ and the world we live, unable to be reconciled? Is Christ above culture, affirming a God that is separate from our everyday life experiences? Or is Christ transforming culture, restoring his creation by individuals, society, and structures?
In Christ of culture, everyone has some light in them. Everyone has the ability to be good from the light within themselves. Light comes from the inside out, from humanity’s own inner goodness. Everything has the ability to be light, and everything has the ability to be dark. It is individual choice to keep light going.
In Christ against culture, the church holds the light. Christians should take care to keep within the circle of light and not in the darkness. Anyone who gets too far into the darkness is at risk of being snatched away. Dark, if given the chance, can be a more powerful force than good. It is the church that keeps the light going.
In Christ and culture in paradox, the light and the darkness cannot mix. Light does not go into the darkness, because the darkness will overwhelm it. But darkness does not go into the light, for the same reason. Light and darkness stand in constant tension against each other, pushing like opposing magnets. Light keeps going from its own power, just as the darkness does.
In Christ above culture, the church is a layer of light equal against the layer of darkness. Individuals in the church are called to carry the light into the darkness and return to the light every so often. Some individuals live only in the light, to better equip those who go into the darkness. The light keeps going from the power of God working through his agents of light.
In Christ transforming culture, the light is slowly overwhelming the darkness. Light overpowers darkness by its very nature. When it touches a pocket of darkness, the darkness slowly but surely becomes light. The light is continually moving and finding new places to take root. Wesleyan theology understands God best as the transformer who seeks out people to become Spirit-filled people who then share the Good New so Jesus Christ with the world. We are Great Commission people.
Light removes darkness. Light shines in the darkness of our mind, will and emotions to transform us. Light takes every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10.3-5) and removes the curse of the fall (Genesis 1-3). Light calls to live by a moral compass, a plumb line as the prophet Amos would say.
For us to understand the plumb line, we must mark the space between light and darkness. Paul teaches us to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10.3-5). That means we have to understand what is in our thoughts that is not holiness. Neil Anderson offers insight in his book Victory Over the Darkness.
We need to rid ourselves of rebellion, rejection, guilt, shame, helplessness, legalism, witchcraft, false identity, perfectionism, fear, worthlessness, anxiety, materialism, murder, self-destruction, lying, anger, lost knowledge of God, spiritual death, jealousy, manipulation, fear of people, dominant emotions, unclear choices, broken sexuality & body image, deception, depression, temptation, independence from God, broken family relationships, flesh or sin, fallen nature, alienation, bullying, peer pressure, blaming, rationalization, denial, fantasy, individualism, lone ranger, loner, displaced, retreat, and self-deception.
In the place of these dark perspectives, Paul teaches us to receive the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2.16). Neil Anderson in his book The Bondage Breaker lists who we are in Christ Jesus. Anderson does a wonderful job outlining the our identity in Christ:
I am the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a child of God, grafted into the vine, a friend of Christ. I am chosen, and appointed, I bear good fruit, a slave of righteousness, enslaved to God. I am a son of God. God is my spiritual father, I am a joint heir with Christ and I share in his inheritance. My body is a temple, a place where God dwells. I am united to Christ, I am a member of his body, I’m a new creation, an ambassador of reconciliation. I am a saint. I am God’ workmanship, a fellow citizen, a prisoner of Christ, a citizen of heaven, I am hidden with Christ, righteous and holy. I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved. I am a son of the light and not of darkness. I have a heavenly calling. I share the life of Christ. I’m God’s living stone. I am a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s possession. I am an alien and a stranger, an enemy to the devil. The devil can’t touch me. I am not the Great I AM, but I choose to live in his likeness. I have been forgiven. Christ died for me. He has broken the power of sin over my life. I am no longer condemned. I am filled with the spirit of God. I have been given the mind of Christ. I belong to God. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. I have been crucified with Christ. I am blessed with spiritual blessings. I was chosen before the foundation of the world. I was predestined to be adopted as God’s child. I am redeemed and forgiven. I have received his grace. I’m alive with Christ. I am raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly places. I have access to God and I may approached the throne with boldness. I have been rescued from the dominion of Satan and transferred into the kingdom of Christ. My debt has been cancelled. I am rooted and built in Christ. I have been spiritually circumcised and my nature renewed. I am complete. I have been buried, raised, and made alive. I am hidden with Christ. Christ is my life. I have been given a sound mind and a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. I have been saved and set apart. I am sanctified. God is not ashamed of me. I come boldly before the throne to find mercy and grace. I have received the promises of God.
As biological and spiritual mothers we all have a responsibility to be a light in this dark world for the sake of children and the next generation. I imagine a world that is filled with women loving children and guiding them with the holiness of heart and life that Jesus modeled for us and that the bible teaches. Join me in praying for women all around the world to choose to be righteous.
Almighty God, set the plumb line in our hearts once again that we might live according to your word. May we be filled with the mind of Christ that our beliefs and actions would be in one accord with the will of God. Amen.