As long as the narratives around you guide your life, you’re not seeing enough.
This post was adapted from a message given by Corey Fronk,
a preacher at Grandview Christian Assembly
As a kid I managed to contract a case of poison ivy all over my body, courtesy a vacation in West Virginia. But I loved those family getaways—the four hour drive from Toledo, and rolling in after dark. We’d be looking for a cabin in the pitch black while we drove through woods on a winding road. We couldn’t see much, and after no small amount of bickering among the kids as to whether we had passed it already, we’d finally locate it, unpack, and settle in.
The next morning in the glow of sunrise, we’d wake up and see everything we had missed in the dark. A whole world was out there—woods, cabins, the road. The night before, we could only see what two narrow headlight beams illuminated. Now in brilliant daybreak, those same headlights were rendered unnecessary. The sun caused us not only to see what we needed to see, but everything else as well—a countryside grandeur far more comprehensive than anything two headlights could reveal.
Christians believe the sun has risen. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has risen as a great light, and enabled us to make sense of the world, as well as perceive His creative and redemptive beauty. But sometimes it’s possible for us to ignore that great light and turn to lesser ones, things that give a reduced view of reality—like shopping malls, or football stadiums.
Thousands of these lesser lights attempt to recast vision a thousand different ways. Politics try as well, telling you what is important, what is not, what is good, what is bad, what you can say, what you can’t say, who is right or wrong.
All of them try to make sense of the world, yet when you compare them to Christ, it’s like comparing a flashlight to the Sun at midday. One gives us a dim, contracted view of things directly in our path, the other, a three-hundred-sixty degree view of everything.
The risen Christ makes sense of the world. In fact, Christ enthroned in his glorified people, is the orientation point for the entire Earth, exemplified in the New Jerusalem. Over the past several weeks we’ve been looking at this holy city that comes down out of Heaven.
The Apostle John writes, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (v. 22). First, all the worship there is concentrated within the person of God.
Men build temples because we perceive there’s some power or powers out there, and we want to use bricks and stone to mediate between us and them. We hope to interact with, even manipulate, control, or appease them, extract blessings from them, keep them from hurting us. But throughout history, even the best temples were but a dim representation of the reality of the true temple in God. At their best they called to mind a vague knowledge of the divine; at worst, the vile darkness of the human imagination.
But in the New Jerusalem, there’s no temple. There’s no need for it because all worship is concentrated, focused in the person of God. The people interact with him directly, and the light of that experience and wonder of it brings order and understanding to all things.
John further says, “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it for the glory of God gives it light and it’s lamp is the lamb.” In First John 1:5, he says, “God is light and in him is no Darkness at all.” John 1:4 tells us, “In Him [Christ] was life and the life was the light of men.” God is the true light that supersedes and swallows up all other light, including the sun and moon. Human beings have always considered these lights greater, as entire civilizations oriented themselves around them. When the sun rose, people woke, and when it sat, they slept. They even named the first two days of the week after the sun and moon.
Yet, even these two lights will no longer be needed when the great light of God in Christ becomes fully manifest. In such illumination, we will all finally be able to see things as they are. There will be no darkness, no uncertainty, no doubt, no evil. We will see everything as He would have us see it.
Light affects all behavior and development. As it floods the city, it influences the very bearing of the earth’s inhabitants, and produces in their lives glory and honor.
“By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations” (vv. 24-26).
Since the city’s treasury of light is forever accessible, and darkness gone, no dishonorable things grow anymore. This is why “nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (v. 27).
The possession of divine life is the necessary precursor to experience the city. Life and light are always connected. In John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Anyone moving closer to the Sun won’t make it too far without being incinerated. If your mortal life is not substantial enough to exist even in the presence of that lesser light, for sure it won’t be suitable to bear the true pure light of Christ. We must have life more durable, more real than mere flesh and blood, and that is the eternal life God freely shares with us through faith in His Son.
But walking in the light is just that—a walk, a daily continuation and furtherance. Some things get exposed that might not have been apparent from the beginning. The Bible for instance, warns of many evil practices representing things that don’t come from a walk in the light of Christ. More subtle issues lie farther down the road.
I enjoy reading books by great Christian thinkers—folks like CS Lewis, Dallas Willard, and Charles Taylor. Their insights have helped me walk in the light. But I have to be careful, because reading these books can replace Christ as my orientation point. Instead of falling down on my knees and praying to the Triune God, I can sit back and relax in a nice comfy chair, read one of these volumes, and enjoy all the author’s visions and insights. Neglecting Christ while favoring philosophical views about Him can easily become a habit. Christ with me, willing me, desiring me to follow Him can devolve into logical speculation. Reading such books can then become an exercise of walking by lesser lights. Just as Christ cannot be moved out of the center of the city, so He should not move out of the center of my life.
In first John it says, “if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His son cleanses us from all sin” (1:7).
If you go through the New Testament looking at every occurrence of light, you’ll get a good sense of what walking in the light means, but one of those things has to do with fellowshipping with other believers. For instance, Colossians 1:12 he says, “Giving thanks to the father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the Saints in light.” So much of this has to do with showing up and being able to meet together and see and worship God together as a foretaste of the holy city in the future.
For a while we’ve been prevented from having this kind of fellowship together, but churches are starting to meet again. Predictably, there will be some level of anxiety involved. Perhaps we’ve even gotten used to a different lifestyle, where aside from a brief recorded message from the comfort of our living rooms, Sunday has now become a day scheduled for other things. All of this means we will need to prepare our hearts, rise up, and come together again, claiming the experience of the New Jerusalem.