Many years ago when I was in college I worked at a summer camp called Kanakuk. During each term we would take our kids on a wilderness adventure full of fun and challenge. It pressed all of us beyond our comfort zone. One of the experiences that I will never forget was our trip to the cave. I had never been in a cave before I worked at Kanakuk so I didn’t know what to expect. The cave we took the kids to each term wasn’t just any cave, it was huge and deep. When we entered the cave we could see just fine as the sunlight lit our path, but the deeper we got into the cave the less sunlight we had to help us along our way. At one point, the light became so dim that we had to use our flashlights. Our guide led us down a path that narrowed until we had to crawl on our bellies for what seemed like a mile. Suddenly, we entered a large space and our guide told us we could stand up. It was very apparent he knew what he was doing, he had been in the cave many times, and we needed to trust him. When we all stood up we moved our flashlights around and noticed that we were in a huge room inside of the cave. Our guide told us, “On the count of three I want everyone to turn off your flashlights. One. Two. Three.” In an instant everything became pitch black. We were in utter darkness. Still to this day I’ve never been in such a dark place. There was not one sliver of light anywhere. Those of us who had never been in that situation didn’t know what to do other than stand completely still and wait until our guide gave us instructions. I was reminded of my experience in the cave this past week as I was studying Jesus’ words in John 12. If you will turn there with me and let’s read verses 35-43.
35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36 Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. 37 Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 40 “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.” 41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. 42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. (John 12:35-43 NIVO)
There’s no doubt that when Jesus was talking about “the light,” He was talking about Himself. What does He say about Himself? Well, first of all He said that He is “the light.” In verses 35-36 we find the Greek word for “light,” the word “???” (phos), used five times. In the Greek New Testament four of the five occurrences follow the definite article “the,” which lets us know that Jesus is “the light.” The only occurrence that doesn’t include the definite article is the phrase, “sons of light.” The first four occurrences refer to Jesus. He is “the light.” The last occurrence refers to Jesus followers. We are not “the light,” but by following the light we become “sons of light.” Jesus referring to Himself as “the light” wasn’t news to anyone–this has been John’s theme throughout his Gospel. In the opening verses of John’s Gospel we read,
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:1-11 NIVO)
John makes it very clear that “He himself was not the light.” John “came as a witness to testify concerning the light,” he was a “son of the light,” and so are we who have surrendered our lives to Jesus. In John 8:12, Jesus 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 NIVO)
What an amazing announcement! What a phenomenal revelation! What an earth shattering discovery! People had been longing for, searching for, and yearning for light, for truth, and now in John’s day, Jesus stepped forward and identified Himself as the Light and the Truth. Not just a light, another source of light, a brightly shining candle amidst a sea of candles, but “the Light.” You would think that the whole world would rush to Him, fall down at His feet and worship Him, hang on His every word, and join the choir of angels in praising His holy name, but you would be wrong. John tells us,
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19-20 NIVO)
The truth is that our day is not any different than the day’s of John and Jesus. The Light has come into the world, but He’s not the light we’re looking for so we dismiss the Light while we look for someone more appealing, someone who shines in the way we want them to shine.
There are two very important truths found in verses 35-36 that I want to highlight for us this morning. The first truth I want to highlight for us is this: Trust in the Light so that you may become a son or daughter of the Light. Jesus said, “Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” It is so important for you and me to put our trust, to have faith in Jesus. Throughout history this has been priority number one for the followers of Jesus as they went about their life sharing the Good News of Jesus– “Put your faith in, believe in Jesus, and what He has done for you.” We’ve been studying John’s Gospel for quite some time now. One day we will come to the end of our study and we will discover why the Lord moved upon John to include the things he included in his Gospel. I want to go ahead and share it with you because it perfectly illustrates my point. Turn with me to John 20:30-31 and let’s read together.
30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31 NIVO)
Did you notice why John wrote what he did? He wrote so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God…” For those who read what John has written and believe, we “may have life in his name.”
The second important truth I want to highlight for us is this: The further we walk away from the Light the more we will be overcome by the darkness. Jesus said,
35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. (John 12:35 NIVO)
This is a truth that is applicable in the material world in which we live as well as a spiritual truth. I know this truth in both dimensions. Remember my story about the cave? The further we went into the cave the more dim the sun’s light became. If you walk away from the light you will eventually find yourself in darkness.
This is also true spiritually. I’ve thought so much about Jesus’ words, “The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.” Let’s think for a minute about this society in which we live. A Pew Research study released in 2014 found that more Americans are identifying as “nones,” meaning they are atheist, agnostic, or do not identify with any religion. 23% of the population now identify themselves as “nones.” That’s quite a rise from 2007 when 16% identified as “nones.” Of people who were born from 1981-1996 the number is 36%. No God or a god of their own making. No saving grace of Jesus to reconcile them to God and deal with their shame, sin, and guilt. No Holy Spirit to teach, convict, and intercede for them. No Bible to guide and inform them. This growing population continues to move further away from the Light and into the darkness. Yet, they’ve not stopped pursuing their dreams, living life, and doing all of the things that we do as humans–they are simply doing these things without the benefit of the Light. They would never ever describe themselves as living in the darkness. They would never admit that they don’t know where they are going. They think they put together the perfect plan. They’ve got a 5 year plan, they’re climbing up the corporate ladder, building their financial statement, getting their kids into the right schools and on the right teams. Everything is A-OK! Couldn’t be better! Sometimes we can do everything we think is right and later on find out that it wasn’t right at all.
Our day reminds me of the days of the Judges in the Old Testament. The theme for the book could easily be, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” The phrase appears twice in Judges, but seven times in the book of Judges we read the phrase, “the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD.” The people thought they knew what they were doing. They did what they thought was best. They did what their hearts led them to do, but it was evil in the eyes of the Lord and they had no clue where they were going. Sometimes we can be lost, groping about in the dark, and not even know it.
I remember one time when our kids were young and we took a family vacation to a friend’s home in Colorado. We had never been there before, but our friends had given us great directions to follow. We left at an hour so that our kids would sleep all night. The closer we got to our friend’s home the more detailed the directions became. The home wasn’t in a neighborhood; it was up in the mountains. Connie began to question my navigational skills as our kids slept. I reassured her that I had everything under control…and I thought I did. Eventually, I admitted that I was as lost as a goose! There was nothing to do. It was dark up in the mountains and I was lost. So we stopped on the side of the road and tried to sleep until the sun came up. I was 15 hours into our drive, within 30 minutes of the end of our journey, when I finally realized I was lost. I’m afraid that for many of us we will be near the end of the journey of life before we finally realize just how lost we truly have been.
We may not recognize it, but we are lost as a people. We are lost as a nation. Our leaders are lost. Our citizens are lost. If you think that the best minds in our society can create light for us to find our way then you are naive my friend. We need, we desperately need the Light to find our way back to the path God has ordained for us. The Psalmist wrote,
28 You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. (Psalm 18:28 NIVO)
Let’s move on before we run out of time. If you will take a look at John 12:37-41 with me. In this section of Scripture we find a teaching that is very controversial today. Let’s read it once again and then we’ll talk.
37 Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 40 “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn– and I would heal them.” 41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. (John 12:37-41 NIVO)
The people saw, but they didn’t see. They heard, but they didn’t really hear. John tells us that even after Jesus had performed so many miracles, “they still would not believe in him.” That’s not the controversy I was talking about earlier. The controversy comes into play when John identified their unwillingness to believe in Jesus with the prophecy from Isaiah. Having seen what they had seen they should have fallen at Jesus’ feet, but that’s not what happened. Instead of being surprised at the opposition to Jesus, John remembers the prophecy of Isaiah. John quotes two passages from Isaiah. The first is from Isaiah 53:1. Read it with me.
1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (Isaiah 53:1 NIVO)
After this verse Isaiah goes on to describe Jesus’ life and mission with detail. We read some passages from Isaiah 53 just last week, but let me refresh your memory.
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:3-6 NIVO)
Isaiah asked, “Who has believed our message?” and the answer is “not many.” The other quotation from Isaiah is found in Isaiah 6:10, which is at the end of the calling of Isaiah to be a prophet. Isaiah had a glorious vision of the Lord in which he saw the Lord “seated on a throne, high and exalted.” The train of His robe filled the temple. Seraphs, angelic beings, were above Him and they were calling out, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3 NIVO) As they cried out the whole temple shook! With the holiness of the Lord in full view Isaiah became more aware than ever of his own lack of holiness, his sinfulness. Isaiah cried out,
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5 NIVO)
One of the seraphs took a live coal from the altar and touched Isaiah’s lips. The seraph then told Isaiah that his sin and guilt were taken away. Right after that God asks, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8 NIVO) Isaiah answered the Lord and said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8 NIVO) God then told Isaiah,
9 He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ (Isaiah 6:9 NIVO)
Then comes the statement by God about blinding their eyes, deadening their hearts, and being unable to turn so that God could heal them. If we simply read this verse or other verses like it in isolation then we can make God out to be a cold hearted, monster. Truth be known most people who are quick to draw their conclusions about verses like this have never really studied the Bible, not just these verses, but the whole of God’s Word.
Let me give you a Cliffsnotes version of God’s dealings with Israel. Out of all of the peoples of the earth God chose the Israelites. God set His love upon a people who were no people. He loved them with an everlasting love. He freed them from Pharaoh’s iron fist and gave them Moses to lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey. God could not have provided anything more for His people than he provided for them. He could not have been more gracious, kind, loving, and forgiving to the Israelites. Yet, the Israelites were rebellious, stubborn, and wanted to do things their way. Sound familiar? The ninth chapter of Nehemiah recounts the many ways the Lord loved and provided for His people. Then in verses 30-31 we read,
30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples. 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God. (Nehemiah 9:30-31 NIVO)
Did you get that? For how many years was God patient with His rebellious, stubborn people? Yet, they continued to rebel. God had every reason to turn away, to walk away from His people, but by His great mercy He was patient with them. Now turn to Psalm 81:10-14 with me. Let’s read together.
10 I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. 11 “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. 12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. 13 “If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, 14 how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! (Psalm 81:10-14 NIVO)
“If.” But they persisted in their rebellion. But they persisted to be hard-headed and stubborn in getting their way. After many years of God sending His prophets to His people God spoke to His prophet Hosea and said,
16 The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the LORD pasture them like lambs in a meadow? 17 Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone! (Hos. 4:16-17 NIVO)
We need to remember something as we read these Scriptures in light of what Isaiah said about God hardening the hearts and blinding the eyes of His people. God is Sovereign. There is no new news to God. He knew the hearts of people before He ever created us and God used the stubborn rebellion of His people to open the door for the Gentiles.
God’s desire is that we believe. Oh, if we only knew the ways and times He has tried to break through our hard hearts so that we might believe! Yet, some of us continue to run from Him, deny Him, demand to get our way instead of submitting to His will. The Bible teaches that even though God desires for you and me to believe and trust Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives–He will not be patient forever. In Romans 1, Paul makes it clear that God has given us more than what is necessary for us to recognize that all that is has come about because of His Sovereign plan and yet we turn away again and again. Three times in Romans 1 Paul says that at some point in time “God gave them over.” In Romans 1:28 we read,
28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. (Rom. 1:28 NIVO)
“…He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” Folks, we just think we want what we want, but at some point, if we persist to rebel against God’s lovingkindness and His call to surrender to Him He will say, “If that’s what you want, go get it.” Jesus, before He went to the cross, looked over Jerusalem and said,
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37 NIVO)
You are not here by accident this morning my friend. The God who made you yearns for you to recognize His love for you. He will never lead you astray. He will never leave or forsake you. Won’t you invite Him into your life and surrender your heart to Him this morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
January 24, 2016