Light changed the way I live my life.
Now, I’m probably not saying what you think I am.
When my wife and I moved to Chattanooga, TN roughly three years ago to plant a church, I quickly developed debilitating migraines. Some guys get ulcers; others get headaches I guess. At this point, I’ve learned to deal with it, and it’s just my cross to carry. One among several triggers I developed was a sensitivity to light.
If light reflects off a car windshield into my eyes, the potential for a fast, approaching migraine is at Defcon 5. Naturally, I take precautions now — I’m the guy who always has a pair of sunglasses on my head, who sits with my back to large windows in coffee shops, who generally looks down while walking outside and who takes it as a personal attack when you shove your retina-burning smart phone in my face saying, “Look at this picture of my cat!”
Light has become offensive to me.
The Light of The Gospel
I was recently hanging out with one of my friends who is not following Jesus, and the topic of the gospel came up. As he asked honest questions and I gave honest answers, my friend became offended by Jesus and the claims He makes.
And this is exactly what Jesus said of Himself in John 3:19:
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
Imagine if a group of people lived their entire lives in a cave with no light from birth to adulthood. They figured out how to live in darkness and make life work. And, then imagine an outsider comes into their cave with a torch to liberate them from their subpar living arrangements.
How would you respond?
I imagine people scattering more like cockroaches than humans.
When Christ came, the light of His life shown on our darkness and we loved the darkness more than Him because our deeds were evil. That’s what my friend felt in his soul that night, and that’s a feeling all of us understand.
The Urgency to Hide
John 3:19 is super helpful for understanding the state of your friends who aren’t following Jesus. They love the darkness more than light, and what God must do in them is help them love Jesus more than their sin.
But, I’m not really interested in your non-Christian friends right now; I’m interested in you, especially if you’re a church planter. When you became a Christian, you put away the deeds of darkness and gave your life to the Light. You switched your allegiance, no longer loving the lurking things of the dark but giving all your love to Jesus.
Here’s the rub though — You still have a propensity to hide from Jesus, and church planting gives you plenty of opportunities.
You can hide behind success, never-ending-to-do-lists, relationships, strategies, getting it right, getting it done, leadership development, growing attendance, raising more money and the list goes on.
If you’re not sure if you use church planting to hide from Jesus, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I struggle to make time to be alone with Jesus?
- Am I chronically busy, even though I don’t have to be?
- Are there parts of my life that my wife or leadership team doesn’t know about?
- Do I feel disconnected from Jesus, even though everything I’m doing is for Him?
- Do I operate out of a sense of shame?
- Do I constantly compare my church plant to other church plants?
- Do I struggle to be thankful for what God has given me today?
Most church planters I know can spin just about anything. They are highly optimistic and transform just about any bad situation into a good opportunity. That’s just how God has gifted them.
The issue, however, is when you’re working really hard for Jesus, you can convince yourself that you’re really close to Jesus. And before you know it, your external world doesn’t line up with your internal reality.
Church planting won’t sustain your soul; only a thriving relationships with Jesus will.
You can only lead people as far as you are willing to go. If you’re not close to Jesus, then why are you planting a church?
Changed By The Light
It takes a lot of courage to acknowledge that you’re afraid of Jesus. We all know that we shouldn’t be, yet we all experience moments of tiptoeing around Him.
Why would we be scared of the person who saved us?
John 3:19 scares us when we forget John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Light reveals; light exposes. I’ve never met a person who particularly likes the feeling of being exposed. When we forget that Love set this whole rescue plan in motion, we are in danger of thinking Jesus is more concerned with condemning than redeeming us.
There is no punishment with Him, because of His perfect love; and because of His perfect love, we don’t have to fear (1 Jn 4:8).
Jesus is safe–you can trust Him.
So, next time you feel shame or like you can’t approach Jesus, recite John 3:16. Remember that Jesus knows you better than anyone and still loves you more. Put away that ancient fear of being exposed because Jesus was stripped bear on the cross for you. Walk into the light; it’s where you belong.
Walking in the Light
Walking with Jesus in the light necessitates walking with others. Imagine the scene again in John 3:19: We’ve lived our whole life in darkness. The Light comes and holds out His hands inviting us to come. We either run away into darkness or run toward Him.
Those who run away in darkness run deeper into isolation, danger and the lifeless places.
But, those who run toward Jesus move into His presence, into safety as the world is illuminated around them, into the company of other fellow-followers and into places of warmth and life.
The closer we get to Jesus the more clearly we see each other. This is the nature of the light — what originally exposed now gives life because the cross of Christ has taken away all our punishment and given us all of God’s love. We are known by God, known by others and secure in Christ.
I pray everyday that I would fall more in love with Jesus, and as a result fall out of love with my sin. I pray the same for you. Jesus lived for you, He died for you, He rose for you, He intercedes for you and He is coming back for you.
Trust the rays of His goodness and keep pressing into the Light. By God’s grace when Jesus returns, you will say, “Light changed the way I lived my life.”