I AM the Light of the World

I AM the Light of the World

I AM the Light of the World!” (John 8:12)

Jesus once again tells the crowd that He is at one with Yahweh, who is the Great I AM and is the personal Name of the Holy One revealed to Moses at the burning bush. Every time Jesus says “I AM,” He is referring to Yahweh, and His equality with that ineffable Name. This isn’t the first time Jesus has claimed divinity. He has already told the people, “I AM the Bread of Life” (John 6:35). And He will soon in this same teaching flatly claim that “Before Abraham was born, I AM!” (John 8:58). Jesus is saying here that He is eternal, that He was, and is, and ever will be, in the same company as the Sovereign Lord.

The only time in all seven of His I AM metaphors Jesus has said His followers are included in that description is with this topic of light… “I AM the light of the world;” “You are the light of the world.” (John 8:12; Matthew 5:14). First, let’s talk about light, then we’ll discuss how we are to become “children of the light.” (Ephesians 5:8).

First things first, God thought, so He spoke light into mortal existence. “Let there be light!” Light, the first creature. As you know, that wasn’t the last we’d see of light. But what if the creation of light is actually a continuous process, the first substance which is also imbedded into all the further aspects of creation? Light, a material with which all things are made? It makes sense.

The Orthodox Jewish mystic Rabbi Tzvi Freeman said as much when he said God’s first words were not just a declaration, but also a mandate for the rest of creation, that everything will be impregnated with light in its own way. Light as a substance in all creation, light as the inherent stuff of life on earth. Rabbi Freeman said God’s first words were “strange.” “What’s the point of turning on the lights when there’s nothing yet to see, and no one there to see it? When God was about to create heaven and earth, before God even started, He set a mandate: ‘Let there be light.’ He set the purpose and meaning of everything about to be created. That it should become light. And each creation has its own unique way to shine that light.” All creation, in other words, includes a measure of light, and is destined to shine that light.

If everything has light in its makeup, then it just may be that a purpose of creation is that God’s light is to shine throughout the world. The problem is that the presence of sin in nature has dimmed those lights. That’s why all of creation groans for full redemption to occur.

We human beings, created in the image of God, have the responsibility to discover what will enable our light to shine in the world. What will turn on God’s light in us, despite the Fall? Simply put, in order to be a child of the light, we need to love the Father of lights (James 1:17). He is the ultimate light of the world, the personal uncreated light. We know from scripture that God Himself is light (1 John 1:5), that He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16), that He is the sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2), and that He wraps Himself in light as with a robe. (Ps. 104:1). There is no question God is the source, the very presence of ultimate light, now and forever.

So how do we flip the switch, how do we become children of the light? Not so we can shine like a light bulb, but so we can do what light does… heal wounds, reveal truth, warm what is cold, sustain life, show the way, dispel darkness, clean out impurities, and clarify one’s vision. Light’s properties are needed in the world, and we need to let our little light shine.

How can we live into the light in us, becoming healers, revealers, sustainers, purifiers and dispellers? How can we show the way, for ourselves and others? What do we need to do to show forth our imbedded light that has as its source God’s light, taking seriously Paul’s words in Eph. 5:8: “You are light in the Lord”? Here are three ways to walk as a child of the light:

  1. Follow Jesus. First and foremost, follow Him who is “light from light, true God from true God.” Unite with “the Son who is the radiance of God’s glory. (Heb. 1:3). Accept Jesus Christ, who said “I am the light of the world. No follower of mine shall ever walk in darkness. No, he shall possess the light of life.” (John 8:12). The more like Jesus we become, transformed through His Spirit, the more like a window we become, transparent, revealing His light in us, uncovering His radiance, His truth, goodness and beauty. Shine the light of Jesus, and we will become the children of the light. “Look to the Lord, and be radiant.” (Ps. 34:5).
  2. Grow in Goodness. How can we show God’s light? By learning to be good, by reflecting God’s own goodness. “Listen, you lovers of God! Hate evil, for God can keep you from wrong and protect you from the power of wickedness. For he sows seeds of light within his lovers.” (Ps. 97:10-11). Deeds of goodness brings the spotlight to the Giver of light. “So don’t hide your light! Let it shine brightly before others, so that the commendable things you do will shine as light upon them, and then they will give their praise to your Father in heaven.” (Matt.5:16). Let Jesus, your light within you, shine brighter and brighter as you grow in goodness, in purity, in righteousness. And love shines the brightest light. As has been said, Jesus is Love that comes at the speed of light. “The person who continues in the light is the one who loves his brother.” (1 John 2:10).
  3. Grow in Wisdom. Light and truth were seen as synonymous in the Hebrew mind. Wisdom is walking in the light of truth. Wisdom is living skillfully, with discernment and understanding. Wisdom is learning God’s mind and living in light of that, making decisions in concert with God’s will. The very nature of light is that it is active, it is doing something. Wisdom is essentially truth-in-action. “Wisdom brightens a person’s face, it makes his face shine.” (Eccles.8:1). The wiser a person, the brighter the light, the more is revealed of God’s light within. In fact, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Dan. 12:3). Walk in wisdom, and let your light shine.

Robert Louis Stevenson is a renowned author who wrote many classics, such as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and A Child’s Garden of Verses. When he was a child, he loved watching a nightly event through his bedroom window: the neighborhood lamplighter would walk along the street, lighting all the corner street lamps with his pole-torch. One night his parents asked him what he was so interested in outside on the street. And young Stevenson said he was “watching a man make holes in the darkness.” When we shine God’s light, we make holes in the darkness of the world. The darkness can never overcome the light of Jesus, the light of goodness, and the light of wisdom.

What is our ultimate destiny as lights in the darkness? What is all this light leading up to? Our full destiny is to be united with the glory of God’s light, in whom there is no darkness. Our flame will be touched by the Holy Fire. We will wear light like a robe as we finally live in unapproachable light, no longer seeing through a glass darkly. No longer will we need to put on an armor of light (Ro. 13:12), but instead slip into our luxurious robe of light. But becoming full of light, enlightening the world with God’s light, is a process, in which “the path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (Prov. 4:18).

Jesus gave us a couple of sneak previews of what awaits us when the “full light of day” arrives. “There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” (Matt. 17:2). And in Revelation 1:14-16, when “His eyes were like blazing fire,” and “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” That’s what we can confidently look forward to, the time when we will be filled with light, when “the righteous will shine like the brightness of the sun in the kingdom of the Father.” (Matt. 13:43).

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine till Jesus comes, I’m gonna let it shine.” Live into the light, for “The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine upon us.” (Ps. 118:27).

3 Replies to “I AM the Light of the World”

  1. “The problem is the presence of sin in nature has dimmed those lights.” – what a great illustration. Simple yet clear.

    Thank you for the practical steps we can take to help keep our “light on”.

  2. Steve, your writings are just amazing. I’m studying John 8 this week. This article has so enriched my thoughts on Jesus being the Light of the World. Thank you so much.
    “The righteous will shine like the brightness of the sun….”