It Starts With Jesus
Understanding who Christ is matters not only to the life of the believer but also to that of the nonbeliever. The Prologue in the gospel of John captures the essence of who Jesus is and serves as the foundation of what I personally believe makes a follower of Jesus Christ a most powerful and equipped ambassador of the Savior.
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 all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:1-5 TNIV)
He is the Word and God
Despite the intentional interpolation of an indefinite article (which definitely does not exist in the Greek), the Watchtower’s mishandling of John 1:1 does not to silence the divine bravado of the preexistent Christ. Jesus simply was before beginning knew what time it was. Life starts with Jesus. In addition, that Life-giver is Word is the Divine Word that helps everything else make sense.
He is Creator
Jesus is the agent of creation and all things were made by Him. Compare the words of John with the words of the apostle Paul in Colossians 1:16-17:
16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven
and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones
or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been
created through him and for him. 17 He is before all
things, and in him all things hold together.
But what does this mean for the body of Jesus Christ right now? Understanding Christ as Creator means that we embrace Him as the Source of our existence but also the source of every creative means by which we fulfill the Great Commission.
In short, the substantive, creative nature of the Lord Jesus Christ must be unleashed in the Church, corporately and individually. If all things are made by Him, then it makes perfect sense to rely on His wisdom and power when we seek redemptively creative and powerful ways to reach the lost in our cities. Besides, who knows the creation better than its Creator?
Life in the Word and Word of Life
We learn that in Christ Jesus, there is not only life but a life defined: “the light of all people.” In Hellenist culture, light was a symbol of knowledge and illumination. Jesus, then, as the Light is the Source of true knowledge and wisdom, a point that Paul drives home to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1-2)
We learn something else about the Light. First, it shines in the darkness. Big deal, you think. But sometimes the obvious is such as that we Christians overlook the powerful implication of the obvious. I believe the powerful principle for Christians to grab hold of and embrace is that there is a discernable and clear difference between the light and the darkness.
Can anyone tell the difference between a Christ follower and a nonbeliever?
Notice that the light does not overcome the darkness by becoming like the darkness. Rather, the light does what it is supposed to do: shine. The life and light of Christ Jesus was meant to shine, not in the illuminated halls of your pristine churches but rather in the nasty, stinky, grungy darkness where the power and presence of God must go to set the captives free. We must engage the lost where they are, letting our lights shine IN the darkness.
The Promise of Victory
John also tells us the darkness did not “overcome” the light. The Greek word καταλαμβάνω can either mean “to seize upon, take possession of” or “to perceive.” I believe both apply here for in the ministry of Jesus, misunderstanding of who He was and what He was about abounded (and still do). Furthermore, the supernatural demonstration of His power over creation, over sickness, and over satanic power is clear and decisive. The light of Christ was never vanquished.
That should encourage the Church today to stop whining and start shining. Why we waste time crying about how dark and evil the times are blows me away. Should we expect anything less in the face of clear biblical warnings that the last days would indeed be evil (cf. Matthew 24:5-12; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:3-4)? That the darkness exists is a given. The question is are we the church going to stand courageously and shine in the darkness. We see that the darkness does not overcome or put out the light.
So shut up and shine!