A distinctive effect of the presence of light is that it reveals whatever it shines upon. At the risk of “over-stating the obvious”, the only way to see the true nature of something is for light to shine upon it. We even have specialized “lights” to help us see further and deeper when there is need to ascertain the truth of specific things. In medical fields, for example, X-rays, Cat-Scans, and MRIs are all “lights” that help a medical practitioner to see matters of concern in regard to their patients’ physical well-being.
Our spiritual well-being is dependent on the same sort of thing, only we do not use light from the ultra-violet spectrum to see inside us, but rather the light of God’s truth. In a way that is similar to physical light, God’s Word, the Bible, “illuminates” our condition before God.
If we only compare ourselves to others, we compare that which is in shadow to other things hidden in the shadows of hate, pride, and worldly confusion. Rationalizations, excuses, and justifications cloud our perception until we can see neither ourselves or others with any clarity or discernment.
But when we compare ourselves to God’s declaration of reality given to us via the Bible, we see ourselves as we really are: fallen, depraved, proud, petty, cowardly, and so forth. Our thoughts, attitudes, actions, words and even our hearts’ desires cannot hide from the discerning eye of God nor can they be portrayed as anything other than what they are: sinful and selfish.
The “upside” of this is, of course, our spiritual maladies are revealed and we can then partake of the remedy that God gives us in Jesus Christ, Who is Himself the Word of God in human form (John 1:9). The Bible says of God’s Word in Psalm 119:130, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (ESV).
So if we choose to remain “simple” (foolish and uninformed) and we run from the light of God because we fear what it might reveal about us, we cannot receive the benefits of His truth working out in us God’s good will towards us.
Not only that, if we run from the truth of His Word, we limit the good effect our lives might have had in the world around us. In fact, we cannot truly love others unless we are in His truth, certainly not in the way that God defines love. If we squirm away from the pain of God showing us what isn’t right in our hearts and lives, we cannot truly give ourselves over to someone else selflessly. When we try to “love others,” but do not step into close proximity of God’s truth, we cannot see how our own selfishness is counteracting even our best efforts.
Even our greatest and most magnanimous demonstrations of serving others are riddled with corruptions that puff up our egos and flaunt themselves as love. But really they are the methods we employ to obtain what we instinctively crave for ourselves. These gains may not take the form of material gain or physical pleasure (although they sometimes do), but instead may be things like the acceptance we crave, the approval for which we hunger, or power over others that makes us feel like we have power over our own destinies.
But 1 John 1:10 says, “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling” (ESV).
This tells us that loving others goes hand-in-hand with our living in the light of the knowledge of God. Before I can truly love someone else, I must see myself as I really am and the only way to do that is to step into and remain in the light of God’s truth.
Too often, we reach out to others and find our love falling short of the effect we desire. We reach out in loving words or deeds, yet find that it seems to have made no difference. Could it be that there is a glaring inconsistency within us? Could it be that there is something flawed in our thinking that hinders what we want to do for someone else? Could it even be that what we called love is only an effort to control another or have them meet a need in our own lives?
This is not what God desires for us. He longs for us to live so fully in the light of His truth that we can be set free from those things that hinder our walk with Him and limit the fruit of our lives. He wants us to live full and free in this life as an investment in the one to come.
But we never really know or understand ourselves unless and until we step into the light of God’s truth and allow Him to show us through His Word what is really going on inside our own hearts and minds. Such a journey is not for the “faint-of-heart,” surely, but it is for those who desire to know God or to hunger for more of what only God can do through us if we allow Him to bring us into the light of His love.
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 21 years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.