The Light of Men
John wrote in the Prologue to his Gospel that in Jesus light came into the world. Later he recorded Jesus’ own words: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). This is the meaning of Christmas: The Light of the world has come into the darkness of the world, in order to bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and to illumine them with the grace of forgiveness. When we see this, then are we willing to pray: ‘O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in; be born in us today.’
Of course, there is more to the gospel than this; much more. But there is never less. It is possible for us to be born again, born from above, and for our lives to begin anew in Christ! The Light of the world transforms the darkness of our lives by the light of his grace. This is truly ‘Joy to the world.’
In this third week of Advent the theme is joy, for the Lord has come, but that is not all; he has promised to come again. We will continue to work our way through the opening verses of John’s Gospel, this week our focus is John 1:4-5. Chad will once again help us understand the beauty and wonder of this passage on the Lord’s Day. Remember to pray for him as he prepares the Word of the Lord for us.
As you prepare your hearts and minds in prayer to hear the Word of the Lord, let me share an account of the late Harry Ironside to warm your heart to receive God’s Word. Harry Ironside was an evangelist in the early twentieth century who was mightily used of the Lord to reach many people with the good news of Jesus Christ. This story is recounted by the evangelist himself but retold in Richard Phillip’s section in the Reformed Commentary on the Incarnation in the Gospels.
Harry Ironsides was once preaching outdoors in San Francisco when a famous atheist approached and handed him a card. It read, ‘Sir, I challenge you to debate with me the question, ‘Agnosticism versus Christianity’ in the Academy of Science Hall next Sunday afternoon at four o’clock.’ Ironside read the card aloud and replied, ‘I am very much interested in this challenge…. Therefore, I will be glad to agree to this debate on the following conditions, namely, in order to prove that Mr. ________ has something worth fighting for and worth debating about, he will promise to bring with him to the hall next Sunday two people…one man who was for years what we commonly call a ‘down and outer’… a man who for years was under the power of evil habits from which he could not deliver himself, but who on some occasion…heard the glorification of agnosticism and his denunciations of the Bible and Christianity, and whose heart and mind as he listened to such an address were so deeply stirred that he went away from that meeting saying, ‘Hence-forth, I too am an agnostic!’ And as a result of imbibing that particular philosophy found that a new power had come into his life. The sins he once loved, he now hates, and righteousness and goodness are now the ideals of his life… all because he is an agnostic.’ Along with such a man, Ironside asked the atheist to bring a woman who was similarly delivered from corrupt living by the power of unbelief.
Then Ironside turned to his side of the bargain. ‘I will bring with me at the very least 100 men and women who for years lived in just such sinful degradation as I have tried to depict, but who have been gloriously saved through believing the gospel which you ridicule. I will have these men and women with me on the platform as witnesses to the miraculous saving power of Jesus Christ and a present-day proof of the truth of the Bible.’ At this the atheist walked away, for while Ironside could easily produce 100 men and women transformed by the light of Jesus Christ, the secular debater could not provide even one who had been changed by his philosophy. The reason he could do so is that the light of Christ warms and transforms the sinner’s heart.
Our prayer during this Advent and Christmas season is that many people will experience the transforming grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. I encourage you to reach out and invite family and friends to join you in hearing the gospel of Christ. It is our joyous delight to serve our Lord with you. I give thanks to God for the privilege of serving as your pastor. Grace and peace to you and your family.
Grace upon Grace,