“This Little Gospel Light” (Colossians 1:1-14)
The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (July14, 2019)
People everywhere seem to be consumed with fear and almost panicky over global warming, or more politically correct now, climate change. Through the doomsday prophesies of such noted persons as former Vice-president Al Gore, and now the irresponsible cries of United States Representative Anastasia Ocasio Cortez that Earth will experience environmental Armageddon in 12 years, all discussion of global warming has gone from speculation to fact in many peoples’ minds. However, much of the scientific community strenuously refutes this claim. They note that even if we are truly seeing a rise in the average temperature of the world, that does not necessarily mean that it is man caused? After all, human records of temperature go back only about two centuries. In fact, we know from the fossil record, geological evidence, and even recorded events in human history that the world has experienced great climatic changes in the past. We could be all in a tither about a natural phenomenon, which is quite beyond our control anyway.
Instead of global warming I think we ought to be much more concerned about global darkening. No, I don’t mean that the sun is losing its intensity and we are losing precious sunlight. And, no, I’m not trying to start another panic! Rather, I’m speaking metaphorically. Have you not noticed how the world is getting darker? The light of truth is dimming. The truth about creation… about morality… about God… about Jesus Christ and the salvation of sinners in Him…is being systematically obscured by sloppy science, willful deception, human arrogance, and the lusts of the human hearts.
This spiritual darkness is no small matter. It’s blinding of the Truth is not only dooming us to live in all falseness and the degradation of our lusts and sins, it is also robbing us of our eternal salvation in the glorious light of God’s heavenly presence. This darkness is heavy pall that weighs us down to our destruction. And don’t imagine that its simply like a heavy blanket we can throw off on a hot summer’s night! We cannot free ourselves from it.
This spiritual darkness puts me in mind of the heavy darkness that God sent as one of ten plagues against the ancient Pharaoh and Egypt. That darkness was so dense and pervasive that the Egyptians were not even able to get up off of their beds. They were totally incapacitated by blindness and the accompanying fear. The spiritual darkness in our world works in like manner to chain us to our lusts and to all falsehoods, keeping us from walking in the true light and forcing us to live in our sins and under the threat of God’s condemning wrath.
A story is told of a soldier who was captured by his enemies and forced to live for years in an underground cell. This cell had no windows, no lights. The poor man was a true prisoner of darkness. His meals were delivered to him through a small trap door. Imagine living day in and day out in such total blackness. You couldn’t even see your own hands!
One day after the war ended he was released and brought up into the light of day. Everyone was amazed that he had survived this horrible ordeal and was still in pretty good shape. When asked how he managed not to go insane in the darkness, the prisoner replied, “There was a small crack in the ceiling above me, which allowed a sliver of light to shine into my darkened cell. That light filled my soul with hope. It reminded me that there was life beyond my cell and that one day I would be brought out into that light once again!”
God has graciously caused a small ray of light to shine in your otherwise darkened world also. You and I know it as the Gospel, the Good News, of Jesus Christ, Who Himself is the Truth, The Light and the Life. Today, once again, this time through the Lord’s apostle Paul writing to the Colossians, you and I have been blessed to hear The Word of the Truth of the Gospel and see The Light, even in our dark days. That Good News of what God has in His grace done to defeat this darkness in His Son Jesus Christ, gives us, even in the midst of this present darkness, the knowledge of a true hope laid up for us in Heaven.
The little children hold up a finger and they sing, “This little gospel light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!” That little light of which they sing is enough to pierce even the darkest, heaviest, and thickness darkness that has invaded your world and imprisoned you. As Paul tells us today, you can and ought regularly thank Your Heavenly Father for that little light begins with the Good News that God the Father has qualified you, baptized believers in Jesus Christ “to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Our world is big on qualifications for this or that. You and I are constantly told in one way or another that we have to prove ourselves or otherwise have the right credentials to enter, to go here or to go there. Our value to others is consistently based upon where we live, how much we earn, how smart we are, what talents we have or how much we can benefit those around us. It’s really though nothing more than a prison of merit, you can do or be only what you merit in the eyes of others.
Then on top of this impossible merit based system we have been chained even further by that enemy of us all: sin. It has so infected our every thought, feeling, word and deed that there is no way we can truly merit anything from our fellow man, let alone from a Holy and Righteous God. We are want to throw up our hands in despair and just give up or surrender to the wickedness in and around us.
Yet, the Gospel shines a sliver of light into our darkness. Yes, darkness seeks to keep us chained to futility. Yes, every day we hear and see how the darkness seems to be getting the upper hand. On every front, whether that be in society at large, in the political realm, in the church and even in our own lives, we catch ourselves lamenting, “It just can’t get any worse than this!”
And, yet, it does get worse. Hearts get colder. Society becomes less and less civil and more and more immoral. Truth becomes more and more jaded with falsehood. It gets darker and darker.
But then the Gospel floods your cell with light. It assures you, “This darkness is not your fate! Darkness and the fear, pain, and hurt that goes with it, they are not what you are destined for. You have a Heavenly Father who has purely by His grace qualified you, made you sufficient, in His beloved Son Jesus Christ to have a share in the eternal portion (lot) of the holy ones (saints) in the Light.” To say it another way, “The Father has given you the right to be a son of God, an heir of eternal life. What awaits you is to live freely and eternally in the Light of God that shines in the face of God.”
This little Gospel light might be but a sliver of light in your otherwise formidable prison of darkness, but, oh, how it can encourage and empower you! After all, in this Good News your Heavenly Father has given you the vision not only to see the truth for all the fiction and lies that are in this world… to see your real worth to Him in spite of what others might think and say of you… but most importantly enables you to see the end of your story, which is no end at all but eternal freedom in the light of God.
Such light has the power to fill you’re your heart with steadfastness of hope and to embolden you with forbearance so that no matter what darkness shall seek to over shadow your life in this world, you will joyfully endure it, being assured that one day you will be brought out into the glorious light Your Father has thankfully insured is your lot.
Just how has your Heavenly Father “qualified” you to be heir of His light? The Lord’s apostle continues: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
You and I are still in this world and the forces of darkness still bear down on us no matter where we live and under whatever circumstances we find ourselves. The darkness is inescapable in this temporal realm. However, God the Father has already rescued us from the darkness’ authority over us. He has knocked out the teeth of Satan who seeks to slander us. He has defeated death’s permanent grip on us. He has vanquished sin’s control over us. He has pierced the darkness with His Light.
This The Father has done by transferring us to the Kingdom of His Son. The truth that pierces the darkness is that the Father so loved you and me and the people of this world that He gave us His only begotten Son to become one of us that He might give Himself over to be swallowed up by the darkness, breaking its authority over us. On His cross Jesus proclaimed right in the midst of the darkness that enveloped the world, “It is finished!” He suffered hell’s fury in our place. The dark clouds of God’s fiery judgment, that constantly hung over the head of every sinner, at that moment totally dissipated. Our redemption was made complete.
In a few verses following our text the apostle Paul writes that the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ … reconcile(d) to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col.1:20).
This, then, is your get-out-of-jail- free-card: the truth of the forgiveness of your sins in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ spilt blood fully atoned for your sins. Your redemption is complete. Your sins are declared forgiven. Where there is no more sin there can be no more death. In Jesus’ death the heavy black pall of death has been removed to reveal the glorious light of God’s gracious forgiveness and the certainty of your resurrection. You have been reconciled to God and qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints of light.
Yes, you are a sinner living in a world of sinners. Yes, darkness has found its way into the very recesses of your body and soul. Yes, the devil, the world and even your own sinful flesh love to keep you in the dark as to who Jesus is and the redemption He has already accomplished for you. But Jesus’ redemption has opened up a crack in the darkness that seeks to imprison you. This crack no one can seal over, obscure or in any way keep from allowing the light of the truth of your redemption, your victory, and your real citizenship in the kingdom of Jesus Christ to shine into your life.
And, indeed, that light has shined brightly into your life at your baptism into Christ as you were washed in the atoning blood of Jesus and made an heir of His kingdom. That light shines to enable you to see the truth of your forgiveness every time you hear with your own ears Your King proclaim to you through His servant, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” You are enveloped in the light of Jesus every time you receive in faith through your mouth the very body and blood of your Savior for the forgiveness of Your Sins. And, indeed, every time you hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you are being strengthened in faith with endurance and patience, knowing with assurance that you will one day stand with God’s saints in His glorious light! Amen.