Looking For The Light

Looking For The Light

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This past Sunday at Redeemer in South River New Jersey we looked at Mark chapter four verses twenty-one through twenty-five. The parable that Jesus speaks to his followers and those gathered along the Sea of Galilee is the “parable of the lamp”,

“ And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand?  For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.”

What is this light that Christ tells us about? How is this light brought into our daily lives and how is this light to be used by followers of Jesus? These three ideas will be the focus of the post today.

What is the light? The light that Jesus is referring to is really two different things. For those who are hearing the parable and not allowing the deeper truth of God to rest in their hearts, the light Jesus speaks of is the light coming from the small terra cotta lamps that were filled with usually olive oil or some other oil that was flammable, these small lamps gave light to the dark nights in Israel and most of the world at this time. These lamps were the only source of light when the Sun went down, they allowed people to do things during times of darkness and they were mobile, you could take them from place to place.

Secondly, if your heart was open and being led by The Holy Spirit, then these words of Christ were going deeper then just a physical rendering of light; then you saw the light as something much different then your friends saw, you saw this light reflecting the truth, the truth of God coming from The Son of God. This light was not going to be contained in some man made vessel. This light could never be constrained inside boundaries made by man. This light was eternally present, before creation in eternity past, and now this light bridges the gap between the Scriptures of the Old Testament which promise the Messiah throughout it’s inspired pages, and the new covenant which shows the promise in Christ Jesus.

The light this person sees is not breakable like the lamp. This light is unbreakable and cannot be broken by anything this world does. The light that Jesus reveals to us in this parable is a light that destroys darkness, it doesn’t just light it up for a while like our terra cotta lamp, but it utterly and completely destroys darkness wherever this light goes.

So we are pushed into a new focus here, the light goes forth destroying darkness as it goes.

Our second focus question today is about the method of this light and how it is used by us the followers of Jesus Christ. We are helpless in our own attempts to gather this light and therein lies the rub, the more we work for the light, the further the light gets away from us. This light of Christ, his holiness, his underserved love, makes it’s way to us because of nothing that we do, but only through the amazing love of God, and that should make us see the light for what it is; a gift that has been given to us freely without any deserving work, simply because in God’s mysterious awesome love, he chose to give it to us.

Now, don’t get bogged down in the weeds, see the big picture, just look at how much God loves you, so much so that he gave you the gift of salvation. Hope is yours because of the awesome love of God through Jesus Christ; our future is secured because of this tremendous gift of light.

The gift desires to be used, the gift of this wonderful light cannot be sitting on the shelf like the emergency flashlight in your closet. We all know how reliable that flashlight is, when we go for it, the light is dim and the batteries have rusted. No, this light must be used by the followers of Christ, it is meant to be used, if it is not used it is not the light that you think it is, it is an imposter light. The real light of Christ moves us to use it, to send the light forth regardless of the pressures, the time or the finances. This light runs on faith, “The righteous live by faith” (Romans 1:17)

Faith brings us to our third focus question today, how do the followers of Christ use this light of Christ? Since this light of the Holy Spirit dwells within us because we have been reborn as true believers of Jesus, the light we have is not our own; it is The Holy Spirit that moves the light within us. The use of the light therefore is not something that we move in our own power, we are constantly relying upon Christ to use us to bring the light to places where God chooses. Since we are totally reliant upon God to use the light within us we have to be in constant contact with him. There will be times that God wills to send the light in us to places where we would never choose if we were in control of the light, good thing we are not 🙂 So, humility and repentance figure into using this beautiful light of Jesus Christ. Humility, because we have to have an attitude of knowing that we are sinners saved by grace. We have to see others as people in desperate need of a Savior, we have to see ourselves as once lost but now found. We have to see others as Jesus does.

Repentance because we are still in the grip of our sinful fleshly bodies, every day experiencing thoughts of sin, our repentance requires us to go before God and ask for forgiveness. This repentance is the constant contact with our Creator we spoke of before. These twin light movers, humility and repentance allow us to be the people God wants us to be, people that are able to receive the light of Christ and people that are equipped to pass on the light of Christ.

So we have seen three answers to some focus questions about the Light of The Son of God. How you use the light of Christ in your life rests on seeing the light as not your own, the light is Christ in you working in all the everyday things we do in life. Wherever you go the light of Christ goes with you and the glory of God shines.

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No Tongue Can Bid Me Thence Depart

“No Tongue can Bid Me Thence Depart”

How a 19th century Hymn (Before The Throne of God Above) enforces our understanding of Mark’s Gospel

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The song, “Before The Throne of God Above” is a great hymn written in 1863 by Charitie Lees Bancroft–originally entitled the hymn “Advocate”.   Charitie was the child of an Irish minister, born in county Dublin in 1841, the hymn had various musical tunes but was given the music now known as Sovereign Grace Music in 1997. Why is this important as we go through Mark’s gospel? I think this hymn especially, gives us a perspective on who Jesus is and why Mark has as an overriding theme, Jesus, The Son Of God.

Lets look at the first stanza:

Before the throne of God above

I have a strong and perfect plea:

A great High Priest, whose name is Love,

Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on His hands,

My name is written on His heart;

I know that while in heaven He stands

No tongue can bid me thence depart

No tongue can bid me thence depart.

In our messages on Mark we have seen Jesus as The Son of God, reaching out to the people of Israel healing and restoring them. In the Old Testament the people of Israel came to the High priest for a blessing in the Temple (Numbers 6:22-24). Today the Jewish people are preparing for the return of the Temple at Jerusalem and are preparing people to become “priests”1. All of these functions for a priest or a high priest will prepare that person to be a “conduit for God’s blessing”.

In the hymn “Before the Throne of God Above” the stanza before us reads :

A great High Priest, whose name is Love,

Who ever lives and pleads for me.

In Mark we see Jesus tearing away at the way the Law has burdened the people, a law that has been a chore instead of a joy. Jesus does not do away with the law, no he has not come to do that, he has come to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17-20). The law that the Pharisees are heaping upon the people is not the same law that God handed down to Moses, it is a man-made law placed upon God’s law. It is because this “keeping” of the law has become so burdensome, Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom of God you can’t keep the law, you must rely totally upon God for His saving grace and mercy. Our Hymn reminds us of that, telling us of the great love of God in giving us a “High Priest” who is there all the time for us. What a great act of love for God to give to us his “…only Son” so that we can be forgiven through him and not forgiven through another sinful human being.

We continue with our hymn onto another part of the song, “My name is written on his hand, My name is graven on his heart”. All of us whether we are saved through Christ or outside of that, are still known to God. God has complete control over everyone whether they are Christian or not, he is in control and he will judge everyone. Those of us who have been given the gift of understanding how sinful we are and then coming to faith; our names are written in the book of life and our names are known to Jesus. This is the amazing work of Christ, that as he suffered and died, he knew who he was dying for; the entire world, and he knew who would come to him through this sacrificial act (John 17:20-21; Ephesian 1:3-14).

The hymn continues to state that “…while in heaven he stands no tongue can bid me thence depart…” Jesus is our mediator, the holy one who receives our prayers and is our redeemer before the Father. Our needs and our earthly desires go to Christ as well as our repentance and our asking for forgiveness. Forgiving one another for their sins against us and asking God to forgive us is accomplished through the finality of the crucifixion. “It is finished” (John 19:30); Jesus speaks to all that will hear gathered around the Cross, that the work the Father gave him is now completed. Our sins have been forgiven, there is no other work for us to do, except come before Christ and acknowledge our sinfulness with a heart that is repentant. Jesus has completed the task, if we reject that forgiveness we reject the Cross and reject the Father. “No tongue can bid me thence depart”, there is no human being that can move us from our stand for Christ (Romans 8:1). The world may wag its finger at us, it may condemn us, even imprison us, maim us or kill us but we have been forgiven; and what a glorious way to say it, “No tongue can bid me thence depart”

  1. “The Temple Institute” 20160908 http://www.templeinstitute.org/red_heifer/levitical_priests.htm