Do You Reflect God's Light?

As Believers In Christ, We Are Called To Be The Light Of The World

Kevin Garcia
Aug 21, 2022    34m
Believing in Jesus is not just a feeling; it requires action. Jesus calls on believers to be the light of the world. We are to live in a way that illuminates the glory of God and the truth of the Gospel. Video recorded at Upland, California.

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Kevin Garcia: [00:00:19] You may be seated. Good morning, my name is Kevin Garcia, for those of you who don't know me. And I am happy to be here with you guys this morning going through this passage in Second Corinthians as we go through this study in Glory and Frailty. This book, this chapter here actually has my favorite verse. So when I was preparing for this, I was really excited. And then I realized that verse next week, and...But today will still be good, it will still be good.

Kevin Garcia: [00:00:54] Today, we're going to talk about light. Two summers ago, August 28th to be exact, 2020, in a small town in Alaska called Igiugig, I know many of you have been there. It's very remote, it only has about 70 people. But they had a problem, and there was a young girl who had a medical emergency. And obviously, in their small town, they weren't able to help her the way that she needed to be, and they realized that she was going to have to be medevacked out of the area to the big town of Anchorage to get the help that she needed. And it was urgent enough that the plane came right away, and it was going to come in and it was going to land about midnight in this town, and most of the town members didn't know about it. And so the plane is on its way to pick up this little girl, and it realizes as it's approaching this town that nobody has turned on the runway lights yet. It's a small town, it's not 24/7, I mean, you know, so someone has to go out there manually and try to turn on the lights. But they're approaching, and they come in low just to kind of let people know that they're there and there are no lights, they realize it's unsafe, they can't land in these conditions. Well, nearby, this lady named Ida Nelson, mind you, it's 11:30 at night and she's just getting out of the sauna, which, again, Alaska, and she hears this plane coming by. And it's not like, you know, somewhere here where you wouldn't even mind, I mean, planes don't fly over this town, that's why everyone moved there. And she realized a plane is coming in and she realizes that something was wrong. So she gets out of the sauna very quickly and she hops on her ATV and in the middle of the night decides to ride over to the airport. Alaska. And then she gets there, and she sees a pilot, a local pilot in the area trying desperately to get the lights on. And what they didn't realize is that earlier a construction team had severed the electrical wires and that there was no way to try as they made that those lights were going to come on.

Kevin Garcia: [00:03:05] By that time, Ida Nelson's sister had arrived and the three of them are talking about this problem and what they were going to do. And Ida comes up with this idea, she says, look, this is what we're going to do, we're going to call everyone in the town, right, all 32 households. And we're going to ask them to get over here right away with any vehicle that they have, car, truck, motorcycle, quad, and we're all going to line them up along the sides of the airport and we're going to light up this runway so this plane can land. So they get to it, her sister calls everybody in the town, it did not take her long, and told them all that they needed to get over there. And before you knew it, they had 20 vehicles lined up on the side of the road to illuminate this so that the plane could land, and this little girl could get the help that she needed.

Kevin Garcia: [00:03:58] Before we get to the passage that we're going to look at in more depth today, I just want to remind you of this verse as we talk about light in Matthew chapter five, and I'm sure a lot of you are aware of it. But this is Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, and he's gone through the Beatitudes and then he tells the people listening and he compares them to two things. The first thing he compares them to is salt, and we're not talking about that today. But the second thing he compares them to is light. In Matthew, chapter 5, starting in verse 14, he says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." I like here that he just says, right, it's not, you are the light of the world. That's it, this church, right here, we are the light of this city. We are the light that people are going to see. And you should feel a little bit like... It's not going to get better, it's us, it's our job. And as soon as Jesus tells us this, too, he also reminds us, he says, in a way like no one would ever do this, this is crazy. But in there, right, is that jab to go, but sometimes this is exactly what we do, right? No one would light a lamp and then put a bowl over it. Like, what is the point of that? It would be me and my wife, I remember back in the day when we were young, and we didn't understand money very well. We had this living room, and we were renting this apartment and there was an air conditioner and a wall heater. And I'd come in and turn on the air conditioner, and then she'd come in and turn on the wall heater so that we could keep the room roughly the same temperature that it was before we turned either one on. Like no one lights a lamp and then makes it completely useless, right by then putting a bowl over it, that doesn't make any sense. But Jesus is warning us that as we are the light, that there are pitfalls that means that we may not be very effective at being light. He's calling us to be illuminating light, the kind of light that points people towards the redemption of Jesus.

Kevin Garcia: [00:06:28] So with that in mind, let's go ahead and look at our target passage, Second Corinthians starting in chapter 5, verse 11. And it starts like this, "Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience." And I just like to say that this is a terrible start, right? I mean, the Bible wasn't written chapter and verse, this is a letter Paul wrote to a church. Right? Since, then, is a very terrible way to start any conversation, and obviously this is a continuation from last week. But I mean, just imagine if I came into the room and I just said, hey, good to see you, and because of all of that, I'm going to need you to go and tell everybody, right? You'll be like, I'm going to need a little bit more information. And some of you may have great memories and you remember last week or maybe some of you have your Bible open, you can just look at the verse that was right before this one, but we just need to roll it back a little bit, so we know what this since then is all about. In verse 10, it says, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." That's a pretty big, since then, right? He says, basically, because we all know that we have to stand in judgment before the creator of the earth and everything that we have done, either good or bad, will be judged, that is what is going to propel us to the things that he's going to tell us this week, and that is a pretty big since then.

Kevin Garcia: [00:08:17] I mean, Dan talked about this last week, for those of us who have received Christ, I mean, there's still going to be that day of judgment. And he pointed out that a lot of us are, even though we're saved, we're going to look back at the things shown in our life and go, oh, I wish that wasn't there, right, or that was inactivity on my part, or that was bad action on my part. And we're all going to stand before God, and those things in our life are going to be shown, and the fullness of who we are is going to be revealed before the Holy One. And Paul is saying in light of that evidence, right, he says we know what it is to fear the Lord. And that's not very popular, especially outside of the church, even inside the church, we love to talk about the love of God, but it is very appropriate, very healthy for us all to have a fear of God. It's very like casual talk, people are like, yeah, you know, that kind of Jesus is my homeboy vibe, you know? Hey, what's up, God? You know, like really casual prayer. And that's cool if that works for you, but I don't think you're really grasping the wholeness of who God is. The Bible says that the foundations of the Earth tremble in His presence. Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty. Those that even stood in His present in vision fall before Him and know that they are unclean. And let me tell you, you're going to have the very same experience when you stand before the Holy One, the Creator of Heaven and earth, there's going to be a healthy fear that comes over you when you realize how big God is and how small you are.

Kevin Garcia: [00:10:08] He says, "Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others." And why I'm excited about this week is, this is the action week. This is when Paul tells us, because of everything that we've just said, because of what we talked about last week and because what we talked about the week before, in light of who we are, right, there is a step that we take, there is an action, there is a going forth that we are trying to participate in, and that is telling others of the good news. He goes on to say, What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.

Kevin Garcia: [00:10:52] We're going to stop here, too, because one thing that's happened is really subtle, it's the pronoun thing, right, the ‘we’. Because I don't know if you're aware of this, but one verse ago you were included and now you're not. And it happened before you even knew it, right? Because in verse 10, he says, "We must all appear before the judge." And we're like, yeah, that's all of us, right, we're all in. And then he says, but I hope it is clear to you who we are. And then you look at that and go, oh, so I'm not in we anymore, I'm over here being me. And that's exactly right, and it's important in this context because Paul is going to write, say some things about the we, and it's clear that we know who that is. Unique about this letter, and a lot of the letters Paul wrote, it's Paul writing. But if you go back to the beginning of Second Corinthians, you realize that this letter is co-authored or at least written on behalf of two individuals. The very beginning, Paul addresses the letter just like he does many of his letters, he says, this letter is from Paul. But in this letter, he says, and this letter is also from Timothy. So you can take this letter, its words, as being from two people. So in verse 11, when he says, what we are is plain to God, he's talking about himself, Paul, and he's talking about Timothy. And then he says, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. And it would have probably been very plain to these people's conscience because Paul had been there, they'd seen him, they'd known him. He had written another letter; we just didn't call this Second Corinthians for no reason. So they were very aware of who Paul was, and he's saying this, and they know, we may be a little less sure.

Kevin Garcia: [00:12:37] The other thing that's more maybe subtle to pick out of this is this is a strange thing to say out of the blue. If we were good friends and I just walked up to you and be like, hey, I hope who I am is very plain to you. That would be like, are you okay? Like, is the CIA or somebody after you, you know, that kind of thing. And that's exactly the context in which Paul is writing this, he's writing this because he's being contested in this moment. There are people in the Jewish community, that he was part of, now ousted from. For those of you who didn't know or don't remember that Paul was a religious leader that actually was persecuting the Christian church and was held in high regard among other Jewish leaders, but he flipped, and so now that he's starting this church in Corinth, the Jewish leaders are showing up and they're telling everybody in the congregation, hey, that guy is crazy. What you really need to do is all this Jewish tradition that we've been doing, I don't know about this Jesus story Paul is telling all of you here, but I'm not sure he's all there. That's not an exaggeration, you'll see in later verses, this is exactly what was happening.

Kevin Garcia: [00:12:37] I know it's a stretch for us to understand, but in that culture, in that time, there were people that were calling what was good evil, and people that were calling what was evil good, it was very confusing. Luckily, we don't have to deal with any of that. So Paul is writing this to try to tell people what light looks like, to make things even more confusing, and I'm probably stealing someone's thunder here because, real quickly, look at Second Corinthians, chapter 11. Same letter, same church, Paul tells these people, "And no wonder, for Satan himself..." Verses 14 and 15, for those of you who are following, I hear the pages turning. Second Corinthians 11:14-15, "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve." Okay, so this was already difficult, and then we get this monkey wrench thrown in, right? God telling us, okay, be light. Oh, and by the way, these people that want to do wicked, they're going to pretend that they're light. And so you need to be convincing light, you need to be illuminating light, you need to be different than the flashy light that says, look at me, your light has a different purpose.

Kevin Garcia: [00:15:23] So move on to verse 12, he says, "We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart." And here he's rephrasing, echoing, something that he said earlier, right? He reminded us to walk by faith and not by sight. Now, here's what I think a lot of modern interpretation of this is, and I'll explain myself, and I know I come from a very certain camp. What I don't think he's saying here is that we don't look at evidence, reason, we don't use knowledge or intellect, and that we just walk by blind faith in God, I don't believe that that's what he's saying. I'm one of those people in a strange camp that believes that science actually proves God and doesn't disprove it, I think it's the study of God's universe and isn't something that is in disagreement with God's word. I think that history proves the existence of Jesus and that He was the son of God and is not in disagreement with it, so I don't think he's talking about evidence. One of the things that maybe we assume, and is erroneous, is that sight is not the solid science that we think it is. There is a whole profession, maybe not a lucrative one, but a profession nonetheless, that its whole purpose is to fool your eyes, right? We used to call them magicians, and then we realized magic wasn't real, and so now we call them illusionists, right? Which is a more apt name, because that's exactly what they do, they do something right in front of you. And most of us aren't like dark peasants, like, we see a magic trick, and we're like, oh, dark sorcery, right? We look at it and we go; I see what you did. I don't know how you did it, right, but I know it's not magic, I know you tricked me. And they did it right in front of our eyes. And a lot of us have to understand that, man, my eyes maybe aren't the proof that I thought they were. It would probably make more sense to us, just one slight word, and I think it will ring true for our day and age, if Paul said this, so that you can answer those who take pride in appearance rather than what is in the heart. Oh, now we understand, we know what appearance is, right? Because we all have social media, or at least we look at other people's social media. We know what appearance is, appearance is when they interview the next-door neighbor of the serial killer, right? And he's like, I don't know, he just always kept to himself, he seemed very nice. It's always the persona that you put out in front in order to be accepted, but it's not what's in your heart. And when Paul's talking about this, right, he's talking specifically about the religious leaders. And in the same way that Jesus talked about them when he said, look, you guys are whitewashed tombs, you know how to appear holy, but on the inside your heart is not right.

Kevin Garcia: [00:18:48] Appearance may tell you where you're at, right? We all take pictures of, like, when we go on vacation, right? This is when we post to social media, we're on a beach, right, drinking Mai Tais. And we haven't posted to social media in five years because this is the only vacation we could afford. And then all of a sudden, you know, social media blows up and we have all these pictures of like, this is my life, right? And appearances will tell you where you're at, but your heart will tell you where you're going. We like to say about these religious leaders, oh, you know, we make fun of them like they're gone, like the danger isn't even in this church for us to appear that way. But the problem with it is, is you're robbing people, especially people outside of the church, of the truth and the power of the Gospel.

Kevin Garcia: [00:19:41] The whole point of this whole series that we're doing is to remind us that God's power is made perfect in weakness. That we have this treasure in jars of clay, right, to show that this all-surpassing glory is not from us, but is from God. And we try to pretend that we have it all together. and maybe some of you Christians became Christians later in life and you know this all too well, you're living apart from God, you're living in darkness, and you look at people in the church and go, yeah, well, they have it all together. I can't be like that. Like God may love them, but I don't deserve to be loved by him after the things I've done. And a lot of us just line up, we're like, yeah, yeah, we're better, you need to get it together before you can walk in those doors, and we perpetuate the lie. And whether you know it, I'm telling you, this is stark warning from the Gospel, we are acting as servants of Satan himself when we do that.

Kevin Garcia: [00:20:52] Let me tell you two versions of my story, my testimony, because this is what we're talking about when we're spreading the light. Your story is wrapped up in God's story. Version number one, and this is true to an extent. I received Jesus Christ when I was five years old, and I was baptized in church. And from that point on, my life was perfect. Amen. Amen. It was true, I was baptized at five. The true story is, is that faith in God has been a struggle my whole life, especially when I was a teenager and a young adult, it was really tough. I walked away from the church, I walked away from God, I abused drugs. I abused alcohol, I tried to fill myself with other things, and I realized that nothing else was going to fulfill my soul the way that God did, and I came back. Now that's a better story because it's the truth. So the illuminating light reveals the truth, it doesn't point it on itself, it points to the one who saves. You're not the Savior, and the story isn't that your life is perfect and that you're good, the story is that you're a sinner and that you needed to be redeemed by grace, and God chose to show you mercy, and that is the truth that we send out to people.

Kevin Garcia: [00:22:23] In verse 13 it says, "If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you." He says if we are out of our mind, right, I don't know if the original Greek had air quotes, but we all understand what that means, right? He's saying other people are saying I'm crazy. This is a very confusing statement, right, because he says both things. He's like a non-losing statement, right? If I'm crazy, it's for God; If I'm sane, it's for you. So like, just pick one. And it's like, Paul, what are you saying? Sometimes you say weird things. And what he's saying here is, look, this is why people are saying I'm out of my mind, because I was playing their game, I was pretending to be righteous. I was persecuting, hunting down Christians. I stood in silence as Stephen was stoned to death, rocks bouncing off of his head, and I appeared to be holy at the same time. I played the game, I got accolades for the wicked things that I did, and I was told that I was a righteous man. But something happened, I was on the way to Damascus to persecute more Christians, and I was blinded by the holy light of God, and I heard a voice come down from heaven saying, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? So if you want to know the crazy story, right, that's it, that's why they think that I'm crazy. Because I encountered God, he confronted my sin, and I was redeemed, and I repented.

Kevin Garcia: [00:24:03] Notice what's not missing from that story, is Paul is very clearly, number one, admitting the wrong things that he did. And number two, he's stepping down from his position of power and authority in order to reach those who are lost. And then he goes on to say, look, if I'm in my right mind, it's for you. And what does that mean? Paul is saying, look, and this is a treasure trove, like most of the New Testament was written by this guy. There are still theology classes taught on the letters of Paul, we're talking about it today, this guy is not without reason, he's not without logic, and he's not without evidence or argument. He's saying all of these things that I use, all of the reasoning, all of the debate, all the things that I'm showing to you as evidence of who God is, is not for my benefit, I keep getting thrown in prison. He's like, I'm doing it because of you. See, illuminating light is focused, and Paul had a focus to the light that he was shining, and it wasn't himself.

Kevin Garcia: [00:25:14] Let's go back to the story that I showed you and told you in the beginning. When those people lined up and got out of their beds in the middle of the night to light up that runway, they didn't do it for themselves. That was rather inconvenient, wouldn't you say? They did it to bring two people together, they did it to light the way, to point the way so that the person who was sick and in desperate need of rescue could be united with the healer. And that's what illuminating light does, it tells the truth, and it's focused not on ourselves, but it's focused on those who desperately need to hear the truth of the Gospel.

Kevin Garcia: [00:26:04] He goes on to say in verse 14, "For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died." And then it kind of clicks, right? Paul seems crazy, but he had this person, this archetype that his life was modeled after. What are we told about Jesus? I mean, think about it, think about if you were God and we all joke about that and go, oh, that's a good thing I'm not God. And I agree it, it's good. And you're up in heaven, you're at the right hand of God, you're over everything. The angels around your throne, worshiping you, telling you how great you are. You've created all of the universe, and it's not something that you see as valuable. In Philippians chapter 2, right, it says, he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but he'd emptied himself and came down to earth and took the form of a man and humbled himself, even to the point of death. And that's what Paul is doing, and that's what he's calling you to do. He is saying look, pretending to be important is something you're going to need to give up if you're going to be compelled by this evidence to tell people about the love of Jesus. Paul is saying, look, I mean, look at my life, if we were like to put it on a chart, I don't know if they had credit bureaus back then, right? But Paul's just, he's tanking, right? His life is tanking, he was important, he had all this stuff, and he gave it all up for this. And why? Because he encountered the one who gave it all up for you. The one who could have just sat back in comfort and luxury and said, man, I'm making really bad decisions and they're going to pay for it, I guess I'll start over next week. But he loved you so much that he gave up all of that. I mean, most of us, if not all of us as mere humans, wouldn't slide to the depths that he went. And now God is calling us and he's reminding us, look, man, we live in a world, I hope it's clear to you, I don't know if there was ever a time you could have been fooled by it, but I hope it's clear to you and you look at the world around you, this world desperately needs Jesus. This world desperately needs Jesus.

Kevin Garcia: [00:28:49] And here's one thing, some of you who have talked to me outside of when I'm standing up here, because it'd be awkward if you talk to me right now, but if you talk to me, look, this is all I'm going to say about the crazy times that we've been through. Well, I just want to remind you of a verse, our struggle is not against flesh and blood. If your heart is so filled with animosity and anger for those who are outside of the church for the way they think, number one, that's not the heart of God, and number two, you're fooling yourself if you've convinced yourself that you're somehow different. I mean, I know it's great and we receive this redemption and this mercy, but that doesn't make you better, it just makes you redeemed. And I'm not so old that I don't remember where my corrupt way of thinking would have been appalling to people inside of the church. I was transformed by God, not by my own willpower. And so a lot of us need to let go, look, it's okay to hate sin, but we've got to love the sinner, and we have got to be willing to engage in non-confrontational ways to show them that they could receive mercy and grace from God. You're going to put yourself out there, and let me tell you, not everyone's going to be happy and not everyone's going to receive. But that's what we're called to, to be light in this world.

Kevin Garcia: [00:30:27] Verse 15 says, "He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." See, illuminating light reflects, it doesn't point to itself. One of my favorite things to do is to get away, especially in the summer, and I like to go backpacking, I love to go hiking, and I love to be away from people. I would love to go to Igiugig, it sounds wonderful. I love to hear silence, right, I live in a house with three boys, and I love to hear silence. I love to look up and see the stars, right, sometimes we forget that they exist when we're in the city, that there are stars. I love to be in nature, to hear the wind blow through the trees. And every time I'm out there, I'm reminded once again, I don't know if you've ever been in a dark forest with a full moon, to some of you guys, that sounds like the start of a horror story, but for me, I love being there. I'm always amazed and reminded that there is no light on the moon, and to see the reflection of the sun, which is invisible to me, light up the forest floor. And to think that that moon has nothing, the only thing that that moon is doing is its face is pointed towards the sun and it's reflecting down on me so that I can see even dimly the glory of God. And that's what the church is, no matter how effective or ineffective we are, Jesus says you are the light of the world. Let your light shine, not so that people can say, oh, look how great this person is, look how wonderful this person is, I can aspire to be like them. No, Jesus says, God says that my power is made perfect in weakness. Whether this is a relief or an insult to you, people are going to be amazed that a sinner like you could be saved and it will give them hope. They'll go, oh, man, like, if he can walk into church, right, they'll welcome me with open arms.

Kevin Garcia: [00:33:00] When I told that story earlier, and I'm fully aware, you know, when I tell a false version of my testimony that that gives hope to nobody. I know when I tell the real testimony of my life, look, it's not very flattering to me, it shows that I'm an idiot that had the truth at five, and still struggle with understanding it. But I know for a lot of people you hear that story, and you think, man, my son or my daughter has walked away from God, and you're reminded of the hope that Jesus doesn't give up going after the lost, and neither does his church. And sometimes a miracle happens, sometimes a sinner like me is up here preaching the word of God, that doesn't make sense. But it's the goodness of who he is, not the goodness of who I am.

Kevin Garcia: [00:33:56] We get to take part in something very special, today we get to celebrate what has happened, we get to celebrate communion. And what communion is celebrating is that unification, the fact that you get to come in and be in the presence of God because Jesus shed his blood on that cross is an opportunity that all of us have and a blessing that we have to come into the presence of God. And it reminds us that we should walk out these doors after this morning and we should be telling other people of the good news of God, let's pray.

Kevin Garcia: [00:34:32] Dear Lord, we thank you, we thank you that you are here in this place, we thank you that you have called us to be light in a dark world, and we ask that you help us, Lord, fill us with Your Spirit so that we can go forward, Lord, and tell the truth of the Gospel. We pray these things in Your name. Amen.

Recorded in Upland, California.
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