Epiphany: Choosing Between Light and Darkness

Walking In The Light Of Jesus: Finding Clarity And Purpose In Your Life

Dan Franklin
Jan 7, 2024    32m
Do you feel lost, afraid, or burdened by guilt? Join us as we explore how walking in the light of Jesus provides clarity, courage, and forgiveness in our lives. Discover how following Christ closely banishes confusion and fear. Video recorded at Upland, California.

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Intro: [00:00:00] Hey there. Thanks so much for checking out one of our messages here at Life Bible Fellowship Church. And we know there are two great ways you can connect with us. You can visit our website at LBF.church to learn more about all of our ministries and what we believe. And also, you can subscribe to us on YouTube to make sure that you don't miss one of our future videos.

Jeff Taylor: [00:00:19] Good morning. All right, so confession time, you've got to be honest. How many of you have ever gotten a traffic ticket? Okay, we better pray right now. I'm just kidding. How many of you have ever, not done your homework or missed an assignment in school? Okay. how many of you have ever had a penalty called on you in sports because you broke the rules? Ah, okay. What I'm not going to ask is how many of you had a reason or a justification for doing all of these things. Because I know the answer is every single one of us telling the officer, oh, well, I had to speed. Oh, well, the reason I did it... Okay, so that is a reality for every single one of us. One of the parental sayings I hated growing up was when they'd say, well if you knew it was wrong, why'd you do it? To which I'd respond with, cause. Right?

Jeff Taylor: [00:01:26] In First John, he runs some tests to get behind not just what people say they believe, but how they're actually living. And I want to give you a heads-up, First John is not one of those fuzzy kinds of letters where it's like, oh, just validating how you're living and telling you it's okay, just keep doing you and it'll all be fine. There is some serious pastoring going on that is really important because there is an accountability that is needed because we don't want to miss the light of life that has been made available, and we are being invited into. Okay. So First John chapter 1, starting in verse 5, "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is..." What? "...light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth." Let that sink in for a second, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." Here's what he's getting at, deeds are the test for words. We don't want that to be true, but that's the reality, deeds are the test for words. And so what John is saying is we need to run the if, but, then test. If we say something, but do something different, then there is a different reality. So in this passage, if one claims to have fellowship with God, but walks in darkness, then he is a liar. On the other hand, if one walks in the light, then their sins are forgiven, giving us fellowship with God.

Jeff Taylor: [00:03:42] Jesus illustrated it this way in Matthew. He said, all right, there's two sons. The dad goes to the first son and says, hey, time to go out and do your chores. And the son's like, oh, come on, dad, I'm right in the middle of Fortnite and I can't, I don't have time. It can wait, the yards don't need to be done anyway. No, I'm not going. For some reason, the father walks away, and as the son sits there, he goes, you know what, my dad asked me to do something, I need to go do it, and he gets up and he goes and does it. The father goes to the second son and says, hey, you need to get out and do your chores. And the second son goes, right-o, Dad, I'll get right on it, and never goes out and does any of the things that he was asked to do. And so Jesus, in talking with the religious people, the very religious people, he goes, which son did the will of the father? And they're like the first one. To which Jesus then compares the religious people to prostitutes and tax collectors, which thrilled them. Right? And he goes, look, you may say all these things, you may say you believe them, you may live your life in a very religious fashion. And yet, what ends up getting worked out in your life is not of God, it's not what God has called you to, it's not what he's offering you, it's actually walking in darkness.

Jeff Taylor: [00:05:11] Paul cautioned the Christians in Rome this way, he said, don't conform, copy, mimic, or do the same things as the world around you that is living in darkness. Okay? Don't conform or copy the ways of the world but be transformed by letting God change the way you think. That's one of the things that's crucial, it's necessary, for us not to walk in darkness, in talking like the world, acting like the world, watching the things the world watches, approving of the things the world approves of. We are called to be changed, not of our own measure, of our own abilities, but by God, letting God change us. And every time Jesus refers to walking in darkness, he does that in the context of saying, because God is light. There's darkness and there's light, God is light and there's no darkness in him. But as you live against God, as you fail to accept the revelation of who Jesus is, the light of the world, the Savior, when we reject that and go, no, I'm going to go with what the world says is cool, I'm going to go with what I think is okay and what feels good, we walk in darkness.

Jeff Taylor: [00:06:40] And in First John 1:5, it explicitly contrasts walking in darkness with God is light. And we walk in darkness when we reject Jesus, we reject what God has called us to, and we do our own thing. And one of the other effects of walking in the light is we have fellowship with others, and this fellowship is different than the rest of the world. Walking around in darkness, through the house in the dark, kicking the piano, and tripping over stuff. And the fellowship of believers is this, we know we're knuckleheads, we acknowledge that we have made mistakes, we acknowledge that we have lived against God. So we receive forgiveness, we receive life for that. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is going, oh, man, you do you, it's fine, it's okay. Hey, if it makes you feel good, if it's what you think is okay, right on. They are living in darkness, stumbling around, trying to find their way when in reality they're living and they're deceiving themselves, and believers are living in the light. And here's what I want to point out, here's what God wants to point out and get us to understand, we are invited into the light. We are encouraged, and God is saying, come on, come, come, come, come, come, there's life here.

Dan Franklin: [00:08:12] Colossians 1:13, "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." He has rescued us. And so can I just say to any of you who feel like right now you're in too deep, the dark has been dark for so long, or you feel like you're so into the darkness, there is rescue for you. We have all needed to be rescued. You are not in any different condition than the rest of us, but the enemy wants to convince us, no no no no no, you're too far gone, it's too deep of an addiction, it's too bad of a habit, or it's no big deal. But if we will search and allow God to rescue us, that's what he wants us to do. And he calls us to live as children of light, "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light." If you illuminate it, it becomes light. God's word to us is packed with this truth that there is light and dark, and we are called into the light.

Dan Franklin: [00:09:47] "But you, brothers." First Thessalonians, "But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober." The enemy's strategy is to keep it in the dark. Shh, it's fine. If anybody were to find out, oh, it would be awful for you. Or you're the only one who struggles with this, you're the only one who has this. You're the only one, and if they found out...Keep it in the dark. And we are promised that it's in the light, that there is light. When we confess our sins and not just in our brains, like, okay, I know what's wrong, I'll try harder. But when we confess our sins to each other, there is healing, there is forgiveness, and we are made new. And we know, I mean Scripture outlines when we're in the dark, it is clear this is quite a list of things, and how many things on here are justifiable in your life. How many think outbursts of anger? Well, you know, some things are...Jealousy, well, I mean, what am I supposed to do, they got the iPhone 15. I mean, how many things do we justify? And we go, hey, it's not that big a deal, and we'll stay in the dark when we are called into the light and given the opportunity to be in the light. And in the light, there's love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control at miraculous levels, at supernatural levels that God has for us. And a lot of times we get hung up going, oh, well, this must mean I need to try harder, and some of you, we try really hard.

Dan Franklin: [00:11:55] So can I ask you to bow your heads? I want you to consider, and don't worry about the people around you and what they're doing but consider this. Jesus said, "Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine." Farther down, he says, "Apart from me, you can do nothing." One of the things about New Year's resolutions is that many times it's about us. It's about our own willpower. It's about our own determination. It's about breaking a habit. So right now, what will you bring to your Heavenly Father and confess it and acknowledge it as dark? Acknowledge it, stop justifying, stop making excuses, stop giving reasons. Call it what it is, because when we do that, we are told that we will have life. Will you let the Spirit of God move in you today? And it's usually easier to stay in the dark, but he is inviting us and calling us into the light. So, Holy Spirit, we invite you to come and have your way, come and do what only you can do. And I pray, God, that you would convict us, that you would hold us accountable, and that you would bring people into our lives to hold us accountable to live for you and to not justify and not excuse but to seek you out and live in the light that you've invited us into. And as we sing this song, I want to encourage you to continue to pray, continue to come before God, and invite him to move. Let's bring freedom, and hope, and healing from the darkness.

Dan Franklin: [00:13:49] As Jeff already kind of introduced our theme, our epiphany theme about light and darkness, and about the choice that's set before us to walk in the light that Jesus brought, that we celebrate at Christmas, the light of the world coming into the world, even the light of the star that guided the Magi to Jesus. We talk about whether we'll walk in the light or walk in the darkness, and what I'm going to spend a little bit of time talking to us about now is that call to walk in the light because of Jesus being the light of the world. And as I say, Jesus is the light of the world, I hope most of you know that's not an analogy I just made up. That's not something I just thought about in the back room saying, I think this works, I think Jesus says the light of the world works. I'm saying this because this is something that Jesus said about himself in John chapter 8 verse 12, "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” And so we're going to spend a few minutes talking about the significance of this statement as we're looking to walk in the light and not in the darkness, that Jesus has said that he is the light of the world.

Dan Franklin: [00:15:22] And first of all, there are just a couple of things I want to notice about the strong statement Jesus makes here. The first thing I want you to notice is that Jesus uses, to start this statement, the two words I am. And this is one of seven times that he does this through the Gospel of John, and it's significant. He starts a sentence by saying, I am, and then fills in afterward. And it could be easy for us to think, well, this is just Jesus making a basic identity statement. Like I might say, I am Dan Franklin, or I am a husband, I am a father, I am a pastor, I am a Dodger fan, still true blue. But that's actually a little bit different than what Jesus is doing here, he's not just sort of describing his basic identity, he is making a divine claim here. He's referring all the way back to the book of Exodus, where God appears to Moses, and when Moses asks God what his name is, God says, my name is, I am. Because God has always been, he will always be, he exists not in dependence upon anyone or anything else. He just is, he is, I am. And so Jesus in the Gospel of John makes the divine claim, saying, I am the bread of life, I am the resurrection and the life, I am the true vine, I am the good Shepherd, and here he says, I am the light of the world.

Dan Franklin: [00:16:55] And just the second thing to notice is that Jesus doesn't say, I am a light in the world. Jesus isn't saying, hey, you know, the world is a dark place, and so the world needs the sort of people who will help shine a light and help people in this dark world. So here I am as one of the people trying to help others, teach others good things, and even do some good works, so I am one of many lights in the world. He doesn't say I am a light in the world as if he's one of several options that we can go to; he says, I am the light of the world. Apart from Jesus, we walk in darkness. So when we talk about walking in the light, we need to recognize, first of all, our options are limited of where we can go. That guru who's helping you, that diagnosis that's helping you, that personality test that you have, whatever it is, I'm not saying that that's not helpful at all, but that is not what will shine light into the darkness. Jesus is the light of the world. And I want to spend a few minutes just talking about three reasons why we so desperately need the light that Jesus brings.

Dan Franklin: [00:18:13] So reason number one is that without the light of Jesus, we are left in confusion. And Jeff already kind of alluded to this, but confusion is what happens in the darkness. When there's complete darkness, you don't know what's going on, you don't know where other people are, and you don't know what's in front of you. So it's in the darkness that you crash into things, it's in the darkness that you get lost. In the darkness, there's confusion because you can't see what's going on around you. And we're living in a world right now where we are experiencing darkness and confusion. And so just imagine this, I like to use this analogy. Let's say I took you and there was a giant mansion, and I put you in a giant mansion, you'd never been in it before, you didn't know the floor plan, it was completely dark, all the lights were off, all the windows were blacked out, it was just complete darkness. And I put you in a room in this giant mansion, and I say there is a great meal waiting for you in the kitchen, go get it. I'd be like, that's nice that there's a great meal there, but you would have no idea where you are or how you get around, what's in the way, where the doorways are, and where they lead. It would almost seem cruel to say there's a great meal waiting for you, but you have no idea how to get there.

Dan Franklin: [00:19:37] I think in many ways this is what we're experiencing in our world. Not just in the US, but in our world right now, is that we're saying, all right, there is a thriving life, that there is a life that God intended for you, there's a life that you were created for, now it's completely dark, go find it. And we're trying, but we're just making things worse. We're abandoning our marriages. We're racking up debt. We're losing friendships. We're venting our anger and our jealousy. We're abandoning what manhood and womanhood are. We're all confused about everything because we're groping around in the darkness trying to find the thriving life. And Jesus comes into that darkness, and he says, I am the light of the world. If you want to get out of the confusion, and if you want to have the lights turned on so that you can actually be clear on what's going on around you and what's real, you're only going to find that in Jesus. Because without the light of Jesus, we are left in confusion.

Dan Franklin: [00:20:45] The second reason why we need the light of Jesus is that without Jesus's light, we're left in fear. I know for those of you who are young, maybe you're still humble enough to admit it, but when you get older, you start saying that you're no longer afraid of the dark. As a kid, it's like you just admit the dark is scary. But for some reason, as an adult, we abandoned that and we're like, no, the dark's not scary. The dark is scary. All of us, to one degree or another, are afraid of the dark, because, in the dark, you don't know where the threats are. But you know that there are threats out there. And in the dark, there could be a wild animal, there could be a dangerous person, there could be sharp things, and there are threats around but it's scary because you can't see them, and you don't know when they're going to pounce. And in the world, we know that there are threats around us. We know that there's the threat of sickness, just sort of always lurking, that we can be a completely healthy person trying to eat right, and suddenly we can get a bad diagnosis and get really sick. There's the threat of lost friendships, that you think things are going fine and suddenly a friend abandons you. There could be threats revolving around money and jobs where suddenly you get fired, or your company ends up going under, or you end up not getting the promotion that you need. There are all kinds of threats all around us, and in the darkness, it's scarier because the threats always seem bigger and because you never know what's going to happen with them. And here's actually the worst part, in the darkness, with the threats, you not only believe that there are threats there, but you believe that there are threats all around you that could utterly end and undo your life and remove from you any chance of thriving or happiness, and that's where we need the light of Jesus to shine.

Dan Franklin: [00:22:39] One of the things I'll tell you, is if one of your goals for 2024 is to read the Bible more, which that's a great goal. One of the things that you'll find is that the Bible is full of God's promises to his people. And there's one promise in the Bible that I like to, just at least in my own head, refer to as King Promise. It is like the promise that encompasses all other promises of God, and it's Romans 8:28. It says, "God works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose." And so here's what this means, if you're a believer in Jesus, does that mean there are no threats out there? No, it doesn't, you could still get sick, you could still get fired, you could still have a friend abandon you, you can still have bad stuff happen to you. What it means is that there is no threat out there that can remove you from God's love, or from his good plan for your ultimate good. The lights have been turned on, the threats have been exposed in their limitations, and even though there might still be hard things that happen to you, you are now living in the light and in the hope of the fact that God is working all things together for your good. The light of Jesus casts out fear because you see the one who is ultimately in control, and he is the one who is your Good Shepherd.

Dan Franklin: [00:24:08] But without the light of Jesus, we're simply left in fear. we're left in the darkness of confusion, we're left in the darkness of fear, and without Jesus's light, we're also left in the darkness of guilt. And for this, I want to go a few chapters back to John chapter 3, verse 19, where it says this, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." So John says it, light has come into the world. When did that happen? Yeah, you can say it out loud. Christmas, we just celebrated it, light has come into the world, but not everybody was excited about it. There are a lot of people preferred the darkness, and the reason that they prefer the darkness is because they knew that they had sin and guilt and ugliness about them, and in the dark, that stuff remains more hidden than in the light. The dark is where people lurk around. The dark is where you want to be if you're playing hide and seek. The darkness, if it's good for anything, it's good for hiding things, and sometimes we want to hide things. And so most of us, we instinctively know, even though there are times that we have sort of false guilt and false shame, and people make us feel shame and guilt over things that we didn't really do wrong, that that does happen. But a good amount, I'd say most of our guilt and shame is because we did something that we should feel guilty about, and that we should feel ashamed of. So we have that, we have this ugliness about ourselves, and the best solution in our culture is to keep it in the darkness. And maybe we keep it in the darkness just by not telling anyone, or maybe we keep it in the darkness by somehow explaining it away or deciding that it's not really wrong, but we keep it in the darkness instead of exposing it to the light of Jesus.

Dan Franklin: [00:26:10] And this strategy that we have about keeping it in the darkness, it's a little bit like the strategy of somebody who has been sick for three months straight but refuses to go to the doctor. They're just like, you kind of know something's wrong, but if you go to the doctor, what might you find out? You might find out that there's something really wrong. So you don't want to go there, you don't want to get the diagnosis, you don't want to find out that you have cancer or something else. So you say, you know what, I just won't go to the doctor because at least then I won't be sure of how bad things really are. I mean, I might not actually be sick, I might get over this tomorrow, but if you are sick with cancer and you don't go see the doctor and get an official diagnosis, do you know what you still are? Sick with cancer. And if we have real guilt before God, but we don't bring it into the light, you know what we still are? Guilty before God. The darkness doesn't change anything, it just hides it, and it leaves us worse off because we haven't done anything to solve our problem. Now because of Jesus, we have an actual solution to this, and our solution is not pretending we don't have guilt, our solution is to let the light of Jesus shine on our actual sin and guilt and our shame, and then to know that Jesus came not to condemn us, but to save us through his sacrifice on the cross. When our sin gets exposed, it is not the end of us, it is the path toward healing, and forgiveness, and joy. But without the light of Jesus, we might be hiding our guilt, but our guilt is all that we're left with. Without the light of Jesus, we're left in confusion instead of clarity, we're left in fear instead of courage, and we're left in guilt instead of forgiveness. But Jesus came to be the light of the world.

Dan Franklin: [00:28:18] And I want you to just zero in on what Jesus says in the second part of this statement. He says the way that you experience his light is by following him. Now here's the reason why this is so important, this is important, first of all, for anybody here that maybe you haven't put your faith in Jesus yet and you've said, hey, I'm going to get light and clarity into my life by coming around to the church, and I'll figure out the rules, and I'll meet some nice people and I'll kind of stabilize my life and I'll get that together, but I'm not actually going to put my faith in Jesus. You are still in the darkness. But if you come to the light, if you follow Jesus, Jesus welcomes all who come to him for light and salvation.

Dan Franklin: [00:29:06] And this also means, for those of us who are believers in Jesus, that sometimes we can end up in a situation a little bit like this. I'm going to go back to that dark mansion I talked about. You're in the dark mansion, there's a whole bunch of you in here, and you're trying to figure out what's going on. And somebody calls out, well, does anybody have a light? And you say, I do, I have a great light, it's brilliant and sparkly, and it's a great lantern that sheds light wherever it goes. it's at home. We would be like, well, that's great, it's great that you possess it. You know, it would be better? If it was here. I mean, how many of us as believers in Jesus are like, oh, I have the light? And you are, you're a genuine believer in Jesus, but if you are not drawing near to Jesus, if you are not actively following him, you're living in sort of the dim light of like, yeah, he's up there somewhere, he's around there somewhere. Whereas if you're following Jesus actively, there is more clarity in your life, there is more fear being cast out, and there is more joy as you walk in the forgiveness that he's given, instead of the guilt that would overwhelm you. Our calling is to follow Jesus actively. And even when you think of the epiphany story that Phil read earlier of the Magi going through all sorts of obstacles and all sorts of travel and the sheer determination of getting to Jesus, we would be wise to show that same determination. To say, I am going to get to the light despite the obstacles in my way.

Dan Franklin: [00:30:49] And so here's what I want us to do, we're going to have a few minutes for prayer and reflection now. I'll let you know, at the end of the service, we will have our prayer ministry team up here. Because for some of you today, on this first Sunday of 2024, there may be a point where you say, I need to sort of take a stand, I need to take a moment, and I need to have somebody pray for me about this next step of faith, or coming to faith in Jesus, or bringing a certain area of my life into submission to Jesus. But what I want to do right now is allow us just some time for some quiet reflection, for prayer, and for repentance. As we think of yielding to the light of Jesus, we want to think about what areas of our lives do we need to repent of and bring to him. So I'm going to invite you just to bow your heads, and we're going to have some quiet moments before we get to respond in worship. Some quiet moments for us to be able to bring ourselves before God to say to Jesus that we want his light more than we want the darkness, and to bring any areas of sin or failure to him in the kind of repentance where we know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is waiting to bring us grace and mercy and help in our time of need.

Recorded in Upland, California.
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Life Bible Fellowship Church
2426 N Euclid Ave
Upland, California 91786
(909) 981-4848