Core Idea and purpose
Idea: God's grace (unconditional love) is a light that is available to guide all people.
Purpose: To help people to follow the light (God's grace).
Back in September 2002 I was driving by myself through West Virginia on my way to watch a re-enactment of the Battle of Antietam. I was traveling through the night on a winding mountain road. It was an overcast, moonless, pitch black night. My headlights were the sole source of light. I couldn't see the edge of the mountain on my right and the side of the mountain on my left. The white dashed lines in the middle of the road were barely visible. I concentrated on those white lines to keep from driving off the cliff and falling to my death.
I drove on for about an hour when my lights suddenly turned off and the engine stopped. I tried to re-start the engine, but my ignition did absolutely nothing – not even a clicking sound. As I coasted down the road, I eased to the side of the road but didn't go completely onto the shoulder. I kept half the car on the road because I was afraid of driving off a cliff and tumbling down the side of a mountain. When my car finally came to a halt, I imagined another car slamming into my car. I had no flares and another driver wouldn't be able to see my car until it was too late.
So, there I was, sitting in a dead car on a small almost deserted mountain road, with absolutely no visibility. I had no cell phone. (Cell phones were still new back then.) I must admit, I was nervous, even scared. The idea of spending all night in my car hoping not to get rear ended by a big semi-truck didn't sit well with me. I didn't know where I was, couldn't see what was ahead of me and had no idea what would happen that night. I was alone, suffocating under a blanket of darkness.
That night reminds me of how life is often dark, lonely and scary. Car loans, education debts, terminal medical prognosis, broken relationships, addictions and malevolent acts can all add layers and layers of darkness to our lives. Life can be frighteningly dark, not knowing where we are, not seeing what's ahead of us and not knowing how we'll make it.
None of us, however, will ever be completely in the dark. God promises that a light is available to everyone. This light can guide our way, provide comfort & show us what's all around us. This light can even dispel the darkness of our own hearts. This light will never fail to penetrate the darkness.
What is this light? Where does this light come from? What's the source of this light? The answer is found in John 1:9, "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." This true light is God's grace, which is also known as God's unconditional love. Jesus, as fully human and fully God, is the manifestation of this true light (grace). If you want to understand God's grace, meditate on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Notice that this verse explicitly states that this true light is the light that is given to every person. So, we can say that God's grace (unconditional love) is a light that is available to guide all people.
Although not everyone recognizes this light, it does enable everyone to make good, moral and loving choices. It enabled my good friend, Lisa, to be one of the most kind and loving person I ever met. I knew her back in high school and during my days as a young adult. She wasn't perfect – no one is. She had her moments of anger, jealousy & hate but compared to the average person, she has a most loving heart. She never had a harsh word to say about anyone and didn't participate in any of the high school gossip. If someone needed money, she was quick to give whatever she had. Her empathy was unlimited. She could always see the other person's point of view.
Yes, Lisa was an extremely loving person, but she never professed to know Jesus. She was agnostic – meaning she didn't know what to believe about God. Although she may not have recognized it, Lisa became such a loving person because of the 'light that gives light to every person'. It's up to us, as followers of Christ, to let her know that it is God's grace that enables her to be so loving towards other people.
The same is true with the many people who discover victory over addictions at Alcohol Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (AA). In these 12-step programs, people first admit that they are powerless over their addictions and only a power greater than themselves – a higher power – can restore them to sanity. This works! Many people become free of addictions through AA and NA. We, as Christians, know that the name of the higher power is Jesus and it is His light (grace) that freed them.
This 'light that gives light to every person' – this grace – not only enables us to make good choices, it also draws us into an intimate relationship with God through faith in Jesus. It woos us towards repentance so that we can receive God's forgiveness - like a moth being drawn to the light. But, unlike the moth, when we reach the light, we find eternal life rather than death.
Back in the early '90s, there was a sitcom called "Family Matters". In this sitcom there was this young socially-challenged nerd named Steve Urkel who had a colossal crush on the beautiful and popular Laura Winslow. Steve started to pursue Laura when he was about 13 years old. He constantly told her how much he cared for her, gave her flowers and invented outrageous gadgets for her. He was always ready to rush to her aid and defend her honor. Finally, after 9 years, Laura realized that she had fallen in love with Steve and agreed to marry him.
God is a lot like Steve. (Maybe not as nerdy) God is constantly wooing us, given us the maximum opportunities to receive His forgiveness and have a loving relationship with us – with you. We can always say 'no' to God's offer of an intimate, loving relationship with Him, but God makes sure that we can also say 'yes' to Him. This is one of the works of grace - the 'light that gives light to every person'.
When I was on that old West Virginia mountain road, staring into the blackness, I stood there, shaking & nervous, for about 30 minutes. (It seemed like hours) Then, I saw in the distance, two little lights. I'd see the lights, then they would disappear. Then I'd see them again, only they would be bigger and brighter. Then they'd disappear again only to reappear a few seconds later, bigger & brighter. It was a car coming my way going in and out of my line-of-sight as it weaved its way through the winding mountain road. When I saw the car lights, I knew my deliverance had come. I waved the car down. The driver stopped and told me he would call a tow truck as soon as he got into town. About 30 to 40 minutes later a tow truck arrived. The tow truck driver took my car to a garage to be worked on the next morning and dropped me off at a motel. I was saved.
When the darkness of life is suffocating you, look for the light – the 'light that gives light to every person'. It's there. It will always be there – to guide you to Jesus and into an eternal, loving relationship with God. You're never without a light.