Turn On the Light

Do all you have to do without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be God’s children, blameless, sincere and wholesome, living in a warped and diseased world, and shining there like lights in a dark place. (Philippians 2:14-15, PHILLIPS)

When I think of the culture we live in, grumbling and arguing are two traits that are readily apparent. We grumble about things we cannot control. We grumble about circumstances we face. We grumble about other people. We grumble about ourselves. We argue with those who think differently from us. We argue with those who hold varying political or spiritual beliefs. We argue with family, friends, and even complete strangers. We argue about things that are not even important, just for the sake of arguing.

If we are honest, we can admit that sometimes we ENJOY grumbling and arguing. We gain a certain satisfaction from dwelling on the things that are going wrong. We often want to camp in our anger or hurt or disappointment, looking for more reasons to justify those feelings. Winning an argument or cutting others down can bring a feeling of self-importance. We enjoy proving that we are right.

But God offers something more. He calls His children to a higher, holy standard. I appreciate that He makes the reason — His purpose — clear. Let’s look closer at this verse to better understand it.

Do all you have to do without grumbling or arguing Other versions use the terms: murmuring; disputing; questioning; hesitations; complaining; bickering; second-guessing; division; making trouble; doubting; and reasonings. That is quite a list! The thought of the original language goes beyond actions to consider thoughts and motives toward others. So God is instructing us to be agreeable, helpful, and respectful. When we live out far more life, we join others to get the job done rather than fighting against them to do it our way — or not at all.

so that you may be God’s children, blameless, sincere and wholesome The Bible clearly states that we do not become God’s children through good works (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:23-24). Some translations state the meaning of this phrase more clearly: we show or prove that we are God’s children when we act like Him. Have you ever been told that you “take after” a parent, grandparent, or other older relative who had influence over you? We “take after” God — and experience far more life — when our thoughts, words, and actions are pure and completely good. In part, by doing all we have to do without grumbling or arguing.

...living in a warped and diseased world Because this is all we have ever known, it can be hard for us to recognize how spiritually warped and diseased our world is. But when we compare the values and practices of humans to those of God, we start to understand the reality of this verse. God created us in His image and intended for us to be like Him (Genesis 1:26). But we have traded His love and kindness for selfishness. We have traded His joy and peace for greed and competition. We have traded His faithfulness and goodness for moral relativity and a cancel culture. Thankfully God gives us His Spirit and empowers us to be like Him (I Corinthians 3:16, Acts 1:8). Far more life recognizes where we have adopted the world’s warp and disease and replaces it with God’s truth and spiritual health.

and shining there like lights in a dark place. When physical light shines in a dark place, we can clearly see what is there. We can avoid danger. We can make sense of our surroundings. We can discern what is true from what our minds and senses have misinterpreted. These same principles apply to the spiritual light of God’s truth. When God’s light is shining, we can clearly see what is wrong or evil (Psalm 90:8). We can avoid spiritual danger (Isaiah 42:16). We can tell what around us is warped and diseased (Proverbs 20:27). We can respond in a God-like manner because we can clearly see what is true (Psalm 119:105). God uses the words and actions of one person to “turn on the light” for others. People recognize their own sin when they see others who are not sinning. People recognize their own bad attitudes when others respond with a good attitude. In this way, we become lights who shine righteousness in dark, sinful places. We enjoy far more life and show others what it is like to live in fellowship with God.

Breaking down and studying this verse helps me overcome the temptation to grumble and argue. I remember it is not enjoyable to live in darkness. I realize it is more satisfying to focus on what is pure and good. I no longer want to embrace the mindset of this warped and diseased world. I want to live in God’s light and reflect it so others can see Him, too. I want far more life!

I appreciate the straightforward way The Message writes these verses.

Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night. (Philippians 2:14-15)

These words motivate me to be obey God…for my own benefit, others’ benefit, and God’s glory. I hope they motivate you to turn on the light and pursue far more life, too!

Sisters,
If you are honest with yourself, what aspect of grumbling and arguing is attractive to you?
In what areas have you already grown in “taking after” God? What needs to change in your beliefs or thinking to take after Him in this area?
Where have you recognized that what seemed normal was actually warped and diseased?
How do you shine like a light in the darkness? How can you shine brighter?
Thank God for far more life. Ask Him to grow your desire for more of it!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso

Let Your Light Shine

A friend’s picture of this light fixture caught my attention. The design reminds me of our lives: we are the socket, our relationships are the encircling rings, and God’s Spirit living inside us is the light. Before the Spirit indwells us we are dark, but He causes us to shine. No matter how many rings we have around us, the light can always reach them.

Physical light serves many purposes, including illuminating our surroundings and protecting us from harm by revealing danger. In the Bible, light is used as a spiritual metaphor. Spiritual light depicts salvation from our sins (Acts 26:18). Walking in the light means doing the right thing or following God’s instructions (Ephesians 5:8-9). The Bible is referred to as a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). Jesus calls Himself the Light of the world (John 8:12). Jesus also tells His followers:

You are light for the world. A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand. Then its light shines on everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, GW)

Far more life embraces the call to be light for the world. We are instructed to let our light — the aspects of our character that are like Jesus — shine for all to see. We should not hide our goodness, forgiveness, kindness, love, joy, peace, patience, and other Christ-like characteristics. He wants us to stand out and be noticed, just like a city on a hill. This brings Him glory and brings us far more life.

A Bible verse I read this week challenges us to let our light shine. I appreciate the directness of this translation:

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.  (Romans 12:9, NLT)

Shining our light is not just doing the right thing, it is having the right mindset and attitude. It is genuinely loving others, including those who are different from us or hard to love. It starts with seeing their God-given value and continues by putting concern for their well-being into action. This love can take many forms: volunteering for an agency or event that benefits others; giving money to a person or organization in need; giving hands-on help to someone; speaking up on someone’s behalf or in their defense when they are victimized, overlooked, or oppressed; listening to someone who others overlook; praying with and for someone in a hard place; and more. Far more life loves others with our attitudes and actions.

Shining our light also joins God in hating what is wrong while attaching ourselves to what is good. Satan wants us to get stuck on one side or the other and forget that God wants us to do both. We can get stuck hating the darkness and forget that doing good brings light to the situation. We may be tempted to voice our hate for sin, but not actively support the righteous alternative. We may be quick to point out the darkness in others’ lives, but fail to share God’s light so they can find a way out. We might hate people or blame a whole group for the evil of a few people rather than seeing the situation or people’s hearts as God does. We may seek revenge rather than truth, justice, and forgiveness.

We can also get stuck ignoring the darkness and selfishly basking in God’s light. We may be tempted to deny or minimize the depravity of sin and instead focus on puffing up our Bible knowledge. We may shy away from hard situations and respond with Bible verses that only address the surface. We may refuse to get involved in fighting evil, always insisting others are more equipped or prepared. Far more life seeks to hate wrong while holding tightly to the good that overcomes it.

A few verses later, Paul shares another practical — and challenging — idea that restates one of Jesus’ commands:

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. (Romans 12:14, NLT)

…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44, NASB)

This command is the opposite of our human response, so it must be the brightest light we can shine on injustice! God is glorified when we bless, love, and pray for those who hate us or intentionally harm us. Our enemies can be anyone who opposes the light shining out of us. We bless them by praying for them to experience God’s love and be drawn to His light. There may be practical ways we can show them love, too, but prayer is our most available and powerful option for obeying God in this. Far more life trusts God to use His light for good, even when it shines on our enemies.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:5, NLTSE)

John wrote this about Jesus coming to earth, but the same truth applies to the light shining from us. Our light — God’s presence in our hearts — is secure. No evil, sin, enemy, persecutor, storm or trial or difficulty can extinguish His light in us. Thank you, God, that Your light overcomes any darkness we face and reveals far more life to those around us.

Sisters,
How has God’s light changed your life?
In what situations are you tempted to hide His light?
Is there a person or group that you only pretend to love? What do you need to overcome to really love them?
How do you practically hate wrong while holding tightly to what is good?
Walk confidently in far more life this week as you remember that God’s light in you is secure and eternal!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Shonda Millender