Kingdom of Light (5)
The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Romans 13.12-14
Prisms, not mirrors
At the end of his rope, and desperate for relief from a burden of guilt and the inability to escape his sinful ways, Augustine strayed into a garden. Filled with anxiety, doubt, and self-disgust, he would shortly encounter the light of Jesus Christ, and be forever changed.
We sometimes use the word reflect to express what we want to see happen in our lives as Christians. We say we want to reflect Jesus to the world, like a mirror reflects an image.
As agents of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom, believers are not so much like mirrors as they are like prisms. Mirrors reflect light. The light strikes them and bounces off, without bringing anything of the mirror with it. Prisms refract light. The light passes through a prism where it engages internal facets before passing through in a different form. That form is truly light, but it expresses the character of the prism as well. Pure light is separated into colors through a prism, and is refracted in ways that uniquely express both the character of the light and the nature of the object through which it has passed.
The Christian wants not to reflect the light of Christ, so that it bounces off him into the world, without passing through the believer or carrying any of his character with it. If Augustine had merely reflected what he read from Romans 13, those around him would not have experienced the inward change that had happened in him. Instead, the light of God’s Word entered Augustine’s soul, accomplished a work of transforming grace, then used his own personality, words, and relationships to refract that experience of the light to the people around him.
We want to refract the light of Christ. We want His life to enter our souls, pass through and affect every aspect of our inward being – heart, mind, and conscience. Then we want that light to come through us, in words and deeds that manifest the true character of the light, but that do so in ways that are uniquely our own expressions.
Augustine (354-430 AD) was one of the brightest people of his day. An intellectual and a teacher, he had many friends with whom he cruised and caroused in the avenues and hallways of darkness in his day. He’d already fathered one child out of wedlock – much to his Christian mother’s dismay – and he was well on his way to destroying his future through a life of dalliance and dissipation.
But he was also a desperate young man, because he feared the darkness which had become his familiar haunt, but was powerless to extricate himself from it. He was weighed down with guilt, going all the way back to his childhood. His mind was filled with doubts, and he had begun to be disgusted with certain of the diversions to which he devoted his leisure time. He no longer trusted his teachers; he considered himself a fraud; and he was beginning to lose his friends because he could no longer join them in their degrading activities.
Accompanied by his close friend in his mother’s garden, he had reached a moment of crisis. His life seemed to be over, and he was deep in the throes of despair. Then he heard the voice of child singing a little song he’d never known before: “Take up and read; take up and read.” What could that mean? What should he do?
Desperate to do something, he grabbed a nearby Bible and flung it open to a random place. Then he read the words of Paul in Romans 13.12-14.
Putting on Jesus
Suddenly the light of God’s truth flooded his soul. He understood the folly of his former life, and he despised it and longed for more of God’s truth. All at once, he was filled with peace and joy, and he declared his newfound faith in Jesus Christ. He was a new man, a freed man, a man caught up in waves of grace, overflowing from his soul. His heart leapt at the prospect of “putting on” Jesus Christ, and all his values and priorities suddenly changed.
Augustine could not contain the peace and joy that flooded his soul. He ran to his close friend and declared with tears that he believed in Jesus and intended to serve Him forever. His friend, astonished and relieved, believed as well, and they ran to his mother, Monica, and joyously declared their conversion to her.
Everybody who experienced Augustine in those brief moments knew what it was like to be in the presence of God’s glory.
This is what it means to refract the light of truth. When the light of Jesus Christ, shining from His Word, strikes the receptors of the soul, the effect is like the rays of sun on a solar panel, where sunlight is converted to electricity. The mind is opened to new insights; the heart quickens with bright affections; priorities shift; and spiritual energy for good works of love ignites and flows through words and deeds in ways uniquely personal, and appropriate to the circumstances of one’s life.
And the more this becomes our daily experience, the more we will understand and fulfill our calling as citizens and ambassadors of the Kingdom of light, putting on Jesus and refracting His glory in the places and to the people of our daily lives.
1. In what ways is Augustine’s experience of the light of Christ similar to what you experience as you read and meditate on His Word?
2. Can you see why it is so important that Christians, as citizens and ambassadors of the Kingdom of light, spend time each day reading God’s Word and communing with Him in prayer? Explain.
3. As the light of Christ refracts through you into your daily life, who are the people who are most likely to be affected? In what ways?
Next steps – Preparation: Meditate on Psalm 90.12, 16, 17. Why is this a good prayer to use in preparing for a day of refracting God’s light?
T. M. Moore
God can reveal Himself and His glory in even the smallest everyday acts. This includes all our involvement with culture. Order a copy of Christians on the Front Lines of the Culture Wars (click here), and learn how you can prepare every area of your life as a staging-ground for the glory of God.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.