Bayou City Women’s 2018 Summer Bible Study Project studied the gospel of King Jesus in his own words. We walked through his statements in the Book of John where he declared himself to be the great I AM. He did so indirectly many times, but also just flat out said he was God. The answer we were seeking was if he is who he says he is, what does that mean for us? What we learned is that Jesus changes everything. I got to be part of a study group, and I thought I’d share some of my notes over the next few weeks from the teaching time for each chapter. This isn’t a synopsis of the study, but rather pieces of my personal research and my testimony and a few fun nuggets I found along the way. You can read my previous post here:(1) The Bread of Life
Week 2: The Light of the World
In my early 20’s especially, I struggled with doubt and fear. I always blamed it on my circumstances. Back then, it seemed like no one’s life was harder than mine. (I know better now.) But I was a young wife, starting a career, going to school full time, with a marriage that nearly didn’t survive the first 18 months. I was busy and overwhelmed. Then I was a new mom, with money problems (the problem being that we had no money), I had a lovely but colicky baby, and not a lot of direction for the future. It was right about that time that everything caught up to me. I crashed. I crashed hard. I doubted my future, my decisions, my place in this world…I doubted my God. Depression and anxiety haunted me. I struggled with anger and insecurity.
I walked in darkness for a solid year.
I remember when I finally confessed that I had lost my way. It was almost as scary to admit my doubt as it was to actually feel it. But that confession was a crack in my darkness and the light of Jesus began to shine through. I opened my Bible by myself, for myself, on a regular basis for the first time in my life. I prayed. I looked for the Holy Spirit in my everyday moments. And slowly, like the sun coming out after a storm, my heart healed. Looking back, I can see that the light of Jesus changed my past, my present, and my future. How do you need him to change yours today?
Maybe you need changed hearts in the relationships in your life. I’d venture to say everyone at least one, if not many, people they love that they hope and pray for a relationship change. We have husbands, children, parents, siblings, co-workers and bosses, church friends, and neighbors…and we are all broken people. When we get together without Jesus, stuff happens. We suffer. We suffer victimization, rejection, loss. What relationship in your life needs the light of Jesus today?
Maybe you’re struggling with an addiction. I’m not necessarily talking about drugs or alcohol or pornography, although those are more pervasive than you might realize. I’m talking about anything we turn to for temporary comfort. We talked about this last week. Do you find yourself compulsively spending, staying too busy, working, on your phone…?
Are you desperate for the light of Jesus in your emotional or mental health? I researched the current mental health statistics for the US and…let’s just say we need Jesus. We need him. So many of us are anxious, traumatized, or depressed. We need strength to even just come up for air long enough to ask for help.
Maybe your future seems dark to you. Your life doesn’t feel secure right now. Do you need the light of Jesus to break through and flood your path with wisdom or grace?
Do you need light shed on your identity? Like who you truly are, deep inside your soul. Jesus offers us a new name, a purpose equipped with gifts, a calling, and every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. But do you even know who that woman is? The one you truly are? Who are you? Why are you here? We’ve all asked these questions.
We once were darkness, but now we are children of light. And that gives us an entirely new life. But are we really living it? Jesus changes everything, and we’ll see tonight that his light changes our past, present, and future. How has he changed yours?
Ephesians 1:18-23: His light redeems our past. He calls us out of darkness and into hope. He takes who we are, and turns us into something totally new. Jesus has authority over all of creation. He was present at the dawn of creation, and reigned in total authority. So when he came to earth as a human, he already had authority over all the systems of this world. And that shook things up! His teachings turned culture upside down, and they still do today. Here are some of his most radical teachings, in his own words:
He broke the sabbath to heal.
“You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” Luke 13:15-16
He called out religious elitists.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.” Luke 6:22-23
He loved sinners.
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
He indicted the rich and the hypocritical.
“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:42-44
He redefined family.
“Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:34-35
He called out self-righteous religious leaders.
“So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Matthew 23:3-4
He taught a new conflict-resolution model.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24
He shocked his Jewish followers with his statement on the temple.
“Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Mark 13:2
He made people question what they thought they knew about who was really getting into heaven.
“Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” Matthew 21:31-32
He taught us how to live under the weight of human government.
“So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Matthew 22:18-21
He lifted the status of women, and counted them among his closest friends, supporters, and disciples.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary [who was sitting at his feet] has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
Jesus has authority over all of creation, he has authority over every system of man – our culture, our government, our religion. The guts of we are as a whole. Citizens of earth. He also has authority over sin and darkness. And that gets real personal real fast. He not only wants to be allowed access to the deepest, darkest corners of our souls — into our decision-making process, our habits, our motivation, our sin — he wants in and he has the authority to flood it with light. His light shines on who we were – and brings forth forgiveness, repentance, surrender, victory, actual life change. And then we start to live like were created to live.
Ephesians 1:4 says, “…He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption.” Maybe your life up to this point hasn’t been a story of love and grace. Maybe you’ve been hurt. Repeatedly. Maybe you’ve made mistake after mistake after mistake. Believing that God has had a plan for your life since the beginning of time can hurt when we walk through trials and injustice and sin. This verse doesn’t minimize that. If anything it highlights how our pain isn’t part of God’s original intention for us. Remember last week how we studied that God made a way to fill all our needs from the very beginning. But that was broken and we’re still hurting today.
Ephesians 1:18 says: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.”
We are called into hope.
For week 2 of Jesus Changes Everything we studied John 8, and spent time with a woman who had been hurt and made mistakes, and was brought before Jesus by an angry mob ready to stone her. If I was her, I’d feel pretty hopeless in that moment. Her past defined her life, and was about to define her death. Her encounter with Jesus shows how he uses his authority to redeem. And that should give us all hope.
Jesus came to bring us out of darkness and into the light. His authority breaks the power of sin. We are given salvation, but he keeps going. He frees us from sin but he keeps going.Through him we are adopted and loved and known but he keeps going. He gives us a new identity and purpose. A calling. And the holistic work of Christ fully redeems our past.
The Light of the World restores our present. We are so precious to God that he considers us his inheritance. But we aren’t precious on our own merit, are we? We are worthy because of he is worthy. And we are his. We are God’s ultimate investment. He gave up his life for us. He pours out his love, wisdom, glory, even suffering into our hearts. The sum of our lives hidden in Christ, filled with his blessings, are his inheritance. I love this quote from Henry’s commentary about us being the inheritance of God: “There is a present inheritance in the saints; for grace is glory begun, and holiness is happiness in the bud.”
How do we really know we’re walking the path of light in our everyday lives? When the light of Jesus restores our present, we are just plain different. Colossians 3:12-15 says it beautifully. But maybe your everyday life, even as you’re walking in the light, doesn’t feel holy or that you’re dearly loved. Every Sunday morning, the bottom part of our listening guide has a tear off section for prayer requests. Lots of people have been sharing their requests and needs. We pray over every single one of them, by name, each week. And it’s heavy. There is real suffering happening all around us. We are truly hurting. If that’s you, if you are longing for the light of Jesus to change your life, I’m praying this passage over you:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
When we walk in the light, we become the light. And what a beautiful inheritance are the children of light for their Father. The light of Jesus redeems our past, restores our present…and the light of Jesus reveals our future. When Jesus came down to earth, he already had authority over his creation and his people and sin. But something hadn’t happened yet. Something happened that would change everything, for all time. We can read about it in John 17. At the last supper just before he was arrested and sentenced to death, Jesus prayed, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”
Jesus came to finish the work of redemption. He came to overturn death itself. I found a fascinating quote about what happened when Jesus, fully God and fully man, gave his life for ours:
Jesus was — always has been, always will be — God! He is with his Father the creator of the universe. He did not become authoritative at his incarnation or his exaltation. But here’s the distinction. Before the incarnation [that is, when he came down to earth as a human], God the Son existed, but Jesus the God-man did not yet exist. Before the incarnation God the Son existed with all authority. But the God-man, Jesus Christ, had not yet died for sinners, and the sentence of condemnation hanging over his people had not yet been stripped from Satan’s hand by the shedding of his Jesus’s blood. But it is precisely the God-man, Jesus Christ, and the crucified and risen Savior, triumphant over sin and Satan, and exalted to the right hand of God and installed as the Lord of the universe.
So, yes, the Son of God always had total authority in heaven and on earth. But when he had done the great work of redemption once for all, God exalted him as the God-man, the Redeemer, the Risen One to his right hand and now, as never before, put the rule of the universe, and the mission of the church, into the hands of a man, Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, Son of God. (source)
The light of Jesus reveals our future. We serve and love a God of living power, who reigns over a kingdom that is and is to come. Ephesians 1:19 says we can know “his incomparably great power for us who believe.” We believe in him, and the resurrection power of God begins its work.
Jesus connects heaven to earth. God will “bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” Our future is now and is still to come. Jesus taught us to ask for God to do his will on earth as it is in heaven. We can taste eternal life here and now! We can live eternally here and now. The victory is won. The light has won. Jesus has revealed the future and invites us to live it today. Here. Now. We don’t live in sin anymore! But how often do we find ourselves living life in the dark? We joke about bad habits. We ignore our hopes and dreams. We stuff our pain down deep inside. We are resigned to being a hot mess, because isn’t everyone?
I loved what Jesica and J, this week’s authors, asked us at the end of this week’s chapter: So what does this mean we should actually do? We need to deal with our darkness. If you have something weighing on your heart, and you need prayer, or counseling, or to confess it, don’t wait another minute. Reach out to someone you trust and just say the words out loud. We are all broken people, but praise God, our brokenness is where the light gets in. The light of Jesus redeems our past, restores our present, and reveals our future. It changes everything.