Light versus Darkness

Pastor Gary Cox

“Feed the flock of God with a ready mind,” I was thinking of that sentiment, “feed the flock,” there’s just two levels or there’s two layers of the flock here. There’s the flock of God’s people but then as you look out over the flock of God’s people, what do you predominately see? You predominately see smaller flocks and each smaller flock is a family unit. I think that a sensitivity to that is extremely valuable and perhaps in our day it’s very necessary to take some legitimate or some distinct efforts and get back to the understanding and to the consideration of the importance and the value of the family. The reality is these family units are extremely valuable and important in the whole scheme of God’s workings and God’s purpose. So it’s necessary for us to recognize that God has worked His plan of redemption out in a family context and I think what I would really like to share this morning in some way, if I could leave here feeling satisfied, I’d be satisfied if I felt like you went home today with a sense of happy vision for the home and particularly your home and the sense of its importance and its value as a simple instrument of ministry. Let me reemphasize that again, as a simple instrument of ministry. When I say “simple instrument of ministry” I mean that a simple instrument of ministry is a ministry that transfers the essential life blood for the believer, transfers it with the least peripheral commotion and reaches the heart and does transactional development right to the heart so that lives are changed. When you look at life on the one hand of course, obviously there are 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year and if you miss one you’re dead, that’s all there is to it. So there’s a sense of filling up of moments and minutes with activities and functionings and all these things and we tend to go through life just passing from circumstance and project and deadline and occasion, one to the next, in a sense having life flow through us like some kind of a sea and we’re just letting it pass by as we’re carrying out our roles or our duties or what have you. But when it comes down to what God is doing and wants to do through salvation, God is wanting really to get men to stop and to take into consideration what He’s provided for him and in the larger sense of the word, God wants us to find that He is a loving, warm Heavenly Father who cares for us and who wants us to learn how to transfer the sensitivities of our needs, how to transfer those things over to Him and that’s the very nature, the very purpose of what it means to be loved with the everlasting Love of God. In that particular context then as I think of sending you home today and wanting to stir you up in your faith, I think of two things. Number one that as especially we fathers, yes we mothers too but particularly we fathers, that we would pay attention to the flock that’s in our home, to the flock that√Ęs under our care, that we would have a sensitivity for them. I don’t know about you but I know in my own case, in my own family, it’s a struggle, it’s a difficulty for me to maintain adequate considerations of my family. It’s easy to be busy, it’s easy to be getting done the things that are on my work list and projects and deadlines and “I have to finish this, I have to do that,” and it’s so easy to run past the children and share in their lives that kind of relationship. When we’re talking about the Gospel we need to recognize that the Gospel ministers right there at that point, it ministers to the very person. Remember that passage in John, if we can turn there for just a moment in the Gospel of John, chapter 1, let’s read a couple verses and just get a glimpse of that essential human spirit that we’re talking about here, it says in John 14, “In Him,” speaking of Christ, speaking of the Word, “In Him was life and the life was the light of men.” “In Him was life and the life was the light of men.” Have you ever stopped very long to think about what life is? What life is from God’s perspective? See God was the Creator, He happened to invent it, He created it, He made us, He gave us life. Have you ever thought about life as it was granted to us at the creation and life that has been regranted to us through redemption? In Christ was life, life. The natural instinct of a human being is to live. That’s why it says “in Him was life and the life was the light of men; the life was the light of men.” Life as it is in the eye of God, in the Creator, the verse before this just said that He created us, He created all things, but life as it was in the eye of the Creator is that thing that attracts and gives a sense of focus and a reality to all of mankind. It’s a universal aspect of being a human, of being created, to have a hunger for life. If you turn to John 17 when Christ is getting ready to go to the cross and He prays to His Heavenly Father, He has an interesting description of eternal life. Did you ever think of eternal life? If life is great what is eternal life? I remember when I was a boy I used to think about peanut butter sandwiches. My idea as a little boy of eternal life was an unending jar of peanut butter with no restrictions to eat as much as you want. Then the other thing I was concerned about was it seemed like someday I sure would like owning a horse and hopefully there’ll be horses in Heaven because I’d like to have one. But as a little tyke that was what I had in my mind as far as Heaven was. When I was teaching middle school one year a student asked me in class, he said, “Is there going to be soccer in Heaven?” He’s the best player on the team and he wonders if there’s going to be soccer in Heaven. When a young person asks that kind of a question what are they saying? They’re saying that at this moment in my experience of life, there is something that I’ve experienced that’s kind of nice, I enjoy it, it’s special, it’s fun and when I think of Heaven I’d hate to not have something that’s nice. I don’t know about you but when I was a child some of the pictures of Heaven had kind of like a frame of reference of this guy sitting on a puffy cloud with wings playing a harp. As a little child I couldn’t quite grasp how that was going to be all that exciting. You’ve got to sit there forever? You’re not going to sit in church for 10 minutes. But when you look at John 17, Christ is praying and He talks about life eternal in verse 2 and 3, He says, “As Thou hast given Him,” speaking of the Son of Man, “power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him. And this is life eternal,” verse 3, “that they might know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” That’s a short and complete definition of eternal life. It’s given at the mouth of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son just before He went to the cross to win that eternal life for us. And when you look at the context of that definition He says, “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” I know that you and I are not regular Greek scholars but you’ve probably heard a few of these little Greek words thrown out over your years, the word here in the Greek is the word, “epiginosko.” In the Greek as well as Latin and other languages, you can modify the substantial meaning of a verse by the prefixes or suffixes that you add to it and the word “ginosko” in the Greek is the word for knowledge. The word “epiginosko,” is the word “ginosko” with a little prefix, “epi” added in front of it and the prefix literally means “upon,” and it has an implication of knowledge upon. But when you look at the application, everytime you find the word “epiginosko” in the New Testament you find this sense of substantial or significant kind of knowledge and it’s the knowledge of relationship. It’s the most substantial word for knowledge in the Greek and it has to do with deep intimate knowledge. So when you think about God’s definition of eternal life, we’re talking about relationship, we’re talking about relationship with God. When you and I get to Heaven our lives are going to be filled to overflowing because of relationship that we have with God the Father. That is who we were created to be. In Him was life and that life was the light of men. So if we boil man down to his substantive eternal essence as he was created by God it gets back to that little catechism question that you may have learned from your Baltimore catechism or your Westminster catechism or if you ever had a catechism. But the old question, “Who made you?” “God made me.” “Why did God make you?” And the answer, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him and to dwell with Him forever in Heaven.” That’s the answer, the essential substantial answer of who I am and why God made me.

If we move on a little bit then in our considerations, how does God present Himself to us in the Scriptures frequently especially in the New Testament? God frequently shares Himself or manifests Himself to us by the term “Father.” When Christ was teaching the disciples how to pray, what did He say? He said, “When you pray, pray on this wise, Our Father who are in Heaven, hallowed by Your name.” The first point of reference to God for you and I in our prayer life is that we’re coming to a Father, that’s the substance, that’s the essence. Now we’ve already explored, we’ve already acknowledged the fact that man has a universal desire for life, “In Him was life.” And if we skipped over to verse 9 in John chapter 1, it says this speaking of the light of Christ whom John was sent before to bear witness of, that was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. The true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. Now this morning as I’m thinking it out. I wanted to encourage you and send you home in the right frame of mind towards your families, I think of this picture, I think of this context, here’s the interesting point, that was the true light that lights every man that cometh into the world. Did you ever stop very long to think about what that means, “that was the true light?” If there was a need of John to bring a focus to Christ as being the true light, there’s an implication by that that there is also that which is a false light, that which is a light that appears to be life, it appears to be the purpose and reason and yet it’s false. There’s a Proverbs that says “there is a way that seemeth right unto a man but the end thereof are the ways of death.” “There is a way that seemeth right.” Here was see an important stress and here’s why daddies we need you in your homes being shepherds to your children because the instinct of man is to be drawn towards life, that’s our instinct. You could say that we have this created instinct to move ourselves toward life and anything that seems to be life to us is going to attract us, it’s going to draw our attention toward it. The problem is what? The problem is that number one there is a true light that lights every man that comes into the world and He’s Jesus Christ and then there is that which seemeth right but that’s a false light. And to use some stark terms of Scripture, if something is not light what is it? Darkness; if something is not light, it’s darkness. So what we can say in terms of parallelism, we can say that if Jesus is the true light that lights every man that comes into the world, then that which is not Jesus which seemeth right, that which attracts men is darkness and men see darkness and they call it life and they’re confused by their point of reference. And the tremendous need that our children have, the tremendous need that we have as people is we need help in discerning the light of life. We need help in discerning the light of life. There is simply a natural contest that’s taking place in our souls day in and day out and the home, the home is the essential place where God wants to nurture and train and develop and preserve and pass on the light of life from family to family, from parents to child.

In that context then perhaps there’s some questions that maybe we should ask ourselves about as it relates to our roles as parents in our home and just how important that role is. I think the first thing that I can think of when I’m considering this simple structure that we’ve erected this morning, I think the first thing that I can think of is the fact that dads need a vision for their children personally, dads need a personal vision for their children. There’s nothing that can replace the vision of a dad for their kids. When you stop back and you recognize the attributes of God the Father and you try to measure some of them one at a time and you look at them, one of the things that you see about the Father is that He’s always considering the needs of the children and how He can minister to them. The whole nature of salvation is what? Is that God rolled up His sleeves, as it were, and with His own arm He brought forth salvation and there is an initiative, there is an oversight, there is a leadership of concern that looks upon the sheep of the pasture and says, “These folks need help, these folks need help.” And with that sense of vision in needing help, you set yourself and you set your resources and you set your considerations about how to help that which is under your care. Now to me it’s a substantially important point of reference for you and I as a father because as I mentioned just a few minutes ago, it is very easy for me to miss that. It’s very easy for me to miss that. It’s easy to have so much ordinary every dayness of routine that the routine ticks off and things happen but where is the father’s heart as he relates to his brood?

With that in mind, I want to point out a second aspect to the relationship of the Father. Not only is the Father considering, but the Father is really giving life; the Father is really giving life of Himself. His sense of acceptance and acknowledgment upon the children is life giving. We can illustrate that briefly if we turn to John 5, there’s a good illustration of this kind of life giving relationship from the Father to the Son. It’s around the occasion when Jesus told that fellow to take up his bed and walk and the Jews sought to kill Him because He had healed someone on the Sabbath day. So picking up in John chapter 5 and verse 17 we have an interesting discussion here and it goes like this, “Jesus answered and said to them, “My Father works hitherto and I work”.” I want you to see the incredible sense of being that exists in the Son coming from the Father. “My Father works hitherto and I work.” There is a relationship of connection. The being of the Son is found in the sharing of the being of the Father with the Son. It’s interesting to me to notice that it’s not play that it’s so valuable, it’s work at this juncture. Christ is not focused on the play that he had with His Father in romper room in Heaven. He’s focusing on the sharing of the essence of the Father as He granted it to the Son. If we skip on down to verse 19 Jesus continues on this vein with respects to His relationship to His Father and He says this, “Verily I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of Himself. The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.” That’s an interesting point of reference. If you would describe that you can see that that sense of life giving aspect that the father gives over to the son, extending to the son and by extending to the son that which I am in my sphere of work, in my sphere of duty and responsibility, by engaging and bringing my son into that sphere, there is a sense not only of connectedness but a sense of existence that depends upon the father. And He says, ‘Whatsoever things He doeth these things doeth also the Son likewise.’ And we see this kind of mimicry, this kind of sharing. I want to pause for a moment and ask a practical question. To me this is an important spiritual principle as it relates to our spiritual duty with our children. What our children need is the sense that they are a part of their father, that’s the critical need that children have. In some respects you can say that there is a distinction between sons and daughters in terms of some of the actualities and we can grant that without getting sidetracked by it, but in reality we see this substantial point of reference that is needed. Let’s get back for a moment and put out that litmus test and say, ‘You know what? God made us and gave us life and that life is the light of men.’ As that life is extended from the father to the son, that sense of light is deeply focused in the heart of the son. It’s the sharing of life by the father that causes the son to have light in his eyes from his father. That’s the critical issue that we see in this construction and in the need of our homes. Our children don’t need something other than this, this is the primary need. Let me take that for a moment and just get off on an anecdote for just a moment. What do I mean by that? Well I mean this, if I find a child on the street who is abandoned by his parents, what does that child need? That child needs this connection back to the Heavenly Father. That child needs that sense of belonging that comes from a warm reception, I am welcome, I am accepted into the beloved. That’s what a child needs. So as someone brings the Gospel upon that kind of a person in need what they are doing for that person is they’re extending to that person the family of God and they’re extending to that person the Fatherhood of God in meeting that need. So I am drawing them to this point of acceptance and that’s what ministry is. And yet when these things occur and let’s say that person finds God and finds Him to be that which he’s always searched for and finds his fullness in Him and after a while God calls that person into a new family, gets married, has his own kids and what’s going to take place? Redemption is going to work in that new family setting a whole outworking of reception and acceptance of life and love and this father who was once without a father is going to have the vision of the Heavenly Father and he’s going to be moved and motivated first and foremost for his own children as he wants to extend to them that sense of family. What I want to say to you today sitting here is this, thank God that we do need and fellowship and participate in the brotherhood and I don’t want to make an overstatement but I don’t want to make an understatement either by carelessness but here’s this point, dads, your children either are going to be finding their sense of life, finding their sense of being in relationship to you and in your relationship to God or they’re not. It’s either going to be there or it’s not going to be there. If it’s there it’s going to be drawing them into this light of life and if your light of life is centered around the person of God, you’re going to be giving them a heritage, you’re going to be giving them that which every soul hungers for in the deepest way, a hungering of life and you’re going to satisfy them at the place of the greatest thirstiness. And you know what’s wonderful? You and I have that privilege number one but we have that power. That is within our power. There is nothing else that God has created in the natural world that has that same power as the power of a father for his children. I’m not meaning to slight you mothers because in one sense of the word mothers and fathers are equal to the Heavenly Father. So there are things that moms bring that no one else can bring except the father. But the whole point of it being, we have a substantial opportunity, we have a substantial opportunity. And let me ask you a question, what do you think it would be that would interfere with that opportunity? What would it be for you and I fathers to miss out on connecting in relationship to our children? What would it be? It would be a way that seemeth right unto a man, a way that seemeth right unto a man but the end thereof are the ways of death. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s work, it probably is work for most of us but we do have a different kind of situation, we have a very different kind of situation. You and I can’t even craft in our mind hardly the cultural reality that existed in the day of Christ. When Christ went home at age 12 to be with His parents and be subject to them until age 30, He lived in His father’s house and his father had a little wood shop connected to His house where they did the family business and the family business was done there amongst the whole people. And there was this natural tendency by sharing the geographical location, there was this natural tendency to share in all that the father was doing. We don’t have that today so you and I fathers have to pay real close attention to every single way possible where we can enlarge the space by where our sons and daughters can draw near to us. We have to make that accommodation. And maybe we have to make an accommodation for example like Francis Scott Key did. I don’t know if you know anything about Francis Scott Key but Francis Scott Key’s birthplace is about 4 miles from here and I read one of his life accounts when we first moved to this house and I was all excited moving to an historical place. I could even hear the guns of Gettysburg when we first moved here. But as I read this story I found an interesting picture of a man who had a vision for his family. Now Francis Scott Key’s father fought with George Washington in the Revolution and George Washington came right down and they had a little picnic on his lawn on one occasion after the war. What happened after the war was many of the close associates and commanders of the army were assigned to what they called circuit courts that existed in the first days of our nation. Now a circuit court was called so because just like the circuit riding preachers, the judge had to travel from little town to little town around a geographical region and he had to hold court on a periodic basis at each place and hear the cases of the people that were there, so he traveled on horseback. Knowing, this is something to think about, knowing that this man’s job took him on this large circuit away from home on a regular basis it’s impressive to notice what Scott Key did when he was a little older and he was a married man. Later on he got married and he moved to this muddy little village called Georgetown and he built one of the first houses on these muddy little streets, but when he built his house, he built his office onto his house. He was a lawyer and he set up his lawyer shop right on the premise and you know why he did it? Because I’m not going to miss out on teaching my children, I want to be just like my father. And his father had taken full responsibility for his instruction and education which he got until he went to St. John’s College and got into the bar after that. There was a vision in Scott Key to create a time and a place that he was going to be accessible, he was going to be available to his children. So he adjusted things with respects to how to construct, how to do that. He made deliberate specific plans in his life to be there for his kids. Later on in Georgetown area, some of the leaders of the community came to him and said, ‘We would like your help in putting together a school. There’s a lot of kids here that aren’t getting to go to school and we’d like your help.’ And he said, ‘I’ll tell you what, I’ll lend some money and perhaps some organization ideas but on one condition, don’t you ever think or even ask me to put my children in that school because I am going to teach my children myself.’ And he had a vision for his kids and he constructed and ordered his life around that first and primary ministry to his children and that is what we have as a heritage as a nation. Once upon a time there were fathers in this land who were concerned about their family and passing on a heritage as a primary issue.

Verse 20 of John 5 says this, ‘For the Father loveth the Son and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth and He will show Him greater works than these that ye may marvel, show Him greater works than these that ye may marvel.’ Now listen, what is the grease button? What is the means by which these things are transacted and they move from one heart to the next? The issue is love. The father loves the son and it is the love of the father that stops and contemplates and considers and extends toward his children, it’s love, it’s a consideration of deliberate focus and course. You know what? That’s what God intended, that is what the picture should look like. That’s what a redeemed family should appear to be when someone would come alongside them and catch a snatch of what it means to be a Christian in a family. The thing that I want to stop here and say in terms of motivationally is this, these things are very near to us. They are very much at hand. They are not something that’s far away and difficult for us to attain to. Let’s think for a moment. What if in twenty years God wanted every one of us men in this room, everyone of us, He wanted us to be engaged in a public preaching ministry somewhere around the world where we were speaking on every occasion that God gave us utterance, speaking the Gospel and speaking for the kingdom? What if that was God’s objective that this motley crew here would have an objective of ministry like that down the road? If that were true what do you think God would do for training? How would God train us to be very useful and very substantial in terms of our ministry? What He would want to use first and foremost is our own families. He would want us to pay attention and dig in in our own homes. Think about your own life. Every one of you have a little story to tell, but right now just think about your own story and trace back and you know what you’ll find? You’ll find somewhere a father or a father substitute that God Himself put in your path that looked you in the eyes that had a sense of love for you and a sense of vision for you and they warmly entreated you, they warmly spoke to you and said, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it.’ And you’ll identify people in that place. People affect people. It was just an incredible reminder to me last Sunday when that stray family from New York wanders into our home and I’ve never seen a lap dog lap love, it’s been a long time. These folks were hungry, these people were starving just for warmth, just for love, just for exhortation and consideration. It was just an amazing reminder of what’s really going on, what’s taking place and what is the process by which God is going to bring up a people after Himself, people after His name. The Father loves the Son and showeth Him all that He doeth. There’s that sense of inclusion. If you look at little children in their play, in the early stages of their play, especially if you look at the guys, very often you’ll see them just mimicking dad in some form or another. Dad shaving at the mirror, there they are pretending to shave next to dad, just copy cat. There’s just a dynamic about who we were created to be by which we want to be received, we want to be loved, we want to be

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