It is a great favour of the blessed God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that we should each be individually a light in the world where we have been darkness and contributing to it: "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord" (Eph. 5:8), and this independently of the candlestick, which is the corporate light. Now, when the candlestick is removed, our responsibility is, if anything, greater that we should answer individually to the grace which He has given us.
Light is a remarkable quality; it sets forth everything in its true colour according to God. It begins with each of us personally. "If thine eye be single," set on Christ - that is, if Christ is your object - having no part dark, the body is light; you come out personally in quite a new way. It is not merely what you say, but what you are. A man who has received light, by degrees finds out how little he has seen things according to God. As he walks in the light the things that he could admit of at one time he cannot admit now.
The first great action of the light, as we see in John 9, is to separate us from man's ideas about God, until in the solitude of light we enjoy the Lord Himself as the source of it. Thus the first mark of light is in relation to God, and how we are here suitable to Him. We have to learn that mere religious associations, which are not in the Spirit, do not suit Him, and are not according to light; this is the first great action of the light - separation from everything that does not suit God in our approach to Him, and, as this is arrived at, we come out in a new way in our natural and home circle. Things are avoided and separated from that at one time seemed harmless and allowable, but the more we understand the new position we are in, the greater the sense of our responsibility to maintain the distinctness of this great favour; and this we are encouraged to do in dependence on the Lord, that we may be according to the mind of God, not only in the assembly, but also in our own private circle. It is as we are true in the latter that we influence those around us.
It is remarkable how a person, looking for light, will be attracted by a person that has light; but the more he is attracted to him who has the light, the more he will scrutinize all his ways and everything about him, in order to see if he is walking up to his light. Many years ago, after speaking on Acts 16, a near friend of mine said to me, "The address was liked; but," it was added, "I wonder what sort of man he is at home?"
What I may call the third circle is that of the servant. If in any of his ways he indicates the corrupt taster of the world, he is like a waster in a candle, he spoils the light and invalidates his influence, because he has a dark part - that is, a natural taste which he has not overcome in himself; it hinders him being an exponent of the light. This dark part is the real test to every Christian, and is not removed by introspection, which is inspecting the old man, and betrays ignorance of the beginning of the work of Christ. How can you inspect that which is removed from the eye of God? The dark part, the working of the flesh, is not removed by introspection, but by sowing to the Spirit. We all know what sowing to the flesh is, looking for some harvest to come from it. But it is important to bear in mind that souls, as they are set for the light, seek it, as we see, if we look around, that where there is light there is the separation that begins with God. I have heard a preacher say, who had a chapel of his own, "My converts do not stay with me more than a year or two; they go elsewhere to look for more light." The Lord is pleased to give the light, and the light is here, and those who value it find it out, no matter how retired or unknown the person is.
The great characteristic of a servant who has light from God is, that he insists on positive truth, not that he overlooks the negative, but his great aim and object is the positive; for instance, he not only insists that the old man is removed from the eye of God, but he insists also on our acceptance with God, and that we are able to enjoy it by the Spirit. We are in Christ by the Spirit able to enjoy our acceptance, as we see in the parable of the prodigal son.
It is to be borne in mind that it is not so much what a servant says as what he is; because if there is a dark part in him it is sure to affect him, and to weaken his ministry - "Having no part dark." No man's word is effective beyond the effect it has on himself; his own life testifies to the truth of what he ministers; a convert takes his colour from his spiritual father. A man might enunciate the truth from mere study, but one who is ruled by the truth himself becomes necessarily an effectual exponent of it; and if the light is opposed and refused, the resistance to it is always greatest where there is most need for it - "He that doeth evil hateth the light,"
It is true that one might assume to have the light when he has it not; the true and divine way of correcting him is not by merely opposing him, but by setting forth from Scripture what is the light, and this exposes his misapprehension, as Abel exposed Cain.
It is easy to say to another, "You are wrong," but it is a great thing to show him what is right, and you cannot substantiate it unless you are right yourself. Let us rejoice that the Lord is the light, and that if we love the brethren we walk in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in us; we shall be as "the children of Issachar, who were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do." (1 Chron. 12:32.) ' "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." J. B. S.