Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what the deity of Christ and it’s importance to the Christian faith.

To read part one of this two-part series on Jesus The Light of the World please click here.

A Light To Follow

John 7:37,”If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” points to the water-pouring ceremony of the Feast of Tabernacles which has a connection to the earlier events in the Exodus—specifically, God’s providing water from the rock. There is a similar connection with the festival of lights and Jesus’ claim to be the “light of the world.” The light celebration recalled the pillar of fire that had guided and protected Israel during the people’s passage through the desert. Exodus 13:21, “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.”

We see, then, why Jesus continued by saying in John 8:12, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This shows that while Jesus is the true Light of the World, we benefit from His coming only if we believe and follow Him. We follow Jesus as the Israelites followed through the cloud of fire. They trusted it to lead them and found protection under its shadow. As we follow Jesus, He relieves us of ignorance and folly by teaching us His Word. He protects us from the searing rays of God’s wrath having paid the penalty of our sins on the cross. As He leads, we follow out from misery and fear and even from the curse of death. As the cloud of fire led the tribes of Israel through the barren scorched desert and into the Promised Land, Jesus leads us in our passage through the wicked world and into the glories of heaven.

What does it mean to follow Jesus? It means to trust in Him and live as His disciple. When the cloud moved, the Israelites, moved; when the cloud settled, they made camp. Likewise, we follow Jesus to His cross, dying there to our sin. Luke 9:23, “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

If we consider the uses of the Greek word for follow (aakolutheo), we can better understand what Jesus means. It is used of a soldier following his commander into battle; the Christian thus fights against evil in the armor of God and with the sword of God’s Word. It is used of a servant or slave who attends upon his master. It is used of one who accepts a wise counselor’s judgment. It is used of rendering obedience to the laws of the state; the Christian follows Christ by keeping His commands. And it is used of one who follows the line of his teacher’s reasoning. The follower of Christ is one who has gained understanding of His teaching and takes it to his heart. J.C. Ryle says, “To follow Christ is to commit ourselves wholly and entirely to Him as our only lead and Savior and to submit ourselves to Him in every matter both of doctrine and practice.” J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, 3 vols. (Edinburg: Banner of Truth, 199), 2:85.)

Does it seem like a radical commitment to follow Jesus? It is! Too many professing believers have come to him without this commitment, and never actually follow him. But there is no other kind of saving Christianity. To have Jesus as Savior is to have Him as Lord. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” The salvation that Jesus offers is free; we receive it simply by the open hands of faith. But following Jesus is costly. James Boice states, “The path that Jesus walked is the path of crucifixion. It leads to glory, but before that it leads to the cross. Such a path can be walked only by the one who has died to self and who has deliberately taken up the cross of Christ to follow Him.” (James Montgomery Boice, Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 60-61.)

Out of Darkness, Into Light

So why take up such costly discipleship? To escape the darkness! This is the great promise that Jesus attaches to His call: “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness.” As Nicodemus turned his allegiance to Jesus, he was lead out from the dark hypocrisy of the Pharisees. When the woman at the well believed, Jesus delivered her from the shame of her former lifestyle. This is what he offered to those hearing him in Jerusalem and what he offers us today: an escape from the guilt of our sin, from the corruption of our evil natures, and from darkness of the lives we have led.

Are you walking in darkness today? Christians often instead of living in the light live in the ways of the world: accepting the world’s dream’s and obey the world’s requirements. If you are a young person are you willing to stand out by your discipleship to Jesus? Or are you itching to take part in the sinful social practices of your peers? Are you drawn to the music, movies and video games that celebrate sensuality and violence? Are you dabbling in sexual sin, alcohol, or drugs? If you are, this shows only that you are not follow Jesus. He said, “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness.” This is what we must aim for in the raising of children in our churches: that they can walk through a dark world without walking in sin—and this comes only through personal discipleship with Jesus.

Adults, do your lifestyle choices, ambitions, priorities with time and money, and habits reflect the standards of the world or the light of Christ’s Kingdom? Are you caught up in materialism, egotism, or sensualism—things that belong to the darkness of this world? If you are, it can be only because you are not following Jesus. The same may be said of ministers and churches that mimic the ways of this world. Let us all repent in ways large and small; let us take up our cross, follow Jesus, and leave the darkness behind.

Christians are to devote themselves to following Jesus. Never think that you will lose out by turning from the dark pattern of this world to follow the Savior in serious and sacrificial discipleship. Those who receive the light of Christ, who take their sins, along with their former live and priorities, to his cross, and who then follow after Him will never lose out in this life or the next. Jesus promises that they “will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus offers us now a life of love, grace, and power for godliness, and in the age to come eternal life. Luke 9:24, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

I Am, They Will

Let us never think that it is only following that saves us. We are never saved by our works but only by Jesus Christ. It is because Jesus first says, “I am,” that he afterward promises, “They will.” If we give our “amen” to His “I am” and follow him, he will give his “amen” to our “they will.”

Jesus proclaimed, “I am the light of the world.” He calls us to believe in Him, receiving the light of His free gift of salvation. And then, starting with wherever we are right now, we simply begin to follow Him as He reveals Himself through His Word. And as He leads us out of darkness into light, we will hear Him say to us, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). For when the light of Jesus has shined in our hearts so that we follow him in trusting obedience, his light will shine through us to illuminate the dark world with His love.

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