Summary: This message is the second in the "I AM" series that focuses on knowing Jesus. It focuses on Jesus’ statement, "I am the light of the world" and our desperate need for this light to shine on our darkness-filled lives.

“I AM: The Jesus We Think We Know”

Part 2 – Light of the World

NewSong Church – 07/29/07

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I was reminded of a time when I was a teenager and my family and I were visiting Kiev in Ukraine, where I grew up. My dad and I share a real love for early church history and so we decided to take a tour of some of the ancient Orthodox monasteries of Kiev.

We came to this one monastery that had the usual stuff that tourists enjoyed – a traditional service being held in the sanctuary; chapels and prayer walls where you could stop and pray; gift-shops where you could buy a souvenir to remind you of the prayer walls and the service. But this monastery also had something else that many tourists were not interested in – they had catacombs. Miles and miles of tunnels running under the monastery and the city itself. These catacombs were the early dwellings of the first missionaries to Kiev and portions of them had been opened to the public to go down, visit the prayer rooms, and pay respect to the men and women of faith who had brought the Gospel to the country centuries ago.

We prepared to go down by first entering a small room where we had to remove our shoes and put on soft slippers to minimize wear and tear on the floor. We were then handed a small booklet containing information about the missionaries, priests, and saints that we would find on display in their respective rooms. And lastly, we were handed a candle about the size of a regular pencil. Thus prepared, we entered into the catacombs.

The first thing I noticed is that these were built for small people who had no fear of enclosed spaces. The ceiling was only about 6’ high, and the tunnel was wide enough for one person to go down at a time. Everything was just carved into the rock – stairs, shelves, doorways, rooms – everything. I also noticed that there were no interior lights. Nothing had been added to aid in lighting the tunnels or the rooms, so you had to do everything by the light of your little candle. Every now and then, a large candelabra filled with pieces of candle would sit in the middle of a room to shed light on the relics, artifacts, and occupants of each dwelling. But in the tunnel, it was just you and your one candle.

You can imagine that this was a pretty dimly lit journey. You can then also imagine the panic that swept through the group of us that had traveled down when a gust of wind breezed through the tunnel, extinguishing our candles and leaving us in pitch black darkness. It is hard to describe the disorientation, confusion, and fear that one feels when in a small enclosed area with no light and no knowledge of where to go or how to get out. Though it lasted only a few seconds, it seemed like forever before someone fished a lighter out of their pocket and began to relight candles.

Darkness is perceived in many ways.

• It is often associated with our deepest fears.

• It can be the setting for tragedy and terror.

• It plays host to the unknown and unexplained.

• Going to write a mystery/thriller? Set it at night, in the rain. Create the mood of tension, unease, suspicion.

Some people are very unnerved by darkness – most kids do not want to sleep in complete darkness. I know that in my home, the minute the bulb in my daughter’s nightlight burns out I’m going to have a visitor trying to wake me up to do a mid-night repair.

• Darkness plays with our minds and imaginations

• It takes away our ability to control situations by removing our ability to identify potential hazards and dangers.

• Left to wander in pitch blackness, someone is going to hurt something.

The Darkness Condition

One of the great dangers about darkness is that we don’t always recognize it in out lives, and therefore are unaware of it. We are literally blind to it, whether consciously or not. We think we are okay, we think we have life figured out, we think we are on top of our game when suddenly we find ourselves in a position that we weren’t expecting, a situation that we had never anticipated, we find ourselves, like in the catacombs, disoriented and lost.

• Ignorant

Darkness is often metaphorically used to describe our ignorance – we are “in the dark” about a certain subject matter or issue. It is used to reflect our level of understanding. For all of us, there are areas that we are aware that we have very little knowledge. But we also have areas where we believe ourselves to be quite knowledgeable, and we may even go as far as to communicate that information, possibly – until someone else comes along who corrects us and highlights our ignorance. No one likes to be shown up. No one likes to have the opinions and ideas that they have formed to be tossed out or disregarded. But in light of truth, if those opinions and ideas don’t hold up, they become examples of ignorance, of darkness – and we must choose whether we will trade them in or hold on to them and keep them.

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