When used in the right context, the word “light” can possess a twofold meaning. The first, which Webster’s dictionary defines as “something that makes vision possible,” is most familiar to us. Otherwise invisible objects become visible and clear when light is provided. For example, the most important thing to do after opening the door to your pitch-black basement is flipping on the light, not immediately descending the stairs; there is a risk of injury without sufficient lighting.
Light, however, serves a purpose further than simply allowing us to see. Light also obliges us to assess the true reality of what was once dark and hidden. It actually changes our perception of reality. The particular box filled with Christmas decorations would be impossible to find unless adequate lighting were provided to assess the situation in the basement. So turning on the light grants us the ability to see and assess.
These definitions of “light” are often used metaphorically as well. For instance, a passionate trial lawyer might say to the jury, “in light of all the facts, you can now make the right decision.” Not only is the lawyer referring to evidence that the jury previously saw, but she is also inferring that by seeing the evidence, the jury can now assess the true reality of the facts in the case.
In the same way, Jesus is referred to as the light of the world (John 8:12). He gives us the spiritual eyes to see and a new heart to assess the reality of his kingdom. Conversely, without Jesus, all things that are now joyful and redeemed would remain in darkness. In his coming to live among us and dying for us, Jesus established a new reality that we can only see through the grace of the gospel. Paul the Apostle paints a beautiful picture of the spiritual reality that we live in both before and after we experience the grace of Christ. He explains:
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:4-6).
Saving faith is not merely citing a creed or adhering to a set of doctrines; it is a shift in how we see Truth. Paul knows the power of spiritual sight, which carries with it the propensity to shift the desires of the heart. That is, the mind and the heart are closely related. When revealed to blind eyes, the glory of God in the face of Jesus exposes us to a new reality. This new reality points us to something better and bigger than ourselves. Through the grace of God that is revealed to us in the gospel of Christ, we are shown that there is an end to our wandering in the dark.
Like receiving a new pair of much-needed glasses, we now can find contentment in gazing at what is beautiful: our Lord. He not only satisfies our need for his light, but altogether increases our desire for it. Jesus was born to be light in our darkened minds. He was born to illuminate a new covenant of grace — our new reality in him.