How to Shine

Christians shine

I can’t help but notice as I travel from place to place that Christians shine a lot more than heathens do.  Compared to my Christian brothers and sisters, worldly folk are dullish around the eyes.  Those who know the love of Jesus glow with the glory of God!  It sounds conceited but it’s true: Christians are all comparatively gorgeous, even when plain looking by worldly standards.  Often the unconventional-looking among us are the most beautiful of all.  They force us to improve our standards.  But comely or ugly, all believers shine.  I think we get used to it and take it for granted. If Jesus loves you, you glow a bit whether you know it or not.  Of course, a few may be dark because they’ve forgotten they are loved.  But when you are certain you are loved, you are likely to be spiritually dazzling.

Some, lacking spiritual eyes, can’t see others shine.  You do need spiritual vision, a glow detector, a radiance preceptor, to see past “worldly flesh” into shining beauty.  But even if unpretentious, the beauty is there, a stunning radiance in every single person among us who knows Jesus.  Shining people seen by shining eyes that see shining people with shining eyes…  A room full of beloved Christians sharing God’s love with each other is the “kingdom of light”.  Glory!

Jesus’ love

Matthew (Chapter 5) tells us that a “great crowd” sat in the open air to hear Jesus’ first sermon (the one on the mount).  This audience, coming from Galilee and Decapolis, Jerusalem and Judea were disadvantaged people.  Today, we’d call them depressed.  Oppressed by a ruthless political dictatorship, they also served under a repressive, pious priesthood.  These were dark days: mere survival was difficult, spiritual fulfillment nigh on impossible.

And yet, no sooner had they all sat down, before Jesus had spoke more than few words, the whole multitude began to glow intensely with “supreme joy”, shining like a “city set upon a hill” (Matthew 5: 14).  In fact they all shone so brightly that Jesus called them “the light of the world”.  We Christians now regularly call Jesus the light of the world but back then in his first speech, he said the same thing about his audience.  He first called us “shining” before we called Him anything memorable.

Of course you can interpret His remark as a commandment: Jesus telling people to make themselves shine.  But He said “Let” not “Get”, an observation not a directive.  “Let your light so shine before men that they may…glorify your Father Who is in heaven.”  They didn’t need to get lit up.  They were already thrilled with His presence.  He merely had to tell them what to do with their newfound, miraculous enthusiasm, how to remain aglow with fervor in a world gone dreary with apathy and sin.

So it was not just what Jesus said that first filled them all with holy fire.  The whole throng was probably lit up from the start.  His visible presence was the spark that fired up the multitude.  That huge crowd was shining with the same Presence that made the very skin on Moses’ face shine on his way down the mountain (Exodus 34:29).  Moses’ radiance was so intense he had to wear a veil after encountering God.  But Paul (II Corinthians 3:14) tells us that, in Jesus, the veil covering the Lord’s brilliance is removed.

Even before He speaks, Jesus knows each individual heart and soul.  And such is the miracle of His presence that we all know that He knows what He knows.  He discerns our character, our secrets, motives and passions…our sins.  Most importantly, we are aware, somehow, that this amazing Person with the authority of God loves each one of us unfailingly, individually, despite our flaws.  This is the unique, personalised, undeserved, comprehensive love of God. Jesus simply looks and loves from the start.  No wonder that old crowd of depressed Jews shone then.  I start to glow inside just thinking about it.

What could be more important?  Shining with God’s light is more significant than “personality”, more striking than “looks”, even more valuable than intellect.  Other attractions have big downsides.  Fame, success, political power, celebrity status, physical beauty, financial wealth – are not what they’re cracked up to be.  Ask the famous: fame is usually toxic and often fatal.  Prominent philosopher William James called worldly success a “bitch goddess”[i].  How the rich and mighty have fallen lately, striving for big bucks destroying their souls.  Political power corrupts[ii].  Celebrity requires “security”.  Mere physical beauty causes gawking and stalking.  Even a bit of renown can be ultimately annoying.  At their best all such worldly attributes pale in significance compared to glowing with God.  Godly shining is the only way to go.  Seek the kingdom of God and you will shine with His light.  Let God and let glow and the other blessings and benefits will be added.

The source

Shining does NOT entail becoming the centre of attention.  Shining draws attention to the source which is Jesus.  The light comes from Him.  Worldly people can’t do it.  The so called “beautiful people” don’t know how.  They fake it and try to make it but they don’t shine, they just glitter – not the same thing.  Politicians don’t shine either – they exert a pull, obligate, draw attention to themselves.  I’ll tell you a secret, something I’ve observed all my adult life because I’m 6’8” in height.  Politicians resent tall people.  They’re afraid of appearing short.  When you know you’re loved unconditionally by the God who created the human race, physical stature doesn’t mean a thing.  When we meet the Lord in the air, we get new bodies anyway.  Then we shine all the more.  So get used to it: let your light shine.

The golden role

No one needs to teach you how. “Let your light shine…” is really very easy. In His first sermon Jesus calls us “the light of the world”.  He said “let” not “get” because his audience was already glowing with God’s love.  Just being in the presence of Lord Jesus was enough to create spiritual radiation.  If Jesus loves you, don’t worry, you are shining already.  Still there are things you can do to increase your mystical spiritual wattage.  And some dulling shades (what Jesus calls “bushels”) definitely lower the lumens.

The first thing to know about shining is that it only comes from a deep, inner appreciation that you are loved unconditionally.  Shining is the consequence of true love not its cause.  You can NOT shine in order to be loved.  You can only shine providing you know you are loved.  And you have to be fully aware that the love comes from Someone important and powerful.  God’s love, the love of Jesus Christ, is the only truly unconditional love.  The only lasting shine comes from knowing Him and knowing how much He loves you.  Every other luminosity is just polish.

Do you really know how much you are loved? (1 John 4:10)  There is only one thing more important than the fact that God loves you.  What is it?  Well, it is the fact that He loves me.  Say these two and you’ll see what I mean.  First you say, “God loves you and so do I.”  Then say, “God loves me and so do you.” Get the point?  No comparison!  When I am absolutely certain that God adores me, I can’t help but shine.

What shining is not

Sometimes shining comes across in photographs and sometimes not.  Be sure to get this point also: shining has nothing to do with conventional physical attractiveness.  Forget skin-deep beauty.  Shining transmits and reflects God’s love.

Humility

Although I lack real data, I happen to believe fame is fatal.  I predict adequate research will someday show famous people die younger.  At any rate an extreme dose of humility is required to overcome the deadly consequences of celebrity.  My friends who work in the recovery field all agree that celebrities have more difficulty remaining drug/alcohol-free than ordinary folks.

Finally, prayer!

Shining is seeing others shine.  Recently I have learned not just to ask God to make me shine – though sometimes that does help.     More important is constant prayer for me to see how He shines in you.  I ask the Lord to keep me out of the limelight so I can focus on Him and my neighbour.  Let me see how Jesus lights up your life.

Jesus (Matthew 6:22) says “the eye is the lamp of the body”.  What a brilliant perception!  I believe His eyes shone with divine light.  Then Matthew 6:23 says that if my eye is unsound my whole body will be dark.  If my eye can’t shine, I am doomed to dullness.  You help me get the plank out of my eye and I’ll help you get the speck out of yours (Luke 6:41-42, Matthew 7:3-5).  We need each other.  That’s God’s great plan.  Together we can light up the world. □

But

Jesus tells me many times over (e.g. Matthew 10:24-31) that if I really knew how much God loved me, I wouldn’t worry about a thing.  If God is with me, anxiety is a sin.

So I can’t even begin to shine until I can glimpse how much God loves me – not just loves people in general but me in particular. Only after getting soaked in His love does my cup runneth over so that I can turn around and genuinely love you –  after which maybe I can begin to believe – a bit – possibly that you might have some of His love to spare.  Now I’m really secure.

Now I can enthusiastically obey Jesus’ new commandment (John 13:34) to love you as He loves me.  I’m shining.  And so, by God’s love, are you!

Jesus commands us to illuminate our world, light up the house, to stand out like a city on a high hill (Matthew 5:14, 15).  And in 5:16, Jesus tells us to let our light shine before others so they can see what we do and glorify our heavenly Father.  To shine is a commandment not an option.

Drowning in his love

Shining begins with experiencing God’s love. Focus your mind on how much God loves you.  His full-on devotion is overwhelming.  The Bible says we might even need protection, might not survive His radiance.

Then again His affection is so gentle and compassionate that it can only be compared to mother’s love.  Mostly God uses the example of a perfect Father’s love for a perfect son, boundless, unselfish, intense but gentle, non-interfering yet never failing – think about it.  Are you shining yet?

Let glow and let God

Shining is a gift from God.  You can’t go out and get it; you must just accept it when He gives it to you.  And then, in turn, you keep it by giving it away.  When you give, you receive more than you give.   Like God’s other gifts, shining comes when least expected.  You can’t shine by trying.  You only glow by letting go.

Let go of self image, of self-consciousness.  Notice how good we look when singing God’s praises?  No matter how bad we sound, we look our best – because we lose self-consciousness when we focus on Him.

That’s another secret of shining: “forget about yourself and concentrate on Him and worship Him” says the old chorus.  The intense love of God enables us to avoid pride, resentment and self-pity.  And God’s perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

Awareness

Finally, there is necessity for “sobriety”.  The Bible defines it as “fully awake”.  I need a clear head to grasp God’s love and shine it all around.  Sober means nothing in my blood but blood, nothing in my gut but daily bread, nothing for my heart to do but pump, and love.

It’s sanity not vanity, hugs not drugs – to be able to love and be loved.  “Downers” like opiates, alcohol, barbiturates and anti-depressants put a wet blanket on love.  “Uppers”, hallucinogens, amphetamines, ultimately cause anxiety.  You can’t shine when the world is out to get you, or the bushes are following you down the street.  Do not smoke dope!  Do not smoke anything.  (At Pentecost, if they’d had a joint, there’d be no church.)  You need a clean brain to experience God’s boundless love.

How to keep shining

(Ephesians 5: 8-20, very freely interpreted.  I suggest you also read the NIV or KJV.)

You were once in the dark but now you shine with the Lord’s light.  So live transparently like children of light, for God’s light generates goodness, righteousness and truth.  Learn to please the Lord.  Avoid trashy dark stuff.  Expose it to the Light.  Although it’s a shame even to mention that hidden junk, still when exposed to God’s light, it gets seen for the rubbish it is.

The saying goes, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”  Watch out how you live.  Don’t be a fool.  Be wise and make the most of opportunities.  These are evil times, so don’t remain ignorant.  Try to understand the Lord’s will for you.

And don’t get drunk – no good can come from that – but fill up with the Holy Spirit.  Communicate with psalms, hymns and spirituals.  Make up songs to the Lord in your heart, and from the heart.  Give thanks to God the Father for everything.  And do it all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A traditional African-American chorus says,

Walk in the light, beautiful light.

Come where the dew drops of mercy shine bright

Shine all around us by day and by night

Jesus the light of the world

Jesus the light of the world

Now you are shining.  I mean how bright can you get?


[i] “The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That – with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word ‘success’ – is our national disease.”  –William James, in a letter to H.G. Wells.

[ii] “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Lord Acton (1834–1902) from a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887.