The Shining Secret

by Charles Slack

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.  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.”  He didn’t need to get them excited.  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 fervour 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.  Throng was probably totally lit up before He spoke.  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 (2 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.

The secret of shining

If and when you are absolutely certain that you are ever unconditionally loved by someone, you will shine.  Genuine love – as opposed to lust, hero worship, pity, duty, etc. – always causes shining.  But it has to be unrestricted, not dependent on looks or personality.  And it must be a gift.  You don’t work for it; you live for it.  The love that makes you shine comes to you not because of what you do but because of who you are.  It’s the kind described in 1 Corinthians 13: unselfish, enduring, unfailing, patient, gentle – the kind that bears up under all circumstances, never tries to “get even” but is always ready to believe the best.  Moses, you and I, everyone in Jesus’ congregation, indeed any human being on earth, will shine and keep shining upon experiencing such love.

Winners and losers

Being loved is not the only cause of shining.  An Olympic medal, an Academy Award or a Pulitzer Prize can make the winner shine.  But that glow doesn’t last like the love-shine does.  It starts to fade when they play your National Anthem.  By the time you’re stalked by paparazzi at the airport, the glow is half-watt.  Furthermore, sports, science and show business have thousands of losers for every winner.  We losers don’t shine – unless we know Jesus.  Then we shine win or lose.

Shining is not conventional attractiveness

Sometimes shining comes across in photographs but mostly not.  In no case does skin-deep beauty compare with shining.  We can all think of “ugly” looking people who shine beautifully with God’s light.  By comparison, glamour is superficial and selfish.  “Sex appeal” lacks love appeal.  We shine brightest when we pay little thought to our appearance.  “Beautiful people”, celebrities, stars, icons and “idols” don’t shine; they glitter.  Shining is to glitter as a halo is to a spotlight.  When the show is over or technicians goof, spotlights go OFF.

Many young people are beautiful-looking but don’t shine.  They have “issues” that need to be exposed to light.  Many fear looking stupid and put fool-blockers over their lights.  A fool-blocker is a mental mesh (veil) that automatically inhibits uncool actions.  Teenagers download these filters from MySpace and YouTube.  They come in different strengths: fine, super-fine, Gothic and catatonic.  Shining Christians are not afraid to be “fools for Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:10).  Let glow and let God.

Shining draws attention not to the self but to the One who loves us.  The glittering celebrity tries to act humble but can’t do so while drawing attention to himself.  The camera may be steady but the celebrity’s inner power flickers on-again off-again.  Likewise, the flashbulb and spotlight shine onto the gorgeous supermodel who then must mitigate her “look” in order to focus our attention on what she wears instead who she is.  Only when shining with God’s radiance does our real self truly glow steadily from within.   Our beam then points out toward the viewer and up toward One who made us what we are and who lights us up.

Lovers

Loving, as well as being loved, can make shine.  However – and this is big however – we can only give away what we’ve got.  We need charged batteries.  For an everlasting shine, we must be certain of our own permanent lovableness.  That’s why God first loves us before we love Him.  The only permanent, substantial, reliable source of shining is the absolute certainty of being loved and therefore lovable.  We must focus on the Super-modeller, the Creator God, the Designer of our whole person, not the clothes designer or the hair stylist.  The most expensive “makeover” will not make us shine.  In fact plastic surgery can imply that God made a mistake!  Best to let Him refashion us into the image of Christ.

Loveable

How does one become loved?  If you ever got it, or any approximation of it, from your mother, father, sibling, partner, or anyone else, consider yourself extremely blessed.  People who know how to love are rare these days.  In any case, God’s love is always available to anyone willing to receive it.  If you are the least bit open minded, the gift could be there waiting.

I recently preached about shining at Cornerstone Assembly of God in Joondalup and the whole congregation lit up.  Worried brows smoothed.  Young attitudes lost their cool; old visages beamed knowingly; toddlers with eyes like liquid gems ran the isles and radiated.  Inapt grinning, rowdy laughter, even uninhibited remarks, went off like fireworks.  I lost control, my cheeks ached from smiling, yet the atmosphere was pleasantly peaceful.

Lovers  get the credit

Shining is not centred on the self.  Ultimately shining glorifies the lover rather than the beloved.  If you are fortunate enough to be certain you are unconditionally loved by your spouse, then your shining will glorify your spouse.  Likewise when and if you begin to realise how much God loves you, the result will draw eyes toward God more than toward you.  Writer Philip Yancey introduces himself to an audience saying, “I’m Philip Yancey, the one Jesus loves.”   Joyce Meyer says, “I must give the glory to God and the credit to my husband while I just take the privilege.”

Greek names for love

The Greeks have four different words to describe the one English word “love”.  In English language the one word is used interchangeably for almost everything.  Only by context can we tell the difference between loving my wife and loving chocolate. 

Greek is much more specific:

» Eros is erotic love, sexual attraction;

» Philia is brotherly love, also “good mates” and dear friends;

» Storge is the love between family members; but only

» Agape is truly unconditional love involving compassion, empathy and lasting affection.  The recipient of Agape shines every time.   

Where do you find such love?  If you didn’t get it from your mother, father, partner, or anyone else – or even if you did – I suggest you look into God’s love which is available to anyone, including the atheist, willing to knock off the former self and receive it.  Problem is, you are unlikely to take delivery if you hate God, think God hates you, or think you are God.   However, if you are the least bit open minded, the gift could be there waiting.  Go downstairs.  Look under the tree.  Don’t be afraid of being foolish.

Glowing is knowing

It is one thing to be loved but another to know for sure that you are loveable.  One huge cause of dimness is uncertainty.  And the major cause of uncertainty is the former self. 

So many people believe that it is love that grows, but it is knowing that grows and love expands to contain it.  Love is just the skin of knowing.  William P. Young

Should-a, would-a, could-a

You needn’t be religious to shine but you can’t live in the past.  Waddif is an intelligent, amiable, self-taught person with an adoring wife.  Old Waddy is trustworthy – always comes through – and as a result has good friends.  Like many autodidacts, Waddy fears he might have made a number of life choices that weren’t so bright.  And he did.  He could have gone to uni on a scholarship but opted out for a high-pay job in the mining industry.  As a result, Waddy has constant second thoughts.  He should have gone surfing yesterday, waves were bigger.  His shares went up in value but not as much as they should have: if only he’d made a better choice.  Petrol would have been ten cents cheaper on the weekend. 

Waddy rarely uses the simple past tense of verbs.  Instead he employs what grammarians call “pluperfect-subjunctive tense”.  He does this for emphasis.  Rather than just say “It was a bonzer barbie” or “I went to the footy” or “she looked gorgeous”, Waddy goes all serious and important-sounding with “That would have been a bonzer barbie”, “I would have gone to the footy” and “she would have had to have looked gorgeous”. 

The pluperfect subjunctive is rightly described as “past conditional”.  It is a verb mood for expressing wishes and possibilities that are contrary to fact at present.  It’s a manner of speaking that when used dozens of times every day has a regressive influence.  Not only does Waddy live in the past, he lives in the past imperfect.  Poor Waddy would have known he could have been lovable if he wouldn’t have been talking all the time about how he could have been. 

Waddy can’t shine like he ought.  “So what!” says Waddy, who would have said he wouldn’t have cared whether he would have shined or not: “who needs it?” 

I do.  Particularly in my old age.  

Shining is more important than “personality”, healthier than fame, more attractive than looks, even more valuable than intellect.

Greek words for love

The Greeks have four different words to describe the one English word “love”.  In English language the one word is used interchangeably for almost everything.  Only by context can we tell the difference between loving my wife and loving chocolate. 

Greek is much more specific:

  • Eros is erotic love, sexual attraction;
  • Philia is brotherly love, also “good mates” and dear friends;
  • Storge is the love between family member; but only
  • Agape is truly unconditional love involving compassion, empathy and lasting affection. 

The recipient of Agape shines every time.   

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Charles Slack

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