Jesus made the contrast clear. There is no equivocation in distinguishing the truth found in Him alone from that claimed by all other religious and cultural traditions. He could not have affirmed it more strongly as His argument with the Pharisees reached a peak of confrontation.
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life' (John 8:12, NKJV).
He put the global, eternal purpose of His mission to redeem a lost world into perspective when He quoted the prophet Isaiah: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned (Matt. 4:16, NKJV).
That light began its unquenchable illumination when the dawning of the resurrection morning overpowered the darkness that had enveloped the cross. As Paul spread the gospel from Jerusalem as far as Illyricum and to the regions beyond he fulfilled God's calling as a light to the Gentiles (Acts 13:47, NKJV).
Generations of missionaries and Christian witnesses have continued to proclaim the Light of the world. Yet 2,000 years after the Light arrived, the darkness remains.
Across an evangelized Africa, pockets of darkness remain where fetishes and witch doctors hold people in bondage to ancient fears and superstitions. Pervasive darkness overwhelms Latin America as empty religious ritual succumbs to the syncretism of spiritists casting demonic spells.
Continuing devotion to millions of Hindu deities, the garlanded Buddhist images in Asia and ancestral altars in Chinese homes attests to darkness still waiting for the light to dawn. Delusions of self-sufficiency have swept Europe into the darkness of secular humanism. And the ultimate embodiment of darkness still captures the minds of millions as 20th century communism, with its atheistic ideology, denies that the Light even exists.
How can the darkness be dispelled? The answer is found in a hymn not often sung these days, We've a Story to Tell. That's it! A simple story, the story of the gospel, a story of truth and mercy, a story of peace and light!
Within the message of that story is the power to dispel the darkness, and because that story is being told, "the darkness shall turn to dawning, and the dawning to noonday bright."
The darkness is turning to dawning among unreached people groups who are hearing the gospel for the first time. The darkness of communism cannot repel the power of the Light as Jesus is lifted up among the peoples of China and Eastern Europe. The first glimmering light of dawn is beginning to appear as first-generation believers come to faith among the Azeri, the Kabyle Berbers, and other unreached people groups.
The dawning is turning to noonday bright as church-planting movements sweep Cambodia and the Maasai of East Africa, and the harvest accelerates all over the world.
God is calling us to dispel the darkness. That is the reason He has allowed the light to shine in our hearts, so that we will pray, we will give, and we will go to a world in darkness. Second Corinthians 4:6 says, For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (NKJV).
The prophet Isaiah reminds us of the darkness that covers the earth but assures us that the power of light will dispel the darkness. Arise, shine; for your light has come! ... For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; ... The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising (Isa. 60:1-3, NKJV).
Jerry Rankin is a former missionary to Indonesia and president of the International Mission Board.