Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
October 14, 2018
As I work throughout various parts of the world through my organization, Global Next, I am constantly finding a creeping darkness… war, death, poverty, mass illegal immigration, depravity, confusion, spiritual deception, misery and a lack of hope.
But standing in Paris in Sainte Chapelle, the 13th century chapel of Louis IX, I am constantly reminded of stories and of light. This unique chapel has stained glass windows from floor to ceiling, seemingly held in place by nothing. Each magnificent pane of glass tells a series of stories. And when the light of the sun hits just behind the stained glass, the story is illuminated with color and clarity.
It’s ironic that in Paris, called the “City of Light,” based upon the humanistic principles of enlightenment, that I would spend so much time thinking about the beauty of the Light of the world, Jesus, the Redeemer.
The true “Story of Light” is the story of God’s unmatchable love for man – so much so that He was willing to sacrifice His Son so that we might be made right with Him.
But with all the distractions, deceptions and noise of this world, the story can sometimes be hard to see. And when we cannot see the light – we cannot reflect it. And the world desperately needs people who will reflect the Light of the World and the hope of humanity.
So, in today’s world, how can you more effectively tell the Story of Light? How do we remind ourselves and help others see Truth and Light to the point where we live it and reflect it in our every day lives.
I propose that there are 3 elements to effectively telling the “Story of Light:”
- Redemption and
Reduction: How to Collapse Time
Collapsing time occurs when you shorten the distance between meaningful historic events. It helps to clarify the highlights of a story to allow others to recognize the big picture of God’s continuing and unfolding interest in our lives and His faithfulness in keeping His promises.
Stories get lost because of a failure to retell them and because of the complications of life’s distractions. The trees get taller and the paths begin to look more confusing and stories become less clear and less compelling. One solution for this – one technique for clarifying stories and light – is to reduce the clutter, minimize the centuries and connect the dots of major historical and prophetic events so that the story – God’s unfolding story and plan for humanity – shines more clearly. I call it “collapsing time.”
This is an example of what I might share with student leaders, or any group, while in Paris, standing in the Palace of Versailles in the Hall of Mirrors, where the documents that ended World War I were signed. (Of course there are other variations of how I would tell this story in different global locations in front of other historic, iconic landmarks.)
“Once upon a time and in the Beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And it was good. And God created man, and that was good. And the fellowship between God and man was extraordinary.
And then sin entered the world because man disobeyed God and broke that relationship. And that was not good. But because God loved people so much, He immediately made a plan – a promise – to send Someone who could redeem humanity and make things right between God and man.
And the years went by and people waited. And the prophets wrote about the promised One and eventually, on a quiet night in the town of Bethlehem, a baby was born – God in the flesh and his name was Jesus, the Savior of the world. Just as the prophets had predicted.
And He grew up, pointed people towards God, performed miracles and ministered to others. Then He died on a cross and paid the price that no one else could pay for the sins of humanity. He conquered death and rose again and told His followers that while He would leave them for a little while, He would return again one day and rule the world. And He told them that in the days before He would return there would be signs – there would be wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters, false teachers, as well as massive spiritual delusion and deception – but that this would be just the beginning. (Matthew 24: 3-14) Even the prophet Daniel spoke about an increase in knowledge and travel in the last days. (Daniel 12:4)
Christianity spread, the Roman Empire fell – and then Europe went dark. But as barbarians attacked Roman cities, destroying artifacts and burning books, the Irish took it upon themselves to copy all of Western literature. Eventually, the Irish monks brought what had been preserved on their isolated island back to mainland Europe, reestablishing and saving civilization.
But here’s what the Irish really did: They saved “the habits of the mind that encourage thought.” (Thomas Cahill) And this matters because when Islam began its expansion throughout the Middle East and into Europe, who would have been there to resist them? Just groups of people with no sense of their own history, or self, or Christian values or the ability to discern truth. “Without a robust mind to engage the onslaught—and a Christian one at that—the West would have been under the crescent instead of the cross.” (Cahill) This was a moment of light. These were vast challenges, but ultimately, the light could not be diminished.
But again, humanity found itself entrenched in unthinkable atrocities as World War I broke out and brought with it the devaluing of human life.
At the end of the war, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, with such punitive restrictions on Germany that it created the atmosphere for the rise of Adolf Hitler – someone who promised to restore pride to the German people.
Which brought with it the genocide of 6 million Jews.
Which created a window of global sympathy that awarded the Jews their own state in their historic homeland. And in a stunning and swift move, the nation of Israel was born in 1948, fulfilling biblical prophecy and again, kicking God’s calendar into high gear. (Ezekiel 20:34; Isaiah 11:11-12; Isaiah 66:8)
And now, in the 21st century, we are witnessing more hints that indicate that we are moving towards the last days and the final working out of God’s plans and His eventual return. The long push towards a one-world government and a new-world order (one that would fit the rise of the Anti-Christ quite nicely) has increased in intensity as we’ve seen unprecedented mass migration threatening the very survival of Europe and the influence of Western culture. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-17; Revelation 13:1-18; Revelation 17:13)
All placing the Western, democratic and free world in jeopardy and marginalizing the freedoms we’ve enjoyed and taken for granted, through those pulling levers of power and pushing for a borderless world.
And then enter Mr. Donald Trump – the surprise winner of the U.S. presidential election of 2016 and the great disrupter and the great provoker of our time. Love him or hate him, he has disrupted the expected direction of a leftist-progressive timeline.
With his move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, not only did he honor the people that God chose to bring forth the Messiah, but he recognized the obvious – the fact that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel. (2 Chronicles 6:5-6)
This action, along with his anti-globalist stand and America-first policies are triggers that will continue to produce division and hatred and will motivate global actors to move forward with their plans and goals. But these are things that must come to be – which ultimately will lead to the fulfillment of prophecy and the second coming of Christ.”
And there you have it – the collapse of time. 6000 years of history in 7 minutes. As you focus on these highlights you can see where we’ve been, what God’s been doing, His love for us, His fulfillment of promises and where we’re headed. The light is no longer blocked by noise and by distractions.
The second element of my trilogy of “The Story of Light” is Redemption:
Tell Stories of Redemption – and by doing so, you connect the theme of sacrifice to the epic story of God’s redemption of humanity. Telling stories of the incredible lengths people have gone to for others, reminds us of the immeasurable lengths God has gone to in order to bring us back to Himself.
When I was in Paris with one of our leadership groups last month, we stopped by the Rodin Museum to view his sculptures. I always end with this one – the statue of the Burghers of Calais. The sculpture commemorates an episode during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. King Edward III of England laid siege against the city of Calais and after devastating the city and forcing the population into starvation, he offered a deal: If the six principle leaders of Calais would come out of the besieged city with heads and feet bare, ropes around their necks, and the keys of the town in their hands, then England would stop its attack on the city and spare the rest of the citizens. One leader came forward, then another – and finally all six – and they were brought before the English king, Edward III, who ordered their beheading.
Rodin portrayed this group of leaders at the moment they were departing their city – all are in a state of despair, expecting imminent death, but willing to make the sacrifice so that others might live. They were, of course, unaware that their lives would ultimately be spared by the surprising intercession of the English queen Philippa.
This sculpture always reminds me of the power of sacrifice and redemption – the giving of oneself for others. This is what Jesus did when He became one of us and gave His life so that we might live and have a restored relationship with God. (Philippians 2) It’s the most powerful story in all of history. It is the most light-filled story of all time – continually giving hope for those who are lost.
I love telling stories of redemption – of people who bothered to show grace. John Stott once said that, “Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.” I love that.
Stories like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who gave his life in the resistance to Hitler, or David Livingston who spent his life in Africa opposing the slave trade and investing in people’s lives or Corrie ten Boom, who risked everything to hide and protect those who were being systematically destroyed by the Nazis during World War II. All of those stories show how people gave themselves for something bigger than the moment and greater than themselves. And all of these stories point to the greatest sacrifice of all – God giving His Son to redeem humanity. Something only He could do – because of His limitless love for His creation. That is the Story of Light – that God sent Jesus, the Light of the world, (John 8:12) to earth to live among us, and to share the good news of how we can be made right with God, by believing in Him. Jesus gave His life so that we might live. So that we could have peace – not peace in this world – but peace with God and everlasting life.
The 3rd and final element of the “Story of Light” is Reflection:
When ISIS was rampaging through Iraq and Syria, murdering as they went, I went to Iraq to visit the front lines between the Kurdish soldiers and ISIS. Later, I met with a priest, outside of Mosul who was sheltering the refugees who had been forced to flee the town of Mosul when ISIS took over. Through our discussion of what had happened, this priest told me that ISIS would not last, that they would eventually be destroyed – but that they would be replaced by something worse – something darker: The Shiite Militias – the paramilitary groups that are financed and trained by Iran. Today these militias are prominent in Syria – as confirmed by Global Next’s operatives inside Syria and our connections in Beirut.
The priest, Douglas Bazi, working from his refugee center in Iraq told me that when the Christians in the area were finally wiped out – or driven out, that there would be nothing left but darkness. That the Christians had been a presence in this region for 2000 years – the best educated group and the buffer between the Shiite and Sunni Muslims. But that when they were gone – there would be nothing but darkness. So much darkness, that one person would not recognize another. Without the Story of Light and those who reflect it – all you get is darkness and confusion and death.
When standing in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles you can look
backwards and forwards in history – as I illustrated when I “collapsed time” for you. The treaty that ended World War I that was signed in this room also created the forerunner of the United Nations…a globalist ideology that is essential to fulfilling the biblical prophecy of the rise of a one world government and leader in the last days.
The room where all of this happened is called the Hall of Mirrors. In order to protect the art on the ceilings, as little light as possible was used, but because the hall is filled with mirrors, it takes just a relatively few candles, reflected by the mirrors, to illuminate the entire hall.
Just a few lights…and yet so much illumination. It’s called reflection. And when those who are followers of Christ reflect Him, His character, His love, His mercy and His holiness, the “Story of Light” is magnified to a world that needs a better story and must prepare for a coming chapter that will require more wisdom and faith than has yet been required in your lifetime.
Things in this world are getting dark in many places. The world is witnessing an increase in the persecution of Christians, the goals of globalism are pressing and threatening the freedoms that many of us have enjoyed all of our lives. Global terrorism continues and there is an intentional, coordinated invasion of an entire continent by those who believe that inequality can be solved by breaking some nations and civilizations to fix others. Yes, those things are dark. But God’s Word tells us that those things must come to be – that they must happen. That they are part of what will be before He comes back.
But in that darkness, the Story of Light still shines – through us – His ambassadors. This is not a time to hide. This is a time to shine. Collapsing time allows you to clearly see God’s story. Sharing stories of redemption reminds us of Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice. And by encouraging ourselves and others to reflect the Light of the world – the light of the Redeemer is illuminated in the darkness. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
This blog article – one that is a bit different from my political and cultural blogs – is dedicated to the following people who were with me on a conference in Paris as I developed this concept of “The Story of Light:” Paul Hicok, Mariana Figueroa, Casey Odom, Carleigh Odom, Sydney Geering, Lori Smith, Jayden Smith, Colby Smith, Bria Honea, Tiara Nelson, Ana Cuen, Harry Llamas, Juan Vergara, Emiliano Nafarrate, Matthew Boone, Victor Trejo, Nicholas Madrid, Trevor Law, Kyle Romero, and Elijah Endo
*With a special dedication to Kim Jonghyun, whose bright light was extinguished far too early.