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  • Writer's pictureShelli Owen

Spiritual Optometry Revisited

Updated: Sep 9, 2023


Eye exam chart 1-11

“Your eye is the lamp of your body.

When your eyes are healthy,

your whole body also is full of light.

But when they are unhealthy,

your body also is full of darkness.

See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.

Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark,

it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

~ Jesus (Luke 11:34-36)


Have you ever wondered, like I have, what Jesus meant when He spoke what is recorded in Luke 11:34–36 (the above scripture verse)?


Initially, I thought Jesus was mainly talking about perspective and attitude in these verses. I used this verse in a blog I wrote entitled “Spiritual Optometry.”


Looking back on that blog, I wasn’t satisfied with it. I took it down. I realized I needed to explore and dive deeper into the meaning of Jesus’ words.


I’d like to share my (humbling) search process with you and what I learned. At the same time, I’m not going to claim there isn’t more light that could be shed on this verse from another perspective (Yes, I’m saying this with a wry smile).


So, now, going forward. First, a little background. Generally, behind my explorations into God’s word, there are some foundational understandings. I usually build everything else on these (at least). They are:

1) Look at other verses in the Bible on the same or similar subject. This helps me clarify things I’m not sure I understand rightly or as well as I’d like. It’s best to let the Bible interpret the Bible.

2) Take Jesus at His word. He said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. ...your Father in heaven [will] give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9–10, 13). This is something! The Lord Himself will illuminate our minds by His Holy Spirit when we ask! Since the words in the Bible were inspired, spoken, and recorded by human servants of the Lord by His Spirit, surely this same Holy Spirit should be our definitive interpreter so we can understand what God meant.

3) Make sure to read phrases and verses in context: the context of the text they are in; the context based on who the writer is and the kind of text it is (such as a letter, poem, proverb, teaching, law, historical account, etc.); the context in relation to historical placement (what is known about the setting in which the text was written); and the context in relation to the overarching Bible story that centers on Jesus, the Christ God promised.


Building on this framework, I applied myself to exploring this teaching of Jesus, during His earthly ministry, which was later recalled by His disciples, who had heard Him share it in person. It had been faithfully transmitted to Luke and recorded by him (in Luke 11:34–36).


The context in which Jesus’ disciples placed this teaching was directly after the following occurrence and warning by Jesus:

When the crowds were increasing, [Jesus] began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.” (Luke 11:29–33)

The people were not seeing Jesus for the light He was. So, they were not repentant before God. But this didn’t keep God from sending Jesus to be with them as a lamp on a stand, who still shone by His example and teachings.


With this in mind, and thinking of one of the keywords in the Luke 11:34–36 verses, “light,” I begin the quest to dig deeper. I remember that one of Jesus’ close (beloved) disciples and set-apart special messengers, the Apostle John, testified to the following about Jesus:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1–5, bolding mine)

John then reiterated that Jesus is “the true light that gives light to everyone...” (John 1:9). From these verses I understand this: Jesus is the source of the light that is in us.


THE LIGHT OF CHRIST OR CONSCIENCE

I know that we’re not talking about the kind of light we can see with our physical eyes here. We’re talking about spiritual light. The light, which I know from experience is more real to me than the light of the material world. I live my life by the light within. By it, I see my constant thinking process, my deepest beliefs, my heartfelt desires and feelings, and my evaluation of whether these things in me are based on truth (reality). By it, I make my choices concerning how or whether I should or will express any of these—these things that are with me all the time as part of who I am in this world, which I only see by this light.


Now, I’m seeing this light Jesus was talking about in Luke 11 is Him and His light in us. It’s Jesus’ very being that gives me (and each of us) the spiritual light that lights this inner realm. I’m aware there is another—some think “archaic”—term for this divine light. That term is “conscience” or the consciousness of God.


Now, I’m looking at the word “conscience.” I type it into the Biblegateway.com search bar. Though some like to dispute this statement, it still holds: (normally) everyone has a conscience. “Even” the Gentiles—or non-Jewish people, who were without God’s oral or written law—have a conscience. As the Apostle Paul understood and declared:

Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them. (Romans 2:14–16)

Even modern pagans (people who don’t believe in God) clearly acknowledge this spiritual reality. The current secular definition of “conscience” from a commonly used standard, the Merriam-Webster (Online) Dictionary, is:

(1a) the sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one's own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good

(1b) a faculty, power, or principle enjoining good acts

(1c) the part of the superego in psychoanalysis that transmits commands and admonitions to the ego

(2) conformity to what one considers to be correct, right, or morally good: CONSCIENTIOUSNESS

(3) sensitive regard for fairness or justice: SCRUPLE

(4) archaic: CONSCIOUSNESS.[1]

Again from Biblegateway.com, I see that the Apostle John (inspired by God’s Spirit) taught that our conscience either condemns us or allows our hearts to be at rest (or at peace) before God:

This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God... (1 John 3:19–21)

I’m also reminded that one’s conscience can become faulty or broken through the sin of unbelief—which I know results in disobedience, according to scripture and personal experience—as the Apostle Paul (speaking by God’s Spirit) indicated in his letter to Titus: “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted” (Titus 1:15).


I also notice Paul’s Spirit-inspired observation that the conscience becomes seared through a regular habit of lying and deception, including self-deception: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1–2). The Lord warned through Isaiah the prophet: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)


THE WORD OF GOD

As I’m considering these things, my mind returns to the fact there is another source of light for humankind, which can also convict or bring us peace and help to affirm, reignite, or realign the conscience. It is the very Word of God I’m studying—the revelation the Lord has given of Himself through human servants by His Spirit, which He has preserved in the Bible Testaments. This revelation includes the laws and commandments He has given us, which when we trust Him and obey them, help keep our “eyes healthy” and the light that is in us bright.


I’m reminded of one of my favorite praise songs based on the inspired words of an ancient psalmist directed to God: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105, KJV). This ties into another keyword Jesus used in the Luke 11:34–36 verses that I’m looking at, which is “lamp.”


When I type “word” and “lamp” into the Biblegateway.com search, it takes me to the words of another earthly witness of Jesus Christ, another disciple from Jesus’ intimate circle, one of the twelve apostles or special messengers whom He designated to bear witness of Him. It takes me to a portion of a (God-inspired) letter the Apostle Peter wrote to the early church. He declares to them:

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word [the Old Testament record] more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:16–21; see also Revelation 22:16)

This reminds me of another powerful verse about the Word of God and how, illuminated by the Spirit of God it brings what is in us to light. As the author of Hebrews eloquently, still, declares to us:

The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12)


ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND CONFESSION OF SIN

Now, that I’m thinking about how the light exposes what’s in us, I’m reminded of another teaching by the Apostle John, who was passing on and amplifying something he learned from Jesus to the church:

...God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

...if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

We know that we have come to know him [and are walking in the light] if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. (1 John 1:5–10; 2:1–6, 9–11, bolding is mine)


In reviewing these words, it appears to my mind that another part of walking in the light and having healthy eyes (conscience) has to do with our willingness to acknowledge and confess what the light of God in Christ exposes in us. When we sin or the sin in us is exposed by God’s light, we must not deny our sin but confess it. The exposed sin must be acknowledged and confessed, so it doesn’t come between us and God. So it can be (forever) covered and forgiven by Jesus’ blood-atoning sacrifice.


It's all coming around full circle now. This is the heart of the gospel I’ve heard much of my life. It’s the essence of every word and story in the Bible Testaments. From the time of the fall, God demonstrated through the law of sacrifice the seriousness of sin, which leads to death—the death of the body and of being separated from God and His light. At the same time, He revealed how He would overcome death and the sin and darkness in us that separates us from Him. Only the blood or life of an innocent, unblemished animal was acceptable in place of a sinner’s life or blood. This temporary law foreshadowed and pointed to the eternally binding, blood-atoning, life sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, who came to live the perfectly righteous life (in perfect love) we could not live and die in our place that we might live. We must believe God, that Jesus’ life and blood cover our sins. Only His blood accepted and applied to us can overcome the darkness in us, purify us from our sins, and restore God’s light in us. The author of Hebrews explains it this way:

Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had...the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained...the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover...[where God’s Presence dwells].

When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. ...This is an illustration...indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to [completely or permanently] clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new [covenant through Christ].

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter [God’s Presence] by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:1-7, 9–14)

Only Jesus’ blood can finally cleanse our consciences, “So that we may serve the living God” because we are walking in the light of His Presence.


THE HOLY SPIRIT THROUGH JESUS

This is all making more and more sense. God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ blood in our place and our confession that we need His blood to be applied to us in the first place, allows us to spiritually enter the Most Holy Place—to have God’s Spirit or Presence with us to teach us, to help us walk in the light of the Lord. It seems the Holy Spirit reforms our conscience and restores to us the light—of Jesus. Walking in the light of Jesus through His Spirit begins just as the Apostle Peter taught at Pentecost: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).


As I reflect further on this theme, I also recall that when I am stumped or befuddled (great words, right?), it has always made a huge difference if I take whatever I don’t see or understand to the Lord in prayer. He helps me to see my way and to understand what is right by His Holy Spirit. Whether my quandary has had to do with relationships (which is often the case) or with seeking direction in my own life, the Lord has never denied me greater light on anything. He generally gives it, if not immediately, then soon (as much as I can bear), as long as I ask in faith.


Scripture verses I grew up misapplying, but now understand in a better light, explain it this way (they were written by James, the brother of Jesus): “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt...” (James 1:5–6)


Returning to look at the keyword “light” along with its opposite, “darkness” (sometimes you can learn a lot from contrast), I’m now looking at, a promise the Lord gave through Isaiah, which pops out at me. He said: “I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16). These words fill me with hope. Especially because, in all honesty, the greater the light the Lord gives me, the more I realize I have yet to learn.


OBEDIENCE TO THE LIGHT WE HAVE

There is a lot to learn in the comparison of “light” and “darkness” from the scriptures, but this blog would be too long if I included it all. (This is something you might pursue sometime on your own.) So, fast-forward: Now I’ve returned to thinking about the Lord’s promise to dwell with us through His Spirit, so His light is ever with us and growing in us. I remember the words Jesus said: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23). It appears obedience is both a fruit of and a prerequisite to walking by the light of the Spirit.


Thinking on this brings to remembrance that one of the greatest aids I have found for growing in light is obedience to the light I already do have from God. God can’t open more to my view when I’m not already applying what I know to be right or good according to the light He’s given me. Repentance—either by doing what I have been neglecting or by turning from wrongdoing—is a first step in growing or going forward in my knowledge of God and what is right by His lights. Then, also, the Holy Spirit can direct me, one day at a time, to “do [the] good works, which God prepared in advance for [me] to do.” (John 14:23).


These thoughts illuminate in a new way the verses following the well-known verse we have all heard or read many times over (in John 3:16):

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. (John 3:17–21, ESV, bolding mine)


So, now, returning to Jesus’ teaching in Luke 11:34–36, it appears to me that “Your eye” or conscience “is the lamp of your body.” And “when your eyes” or conscience “are healthy, your whole body is also full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body is also full of darkness.”


How can I heed Jesus’ injunction: “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness”? I can listen to my Holy Spirit-illuminated conscience as I read and study God’s Word (the Bible). I can agree with God that I am a sinner (always compared to Him!), confess my sins to Him, and believe the blood of Jesus applies to my sin, and that I am forgiven and made clean before God by His blood. And I can obey His Word, walking in the light that he has given and continues to give me (which usually has to do with serving others or repenting of things that hurt others, directly or indirectly). In this way, my “whole body” can be “full of light, and no part dark.” As Jesus promised, I “will be just as full of light” inwardly “as when a lamp shines on [me]” outwardly.


One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes has to do with this light of the Lord. He said: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Truly, the light Jesus was speaking of doesn’t have much to do with my adjusting my own perspective or attitude, but it has everything to do with how much of Jesus’ light I’m allowing to dwell in (and shine out of) me.


Lord, help me to have healthy eyes. Help me: “See to it...that the light within [me] is not darkness.” Let my “whole body [be] full of light, and no part of it dark.” Help me to grow and walk in Your light, the light of life, all my days.


“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,

who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.” ~Psalm 89:15


“Come, ...let us walk in the light of the Lord.” ~Isaiah 2:5


 

[1] “Conscience,” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Accessed 8/14/2023, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conscience

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