We Are a Village of Light
Dedication Message by Dr. Gary Rieben
November 5, 2017
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
The words of Jesus set the direction and define the purpose of Mudzi Owala. We are set on this hill to shine forth the beauty and goodness of Jesus Christ, so that all may see and turn to him in repentance and faith, and receive eternal life with God. So, we are here to display the beauty of Jesus in our words of Truth and our works of love, serving the most-needy of Malawi and the villages surrounding Ntcheu.
Would you now consider with me several important questions that might be asked concerning the purposes of Mudzi Owala:
The first question we would ask is this: Why does the world need light? Why do the villages of Malawi need light? Why does each person need light? The answer is this: the world and the villages and all people are covered with a great and deadly darkness.
Second Question is this: What do we mean by darkness?
Well, we know from experience that darkness is dangerous. In the blackness of night, you do not know where your next step will take you. You don’t know what enemy is lurking to attack you. You do not know if your next step will put your foot on a black mamba or over the cliff of the mountain. And bad people and robbers love darkness because it hides their terrible acts. So, in darkness no one is safe. Darkness brings fear and anxiety and even death.
Darkness also prevents us from enjoying life to the fullest. Darkness keeps us from seeing and enjoying the beauty of the creation; the beautiful face of your wife, the face of your baby. Darkness hinders your work and hinders your harvest. You cannot plant in the darkness and you can’t harvest in the darkness. If you think about it, complete darkness prevents you from even finding food to put in your mouth.
Spiritual darkness is even more dangerous. You see, once all was light. There were no problems, no enemies and no dangers. Adam and Eve had a perfect life in the Garden of Eden. They walked in the light of God’s presence. He was their Friend and they enjoyed security and complete satisfaction in Him. All things were created for their enjoyment. There was no darkness and there was no fear. But, Adam and Eve made a terrible and deadly mistake: They sinned against God by disobeying his command. Immediately a great darkness fell upon all of creation and upon mankind’s soul. Adam and Eve were cut off from God. They were sent out of the garden. Creation was broken. Darkness not only covered the land, but it swallowed the hearts of men. The heart of every man became deceitfully wicked and beyond understanding. Every thought and word and act became selfish and rebellious. Mankind could no longer enjoy the light of God’s blessings, for now they were all under the influence of the devil, The Prince of Darkness, the hater of God.
The terrible consequence was that all men everywhere, including the villages of Malawi, now live continually in spiritual darkness. They do not know God. They cannot please God. They are now enemies of God. They do not know the light of his blessings. Instead, they naturally and continually follow the ways of darkness. They are blind to the beauty and love and satisfaction found only in the God who created them. They are now deceived and look elsewhere for their joy. They think that money, sex, drink and power will give them the satisfaction that they seek. They are now deceived and believe the lies of the enemy. The results of that curse is seen all around us: immorality and unfaithfulness in marriage; witchcraft and superstition; envy and jealousy; fear and anxiety; anger and murder; lying and robbery; sexual abuse and wife abuse and child abuse; HIV; and then finally, death without hope.
Therefore, all men and women are helpless and hopeless in this present darkness. They cannot start the fire that will lead them out of this great darkness. They do not have a torch. They do not have a match. But, God, has not forgotten his children. Way back in the Old Testament, in Genesis, he lit a spark of hope. He told the Prince of darkness that there would come a time when the seed of the woman, a man, would come and crush his head. It would be the moment when darkness would be overcome by the brilliant and glorious coming of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
The time we celebrate as Christmas, is a celebration of when God sent that Light. It began with a star, a star so bright in the darkness of the skies, that it caught the attention of star gazers, and they followed it to a little barn, in a little town, in a faraway place called Bethlehem. There, a little baby, was born, but he was like no other baby: he was the Light of the World. Isaiah prophesied about his coming: “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16)
We are here today to declare to Malawi that darkness and the shadow of death has been overcome by this baby Jesus. He was and is the Son of God. One day he said for all to hear: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Jesus came to bring us back to God. Jesus came to lighten our path so we can know the way to eternal life. Jesus came and died, so we could escape the shadow of death, the blackness of sin, the power of the devil and the darkness of hopelessness.
Although the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, we who are believers have had our eyes opened. Creator God, when he created the world, said, “Let light shine out of darkness;” and that same God has shone in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:4-6) We have seen that Light and it has miraculously changed us forever. We can see clearly and openly confess that Jesus is the Light of the Word; and the Light of the villages of Malawi; and the light of our souls.
If you have placed your faith in Jesus and what he did on the cross, you have the light of God shining in you. You are children of light. You no longer live in darkness. Your eyes have been opened to the beauty of Jesus. You have left the old world, and its sins, and its lies, and its darkness. You now have joy, peace, righteousness, purpose, freedom, power, hope, satisfaction and eternal life in Jesus Christ. You are God’s precious children.
That is why Jesus said, to us: “You are the light of the world.” “You,” is emphatic. It means, “You, my followers are the light of the world.” If Jesus were standing here today, he would point at each believer and say, “You, you are the light of the world!” Our lives, our joy, our love, our holiness, our service, our witness, testifies to the Light that has driven away the darkness from our lives. Our new freedom declares to those around us that Jesus is alive; he is more powerful than the devil; and he has won, he is winning and he will win. Like a village on a hill, like Mudzi Owala, our light mirrors God’s miracle working grace in our lives, which cannot be hid. (John 1:4-5)
Here is wonderful news to all who would join us in this wonderful mission: light always pushes back darkness! Always! That is not to say that our shining will not be met without resistance. There are those who in their blindness, love the darkness. That is why those who practice witchcraft do it at night. That is why the Mule Wankulu come out at night. Everyone who does wicked things hate the light and refuse to come to the light, because the light will expose their evil deeds. (John 3:19). But, in spite of their resistance, there will be many who will come to the light because God’s Word will overcome their darkness. God’s torch of grace will shine upon their hearts and open their eyes. They will want to escape the darkness and the hopelessness and the fear and the hate that thrives in the darkness. We will see many eyes and hearts opened to the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Jesus Christ has established Mudzi Owala here, in this place, now, for such a time as this! We are here to shine forth the love and mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why he commanded us: “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” We need to let it shine by taking action. Why would we receive this wonderful, powerful, freedom giving Light, and hide it under the basket of laziness or disobedience or fear? Why would a village turn off all of its lights unless it was afraid of some enemy? No, we are not afraid. No, we are not lazy nor will we disobey! This light is too wonderful, too life-changing, too hope-giving, too soul-satisfying to be kept to ourselves. The greatest joy we can have, the greatest purpose we can have, the reason we were created, is to show by our words and our works just how wonderful and glorious our Father God is, who saved us and sent us the Light.
So, we say again, God has placed Mudzi Owala here for this important time. We are here to shine!
The next question is this: How do we shine? There are two primary ways:
First: We speak the words of God that are found in the Bible. The Scriptures are God’s words, and those words powerfully dispel darkness. They are light. Psalm 119:105 say, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path.” Psalm 36:9, adds, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” With the sun, we not only see a great and blinding light, we are able to see everything else. In Jesus, we not only see the light of the Word, we see everything else. Everything in life makes sense. Everything in life now has purpose. The path to God and his purpose for us is now clear for all believers to see.
The villages of Malawi need the light that shines from the truth that is only found in God’s Word. The reason those words are so important and our first priority, is because they are what Malawi needs, what the villages need, what every man and woman- need, most! We all need the darkness of our hearts driven from us by seeing the glorious light of Jesus Christ through hearing and believing the gospel.
If we give food and educate and provide health care and in the end the people do not know the Light of the Word, all is lost. Sin and darkness and the enemy would still rule. If our hearts are still in darkness, our greatest problem has not been dealt with. We are still enemies of God. That is why the words of God are a priority. They overcome darkness! They push back the evil. They change hearts. They set men free.
That is why we have founded Action Malawi School of the Bible. It is designed to help the Pastors to proclaim the life-changing, light-shining truth to their churches, so that the villages are transformed by the power of God’s word. That is why we give out Bibles. That is why we have established a theological library. That is why we do Bible seminars in the villages. We must, we are compelled, to declare the Light of the Word to every creature so that they may see Jesus and enjoy his glory for themselves, forever.
Second, We demonstrate the wonderful works of God. We also show forth the light of Jesus by our works of love. God not only speaks words, he does works of compassion. Our God came not to Lord it over us, but to serve us! No other religion makes such an unbelievable and wonderful claim. But we do, because of what he said and what he did. “I came not to be served, he declared, but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) He came and ate with sinners, fed the poor, healed the sick, drove out demons, delivered the prisoners and set the captives free. Sin has brought with it a devastating darkness upon our villages. There is so much sexual sin, so much sickness, so much poverty, too many deaths by HIV, too many mothers dying in childbirth; too many children under fed and uneducated, too many dying of Malaria; too many controlled by the wicked one. We are here, by the call of God, and by the grace of God, to make every effort to change that.
That is why we feed the orphans; provide scholarships for students; give goats to widows; teach ANAMED and permaculture classes; and provide emergency medical services. It is why we are planning to build a medical clinic next to this building and an infant nursery behind that. It is why someday, by God’s grace, we may provide a school for girls of the villages. These are the works of love we believe Jesus would do through us as He leads us into acts of compassion for our Malawian brothers and sisters.
We know this will not be easy. But, we have a hope that keeps us going in the same direction. In spite of all we do, we will not solve all of the problems. We will still grieve to see some of our friends suffer and even die. There will continue to be pockets of darkness. But, our unwavering hope tells us that there is coming a day when night will be no more. Nothing we do now for the Light will be wasted. (1 Cor. 15:58-59) A day is coming when no one will need the light of lamp or a torch or even a sun; for the Lord our God will be our light, and then we will reign forever and ever with him. (Rev. 22:5) All evil, all pain, all sorrow, all tears and all death will be wiped away. That is what keeps us going now until that glorious event.
But until that wonderful day, that day of hope, we will continue to spread the light of Jesus Christ, to Malawi, to the villages of Malawi, to the glory of God and his precious Son, Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us in this wonderful and awesome fight. Jesus declared: “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46) You can have his light shining in your hearts, and say with the psalmist these awesome words: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” With Jesus shining in your heart, you need fear no power on earth or in heaven. He will be your light and your salvation. You can become a member of God’s Mudzi Owala, a citizen of his Church, which is called to push back the darkness in the power of the name of Jesus who is now Lord over all. No power, not even the gates of hell, can stop our Lord Jesus from building His Church on earth, from pushing back the darkness by his blinding glory! I want to be a part of that Church. I want to be a member of that village, don’t you?