January 2024
The Light of Christ Inside You

What do we mean when we say we have the "light of Christ" inside us? What are the implications of that truth for how we interact with others. Come and read The Christ-Light to find out.

God lit a candle in your chest.
The wax is of the very best.
The wick is woven strong, unbreaking,
And the flame is of the Spirit’s making.

When you met Jesus Christ, when you embraced him and he embraced you, God lit a candle in your chest. That was a beautiful moment, wasn’t it? A moment of hope and healing, overwhelming joy and gratitude. For most of us it was a moment of profound direction, setting our feet on a path winding into a horizon of ceaseless communion with the one who fully knows and fiercely loves us.

And yet, in another sense he lit that candle a long time ago—before there were trees or birds or beasts; before there were skies or seas; before there was light itself in the wild world; when it was just a happy and holy meeting of Father, Son, and Spirit, deep as a million summer suns. There, with himself—the best of company—God lit a candle in your chest. He did it in his eternal counsel, choosing you in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). Paul writes, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29). God foreknew you. He foreknew me. And so even before the beginning of anything, he lit a candle in your chest and mine. And he did it with his Son at heart—so that the light of Christ would be preeminent (Col. 1:18), the God-candle drawing all lesser lights to himself—a congregation of illumination.

But what is this candle? It’s something beautiful, something crafted and set burning by God himself. It’s what I’m going to call the Christ-light. Look at how Paul describes it in Ephesians 5:8–14.

For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Apart from Christ, we were darkness—not just in darkness or covered by darkness. But in Christ we are light. Do you see the grand reversal, the death-to-life transition? That’s an amazing truth, a mysterious truth, a life-altering truth. By the love and grace of God, we have what I call the Christ-light.

What Is the Christ-Light?

What exactly is this Christ-light? Well, it’s a divine person, but it involves three divine persons. Let me explain.

In God's sovereignty, when you accepted Christ, you opened the door to yourself. By the prompting and power of God, you let him in. Jesus Christ now lives in you (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 4:6–7; Eph. 3:17; Col. 1:27). You are a home for another.

But at the same time, when Christ entered, he brought divine company. Jesus said he and his Father would make their home in you (John 14:23). In the same chapter, Jesus also promised to send another “Helper,” the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit (14:16). The Spirit is our constant guide, working to shape us to the image of Christ by the will of our Father. Every Christian is a party of four.

You are a home for another.

What does all this have to do with light? We have to start by asking what it means for us to be indwelt by the persons of the Godhead. What difference does that make in us? That’s worth a book in itself. But one way to understand it is to say that we now have the will, heart, and work of God inside us. These elements can be linked to the persons of the Godhead, though there is clear overlap, as there should be, for God is one. The will of God in the gospels is often associated with the God the Father (Matt. 7:21; Luke 10:21; John 5:19, 30; 6:38, 40), even though the Son and Spirit share this will. The heart of God is expressed in the Son, who gives us a whole new seat of emotion (Eph. 3:17), with godly desires and aspirations and longings. And the work of God is emphasized by the Spirit, who ceaselessly applies the good news of Christ to our hearts and minds (Ezek. 36:27; Gal. 5:22; 1 John 3:24). So, we can summarize salvation inside us with the words will, heart, and work.

Yet, it’s with Christ and the heart that Scripture uses the imagery of light. In John’s beautifully poetic prologue, he writes, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4–5). Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus calls himself the light of the world (John 8:12). In giving his light to us by abiding inside us, Christ makes us light. Paul says that we are light in the Lord, and that the light of Christ shines on us (Eph. 5:8–14). In Romans 13:12, Paul talks about putting on “the armor of light,” but this is bound up with putting on Christ himself. “To put on Christ is to be identified with him not only in his death but also in his resurrection. It is to be united to him in the likeness of his resurrection life” (John Murray,​​ The Epistle to the Romans, p 489). This light of Christ’s resurrection fills us with hope. That’s why Paul also says that Christ in us, as the great mystery of the faith, is “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

So, what is the Christ-light? The Christ-light is our renewed heart, led by the will of the Father and worked in the power of the Spirit. This Christ-light is so powerful that it makes us new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17). We are now marked by love (John 13:35) and filled with resurrection life and hope. Nothing could be greater, more mysterious, and more potent than this divine light. The Christ-light draws our hearts to truth, love, and beauty.

Pause to consider just how broad and deep the implications are for this Christ-light in Christian relationships—not in some abstract sense, but in the text message you send your mother, in the response to a friend who sees the world differently from you, even in the impulsive remark you want to make to someone who has completely misunderstood you, who thinks little of you, who wishes you harm. Yes, even here the Christ-light burns and beckons us to give ourselves, as Christ gave himself for us. Giving is the hallmark of love.

God as Light

But before ruminating on the implications of this Christ-light in daily life, we need to back up and start with understanding God as light. I believe we can’t understand anything deeply apart from seeing its relation to him, even smaller subsets of theology and spirituality. God is the who that defines every what. We stare at him to understand anything. I say this because I come from a tradition of Reformed theology that places God at the center of everything. J. Gresham Machen, who founded the seminary where I serve, put it this way: “The relation to God is the all-important thing. It is not a mere means to an end. Everything else is secondary to it" (Things Unseen, p. 9). If we want to know anything truly, we start by knowing God. In the words of my Dutch elder brother, “God, and God only, has ultimate definitory power. God’s description or plan of the fact makes the fact what it is" (Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel, 2nd ed., pp. 8–9).

If we want to know more deeply what this Christ-light is and what difference it makes in our lives, we have to start by staring at God and his plan to redeem all things through the Son and by the Spirit. Central to that plan, of course, is Jesus Christ. And I'm constantly baffled by how Jesus lives and speaks, how henteracted with God’s people, the ones chosen in him before the foundation of the world. Jesus has the sole and divine ability to ignite souls in God’s weary and wandering flock. Even in the worst and lowest of those chosen by God, Jesus drew near to give his Christ-light to them and to protect their flame from the wind of the world (John 16:33). He did things in, with, and for others that set them on holy fire, that brought them from death to life (John 5:24) and filled them with that resurrection hope we mentioned. And then he encouraged them to “walk in the light” he had given them (1 John 1:5–7), to hold high their new heart-aura and their hope of glory.

Why did God do this? Why? The reason is shrouded in his mysterious, sovereign, gracious will. We don’t read, “For God so loved the world because . . .” We read, “For God so loved the world that . . .” (John 3:16). There’s no reason given for why God loves, no quality in us that must be responsible for drawing him in.

This may seem tangential, but we can be tempted to identify something in us that draws God to us, whether that’s our pitiable condition or our being made in God’s image. But I’ve come to see that only God’s mysterious, voluntary, choosing love is responsible for the Christ-light igniting our souls. The mystery here is meant to stay. Any attempt to shoulder it out of the picture with explanation is an exercise in futility and potentially hazardous theology.

The Christ-Light Poem

Now, let me break the golden rule of poetry and give an explanation for that little poem I put at the top of this article. I do this because the poem will serve you best if you know the theology behind it. Here it is again.

God lit a candle in your chest.
The wax is of the very best.
The wick is woven strong, unbreaking,
And the flame is of the Spirit’s making.

Line 1. As we noted earlier, our triune God passed his light to you in Christ. He did it voluntarily, in the mystery of love, rooted in himself. He comes to us to bring rebirth (John 3) in the depth of his own overflowing self-love. As Vern Poythress writes, “God loves himself and is intimate with himself. We see this beauty and intimacy in the love of the Father for the Son (John 3:34–35), and the mutual love among all three persons of the Trinity. Out of the fullness of what God is, he displays himself in the world, and especially to human beings" (Poythress, "Introducing the Law of Christ (Lex Christi): A Fruitful Framework for Theology and Life"). God’s ancient and mysterious love is the only explanation for you and me receiving the Christ-light. This should lead us to humility, gratitude, and worship.

Line 2. Who you are now, your wax, is bound to Christ as the light of life (John 8:12), given by the will of the Father in the powerful working of his Spirit. You can no longer identify yourself apart from the Trinity who redeemed you in grace. As I’ve written elsewhere, you are they. And yet because you are made of wax, God is going to keep shaping you in his light.

Line 3. The wick at your core—what holds the light—is the Spirit of Christ himself (Rom. 8:9), the light of the world (John 8:12), the one to whom we are all conforming in the grace of God (Rom. 8:29). We have his light in us, not our own. We are united to his flame.

Only those who believe in Jesus have his light inside them, guaranteeing by the Spirit their eternal communion with God. I say that the Son of God is the wick of our candle because it is only in him that we can do anything. He’s the one who said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We want to burn and shine in the darkness of our world because of him. Though we had all fallen (Rom. 3:23) and lived in the darkness (Eph. 5:8), the Son has secured our eternal illumination with the God of light since he has overcome the darkness we bowed down to (John 1:5; 16:33).

Line 4. Our flame as standing candles burns by the Spirit, the one who gave life and breath to the first human (Gen. 2:7), the one who breathes new life into us as we accept and embrace the warming light of Christ (Rom. 8:11). The Spirit represents our resurrection life, as the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead. Even death has no power over this life inside us. We are eternally aflame.

You can read the poem now with a heightened sense of the goodness and mystery of God, the ancient Chandler, the one who will not quench even the faintest burning wick of his people (Isa. 42:3).


  1. Why do you think God put his Christ-light in you? (See Colossians 1:16 and Revelation 4:11.) Why does the Spirit work to brighten the light of Christ in us? (See John 3:16; 1 John 4:19.)
  2. If God has lit a candle in every follower of Christ, what does that suggest about our interactions with Christian brothers and sisters each day? What should we assume about them? How might our interactions with non-Christians differ?
  3. What do you think it means to be made in God’s image? Think not only about Genesis 1:26–27, but about all the ways in which we imitate God.


God of light and love,
You are here, inside me,
Behind my pulsing heart.
Your presence is my life.
I am light in you,
And I can’t be more myself
Unless I’m looking more like Christ.
Show me the light you put inside me.
And turn my chin up to see the light in my faith-family,
Rather than looking for their darkness.

For more, check out The Christ-Light

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