Send me your light and your faithful care,

let them lead me;

let them bring me to your holy mountain,

to the place where you dwell. (Ps. 43:3)

People sometimes describe it as a “mountaintop experience” – a tangible sense of being in the very presence of God, keenly aware of His enveloping love, infused with His peace, quietly confident in His guidance, secure in His strength.

How is it possible to reach such a height?

The psalmist asks for two things to lead him to God’s holy mountain, and both are an essential part of our own mountain-climbing equipment.

If we’re going to go mountain-climbing in this dark world, we need the light that comes from God. Scripture is clear about where that light is found: “The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes (Ps. 19: 8), “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Ps. 119:105), and “The unfolding of your words gives light” (Ps. 119:130). God has sent us His light in Scripture. If we want to walk by His light, we will need to recharge our spiritual batteries daily. Too often though, we try to tackle the ascent into a new day using only the feeble beams of our own vision, instead of the floodlight of God’s Word.

God’s light at full strength isn’t only useful for illuminating our path; it provides light for others too. When we’re walking in God’s light, it becomes obvious to those around us because it radiates from us. Jesus urges us to “let your light shine before others” (Matt. 5:16) so that we can show others the way. Our daily walk is a witness to others, and that witness is either one of light or one of darkness. If our lives don’t look different from those following the world’s standards, then we’re not mountain-climbing.

We can start the day ablaze with the light of God’s Word, but it will take vigilance to keep the light bright. Darkness will try to encroach on us in many subtle ways. We’ll be faced with friends, colleagues, and family members who expect us to join in gossip; to approve of entertainment that is graphically violent and promotes the world’s values; to spend our energy pursuing wealth and pleasure, sometimes through forms of gambling such as lotteries; and a hundred other nuances that pull us away from putting God at the centre.

Often these challenges will come wrapped in a tissue of deception – that by doing these things, we’re building relationships, or participating in raising funds for a good cause, or that we won’t be affected by it. But we need to ask the same question as Paul: “what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14.) Later, he warns that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Cor. 11:14).

To distinguish between God’s light and Satan’s, we need to be alert and mindful; to test the light we think we (or others) have against the truth of Scripture. We also need to pray daily for understanding, discernment and wisdom, remembering that all that glitters is not gold.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: 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. (1 John 1:5-8)

Being in the light means walking what we talk. Fellowship with one another is one result of walking in the light. “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness,” John warns (1 John 2:9). How we relate to others is a true test of whether we’re really in the light. Negative feelings need to be taken to God and then left there. Mountain climbing requires a strong team working together. What concerns one concerns all; what diminishes one diminishes all.

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  be a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

Another result of God’s illumination is a real recognition – not minimization – of our own sin; confession of it to God (and under His guidance, to others); and genuine repentance, followed by walking in His forgiveness. We can’t climb a mountain if we’re carrying the crushing weight of unconfessed sin, or the burden of not being able to really accept God’s full and free forgiveness.

Mountain climbing is hard work, but reaching the summit is more than worth it. The first step is making sure we have the light we need, and that we use it everywhere we walk.

Next — Mountain Climbing II: God’s Faithful Care