I’d like us to have some serious fun for a few minutes. A couple weeks ago I preached a message called “The Gospel According to Ephesians,” in which I went through Paul’s epistle, trying to outline the message of salvation. This morning, I’d like to point to some interesting facts and details from our recent visit of the Aurora Borealis. That aurora points a finger to its Creator, and I’d like to try to use it to illustrate the gospel. Ultimately, this entire lesson will be nothing more than an illustration, but let’s pray that the Holy Spirit uses it for His eternal purpose.

I will begin with a caveat: I am not a astrophysicist, so I might get some of the physical details wrong. It is not that I am trying to mislead people to reach my agenda; any inaccuracies will be entirely accidental. On the other hand, I will stand behind any of my references to the Bible 100%.

I hope you have at some time seen an aurora, or “the northern lights” as they are called in our hemisphere. There is a southern version, seen in places like Antarctica and Australia where it is called “Aurora Australis.” An aurora appears to the average person as a spectacular, night-time, light display. But to the theologian – I mean the astrophysicist – it may appear somewhat different. He sees it scientifically; he talks about its technical details, sometimes no longer recognizing its beauty. An aurora may be in a number of colors, a variety of shapes and sizes, moving slowly or moving rapidly. It may appear and disappear; it may arise in the northwest, disappear and then reappear in the east. And even if science says it will be seen on some particular night, it might not show up at all. Growing up in Canada, I have seen the aurora several times. I hope that it is possible for every one of you to see it at some time during your life. As it is with many of the things of God, it is unique – not common or ordinary.

The initial source of an aurora is our solar system’s sun, just as salvation begins with God the Son.

Our sun is a star – a mass of material which appears to our amateur eyes as a burning ball of fire. Taking a quick glance toward the sun, it looks like a solid mass of bright yellow light. But there are anomalies – dark places on its surface called “sunspots” – about which we are still learning. Yet those sunspots are directly associated with the auroras we see here on earth. Periods of high sunspot activity tend to increase the frequency and intensity of auroras. But when there are few sunspots there are fewer northern lights and southern lights. Also, as many saw during April’s solar eclipse, shooting out from the sun are great tongues of energy. That energy flies off in various directions, and some of it heads toward earth. When a solar flare is great enough, its energy strikes the natural protection of our atmosphere – including the magnetic field around the planet, which usually sends that energy to the north and south… When the energy of the sun hits various materials and molecules, it produces the colors and shapes of the aurora.

Just as the earth has its protective shield, so does the human world. Life would probably be destroyed if the sun’s energy struck the earth in its fullest force. Similarly, sinful men would be destroyed if the full glory of God without Christ’s intervention was to hit us full force. On the other hand, when, at the command of God, the miraculous grace of Christ falls on sinful people, they catch fire like the molecules of oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere, becoming beautiful new creatures. But, generally speaking, being the rebels that we are, most people have no desire to be ignited by God, so they shield ourselves from His grace with all kinds of excuses and sins. As John tells us, “Christ came unto His own – His creation – and His own received Him not.”

Nevertheless, some of us “beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” There is nothing like a sky filled with the northern lights. Nothing in this world compares to it. Science has not, and never will, duplicate on God’s scale, what we can see in an aurora. There is no theology, no philosophy, no human righteousness that can re-create a true spiritual aurora. The salvation of a single soul is absolutely dependent on what comes from the Son – the Son of God. And when any sinner is saved, there is glory in the heavens. Jesus tells us “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” – Lk. 15:10.

Much of the United States had the privilege recently to view the northern lights. Rarely do they extend very far south of the Canadian border, but this month they did. The farther north one goes, whether in Canada, Scandinavia or Russia, the more likely he’ll see an aurora. And generally speaking the farther north one goes the colder the night will be. And that is quite similar to the glorious ministry of God’s saving grace. Those sinners who are happy, healthy and hearty in the world, are less likely to look to the Lord for grace. They are far less likely to see the spiritual aurora of God. It is the criminal, the kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar, and the woman with the issue of blood who come up behind the Saviour to touch the hem of His garment, seeing the glory of God. But there are exceptions, praise the Lord, when sometimes God’s grace reaches so far south that even people in their shirt-sleeves can be touched by the Holy Spirit.

Historical anthropology is filled with fables about auroras, just as religion is filled with heresy.

The Vikings either celebrated or feared the northern lights, because to them their gods were coming. Some believed that the lights were shining off the armour of the Valkyries who were there to take the dead to Valhalla. Others believed the colorful sheets in the sky were bridges over which the dead crossed into paradise. Some in Finland have believed that auroras were arctic foxes running so quickly that static electricity from their pelts lit up the sky. The Algonquin Indians believed that their gods had traveled far to the north, but periodically they lit torches to remind their people that they were still there and still cared for them. Other natives believed that the gods were fishing, and the northern lights were the torches they used at night. Many aurora borealis fables were negative, but there have been lots of positive fables as well.

The point is, none of them are true, just as so many false ideas about Jehovah and salvation are untrue. No, God is not so loving and kind that He has promised to take every wretched sinner to heaven. And there is no salvation in baptism or giving to charity or in any other of the works of the flesh. Deliverance from sin is not given at the discretion of a priest, and it doesn’t come by way of the mass. And auroras are not porch lights of the eternal homes, cities and other worlds of the Mormons or Muslims.

The glory of the northern lights is seen in a special kind of conflict.

And greater the conflict, the greater the beauty of the aurora. When an arrogant man like Nebuchadnezzar is born again, the glory of God’s aurora appears very bright. When a wicked murderer like Saul of Tarsus is converted, again, we see the glory of Lord. Nothing compares to such things: no degree of reformation, detoxification, or rehab compares to the sinner who has been given a new heart through the grace of God. Despite all the layers of protection Saul had put around him – his self-righteousness, his ultra-religiousness, his superior intellect – they were no match for the energy of the grace of God. When the rays of Christ’s divine light blasted through that man’s protective shield, there was glory to God which could not be duplicated in any other way. Over and over again for the rest of his life, Saul, the apostle Paul, voiced his praise to God for his salvation. The pictures he took the day he saw the Lord’s glory and aurora, he kept publishing over and over again.

Speaking of Saul’s voice; do you know that aurora’s have a voice? It is true, and I believe that I have heard it in my Canadian childhood. At high altitudes and at high latitudes, auroras can produce a clicking sound – either slow or rapid – sometimes similar to the sound of static. It is definitely other-worldly. And when the Son of Righteousness came, “Lo, the angel of the Lord came upon those cariboo herdsmen in Finland and Norway, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them.” “And suddenly there was… a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

And returning to the subject of conflict, auroras can be disruptive and destructive to certain things. In 1989, Quebec was hit so hard by a solar storm much of the province had its electrical power knocked out for a much as nine hours. What happens is the sun’s energy which causes an aurora, can overload some earthly energy systems. The strongest solar storm in history occurred in 1859, and was given the name “the Carrington Event,” after one of the scientists who documented it. Stunning auroras were seen all over the world and extending far to the south. But the storm also caused sparks to fly off electrical equipment, like transformers. It was so strong that some telegraph systems worked for hours without being plugged into an earthly power source. Today, satellites can be affected by the northern lights, disrupting communications.

These things remind us that the glories of God, although infinitely beautiful in themselves, are also dangerous to sinful men. Not one unbeliever, not one rebellious sinner, is going to look with awe on God’s aurora without eventually being consumed by the energy behind it. At the judgment at God’s Great White Throne, sinners will see the glory of the Lord, before being cast into the Lake of Fire.

You might say that to see an aurora is much like attending a gospel meeting.

A glorious aurora might be likened to a revival of the power of God, or to see one of the miracles of the Lord. How many people were fed by Christ Jesus during His earthly ministry? There were thousands. But how many of those thousands walked away with full bellies and empty souls? Recently the internet has been full of pictures of our recent auroras. Some of them have been spectacular. But how many of those thousands of photographers across the country have been changed by what they saw? How many of them spoke about colors and movement and beautiful silhouettes, but the thought of the Creator never crossed their minds? An aurora should make us think about the beauties of the Lord our God, but I don’t remember anyone putting a caption on their picture praising God.

Similarly, how many have heard the gospel of the love of God, but walked away unmoved and unchanged? How often have people witnessed the salvation of others, but they haven’t been redeemed themselves? How many times have people experienced the Holy Spirit’s convicting power and perhaps even acknowledged it, but soon forgot about it? An aurora can excite a godless heart, but it usually comes and goes without any eternal response. People get out their cameras and take hundreds of pictures, only to file them away never to gaze upon them again.

Judy and I went out the night that Rachel and Austin Fulton got their great pictures of one of our auroras. We sat in our car or got out and walked around in an open field for more than an hour, before we packed up and went home, without seeing what the Fultons saw an hour later. Like many others, we weren’t patient enough to experience the blessing of God that night. So many want instant success instead of a lifetime of growing closer to the Lord. They want the Lord to feed them with miraculous manna, but only on their terms and in their time. Many city people looked out the windows of their homes, but the city lights and reflections in the glass made it impossible to see the lights. People want to go to Heaven when they die, but they aren’t interested in Heaven today in the person of Christ, or they want the blessings of revival without putting in the effort to receive those blessings.

North Idaho and much of the rest of the country enjoyed a divine treat.

But that was a few weeks ago. Today there are fewer pictures of the aurora on Facebook. That event is now history; it is no longer a present and living reality. And so many treat Christ and the offer of His salvation in much the same way.

We all need to grasp the Saviour by faith. We need to give ourselves over to Him and to fall in love with every aspect of His glorious aurora. In other words, we need new hearts, which can only come with true spiritual regeneration. Repent for the glorious kingdom of Heaven is at hand. God has said, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” – Isaiah 45:22.