Note: Please be praying strongly this week for this history-cookbook project I am wrapping up. We are very, very close and I am really struggling with the "closer" (Gospel) page which shares how our region is not a slice of Heaven (it is a wonderful place!), but a shadow of Heaven. Then, last night, Mary Ann and I were up until 11:30 trying to fix a corruption in the file---the first time this has happened, and the night before we were to print proofs. I can't figure out what happened, and yet I know that God is bigger than it all, and that this book will be finished and bless our community, our youth, and glorify God!
Light and Darkness, Part 2: One of the starkest contrasts the Bible presents between the Kingdom (reign and rule) of God and the reign and rule of Satan is that of Light versus dark. The Bible makes it clear that the world is in darkness. Now, anyone that has ever been sunburned knows we have a very big light above us half the day, so something else is meant in the following passages:
Matt 4:12-17 Now when he [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. . . . so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ". . . 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." From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Acts 26:15-18 And I [Paul] said, 'Who are you, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. . . . for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, . . . to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'
Clearly, darkness is the default condition of man and the world, and clearly He means a spiritual and mental darkness. This ties in to the theme of blindness, also in the Bible describing the lost:
2 Cor 4:3-6 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case 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, who is the image of God. . . . For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
So, just what does God mean by this darkness? It is a critical understanding to understand the Gospel, and it especially speaks to the heart of "good people" (of which I spent many years thinking I was, because I wasn't "as bad" as many around me). I believe the clue to God's meaning of "darkness" comes in John's encounter with Nicodemus in which Jesus (who calls Himself the Light of the World) says to him:
John 3:19-21 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.
Those who refuse to come to the Light (Jesus) are those who love darkness because of their wicked deeds. But, we all know people who, compared to others, are really "good" people and don't do "wicked" deeds (as long as man, and not God, is the standard). And yet, the Bible is clear they are lost and, tragically, going to Hell. So what are their wicked deeds? Why is the darkness they so love? It is the absence of God. He is the Light. Apart from Him is darkness. So wicked deeds are not just things like murder and drugs and adultery, but any deeds done in the darkness, done from self-rule and not God's rule (hence Kingdom). They are us, loving ourselves more than Him and others, and being our own Lord of our life. That is the ultimate tragedy and trap of the enemy, to get us to think that there is any good apart from God. When we love to rule our own life more than loving God and others and His rule in our life we are separated from Him, not walking in faith, and separation from Him is darkness. A great lie of the enemy is that it has to be "really bad" things, when He is so good that anything apart from Him is bad, and tragic.
I'll write more about this in the next post (God willing), but I encourage you to reflect on it. It is changing the way I share the Gospel and the concept of sin and darkness, and I truly believe that if "good" people understand this they will understand the Gospel better—people who don't do murder and the such and struggle to understand what is so dark about their life. This understanding of darkness elevates our eyes from others around us, and their lives, to Him. Until then, God bless, and don't hesitate to send your feedback. I treasure hearing from you!