This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is (John 3:19-21 MSG).
Seven miles down in the density of earth's deepest darkness, James Cameron steered his one man exploration submarine, Challenger Deep, into the vast expanse of the Marianna Trench. Over 35,000 feet down, his submarine shrunk by three inches because of the 16,000 lbs. per square inch of pressure. Down in deepest darkness, all light was lost except for the bank of lights he brought with him. In this desolate world of complete darkness, few things can survive, much less thrive. The few living things that do live have no eyes at all, or eyes that see something other than light as we see it.
Yet isn't that where a lot of us live spiritually — in darkness so deep that we can't even recognize light when we see it? This is because if we are honest with ourselves, darkness impacts all of us in one way or another.
Sometimes it's darkness because of our own self-willed and destructive rebellion. We choose a way other than God's way. We don't want constraints, rules, morals, guidelines, or religious junk to confuse and cloud our way. So we choose our own way. We may decide that we are too intellectual to fall for the religious tripe shoved down the masses throats or we may simply want to live by our own set of rules.
Sometimes it's darkness that is unwanted, maybe unexpected, that happens to us because of life's difficulties — we find out we have cancer, that the one we love is terminally ill, or we get the pink slip at work and lose our job. Maybe it's because someone around us has brought darkness down on top of us — our spouse is having an affair, our business partner has embezzled funds, our kids are doing drugs and have brought disaster and danger into our lives along with heartbreak and deep disappointment. Or it could be a thousand other things that others have done to bring darkness down upon us.
Sometimes it's darkness that stems from our mostly polluted streams of religion and their attempts at self-justification through good deeds — by trying to earn God's love and acceptance by what we do or by defining our holiness by seeking to be more right or better than others. We are decent, law-abiding people who do good things, but religion becomes suffocating and self-righteous rather than filled with grace and graciousness. We can even justify our slips, errors, faults, and playing in the gray because we have a list of good things we have done to show we are good people.
All of these are forms of darkness that Jesus addressed in his ministry on earth. They are false lights that we substitute for the "one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone ..." (John 1:9 nlt). We grow use to our false light. We feel superior in our false light. We learn to navigate life in our false light. But as Isaiah said, "What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark ..." (Isaiah 5:20 niv). Jesus said, "Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness" (Luke 11:35 nlt).
Like someone waking from a long afternoon nap in a dark room when the curtains are flung open and light comes streaming in, the light is harsh and feels cruel. True light, bright light, genuine light, hurts our eyes. We retreat to the comforting darkness of our covers. Our eyes can't handle real light, at least at first.
And when we have lived in darkness, even if it is dressed up as religion, our eyes become calibrated for something other than genuine light. We avoid what is needed to bring us life, the blazing and revealing light of Jesus! We substitute rebellion or religion and we lose life while pursuing our false lights.
God sent his Son to be light for the world lost in darkness. He did it because of his great love for us, to save us. Yet we rejected the Son, the true light, because we preferred a different kind of light — a light less harsh, that did not truly reveal our darkness (John 3:16-21). Jesus put it this way:
If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:23).And what is this darkness? It is anything we think that can give us light that is not from God or instead of God. All our attempts at significance and importance and prestige and status and power. This false light becomes the black hole of our souls — the addictive power that deepens the hold of the lord of darkness' tyrannical grip.
Jesus came to drive out the darkness: to be light for the world (John 8:12). People of truth, people who genuinely care about real life, come to him to leave the darkness behind, but the forces of darkness hated the light and did everything it could to extinguish the light (John 1:3-11; John 3:19-20)! Because darkness hates light, hell unleashed its fiercest darkness trying to extinguish Jesus' light! (John 13:30-31). The cross of Jesus was the ultimate battle of light and darkness, and for a while, darkness seemed to reign (Luke 22:53 ; Matthew 27:45). Yet even in earth's darkest hour, even in hell's perfect moment, when earth was trapped in deepest darkness, the Dark Power was defeated and cast out (John 12:31). No matter how much evil Satan unleashed, no matter how much darkness hell spewed out, Jesus' light kept on shining (John 1:4-5; Ephesians 4:8), until darkness was shamed and defeated by its own act to destroy God's Light (Colossians 2:13-15).
But darkness is so present in our worlds ... in our lives ... in our hearts. How do we break free? How do we come to the light? How do we leave the power of darkness behind?
- Admit we're in darkness & need help to see — we've got to quit playing with the dark and choose to come out into the light (John 3:16-17; John 3:35-36).
- We will go "all in" for Jesus as we truly come to the light: we won't play around with our "favorite" aspects and places of darkness. We will surrender all of ourselves to the light to see what's really true about our lives and life (John 3:21).
- This means we will confess — to others and to Jesus, our darkness when we stumble in it so we can be forgiven, cleansed, and healed (1 John 1:5-7; James 5:16).
- We then choose to reflect the light of Jesus to others so that they can be brought from darkness to light and from death to life (Matthew 5:16)
- We will help others follow this same path (Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Timothy 2:1-2).
But does this happen? Can it really happen? Can we walk in the light and with the Light? Ah yes, it does, and when it does, it's life-changing for us and for others.
For a great example of the power of light in darkness, read the inspirational story of Botiyasi — http://hlt.me/L2j4mv