Saturday, January 12, 2013

Shadows of Light


That was the true Light

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

There is no spiritual light but that which is Christ and emanates from Christ. The Scriptures call Jesus the Word of God, and sometimes just the Word. So when Christ’s Words are preached either by commandment, truth, or simply by preaching Jesus Himself it casts a shadow of light upon men’s hearts. Men may embrace or reject that light, but they cannot deny it is there. What the world calls light is not.

The word light is used as a metaphor for understanding and truth. And the tragedy is that in these modern days of spiritual darkness men preach darkness disguised as light. Knowingly or unknowingly they have become evil pawns used against the gospel of light and they preach and teach falsehoods through hollow words of utter nonsense. But it is nonsense that appeals to the fallen nature, and throngs rush to hear words of darkness rather than words of light.

But after the Industrial Revolution men became more and more prosperous until prosperity was within arm’s reach of the average person and it became what most men sought to have. And this insatiable desire for wealth and material things and entertainment soon began to find its way into the church. At first it was just accepted as an unspoken part of the congregation, and soon it became the normal way to think and live among the entire flock. And because so many sheep were compromised in this way, and because they did not desire to be corrected, the preachers had to make a choice. Were they going to preach the truth and risk losing members, or would they acquiesce to the growing culture and tell the people what they desired to hear?

It is very evident that most preachers decided to change as did the culture in their ministry and in their personal lives. And evangelicalism grew by leaps and bounds, but at the same time the spiritual darkness began to suffocate the church. Make no mistake, spiritual darkness can be exhilarating and exciting. It can be informative and helpful. It can be emotional and supportive. It can be affirming and strengthening. Spiritual darkness can be most alluring and endearing and enlightening on an earthly level. And many have had their earthly lives benefit from being fed a consistent diet of spiritual darkness. But one day, like Cinderella, its shelf life with expire and what seemed to be prosperity will be exposed as poverty, and worse yet, an eternal lie.

But there is a way that we can allow God’s light to be magnified. Seriously, you say? Oh yes, and the Scriptures not only command us to do so, but they lay out what we are to do.

Ti.2: 10 Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

There is the command to adorn the teachings of Jesus even though that sounds monumental and almost beyond the realm of reality.

Matt.5: 14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

The key is the works we do and how we live our lives. And this isn’t just avoiding certain sins, but this is an aggressive humanitarianism which seeks convenient and inconvenient ways to help others in need. No one can be saved without the gospel and a personal faith in Jesus Christ, but it is evident that we as followers of Christ can create an atmosphere where His Words through us can be louder, clearer, and more penetrating to the unbeliever’s heart. But where His words are not the focus, then there is no light regardless of how many good deeds we do.

And that is where the divide has always been. Soc called conservatives have concentrated upon sharing Scripture while minimizing the deeds of His followers, while so called liberals have concentrated on humanitarian deeds while minimizing the words of Scripture. But that is an unnecessary and unhealthy divide. God’s Word trumps all human words, however God’s Word clearly and consistently calls us to all kinds of deeds in His name. In reality, there must be no divide between them since faith without works is dead. Theology and doctrine without deeds is dead as well.

And here we can come to some kind of assessment. It is very easy for a student of the Word to see where many preachers teach things at odds with Scripture. We can hear preachers resist using God’s Word and teach self help, earthly success, politics, nationalism, and even suggesting humanitarian deeds are redemptive in and of themselves. Of course that is heresy of the deepest kind. But why is it that the “doctors of the law”, the orthodox theologians of our time, live lives so unremarkable when compared with the so called liberals? If indeed they are adhering, understanding, teaching, and obeying God’s Holy Word then should they not be fanatical about humanitarian deeds? Isn’t that primal within the context of the Word they claim to believe?

Almost everyone, believer and unbeliever alike, is in favor of helping the poor and disenfranchised and downtrodden. Even if it is just at Christmas time or in response to a sad television commercial most people help in some ways. But in light of the life and teachings of Jesus Himself, shouldn’t the most orthodox among us be the most intense and impassioned humanitarians? Why is it that much of the evangelical church demeans humanitarian efforts when they come from non-orthodox or liberal communities? And why is it that those who wear inerrancy as a badge of their spirituality are not at the observable forefront of world wide and neighborhood humanitarian efforts? Why is it that churches spend most of their offerings on salaries and buildings while only retaining a comparative token when it comes to humanitarian efforts?

And when this is the situation, regardless of how loud you scream or how many street corners you use, God’s Word gets muffled in the ears of the lost world. James is extremely clear on this. But wasn’t Jesus clear as well? Where did the church get the idea that as long as your written theology and your doctrinal statement of faith are orthodox, that you have God’s approval? When did the needs of fellow sinners become an aside? When did the hurting and the dispossessed and the wounded become recreational and not vocational within the church? When did the church become a place and not His body?

Here is where we must see the entirety of the gospel and not just that which can so easily only require an “Amen!” from within a church pew. No one can be redeemed but through a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. No one. But after one comes to faith in Christ His Word must become a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. We can no longer create our own vision of what it means to be His follower. And when we are so clearly called to be a living sacrifice for Him, then so be it. But just what was the essence of His sacrifice? Was it for Him or us? Yes He gets glory, but He laid down His life for us. And we are called to lay down our lives for sinners. In many ways we have made the Bible an idol and not the very source of our life and walk. We defend doctrines while openly ignoring His teachings. The western construct called the church needs a massive overhaul that begins with receiving the New Testament as God’s Word, and not just in a doctrinal sense, but in a life changing sense.

Light is not just confined to illumination. It also generates heat and energy. The light from our Sun provides for us the life giving force which enables us to live and move. And in the kingdom of God we live and move and have our being in Him. That is not just a doctrine of the church; that must be the observable life of His follower and disciple. Perhaps we must re-imagine what the life of a believer should be. Perhaps we have made doctrine an end and not a means. Perhaps we have made a religion out of what was supposed to be a remarkable way of life known overwhelmingly by earthly ministry in His name. Perhaps we have become way too comfortable in our ecclesiology and have forgotten to emulate the very life He lived. Perhaps the world has ceased to see our light because we have so little. Perhaps we must deconstruct what we have created and allow Him to remake us in His image.

Or perhaps we can just go on as we are.

1 comment:

Cherie c. said...

Dear Pastor Rick,

Please excuse me if I quote Leonard Ravenhill a bit, but he hits nails right on the head with his preaching and your preaching is similar. Both are truly blessings.

A few of your blog posts have kept me up at night, so I want to assure you that I will not do as the following quote from Ravenhill. I hope you find it a blessing.

he said:

"I use to preach my heart out and people would say, "I haven't slept for five nights." Nowadays, they take you to court and sue you for that."

For more, if you're interested:

God Bless you Pastor,

Cherie c.