A few Sundays ago, I heard a passage read and I was struck by a particular phrase that I have heard a thousand times. God’s Word can be read over and over again and continue to teach us and show us things we have never noticed before. In the past several months my heart has been saddened, and, at times, disturbed by the unfolding events within the church. As the Lord is growing me up in Him and teaches me through adversity and mountaintop experiences that no matter the circumstances He is always consistent, never changes, never wavers, and is the Light we must have to navigate through the dark places.
As I read Genesis 1:3-4, Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness”. (no pun intended) but the light bulb came on. The first words the Creator of the universe spoke was “Let there be light”! His first act was to separate the light from the darkness!
We are drawn to light. We love the warmth of the sunlight when we are cold. We squint to see when the sunlight is too intense. Without enough sunlight, we suffer physically from vitamin deficiencies. God knew the light was needed and necessary. In fact, He created a greater light and a lesser light. From the very beginning, before anything else could be created, God knew all things needed to be in the light and have light. He separated the darkness from the light, and even the darkness is ruled by a lesser light. (Gen. 1:16)
How does this apply to what the church is facing today? More importantly, how does this apply to us personally? The total health of the body most often is determined by the weakest part of the body. When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. (I Cor 12:26) A few years ago, I began to experience pain in my right ankle. I tried to ignore it and the pain only grew worse. This pain slowly took away my ability to run and exercise. It also began to determine what type of shoes I could wear. Needless to say, the chronic pain had my undivided attention and I went to see my doctor. The MRI revealed an old sports injury that had gone undetected for years. Surgery was the only option. As annoying and inconvenient the pain was; it was the pain that alerted me something was wrong. My pain made me less effective in my mobility too. While the surgery was an inconvenience and the recovery period was intense, I understood the only way for healing to take place was to be off my feet and go through the physical therapy. My first appointment with my doctor revealed nothing from the x-ray. He had to have results from an MRI to see the cause of the pain. He had to use a different source to expose the problem. What fascinated me during the process was where I actually felt pain was not the exact place of the injury. My presenting pain was not the source of my pain.
I believe we are seeing the same effect in the church today. We have a problem. Some would say we have a chronic problem. There has been hurts and pain done to our own body that has been ignored and minimized. The pain has grown in intensity and now it has our undivided attention. We no longer can ignore the issue or the cause of the issue. The pain has grown greater than the fear to speak up and speak out. And now a light is being shined on each of us. We are being searched and exposed. We are squinting in the intensity of this light. When God’s holy light shines onto our souls it is always intense. It is with intense love and an intense searching for things that do not belong in the life of the believer.
Saul buckled under the intense light as he traveled the road to Damascus. (Acts 9) David confessed when Nathan shined a light on the secret sin. (2 Samuel 12) Sometimes God chooses to shine a light with great intensity to get our attention. Other times, he uses a lesser light through a conversation to lead us to repentance. No matter the method He uses, there is always light being shined to expose what we have hoped is being kept in the dark.
The prophet Isaiah gives the invitation, “Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord”. (Isaiah 2:5) What would change in our individual lives when we choose to walk in the light of the Lord? As we individually walk in the light of the Lord, how will this change the church as a whole? While I can hope and have ideas that could answer the second question, I can honestly answer the first question.
What will change in our individual lives when we choose to walk in the light of the Lord?
When we walk in the Light allowing our hearts to be exposed by His truth and His grace, it is intense and it is personal. Our motives are challenged. Our justification of our sin becomes intolerable. Light exposes. Once the Light exposes, we have one of two choices: to accept what we have been shown and begin to walk out a process that leads to repentance and reconciliation with the Lord and others; or we can ignore what has been shown and justify our reasons for our thoughts, actions, and attitudes which will lead to a hardened heart and harmed relationships. Being exposed by the Light is not always pleasant, but it is what is needed to show us the path that we are to be walking. When God illuminates our soul with His light it is for the purpose to draw us to Himself first and to strengthen our relationships with others. It is for our integrity which can only be built upon the Solid Rock.
This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (I John 1:5-7)
For you and I to be in fellowship with God there can be no darkness. If we say we have fellowship with God and we are walking in darkness, we are liars. This truth is tough and it pierces the heart. In other words, we cannot have our cake and eat it too. I believe that what we have been observing and hearing in the last several months is the duplicity of Christian leaders. What if instead of duplicity in the matters of reporting abuse, responding to abuse victims, and cooperating with the appropriate authorities those in leadership had a clear black and white approach. This is what I John 1:7 is directing, but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we choose to walk in the Light especially in those areas that are offensive and harmful, we can stand confidently that the light that has exposed is for a purpose and has a purpose. Walking in the Light is the only way we have fellowship (communion, community) with one another. By walking in the Light it makes way to experience the cleansing of our sin through the blood of Jesus. The Light exposes my sin first. Secondly, the Light leads me to the blood of Jesus where reconciliation takes place at the foot of the cross, the ultimate accountability.
Light immediately creates accountability. Once the Light is shined on to something you cannot unsee it. You either have to act or ignore, respond or live in denial. No matter our response, what the Light has shone us is still present. Choosing to ignore it or live in denial does not make it go away. Oh the word, ACCOUNTABILITY! For some, we can be accepting of accountability because we understand its purpose and protection. For others, we dodge accountability because of its uncomfortable focus and directiveness.
You have placed our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your presence. (Psalms 90:8) Matthew Henry Commentary explains, “that is, thou hast discovered these, and brought these also to the account, and made us to see them, who before overlooked them.” Secret sins are known to God and shall be reckoned for.” It is the light of God’s presence that holds us accountable. While God may allow for different avenues to be used to bring us to accountability, in the end, it is the Light of the holy God shining with such an intensity that it burns into the depth of our soul. It is a Light that cannot be escaped and it is a Light that always separates the darkness. Is this what we have been observing and for some are experiencing in the church today? Has God had enough of our secret sins? Has he had enough of our justifications? He is a just God that delights in justice. “But let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:24) If God himself delights in lovingkindness (goodness, kindness, faithfulness) and justice (process and procedure before a judge) and righteousness (truthfulness) then as believers walking in the Light we also should delight in these things.
Yes, light exposes. Yes. what we see in the light can be very messy and offensive. These last several months, I have found myself on my knees confessing. It is easy to be caught up with watching someone else squirm under the bright light. But I have to ask myself first and foremost, “Am I walking in the Light”. Walking in the Light means I am in a continual place of exposure before the Holy God. God sent His son, Jesus, THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD to die for my sins so I could be free of darkness. It is my desire to see the church not just be the light to this world but live our individual lives as collective bodies of worship with integrity by walking in the Light. The world is watching and we must get this right. Jeremiah 7:5-6, For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin. Matthew Henry explains it, “What the amendment was which he expected from them. They must thoroughly amend in making good, they must make good their ways and doings... –not partial, but entire–not hypocritical, but sincere–not wavering, but constant. They must make the tree good, and so make the fruit good, must amend their hearts and thoughts, and so amend their ways and doings. In particular, They must be honest and just in all their dealings. Those that had power in their hands must thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, without partiality, and according as the merits of the cause appeared. They must not either in judgment or in contract oppress the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor countenance or protect those that did oppress, nor refuse to do them justice when they sought for it. They must keep closely to the worship of the true God only: “Neither walk after other gods do not hanker after them, nor hearken to those that would draw you into communion with idolaters for it is, and will be, to your own hurt.””
God’s first words, “Let there be light”. God did not create light, He is light. He announced His presence. Since the beginning, God has given us light, Himself. He created man and woman, walking with them in the garden. The darkness of sin interrupted that communion and then God made the first sacrifice and clothed them. The Light of His love and His truth and His justice held them accountable and there were consequences for their sin. Accountability and consequences do not lessen His love, in fact, this proves His love more. (Hebrews 12:6-7)
With God’s first words being “Let there be light” and His first act was separating the light from the darkness, He is demonstrating to us how to be light bearers. We are to be a light, and by being light we will separate light form darkness. This is what light does, it separates light from darkness, it reveals what is in the dark, and it conquers darkness.