Thursday, July 22, 2010

Light and Dark

At one of my old church homes, there was a particular group of students who believed they were "too cool" for church. Actually, now that I think about it, almost everyone there thought they were "too cool" for church. It was as if they only attended for the social aspect of it. During worship, they looked like rocks. In sunday school, they tried to text during class, and it was obvious that they weren't reading their Bibles outside of class. I'm sure we all know some people who are like this in church, youth or not. It saddens me that someone could be so close to the Gospel and even so involved, but so widely miss it. With some people, I just want to smack some sense into them! But as I like to say, "Yeah, that's showing them the love of Jesus." But to be perfectly honest, it can be downright irritating to see someone who has been in church for a long time, but still doesn't "get it." I ask, "Man, this person has been in church for fourteen years, or grown up in church, or plays guitar for the youth praise band, and they live like someone who has never heard about God... or never cared." How can they be so blind?

I struggled with how to deal this blatant deceit in others for a long time. I was flustered and frustrated at their insolent stubbornness. However, I found a convicting truth in a few books written by Christian author Ted Dekker. In these books, Dekker showed me that sin is like a disease. It lives in the heart and pollutes the mind and rots the soul. If you've ever been in total darkness, you would know you can't see anything, even if you wave your hand one inch away from your eyeballs. Sin is the same way; it's total darkness, so dark that you can't see the Light even if it's dancing one inch away from your eyeballs. For those who have not yet let Jesus cleanse them of sin, sin is still permeating their bodies. Sin blinds their mind to the truth. The darkness is so thick they can't even see the Light. They are literally incapable of "getting it."

In addition, these people have also usually hardened their hearts to God. In the book of Romans, Paul writes, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen" (Romans 1:21-24). A few chapters later, he states, "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden (Romans 9:17-18). I love this passage, because Paul describes so deliberately what happens when we don't do what we know we ought to. He says, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him." Unfortunately, there are still people just like this today. I know too many people who know about God in their head, but don't know Him in their hearts or have a deep relationship with Him. Now you may be wondering why I added the verses about Pharaoh. I did this to show that God doesn't just pick and choose which hearts to harden and which to work with. He lets the individual choose what path, and then works from there. Did you see the emboldened words in the first passage?: "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie" and "they... exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images." Pharaoh had an two options: he could submit to the God of the Israelites or he could stubbornly disobey. He chose to disobey, allowing God to harden his heart. It was Pharaoh's decision to make. It was God's job to glorify Himself through Pharaoh, which he did.

For those of us who are true followers, we must not use this information as ammunition to judge our friends or blame our immature friends' actions on lack of salvation. We must instead love them intensely, because love is the only think that penetrates the darkness of sin. Blaming, judging, gossiping about, condemning, and separating ourselves from them will not save them. They have to see for themselves that we are meant to be in the Light. We were created to live in the Light. They need to know what real, tangible, unconditional love looks and feels like. Through our actions, thoughts, words, and attitudes, we must shine the flame through the darkness that sets the example and shows those entrapped in darkness how wonderful and glorious the Light is.

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