The first thing that God placed in my heart, after he told me to go to La Salle-Peru, was a passage from Acts 26:13 “…Turning them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God.” What does it mean to turn from darkness to light? In 1st John 1 there is much of this same language involving darkness and light. John is using it to illustrate the importance of confession and honesty in relationship. Light reveals and darkness conceals. Now with this in mind, I believe that there is a crucial element we need to recognize when considering light and darkness. It is that if a person is living in darkness they can never truly understand what light is until they have actually seen it. The darkness does not just conceal the objects in a room, it also (if you think about it) conceals itself. On the other hand, light not only reveals objects, but also reveals itself and helps us to understand what darkness is. Let me give an illustration. Imagine there is a community of people who live in a world that is sealed off underground and is completely dark. They have never seen nor even heard that there is such a thing as light so there is no way that they could understand that there is such a thing as darkness. Now imagine someone from the outside word comes in and begins to speak to them about the light. Even if they tried to believe they would have no idea what to believe in. Describing light would never make sense to them, they would need to see it. Jesus addresses this issue in Matt 13:13, when he says “Seeing they do not see, hearing they do not understand”. I once heard an author compare it to a drunk man who is much less aware of his own drunkenness than the sober (and slightly annoyed) individual at the next table.
Now lets make it personal! One day I was thinking about the Scribes and Pharisees in my usual cynical way when I heard God speak these words,”They thought they were right”. Immediately I knew what God was saying and certain humility crashed in on me. Like a flame to a haystack it burned up my cynicism with a flash and I realized how dependent I was on God’s ability to hold me and not the other way around. How do I know that I am not also living in darkness?
So what caused the Scribes and Pharisees to live in darkness when they were the religious leaders who were supposed to reveal the truth everyone else? One of the things that I have, many times, heard associated with the Scribes and Pharisees is the term “spirit of religion”. I remember the first time I heard a Baptist use this phrase and she was using it to describe us Pentecostal, Charismatic types. “What”, (I thought quietly to myself) “You are saying that we have a “spirit of religion”? I thought that we coined that phrase and we did it to describe you people”! But what is the Spirit of religion as it applies to the Scribes and Pharisees? In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us not to be like them, but he doesn’t mention things like doctrine or worship style. He speaks of their pride, of wanting the attention of others and of only receiving a reward on earth and not in heaven. The amazing thing is that the moment we point our finger at someone and say “they have a spirit of religion”, we are most likely picking up our own spirit of religion by lashing out in pride. We are pulling out a speck in someone else’s eye and all the time we are blind because of the beam in our own eye. We are, once again, living in darkness and the darkness is concealing any evidence of itself.
So if this is true, if we could be living in darkness, all the time believing that we are living in the light then where is our hope, and how will we lead others to light if we are not even sure that we ourselves are living in complete light. Well let me assure you by saying that there are definitely areas of darkness in your life! Now before you get very angry with me, let me also say that if you know Jesus then the light far outweighs the darkness. By using the word “darkness” I am not speaking of areas that Jesus has washed you free of, I am simply saying that there are areas of our lives that God is shedding light on every day. The work sanctification is a day by day process and every one of those days should include letting go of our deflectors and letting the Holy Spirit shine his light into our hidden areas. Our hope is in the fact that that Jesus, not us, is where the light comes from. He is our only hope and the only hope for a dark world. Our part is to walk in the light that we have right now and to walk in the humility of knowing that we still need God to shed more light on us every day. This is the best thing that we can do for a world that is unaware of their desperate situation. Humbling ourselves and focusing the attention on God instead of us will be the beginning of other people turning from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God.