In a few minutes Pastor Kevin will be preaching on the beginning of James 4, which deals with conflict in relationships. To prepare for that teaching I want to focus on our individual hearts and specifically address darkness in our hearts.
In the first chapter of the gospel according to John we learn many profound truths about who Jesus is.
John 1:4-5 says "In him [that is Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
I want to make three observations:
The first observation is that Jesus is the source of light that shines into darkness. Apart from Jesus, we are in darkness, which is where we all start. By nature we reject Jesus because he is God and it is in us to ignore God and metaphorically we politely say "thanks but no thanks God, I don't need you, I got this." We don't see Jesus as God, we don't believe it, and we are in darkness. This rejection is also noted in John 1, verse 11 "He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him." The light that we need comes from Jesus, and him alone. We cannot derive light from in and of ourselves. The light that we need comes from Jesus.
See the issue is, by nature we like the darkness. In the darkness we can hide. In the darkness we can do what we want, how we want, and on our terms. No one can see what we are doing, and we think we are safe.
Second, light is linked to life. Jesus brings life and this life, this gospel message of grace and forgiveness is light to remove darkness in our hearts.
Third, darkness cannot overcome this light. When Jesus lights up a dark corner in your heart, the darkness cannot overcome the light and life comes into that dead part of your heart.
Now with these three basic observations let's apply this to our lives and our community.
First, to our own lives. When we decide to trust Jesus and make that decision, light comes into our life. The truth of the gospel brings life and changes us. The light overcomes the darkness.
Quick example in my life was that when I became a Christian in college, the gospel message that Jesus finished my work on the cross and was perfect on my behalf, freed me from the darkness of my anxiety over my grades in chemical engineering. The change that took place when the gospel lit up that dark area of my heart came in that I now had peace that while I worked very hard in school, my identity was not based on my success. In Jesus is life, and the life is our light to overcome darkness.
But, we must remember that we are not perfect when we become Christians. Yes, light overcomes darkness, and it does, but it is not a one and done deal. It is more like a house, where light needs to get turned on in every room. And there are rooms in your heart that are still in the dark. And being in the dark is scary and often miserable. As Christians we love the light because it brings life to our hearts, yet we are also at times scared to go into some of the dark rooms of our heart. We need to trust Jesus to go to the dark rooms in our heart and apply the gospel in new and fresh ways and turn the lights on. We need to trust Jesus that his light is helpful and powerful and will overcome the darkness.
I exhort us to keep on shining light of the gospel into dark areas of our hearts. Every dark area of your heart is an opportunity to grow and have Jesus bring life, grace, and mercy. Jesus brings life when he shows up in a dark room, and the darkness cannot overcome the light.
Second, I want to apply this to our community.
We crave what other people think about us. We are obsessed with what our parents think about us, what our spouses think about us, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers. We are scared to bring to light some of the dark things in our hearts because we want to be liked by people and we fear what people will think if they all of a sudden see that we don't have everything put together. I want all of us to want to have light shine into darkness. Let's be a people that instead of quarreling and fighting (as Kevin will touch on) let's be people that love and support one another as we go into the dark rooms of our hearts.
This is the importance of Life Groups. This is where we can apply the light of the gospel into life's messy situations. Remember, the source of the light is the gospel. The gospel is Jesus. We need to turn to him and apply his saving work on the cross to our situation to turn light on in our dark hearts so that we can be set free from the domain of darkness.
Let's cherish this truth in our life groups so that we can support one another as we shine light into darkness.
Prayer of Confession
Father, you are full of light. In you there is no darkness. You have chosen to share that penetrating light with us. Jesus you bring life and light through your sacrificial death on the cross on our behalf. Darkness doesn’t stand a chance against your glorious victory.
Father, we confess that we harbor thoughts, attitudes, and habits in darkness. We think we are the light, but we aren't. We like the darkness, because we think no one can see what we are doing.
Father, this is a great evil, and we know that if we in the church regard sin in our midst, our prayers will be ineffectual, so we confess our individual sins to you now. . . .
Father, we thank you that you have given us the gift of your son Jesus who shines light on these confessions. Jesus, thank you for sacrificially dying on our behalf so that we can have life. We feel like death consumes us, but you are our great advocate. By your Spirit now, be pleased to shine light into the dark rooms of our hearts. In Jesus’ name, amen.