At one point or another we have all been or will be in a dark place of our own making. A place that people we loved warned us not to go. A place we knew we shouldn't go but went anyway. It starts in childhood. We know throwing the rock is a bad idea. Mom and dad told us it was a bad idea yet it finds its way into and out of our hand anyway.
As we get older the dark places can get a lot darker and the consequences far more tragic but the process is still the same. The darkness seems to draw us. We stare into it first without going. We stare so long and so intently that it doesn't even seem dark anymore. We step closer. It's not so bad. Why did everyone say it was so bad?
It started in Eden didn't it? Suddenly the dark forbidden tree didn't seem dark at all. In fact the fruit now looked amazing. "It was pleasant to the eyes and desirable to make one wise".
We've all done it. We are in the dark and our eyes have adjusted to the dark and someone turns the light on. Instantly we close our eyes. It's painful. The longer we were in the dark and/or the brighter the light the worse it is.
Romans 1:16 says that in the gospel story the righteousness, the holiness, the light of God is turned on. In the old testament we find out God's presence is fearful to us. He is too bright, too holy, too pure. When we catch a glimpse we go scurrying for the darkness. We are comfortable in the darkness...
This summer a wild cat left behind on the property we are renting had kittens. Now it is getting cold and my wife couldn't stand to see them in the cold so she caught two of them in live traps this week. Now they live in our bathroom where she is taming them so they can go to good homes and be safe and warm. They have gone from the darkness to the light. They have passed possibly quite literally from death to life. One of them didn't take long to figure it out. Within 24 hours she was fairly tame. Now she rubs up against us and begins purring as soon as we pat her. The other one is not so easily convinced. Her nature is far more timid and fearful. When we open the door she retreats to the farthest darkest corner she can find.
It is getting better. She retreats more slowly and peeks out more quickly. Sometimes she even stays relatively close by and if we make slow movements she will allow us to pat her. She hasn't purred yet but she will.
We are like that kitten. We live in the dark and the cold and we are comfortable there. We resist the light. We run from it like it is some evil thing. When someone shows us a picture of God we resist. We say it's crazy or fanatical or even dangerous.
The reason I get in trouble is because I get brave enough sometimes to point out that it is often the church going folk who carry His name that resist Him the most.
Jesus said unless we become like little children, unless we are born all over again we will never SEE the kingdom. He was talking to a church leader when he said that.
When I was in my 20's and green as grass I preached a sermon on Revelation 3:14-22. I had no idea the reaction it would cause. It turns out I went into a dark room and turned on the light...
The Lukewarm Church
14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write:
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
22 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’ ”
This passage is not complex unless you are blind. The one speaking is Jesus. That is undeniable. The audience He is speaking to is His church. This is also undeniable.
All I did in my message that day years ago was point out where Jesus was. The people are inside the church, the door is closed, and Jesus is outside knocking.
Someone (a retired pastor) came up to me after visibly agitated and said "Are you saying Jesus is outside this church trying to get in?!"
All I did was read what the Bible says...
Isn't it true that when Jesus came the first time He was most rejected by His church? And isn't it true that a group of leaders came to Him one day and asked "Are we blind?". And aren't these words from Revelation 3 about a church where they think they see but they are actually blind? So blind in fact that Jesus is on the outside looking in and they can't even see it!
The antidote to this blindness is the gospel story. It is a revelation of who He truly is. It is shining the light of His character into a dark church where light is resisted and change is heresy and hearts are prone to unpersuadeableness.
That kitten will one day come out of the shadows for good because she will learn to trust our love from faith to faith. She will see us for who we are rather than watch us with blinding fear from the dark shadows.
Some day I hope to see my God in His fulness. It is a scary journey but His love is patient and kind... We will never really live until we are fully persuaded and the door is ripped right off the hinges never to be able to close again.