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Dec 14, 2014

Rescued to the Light

Rescued to the Light

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: The Light In The Darkness

Keywords: darkness, light, advent, nature, actions, sinners, saints


This message looks at the nature of human darkness in our hearts and our actions as well as the nature of light that God gives in heart and actions to his children. When God rescues a sinner, they move from darkness to light, change from darkness to light, from sinner to saint.


Rescued to the Light

Message #2 of Advent 2014

December 14, 2014


As you can see from the front of your program this morning, we’re into our 2014 Advent series, Light Out of Darkness. If you were with us last week you know that we took a look at how God himself is involved in the darkness. Whether it is darkness that He has created or darkness that is not of his making, our God still specializes in meeting every one of us in that darkness and doing something really good with that darkness. That’s why, as followers of Christ, we really don’t have any reason to beafraid of the dark,” no matter what kind of ‘dark’ we may find ourselves in.

So this week I want us to consider two different sides of this coin of spiritual darkness and light. First, what is the darkness we have all been saved from as followers of Jesus Christ and second, what is the “light” we have been rescued into as sons and daughters of God through Christ…and what difference does all that make???

ILL: This week, one of the men from another church that attends our Mosaic Thursday morning Men’s Prayer Hour shared about a Ukrainian family he had met with recently on a sales call. The grandparents, now in their eighties, had survived the Stalinist communist takeover of Ukraine and what is called the Holodomor (a Ukrainian word meaning "Extermination by hunger").

The Holodomor was largely a man-made famine in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1932 and 1933 that killed estimated 2.5-7.5 million Ukrainians. Stalin, convinced that his communistic collectivization of farming would take care of all needs, engaged in a deliberate attempt to starve the Ukrainians into submission. He confiscated all household foodstuffs, shipped them to Russia, refused outside international humanitarian aid and restricted the movement of its citizens so that they couldn’t even search for food or escape the famine to other countries.

That is just one example of dozens in the last century of the very real presence of the darkness of evil in this world. More people…hundreds of millions of people…have been slaughtered, bombed, shot, starved, worked to death or otherwise dispatched into eternity by the outright evil of evil people in this last century than any other century of history. So we can say that many of us and our parents have lived through this most evil of centuries known to man. And almost all of it has been accomplished by people who rejected belief in God and sought to stamp out anyone who protested to their diabolical acts based upon belief in God and the intrinsic value of people as created in the image of God.

Most of us, even in our very relativistic culture of the 21st century, don’t have a great deal of trouble judging the Hitlers, Stalins and Pol Pots of history as “pure evil.” They didn’t just DO evil; they WERE evil.

Interestingly enough, that is precisely what the Bible says about the nature of all humanity. We all not only DO evil; we are evil. Ephesians 5:8 tells us “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.”

That declaration is easy for our culture to accept regarding the really evil people in history. But look your secular friend in the eye across the table over coffee and lovingly tell them that is what you and they are without Jesus Christ and you’ll probably have one less friend with which to enjoy coffee. J Modern post-Christian relativists tend to get very absolutists about their own goodness when confronted with biblical claims about the nature of mankind.


But maybe we’re just misunderstanding that verse? Maybe the rest of the Bible presents moral and spiritual darkness as something inflicted upon us, not systemic in us, something we just DO, not something we ARE?

  • Genesis 8:21--And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth.
  • Jeremiah 19:9-10—The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind,to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
  • Jeremiah 3:17--Speaking of God’s own people, Israel, Jeremiah predicts a day yet to come when he says, 17 At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart.
  • Romans 3--What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
    13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips. 14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
    15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
    16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
    17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
    18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
  • 1 Peter 3:18—“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit….”

The biblical evidence is not flattering. Apart from a work of God in our hearts, we are, in nature…at the core… fundamentally and irrevocably evil.

That doesn’t mean that everything we do is evil. Nor does it mean that all the evil we do is as bad as it could possibly be. But apart from God doing something…making a change in our natures…what the Bible calls “redeeming” people, we remain and are, to the innermost core of our being, “unrighteous” and “evil.”

So this darkness, this moral and spiritual absence of light and truth in our makeup is not something that can simply be educated away or reformed away or wished away. It is worse than gum stuck to the bottom of our shoe on a hot summer day. It is evil infused into our being that stains and marks even the best of men and women in the world.

This description of human nature will be roundly rejected by the majority of our fellow human beings, even by most self-proclaimed “Christians” in the Western world. Most people, when asked, will tell you that they think mankind is basically good, “enlightened,” and given the right environment will do just fine and be good boys and girls. So war after World War, riot after riot, broken relationship after broken relationship, secular humanism finds itself strangely disillusioned by reality.

But to this disillusioning darkness of the human soul, God speaks honestly and compassionately. He tells us the truth… and he provides us an answer. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Not only ARE we by nature part of this problem of evil in our world; we are part of this problem by ACTION…or inaction… as the case may be.

The Bible talks no small amount about the SINFULNESS of every human being. If you look at the biblical use of the words translated “evil” in our English versions (which is somewhere around 500 times), evil usually refers to what humans DO or fail to do. Our sinful natures lead us to sinful actions. Darkness in our interior lives leads to darkness in our exterior actions.

            Again, not everything we do is evil. Not every choice we make leads to evil. People separated from Christ can do some “good” things, things that love others and help others. Not everyone is a Joseph Stalin or Idi Amin. There are the Mahatma Gandhis and the Dali Lamas of the world who clearly did much good.

            But even they, along with every other human who has ever lived, save Jesus Christ, did their fair share of evil. They had their selfish moments, their lustful moments, their love-less moments, their self-centered and self-promoting moments. This is what the Bible calls the “darkness” in terms of human behavior.

Look at Romans 13.

Having just told the Romans that the only debts they should have in life is the ongoing debt of love we owe every person, Paul calls them to live like people of the day, not in the moral darkness of spiritual night. He says this:

12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

            So darkness is not only a condition of the heart; it is certain actions of the soul, mind and body.

The danger is that we come to think that life in Christ is simply about right behaviors. We make out our lists. We check them twice. We figure out whether we’re “naughty or nice.” And then we base our sense of spiritual accomplishment …or failure…upon that. We tend to either become proud legalists or defeated legalists.

This is what has turned SO many people of my generation and younger off to the church. Rather than experiencing a dynamic, warm, river of life from Christ within one’s soul, SO many have had rigid enforcement of codes of conduct placed on them by harsh, demanding, legalistic parents or spiritual power-brokers in their lives who just got more selective about which rules mattered based upon the ones they were able to keep. But it all turns to loveless legalism without vs. 14-- But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh.Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ” must come first…and then we can tackle the crucifying of the old nature.

While we may not really get what it means to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”, there is a very important truth here and in other passages where we are instructed to stop engaging in the “works of darkness.” And it has to do with CHRIST. We can never effectively, in a life-giving manner, stop a sinful behavior unless what causes that behavior is changed. Bitter springs of water don’t produce sweet water. Thorn bushes don’t bear peaches. Something that is truly life-giving rather than life-destroying only comes from the Life Giver. That is why Paul and others constantly paired the leaving of darkness with the embracing of light in Jesus Christ. We expect the impossible when we expect anyone to live a life full of spiritual and moral light without knowing personally, transformationally the Light of Life, Jesus.

Listen to how Paul talks about this again in Ephesians 5:

11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

            First, notice the clear connection between things being “exposed by the light” in vs. 13 and the presence of Christ in vs. 14. It is Christ himself shining on us that awakens us and brings us from spiritual death to new life. He alone can move us from darkness to light.

Secondly, he’s not just interested in behavior modification. He wants our behavior to match the new heart and life of the Spirit he puts in us. He wants us to be as true to our new-creation, righteous nature born of the Spirit as we were in the past true to our old, flesh-pleasing and self-oriented life in spiritual darkness before we knew Christ.

It is only the presence of Jesus Christ, the light of the world, that has the power to transform our self-focused natures into God-oriented natures. The only truly holy human to have ever lived is the only holy God who can miraculously turn dark, sin-stained natures to light-bearing natures. Rather than focus on the external behaviors like every other religious system in the world does, Jesus focuses on internal transformation first.

            That is why, I believe, that whenever you see the Apostles talking or writing to Christ-followers in the N.T., they are referred to as “saints”, never “sinners.” First century Christians were not more holy or pious than 21st century Christians. But they understood that the nature of one who sees and embraces the light of Jesus Christ is actually transformed from darkness to light, from sinner to saint. Regardless of where our behavior falls at any given moment, our nature is new, holy and light-focused.

            Ephesians 5:14 is an interesting verse. NIV translates it, “13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” J. B. Phillips (The New Testament in Modern English [Geoffrey Bles], p. p. 407) paraphrased it, “It is even possible (after all, it happened with you!) for light to turn the thing it shines upon into light also.”

            Here is the point. When the light of Jesus himself, of the message of transformation in Christ, shines effectively upon the soul of someone, that soul changes from being a black hole of spiritual darkness to actually becoming a thing…a person… of light.

ILL: Think of it this way. This week has been a very wet and rainy week. When it’s cold and rainy, there is nothing quite so nice as a beautiful, crackling fire in the fireplace.

            So imagine you have this wonderful fireplace in your home. You’ve been outside working in the cold rain most of the day. You’re shivering. You’re soaked to the bone. And as you get out of your car at home, there, stacked next to your car are a couple of chords of wood.

            What’s the temperature of the wood? Same as the miserable temperature of the day: 35 degrees. What’s the state of that wood? Wet just like the day. What happens if you get a whole armload of that wood, hug it tightly to your body, and wait to get warm? Well, if your neighbor doesn’t call the police first, you’ll get nothing but wetter standing there in the cold rain.

            What transforms that cold, damp, even wet wood into a toasty, roaring fire in the fireplace? FIRE! Fire actually has the capacity to turn the things it touches into fire. What was 35 degrees and wet just a minute ago can quickly become 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit in the presence of other fire. Formerly cold wood literally becomes fire, something it wasn’t just moments before.

            Of course, if you keep sprinkling that wood with water, you’re going to keep it from becoming fire. Not all wood will burn, only wood that accepts the work of fire in drying and heating it up. (In fact, we did a little experiment a few summers ago at one of our beach fires. We placed a paper cup half full of water directly in the hottest part of the fire…on the coals. Know what happened? My kids, no fair answering! The part of the cup without water…above the water line…burned while the part sitting right on the coals stayed in tact as long as there was water in the cup. Eventually the water in that paper cup began to boil and when it totally evaporated, the cup finally burned.)

            That’s what this passage is saying. As J.B.Phillips translated it, “It is even possible (after all, it happened with you!) for light to turn the thing it shines upon into light also.”

Or put more directly in terms of what God does with the human soul that responds to Christ, “It is even possible for the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, to turn the soul shrouded in the darkness of sin into a soul that becomes light itself in this dark world.” It’s possible to change from being darkness to actually being light in a dark world!

Lives engulfed by the Light of Christ become themselves lights in this dark world, shining just like the life of Jesus shone in the darkness of his day some 2,000 years ago in Israel. Only now it is happening in Spokane…and Seattle…and San Francisco…and Singapore, Shanghai, Stockholm or Sydney.

Not only did the light of God come and shine into the darkness of this world in the person of Jesus Christ. That same light that could not be extinguished by the best attempts of this dark world has shone in the hearts of millions upon millions of people since then in ways that are truly miraculous.  

To wrap this up today, let’s look at one more fascinating but somewhat confusing passage that sheds yet more light on the centrality of Jesus in this light-giving and living operation. It’s found in Luke 11:33-36.

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.

If you look back at the context of this passage, just before these verses, Jesus says, “Something greater than Solomon is here . . . Something greater than Jonah is here” (Luke 11:31–32). That is, the wisdom of Jesus exceeds the greatest human wisdom (Solomon), and the resurrection of Jesus will be greater than most spectacular human rescues and resuscitations (like Jonah’s).

The question Jesus then addresses is: Do we see this for what it is—magnificent and compelling, so that it becomes the light and joy of our lives?

Jesus talks about seeing—and about two lamps in this passage.

The first lamp: Verse 33: No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.

This probably refers to what Jesus has just said about his wisdom and resurrection: “I have set a lamp in the world: my wise and powerful presence—greater than Solomon and greater than Jonah. I am the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5). I am the lamp that must not be hidden or missed.

The second lamp: Verse 34: “Your eye is the lamp of your body.”

I think this means that the way the lamp of Jesus becomes a lamp for any of us is that we see Him for what He really is. Our eye becomes the lamp of our body when we see and accept the glory of Christ, the light of the world, into our own being

He elaborates: “When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.” In other words, “If your eye sees me for who I really am, then you are full of light; but if you don’t see me for who I am…if your spiritual sight remains impaired, blinded… then you are full of darkness.”

Then Jesus says, “Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.” In other words, there is much that passes for light through the eye of our soul that is not light. There are many bright things in the world that keep us from seeing the true light of Christ—just like city lights keep you from seeing the stars on a dark night.

“Be careful!” This is the only imperative in the text. Be careful what you see! Be careful what you regard as bright and attractive and compelling. If it is not Christ, you will be filled with darkness—no matter how bright it seems for a season. Candles seem bright until the sun comes out. Then they are useless and should be put away.

Christ is that light, that glory we were made to see. His light alone will fill us and give the light of life and meaning to every part of our lives. And when that happens, we ourselves become people who shine and give off the rays of Christ’s life and greatness in ways that either repel people who still hate God’s light and life OR attract those who long to really see life as God intended it to be seen and lived. [This section and interpretation was taken from John Piper. See http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/be-careful-lest-the-light-in-you-be-darkness, 12.13.2014]


  • What have you done with the light of Christ that has shone on your life? What have you done with the Gospel of Jesus—that you are in darkness, lost apart from surrender to God? Have you let that light penetrate your darkened soul or are you still fighting against it? Why stay in darkness? Come into the light. Let the warmth of God’s love and the fire of the Holy Spirit set your own soul ablaze with true light, not empty glitter this world pushes.
  • For those of us who have embraced the light of God in the person of Jesus Christ, our greatest need is not to try our hardest to look like the light of Jesus. It’s not to try and dry the “wet wood” of our sinful habits. Our greatest need is to get closer to the fire…closer the flame of Jesus…closer to the light of Christ and let God do the work. If we will focus on “putting on Christ” at the closest range possible in our daily routines, in our thought life, in our married life, in our work and school life…then we will find that His light miraculously becomes our light. His fire will miraculously ignite the dark, wet wood of our souls. A fresh, warm, life-giving fire will consume us.
  • And when that happens, not only will WE be CHANGED but the world we live in will be changed. “Our light” (really Christ’s light) will so shine in this world that people will “see our good works (light) and glorify our Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 5:16)

PRAYER: Lord, open the eyes of our hearts to see the supreme greatness of your wisdom and power. Make our eyes good. Heal our blindness. Fill us with the all-pervading, all-exposing, all-purifying, all-pleasing light of your presence. And enable us this day, this week, this year to be light to those around us so that they, too, may find You as the light of their life.

Study Questions:

1.)    Looking back on your life before you were a follower of Jesus Christ, in what ways was your life lived in the darkness? How did you feel about that then? Now?

2.)    What differences do you see between being darkness and living in the darkness? Between being light and living in the light? (See Eph. 5:8)

3.)    Where in your own soul does the darkness of evil attack you most nowadays? What are you doing and what can you do to “walk in the light” (I Jn. 1:5-10) so the power of that darkness is lessened? What advice would you give to someone struggling with the same darkness in their lives?

4.)    Read Ephesians 5:1-21 and do the following:

  1. Make a list of all the negative commands (“don’t…”).
  2. Make a list of all the positive commands (“do…”).
  3. Talk to God about which ones are the biggest challenges for you.
  4. Meditate and converse with God about what in your history may have contributed to that and how you might turn those challenges into arenas of spiritual victory. See Romans 13:12.

5.)    Read Matthew 5:14-16, Luke 11:33-36, John 1:4,5, 8:12 and 2 Cor. 4:6. What are the most important ingredients according to these passages for experiencing light in our lives? What might God be calling you to do to experience more of that light in your life?