Love-hate, black-white, up-down, north-south, right-left, dark-light: these describe the reality of opposites. Many bedrock decisions come down to two choices — you can’t do both at the same time.
The beginning of time was characterized by God dividing the darkness from the light. God spoke of loving Jacob and hating Esau. The three Hebrew children were told to bow or burn. Joshua told the people, “…choose you this day whom ye will serve;,,, but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
There’s really not a middle ground in the most important decisions, though often we’d like to think there is. We may prefer to put off dealing with uncomfortable ideas, concepts or challenges to our “comfort zone”, and feel in our hearts that we’ve found a place to blend two opposite choices — a gray area we can rest in. In fact, though, to not choose is to choose. When it comes to salvation, we have to be headed in a direction; we are in fact headed in a direction, no matter what we want to think.
Jesus said it this way: “And this is the condemnation: that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” Now, that’s strong. No middle ground there. We’re either coming closer to the light, or hating it.
Reality check: what do you really feel about how you’re moving on that continuum? If the thought is kind of irritating to you, may be it’s time to search out some things in your heart. If self searching brings a humble realization of “God, that’s what I want – more light; please help me move in that direction”, there’s a good chance you already are moving in that direction, or will begin to.
Why did Jesus say everybody on earth wouldn’t want to be running to the light? Because deep inside there was something they wanted to hold on to. They didn’t want THAT MUCH of God: “Let’s not go overboard with this. I mean everybody has to sin a little every day don’t they? What’s wrong with what I’m reading/watching/thinking/smoking/taking/saying….? Everybody else is doing things they’re not proud of, too. We can’t be perfect, after all, right?” Rather than accept the beautiful plan God provides for us to truly live abundantly — above sin — they speak to those offering that plan as Esau did to Jacob, when he returned from Laban’s house, brining multiple gifts to Esau: “I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.” (Gen. 33:9)
The scripture quoted in the beginning of this post is quite possibly not very familiar to many readers, yet it is the continuation of a statement Jesus made to Nicodemus in John chapter 3, which is very familiar to most: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Though some quote the verse as saying those who believe shall not perish, Jesus literally said those who believe should not perish. There is still a choice involved on the part of the believer: God has no captive audiences; whatever road we’ve started down with him is a two-way street. We can continue to move toward the light and salvation, or turn back toward darkness and death. Note, too, that believing is not simply mental assent or acknowledgement that Jesus came or that he was the Son of God, or that his death was for my sins, that his love moved him to do so, that he wants my response and my life so that he can give me life in return. Believing those things, stirring as they are, are only the beginning of the process of salvation. Unfortunately many teach that the entire process of salvation is contained in that initial response of being stirred and even repenting as a result of believing. People’s experience often dies on the vine, like a beautiful bloom that was meant to produce fruit, but was affected by drought or some kind of pestilence that caused it to fail to reach maturity. Obedience to the plan of God is required to complete the salvation process, and the only complete instruction directed to lost people in the New Testament that produced salvation was the message contained in Acts 2:38, and echoed in the remainder of the Book of Acts, then supported by every epistle written to churches after the close of that book: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Our world, our nation is in horrible shape spiritually. The easy-believism that says you don’t have to really do anything to be saved is not bringing revival to this world. It too easily goes WITH rather than AGAINST the grain of society, in many cases even ordaining homosexuals to fill pulpits or failing to truly condemn this abomination, calling it a “lifestyle choice”. The majority of preaching today doesn’t tell people they have to quit sinning to be saved: bottom line. Oh they’ll tell you, “Don’t do the ‘big” things like murder or steal or commit adultery”. But the list of “big” sins is getting a lot smaller for them as time goes by, and pressure is applied to “accept” ungodliness (please note that “tolerance” and “acceptance” are not the same: “tolerance” affirms the right of people to practice ungodliness if they choose to, but “acceptance” is agreeing that the choice to sin is just as good as the choice not to sin. Tolerance we’re fine with, but acceptance is something we will never do, by the grace of God).
In reality, a light has to shine brightly enough to be seen by those in need of help. If a lighthouse fails to keep the glass of the mirror or windows clean, how will the light shine out to those in the storm? The “city set on a hill” can’t be tarnished, or the light of the world won’t be seen by those so desperate for the help a true saint of God can provide in pointing to the Cross. But still, people seem to think the message taught in Acts 2:38 was only for the time the Apostles lived, and then was replaced by another gospel of “just believe”.
If the language of Latin were in use today– that is, if people spoke it, as opposed to only studying it as a basis for understanding other languages, or for other academic reasons — would it be considered a “dead” language? No more than French, English, Spanish or any other modernly used language, right? So if the fullness of the Gospel as preached in the original way by the Apostles still produces what the Book of Acts records it producing in their day, how can it be a plan that is no longer relevant for this day and hour? Why would God have multiple plans of salvation? If the original still works, why does he need another one? Or is it possible that the idea of “another gospel” is something that humanity constructed as a shade from the true light? A filter, if you will? Look through their “altered reality” and all that happened in the Book of Acts, and is still happening today, doesn’t look so convicting: I mean there are only a few people who still cling to that oneness doctrine, right? Look at all the people who go to “regular” churches every Sunday: isn’t there safety in numbers? Beware of the consequences of “another gospel”, which, as the Apostle Paul said, “is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galations 1:7-9) Again, strong words with no gray area at all.
This year our church has been blessed with more and more people who have seen in the Word of God the need for repenting, being baptized in the name of Jesus, and receiving the Holy Ghost. Since the first of the year, seventeen new folks have been baptized in Jesus’ name, and God is pouring out the Holy Ghost on these people, as evidenced by their speaking in unknown tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance. It’s happening today. Since choosing to be baptized in Jesus Name and being filled with the Holy Ghost, I’ve seen God moving in situations in the lives of these in a mighty way — not just a new way to worship or experience God in church or in private devotions: there is power that he brings to bear on needs that come up in their lives, as they see him move in ways they’ve not seen beforehand. I’m not talking about what someone has said to them or convinced them to believe, but God doing things only he could do, and in a way that had not been present in their lives before, no matter what type of church they attended, or how involved or faithful they were to what they understood of God. While some are walking away from the light, others are running toward it.
Do you truly, truly desire in your heart to be more and more holy and godly, to the point that anything you see hindering you would become disgusting to you, and you’d gladly leave it behind, if God would deliver you from it? Those are the people who get deliverance at an altar — the ones who begin to see their sin as a barrier to the glorious holy God they are seeking, and then find that habits, practices, addictions or even strong preferences for enjoyable but ungodly activities — things once seeming to be a part of the fabric of who they were, something they’d never part with — suddenly become gross and vile in their own sight and not welcome in their heart and life, and they want nothing to do with them, but rather to put the most distance possible between themselves and those things! They turn and head the other way. Is this how you feel about things that would block you or hold you back on your way to God? When you are that willing, then you are truly headed toward the light. Otherwise, you’re slowly inching toward darkness, casting a glance over your shoulder at the light, reminding yourself once again of the reasons “that wouldn’t work for me”. But what you’re failing to realize is that Jesus said if it “won’t work for you”, it’s because you loved darkness rather than light, because of the nature of your deeds.
Both daybreak and nightfall come with a twilight: it doesn’t get light all at one time, nor does it get dark all at one time. That’s a merciful thing in the morning; how could we take it if the light blasted in on us with all its force as soon as our eyes were open? Truth dawns on people like that; I’ve seen it come in waves as people continue to seek and hunger, and God gives them just what they’re ready to handle at the time. Darkness can be deceptively slow in coming; people continue to think they’re just fine…