We live in a time of twenty-four hour news cycles, social media frenzy, and a never-ending stream of events that can easily lead us all to despair and despondency over the state of our culture and life as we know it. The world manifests itself to be the dark, dying landscape predicted by the Word of God. This proves to be a daunting reality for the Christian disciple. The apostle Paul, however, gives us the wonderful hope that the Christian is called INTO the darkness as the light bearer of Christ.
At the conclusion of Romans, chapter 13, Paul encourages his fellow believers to wake up from slumber and to shed the works of darkness. It is amazing how God’s word continues to bring new insights, even for a pastor such as myself. This passage was the subject of a recent sermon, and as I started my study on verses 11-14, I anticipated the thrust of Paul’s argument as a fight against the surrounding darkness. My anticipation was for Paul to emphasize that we are to wake up BECAUSE the darkness surrounds us, and we are called to stand up, firm against the night. However, this is not the reason Paul calls us to arise.
In verse 11 Paul calls us in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to wake up from our slumber, because our salvation is closer now than it was when we first believed. We are to awaken not because of the darkness that surrounds us, but because the darkness is far spent and the day is near! It always seems to be the case that it gets darker just before the dawn breaks the horizon. Those quiet moments of darkness seem void and hopeless. Yet the dawning day is nigh upon us! Instead of waking up with quiet concern or anxiety about what the day will bring, or allowing the morning news to start your day with foreboding about the world around you, arise knowing that you are one day closer to your ultimate salvation! You are one day closer to seeing Jesus face to face! We must always remember that the apocalypse is for the Christian but the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is our hope, and that hope is closer each and every new day.
This passage also calls believers to walk not in the deeds of darkness, but, clothed in the armor of light, we should walk with decency as in the day. The Lord Jesus is the light of the world, and as He has ascended into heaven, He has called His disciples to continue shining His light in the darkness. John says in the first chapter of his gospel, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5) The world is dark and dying because of sin and depravity. Jesus came into the world and this darkness could not overpower Him. He shone into the darkness. That the world is dark remains a fact today just as it was in Jesus’ and Paul’s day. It will continue to get darker and darker. However, this should not surprise the Christian, should not lead us to dismay. We are called, as Christ-bearers, to shine into the darkness. Friedrich Nietzsche famously wrote, “Beware that when you are fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster…for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you.” The Christian does not have to fear this nihilistic abyss. We don’t just stare into the deep darkness, we are called into that depth with the armor of light! And when that darkness gazes back at us, it sees the likeness of the King of Glory! The darkness will never overcome us.
The church today (especially in America) seems to be filled with the fear of cultural irrelevancy, and therefore our worship services are beginning to resemble entertainment experiences more and more. We are quick to mimic the latest styles and nuances of our culture, trying to blend into the world around us with the hope that the Christian faith will become more appealing to the lost. However, Christ has not called us to blend in! We are called to discard the clothing of darkness that has camouflaged us from the dying world, and to clothe ourselves in the armor of light. We are called to be different and to stand out! We are called to shine into the darkness, not mirror and mimic the darkness!
It is time for us to stop getting bent out of shape over the darkness of our world. This should be expected and self-evident to us. It is time for us to wake up to the glorious calling and abundant life that Christ has given us. Every day we wake up, we are closer to our glorious salvation! Plus, every new day we have the opportunity to shine a light in this dark place. Every morning, I encourage you to pray that the Lord will through the ministry of the Holy Spirit remove the camouflage of darkness and fill you with the likeness and light of Christ. May your light “so shine before humanity, that all may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
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-this blog article was published in the Faith page of the Weakley County Press, Tuesday, September 21, 2021 issue.