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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"Out of Darkness into His Marvelous Light”*

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness,
and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son
Colossians 1:13

Why are children afraid of the dark? It’s too simplistic, I think, to say that it’s only because they cannot see what’s there. For the same children who ran screaming from a dark room the night before, will almost certainly turn around the next morning and walk into that same room blindfolded and think nothing of it. No, it’s not just that they can’t see. There is something in a dark room, a quality in a darkened house, that feels threatening. Something in there forebodes of evil unknown and lurking, ready to pounce. No doubt, that’s why nearly every horror movie I ever saw as a boy ended up at some point in a darkened room with strange noises echoing from a corner. We all fear something in the dark.

Darkness is that place where evil hides and evil deeds can be indulged unobserved. Nobody sees you in the dark. No one is there to hold you back. You do exactly what you want. Perhaps that is why the Bible uses “darkness” as a metaphor both for the evil that holds men in their sin, and for the evil that motivates people to indulge in sin.

Let’s think about each of these pictures. First, the Bible describes “darkness” as a sinister power or evil empire that holds people in it’s grip – something from which they need to be rescued. In Colossians 4:13, for example, the apostle Paul describes what God has done in Christ for those whom He has saved (rescued) from the power of sin. He says,
“For [God] rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son.”
Here “darkness” is a “domain”. It is a “realm” that is “ruled” by a power. Much as a king would rule his kingdom, so darkness is pictured as ruling over a domain where people live, bound in sin. They are it’s subjects. It’s slaves, as John 8:34 makes clear. Darkness is something from which people need to be rescued.

The Apostle Paul certainly understood this. In Acts 26:18, as he relates how he was commissioned by Christ to go preach the Gospel, he says he was sent “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God.” Notice the parallels here. By preaching the Gospel, Paul will see people turn from darkness to light, which means from the dominion (or realm or kingdom) where Satan rules to the realm or kingdom where God rules. Darkness, then, is that place where sin reigns and Satan holds men and women bound in chains they forged for themselves by lust and rebellion against God.. It is a kingdom from which they cannot break themselves free. They need a Rescuer, someone who can enter the darkness with them and set them free.

But there is a second, deeper darkness that must also be considered, lest we think of men and women merely as victims of evil forces outside of themselves. The Bible is very clearly that the darkness that holds people in their sin, is an internal darkness as well – a darkness of the heart that sins because it wants to. John 3:19-20 says that even after Christ came into the world in the incarnation – when God became man, and light broke in to the darkness – mankind in the evil of his sin continued to refuse Him.
"This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
It’s not just that men and women are held in sin against their wills. They are willing participants in the sin and rebellion that holds them. That’s what we must understand. All of us at one time looked at the light of God in the face of Christ wherein are found all beauty, purity and perfection, and then we looked back into the face of our sin, and it was a face that seemed so familiar, like seeing your own image in the mirror. We looked and we said, “I’d rather have my sin than surrender to this Christ!” And we turned our backs and walked deeper into the darkness away from Him. We loved darkness rather than light!

That’s why the Bible pictures the coming of Christ into the world as an invasion of Sovereign Grace – of God breaking through our darkness with the overwhelming power of His Light to drive that darkness from our hearts that we might be changed by His grace from God-haters, into those who walk in the light of His love through faith in Christ. Thus Isaiah said, as he looked forward to the coming of Christ in Isaiah 9:12,
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.”
And the Apostle John adds,
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5 ESV).
This powerful light that shines through Christ, shines not only into the darkness of this world but, as the Gospel of Jesus is preached, it also shines into the very hearts of men and women chosen by grace, so that their darkness is overturned and they themselves become children of light who turn from sin to embrace Christ by faith alone.

Consider the following verses that depict this transformation. 2 Corinthians 4:6
"For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
Notice that it is not we who have clawed our way out of the darkness in order to find Him. It is He who has commanded the light to invade our hearts and to give us the gift of seeing Christ and coming to the knowledge God through Him. Or, Ephesians 5:8-10
"[F]or you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord."
This invasion of light is transforming us in Christ. It not only brings us into His light to dwell, it also becomes a part of us, transforming our character and making us more like Him.
In other words, not only have we been transferred from the realm where Satan reigns, to the realm where God’s grace rules, so that positionally we have a new Master and therefore a new destiny (heaven, not hell). We also have been transformed personally (and are being transformed daily through the work of sanctification) so that more and more His light can be seen shining through us. 2 Corinthians 3:18
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory (the bright shining) of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
We are being made more and more like Christ, the Lord of Light, who has called us out of darkness to walk with Him in a new and God-glorifying light.

Of course such a calling, brings with it a responsibility. We must realize what He has done in bringing us out of darkness and into the light of a new life in Him. We must acknowledge that this is now the truth about us. We are no longer children of darkness. We can no longer live as we once did in the darkness of our sin, following the lusts of our former life. We must live now as men and women whose lives have been transformed, and who now belong to a new realm of righteousness and grace in the light of Christ. Thus Romans 13:11-14 commands,
“The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
Or again, 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8 urges us
“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day [of judgment] would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. ”
In other words, let us not sleep in the darkness as those who belong there. But let us strive with all His new life in us, to live in a way that is pleasing to God. Or as Jesus says in Matthew 5:16,
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
This is what He called us to, when He called us out of darkness and into light! It is a call first of all to salvation, to turn from sin and embrace Christ by faith alone. And then it is a call to ongoing sanctification, to continue with Him in the light of this new life with its ever expanding joy of holiness as we , the people of God, keep on walking with Him. And so Peter urges us to remember in 1 Peter 2:9-12,
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Let us no longer fear the dark, as children we once did. But let us overcome it by faith in Christ, Who is the Light of New Life alive and at work in us, to the praise of the glory of His grace.

*This post was originally written for "The Saint Louis Amigan" anniversary issue published by Bill Maddock at

1 comment:

Lizzy said...

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I LOVE that Scripture in Colossians because it is so basic and so full of nuggets, as you have just written. Keep doing what you're doing and be blessed!