Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Choose Light

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians,
who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door
and deny him with their lifestyles.
That is what an unbelieving world simply finds
~ Brennan Manning

Is there anything more beautiful then helping someone dispel the darkness within? What is more inspiring then when the flickering flame of one touches the barren wick of another? Hope to the broken, faith to the cynics, love to the lonely - does this describe the Christians you know?

Obviously it's impossible to eliminate hypocrisy - there will always be Christians who deny Jesus with their lifestyles. Who hasn't failed to live up to their confession of Jesus as Savior and Lord? We can't stop the darkness of denial, but we can light more candles.

You can let more light into your life. You can confess the darkness that still dwells within. You can still repent of your denial-saturated lifestyle. You can still demonstrate your repentance through your light-inducing deeds.

The Gospel writer Luke records for the third time Paul's account of how he became a Christian, of how he made the turn from darkness to light. The crucial turn in the story is when Jesus appears to Paul, confronts him with reality and tips his candle to spread the flame. Here's how Paul tells it in Acts 26:
"One day on my way to Damascus, armed as always with papers from the high priests authorizing my action, right in the middle of the day a blaze of light, light outshining the sun, poured out of the sky on me and my companions. Oh, King, it was so bright! We fell flat on our faces. Then I heard a voice in Hebrew: 'Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me? Why do you insist on going against the grain?' 
"I said, 'Who are you, Master?' 
"The voice answered, 'I am Jesus, the One you're hunting down like an animal. But now, up on your feet—I have a job for you. I've handpicked you to be a servant and witness to what's happened today, and to what I am going to show you. 
"'I'm sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I'm sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me.'

The task that Jesus gives Paul is also the task of the Church. It's what you'd expect from a bunch of Christians who routinely get together for worship and instruction and prayer and meals and service-projects. You'd expect the Church to be a place where followers of Jesus can tell a story of what Jesus has said to them about life. You'd expect the Church to be full of people who accept the identity as "sent ones" to serve in the name of Jesus. You'd kind of expect the task of witnessing and serving to be pretty important to Christians.

Paul's version of witnessing and serving, though, were fueled by his personal experiences of being turned from dark to light, from the power of Satan to the power of God. Witnessing was not about Bible-bashing and guilt-inducing. Serving was not about changing the world or patting yourself on the back. Witnessing and serving were about entering into the life of those around you, bringing the light in your life into their life. And about you letting others bring their light into your life.

What fuels the light within your life? The more good you do in the name of Jesus, the brighter the light within. The more good deeds you do in obedience to the Way of Jesus, the more darkness you dispel within and around you. Demonstrate your turn from darkness through your deeds. Your lifestyle reveals the truth of your repentance. You can say that you belong to Jesus all you want, that you are right with God, that you are a good person.

Jesus brought a message of light. If you have no darkness within, then does Jesus have anything to say to you? If you see no darkness around you - if you care not about the darkness around you, can Jesus say anything through you?

You have been sent to bring light - as a witness to the light you have already seen, and as a servant of the light for others to see. The more darkness you see within, the more darkness you see around - the more you'll want the light to prevail.

Rather than denying the darkness within or around you, walk out the door and live by the light Jesus has given you. 

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