4th Sunday in Lent – B LSB #337 (to tune #672)
Text – John 3:19
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, & people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.
ARE YOU DARKNESS OR LIGHT?
A young girl walked to & from school each day. Though the weather this morning was questionable, & thick, dark clouds were forming, she made her daily trek to school. As the afternoon progressed, the winds whipped up, along with lightning.
The mother of the girl felt concerned that her daughter would be frightened as she walked home from school. Mom feared that an electrical storm might harm her child. Full of anxiety, she got into her car & drove quickly along the route to her child’s school. Finally, she saw her daughter walking home, but at each flash of lightning, the girl would stop, look up, & smile.
The lighting followed rapidly & with each bolt of energy, the girl would look at the streak of light & smile. When the mother drove up beside her child, she lowered the window & asked, “What are you doing?” Her daughter answered, “I am trying to look pretty because God keeps taking my picture.”
Even amidst the worst storms of life, there is light in the darkness if you’re willing to see it. The world may call you, “Foolish Pollyanna,” but that’s the devil speaking through his children. St. Paul set matters straight when he wrote: “…the foolishness of God is wiser than men, & the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:24 ESV)
Being an optimist is only foolish when you’re trusting in human beings of any sort, including yourself, for your hopes & your dreams to come true. In the book of Proverbs this wise saying appears twice. It’s in the 14th & the 16th chapters: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (14:12 & 16:25 ESV) While eating of the forbidden fruit, Adam & Eve thought they were doing what was right. Instead, they brought darkness, suffering & death into their lives, & into the lives of their children. For a picture of what darkness looks like, we’ll listen to these words from Genesis 4:
“The LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, & why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.’ Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel & killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’”
Did you catch how darkness revealed itself? The Lord asked Cain a very direct question, “Where is Abel your brother?” Not only does Cain lie when he answers, but he asks a question of his own in return. He tries defending himself with false words, & then he goes on the offense by questioning God.
That’s darkness! It’s hedging our bets, dodging the truth, ducking responsibility, & making excuses. Are you Darkness or Light? Now that you’ve thought about it for a moment, it’s not an existential question. If you are a child of God, in this life you are both. Saint & sinner is the same dynamic, the same paradox.
The sermon title, “Are You Darkness or Light?” is more about how you live, than it’s about who you are. It’s asking, “How do you make decisions?” Here on earth, every Christian is both darkness & light, yet at any given moment, as you make choices – one or the other is dominating your thinking.
Jesus’ teaching on this is meant to be a guide for the choices we make. It should be a compass for pointing you in the right direction as you make the decisions that life drops into your lap. “Am I darkness or light?” should be a question I ask myself as I embark upon my every thought, word & deed. Is darkness dominating my decisions, or is light?
As God’s children, the Holy Spirit has already created faith in Jesus as Savior within us.
The Law of God is then a guide or a rule in our lives, helping us to make choices. It’s the Holy Spirit who empowers us to make good choices. It’s the Holy Spirit who enables us to “see” the light even amidst the darkness of the worst storms of life.
There are countless stories of Christians who have seen our heavenly Father at work through the trials & darkness of their lives. These words of St. Paul are well known, even if we tremble at hearing them prior to any experience we may have of hope that our Lord delivers:
“Through [Christ] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, & we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, & endurance produces character, & character produces hope, & hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:2-5 ESV)
The unbelieving world sees that as complete foolishness because they are darkness & are never light. That may strike you as a harsh statement, but remember I began by referencing unbelievers in particular. By definition they are darkness.
It is most certainly true that, “…God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:17 ESV)
Nevertheless, not all people are saved, not all people receive the Light, because they will not allow our Lord & Savior to have His way with them. They want their own way. They see the ways of God as foolishness. They do not trust His promises in Christ, & therefore, they are left in the dark literally as it relates to spiritual reality.
Our Father in heaven does not force His life or salvation upon them. Since they want their own way, & will not receive the Light of Christ, they condemn themselves. They surrender themselves to darkness as they reject the Light. That’s what the Apostle John is writing about:
“Whoever believes in [Christ Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is
condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, & people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light & does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” (John 3:18-20)
To those who do not believe, to those who are dying spiritually, our Lord says, “Turn to me. You are dying anyway. Turn away from yourself, turn back to Me, & I will give you life.”
Refusing that offer is the essence of unbelief whatever that unbeliever’s reasons may be. To Jesus, that is clearly darkness at work. Because we, as children of God, are saint & sinner, because we are darkness & light, we have great difficulty trying to separate the two. We have clear evidence of that in the reading from the Gospel of Mark two Sunday’s ago:
“And [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things & be rejected by the elders & the chief priests & the scribes & be killed, & after three days rise again. And He said this plainly. And Peter took Him aside & began to rebuke Him. But turning & seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter & said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’” (8:31-33 ESV)
Jesus sees & understands very clearly that, in this instance, Peter’s thoughts & words are being dominated by darkness, rather than light. As a result, Jesus rebukes Peter for setting his mind on the things of men. When God confronted Cain, who had murdered his brother Abel, God saw very clearly that his thoughts, words & deeds were being dominated by darkness.
God calls both men to account & does not abandon them in their sin. He offers them the opportunity to turn back to Him, as He stated when He finished rebuking Peter: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself & take up his cross & follow me.” (Mark 8:30 ESV)
To deny ourselves is to drown the Old Adam in us. It is to chasten & rebuke our sinful nature. It is to war against the darkness within, & surrender to Christ, thus following Him one footstep at a time. As Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV) Following Jesus is not some game to be played, yet many think it would be harsh or cruel of God to condemn anyone to hell. They believe that hell is inconsistent with God’s goodness & love. However, if God were to allow unbelievers & unrepentant sinners into heaven, He would be neither good nor loving.
He would be a liar, because already in the book of Isaiah, heaven is described as a place with none of the effects of sin: “I will rejoice in Jerusalem & be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping & the cry of distress.” (Isaiah 65:19 ESV)
If unrepentant sinners were allowed in heaven, you could be sure there’d be weeping & sorrow & darkness there after their thoughts, words & deeds were accomplished. Only those with a heart willing to follow Jesus can enter the eternal city. A soul that only follows the darkness cannot exist anywhere near the blazing glory of our heavenly Father’s holiness.
Our heavenly Father’s desire is to change their heart from one of darkness to one of light. Human love is drawn to an object that we find to be lovable. Yahweh, in His creative power creates what He wants to love, making a new creation out of the darkness & the nothing that we were & out of the nothing we have to offer.
Inexplicably, some people reject that re-creation. They prefer to remain in unbelief & in spiritual death. It is not loving them, if we tell them that’s okay. On other hand, it’s not our job to coerce them into surrendering to Jesus. It’s our calling to love them with a sacrificial love while still holding the light of truth before their eyes.
The darkness pictures God as the enemy. The light from Jesus’ crucifixion on our behalf reveals Him as our ultimate friend. With faith in our Lord’s promises, & in the guarantee of the empty tomb on Easter morning, we can see light in the darkness of even the worst storms of life. If you have faith in Jesus as Savior you have seen that light. And if the Lord is my light & my salvation, whom shall I fear? “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Amen.
The night will soon be ending; the dawn cannot be far. Let songs of praise ascending now greet the Morning Star! All you whom darkness frightens with guilt or grief or pain, God’s radiant Star now brightens & bids you sing again. Yet nights will bring their sadness & rob our hearts of peace, & sin in all its madness around us may increase. But now one Star is beaming whose rays have pierced the night: God comes for our redeeming from sin’s oppressive might. God dwells with us in darkness & makes the night as day; yet we resist the brightness & turn from God away. But grace does not forsake us, however far we run. God claims us still as children through Mary’s infant Son. Amen.
 Genesis 4:6-9 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet