August 20, 2017
With having two churches, as well as being a chaplain at Evenglow, I have a pretty close schedule I try to keep to in preparing for my services. And as a pastor that doesn’t follow a lectionary, but rather prefers the leading of the Holy Spirit in deciding the message that I will preach, I rely on His leading to coincide with my schedule. Monday, August 7th, was the day that I had scheduled to decide upon my message for this morning. I had planned to write the Order of Worship the next day so I could send it to those who needed to prepare the powerpoints and bulletins for the service. And then the rest of the week I would work on the actual sermon. But on this particular Monday the Lord had not yet revealed anything to me by early evening. I was starting to get a bit anxious. I had met Ed at the parsonage after both my church meetings, he had finished mowing the lawn, the sun had just set, and we were getting into our separate vehicles to drive back to our house in Morris. I prayed again, asking God to please let me know what he wanted me to preach about on the 20th.
By the time we were on the road, it was dark outside. Driving down the country roads between Braceville and Mazon, there were no streetlights, no other cars on the road, and nothing to light my way other than the headlights on my car. And then God whispered into my heart, “What if you didn’t have those headlights?” I thought about it. There was no moon out, and the stars wouldn’t provide enough light to see. I wouldn’t be able to see the road at all. I would not know where I was going, and most likely would crash before long.
And so it is with our lives. Without the light of Christ, we don’t know where we are going. Our lives are spent on aimless pursuits. We crash. We run into obstacles, injure other people, and eventually go from the darkness of our earthly life into the outer darkness (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30) of eternity, without hope, lost forever.
But that is not what God wants for us. He sent Jesus to be the light of the world. The Bible says that whoever follows Him “will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Jesus gives us both – light and life – for the two go together. When we let the light of Jesus into our spirit, by accepting him as our Lord and Savior, trusting in his death and resurrection to atone for our sins, we not only can see clearly in this life, but will spend our eternity in heaven, where there will never be any darkness at all (Revelation 21:25).
But there is more… Not only does God want each of us to have the light of Christ within us, he wants the church to shine his light into a world covered in darkness. Jesus is the head of the church, the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18). Therefore, he is the ‘headlight’ of the church! If we take Jesus out of the church, we cannot shine a light that will lead lost souls to him. We must always remember that our primary responsibility in this world is to lift up Jesus and shine his light so that others can find their way to him. Our main concern should not be about names in a membership roster, it should be about names in the Book of Life. We shouldn’t lose sleep over collecting funds, but over collecting souls for the Kingdom of God. When we keep our priorities straight, the rest will follow… Neither should we overly concern ourselves with how we keep the light of the church lit, but rather in making sure it does indeed stay lit. For example, traditional candles have been a staple in the church for millenia, their flame representing the flame of the Holy Spirit; just as traditional hymns, some written several centuries ago, have been a staple of our services. But there is nothing at all wrong with the light of a battery-operated candle in our sanctuary, or with a contemporary song in our service. The apostle Paul even said back in his day, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22b). This doesn’t mean we alter the Gospel message itself in any way (God forbid!), it just means we adapt the way we present it so we reach the largest possible audience.
Back to what I was originally saying about driving down the dark country road… Sometimes we let things in our life get in the way of the headlight shining in our path. Just like the moon will get in the way of the sun shining down on us tomorrow. We block the light of Christ with our sins, and have trouble finding our way back. But even if my headlights had dimmed on the way home that Monday night, Ed was behind me in his truck. His lights would have provided enough for me to find my way until my own were back to functioning fully. The Bible says that “The LORD will go before you” and “God… will be your rear guard.” (Isaiah 52:12). There are some Christians that do not believe in eternal security, but I am not one of them. I truly believe that the Bible teaches that once you have the light of Christ within you, which is the Holy Spirit, even if you let sin dim that light, God will get you safely to your eternal home. That is not to say that you won’t have trouble here on earth, wandering around on dimly lit roads, making wrong turns, and maybe even crashing a time or two. And if your light isn’t shining, you obviously won’t be helping others find their way either. But God will still be right behind you, even if you can’t see him.
So if you feel as if you have been driving around in the dark, check your head lights. And as a church, let’s turn our brights on! Amen.