This post is substantially the same as an article I wrote several years ago but I think has even more relevance now. Especially so as we draw near to Christmas when there will be a lot of ‘lights’ festooning houses, buildings, streetscapes and Christmas trees. However, increasingly, rather than symbolizing the Light of Christ “which has come into the world”, for most, those lights actually emphasise the spiritual darkness which is descending on our society. For those who bear the Name Christian this begs the question ‘What should our response be’?
D. M. Moody the great evangelist described Holiness as “being like a lighthouse, it just shines”. The people of Israel were chosen and formed into a nation by God’s grace, and it was for a purpose, to be Holy. This was to be a lighthouse i.e. to be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6). That is to shine the light of God and the nature of God into the spiritual darkness of the pagan nations around them. However, this they forgot and instead they became self centred, inward looking and believing God was for them rather than them being created for God. And so the light stopped shining, indeed the ‘darkness’ in the form of the gods of the surrounding culture began to filter into and corrupt what was supposed to be the source of light, the nation of Israel.
God was patient and for centuries sent prophets to Israel warning them to turn back to him, to expel the spiritual darkness in their midst and to start to shine again. They ignored those warnings and eventually when God’s patience ran out and He brought a great darkness over the land, in the form of the Assyrians in the north and then the Babylonians in the south who killed, drove out or enslaved the Israelites. The light of God was snuffed out and the darkness was deep indeed.
Five hundred or so years later, a great light shone in the darkness (Matt. 4:16) the light of Christ coming into the world. This light shone into the hearts of men, men who became followers of ‘The Way’ as it was first called, Christians grafted into the body of Christ which became what is known as the ‘Church’. To this church God gave the same commission he gave to the Israelites, to be the light that shines the nature, blessing and invitation of God to those living in darkness (Matthew 5:14-15).
Tragically however we see the same forgetting of purpose, for the church has become like a ‘Cinderella with Amnesia’ (Michael Griffiths) forgetting its purpose to shine. Indeed as C.S Lewis puts into the mouth of Screwtape (Satan’s chief demon)–
“Our greatest ally is the church, not the one spread out through time and space, terrible as army with banners, but the church building on the corner, the club that goes through confusing rituals, having forgotten that it exists to build God’s Kingdom”
Lewis said this around 60 years ago. How much more is it the case today?
The church’s reason for existence is to shine the light of God in the deepening spiritual darkness, to exude the fragrance of heaven that will drive away the stench of hell on the nostrils, which permeates the lives of those stumbling in that darkness. It cannot do this however when it hides behind its walls, whether bespoke building or house, it is the same. This why the church need to become “Unbound”, with the walls that separate it from the people who live in the darkness, “Unbound” from its rigid, cumbersome mission cloying forms that restrain the mission of the gospel, the projection of light.
When ‘walls’ and ‘forms’ block the ‘Light’ the lost stay lost. When the ‘Light’ doesn’t shine because of our ‘preferences’, because “we like it like this” the lost are speeded on their way into that eternal darkness, that place of ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth/ Jesus spoke about. It is way past time for the ‘unbinding’ to begin. The ‘church’ needs to repent, and learn the lesson Israel wilfully chose to ignore, and eventually paid the price.
We are created by God, saved by God in Christ, for God – to shine!