Have you ever stood in complete darkness? No light at all...you can't see anything-not even shapes in the darkness.
There have been a couple of times in my life that I have tried to get into a completely dark room just to see what it would be like. It's a weird experience...and it can get quite unnerving. Since you can't see anything, you don't know how far or near anything is to you. You might reach out to where you believe a door or a wall is, but it's easy to misjudge and if you miss...then all sense of comfort and confidence in being able to find your way out can be lost. Not only that, but you have to depend upon your other senses...touch and sound. You can start hearing things...things you can't identify, and can't always tell how close they are to you...Just thinking about it starts my heart beating a little faster. Being in the dark...especially complete darkness is usually not a friendly experience.
And yet darkness is one of the best ways to describe the spiritual state of this world we live in.
God created our world to be a place of light and joy and fellowship with Him. In his very fist creative act, God said, "Let there be light". But when Adam and Eve turned from God they allowed sin and spiritual darkness into the whole world.
In writing about the days of a mans life, Solomon wrote in Ecc 5:17, "All his days he eats in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger."
And in writing about life without Christ, Paul wrote this in 1 Cor 4:4, "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
Without direction and just life and love from the Holy Spirit, life is very much like walking around in the dark.
Something we can all recognize when we take the time to look into it..just have to look at what happens arouns us...the way people treat one another...abuses...murder...cons..thievery...just general disrespect for one another. It's all around us.
As time goes on this kind of thing is likely to get worse. Matt 24 records what Jesus said when asked about signs of time when He would return. In verse 12, is says, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold"
There is a great deal of darkness in this world and it is important for us all to take some time to recognize it. Without the presence of God, that darkness continues to fill end encrouch upon people's lives.
Go back to that dark room again...imagine what it would be like for a light to appear.. Even just a faint pinprcik would capture your attention and draw you to it. As that light grows is begins to bring shape to your environment
...and as it grows even more it can become a beacon washing over you and calling you out of the darkenss into the light. Light that fills you and warms you and excites you.
This is what Jesus brought into the world....what He offers to each and every one of us...whether you've even been fully aware of the the darkness of the world or not, this is the spiritual reality of what Jesus did. He rescued us and called us out of a vast darkness.
Listen to the way the apostle John describes this in the book of John 1:1-9. Jesus is that light of the world.
And Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:6: For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."
Dark place again...light is a beacon of hope. Jesus came to be that light to the world.(John 1:1-5) John 12:46, 2 Cor 4:6
Jesus is that beacon of light who has called us out of the darkness.
But...like curious children, we find ourselves time and time again drawn beack to that darkness...desires other than for God Himself get the better of us, and we leave the light behind without really thinking about it.
This is the kind of situation James speaks into in James 4
*Jame 4:4-8...friends with the world. Without thinking about it we often decide we'd rather have the things of the world than what God holds out to us...his commands seem unreasonable or unattainable....we forget the light and life He bought for us and wander back into the darkness..
How does God respond to this? v. 5-yearns jealously, v. 6 gives more grace...gives grace to the humble.*
James gives us the remedy we need when we realize we have wandered back into the darkness...v.7 submit selves to God. Resist the devil and He will flee from you...assurance.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you...assurance.
If you've been around the church for any amount of timme, this image of Jesus drawing us into the light out of a dark world is probably not new, but it is a good reminder.
I want to consider for a moment how all this relates to our existence here as a church...True North...a group of people who know of the darkness of this world and want to live in the light.
This church has been up and running for just over 4 years now. The very first public thing we did as True North was to walk through Cannon Falls in the July 4th parade in 2006. That was just 4 days after Wendy, the boys and I moved into our new home in Cannon Falls. That was a very exciting time. We were doing something new and important....and we were filled with the knowledge of the mission that Jesus has given us...to come and find people who have been living in the darkness and help guide them into the light that Jesus offers.
Today the knowledge of that mission remains just as deeply rooted in my heart as it did 4 years ago...and the mission has grown and matured in many ways. We now have all of you as part of this church. You and all those who are part of this church are beneficiaries of the work that has been done. so out mission now encompasses growing with and encouraging one another. We all want and need to continue reminding one another to draw close to God and remain in the light of His presence. We want to be filled with deeper knowledge of Him and to have our hearts filled to overflowing with the light of God's love and to train our entire beings to seek the light in all situations. And as a part of all this to remember that we are now all called to be part of that original mission. To not just remain focused on the life that we have gained through Jesus, but to remember that darkeness...and there are people out there wandering in the dark...They may not even be aware of it yet, but their greatest need is to discover that light that we have all experienced, and you may be the one God wants to use to shiine the light and love of Jesus into their lives.
But you know...our lives are filled with so many things...and that's not a bad thing, it's normal...but we get into routines to handle all those things, and we keep rolling along. And after a few short years, it can be easy to forget why we do the things we do. I know for myself that between taking care of a family and a home...and taking care of day to day tasks and meeting with people...sometimes I just don't even think about why I do it all...it's just there and it needs to be done.
So I want us to take this time this morning to remember the darkness that exists in this world. Some of us have very intimate knowledge of that darkness. Maybe some of us haven't experience much of it...but you can see that it's there. Just take a look around at what happens in our world...the way people treat one another...the way they throe their own lives away.
We don't want to be drawn into that darkness...and we don't want our families...our kids, our spouses, our parents to be caught in it either. We don't want that for anyone we know. That is why we must all try to see past the daily stuff to why we do it...or perhaps why we should do thing differently...because we want to build life and love and the light of Jesus into the people we care about...and even people we don't know yet.
This why True North exists...to be a light and a beacon in a dark world.
And you kow we are doing great work here...people do continue to come and knnow Jesus...but we need to keep doing more....and in fact over the next couple of years by faith, we are going to be multiplying out efforts by planting...giving birth...to a new churchin the Northfield area. Another True North...another beacon of light in another community.
One of the greatest needs we all have is prayer...I wan to urge you to truly share what is going on in your life....what you need prayer for with us...prayer team...small group..
As we close today, I want to make a personal request for your ongoing prayers. It takes a certain amount of courage...or perhaps craziness, and a whole lot of faith to build something like this...and to remember to rally us all around that mission and to keep resisting the devil...to fight back that darkenss.. So I want to ask you to keep me and my family in your prayers as we continue to do this work together. ..to stay strong in the Lord...to resist the devil and always draw close to God. I also want to ask you to keep the Grimm family and the McIntyre families in your prayers, too and Wilie and Shon step forward to lead out this new church effort. These very early stages can be very challenging..trying to gather people together, to raise financial support to get things going, to provide for your family. If you want to know more about how you can pray for any or all of us...if you want to contribute to the new church plant effort...I invite and encourage you to talk to us.