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Walking in the Light

March 18th 2012

Today we hear the familiar words of John 3 as Jesus speaks with Nicodemus about salvation. Jesus uses the images of walking in darkness and ight to explain the difference of a sinful life and the life as a child of God. Read or listen to find out more...

Lent 4B - "walking in the Light" - John 3:14-21 - March 18, 2012

More than usual this week, I have been getting up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water. Whether I am sick or simply having another reaction to the pollen, I am not sure, but the end result is, I have had to navigate the path to the refrigerator more than once in the dark. Actually, I have found that the path to the refrigerator isn’t not so bad. It is the path back from the fridge that is really tough. Once that little 40 watt light bulb has burned out my retinas I am pretty much blind. I once read that pirates used to wear eye patches, not because of the inherent ocular dangers of piracy, but because it would allow them to get one eye accustomed to the darkness, so they could easily see in the darkness when breaking into the dark holds of sleeping ships. I have actually tried something similar a few times, keeping one eye closed as I walk toward the lighted kitchen, and switching eyes on the dark journey back to bed.
The reason I bring this up, is our gospel text talks a lot about walking in the darkness, and why people do it. You see, the darkness in this world, sin, is very easy to get accustomed to. The more we return to our sins, the easier it is to commit them. As Jesus says, people “love the darkness instead of the light because their deeds are evil. He goes on to explain that people who hate the light hate it for one simple reason. The light exposes what they have done.
You see, sin knows how to get a firm hold of you and not let go. There is a reason things like alcoholism, sexual addiction, and even gossiping are so hard to kick. They become a part of who you are. You get accustomed to doing something every day of your life, and you cannot imagine trying to live another way. You get accustomed to you sin, and instead of realizing you need to change, you simply choose not to see anything wrong with what you are doing. You choose to walk in the darkness, ignoring your own sin.
Once sin has a grip on you like that, you get to the point where the darkness feels perfectly natural. You no longer feel uncomfortable when you do it any more, it is just a part of who you are, a habit. And you could almost convince yourself that everything is going just fine, if it weren’t for one nagging fear: The fear that someone else might see you. This is a real fear for someone who feels trapped in their sin: having everyone know what you have done. That is why alcoholics drink alone, because if someone knew how much they drank they would be confronted with the enormity of what they are doing. That is why gossip happens behind peoples backs, and why you can stop a gossip cold when you let a them know that you don’t want to hear their poison. Being exposed in the sin you are most comfortable in is painful. We are so trapped by our sin that we actually prefer walking aimlessly in the darkness, because no one can see us there.
Consider what that sin is for a moment. We often take a moment to consider the sins we know and feel in our hearts at the beginning of service. Is there something that comes up again and again? Or is there something that never comes up, because you’re afraid to even admit it in silence? Or are there things that have been a part of you so long that you don’t even realize you shouldn’t be doing them anymore. Do you constantly worry about things, and just write it off as a part of your personality? Do you find yourself looking forward to having a lustful heart, secure that you would never “do anything” about it? Do your children ever have to wonder why their father can’t help them with their homework after 5 O’clock? Have you ever said you were just “getting something off your chest” so you didn’t feel bad about gossiping? Have you ever said “I only lie when as a last resort”, but then your definition of ‘last resort’ becomes ‘whenever it’s more convenient’? Do you fail to serve, fail to witness, fail to worship?

There is a reason these kinds of sins are so hard to recognize. Sin likes to stay buried. Satan wants us to think that we cannot possibly change, that it would be way too hard to step into the light and have all of our sins held up for the world to see, held up for us to see. We are afraid of what everyone would think, we are afraid of what we might think. We know that this world wants to condemn us for the very sins it causes us to love. But Jesus tells us a different message. He tells us the truth. You see, we are afraid of having our sins exposed because we would be condemned for them. But “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). You see Jesus is the light of the world, and He insists that we no longer walk in the darkness. He shines His light on our lives in three incredible ways. First, He shines His light on the perfect path to salvation. He shows us the way that God intends us to be. God tells us His will for all of creation through His Word, through the commandments. And Jesus Christ, that very same Word of God, came to earth and lived a perfect life according to the will of the Father, and shows us the true path to salvation. Jesus, the Light of the world, was “lifted up (so) that anyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (3:15) And when He shines His light on the perfect path of salvation His second purpose is accomplished. When we see the path to salvation clearly, we begin to notice how often we stray from that path. With Jesus in our lives, we can no longer ignore our sinful tendencies. When we see what we are supposed to do, it makes it so much easier for us to see our sins for what they really are. “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light so that it may be seen plainly what he has done.” When we see clearly what we desire to do, we realize that we need help to stay on the path to salvation. Which makes the final way Jesus shines on our lives the most amazing way. Jesus, after showing us how truly impossible it is that we step into the light, brings us there Himself. He lived that perfect life to fulfill the Law we could not. He suffered and was lifted up on the cross to pay the price we know we couldn’t possibly pay. And just as the Israelites were saved from the poisonous bites by looking to the bronze snake Moses lifted up, by trusting that God would save them, God promises us “that whoever believes in (Jesus) shall not perish, but have eternal life” (3:16). We are not powerless to fight against our sins, because Jesus has drowned our sins, and the very nature that is addicted to them, when He picked us up and brought us into His righteousness at our baptisms. We are so afraid of being exposed, but Jesus shows us that when we confess our sins before our Father we are forgiven, not condemned as we fear. God knows that our sinful natures rises up again and again to lead us from the path, and so He does not simply bring us into the light and expect us to stay there on our own. He sends His Holy Spirit into our lives to walk with us in the light. Because of what Jesus did, we grow accustomed to the light. God wants us to know that we have sinned, but not because He wants us to despair in that sin, but because he wants us to daily confess our sins, and daily receive forgiveness and walk as children of the light. God tells us, in our text here today, that the reason He has done all that He has done for us, is simply because He loves us. The God of all creation, when deciding what was important for His creation to know about Him, tells us about His love for us. And so the encouragement of Jesus today, and mine as well, is that you would continue to walk in the light. Your sins are forgiven, you don’t have to hide them in the darkness any longer, you don’t need to make excuses for them, or get used to having them around. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you can cast off your sins, and live as the redeemed children of God. For God has sent His Son to die for you, because He loves you. Go, and walk in His light. Amen

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