Have you ever been in total darkness? And I don't mean walking around outside at night darkness. I mean down in the belly of a cave with no flashlight darkness. This is an eerie feeling. You lose track of where everyone else is. You lose track of where you are. People can move around and you will have no idea that they are doing the chicken dance two feet in front of you (until they start clapping, I suppose). I don't know if this is true, but I have heard that if you spend enough time in absolute darkness you go blind. Your eyes literally just decide to quit their job and retire.
I was thinking about this when I came across 1 John 1:5-10. Verse seven states,"But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." What is the light? What does it mean to be in the light? Once I'm in the light, what do I do?
All we have to do to find out what the light is is look at the rest of the verses. Verse five says, "Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him." So we know that God is this light. And he is also in it. Which is a bit confusing. Nevertheless, since we know that God is the light, we can presumably substitute "Light" for "God" in these verses, and they will still be truthful. However, I believe we are given this metaphor because it is really a great visual for our walk with God.
Before we know God, we are in absolute darkness. We don't understand what is going on around us. We have no insight on our surroundings. Now of course we are born this way, so people in the dark have no idea they are in the dark. It is just how it has always been, so their other senses take over and try to compensate, and do a decent job at it. Some of them are in the dark so long that their eyes just give up, and even if they are shown the light, their eyes can no longer see it. However, there are some to which a prick of light in the distance is revealed. Their eyes see it, and are drawn to it. Some may be scared of it, and choose to ignore it because they have never experienced it before. Others ignore it because many others that they respect cannot see the light because they are blind and don't believe this unexplainable "light" could exist. Then there are some who decide to go to the light. When they decide to follow the light, the light gets brighter and brighter. Gradually, the darkness becomes gray. This light does not come on all at once, but slowly their eyes begin to adjust and they begin to see all that is around them. The formless shapes begin to take form and people, mountains, dew, sidewalks, buildings, flowers all begin to take shape. They see the world as it really is, not because of anything they have done. Their eyes had the capability to see all the time, but everything they see is only revealed to them by the light. Without the light, their eyes will die.
I believe this is how God chooses to reveal Himself to us. He doesn't just flip on the lights when we've been in absolute darkness. He slowly reveals Himself to us, to let our spiritual eyes adjust to the light. So what does being in the light look like? Well, when you are in darkness, you have no idea about your surroundings, how you look, or how the people around you look. As God begins to reveal Himself to us as a light, those things in our lives that were hidden are now there for all to see. We see how dirty we are, how filthy our houses are, and even the bleak state those around us are in. This is when we see that we must change, and that we must convince others to come into the light.
Once we are in the light, it may be tempting for us to come in and turn all the lights on at once for those still in the darkness. After all, we are just doing it because we are in the light and want others to be as well. However, when we do this, although we may be well meaning, we can seriously damage the spiritual "eyes" of those in the darkness. When lights come on and people are in the dark, what do they do? They shield their eyes, they look away, if the light is bright enough they might even be blinded. We need to realize that it is God's will to reveal light to others, but not all at once.
For those of us in the light, let us have fellowship with one another and remember that those in the darkness need the light. But let's not blind them with it.
Redemption starts with one small point of light.
I heard about a guy once that was really involved in God's work. He was a good looking guy, everybody liked and respected him, he was the choir director at his church, and he basically spent his entire life trying to be like God. In fact, his whole ambition in life was to be like God. And then God shot him out of the sky like a lightning bolt. It's true, a guy I know saw it happen. (Luke 10:18)
I hope I'm not struck down for saying this, but sometimes I feel like I am unfairly judgmental toward Satan. Well, on second thought maybe I'm just unfairly biased toward myself. When we imagine Satan, we think of some totally evil entity that is entirely and eternally bent on being the opposite of anything God is. But when we look at scriptures, we see that that was not always true. For much of his existence, Satan spent his time trying to emulate God. It's not that Satan hates God and thinks that he is worthless. On the contrary, Lucifer loved God, was obsessed with God, and God loved him. The Bible says he was anointed by God as a cherub of God (Ezekiel 28:14).
A ridiculous depiction of our vastly skewed interpretations of Jesus and Satan
Knowing all of this, how did Lucifer become the Satan that we know today? Quite simply put, he wanted to be like God. I've heard this, and have never batted an eyelash at it. Of course, Satan wanted to be like God, therefore he is evil. But let's put it in context. You've probably heard your pastor or someone else in the Church talk about another believer and say something to the effect of, "Johnny is such a Godly man. His whole purpose in life is to be more and more like God." And then of course you respond, "BURN THE BLASPHEMER!" That's how I always respond to adversity.
I give you this example because I think it is important to understand why Lucifer, the anointed cherub of God, became Satan. I've come to realize Satan wasn't always a bad guy. He really, really, really, more than anything else, wanted to be Godly. It actually sounds like Satan used to be closer to what God wants from us than I am. However, at some point, Satan crossed a line. It was a razor thin line, one that he probably had no idea he had crossed. This is not the line of the normal sins we think of. I don't think Satan stole something or told a lie. The line was the line of holiness. Satan started to take pride in his own holiness and cast away the holiness of God. He probably didn't know that's what he was doing at first, but by the time he was cast out he was so totally and utterly obsessed with himself, he could no longer worship God without seeing himself.
This sounds a lot like someone else I know. This guy has been in church his whole life, has lead Bible studies, preached sermons, given Godly wisdom, read countless books on being more like Christ, and even wrote a blog on Christian issues. I think you see where I'm going with this. This person is myself. You see, I have crossed this line. I have crossed it many times. I begin to confuse God's holiness for my holiness. I see the good things I do and forget that they are God working in me. I see the people whose lives I invest in and forget that it is God doing the changing. I see my personal growth in wisdom and knowledge and am blinded to God's benevolence in giving it to me. I find that many times, when I am trying to be like God, I actually end up trying to be like Satan. We know that we are supposed to boast in nothing but God, correct? But we confuse that with boasting in our holiness. What Galatians 6:14 actually says is, "As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world's interest in me has also died." We must come to terms with the fact that Christ is the only good thing, and that no matter how close we are to God, no matter how many ministries we are involved in, no matter how many starving babies we feed, we don't matter. If we are in Christ, the world's interest in us should be dead. We need to get over ourselves and move on.
How hard is it to become a Christian? Do I need to attend a class to confirm it? Do it need to suspend the logical part of my brain and become purely faith based? Is there a formula? How long is this going to take? How do I know if it really sticks?
These are questions that a person who is interested in knowing God might ask. Hey, they're even questions that I often ask. What are the answers we should give? Many times Christians make themselves out to be someone who looks alot like this:
We come across as some snake oil salesman with some magic concoction that will solve all the problems that some poor old chap might have. "Just one swig o' this, morning and night, and all yer ailments be cured, and shurley you'll be saved!" Is there a certain way we need to "save" people?
I've been thinking alot recently about the traditional ways we share the gospel with people. I believe that most of what we preach (when I say "we" I mean at camp and my church, and other evangelistic opportunities I've been involved in) is good and Bible based. However, what has started to irk me is the traditional way we go about "sealing the deal." The thing is, when I see people come to Jesus in the Bible, Jesus never teaches them the ABC's of becoming a Christian, or any other salvation tool that we use. In fact, Jesus had some pretty harsh things to say about God's followers and our traditions in Mark 7 when he says, "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions."
You might be saying, "Well I see where you're coming from, but although it is not explicitly Biblical, we use it because it works." I understand this, and I understand that there are probably many people who are following Christ today that can attribute this to someone "sealing the deal" in this way. So I am not trying to discredit your salvation if you had an experience like this. However, I'm not fully sure I know what we mean by "it works." What is success in sharing the Gospel with someone? Of course we would reply with the Christian thing to say, that there is no failure because you are supposed to be the messenger and the rest is left to God. But really, what is success when it comes down to it? The reason we share the Gospel is to help others become followers of Christ. We love success. LOVE IT. We love it so much we must know how successful we are. We must quantify it. This, and this alone, is why I believe we "seal the deal" like we do. We want to know that our labors are successful and be able to tell other people about it so they can know how great our ministry is and how close to God we are personally.
In this hunger for spiritual success, I believe we do a great discredit to many people. It's the same principal as in the Middle Ages, when priests simply went around baptizing unbelievers and collecting penance for sins and declaring them saved. By telling people there is some magic formula to save them, we have "let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions." Many people don't understand that there is more to following Jesus than saying a prayer. That's why it's called "following" Jesus. It is not a one time action, it requires giving up your life to emulate Another's. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 19:28-29, "And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.29“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life."
So what is the best way to share the Gospel? Simply share the Gospel. Share the teachings of Jesus. Care about people and follow up with them. If they have questions, answer them. How will you know if it works? You may not. But that is not your job. Thank the Lord that's not my job.
Are you looking for a place to have a fall or winter retreat? Look no further! We still have a few weekends available here at Ba Yo Ca.
We would love to assist you in leading a spiritual retreat for your church and can customize your retreat to include paintball, rock climbing and rappelling or simply enjoy God's great outdoors. Our retreat tab shows the facilities Ba Yo Ca offers. Click here for our retreat info.
For more information about available weekends, simply contact the office (865) 453-6274.
Hello again from Camp Ba Yo Ca!
As promised, here are the numbers from this summer!
Total campers: 1564
Camp staff called into ministry: 1
Other decisions: 42
Praise God for all he has done at camp this summer! Pray for these young people that they will grow and build on the decisions they have made and all that they have learned about God at camp.