And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness rather than the Light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever practices the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be seen clearly that what he has done has been accomplished in God. John 3:19-21
The theme of this red letter passage is, “Don’t Love Darkness, Come Into the Light.”
It’s perfect for me right now, because I’ve been working on getting rid of the “darkness” in my thinking. I tend to focus on the one thing that is going wrong, rather than the hundred things that are going right. It’s like I have a rock in my shoe, and I can’t be happy until I figure out a way to get that rock out. The thing is, when I do get rid of the rock, another one takes its place. I can be continually filled with frustration, instead of the fruits of the Spirit.
But I’ve been studying life coaching, and that has been so helpful! I’ve realized that it’s time to change my whole way of thinking. I’m starting to focus on what works, instead of what doesn’t work. And then I tie this in with the Serenity Prayer. I do this with my clients too. Because we have to figure out what we can change, and what we can’t. Peace comes as we free ourselves from dwelling on the things we can’t change. And then we change the things we can. Thinking is something we can change.
Ha! This sounds so easy in principle, yet it’s so hard to actually do. Our brains get wired one way, and it’s a fight to rewire them another way. But it’s a good fight.
Not long ago, I was really struggling to have faith about a situation. I just couldn’t seem to believe that God would work. In the past, I might have said, “Well, that’s just where I am right now.” But this tme, I decided to intentionally pray and find a way to be different in my mind. At first, nothing changed. But as I meditated on how God is good and faithful, and got deeper, and thought of more scriptures and examples, I felt the faith come. I created a new pattern! (With God’s help, of course.)
It’s so important for us to fight the battle against darkness, whether it involves negative thinking, or negative behavior, as today’s verse mentions.
This is the battle that’s been going on throughout history, the battle the Jews so often lost.
And that’s what is so thrilling about this verse. Jesus said that God was giving them a better way to win the battle against darkness! He was giving them the Light.
You know, light is such an amazing thing. Back in June, my grandkids visited me and we planted marigold seeds in pots, and put them in the window sill. We were excited to see a few of the seeds sprout. But over the summer, they stayed kind of spindly and stunted. I wondered why. Then, a couple of weeks ago, the angle of the sun changed, and the plants began to get more direct sunlight. All of a sudden, they grew more, and another seed even sprouted. It was light that they needed.
It was Light that the Jews needed. And when it came, people would be divided into two camps, those who saw the Light and came to it, and those who disregarded it.
I want to stress here how important it is to understand the seriousness of what Jesus says about the consequences for those who disregarded the Light. He said they would face a judgment, a verdict.
Make no mistake, a verdict is scary. I know a couple of people who have been in jail recently on felony charges. Awaiting their trial was unbelievably stressful for them. They knew that the verdict in the trial would determine the course of the rest of their life. They were facing the possibility of years in jail.
A verdict is frightening because it’s so certain. Once the judge pronounces your guilt and your sentence, you’re toast. You’re powerless, except for the appeals process. I mean, look at Jeffrey Epstein. Many think he committed suicide because, even with all of his money, he wasn’t able to buy his way out of jail.
So if a verdict in the American court system can be scary, a verdict delivered by the God of the universe should be exponentially more scary. He has the power to determine not just what happens to us for the next few years, but for all of the time our soul will exist. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt 10:28)
We really want to make sure that we don’t love darkness!! Here’s one of my favorite “clock cleaning” verses about not loving the world. It’s the Message translation of I John 2:15-16. “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him.”
Yikes! I think I’m doing pretty good, until I read that. Then I have to admit that I often totally want my own way, and that I like praise and attention far too much.
So the best way to get out of the darkness is to come completely into the light. What we often want is to just do it part way, like one of the Twilight vampires, who only went outdoors when it was overcast.
You know, I always get my feet done at a salon, but last week, for the first time in years, I took my toenail polish off myself. I was appalled at the discolorations on my big toenails. I had kind of seen this from afar when the technician was working on my feet. But now I could see up close. I exposed what had been hidden for a long time behind layers of paint. Ugh! Now I see that they need to heal.
It’s good to expose what’s really there. And Jesus says we need to expose what’s hidden in our hearts.
This is such a great reminder to me. There are sins and inner struggles that I want to keep to myself. I mean, it would be mortifying if someone found out what I’m really thinking! But when I read John 3:21, I realize that that if I keep my stuff hidden, I’m loving darkness. I have to, instead, bring it out into the light, like roaches to be seen and squished. If I’m really serious about getting rid of my sin, I’ll admit it to myself, God, and even someone else!
Speaking of this, I really want to hold up one of my friends who called me recently and confessed a lie she had told me. This took a lot of courage, and her example is one we can imitate.
So let’s renounce darkness, as we find it, and come full force into the light. In fact, let’s embrace the light, soak in it! I’ve been listening to praise music more, and as I engage in singing about all of the wonders of God, it’s amazing how my perspective changes. I see so much more clearly how much I’m in the midst of God’s glorious beautiful presence. I’m not lacking! He’s already on top of every problem!
God has given us the Light, and it’s an incredible gift. It should be a no brainer to come into it. But for some reason, it’s easier to be negative than positive, and that’s our struggle.
We can’t be passive! Fighting the darkness is the best battle we’ll ever fight.
In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. . . The true Light who gives light to every man was coming into the world. . . He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God. John 1:11-12
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:9