Following is the message that I gave at the “All-Church Campfire” This was in follow-up to the Campfire Theology for Men series. This message was given as the daylight faded into darkness which you will see mentioned in a couple of illustrations.
Let your Light Shine
At Campfire Theology we worked on taking Theology, the study of God, or what you think of God, moving it out of the sanctuary and into real life. Life we can relate too, like life lived around a campfire. Tonight I would to take a few minutes to share what God has been weighing on my heart before we open up for discussion, testimony, and seeking God in prayer.
We are witnessing events in our world, in our country, and right here in our little community that can only be described as pure evil. The very day we announced the plan for this campfire service, a mad man took the lives of 58 people, wounded hundreds more, and ultimately took his own life. We have seen churches, movie theaters, schools, and night clubs riddled with bullets while people died. Everyday objects like pressure cookers have been turned into homemade bombs designed with the purpose of maiming as many people as possible. A box cutter, a simple tool that every warehouse worker uses, was used to turn planes into missiles and kill hundreds more . Right here in our own community a tragic series of events led to a young boy hanging from a tree, while a sibling tried desperately to save him. While his life was saved, it was undoubtedly changed forever.
At the same time drug and alcohol addiction along with the associated crimes are spiraling out of control and leaving a wreckage of ruined homes and lives in their wake.
An average of over 3,000 babies every day are legally murdered in hospitals and clinics here in our country, of course our culture doesn’t call it murder, they call it an “abortion procedure”.
Deviant sexual behaviors that used to be a source of shame are now embraced and celebrated across the culture. Anyone who speaks the truth of what God says in the Bible is considered guilty of hate crimes.
Pulpits all across our land have abandoned the truth of the gospel and have started claiming that things God clearly condemns as sin are actually natural and wonderful expressions of “love”. People living in unrepentant sin, are standing in pulpits, proclaiming heinous lies, and claiming to speak for God. Then they pervert the Gospel, changing it to nothing more than a get rich quick scheme, or trampling it underfoot by saying that any way you choose can get you to heaven. Darkness is pressing in, seemingly on all sides, just when we think it has gone as far it can it goes farther.
I am a husband and father to 4 small children, and I must admit that the state of the world makes me want to board up the gate, draw the shutters closed, keep the children in, stand watch on the wall and embrace a full fortress mentality. As in “To keep my family safe, I must keep all of those people out.” Then sit in harsh condemnation of all that is going on around us, and say, “Come quickly Lord Jesus.” However, God has convicted me that this line of thinking is folly.
It is very easy to look around us and see the progression of evil, but did you realize that we can look in the Scripture and see everything that is happening right now predicted. The apostle Paul address this in such a way that while it was written so long ago, it could be taken from the headlines of the papers today.
Romans 1:18-32 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth….For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God…Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie…For this reason God gave them up…Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
We are shown so clearly here the progression that sin takes, and what we can view as God’s approval or indifference when it looks like people are flaunting their sin in God’s face, is in actuality His wrath as he gives them over to the natural progression that their sin will reap. James speaks of how this progression shows up in the life of the individual, but it also is true for a culture.
James 1:14-15 “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
Sin brings forth death. We are surrounded by a culture of death, but it is also a culture that does not see fit to acknowledge God! Why then are we surprised when the very progression God spells out in His Word is taking place around us? It is written what the consequences are for dishonoring God, for not being thankful, for chasing the lusts of the heart. Yet we are still shocked when a people given over to debased minds do the very things God says that their hearts are full of.
So where does this leave us? Is it time to huddle together with like minded people and wait for the darkness to go away, or for Jesus to come again? When we are not sure what to do, it is always good to turn to what Jesus says and find our answers there. One of my favorite places, is in a sermon that Jesus preached on a Judean mountainside.
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
We are called to be the light to the world. There is an interesting concept about light and dark that you can see here. Darkness cannot overtake light. You can see the physical darkness pressing in around us, we have the light of fire here. When I light a torch, the darkness does not overtake the light of the torch, rather it is displaced by it. So it is with us, we are to carry the light of the gospel and following the example of Jesus invade the darkness with light.
Jesus is the great light of the world, and the gospel is the power of life. Yes we are surrounded by a culture of death, but the simple message of the transforming power of the shed blood of Jesus is life.
II Corinthians 5:17-21 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
This is our answer to the encroaching darkness, carry the gospel, be the physical incarnation of God’s love and shine our light to point to Jesus.
One thing we hear is that the Old Testament is full of wrath and condemnation while the New Testament is nothing but grace. However this is not true, almost everything we know about hell we learned from Jesus and the Old Testament has many passages that speak of the beauty of God’s mercy and grace.
Psalm 107:10-22 “Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in their affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.
Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, to tell of his deeds in songs of joy!”
Did you notice that God sent out His word, if you recall in John’s gospel Jesus is called the Word.
John 1:1-5 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and darkness has not overcome it.”
So our answer to the state of our culture, community, and country is the same answer it has always been. Jesus, the light of the World in whom is life.
The world around us is dying. I know nothing about the spiritual state of the 58 people killed in Las Vegas, but I do know this, never again will they get the opportunity to hear the gospel and be transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ. If some of those killed were Christian then they will never again get the chance to tell others the gospel and see lives transformed.
This is where God has been speaking to me, about my priorities. Do I care more about the small details of my life, about my “fortress”, or do I care about a lost dying world being pointed to the Savior.
In closing I would like to share the story of an old hymn, one that we sang a lot when I was a child.
Let the Lower Lights be Burning
At the mouth of Cleveland harbor, there were two lights, one at each side of the bay, called the upper and lower lights; and to enter the harbor safely by night, vessels must sight both of the lights. One wild, stormy night, a steamer was trying to make her way into the harbor. The captain and pilot were anxiously watching for the lights.
By and by the pilot was heard to say, “Do you see the lower light?” “No” was the reply; “I fear we have passed them.” “Ah, there are the lights,” said the pilot; “and they must be from the bluff on which they stand, the upper lights. We have passed the lower lights, and have lost our chance of getting into the harbor.” What was to be done?The looked back and saw the dim outline of the lower lighthouse against the sky. The lights had gone out. “Can’t you turn your head around?” “No; the night is too wild for that. She won’t answer to her helm.” The storm was so fearful that they could do nothing.
They tried to make it to the harbor, but they crashed against the rocks, and sank to the bottom. Very few escaped, the vast majority found a watery grave. Why? Simply because the lower lights had gone out. Now, with us the upper lights are all right. Christ Himself is the upper light, we are the lower lights, and the cry to us is, Keep the lower lights burning; that is what we have to do.
Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From His lighthouse ever more,
But to us He gave the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.
CHO- Let the Lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.
Dark the night of sin has settled,
Loud and angry billows roar;
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore
Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor seaman tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness May Be Lost.