(This sermon was preached by Pastor Paul Mims at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cherry Log, Georgia on November 25, 2012.)
Isaiah 9:2; John 1:4-5; 2 Corinthians 4:6; John 8:12
It happened in Kentucky several years ago. There was a disaster in a coal mine. It was an explosion two or three miles down into the earth. Several miners were able to get out, but three were trapped. In time, the news people came around and began to make inquiries about the rescue operations. There were noxious fumes coming up from down deep in the coal mine. A reporter interviewed a man in charge of the rescue operations and said, “What are the conditions down below?” The man said, “With just one spark the whole area of the mine could explode! “What is it like down there?” It is totally dark because all of the electrical wires have been knocked out. Only the light on our hard hats is what we have.” “What are you going to do about it?” The man said, “I’m going down there and get them out.” “Do you mean that you are going down there when there is a danger of an explosion any minute?”
Perhaps there was a council in heaven where our Lord was asked, “Are you going down into the darkness of the world? It is dangerous down there. They might kill you and you are still going into that human darkness to bring them out?” The Savior, the son of God, said, “I’m going to get them out and rescue them from their darkness of sin and confusion.”
I. THE DARKNESS OF DEATH (Isaiah 9:2) “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
We are entering the season of lights. We decorate our church with lights and candles, our homes with colorful displays, and our town with strings of lights hung across the streets. All of this is a way of saying, “This is the season of hope. There is light and our darkness has been dispelled.”
Some 700 years before the birth of our Lord there was this faint glimmer of hope way back there in the mind of the prophet. He looked about him and all he saw was darkness of the spirit. Yet, this hope was alive – that one day the full redemption of God would burst on the scene of the world and there would be great light to lighten the darkness of man. All of us know what that darkness was like when we walked in it. We are the people that Isaiah was describing here “…who walked in darkness…” not just ancient Israel. Darkness is a spiritual state of awayness from God.
This is the time of year when we focus on the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for foreign missions. We have about 5,000 missionaries in 192 countries. Here is what they did this year. They presented the gospel to 2,270,000 individuals. They baptized 334,000 new believers. They started 28,800 new churches. And they engaged 200 new people groups with the gospel. There are still 6,600 unreached people groups that have no Christian witness. Our goal for this offering is $175 million and Cornerstone’s goal is $2,000 to help rescue people from their spiritual darkness of death. This may be given anytime during December as over and above our regular giving. Since our college days, Janice and I have viewed this as our gift to lead individuals out of their darkness of spiritual death.
II. THERE IS THE DARKNESS OF CONFUSION. (John 1:4,5) “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
Truly the world is in the darkness of confusion. You look at the spots in the world today where there is an absence of the Christian faith and you will find an almost impenetrable darkness. You will finds man’s inhumanity to man to be almost unbearable and unthinkable! A great portion of the world today is in this darkness.
We saw this darkness all around us on a mission trip to Russia. After the attempts of the communist to make Russia an atheist country you can see the effects on the people. We were approached on the streets with “You are from America aren’t you?” “How could you tell?” we asked.” “You were smiling and seemed happy. People here don’t smile much.”
I was invited to teach a short course in our Baptist Seminary in St. Petersburg. I taught the third year students from 8:00 to 2:00 each day. After lunch, Janice taught them English until 4:00. A student was assigned to us as our driver who would meet us in the morning and take us back to where we were staying in the afternoon. Our driver, whose name was Paul, invited us to have dinner with his family. We drove across the beautiful city of St. Petersburg to one of the massive apartment buildings. We parked in front of the building in the snow and walked into the foyer. The young man turned and said to us, “As you follow me up to our apartment, there will be no light.” The foyer was completely dark. We followed him by sound up the floors in total darkness. We didn’t see any light until he opened the door of his apartment and the beautiful rays of light streamed into the darkness. We sat with them through a late evening dinner and heard them tell of their desire for a better life than they had in Russia. They described how that three years ago they had applied for the right to immigrate to America. For three years they heard nothing. He said, “Would you be willing to contact the immigration officials in Washington and see if there is any hope?” I did as he requested, but got no results.
There is confusion about what is true and what is not. The gospel is not understood by the masses and they must have someone to explain it to them. Even here in the Bible belt the gospel is unknown in personal experience by the majority of the population. About 70% of Gilmer and Fannin Counties are un-churched.
III. THERE IS LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS. (2 Corinthians 6:4) “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.”
Light is the essential condition for vision. It is that form of energy which, by it action of vision, allows our eyes and our spirits to perform the functions of sight and insight. Spiritual light upon the soul of man allows man to see spiritual truth. Our message to the world is that the light of God can shine in every human heart.
According to Rick Warren, there are two basic reasons people don’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior: (1) they have never met a Christian; and (2) they have met a Christian. Christian influence is no small matter.
I want to ask you, “How much has this light penetrated your darkness? How much have you allowed it to get into the dark areas of your life and illumine your understanding? When it shines on our hatred, it turns it to love. When it shines on our self –centeredness it exposes it for what it is and turns it into an exchange of the self- life for the Christ -life. When it shines on the impurities in our lives it burns out the dross and gives us a purity of motive and purpose that only Jesus can give us. When it shines on our greed it shows how to joyfully share what we have with others.
While on maneuvers, a battleship lookout noted a light in the dark, foggy night. After noting the light’s coordinates, the captain recognized his ship was on a collision course with the other vessel. The captain instructed, “Signal the ship: We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees.” The return signal countered, “Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees.” The captain signaled, “I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.” The response was, “I’m a seaman second class, you’d better change course 20 degrees.” By this time the captain was furious. His signal curtly ordered, “I’m a battleship. Change course 20 degrees.” The reply: “I’m a lighthouse. You make the call.”
IV. WE WILL NEVER HAVE TO LIVE IN DARKNESS AGAIN. (John 8:12) “When Jesus spoke to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
The Bible says that the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel and the glory of Christ who is the image of God. That is why we have missions. That is why the light must shine brightly from this church and from our lives. At this Christmas season we will have the opportunity to invite many of our un-churched friends and acquaintances to church because they will be open to the celebration of Christmas. I challenge everyone one of us to find someone to invite to church and witness to them about the light that is shining on them that can eradicate their darkness. Actually, they are hungry to have the light of life and just don’t know how to find it.
Our celebration of the coming of our Lord reminds us that we have the light of life and will never have to walk in darkness again. Let’s each one of us be like the “Bishop’s Light” for someone this Christmas.
Dr. Roy Angel who was pastor for many years at Central Baptist Church in Miami, wrote of going to England on an Oil tanker. This was in the days before we had satellites for navigation. He said that as they neared the coast of England they had been in a storm for several days and could not get sun sights for navigation. The Navigator came to him and said, “If my calculations are right we will see the flare of Bishop’s light at 1:00 am.” They were all very tense. Dr. Angel was allowed to go to the bridge with the third officer who said to him, “Don’t move or say a word for the Captain is under great stress.” For an hour they stood there and peered into the darkness out over the sea looking for the strobe of the lighthouse which would show them the entrance into the channel. One of the seaman said, “Let me go up to the crow’s nest and see if I can see the light from that height.” As soon as he reached the crow’s nest the word came, “I can see Bishop’s Light.” The Captain said, “come on down and we will have refreshments.”
As they were eating, Dr. Angel asked the Captain, “What is the reason for naming the entrance to the English Channel lighthouse Bishop’s Light?” The Captain said, “Long ago there was a bishop who took a light and placed it up in the spire of the church so that seamen could find their way home. Since then, England has built a lighthouse and named it Bishop’s Light.”
That is what our Lord has done. He has shown us the way home. He guides us into eternal and abundant life.
Anyone who is out on the sea of life in the darkness of the storm can see the light flashing with the invitation – “Come unto me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
People have waited from Isaiah’s time to see the great light. In the coming of Jesus the light shined into the darkness. Some of you have been waiting all of your lives in your darkness for the light to shine upon you. May you come out of your darkness into his glorious light.
Everyone here who is a Christian can tell you how quickly you can understand things that you could not understand before. We can tell you how quickly you can get a different view of life because it has happened to us.
We can tell you that it requires repentance of your sin and the entrusting of your eternal destiny into God’s hands by receiving Jesus by faith as your Lord and Savior and then confessing him before us. That is why we call you forward at the invitation time.
Praise Be to His Name!