The big question of yesterday’s sermon at Heights Community was “have you allowed darkness to be greater than the Gospel?” I have written quite a bit about darkness here on Finley, I am. If you’ve looked darkness in the face, you know the feeling that goes to your core.
There is always something to complain about. You have to be intentional about the state and direction of your heart. Read your heart’s pulse. When you are asked how you are doing, do you respond positively more often than negatively? Averages, of course, matter. You are allowed to have a tough week. But tough year?
Let me be clear, while not grumbling: my last year had a lot of dark points. A lot. I can grumble about a lot of it. I know that I am in the valley of Psalm 23, so of course I also know where God is and how much I should want.
And the blessings have continued unabated. Yeah, I’ve been in a valley, but God’s been providing for us. Promotions, raises, the house, and a church that loves and supports us daily.
One sermon point yesterday was that we need to tell more stories of thankfulness than stories of grumbling. And I felt that. Maybe I haven’t grumbled much here, but I have with my closest of friends. And I need to be more intentional about this. The blessings have by and large outweighed the curses in the last year. Outweighed being the key word there. Don’t count your curses, y’all. If I did, they may outnumber my blessings over the last 18 months. But the blessings outweigh them. Ooo. Yeah, I love that too.
Last year we left our church of 8 years. And when I say left, we were basically chased out. Long story, but the short of it was heresy was present and snakes had their way. A lying pastor said to my face, while lying, “if you don’t trust us, what are you doing here?” So we left. Now I can grumble about this, but we are four months into this move and the weight of the blessings that have come from it are enormous. The darkness would love to keep drawing my eyes back to the curses, lay them out and ask me to count them, but I should be focused on thanksgiving and there is so much to give thanks for. I needed to be somewhere else and God knows better than I do. My kids have grown so much spiritually in the last four months that I cannot help but stop, stunned.
God is good.
A note here is that we need to be drawing this out of our fellow Christians too. It is one of my notes I have taken since leaving our church of eight years. Grumbling, gossiping, and a lack of thankfulness were too common. People didn’t push you to the Cross. Sometimes you need to vent, to grumble. At least you feel like you do. But a good Christian friend pushes, massages that. If a brother or sister is entangled in the darkness, you should be shining hope and help them see the power of the Gospel in their situation: show them the way to the Cross. If someone comes to you to grumble about someone else— often gossip— drive them to resolve conflict, to confront the conflict, to put behind them the things that are unresolvable and to focus on the Cross. When we do this we train— disciple— not only others, but ourselves, to not grumble. Acknowledging the darkness is fine, but being obsessed with it requires you to be pulled out. There are right and wrong ways to do that, but we as Christians need to be helping our fellow Christians in this. I didn’t have this at our previous church and I somehow didn’t see it until we were in a church that actively practiced it. And I love it.
Stare into the darkness for even a few minutes and you’ll feel it staring back. You’ll feel the pull, the snaky appendages wrapping around you, constricting around you. That whisper, “there is no hope, you are alone, God isn’t coming to save you this time.” Despair loves to sit in the corner of your room and just watch you silently. A spook. An unnerving, unblinking gaze.
As I stated above, one of the ways they can get in is to get you grumbling. To take your eyes away from the Cross, to take your eyes off the end of the race, to get you to focus on your worries of today, your anxieties of tomorrow, your depressions of yesterday. To take your hope. The dwellers of the darknesses, they know they cannot take your salvation, but they can make you absolutely useless.
How many nights over the last year that I have hit the pillow and uttered a simple prayer: Lord, please take the watch. Sleeping with one hand on your sword, one eye open, ready for war is no way to rest. One must trust that God’s got you and when you wake, grab your lute and wake the morning (Psalm 57:8).
Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
Psalm 57:8 ESV
Live in prayer, not despair.
Give me such fellowship with thee
that I may defy Satan,
unbelief, the flesh, the word,
with delight that comes not from a creature,
and which a creature cannot mar.
Give me a draught of the eternal fountain
that lieth in thy immutable, everlasting love
The Servant in Battle, The Valley of Vision
Power of the Gospel
A lot of talk around Christian Nationalism is a misrepresentation of the entire conversation by those that would prefer to demonize and kill hope. I’m almost through Doug Wilson’s Mere Christendom right now and one thing he makes abundantly clear is this is not about converting by the sword or even electing the right, red-pilled conservative. This is about the hope in the Gospel’s power to transform and once it has transformed, leading Christianly and restoring Christendom. You see, the right elected official may be able to throw out abortion as a “right,” but he cannot change the hearts of wicked men and women that scream in wretched desire to murder babies.
One would be dumb to not acknowledge that making something illegal will force hearts to change over time— see slavery or the practice in India of burning widows alive with their dead husbands— but that has to come along with the sharing of the Gospel. Sure, end the murdering and sacrificing, but spread the hope of Jesus and people will start to slay their own dragons.
The Gospel has power. Lots of it. Much larger, much slimier darknesses than your present one have been defeated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Much larger threats than the ones you face have fallen before the Gospel’s power. We contend with a vanquished foe. Vanquished. Defeated thoroughly.
In the end, God wins. Calvary broke the dragon’s head. And if this is the case, we have hope the life-changing nature of the Gospel. The world-changing nature of the Gospel. The darkness doesn’t win. It ceases. (Revelation 22:5)
This is why the topic of Christian Nationalism has been infectious to many: it is hope-filled. Christ wins. Go and make disciples of all the nations. As we disciple nations, as we win cities and states to Christ, how do we lead, how do we establish Christendom? It is a hope-filled trust that God wins as a foundation. Not that if we can just get one president that hears us, we can make America great once more. No, that if we spread the Gospel we can see splendor returned to the world like God intended.
The Gospel itself is power. Don’t let the darkness shut you down and make you useless. Don’t despair, don’t grumble, don’t cry your way into heaven.
A Campfire in the Valley
Looking out into the darkness has an alternative. The light of Christ is radiant with beauty, hope, grace, mercy, and love. Even in the darkest valley, Death lying in bloodthirsty wait, the campfire of the Gospel shines brighter than the darkness’s power to engulf the light. Gaze into the fire, peace and hope are there. Let them soak into your soul, drown out the echoes of despair. Grab a lute— or guitar if you still don’t have a lute— and sing songs of thankfulness, of hope, of grace amazing. Write these songs in your heart so when you have to venture through the darkness you can raise your Ebenezer and not lose the hope you know holds more power than those that stare at you from beyond the veil.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 ESV