Matthew 6:23- “…So if the light in you is darkness, how terrible is that darkness!”
I thought recently of a song I heard years ago by the McKameys entitled Getting Used to the Dark. That statement raises many serious questions about the role of today’s Christian church in light of our ministry and purpose. I want us to examine this text in light of the great danger we face today as Christians, that of getting used to the darkness around us.
Have you ever turned off the lights in a room and stayed there for a few minutes? At the onset it is pitch black. If there is a window, sometimes the room is actually darker than the darkness outside the room. With time you get more accustomed to the darkness and develop the ability to make out objects and other people in the room. Your eyes might even acclimate to the point that you can even read! Yes, you can get used to the darkness around you to the point that you can function at a rate that is almost normal. That which once bothered you is now accepted as the norm.
What is the normal Christian life? To quote Horatio Bonar, a great preacher of the past-“Our problem today is that world has gotten so churchy, and the church so worldly, it is nigh on to impossible to tell where one leaves off and the other begins.” How true is that statement! We allow the world to creep into our churches, and instead of crying out against its intrusion, we excuse it. “If we don’t change our music the young people will leave.” “If we do not tone down the Bible message, someone might get offended.” “If we don’t change with the times, we might give left behind.”
Now here me well on this point! I do not want to be misquoted or mis-perceived. There is nothing sacred about the methods of HOW we do things. Most churches would experience a revival if they got rid of the person who always chimes—“We never did it that way before!” He is usually the brother of the deacon whose testimony always starts—“Well, I have been in the way for forty years!” We do need change in the average church and denomination.
So what are some of the signs we are too comfortable sitting in the darkness of a world that is fast on the decline? Why not evaluate your life and church and if these signs are present you either need to check your decline and/or find a new place to worship.
I. The message of the Gospel is no longer preached.
What we do not need is to change the integral message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When the message changes you disarm the Holy Spirit whose job it is to take the Word of God and apply it to the heart to effect change in one’s life. May I say this with all sincerity—Psychology and counseling are not a replacement for preaching the Word of God. The average pastor spends forty hours per week counseling people who would not give ten minutes to sit through a sermon in a church service. As a pastor I counseled three times per week—Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening and do you know what I discovered? The people who were faithful to the preaching service almost never needed to talk to me about their life’s problems! The Word of God preached in truth and simplicity is God’s most able tool to live the Christian life. And notice I did say the preaching of the Word of God! That does not mean a 30 minute sermonette with 90% Psychology and 10% Bible. What is wrong with that picture? I will never forget Miss Mildred Stelling, a great old saint and a missionary in the 1930s, who attended my Bible study one evening. “Bro. Mike,” she said, “ I want to share with you what I learned years ago while a student at Moody Bible College. Always remember, God has promised to bless His Word, he never promised to bless yours. So use all the Scriptures you can get into a message because the Word is the power of God.” No wonder the Devil delights in churches today which water down the Word in song and message. People can go to church and leave without ever feeling convicted or uncomfortable—but neither is their life changed, because God has chosen the preaching of His Word to convict the sinner and edify the saint.
II. The Songs of Zion are no longer sung.
In the name of attracting people who never will come to church we have bought into this idea that our music needs to change. Dr. Jack Green, noted evangelist calls them 7-11 songs. You sing seven words eleven times and you think you have expressed the mind of God. There was a time when songs were just as convicting as preaching because they were filled with the Word of God. Now that does not mean the new songs are bad. It does not necessarily mean that they are unscriptural and should not be used. It does not even mean that different types of music do not have their place in church. I remember when having a drum in church was considered sin. But whatever the song, whatever the beat, whatever the music behind it—it must be full of the Gospel in order to be acceptable as a means of worship.
III. When Christians no longer have a sense of sin
Most Christians do not realize that what we prescribe as sin did not originate with the early church. We like to think that all of what we believe as truth hales back to the disciples and came directly from the lips of Jesus himself. Amazingly, church history does not support that. Contrary to those try to make a myth into fact, denominations like Baptist and Methodists have a very short history. Most were started in contention over some minor points that blossomed into open schism.
Many things considered sin today have developed in the past hundred and fifty years since the Second Great Awakening in America. We are so quick to chastise and condemn over things without first checking the Scriptures. We tend to make our preferences into sins, and no wonder the world has such a poor concept of what it means to be a believer.
The simple matter is that we have allowed the issues of right and wrong to get so murky that no one has a clear understanding of what is Bible and what is not. I actually had a deacon say once—that he did not care what the Bible said—he knew what he believed! Sins are those things directly condemned by the Scriptures, and anything else—no matter how much we may dislike them—are simply our personal prejudices. Take you Bible and reevaluate what is right and wrong and then teach those things to your children. And, no, it is not right to institutionalize personal preferences as convictions. Convictions are those things for which you have Scripture to support—the rest are your personal idiosyncrasies.
How does that reflect on us as Christians? When you came to Christ the light of the glorious Gospel came into to your life. Maybe like the Apostle Paul it was a blinding moment, but however you came to Christ, the Light of Life resides in the heart of every believer. It does not take long before you realize something is wrong with the religious system around us. For some, their church is spiritually dead they witness many wrongs by their church and denomination. For others legalism and forced to prescribed looks and behaviors in order to fit into a religious system indicates requirements which do not match the Bible. Whether legalism or apostasy or simply apathy over the truths of Scripture, we continue to stay in a dead church, an apostate system, and even promote the cause. So what happened? We simply got used to the dark.
Little by little, ray by ray the light of truth goes out. The sad truth is that all too often Christians compensate for the lack of light in so many ways rather than simply turning on the light. We are like the proverbial frog in the kettle, which if dropped alive into scalding water would immediately jump out, but when placed in a pot of cold water with the heat gradually turned up underneath will see to problem with a gradually warming of the waters until he dies.
Most do not see the issues I raise here because what they see today is all they know. They never lived in the day when great old men of God took their Bibles and went off into a closet or the woods to pray. Limited by education, they had to get their message from God, but when they stood to preach the power of God was evident on their lives, souls were saved, and saints were edified. Those who have once tasted those good things of God, descry a day which may never return, and yet we cannot just sit idly by without raising some alarm that indeed the night is far spent, and yet so many, instead of giving out the light of the Gospel are content to enjoy the darkness.
Getting Used to the Dark as Sung by the McKameys
WE’RE GETTING USED TO THE DARK,
WE’RE GETTING USED TO THE DARK,
WE’RE NOT PRAYING TO CHANGE ANY HEARTS
WE’RE JUST GETTING USED TO THE DARK.
CHRISTIAN LIVES ARE WRECKED BY SIN,
AND WE BLAME IT ON THE WORLD WE’RE IN.
WE SAY THERE’S NOTHING WE CAN DO,
INSTEAD OF BEING A SHINING LIGHT
WE’RE JUST DOING RIGHT IN OUR OWN EYES.
AS CHRISTIANS WE’RE NOT DOING OUR PART
WE’RE JUST GETTING USED TO THE DARK.
SIN’S ALL AROUND US YET WE DON’T THINK,
THIS WORLDS REALLY AS BAD AS IT SEEMS
WE JUST CLOSE OUR EYES TO WHAT’S GOING ON
WE’RE NOT BURDENED FOR THE SINNER MAN
DON’T GIVE OUR BROTHER A HELPING HAND,
IT’S TIME WE SHOW THE WORLD A LITTLE SPARK
INSTEAD OF GETTING USED TO THE DARK.