WHEN THE WORST NEWS AND THE BEST NEWS MEET TOGETHER, THE MOST PROFOUND THING HAPPENS.
FOR YOU WERE ONCE DARKNESS, BUT NOW YOU ARE LIGHT IN THE LORD. LIVE AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT. - EPHESIANS 5:8
I’ve got some horrible news for you.
Offensive news. News that’s shameful and countercultural. It might just send you packing in the other direction. But before you go, I’ve also got some tremendous news, incredible, unbelievably good news that I’m convinced will fill you with joy and hope and peace. Now I’d prefer to just give you the good stuff, but here’s the thing: I can’t. I can’t give you the good news without the bad. Because without the bad, well there’s just no need for the good. And quite frankly, if you only wanted the bad (weird, but possible, I suppose), well even the bad news wouldn’t be fully true. They both must exist in tension for them to exist at all. You see, the truest truth there ever was comes where the worst news and the best news meet together, and the most incredible, upside-down thing happens. But I don’t want to spoil it. Read on to find out.
The worst news.
When push comes to shove, we think we’re pretty good people, don’t we? We try to “be kind”, to do what’s right, to follow the rules. And, most of the people most of the time would say, that’s enough. Deep down we’re all just good people trying to do the right thing. We try our best, and that’s all we can do. What’s more, our culture constantly affirms this, preaching, singing, and selling us the message that we are inherently good. We simply need to look inside and “follow our heart” in order to do what’s right. But here’s the thing. What if we aren’t essentially good? What if all of that is false? What if our understanding of who we really are is flawed? What if we’re deceived and our hearts are intrinsically selfish, our desires are wayward, and we simply aren’t good? Ouch. That’d be a major paradigm shift. That’d be some really bad news. And that’s exactly what our verse is telling us:
(CONTINUED FROM ABOVE)
All humans are “darkness”.
That’s as bad as it gets really. It doesn’t say we live in darkness, or that the darkness is all around us. It tells us that we are darkness. What can that mean? Think of a dank, dark prison cell where no light can penetrate. In that space, without any light, our insides grow moral, spiritual, and intellectual mold. We harbor all kinds of impurities and ailments, because we’re simply blind to them. They go unseen and unattended to. Moreover, we cannot fathom or feel God, our hearts are cold to the warmth of his light and love. It’s dire and it’s dirty. This is the worst news.
If the bad news is disparagingly bad, then the good news is infinitely better: “...but now you are light in the Lord!” Did you hear that!?!? Somehow, we who were in every way dark, are now light. This is the best news! It’s too wonderful! We don’t just bask in the light or benefit from it’s warmth; we’ve been internally transformed into light. Our once dark minds are now illuminated, our dingy souls purified, and our cold dead hearts are warm and pulsing with life. The change could not be more drastic. But how is it possible? The answer is in this little clause:
“...in the Lord.”
“...you are light in the Lord.” Our verse tells us that because we are now “in the Lord” we are light. But what does that little phrase “in the Lord” mean? Well, it certainly doesn’t mean that we’re literally, physically inside of the Lord; it must mean something symbolic. For those familiar with the New Testament, this phrase will ring a bell. Paul, who wrote Ephesians uses “in Christ”, “in the Lord”, and “in him” 164 times*. That’s a lot. It’s Paul’s short-hand for being a believer in Jesus. And, don’t you love the imagery in that phrase? It’s like we’re so closely aligned with and united to Jesus that we are “in him”. Jesus himself tells us that just like a branch must remain in the vine to live and bear fruit, so we too must “remain in [him]” if we are to have life and bear fruit (John 15:1-8). Paul also says elsewhere, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). When we place our faith in Jesus, this incredible transformation occurs: we are a new creation. We’re no longer dark inside, dead and cold to God, instead we have come alive, we are “light in the Lord”.
But how does that transformation take place, really?
Well, it all comes back to that idea we discussed at the outset: we can’t have the good news without the bad. We absolutely must recognize and identify with the dire truth that we are dark. We cannot merely muzzle the convictions of our consciences and rationalize our wrongs. Instead, we must confess the true dark depths of our hearts. Until we do that, there’s no need for the good news. Why would we need the light when we already believe we are the light? But when we honestly place our darkness before the mercy of Jesus, he enters in. He turns on the light, not to shame us with our dirt and dank, but to bind up our wounds, to purify our souls, and to illuminate our minds. This is the beautiful transformation, the most miraculous, amazing truth! Who is like our Lord, that he would roll up his sleeves and enter into our mess to cleanse our souls, so that we might be “light in the Lord”?
Have you come to grips with the bad news and embraced the good news yet?
If not, what’s holding you back?
If so, what’s your story?
Find time this week to share it with someone who needs to hear it.
*John Stott, “In Christ”, https://www.cslewisinstitute.org/In_Christ_page1
Thanks for reading,
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