I was reading a book recently in which someone described a particular day as the most important in his life, because it was the day when he was inducted into the Army. On that day he began a career that spanned three major wars, and changed the course of his life forever. I too have a day on which my life changed forever, but the critical event of that day didn't happen in an recruiting center, but in a car on a highway in 1993.
Before I try to explain what happened on that day, I first want to quote from the Apostle Paul's letter to the churches in Ephesus. He wrote these words almost 2000 years ago to Christian converts from paganism in a city in Asia minor that no longer exists. At the beginning of that day I mentioned in 1993, I was a pagan and not a Christian, and so I probably wouldn't have considered these words of any particular importance, or in any way applicable to me, but after that day, they always would be.
Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),
10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather exposethem.
12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.
13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.
14 Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light."
I never realized how dark my own heart was until the light of Christ shined upon it and exposed all of my sin and corruption. Even today, I remember it very clearly, I was driving to work one morning, I had just crossed the Virginia/Maryland state line. At that moment I was listening to Christian radio – not that I was Christian at that point. But I'd started listening to it for some reason, I was intrigued by what I heard, drawn irresistibly towards the message. And so at that moment I was listening to a Christian pastor by the name of Chuck Swindol. He was talking about human depravity and our inability to save ourselves. And I remember this sudden feeling of pain and shock – it was literally like that feeling you get when someone tells you about something earthshattering like the death of a loved one – when I realized that I was the person that Swindol was talking about. It was my heart that was dark and stony!
I had spent my entire life assuring myself that I was a good guy, a nice person, and that deep down inside me was a heart of gold. Then came that moment when that piercing light of God's word was directed at my heart, and I saw to my horror, that that heart of Gold I was so smug about, was dark and rotten to the core. I saw the self-serving lies, the idolatry, the hate, the selfishness, the filthiness, the laziness, the indolence, the lust. All of those things, that I had cherished, bubbling away in there, safely concealed under the cover of darkened and twisted perceptions and a seared conscience. I knew in that moment, that what Swindol was preaching from the Bible was true - evil wasn't something alien to me. It wasn't something out there in the world that I had to deal with, it was something in here, something that was right at home in me. I was darkness, and in me, there was no light at all.
I realized too that there was no way I could possibly stand, weighed down as I was with the encumbering baggage of so many sins, in the presence of a Holy God. I knew all too well that if I had been called to give account before my Creator, far from claiming I'd tried to live a good life, my mouth would have been shut, and I would have had no righteousness of my own to acquit me. I stood already justly condemned.
And so I remember pulling over, tears streaming down my cheeks, and when Swindol encouraged his listeners to turn to Jesus in faith, and ask him to forgive their sins and come into their hearts, I prayed as I never had before. Finally, the question that I had been asking since my wife-to-be had made it an issue was answered, namely "What's the Big Deal about Jesus, why is He so important to you?"
I suddenly realized that HE IS THE LIGHT, and that in a world that had become dark because of human sin and the fall, only he could take away those "Hearts of Darkness" that we are all born with. If there was to be any light in me at all, it would have to be His light. On that day, Christ removed the darkness that I had been filled with and replaced it with His marvelous light. I tell you the truth when I say that every day of my life since that day has been different because of that. I am fully assured that not only my life, but what happens after I die will be very different because of it.
But what about you? Have you been brought to that point in your life, where you finally saw that you were darkness, and that only in Christ was there light? Most people don't even want to consider that question. We live in a world of "I'm alright Jack", a world where instead of embracing the light we love the darkness. Most people view the world through sin darkened eyes, and it's because of this that we don't realize how dark it really is. So, if you even begin to perceive the darkness of your own heart, it’s a sign of God's grace to you.
My experience is by no means singular. Every true Christian has gone through the process of being brought from death to life, from darkness to light. That is why Paul can declare so matter-of-factly you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. In fact, Paul made it clear that if your reaction to all of this, is an indignant "speak for yourself. I'm not darkness, and I never have been!" then the light of Christ has never shone in your heart. The fish that live in the deepest parts of the ocean, probably don't perceive the darkness as darkness either. They've never know anything but darkness. What then is light to them? If you don't perceive the darkness, it's because you've never known the light.
Jesus Christ is the light, He is the light of the World and he has come to bring you into the light; Jesus says in John 8:12 "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." And again in John 12:46 "I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness."
Those whom Christ redeems partake of His light, they forever become "light in the Lord."