Here is our main problem: we prefer darkness to light:
Yesterday I spoke to a group of people at a church about the dangers of cultural Marxism. During the Q&A one fellow asked what the endgame of all this was. I replied by saying that there are two answers that can be given. First, the end being sought by all Marxists is of course the classless society, one in which private property and capitalism no longer exists, and a ‘socialist utopia’ comes about. Dream on.
But secondly – and more importantly, because it deals with the bigger picture – the end is what Satan exists for: he seeks to steal, kill and destroy, as Jesus said in John 10:10. The cultural Marxist war on faith, family and freedom is at bottom a spiritual campaign instigated and led by Satan himself.
Everything God loves and values Satan hates. So if God loves and values the sanctity of life, the institutions of marriage and family, and so on, then Satan hates these things. And he has plenty of his minions carrying out his hatred and warfare on God’s people.
In other words, there is real evil in the world, and there are people fully committed to real evil. I told my audience yesterday that evil people exist who really do hate Christianity, Christians, and everything that we hold near and dear. We dare not be naïve about the reality of evil, and those who are fully committed to it.
But sadly, far too many Christians ARE naïve and clueless about the reality of Satan, of evil, and of the fact that we are in an all-out war. The spiritual war that is taking place all around us is of course manifest at all levels: social, political, ideological, moral, cultural, and so on.
In the light of all this, let me point out this sad fact: One of the great problems of the Christian church today is that everyone knows John 3:16 by heart and can easily recite it anytime, anywhere. But the great majority of Christians do NOT know what the very next five verses say.
To fully be aware of verse 16 while not having a clue what the following verses say is much like a five-year-old knowing how to put a key in the car’s ignition, stepping on the gas, but not knowing what to do next. Nothing but trouble can come of that.
While we can all rejoice in the truth of John 3:16, that God does love us enough to send his only Son to rescue us from sin and self, it becomes a half truth when divorced from the verses that immediately follow. Indeed, it becomes a real distortion of biblical reality.
So let me present to you the entire passage, John 3:16-21:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.
The same gospel that speaks of God’s love for mankind also speaks about God’s wrath and just judgment on those who refuse his offer of reconciliation and forgiveness. There is salvation for the one, but condemnation for the other. Both truths must always be affirmed together.
And note that my title comes from John 3:19: “people loved the darkness rather than the light”. Until we get this vital truth into our heads, we will forever be impotent in understanding and dealing with evil, and we will never be well-placed in the spiritual and cultural wars that everywhere exist.
As long as we foolishly believe that people are basically nice, that everyone is really a good guy, and God is quite happy with us all just as we are, we will be of no use for Christ and the Kingdom. Only a fully biblical view of mankind will suffice.
And that view is quite straightforward: while we are all created in God’s image, and therefore of great worth and value, we are also all fallen, and therefore are all grotesquely sinful, evil and selfish. The difference between you and me and a Hitler or a Stalin is only one of degree, not essence.
Those two tyrants gave full vent to their sinful and fallen condition. They were evil men who did evil things, because they preferred darkness to light. But all of us likewise prefer darkness to light. That is our default position, and only the miraculous work of conversion can change us from evil and selfish sinners, to saved and holy saints.
Let me offer a bit of commentary here on this text from John 3. I will make use of just one source here: Martyn Lloyd-Jones, drawing upon two of his important works. The first comes from his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Commenting on Matthew 5:14 he says this:
When you come back to the great basic and fundamental problems of life and living, of being and existence, is it not obvious that our Lord’s statement is still true, that the world is in a state of terrible darkness? Think of it in the realm of personal life and conduct and behaviour. There are many men with great knowledge in many departments of thought who are just tragic failures in their own personal lives. Look at it in the realm of relationships between person and person. At the very time when we have been boasting of our enlightenment and knowledge and understanding, there is this tragic breakdown in personal relationships. It is one of the major moral and social problems of society. Observe how we have multiplied our institutions and organizations. We have to give instruction now concerning things about which people were never instructed in the past. For instance, we now have to have Marriage Guidance classes. Up to this century men and women were married without this expert advice which now seems to be so essential. It all proclaims very eloquently that as regards the great momentous questions of how to live, how to avoid evil, and sin, and all that is base and unworthy, how to be clean, and straight, and pure, and chaste, and wholesome, there is gross darkness. Then, as you come up the scale and look at the relationships between group and group, there is obviously again the same condition and so we have these great industrial and economic problems. On a still higher level, look at the relationships between nation and nation. This century, of all centuries, when we talk so much about our knowledge and enlightenment, is proving that the world is in a state of unutterable darkness with regard to these vital and fundamental problems.
We must go even further than that, however. Our Lord not only pronounces that the world is in a state of darkness, He goes so far as to say that nobody but a Christian can give any helpful advice, knowledge or instruction with respect to it. That is our proud claim and boast as Christian people. The greatest thinkers and philosophers are completely baffled at this present time and I could easily give you many quotations from their writings to prove that. I care not where you look in the realm of pure science or philosophy with regard to these ultimate questions; the writers are completely at a loss to explain or understand their own century. This is because their controlling theory was that all man needed was more knowledge. They believed that if man had knowledge he would inevitably apply it to the solution of his difficulties. But, patently, man is not doing that. He has the knowledge, but he is not applying it; and that is exactly where the “thinkers” are baffled. They do not understand the real problem of man; they are not able to tell us what is responsible for the present state of the world, and still less, therefore, are they able to tell us what can be done about it.
I remember some years ago, reading a review by a well-known teacher of philosophy in this country of a book which was meant to deal with these problems. He put it very significantly like this. “This book as regards analysis is very good, but it does not go beyond analysis and therefore it does not help. We can all analyse, but the vital question we want answered is, What is the ultimate source of the trouble? What can be done about it? There it has nothing to say,” he said, “though it bears the imposing title of The Condition of Man.” Now that is very true. You can turn today to the greatest philosophers and thinkers and again and again you will find they will never take you beyond analysis. They are very good at laying out the problem and showing the various factors which operate. But when you ask them what is ultimately responsible for this, and what they propose to do, they just leave you unanswered. Clearly they have nothing to say. There is obviously no light at all in this world apart from the light that is provided by Christian people and the Christian faith. That is no exaggeration. I am suggesting that if we want to be realistic we just have to face that, and realize that when our Lord spoke, nearly two thousand years ago, He not only spoke the simple, startling truth about His own age, but He also spoke the truth with regard to every subsequent age. Let us never forget that Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, and the rest, had given their full teaching several centuries before these words were uttered. It was after that amazing flowering of the mind and the intellect that our Lord made this statement. He looked at this band of ordinary, insignificant people and said, “You and you alone are the light of the world.” Now this is a tremendous and most thrilling statement; and I would say again that there are many respects in which I thank God that I am preaching this gospel today and not a hundred years ago. If I had made that statement a hundred years ago people would have smiled, but they do not smile today. History itself is now proving, more and more, the truth of the gospel. The darkness of the world has never been more evident than it is now, and here comes this astonishing and startling statement.
Secondly, let me quote from a series of sermons he preached on Galatians 6:14 back in 1963. Published in book form as The Cross, he said this in part:
If you want to know what this world is like, look what it did to him. There was the Son of God. He had left the throne of heaven, he had come and humbled himself, and he gave himself to healing people, and to instructing them. He never did anyone any harm. He went about doing good. What was the response of the world? It hated him, it persecuted him, it rejected him. It chose a murderer before him. It crucified him, it killed him. And there on the cross he exposed the world for what it is. And the clever men of the world today are laughing at the cross, they are mocking it, they are jeering at it, they are making fun of the blood of Christ, and they are trying to ridicule it. They are only doing what their prototypes did in the first century. That is what the world has always done to him.
Yes exactly. Until Christians get a firm grasp on just how God views fallen mankind, we will not be in a position to offer it the necessary hope and help. Unrepentant sinners are in an utterly diabolical and hopeless situation. Only when faced with the stark reality of their situation will the message of the cross make any sense.
As Lloyd-Jones also said, “Superficial views of the work of Christ produce superficial Christian lives.” We can understand the world having a poor view of sin and salvation. But there is no excuse for God’s people to have such an anaemic and unbiblical view.
Do you want to know why the world is in such a mess? Jesus told us 2000 years ago: ‘Men love darkness rather than light.’