Friday, March 18, 2011

Escaping the Dark Side

“Luke. I am your Father!”

What chilling words. For those of you who have seen the Star Wars movies (I’m guessing that includes almost everyone) you know that they’re the words of Darth Vader, telling Luke what he least wanted to hear.

In John 8:44, Jesus said to the Jews, “You belong to your Father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Creepy. Sound “Vader-esque” to you? The main difference is that this enemy, although he was good at one time, isn’t going to suddenly find his inner good and save you from the emperor. “There is no truth in him.”

I can hear the Jews screaming “NOOOO! That’s not possible!” They were enraged at the accusation that they, God’s chosen people, were children of the devil. But it was the truth.

As a matter of fact, all of us start out belonging to the devil. See, a lot of times we think of our life as beginning in the middle, with a choice to either follow the good side or the dark side. But that’s not actually the case. We are born into sin, and that means we start out on the negative side of zero. As Jesus said, “ . . . whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only son” (John 3:18b).

David knew he was born into the Dark Side: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51). Paul confirms this in the New Testament, saying “ . . . all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Everyone starts out on the Dark Side. In the hole. At negative infinity.

Hopefully, you’ve read John Bunyan’s classic allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress. In this story, a young man, Christian, makes an epic journey to get to the Celestial City, heaven. He doesn’t begin halfway between heaven and hell. He begins in the City of Destruction, a place facing imminent wrath and destruction. A man named Evangelist tells Christian that if he stays put, he will surely be destroyed. As Christian makes his journey, there are pitfalls and “shortcuts to hell” all along the path. So many forces are working to hinder or deter him from his destination. But Christian, though he struggles and fails at times, makes choices that keep him going toward his goal. Because of this, he receives the ultimate prize: Standing before his Lord in the glory of heaven and hearing the most precious words in all eternity: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

We start out, like Christian did, scheduled for destruction. We’re already on death row.

Is there any hope? How do we escape the clutches of the Dark Side?

First of all, we have to die. Just as Christ died. A paraphrase of Romans 6:6 says, “Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life!” All we have to do is accept it. (And if you haven’t yet, please contact me, a pastor, or a strong Christian you know and they can help you accept Christ today!)

But even after salvation, we’re in danger of making choices that turn us back to the Dark Side. As Paul said, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him.” (Colossians 2:6). That means every day, we continue to “put to death” our old self and give life to our new self in Christ.

You see, it’s all about choices.

C. S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “ . . . every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before . . . The mark which the action leaves on that tiny central self which no one sees in this life . . . each of us will have to endure—or enjoy—forever.”

Every choice we make, every moment of our lives, is either leading us back toward the life we came from, or onward to the “Celestial City.”

Every time you entertain thoughts of anger, it’s leading you back toward the malice Christ died to save you from. “Anger leads to hate. Hate…leads to suffering.” You’re changing into a hateful person.

Every time you allow yourself to look at something you shouldn’t, you’re training your eyes to keep doing it. You’re changing into someone with unguarded eyes.

Every time you allow hurtful words out of your mouth, you’re changing into someone who says hurtful things.

Every time you choose darkness over light, wrong over right, sin over righteousness, you are choosing to turn around and walk back towards the city of Destruction. You’re returning to the Dark Side—to who you were when you lived there.

The good news is, it works both ways. Paul says, “ . . . live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16).

Every time the alcoholic refuses the drink, every time the porn addict decides not to click, every time you chase away the thought of lust, anger, pride, selfishness, or greed that pops into your mind, you are shaping who you are; you are becoming a child of the light. “For you were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord. LIVE AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT!” (Ephesians 5:8).

Who are you becoming? Are you choosing to live as a child of light, or are you making choices that have turned you back toward the Dark Side?

As Yoda might say,
“Mrmmm . . . up to you, it is.”

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