By: Drew Taylor
Darkness. That is the best description of what I felt as I walked through the seven-story mall in downtown Bangkok, Thailand on a Saturday afternoon in mid-June. Off for the afternoon while serving on a mission trip, our team headed to the mall to experience big-city life in the Far East. In the MBK Center, hundreds of people crammed the walkways, millions of lights flickered across stores that advertised cellphones, videogames, clothes, candy, and much more. Despite all the business, all I felt was an overwhelming sense of darkness. Half-way across the world, in one of the most prominent cities in the eastern-half of planet earth, I encountered many, many people who did not have a first love. David, in 2nd Samuel 22:29 acknowledges God with the praise, “You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” In a spiritually dark place like Thailand, the feeling of darkness will pursue you aggressively. In America, the same darkness creeps in much more subtly.
We are living in a spiritually dark time in a spiritually dark country. The “already” of Jesus Christ’s inauguration of God’s kingdom through his life, death, and resurrection is over-shadowed by the “not-yet” of God’s kingdom on Earth failing to be fully present until Christ’s return. I am consistently guilty of falling on both sides of this pendulum. I’m either not accepting God’s grace while trying to righteously work for a righteous status with God through “ministry,” or I accept his grace cheaply, viewing it as license to sin and violate God’s holy law. Lately, it has been much of the former. While I have accepted the grace Paul talks about in Ephesians 2:8-9, I fail to accept the second half of the verse “not by works so that no man can boast.” Failing to live out of this grace and falling back into works based righteousness, I cheapen the work of Christ while attempting to increase my own feeble efforts. Maybe this is you… If so, you are not alone, you are merely hiding amongst the shadows of your own darkness rather than in the truth of God’s light provided by his daily grace. Jesus’ disciple, John, paints this picture beautifully in 1st John 1:5-6, when he states that “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.”
For me, it’s about failing to hold on to my first love. By loving myself first rather than God, I worship the idol of self, much like the Israelites loved the idols they had created to worship instead of God. This is communicated in Hosea 2:7, which compares the Israelites to a cheating wife. The verse states- “She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.”
Those people in the mega-mall in Bangkok did not have the Lord as a lamp, and despite being surrounded by people, wealth, and entertainment, lived dependent on themselves and thus in utter darkness. Sadly, many of us who know Christ and have experienced his light will often revert back to the darkness of worshipping an idol, worshipping self. When living as dependent children of God, we live as we were created to live… In the light. Fully alive. In love with our first love.Drew Taylor
RTS Orlando MDiv Student (3rd year)
Pastoral Intern at Willow Creek Church (PCA)