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Punching Holes In The Darkness

John 1:1-5

John writes: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it”—but the darkness sure does try…John writes: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it”—but the darkness sure does try…

She is a 24 year old ice skater from a middle-class Boston suburb. Her name is Nancy Kerrigan. Since she was six years old, she has dreamed of winning an Olympic gold medal. Over the years, her father has worked two, sometimes three, jobs to keep her in skates and to pay for her training. For the last eighteen years, he has gotten up every morning at 4:30 a.m. to drive his daughter to the ice rink for practice. Her mother lost most of her eyesight to a virus when Nancy was just a baby, and now she has to press her face to a TV monitor so she can see just the barest silhouette of her daughter performing on the ice. Mrs. Kerrigan says: “I never see her hands. I never see her face. I would do anything to see her. There are times when I say, ‘Come here, Nancy, I want to look at you!’ We sit nose to nose and I try to see what everyone else sees, but I can’t.” Of course, what everyone else sees in Nancy Kerrigan is the most accomplished and graceful of our current U.S. figure skaters—a bright and shining light on the ice.

Then a few weeks ago, darkness tried to overcome that light. After she had completed a practice session for the national championships in Detroit and was leaving the ice, suddenly she was attacked by a man who, with a club, delivered a violent blow to her right leg. She crumpled to the floor crying out in pain, and her dreams seemed to crumple with her. We now know that the brutal attack was performed by a “hit man” hired by supporters of another figure skater. The result was not only the injury of a great athlete but also the tarnishing, perhaps forever, of the Olympic ideal of sportsmanship and fair competition.

When I heard what had happened to Nancy Kerrigan, my mind flashed back to what had happened to Monica Seles in Hamburg, Germany just nine months before. Seles was the number one woman tennis player in the world when she was stabbed on the court by a man who wanted to injure her so that his favorite player, Steffi Graff, could become number one in women’s tennis. Monica Seles still has not been able to return to the tennis court, but she did reach out to console and encourage Nancy Kerrigan. Monica Seles said later: “The crimes committed against Nancy Kerrigan and me are no more tragic than what happens to too many innocent victims everyday. My hope is that this kind of terrible incident will cause us to focus and to stop senseless violence against innocent people.”

With that phrase “senseless violence against innocent people” echoing in my brain, I picked up the morning’s newspaper, and discovered that in that one paper there were 3 articles about murders, 4 articles about robberies and rapes, 2 about street gangs, 1 about youth vandalism, 2 about child abuse, 3 about drug dealers, and 2 about hate groups. What’s happening to us? Why is there so much violence today?

  • Some blame it on the breakdown of the family—and it is true that more than half of those convicted of criminal activity—the figure rises to 70% when it comes to juvenile offenders—come from broken homes.
  • Some point the finger at the media. The average child today has watched 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on television before finishing elementary school—and that doesn’t even count the movies.
  • Some blame it on the morally permissive society in which we live. A society where anything goes and everything is permissible is a society where human life is reduced to the lowest common denominator.
  • Some point to the easy availability of guns as the culprit. One out of every six young people today between the ages of 10 and 17 has seen or knows someone who has been shot. Teenagers today are 244% more likely to be injured or killed by guns than they were in 1986.

Here’s the point: There’s a lot of darkness in our world today. Sometimes it seems almost overwhelming. But I must tell you that for all the darkness about us, I am optimistic about our present and our future. Why? Because I am a Christian. I know about the darkness, but I also know about Jesus Christ, “the light of the world.” John writes: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.” The darkness of this world doesn’t stand a chance against Jesus Christ. Darkness cannot drive out darkness—only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate—only love can do that. Jesus Christ attacks evil in its breeding place—the human heart. Thousands of years of experience have proven over and over again that the heart of all human transformation is the transformation of the human heart.

When the noted writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, was a boy, he was sitting in his room one night watching a lamplighter light the street lamps below. His mother came in and asked him what he was doing. He replied: “I’m watching a man punch holes in the darkness.” My beloved, every time we lift up Jesus Christ, every time we let His name cross our lips, every time we stand tall for what he taught, every time we live in His spirit or share His truth with others, we are punching holes in the darkness. Let me be more specific…

First of all, the light of Jesus Christ punches holes in the darkness of ignorance.

A minister friend of mine said something to me recently which jolted me with its insight. He said: “Imagine that you accidentally walked into a dark alley one night, and suddenly you see ten young men walking briskly toward you. Would it affect how you would feel at that moment if you knew that those ten young men were coming from a Bible study?” Surely it would affect the way we would feel because we know that the Bible has within its pages the great keys for healthy, wholesome, and happy living.

Take for example, the Ten Commandments. We don’t break them. They are unbreakable, invincible. When we disobey them, we are the ones who get broken. They are the unshakable, unchanging spiritual laws of God—and they are just as dependable as the law of gravity. Frederick Buechner puts it like this: “If you don’t believe in God’s law, you can always put it to the test just the way if you don’t believe the law of gravity, you can always step out a ten story window.”

In her novel, The Country of the Pointed Firs, Sara Orme Jewett tells about a woman writer who goes to visit a retired sea captain named Elijah Tilly. As the woman approaches the house she notices a number of wooden posts randomly scattered about the property with no discernible order. Each post is painted white and trimmed in yellow to match the old captain’s house. She inquired about those posts. He explained that when he first plowed up the land, he kept snagging his plow and breaking it on the many large rocks hidden just beneath the surface. So he set the posts out to signal where the dangerous rocks were, so he could avoid them in the future.

In a sense, that is what God has done for us with the Ten Commandments. He has switched on the light. He has said: “Look! There are the trouble spots in life. Avoid them at all costs.” The light of our Lord overcomes the darkness of ignorance.

Next, the light of Jesus Christ punches holes in the darkness of prejudice.

A few years ago, President George Bush went to visit a nursing home. He saw an elderly gentleman walking the halls and he went over to the man, shook his hand warmly, and then in a kind and gracious tone asked, “Sir, do you know who I am?” The man replied, “No, but if you ask the nurses they can tell you!”

The point is that we really don’t know people until we know them—until we walk in their shoes. That’s the problem with prejudice. It literally means “to pre-judge”—and it causes all kinds of heartache and pain. But again the light of God helps us. It shows us how to reach out to others with love and respect. If every person would live in the gracious spirit of Jesus Christ, we could have a taste of Heaven right here on Earth.

Back in the 1940’s there was a missionary named Oswald Golter who was sent money by his mission board to come home from North China after ten years of service there. When he arrived at a port in India to await passage home, he found a boat load of refugees housed in a warehouse on the pier. The refugees were not wanted in India and so they were stranded there. It was Christmas time and as Oswald Golter visited among those refugees he said to them: “Merry Christmas! What do you want for Christmas?” They said: “We are not Christians. We don’t believe in Christmas.” The missionary said: “Oh I know that, but what do you want for Christmas?” They finally mentioned some wonderful German pastries they were fond of. So Oswald Golter, the missionary, then scoured the city until he found a bakery that made those particular pastries. He cashed in his ticket home and bought baskets and baskets of those pastries. He took them to the refugees and wished them a Merry Christmas. When later he told that story, a student said: “But sir, why did you do that for them? They don’t even believe in Jesus.” “I know,” the missionary replied, “but I do.” The light of our Lord overcomes the darkness of prejudice.

And the light of Jesus Christ punches holes in the darkness of sin.

The great preacher, Dr. Edgar DeWitt Jones, was preaching at a revival and when he gave the invitation, a huge burly man came hurrying down the aisle. He was obviously moved with deep emotion. Big tears were streaming down his cheeks. He marched right up to the front and said to Dr. Jones: “Preacher, you said tonight that God can save anybody no matter who they are or what they have done. I want to believe that. I want Him to save me. But I want you to know that I’ve done it all. I’ve broken every single one of the Ten Commandments. I’m a Swedish blacksmith by trade and I have been a terrible sinner. I don’t know whether God can help me or not.” Dr. Jones then reached out and took hold of the man’s massive hand, looked deep into that eager face and said: “My friend, you are in luck. God is specializing in Swedish blacksmiths tonight!”

To everyone within the sound of my voice, I want to say something to you with all the feeling I have in my heart. I don’t know what your sin is. Maybe it’s something so overt and obvious that everyone knows about it. Or maybe it’s some secret sin that no one knows about. But whatever it is, God is specializing in you today! He is the Great Physician, and He can bring healing where it hurts. He is the Good Shepherd, and He wants to welcome you into His flock! He is the Light of the World, and His light can overcome any darkness. But we have to do our part. We have to come to Him in faith, trust, and commitment. When we do, He will welcome us with open arms and He will light up our lives.

Well…

One of the great heroes of the early Christian church was a man named Cyprian. He was born in Carthage in North Africa…not converted until he was in middle age…lived so faithfully that ultimately he was elected the Bishop of Carthage…arrested by the Roman authorities…threatened with death if he did not renounce his Christ…stood firm on his faith…went, with a song on his lips, to the arms of his Savior. The day before he was executed, he wrote these words:

“If I could stand on a high mountain and look out over all the wide lands, you know what I would see: brigands on the high roads, pirates on the seas, men being murdered in amphitheaters to please applauding crowds, selfishness and cruelty, misery and despair under every roof, darkness everywhere. It is a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But in the midst of it, I have found the quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They are despised and they are persecuted, but they care not. They live in the light, and they will overcome the world. These people are called Christians—and I am one of them!”

My friends, there is darkness in this world. It is a bad world, sometimes an incredibly bad world. There is darkness everywhere. But there is also light—the light of Jesus Christ. And no darkness, however dark, can ever put out that light…

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