************ Sermon on John 3:19-21 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on December 23, 2012

John 3:19-21
"Light Has Come Into the World"
Candle Light Service

He left his home after sunset. Under the cover of darkness. Based upon what we are told here and elsewhere, I try to imagine the whole scene (cf Jn 3:2). In my mind, he did this on a night without a moon. He hurried along hoping no one he knew would see him. He had a hood covering his head and shielding his face. He stuck to the shadows. He made detours around any lit up areas. He kept away from the patrols of the Temple guards.

His name was Nicodemus. The person he was visiting that night was Jesus. He had to do it secretly because he feared the Jews and their animosity towards Jesus (cf Jn 19:38).

In many places around the world today this continues to be the experience of Christians. They need to come to the Lord under the cover of darkness. We aren't there yet as a country – but it is not impossible to consider that someday this may be the case.

"This is the verdict," said Jesus to a fearful, trembling Nicodemus. "Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness" (Jn 3:19). So, what is Jesus teaching us in our annual candle-light service?

I Men Love Darkness
A "Men loved darkness." That is what Jesus said to Nicodemus. "Men loved darkness." There are some things in life that love darkness just because it is darkness. Mushrooms and fungi and mold, for instance, love darkness. The Planet Earth TV series shows us species of life that have adapted to live in the darkest and deepest depths of the world's oceans and caves – they also love darkness.

You might know that in some corporations there is even a management style known as "mushroom management." The Dilbert cartoon in the newspaper often pokes fun of this style. In this style of management, a company's staff are treated like mushrooms: kept in the dark and eventually canned. These kind of managers love darkness for its own sake.

B "Men loved darkness ... because their deeds were evil." Most often people love darkness for what it hides. Think of Nicodemus going from house to house under the cover of darkness. Especially, though, it is evil that people want to hide under the cover of darkness. Think of the incest of Lot's daughters in the darkness of the cave (Gen 19). Think of Jesus being arrested and tried under the cover of darkness (Mt 26). Think of Adam and Eve in the Garden – the first thing they did after falling into sin was seek concealment. "Men loved darkness ... because their deeds were evil." Because they want to continue undisturbed in their evil. Because they don't want that evil to face the light of day.

"Men loved darkness ... because their deeds were evil." What kind of deeds are we talking about? I already mentioned incest, the arrest and trial of Jesus, Adam & Eve hiding from God in the Garden. But in more than one place Scripture specifically mentions what we know as the deeds of darkness:
sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, orgies, drunkenness, debauchery, dissension, jealousy
(cf Rom 13:12,13; Eph 5:3,4,11)
Sinners wedded to their lusts love these evil deeds. They want to continue in these deeds. They don't want the light of righteousness or justice or morality to shine on these deeds.

For the Jews, the evil deeds they loved included the dark shadows of their law and the instructions of their blind guides. The Gentiles loved their superstitious service to idol gods.

"Men loved darkness ... because their deeds were evil." These words were not written just for really bad people – like murderers, thieves, rapists, and so on. Any person who fails to be born-again by Christ stays in the darkness where evil thoughts, evil words, and evil actions remain unexposed.

"Men loved darkness ... because their deeds were evil." Fallen man is in love with his sickness, in love with his slavery, in love with the darkness filling his life.

C "Men loved darkness ... because their deeds were evil." You know, of course, that believers commit the same kinds of sins as the man and woman of the world. Think of King David – he was guilty of adultery and murder. Think of Ananias and Sapphira – they wanted to look more generous than they really were. We received evidence this week that this continues to be the case. As the convening consistory for the next meeting of Synod, we received a notice of a law-suit that has named the URC Federation as one of the defendants. The law-suit involves the former pastor of the Pella URC who has been found guilty of sexually preying upon at least four women in the congregation and has received a prison sentence of five years. At his sentencing, the pastor said, "I have a deep, profound, profuse apology ..."

So, what is the difference between believers and unbelievers then? Unbelievers love darkness. Believers hate darkness. Unbelievers pursue the deeds of darkness. Believers fight and resist the deeds of darkness even though they may fall. Unbelievers are not ashamed of the evil that they do and even trumpet it to the world. Believers are filled with remorse and guilt and shame when they do the same deeds.

II Men Hate Light
A Jesus declares that fallen man has a choice between darkness and light. He says, "men loved darkness instead of light." Do you hear that word "instead"? In other words, a decision has been made to love darkness instead of light. But it goes further than this. Jesus also says a decision has been made to "hate the light" (Jn 3:20).

Fallen man loves darkness. Fallen man hates light.

The person who loves darkness rather than light is deceived. Think of an alcoholic who turns down a rehab program that is guaranteed to work because he or she does not want to give up alcohol. He is deceived into remaining in his present lifestyle, enslaved to alcohol, instead of receiving freedom from it. Drug addicts and pornography addicts are similarly deceived. This kind of deception can happen to almost anyone. It can happen to a successful businessman who refuses to commit his life to Christ for fear that he may have to give up time and money and work. It can happen to those who get sucked into sports or work on Sunday instead of God and His worship. Satan is crafty. He is an expert at tricking people out of the spiritual riches and awesome joy that is ours in Christ. As Paul puts it,
(2Cor 4:4) The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Do not be deceived, my brothers and sisters. There is nothing on this earth that is better than knowing Christ and His glory. And, there is nothing worse than being deceived and blinded to the glory of Christ.

B Fallen man hates light, says Jesus. Why? "For fear that his deeds will be exposed." Think of what light means to evil. Light means evil is no longer concealed. Light means there is a higher and better standard than sin and evil. Light means sin is sin and evil is evil regardless of how the world tries to dress it up as good. Light means evil will be punished. Therefore, light means terror to a wicked world.

So, the world does not come into the light. In fact, the world keeps as far from the light as possible (cf Jn 3:20). Or, as Jesus puts it, the world hates the light.

Our text this evening is bad news for the world. Did you notice the first major word used by Jesus? "This is the verdict ..." said Jesus. "Verdict." "Verdict" is a word we hear in the courtroom. Implying something. Implying there is a Judge. Implying there is a trial. Implying there is a judgment. "This is the verdict ..." The witnesses have been heard. The evidence has been weighed. And a verdict has been reached. Yes, there is judgment for those who love darkness. Yes, there is condemnation for those who hate the light. Yes, there is punishment for those who do not want their deeds exposed as evil. This is the verdict.

C Not everyone who does evil hates the light. There are those who do evil who actually welcome the light. Why? Because they repent of their evil and feel sorry for it. Like the tax collector, they cry out to heaven and say, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Every sinner who comes to God in penitence ends up welcoming the light.

Hopefully, you and I are included as the sinners who welcome the light. Of all people, we should be glad to come into the light. Of all people, we should never object when the light shines on the evil in our lives. Of all people, we should be glad to have our sins and shortcomings pointed out to us. Of all people, we should welcome light that leads to repentance and holiness. Of all people, we should want our evil exposed as evil. And, we should want the good in our lives to be seen as the work of God (cf Jn 3:21).

The start to fixing any problem is to shine light on the situation. If I have a sore tooth, for instance, it does no good for my dentist to shine his light on my big toe. Likewise, if I have a funny noise under the hood, it does no good for my mechanic to check my trunk or seatbelts. Likewise, you and I can deal with the problem of sin in our lives only when it is exposed to the light.

God wants you to hate darkness and love light. So, by His grace, come to the light. Let God expose your sin for what it is. By His grace, let Him change you. Over time, you will notice what countless Christians before you have noticed: that you lose your desire for the wicked deeds of darkness and you gain your desire for the things of the light.

III Light has Come into the World
A I have saved the best point for last. Jesus says, "Light has come into the world." Pointing at Himself, this is what Jesus says. "Light has come into the world."

In this season of Advent and Christmas we have been asking the question, Why did Jesus come? Why did the eternal Son of God take to Himself a truly human nature? We have learned:
-He has come to save us from hell.
-He has come as the second Adam.
-He has come as the Messianic prophet.
-He has come as the Messianic king.
-He has come as the Messianic priest.
Now we learn He has also come as the Light.

B "Light has come into the world." And, Jesus is that Light! He is the One Who exposes man's deeds and thoughts and words for what they really are. He is the One Who sheds light on the depravity of our condition.

"Light has come into the world." But men love darkness and hate light. This means man's natural condition is to love Satan. This means man's natural condition is to hate Christ. This means man's natural condition is to keep away from Christ and His Light. No wonder Jesus was hated and reviled and despised and rejected. Darkness wants nothing to do with the Light of Christ.

C "Light has come into the world." I want you to notice this also is God's verdict. "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world." Meaning what? Meaning Jesus the Light has come as God's judgment upon sin and darkness.

Follow me on this. The witnesses have been heard. The evidence has been weighed. The verdict has been pronounced. According to God we all are sinners. We all do the deeds of darkness. We all are guilty. But, if we by grace believe, the punishment falls not on us but on Jesus. If we by grace believe, He takes our place in the darkness.

"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world." Has this Light come into your life? Has He chased away the shadows of your darkness? Do you live and walk in the Light of His presence?

Let's go back to Nicodemus. The story starts with him in darkness. But it doesn't end there. He met the Light Who is Christ. So how does his story end? He is no longer hiding under the cover of darkness. In front of the world, in front of the Jews, He helps to take Jesus' body down from the cross. He lovingly prepares Jesus' body for burial (cf John 19). Nicodemus was exposed to the Light and came out of the darkness.

Jesus is like a magnet. His people are drawn to Him and welcome His revelation. Though the Light rebukes their sin, they respond in repentance and faith.

By grace, is this your experience as well? Does Christ shine in your life? Has He changed your life?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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