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The Darkness Within - Ash Wednesday 2018

February 14, 2018 Pastor: Rev. Lloyd Gross

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A dark age is coming upon us. The clear daylight that shone over the West in the Age of Christendom is coming to an end. It is unlikely that any of us will see it in our world again. While the Progressivists parade around celebrating the “glory of mankind,” we who know what it really is watch with foreboding. The sinful rebellion against God that began in Eden, was set back by Jesus and the New Testament, then broke out violently in the Renaissance is on the march once more. The darkness is overtaking everything around. This Lent we will consider the three chief assaults of the darkness. First, there is the darkness within us. Then there are three phases of the darkness around us. Finally, we will examine two phases of the darkness from Hell.

We all have the darkness within us. We were born with it. You may be a wonderful neighbor, a decent spouse, a good parent, and a hard worker, but unless you have the Spirit of God you cannot be part of the light. Studying the Ten Commandments is no help. God’s Law is already written on your heart. But whatever is born of the flesh is flesh. Whatever is flesh serves the darkness.

This darkness comes in many different shades. Some people think only about material things, so with them the flesh is obvious. But sinful human nature can be very subtle. It can turn the life of the mind, the pursuit of intellectual truth, into idolatry. It can disrupt human relations, even alienating spouse and children. The problem is pride. Pride will not back down. It is the depth of the darkness within us. It is the most enduring form of self-love. It resists the Holy Spirit.

In our day the darkness within has opened a new product line called “self-esteem.” It’s the same old resistance against the Holy Spirit but wearing different clothes. Every merit we assign to ourselves we steal from God. The Collect for Ash Wednesday was written to help us overcome self-esteem. It reminds us that we are sinners, helpless in the battle against the darkness. It also assures us that Jesus offers “perfect remission and forgiveness.” When we come to God in repentance, remember to repent of your self-esteem. God will forgive it, because in Jesus He redeemed you from it.

By nature we are darkness, but in Christ we have a choice about it. Jesus has made us holy, washed in the washing of regeneration, filled with grace that serves God by holy works. Let no one doubt that such things are pure light. In Jesus there is no darkness at all. We also have the Old Adam, part of the darkness that will not go away. Only when we die can we shake off the residue of darkness that clings to us. But we do not have to choose it. We have come together this evening because we want less darkness and more light. We want more holy desires, more holy works, more purified speech.

So pay attention to St. Paul when he says that Jesus came “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” The likeness is not the reality. Jesus had no sin, but He did have flesh. He assumed a human body and a human soul in order to redeem us completely. He was mortal, human, acquainted with all the suffering and sorrow that sin brought into the world. He lived in the darkness, but He was the Light. The Lamb remained spotless so He could make the perfect sacrifice. Whatever of the light we see in the world has Him as its source.

Perhaps we have heard this so often that we no longer find it moving. We appreciate the story as we would a Beethoven symphony, or a Shakespearean tragedy. That’s what the darkness within can do to the Holy Gospel. The Holy Spirit brings us beyond that. He captures our judgment as well, so that we are convinced that we have been redeemed. Then what? Where are the tears and the laughter? They come from grateful hearts, fully aware that Jesus has lightened the darkness within us. Yes, we are wretches, but we are redeemed wretches. The Light has come to us, shined upon us, and although the darkness assaulted it with all of its might, it could not overcome it. AMEN.