The Spirituality of Jesus, Part 2: “Awakenings”
52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”
Luke 22:52–53 (NIV)
The unspeakable tragedy perpetuated by one man in Las Vegas on 22,000 concertgoers from the 32nd-floor of his hotel room on October 1, 2017, left most Americans stunned and bewildered. For those near and far, it was as if we were watching and listening to the final witness testifying to the fact that darkness is rising.
Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal describes her response to the Las Vegas shooting with a horror reflective of this rising darkness.
“And here is the horror for me of Las Vegas: I was not shattered. That shatters me. It was just another terrible story. It is not the new normal it is the new abnormal and deep down we know it’s not going to stop. There is too much instability in our country, too much rage and lovelessness, too many weapons.”
Ms. Noonan describes the emotional fatigue setting in on our country. The corrosive gauntlet of negativity filling the airwaves and social media is wearing us down, filling us with fear, burdening us with anxiety, all the while eroding our ability to have conversations with our neighbors. There is a very real danger that we will accept this “new abnormal.” This is the effect when darkness rises, it wears us down until we accept it as unstoppable, even inevitable.
The additional danger in the rising of darkness is that, while some grow weary, others become afraid. Noonan addresses this in her description of why she thinks people own so many guns.
“I think a lot of Americans have guns because they’re fearful—and for damn good reason. They fear a coming chaos, and know that when it happens it will be coming to a nation that no longer coheres. They think it’s all collapsing—our society, our culture, the baseline competence of our leadership class. They see the cultural infrastructure giving way—illegitimacy, abused children, neglect, racial tensions, kids on opioids staring at screens—and, unlike their cultural superiors, they understand the implications.”
Peggy Noonan, The Culture of Death—and Disdain
Agree or disagree with her conclusions, what should be clear to each one of us is we are living in a time of fear-inducing chaos, a time when darkness is rising.
The city writhes in chaos; every home is locked to keep out intruders.
Isaiah 24:10 NLT
Our American culture, which was once the envy of the world seems to be coming apart. This leaves us with a decision – to either passively submit to the darkness or embrace the spirit of those timeless words penned by Dylan Thomas in his poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into The Night”:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
For those of us who choose to “fight the dying of the light,” we should embrace the words of David Brooks without political partisanship, “a new culture will have to be built, new values promulgated and a new social fabric will have to be woven, one that brings the different planets back into relation with one another.” This means the people of the light cannot grow numb to the darkness. We must embrace our responsibility to God as well as to our neighbors to bring the light.
How do we do this? Simply put, we must learn about and live the Spirituality of Jesus. This will require each one of us to experience a spiritual awakening, and become spiritually aware and active, so our lives radiate with the hope filled light of God and overcome the darkness. Let’s begin by examining what it takes to experience a spiritual awakening.
Experience Your Spiritual Awakening
9 For the fruit of the light is all that is good, right, and true. 10 Make it your aim to learn what pleases our Lord. 11 Don’t get involved with the fruitless works of darkness; instead, expose them to the light of God. 12 You see, it’s a disgrace to speak of their secrets (so don’t even talk about what they do when no one is looking). 13-14 When the light shines, it exposes even the dark and shadowy things and turns them into pure reflections of light. This is why they sing, Awake, you sleeper! Rise from your grave, And the Anointed One will shine on you.
Ephesians 5:9-14 (Voice)
Ephesians 5:9-14 is a roadmap to experiencing a spiritual awakening. There are three decisions we must make.
Define the Conflict
Ephesians 5:7 says the “fruit of the light is all that is good, right, and true. When we are in the light we are doing what is good, right, and true. Based on this definition of the light, its opposite or darkness would be defined as evil, wrong, and false. It is impossible to have a spiritual awakening unless we identify the forces in conflict or at war with each other, and then choose a side.
Choose a Side
Ephesians 5:10-11 calls on each one of us to choose the light by making it our “aim to learn what pleases the Lord.” The decision we are to make in choosing the side of the light is to not “get involved with the fruitless works of darkness.” Simply put, when we choose the side of the light we make every effort to resist the darkness or sin. No resistance to sin is a choice to be on the side of darkness. There can be no spiritual awakening if we refuse to choose the side of the light, because choosing the darkness keeps us “asleep”. (Romans 13:11-14)
Start to Fight
Ephesians 5:13-14 teaches us that our spiritual awakening begins when we rise from our spiritual grave, the spiritual dullness caused by unresisted and unconquered sin. This spiritual dullness makes us slow to learn, and will eventually put us into a spiritual sleep (Hebrews 5:11-14, I Corinthians 11:30). When Ephesians 5:13-14 says, “Awake you sleeper,” it is calling on us to “rise from our graves,” something we do by exposing the darkness. This means exposing sin and dark activity in our lives, helping others expose the darkness in their lives, and together with them shining the light of God’s love. When we let this light shine through our lives, we will drive out the destructive and debilitating darkness responsible for so much pain in so many lives.
Once you have completed your spiritual awakening, the next step is to increase your spiritual awareness, which is covered in part 3. Until then, reflect on these questions to increase the spirituality of your thinking, and speed your awakening:
- How do you see the darkness rising in your life and community?
- When you examine your life, do you see yourself passively submitting to the darkness or fighting the dying of the light?
- What specific forces of darkness and light do you see in conflict in your life?
- How do you feel about this phrase, “No resistance to sin is a choice to be on the side of darkness.” Do you agree or disagree?
- How would you describe your level of resistance to sin?
- What can you do to “rise from your spiritual grave” or overcome any areas of “spiritual dullness” in your life? If you believe you are spiritually alive and well, sharp and aware, then what can you do to help those who are not?