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Spiritual Darkness

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Ed Vitagliano Executive Vice-President MORE

Spiritual Darkness How It Operates; How It’s Cured

Our nation is clearly deteriorating as moral darkness threatens to overwhelm diminishing spiritual protections. Moreover, nowhere is safe from this spiritual darkness; it’s no longer solely inhabiting larger cities; it’s next door in small town and rural America.

The Bible explains how this happens, because as it turns out, wickedness has a nature: There is a pattern manifested by evil when it takes root and then spreads.

Darkness is drawn to darkness

It says in James 3:16 that “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” We have in this verse the formation of an interesting principle regarding sin: Spiritual darkness draws more darkness to itself.

James says sin produces and/or attracts two things. The first is “disorder,” a word that sometimes refers to political unrest like revolts, rebellions, and riots (Luke 21:9; 2 Corinthians 6:5); sometimes it simply refers to spiritual confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). James is saying sin brings chaos and turmoil into an individual’s life.

However, jealousy and selfish ambition don’t just produce and attract more jealousy and selfish ambition. They don’t just bring more of the same. According to James, these sins draw “every evil thing.” When a person or a church fails to deal with two sins, greater darkness is sure to follow.

This is true for the individual life as well as the collective life - i.e., wherever individuals create a collective existence. Therefore, James isn’t just issuing a warning for the individual Christian but also the Christian marriage, family, church, and the community. Wherever sin exists, it draws every evil thing.

A stubborn demon

That the power of darkness grows and expands in a person’s life is highlighted in a terrifying way when Jesus teaches on demons. In Matthew 12:43-45, Jesus begins by talking about the removal of darkness from a man’s life, “when the unclean spirit goes out of a man.”

We aren’t told why the demon left, only that it did. Perhaps the demon was driven out by exorcism, or perhaps this man closed some spiritual door by which demonic influence had entered in the first place. Once the demon left the life of this (hypothetical) man, his life begins to return to some sense of normalcy. This is represented by the metaphor of a house that is now “swept” and “put in order” (vs. 44).

From the outside, everything looks OK, but as we quickly learn, looks can be deceiving. The man’s life is outwardly orderly but devoid of true godliness. This is similar to Jesus’s rebuke to the Pharisees - they are “whitewashed tombs” that are actually filled with death and decay (Matthew 23:27-28).

Since demons apparently do not like to wander, this one returns to the original place from which it was expelled or banished. Darkness returns because it is a stubborn thing.

Deepening darkness

In Jesus’s teaching, the return of the demon brings an exponential increase of evil: it is not just one plus one - i.e., one demon bringing one more; it is one demon bringing seven more (a quantitative increase), and those demons are “more wicked than itself” (a qualitative increase).

There is a deepening of darkness as the demons re-enter the man’s life “and live there” (vs. 45). How horrifying! Was there darkness before? It is now much, much worse. This is what sin always does in the life of a sinner.

Paul teaches the same thing elsewhere. He warns, “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). Why do evil men go from bad to worse? Why don’t they go from bad to better? Because once a person willingly steps on the path of sin, evil reinforcements are coming. To Paul’s point, evil men deceive others and are also deceived even more; it is a reinforcing loop of wickedness.

The same terrifying portrait is painted in Romans 1:18-23, where culturally the idolatry of a people leads to a downward death spiral - a further darkening of the mind, producing increased rebellion, leading to depraved minds and depraved behavior.

This is why Jesus states that, when the demon returns with more and worse demons, “the last state of that man becomes worse than the first” (Matthew 12:45).

A generation engulfed by darkness

In stunning fashion, Jesus concludes His teaching by applying this principle to corporate existence as well: “That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”

In other words, what is true of the individual is true of the community - for what is a community but a collection of individuals? Therefore, a house that is “swept” and “put in order” represents a society that is outwardly orderly but devoid of true godliness. In America, for example, we have “In God We Trust” on our money; we recite the words, “one nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance; and many of our national monuments have Scripture engraved on them!

But those things do not necessarily represent true godliness, do they? Instead, what do we see in our nation? We see sin drawing to itself more and deeper forms of darkness. We see evil men becoming worse and worse. We see a spiritual death spiral unfolding before our very eyes.

Escaping darkness

How does an individual escape this destructive pattern? How does a society - a collection of individuals - escape this pattern of decay and destruction?

We begin by asking: Why was the demon able to return to the man’s life  - i.e., the house that was swept and put in order?

It was because the house was “unoccupied” (vs. 44). The demon is returning to the heart of a man that is not occupied by the Spirit of God. He really is a whitewashed tomb; he is still filled with corruption.

In fact, for the most part, Matthew 12 deals with religious men who refused to repent and submit to Jesus Christ! There is nothing more deadly than the religious fiction of false Christianity  - when someone is outwardly Christian in name only, having a form of godliness while entertaining inward darkness. The plight of such a man, such a nation, will only get worse.

How can we not see our current moral collapse as the result of a mere outward appearance of rightness but a clear internal embrace of evil - all while rejecting Jesus Christ?

The process of sweeping out the garbage and restoring order to the house always begins with repentance and a return to the Savior. There is an inside-outside direction of transformation involved here.

If you get your life right with God, you can then work on your marriage. If you get your marriage right with God, you can then work on your family. If you get your family right with God, you can then work on your church. If you get your church right with God, you can then work on your community.

We will not fix America without this process unfolding in just this way.

You know what we call it? Revival!

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