Mike Streezy

THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN COME IN DARKNESS

"For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with you." -Psalm 5:4

14 "Do not be [j]bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with [k]Belial, or [l]what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,

'I will dwell in them and walk among them;
And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
17 'Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,' says the Lord.
'And do not touch what is unclean;
And I will welcome you.
18 'And I will be a father to you,
And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,'
Says the Lord Almighty."

-2 Corinthians 6:14-18

I've seen a lot of "false imaging" that seems to come from a misunderstanding about God. What I mean by "false imaging" is that the image of God that a Christian bears in their word and deed does not reflect God, but something else. There could be several reasons why a person does not reflect God. They might range from immaturity to not knowing God personally to worshipping a specific, different God to simply living out the will of a sinful, rebellious heart. There is also a reality that as humans, we have sin (which God does not have) and therefore our reflection will "image" and reflect the value and likeness of God in some ways that are different than the way Jesus did. But Jesus was the perfect image of God and was God in the flesh. The way we image God will also be different than Jesus (in the form of man) as well as different than in the form of spirit without the finiteness (limitations) of man. How? It will have to include dealing with the sins we commit. Let me offer an argument for consideration: repentance of sin is one way we reflect the value of God that God cannot reflect either in a human body without sin or in the spirit state the Father is in. To fail to repent of sin shows the world an entity that bears the physical image of God, but does not walk like God (likeness) and so it is a false image. That is based on the presumption that Man, by the nature of God's creative purpose, is still the image of God regardless of active sin or not. 

GOD CANNOT BE ONE WITH SIN

The false image I want to talk about here is found in the idea of separation for the sake of holiness. I have done it. I've lived on the inside of this process. I know what it feels like. So this has been a process to come out and study God and then eventually see what I had wrong about Him and how things in Scripture worked. It was an issue with my ability to understand how one might come to certain actions in a way I had not thought of because of my limitations in knowledge and experience. I'll try to illustrate this. Let me start with a statement I might have made that I now believe is wrong because of how I thought it had to happen:

God cannot dwell among men because God is holy and holiness can't be around sin, so God had to move man out of the garden and couldn't live with men. Either men had to be destroyed or change or God had to leave. They couldn't be in the same place at the same time. 

Now, on the surface, you might think that statement is true, but let me address the wrong thoughts that were floating around in my mind behind that statement:

1) Holiness flees from sin or immediately destroys it.

2) Holiness cannot come into darkness. Jesus was the light that came into darkness, but he came to find men who would be holy and didn't hang around scoundrels (the Pharisees) who wouldn't repent and become holy.

3) God is patient with sinners, but not when they are face-to-face. He had to make a special way to make men ceremonially holy to come around Him and He still dwelled on a mountain, in a tent (tabernacle) or in the temple until Jesus came. He wasn't happy even though He let men come around Him a few times with these special requirements like sacrifice, ritual cleanliness, etc.

4) God wants Christians to separate from all sin and call others out of darkness with the gospel. We go in (to darkness; the world) to come out (back into little areas of light like our churches and homes).

There's a lot wrong with each of those four statements. Why did I believe these? Basically, I understood verses like those above to mean that 1) God cannot be around sin and 2) the problem for Israel (and mankind in general) was that we are sinners. 3) Since God can't expose Himself to sin, then 4) there has to be a chasm between us.

ONE WITH SIN IS NOT THE SAME AS AROUND SIN

The verses that really changed my mind had to do with the fact that even from the beginning (Genesis 1:2) the Holy Spirit has clearly been able to 1) remain holy and 2) Go into darkness. The same with God. He seems to be able to choose which men He will come around and which ones He will not and no man except Jesus is without sin. That, by implication, means He can clearly come in the presence of sin/darkness/evil, and 1) remain holy and 2) go into darkness. Jesus was the most clear example. He was born out of a sinful body that weened him and pumped food and all human needs into Him. He was raised by human parents in human cities and had human disciples who travelled with Him while He fulfilled prophecies and talking and calling other men to Himself or into judgment. What does that mean? Being in darkness or around sin has no ability to make God less holy or in need to immediately ZAP folks to restore order. Jesus is God. Jesus was a clear picture of patience, self-control, joy, holiness, and love all while in the midst of sin and darkness. None of the disciples would be worthy of the term "holy", but if anything think of walking, eating, and sleeping with Judas every day. This is the dude who is gonna sell you out to be crucified even though you've provided for Him and done miracles in his sight for up to three years. And you know Jesus knew what was up.

Therefore, we can easily say that being around sin is not the same as being one with sin.

LIGHT AND DARK, TRANSFORMATION

So why did God expel Adam and Eve? Why did God dwell in a tabernacle and temple instead of out in the open with men? And why did He require those cleanliness laws and ritual purification to be "ritually holy" to come into His presence.

One word: Love

Genesis 3:22-24 says this: 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.

Point: It was out of love that God would not let man live forever with the knowledge of good and evil. Why? So they wouldn't be like God? No. Because they aren't like God and that can kill you. Hebrews 10 is such an amazing explanation of this reality. I'll use one key verse, but recommend you read and dwell in the whole chapter. Hebrews 10:2 says: Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?The NLT uses a different phrase to explain what Christ's death did: their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. 

Here's the deal, holiness can go into darkness and remain holy. It's not something God has that he wears that  can be stained. Holiness is who God is. He is holy. Holiness is a word that describes the purity of God's character, His heart. Men are not holy. Matter of fact, there really is nothing holy in the created world that does not contain holiness simply because it contains the glory (the Spirit) of God. We reflect the image of holiness, but we lack it in our pre-fall state and post-fall, pre-rebirth state. When God puts His Spirit in us and fuses (binding) it with who we are to create a new creature, we become holy. 

Here's the deal though (yeah, second time I said that), holiness is like light (and is light because it is the presence of the Holy Spirit). Light comes into the darkness and as more and more light is shining, less and less darkness will remain. What is darkness? Scientifically, its the absence of light. In Scripture, it is its own light of sorts (Matthew 6:22-23). Light transforms darkness. What is in the darkness remains. It isn't necessarily changed. Human eyes are just able to see it. Think "all that's done in the dark will be revealed". In Genesis 1, the Spirit hovers over the surface of the deep, over the void, formless world covered in darkness. Then God sends light in and starts separating and shifting and...gardening. The darkness will serve its purpose, but it will never have the ability to be in the same place as light. The earth is then transformed and filled (in order to be filled) and prepared to bring forth life.

So are we. 

JESUS AND ACCURATE REFLECTION OF GOD

Jesus went in to darkness and was unable to be tempted or changed because...God is holy. He can't be tempted. He can't change. This is good. We reflect this reality after we've been separated from the pack and made new when we are sent into the world. We all should be sent into the world at some point barring what could only be some sort of highly abnormal circumstance like death or sickness (or both). We go out, we come in, and we go out again. This is repetitive. We will, by the grace of God, grow in holiness through sanctification (likely filled with falls and failures) to the point that we will be less likely to be tempted or trapped by the sin we see, hear, experience in the world we are sent into to be lights. That means a lot of repentance. That means a lot of forgiving and seeking forgiveness. That means men will likely mock and turn on you. That means that your faith will be tested as you seek to save face, hide guilt, or avoid seeking help in many ways as you see exactly how sinful you are and how easily tempted and deceived you really are. 

I am NOT saying go into strip clubs or places you are out of control. I am saying that you should seek God in His Word, through prayer, and in a community of believers in such a way that you can live in the world and encounter darkness without giving in to it. 

Part of the post-fall process is learning to trust God's character. Before Christ, men had to believe God would send a savior to pay for their sins. They longed to see the day the Christ would come (Matt 13:17). Their faith was invested in the character of God as revealed behind the veil He had come to them in. But now, we know Christ has not only come and died, but has risen and is alive and in power. Our faith is called to rest in the same thing: God will save us, its who He is. He has made a way and He will keep His word. That's a hard process for men who know evil and good and continue to see how evil and unlike God they are. As evil as we know we are, we know God is as good as He really is. We don't know it, but we do. That's why we try to avoid sin and the stains of the world. That's why we do good deeds and try to stay away from bad places and people. 

But that doesn't look like God.

God doesn't stay away. He comes right on in exactly when He wants to and then He transforms everything in His way. Darkness will flee and light will remain. 

See there is a problem with sin and the presence of God. Sin makes it impossible for us to enjoy being around God. It is true that wrath must be poured out against sin, but we won't want to be in His presence due to our guilt and shame. The chasm between us and God is one we create, not necessarily God alone. There is a chasm in difference between God and all created things. His holiness is proof of the difference between God and man. God is good and man is not. But the chasm we see in Scripture is helped to some extent as our hearts flee from God into hiding when His presence arrives. God can be in the presence of sin without "infection". He does not take on the characteristics of what He is around. Whatever is around Him will more likely take on His character...or it will want God gone...or it will flee from God. God's holiness is never at stake. 

LEARN TO REFLECT GOD: AN EXAMPLE OF A REQUEST FOR FORGIVENESS THAT ACCURATELY REFLECTS GOD

Let us learn to reflect this (God's unchanging holiness) about God by going into the darkness (not contracts and business relationships or marriages or covenants) and love people like God has loved us. Let us love them in such a way that anyone who chooses to stay around us will be transformed, not the other way around. And let's do it fully aware that we are weak broken men made of dust that need 1) the Holy Spirit, 2) the Word of God, 3) the gift of prayer, and 4) the blood bought community in order to live daily in the gospel while also taking the gospel to the ends of our world.

When you fall, acknowledge it.

Repent and seek gospel restoration.

Seek forgiveness from those you hurt. Start with God and move to the people you sin against...including (:gasp:) unbelieving sinners (as opposed to believers who sin). Go to them and tell them you see the wrong you did. Ask to reconcile (make up) with them and get back to a good relationship.

Explain the reality of your false example of God and who God is.

That means we might say something like this:

"I'm so sorry for hurting you by ....This is wrong. This is sin. I have not loved you and I have shown you a false image of God.God doesn't support or do...God hates this sin. God hates sin because it does hurt us. He is going to judge it all, including the sin I committed against you. I don't want to sin against you like this ever again, so I am seeking God's help (and maybe a person or group's help) to be accountable for this. Jesus had to come and die for this very sin. I hope you can forgive me."

That's just one example and the situations will vary. I'm not prescribing that response word-for-word.

What's key is:

1. Acknowledging the way you didn't reflect God

2. Why that matters (Love, Sin, God's heart and expectation and desires for us)

3. A heart seeking to restore the relationship 

4. Really turning away (repenting) from the sinful action

5. Sharing the gospel and its implications to some extent.

I believe all of those parts matter.

This is how sinful people reflect the holiness of a sinless God.

If anything, it will likely start a few conversations (in your head and those who witness your response) that can lead to the gospel and hopefully both worship and transformation.

How we deal with sin says just as much as situations where we may not sin when we are expected to.

May God bless your relationships for His glory and your joy.