Some months ago, Oliver talked about words beginning with the letter D. I’m not sure if he fully appreciated the significance, but to a mathematician the letter D, or Delta in Greek, is the symbol for change.
The biblical word “repent” means to change – to change one’s heart, mind, thought and views towards sin and righteousness. We are brought to life by the Holy Spirit and then consciously turn to God in repentance and faith.
There have been many periods of disappointing depths of darkness in my life that I’ve never really understood and sadly I didn’t sense the Divine presence of the Lord beside me.
As it says in John 1:5 (NKJV); “And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
There are several words beginning with the letter D that have and will have a major impact on my life. These and other signs have directed me to be standing here before our Lord and you, searching for the gift of salvation that has led me to repent my sins, changing my beliefs and faith forever.
The first real impact on my thoughts was my Dad. Although my Mum took me regularly to the local Methodist chapel, it was my Dad’s views on God when I was a formative teenager that led me to change my outlook. I drifted into doubt and stopped going to the chapel.
My Dad was disillusioned that God could allow such suffering and pain and his views were fashioned by the horrors he saw during WW2, especially the horrendous loss of life on the slopes of Monte Cassino, which was a major conflict between the Allies and the Germans on the way to Rome. He was in the Royal Army Medical Corps trying to save lives while others were intent on taking lives.
Sadly the smoking habits he developed during wartime, especially while he was suffering from malaria and injured by 2 bullet wounds in his leg, led to 3 heart attacks and then a lingering death over many months struggling to breathe as his lungs drowned in the thick fluid of the toxic tar of tobacco.
Around this time, we got a message from my aunt and uncle out in New Zealand that a wheel had fallen off a bread delivery van and it hit my 18 year old cousin while he was out riding his bike. Very sadly Jimmy died from his injuries.
That news affected my dad badly and he struggled to understand why God allowed a young man on the cusp of adult life to be taken from us.
I can still remember watching this once powerful man of only 55 die of lung cancer before my eyes early in January 1972.
The next major D word that impacted on my life about six years later was the depression that my mum was suffering.
At 24 years old, I didn’t understand what she was going through and very sadly after what was a misunderstanding between us several months later she took her own life, again at the relatively young age of 55.
That was very difficult to deal with and wasn’t helped by what her sisters and brothers, who all lived hundreds of miles away, felt about the situation and partially blamed me for what had happened – they had to have someone to blame.
I never knew any of my grandparents and the only person that was like a grandmother to me had the wake at her house. She also went to the local Methodist chapel where my Mum attended.
After my Mum’s funeral at the chapel I drove some of my relatives to Gran’s house but when I walked in after them, the living room door was shut in front of me, which was hard to bear and it still hurts after almost 40 years.
Very sadly the day of my Mum’s funeral in May 1979 was also the last time I ever saw any of my aunts and uncles.
This was a time of great sadness for me as my parents didn’t get to see and share in my life and seeing the successes and the growing-up of me and my 2 wonderful children into adults with their own lives to live.
The next major trauma with a D word I faced was about 20 years ago when my first wife wanted a divorce. I didn’t want to go through with it, but if it hadn’t have occurred then I wouldn’t be standing here today.
That was the beginning of a bleak winter as I battled with being alone and being lonely. Despair and disappointment became my two closest friends as I struggled to cope and they turned me to drink as I descended deeper into the desolate dungeon of darkness.
Who could free me from these darkening shadows of darkness?
I couldn’t see the light then, but I can now and the answer certainly wasn’t at the bottom of a glass or a bottle.
One Friday evening there was an Irish promotion night in Bury and I drank more than a gallon of Guinness before staggering home.
In those days it was before sat-navs and suddenly an ambulance with its blue flashing lights stopped and asked for the directions to the local maternity hospital. They must have cursed their luck to stop a wandering wastrel, but I think I gave them the right directions. It was a defining moment for me and I vowed that after that night I would never get that incapable ever again.
My life was drifting nowhere and I was spending most of my time watching football matches from all over the world but with little interest as it was something to pass the time.
I now realise that subtle signs and messages were being sent to me, which on reflection, were turning me back to the light of Jesus and reducing my darkness.
I was watching a soccer match from the United States and there was a banner held up by a couple of fans that simply said “John 3:16”. This wasn’t the usual sign of support by football fans for their team and it triggered my curiosity.
The match wasn’t at all memorable but the message on the banner certainly was.
That was another sign of what I thought was fate that changed my life’s direction which was followed by another twist.
I was still struggling to come to terms with the stresses of the break-up of my marriage when a new manager came into my life at work and we had many disagreements.
He was regular churchgoer but I didn’t see any compassion in him and to solve his problems, he arranged a transfer for me to another department of the Council, which turned out to be the best ever move for me.
I met who turned out to be an angel whose name means “a follower of Christ” and she has been a great help to me and putting me on the road to salvation.
She came into my life, and although it has taken some years, her ways have led me back to believing once more and to loving the Lord Jesus Christ again.
Around that time I was studying for a Master’s Degree in Management and I’ve adapted a simple thought provoking process I encountered back then. How do you put a dinosaur into a fridge?
What we’ve been taught is that it’s not possible. We’ve been told that dinosaurs were huge creatures that became extinct many years ago, while fridges are much smaller and were only developed within the past 100 years or so. Our brains tell us that the different times and different dimensions mean it’s not possible to do.
Yet the answer is very simple.
You open the fridge door and you guide the dinosaur in. I began to realise that you shouldn’t try and find overly complicated solutions to relatively simple questions.
Similarly my thoughts struggled with what Jesus said while He was on the cross, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2 NKJV)
My knowledge and thoughts are telling me that the structure must be enormous to fit everyone who over the centuries has believed in the Lord Jesus and it’s mind-blowing to imagine the size of the building.
Yet again the answer is very simple.
You open the door and walk right in.
Door is a simple 4 letter word but it is having the biggest influence of all the words beginning with D and will change my life forever.
In John 10:9, Jesus said; “I am the door: by Me if any man enters in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
I couldn’t find any door during my time wandering through the darkness of the spiritual wilderness, but I now know the answer is very simple.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the only door by which we may enter and be saved.
The Disciples were uncertain as to how to follow Jesus. Again the answer is very simple as Jesus says in John 14:6,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.”
Now I‘ve finally understood what the John 3:16 message on the banner at the soccer match means that intrigued me all those years ago.
”For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Satan’s spectre of sinful regret sometimes still haunts me. Regret can be a devastating demon clinging like a dark shadow, whose darkness can be an overwhelming sorrow.
The apostle Paul was made a minister to the gentiles and sent by God “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Jesus.” (Acts 26:18)
But repenting my sins and surrendering to the Lord Jesus in faith, my sins are forgiven and repentance brings the delights of faith restoring the sweetness of salvation.
As we’ve been celebrating the 500th anniversary of when the Reformation began, I’ve read that its Calvinist motto, engraved on the Reformation monument wall in the University of Geneva, is “Post Tenebrae Lux”, which is Latin for “after darkness, light”.
This appears to build on what it says in Job 17:12 which was written some 3,000 years before – “After darkness, I hope for light”.
I’ve sometimes been suffocated by the shadow of spiritual darkness for nearly 50 years, but coming through the door of Trinity Grace, and with all the help and guidance within, I’m now seeing brilliant beacons of light, love and faith that enlighten those shadows.
Some 700 hundred years before Christ, Isaiah 9:2 says
“the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, upon them a light has shined.”
Without the Lord Jesus there is nothing but darkness and chaos.
The grace of God and the Lord Jesus is leading me out of the darkness and into the light of Scripture. I need to turn away from sin and darkness and turn to the Light.
As the Lord Jesus says in John 8:12;
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The Lord Jesus also said in John 12:46;
“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.”
Today I’m leaving all of the darkness behind me as I renew my faith and love of the Lord Jesus.
Now I know the answer to who will free me from the desolate dungeon of darkness. The simple truth is that it is the Lord Jesus Christ who will set me free.
Doing the research and academic studies during my time here have greatly strengthened, stimulated and enriched my spiritual life.
Personally I need to have evidence to give me a greater understanding of the culture and historical context of what has happened.
Nothing is now undermining my faith in the trustworthiness of the Gospels and what they teach us about the Lord Jesus.
All the historical evidence has rekindled my commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God who loves us, who died for us and who sacrificed Himself for the sins of all mankind.
There’s nothing complicated in understanding what the Lord Jesus did for us.
Before coming here to Trinity Grace,
- I had a very simple view of what a church is – just a building where believers congregate to worship God.
- I had a very simple view of what a sinner is – someone who does desperately wicked things.
- I had a very simple view of what a saint is – someone who does really good things for their fellow men and is sanctioned by the Pope, who generally begins the process at least 5 years after their death.
- I had a very simple understanding of Grace – something that was said just before having a meal.
All of these views changed through coming here and I began to believe once more in the Lord.
I now know that “we don’t go to church: we are the church”. It’s not a place or a building but it’s us, people who are in Christ Jesus, who are the church.
I now know that Christians are both sinners and saints. All human beings are sinners because we are born in sin. But not all human beings are saints.
I now know that Saints are those who belong to the body of Christ, saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9). Saint is another word for a Christian, a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, which I believe I’ve become by being re-born through my spiritual re-birth.
God, in His great mercy and grace, has provided the means for me to turn from being a sinner into a saint — the Lord Jesus Christ. We need a Saviour from sin and accept that His sacrifice on the cross means that we can become saints.
I now realise that the Holy Spirit has been the brilliant beacon of everlasting light guiding me through all of the darkness that has sometimes suffocated me and is now lighting up my heart and directing my destiny to the Lord Jesus.
The darkness is almost gone as salvation brings light to those who are in the dark. I need to repent and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.
Repentance is a divine gift. No one can repent unless God grants repentance. Enjoying the sweetness of salvation is utterly impossible without God’s grace.
My baptism is an outwardly visible sign of an inward change brought about by the grace of God through the Holy Spirit and I have chosen to turn away from sin and follow the ways of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord will not drag us over the threshold but by repenting my sins and by going through the baptism of repentance today, I believe I now have the faith and the love of the Lord Jesus to choose the right door to salvation and becoming a Christian and a true believer seeing and basking in His light forever. 70 years ago Hank Williams Snr wrote a country music song that has become a hymn and many of the lyrics can be found in the Scriptures – Matthew 7:13-14, John 9:1-9, 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4 and Revelations 22:5
“I Saw the Light”
I wandered so aimless, life filled with sin.
I wouldn’t let my dear saviour in.
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night,
Praise the Lord I saw the light. I saw the light,
I saw the light No more darkness, no more night.
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight Praise the Lord I saw the light.
Just like a blind man I wandered along Worries and fears I claimed for my own.
Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight Praise the Lord I saw the light.
I saw the light, I saw the light No more darkness no more night.
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight Praise the Lord I saw the light.
I was a fool to wander and a-stray Straight is the door and narrow the way.
Now I have traded the wrong for the right Praise the Lord I saw the light.
I saw the light, I saw the light No more darkness, no more night.
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight Praise the Lord I saw the light.