False Lights

My favorite vacation spot is the Outer Banks of North Carolina. These barrier islands are historically significant for several reasons. On Roanoke Island Sir Walter Raleigh attempted to establish the first permanent English colony in the New World. The colony disappeared, and is now commonly known as the “Lost Colony.” Several hundred years later the Wright Brothers went to the Outer Banks to fly their plane–the wind and sand creating ideal conditions for flight and safe landings. In between, the islands were a great spot for pirates to hide or rest. Ocracoke Island was the “home base” of the notorious Black Beard.

One of the towns, or villages, on the island is named Nags Head. Legend has it that “wreckers” would hang lanterns around the necks of mules – colloquially called “nags” – and walk them very slowly up and down the beach. The intent was that ships at sea would see the light from the lantern and interpret it to be ships at rest or at anchor, hopefully prompting them to turn in seeking a place of rest. Instead they would run aground and then be plundered by the wreckers on shore.

Whether or not this legend is true, it provides an excellent illustration of what the devil is up to in our world today and indeed has been up to ever since the very first sin. He loves to try to lure us with “false lights” that seem to be very attractive, appearing to offer us safety or success.

I am also a fan of lighthouses. There are several of them on the Outer Banks and I have enjoyed climbing to the top of three of them. But they are great illustrations of what Christians are to be in the world.

They are also a great example of what Jesus Christ is. In John 8:12, of course, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” Interestingly, in Matthew 5:14, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” So lighthouses are a great illustration of both Jesus Christ and Christians.

Satan, on the other hand, is characterized by darkness. Darkness is not attractive. The Bible says men love darkness rather than light, of course, because in our sin nature we enjoy the supposed-secrecy that darkness allows. But when we are looking for something, trying to find our way, we look for the light. The light can guide us out of darkness. It can direct us to safety. It can reveal dangers. Satan has no light to offer – so he imitates light in an effort to cause us to wreck, just like the wreckers at Nags Head.

There are many examples in our world of false lights. The reality is, they all follow the same pattern as Satan’s very first temptation of Eve. He asked her, “Did God really say not to eat of this tree?” And Eve said, “Yes, we cannot eat of it or touch it or we will die.” And Satan said to her, “You will not surely die. You will become like God!”

Satan takes the truth, perverts it and tries to make it appear attractive, like something to be desired – just like the wreckers at Nags Head used a light to appear attractive, but really was designed to lure the ships into running aground in order to plunder them.

We could no doubt think of many contemporary examples of Satan’s lies masquerading as truth…

• Homosexuality is just an alternate lifestyle, people are born that way, God created them that way, or it is just a sexual preference;
• Abortion is not the killing of baby; it is just a clump of cells or it is just a woman making a private decision about her body;
• Gender is arbitrary, it just depends on whether you feel like a man or a woman, not on the anatomy you were born with;
• Marriage does not have to be between a man and a woman – it could be a man and a man or a woman and a woman (or many other redefinitions which are soon to come);
• Premarital sex is not wrong, it is just part of growing up or part of exploring your sexuality;
• Marijuana is not dangerous (see previous post for more on this one);
• Integrity just depends on the situation – if you really need a good grade and you didn’t have time to study just copy off someone else’s paper or, better yet, just plagiarize it (as just one example);
• You don’t have to obey your parents when they are old and not with it.

We could go on, but what it comes down to is, Do what makes you happy! That is the mantra of the world in which we live.

The concepts of right and wrong have changed radically even just within my lifetime…and I am not that old!

This is the world in which we live. This is a bleak and depressing picture. Yet it provides the backdrop for why God’s Truth is so very important today. We have to hold firmly and diligently to God’s truth because it does not change. The world around us is nothing but shifting sand. There is no stability! On the other hand, Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” There is no changing with God!

The Truth – genuine light – does not change. Jesus said He is the light of the world; He does not change, His light does not change. He also said, “I am the way, the truth and the life…” There’s no change there, no debate, no question, no alternate pathway.

There is a classic story that no doubt some of you have heard before, but it fits well with what I am trying to get at here.

Max Lucado quotes Frank Koch telling this story:

Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.

Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing reported, “Light, bearing on the starboard bow.”

“Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out.

The lookout replied, “Steady, Captain,” which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.

The captain then called to the signalman, “Signal that ship: ‘We are on a collision course, advise you change course twenty degrees.'”

Back came the signal, “Advisable for you to change course twenty degrees.”

The captain said, “Send: “I’m a captain, change course twenty degrees.'”

“I’m a seaman second-class,” came the reply. “You had better change course twenty degrees.”

By that time the captain was furious. He spat out, “Send: ‘I’m a battleship. Change course twenty degrees.'”

Back came the flashing light, “I’m a lighthouse.”

We changed course.

The light from lighthouses provides direction for safe passage and also warns of danger. God’s truth does exactly the same thing. We must learn and be familiar with God’s truth in order to identify dangers and stay on the right path. It is through God-given discernment (the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives) that we can differentiate between false lights and the true Light.