Friday, January 21, 2011

The World's Problem is that They Are Blind to Glory

As a sort of a New Year's resolution type of thing, I've been endeavoring to go back to the basics regarding the nature of the Gospel and of Gospel ministry. We're looking at four principles for faithful Gospel ministry in 2011 from 2 Corinthians 4:3-6. We've already seen that we must know the purpose of our ministry; namely, that we're calling Christ's sheep, not the goats, into His fold. We learned that an implication of that principle is that success in ministry is not measured by numbers, or visible "results," but by faithfulness to the message we've received.

The next principle that we must understand in order to be faithful ministers of the Gospel is to recognize the desperate situation that the world is in. That is, we must know the problem we’ve been commissioned to solve. And Paul states it in verse 4. He says, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.

Now, what does it mean that their minds have been blinded? Well, a few verses earlier, Paul used this same language to describe the Israelites in Moses’ day, and even the Jews up to this present day. In 2Cor 3:12-16 he says, “[We] are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” Note the parallel between hardened minds and a veiled heart. Both are communicating the same reality as verse 4: the essence of spiritual death is spiritual blindness. What it means for someone to be dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph 2:4), is that the eyes of their heart have been blinded so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.

Now, if that connection isn’t immediately clear, I want to draw your attention to how frequently Scripture speaks of light being analogous to spiritual life, and darkness being analogous to spiritual death and unbelief. So look for that connection in these passages.
  • John 12:46 - I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.
  • 1 Peter 2:9 - God saved you so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
  • Ephesians 5:8 - You were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord.
  • Acts 26:18 - I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.

So we see that there is this consistent parallel between light and life and between darkness and death. But it doesn’t stop there. The Scripture also presents the spiritual sight of Christ as analogous to the spiritual life of knowing Him. It goes beyond light and life into sight and life. See that connection:

  • 1 John 3:6 - No one who practices sin has seen Him or knows Him.
  • John 6:40 - For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.
  • In fact, faith itself is spiritual sight. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. That word “conviction” is elengchos in the Greek, and it comes from a verb that means “to bring to light, to expose.” Faith is the spiritual sight by which things that are unseen are exposed and brought to light.
  • Which is why it says in Hebrews 11:27: “By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is unseen.

And so when Paul says that the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, he is saying that those who do not believe are spiritually dead.

But I want you to notice what the nature of this spiritual death is. It is that they cannot see the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. This is the world’s problem: they are blind to glory.

Picture with me this most miserable tragedy! Everybody in the world—whether they know it or not—stands guilty before a holy God. All have sinned and thus fall short of the perfection of His glorious standard of righteousness. And so they are incapable of doing the very thing for which they were created: namely, enjoying a relationship with and communion with their glorious Creator. They are doomed to waste their lives.

But in magnificent love, God sends Christ to live the perfect life that they should have lived, but could never live; and to die the horrifying, eternal death that they should have died, so that the penalty they owed would be paid by a substitute; such that if they simply abandon any claim of self-righteousness and trust entirely in Christ alone for their righteousness before God, they can have the restored relationship with their glorious Creator that He designed them to have—that He designed to be the most satisfying, enjoyable, thrilling endeavor in which we ever engaged!

And so you go and you tell these people this most awesome news in the world—the greatest news that anyone could ever conceive of!—and they go, “Ehh. I mean, that's really awesome for you. I mean it! It's great for you. It's just not for me.”

Oh, dear friends, this is the miserable nature of spiritual death: People can look directly at the glory of Christ—whether they be rulers of the Jews in the Ancient Near East witnessing miracles, or 21st century Americans reading their Bibles—and they can be entirely unaffected. Jesus looks foolish. Or He looks like a mythical, psychological crutch made up for weak people. Or He’s just boring. Because unless we’re born again—unless God shines in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (as we’ll see in verse 6)—our minds remain blind, and we can’t see Christ for who He is.

Brothers and sisters, this is the world’s problem! This is what the Church has been left on earth to solve! The world’s problem is not that they have bad marriages. It’s not that they don’t have high enough self-esteem and need to feel loved! It’s not, as one megachurch pastor said in his 3-D Christmas service this year, that they need to add depth to their lives! It’s not that they have broken personal relationships. It’s not that they don’t feel comfortable and relaxed in church! It’s not that Christians don’t like the same music they listen to, don’t dress the same way, or don’t use the same language! It's not even that they don't have enough evidence of the truthfulness of the claims of Christianity! And it’s certainly not that they're not living their best life now and don’t have a 7-bedroom house with a 3-car garage!

The world’s problem is that they don’t see glory!

And so that means, that whatever we do as the Church, we better be doing it to solve that problem. Paul gets into how we do that in verse 5. That's for next time.

Series Outline

  1. Principles for Faithfulness in Gospel Ministry: Introduction
  2. We Are Not to Amuse the Goats but to Call the Sheep
  3. The World's Problem is that They Are Blind to Glory
  4. We Do Not Preach Ourselves
  5. God's Remedy: The Shining of the Light of Life
  6. The Gospel of the Glory: What Makes the Good News Good News
  7. Postscript

1 comment:

tobekiwi said...

Thanks so much for this series of posts. Thanks also for the link to other posts- I've got some extra reading to do this weekend :o).
We desperately need more sound biblical teaching in the churches in this country, it's really sad just how far off the theology is in a lot of pulpits. I could go on, but will spare you.
One thing that is most encouraging to me, is that our Lord is still calling faithful men to preach, men who love the word, know the word and will proclaim that word. And that there are seminaries dedicated to the training of these men. To Him be the glory!