2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (EHV)
3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled among those who are perishing. 4 In the case of those people, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from clearly seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is God’s image.
5 Indeed, we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For the God who said, “Light will shine out of darkness,” Gen 1:3 is the same one who made light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
Dear Heavenly Father, send us your Holy Spirit to open our eyes, unblock our ears and soften our hearts, so that we may gladly hear and proclaim the gospel of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Would you like to see our church full of people once again?
Well, here’s a pretty simple idea on how to grow our congregation: This week every one of you will tell one other person the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This person will then miraculously believe in Jesus and will come to worship next week. In this way, our numbers will double by next Sunday. Of course, with such an amazing response, you’d want to do the same the next week, and the next week, and so on!
In this way, if we only begin with around 25 people in our congregation today, by Easter Sunday we’d have about 200 people worshipping with us! That’s presuming all those new people don’t share the gospel with anyone else, because if they too were to tell someone else the gospel of Jesus every week, then we’re likely to have about 3,200 people trying to fit into our church by Easter Sunday, which would be a bit of a problem for our Covid-19 regulations, but that would be a good problem to have!
Isn’t this the best way to increase our numbers? Isn’t this how it works? Doesn’t it always work out that if you tell someone the gospel of Jesus, they want to come to worship and offer their thanks and praise straight away?
If only that were so!
The truth is that even if you do tell someone the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, they’re likely to argue with you, ignore you, disbelieve you, or at the very least say, ‘that’s not for me’.
This shouldn’t surprise us because, even when people like St Paul or even Jesus Christ himself preached the gospel, the response was that many people remained in their unbelief or became quite hostile toward them, despite the fact many of them thought they were faithful people of God!
You see by nature, humans don’t want to believe in God; in fact all of us are born hostile to God and want nothing to do with him. No one wants to recognise or believe Jesus is God, because we’d all rather believe the world should instead revolve around us as if we’re the one who should be obeyed.
To believe in Jesus and what he’s done for us would also force us to admit we’re a sinner in need of saving, and no one wants to admit they need to depend on anyone else except themselves. To believe in Jesus also means we’d have to admit Jesus died to take our place and received our punishment, and we probably don’t want to be in a relationship where we think we owe anybody anything. To believe in Jesus means we’d need to submit to the Lordship of Jesus where we’d rather be our own boss.
Not only this, but it’s usually easier to believe a lie than the truth. Lies are either more attractive because they appeal to our self-centred desires, or else they’re more terrifying because they mess about with our greatest fears. The best lies have enough truth in them to make them believable, or else question the truth in order to become enticing to us.
The world doesn’t want us to believe in the eternal truths and comfort of Jesus and will seek to breed insecurity and discontent in anything he offers. The world will tempt us to believe what’s being taught or offered today is somehow superior and more satisfying and more lasting than anything Jesus can offer us. The world will try to convince us that we have power within ourselves to be good people even though Scripture tells us the opposite.
Then, as if it’s not enough to have our own human nature and world lie to us or hide the truth from us, the devil also tries to deceive us. He veils our thoughts and hearts so we find it hard to believe. He twists the truth, leading us astray from God. He deceives us with his empty promises and questions the truth of God’s Word with his age-old question: “Did God really say…?”.
So, if this is our own struggle where our own human nature, the world, and the devil will try to lead us away from saving faith, doesn’t it make sense this is other people’s struggles as well? Part of the reason why we’re struggling to grow as a church is because we’re fighting against the sickness of sin, the ways of the world, and the lies of the devil.
To top it off, God calls sinful and unworthy humans to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to a sinful world. He sends human beings with faults and weaknesses to preach the gospel. He sends people who are often self-centred and anxious to preach the glory of Christ.
So, apart from the inherent problem of the inborn sickness of sin which that makes it hard for anyone to believe in Christ, the other problem is that as sinful humans, we veil the glory of Christ every time we preach ourselves. We preach about ourselves every time we show how pious we are, explain how spiritual we are, and boast how righteous we are. Even when we’re accused of being less than perfect, we proclaim ourselves as we defend the goodness of our intentions.
But, how are people to see the glory of Christ if all we show them is our own goodness? How are people to hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ if we keep denying our need for his forgiveness? How is the veil which hides the gospel to be removed when we keep living according to the ways of the world, when we keep going along with the deceptions of the devil, or keep letting our own selfish nature drive our thoughts, words and deeds? How will people believe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ when it’s hindered by blinded eyes, deafened ears and stubborn hearts?
It seems it’s a miracle anyone would believe in Jesus because there are so many things stacked against anyone believing in the first place!
Yet you and I believe!
Isn’t this a miracle?
You and I are living proof that the gospel can still open blinded eyes, unblock deaf ears and soften people’s hearts. You and I are proof that, even if the gospel is veiled from many people, it’s promise and comfort is still effective and shines it’s light in a fallen world. You and I are proof that the good news of the gospel is still effective and relevant today. You and I are proof that people can believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. You and I are proof we should never give up preaching Jesus Christ.
You see, despite all the attacks of the devil, despite the reluctance of our human nature, and despite the tricks of the world around us, the gospel of Jesus was proclaimed as a light to shine in our hearts and we responded by believing the gospel!
This is a miracle because, unlike the people in the Old Testament, we never saw any of the miracles of God. Unlike the apostles, we never saw Jesus in his glory on the mountain of his transfiguration. In fact, our eyes have always tried to lead us astray and attract us to the things of this world.
Instead, knowing our eyes will deceive us, God didn’t shine his light through our eyes, but God shone his light through our ears.
Now this might sound a little strange, because we never think of our ears as eyes! Yet that’s what Paul is on about when he says that people ‘cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’. To see God’s glory is to hear the gospel. The light doesn’t come to our eyes, but to our ears. Our ears are the eyes of our heart. We never saw the light of the gospel, but we heard the gospel and believed it.
The precious gospel, that glorious light which warms our hearts, is that great news of forgiveness through Jesus’ obedience, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension. Jesus Christ is the propitiation for all our sins. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all our selfishness and rebellion. Jesus has paid the wages of sin, defeated death, and has overcome the devil. Jesus has compassion on us and is with us in all our troubles. Jesus promises life eternal in his kingdom for those who trust him. As we keep on trusting the words and work of Jesus, the world, the devil, and even our own sinful flesh will no longer deceive us with their lies and deceptions.
We have heard the gospel with our ears and believed. This happened despite the devil, the world and even our old sinful self trying to veil the truth and keep us in the dark. The light of God’s forgiveness through Jesus now shines in our hearts!
This makes us people of the Light. We’re no longer people dwelling in darkness, but people who are being inwardly transformed by the light of God’s gospel through faith. Jesus has restored our relationship with our heavenly Father, enlightening us and giving us real hope.
By faith, we accept this great news. By faith our ears act like eyes and see the truth in Jesus’ words. By faith our hearts are enlightened and light shines where once darkness reigned.
But also by faith, light now shines out of our darkness. The Holy Spirit, who came through our ears as they accepted the promise of Christ, now makes us shine in this dark world.
But the light we shine isn’t our own light. We don’t promote ourselves as if we’re the light. We’re not the light. Jesus is the Light. Jesus is worthy of all glory and praise and honour and thanks, not us. This means we proclaim him instead of us.
Just as we now live in the light of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by hearing the gospel, the light we shine in this darkened world is the same gospel which warmed our own hearts.
We don’t veil the gospel by preaching or promoting ourselves. We don’t veil the gospel by adopting the ways of the world, the devil, or even our own sinful flesh. We instead proclaim the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and the precious gospel of forgiveness and salvation.
This means we forgive as we’ve been forgiven by Christ. We love as we’ve been loved by Jesus. We act graciously and mercifully as people who have received grace and mercy from God. We don’t proclaim ourselves as someone who should be obeyed, but we proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.
But even when we do this, don’t be surprised if some won’t believe. Some are still blinded to the light of Christ. Some are still deaf to the truth of Christ. Some still have hardened hearts that refuse to believe in Christ.
In this case, pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes, unblock their ears and soften their hearts so they might believe. Keep on clearly proclaiming the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and pray for the miracle of faith. Then, if they come to faith, praise God that he used our humble, sin-infested efforts in the service of his gospel about Jesus Christ, who is the image of God.
Praise God that we have seen his light; the light of the gospel about Jesus Christ who came to give us life, light, and hope. May he lead us to shine his light in this dark world and lead others to the light of Christ so that…
…the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.