Blind to the Light?
2 Corinthians 4:1-7
Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not [2Cor. 4:1].
When were you called to ministry? I can give my story. You say you aren’t called to ministry? I beg to differ! We are all called. Full time? Yes, full time Christians!
This is a glorious ministry. God has given to us a message which no man could have conceived. It would be impossible for a man to work out such a plan as the gospel presents. I don't know why God allowed me to be a minister of the glorious gospel other than because of His mercy. We have seen before that God is rich in mercy. God did not exhaust His mercy before He got to me, because He saw that I would need a whole lot of it. He has been rich in mercy to me. By mercy He has permitted me to have a far reaching ministry. Since it is by His mercy, we faint not. We rejoice in it!
What is so wonderful about this ministry? All the religions of the world say, "Do, do, do." The gospel says, "Done." The gospel tells me that God has done something for me; I am to believe it; I am to trust Him. The only way I can come to Him is by faith. That is my approach to Him. "But without faith it is impossible to please him..." (Heb. 11:6). In contrast to this, the religions of this world all say, "Do." It is almost amusing to see what the cults in this country say one must do to be right with God. One cult declares there are four things, one of them says there are seven things you must do, another has ten things you must do -- the Ten Commandments. And there are the 5 pillars of Islam.
Some of these cults say you must have faith. However, by "faith" they do not mean a trust in Jesus Christ, but rather an acknowledgment as historical fact that Jesus lived and that He died 2,000 years ago. May I say to you, it will not save you simply to believe that Jesus died. Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again, according to the Scriptures. That is the important distinction. In His finished work we must put our trust. It is done.
At one time Paul had been under the Law. He knew what it was to be under a system of "do, do, do." He says he was "an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee... touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Phil. 3:5-6). He was really under the Law, and he hoped that he would be able to work out his salvation. Then one day he met the Lord Jesus Christ on the Damascus road. After he came to know Him as Lord and Savior, he wrote, "That I may... be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil. 3:8-9). You see, after Paul had stood in the presence of Jesus Christ, he saw that he could never make it on his own. Any righteousness he might have by the Law would not be enough. He would need to have the righteousness of Christ. Paul says that was a new day for him.
It is a new day for each of us when we recognize this fact. Today we need mercy. God has been merciful; God loved us. God in His mercy provided a Savior for us, and now He saves us by His grace. How wonderful He is!
But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God [2Cor. 4:2].
We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus. However, after we have been saved, that gospel must live in us. We have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty. Coming to Christ and trusting Him is more than an intellectual assent to the fact that Christ died on the Cross. It is placing our trust in Him and experiencing His regeneration. When Christ has saved us, we ought to be an example of the gospel. In other words, the man who preaches the gospel should be a holy man. Paul says that we have "renounced the hidden things of dishonesty."
We are not to walk in hypocrisy. We should not be unreal. Our behavior should not contradict that which we are preaching. It ought to be a conduct which meets the approval of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not perfect, but we are to walk in a way that is well pleasing to Him.
We are not to handle "the word of God deceitfully." We are not to be huckstering the Word of God. This gets right down to where we live. Preachers, why do you preach? Are you preaching for money? You say that you preach for the love of souls, but is it really the love of souls? Or is it for money? I need to examine my own heart on this score. Paul wrote "...woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" (1Cor. 9:16).
A person can preach the gospel and say things that are absolutely true, but at the same time his life can be speaking another message. I pray a great deal about this in my own life. I pray, "O God, don't let me preach unless I can have a clear conscience, and unless I am preaching in the power of the Spirit of God." I don't want to preach unless there are those two things. It is a glorious thing to preach the gospel, but it is an awful thing to preach it if down underneath there is a lack of sincerity, a lack of being committed to Him and having a conviction about Him.
Actually, this is directed to the Christian layman. Do you want to be a witness for Christ? You are a witness either for or against Him. When Paul speaks of the ministry here, he is not referring to the clergy or the man in the pulpit, he is speaking of the man in the pew. The man in the pulpit is to train people for the work of the ministry. Our business is to help equip them for that work.
I heard a tremendous analogy the other day: Sheep produce sheep. The shepherd cannot produce sheep. He watches over the sheep. It is the sheep today who are going to win sheep, because sheep produce sheep. My business is to equip the layman to witness.
By the way, are you doing something to get out the Word of God? That is witnessing. God may have given you the gift of making money. Do you use it to send out the Word of God? Perhaps you are a man or woman of prayer, interceding for those who preach and teach the Word of God. You have contact with some person whom no one else could reach. Many people will not listen to me. They tune me out. Maybe you can reach a person who will not listen to anyone else. God has called you to be a witness, my friend. This is tremendous!
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them [2Cor. 4:3-4].
Satan is the god of this age. He is running it. He runs the United Nations; he runs all the amusements; he is running the whole show as far as I can tell. He is the god of this age.
He has "blinded the minds of them which believe not." Have you ever heard someone say, "I don't understand the gospel. I have heard it all my life, but it doesn't mean anything to me"? I have heard people say that again and again. What has happened? The Devil has blinded them. The light is shining, but the Devil has blinded their eyes so they cannot see. This reminds me of a group of miners who were trapped in a mine in West Virginia after an explosion. Finally rescuers got food over to them, and then they got an electric light over to the place where they were trapped. A young miner there was looking right into the light and said, "Why don't they turn on the lights?" All of the men looked at him, startled. He had been blinded by the explosion. Satan blinds many folk. They say, "Why don't you turn on the light? I don't see the gospel at all." That is the blindness that comes from Satan.
There are other folks who say, "There are things in the Bible that I cannot believe. I don't know why, but I just can't believe them." I had a letter the other day from a man who accused me of preaching a gospel that is not true and of knowing that the Bible is not true. Oh, what arrogance! Do you know what was really his problem? It was not that there are things in the Bible which he couldn't believe. The problem was that there was sin in his life, sin that the Bible condemns. He didn't want to believe. That is the condition of a lot of folks today. The problem is not with the Bible; the problem is with their lives. My friend, if you choose to go on indulging your sins, then you can go on doing that. It is your loss. But you can turn to Christ. Don't tell me you cannot. You can turn to Christ if you will. The moment a man comes to the place where he sees himself as a sinner and says, "I am ready to renounce my sin; I'm ready to receive Christ as my Savior," he will be saved. The Word of God is light. Instead of saying you cannot see the light and instead of trying to blame the Bible, why don't you face your sins before God? Then there will be no difficulty about your believing.
I would like to give you a quotation from Sir Isaac Newton. Certainly no one could say that he was not an intellectual or that he was not a man of remarkable ability. One day someone said this to him: "Sir Isaac, I do not understand. You seem to be able to believe the Bible like a little child. I have tried but I cannot. So many of its statements mean nothing to me. I cannot believe; I cannot understand." This was the reply of Sir Isaac Newton: "Sometimes I come into my study and in my absentmindedness I attempt to light my candle when the extinguisher is over it, and I fumble about trying to light it and cannot; but when I remove the extinguisher then I am able to light the candle. I am afraid the extinguisher in your case is the love of your sins; it is deliberate unbelief that is in you. Turn to God in repentance; be prepared to let the Spirit of God reveal His truth to you, and it will be His joy to show the glory of the grace of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ." Sir Isaac Newton was not only a great scientist but also a great preacher. Why don't people believe? Because Satan has blinded their eyes "lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." It is a glorious gospel, but it is glorious because it reveals the glory of Christ. Apparently that is what men do not want to see.
For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake [2Cor. 4:5].
This isn’t the Jerry Show, and we are not sitting now in Shirley Temple? We preach Christ Jesus the Lord. Believe me, you and I are helpless when we give out the Word of God. There is an enemy opposed to us, and he blinds the minds of people.
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ [2Cor. 4:6].
Paul goes back to the time of creation when God created light. Now Paul tells us that God, "who commanded the light to shine out of darkness [in Genesis 1], hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." God regenerates us. And the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, shines in. Here we are back looking at Him. As someone has said, "The look saves, but the gaze sanctifies." We need to spend a lot of time looking at Him. But even doing this, we are weak vessels.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us [2Cor. 4:7].
We are just an "earthen vessel." The picture here is a vivid one. The Greek word for "earthen" is ostrakinos -- this is what archaeologists are digging up today. Actually, many of their diggings are in the old city dumps where all the broken pottery (clay vessels) was thrown. That is how we are pictured here -- weak clay vessels, pottery that can be broken.
"But we have this treasure." What is the treasure? That is the glorious gospel. We carry this glorious gospel in our little, old earthen vessels. That is why Paul says, "For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." Sometimes we get the idea we want to be a great preacher or even a great Christian. That is one reason that we need to be careful giving our testimonies today. It is pretty easy for a man to begin to brag in his testimony. If Jesus Christ is not glorified in a testimony, there is no point in it whatsoever. After all, we are just servants. That is the best that can be said of us.
These earthen vessels take us back to the incident at the time of Gideon. In Judges 7 we read that Gideon took only three hundred men with him to free their land of innumerable Midianite invaders. Each man had a trumpet and a torch and a pitcher or an earthen vessel. They carried their torches in the earthen vessels so that the light couldn't be seen from a distance. Then when they got among the Midianites, they broke the earthen vessels. It wasn't until the earthen vessel was broken that the light could shine out.
My friend, that is the thing which we need today. We need the vessel to be broken. The apostle Paul was a man who knew what it was to suffer for Jesus' sake. That vessel had to be broken. The trouble today is that we don't have very many who are willing to do that.
"For someone to be born, someone has to travail. The reason that more people are not being born again is that there are not enough who are willing to travail." We hear a great deal about witnessing today, but, what kind of a price are you willing to pay? It is not enough to just knock on a door and visit someone. I'm not minimizing that, and I'm not saying it isn't important, but I am saying that the earthen vessel must be broken for the light to really shine!
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