Alfred Place Baptist Church

4:3-6 Gospel Illumination – the Work of God

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

I am sure that we would all agree that the country in which we live is experiencing a most profound and painful crisis. We have begun a new millennium and one would think that there would be a spirit of great expectations in the land. One thinks of a hundred years ago, to the dawn of the 20th century and there was at that time an energy and an optimism about the future – some of which was sadly misplaced of course because it was focused on human engineering – but which was quite admirable in itself. How different our own day. A spirit of cruelty, cynicism and selfishness dominates our land and indeed the whole of Western civilisation. There is a consciousness that we are living in its twilight years confronting problems for which man has no answers whatsoever.

1. ALL MEN ARE PERISHING.

When the apostle Paul writes here and describes people are ‘perishing’ then the response in many who read these sober words is no longer one of scorn, but a sad resignation and a grudging acceptance of that fact. Consider the wanton pollution of the environment in many parts of the world, where men have destroyed forests, seas, farmlands, lakes and rivers and all the wild life that lives in them. In those uninhabitable areas people are perishing. But come nearer to home and think of the moral and ethical pollution that is killing our own society. There are those acts of unspeakable cruelty that can suddenly erupt, on housing estates and small towns. The elderly and weak are daily victims. There have never been documented so many crimes of violence as during this last year, nor so many people inside our prisons, nor has there been such a backlog of cases awaiting trial. The crimes far exceed the number of police or magistrates able to deal with them. Men are perishing. The country is awash with drugs. They have permeated not just popular music, pubs, raves and night-clubs, but schools. More teenagers from England take drugs than any other country in Europe, while in all sports testing for drugs is now an essential part of the games people play. Men are perishing.

One thinks of the break-up of the institution of the family, how lightly a woman will announce to her husband and children that she has found someone else and is leaving the home. Or think of the epidemic of wife abuse and child abuse – all quite unprecedented in our nation’s history. Men are perishing. Do not many unborn children perish before they ever take their first breath? Consider again the collapse of education, with the reluctance of many teachers to continue working in unmanageable schools. There has not been such a degree of adult illiteracy for almost two hundred years. Men are perishing. Consider again how much time is spent looking at a television screen. The average is five hours a day so many watch for more hours, and the spectre presented is a nation in which millions of people escape from reality by sitting in front of a TV screen literally for years of their lives. Men are perishing. Or you consider the problems of alcohol abuse, or gambling, or the pornography which is now available on every high street in the land or coming into every home in particularly evil forms on the Internet. I am sure that a serious-minded person who does not agree with the theology and doctrine of the apostle Paul will yet admit that there is much to what he is saying here when he describes people as ‘perishing.’

However, when the apostle writes of “those who are perishing” he is not only speaking of the desperate ruined lifestyles of millions of people, what Paul is doing is to bring the creation before God the Creator, and he is saying that as God looks on us we are perishing in our relationship with him. Let us illustrate it in this way, here is a man who believes himself to be fit and healthy expecting another twenty years of life, and he goes along to the doctor for his regular check-up. As the physician examines him he discovers a number of undeniable symptoms that indicate that this patient has in fact an incurable disease which is in its last stages, and that this man has only weeks to live. He is perishing, but he doesn’t know it. He tells the doctor he never felt better in his life, but in fact he is a man under sentence of death. So it is with mankind, it is as we are placed in the presence of the living God that we are judged to be perishing. We are a lost people coram deo. The Son of God came into the world and he announces that he has come that we might have life! We do not even possess something as fundamental as life. Biological, yes. Social, yes. Economic, yes. But the life of eternity, no. You remember the great words of the most well known text in the whole of the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish” – there it is – “but have everlasting life.” All that God has done in Christ is aimed at delivering us from this perishing state in which he finds every one of us – without any exceptions at all. God’s judgment upon you is that you are perishing. Your soul is like the old blown up beach-ball you discover in a dark corner under the stairs at Christmas time with all the elasticity gone out of the rubber – it has perished. Think of it – that soul which is you, that can know the living God, that can glorify and enjoy his presence, and weep over si, is now a pathetic perishing soul. Think of your soul like a decaying fruit, soft, over-ripe, with a little suspicion of fungus on it – inedible and perishing. There is no health in it, God judges. Now let us ask three questions:

i) Why Are Men Perishing?

The apostle gives us one basic reason – they are unbelievers. He speaks here of “the minds of unbelievers” (v.4). In other words, they are perishing because they do not believe in Jesus Christ. The apostle is going to the root cause of the perishing state of our world and he says that it is unbelief. It is a most staggering claim, not poverty or social inequality or genetic or hereditary weaknesses, but the sin of refusing to believe in the Lord. That is the root cause of all our problems. It is not because all the other evils in society are not sins, and that they do not need to be denounced and abandoned. It is just that unbelief is the major root sin. Think of the incident recorded in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve had been told by God that they were not to take of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that if they took from it they would die. You know what happened, how Eve first and then her husband, defied the word of God, took and ate that fruit, and so death came into the world. They were driven out of Eden and they perished. Where did the thorns and thistles, the sweat and pain in childbirth, and death itself, all start? They refused to believe in God. That was the root of their wickedness. The living God, the Creator, had clearly spoken to his creatures, and said, “Don’t do that,” but they knew better.

What do you think of people who just will not believe the truth? How dastardly an attitude is that? You may think it is inconsequential, but I want to say that unbelief can have the most destructive consequences. Think of a jury which has heard all the damnable evidence of a most heinous crime that the accused man has actually committed, and yet it will not acknowledge the truth and in fact declares the man to be innocent? Your daughter was horribly mutilated by that man and the truth alone has been told about the crime from the witness box, yet the jury have refused to believe it. It is a dreadful miscarriage of justice. The wicked have been justified. Now your rage is a hundred-fold increased. Your daughter has lost her life in unspeakable circumstances and the guilty man has gone free. It is a fearful thing for men to reject the truth. Or think of a home in which the husband refuses to believe the words of his wife who only speaks the truth to him, but he is suspicious and wary of her, constantly cynical about her explanations. The rejection of the truth has the most calamitous consequences.

So it is when we consider the Lord Jesus Christ. He has come into the world and no one ever spoke like him, taught like him, lived like him, healed like him, died like him and rose like him. He is the infallible demonstration of deity. To refuse to believe in him is a sin. That is the hardest fact for the man in the street to recognise. He looks upon his own rejection of Christianity as a mark of his freedom and intellectual maturity. He may tell me that he is glad that I believe these things, while he is unable to do so. He cannot believe in the One who preached the sermon on the mount, in the one who when crucified cried, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” who raised Lazarus from the dead. “No!” they say, “I cannot believe in him.” That attitude is the most daring, decisive and damning of all sins. Not to believe in him is to cleave to self and human sufficiency and insight, to trust in that more than trust in God. We are back to Eden and the attitude of our first parents. Nothing has changed. Here is rooted the whole life lived without God and without hope, a life whose inevitable end is darkness, destruction, despair and death. That is why men are perishing – because they do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. So they have lost contact with the source of life, meaning and hope.

ii) Why Don’t Men Believe?

Paul gives us this answer, that there is a thick veil between themselves and Jesus Christ, and so their minds are blinded to him. You understand that there is no veil over the face of Christ so that men have a mere out-of-focus impression of who he might be. The biblical Christ is lucid. His teaching and his actions are starkly clear. There is no veil over the face of the apostle Paul and the other ministers of the New Testament so that we don’t quite know what to make of them and the message they have written in the New Testament. There is no veil over the gospel as preached by Paul so that men may protest, saying it is incomprehensible, full of riddles and illogical. “How could anyone understand it, let alone believe it?” You remember how when Paul first writes to these Corinthians he reminds them what he passed on to them as of first importance, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3&4). No one reading that can fail to understand the meaning of those words. Not everyone is living under their power, but none can say that such words are irritating aphorisms that are ‘religion-speak’ and quite banal. Those words are speaking of events that once took place in history, witnessed and recorded by decent reliable people. The veil is not there.

The veil is over the hearers of the gospel, perhaps over you, certainly over every non-Christian, whatever their intelligence, morality or religion. Jesus Christ is veiled from them. You might be hearing the gospel again and again and again, but you still cannot see its sense and relevance. Your mind is covered with this thick veil. Of course, sometimes the minister is boring, and sometimes he is hard to understand, and sometimes his manner puts you off. There are times and places where preachers have not done their homework. They do not understand the nature of the people to whom they are speaking. They have failed to become all things to all men that by all means they might win some. We preachers do not preach Jesus Christ with the clarity, warmth and earnestness he merits. But that is not the point Paul is making here. He does not claim perfection for himself. He is saying that the natural man has wilfully shut his eyes to the light that is in the face of Jesus Christ. Whenever these people cross the threshold into church then they adjust the veil over the eyes of their understanding so that they might not see the light of the gospel. They do not come crying from their heats to God, “O Lord, take this veil away and give me sight.” They are conscious that the veil is there and they are happy that it remain in place because it is so inconvenient for them to change. They hear the gospel preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. They see Lazarus raised from the dead – like the Pharisees. They see the winds and waves obey Christ – as Judas did. But they are content to live quite blindly in their own world behind a veil, and they will not let the Lord Jesus enter that world. The grand old ladies who used to wear fur-coats and fancy hats and muffs and make-up to come to church were once a soft target for our patronising smiles, but what of you coming to church and wearing this veil determined to blot out Christ, and determining to do nothing about it?

There is an old story of a mountaineer discovering a vast secret valley. With consummate skill he becomes the first outsider to descend its steep sides and he meets the strange people who live there who have never had any contact with the outside world. They are all totally blind. Not one of them has any conception of sight, and all the terms that we associate with seeing have been expunged from their thinking. They do not have light and darkness: they have warmth and cold. They do not have colours. They survive by the use of their other senses. They get very agitated at his references to ‘seeing,’ and to ‘light,’ and to ‘darkness,’ and to black and white. He overhears them talking together and they have come to the conclusion that he is crazy, and that the cause of his problem are those two protuberances on each side of the top of his nose. The only way he can become normal, they decide, is for those two growths to be cut out. When he hears of this he hurriedly puts his things together and takes off climbing the precipitous sides of the mountain leaving that valley and the kingdom of the blind far behind.

Now that is a parable about the reaction of the blinded world to those who talk about seeing the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. They do not perceive what we have seen. There was a prophet called Isaiah who preached the coming Christ with wonderful pathos and poetry, and yet he had to lament, “Who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Is. 53:1). He found the people responding to the Messiah he preached so vividly to them by saying that the Messiah, “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Is. 53:2). The fault did not lie in the lack of music and vividness in the preaching of Isaiah. His words were veiled to these perishing people. Their minds were blinded and they could not see the one of whom he was speaking.

They were proud of their minds, that they were thinkers, and intelligent people. They judged Isaiah to be a poet and an intelligent man and a sincere person, but utterly deluded. They rather pitied him and thought he was wasting his life. But in fact, they were the ones living in darkness, not Isaiah, as history itself utterly vindicated him, while they all perished. Their problem actually lay in their minds – in the very part of their personalities of which they were most proud. They were not being objective and neutral and open-minded as they claimed. Their minds were totally closed to the Lord Christ and his influence.

iii) Why Are Men Blind?

The staggering answer the Bible gives to this question is that “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers” (v.4). We have looked at the state of our fellow-countrymen and have seen so many symptoms that indicate that they are perishing. The root-cause of their destruction is a defiant unbelief which is focused on Jesus Christ. Why is there this phenomenon of universal rejection? There has to be an answer which is as embracive as the vastness of the problem itself. It is not that he is rejected only by poor people, or white people, or certain psychological types, or certain age groups, or in peculiar periods in the history of the world. All types and ages and cultures in every economic bracket reject him. There is not a society – tyranny, capitalist system, Marxist state, Islamic government – where men are not perishing and where Christ is not veiled from sight. Why is this a universal phenomenon?

Paul tells us that there is “the god of this age” (v.4). He is referring to Satan as presiding over mankind’s anti-God life-style. The name Satan means ‘adversary’ as one who opposes God and his people. The New Testament also calls him ‘devil’ meaning accuser, ‘Apollyon’ meaning destroyer, ‘the tempter’ and ‘the evil one’ which mean what they say. He appears in the very first book in the Bible as a serpent speaking to Eve in the Garden, and he appears in the last book in the Bible as a great red dragon. The psalmist might refer to him as ‘the terror by night.’ The Pharisees call him Beelzebub. The prophet Daniel sees him in the form of horrible beasts. The Lord Jesus refers to him as always a murderer and as the father of lies. A picture emerges from the Bible of a being of unimaginable meanness, malice, fury and cruelty directed against God, against God’s truth and against those to whom God has extended his saving love.

His deception is such that he can appear as an angel of light, disguising evil as good. His destructive power comes out in the description of him as a devouring lion. His organisation is emphasised when he is described as “principalities, powers, the ruler of the darkness of this world, spiritual wickedness in high places.” Now as men wear a veil so that they cannot see Christ so they also wear a veil that prevents them facing up to the devil. Of course we all enjoy being safely scared. A preternatural horror story or film about forces of darkness coming out of the basement or out of the TV set written by an author like Stephen King is watched or read as entertainment. The sense of evil that it captured in the book has excited us, but we do not link demonic wickedness to ourselves. We link it to mass murderers and to crimes of utter horror and to genocide in Rwanda or the Balkans or Auschwitz, but we don’t think the devil is bothering with ordinary folk like us.

What the Lord Jesus does is to strip the veil away from the devil and force us to face up to him. Christ often speaks of him, resists him in the great temptations in the wilderness, and releases men and women from possession by demons who were particularly active when he was on this earth. Because of Jesus we are to take the devil seriously. He is not far away, but the last thing he wants to do is to draw attention to himself. If he can become a buffoon to be mocked, a figure with a red tail and trident, then that suits him. He will hide behind that to carry on his work. If he can persuade us that he indwells a Hannibal Lecter type of person or real serial killers then he is content with that. Behind that screen he can continue working in you, and work away at you he certainly does, doing everything to keep in place the veil that hides Jesus from you.

This point needs to be made from every pulpit as plainly and starkly as possible, if we are going to give the plain truth to men. There is this figure of quite unimaginable badness, the Lord Jesus tells us of his existence, more cruel, more malicious, more proud, more scornful, more perverted, more destructive, more disgusting, more filthy, more despicable, more merciless than anything our minds can conceive. He is at work in you at this very moment and every other day of your lives, as he is busy everywhere. “The whole world is in the power of the evil one” says John (I Jn.5:19). He actually holds you and all mankind prisoner behind the locked doors of spiritual darkness and unbelief. He makes and keeps us blind to God’s truth. When we preach on heaven he is the one who makes you feel that it is too good to be true. When we make the truth very simple about salvation he is the one who causes you to think it is all too simplistic. When we are dealing with the Trinity or the two-fold nature of Christ then he is the one who makes you judge it is all too complicated. He is always directing your attention away from the Lord Jesus. It is you who are the target of his devices and his one desire is not that you end up in the gutter, or in jail, or in the wrong bed but that you end up without Christ. Then he has succeeded. So he is prepared to let you become religious and moral and a church-goer just as long as you do not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. That is his one aim for you and for all his children – as the Lord Jesus said to the people of his day, “You are of your father the devil” (Jn. 8:44). And we all ought to go away disturbed and awakened with the thought that we are the recipients of the devil’s activity, because indeed we are.

2. DELIVERANCE COMES THROUGH THE GLORIOUS LORD CHRIST.

It is against that despairing reality that the apostle introduces us to the Lord Jesus in this wonderful phrase, “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (v.4). Men are perishing with a veil over their minds. They are disbelieving, blinded by the devil, the god of this world. But there is good news – the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light! For this story of deliverance Paul looks totally outside himself, and outside this whole world system. Let’s look at these phrases:-

i] The good news is that Christ is the light of the world. Remember when Bunyan’s pilgrim sets out from the City of Destruction he meets Evangelist who gives him a scroll and on it is written this phrase, “Flee from the wrath to come.” And Christian read it, and then he looked very carefully at Evangelist and he said to him, “Where must I flee to?” “Do you see yonder Wicket-gate?” asked Evangelist. “No,” said Christian. “Do you see yonder shining light?” “I think I do,” said Pilgrim. “Keep that light in your eye,” said Evangelist. And we are told that without any more hesitation the man began to run toward that light. In other words, he was desperately serious. He wasn’t going to turn a phrase like, ‘the wrath to come’ into a joke. He knew his own heart too well. He was perishing! But there was a glimpse of light!

Have you seen that in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ there is great divine light in this dark world? What affect that discovery can have on people walking in the dark. Think of how Charles Wesley described his conversion as the bursting forth of light:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night.
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Have you seen such illumination in this dark world? I was recently reading the centenary history of the Rosskeen Free Church in the north of Scotland and it contained a very simple testimony of a woman named Trisha Black whose her teenage years were being spent in drink, parties and cruising round the streets with boys. But her twin sister’s boy-friend was a Christian and in fact was going to be preaching one Sunday and her mother said to her, “You’re coming to church.” So after three years of going nowhere near a place of worship she went on that Sunday and there she heard Murdo preach on the text, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). He spoke of how the Bible is a guide to life, and how the Lord is the one who gives direction. So often people are like climbers on a hill lost in thick fog. Murdo said that the Lord and his Word are the light and the path. It was all so simple and true. Trisha’s response was this, “Never had a sermon seemed so right and clear. A light had gone on in my heart. ‘These people have got it!’ I thought. ‘They know the purpose and the meaning of life!’ I had been stumbling my way through life, but enough was enough. Now I knew what to do to have lasting joy and contentment, and I was delighted” (“Ordinary People, Extraordinary God”, Jane Maclellan, Christian Focus, 2000, p133). A light had been switched on in her life. So the good news is that Christ is the light.

ii] The good news is that Christ’s light is the glory of God. The apostle John said, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Once John had seen that then everything else in the Scriptures made sense. John could see Christ’s glory in the promise made in Eden that one would come who would bruise the serpent’s head. John saw his glory in the sacrifices of the tabernacle pointing forward to Christ. John saw his glory in the one the prophet spoke of as wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. John saw his glory in the one John the Baptist pointed at declaring that he is the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. John saw his glory in the Good Shepherd who gave his life for the sheep. John saw his glory as the one through whose name alone men must be saved. John saw God’s glory in Christ’s teaching and in his praying. John had the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

He “came from the Father” John said, that is, from a very different kingdom where his Father reigned, where all is perfect peace and love, and he came into this kingdom ruled by the god of this world where all the inhabitants have been blinded by sin. In the heavenly kingdom they all knew and loved him. In this kingdom they didn’t receive him but he was despised and rejected. But he was not offended because he knew what was in man and he had come to deliver men from the darkness they were in. He stood before them and he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). He gave a great sign of the truth of this by healing a man born blind. So if I have him then I have light and life. That is the greatness of Christ’s deliverance. How great it is I cannot tell because there is no language in which it can be fully conveyed. Light and life are all in him. God’s glory is in the face of Jesus Christ alone. No part of its glory is in the law, or in human merit, or in human achievement. It is not in the rites of the church; it is not in Abraham, Moses, Peter or Paul. It is in Christ and Christ alone that light and life are to be found. Is it the light of forgiveness that I need? It is found in Christ. Is it deliverance from the wrath to come? It is to be found in Christ only. Is it a perfect righteousness that I need? It is just to be found in Christ. Is it complete and perfect restoration to the divine favour? Nowhere else will you find it save in Christ. Do I need grace to illuminate my whole body, soul and spirit? Yes. It is found in Christ. Is it knowledge of how I should live? Yes. That is found in Christ. That is the glory of his grace and truth.

iii] The good news is that Christ is the image of God. We say of a child that he or she is the image of one of its parents. The Lord Jesus is the image of his Father. Whatever constitutes God Christ has it. Whatever is the essence of God Christ has that. Whatever God is – Christ is the express image of that. All the attributes of God are his. All the perfections of God are his. He is the image of infinitude, eternity, immutability, omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience and all those big theological words. There is nothing that is divine of which Christ is not the perfect image. All the names of God, and the functions of God like creation, providence and judgment are his. All the rights, prerogatives and entitlements of God, especially of worship are his. Christ stands before us as the express image of God’s person. He himself said, “if you have seen me you have seen the Father.” He claimed absolute equality with God, saying, “I and my Father are one.”

There was a man who once heard the claims that Christ was God, but he was still unpersuaded, and he said, “If Jesus were truly God, why doesn’t the Bible say so?” “Well, what exactly would you want the Bible to say?” He thought for a moment and he said, “Something like, ‘He is the true God.'” Immediately he was shown I John 5:20, “He is the true God.” The testimony to his deity in the Bible could not be clearer. That is the glory of Christ.

iv] The good news is that Jesus Christ is the Lord. “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord” (v.5). That title looks in different directions. It looks at the devil, the god of this world and it says Christ is Lord. There is no possibility of dualism, of two gods, one good and one evil, fighting it out. Satan is a creature, superhuman but not divine; he has much knowledge and power, but he is neither omniscient nor omnipotent. He has no more power than God allows him. One Lord alone! The absolute supremacy of Christ. We remind ourselves once again of this tremendous emphasis which the New Testament places upon the cosmic supremacy of Jesus Christ, that at the last it is he that has the whole world in his hands, that the empire, the great cosmic empire is his. Christ is the image of God and the Lord.

But it looks in another direction too, at the whole world of the Jews, and there was no Lord like the Jews’ Lord. The Jew always said, “The Lord our God is one Lord.” But this Jew Paul told them that their Lord had come. What have we here? We have the ascription to Christ of the name that is above every name. We have the declaration that that name that was exclusively God’s in the whole outlook of the Jews belongs to Jesus. In him Jehovah has come. Here is the God of the burning bush, the God of Mount Sinai, the Lord whom Isaiah saw high and lifted up and his train filling the temple. The apostle went to any synagogue and he told the people there that their Lord was once a baby in Bethlehem. “God has been born,” he said.

So the good news if that light has entered our darkness in the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. But do you understand the problem with mankind? Their need is not light alone, they need sight. I see a blind man walking home in the twilight one evening, but I don’t think, “All will be well for him tomorrow. At dawn the sun will rise and the world will be bright,” because his problem is not light, it is lack of sight. Men have a thick veil over their minds so that they cannot see Christ. They want that veil to remain there. They have been blinded by the god of this world. Christ the light of this world has come, but they cannot see that light. He has pitched his tent in our darkness and his glory has been displayed, but still men are blind. The glory of the gospel is that this problem has also been dealt with by God.

3. DELIVERANCE COMES BY DIVINE ILLUMINATION.

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (v.6). The Creator has sent the Light of the world to Bethlehem, and Jerusalem, and Gethsemane, and Golgotha, and the tomb. But he has done something else, he has made his light shine in the hearts of multitudes of sinners. In other words he also deals with our spiritual blindness. The one who gave sight to the blind can penetrated that veil that blinds men to Jesus Christ’s glory.

Remember at Pentecost there were three thousand blind sinners in Jerusalem. There these men were amongst those who had shouted just weeks earlier, “Away with him! Crucify him! Release unto us Barabbas.” They could not see Christ’s glory. They preferred a murderer to him. They wanted him dead. That is how blind they were to the Light of the world. But now at Pentecost God made his light shine in their hearts. When did that light shine? Not without the word being declared. Light and truth always work together. As Peter declared to Jerusalem sinners “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” it happened. Peter did not preach himself. He did not say, “Let me tell you what it is like to be baptized with the Spirit. You get tingles running up and down your back, and your hair stands on end.” There was nothing like that at all. “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (v.5).

There was no better service Peter could give them than telling them the truth of the glory of Christ. As the Lord’s servant magnified the great achievements of the Son so at that very time God worked with him and through him, removing the veil from the minds of three thousand men, shining into their hearts giving them the light of knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Christ. The dungeon flamed with light! God gave them sight, and they beheld him for what he is. They realised they had crucified the Son of God. All that lay before them was an open-ended encounter with God the Father whose Son they had nailed to the tree. They were cut to the heart because they had seen his glory, and it dawned on them what they had done to him, and they cried to Peter and the others, “what shall we do?” “Repent!” cried Peter. “Turn in grief from this sin. Cast yourself on the mercy of God” Peter pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40). That is all you can do. Peter presented the name of Jesus Christ to them as the comprehensive answer for the forgiveness of all their sins. Come to him who sent his Son as the Light of the World, and now sends his Spirit who gives light to our hearts. Come to him! When three thousand of them did this they were showing that the divine change had taken place, that the Creator had been at work and he had made his light shine in the darkness of their minds and he had given them the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The change in you must be in your very heart and soul and mind. Don’t attempt to put on some religious make-up and change into something other than what you really are. Can you imagine the horrible consequences of a blind woman putting on make up?. She would look like a clown. You must cry like blind Bartimaeus cried, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10: 47). Come as a blind man to him who justifies the ungodly. A great artist once was painting a picture of a part of the city in which he lived, and he wanted, for historic purposes, to include in his picture certain characters well known in the community. A street sweeper who was unkempt, ragged, and filthy, with an old veil around his head to keep the sun and flies off, was familiar to everybody, and there was a suitable place for him in the picture. The artist said to this threadbare individual, “I will pay you well if you will come down to my studio and let me paint you.” The street cleaner came around in the morning, but he was soon sent away, for he had thrown away his veil, and washed his face, cut and combed his hair, shaved and donned a respectable suit of clothes. He was needed as a beggar and hadn’t been invited in any other capacity.

Even so, the gospel will receive you into its halls if you come as a sinner, not otherwise. The Great Physician can heal your blindness. The One who entered the darkness of Golgotha for us can banish our inward darkness. Wait not for reformation, but come at once for salvation. Do not tarry until you’re better or you’ll never come at all. God justifies the ungodly, and that addresses you where you now are; it meets you in your worst state. Come in your darkness. I mean, come to the God who is light in whom is no darkness at all. Come to Jesus just as you are; ignorant, blind, confused, neither fit to live nor fit to die. Come, you who are the very sweepings of the streets of the world; come, though you hardly dare to hope for anything but death. Come dressed in black bin-liner bags on your way to the cosmic dump which is hell. Come, though despair is brooding over you, pressing down on you like a horrible nightmare. Come with the veil over your mind and say, Please remove it. “Lord, that I should receive my sight!” Come and ask the Lord for light and truth. Why should he not give it to you? Come, that your ignorance may be ended. Come that you may walk in the light of God’s truth for the rest of your days. It all begins when you come to Christ.

18th February 2001 GEOFF THOMAS