Friday, June 27, 2008

Ephesians 1:17-19 - The Illumination of the Holy Spirit

[These are the beginnings of my notes for a chapel message I will be preaching at the Bible Presbyterian Church camp this summer]

How would you describe the color of the sky to a person who was born blind? To what in their experience could you compare it to bring home to their mind how dazzlingly blue it really is? Or how would you explain the opening bars to Beethoven’s piano masterpiece, The Appassionata, to a person who was born deaf? Would it be possible to get across to them just how soul-stirring the climax of the third movement is? Without a common point of reference, such communication would be impossible. For a person to make distinctions in color requires that they can see. For a person to feel the emotional power of the sound of music, they must be able to hear. Try as one may, to make a person blind from birth truly comprehend the real difference in color between yellow and blue would require them first to be given sight. And for the person deaf from birth to be moved by the middle section of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony would require them first to be given hearing.

Along these same lines, the Scriptures paint a very dark picture of man. Because of the fall of man into sin, man is unable to hear or see the truth of God. Apart from the supernatural intervention of God, the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ will be as alien to the unbeliever as the sound of music would be to the person deaf from birth. The Bible also describes all mankind as “hostile to God” – Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is hostile to God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” And as “enemies” – Col. 1:21, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled.” This open rebellion against God into which all men are born causes them to turn away from the truth God has clearly shown them through what He created. Paul in Romans 1 teaches clearly that all men, in their hearts, do know the true God, but they suppress the truth about him in their unrighteousness.

Don’t ever fool yourself into thinking you are just neutral toward God. There is no middle ground. We are either for Christ or against Christ. We cannot serve two masters. No one is straddling the fence waiting to figure out where they stand with God. We are either reconciled to God, or we are God’s enemies. Those who live at war with God will have their understanding darkened. This darkened understanding renders Man completely inadequate to find answers to the most basic questions of life. Sinful man assumes at the outset that he is able to understand the world in which he lives. As proof that this is clearly not the case, we need only point out that the most learned and rigorous intellectuals through all of human history have failed miserably to agree with one another in their answers to life’s most basic questions: What are we? What is life? Is there a purpose to it? What is real? Where did it come from? What happens when we die? Why is the world so full of evil? Is there a god? What is he or she or it like? Is there an after life? When one surveys the history of unbiblical philosophies and their attempts to answer these questions, one can only throw their hands up in despair. If the most intelligent minds in all of our history can’t agree, how can regular people like us ever expect to have any certainty about anything? What apparently has simply escaped the notice of the unbelieving mind is this: Perhaps the answers to these questions must be given to us by someone else. Perhaps the answers must be given before they’re gotten. Perhaps we have gravely erred in assuming we are adequate in our reasoning and scientific abilities to answer these questions.
Just think of the ideas and the results of these ideas that prevail in the world of unbelief:

1. Nothing became something, then it blew up and became everything, then it got together for about 15 billion years, and then we climbed up out of the ooze onto the shore and lived happily ever after. Atheist philosopher, Bertrand Russell, was asked, “Dr. Russell what do you think will happen to you when you die?” To which he responded, “I’ll rot.”

2. Everything in the material world has been worshipped by man: the sun, the moon, the stars, animals, trees, and everything else. Man’s understanding is so dark that he will make a pile of rocks and then get down on his knees and pray to it as his God.

3. Men really believe the sole purpose for which they exist is to be complimented and praised by other people. And people will pursue this form of idolatry with relentless zeal.

4. Some philosophers in our day believe the greatest question facing any person is this: Why shouldn’t I just commit suicide? Many people have given into such an idea in the face of nothing being able to answer this question. In the United States between 1979 and 1999, 450,000 people died of AIDS. During that same time period of 20 years, over 600,000 people committed suicide.

5. In a book entitled, “The Day America Told the Truth: What People Really Believe about Everything that Matters” we find these staggering facts:

“…74% say that they will steal without compunction, 64 % say that they will lie if there is an advantage to be hand, 53% say that, given a chance, they will commit adultery, 41 % say that they intend to use recreational drugs, and 30% say that they will cheat on their taxes. … 86% admit to lying regularly to their parents, 75 % to a friend, 73% to a sibling, and … only 11% feel any serious level of shame. While 74% will steal without compunction, only 9% register any significant shame. While pornography has blossomed into a $21 billion industry that accounts for a quarter of all the videos rented in shops, in the thriving hotel business, and on cable, only 2% experience guilt about watching…”

Welcome to the glorious world of unbelief! Men cannot see. Men cannot hear. They are born deaf and blind, not to the world around them mind you, but to the truth. But thanks be to God, he has not left us to grope around in darkness. [Paul explaining his Damascus road experience to Agrippa]. Acts 26:17-18 (NKJV), “I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, [18] to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'”

[more to come]