Sin makes us crave darkness. It produces ignorance because we think we know something because our minds are puffed up with pieces of knowledge. Yet, all we have are vague approximations. Opinions. Our knowledge is piecemeal. It’s full of holes. We see dim outlines on the walls of a cave. Because we don’t have the true light, we lack true knowledge that only comes from being in the light.
3) Third, sin causes us to pursue self-glory.
It just dawned on me this past week that you could divide human life into 2 major stages. The first stage is education. Knowledge acquisition. You go to school from pre-kindergarten to senior year in high school, then college, then grad school. Many of you here are still in stage 1 of your life and you’ve been learning for the past 22, 26, add a residency or an internship or a post-doc and you have spent nearly 30 years or more on education. Then you get your degree. Now what? Stage 2 of life is the pursuit of glory.
Back in the day, great empires increased their storehouses of knowledge. They learned how to acquire wealth. They learned how to build impressive structures and how to build strong militaries so that they could conquer other weaker nations. So that the glory of the emperor, or the dictator or the empire could expand. This is where we get the expression, they lived for the glory or grandeur of Rome.
What will you do with your education? Well, in a sense, you will use it to glorify yourself. You will use your education to get a job with a fancy title. So that you can receive approval from your clan. And respect and admiration from everyone else. So that you can look yourself in the mirror and be proud of yourself. Look at who I’ve become. We may not be conquering territories to expand the glory of an empire, but don’t we want to excel and push out others from the spotlight and carve out a little corner of the universe where we can be glorified? After 30 years of education, we spend the second half of our lives, the next 30, 40, years or whenever we are forced to retire, living for self-glory.
You might be an academic purist who says, I am like Plato. I pursue knowledge for the sake of knowledge. I’m not in it for glory. Test yourself. If you don’t become a professor because God closes the door and you are seeking His glory and not your own, then not becoming a professor would not be the end of the world. Failure in whatever pursuit in your career would not be the end of the world. Unless you were really in it for your glory and not God’s glory.
Test yourself. Would you seek to advance knowledge in your tiny field of expertise if you were alone on an island and there was no university to grant you a degree? Would you pursue a PhD if a PhD was valued in this country as little as we value our elementary school teachers? Would you pursue a career in medicine or law or investment banking if those were not lucrative careers? If you are honest, I would bet that there is some degree of self-glory in most of our vocational pursuits.
Because we acquire knowledge, our minds get puffed up, we become proud and we end up seeking self-glory. What’s worse, this pride and glory seeking is not limited to secular endeavors. Spiritual pride among Christians and esp. Christian leaders happens to the great detriment of the church and it stains our witness to the world. Spiritual pride must be one of the most offensive things to God when we can look at another brother or sister at our church or at another church and think we are better or we are doing it right and they are not.
This is the whole reason why Paul is writing this letter in the first place. He has been placed in the uncomfortable position of defending his apostleship before false teachers who have strayed from the gospel, but are too blind to see it, and yet, they are confident enough in themselves to be judgmental toward Paul.
Paul calls out the false teachers in 2 Cor 4:5–
2 Cor 4
5 For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus.
Instead of preaching Christ, they are proclaiming themselves. This is self-glory at its worst. The leaders have made themselves the center of attention. If the leaders here ever begin to take center stage and you begin hearing more about how the members are more thankful to me or to the leadership than Jesus Christ and the leaders here don’t do anything to stop it, then we risk falling victim to the sin of spiritual pride. We need to keep the gospel at the center and Jesus as our focus.
But while we may preach Christ in our messages, what are some warning signs that can indicate a departure from Jesus and a moving toward man-centeredness or self-centeredness or self-glory? Besides being more thankful for the leaders than Jesus, let’s turn to 2 Cor 11:19-20 to discern more warning signs. READ.
Another sign that a community has moved away from Christ and toward human leaders is feeling enslaved. If a Christian leader seeks self-glory, the members of the congregation will feel enslaved because they have to work really hard in order to feed the ego of their leader. You should never do anything in the church out of guilt or fear. Never. Christ came to set us free, not to put us into bondage. You should obey God because you want to please Him. You should obey because you love God, not because someone is pressuring you to do something.
The rest of the warnings signs are similar. You should never feel devoured or captured or dominated by a mere man or woman. I hope no church leader ever hits you in the face, as it sounds like fists were thrown at Corinth, or else, why would Paul mention it? But sometimes our words can inflict more damage than a fist. Sometimes we are chewed out by our boss because we messed up and we feel like we have been devoured by his rage and ripped apart by his words. And because of that kind of encounter, we are captured, we are dominated by his authority because if we mess up again, we are out. We are out of a job or out of a program. We are enslaved. This happens in the world and that’s understandable because the world is led by the god of this age, Satan. But may it never be in the household of God. As Christians, may we never lord it over one another. Pursuing self-glory in the church or in ministry will leave the congregation in a state of bondage.
We have just covered the first half of the main thesis. If sin makes us crave darkness, produces ignorance and causes us to pursue self-glory, then what does the gospel accomplish? It accomplishes the complete reverse. Now we are ready to tackle the second half of the main thesis: The gospel shines light, illumines minds and frees us to pursue the glory of God.
4) The gospel shines light.
Key verse: 2 Cor 4
6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
Commit this verse to memory. Here, Paul is quoting from the first chapter in Genesis. The universe had a beginning. It had to be created. Prior to the universe, there was nothing. Not sure what it looked like. Just blank nothingness. Only God existed. Nothing else. Until God created the universe, he created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Please turn with me to John 1:1-5. Listen to John’s version of the creation account. READ.
In the beginning, it wasn’t just God the Father creating, it wasn’t just God the Spirit hovering over the waters, in the beginning was the Word. Who was the Word? God the Son, Jesus Christ was there as well. God said, let there be light and there was light.
In John’s gospel, John mentions light and life and truth over and over again. In John 1, Jesus was the Word and life was in him and that life was the light of men. In John 8, Jesus says, I am the light of the world. Light vs. darkness is a recurring theme in John’s gospel. The light came into the world. Yet the darkness did not understand it, but another translation is, the light came into the world, yet the darkness did not overcome it. The darkness did not overcome the light.
This translation is important because darkness cannot overcome the light. There is much darkness in the world. But even a small flicker of light will conquer darkness every time. Even in a pitch black cave, a tiny flicker will roll back the darkness. Actually, as the darkness grows and becomes darker and darker, even pitch black, the light, even a tiny, tiny amount of light will seem much brighter. Because there is a high degree of contrast. If things are only slightly dark like at dusk and there is still some amount of sunlight peeking over the horizon and you pull out a flashlight with a weak bulb, then the light will not seem that bright because there is not much contrast. But in a world like ours with pitch black darkness, even the light from a flashlight with a weak bulb will shine brilliantly.
I know this is a bit elementary for most of us here, but kids, listen up. I want to teach you how light works. Did you know that the orange fruit has no color? You might be thinking, really? Really. Try this at home – go home and get an orange and turn the lights off. What color is it? Orange? No, it will be black. Orange as a color is not inherent in the fruit. Orange is orange only when the light is on. Colors belong not to things or objects. Colors are not inherent in objects. Colors are found in light. Light hits the surface of an object and it reflects some colors and absorbs all the others. We perceive only the reflected colors.
Last week, we talked about the old covenant of Moses. If you recall, Moses in the book of Exodus would go to the top of Mt Sinai and commune with God. Then, he’d descend the mountain and Moses’ face was shining so brightly that the people asked Moses to put on a veil. People saw Moses’ countenance and they saw glory. He was glorious. Like the orange which has no color orange in it, Moses did not shine because he had any intrinsic glory. He was shining with a reflected glory. There was no source of glory within himself.
Jesus, on the other hand, has intrinsic, internal glory. Glory is who He is. When Jesus is on the Mount of Transfiguration, the deity of Christ burst through the veil of his humanity. Isaiah prophesied that people who are walking in darkness have seen a great light. That great light has come in the person of Jesus. When Paul witnesses the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, he was blinded by a flash of light from heaven. Jesus is the light of the world. He is the complete antithesis of darkness.
In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, empty, void, darkness was over the face of the earth. There was nothing but formlessness and chaos. Formlessness, emptiness, darkness–these are negative, ominous words in our vocabulary. The very first act of God after he created the heavens and the earth, God says, let there be light. Instantly, the light came on. The very first act in creation was bringing light to a universe filled with darkness.
In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, John describes the vision he received on the island of Patmos of the new heavens and the earth.
Please turn with me to Rev 21:22-27. READ.
John describes the interior of the Holy City. There will be no external light source needed. No sun. Because the glory of God and the Son of God, the presence of God radiates light constantly. The glory of God and the blazing purity and brightness of God and the Lamb comes to us in the form of light and provides light for the Holy City.
Back to our key verse, 2 Cor 4:6–
6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the LIGHT…
When you hear salvation testimonies, like the one we heard today from Brother Matt, you will hear Christians share about the moment when they’ve seen the light. Previously, they had been blinded to the things of God. They lived in darkness and engaged in shameful things in secret. Religion seemed unnecessary, irrational, fanatical. Then, all of a sudden, when you see the light, your eyes are opened, you see the glory of God and everything changes. You see what you never saw before. The gospel shines light into darkness.