This sermon is part of the sermon series "Txt Msg". See series.
The living God is still at work; he still physically heals people. Isn't that amazing? But the thing I want you to see this morning is as extraordinary: the miracle that God does in the life of a believer. Just as he can miraculously give sight to the blind, he gives us spiritual eyes to see. And every day God desires to be at work in your life, opening your eyes, realigning your heart and mind to be able to see spiritual truth. This is what we call illumination.
Illumination is God specially enabling spiritually blind people to see, comprehend, and apply his word to their lives. And that's what Jesus came for. We read about the life of Jesus and we see so many times that Jesus healed the blind man on his path, and he did that physically. But the greater work of Jesus was a spiritual work. In fact, when Jesus began his ministry, he walked into the synagogue, he unrolled a scroll from the prophet Isaiah, and he said: "I have been sent from God to preach the gospel to the people, to release the captives from prison, and to open the eyes of the blind." And the blindness that Jesus was talking about wasn't a physical blindness, though he did that. The blindness that Jesus was talking about in that passage was the spiritual blindness that all of us have, but when we come into a relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ, he opens our eyes by his Spirit. He realigns our eyesight. He illumines us so that we can see all the truth that God wants us to see. This is illumination, and this is what Paul is talking about in our passage today in 1 Corinthians chapter 2, starting at verse 10. Paul writes:
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except a man's spirit within him, and in the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We've not received the Spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak. Not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truth in spiritual words. Now, the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment, for who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we, on the other hand, have the mind of Christ.
Let's look at the broader context leading up to this passage. Paul has been talking about his ministry of apostleship from city to city. He explains in the verses leading up to this passage that the effectiveness of his preaching wasn't really based on his slick persuasion, but rather on the Spirit's power. Paul was so successful as a preacher because the Spirit of God was moving through him. He explains here that just as the Spirit of God has enabled him to communicate the word of God, so the Spirit of God enables you and me to comprehend, to receive God's Word in our life. The Spirit works in the preaching and in the hearing and the understanding of God's word, and it's this idea that we call illumination.
The Spirit reveals God's heart.
The first thing that we see in this passage is that the Spirit reveals God's heart. Paul says just as the spirit of a man reveals the heart of man, so the Spirit of God reveals the heart of God. It's an interesting picture. Imagine that you were to dissect me right here, and I didn't die while you did it. You open me up and root around among my organs, and you find my spirit (which you can't do because my spirit is immaterial, but that's beside the point). You find this little thing called the spirit of David Daniels, and you're able to pull it out and look at it. You would be holding the essence of me. The essence of me is not my eye color. The essence of me is not my hair. The essence of me is not how fast I run or the way that I dress. The essence of me is my spirit. It's that part of me that lives forever, right? You would be looking at me.
In the same way, in a rather incomplete analogy, Paul says the Spirit of God helps us to understand the deep things of God. If you want to know who God is and what God is and what God's doing, the Spirit of God—because the Spirit is God and is unified with God—reveals the deep and abiding things of God. Just as the spirit of man would reveal the things of man, so the Spirit of God reveals the things of God. In fact, one author said it this way. The author said that "the Spirit delights to explore the infinite depths of God's own mind." The Spirit loves to teach and reveal the deep things of God. That's the first piece of this equation of illumination.
The second thing that Paul lets us know in this passage is we have received the Spirit of God. God gives his Spirit to us, which means that the moment you trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit of God took his residence within your life. Jesus said it this way in John 14:16: "I'll ask the Father and he'll give you another Counselor who will be with you forever." Now, that's different than the filling of the Holy Spirit that comes and goes and ebbs and flows with our spiritual life based on our obedience to God. What he's talking about is the permanent indwelling, the permanent residence of the Holy Spirit who lives in you, the Spirit who is from God.
If the Spirit reveals the deep things of God and that Spirit lives in you, then that Spirit will reveal the deep things of God to you. That's what the Spirit does. The Spirit in us reveals God's heart to us. The moment you come to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is put in you, that Holy Spirit gives you a leading edge into the deep things of God. The Holy Spirit that spirited and moved among men so that they recorded God's truth—that same Spirit is the Spirit that is there to help you see and understand and apply the deep things of God into your life. Jesus predicted it. He looked forward to this passage. In John 14:26, he said to his disciples: "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and he will remind you of everything that I've spoken." And then just two chapters later in John 16:13, Jesus said: "But when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." That's what the Spirit does. The Spirit teaches you and reminds you and guides you and gives you wisdom and reveals the deep things of God to you. It's what we call illumination. In fact, the word illumination means to cast light on something, and that's what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit in your life enlightens you the moment you open up the Scriptures to the deep things of God.
The Spirit wants to enlighten us.
How does this work itself out in our life in a very practical way? Well, I want to leave you with two thoughts for you as you think about this idea of illumination. The first thought is this: the Spirit is automatically inclined to brighten biblical truth in your life. The Spirit is inclined—he's predisposed. His default is to brighten or enlighten or reveal spiritual truth in your life. If you have the mind of Christ, which means you've come to know Jesus Christ personally, the Spirit automatically wants to help you understand the deep things of God. That's his desire, that's his default.
Have you ever been to somebody's house where the closet light automatically turns on when you open the door? It's amazing: the moment you open the door to access what you need, the light is already on. That's a great way of thinking about how the Spirit is at work in our lives. The moment that you open up the Word of truth, the Spirit is predisposed to begin shining light.
The reason I tell you this is because illumination is not a spiritual gift given to some but not to others. No, the same Spirit that lives in me lives in you, and the default of that Spirit is to engage and reveal that deep things of God to you the moment you say, "Okay, God, here I am, I'm with your word, I want to understand."
Let me give you an example. I've been reading through the Old Testament during the last year, and I came to this verse in Zechariah chapter 14: "If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the king, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. And if the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain." You're probably wondering, What am I supposed to do with that? And that's how I felt, too. But I know that "all Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for correcting, for reproof, for training in righteousness, that the man of God might be adequately equipped for every good work," but I've got to figure out what that verse means in my life. So as I camped out on that verse, the Spirit of God began to shine for me. He revealed in my heart this principle: If God does not reign over me, then I cannot expect God's blessings to rain upon me. I often think about the worship of God as what I do after God has blessed, but this passage says that the worship of God precedes the blessings that God may give. So I read something out of Zechariah that began to shape my life. No reign, no rain.
I didn't go seeking that spiritual truth. But when I opened the Scriptures, and submitted to the Holy Spirit, I found that he was at work in me as I read. The Holy Spirit of God is inclined—he desires—to reveal the deep things of God into my life.
We participate with the Spirit through discipline.
This brings me to a second principle: the Spirit of God is inclined to brighten biblical truth, but our discipline is our invitation for the Spirit of God to shine. A farmer does not go out and stand in his field and say, "God, bring corn," unless he is willing to till the field and plant the seed. He's going to feed and water the plants. Ultimately God causes the growth. There is not any harvest a farmer has enjoyed apart from the work of God. But God says to the farmer, "Your discipline is your participation with me in the work of harvesting." And a spiritual harvest in a Christian's life requires our persevering participation in the work of the Holy Spirit.
When my wife Tiffany calls in the middle of the afternoon, we have a 30-second phone call. I don't discover the deep things of my wife in 30 seconds. But when we go out for a three-hour dinner, we sit together and start to get beyond just the banter and discussion of life; we get down to the deeper things of one another. Perhaps the reason so many Christians are so dim in their spiritual understanding is that they lack the discipline to simply be about God's Word. They expect Scripture to be spiritual fast food that they can just take in and be dramatically changed by. Friends, this will not happen. The Holy Spirit is looking for our discipline to be in God's Word. It's OK if you feel you don't know how to do that. Simply show up to pour over God's word, to meditate on it. That discipline is your invitation—your way to telling God that you want to see what the Holy Spirit has to show you.
Removing the obstacles of our illumination
Now, you may be thinking, Okay, I get the Spirit of God thing and I kind of get the discipline thing, but I've had the experience in my life where I've come to God's Word and I've read it and read it and read it, and it means nothing to me. I think we've all experienced that at some time or another, so I want you to be aware of three roadblocks that can stand in your way.
If you hit an obstacle in your life, the first thing that you should consider is to linger longer. It's so easy for us to open up the Bible the moment we come to Christ when everything is brand new. We begin to work, and God begins to reveal things to little infant, tiny minds. We begin to have A-ha! experiences more often; everything is so fresh and brand new for us. But along the way maturity takes a little bit more time, right? The A-ha! moments are not as frequent, and after a while, we may open up our Bibles and feel as though we know it all already and nothing is impacting our hearts. But what we need is to linger longer. We give up far too easily and far too quickly.
God wants us to camp out. God wants us to be patient; if we wait, he will open Scripture up to us again, and we'll start to see. The goal of Bible study is not to get through all the Bible, but for the Bible to get through all of me, right? So follow Psalm 119:18: "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." Linger Longer.
The second way to deal with a roadblock in your study of Scriptures is to confess sin. Someone once said, "This Book will keep you away from sin, and sin will keep you away from this Book." Sin always creates an obstacle between us and God. The Bible talks about sin as darkness, so how can we expect for the Spirit to enlighten us if we've been entertaining darkness in our life? The two are incompatible with one another. Sometimes the sin we have is a subtle pride where we think, I don't really need the word of God. I read it here and there, so I feel good about my spiritual life, but it doesn't really direct me. Maybe that's our sin, and that's the reason that we don't go deeper. Or maybe we have committed the sin of busyness—the sense that we need to control our lives and make them work, rather than settling down to camp out with God and trust him. The benefit of finding him in his Word is going to far outweigh anything that we could produce with our own busy hands. Or maybe our sin is the sin of impurity, addiction, gossip, or arrogance. If we're somehow holding onto unconfessed sin, how can we expect God to reveal his unbelievable things to us from his Word?
I once planned a retreat day to be with God. I reserved a chapel and brought my devotional books, my Bible, and some worship CDs. When I got there, I set up all my stuff and started singing some worship songs. I felt nothing from God. I read some of the Psalms. Nothing. I opened up My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers and read from that. Nothing. I was upset, and I called out to God, "Why haven't you met me here?" And when God broke the silence, it was to tell me: You have unconfessed sin, David. God said to me: You can't spend the last three months in the darkness pursuing your own deal, treating me like your token God, and expect to feel an instantaneous, strong connection. Unfold your real heart to me; I will meet you there.
Some of you need to really open your life to God. You haven't surrendered yourself fully to him. But incredible breakthroughs can come from confessing our sin to the God who has borne it for us.
The third way to overcome the roadblock of understanding is to trust God. Some of you have had spiritual conversations with people before, but you have yet to really trust God for your salvation. You might be thinking, I just don't get it. I don't get why you folks are so excited about this Word. If you're feeling this way, it's possible that you are not in a relationship with God—that you do not have his Holy Spirit in you. When you come into a relationship with God, he gives you his Spirit and his Spirit is inclined to reveal himself to you. If you linger long enough, you'll discover the great things of God.
The Bible tells us that we all come into this world with an obstacle called sin, and sin will forever separate us from God. It creates a chasm between us and him. Try as hard as we can, we cannot bridge the chasm, so God came to do for us what we couldn't do for ourselves: he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to take our sins on himself. An incredible substitution took place: he took our sin; we take his righteousness. Jesus took all of our sin and went to the Cross, taking our punishment upon himself. It's an incredible gift of grace that the Father had given us. But this gift is not automatically given to every single person. It has to be received by faith, by saying, "God, I'm a sinner. I want to know the deep things of who you are, I want to walk with you, and I want you to change my life. Would you forgive me of my sin and would you, because of what Christ did, give me a brand new life?" The Bible tells us that if we have simple faith, God will come in and change our lives and will put his Holy Spirit in us.
It's an absolute miracle when God restores the physical sight of the blind. But friends, the greater joy is that God can open your eyes and help you to understand spiritual truth that will ultimately and dramatically change your life. My prayer is Paul's words to the Ephesians in Ephesians 1: "I pray that the God of this universe will give you his Spirit to fill you with the knowledge of himself more and more every day."
David Daniels is the lead pastor of Central Bible Church in Fort Worth, Texas.