Sermon for Sunday February 11th, 2018 Quinquagesima Sunday
The Lessons: Ps. 50:1-6; 2 Kings 2:1-12; 2 Cor. 4:3-6; Mark 9:2-9
The Text: 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Topic: Let the light of the glorious Gospel shine in your life!
When I was a student at Harvard Divinity School, I learned preaching from Dr. Gardner Taylor, a pastor in New York City. I’ll never forget those lectures. I remember him telling a story from when he was preaching in Louisiana during the Depression. Electricity was just coming into that part of the country, and he was out in a rural, black church that had just one little lightbulb hanging down from the ceiling to light up the whole sanctuary. He was preaching away, and in the middle of his sermon, the electricity went out. The building went pitch-black, and Dr. Taylor didn’t know what to say, being a young preacher. He stumbled around until one of the elderly deacons sitting in the back of the church cried out, “Preach on, preacher! We can still see Jesus in the dark.”
Sometimes that’s the only time we can see him — in the dark. And the good news of the gospel is that whether or not we can see him in the dark, he can see us in the dark.
— Timothy George, “Unseen Footprints,” Preaching Today Audio, no. 290
The theme of today’s Epistle the light of God’s glory, as we see it in the Gospel and in the Lord Jesus Christ. One might even say that the Epistle in some sense is an application of the doctrine of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Transfiguration, Ss. Peter, James and John, received the vision of who the Lord Jesus Christ really is, Son of God as well as man. Now it was before these select Apostles that the Lord Jesus was transfigured, and not before the rest of the disciples, or even the crowds that followed him.
Now since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church at Pentecost, the Gospel has been preached in many parts of the world, to people of all nations, and still is being preached. To everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and receives Him as Lord (John 1:12), the “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6) is revealed.
Why, to some people, is the gospel hidden? The answer to this question is that it is hidden to those who are lost. They are lost because at this point they do not believe the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:3-4). The reason for their unbelief is that the god of this world, or Satan, has blinded their minds (2 Cor. 4:4) to keep them from believing, and to keep the light of Christ’s glorious gospel from shining to them. For how is this light of the gospel received? We receive it by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and turning away from all sin. Everyone has the free choice to believe or not to believe, but Satan also plays the role of deceiving people, making it much harder to believe. He does not want people to know that Jesus Christ is the image of God, or that His Gospel saves them from eternal death and gives them eternal life.
WHY THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL AND TESTIMONY TO SALVATION MATTERS
We must not think of all who are lost because they do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as never able to believe because they are predetermined to be lost. By our prayer and intercession, by our testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ, by the preaching and teaching of the Gospel, at least some of those who do not believe can be saved, and come to know the light of the glorious Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Helen H. Lemmel’s song (1922) calls people to turn to Jesus: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, And the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” The last verse of her song tells the soul which has come to Jesus to go tell a dying world about the perfect salvation of Christ.
Why do we have a message for a dying world? In a verse that alludes to God’s creative command that called light to shine out of darkness (Gen. 1:3), St. Paul affirms that God has shined in our hearts, bringing to us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). Christian faith is not mere intellectual assent to a set of propositions, but belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Lord. Such faith has not left us in the darkness of ignorance, sin and selfishness, but has brought us out into the clear light and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and has transformed our life and way of thinking.
This means that our lives are no longer to be centered on ourselves, but on the Lord Jesus Christ and our testimony to His Gospel. That is why St. Paul writes, “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5). We are to live Christ-centered lives, serving one another for His sake, and being both willing and able to share our testimony to Christ’s Gospel, and so lead others to salvation in Him.
If you look carefully, what kind of light is shining in your life for the benefit and salvation of those whom you encounter or associate with daily? Is it the light of Christ? Is God’s message to turn from sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ clearly reflected in your own life, like the glory of the Lord at the Transfiguration, who had nothing to hide either from God or from man?