"The god of this age". 2 Cor 4:4 (v1-6) WBC 15/5/5am
It’s Halloween in New York. A man bound for a fancy dress party is waiting for a bus, dressed as the devil. It starts to rain, and so he takes shelter in a nearby porch. Coming from the door behind him he hears the sound of the singing of hymns. The wind veers and drives the rain straight into the porch so that he is forced back against the door. Suddenly there is a mighty CRASH of thunder,. He jumps with a start, throwing the door open and the congregation is greeted with a picture of the devil backlit by lightening. Panic ensues, and the whole congregation files out through the only available exit: the doorway in which he is standing. Contagious as it ism the panic takes over him as well, and he runs, too. Runs from the ’unknown’ slightly behind the congregation. Wanting to know the source of his fear, he gains on old Mrs Smith and her Zimmer frame with the intent of asking her what they are running from... grasps her by the shoulder... opens his mouth... and is immediately greeted by the plea ’Oh Mr devil, I may have attended that church for 75 years- but I was on your side all the time!’
It’s quite funny really- and we all laugh
- but evil IS a reality
o (not one we want to get obsessed about. This is one sermon in 50. Some cover it all the time)
- Consider: our news this week. (Rape & Murder in Reading)
o Isn’t it just awful?
o The computer world: viruses that waste person-hours.. spyware… horrific emails (porn)
Think about it for a moment- and I don’t think any of us would doubt the reality of evil. (Should have covered it in Alpha Thurs pm?)
But think about it a bit more. How prevalent… insidious… effective is this evil if it can permeate so much of our world… like the ocean of air around us that we breathe…. Yet
- hide its tracks
- have people believing…seeking (even)… horror films.. occult stuff… all kinds of spiritual revelation and trinkets…
- … YET believe it is impersonal! Not personal. Unfocussed. ’Neutral’, even.
o No strategy or strategiser behind it!
Jesus and the Bible are very clear about it, though. Bring it to light. Shine light on the reality of the subject
So- what’s happening, here
Paul is talking about the good news that there is in Jesus.. and about the ministry he has been given to spread it.
- he keeps going in spreading it. Perseveres & never loses heart v1
- he tries to do it with complete integrity. Always above board
o v3 doesn’t use deception. Lit ’cunning’ as in 2 Cor 11:3
o 3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ
o doesn’t distort, exaggerate, ’help God out a bit by stretching the truth (’evangelastic’).. manipulate, deceive… tamper with God’s word
" either to make the story more ’palatable’ or ’more strict’
" (people can try either things. Adding or taking away from the demands/costs)
" Alpha, Thur pm- you realise that God tells you some pretty uncomfortable things
" Well- Paul didn’t ’cotton wool’ those- as he knew they were necessary for REAL conversion
It says he "commended himself to each person’s conscience in the sight of God", ie
- He only tried to please God but also
- Acted so transparently that each person’s conscience could not deny
o His sincerity…integrity…. Love
o That what he was saying was true
" God loves. Jesus saves. Man NEEDS
So- why didn’t everyone believe? Humanly there was no block. No problem with Paul, his presentation… or the gospel
- so why wasn’t everyone a Christian? Where is the block?
Have you ever asked this? "I just don’t know why EVERYONE doesn’t want this- it’s just so good!"
- "it is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose"
well- Paul explains where the problem lies
- it has something to do with free will. The free will of each individual that God will not overrule or devalue. V4 "they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ"
o elsewhere this is clarified as THEIR choices. Jn 1:11 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him
But it has to do with something… someone… else as well
"The god of this age"
Now- it’s not always easy to understand this text, here.
- Me as young Christian. "who is blinding, here? It calls him God. Why would God blind people?"
No- God doesn’t blind.
This is talking about ’the opposition’. The devil
- and it makes him out to be real, strategising, personal and powerful. So much so that few see his tracks (what a strategy!)
He is described as ’the god of this age’
But what does this mean? And: "I thought you said God rules"
Well- it’s not quite as simple as that!
Does God rule fully down here? Is His will fully done? Is everything pleasing to Him?
- if it is: why are we taught to pray ’your kingdom come..’
No- THIS is presented as enemy occupied territory
- territory that was given to the evil one when he fell from heaven
- territory that was given to him by invitation of humankind! By our fall
And WE have been called to take it back
- Jesus brought the KOG. Luke 4. Healing. Physical. Mental. Sociological. Most of all spiritual
- And He has passed this on to US. Mt 28:19
And… get this straight… nowhere is Satan.. the darkness… presented as equal to God. This is not ’dualism’. He did not ’take’ this territory from God-
- HE gave it to him (for some reason fully unknown to us) and
- WE let him have it (by stupidity… sin)
He is presented as the one who has authority down here (Eph 2:2 ’the ruler of he kingdom of the air’… the kingdom of this world)… a king
- but Jesus is described as the King of kings
- the one who defeated him at the cross.
o Jn 12:31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.
o 1 Jn 3:8 The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
He is seen as mighty- but God is described as ALMIGHTY
- and He and His people win
- (hence why it is a short term bet and a certain loser to back the temporary ruler down here. But some do)
So- there is no question who rules. God does. Ultimately He gets his way. Particularly in our lives
- the war is won… but the battle is still raging down here
o and don’t we know it
o and the battle is for people’s spirits!
And there’s lots we don’t can’t understand, here- but (to quote William temple, 1939 ) Our task with this world is not to explain it, but convert it. Its need can be met, . . . only by the shattering impact on its self sufficiency and arrogance of the Son of God, crucified, risen and ascended, pouring forth that holy and disruptive energy which is the Holy Ghost.
So-how does he fight. We’d be stupid not to know this of our enemy!
Well- it’s almost contrasted with Paul’s characteristics of integrity etc
- he lies, steals, destroys, tears down, confuses, distracts and blinds (all terms from the Bible)
It says here: ’he blinds the eyes of unbelievers so they cannot see’
- see what?: see about Jesus
o that’s his main aim… and his main target (here!) is people on the cusp of faith
o he’s not trying to have everyone as signed up Satanists
" keeping them away from Jesus is his main aim..
… by distracting. Filling lives so busy they can’t think. Filling with good things!
- I’ve been hearing about programme on monastery (Monday). At Alpha discussing how we could do with that! Space. Time. - not to dawdle, but to HEAR Jesus. Apparently one was telling of his faith on Richard & Judy
Signs of the Times (given at end of 20 century, Summer 1999, as summary of where society was at)
We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less.
We have more conveniences but less time, more knowledge, but less judgement; more leisure and less fun.
We have more food, but less nutrition; more experts but more problems, more medicine, but less well-ness.
We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values. We’ve learned to make a living but not a life; we’ve added years to life, but not life to years.
We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication. We’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality.
We’ve been to the moon and back but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour. We’ve conquered outer space but not inner space;
We’ve done larger things, not better things. We have more acquaintances, but fewer friends, more effort but less success.
These are days of fancier houses, but broken homes.
It’s a time when there is much in the shop window, and nothing in the stockroom
There IS something in here about our culture. Not ALL culture- but culture… that ’age’ we are in (v4) … that ’air we breathe’ (Eph 2:2) that, frankly, does everything it can to stop us becoming Christians
- "oh- forget it! For an instant!"- what: forget eternity for a £1 gamble??? Yes- that’s the line people are sold and TAKE
- no time. No respect. Can go out at work for a ciggie, but not a prayer. Where everything attacks Christ (even the caricature painted of Him by the church)
In fact: this eroding of the image of Jesus is very key
- notice what really riles people. Notice what all cults etc erode FIRST
o = Jesus!
o Because He is the one on whom it all hangs. God’s salvation plan. The light of the gospel, because He is the image of God shown to humankind (v4)
o The only name given by which people can be saved
He will let you believe in God.. go to church.. be nice- but follow Jesus: no!
- and so, as we approach the Feast- there IS a real battle going on
o for people’s spirits
o to distract & tear us down
But YOUR story… testimony.. WILL win over!
REV 12:11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;
There is so much more I could say: but don’t have the time and don’t want to
- but need to know that the reason some cant cross the line is they need to tell him to get packing. Choose! He own the line
His weapons are lies, deceit, distraction.
But we have weapons, too. And here’s how we fight the battle:
- mainly on the horizontal level (seemingly). Humanly
- by going and telling about Jesus… inviting to Alpha… befriending people… loving… caring.. getting involved in the Feast
THIS is spiritual warfare.
Of course, there is a BIG place for prayer. Intercession. Binding the evil one. Prayer warfare (that’s all biblical, I think)
- but I don’t think we have to be able to do ’strategic spiritual warfare’- "know it all and name them all" for it to be affective
o in fact, I don’t see that in the Bible and do see it as a distraction
IN fact: it’s when the disciples go and DO stuff on THIS level (horizontal) that things happen in the vertical (heavenlies)(
- backed by intercessory prayer. General, healthy, binding loosing
Note: LK 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go!....
LK 10:8 "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, `The kingdom of God is near you….
LK 10:17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."
LK 10:18 He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
- but: healthy intercessory prayer, binding, loosing- praying for people
So- OUR weapons seem very human… earthy… normal: talking about Jesus.. telling our story.. praying with the sick. ’Doing kingdom stuff’ down here
But, that’s not how heaven, hell nor Paul sees them! Listen to 2COr 10:3
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
So. Listen: the little ordinary things you do, and are doing at the Feast- shake heaven and hell as they touch earth… people’s lives. You have no idea of the power you have
- OR DO YOU?
I think you do!
Go and do it in Jesus’ name. Believe it. Step out. See it. Let’s see the blindfolds come off and the blind see