2008-11-02 (pm) 1 Corinthians 2.6-15 Believing Is Seeing
There is a difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge. Head knowledge we get from reading books, that sort of thing. Heart knowledge we get from experiences.
On the Alpha video we watched last night, Nicky Gumble gave the following illustration. He said, “Suppose I was in a book store and I saw a book about a lovely woman named Pippa. I could open the book and read all kinds of information about her. Chapter one, her incredible beauty. Chapter two, her kindheartedness. Chapter three, her longsuffering, chapter four, her ability to make chicken cordon bleu. Chapter five, her atheletic prowess, a very short chapter. And so on. Do you suppose that I would have as much knowledge of her by reading that book, or by studying that book as being married to her?”
Not remotely! And that’s the good news of the Heidelberg Catechism and our scripture passage as it relates to faith in Jesus Christ.
Our faith in Christ is knowledge, in fact, it is incredible knowledge, knowledge that the so-called wise people of this age and every other age have rejected. But it is not merely head knowledge, it is experiential knowledge such knowledge as one might have of a spouse or a sibling, or with a parent.
So, how do we come to this knowledge?
First of all, right off the bat, the Holy Spirit goes to work. The Holy Spirit awakens our spirits from the dead. We needed spiritual resurrection before we can even come to faith.
Not too long ago I came across a story about a guy who was in a quadding accident. He flipped his quad and landed on his head. They brought him to the hospital, but he was totally unresponsive. They ran a bunch of tests. One test monitored the blood flow to the brain. There was none. Machines were keeping him alive, but the doctors pronounced him as brain dead. The transplant crew came in to talk about harvesting his organs. The family agreed it was what he would have wanted.
Several hours after arriving at the hospital, the doctors gathered the family and friends into the room to give him one last good bye. One of his friends couldn’t believe he was really dead, so he took out his jack knife, and as he’d seen on television, he used the blade to scrape, not cut, his friend’s bare foot. He moved.
With a yelp of surprise, they called in the doctors and nurses. A few other tests showed that yes, he was alive. He’s nearly fully recovered now, and he can recall hearing people talking about harvesting his organs.
When the Holy Spirit awakens us, it is rather like that. On the outside, we look alive, but spiritually, we’re dead. The Holy Spirit, like that knife on the foot, breathes life into us, and we respond, we come toward the light, we put our faith in Christ. Our hearts and our minds are awakened to the truth of Christ.
Now, there are many brilliant people who have studied the Bible and who have rejected its teachings. This is because they did not have the Holy Spirit at work in them.
I’ve come across these kinds of people online. They’re bloggers. They leave comments on all the religious articles. They claim that they have true vision, true insight, true understanding of how the universe functions.
But they cannot realise how deluded they are. They puff themselves up, they think they are so wise, but they are not.
They belong to the spirit of this world. The spirit of the world confuses the minds of men, shadows their spirits to prevent them from coming to God.
John Piper, in a sermon on 1 John 5:18-21 identifies six tools the devil uses to confuse people:
1. Satan deceives unbelievers. Satan works to numb, blind, and deaden the minds of unbelievers. The only way to break through this is by the Holy Spirit.
2. Satan steals the gospel away from people. In the parable of the sower, Jesus describes Satan as coming along and stealing the Word from people. People hear the gospel, but they don’t understand it, and before the Word of God can take root, Satan steals it away. He uses distractions, fighting kids, music, television, broken relationships, anything to get the word out of our minds. He does not like it when people respond to and study God’s word.
3. Satan deceives people through miracles and signs. Jesus warned that there would be false prophets who will perform all kinds of amazing feats that will lead people astray, if possible, even the elect (Matt. 24:24). Satan imitates what he sees. In Egypt, he was able to copy some of the signs God used in dealing with Pharaoh. Sometimes, there’s more going on than just fads, sometimes what’s behind it is evil powers, there will be real signs and wonders. Frank Peretti, the author of This Present Darkness, wrote a book that highlights this in his book, The Visitation.
4. Satan uses people to keep others from the faith. That’s precisely what Luther was fighting against. Satan was using the church to keep people from true faith in Christ! Similarly, Satan used a false prophet on the Island of Cyprus to keep the Roman proconsul from believing (Acts 13). Paul confronted him and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.”
Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord” (Acts 13:10-12).
5. Satan sets up roadblocks for mission work. In 1 Thess. 2:17-18, Paul lets the church know that they tried to get to them time after time, but Satan prevented them from going.
6. Satan uses persecution to work against the gospel. In Revelation 2, John warns the church of Smyrna that they are about to suffer, and that some of them will be thrown into prison by the devil. He encouraged them to be faithful and receive the crown of life. Peter echoes this sentiment when he describes the devil as a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Suffering is our experience of being in Satan’s jaws. But in the end, those who remain in Christ, all we suffer are some tiny bite marks.
But God is greater than Satan is, by far. He is always thwarting Satan’s efforts. Do you not think that Satan tempted you to avoid coming tonight? Was there a temptation to enjoy a leisurely meal at home? Or watch the game, or whatever?
But God is greater! That’s why we’re here. Not simply because God is stronger and he worked in our hearts to bring us here. But that we’ve also appropriated, we’ve seen and experienced God’s power in our lives and so we came again to see it again.
For the Spirit is at work through the preaching of the holy gospel.
That’s the head knowledge of Christ. The heart knowledge comes through the sacraments.
In the sacraments, the truth we’ve learned about salvation through Christ is confirmed.
The sacraments are signs and seals that we can see. In them, we gain more understanding about God.
Think about it. In baptism, we see, literally see, that our sins are washed away as with water (okay, well, we don’t actually see the sins washed away, but that’s what baptism symbolises).
The bread and the wine are a visible, physical reminder that Christ’s body was given, and his blood was shed for our forgiveness. These two sacraments remind us that we’ve been sealed with Christ’s promise.
Our sins are forgiven, and we have, even now, eternal life, by grace alone because of Christ’s one sacrifice finished on the cross.
So, it isn’t simply through preaching, that is head knowledge that we come to faith. We also need the Holy Spirit at work in the sacraments. We’re taught the truth in the scriptures, we assured of the truth by the Holy Spirit in the sacraments.
In 1 Cor. 2.12, we’re told that we’ve received the Spirit from God, so that we would understand what God has freely given us.
There’s no getting around it. You have to have the Holy Spirit at work in you in order to understand what’s really going on. This is why it is a wasted effort to dumb down the gospel. The gospel is like speaking a different language to those who do not have the Holy Spirit at work in them.
If we dumb down the gospel, we take the Spirit out of it. And what we’re left with is no gospel at all, we’re left with a false gospel, and then we’re right back to where we were before the Reformation, piles of people calling themselves Christian, but in reality not Christians at all.
There really is no way to make the gospel more simple that it already is. The only way for salvation is through the atonement of Christ on the cross. In this day and age, people are not so willing to be that exclusive. Out of a desire to be politically correct, they want to try to make the gospel less offensive.
But the gospel is offensive. If it wasn’t Paul says, then the leaders of this world would have accepted it, allowed the Holy Spirit work in their lives, and they would not have crucified our Lord.
But they rejected the gospel. It offended them.
Are we willing to let the gospel offend? Are we willing to say it straight up? Are we willing to trust the Holy Spirit to work in other people’s lives? Are we willing to persist when Satan tries to deceive people’s minds, steal the Word from them, confuse them with signs and wonders, use people to speak lies, put up road blocks to prevent us from getting out there and send persecution our way, are we going to let him get away with it?
Or will we be willing to put our lives on the line? Mark Driscoll says, we should be. He says people complain to him, “but that sounds dangerous.” To which he replies, “well yeah, we follow a guy who got murdered because people hated him, we should expect it.” He goes on to say, “when guys graduate from seminary they should give them a Bible and a cup.”
We need to stand up in the strength of the Holy Spirit. We’re now more alive than before our hearts and minds were awakened by the Holy Spirit.
So, come on, let’s get in the game, and allow the Holy Spirit to produce faith in us, and assure us of the truth, through the sacraments. Amen.