god OF THIS WORLD
(3) "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. (4) In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (5) For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake. (6) For it is God who said. 'Let light shine out of darkness,' who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (NRSV).
It is not a typo; the word 'god' is in the lower case 'g', not capitalized, in Paul's letter to Corinth. I remember how my Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Leonard, explaining this to us in the 6th grade, wrote 'God' on the chalk board, and said that that was the Heavenly Father who Created us. Then she wrote the same word with a small letter 'g' and said that 'little god' meant the false gods that people chase after such as: Money, power, greed, alcohol, and that Satan was in charge of making sin look like the gospel. Of course, all of in the class knew that she was describing one particular member of our little church who had taken his tithe money and bought a motor boat, which he promenaded around High Rock Lake, instead of coming to Sunday School and Church. Furthermore, all of us knew that the same Devil could get us.
Later I learned in seminary of an ancient document found in the Dead Sea caves of Qumrah, that painted a similar picture to Mrs. Leonard's: "Belial will be rampant in Israel, making whoredome (lust for gratification), lucre (lust for money), and desecration (disregard for the holy) look like three kinds of righteousness." (The Zadokite Document) Belial was a fallen angel, like Satan, who represented to Israel the very personification of evil. His task was to 'beguile' humans into thinking that sin was a great thing. I suppose riding around drunk in a motor boat, and skipping church, would qualify.
The corrective for deceptive teaching, as Paul presents it in verse five, is a clear proclamation of the gospel. We do not preach human ideas with the beguiling cunning of secular logic, but we preach the plain truth about Christ as Lord. This truth is beyond ourselves and we do not put forth our own concepts as much as we are finding new ways to retell the old story. We are focused on the central points of Grace and are bound to preach it as the main aspect of our calling and commitment. Our goal in every presentation of the gospel is to allow the light to shine through our personality out to the world, much as the personality of Jesus Christ has lighted our lives and exists through the proclamation.
Gordon Thompson was my major professor of homiletics at Emory University. Much of what I know and who I am came from him. He carefully led us through the rudiments of preaching, but there was one thing that all of us came away knowing. In every sermon critique Dr. Thompson would ask, "Where was the gospel proclaimed?" "How did you communicate the message of grace and salvation?" "At what point were people lifted out of hopelessness into hope?" Still today, all over the globe, his students are held true by this cardinal rule. "For it is God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face (person) of Jesus Christ." (v.6).
This same devotedness binds authors of music that would be Christian. Handel's "Messiah" carries our hearts to the feet of Jesus because Handel wrote the music with this purpose as a slave to the gospel. Charles Wesley penned the words of his hundreds of hymns with the goal of turning lives toward the Light that had enlightened his life. Every song we sing in worship should have as it's goal the ringing out of the good news. Thus, the songs that play in our hearts when we whistle, hum, and sing, outside the walls of the church will be reminders of the light that is ours. My Dad taught me to whistle: It's a happy thing to do, it's hard to whistle and be sad at the same time. Dad said to whistle whenever you approach a doorway, or a home, especially at night, so that they will know you are a friend.
Our inward thoughts keep the gospel from being "veiled," in our hearts and lives. Our walking memory of the Word, the songs and poems that we go about the day consciously and subconsciously turning over in our minds, keeps us from falling. The counterfeit "god of this world" can not entrap us as long as we are full of grace.
Although he wrote many books, translated others, and published many more, John Wesley proclaimed himself, "a man of one book." This meant that everything else that he read was filtered and purified through his biblical knowledge. Before we were given the barb name, "Method-ists," The Holy Club at Oxford College, was called "A Bunch of Bible Moths." In other words, Wesley and his band were accused of spiritually feeding on the Word.
Just as evil can turn us in the wrong direction, with its beguiling images, visions, goals and ideas, so can the purity of the Gospel keep us moving toward God. We all know persons who have sadly, over time, allowed their "minds to be blinded, and have been kept from seeing the light of the gospel..." (v.4). But just the opposite is true as we intentionally place ourselves at the disposal of the Holy Spirit: as our focus is placed on Him, and away from the stuff that would undo us.
Somebody recently wrote to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's "The Vent," section, that allows anonymous quips on current events, "I don't care what anybody else thinks, I still believe that all these child shootings are caused by television." Who could deny that we are formed by the images that bombard our senses? Thus, a refocusing upon higher things would be the remedy for the problem. Young people, and old folks too, can be maimed by the media, or they can change channels. There is much good content on TV too. As in all things, television is a matter of unveiling, seeking the best, and avoiding the bad. We become what we see, sing and say. Isn't our goal to become a worthy reflector of Jesus?
As our invitational hymn says, our goal is to Let our Little Lights Shine.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor