Bible Book: 1 Corinthians  2 : 6-16
Subject: Bible; Scripture; Illlumination; Will of God

One of my favorite science fiction authors is H.G. Wells. He’s the guy who wrote “old” sci-fi books like The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds—all of which have been made into popular movies.

Wells also wrote a short story called, “The Country of the Blind.” It’s about an inaccessible, beautiful valley deep in Ecuador where, due to a strange disease, everyone is blind—born with no eyes. The disease is genetic and the people living in that valley have been blind for 15 generations—so they have no recollection of sight or color or the outside world at all. To them being blind—living in darkness—is normal.

One day a man from the outside world—a man who COULD see—fell off a high cliff and survived, only to stumble into their hidden country. When he realized that everyone there was blind and had no knowledge of vision, he tried to tell them about sight. He would say things like “Listen! There are things you do not understand—there are beautiful things in the world.” Once or twice some of blind people would listen to him. When they did he did his best to tell them what it was like to see. But they never believed him. They thought he was crazy.

Well, the man eventually fell in love with a girl—blind of course—and the girl’s father, whose name was Yacob, was upset about his daughter marrying this crazy young stranger—so he went to talk to the doctor in this land of the blind—about his daughter’s suiter. [The doctor said]: “I think I may say with reasonable certainty that, in order to cure him completely, all that we need to do is a simple and easy surgical operation—namely, to remove these irritant bodies [his eyes!].” Yacob asked, “And then he will be sane?” The doc replied, “Yes, then he will be perfectly sane, and a quite admirable citizen.” “Thank Heaven for science!” said old Yacob. Armed with this “medical knowledge” Yacob told the man he could not marry his daughter unless he submitted to an operation that would blind him.

Well, what would the love-stricken young man do? Here’s a quote from Wells’ book that answers my question: “The young seeing man had fully meant to go to a lonely place where the meadows were beautiful with white narcissus—and there remain until the hour of his surgery should come—but as he walked he lifted up his eyes and saw the morning, the morning like an angel in golden armor, marching down the mountain steeps. It seemed to him that before this splendor, he and this blind world in the valley, and his love and all, were no more than a pit of sin. And the man who could see escaped the country of the blind with his life.”

Now—Well’s story has a basis in truth because in a very real sense you and I live in a country of blind people. I mean, ours is a world full of people who don’t see. They don’t see sin as sin. We live among people who are blind to the light of God’s truth. And sadly, this kind of blindness is normal to them. I mean, they don’t want to “see.” Do you remember how Jesus put it? He said, “Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.” (John 3:19)

Like Wells’ story—many people think WE are crazy when we try to describe the joy of knowing Jesus—and living life according to God’s loving law. They just can’t “see” things the way we do as Christians. I bring this up because in our text for this morning Paul refers to this principle.

Take your Bibles and turn to 1st Corinthians 2:6-16: 6 – We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 – No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 – None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 – However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived—the things God has prepared for those who love Him 10 – these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit.” The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11- For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 – What we have received is not the spirit of the world,but the Spirit Who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 – This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 – The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness—and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 – The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 – for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

In today’s text Paul reminds his readers and us—of the core value fact—that the root problem of this world and God’s plan to fix it—is a MYSTERY. We can’t see it or understand it on our own.

Even Satan and his minions were blind to it. Yes—they could understand—they could see—from the Old Testament Scriptures that the Son of God would be born but they could not grasp the full significance of the cross. From the time of our Lord’s birth into this world, Satan had tried to kill Him. He knew God was up to something but Satan did not fully understand the true reason for Jesus’ coming. Had Satan known—had he seen—he would not have tempted Judas to betray our Lord. Remember—Satan thought that Calvary was God’s great DEFEAT—but of course it turned out the exact opposite way. The cross was God’s great VICTORY and Satan’s great defeat—a wonderful truth that Paul says in Ephesians (3:10) the church is now revealing. Paul writes, “God’s intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities of Heavenly realms—according to His eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So Satan did not understand God’s wise plan—and man didn’t either—which is why—n spite of all the prophecy of His coming—most of the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Even Peter didn’t grasp it until the resurrection. Remember? When Jesus told the disciples that He would be killed and on the third day raised to life, Peter said, “Never Lord! This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16) Jesus rebuked Peter. He turned to him and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns!”

All this should HUMBLE us—for it reminds us that there are things that are beyond human observation and understanding. This is what Paul is getting at in verse 9 when he says, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” Man can understand a great deal—but no one can fully understand the things of God on his or her own. This is because, as Stephen Um points out in his commentary, our capacity for knowledge—our understanding—our perception—is LIMITED in three ways.

i. First, it is limited by TIME.

Look at verses 6 and 7 where Paul says, “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom…of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory BEFORE TIME BEGAN.”

We weren’t here BEFORE TIME BEGAN. Our bodies last only a limited time. We simply cannot get an understanding of all things in those seven or eight decades. As Psalm 103 says, “The life of mortals is like grass., they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone.”

Currently the Library of Congress houses eighteen million books. American publishers add another two hundred thousand titles to its volume each year. This means that at the current publishing rate, ten million new books will be added in the next 50 years. Add together the dusty Library of Congress volumes with the shiny new and forthcoming books and you get—a bookshelf-warping total of twenty-eight million books available for an English reader in the next 50 years! Even if you are a wildly ambitious book reader—you devour them twenty-four hours a day—you can still only read 2,600 or so. That means for every one book that you choose to read—you must ignore ten thousand other books simply because you don’t have the time. Time limits us—it keeps us from seeing and understanding.

ii. Our second limitation comes from our SENSES.

Paul says as much. I mean our eyes are wonderful—but there are things the human eye cannot see. Our ears are amazing—but there are still truths we are deaf to. Our minds are wonderful—but even with the highest IQ there are things we cannot conceive or understand. I mean, the more we learn—the more we realize we don’t know. There are many things that can be perceived through the five senses, but certain things just cannot. We don’t have the sensory equipment required. These things have to be revealed by God.

C. S. Lewis highlighted this truth by contrasting the different qualities of life for the different types of living things: plant life, animal life, human life. He says that all three respond to a certain kind of stimuli, but they all have different ranges of sensation. For example, a plant will respond to the light of the sun through photosynthesis. But an animal will respond to the same sun light to a much greater sense—seeing it, feeling it, etc. A human will respond to an even greater extent. We not only feel it with our senses—we study it, measure it, etc. Our lives are radically different from those of plants and animals because we are able to sense things they cannot.

Well, Lewis goes on to point out that there is ANOTHER dimension of life—and we have only a limited awareness of it. Our senses can’t fully see it. It’s like trying to see something with the wrong prescription. The only way we learn about these things—is through our omniscient God’s instruction.

iii. Limited by ACCESS

That leads me to mention the last way our knowledge—our understanding—is limited. It is limited by ACCESS.

Look at verse 11 where Paul says, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”

Think about it this way. You can read all the biographies written about Abraham Lincoln. But you really won’t KNOW our 16th president. The only way to KNOW him is for him to let us into his thoughts. And since both time travel and the Vulcan mind meld is science fiction—our knowledge is limited. All kidding aside, Paul is saying we can’t know the mind of God without the MIND of Christ—the SPIRIT of God—in us. Yes—we can know ABOUT God by looking back at how He intervened in history or by looking around at the intricacies of His creation. But we can only really understand God by KNOWING Him personally—which of course only happens through faith in Jesus. As Paul says in verse 12 and 13, “What we have received is not the spirit of the world,but the Spirit Who is from God, so 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, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.”

You know, if you or I were to tour Luray Caverns with just our eyesight we would stumble around in the darkness. The cave would look like THIS. But with the help of a guide who knows where the light switches are—a guide who truly knows every inch of that cave—the cave would look like THIS. With the help of a guide, we can see and understand the beauty of that underground wonderland.

Now—look at verses 7 and 8. Paul says, “We declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

What do you think Paul means by this? Why did God make His plan a “mystery?” Well, as Paul says, if “…the rulers of this age understood it—they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” If they KNEW Jesus was God—they would not have killed Him. Would YOU kill God’s Son? Of course not—but Jesus HAD to die so that our sins could be forgiven—so God made it a mystery—something that in spite of all the Messianic prophecy—man could not fully understand until AFTER the resurrection.

The main message Paul is proclaiming in our text is that, as Christians, we need to think—we need to SEE–differently from the world. And we can! After, all we have the “mind of Christ.” We have God in us teaching us—enlightening us. So—when we hear scary diagnoses or see terrifying news stories—when we deal with struggles at work—when we face financial nightmares—we aren’t afraid because can see these things BETTER than the people who DON’T have God’s Spirit in them. We can see all things in light of God’s character—-and plan. We don’t have the same sensory limitations as others. Christians should think differently than the world. Our perspective should be an eternal one.

And—remember—the battle has always been in our minds. As Mark Buchanan puts it, “Sin and rebellion really is a HEAD GAME.” In Colossians 1:21 Paul said, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in YOUR MINDS because of your evil behavior.” This is why in His Sermon on the Mount Jesus talked about sin being more than our actions. Do you remember His words? “You have heard, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ but I say to you anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in His heart.” (Matthew 5:21) Jesus also said that murder begins in the mind—with our angry thoughts. This is one reason it is so wonderful when a person becomes a Christian, because then God’s Spirit comes to live in us—teaching us—helping us think rightly—see correctly. I can’t help but think of the chorus of that old hymn: “Silently now I wait for Thee; ready my God Thy will to see; Open my eyes illumine me, Spirit divine!” Well, the question I want us to deal with today is how do we experience that ILLUMINATION? How do we win this head game? How do we learn to hear God’s voice—so we see things correctly?

And to be clear—God does want to guide our understanding. He wants us to see. Bill Hybels writes, “Throughout all History God has communicated and He is still at it today. The issue isn’t whether or not God is speaking; it’s whether or not we have ears to hear what He says.” So how do we HEAR God’s Spirit? How do we tap into the mind of Christ? How do we SEE better—THINK and perceive more rightly? Mark Buchanan suggest the following for steps.

I. First we must REPENT OF SIN

And that’s a great word to use when we talk about this “head game” because the word “repent” literally means: “to change your mind.” It means we stop thinking in ways that we know are unproductive and out of line with the kingdom of God.

You guys know what I’m talking about. As Christians—as people in whom God’s Spirit dwells—we know that whenever we sin God tells us. We hear His loving voice warning us not to proceed. We also know from His Word that thinking certain ways and acting certain ways is wrong. So to experience the ILLUMINATION we all need—we need to LISTEN to God’s voice—we need to HEED His loving promptings. We need to OBEY His written word. We need to repent. Hybels writes, “God cannot be seen by eyes that are shut. God cannot be heard by spiritual ears that are plugged. And God cannot be followed by a heart that stubbornly stays hard.” So—repent—turn from sin. The more you do—the closer you and God will become—and the more ILLUMINED you will be.

And remember “repent” is not a “bad news” word. In Jesus’ inaugural address, his opening statement is, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Good News.” (Mark 1:15) So repenting is a good news deal. Jesus is saying “Heaven is intersecting with earth. It’s bumping up against you. The kingdom is all about you, and you can get in on it, but you have to stop thinking the way you’re thinking. You have to change your mind. You have to repent.”

The fact is we have a hard time thinking of ourselves as BAD—we have a hard time thinking of ourselves as sinners. We have a hard time seeing that we are THINKING wrong—perceiving wrong. And research has affirmed this. Several studies have shown that people tend to exaggerate their own positive characteristics and abilities. For instance, some have shown that most drivers think they’re a better-than-average driver. I know I am! I almost rear-ended a guy the other day and my first thought was, “What is wrong with that guy!?” Nothing was wrong with him—I just wasn’t paying attention.

Psychologists call this the state of “illusory superiority.” Recently, a team of British researchers tested this common “better-than-average” tendency by surveying 85 convicts at a prison in South East England about their pro-social traits. The inmates were aged 18 to 34 and the majority had been jailed for acts of violence and robbery. The inmates completed questionnaires anonymously and in relative privacy. Here’s what the study concluded: “Compared with ‘an average prisoner’ the [convicts] rated themselves as more moral, kinder to others, more self-controlled, more law-abiding, more compassionate—more generous, more dependable, more trustworthy, and more honest. Remarkably, they also rated themselves as higher on all these traits than ‘an average member of the community,’ with one exception—law-abiding. The prisoners rated themselves as EQUIVALENT on this trait relative to an average community member.”

Well, in spite of the fact that we are not behind bars, we are just as bad. When we were in seminary housing we had roaches—millions of them. I preferred to pretend they weren’t there. When we came home from church at night I’d make a lot of noise as I opened the door. I’d keep my eyes closed as I flipped on the light—-and sure enough when I opened them the apartment would look roach free. Sue on the other had was not like that. She’d quietly open the door—and with her eyes wide open would flip on the light switch—and she’d see roaches scurrying for cover all over the place. We need to be like Sue when it comes to sin—we need to shine the light of God’s truth on our lives—to remind us that we DO sin. We need to pray as David did, “Search me Oh God—know my heart. See if there is any offensive way in me. Lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139) Only then—only after repentance can we hear God clearly. And this has to be a REGULAR discipline. Repentance is not just a one-time deal.


This leads me to mention a second thing we must do to experience God’s ILLUMINATION. We must DEMOLISH STRONGHOLDS.

You see when we become Christians and God’s Spirit moves in, He sees that our mind is already “furnished” Buchanan puts it this way: “We’ve been to every swap meet, bargain basement, and rummage sale this side of Hell, and we’ve got the thing cluttered to the rafters—with opinions and attitudes and biases and prejudices—and sinful ways of thinking.” The Bible calls this “the flesh.” Any situation we encounter—a relationship with a person, a tragedy that befalls us, the loss of a job, winning the lottery, whatever—we have a fleshly way of responding to it. We have a “sinful-default approach” to everything in life.

Well, this is the “house” God’s Spirit finds when He moves in. This is the “furniture” He has to deal with—and we need to let Him. Paul refers to these mental strongholds in chapter 10 of his second letter to the church at Corinth and the word “stronghold” is of course a military word for a FORTRESS. Paul uses this image to speak of the established, entrenched ways of thinking, acting, and reacting that are in opposition to the ways of God. Paul says we build these strongholds for DEFENSE purposes. As we engage in arguments to rationalize our behavior, as we elevate pretensions to pat ourselves on the back, as we entertain thoughts that continue to feed us bad information—we keep building and strengthening the ramparts of these strongholds.

Paul says we have to go and tear these strongholds down. We must demolish them. The word he uses speaks of a siege of sorts. As, with God’s enlightening help, we win the siege are to go into the stronghold and “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Jesus.” In other words, the thoughts that are feeding the things that are taking us captive—the angry thoughts, the resentful thoughts, the lustful thoughts—relying on the new power Jesus gives us when we repent, we go in to conquer and reverse them.

In this text Paul paints the picture that we are no longer in a war camp. The allies have arrived, and the tables have been turned. We can take captive the captives and lead them where they need to go—down to the pit. Well, we all have these strongholds—and we can’t HEAR GOD—much less HEED Him if we allow them to stand. These walls have to come down—and with God’s indwelling help they can.

I once read about a Chinese man named Li Fuyan who had tried every treatment imaginable to ease his throbbing headaches. Nothing helped. An X-ray finally revealed the culprit. A rusty four-inch knife blade had been lodged in his skull for four years. In an attack by a robber, Fuyan had suffered lacerations on the right side of his jaw. He didn’t know the blade had broken off inside his head. No wonder he suffered from such stabbing pain. No wonder he couldn’t think clearly.

Well—you and I are the same way. We have sinful thoughts and attitudes buried in our thinking—and to experience the joy of KNOWING God—we need to let Jesus help us to clean house—to surgically removed those pockets of infection. As Paul puts it, we need to let our God RENEW our minds.


The third thing that we must to do experience the ILLUMINATION of God’s Spirit is WORSHIP.

Remember, worship is not just a Sunday deal—it’s an every-moment-of-every-day deal. Our entire life is to be an offering to God. And as we commune with Him—praising Him for Who He is and for all He does—we gain His perspective on life—we are ILLUMINED. Our eyes are opened and we see more clearly and act more wisely.

You know, I often hear people say, “I am so glad it is finally Sunday. I’m so dry and empty. I need to come to worship.” I don’t want to sound too harsh but the reality is that’s not how you’re supposed to come in or Sunday. We should come here refreshed and empowered by our DAILY worship—-motivated to worship TOGETHER and to love and encourage one another. After all—God is not just HERE in this room. As Christians, He is HERE in our heads. Christianity is a RELATIONSHIP with God Himself—and we can and should enjoy that relationship all the time.

Philip Yancey describes a moment of profound wonder and awe in Alaska’s wilderness. He was driving down the road when he came upon a number of cars pulled off to the edge of the highway. Like any of us would have done, he stopped to see what everyone was looking at.

Yancey describes the scene: “Against the slate-gray sky, the water of an ocean inlet had a slight greenish cast, interrupted by small whitecaps. Soon I saw these were not whitecaps at all, but whales—silvery white beluga whales in a pod feeding no more than fifty feet offshore. I stood with the other onlookers for forty minutes, listening to the rhythmic motion of the sea, following the graceful, ghostly crescents of surfacing whales. The crowd was hushed, even reverent. For just that moment, nothing else—dinner reservations, the trip schedule, life back home—mattered. We were confronted with a scene of quiet beauty and a majesty of scale. We felt small. We strangers stood together in silence until the whales moved farther out. Then we climbed the bank together and got in our cars to resume our busy, ordered lives that suddenly seemed less urgent.”

Well, we don’t have to go to ALASKA for those moments of worship. We can and should enjoy them all the time. Stopping—looking at the beauty of the clouds or your wife’s face—or a video of your grand-children—or a plate full of food—anything can remind us of God and Who He is—–and how POWERFL He is and how LOVING He is. WORSHIP—being still and knowing God is God—it helps us not feel the anxiety of the urgent—we think clearly—we understand better.


One final way to experience God’s illumining is to READ the BIBLE.

Do you remember the first three verses of Psalm 1? “Blessed is he, blessed is the man who does not walk in the way of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by water, which yields its fruit in season And whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” The person who is soaked in the Word of God—not someone who just samples it—but is soaked in the Word of God—is constantly freshened and shaped by the Word of God—the person who lets the Word wash over them and take hold of them concerning, say, the KINDNESS of God, becomes a KIND person. If someone meditates on the GLORY of God, they live more and more in the sense of God’s magnificent splendor and their problems become small.

In a recent issue of Leadership Journal, Gordon Macdonald writes: “In the fall of 1956, I began my final year at the Stony Brook School, then a boys’ college preparatory school in New York.

Among the required courses that last year was Senior Bible, taught by the school’s headmaster, Dr. Frank E. Gaebelein—a man who required us to memorize 300 verses of Scripture over the course of that year. If he met a student on the pathway from the class room to the dining hall, he might say, ‘Gordon, give me John 13:34 please.’ He expected us to recite the verse from memory without faltering. One of the passages he tasked us to memorize was Psalm 46. For days we memorized, recited, memorized, recited until the Psalm 46 was part of us. ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.’ In the spring of 1957, Senior Bible ended. We put our index cards away, graduated from Stony Brook, and went off to college. Occasionally, I returned to Psalm 46. As a pastor I preached on it a few times. Now 56 years have passed. A few days ago my doctor called me and said, ‘Gordon, I have some difficult news for you. There’s a tumor in the back of your head in the lining of the brain. It is not malignant, but it will have to come out.’ I have spent my whole life helping other people face doctor-call moments like these. Now it was my turn and the very first thing that began to surge through my mind was: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, will not we fear, though the earth be removed…’ When I was a teenager, a brilliant and Godly man pumped my friends and me full of Scripture. Now his effort is paying off.

Thanks to Dr. Gaebelein and Psalm 46, I may be concerned and cautious, but I am not inclined to be fearful.”

Listen—the better we know God’s book—the better we know God—the better we HEAR God—and the better we think—the better we see the hardships of life. We think more clearly—rightly when we read the Bible. Now—relying on the lyrics to that old hymn I mentioned earlier—would you pray with me:

Father God,

Open our EYES so that we can see—the truth You have for us; place in our hands—our minds— the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set us free. Open our EARS that we may hear YOUR voice of truth—the truth You send clear. We need Your voice Father in order to hear TRUTH—need it to recognize the false messages our world proclaims. We need it to see our need for repentance…need it to demolish strongholds. Father open our minds as we read Your written Word. Guide us as we read about Your great love in word and deed. Use our reading to banish fear—help us to see we need never fear with You leading the way. Now Father, tell us what we each need to do—how we need to respond to this morning’s reading from 1 Corinthians.