My wife was recently diagnosed with cancer for the second time. Once again, we are walking a steep, rough path through dark woods. When the doctor utters the “C” word, everything changes. Life’s priorities seem to tumble almost by themselves into their proper order, and–all of a sudden–one has a different perspective on this world.
Which is why a phrase in the Bible brought me up short when I thought of it again the other day. Writing to the Corinthians, a First Century church that was once obsessed with this world, Paul says:
“But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 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.” (2 COR 4.2-4, emphasis added)
There are several notable items in this text.
First, Paul talks about his forthright proclamation of the truth, as opposed to what was already taking place in his day and is still taking place now–disgraceful, underhanded tampering with God’s word. “Enlightened” people view the Bible as unreliable–yet, most of them have never read it. Others claim the Bible has been corrupted, and I couldn’t agree more. The real question is, “When–and by whom?”
A second important truth here is Paul’s observation–the Holy Spirit’s observation, really–that the gospel (the “good news” about Jesus Christ) –is hidden from many people. Actually, from most people. Is it because they are stupid? Of course not. Is it because they have never heard? Perhaps. But mainly, it’s because they are blind.
If I had been born blind–if I had never seen even a pinprick of light, and you were trying to convince me that the sky is blue, how would you do it? A physics lecture on refraction? A field trip? An afternoon in a landscape exhibit at the National Gallery? Testimonials by sighted people? A special on the Weather Channel? A nice, mellow rendition of the Irving Berlin song, “Blue Skies?” None of these would help. I don’t even know what blue is, remember?
There is only thing that will allow me to understand this phenomenon. Sight.
The consequences of spiritual blindness are far more severe than those of physical blindness, and they last forever. Did you get that last word, “forever?” (Remember it, because we’ll come back to it.) This text tells us that the gospel is veiled–hidden, or unable to be grasped–by those who are perishing. If that sounds serious, it’s because it is. The reason people are spiritually blind is because they are perishing–doomed to spend eternity apart from God in hell–and the reason they are perishing is because they are spiritually blind.
And why are they spiritually blind? Check the text. It’s because the god of this world has made them that way. He doesn’t want them to see even a pinprick of light.
So, why is Satan called, “the god of this world?”
One reason is that when he was cast from heaven, Jehovah, the Eternal God, gave him dominion over this world–what the New Testament calls, the kosmos. Until he is finally cast into the Lake of Fire with his demonic hordes and those who have not believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, (MAT 25.41; REV 20.13-15) he will exercise authority over this world and everyone in it. Jesus taught us that there are only two families on earth–the family of God and the family of Satan. He even told unbelieving Jews–His own people, God’s Covenant people–that they were “of their father, the devil.” (JOH 8.44) And every child of the devil is born blind.
But that phrase, the god of this world, struck me a different way this week. Satan, that Great Deceiver, wants his children to be concerned only with this world. He doesn’t want them even thinking about life after death, about eternity, about judgment. He wants them to swallow the delusion that all that really matters is…this world. He convinces them that morality is relative, and they themselves can be the arbiters of truth and the masters of their own fates. He urges them to accumulate wealth, pursue pleasures of every sort, seek fame and prestige, gain power, and expend their energies on things with no eternal value. Parading as an “angel of light,” he encourages well-intentioned and socially conscious people to spend their lives doing commendable things in unbelief. He is especially pleased when people become devoted to religion–any religion–since religion distorts truth and gives people a false sense of security. He relishes the philosophical notion that the spiritual realm is non-existent, so death results not in condemnation, but merely in compost.
If your biggest concerns in life–your fears, your goals, your urges–only involve this world, it’s because the god of this world has you right where he wants you. He’s going down, and he wants you going down with him.
When we lived in Atlanta, a common greeting on the street was, “Who’s your daddy?”
That’s a good question to ask yourself.