4 In their case, the god of this age 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 are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake. 6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:4-6
Exodus 20:4-5a reads: “Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them.”
An idol is not just a carved image of a false god. An idol is anything, good or bad, that we allow to overtake our affection for the one true God. Like any sin, idolatry begins in our heart. John Calvin famously called the unrepentant heart a “factory of idols.” No one has to teach us to make idols; it’s something we do quite naturally. From birth, we perpetually give the focus of our heart to things other than God. Thankfully, God has provided a solution.
The good news for those who believe in Jesus is that the gospel gives us the power to obey the second (and every other) commandment of God. But this still raises the question: why are idols so appealing? As we are seeking to tell other people about Jesus, why is it so hard for our friends to lay aside the idols they’ve created and worship the one true God? In 2 Corinthians, Paul gives us an answer.
“The god of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” Elsewhere Paul said that the mindset of people trapped in sin is “hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law” (Romans 8:7). Taken together, these verses reveal two truths about our lost friends. 1) They have trouble seeing Jesus because we have an enemy working overtime to keep them from seeing Him. 2) They don’t see Jesus because continually breaking God’s law has made their hearts hard toward God.
With all this against us, how then should we proceed?
First, we commit ourselves to praying earnestly and desperately for our lost friend, believing God can overcome these limitations and help them to see the light that has “shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.” Only God can overcome a heart that is set against Him. We trust Him to do the work.
Second, we preach the true and full gospel, as Paul did. The message isn’t going to resonate with everyone. But our goal isn’t to please people; it’s to be faithful messengers of the gospel. If our goal is to please people, then we wouldn’t be preaching about Jesus—we would be preaching about ourselves. When we preach Jesus, we affirm His singular power to save through the gospel message.
Finally, we pursue our own discipleship and sanctification so that we are continually transformed into the likeness of Jesus who is the true image of God. This process will take a lifetime, and it requires humility. However, God’s work in our hearts to overcome our sin can be a powerful witness to our friends who are in need of Jesus.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What lost friends are you praying for?
- What lost friends are you engaging with the gospel so they might come to see Jesus?
- How are you cultivating the life of Christ in your own life so others might see Jesus through you?