This is the third and last article in a series on the key to growth in godliness. In part one we learned that self discipline, by itself, is not the answer. Something more is needed. No one is really undisciplined. Our problem is a lack of motivation. Everyone motivated person will grow in self-discipline.
|Green House Grow Lights|
In part two we suggested that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to motivate us. He does that by illuminating certain crucial truths––most commonly the moral beauty of Christ. Illumination can be defined as the spiritual “experience” of knowledge.
People buy “grow lights” to encourage the growth of green house plants. As long as the plants sit under a grow light they grow rapidly and become fruitful. Illumination is God’s grow light. What I am saying is that to the degree that Believers sit under the Holy Spirit’s light the same happens to them. They become fruitful.
You can tell when you have experienced illumination because it has certain symptoms. Hebrews 11:1 describes two. They are a growing “assurance of things hoped for,” and “conviction of things not seen.” Heb. 11:6 adds another––a growing confidence in God’s goodness––confidence that God rewards those that seek him. Today’s post answers the question, why is the subject of illumination so important?
The first reason that illumination is important is that it is usually the last thing we think of when someone is struggling with spiritual growth. There are several reasons. First, many are not aware of the importance of illumination. Others assume all professing Christians have it. Last, many think illumination is in their control. Just study the Bible and it will automatically come.
But these assumptions are mostly false. Without illumination a professing Christian is not a Christian. They are a person with biblical knowledge, but they are not born again. This is the crucial spiritual “plus” added at new birth. Notice how Paul describes New Birth. “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Did you notice the experiential language? The change that occurs at New Birth is likened to the change that occurred at creation. When God said, “let there be light” there was light in the heavens. In the same way, when God regenerates a person they become a “new creation.” What is new is that they are now beholding the goodness of God in the person of Christ, and that insight is producing “assurance” and “conviction.”
These assumption are false for another reason. Illumination is outside of our control. Yahweh is the God who hides himself. He is the only Being in complete control of being known. You can’t just know God because you want to, you can’t lay your hands on illumination through sweaty hard work. It is God’s gracious gift. We wait for it from a posture of profound humility and eagerness.
We could say that illumination is truth tasted, or experienced. Jonathan Edwards described it as the difference between knowing all about honey and actually tasting honey. When God gives us a spiritual “taste” of truth it moves the thirteen inches from our head to our heart. To the degree that it does everything changes.
A second reason that illumination is so important is that it is the difference between a godly piety and a pharisaical religion. The religious person has knowledge, but it doesn’t seem to be changing them, humbling them, or producing the fruit of the spirit. They walk for years without changing. They are spiritual “know it alls.” They are hard to be around. They lack illumination. The fruits of illumination are humility, love, joy, peace, faithfulness, etc. We love to be around people like this.
If illumination is this important we should seek it above all else. There are two dimensions to this “seeking.” First, the godward dimension. As we have seen, God is ultimately in control of illumination. He gives it, and he is a liberal giver. Therefore, we should seek it hopefully. “Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened.” He loves to reveal himself, and he is most apt to reveal himself to the humble, those quick to repent of sin.
But second, there is a human dimension to illumination. We are responsible to seek it, pursue it, and ask God for it. Although those who practice the spiritual disciplines are most apt to receive it, they should never presume that they already have it or that they don’t need more.
How does this knowlege affect those who minster to God’s people? For those in ministry understanding the nature and power of illumination is critical. We should preach and counsel with a great sense of our need and poverty. Our people need information, but information is never enough. They also need illumination. This puts us in a needy posture. illumination is outside of our power, and unless our people get it nothing will change.
Last, it means we must continually preach Christ. Christ is the subject the Holy Spirit loves to illuminate. When the Holy Spirit illuminates the nature and character of Christ to those we preach or counsel to everything changes.
Are you sitting under God’s grow light? Do you even know he has one? Have made the mistake of assuming it? Don’t do that. Instead, cry out with the Psalmist “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Ps. 27:1).