Let us understand the meaning of the word: Illumination, is a noun from il + Latin word lumen, which means light. It means clarity or a help to explain something. We could say that our minds are (in a figurative term) lightened up by the Holy Spirit because He illuminates our minds. And the way God does this is through various means.
One is through creation. That everything created is designed to point us to the fact that there is a Creator and that Creator is none other than God himself. This provides for us evidence of the existence of God. But a mere knowledge that God exists is not enough to truly know what His will is for our lives. The Bible speaks that God is a personal God. Jesus Christ said to His disciples “this is eternal life that they may know thee”(John 17:3).
And so this brings us to the the second, that, the only perfect, clear and sufficient way that God communicates with humanity is through the Holy Scriptures. And this is the most important.
You cannot know God apart from His divine book. So the Bible must be seen in a reverence way and to see that to know the will of God is to know His Word. God said that the Scriptures were “written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”(Romans 15:4). In (2 Timothy 3:15) we read that the “sacred writings” the Holy Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”. In (v16) we read “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for teaching in righteousness,” (v17) “that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
If God himself said that His Word is enough; then why struggle to find another way to understand His will?
Why put yourself and sacrifice time to go through practices of new age mysticism? Or seeking for that next sense of the moment that you have in a worship song or seeking the miraculous; or seeking the next prophecy that comes through someone who claims to say ‘God said to me..?
Let me share with you a reason why I am referring to this: I am writing as one who has done all this in the past and has only found confusion in my life.
Ever heard of John Owen?
I just finished reading a very inspiring book by John Owen, the great puritan of the 17th century called ‘the glory of Christ’. It’s a book dedicated to the glory of Christ, His person, work and His titles and His return. The book also has three chapters dealing with faith and sight. I desired to read Owen, because as he was a godly man in church history, he was able to discern the will of God. So my question to Owen is ‘how does God commune with us?
Why do I mention John Owen and his book?
Because we will discover that the problem that I have faced and many are doing today is due to a lack of faith in God’s Word.
In his day John Owen had a similar concern that we have today. In the first chapter he talks about our faith on earth compared to our faith in heaven. (As we look into this i will explain why this is important to note and why it is related to what we said in the last article). He wrote: “While on earth ‘we walk by faith and not by sight’ 2 Corinthians 5:7” “In heaven we shall no longer have merely an image a representation of Christ such as we have in the gospel. We ‘shall see him’, says Paul, ‘face to face’. When we are in heaven.
He also pointed out that “the actual sight of Christ is what all the saints of God desire in this life more than anything else, to depart with Christ (Philippians 1:23); to be absent from the body and present with the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 5:8)”.
Indeed, those who desire Him truly desire this.
Then he compares the sight that we need while we are on the earth which is different from that of heaven. He wisely pointed out: “The church in this life is now way fit to have fellowship with Christ by direct sight, in the spite of the grace imparted to it”. In other words, God’s glory is so glorious that it would kill us all too even be close to God. We are only suited to have Christ dwell in us by His Spirit.
Our minds on this earth cannot fully comprehend the fullness of God’s presence because of our flesh and our weaknesses. “So” Owen writes “God gives a greater light, a supernatural light of faith and grace, to those whom he effectually calls to the knowledge of his glory in the face of his dear Son.” While our eyes have an imperfect sight of Christ’s glory, nevertheless, even that light is enough to keep us going. The light that he refers to is the power of faith and it is also the work of the Spirit in our minds. Which is illumination. He then brings an illustration from the Scripture of a blind man that our Lord healed in Matthew 8:22-24. Though his sight at first was imperfect, then the second time his sight was restored. So in the beginning, our minds our slightly blind but can see a sight of God’s glory. Owen said “grace gives them a partial sight of spiritual thing. But the light of glory gives perfect sight and understanding”. That’s called illumination. To ask God to give us faith to trust in His Word in this world then is a very crucial matter. Otherwise, we don’t live life by faith alone, but by sight only according to our own understanding. But we walk by faith and not by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5:7).
In the second part, in 13th chapter Owen wrote that sometimes Christ hides himself from us. He explains how we know if Christ has withdrawn from us.
(To be continued)