The Doctrine of Illumination part 3

Horizontal image of Bible and creation sky

(we continue from our last post which was back in April 4th. Before reading this please read part 1,2 to get an understanding of what is being written. Thank you)

We take for granted..

Since we looked on how important it is to live by faith and not by sight, John Owen then gives what can be understood as a rebuke to those who follow after sign and wonders today as their sufficient communication with God. Particularly in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement. Or those who try to find help from outside the Word of God, like Roman Catholicism.

He wrote: “We all too easily take Christ for granted and become lazy in seeking fellowship with him. Christ is very patient with us even though we treat him so unkindly”.

So when Christ withdraws from us it is because He is gracious to us. Owen continued “by withdrawing himself he aims to awaken his people to search for him, and to mourn over their sin in taking him for granted”.

What is he referring that we take for granted?

He explains by answering the following question: how can we know if Christ withdraws himself from us?

It is when we fail to believe in the Words of Christ. This is a faith problem. It is the life and strength of grace in us. He exposes the problem of his day which we also face today. We still have Roman Catholicism who are still, like in the times of Owen, worshiping and praying to wooden crosses and wooden pictures of saints or of Christ, thinking that God is communicating with them. He said and I quote:

“Many people have tried to recover a sight of Christ’s glory by making images, crucifixes and pictures of him. By these their outward senses may be stirred but their hearts remain untouched; they become as wooden as their images. They substitute the outward forms and observances which they diligently perform but all the while they deny the inward power of godliness.”

He then concludes: “we learn from these attempts to behold the glory of Christ by images that all professing Christians feel they must somehow or other behold the glory of Christ in order to love him and be made like him. But just here lies the difference. The church of Rome says it can be done beholding crucifixes, images and pictures of him with our physical eyes, whereas we say that we can behold the glory of Christ by faith as he is revealed in the gospel and in no other way”.

The last line there marks the importance of sola scriptura and sola fide (Scripture alone and faith alone). The problem that so many have when they desire something other than the privilege of God’s Word alone is to seek the help from outside.

But dear reader, you can’t know God’s will through creation alone. You can’t know God’s will through your own feelings alone and you can’t know God’s will through a personal mystical experience you had. And you can’t know God personally by talking to a wooden picture or a crucifix. Whether you have been touched by an angel or spoke in tongues or went to the third heaven and back again; you can’t know God’s will, by simply dreaming things that your imagination desires to produce. Why go through all this empty effort which leads you to believe in a delusion? These are all done in vain. These efforts bring no rest and assurance to the soul that God is certainly communicating with them. It only brings confusion and despair and a lack of genuine faith when troubles in life come.

Other cults have used this. And look how they have gone astray (Mormons, JW’S, Roman Catholics, Islam, and Christian Science etc.).

 

A faith problem..

If you find that these things relate with you, then a question to be asked: Does this simply prove that you do not actually trust what God has said in His Word?

I believe that the pressure of the world and its attractiveness, has made you come to the point of not trusting that God’s Word is enough to get you through your everyday trials in life. You might be someone who realizes that our secular world is becoming more faster. Time goes quickly and Christians have less and less time to focus on prayer and on reading and understanding God’s Word. The pressure to fit your everyday planning is getting harder and harder because of the other responsibilities you have to do. To financially provide for your family, to meet this or that person for your business meeting, to go shopping for your needs at home, to deal with work papers till night. And when you do have time, you care less of what God has to say in His word and so you find ‘a short cut’. This is what I did in the past and I regret doing.

And that is when the idea of dreams, new revelation/prophecy and mysticism become interesting to you. And because these are experientially based, then you are convinced that God has spoken to you in some extraordinary way, ‘because after all’, you say to yourself, ‘He is a God of love’. He won’t make it hard for his children to seek his will; even if they don’t read their Bibles or study and meditate it daily and prayer to Him daily also’. All this is according to your trust in your emotional driven thoughts and not according to God’s Will.

 

What do you think is the cause of this?

Owen wrote that because of our disbelief, in God’s Word the first thing that Christ does is withdraw himself and “that inward grace grow weak and we tend to rely more on outside helps. Above all, we lose the desire for holy meditation and we spend less and less time with Christ.” True Christianity slowly becomes dry for us. If this is you, it is a sign that Christ has withdrawn from you.

 

 

A remedy.

God’s will is that you may become sanctified by His Word daily (John 17:17) our Lord said praying for us to the Father “Sanctify them, in the truth, your word is truth”. Scripture always points to us that God uses His Word, whether being preached or read, to grow us spiritually in our daily walk with Him. For this is what being in communion with God is. You need to go to the Word and look at the glory of Christ and see the real Christ.
And when we faithfully obey, Owen that great puritan divine said by “beholding his glory we grow more and more in grace and obedience”, because “without a sight of his glory, all doctrinal knowledge of him is dry and useless” “if they would only behold the glory of Christ by faith as he is revealed to us in the Scriptures they would soon be healed. If only they would abide in Christ, then they would be fruitful (John 15:4-5)”.

 

Conclusion

When some come and claim to have experienced a vision or a prophecy or a trip to heaven, we ought to point out to them that the real experience lies when one beholds the glory of Christ in the Bible alone. And the way God influences our minds with His Word is through the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination.

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