Seward United Methodist Church
Tuesday, January 18, 2022
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The Restoration Business

Mark 9:2-9 and 2 Corinthians 4:3-7

“If the good news is veiled, it’s a sign they are perishing, because Satan has blinded their minds.” Paul is making the claim here that no person of sound mind and good conscience will hear the gospel presented plainly and honestly by a trustworthy messenger and fail to find it convincing and attractive. That seems like a pretty bold claim. I find it easy to agree with that claim, since I find the gospel to be attractive, and I’d certainly like to think I have a sound mind and good conscience. But I can certainly understand that someone who rejects the gospel would disagree with that claim.

Paul calls Satan “the god of this age.” When Paul wrote to the Corinthians before, he wrote, “We know that there is only one God and no other. But according to others, there are many so-called gods and lords, both in heaven and on the earth.”

Whatever we put at the center of our lives, whatever governs our choices and actions; that is our god. And if it’s anything other than the true God, we are worshipping a false idol.

Not all false idols are bad things. It’s easy to point at false idols like the greed for wealth, the desire for pleasure, or the lust for power, and say, “That is a false idol!” But a false idol can also be a good thing. Family and relationships can become a false idol. The desire for “romantic love” can become a false idol. Success and achievement can be false idols. The desire for a good reputation can become a false idol. All of those things are good. But as the old saying goes, “Good is often the worst enemy of best.” We can orient our lives around something and miss out on God, who is the very best “thing.” Satan doesn’t care what our false idol is, as long as we are worshipping some false idol, as long as something other than Christ is the governing center of our lives.

Christ, and Christ alone, is the true idol. He is the “exact likeness of God.” The word idol basically means “image” or “likeness.” If you take a photograph of something, you have made an “idol” of that thing. Only Christ is the “exact likeness,” the true idol of God. All the “false idols” in the world take our eyes off of the “true idol,” Jesus.

Paul reminds us here than when we preach Christ, we have to be careful to keep the focus on him and not on ourselves. “We are only his servants because of what Christ has done for us.”

It’s always easy to turn the light on ourselves. When we do that, we make false idols out of ourselves. We try to make ourselves into the governing center. This warning is meant especially for those who proclaim Christ. So, preachers beware!

Be sure to keep the attention on Christ, who is the “light of God.” The word light is often used to refer to God’s word, and especially God’s Law. For example, a well known passage, Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light for my path.” Well, if we read the first verses of John’s Gospel, he refers to Jesus as “the Word” and “the light.” Jesus is the Word in the flesh. Jesus is the light. God who created light in the midst of darkness has sent the light among us.

The story of the Transfiguration in Mark 9 reveals Jesus to be the light and glory of God. His glory was there all along, but in the Transfiguration, it was made plain to the disciples. But, of course, some never saw the light in Jesus. Some rejected him as the light. As Jesus said in John 3, “Judgment is based on this: The light has come into the world but people love darkness more than light.”

In the Transfiguration, Jesus’ glory is seen plainly. It is reminiscent of another story in Scripture about someone going up on the mountain and seeing the glory of God, the story of Moses on Mt. Sinai. If you go back a chapter in 2 Corinthians, Paul relates the experience of Moses on Sinai to our experience in Christ. When Moses came down from the mountain, his face was shining with glory, such that people could not look upon him. But that glory faded. If the old covenant was glorious, how much more so is the new one, because the light of the new covenant does not fade.

Jesus is the light of God. If we are in Christ, and Christ is in us, then the light of God is in us. And it does not depart from us. Christ dwells in us through the Holy Spirit as long as we remain connected to Christ. Jesus is the light of God and he brings light into the lives of his people.

“And we have this treasure in clay jars.” Clay jars were as close as you could find to “disposable containers” in the ancient world. When they do archaeological digs in the ancient Near East, one of the most common things to find is potsherds, pieces of broken clay jars. They were relatively inexpensive, unlike any kind of metal vessel, and so if one was damaged or “unclean,” you just threw it away. Putting treasure in a clay jar was a strange thing to do.

What does it mean to say that we are clay jars? It’s a reminder of our frailty. But our frailty shows the trust that God has put in us. We might be weak and perishable, but God has entrusted us with the greatest treasure of all, Jesus, the light and Word of God.

And we provide the opportunity for the light to shine out. Someone explained it to me like this one time, many years ago, and it’s always stuck with me. A clay jar with a light inside can only show the light if it is broken. Once it’s cracked and chipped, then the light can shine through. You and I are broken and imperfect people. But our brokenness provides the opportunity for God’s light to shine through us. We might be weak, but God’s strength is made obvious through our weakness.

God is in the business of restoring what was lost. One of the first things the Bible says about human beings is that God created us in his own image and likeness. Remember, an idol is an image. Human beings were created to be the idols of God, the visible expression of God’s character. Of course, we failed. We rebelled and sinned. And the image of God in us was damaged by sin. It’s still there, but it’s not what it was meant to be. A seminary professor explained it this way to me, “Because of sin, the image of God in human beings is effaced but not erased.” It’s damaged, but it’s still there.

God sent Christ to restore the image of God. Christ reminds us what the image of God is. And when Christ indwells us through the Holy Spirit, he works to restore the image of God in us.

Christ represents the image of God. He re-presents the image of God. And when we act like Christ, then we re-present the image of God. The world is given the opportunity to see what God is like through us.

A few months back we looked at Matthew 25:31-46. That’s the story of the Son of Man separating the sheep and goats at the last judgment. And he says to the sheep, “I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was cold and naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you cared for me. I was in prison and you visited me.”

When we do the simplest acts of love and compassion, we demonstrate that Christ is at work in us. We re-present God to the world. Unless the world sees the true image of God in us and through us, the world will not know God.

We have this treasure in clay jars, and God is counting on us to share it with the world.

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