YOU WERE ILLUMINATED
" But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings" (Hebrews 10:32)
The experience of salvation is viewed from different perspectives. In it, we are "born again" (John 3:3,5), starting over anew. From the standpoint of guilt, we are "justified from all things" (Acts 13:39). Although alienated from God, and at enmity with Him, in Christ we are "reconciled" (Col 1:21). Once "having no hope and without God in the world," now we have a hope that is "both steadfast and sure," and are "sons of God" (Eph 2:12; Heb 6:19; 1 John 3:1-2). Although discarded on the trash heap of fallen humanity, in salvation we are "sanctified and meet for the Master's use" (2 Tim 2:21). How glorious is this "great salvation!"
There is yet another viewpoint of our salvation that is equally glorious. It is not often accentuated, and therefore needs to be mentioned more often by those who perceive its truth. In salvation, we are "illuminated," or enlightened. Everything is seen differently, as "all things become new" (2 Cor 5:17). When you were born again, God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit were seen in a new light. The Scriptures became a new book. The world looked different. People took on a new look, including friends, Christians, politicians, the poor, etc. You were "illuminated." You saw yourself from a new perspective. Sin and righteousness were seen as they really are. Your idea of issues, priorities, problems, and benefits radically changed. You were "illuminated," and everything became "new."
It is not merely that your ideas changed about these things – that is not illumination. We did not develop new opinions of matters around us. Illumination involves seeing things as they REALLY are. It occurs when God sheds light on things with which we thought we were familiar. To put it another way, He "opened" our hearts so the light of truth could flood into them, and we could see (Acts 16:14).
There really is no room for opinion in the Kingdom of God. It is a domain of absolute reality. Illumination dispels opinion, divesting us of the shackles of private views. No longer is "nature" the source of knowledge. Rather, "the spirit of wisdom and revelation" becomes the resource for understanding. Now, we do not merely share our personal views of things in the Bible. Rather, we contribute to one another what we have seen in the illuminating light of God's Person, Son, and Gospel.
Like those to whom this text was written, after we were "illuminated," we endured a "great conflict of sufferings" (NASB). Depending on our circumstances, this "conflict" took various forms, but it consistently involved "sufferings." The contention was the RESULT of your illumination. What you now saw was in sharp conflict with what those who were NOT illuminated saw. Your definition of "issues" differed from theirs. Your priorities differed from theirs. You now had a different reason for living, and a brand-new view of dying. The Word of God assumed a primary place in your life, and sin was now repulsive to you.
The world, who often speaks of the freedom of opinion, and everyone having their own rights, was not willing to let your newness go unchallenged. Because they were threatened by your "illumination," they fought, striking out at you. They seemed to sense if you were right, they were wrong–seriously wrong. But they were not willing to accept that. So, you endured "a great fight of afflictions" from them. In a sense, they hung you out to dry–at least that is what they thought. The verse following our text underscores this. "Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated" (v 33, NIV). Do you remember?
Illumination! It was like a catalyst that started fires burning, and provoked wars to begin. One thing about Divine light, it reveals what is false as well as what is true.
The "great fight of afflictions" provoked by our illumination was not confined to those outside of ourselves. When we were "illuminated," it set off a war inside of us as well. After all, there remains a part of us that is NOT illuminated – a part which must eventually be discarded because it cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven. It is referred to in various ways in Scripture: "the old man" (Eph 4:22), "the flesh" (Rom 8:4-8), "another law" (Rom 7:23), and "the natural man" (1 Cor 2:1). It contends with the new nature, refusing to take a back seat.
This is how our new life started–with a "great fight of afflictions." It is what happened when the flood of Divine light permeated our hearts, changing our views and our aims. The day will come, however, when death will be "swallowed up in victory." Then, there will be no more conflict or contradiction. All conflict will come to a grinding halt. Praise the Lord!
PRAYER POINT: Father, thank You in Jesus' name for shedding Your great light into this heart of mine, and giving me the strength to stand in the opposition that light has induced.
-- Monday: CONCLUSION to Current Series --