How can we attain enlightenment? What is the mark of a man or woman who has achieved true wisdom? Contrary to what some may think, these are not found in some obscure mystical writings, the Eastern religions or New Age philosophies, but only in Christ.
“Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.'” (Ephesians 5:14)
People seek for a deeper meaning to life in various places, yet all but one–“Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God”–ultimately dead end. Unfortunately, the Biblical message isn’t what many people think they are looking for. St. Paul explains:
“For the message of the cross [forgiveness and salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ alone; denying yourself, picking up your “cross” and following Christ] is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written [a quote from the Old Testament]: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’ Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached [a message that doesn’t make sense to some] to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, [why?] that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord .'” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)
Jesus doesn’t make sense to many. The Jews wanted miraculous proofs and the Greeks wanted wisdom. The idea that not only can we do nothing ourselves to obtain forgiveness and acceptance from God, but also that Christ willingly took the punishment for our sins upon Himself at the cross and now freely offers God’s forgiveness and acceptance was, and still is, difficult for many to accept.
Early in Jesus’ earthly ministry a Pharisee, a religious leader, came to see Jesus at night. Scripture records the incident:
“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water [physical birth] and the Spirit [spiritual birth], he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. [You see what the wind does, even though you don’t actually see the wind.] So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. [You see the work of the Spirit even though you don’t actually see the Spirit.]’ Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man [Jesus frequently referred to Himself as the Son of Man] who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.’” (John 3:1-21)
Jesus explained that we need a new birth that only God can give–the ultimate spiritual awakening. This is because the person we are by birth is spiritually (towards God) dead, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned [understood]. (1 Corinthians 2:14) Most importantly, He revealed that whoever believes in Him–whoever is genuinely converted–will not perish but will have eternal life.
God’s desire is that we all attain true spiritual enlightenment through faith in Christ: “…God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:3-5)
As the apostle John explains:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life [Jesus]—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:1-9)
Dear Lord God,
Thank You that You desire all to have the true enlightenment that comes only through Christ; forgive us, give us this new birth and Your Holy Spirit! Amen.