Whether we’re talking about our relationship with God or with other people, the quality of the relationship can never go beyond the level of trust the relating parties have in each other’s character. We cannot be rightly related to God, therefore, except insofar as we embrace a trustworthy picture of him. To the extent that our mental picture of God is untrustworthy, we will not rely on him as our sole source of life.
Paul tells us that the gospel is “veiled … to those who are perishing” because “the god of this age has blinded” their minds so that they cannot see “the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 3:14-15). Satan’s strategy is to attack our conception of God. The root of our alienation from God and our bondage to sin is our untrustworthy and unloving mental pictures of him. Those who are under Satan’s blinding oppression cannot receive the “light” that God wants to “shine in [their] hearts to give [them] the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:3-6).
Only when the Spirit frees us from the blinding oppression of the “god of this age” can our hearts and minds see the glorious beauty of the God revealed in Christ. And only when we with “unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory” can we be “transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory (2 Cor 3:17-18).
Jesus describes himself as “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). The Greek word for “truth” (aletheia) means something like “uncovered” or “not concealed.” The glorious character of God is fully unveiled in Christ on the cross. As John wrote, no one had “ever seen God” or really known God up to that time. But the Son, “who is himself God … has made him known” (John 1:18).
When Jesus fully unveiled the true character of the one true God on the cross, he “disarmed the power and authorities,” vanquished Satan and his minions (Col 2:14-15), and thereby set free all who would accept the truth.
On the cross, the light expelled the darkness, the truth vanquished all deception, and the beauty of the true image of God destroyed the ugliness of all false images. And so now, for all who will yield to the Spirit, as the veil over our minds is removed, we can see “God’s glory displayed in the face of Jesus” (2 Cor 4:6) and be set free to enter into the loving, trusting, and transforming relationship God has always wanted to have with his people.
The cross is first and foremost the full disclosure of the true character of God and his pledge to demonstrate this loving, self-sacrificial character in all his dealings with us. We are challenged to take him at his word and to reciprocate by cultivating this same character in our relationship with him and all others. We do this not by striving, but by simply gazing on the beauty revealed in the cross with our minds and hearts open to the Spirit.
—adapted from Benefit of the Doubt, pages 235-237