Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

Lifting the Veil

Lifting the Veil

You are fully aware you are being setup when you go the local grocery store, right? Know why the first section we encounter is usually the fruits and vegetables or produce aisle? Grocers know that shoppers who buy the healthy stuff first will feel so good about themselves that they will be more likely to buy more junk food as they continue to shop. How we think is both interesting and humbling. The prophet Jeremiah did not flatter the human race when he said, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (10:23). Without God, we can be rather clueless, easily fooled or directed, and Solomon only reinforces this point when he noted, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25). In our world of technological advances, it is tempting to believe that we have reached a point that we can direct our own steps, figure out things on our own, and have become immune to being led in the direction that someone else wants us to follow. Yet the above example reminds us that in our modern world we can be influenced and directed in ways that we never imagined. There are all sorts of things that can cloud our thinking, especially the way we perceive spiritual realities.

The Veil

The inspired apostle Paul in the First Century stated that when many Jewish people read the Old Testament they just could not bring themselves to see Jesus and the New Covenant in those passages. He described this blindness as a veil that was over their hearts (2 Corinthians 3:14). You've seen the same over and again. There are many people who just will not accept the Bible’s teaching on baptism (Mark 16:16), that Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6), or the reality of hell (Matthew 25:46). Thus, when they encounter a passage that clearly teaches such things they will say something like, “I just can’t believe that God would….”, or, “That just doesn’t seem, sound or feel right to me”. In view of the fact that the Bible clearly states we are not born sinners (1 Corinthians 14:20), the veil is not, then, inherently part of us and is entirely removable (2 Corinthians 3:16). Often this veil is self-imposed, as in when Pharaoh hardened his heart when he did not want to do something that God said to do, or when people go into sin and seek to justify such a step so they can live with themselves (Ephesians 4:19). Yet there are other causes of blindness of which we also need to steer clear:


The Bible often exhorts us to be humble and to have an honest view of ourselves, our abilities and our limitations (Romans 12:3), and willingly admit our need for God, His grace and His wisdom (James 4:6). There is even a warning about people “who are wise in their own eyes” (Isaiah 5:21). Research only confirms the reality behind these passages that the human race has a definite problem in being too confident: “Ninety percent of drivers believe they are above average behind the wheel. Ninety-four percent of college professors think they are above-average teachers. Ninety percent of entrepreneurs think that their new business will be a success. Ninety-eight percent of students who take the SAT say they have average or above-average leadership skills. When shopping for clothes, middle-aged people generally choose clothes that are too tight on the grounds that they’re about to lose a few pounds, even though the vast majority of people in their age bracket get wider year by year. Golfers on the PGA tour estimate that 70 percent of their six-foot puts drop in the hole, when in reality 54 percent of the putts from that distance actually make it in” (The Social Animal, David Brooks, pp. 218-219). Another study revealed that 95 percent of American men believe they are in the top 50 percent when it comes to social skills (p. 203). When we overestimate ourselves, such puts us in the dangerous position of underestimating the direction of an all-wise, all-powerful God. Let not overconfidence veil you.

The Power of Group Think: Romans 12:1

It is easy to think that we are different from the crowd, that we are not one of the mindless sheep or just following the crowd. In a famous experiment conducted by Solomon Asch, he showed people three different lines of obviously different length. Then he surrounded them by a group of people (secretly working for him) who insisted that all the lines were the same length. Faced with this pressure, 70 percent of the subjects conformed at least once to the false view of the majority (p. 211). On another occasion, half of the students at Penn State said they would speak up if somebody made a sexist comment in their presence, yet when researchers arranged for it to actually happen, only 16 percent actually said anything. Group think is powerful. “People eating with one other person eat 35 percent more than they do at home.  People dining in a party of four eat 75 percent more, and people dining with seven or more eat 96 percent more” (p. 172). Be aware of how easily you can be influenced and determine consciously to conform to your Creator's ideals rather than the ideals of your fickle culture. Let not group think veil you.

Thinking I Know More Than I Do

Paul J.H. Shoemaker and J. Edward Russo gave executives questionnaires to measure how much they knew about the industry in which they worked. Managers in the advertising industry gave answers that they were 90 percent confident were correct. In fact, they were wrong 61 percent of the time. People in the computer industry gave answers they thought had a 95 percent chance of being right; in fact, 80 percent of them were wrong (p. 219). What better motivation to take the time to listen read the Bible and seek God’s wisdom every day, than the realization that so many people in the world, including the very intelligent, are often wrong about things about which they make very confident assertions. Let not arrogance veil you.

Thinking We Remembered the Past Correctly

The day after the space shuttle Challenger exploded, Ulric Neisser asked a class of 106 students to write down exactly where they were when they heard the news. Two and a half years later he asked them the same question, this time 25 percent of the students gave completely different accounts of where they were (p. 236) at the time of the disaster. Do not sew for yourself an artificial veil of your own revisionist history. Remember truth.

The Power of a Current Feeling Over Our Perspective

In a study conducted by Faby Gagne and John Lydon, 95 percent of those in love believe that their current partner is above average in looks, intelligence, warmth, and sense of humor, while they describe their former lovers as close-minded, emotionally unstable, and generally unpleasant (p. 205). Lift the veil of feelings when it becomes necessary in order to see truth more clearly.

The Power of a Price Tag

“People who are given a prescription pain reliever they are told costs $2.50 a pill experience much more pain relief than those given what they are told is a 10-cent pill (even though all the pills are placebos)” (p. 182).

The Power of How the Question is Framed

“If a surgeon tells his patients that a procedure may have a 15 percent failure rate, they are likely to decide against it. If he tells them the procedure has an 85 percent success rate, they tend to opt for it” (p. 181).

It can be both interesting and a little scary to read the results from the previous studies. On the one hand it seems as if people are easily manipulated and, like unwilling pawns, at the mercy of all sorts of inward and outward forces. In light of such information, no wonder that men like David were thrilled at having access to Scripture, which enabled them to have a bright lamp in this world (Psalm 119:97ff), a lamp that enables them to see themselves and their motivations clearly (Psalm 19:8,12), and to break from the influences of the wrong crowds (Psalm 1).

Practical Help

  • Realize this: The only true expert is God.
  • Before we call something “normal” let’s check out Scripture to see what God calls it. Beware of simply assuming.
  • Your mind and mine needs to be continually renewed — so let’s be in the habit of reading the Scriptures often.

Praise God that when a person turns to the Lord, the veil drops (2 Corinthians 3:16). Turning to the Lord is about humbling ourselves, admitting our own ignorance and realizing how easily we are manipulated when completely depending upon our own wisdom. It means finally realizing that we are in no position to decide on our own what is right or wrong. Turning to the Lord means, “I defer to God” when it comes to truth, and determining what is good and what is sin. To read a passage from the Bible and say something like, “I doesn’t sound right to me” — is to decide to keep the veil on and continue to stumble in the dark.

Mark Dunagan  |
Beaverton Church of Christ  |  503-644-9017