How can I grow closer to the Good Shepherd? Part 5

“Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings.” John 10:19

The final way in this passage that we can also grow closer to the Good Shepherd is when we IMPART A CONSISTENT AND CLEAR WITNESS TO THE LOST ABOUT CHRIST (John 10:19-21). Jesus’ claims to be the Messianic Shepherd of Israel received a mixed response from His Jewish audience (John 10:1-18). “Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings.” (John 10:19). Because of what Jesus taught about being Israel’s Messianic Shepherd and yet dying for His sheep, His audience continued to be divided over Him. In the mind of the average Jew this was a contradiction. The Israelites expected a political Messiah to deliver them from political oppression, but Jesus came to be a spiritual Messiah to deliver them from the penalty of sin. The people rejected Christ because He did not live up to their expectations.

Even Christians can succumb to a similar kind of thinking that says if you are following Christ, you will have fewer problems and less suffering. In fact, believers may be quick to reject other believers who are suffering or display weaknesses because of this false expectation.

“And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?” (John 10:20). Some of Jesus’ listeners concluded that He “has a demon and is mad” or insane to say such things! They questioned why anyone would “listen” to such a man. His teachings seemed unreasonable and impossible to them.

Yet others were impressed with what Jesus was saying. “Others said, ‘These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’ “ (John 10:21). Christ’s gracious teaching did not resemble that of a demon nor did His miraculous healing of the man born blind (John 9:1-41). This group says what Jesus is not but they make no attempt to say who Christ is.

Throughout his gospel, John emphasizes the two opposite conclusions that people draw from Jesus’ teaching, even though Christ’s witness to His identity as God was sufficiently consistent and clear. This should be an encouragement to all Christians who tell others the truth about Christ. Not even Jesus Himself convinced everyone that He was God’s Son. When believers openly identify with Christ by telling others who He is and what He has done for them, they can experience a closer relationship with Him regardless of how others respond to the message. After all, Jesus is our Good Shepherd Who has entrusted us with His Good News (gospel) to share with others. As we proclaim this good news to others, we are also proclaiming it to ourselves. And in a world that is filled with bad news these days, it does our souls good to hear the good news of our Good Shepherd! And let’s remember that as disciples of Christ, our responsibility is to be clear and consistent in our witness for Christ to the lost; however, it is Jesus’ responsibility to save them.

It is also true that the lies of the Devil can keep believers from being a consistent and clear witness to the gospel of Christ. After all, Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44). In EvanTell’s Evangelism Study Bible, it reads, “He [Satan] misrepresented what God said to Eve since only one tree was off limits (see Gen. 2:16-17; 3:11). He even cast doubt over God’s character, implying that God would hold back what was best for them (see Gen. 3:4-5).

“Satan still uses lies to hinder believers in evangelism today. Here are five he commonly uses:

“1. ‘Non-Christian aren’t that approachable.’ Some aren’t, but some are. How do we know unless we approach the subject of spiritual things? One person who wasn’t open doesn’t represent everyone. Additionally, a person completely closed yesterday may be open today. God can use a single day’s events to get someone’s attention.” 1

For example, when I was flying back to Manila from a mission trip to the southern Philippines five years ago, I sat next to a Filipino businesswoman and asked her if I may show her from the Bible how she can know for sure she has eternal life and will go to heaven when she dies. She told me she was not interested. I thanked her for her honesty, and then I prayed a silent prayer to the Lord asking Him to open this woman’s heart so she can be saved.

As we approached the Manila Airport, the pilot told us that weather conditions were not favorable but they would still try to land. There was a lot of turbulence as we descended toward the airport. As our plane tried to land, it had to pull up at the last minute because the winds and rain were too strong and the pilot could not see. A wave of panic swept across the passenger area. Our plane circled around to make another attempt at landing. I was praying for the Lord to keep us safe and open the hearts of the people on the plane. As the pilot made another attempt to land in Manila he had to pull up again at the last minute because of poor visibility. There was a nervous hush among the passengers. The pilot then announced that our flight would be diverted to Clark Air Base about a fifteen-minute flight (three-hours’ drive by car) away.

The Lord prompted me to share with the passenger who earlier did not want to talk about how to get to heaven. I now asked her if she would like to know what she must do to get to heaven if she only had five minutes to live. She said, “Yes.”  So I introduced Acts 16:31 to her by telling her the Philippian jailer thought he had a short time to live, so he asked a missionary what he must do to be saved from hell. I then shared Acts 16:31 with her and explained it to her. I asked her, “Do you believe in Jesus now to save you from hell so you can live with Him forever in heaven?” She said, “Yes. Thank you.” I briefly explained to her that she now has everlasting life which cannot be lost. The Lord then enabled me to share the same thing with the passenger across the aisle from me. As I was sharing I noticed the passenger directly behind me was also listening. So when I finished with this passenger, I did the same thing with the one behind me. Praise God for the typhoon which got people to think about life and death and where they will spend eternity.

Continuing with lies that Satan commonly uses in evangelism, is “2. ‘You may end up doing more harm than good.’ That’s not possible. God honors obedience, so you never go wrong by serving Him in evangelism. Suppose you say the ‘wrong things’ in the mind of someone else or were not as tactful as you needed to be. God is more honored by someone who attempts to evangelize and makes mistakes than someone who doesn’t do anything. Ultimately God is in control even if we make a mistake, He is bigger than our mistakes.

3. ‘You might not be able to answer their questions.’ You may not be able to answer every objection, but who said you have to? That’s certainly not something Jesus ever said. Should the non-Christian ask a question you can’t answer, it’s honoring to God to say ‘I don’t know.’ Then look up the answer and you will be better prepared the next time. New converts tend to lead more people to Christ than anyone else, yet they know very little and often can’t answer most questions an unbeliever would ask. God often uses their zeal and excitement to convince non-Christians of their need for Christ.

“4. ‘Your life isn’t what it ought to be.’ It may not be. But keep in mind two things. First, Satan is a master of intimidation. No believer’s life is a perfect example of Christ. If you wait till your life is everything it ought to be, you will never evangelize. That’s what Satan prefers. Second, God doesn’t use perfect believers. There are none. He uses imperfect believers who are trying to be who God wants them to be. Seek to live the life you should, but don’t wait till you are ‘there’ to evangelize.

“5. ‘There is probably a better time than today.’ Satan doesn’t care what you do as long as you do it tomorrow. Procrastination is one of his tools. How do people know what the best timing is unless they attempt to evangelize today?

“Lies- Satan’s tool. Recognize lies for what they are and don’t allow him to hinder you in your evangelism outreach.” 2

As I traveled on mission trips throughout the Philippines, I experienced various responses to the preaching of the gospel message. The majority have been very responsive to the gospel of Christ and have publicly indicated that they are now trusting in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life. Some, however, have expressed indifference or even animosity toward the gospel. Regardless of how people respond, God asks me to be a faithful steward of His gospel (I Corinthians 4:1-2; Colossians 4:4; I Thessalonians 2:3-10).

When we are faithful to preach the gospel clearly and consistently in season and out of season, we can experience a closeness to our Good Shepherd whose witness was always consistent and clear during His earthly ministry. Even Jesus, the perfect Messiah-God, could not convince everyone that He was God in human flesh and nor will we. Our responsibility is to be faithful to our Lord’s command to preach the gospel to everyone (Mark 16:15). It is Jesus’ responsibility to give them everlasting life and transform them into His likeness (John 5:21; 2 Corinthians 3:18).

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, it still amazes me how divided people are concerning Your identity both now and when You walked on the earth. Even though You gave a clear and consistent witness to Your identity as the promised Messiah-God, people formed different conclusions about You. I am realizing more and more that the primary reason for this is because Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), has deceived people into believing his lies about You to keep them from having life in Your name (John 20:31; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Regardless of how people respond, Lord Jesus, please enable me to preach Your gospel message clearly and consistently to everyone who is perishing without You. You could have chosen angels or billboards to proclaim Your life-giving message. But instead, You entrusted Your precious gospel with imperfect sinners like me to share this life-changing message. Thank You that You are in me and with me through Your Spirit to help me do this in a way that brings You glory and draws me closer to You. In Your name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), p. 1174.

2. Ibid.

How can I overcome spiritual blindness? Part 6

For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.’ ” John 9:39

Today we will look at the last symptom and solution of spiritual blindness in the ninth chapter of the gospel of John. After the former blind man discovered Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and believed in Him, he worshiped Christ (John 9:35-38). Jesus then said to the healed man, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.’ ” (John 9:39). Jesus came into this world to bring “judgment” based on how people respond to Him. “Those who do not see may see” refers to those who like the former blind man, humbly admit their spiritual blindness and sin and call out to Christ to heal them of their spiritual blindness so they might see and believe the gospel. Jesus is saying that humility leads to sight.

This is the fifth solution to spiritual blindness: DECIDE TO AGREE WITH CHRIST ABOUT YOUR OWN SINFULNESS AND NEED FOR A SAVIOR (John 9:39a). Christ will give spiritual sight to those who humble themselves and admit their spiritual blindness and their need for God’s forgiving grace. He will forgive those who come to Him in faith like this healed man did.

When Jesus said, “Those who [think they] see may be made blind,” He is referring to the self-righteous, like the Pharisees, who refused to humble themselves and admit they were spiritually blind. They thought they already could see spiritually. Jesus came to show unbelievers like these religious experts that they were spiritually blind. Their works-salvation was spiritual blindness. Christ does not forgive the self-righteous because they do not see their need to come to Him for forgiveness. Instead, they are deceived by their own sin into thinking that they can be saved by their own works.

This is the sixth symptom of spiritual blindness. DECEIVED BY THEIR OWN SIN (John 9:39b-41). In this case, Jesus promised the “judgment” of becoming more spiritually blind because they refused to humble themselves and admit their own spiritual blindness. They were puffed up with pride and Jesus is saying that pride leads to more blindness.

“Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, ‘Are we blind also?’ ” (John 9:40). Their question expects a “No” answer. It does not occur to them that they are spiritually blind. They don’t acknowledge their own sin, guilt, and need for forgiveness. “Certainly, we of all people have spiritual perception!” Pharisaical people deceive themselves from seeing their own sinfulness. The deceitfulness of sin often makes self-righteous people, who are in the greatest need of God’s help, think that they are the most spiritually enlightened people. Only God’s Spirit, using God’s Word, can break through that deep darkness, to bring conviction of spiritual blindness, and to create openness to the gospel.

If these religious leaders had been willing to admit their own blindness and sinfulness, Jesus would have given them grace. But they did not. So Jesus gives them truth. “Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.’ ” (John 9:41). Christ is saying, “If you recognized your spiritual blindness and acknowledged your sin and guilt, you would have come to Me for forgiveness. And I would have forgiven you so ‘you would have no sin.’ But because you claim to have spiritual sight and deny your own sin, and refuse to come to Me for forgiveness, ‘your sin remains.’ ” These leaders refused to admit their sinfulness and need for a Savior. Since they refused to believe or trust in Christ alone for His forgiveness, they remained in their sins, guilty before God. They were swollen with pride. They loved the darkness and hated the Light. Their treatment of the Son of God confirmed their spiritual blindness. When we think that nothing is wrong with us (I John 1:8), everything is wrong with us.  

Someone once said, “The same sun that melts butter, hardens clay.” Light gives sight to some and it blinds others. Jesus has the same effects. The physical and spiritual healing of the man born blind reveals the healing power of Jesus Christ toward those who respond in faith toward Him (John 3:36a). But it also reveals the condemning power of Jesus Christ toward those who refuse to believe in Him (John 3:36b).

There may be someone in your life who seems like clay but is turning into butter. Pray about a time to share the gospel with him or her. On the other hand, you may know of a person who seemed like butter, but is now turning into clay. Pray for the Lord to melt their resistance to Him. Ask God to show you how to best minister to him or her. 

I wonder how many of you are experiencing Christ’s healing grace so that He can live through you in such a way that you help others to see Him more clearly. The blind man experienced Jesus’ healing grace on a physical and spiritual level. As we experience God’s grace in our relationship with the Lord, it will carry over in our relationships with one another (cf. Ephes. 4:32). In an age when hatred is more common than love, we could all use greater doses of God’s love and grace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my default setting is to think first of myself and then about others, including You. Thank You for exposing this selfishness in me that I still battle daily. I was once spiritually blind and proud of it. I thought I could get to heaven through my own good works and therefore I had no need for a Savior. But You still pursued me and gradually revealed to me the depth of my sin and arrogance which had deceived me into thinking this way. I am eternally grateful that Your light exposed my darkness and led me to believe in You alone as my only hope of heaven. As a believer in You for everlasting life, I can still be deceived into thinking I do not need You in my daily life to grow and become more like You. Please, my Lord and my God, help me to melt like butter rather than harden like clay when exposed to the Light of the Son. I pray that Your light will also have the freedom to shine through me to others so they may be drawn to You. In Your magnificent name I pray. Amen.