How can I overcome spiritual blindness? Part 4

“Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” John 9:32-33

In this article we will discover another symptom and solution concerning spiritual blindness. Since the religious leaders could get nowhere with the healed man’s parents, they decide to talk to the former blind man a second time. “So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, ‘Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.’ ”(John 9:24). In the Pharisees’ minds, since the Law forbid working on the Sabbath and Jesus healed on the Sabbath, Jesus was a sinner. They tell the former blind man to “Give God the glory by telling the truth about Jesus – He is a sinner. Jesus just put clay on your eyes and told you to wash. God is the One who healed you,” they were saying. These religious leaders were trying to pressure everyone to be biased against Jesus by already determining (“we know”) that Jesus was “a sinner.”

According to those who are spiritually blind, to give God glory a person must call Jesus a sinner! How strange indeed is the thinking of the spiritually blind. The former blind man answered and said, ‘Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.’ ” (John 9:25). The healed man chose not to speculate about Jesus’ sinfulness. Rather than listen to the theological errors of the Pharisees, he focused on the truth. He knew that he had been blind but now he can see. No theological argument could change that. Regardless of a believer’s understanding of the nature of Christ’s Person, he or she can always testify to the way Jesus has changed his or her life.

Sometimes the best way to present the gospel to a non-Christian is through a personal testimony. Arguments for the existence of God and Christian apologetics have their place, but few arguments are as powerful as a personal testimony which describes how God’s grace has transformed one’s life.

“Then they said to him again, ‘What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?’ ” (John 9:26). The Pharisees asked the man to repeat his story again hoping to find a contradiction.Four times in this conversation the religious leaders asked the man how he gained his sight (cf. John 9:10, 15, 19, 26). Spiritually blind people are usually more concerned about the way a miracle was performed than they are about the person who performed the miracle.

“He answered them, ‘I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?’ ” (John 9:27). The relentless questioning of these religious experts exhausted the man’s patience. Realizing they were not wanting to know the truth but to acquire information to use against Jesus, the former blind man sarcastically asks if their request meant that they had a change of heart. Did they want to become His disciples like he had become? This man was not intimidated by these religious leaders because his testimony was based upon the truth.

The Pharisees realized the man saw through their ploy to unjustly condemn Jesus, so they verbally abused (“reviled”) him. “Then they reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples.’ ” (John 9:28). The Pharisees were so proud to think that they were right. Ironically, Jesus was more of a disciple of Moses than these Pharisees were. But the Pharisees could not believe Jesus was from God because in their estimation, Jesus broke God’s Law (actually their laws) when He healed the man on the Sabbath.

They continued, “We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.” (John 9:29).Christ’s critics knew that God spoke to Moses and sent him, but they did not know by whom Jesus was sent. They boasted in what they knew about Moses just like many people today will boast about what they know to attempt to put themselves in a superior position to those who know Jesus. For example, when I was in college, an unbelieving religion professor said, “We all know, of course, that Jesus never claimed to be God.” By adding that little phrase, “of course,” he was insinuating, “Anyone with half a brain would know that what I am saying is true.” As a young believer at that time, I felt too intimidated to question his opinions in class.

The Pharisees would not follow Christ because they did not know His origin. Their ignorance of His origin was not due to a lack of information about Jesus because He had already revealed enough for them to know this (cf. John 5-8). Their ignorance of Christ’s origin was due to a willful rejection of Christ. Such is the case with non-Christians today. Their ignorance is not due to a lack of evidence concerning the identity of Jesus Christ. It is due to their willful rejection of Him.

The former blind man teaches these proud religious leaders, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes!” (John 9:30). Although his parents were afraid to speak the truth to the Pharisees, this man boldly challenges their illogical thinking! It is like he is saying, “Your ignorance of Jesus’ origin is more of a miracle than my cure! You are the experts and you do not know where my Healer is from?!” Their disbelief was incredible to him in light of the evidence!

This is the fourth symptom of spiritual blindness – DELIBERATELY REJECT CHRIST DESPITE OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE ABOUT HIS IDENTITY (John 9:24-30). It is amazing how blind people can be to the truth about Jesus Christ. This is a heart issue not an intellectual issue. This incredible miracle should have overwhelmingly convinced the Jewish leaders of Christ’s identity, yet they denied this truth.

Even today unbelievers remain skeptical of the truth of Jesus Christ until the Holy Spirit causes them to see their need for Jesus. Until God removes the spiritual veil that blinds them to the truth about Jesus, they will not embrace Christ even though the evidence overwhelmingly points to Him as a supernatural Person!

The former blind man continues to teach the Pharisees by giving them a lesson on logic. “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” (John 9:31). When the healed man says, “We know,” he is referring to himself, the Pharisees, and the community. “We know that God does not hear sinners. He hears the righteous! If God does not hear sinners, then how could Jesus perform this miracle if He were a sinner?!” His logical argument in this verse can be summarized in this way:

1. Only God could heal congenital blindness.

2. Jesus healed congenital blindness.

3. Jesus must be from God.

Then the former blind man said, “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” (John 9:32-33). The healing of a man born blind was never heard of. “Jesus could not have healed me, a healing unparalleled in history, unless He were from God. How else do you explain such supernatural activity, if it is not from God?” It is also amazing that this former blind man was able to see things so clearly in contrast to the Pharisees who were so prejudiced against Jesus. While there was no record in history up to that time of a person blind from birth being healed, the Old Testament did prophesy that the Messiah-God would heal the blind (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:7).

This is the third way to overcome spiritual blindness – DISCERN THE TRUTH FROM ERROR (John 9:31-33). Instead of yielding to the error of the Pharisees, the beggar used reason and logic to hold fast to the truth and concluded that Jesus was from God.

What about you? Does your family or religious community question what Jesus has done in your life because they refuse to embrace the truth about Christ? Do their emotions or traditions guide their decisions about Jesus instead of logic, reason, and truth? Please know that their skeptical response to what Jesus has done in your life does not make it any less true. Truth is not truth because people vote on it. Truth is truth based on what God has revealed.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus repeatedly claims to have been sent by God the Father to reveal the Father to us. John stated, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18). Jesus tells Philip, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9). God’s revelation of Himself to us centers in the Person of Jesus Christ, which we have in the written eyewitness testimony of the apostles. True spiritual knowledge of God is founded on knowing Jesus Christ, whom the Father sent to reveal Himself to us. Anything else is mere speculation.

Many years ago the head of a rescue mission in London accepted the challenge to debate a well-known skeptic, but with this condition: he would bring with him one hundred people who would tell how believing in Jesus changed their lives. He invited his opponent to counter with witnesses to the benefits of unbelief. On the appointed day the believer came with his one hundred witnesses, but the skeptic never showed up. (Our Daily Bread, 1999).

Your testimony about how Jesus has changed your life is one of the most powerful testimonies to those who are dying in their sins. Do not let the bullies and lies of this world keep you from sharing it. Christ is counting on you and the unsaved world needs you.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, knowing You and making You known go together. The more I know You, the more I long for people to know You. Whether they be my intellectual superiors or not, I must share what You have done in my life because apart from You, they cannot know God the Father. They cannot have everlasting life. And they cannot be set free from the darkness that keeps them in bondage to sin. In Your name. Amen.

How do I stay focused on what is important to God? Part 2

“If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” John 7:17

The second way to major on the majors is to ASCERTAIN GOD’S WILL BY DOING IT (John 7:17). “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” (John 7:17). If anyone was willing to do God’s will, not just to know God’s truth, God would enable that one to believe that Jesus’ teaching came from heaven. The most important thing then is a commitment to follow God’s will. Once a person makes that commitment, God begins to convince him or her of what is true. Faith must precede reason, not the other way around.

Although this promise applies to all that Jesus taught, it especially applies to what a person must do to have everlasting life. Everyone who is willing to do what God says will discover that anyone who believes or trusts in Jesus alone has everlasting life. Jesus said, “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:40). Unfortunately, many of Jesus’ listeners did not want to do God’s will, so they never discovered the free gift of everlasting life through faith in Jesus. Instead, they wanted to kill Jesus and bring His teaching to an end (cf. John 7:19-20).

We see this happening often today. The reason people do not discover the freeness of everlasting life through faith alone in Christ alone is because they are not willing to do God’s will. They are committed to doing their own will instead of God’s. Hence, they embrace a “faith plus” gospel that emphasizes good works to get them to heaven. But because this is their will instead of God’s, they are convinced that this is the right way to heaven. It is not until they are willing to do what God says that they discover that everlasting life is a free gift through believing in Jesus Christ apart from any works (John 3:15-18, 36; 4:10-14; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26).

The reason why so many people reject that Jesus is God is because they are not willing to do God’s will. If they were willing, God would enable them to believe that Jesus is the true God and eternal life (John 1:1; I John 5:20). Spiritual understanding and growth begins with our willingness to do what God says.

But those who do believe in Christ for salvation must be willing to apply what they know to grow in their faith. We learn by doing. For example, we can know how to share the gospel, but we will not grow in evangelism until we start sharing Christ with non-Christians. Likewise, you can know the steps to forgiveness, but you will not grow in forgiveness until you choose to actually forgive the people who have hurt you. You may be able to quote 1 Corinthians 13, but until you choose to work at loving your enemy and those who are difficult to love, you inhibit your ability to grow in love. You can know how important discipleship is, but until you begin carving time out of your schedule to study God’s Word and teach it to others, you will not grow further in discipleship.

With every act of obedience, the truth of what Jesus says becomes more and more persuasive to us. We know it is true, because God proves Himself true every time. This explains why some new believers learn and grow with incredible speed. They become grown up, mature believers, in a matter of months, while others who sit under the teaching of the Word for years hardly seem to grow at all; they are still Kindergarten Christians. Why is this? It is because they are not doing what they hear. Those who put into practice the truth they hear begin to grow immediately. They move beyond spiritual infancy and enter the spiritual infantry of Christ.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, salvation and spiritual growth begin with my will. If I am not willing to do what You say, I will not discover the reality of everlasting through faith in You alone. If I am not willing to do Your will after I am saved, I will not grow in my relationship with You. Lord God, I want to become a doer of Your Word and not merely a hearer. Please help me to grow beyond where I am today by taking that first step of obedience to Your will. Every time I obey You, the truth of what You say becomes more persuasive to me. I grow spiritually by doing what Your Word says, not by hearing. I pray Your church will be filled with followers of Christ who are growing exponentially as doers of Your Word and not hearers only. As a result, You will receive more glory and the world will be a much better place to live. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How do I stay focused on what is important to God? Part 1

“Jesus answered them and said, ‘My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.’ ” John 7:16

God wants us to major on what is important. He wants us to focus on relationships, especially with Him, and internal attitudes, not ourselves and external appearances. But how do we do that? How do we major on the majors? How do we stay focused on what is important to God – our relationship with Him and doing His will during this season of chaos and uncertainty? Let’s look at John 7:14-24 the next few days and find out.

The first way to stay focused on what is important to God is to AVOID HIDING BEHIND FOOLISH STEREOTYPES (John 7:14-16). In John 7:1-13, Jesus’ half-brothers tried to persuade Him to go up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles to make Himself known as the Messiah. Jesus refused to follow His unbelieving brothers’ advice. Instead, He waited until the Feast was half over before going up to it. 14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, ‘How does this Man know letters, having never studied?’ ” (John 7:14-15). The word “letters” refers to the Scriptures. The crowd was amazed that Jesus could teach with such authority since He had no formal education. He had not gone to the proper rabbinical schools. Yet, He took the ancient prophecies, and expounded and explained them. This was so different from the other rabbis. They taught from authorities, but Jesus taught with authority. Christ was a refreshing difference.

These people were not admiring Jesus – they were finding ways to avoid the impact of His message. They were doing what many of us do today – they were hiding behind foolish stereotypes. That way they would not have to deal with what Jesus was saying. We can often dismiss uncomfortable teaching because the teacher is either: not very educated (and so couldn’t possibly have anything to teach me) or, they are too educated (and surely parroting what they have been taught rather than making an informed decision based on the scriptures). Have you ever done that? I know I have. We stop listening to people because of their incorrect grammar, background, their past failures, their appearance, and a host of other reasons.

Jesus tells the people –  “Jesus answered them and said, ‘My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.’ ” (John 7:16). Jesus did not receive His message from men nor make it up Himself. Many people who have not gone to school are still proud of their knowledge. They say, “I studied and taught myself.” There is a lot of pride lurking beneath such a statement. But Jesus does not say that. “I am not even self-taught. My teaching is from Him who sent me.” In other words, the issue is not the Person who is speaking, but the message that is spoken.

God can and does speak to us in a number of different ways. He can speak to us through the words of a child, a grandparent, even a new believer. However, we must be open to instruction. We must stop hindering God’s Spirit by refusing to listen to someone because of our foolish stereotypes. I believe that most people today want to hear from someone who has been taught by God. Isn’t that true? Hopefully you didn’t start reading this article to hear from me. You have come to this article because you wanted to get a word from the Lord. That’s why those of us who teach God’s Word need your prayers. Pray for us to hear from God each day – to get fresh insight from His Word.

Prayer: Father God, I am certain I have often missed out on Your message in the past because of my foolish stereotypes. I have stopped listening to Your messengers because of their incorrect grammar, background, their past failures, their appearance, and a host of other reasons. Oh how I regret hiding behind such stereotypes to avoid the impact of Your Word in my life. I have forgotten how You use unexpected people to communicate Your message of grace and truth. During this time of great chaos and uncertainty in our world, I desperately need to hear from You, my Lord and my God. Please open my eyes and heart to see wonderful jewels in Your Word. Holy Spirit, please give me the ability to understand and apply the truth of God’s Word to my life. Please give me an open heart to those whom You have raised up to speak to this current generation. Help me discern fake news from Your news. In the precious name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

How do I follow God’s plan? Part 5

“But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.” John 7:10

The fifth way I follow God’s plan is when I APPLY DISCRETION (John 7:10-13). After Jesus’ brothers went up to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, Jesus went up in secret. “But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.” (John 7:10). Contrary to His brother’s insincere advice, Jesus kept a low profile during the opening days of the feast because it was not God’s time for Him to be manifested as the Messiah. He was very discreet. The message is clear – people do not determine what Jesus does. Christ is supremely the Master of every situation. So now He goes up when He is ready and in the way He chooses.

Jesus found Jerusalem filled with rumors about Him. In the intervening months, He had become the sensation of the nation. Reports of His great miracles had filtered down to Jerusalem and everybody was talking about Him, as John describes: 11 Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, ‘Where is He?’ 12 And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, ‘He is good’; others said, ‘No, on the contrary, He deceives the people.’ 13 However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.” (John 7:11-13). There was a growing tension. Public opinion was divided. Some favored Christ and others were opposed to Him.

As we seek to follow God’s plan, we must apply discretion. There is a time and place to speak up for the Lord and then there is a time and place to be silent. Christians have turned off unbelievers by failing to apply discretion. We need God’s wisdom to know when and what to say or do before an unbelieving world. We need to rely on God’s Word and the Holy Spirit for guidance.

Are you willing to follow God’s plan for your life or do you want to run ahead of Him and take your chances? Let’s wait for His leading, shall we? And if the light is red or even yellow, we will be wise to let Him hold us back. When it turns green, you will know it. Don’t race your motor while you are waiting. You will burn up all your fuel… and you might slip across that delicate line. God’s moving-violation fines are quite expensive.

Prayer: Father God, forgive us for following our own inclinations instead of Your clear and simple leading. We want to follow Your plan for our lives. Lead us to those who are receptive to the gospel that we might boldly share Jesus with them. May we follow Your leading and not our own, adjusting to Your timing even if it is a red or yellow light. It is far better to be behind You, Lord, instead of in front of You. May our lives challenge the status quo of wickedness around us because You are living in and through us. Grant us Your wisdom as we face decisions each day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How do I follow God’s Plan? Part 3

“You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” John 7:8

The third way to follow God’s plan is to ADJUST TO HIS TIMING AND WILL (John 7:6a, 8). Jesus understood the Scriptures. He knew that God had appointed the very time in which He would be crucified. Six months from now Jesus would make a triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The people will receive Him with shouts of Hosanna. But now is not God’s time for that to happen. It is the wrong feast. It is the Feast of Tabernacles not the Passover. So Jesus told His brothers, My time has not yet come… You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” (John 7:6a, 8). Jesus was not only being sensitive to what God wants to do but WHEN He wants to do it as well. We use the phrase, “Timing is everything,” because by experience we have learned that to do the right thing at the wrong time does not work. 

A basketball player can throw the most beautiful pass down the court, but if it is not timed right for his teammate to receive it, it will either go out of bounds or be stolen by the other team. For Jesus, His obedience to the Father must be according to God’s timing – like a batter swinging the bat just as the ball crosses the plate. In my own life, some of my greatest regrets were the result of hasty decisions – because I got ahead of God. It is better to wait on the Lord’s timing than to get ahead of Him and experience disaster.

Jesus knew His Father’s will and did it. How do I discern God’s will today? Ask yourself these questions as you seek to discover God’s will before making any major decisions:

1. What does the Bible tell me to do?” If your choice of action violates God’s Word, you know God’s will in the situation: “Don’t do it!” For example, co-signing on a loan. “It is poor judgment to co-sign a friend’s note, to become responsible for a neighbor’s debts.” Proverbs 17:18 [NLT]. It is unwise to become entangled in someone else’s financial problems. So if someone asks you to co-sign on a loan, don’t do it. If you already have, Proverbs 6:1-5 says to get out of it. So yes, only if your tentative decision would not violate God’s Word are you free to proceed. The matter then becomes a matter of fine tuning, being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, who will bring more information to your mind, especially relevant principles and examples from the Bible.

2. What can God show me as I pray? After you are convinced that your tentative decision would not violate God’s Word, you will want further guidance through prayer. For example, you are looking at a possible job change and you need some direction. After searching God’s Word, you have discovered that such a change would not violate God’s Word, but now on the basis of James 1:5 – you commit yourself to praying for God’s leading every morning for several days. At the outset, you prepare a sheet on which two columns are drawn, one for listing all the reasons to change jobs, and the other column to list reasons not to change jobs. Each evening you cross off a reason on one side or the other, as a result of what God told you during your prayer time that day. At the end of several days, you should see a definite trend developing, especially if you have continued to study God’s Word and Scriptural aids.

3. What can knowledgeable counselors or advisors tell me? Look at the following verses:

“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14

“Plans are established by counsel; by wise counsel wage war.” Proverbs 20:18

“For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, and in a multitude of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 24:6

According to these verses, seeking godly advice can bring wisdom, safety, and a better chance of success. Do you have an older Christian in your life to whom you can turn for biblical counsel? If not, ask the Lord to guide you to such a person.

4. What do these circumstances tell me about God’s purposes and timing? Ask yourself whether the existence of this situation tells you something about God’s plan for you. For example, is He showing you some doors are now open? Are other doors being closed?

5. Is my heart filled with peace about my decision? This is a very subjective question, which is why it is last. According to Colossians 3:15, “the peace of Christ” is an important element in our fulfillment of God’s will in our lives. If your decision is right, you will have great confidence that you are in God’s will. If you don’t have peace, it may not mean God is saying “no,” but to wait, slow down and let God make His will clear to you.

Prayer: My precious Lord, please make me sensitive to Your will and timing, especially in these days of chaos and uncertainty.Some of my deepest regrets in life were the result of hasty decisions. Even making the right decision at the wrong time has produced disastrous results. This is such an area of weakness for me. And it does not help to live in a world that is making many fear-based decisions that ignore Your counsel. Christians are being pressured to do the same. Lord, one of my greatest needs right now is to slow down and wait upon You. Living with delayed gratification is one of the marks of Christian maturity. It is also seldom modeled in our society. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for showing me what it means to be sensitive to the Father’s will and timing. You have recorded Your wisdom in the Bible and given me the Holy Spirit to enable me to understand and apply it to my life. Thank You for giving me everything I need to make godly decisions that reflect Your will and timing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.