How can I trust the Lord Jesus as the True Shepherd? Part 2

“To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name.” John 10:3ab

A second reason why we can trust Jesus as our True Shepherd is because HE HAS THE DOORKEEPER’S CONFIRMATION (John 10:3a). “To him the doorkeeper opens.”  (John 10:3a). “The doorkeeper” watches several flocks at night and then opens the door to the fold in the morning for the authorized shepherd to enter.

I believe the identity of the doorkeeper in the gospel of John is John the Baptist. He opened the door for Jesus to enter the fold of Israel as their True Shepherd. John identified himself as “‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:23). He points to Jesus and says, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). As Jesus’ popularity increased, John pointed his jealous disciples to Jesus and said, “He must increase [in popularity], but I must decrease [in popularity].” (John 3:30). Then He pointed to Jesus’ greatness in His origin – “He who comes from above is above all” (John 3:31a), in His teaching – “33 He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. 34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure” (John 3:33-34), and in His gift – “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

John did not introduce one of the Pharisees or Sadducees to the nation of Israel as a shepherd, but rather John condemned them and their legalistic systems. Nor did John introduce some other religious leader as the True Shepherd. Instead, John the Baptist introduced Jesus Christ as the True Shepherd because He came through the door of the Messianic prophecies (John 10:2). He opens the door of Israel to Jesus so He can call His sheep out of the fold.

The third reason why we can trust Jesus as our True Shepherd is because HE HAS PERSONAL CONCERN FOR EACH OF US (John 10:3b). “…and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name.” (John 10:3b). There are many different flocks in the fold. When the shepherd comes to retrieve his flock in the morning, his sheep “hear his voice.” The word “hear (akouō) refers to “attentive appreciation.” The sheep are familiar with their shepherd’s tone of voice. This tone of voice makes the sheep want to follow their shepherd. Why? Because “He calls his own sheep by name.” A shepherd would give names to each of his sheep based on the sheep’s behavior or appearance. He might have a Tiger, a Blacky, a Sleepy, etc. The shepherd had a tender affection for each of his sheep.

Likewise, our true Shepherd, Jesus Christ, knows each of us intimately. He knows our likes and dislikes. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows everything about us and yet He still loves us. The fact that He knows me and still loves me answers some of the fundamental questions that I have: “Does God know me? Does He know I exist? Does He care about my problems or are they too unimportant for Him?” 

Nothing is too unimportant for God. Matthew 10:30 says, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Psalm 145:8-9 instructs us, “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” Circle “all.” That includes everyone. God knows me and still loves me. His love for us is not based on whether we respond to it or not. God is love. His love is unconditional. No strings attached. God would love us as if there were only one of us to love. The Bible teaches that God feels for each of us and loves us. When God is loving you right now He does not stop loving you. That’s the way it works.

As a parent, when you are videotaping your kids, maybe in a school play or in a church choir,  and you zoom in just on your child? You just want to see your son or daughter. That’s what God does with each of us. He zooms in on you as an individual because you are important to Him. You may be checking this whole Christianity thing out today. You’re thinking “I’m going to come in a crowd, because I can hide in this crowd and investigate Christianity.” You can hide in this crowd but you can’t hide from God. You think you are a seeker but God is also seeking you out.

Jesus loves you. He knows you. He knows your pain. He knows your past. He knows your sin. You don’t have to hide from Jesus. You don’t have to work so hard to cover up your sins and shortcomings. Jesus knows them already and He still loves you and cares about you. When you know someone loves you deeply, you are more inclined to trust him or her.

The problem for many of us is we have been disappointed by false shepherds in the religious community who cared more about themselves than God’s people. If you have come out of a Pharisaic system, perhaps you were mistreated by religious leaders. Maybe they shamed you and placed burdens on you that were too difficult to carry. They cared more about your performance and outward appearance than they did about what was going on inside of you. Consequently, you have a difficult time trusting anyone connected with Christianity or anything religious.

Jesus, the True Shepherd, knows everything about you and He longs to be in a personal relationship with you. Jesus is calling you by your name. Can you slow down enough to hear Him? He wants to heal you of the wounds that were inflicted upon you by religious leaders who cared only about themselves. Since you were wounded in the context of relationships, your healing will also take place in the context of relationships. Only this time, Jesus will facilitate your healing in the context of loving relationships within His family. Are you willing to give Jesus a chance? He is waiting to hear from you. He will not force His way into your life. His love gives you the freedom to choose. You can choose to do life on your own or you can invite Jesus to be a part of your healing journey. I pray you will choose Jesus.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my True Shepherd, I am so glad You called me by my name after I gave up on religion. I was disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the religious establishment that I grew up in. I perceived You to be a cold and distant deity because of my experiences with religious leaders. I was taught that God is love but I was bad, and I had to try harder to follow Him if I was going to make it to heaven. The good in my life had to be much greater than the bad if I was going to be accepted by You. Even though I thought I was too bad for anyone to love me, including You, You still pursued me and called me by my name. Thank You for never giving up on me, Lord Jesus. I am so grateful that Your Word exposed the many lies that kept me from trusting You as my True Shepherd. Thank You for Your people who loved me despite my many failures and sins. Knowing how much You love me enabled me to trust You for life that never ends. Now I want You to use me to share Your love with those who have given up on religion because of the wounds inflicted upon them by religious establishments. Please help them to discover that You are the True Shepherd Who knows them intimately and wants them to know You in the same way. In Your powerful and loving name I pray. Amen.

How can I overcome spiritual blindness? Part 2

They said to the blind man again, ‘What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’ ” John 9:17

In our study of the man born blind, we are learning how to overcome spiritual blindness. Last time we discovered the first symptom of spiritual blindness is to deny your own sinfulness by focusing on man-made traditions (John 9:13-16a). The first solution is to digest the facts about Jesus (John 9:16b-17). Today we learn the second way to overcome spiritual blindness is to DEVELOP A GREATER UNDERSTANDING OF JESUS’ IDENTITY (John 9:17).

The blind man’s neighbors question him further to help resolve the dispute among the Pharisees. “They said to the blind man again, ‘What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’ ” (John 9:17). They would not normally question an illiterate beggar but because he did know what happened they want to know what the former blind man concluded about Jesus. He boldly said, “He is a prophet.” Apparently, his gratitude for Jesus’ healing was greater than any fear he had toward the Pharisees. This is more than what he said earlier when he referred to his healer as “a Man called Jesus” (John 9:11). The former blind man places Jesus in the highest position he knew – that of a “prophet.” Christ performed an extraordinary miracle like that of a prophet of God. Like some of the Pharisees, the former blind man honestly assessed the facts about Christ and concluded that He was much more than a sinner. Jesus was an agent of God empowered by God.

Many non-Christians need more than one exposure to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The number of times they need to hear the gospel is often proportional to their starting point. For example, a Roman Catholic may only need to hear the gospel once because Catholicism already believes that Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose from the dead. But they do not understand that all a person must do to receive everlasting life is to believe in Jesus alone. They have been taught they must also do good works to get to heaven.

On the other hand, a Muslim may need to hear the gospel several times and in different ways because they have been taught that Jesus is merely a prophet who did not die on a cross nor rise from the dead. They also believe the Bible is corrupt and cannot be trusted, so they may need to investigate the historical evidence of Christianity before they are ready to believe in Jesus alone as their only hope of heaven. Both Christians and Muslims believe God is one, but the Muslim will need to decide is He Allah or Jesus? You cannot believe what you do not know.

We see throughout John chapter 9 that the man born blind continues to grow in his knowledge about Jesus. We must be patient with non-Christians and help them progress in their thinking until they see Christ as the Giver of eternal life (John 9:35-38; cf. 4:10-26; 20:31).

The second symptom of  spiritual blindness is to DISBELIEVE THE FACTS ABOUT JESUS (John 9:18-20). When the bind man said Jesus was a prophet (John 9:17), the Pharisees were unwilling to accept this praise of Christ, so they tried to obtain evidence to deny that the miracle even happened. John writes, “But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight.” (John 9:18). The spiritually blind Pharisees refused to believe that the man had been blind and was now cured until they spoke with the man’s parents.

If this man had been blind and could now see, then a miracle had taken place and they would not be able to deny that Jesus was from God. To deny this miracle, they summon the former blind man’s parents. “And they asked them, saying, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ ” (John 9:19). Either this man was blind and now he sees or they assert that this man cannot be their blind son because this man can see. If he is the man born blind, the Pharisees want to know “How then does he now see?”

The Pharisees do not believe the identity of the man until the parents tell them. “His parents answered them and said, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind.’ ” (John 9:20). Sometimes we may need to hear the truth from more than one person. Jesus will be more than glad to provide us with additional witnesses to the truth about Him.  

When I was a young believer in a “Christian” college, I had a New Testament professor who tried to deny the miracles of Jesus Christ by offering rationalistic explanations. For example, when the Bible says Jesus miraculously fed thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two sardine-sized fish (John 6:1-13), my professor said when the young lad donated his meal for Jesus to use, the rest of the people pulled out their lunches so that after everyone was done eating, there were many baskets full of leftovers. When the Bible said Jesus walked on water (John 6:15-21), my professor said Christ walked on a sandbar just underneath the water so that it “appeared” as though He was walking on water. In both accounts where the Bible clearly describes a supernatural miracle by Jesus, my professor disbelieved the biblical data to deny the supernatural power of Jesus Christ. Why do people do this? Perhaps it is because they don’t want to be accountable to God and accept His assessment of their sinful lives. If Jesus is God, then they must humbly admit their sinfulness and then believe or trust in Christ alone to save them.

What about you? Do you refuse to believe Jesus is God simply because someone told you He is not God? It may have been a professor or imam or monk or priest or parent or peer. But is that sufficient grounds for rejecting the Person Who claimed to be the Eternal I AM? Have you taken time to investigate the historical evidence about Jesus Christ before you come to a decision about His identity? If not, why? What keeps you from discovering more about Jesus?

The man born blind did not know all the facts about the One Who restored his sight, but what he did know was he was once blind, but now he sees. What about you? What do you know about Jesus Christ? What do you need from Him to believe He is Who He said He was – the Messiah, the Son of God, Who gives everlasting life to all who believe in Him (John 4:25-26; 9:35-38; 11:25-27; 20:31)? Jesus will gladly meet you where you are at to reveal Himself to you.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, before I believed You are the Christ, the Son of God, Who gives everlasting life to all who believe in You, I thought You were a good moral teacher who lived a life worth imitating. Gradually, however, You revealed more and more of Yourself to me through the Bible, my circumstances, and other people so I could no longer conclude You were simply a good moral teacher. Your words and Your works led me to one conclusion – You are the Messiah-God, and You alone could save me from my sins forever and give me everlasting life the moment I believed in You. No one else compares to You. Precious Lord, there are millions of people who do not know or believe the truth about You yet. They were born spiritually blind and they remain that way because they refuse to believe the facts about You. Their hearts are blinded by the father of lies. I pray in Your name that God the Holy Spirit will persuade them to believe in You as the Christ, the Son of God, that believing they may have life in Your name alone. There may be some in the world who have made this decision to believe in You, but because of their fear of family or their religious community, they have kept that decision a secret. Lord, You know who those people are and You can be their Provider, Teacher, and their Guide. Please bless, teach, and provide for them so they can become all You created them to be. In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.   

How can I overcome spiritual blindness? Part 1

“Therefore some of the Pharisees said, ‘This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?’ ” John 9:16

A woman named Rose Crawford had been blind for 50 years. “I just can’t believe it!” she gasped as the doctor lifted the bandages from her eyes after her recovery from delicate surgery in an Ontario hospital. She wept for joy when for the first time in her life a dazzling and beautiful world of form and color greeted eyes that now were able to see. The amazing thing about the story, however, is that twenty years of her blindness had been unnecessary. She didn’t know that surgical techniques had been developed, and that an operation could have restored her vision at the age of thirty. The doctor said, “She just figured there was nothing that could be done about her condition. Much of her life could have been different.” 1

Why did she continue to assume that her situation was hopeless? Had no one told her about the wonderful advances in eye surgery? Then I thought of the plight of those unreached by the gospel. How many will go on living in spiritual blindness unless we bring them to the Savior? Millions will never know anything but spiritual darkness because no one has shared with them the Light that has come into the world.

All people are born spiritually blind to Jesus Christ because the devil has blinded them to their need for Christ (2 Corinthians 4:3-6). The next few days we will see how spiritual blindness expresses itself and how one can overcome spiritual blindness. We will look at the symptoms of spiritual blindness and the solutions to spiritual blindness. 

In John 9:1-12, when Jesus, as “the Light of the world,” gave physical sight to the man born blind, it caused many mixed reactions. “They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees.” (John 9:13). “They” refers to the blind man’s neighbors – those who were close to him (cf. John 9:8). The neighbors of the blind man brought him to the religious experts, “the Pharisees,” hoping they could explain what happened. The problem with this decision to go to the Pharisees is that these men were spiritually blind.

“Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.” (John 9:14). John points out that Jesus healed the blind man on the “Sabbath,” a troublesome issue to those who are spiritually blind. “Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, ‘He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.’ ” (John 9:15). The Pharisees again asked the man born blind “how” Jesus had healed him to discredit Christ’s healing grace.

When the man born blind told them the facts, some of the Pharisees concluded “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” (John 9:16a). They concluded that Jesus is not from God” because He did not keep the Sabbath according to their understanding of keeping the Sabbath. In other words, Jesus did not live up to their spiritual standards. The Pharisees strictly followed Jewish traditions about the Law, not just the Law Itself. Jewish tradition developed a long list of things that could not be done on the Sabbath in an attempt to keep the Law’s command not to work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11).

The first symptom of spiritual blindness is to DENY YOUR OWN SINFULNESS BY FOCUSING ON MAN-MADE TRADITIONS (John 9:13-16a). The Pharisees concluded that Jesus could not be from God because He did not obey their man-made Sabbath laws which forbid mixing saliva with clay. That was considered work. Their adherence to legalistic traditions blinded them to the miracle of the blind man’s healing. But Jesus focused on meeting this man’s “real” need rather than focus on keeping their rules and formulas.

Those who are spiritually blind do not want to admit their own sinfulness and need for a Savior. So, they focus on the performance of others because it will make them look good and help them avoid their own sense of guilt and shame. By focusing on the performance of others, they can avoid the performance of Jesus Christ when He died for their sins on the Cross (I Corinthians 15:3-4). This preoccupation with man-made traditions enables them to avoid the scrutiny of the Cross which reveals the only way to obtain acceptance before a holy God. Today, following religious traditions keeps many people from understanding the simplicity and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What is the solution to this aspect of spiritual blindness? Look in the next part of verse 16. “Others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.’ ” (John 9:16b). Others among the Pharisees knew that a sinner could not perform such a miraculous sign. Only someone from God could conduct such a supernatural healing. Perhaps Nicodemus was among this group of learners (cf. 3:2). The first solution to spiritual blindness, then, is to DIGEST THE FACTS ABOUT JESUS (John 9:16b-17). These observers realized that an ordinary person (“a sinner”) was not capable of performing such a creation miracle as this. This man was born blind and needed God to intervene to create the physical sight that he had never possessed. Only God can create something out of nothing.

To overcome spiritual blindness, an individual must honestly assess the facts about Jesus Christ. His life and miracles point to His origin as being from God. Only God could give physical sight to a man born blind. People who are dishonest with the facts about Jesus are seeking to avoid concluding that He is God. For if Jesus is not God, then they do not need to admit their sin against Him and believe or trust in Him alone for their salvation.

The blind man’s neighbors question him further to help resolve the dispute among the Pharisees. “They said to the blind man again, ‘What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’ ” (John 9:17). They would not normally question an illiterate beggar but because he did know what happened they want to know what the former blind man concluded about Jesus. He boldly said, “He is a prophet.” Apparently, his gratitude for Jesus’ healing was greater than any fear he had toward the Pharisees. This is more than what he said earlier when he referred to his healer as “a Man called Jesus” (John 9:11). His understanding of Jesus is growing. Eventually the man born blind would believe that Jesus was “the Son of God” (John 9:35-38).

Some of you reading this article may be spiritually blind and you do not even know it. Perhaps you have been focusing on the performance of others who do not measure up to your religious standards. You are quick to say they are sinners or infidels because they do not dress, pray, eat, or worship like you do, and you conclude that they are unclean or evil. Have you ever considered why you do this? Is it possible that by focusing on the religious performance of others you are able to avoid your own shortcomings and sinfulness? And more importantly, you are able to avoid what Jesus Christ did on the Cross?

For you see, if you were to focus on what Jesus Christ did for you on the Cross, you would be confronted with your own sinfulness. The Bible tells us that the gospel by which we are saved is “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” (I Corinthians 15:3). Jesus did not die because He did something wrong. He died in our place as our Substitute for our sins “according to the Scriptures.” The prophet Isaiah prophesied this hundreds of years before the Romans invented crucifixion when he wrote, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5).

Why did Jesus die on a Cross? The Bible tell us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). All of us deserve to die or be separated from God forever. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23a). The penalty for our sin is death or separation from God. Jesus took what was causing us to die – our sin – and He died in our place on a Cross so we could live.

Let me explain with an illustration I was taught by evangelist Larry Moyer who founded EvanTell, a wonderful evangelistic ministry dedicated to keeping the gospel clear and simple (see www.evantell.org). Suppose you are in a hospital dying of cancer. I come to you and say, “Let’s take the cancer cells from your body and put them into my body.” If that were possible, what would happen to me? Yes, I would die. But what would happen to you? Yes, you would live. I would die in your place.

The Bible is telling us that Jesus Christ took what was causing us to die – our sin – and placed it on Himself and died in our place so we could live. Three days later, Jesus came back to life to prove that sin and death had been defeated and that Christ’s claims to be God were true. In order for us to live eternally, we must simply believe or trust in Jesus alone Who died in our place and rose from the dead, to give us everlasting life. Jesus said, “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.” (John 3:14-15).

Instead of focusing on the religious performance of others to avoid your own sinfulness or to avoid the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross for you, take a moment before God in prayer to admit your need for Him.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I come to you right now admitting that I have been running from You by focusing on the shortcomings of others. I was afraid to admit my own sinfulness to You for fear that You would punish me. For years I believed that You were merely a prophet and a good moral teacher. I hated You and Your followers. But now I am realizing that Your miracles and teachings point to You as Someone Who is far more than a prophet or teacher. You are God in human flesh because only God could do and say the things You did. As much as I know how, Lord Jesus, I believe You took my punishment for my sins when You died on the Cross and rose from the dead. I am now believing or trusting in You alone (not my religion, my prayers, or my good life), to forgive all my sins and give me everlasting life. Thank You Jesus for the forgiveness and everlasting life I now have. Thank You for hearing my prayer. In Your name. Amen.

To learn more about your new relationship with Jesus, please visit www.seeyouinheaven.life or www.knowing-Jesus.com.

ENDNOTE

1. http://www.biblestudytools.com/pastor-resources/illustrations/spiritual-blindness-11544395.html on 1-3-2017).

Why is there pain and suffering? Part 3

“When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.” John 9:6

A third reason why God allows pain and suffering is TO DISCLOSE HIS PITY OR COMPASSION  (John 9:6-12). After Jesus reaffirmed His identity as the Light of the world (John 9:5), we read, “When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.“ (John 9:6). As He did with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:6b, 8), Jesus stooped down to the dirt. But instead of writing in it, “He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva.” Why did Jesus heal the blind man in this way? Why didn’t He just say the word like He did with the lame man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:8-9) or with Lazarus at his grave (John 11:43-44)?

Saliva was a well-known Jewish remedy for eye trouble. Clay was the same substance from which man was created (Genesis 2:7). “Thus the word of God (i.e., spit from Jesus’s mouth) mixed with humanity (i.e., dirt from which man was created) provided the basis for the miracle. By using His saliva, Jesus was imparting divine DNA to the human defect in order to bring about a supernatural transformation of his humanity. This was to serve as a physical illustration of the supernatural spiritual transformation Jesus came to bring (see Isa 35:4-5).” (Dr. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, p. 1782).

This was a creation miracle since this man’s blindness was congenital. Jesus used the clay as a tool to develop the blind man’s faith. The touch of a friendly hand would be reassuring to this man who had known darkness all his life. While the disciples showed insensitivity toward the blind man when they asked Jesus within earshot “Who sinned?” Jesus showed great compassion or pity toward this blind man by providing a gentle and soothing touch.

When Jesus healed the blind man on the Sabbath with clay He had made, He broke two man-made laws of the Jewish people. Making clay and healing were both forbidden by the Pharisees on the Sabbath. This would cause more tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders.

“And He said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.” (John 9:7). After anointing the blind man’s eyes, Jesus instructs him to go wash at the pool of Siloam. The man’s healing required an act of faith on his part. “The pool of Siloam” was originally built by King Hezekiah to provide a reservoir for water flowing through the Siloam tunnel from the Gihon Spring (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:2-4). Rabbinic teaching associated this free-flowing fountain with God’s fountain during the Messianic kingdom. John informs his readers that the word “Siloam” is translated “sent.” The blind man was “sent” by the One “sent” by the Father.

Jesus did not promise he would be healed. He just told him to go wash. Christ did not give a speech about accepting your lot in life or taking the medicine that God has given you. Jesus was especially sensitive to the groans of suffering people. He cared more about His relationships with hurting people than He did about the rules and regulations of the religious establishment. The Bible says, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18). The prophet Isaiah reminds us concerning the Messiah, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” (Isaiah 42:3). The Messiah would not deal harshly with those who are already hurting nor would He extinguish what little hope a broken heart possessed. He uses His supernatural power to heal, not to punish. Jesus spent much of His ministry fighting disease and despair, not asking “Why?” or condemning with “Who sinned?”

When you hear about another’s misfortune, how do you react? Like the disciples – questioning and condemning? Or like Jesus with compassion to treat the problem?

John tells us that the blind man “went and washed and came back seeing.” His obedience to Christ’s command to wash in the “Sent” Pool enabled him to experience supernatural healing and gain his sight physically. This is a beautiful picture of salvation. When a spiritually blind person obeys the command to believe in the Son of God (I John 3:23), he or she is WASHED by the One “sent” by God, the Holy Spirit, who washes us clean with the waters of regeneration so we can SEE spiritually (John 7:37-39; Titus 3:5).

There is also an important lesson here for Christians. The blind man’s obedience to Christ enabled him to experience the blessing of physical sight. Likewise, OBEDIENCE to Christ is necessary for believers to see Jesus more FULLY. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” The pursuit of holiness is the prerequisite for seeing the Lord. Without holiness, no one can see God now or in the future.

Jesus said something similar in Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Purity of heart is necessary to see or perceive God. If a Christian is not pursuing holiness, there is a sense in which he or she cannot see God (I John 3:6). But when a believer’s eyes are enlightened, he can see many different facets of God (cf. Ephesians 1:17-21; 3:17-19; Colossians 3:9-11). Since all Christians will be without sin when they stand in God’s presence (I John 3:2), they should pursue holiness here and now. As we already learned in John 2:23-25 (cf. John 14:21; 15:14), Jesus will reveal Himself in a more intimate way to believers who obey Him.

This miracle raised the question about the man’s identity. 8 Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, ‘Is not this he who sat and begged?’ 9 Some said, ‘This is he.’ Others said, ‘He is like him.’” (John 9:8-9a). But the former blind man said something that Jesus often said, “He said, ‘I am he.’ ” (John 9:9b). This healing of the blind man was another proof that Jesus was the Messiah-God. Those who knew this blind man best, his “neighbors,” were amazed at the remarkable change they saw in him. To see this man, whom they knew so well, walk with normal sight was so incredible they thought it must be a case of mistaken identity.

“Therefore they said to him, ‘How were your eyes opened?’ ” (John 9:10). To deny the miracle, certain ones raised the question of how this miracle took place. “He answered and said, ‘A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.’ ” (John 9:11). The man’s matter of fact report explains what happened. There is no exaggeration in his personal testimony. His reply indicates his faith – he accepted the miracle as fact. At this point he does not know who Jesus is – “A Man called Jesus.” “Then they said to him, ‘Where is He?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’ ” (John 9:12). Since he was blind at the time of the miracle, he had no idea where Jesus went. What is disturbing, however, is that no one celebrates with this formerly blind man regarding his restoration of sight. They can only ask, “Where is He?”

Jesus did not perform this miracle because of this man’s faith in Him to heal since the man did not know Jesus’ identity yet. This miracle was an incredible expression of God’s grace toward him. Supernatural healing does not take a special kind of FAITH. It requires the GRACE of God to intervene and heal.

Why is there pain and suffering in the world? We learn from Jesus’ encounter with a man born blind that God allows pain and suffering…

1. To demonstrate His power. He may not perform a dramatic miracle as with the man born blind. But He may transform our attitude or heal a broken relationship. He may lift burdens of guilt and legalism off our shoulders so we can serve Him.

2. To display His promise. God allows pain and suffering to display His promise of hope and eternal life through Jesus Christ. Christ can bring light to the spiritually blind. He offers the promise of eternal life to those without hope.

3. To disclose His pity or compassion. In the midst of much pain and suffering, Jesus’ reveals His gentle and healing touch in order to bring glory back to God. He is a gentle Savior with an abundance of grace for those in need of His healing touch.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are far more concerned about relationships with people than You are about keeping man-made rules and regulations. Thank You for pursuing me when I was spiritually blind and under the burden of religious rules and regulations. Thank You for using Your supernatural power to heal instead of to punish. I am very grateful that You gently touched me with Your Word when I was spiritually blind and without hope so I could see You for Who You truly are – the Christ, the Son of God –  Who gives everlasting life to all who believe in Him! Forgive me for the many times I have been insensitive to others who are in need of Your life-giving touch. Help me to see other people as You do – as broken and blind sinners who need the gentle and loving touch of the Savior. In Your name I pray. Amen.

How can we overcome spiritual paralysis? Part 4

The fourth way to overcome spiritual paralysis is RENDER ALL THE GLORY TO CHRIST (John 9-15). The Bible says, “9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, ‘It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.’ 11 He answered them, ‘He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ” 12 Then they asked him, ‘Who is the Man who said to you, “Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place.” (John 5:9-13).

The religious leaders were more concerned about the infringement on their Sabbath rules than about Christ’s healing grace in this man’s life. Sadly, this is true of many churches today. They are more concerned about their man-made rules than they are about sinners encountering the healing grace of Jesus Christ. That’s legalism. Legalism will render a church spiritually paralyzed. The lame man did not know Christ. Jesus healed him regardless because of His GRACE. Grace is not restricted by rules and regulations. Grace expands in the context of loving relationships. Jesus was more concerned about this man’s need to be healed than He was about breaking the Sabbath rules of the religious leaders. Grace puts relationships ahead of rules. Legalism puts rules ahead of relationships.

Here is the dilemma. When Jesus wanted to do something new, the religious leaders were still caught up in the old. They were in a rut. Someone once said the difference between a rut and a grave is depth and length. And that is the dilemma for many of us today. We try to fit God into our safe set of rules. And like the legalists, we think that everyone else should also conform to our safe and comfortable box. But God is not contained in a box. The moment you think He is, He will do something new to burst that box you tried to contain Him in. God is looking to do something new in our lives and church. I wonder what may be in our lives and church that simply cannot co-exist with the new thing that God wants to do? God is looking for someone who will step out in faith and say, “I don’t know what’s going to happen – but I want to join God in the new thing He is doing.”

“Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’” (John 5:14). Jesus came back to reveal Himself to this man. He wanted him to have more than just a healthy body. He wanted the former lame man to be healthy spiritually as well. “The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.” (John 5:15).This man gave all the credit to Jesus for his healing.

I’m reminded of a story about a woodpecker that was pecking away at a huge tree. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the tree and split it from top to bottom. The woodpecker flew off in a flash. Minutes later he returned with several other woodpeckers. Pointing to the tree, he said, “There it is. Look at what I did!”

Are we quick to take credit for what God is doing in our lives and in our church? Or when God works in another believer’s life, are we quick to give the glory to that Christian instead of giving all the glory to God? When we submit to Christ’s authority and give Him all the glory, He gives us special power to walk spiritually with Him.

Are you plagued by spiritual paralysis? Are you unable to live as God wants you to live? Are we as a church unable to reproduce disciples as God wants us to? Follow Christ’s prescription for godly living…

– Resolve to get well

– Refuse to blame others

– Rely on Christ alone for healing

– Render all the Glory To Him.

Do you as an individual want to be made well today? Perhaps you are a Christian and you have been unable to live the way God wants you to. You may be crippled by past hurts or a present habit or hang up or something else. Do you want to be made well and walk with the Lord? Say to God, “Lord, I want to get well. Right now, I take responsibility for my own actions and I trust You alone to heal me. Please give me the power to overcome the sin in my life that has crippled me. Help me burn the bridges that lead back to that sin so I can keep my eyes on You, walking with You the rest of my life. In Jesus’s name. Amen.”

As a church, we need to ask ourselves, “Do we want to be made well? Do we want to become more effective at making disciples of Christ? If so, pray to the Lord, “Father God, we want to get well. We want to take responsibility for our own actions and trust You to heal our church. Forgive us for blaming others and becoming paralyzed with fear. Give us the power to replace our fear or whatever holds us back, with a radical trust in You to do the impossible. Take us to new heights as a church so that You are most glorified. In Jesus’s name. Amen.”

How can we overcome spiritual paralysis? Part 3

“Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’” John 5:8

Another way to overcome spiritual paralysis is seen in verse 8. Jesus ignored the excuse of the lame man and gave him some strong medicine. Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’” (John 5:8). First, He asks an impossible thing; secondly, He removes all possibility of a relapse; and thirdly, He expects continued success. All these are involved in the words: “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”

From these words, we discover the third way to overcome spiritual paralysis. RELY ON CHRIST ALONE FOR HEALING (John 5:8). Notice that the first thing Jesus says to do is what the man could not do for thirty-eight years – “Rise.” On what basis does Jesus say these words to him? It’s important to see this. Perhaps the lame man was thinking, “If this Man tells me to rise (and I cannot rise), it must mean that He intends to do something to make it possible.” Thus, his faith is transferred from his own efforts to Jesus: “He must do it. I can’t.” The man must also have reasoned somewhat along these lines, “If this Man is going to help me then I have got to decide to do what He tells me to do.”

Many people and churches miss this when they are looking for help from Christ. There is always something Jesus tells us to believe, and do. This is a word of action. Jesus does not say, “Try to build up faith in your mind. Pray for months first. Form a committee.” He tells them to do something: “Rise! Stand up!” Obviously, it was Jesus’ will that this man should do what He told him to do, and the moment the man’s will agreed with the Lord’s will, the power was there. I don’t know whether he felt anything or not. All I know is that strength came into his bones and into his muscles and he could stand. He knew he could stand, and he did.  

Jesus may ask us to do things as a Christian that we have never attempted before. It may not make sense to us. It may seem impossible to us. But instead of trying to figure everything out, we just need to do it! Over analysis leads to paralysis.

What does the Lord say next? The Lord did not merely say, “Rise,” He said, “take up your bed.” Why did He say that? I like the way G. Campbell Morgan has put it, “In order to make no provision for a relapse.  The man might have said to himself, “I’m healed, but I had better leave my bed here; I may need it tomorrow.” If he had said that he would have been back in it the next day. But he did not. Jesus said, “Take up your bed. Get rid of it; don’t leave it there. Don’t stay stuck.”

Christ is saying something very important to people and churches who need to be healed: do not make any provision to go back on what you have done. If you do go back, the consequences will be worse than the first time. That’s why Jesus says to the man – “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:14).  This man’s paralysis was due to personal sin. This is not always the case with physical ailments, but sometimes it is. And when Jesus enables us to overcome that sin, He says not to make provision for a relapse. Many people fail right here. 

If Christ has enabled you to stop drinking, go home and pour out the alcohol! If you’re off drugs, go home and get rid of the drugs! If you have stopped looking at porn, stay offline or at the very least, get an internet filter. Burn your bridges behind you. Say “No” to the friends you used to drink with or do drugs with or had sex with. You will probably find that some of them will come with you. Burn your bridges. Cut off any possibility of going back. Let somebody know the new stand you have taken so that he or she will help hold you to it. Join an accountability group. Get involved with discipleship. Burn your bridges, is what Jesus is saying. If you have forgiven someone, don’t rehearse the hurtful things they did to you. Let go and move on – burn your bridges. If you have been paralyzed by fear, cling to the promises of God and don’t rehearse those fearful “what ifs.” This is so important. Our Lord knows what He is talking about –“take up your bed.” Remove all possibility of a relapse.

The third thing Jesus said is, “walk.” Don’t expect to be carried – walk. Many people want to be carried after they are healed. They expect everybody to gather around them and keep them going – a common area of failure. But if Jesus gives you the power to rise, Jesus is the One who can give you the power to walk every day, to keep going. That is an important thing to see – you and the Lord. Your eyes are not on your friends, your pastor or on yourself; your eyes are to be on Him now. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2). That is how this man kept going. It is how you as a person can keep going in your Christian life.

It is important to see God’s part and our part in the healing process. Who healed the man at the pool? Jesus. Who had to walk? The man. Who saves us from our sins? Jesus. Who must believe? We must. Who makes us more like Christ and gives us the power to live above sin? Jesus. Who must decide day by day to follow Him and do what is right? We must. Who gives us the vision for our church and the power to carry it out? Jesus. Who must decide to follow that vision and implement changes necessary to complete that vision? We must.

If we are going to overcome spiritual paralysis, we must resolve to get well, refuse to blame others, and rely on Christ alone for healing. Then and only then, will we begin to walk closely with God.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for this strong dose of medicine this morning. You are asking me to do something I have never done, and that is scary. But it also comforts me to know that You would never command me to do something without giving me the power to do it. I have been clinging to secrets far too long that have kept me from walking more closely with You. As I make this decision to rise up out of the mire of my own sin and shame, help me to make no provision for going back to my old thought patterns and behaviors that I used to medicate my pain, especially when I am stressed or lonely. Thank You for providing people in my life who love me and support my commitment to walk more closely with You and experience Your deeper healing in my life. My eyes are fixed on You, Lord Jesus, to bring deeper healing in my soul and lead me to new heights of victory and faithfulness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can we overcome spiritual paralysis? Part 2

“The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’” John 5:7

If we are to overcome spiritual paralysis, we must also … REFUSE to BLAME Others (John 5:7). When Jesus asked, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6), the lame man replied, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” (John 5:7). He was complaining, “Every time the water bubbles up, no one is here to help me into the pool. It’s always the stronger ones who reach the water first. It’s a shame those of us who need it the most get the least amount of help. It’s been that way for thirty-eight years.”

We do the same thing today. How often do we hear people say things like, “I’d stop drinking if my wife would quit nagging me!” “I’d work harder, but no one appreciates my effort.” “I’d stop doing drugs if my friends would stop pressuring me.” “I’d make better grades, but my teacher doesn’t like me.” “I’d come to church, but there are too many hypocrites there.” We have such a difficult time saying, “I’m responsible for my choices.” We blame heredity, environment, circumstances, the past – everything except ourselves. Yet what the Lord wants is for us to accept responsibility for our own behavior.

 When Jesus asks, “do you want to be made well?” what is our response? When Jesus asks, “do you want to be healed from your past hurts?” Do we reply, “you don’t know how badly they hurt me”? When Jesus asks, “Do you want to be freed from the chains of your secret sin?” do we counter, “I just can’t control myself”? When Christ says, “Do you want to be saved?” will you excuse yourself, “I’m not nearly as bad as other people I know.” When Jesus asks, “Do you want to become more effective in reaching the lost?” do we say, “I’m happy with the way things are?” When Jesus asks, “Will you try new ways to minister to the lost?” do we say, “I’m afraid of what could happen?” Jesus said to the cripple “Do you want to be made well?” And he replied, “I don’t have anyone to put me in.”

To receive the healing Jesus has for our lives, we must refuse to blame others and take responsibility for ourselves. Christ is eager to help us, but we must be willing to let Him. Living in denial only makes our spiritual paralysis worse. We must break out of denial and stop blaming someone else for the choices we have made. It is time to face the pain in our lives so we will recognize our need for Jesus. Denial can stop today! Healing can begin today!

Prayer: Ouch! Lord Jesus, Your Word is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Thank You for loving me enough to expose the denial in my life which is often cloaked by blaming others. Lord God, please forgive me for refusing to take responsibility for my own choices which has caused more pain in my life than anything else. Right now, I am asking You to help me break out of denial and face the pain in my own life. Thank You my Lord and my God for Your healing grace and mercy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can we overcome spiritual paralysis? Part 1

“When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’” John 5:6

In the next three articles, we are going to address a deadly, dreaded disease. It is important that you listen closely because you could have this disease and not even know it. This disease can spread rapidly and render an entire church body spiritually bedridden. It is called spiritual paralysis or the loss of the ability to walk with God. Those stricken with this disease find themselves spiritually paralyzed… unable to do what God wants them to do. They are unable to make disciples – to lead others to Christ and train them to do the same. They may be unable to overcome a past hurt, habit or hang up. If that describes you, then you are invited to go with the Doctor on a swimming pool call to see how this dreaded disease can be cured. Just how can we overcome spiritual paralysis?

RESOLVE TO GET WELL (John 5:1-6). You must want to get well. The first year of Jesus’ ministry had come to an end. At the start of His second year of ministry, Jesus went to the Passover feast in Jerusalem. “After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed.” (John 5:1-3a). “Bethesda” means “house of outpouring” or “house of mercy.” This pool was near the Sheep Gate so that sheep coming to be sacrificed in the temple could be brought through this gate and washed in this pool. The Bethesda pool was surrounded by five porches to shelter the sick. Five is the number of grace. Why were all these needy people gathered here?

They werewaiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.” (John 5:3b-4). Some scholars reject these verses stating that they are not found in older Greek manuscripts and are not consistent with John’s writings. But there are convincing arguments to include these verses in the original text of the gospel of John.

Zane Hodges summarizes several reasons to include these verses in the original gospel of John text:

1. All known Greek manuscripts of John’s gospel include these verses except for less than a dozen.

2. Tertullian confirms the authenticity of the passage in the third century.

3. The reading was widely distributed in both the East and West as evidenced in the versions and writings of the church Fathers.

4. The stylistic pattern of this passage is consistent with the unique content and probable connection with the traditions of Bethesda.

5. The absence of these verses in older manuscripts can be explained by a falsely perceived “pagan tinge.”

6. The statement about the multitude of sick assembled under the five porches in verse 3 and the response of the lame man in verse 7 demand the presence of verses 3b-4.

We must not forget that the Bible records many miraculous interventions of angels in the lives of ordinary people. God in His mercy granted miraculous healings at the Pool of Bethesda to heal some of the sick. “Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.” (John 5:5). The lame man lay forlornly in a place where God’s mercy seemed to always touch others but never himself. There had been no mercy at the house of mercy for this man. For thirty-eight years he had been confined by paralysis to a bed, leaving him weak and hopeless.

“When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’” (John 5:6). That’s a question we may need to answer, as well. The first step to overcoming spiritual paralysis is to resolve to get well. Do you want Jesus to heal the parts of your life where you’ve been wounded or is it easier to hold on to the hurt? Do you want Christ to overcome your fears or are you more comfortable playing it safe and not taking any risks because you are ruled by the fear of what could happen? All too often we hold on tightly to the things that paralyze us spiritually.

To the one crippled by past hurts, Jesus asks, “Do you want to be healed?” To the one chained by secret sin Jesus asks, “Do you want to be set free?” To the one battling addiction Jesus asks, “Do you want to overcome?” To the one who is paralyzed by fear, Jesus asks, “Do you want to admit you are not in control and learn to trust Me?” To the one who has not yet trusted Christ to get them to heaven Jesus asks, “Do you want to be saved?” Toall of us who need His healing touch in any part of our life He asks, “Do you want to be made well?”

Christian psychiatrists Drs. Minirth and Meyer have written a book about overcoming depression entitled “Happiness Is a Choice.” They wrote, “As psychiatrists, we cringe whenever Christian patients use the words, `I can’t’ and `I’ve tried.’ Any good psychiatrist knows that `I can’t’ and `I’ve tried’ are merely lame excuses. We insist that our patients stop saying `can’t’ and say `won’t’ instead… They need to see what they are really doing, so we make them face up to it by saying, `I just won’t get along with my wife.’ `My husband and I won’t communicate.’ `I won’t discipline my kids the way I should.’ `I won’t find time to pray.’ `I won’t stop gossiping.’ When they change their ‘can’ts’ to ‘won’ts’ they stop avoiding the truth and start facing reality.”

We need to choose what we really want, and as God’s people, learn to say with the apostle Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). Overcoming spiritual paralysis begins with a RESOLVE TO GET WELL.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, of all the people whom You could have healed at the pool of Bethesda, you chose a man who had been lame thirty-eight years. Thank You, Lord, for Your mercy that leads You to the people who need Your healing touch. Thank You for approaching me with Your mercy to heal the wounds in the depths of my soul that kept me from walking closely with You in my Christian life. Please make me willing to invite You into other areas of my heart that need Your healing touch. You will not force Your way into my life without my willingness to welcome You. Right now, Lord, I need You to walk with me through the painful memories of the past so I may see You there and hear Your voice of truth which helps me to see the past through Your eyes. Thank You my Lord and my God for the new perspective You are giving to me. In Your name I pray. Amen.  

How can we experience God’s life-giving Word? Part 3

“Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your son lives.’ So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.” John 4:50

The third way we can experience the life-giving word is THROUGH TRUSTING CHRIST’S PROMISE (John 4:49-50). Tears were probably flowing down his cheeks when the nobleman said – “Sir, come down before my child dies!” (John 4:49). This dad thought Jesus only had the power to heal before his son died and from a close distance. He knew Jesus had the power to help him. How could He withhold it? The next words were more shocking than the first.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your son lives’” (John 4:50),  meaning “he will not die now.” “My son lives?” the nobleman thought. Then recovery was guaranteed. What a wonderful promise. It sounded too good and gracious to be true. Could he believe it? Yes – yes, he could. He had no proof, nothing visible to rely upon, just the Word of Jesus. That was all he had. But there was absolute, unwavering authority in that word.

Are you able to take Christ at His Word even though your situation seems impossible? Jesus’ Word is not limited by distance or the condition of the recipient. That’s why we can pray for people who are thousands of miles away from us. Maybe your health doesn’t permit you to go prayer walking around your neighborhood. It doesn’t matter. Christ’s Word is not limited by distance. Nor is Jesus’ Word limited by the condition of the recipient. The nobleman’s son was near death. No doubt, the nobleman could afford the best doctors but they could not cure his son. He probably called the priests but they couldn’t help him. He probably tried every possible means to save his son but without success. He was broken. His only hope was in Jesus.

But death is no match for Christ. No matter how bad your situation is, Christ can overcome it with His life-giving Word. He can give life to a dead marriage… relationship… job… or church. He can overcome a bad habit or attitude. Don’t let circumstances or the condition of your life keep you from asking for His help. He promises to provide if you will only ask Him. Jesus said, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:14). If you pray for what He wants and what glorifies Him, He will do it.

Prayer: Jesus help.