Many of you may not realize that our church is affiliated with churches across the world who call themselves the Church of God. We have about a million people in our movement and our headquarters here in the US is in Anderson, IN. We are a nondenominational group of churches who are Wesleyan in our theology. We value the supremacy of Scripture, personal and social holiness, and a personal relationship with Jesus. As our movement has grown, many ministries within the movement have developed into what is now a quite loosely structured but complex system. Our individual congregational numbers haven’t continue to grow across our movement, but our structure has which is making it necessary for the Church of God to look at how we can structure to have better collaboration and how we can structure to get moving again to experience growth.
Last June, our General Assembly, which is the governing body for our movement, voted that a group of 24 people from across US and Canada should be selected to study our structure over a two-year period of time and to present a plan for a new structure at the General Assembly in 2019. Yours truly was deemed one of the 24 to tackle this issue. Hesitantly, I agreed.
So, Tuesday through Thursday of this past week, I was in Dallas, TX for a huge and serious conversation which is just the beginning of this process. I tell you all of that not simply to say I was gone some this week and was doing something important, but I want you to know that in the presentations given by Church of God Ministries, when it came to a presentation about dreams for our movement’s future, they presented a dream initiative called “Give Life.” “Give Life” was an initiative whereby churches would be empowered to impact their communities and transform their local culture. There were two churches listed as examples of where this kind of transformation is already happening. One was a mega church in Oklahoma City that runs many thousands of people in local attendance and one was a church in WV that just won’t quit trying to reach out to meet practical, spiritual, emotional, and physical needs that people have. You guessed it. There on the power point presentation was the name of this church.
I was in so much shock and experienced such instant elation that I quickly grabbed my phone and captured the slide in order to have proof that what I thought I saw, I saw. So, be encouraged. What we are doing and how we are doing it, is important and has become an example to the church at large of what it looks like to be on the move for the Kingdom of God!
Isaiah 9:6-For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
John 1:1-12 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
How many of you have your Christmas shopping done? How many of you bought yourself a present as you have been shopping for others? It’s ok to admit you put yourself on the list! My Christmas gift to myself is going to be an eye exam and some glasses. It has to happen. Y’all are starting to look like smudges and blobs instead of Scotts and Bobs! ? I want to not only be able to see to read the messages I am delivering, but I want to be able to see your faces as you are interacting with and responding to them. I also want to be able to read the basketball scores on the bottom of the TV screen as well as the road signs when I am traveling in unfamiliar territory. Besides that, as I have mentioned, we have received tickets to the UK and WV basketball game in January, and we will be seated high enough that I am going to have to have my eyesight enhanced in order to see our Wildcats stomp the Mountaineers. ? All seriousness aside, ? I mean, all kidding aside, seeing is pretty important. I don’t want to miss out on victories, directions, and opportunities. There is too much to see to be content with just seeing some of it.
I am pretty sure that if any of you were in a situation where you were told you could lose your eyesight, you would do WHATEVER doctors told you that you must do in order to retain it. You would put whatever drops you needed to into your eye, you would wear whatever protective patches were prescribed, you would receive painful shots into your eye, you would get the set number of hours of sleep if that could make a difference, you would take whatever vitamins could extend your eyesight capabilities. If you were told that the only way to save your eyesight would be to eat beats, cabbage, and kale, you would do it. Why? Seeing is important to the quality of our physical lives. Do we view our spiritual eyesight the same? Do we see the necessity of spiritual eyesight? Do we view it as a “must have” in order to have a quality spiritual life? Are we willing to do WHATEVER it would take to protect it or to gain spiritual eyesight?
Our text here in John 1:10 tells us Jesus came into a culture of spiritual blindness and that spiritual blindness kept many people from seeing Jesus and accepting Him. Let’s read verses 10 and 11 again:
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
Allow me to remind you of the ministry of Jesus as He declared in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind
People were definitely healed of physical blindness by Jesus which was a miracle, no doubt. But understand with me that greater than physical blindness or any physical circumstance we may have to deal with, is our need to see Jesus, the Light of the World. And just as Jesus came to open blind physical eyes, He also came to open blind spiritual eyes.
How we respond to the Light, how we respond to Jesus has great implications for our earthly, spiritual and eternal lives. Our ability to see Him, our ability to “see the Light” if you will, is critical if we are to believe in God and know His plans for our lives. Verse ten of the text tells us there were many people who were spiritually blind and could not, would not see Jesus when He came. The same is true today. I want to talk with you this morning about the causes of spiritual blindness and the remedy.
In this message, I want to highlight three causes of spiritual blindness:
Sin-You cannot dabble in darkness and not stumble and fall. Picture sin as a journey down a dimly lit hallway. The further you go, the darker it gets. At some point, you can look back behind you, and after turning so many corners, you won’t be able to see the light any longer. When you pursue the deeds of darkness, as Scripture calls sin, you will fall deeper and deeper into darkness. I am called to preach the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but I cannot do so while pretending there are only good things to talk about. The reason we have to have good news is because there is bad news to deal with. We still have a preoccupation with sin. Sin is darkness. Sin takes us down dark paths. We still have trouble “walking in the light as He is in the light.” I John 1:7
Look what Jesus had to say about mankind’s love affair with sin: John 3:19-This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
Sin kept people from seeing Jesus when He came. Sin keeps people from seeing Him today. If you are struggling to experience God, if you wonder why you can’t “get” what you see others possess, if you find that life is only defined by struggle after struggle, look at to what degree you are engaged in sinful and disobedient practices. There is a direct correlation between your obedience to God and your ability to see Him.
Satan is out to create spiritual blind spots whenever he can. He wants to make things look harmless that are really sinful and dangerous. He wants to make things like God’s desires for our lives look restricting when the truth is they are the real way to freedom. He does what he can to make evil look good and good look evil. He wants to create diversions and distractions to get us chasing inconsequential and foolish things and the things of this world so that we won’t have the spiritual eyesight to see where Jesus is moving, and in and so doing, Satan tries to keep us from following Jesus. He wants to obscure the Light because He doesn’t want us living there.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Perhaps you can see how this veiling of sight is possible in the spiritual realm if you think about how we can become desensitized to things over time. Those of you who were born before 1970 would probably all remember a time when two people would never have been seen in bed together on television. You remember the “I Love Lucy” show where Ricky and Lucy, a married couple, had separate beds? Fast forward to today where the thought of excluding sex scenes from a movie would be unthinkable and anyone who would make such a suggestion would be seen as prudish, stupid, and irrelevant. And the scenes are as graphic and sensual and fantastic as possible. To use a secular phrase, “My grandmother would roll over in her grave” if she could see the kinds of images that are now part of our every-day culture. From commercials to TV and the big screen, it has gone from romantic to perverse and gross.
We are an out of control and oversexed society to the point where many people no longer know how to behave or have a pure relationship with a member of the opposite sex, and this pervasive perversion is running rampant both in and out of the church. And now anyone who would question someone who has an “anything goes” sexual mentality and promiscuous lifestyle is dismissed as off their rocker and judgmental. I simply use this as one example to say that even in my lifetime, the minds of people who once would have seen the destructive nature of sexual promiscuity now accept it as just the way it is in our culture. It is now just another form of self-expression like clothing styles, jewelry and tattoos. My opinion is that the god of this age, Satan, has blinded the eyes of unbelievers and believers to the point where we no longer have a shared cultural morality or understanding of holiness and purity which absolutely changes the way a culture views God.
I should say that by self I mean pride and an attitude that says, “I can get along fine by myself.” There are many people who are spiritually blind but who would never admit it. Some think they are good enough and that their good works will get them to heaven. Some have reduced God to superstition in order to keep from having to answer to Him, or so they think. Some have busied and distracted themselves with the busyness of life and acquisition of things so that they simply don’t have to think about spiritual things. Some have been lured into a false sense of spiritual security by thinking that an affiliation with a church is all that is needed. Others simply think they can figure things out without the help of anyone including God. An unwillingness to admit blind spots will only take people deeper into spiritual darkness. I want to share a story with you about a group of people who were greatly responsible not only for their own spiritual blindness, but also for the blindness of others. The story I share is most tragic because it was the spiritual leaders of the day who were steeped in spiritual darkness when Christ was born.
John 9:1-5 1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Let me just stop for a second and say it isn’t unusual for the disciples to ask this kind of a question. There is scriptural evidence that substantiates the idea that sin has consequences. In addition to that, Scripture talks about the impact sin can have even on future generations. We often like to minimize the fact that some of the challenges we face in life are because of sinful decisions we have made. This was not, however, the case here. Jesus quickly responded that the man’s physical blindness was an opportunity for spiritual eyes to be opened as the glory of God would be on display. He reiterated in verse 5 that He was the light of the world.
Jesus spit on the ground, made a mud pie with His spit and stuck it on the man’s eyes. Jesus told him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man did so, and verse 7 says he came home seeing. While the whole chapter appears to be about the physical healing of this blind man, it is about so much more. It is about the spiritual blindness of those who should have had eyes to see. It is about the religious leaders who were walking in great darkness. And the blind man was brought before the Pharisees, the most spiritually blind of all, for questioning.
14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided. 17 Finally they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
Notice here, that the blind man was already beginning to see things spiritually. He knew that the person who had touched and healed him was more than your average Joe. He had heard what Jesus had said about people seeing the glory of God through his healing. His impact with Jesus was leading him to a place of faith.
Notice that some of the Pharisees refused to acknowledge Jesus as anything but a hypocrite. They couldn’t get past the fact that He had done this healing miracle on the Sabbath. Their burdensome earthly Sabbath rules called for NO WORK on the Sabbath. Like, what in the world? Who would be focused on the Sabbath or a breaking of some earthly rule if it meant someone gained their physical sight? Here is the thing:
We create spiritual blindness when we elevate tradition over a personal relationship with Jesus.
Sabbath rules, handed down from the religious elite had nothing to do with mandates from God. They just enjoyed being in control, and the Sabbath became their one day to be extra large and in charge. We can see how spiritually blind they were in this case, but often, we allow traditions and earthly practices or “what has always been” to get in the way of the Light Jesus is trying to bring somewhere. What someone wears to church, how long their hair is, how many tattoos they have, or whether they wear a ball cap into the sanctuary aren’t spiritual matters that any of our mental energy should be given to. I don’t care if someone walks in here with purple hair, a feather boa, and shorts in the winter. If they are seeking Jesus I say, “Welcome, please sit with me!” Don’t let some manmade rule cause you to miss what Jesus wants to do in your life or in someone else’s life.
We create spiritual blindness when we won’t hear and accept the truth.
Notice, that the Pharisees interrogated the newly sighted man, but they didn’t believe him. The man had already witnessed to people on the street that he was in fact the blind guy who had gotten a miracle. He had already been vetted. Then, he was questioned by the religious leaders, but they refused to accept the simple truth. He wasn’t dramatic. He didn’t try to add to the story. He just told the plain and simple truth, but it wasn’t enough. It was too easy for people who were spiritually blind to accept. They had to find the boy’s parents and question them. Do you see the lunacy of it all?
So, they located his parents just to make sure that the man had actually been born blind. His parents corroborated the story about him having been born blind and having been given his sight. But that was all they would say. They told the religious leaders to ask their son for more details. Verse 22 tells us they were afraid to say anything else. They were afraid to tell the religious leaders the whole truth. Why? Verse 22 tells us that it was already well-known that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue! They would be excommunicated for telling the truth! As if it couldn’t get more ridiculous!
So, they summoned the man who had been born blind a second time in verse 24. What they said was even more bizarre, “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” Have you ever heard a more moronic statement? They wanted the man who received his sight to glorify God by agreeing with the allegation that Jesus was a sinner. He couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t do it. He stuck to the facts. Verse 25: 25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” 26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
And the blind man called them out. Verse 27:27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” 28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes.
It was like the man was saying, “Duh!” How could you NOT know where He came from? It is as obvious as the nose on your face. He went on to say, 31 “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
There it is. The blind man went from experiencing a miracle to calling Jesus a prophet to boldly declaring He was God. And verse 38 tells us he confessed Christ as Lord and worshiped Him. Wow. Physical sight and spiritual sight because he was willing to humbly receive the truth. And that is how it happens. Walking step by step in the Light of Jesus brings more and more and greater understanding and revelation.
And what did his honest confession, what did his witness to the true Light get him? Verse 34 says he was thrown out of the synagogue. Seeing Jesus for who He was got him excommunicated by the people who were spiritually blind and too proud to admit it, by people who wouldn’t accept truth because they had already created their own truth. Are we guilty of doing the same? Guilty of creating our own truth? If we believe what we believe that is all that matters? Who cares what God has declared?
The way to see God is to admit that you’re blind. Jesus is in the business of opening blind eyes. But if you assert that you see quite well without Jesus, then He will leave you in your blindness. Rejecting the light that God graciously gives leads to further hardening and judgment. Jesus had some parting words for some of the Pharisees at the end of chapter nine which pointed out their blindness once again. They didn’t get it. They couldn’t get it. They were in the way of their own spiritual sight. And Jesus called them guilty of sin.
Don’t be driven deeper into darkness this Advent. If there was ever a time to turn your back on sin and walk in the light of Jesus, it is now. If there was a ever a time to kick Satan out of your spiritual, mental, and physical experience, it is now. If there was ever a time to resign from self and humbly accept the truth, it is now. Do you see the light? Don’t leave here in the darkness.