Allen Jackson - Can't You See - Part 2
It's an honor to be with you again. We're gonna continue our study on Can't You See? It's a simple idea. If you have to ask the question when you're talking to somebody else, "Can't you see"? The answer's no, they probably can't. And because we're all at different levels of spiritual development, we gain strength together because sometimes you'll have perception of something that I don't or sometimes I'll have understanding that you might not. In the same way, some of us see colors better than others, or some of us have some physical gifts around sports or for doing math, we don't all see and understand in the same way. But as you grow physically, you develop an awareness of your senses and how to interact with the world we live in. It's a developmental process from your infancy right through the rest of your life because your sensory perception changes.
The way that your senses work when you're a teenager are not the same as the way they'll work when you're in your 60s or your 70s. Well, our spiritual senses change too. We have to develop an awareness of them, we have to learn to be dependent upon faith and know that our faith changes with the seasons of our lives and our maturity. It's a part of growing up spiritually, and it's important for us to flourish. Enjoy the lesson.
So, here's the idea. I want to suggest that we develop a sense of faith, a sense of faith, an awareness of God, perhaps, in a new way. When you get an earth suit, you get five senses with which to negotiate life, to experience life. You can see and you can hear. You can taste. You can feel. What'd I leave out? Smell. Thank you. You get, that's your equipment for interacting with our physical world. It's a very helpful set of things and each one describe a bit of a separate life experience. Taste is very different than sight. Your sight is very different than what you hear. I mean, play with it a little bit. How does red sound? Well, what a stupid question. They're two different ways of experiencing the world. What does something that tastes bitter look like?
Well, goofy, don't ask me that question. I can think of something that tastes bitter and I can see that. But, you know, something that tastes bitter, how does it sound? I don't know. I'm confused. You see, our senses are integrated. If I say to you something is sharp or prickly, I'm describing something that is determined by feel or touch. But you will immediately integrate that sense of touch with the picture. You'll see a knife or a cactus or a needle. Well, what I'm suggesting is we need to integrate faith into our portfolio of perception, that we want to cultivate a sense of faith, a sense of seeing from a God perspective, the same way you have cultivated your other senses. You grow into those.
Have you been with a new baby lately? They don't have a fully functional set of sensory tools. They're limited. Their dexterity is limited, their perception is limited, their ability to interpret sound is limited. Their ability to make sound is pretty functional. But as they mature and grow, they're able to begin to, those senses develop and their ability to process information. Well, in a very similar way, as we grow up in the Lord, we want to cultivate this sense of faith and integrate it into our life perspective so that we don't just walk by sight physically. We could walk by faith, that we could see our world, not just from the tool set of our physical senses and our ability to process something rationally, but that we have set our mind on heavenly things, that we have set our heart on the things of God so that we have another set of sensory information to help us process the decisions so that we can lead an overcoming life.
When I say, "I heard the jingling of a sleigh bell," most of you got a pretty clear picture. How do you see faith? What does that look like? It's not being foolish or presumptive. It's not being bizarre. Faith isn't bizarre. The most faith-filled people I've ever known have been understated, have been unassuming. Faith doesn't mean you check your brain at the door. You're gonna need your brain for the journey. You better take it. How do we see faith? I would suggest to you that faith is made visible in faithful obedience. If you want me to shorten it even a little bit more, I think your faith is evident in your faithfulness. If you're not a faithful person, you're not a person of faith, period. I'm done with the conversation. But I think the word "obedience" needs to be included because the presentation, the visibility of faith, is really most clear in your faithful obedience to the Lord.
Jesus said, "The greatest one amongst you is the servant of all". On the night when he's about to be betrayed and abandoned and all the torment is coming, Jesus washes the disciples' feet. And he said, "This doesn't mean much to you right now but in the days to come, think about what I've done for you". I mean, they're still quibbling about who's the greatest. Peter's saying, "No, no, no, you're not touching me". "Peter, you're gonna deny me". "No, no, these other guys. I'm with you, Lord. They're a little inconsistent, but I will never abandon you". I mean, don't you know, I mean, think of all the emotions Jesus is feeling, and he decides to wash their feet. If you want to... how do you see your faith? What would it look like to put it on a canvas, to demonstrate it, to measure it? I think it's directly correlated to our faithful obedience to the Lord.
Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision," the New International Version says, "Where there's no revelation," interchangeable. In the Hebrew you could go either way with it, I think. Where there's no vision, where there's no insight, where there's no understanding, the people are unrestrained. We've lost our vision of God. How do we have rampant immorality and perversion and ungodliness and wickedness and greed? And that's within the church. We've lost our vision of God. We have a vision of orders of religious activity and religious behaviors and religious services, but we have very little vision of God. What's God doing in the earth? What's he up to? What's his endgame? What's his objective? What would he like to see happen? What's his desire for our children?
We need a vision for that. We've settled for wanting an upgrade and the label in our clothes or the car we drive or the place where we vacation or becoming more adept at social media or something. We've lost our vision of the Lord. What's it mean to be the people of God? What are the ramifications of that? What are the implications of that? Some of it is beyond us. Very clearly in Scripture, there are times and seasons, in the same way we have physical seasons. It's springtime in Tennessee's, it's planting season. I hope you're all working on your gardens and preparing vegetables to share with me. If you're not, pray about it. I think the Lord would lead you to do that. I'm kidding, kind of. But it's that time of the year, we understand that. You can break the ground. You can plant the seeds. There's an expectation that the things will grow, much less so in November in Tennessee.
Angus called today and he said, "Laddie, it's springtime where you are. We're going into autumn". Well, that's because you're on the bottom of the world. Things are messed up down there. Seasons make a difference. Well, there are seasons when the visibility of God, the involvement of God, is diminished. Whole big blocks of time, generations of people where God's engagement was small. 1 Samuel 3, we talked about Samuel a moment ago. The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. He was the priest. In those days, the Word of the Lord was rare. There weren't very many visions. It's an interesting wordplay. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see. And in the previous sentence, it says that there were no visions because the Word of the Lord was small.
In the next sentence, it says Eli couldn't see. I know it's talking about physical sight and spiritual sight, but I don't believe it was lost on the author. In Psalm 74, it's a passage. It's really a lament, that psalm. It is a statement of woe because of the judgment of God that has come upon his people. And it says, "We are given no miraculous signs; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be". What a difficult sentence. We have no God perspective, and we don't know how long it will last. Amos, the prophet, said, "The days are coming, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I will send a famine through the land, not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they won't find it".
It has my intention. Ezekiel 7, "Prepare chains, because the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of violence. I will bring the most wicked of the nations to take possession of their houses; I'll put an end to the pride of the mighty, and their sanctuaries will be desecrated. Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor up on rumor. They will try to get a vision from the prophet; the teaching of the law by the priest will be lost, as will the counsel of the elders". Did you ever listen to what's happening around us and think, What has happened to us? What happened to the common sense that our grandparents lived with? It has my attention.
And then there's the alternative to that. There are seasons when God's moving and there's interaction and the presence of the Spirit is so abundant that it causes jealousy amongst the ungodly. Well, we just read from Amos, or from Ezekiel, says that God has empowered the wicked to bring judgment upon his people and that his presence is minimal. There are other times when his presence is so abundant, so prolific, that it causes the wicked to be angry at God's people because of the influence they had. Acts chapter 5, now remember, the cultural scenario is anti-Christ. They stood on the streets of Jerusalem and said, "Crucify him".
So, it isn't a friendly atmosphere for Jesus people. Were just two chapters away from the first martyr after the ascension. Stephen's gonna be murdered in these streets, so it's a very tense time. It says, "More and more men and women believed, believed in the Lord and were added to their number". In spite of the resistance, the opposition, the persecution, there is a growing commitment to the Lord. In the Amos and in the Ezekiel passage, we're talking about the covenant people of God secure in their own land. But there's been so much indifference, the people have ignored the Lord for so long that there's nobody even left to give a God perspective.
And in the Book of Acts in the face of the persecution and the intensity and the threats, it says, "More and more men and women are believing in the Lord and being added to the number. As a result, the people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them. Crowds gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed. The high priest and all of his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees," the Sadducees were the most wealthy, powerful, politically influential people in the city of Jerusalem. They're also the religious group that didn't believe in the resurrection of the dead. That's why they're sad, you see? It's not original.
"Members of the parties of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy". What are they jealous about? This expanding influence of the disciples. The people in the city are listening to them. They're stirring all the villages around Jerusalem. They're not looking at us with the same admiration they used to look at us. "Didn't we kill this guy? Haven't we threatened these people? Aren't these the ones that we had flogged a few weeks ago"? "They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 'Go stay in the temple courts and tell the people the full message of this new life.'" They have enough vision. You know what they did? They went and stood in the temple courts and started preaching again.
"Didn't they arrest us when we were here yesterday"? "Yeah, yeah, yeah, but didn't the angel let us out last night"? That scenario doesn't hold because forward, go much farther in the story. Herod's gonna behead one of them, and he's gonna arrest Peter. And Peter's gonna stay in jail for a period of time. And when Peter's released, he goes in the middle of the night to the house where the church is praying and he said, "Tell the brothers I'm leaving town for a while". So, I'm not suggesting an arrogance or a brashness, but I am suggesting there's these two seasons. There's a diminished place and there's a place of abundance, and it doesn't have everything to do with the political circumstances.
One is very intense and there's great persecution. And yet, there's an abundance of God's involvement. And the other's a relatively secure setting where you're in the majority of opinion, but the Word of the Lord is pretty small. I'll add one more component to this, that proximity doesn't equal awareness. In Luke 24, many of you know this passage, it is the road to Emmaus story, which is celebrated if you have a Christian heritage. This is post Resurrection, but Jesus hasn't fully engaged all of the disciples yet. So, the story is still trying to find its way through, and they're still frightened and hiding. And there's a great deal of discouragement. And these two men are taking a road away from the city of Jerusalem. They have been disciples. They said, "We had hoped that he was the Messiah. We had hoped that. We don't have that hope any longer. The Romans killed him". And they meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus and they don't recognize him.
There's a fascinating interplay here, and I'm not gonna take the time to unpack it. But if you will read it and look at all the words that talk about recognition or seeing or understanding, there's a fascinating unfolding in this. "Some of our companions went to the tomb and they found it just as the women had said, but they didn't see him". The women said, the body wasn't there, and the women said they saw an angel that said he's risen. But our friends didn't see him, so we're not sure we believe. "And Jesus said to them, 'How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe". I'm intrigued. He didn't say how slow of intellect. He said, "'Your hearts are slow to grasp this. How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?' And then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself".
Do you have the imagination that if you were gonna tell the Jesus story, you'd start with Moses? Most of us would start with Matthew or Mark or Gabriel coming to talk to Mary. Started, Jesus started with Moses said, "Moses knew all about me". We read that a moment ago. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ, it says in Hebrews 11. It's of greater value than the treasures of Egypt. I want to come back to the question, what is it you're seeing? What is it that brings fear to you or anxiety to you or joy to you? What are you aspiring to? What do you think's gonna secure our future? What are we looking at exactly? Can't you see? "As they approached the village they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going further. But they urged him strongly, 'Stay with us. It's nearly evening days; the day's almost over.' So he went in to stay with him. When he was at the table, he took bread and gave thanks. He broke it".
Does that sound familiar? Last time we heard that phrase attached to Jesus, he's having the Passover meal, the end of the Passover meal with the disciples. He took bread, and he gave thanks and broke it. I don't think Luke is using his words sloppily. Began to give it to them. "Then their eyes were opened. They recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight". Where'd he go? Well, God created both the visible and the invisible. He opened their eyes. It wasn't just his physical, it was their hearts he opened. They had seen him. They had talked to him. They didn't recognize him. So, you can be walking with Jesus. You can be talking about Scripture but be completely oblivious to what God is doing. They're disciples. They're invested. They know Peter and James and John. They've been there for some of Jesus's teaching. They've heard the miracle stories. They're connected.
So, now this is personal to me. I'm talking to the Lord through my days going, "Lord, help me to see. Open my eyes". "They asked they others, 'Were not our hearts burning within us?'" Oh, after the fact, everybody's got a God story. "They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem". Seven miles back the other way. "They found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together saying, 'It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.'" When they got back, by the time they get back the crew, "It's true". "Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread".
So proximity doesn't mean you can see. You can sit in church and be clueless. You can have a Bible and not understand. You can sing along with The Katinas. We need God's help. We need a vision from the Lord. We need a hungering and thirsting for the things of the Lord. I want to go back to that verse Colossians 3 and 1. I'm done. "Since you had been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things". How do you improve your vision? By setting your heart and your minds on things above. It'll take discipline. It'll take some practice. It'll have a lot to do with your friends, what you do with your discretionary time, what your dreams are about, what you're aspiring to. And then if you want to cultivate the sense of faith, if you want that to grow in you, I believe that happens by a persistent application of faithful obedience.
Do all those little things that you know you're supposed to do. Serve, give, be kind, forgive, be faithful in the truth that you know, and watch God give you insight, understanding, vision. He will. It's the story of the book. I brought you a prayer. It's Paul's prayer for the church at Ephesus. I monkeyed with the pronouns a little bit just to make it more personal. But I confessed. I said adapted from. So, those of you that are hardcore purists, you can go compare it and put it back to, but let's stand. We can read this prayer together. And I'm gonna give you the punch line. We pray that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened. Can't see much in the dark. Your physical eyesight does not work in the complete absence of light. Light is required, and spiritual light is required for your sense of faith to be able to see. And that's what Paul's praying for his friends in Ephesus. Let's read it together:
Heavenly Father, we keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know him better. We pray also that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which you have called us, the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints, and the incomparable the great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of your mighty strength, which you exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but also in the one to come. Amen.