Allen Jackson - Can't They See? - Part 1
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Hey, it is a privilege to be with you today. Our topic is "Courageous Faith". There's a lot happening in our world. There are expressions of darkness and evil that seem almost unimaginable. In fact, there seems like there's a new presentation on a daily basis, but I promise you God is not surprised about what's happening in our world. He's called us to this time and this place, and he's given us everything we need to be triumphant. What he will require of us is courageous faith. That's more than sitting in church faith, or being polite faith, or singing in the choir faith. That's faith to stand against the darkness and see the name of Jesus lifted up. The Lord will help us. Grab your Bible and notepad; but most importantly, to open your heart.
We're talking about "Courageous Faith," and for this particular session, the label is, "Can't they see"? You know, there's a little line that goes off in my sometimes. I'm watching people make life decisions or make plans, and I'll think, "That's really a dumb decision. Can't they see"? And I've come to understand, any time that line goes off in me, "Can't they see the answer"? is, "No, they can't". No, they can't. Some of you have a gift with colors. You can look at the color pallet, and you can just tell what will go together. You can tell what will work on the walls and the carpet. You can tell with your clothing what colors will go together. It just works for you. It's a gift. And you can look at other people and say, "Can't they see that doesn't look good together"? And what's the answer? "No, I didn't realize I looked ugly. I thought it looked good".
Can't they see? Some of you are engineers. You can look at a pile of stuff and know how to put it together, what angles go here, and how to make that work, and you can see it before it's constructed. And the rest of us look at it, it just looks like a pile of wood to us. And you think, "Well, can't you see"? "No, I can't". Well, the real goal of these weeks together is the presentation, to ask the Holy Spirit to bring discernment to our lives, so that we can see what God is doing in the earth, because I think right now, most of the time we can't see. So, that's our target. I want to start with this notion of courageous faith. They're two words that don't usually go together. I don't think we imagine faith requires courage.
Most of us that have grown up in and around church, church didn't require courage of us. Courage requires us to be passive, I mean, church typically requires us to be passive, brain dead sometimes, but you just file in, endure it, and file out again. But I want to submit to you, I don't think you will make heaven without courage. You say, "Well, Pastor, I said the sinner's prayer. I even got dunked in the pool". I appreciate that, but you won't complete the course without courage. Well, there's biblical evidence time and time again when God is recruiting significant new leaders. He says to them, "Be strong and courageous". We're going to need courage to finish the course. I don't want to diminish the new birth or baptism. I don't mean that at all. But I want you to understand the necessity of courage. I brought you some definitions. The meaning of words matters. Words have meaning. We live in an age of unprecedented deception, and that's going to increase. And one of the ways that they're able to multiply that is to keep redefining things.
Now, I appreciate the idea, perhaps, but it will lead you to some pretty destructive places. Redefining something doesn't necessarily change the truth. You can call an elephant a hummingbird, but it won't fly and pollinate flowers. And you can redefine marriage, but there's something unique about marriage, was God's idea when he said marriage is between a man and a woman. The outcome that come from that unique relationship aren't duplicated with other arrangements. Family was God's idea. You can redefine family. I understand some of the pressures around that. But the truth is the best outcomes come from family and the way God designed it. Well, in a similar way, courage has a meaning. I brought you the definition. It says it's the ability to do something that frightens, strength in the face of pain or grief.
If we didn't know courage was a good thing, we would think that courage was something to be avoided. Many of you wouldn't want your children to ever have to do something that frightens or to have to display strength in the face of pain or grief. You would rather them to live lives free of courage. If we listen to conventional wisdom, you know what the antonym, the opposite of courage is? Coward. You don't want to raise cowardly children, which means we were raising young people, ideally, to be able to do things that are frightening, to do difficult things, to be able to persevere, to display strength in the face of pain or even grief. Courage is a good thing. It's gonna be a long series. A coward is simply a person who lacks the ability to do things.
You see, courage isn't the absence of fear. If you think because you have fear you're not courageous, that's not true, it's a lie. Courage is the ability to persevere in the face of fear. The rest of the words around it, I think, are helpful. Discourage, that little prefix, D-I-S means without. To be discouraged is to be without courage, to deprive of courage. So, to be discouraged is more than just being a little blue, having a bad day, bummed out. To be discouraged will rob you of courage. It will diminish the courage you have. Don't welcome discouragement in. Don't tolerate it. Don't give it a place. Don't give yourself the license to enjoy it. It will erode much of what God's inviting you to. To be encouraged, the little prefix E-N, means to be with. To be encouraged is to have courage, to give support, confidence or hope.
There are people in your sphere of influence, some bring discouragement, and some bring encouragement. Use wisdom in who you hang out with. Discouragement is the loss of confidence or enthusiasm. Encouragement is the act of giving someone support or confidence. Important words. And here's the promise of the Bible. It says that we can lead lives, unafraid, and filled with courage. That's the way I want to live. How about you? That's my target. Look in Deuteronomy 31. It says, "The LORD himself goes before you, and he will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged". You know enough of your Bible by now that if it says, "Do not be afraid and do not be discouraged," it's possible to lead lives that way. When Jesus said, "Do not worry," it's possible to lead a life free of worry.
So, if he says, "Don't be afraid and don't be discouraged," we can live fearless, courageous lives. 2 Chronicles 20, slightly different context. This time there's a king in Jerusalem and an invading army has approached, and it's an army who's superior in power and tactics to the army that the Israelites have. So, victory is impossible, to defeat seems a certainty. There's an air of discouragement that has settled over Jerusalem and all the inhabitants. And then God sends a word. He said, "Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem. This is what the LORD says to you. 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God's.'" Do not be afraid because of this vast army. What do you mean this vast army? It's a frightening thing. We have good reason to be afraid.
You see, courageous faith enables us to make decisions based on something other than just what we can experience with our senses. We're going to talk about that in a moment. Those passages lead me to two very simple conclusions. One is that the truth is not always encouraging. We've gotta be honest here. The truth is not always encouraging. Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable. Sometimes the truth is unpleasant. Sometimes the truth is just discouraging, right? If you went to a doctor that only told you good news, we'd call that malpractice. Suppose the doctor said, "Well, you know, I don't really like to bum out my patients, so I just tell them what I think will make them happy". We'd call that malpractice, right? You want a doctor to tell you the truth. Even if it's not news you want to hear, you need to hear it so you know what the appropriate protocol is to get to a better place.
Well, that's true in your spiritual life. That's true in all areas of your life. Buy the truth, the Scripture says, and don't sell it. The truth is not always encouraging, but the second idea to go with that is you can always respond to the truth with courage. Even if the truth is unpleasant or uncomfortable, you can respond to that truth with a willingness to go forward. Now, that's a different set of responses to life. I want to give them to you in a very specific context. There is a tension in our lives between what we see and what we don't see. When God created you, and be certain of that, that God created you. You're not the result of some human decision. Almighty God called you into existence.
The Bible says that Jesus is the author and the completer of your story. When God created you, he made your spirit, and he has entrusted you with an earth suit for your journey through time. You were knit together in your mother's womb. You got an earth suit. It's a temporary assignment. In fact, you have a stewardship assignment for your earth suit. The Bible says, "Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit"? Far more concern should be given to the care and the location in which you take the temple of the Holy Spirit than we give to this place, and we work hard to keep this place clean. You know, you understand we have a stewardship assignment for the environment and the world we live in? I believe that, but I believe you have a greater and more primary assignment to the stewardship and care of your physical body. It's a gift that God has given you, and your earth suit comes with some sensory equipment. You have five senses with which to interact with our physical world.
You can see, and hear, and smell, and taste, and touch. Those are the portals through which you can experience life, physically, but those senses, as amazing as they are, and they are truly amazing, they have limits. There is a whole spectrum of sound waves that your equipment isn't designed to receive. There are animals that can hear sounds that you and I can't hear. Right? There's a whole spectrum of light waves that as majestic as your eye and all of the tools that help you process sight, as remarkable as that is, there is a whole band of light waves that you and I cannot see. You ever seen night vision goggles? They're taking advantage of some things that you and I don't have the equipment to do without outside help. So, your senses have limits, which puts us in this tension between what we can understand with our physical perception and the greater reality of our lives.
Now, you believe in unseen things far beyond spiritual stuff. I mean, have you ever had a cold? How many here have ever had a cold? About a third of you. Well, bless your hearts the rest of you. I bet everybody in here has had a cold at one time or another. What causes a cold? Well, it's because my kids came home from school, and they were coughing, and blowing, and snorting, and I must've gotten it from them. Or I had a two-hour flight, and the person next to me hacked the whole time. Went to a PTA meeting, and the lady next to me sneezed on me. I know how I got my cold. Those are all delivery systems, but your cold was most likely started by a virus. You ever seen a virus? No, because your eye can't see one. It's smaller than you can identify. You may have seen a picture of one with the help of an electron microscope, and that just looks like a little bump on a page to me.
Somebody had to tell me that was actually a virus. I needed a label at the bottom of the picture. I've never really seen one, but I felt the effects of it, and nobody in here feels like I've violated your intellectual capabilities because you said you believed in a virus, because science says a virus is real. Well, I'm an advocate for science, but science isn't God. Not too long ago, the most brilliant scientists in the world said the world was flat. Not too long before that, the most brilliant scientists said that the sun orbited around the earth. Science is a continually expanding, growing, learning field. God is omniscient. He knows everything.
So, we what we want to develop is the ability to see as God sees, to see beyond the limits of our physical senses and make decisions based upon that truth, just like you make a decision based upon a cold. If I see you coughing and sneezing and snorting, I'm not gonna shake your hand. I love you, but I just love you at a distance. God bless your little pointed head. Hebrews 11:1, you don't have it in your notes, but it says faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, certain of what we do not see. It's tension between what we see and what we don't. What I'm asking you to do is begin to make increasing life decisions based on something you can't see with your physical eyes. I'm not asking you to be weird or strange. We suffer, to a great extent, from spiritual blindness.
John chapter 9 is one of my favorite miracle stories in Jesus's ministry. Jesus meets a man born blind. They're in Jerusalem. I put it in your notes. I just gave you the first two verses for the setup. It says, "As Jesus went along, he saw a man blind from birth". It's an important note. The man's been blind from birth. He didn't have an injury or an accident. He's never seen. We don't know the cause of that, but he doesn't need healing. He needs a creative miracle. Something's missing. Either he didn't have retinas in his eyes, or his nervous system was not right, or he didn't have eyes. I don't know what's there. We're not told in the gospels. We're just told he's never seen. He's never seen a blue sky, or a bird fly, or a flower bloom. Blind from birth, and his disciples ask him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind"?
What a happy, happy question. I mean absolutely no concern for the person whatsoever, right? It's like they're on a learning expedition, and people are not really expressions of the grace and mercy of God. They're just objects. Can you imagine walking up and saying, you know, "I don't know why Kerry's blind. Is it because he's such a wicked sinner or his parents, who were even more wicked than he is"? I mean that's not really like an affirming conversation for Kerry, is it? And Jesus said, "You asked the wrong question. It's not about that at all". But he said, "If you'll watch, you'll see the glory of God". Now this man, the blind man in this story, he doesn't ask for anything. He doesn't ask for a miracle. He doesn't ask for healing, nothing. Jesus intrudes. Says he makes mud, smears it onto the man's face, and says, "Go wash in he Pool of Siloam".
And you need a little local knowledge. They're in the upper part of the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a city built on hills, and Siloam is at the bottom of the hills. Conservatively, I would imagine it's at least a half a mile walk one way to where that pool is. Jesus just smeared mud on a blind man's eyes and said, "Take a half a mile hike and wash it off". Think of all the ways that man could've responded. He could've been indignant. He could've been angry. He could've been offended. He could've called Bart Durham. Right? He has a legally actionable offense. I've been mocked by a preacher. And inexplicable, we're not given any reason for it. He decides to take Jesus's instructions, and it says he went and washed the mud off in the pool of Siloam, and then the Bible, with this beautiful gift for understatement, says the man came home seeing.
Isn't that sweet? He was born blind. You know, he came home seeing. Well, bless his heart. I don't think that's how it's happened. I don't think he came home seeing. Do you? I think he came home seeing! What do you think? He said, "You know, your hair didn't sound white to me. And you know what? Your voice was thinner than you are! You sound so pretty". I think he came home seeing, and I think it was no accident that Jesus had him walk a half mile up that hill through that city. Do you know God is really smart? He's strategic. Sometimes we treat God like he's a dummy. How many of you have ever argued with God? "I can't do that. That doesn't make any sense".
Now, if something doesn't make sense to you, and it's God's instruction, who do you think got it right? And for those of you engaged in that argument with God today, may I encourage you to cooperate with him? The man came home seeing. It stirs the whole city. There's a lot of commotion around it. Even the religious leaders get involved. In fact, they bring the man to the religious leaders. The reason I think it was more of a creative miracle is it doesn't seem to be just some minor event in this man's life. He's known, and everybody understood he couldn't see, and now he's seeing. Something beyond just an adjustment has happened. And they bring him to the religious leaders. Said, "How'd this happen"? And he said, "Well, somebody named Jesus put mud on my eyes and told me to go wash in Siloam, and I washed". They said, "Well, who is he"? And he said, "I don't know. I didn't see him". And they said, "Well, it couldn't have been Jesus. He's a sinner, and sinners can't do this". And he said, "Look, I don't know if he's a sinner or not, but I can see". And they said, "If you keep this up, we're going to put you out of the temple".
Now, that's serious, because he's going to lose access to his community, to his means of worship, to his relationships. It's the core of who he is. He said, "You keep this up, we'll put you out". And the man has to make a choice, if he's going to believe Jesus and receive the benefits of what's come with that, or he's going to maintain his traditions. You and I will make that same decision. Following Jesus will bring you to those forks in the road. People will say, "Don't tell me that about Jesus. I know that's not right. I don't know what's happened to you, but I know that's not right". And you're going to have to make some decisions, too. And this man gets it right. He said, "Well, let me tell you what I know. I was blind, and I can see. I'm going with him".
That's where we step back into your notes. It's really the back end of the story. You can read that whole chapter at your leisure later on. In verse 35, "Jesus heard that they had thrown him out of the temple; and when he found him", I love that. Jesus went looking for this man. "When he found him, he said, 'Do you believe in the Son of Man?' And the man said, 'Well, who is he? Tell me so that I can believe in him.' And Jesus said, 'You have now seen him. In fact, he's the one speaking with you.' And the man said, 'Lord, I believe.' And he worshiped him".
I bet he did, don't you? Think he had any trouble with worshiping Jesus? Do you know why we're reluctant worshipers? We don't really believe he's done much for us. We don't think we had a really great need. We didn't have a lot to forgive. We weren't really that broken. We kind of imagine, really, God got a pretty good bargain when he recruited us, and it makes us reluctant worshipers. If you're still learning to worship, I would remind you that God has changed our lives. We have reason to give thanks and glory and honor to him. He worshiped him. And, "Jesus said, 'For judgment I've come into this world so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.'"
Now, he's not talking about physical healing any longer. He's talking about spiritual sight. He said, "I came into this world so that the blind can see". Jesus came into your life and into my life. The new birth was intended to help us see with something beyond just our physical eyes. There is a spiritual world that is more real than the physical universe in which we are currently passing through. How do I know that? Well, the Bible says God is a Spirit. And in Genesis chapter 1, it says God created the heavens and the earth, that the Spirit of God gave rise to the physical world in which we live, and the Bible says that this world and everything that's in it will pass away. But God's eternal. I'm not opposed to the material physical world. It's not evil or wicked or wrong. It's just temporary.
And the reason Jesus came into the world was to give to those who would believe in him the ability to see the unseen. We're going to see with the eyes of faith. It's gonna take some courage. There are many forms of blindness. You can be blind to things around you, unaware of them, unconcerned of them. Well, I would submit to you that spiritual blindness is a very serious problem within the contemporary church. We understand worship. We have our Bibles. We know our rules and our traditions. We know the things we prefer, and the things we don't like, and the seat we want to sit in, and the parking place that we believe should belong to us. But in many, many instances, we have been blind to spiritual things. We simply don't see them. We have had a limited awareness of spiritual things. One of my favorite phrases in the Bible is, "Now I see".
Now I see. Now is a timing word. Now. What's now mean? Now. If I said to you, "I'm going to give you all the cash in my pocket now, later". You understand what now means. It means now. So, when I say, "Now I see," implied in that is a moment ago I didn't see so well. It wasn't that clear to me. Now I see. We just did the John 9, the healing story. In your notes, you've got John 9:24. It says, "The second time they summoned the man who'd been blind. 'Give glory to God,' they said. 'We know this man is a sinner.' And he replied, 'Whether he's a sinner of not I don't know. One thing I know. I was blind, but not I see. I'm going with the sinner if this is what he does.'" That's what's fully implied. "I've been hanging with you guys for a long time. Up until today, I've been all in with you, and I've been blind the whole way. And I met this Jesus character, and now I see. Watch me follow. That's my story".
Hey, we're walking through a season of deception, but I have good news: Jesus opened blind eyes. I believe he will give us the insight and the understanding we need to see through the clouds of deception and understand the truth in our generation. Let's pray:
Father, I pray you'll give us understanding hearts and the wisdom to recognize what is true and what is false, that we might choose you in every circumstance. I thank you for it, in Jesus's name, amen.