Allen Jackson - Can't They See? - Part 2
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It's a privilege to be with you today. Our topic is "Courageous Faith". It doesn't just take courage to face the darkness and hold up the truth, it takes courage to face success and say, "God has enabled me to stand in this place". I think so often we imagine that we are self-made people. There's a Greek word I'd like to introduce you to. It's baloney. I don't believe that. All of us stand on the shoulders of other people, and whatever good things are in our lives today God has made possible and often he's done that through the lives of others. It takes courage to acknowledge that; to have the humility that it's Christ in us that brings the victory, and it's not our intellect or our education. God has something good for you if we can have the courage to say yes to him. I hope you'll enjoy the lesson and open your heart to the Lord.
John chapter 9 is one of my favorite miracle stories in Jesus's ministry. Jesus meets a man born blind there 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 them, 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 asked 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 wonder why Kerry is blind. Is it 'cause he's such a wicked sinner or his parents 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 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 the Pool of Siloam". They 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 1/2-mile walk one way to where that pool is. Jesus just smeared mud on a blind man's eyes and said, "Take a 1/2-mile hike and wash it off".
Think of all the ways that man could have responded. He could have been indignant. He could have been angry. He could have been offended. And inexplicable we're not given any reason for it. He decides to take Jesus's instructions. 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 1/2 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? Now, 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.
"How did 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 say, "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 could see you". And they said, "If you keep this up, we're going to put you out of the temple". Now, that's serious 'cause 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. They say, "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 this, 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. This man gets it right. He said, "Well, let me, I'll 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 may 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? Do 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 really had a great need. We didn't have a lot to forgive. We weren't really that broken. We kind of imagined 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. "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? 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 going to 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 with the content, 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. We've gotten in John 9:24. It says, "A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. 'Give glory to God,' they said. 'We know this man is a sinner.' And he replied, 'Whether he's a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I know. I was blind but now 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'd 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. Now I see".
In Acts chapter 10, there's another dramatic story and maybe more dramatic than the man born blind. This time it's Peter. Acts chapter 10 is well into the story of the emerging church. Jesus went back to heaven in Acts chapter 1, and in Acts chapter 10 Peter is in Jaffa. It's a Jewish seaport on the Mediterranean. He's on the roof. He's waiting for lunch to be prepared, and he has a vision. Sees a sheet from heaven and in it all sorts of animals that are unclean, and a voice says, "Take, kill, and eat". And Peter says, "Never. I wouldn't do that. Those are not good for me". And the voice says, "Don't call unclean that which I call clean".
And that's repeated three times. And when that's done, there's a knock at the door and it's non-Jewish people wanting Peter to go with them to a non-Jewish community to the home of a Roman soldier. That's just outside the box as anything you and I could imagine for our lives. That's like some drunk person hopped up on drugs knocking on your door, saying, "I want you to go with us to the strip club". It's that far outside the norm. And Peter says, "I guess because of that dream, vision I just had I'll go with you". It's a couple of day trip. It's a serious inconvenience. It's not just a momentary aside. He makes the trip to Caesarea. And when he gets there they go into the home of a Roman soldier, and when he does something supernatural happens: the events of the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. That took place with Peter and his closest friends: Peter and James and John and Mary and the crew. But in Acts chapter 10, it happens in Caesarea in the home of a Roman soldier and the Holy Spirit's poured out.
Now watch what Peter says. You have it in your notes. It's Acts 10. "Peter began to speak: 'I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.'" "I now realize," he says. "A moment ago I didn't realize it. A moment ago I thought God showed favoritism and didn't accept people from every nation, but I now realize he does". Why is that startling? Well, think with me about Peter's resume. This is Acts chapter 10. Peter was recruited by Jesus. He was a fisherman. He borrowed his boat and made a speech to the people on the shore. When Peter heard the presentation, he knelt at Jesus's feet and said, "Go away from me. I'm a sinful man". Jesus said, "Follow me. I'll make you a fisher of men".
Peter followed. He walked on the water. He picked up basketfuls of food after they fed a multitude with a little boy's lunch. He was on the Mount of Transfiguration and saw Jesus changed and watched him chat with Moses and Elijah. Peter was in the cemetery when Lazarus walked out of the tomb. Peter was at the Last Supper. Peter was the one in Caesarea, Philippi that said, "You're the Messiah". Peter is the one in the Garden of Gethsemane that drew his sword to protect Jesus, not too effectively but he tried. Peter denied the Lord three times and saw Jesus die. Peter ran to the tomb early on resurrection morning for personal inspection and wasn't there, and he had a personal encounter with a resurrected Jesus. Jesus restored him from his failure.
Peter was the one on the day of Pentecost that responded to the crowd and 3,000 people in the streets of Jerusalem accepted the Jesus's story and were baptized. Peter's had a pretty impressive resume. His shadow, we're told in Acts chapter 4, caused the people on the streets of Jerusalem to be healed. How many of you think Peter's spiritual resume was appropriate? I'd submit to you Peter's resume is better than all of ours collectively. And in Acts chapter 10, years into this journey, Peter says, "I now realize something. Now I see something that I have never seen before in spite of the miracles and the experiences and the personal time with Jesus, in spite of all of these things". I want to ask you a question. Do you have room in your spiritual imagination to see something you haven't seen yet? Are you living your life with the determination that you know all the important stuff? Do you meet ideas and opportunities with the response, "That's not how I do it. That's not the tradition I grew up in. That's not my preference. That's inconvenient for me. Now I see".
What I want to suggest to you, and my time is about up, is that spiritual things are more real than we have given them credit for. We have led our lives as children of the King; a kingdom that is yet to be revealed, a kingdom that in its essence is spiritual. It will give rise to a new heaven and a new earth, but it's a spiritual kingdom. Jesus said to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my followers would be fighting for me". Are we willing to ask the Spirit of God to help us see with new eyes? One last passage. Ephesians 6 and verse 10. It's in your notes. III a, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes". I don't think you can put the armor of God on without the help of the Holy Spirit.
Do you know the devil has a scheme against you? You know, the devil himself has a plan ultimately for your destruction. And if he can't destroy you and keep you out of the kingdom of God, then he'll do everything he can to hinder, impede, discourage, dissuade, and render you ineffective. And he's good. He's toppled some of the most remarkable people of faith through the ages. He has a scheme for you. What's the response to that? It's not one of fear. It says, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood". The Living Bible says our struggle are, we're in a wrestling match with persons without bodies, a wrestling match with persons without bodies. "But against the rulers and the authorities and against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms".
The greatest life struggles that you and I have don't originate with people. The delivery system may be a person or an organization, but there are other forces at work and we've either been unaware, unwilling to look, or spiritually blind. We're in a wrestling match with persons without bodies. If that is the case, then we need a power other than physical power. How much weight you can bench-press or dead lift isn't relevant if you're in a wrestling match with a person without a body because your physical strength isn't going to carry the day. So we're going to have to talk a little bit about spiritual strength and how we cultivate that. You cultivate that the same way you gain physical strength. "I don't believe that". I know. It's why we're reading it. It's in the Bible. In fact, I believe Ephesians 6:10 leads us to the conclusion that there's a hierarchy of spiritual authority. Most of us believe that about the kingdom of God.
How many think there's a hierarchy to the kingdom of God? Yeah. Me, too. It says Jesus has the name that's above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow. The Bible talks about archangels and angels. You get that. Well, Lucifer when we first meet him, Satan is the common name. Lucifer when we first meet him is an archangel. He rebels against God, recruits a third of the angels to join him. They lose their place in the kingdom of God. They are cast out of the presence of God. Well, Satan is an imitator. He is not an originator or a creator. God is the greatest creative force in the earth. It's why God's people should be the most creative place, people in the world. The more you cooperate with the Holy Spirit, the more creative you'll be. You don't need wickedness to be creative. What a joke.
But Satan imitated the structure he'd seen. So I believe there's a hierarchy to the kingdom of evil, and I believe that's a bit of what we're invited towards in this passage in Ephesians 6. It talks about this hierarchy of spiritual authority; rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, spiritual forces of evil. I mean, most of us we have a conversation around demons. We're not quite sure what to do with that, but they fit into this hierarchy of evil. I'll tell you one spiritual force, a principality that has been unleashed in our culture, and you don't need a great deal of discernment to recognize it. I believe the spirit of murder has been unleashed in our culture.
Again, you don't need much discernment. You don't have to pay much attention to the news. I don't care how you consume your news. The spirit of murder is rampant in our nation. It's true in our cities. The murder rate escalates in such a startling way that if they reported the true statistics to us we'd be afraid to visit. The mass shootings tend to catch our attention more. We see them in schools, in public buildings, in public gatherings, in concerts. We think it's normal now to go to the airport and walk through a metal detector and have your bags scanned. I remember going to the airport and just walking straight to the gate. This spirit wasn't as prevalent. We put police officers in schools and other public buildings now. They're a part of our normal life. We're living with this increasing awareness of security. Is it reducing the murder rate? No. And we listen to all the analysis and the discussions about it, you know, what causes it.
There's all kinds of motivations, they say. Drugs, poverty, crime, some of it's political, some of it's racial. I don't doubt that all of those things contribute, but I don't think those are the root cause. I think the root of the epidemic is spiritual. I think a spirit of murder has been unleashed in our nation and it's a powerful, powerful spiritual force. What has caused that? How did it come to this place? Why is it escalated in such a way? We are in a wrestling match with a spiritual force and we need a power other than ourselves, and that's not going to come from a secular culture. I'm not pointing any fingers anywhere except at the church. This is our assignment. We'll have to humble ourselves and repent and begin to ask for the mercy of God. He will deliver us just as certainly as he delivered Jerusalem from an army that was superior in force to them.
There is a power at work on our behalf if God will just awaken us to see the tremendous authority he's invested in his church. It's time for some courageous faith. We've wanted to maintain our little polite routines and our little happy worship services and not be bothered with the...we want somebody else to fix the problem. We'd rather point at the failure in someone else because of who they are and what they're not. "It surely couldn't have anything to do with me". But we are the ones that have been invested with the authority. We're the ones with a power that's greater than that spirit that's ravaging our schools and our kids and our culture. We have the authority of Jesus's name and the help of the Spirit of the living God within us.
My time's up and your outline is not. I'm going to work, we're going to work on this some more together tonight. I want to invite you back. Service is at 6, only lasts about an hour. It's not a trick to get you here every Sunday night till Jesus comes. There are two spirits, I'll tell you there are two spirits of even greater influence that are making themselves known in the earth. We're going to talk about them some more tonight. One of them is the spirit of Antichrist, and one is the spirit of Jezebel. They're spirits that reach across the ages and across the cultures to oppose the purposes of God and to diminish the people of God and, folks, we have got to wake up. We have got to begin to look at the unseen. Doesn't make you naïve. I'm not asking you to check your brain at the door. In fact, you're going to need your mind. I'm asking you to trust the Spirit of God.
All right. I brought you a prayer. Why don't you stand with me? I read the end of the book. We're victorious, but it's going to take some courage to get there. God gave the children of Israel the Promised Land, but he didn't drive the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and all those other insects out. Did he? They had to go take it one city at a time. And he's granted us the victory, but he's called us to be his church. I brought you a prayer. Let's read it together:
Heavenly Father, open my eyes to see what You are doing around me. Give me ears to hear what You are saying in this season, and enable my heart to receive Your instructions. I submit myself to Your authority. Forgive me for when I have refused to see or hear. I'm like a child. Lead me in paths of righteousness that I may learn Your ways. In Jesus's name, amen.