Sermons.love

Andy Stanley - Open Eyes



Now here's something that I think about all the time because I don't know, we're all wired differently and for those who are into the Enneagram, any Enneagram fans in the house? Yes okay, only a certain number of you raised your hand. Others of you are fives, I'm a five so the fives are like, why did he ask us to raise our hand? I need more information. So anyway, I'm a five on the Enneagram which means I think I try to understand everything and I constantly feel stupid. My whole life I have felt stupid, it's true, and in school because, and so our family, Sandra and I watch "This is Us". That's kind of like our show. Any "This is Us" fans, yeah.

And yes, so same people who were fives. It's amazing, right here. Anyone, we might be related. Anyway, so when I watch "This is Us" this is my thing I say to Sandra and she knows it's coming. She just rolls her eyes. I say, this program makes me feel so stupid and it makes me feel stupid because I can't figure out how they did it. And I just want to figure everything out. So for me, when it comes to God and maybe you can relate to this, there's something in me like I'm sure there's something in all of us that's like, if God would just do something spectacular one time that I saw, then maybe I would have bigger faith or more faith or I would understand better.

And I think as I think about this all the time, I think God is so present and I think God is so apparent that we miss God. And again we want God to do something spectacular to prove that He is and I wonder, I wonder if God thinks, okay, like what? Like what do you want Me to do? Like, create a rock large enough for you to live on and fine tune everything about it and everything around it so it sustains life and stands in stark contrast to all the other floating rocks in the universe? What if I do that? Oh I already did that. And we're like, no no no, do something really amazing. Okay, how bout this. How bout a 576 megapixel camera? How bout I give you two of 'em and put 'em on the front of your head? And how bout I connect them to a 3000 gigahertz computer with enough memory for you to pass knowledge down generation after generation after generation? Already did that too. How bout this little trick?

While the speaker is speaking and before he can finish this sentence, 50,000 cells in your body are gonna die and be replaced by new ones before we can even finish the sentence. And we're like, yeah, and it does all that with no conscious effort on your part. In fact, this is really confusing and I don't even know if this makes sense. This is just where my head goes. Our minds are way, I mean our brains are way smarter than our minds. I mean, stuff's going on in your body all the time you don't even know about that it just goes on. And all of that's true and what is our response? No, no no no, we want You to do something like truly spectacular. Like a miraculous healing.

That would just prove it and to which God may think, I don't, it's not smart to put words in God's mouth but I think He may think, okay, well, thanks to that 3000 gigahertz computer that all of you are carrying around, you are able to miraculously heal most diseases yourself. I didn't just heal people. I created a species of self-healers. In fact, if people from 2000 years ago showed up and visited a modern hospital, they would think the doctors are gods. Okay, so I just wanted to share that with you today. We are in part, oh look at there, we are in part five of our series Bystander. The subtitle is John and the Rabbi from Nazareth and we are following John as he journeys with Jesus and John decided to give us an account. He's an old man, as I've shared with you, he gives us an account of his time with Jesus and he dictates this.

I don't think he wrote this, maybe he did but he probably dictated this because he's an old man. He probably couldn't see very well, couldn't write very well and he organizes this account around specific events that he says are signs that point to not simply what Jesus did but they point to who Jesus was. And he documents all of this so that future generations would know the story of Jesus but his agenda isn't simply that we know what happened. His agenda is that we would be convinced that Jesus is who Jesus claimed He was. In fact, he has an agenda for you and he has an agenda for me and he has an agenda for every generation that would follow and here's his agenda. He tells us at the end of his document that this thing we call the gospel of John.

He says, by the way, these things are written, the ones I chose to write because he said I didn't cover everything Jesus did. But the ones I chose to cover and the order I put them in were written that you might believe. I want you to respond to this, not go, oh that's interesting. I want you to believe specifically all of you Jewish people that Jesus is the Messiah that we had been waiting on all of these years and if you're not Jewish, I want you to be convinced that He is the actual, as odd as this may sound, the unique Son of God and I don't want you to simply believe that it is true. Once you believe that this is true, I want you to place your trust in Him. And by placing your trust in Him and deciding to follow Him, you'll have a different kind of life in His name. So he has an agenda and he organizes this incredible account around these events that he calls signs.

So today we come to the fifth sign. The way some people count these it might be the sixth sign but I'm gonna call it the fifth sign and he again outlines this and gives us this in such a way that we might follow along this little piece of narrative and come to the conclusion, wow, John, you're right. Jesus is who Jesus claimed to be. Now if you had a paper Bible, an actual physical Bible, your grandparents had these. Anyway, if you had a physical Bible, you would see a heading, something like this, Healing of a blind man in this part of your physical paper Bible.

So let me catch you up with where we are in the series and then we'll jump into this narrative. Jesus travels throughout His ministry, up and down, up and down, north and south, north and south, south and north from Judea to Galilee back to Judea to Galilee to Judea. In Judea, He's usually in danger because this is where Jerusalem is and the temple leaders and they're a little bit put out by John the Baptist and then by Jesus because they contradict, or seem to contradict so much of what they believed. And they're stirring up the people and they don't want the people stirred up because if the people get stirred up, Rome gets stirred up. And if Rome gets stirred up, there's just trouble. So Jesus will go to Jerusalem and dabble and kinda stir things up. Then He'll go back to Galilee, take a breather, teach and then come back.

So in this particular part of Jesus' journey, He's back in the vicinity of Jerusalem, the city of Jerusalem. John is with Him and John says, here's what happened. As we, he could say, but he says, He, as He went along, or Jesus went along, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples, John being one of these followers, asked him, Rabbi, and I'm sure they whispered this. Rabbi, You see the gentleman over there, begging. He's there all the time. We're curious. Who sinned? Who sinned? This man, this blind man or his parents that he was born blind because the assumption in the 1st century was that there was a cause and effect relationship between sin and suffering. If somebody is suffering, it's because they sinned.

So in some sense, they were getting what they deserved, which obviously had an interesting relationship with the compassion shown to people who were suffering if you believe they were suffering for some past sin. But the way they thought about it, a pregnant woman could go into a pagan temple and her son or daughter, once they were born, would suffer because of their mom's disobedience to God by going into pagan temple. So they had all this mystery and all this superstition. Now we know that sometimes our behavior results in suffering, right? And we also know that sometimes we suffer because of other people's behavior. But when that's the case, it's usually obvious. And when it's not obvious, as Jesus is about to point out, there is no connection.

So Jesus shifts their paradigm at what He says next. He says, the answer to that question is it him or his parents, the answer is neither. Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus. This is, this, you're thinking completely wrong about all this. And then He says something that may create a new category for you and you may think is insensitive for me to say but I promise I would not say this if I was not quoting Jesus. I'm not that insensitive. He says, but this happened, this being this man being born blind, but this happened so that. This happened so that. Jesus teaches here and Jesus teaches in other places that pain can have a purpose, that pain can, pain and suffering can actually have a divine purpose. Perhaps pain and suffering always has a purpose. Jesus' pain and suffering certainly did.

This man's pain and suffering certainly did, and maybe, maybe your pain and suffering has a purpose as well. We know it's a category. But Jesus continues. But this happened. In other words, this man isn't being punished, his parents aren't being punished, but this particular pain and suffering or episode of pain and suffering happened so that. And then he gives us the so that. So that the works of God might be displayed in him. So that the works of God. In other words, sometimes, sometimes God chooses. Sometimes God chooses to display His power on the platform or the stage of our pain and our suffering. In fact, you've seen that before, I bet. You've seen someone whose pain and suffering, their response to their pain and suffering was so extraordinary, it caused your faith to get bigger.

I've seen that. As a pastor, I have seen all kinds of things as you might imagine. And the most extraordinary things to me in my personal Christian life, the most extraordinary things to me are not the people who live wrinkle free lives. Their kids all get scholarships and everybody lives to be 99 and dies in their sleep. That's not impressive, right? What's impressive is a man or a woman or a child or a family or individual that goes through an extraordinarily difficult difficult time and their faith is rock solid.

There's a man in our community group, has ALS. His name is Tim. Tim is dying of ALS. His faith, his smile and his confidence is staggering. He makes me want Christianity to be true even if it's not true because of what I see and what I experience with Tim. He's got an incredible sense of humor. I wasn't planning to talk about him, but I'm talking about him. So, Tim, he's at home, watching. Sorry, dude, I apologize ahead of time. Anyway, Tim, the other day, he was just kinda moping around. Usually he's just so happy. He can barely get around anymore and his wife Carla says, Tim. Says, Tim, what's wrong with you? And he said, he can barely speak so I'm not gonna try to talk like him. She said, Tim, what's wrong with you? He said, I think I have ALS and I can't kick it. He comes to our small group. His joy is so, it's just, I mean, you've seen this. You have seen God demonstrate His power on the platform of human weakness and suffering.

So He turns to His audience, Jesus turns to His audience and He says this. Okay, they're focused on this blind man. They're kind of whispering about him. Jesus turns to the disciples and He says, hey guys, as long as it is day, we must do the works of Him who sent Me. Night is coming when no one can work. To which they thought, see, that's what you do. We're talking about one thing and now You're talking about something else. Okay, we're talking about why this man is blind and now what? He goes on. He says, while, this is so important. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world. Here's His point. This is so powerful. This is the point of John's gospel. He says, look guys. My identity, who I truly am, will never be more apparent than it is right now. The light of the world, Me, the light of the world will never be brighter than it is right now while I am on Planet Earth and when I leave, it will be dark. And when I leave, it will be dark indeed.

So gentlemen, ladies, He would say, watch Me, learn from Me and believe. And John, you and Matthew, you guys take good notes. I don't know if He would have said that or not. After saying this, they're like, okay, are we back to the guy that was blind? After saying this, Jesus does the strangest thing. He spits on the ground and before they could say, hey, we don't do that here close to the temple, He made some mud with the saliva and He put it on the man's eyes. Now I wish we had more details but we don't. Did He ask him first? Did He say, Peter and John, hold him down? I mean, I don't think so. But this is just odd and we don't have any more details. So Jesus makes, spits, makes mud with His saliva and just puts it on the guy's eyes. And then He says something to him that we've heard Him tell other people. He says something that actually He tells our whole generation. He says to the man who was born blind, go, He told him. Walk away from Me. Leave My presence. Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.

So the blind man. This is foreshadowing. This is John's whole point. This is why he chose this event. So the blind man walks by faith and not by what? Sight. Literally. You know what he did? He did what your Heavenly Father would like for you to do. He chose to trust someone he could not see based on rumors about that person. At the end of John's gospel, we're gonna talk about this when we get there. I just gotta rush ahead. He says this. He said, we talked about a little bit. He said, hey, blessed are you guys 'cause you saw all this stuff but I'm telling you double blessed are those who believe and have not seen. So, the man went. He went to the Pool of Siloam. He did what Jesus said and he washed his eyes and suddenly he could see.

And where did he go? He went home. He went home. And his neighbors and those who knew all about this guy, his neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, Wait a minute, isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg in the same place every single day, every single week, every single year? Some claimed that he was but others said, no, that can't be him. He just looks like that guy. But he himself insisted, no, it's me. I'm the guy that used to sit there, begging all that time and I know I look a little bit different because now I can see and I'm walking differently, my stick's gone and my friends are gone. And of course they ask the question anybody would ask. How? How were your eyes opened, they asked. And he replied, here's what happened.

The man they call Jesus, the man they call Jesus, we've heard of this man. We've heard rumors. Some of you said you've seen Him. The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. I guess he didn't know how He made the mud. Maybe it's better not to know. He made some mud and put it on my eyes and He told me to go to Siloam and wash. And I did what He asked me to do even though it made absolutely no sense. There it is again. I did what He asked me to do and I washed and then I could see. And of course they're curious. And where is this man, they asked him. And he said, I don't know. I didn't see which way He went. Sherlock, right? I shouldn't put words in the mouth of someone that Jesus healed.

So this is what he actually said. He said, I don't know. So they did what they were supposed to do based on the old covenant or the relationship between God and the nation of Israel when someone was miraculously healed or it seemed like somebody was gonna be able to come back into society after being healed of a disease. You were to take them to the religious leaders. They were to present themselves to the religious leaders. So they take him to the Pharisees. So they brought to the Pharisees, the man who had been blind. And then the music, the soundtrack changes.

Now the day, He's done it again. Now the day on which Jesus made the mud and opened the man's eyes was the Sabbath. When will He learn? According to the tradition of the elders, according to the oral, not the written Torah, you weren't allowed to do certain things on the Sabbath. Obviously, and one of the things you couldn't do was mix. You couldn't knead, K-N-E-A-D and because He took spit and mud and He mixed and kneaded, He broke the Sabbath, and you weren't supposed to heal or do medicine on the Sabbath either unless it was to save a life. So He's in big trouble. Therefore the Pharisees, when they found out what happened, they asked him how he had received the sight. And he said, well, He put mud on my eyes and the man replied, the man replied. And I washed, and now he's probably violated the Sabbath as well. And now I see.

And some of the Pharisees said, This man, talking about Jesus, is not from God. Okay. How do you know that? Well it's obvious. For He does not keep the Sabbath. Well technically He didn't keep their version of the Sabbath. Technically He didn't really break any of God's written law but what happened was, and let's not be too judgmental, Jesus didn't fit in their God box. And whether you recognize it or not, most of you, maybe all of us. Maybe even those of you who don't even believe in God, we have a God box and Jesus is operating outside the boundaries of the God box. Therefore, He cannot possibly be from God. But others ask a very important question.

Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. Others ask, how can a sinner, if He's not from God then He's like one of us, and the rest of us are sinners. How can a sinner perform such a sign? Not a miracle, a sign. John says, these were all pointing to the identity of Jesus. How can a sinner perform such signs? So they were divided. Then they turned again to the man who's standing there and to the blind man, they said, what do you have to say about Him? Is He a sinner or isn't He a sinner? He's the one who opened your eyes. And the man replied, I don't know. He's a prophet. Now some of the Pharisees still did not even believe that he had been blind and that he had received his sight. They think he's making this whole thing up until they sent for the man's parents and so they bring in the man's parents and the man's parents are afraid because when you get called in by the Pharisees on the Sabbath, you've probably done something wrong.

Is this your son, they asked his parents. Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that he can now see? And they said, well, we know this. We know he's our son, the parents answered, and he know he was born blind. But how he can now see and who opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him. He's old enough to tell you himself. He's old enough to stand in court. He's old enough to testify for himself. His parents said this. Check this out. His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders who had, and here's where some of us are, who had already decided. Who had already made up their minds.

There was not room in their theology, there was not room in their worldview for what they were seeing, for what they were experiencing, for what was happening right before their very eyes. They had already decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue, ostracized from the community. The word we might use is excommunicated from Judaism, from 1st century Judaism, temple Judaism. The religious leaders, like some of us, let's be honest. The religious leaders were the ones who were blind. They were actually blinded by their presuppositions. They were blinded by their assumptions.

Francis Collins, as we heard a few weeks ago, referred to this as willful blindness. When there's something to see but you won't look. When there's something to discover and you won't take the time to discover it. When the cognitive bias that just allows you to only take in the information that affirms and confirms, confirmation bias where you only take in information that confirms what you already believe and you refuse to acknowledge anything that might pull you out of your context, that might cause you to think beyond your, if you're a Christian or even a non-Christian, outside your God box.

So, they're still not done with this guy. So a second time, a second time they summoned the man, come back over here. Give glory to God by telling the truth, they said. We know this man is a sinner. Okay, so you were blind, we've gotten that far. We've asked your parents. So something has happened. But clearly this Jesus man had nothing to do with it so give glory to God because this man is a sinner and sinners could not perform such a sign. He replies, whether He, Jesus, is a sinner or not, I don't know. And again, here we are. Whether He's a sinner or not. In other words, he would say, look, I don't know everything. I don't understand everything. But here's the thing. I don't have to understand everything to believe something. I don't have to be able to explain everything to believe what's right before my very eyes. I don't have to be able to explain how everything worked out and why it worked out to know that something has happened. I don't have to understand everything to believe something.

And here's the good news. Neither do you. And maybe this is where you've been hung up. And I understand this. You want to understand everything before you believe anything. I get this, I am so wired this way. But here's the thing that you and I have in common, okay? Isn't it true that you and I don't hold to this standard in other areas of life? Right, I mean, do you believe in love? Can you explain it? Do you believe in energy? I know you can't explain that. Do you believe in consciousness? We can't explain that either. Here's a big one. Do you believe in information? Yeah, I believe in information. Do you use information? Yeah. Can you explain it? Not really. Same with energy, same with consciousness. Same with love.

Here's some great news because I know some of you would love to come back into faith but your brain won't let you, your mind won't let you. Some of you, I know this for a fact, some of you miss the songs. Some of you miss the energy. Some of you miss the community. But something happened and you got bumped out and you stand on the outside looking in and you think, okay, I miss some of that. But I've gotta understand everything before I believe anything. And you don't hold yourself to that standard in any other arena of your life and your Heavenly Father who's way bigger than your God box says, let's just take a baby step and believe something. And perhaps along the way, you'll understand more. The story continues. This young man, he's getting bold now. He's kinda fed up with this whole thing. He replied, whether He is a sinner or not, I don't know.

But there is one thing I do know. And I love this next line. This may be my favorite line in the whole Bible that wasn't uttered by a prophet or uttered by Jesus. He says, here's the one thing I know. Okay, let's just start with what I do know. I can't answer all your questions. I don't know if He's a sinner. Don't ask me any theological questions. Here's what I know. I was blind but now I see. Let me go over that again for you guys. I was blind but now I see. And here's the incredible thing, for many of you, you know this. This is the story of millions and millions of Christians. This, I bet for many of you, this is your story, right?

I can't explain it all. I don't understand it all. All I know is this. There was a season in my life when I was at the end of myself. There was a season in my life when I had hit a wall. There was a season in my life when I was controlled by an addiction. There was a season in my life that I was so lonely, I was suicidal. There was a season of my life where I had come to the end and I had no place else to go and I cried out to God or I asked God or I got on my knees and I don't, I can't explain it. I can't show you any verses to substantiate this. All I can tell you is this. Something happened. And for some of you, it happened instantly. And for some of you, it happened gradually. But something happened and you were blind and now you can see. You've never been the same.

And when people hear your story, you acknowledge there are some gaps and yeah, I'm not sure how this lines up with that. I'm just telling you, I would not go back to where I was for anything and only by the grace of a living, personal God who has invited me to call Him Father am I where I am today. All I know is this. I was blind. Now I can see. Then they ask him, they're still not done. Then they ask him, okay, so what did He do to you? How did He open your eyes? They want more reasons not to believe. And now this guy is done. He answered, I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? And then he gets right up in their face. Do you want to become His disciples too? He's done.

They hurled insults at him and said, You are this fellow's disciple. We are disciples of Moses. We know for certain that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where He comes from. And now this guy, he's just all up in their face. The man answered, now, that is truly remarkable. I mean, me being healed today, that's remarkable, but here's something more remarkable than that. You don't know where He comes from yet He opened my eyes? Isn't it obvious where He comes from? Isn't it right before your eyes? How much more evidence do you need to know that He came from God? Somebody who's not from God could not open the eyes of a man born blind. He continues. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing like this. To which they replied, because they're not used to this, You were steeped in sin at birth.

In other words, you deserved to be born blind. Your parents deserved to raise you and spend all that extra time and all their extra resources raising you and then being embarrassed by you because you became a beggar. You deserved exactly what you got. You were steeped, you were conceived in sin. How dare you lecture us. And they threw him out. Willful blindness. Willful blindness. Refusing to look. Refusing to see what can be seen. Refusing to discover what can be discovered. Being too afraid to turn around and peer beyond what we already know into the unknown. Let's just be honest for all of us. That's not flattering to anyone. That doesn't look good on anyone. And Christians, we are certainly not immune. I mean, come on, historically, our resistance to science, our resistance to people who aren't like us, our resistance to people who don't fit in the box of what we have always been taught is acceptable to God.

Doesn't our unwillingness to look beyond our God box make us look a little bit like the religious leaders in the story? And what happens on the other side of that journey for many of us is instead of expressing compassion, we have expressed disdain. For different generations, there have been different groups of people who have met this when they came to the church where we sing about God's mercy and grace because we couldn't figure out how they fit in the God box we grew up with. If you've limited God to the god of the box, if you've limited God to the god of the box, you run the risk of leaving outside the context of your spirituality many many many people that God loves.

And not only this, here's the worst thing, I'm convinced of this. You will ultimately miss God. We should be the most curious, the most accommodating, the most accepting, the most loving, the most compassionate, the most open-minded people in any room we enter. We should not be afraid to gaze past the frontiers of our knowledge, past the frontiers into our ignorance. We should be the most excited about science and we should be the most excited about creating context for people who are far from God to move toward God. And any step anyone takes towards God, whether it fits in our little box or not should excite us to no end. Even if they don't get the words right. Even if they don't get the theology right. Even if they don't pray right. And if we don't move beyond the god in the box, like the men in the story, here's the, again, the great tragedy. We run the risk of missing God.

Now, if you're not a Christian or you used to be or somebody's making you watch this. They're gonna feed you dessert or they're gonna take you to lunch. I don't know how they got you to watch this or you're accidentally watching it, I don't know. Here's the thing for you. Have you looked? Are you afraid to look? Are you curious? Have you looked lately? Have you closed the door on all religion? Have you closed the door on the concept of God? Have you closed the door on the fact that Jesus might in fact be who Jesus claimed to be? Have you closed the door on the concept of a physical literal resurrection 2000 years ago? And here's the question. Is that, is that really wise? And is it possible, just sayin', is it possible you have a God box as well? And anything that doesn't immediately fit, you immediately discount and perhaps that's why you walked away from faith long ago or maybe even recently?

In fact, it's even stranger than that. Maybe, maybe the God you quit believing in is the same God that some of us Christians try to keep in a box and you had the courage to look beyond the box and lost faith and many Christians are afraid to look beyond the box because they're afraid they'll lose faith. And the truth is, God is a whole lot bigger than our little itty-bitty box. In fact, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps God is bigger than you thought He was and perhaps, this is the kicker, perhaps God is bigger than you were taught He was. Because I think we would agree with this, it's okay to be wrong. It's okay to be wrong about something. We're all wrong about a lot of things. I mean, every 10 years, you look back and you go, oh, that's embarrassing, right? I mean, look at what you wore and you look at what you thought and both of 'em are embarrassing.

Fortunately there are no pictures of our misconceptions about things, right? 20 years ago, oh my goodness, I can't believe I thought that and believed that, right? 100 years from now, we're all gonna be proven wrong about most things, right? You think about the things your parents taught you or believed, it's like, my parents. Hey, one day, I mean, it just goes on. I mean, it's okay, it's okay to be wrong. And it's okay not to know because we're all learning and we're all curious and we're all figuring things out. But could we all agree on this? It is not okay not to look if there is something to be seen.

And John's entire message throughout his gospel is simply this. There is something you should see. If you had seen what I saw, if you had seen what we saw, I'm convinced, he would say, we're convinced that you too would believe that Jesus is the Messiah, that Jesus is the Son of God and that by believing, you would have life in His name. Here's what I think he would say. He would say, look, I'm a simple man. I was a fisherman. I was minding my own business when He came along. I was just a bystander who had the privilege to live in the days when the light of the world touched down in the world and it was so unbelievably bright. And it was so much better. And He was so much bigger than any of us thought He was.

The biggest discovery of all, I think he would tell us is this. He so loved the world that He gave Himself so that no one would ever be lost to God. And that took us all by surprise. And when He died, we assumed we had been fooled, we had been tricked and it was over. But then He rose from the dead and we realized He's exactly who He claimed to be. And oh my goodness, this whole thing was so much bigger than we thought it was. The good news is this. You do not have to understand everything to believe something. So would you consider the invitation of John and just look and perhaps one day believe or for many of you, believe again.
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