Andy Stanley - Help Me See
So to set us up for where we're going today, I wanna begin with an observation about human nature. This isn't a religious thing, it's just a thing, and it's something that you've experienced that perhaps maybe you didn't have words for. So here it is. It's human nature to resist things we can't control or don't understand. It's just human nature, it's true of all of us, to resist things, to naturally react to, to resist things we can't control or don't understand. We want to be open-minded, some of us even pride ourselves about our open-mindedness, right? But at the same time, we wanna make sense of the world and we wanna make sense of things and we want the world to make sense.
And our current worldview or your current worldview, whether it's Christian, non-Christian, religious, non-religious, whatever it is, your worldview actually enables you to make sense of the world as you experience it, as you see it your worldview, as you know, is your framework and when our framework is challenged, we naturally just pull up the drawbridge, cross our arms, and become defensive. And we kind of retreat to our personal talking points. And I'm not pointing fingers I mean, this is true of me too, because it's just human nature. This explains many of or perhaps most of your conversations with your parents when you were in high school or college you came home with new ideas, and what did they do? They just naturally resisted.
It explains a significant percentage of your conversations with your own kids if they're in high school or college. They came home with some new ideas, some new friends, a new tattoo, and while you had something to say about it. We all have paradigms, narratives, prejudices, experiences, that kind of lock us into how we see and interpret the world around us. All of these and all of these contribute to this resistance, our resistance to new things, new ideas, new ways of thinking and perhaps most problematic new people.
And let's be honest, even as I'm saying all of this perhaps you've already crossed your arms you feel like I'm setting you up to give up something you hold dear and I'm sure I would feel the same way because it's human nature to resist things we can't control or that we don't understand. It's just human nature to resist anything new, especially if it conflicts with something old something comfortable, this is why it is so important to travel and read broadly otherwise do you know what happens? We get stuck on our little corner of the world. And regardless of which corner you grew up on a corner is a corner and it's limiting it limits how we see the world and it limits how we interpret events worst of all, it limits how we see and evaluate people. But it's not your fault that I mentioned that it was human nature to resist things we can't control or don't understand. More on that and just a bit.
Today as you may know we're wrapping up our series Grown-Up Prayers. Many of us, or most of us grew up praying and many of us were taught prayers as children and while pretty much everything else about us grew up in some respects our prayers did not grow up. What we asked for has changed, but how we pray and why we pray is pretty much the same, right? And if that's the case, and this is so important for where we're going today if that's the case, how we pray and why we pray, if they've stayed pretty much the same then basically our view of God has remained pretty much the same as well. Because think about it the way we pray, what we pray why we pray is shaped by our view of God what we think God is like what we think and assume God likes or to say it another way your prayers reflect your view of God. In other words if we were to stop and evaluate our own prayers and ask ourselves, what does the way, what does the way I pray say about my view of God?
We may discover, as we talked a little bit about this last time, we may discover that we've reduced God to a conscience cleanser and a life guard. A conscience cleanser with a really short memory and a life guard, who rarely sprints into the water to save us the way we wanna be saved. Our prayers are primarily about forgive and give and rescue me or rescue someone I love. Consequently prayer is reduced to what it's reduced to informing God of our needs, wants and wishes or perhaps the needs wants and wishes of somebody we care about. That's why we pray that's why we've been taught to pray the point being if you want to know how your view of God or if you want to understand your view of God just listen to your prayers.
If you wanna understand how you view God just listen to the way you pray. Then along comes Jesus and he says to his first century followers, "Hey guys you're doing it wrong" And as we've discovered in this series, perhaps he has said to some of us, "Hey you've been praying your whole life but it's time that your prayers grow up You've been doing it wrong". And Jesus says this then, this then is how you should pray. And this is so interesting. Just as our prayers reflect our view of God in the same way and this is so instructive in the same way Jesus prayers reflected his view of God. If you wanna know what God is like if you wanna know what God really likes, listen to Jesus pray or listen to the way he instructs us to pray.
So in the first three episodes of the series that's exactly what we did. And we discovered that God is not merely a conscience cleaner he's not merely a life guard more importantly, we discovered the purpose of prayer. And the purpose of prayer is to align our wills to the will of our father in heaven. So before we get to what we want need and wish for we are to pray your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And as we pointed out this kind of thinking, this kind of language it rarely shows up in our prayers because it stands in sharp contrast to why most of us pray. We don't, come to God to surrender, We come to God to be forgiven and sometimes we come to God to be rescued, forgiven and rescued because we weren't surrendered. But to pray as Jesus prayed and to pray as Jesus has instructed us to pray we have to view God as God is and not as we imagine God to be. Not as we grew up imagining God to be, to pray grownup prayers we need a grownup version of God. The Jesus version of God the God that Jesus came to reveal.
There's a really interesting encounter between Jesus and his apostles that illustrates this and it's so powerful because it's so emotional Here's what happened. Philip, one of the 12 apostles is sitting with the other apostles with Jesus. And one evening they're having a discussion and Jesus is kind of doing his Jesus thing where he's not super clear about what he's talking about, and Philip gets really frustrated with Jesus and he blurts out, "Just show us the father enough with the analogies enough with the parables and the stories, just show us the father". And do you remember how Jesus responded? This is so helpful Jesus said, don't you know me Philip? What an interesting response. Show us the father, don't you know, me Philip? Even after I have been among you such a long time? And then these extraordinary words who would say this "Anyone who has seen me," Jesus says, "Has seen the father".
In other words Philip, you will never get it any closer to understanding what God is like than me. You wanna know what God is like, do you wanna know what God likes follow Jesus, Jesus would say. But when you follow Jesus as they discovered, when you follow Jesus through the gospels, and when you follow Jesus in this life it will require some change. It will require us to give up some assumptions, perhaps some things that we've believed our entire lives, and that's difficult to do. It's difficult to do because well it's human nature to resist things. It's human nature to resist things we can't control or just don't understand.
Now, this explains this is so important and as you begin to understand the life of Jesus, this explains why first century religious leaders resisted Jesus. In fact, it's why pretty much everybody in his first century audience misunderstood Jesus even though right up to the very end, they were sure they had him figured out. It's why at the last minute Judas betrayed Jesus and the other 11 bailed on Jesus. They ran for their lives. They went from followers to fliers in just really a matter of minutes, Peter denies even knowing him and that's amazing. It actually is why we can trust that the gospels are reliable accounts of actual events. Not only would a first century author not make it up that Peter denied, even knowing Jesus. He would probably be tempted to even leave it out. But there it is because that's what happened.
They thought, this is so amazing. They thought I mean, they'd been with Jesus three years. They thought they knew what God was up to. They thought they knew what Jesus was up to. They thought they knew what God was about But they had some unlearning to do. They had some growing up to do in fact, Luke tells us that just a day, just a day before they entered Jerusalem. I mean entered Jerusalem where Jesus has his date with destiny. He's going there to die for the sins of the world. They're on their way to Jerusalem and Jesus spells it out for them yet again. And here's what he said. He said, "Gentlemen I want you to understand what's about to happen, we're going up to Jerusalem and everything that is written by the prophets about the son of man is about to be fulfilled. You're about to experience the fulfillment of prophecy".
And they're like, well, that sounds exciting, maybe not. He will be talking about himself. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles, the Romans and they will mock him and insult him and they're gonna spit on him and they're gonna flog him and they're gonna kill him talking about what's about to happen to him. They're gonna mock him and insult him and spit on him and then they're going to kill him. Any questions guys? And if they'd been listening carefully here's how they should have responded. "I'll tell you what, Jesus you go on to Jerusalem without us. This is not and that is not what we signed up for". But they followed him anyway. Not because they were brave, we know they weren't brave. They followed Jesus anyway, because well I'll let Luke tell you why. They followed him anyway because the disciples did not understand anything that Jesus had just said, its meaning was hidden from them and they did not know what he was talking about.
Now, Jesus' message was not unintelligible. The problem was this, the disciples preconceived messianic expectations. Their assumptions made them unable to hear or really accept what he was saying. Their assumptions about Jesus were so locked in that they had actually, well they locked him out. They could not hear, they could not see because they thought they already knew. And this is understandable. Again, the narratives they were raised on a restored kingdom, on their experiences growing up under Roman rule are limited mostly incorrect ancient understanding of how the world even work filled with superstition. All of these things, all of these things made it next to impossible for them to hear what Jesus was actually saying or to see the future that he was pointing towards. All of these things made it difficult for them to accept what God was up to in their world, right before their eyes.
They thought they knew, but they didn't know. They thought they knew, but they were wrong. Like me maybe like you, I mean, imagine this. After three years of listening to talking with, camping out with Jesus, they are still arguing about which one of them is gonna be number two or number three in Jesus' cabinet when he sets up his kingdom, in fact in a few days, this is amazing. A few days before that, they're on their way to Jerusalem and they find out that a Samaritan village wasn't willing to host them overnight because they were from Galilee. The disciples come to Jesus and they actually ask him for permission to call down fire from heaven and devour everybody in the village.
Like what I mean, read the gospels and there is no getting around the fact. That it wasn't until after the resurrection that the pieces finally started coming together for the men who were eye ball to eyeball with Jesus for three years and then, it would take another 20 years don't miss that, 20 years and the conversion of Saul and a big church council and hundreds of Gentile converts before this group finally understood that Jesus came for the entire world but this good news, this this good story was for everybody. It would take 20 more years before they finally embraced the implications of his new command by this love, by this love people will know that you're my follower. But eventually the got it.
Now, if you're a Jesus follower hey, if you're a Christian that should fill you with some concern, perhaps some trepidation certainly a big dose of humility, it certainly does me. This should take the edge off any theological smugness or arrogance any of us have, right? It should cause all of us to wonder, where do we have it wrong? Where do I have it wrong? Where do we have Jesus wrong? Where have we missed him or misunderstood him? I mean, who am I to think that I have it all figured out when the men and women who were face to face with him so oftentimes did not understand what he was trying to communicate. We're actually better off waking up every single day and approaching every single day, every relationship, every decision with our hands and our hearts wide open to the reality that we only know what we know.
And there's a lot we don't know. That we can only see what we see and it's possible that there's more to be seen or to borrow from the Old Testament prophet Micah, we should determine every single day to simply just act justly to love mercy and then here's the big one, the virtue that every new Testament author including Jesus highlights, and we should walk humbly, we should walk humble with our God. According to Micah, that's pretty much all the Lord requires of us and no surprise, it's what Jesus requires of us as well because it's what he did. He walked humbly with his God. Here's how he said it, for I have come down from heaven. This is amazing, Jesus says for I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of him who sent me and then there's this and this is why we should all walk in humility when it comes to our understanding of God, of Jesus and what God is up to in the world.
Throughout the new Testament, Throughout the new Testament, we are introduced to people, honestly, mostly men who find themselves in the presence of Jesus, but they can't see him. They can't accept him for who he actually is. It wasn't just the apostles I mean, one day a wealthy young man you've probably heard this story, comes to Jesus And he says, "Jesus what must I do to inherit eternal life"? And Jesus extends to him the opportunity of a lifetime. He says this, he says, here's what you need to do. You need to sell everything you have and then give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven but then here's the real invitation. And then I want you to come follow me. Not follow me like you and I think about following Jesus in the 21st century, this was a literal invitation. I want you to today to begin following me, I want you to join my group.
In other words, young man you wanna see eternal life, you don't have to wait until you die. You follow me now to Jerusalem and you will see God's plan unfold before your very eyes. But this rich young man could not see beyond his wealth. And consequently, we don't even know his name. Then the was the Jewish teacher Nicodemus that we're all familiar with. He almost missed Jesus because he couldn't see past his theology, the theology who was raised on and had built his reputation on which is understandable. It takes enormous humility, It takes enormous humility to abandon an idea, an agenda, a political persuasion, or perhaps a perspective we built our public reputation on it, it's difficult to see or to recognize the truth, when the truth threatens our standing in the community, our reputation or our income.
The Pharisees, the other Pharisees, they couldn't see beyond their prejudice toward certain kinds of people. We run into this throughout the life of Jesus. Their thought was something like this, Jesus could not possibly be from God look who he associates with. And we know because we understand God that God would never send someone into the world to represent him who would associate with these kinds of people. And when they found out he'd gone home with Matthew, the tax collector, you probably know this story too, They just have no category for that. They, could not reconcile his claims to be from God and his behavior. He claimed to be from God, but he associated with sinners. He can't possibly be from God because we have God, well we have got all figured out on another occasion, a Pharisee named Simon actually invites Jesus into his home for a meal.
And Jesus being an equal opportunity defender went to the Pharisee's home, which I'm sure was so confusing to the folks who hated Pharisees. I mean it's like, "Come on Jesus, you can't have it both ways, pick a side. You can't stand in the middle you're either hot or cold, but you can't be lukewarm". Which is actually something Jesus said anyway. So Jesus accepts Simon the Pharisee's invitation to his home and while he's there a woman considered a sinner by the temple leaders took the role of a servant and washed his feet with perfume and her tears. And it should be noted, this is important that she could have been labeled or branded a sinner in that culture for a variety of reasons, silly reasons.
Back to the story, so anyway his host Simon is sitting across the table from the son of God and his prejudice, his preconceived, ill conceive assumptions about who God favors blinds him to who is visiting in his home. And when it was clear that Jesus wasn't offended by the woman's proximity or her touch, Simon thought to himself, which is always a mistake when you're in the presence of Jesus, he thought to himself here's what he thought. He thought, if this man were a prophet translated, I know for a fact how this works and anything that doesn't line up with my way of seeing things, it just doesn't line up. There is no way he's a prophet because if he were a prophet, he would see this woman the way I see her, he would know who's touching him. And what kind of woman she is, that she is a sinner.
So Jesus does his Jesus thing, he smiles and then he tells Simon and everyone at the table, a parable. And at the end of the parable, essentially, this is what he says Simon, this woman sees what you can't see. This woman sees what you refuse to see you. You can't see past your flawed frame of reference, your self-righteousness. Simon, your pride has locked you in and it's locked me out. But this woman, she sees what you can't see because she recognizes her failure, her limitations, her sin so she recognizes me. And then maybe just to stir things up a bit more Jesus turns to the woman and he says the unsay able. He says, "Your sin are forgiven". And the response of Simon and the other guests around the table underscores their inability to see who is sitting at the table with them.
And so they ask, they ask a question I would hope everyone would ask at some point in their life who is this? Who is this who even forgives sin? That is a great question. In fact, that is the question who is this? And they didn't know, but she did. They didn't recognize him, but she did. The question is do you, and do I? I mean, the thing is we are so quick to judge all these narrow minded ancient people, but we shouldn't be, that's just arrogance, that's just arrogance that potentially camouflages our own blindness. Their inability to see and understand while in the presence of Jesus, should cause all of us, should cause all of us to retreat to a posture of open-handed, open-minded humility again, if they missed him, if they couldn't recognize who was right in front of them, who's to say that we won't.
I know this for way too many years while doing ministry, I was blinded by my personal righteousness approach to faith, my personal righteousness approach to faith went something like this, fidelity, morality, honesty, a rigid generosity, that was my framework. Somewhere along the way, I was convinced that those things were all that was required of me. In other words, as long as I behaved myself, I had no obligation to yourself, you were up to you. And looking back honestly, looking back it is amazing to me, how much of the new Testament was invisible to me. It was right in front of me and I couldn't see it. And you know why, the way I describe it? I had built a temple, a temple to my personal version of faith.
Now, the problem with temples is this, they are very difficult to change. Temples are very difficult to deconstruct, we may rearrange the furniture from time to time, but that's about it temples, the walls are solid, they're high they're impenetrable and our routines become ingrained, our assumptions well they're set in stone, this is how it's done, this is how faith works, this is what faith does, this is what faith never does, what it always does. And in my case, my temple empowered me to ignore, to judge and honestly, in some instances mistreat the temple beside me, the temple in front of me, the temple that didn't look like me, act like me, worship like me, do faith like me.
And while I don't think I'll ever go back to that, I don't think for a moment that I have a corner on the truth market. I assume, I just assume every single day that I have more to learn, more to change, more to discover, errors to correct, more to unearth regarding the gospels, or my heavenly father and Jesus what he came to do. So I have tried so hard not to build a new temple but the problem is this if I stop learning, if I stop growing, if I put down a foundation in error, half-truths, half-baked insights to put it another way. I'm trying not to build another temple to house my current views. I've opted instead for what I call the tabernacle because tabernacles are than temples.
I don't know if you remembered this, but in the old Testament, the Jewish people had a tabernacle, the Hebrew people had a tabernacle. And do you remember what it was made of? Not stone, it was a tent. It was a tent that the nation of Israel carried with them wherever they went and it was a reminder that God was portable, he was not tied down. He was not in a box while he didn't change, while God never changed he constantly accommodated to the capacity of his followers meaning that his followers always had more to learn as their capacity and as their understanding increased.
This is why our faith, our views of God and our prayers have to grow up because Tabernacles are way better than temples, they aren't made of stone. They move, they require attention, maintenance, repair and the same is true of my worldview. My view of God, my understanding of Jesus. And here's the thing, the prayer I want to suggest today is just one way I keep my heart and my hands open. It's like a daily reminder that I still have such a long way to go in my understanding of my infinite yet intimate heavenly father and his son that I dare not stop seeking, I dare not stop asking and I dare not stop knocking or as the apostle Paul writes, I dare not stop renewing my mind every single day.
So today I wanna suggest a short prayer to add to your current prayer routine. It's not original with me, the Psalmist had a version of this, the old Testament prophets had a version of this and Bart had a version of this and honestly I liked Bart's version best because it's short and it gets right to the point. And like Jesus' disciples, Bart had a first hand encounter with Jesus.
Now, this encounter takes place on Jesus' final leg of his journey to Jerusalem on his way to Jerusalem he passes through the city of Jericho, about 18 miles East of Jerusalem and Luke who interviewed all the eye witnesses to all these stories, tells us what happened, here's what happened. As Jesus approached Jericho a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging and Mark tells us that his name was Bartimaeus. And when he heard, when he heard the crowd going by he asked, "Hey, what's happening"? And they told him, Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. And this was gonna be his once in a lifetime opportunity so he sets aside whatever pride he has left and he called out as loud as he could, "Jesus son of David have mercy on me. Jesus son of David have mercy on me".
And those who lead the way, those who led the way rebuked him. And they said be quiet, but he shouted all the more. And I love what happens next. Jesus is on his way, think about this. Jesus is on his way to his most important appointment ever, to pay for the sin of the world. This is his date with destiny. But Jesus stopped and he ordered that Bartimaeus be brought to him. That is amazing, it's convicting and it's inspiring when we decide to follow Jesus from time to time, we stop. When Jesus came near, he asked Bartimaeus and what he asked him is kind of funny but I think it was intentional. He says to Bartimaeus, "What do you want me to do for you? What can I do for you"? What a strange question to ask and what a strange question for a miracle worker to ask a blind man, but perhaps Jesus asks it for the benefit of those who are standing close by and maybe he asks it for our benefit as well.
So what follows is Bartimaeus' prayer. It's short, it's sweet, it's right to the point when you read his answer to Jesus' question you know, what can I do for you? It may not strike you as a prayer, but it is because what is prayer? Prayer is talking to God, making our requests known to God. And that's exactly what our friend Bartimaeus does. And he responds he says, "Lord, I want to see". "What can I do for you Bartimaeus"? "Lord I want to see". Let me ask you do you wanna see, do you wanna see? Do you wanna see what you can currently see even if it requires letting go, even if it requires giving up admitting you've been wrong? Do you want to be right even if it doesn't feel right? Do you wanna see? Most people don't Jesus says to him, he says, "Receive your sight. Your faith has healed you". And immediately he received his sight.
And immediately I love this, and immediately Bartimaeus did with those who could not see beyond their reputation, beyond their wealth beyond their theology, but beyond their ideology he did immediately what so many people in the new Testament refuse to do. The text says, and he followed Jesus to Jerusalem. And he saw, he saw what we would long to be able to go back and see. The events that would unfold to become the salvation of the world. This is the prayer Lord, I wanna see. Lord, I want to see. Seeing is clarifying, but the problem is the reason we resisted is sometimes it's terrifying. It usually requires something of us, compassion, an apology, forgiveness, restoration, admitting we're wrong. But the alternative is to live and to walk in the dark. Worse, if we're not willing to see, we may miss Jesus. We will certainly miss-interpret Jesus or worse, we might like Judas attempt to use Jesus.
As we've discussed throughout the series, the purpose of prayer is not to bend or to woo God in our direction. The purpose of prayer to align our wills with God's will. And that becomes so much easier when we see the world and the people in the world the way he does, it becomes easier when we see ourselves the way he does as well, Lord I want to see. Sandra my wife has her own version of this prayer it's longer and perhaps it's better it is certainly more emotional. Here's how she prays or expresses this same sentiment. She prays, "Let the things heavenly father let the things that bring you joy bring me joy In other words, I wanna see as you see and let the things that break your heart, break my heart allow me to see the world the way that you see it and allow me to see the people in the world the way that you see them. And then give me the courage to respond appropriately Lord, help me to see".
Now as you know there are multiple things that keep us in the dark three in particular, that I wanna make you aware of as we wrap up. Three in particular number one our past, secondly, our personality and third, our prejudice these three things in particular, have a tendency to color and distort our ability to interpret the world around us accurately. Our past is basically the sum of all of our experiences our upbringing, our religion, our joys, our sorrows, our privilege, our pain, our personalities, right? The way that we're wired, our temperaments our Engramme numbers, just the way that we are it becomes a filter it makes it difficult sometimes to see.
And then of course our prejudices. The things that we prefer, if you don't like that word often connected to our past, right? How we were treated, how we saw other people, treated acknowledging our prejudice, acknowledging our prejudice the things we just naturally like, or don't like is imperative for Jesus followers because we can't love well until we see clearly. These are the lenses through which we see and interpret the world. Within the context of faith these three things have the potential to create a distorted version of our faith. These three things have the potential to create an unchrist like version of Christianity.
So, this week I want to challenge you to pray the Bartimaeus prayer, or you can pray the Sandra prayer either one first thing in the morning, throughout the day when you're tempted to close your hands and anger or frustration, when somebody just gets on your nerves when you're worried, when you're afraid when you're tempted heavenly Father I wanna see. Help me to see as you see help me to see him, help me to see her the way that you see them help me to see as you see So I will respond in a way that honors you. And heavenly Father enable me to see beyond my past, beyond my personality and certainly beyond my prejudice. Heavenly Father I want to see, I don't want to walk in the dark. I don't wanna build a temple to a God who doesn't even exist. Heavenly Father I want to see.
It's human nature to resist things we can't control or don't understand. It's human nature to hold on to what's comfortable. Following Jesus requires movement, growth, change. It eventually requires us to let go of comfortable ways of thinking, comfortable assumptions, prejudices and beliefs. But there's a promise attached In fact Jesus summarizes the promise in a way that I would imagine you've heard before maybe not the front end of this promise. Here's what he says he says if you, this is Jesus speaking, if you will hold if you will hold to my teaching if you will cling to my teaching, even when it conflicts with what you were raised on what you were raised to assume about the world and the people in the world if you will embrace my teaching, here's the promise if you will hold my teaching, you really are my followers.
And then you'll know the truth and the truth will set you free the truth will set you free to see me as I really am He says, the truth will set you free to see the world as it really is. The truth will set You free to see the people around you. The people that you get along with and the people that you hope you don't run into. You will be able to see the people around you clearly. And then he says oh, and there's more thing If the son sets you free Jesus is if you allow me to set you free, if you will cling to my teaching and you know the truth and you're set free if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed. Free to see as your heavenly Father sees. One more time, do you wanna see?