Eyes to See in an Unreligious World, part one

Many years ago, I was driving home for the weekend from college. My contacts were irritating my eyes so bad, I had to pull off the interstate and park on the ramp. A police officer knocked on my window and said, “You can’t park here. This is for emergency parking only.”

I tried to explain to him, I was taking out my contacts so I could see to drive the rest of the way home. His answer was the same, “You can’t park here.”

I said, “I can’t drive either. Until I get these contacts out I can barely open my eyes!” He might or might not have had a suspicion that I was on drugs. But ultimately, he saw my red eyes get better after the contacts came out. With a warning about safety on the highway, he sent me on home.

Like my eyes with something irritating my contacts, there are many believers who journey through this life without being able to actually see the Kingdom of God breaking out all around them. They grapple with questions, but never push hard enough to find the truth. They are disabled by doubt. They are mired in their comfortable “saved” life. And they struggle to surrender to the King.

Eyes to See in an Unreligious World,” is two-part commentary on John 9 where we will explore and hopefully discover how Jesus’ followers can experience a deeper life in God’s Kingdom.

Let’s set the stage for our journey. Jesus is in Jerusalem on a Sabbath. There is a significant amount of tension. His ministry has created both a religious and a political crisis for the Teachers of the Law. He teaches with authority and backs it up with miracles. Jesus threatens their power. He challenges their control. The religious leaders are jealous and searching for a way to kill Him.

As the chapter begins, Jesus comes upon a grown man who was born blind. His followers ask an honest question: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” This question reveals the stark difference between Jesus’ Kingdom and the religious system that had usurped the scripture in the first century. The religious scholars could debate the question. They focused on the punitive consequences for a sinner. Jesus’ answer put the glory of God at the center of the experience, “Neither, he was born blind so that the works of God could be displayed in him.”

God works all things together for our good and His glory.

God Invites Your Honest Questions. He is transparent. He loves you. The bad things that happen are consequences of sin. It may be your sin. You made a decision and are facing the natural consequences of that decision. It may be someone else’s sin. They made a decision and you have been sucked into the natural consequences. It may just be because sin has entered the world and it is broken (like natural disasters). The Bible teaches us that God works all things together for our good and His glory (see Romans 8:28).

As the chapter continues, Jesus spits on the ground making some mud and rubs it on the guy’s eyes. He then instructs him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. So the man did as Jesus had told him and he came home seeing.

Faith doesn’t just believe in God; faith believes God.

Doubt is not always a bad thing. It is reasonable to discern truth from a lie. But many people have fallen into a habit of doubting. It turns into an unhealthy skepticism. This habit erodes their ability to trust. It tears apart their relationships. And it robs them of a “childlike faith.”

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (see Hebrews 11:1 emphasis mine). Let me share three ways I believe Doubt Disables Faith:

  1. Those Who Hesitate Lose – My dad had a saying when I was a kid, “those who hesitate lose.” That is what happens when we fall into a habit of doubting. Why? Because once we know what God is asking us to do, hesitation is disobedience. Doubt can cause us to miss the opportunity.
  2. The Paralysis of Analysis – Too many questions bog us down. We are never able to make a decision. Faith is risk. Faith is acting on what God has said.
  3. Doubting Thomas Syndrome – Yes, Jesus said to count the cost. He said be wise as serpents. We are not to be foolish. But He also said the wise man “puts into practice” what He said. A doubter buries the “talent” in the backyard. He never gets it. He never understands that Faith is about productivity not preservation.

Following Jesus cannot be reduced to a formula. Yet, a formula can be very helpful to understanding a truth.

Faith + Active Response = Blessing

Jesus’ half brother, James, wrote one of the most practical books of the Bible. It challenges many people’s doctrine today. As a matter of fact, Martin Luther thought the book of James should be thrown out of the Bible. In the second chapter, James is talking about Faith + Actions. He mentions Abraham’s obedience to sacrifice his son Isaac, and concludes:

” 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” – James 2:22-24

James basically says that it is not Faith vs. Action. It is Faith + Action.

Recently, when teaching this concept, I pulled a $5 out of my wallet (okay so I am cheap – it was that or a $1 the only other bill I had at the time was $100). I told a young man it was his $5. I continued to teach referring back to the fact that the $5 was the young man’s several times. Finally, I asked him if he believed me. He said that he did. And I told him as long as I had the $5 it was not of any value to him. He got up and came and took the $5. Proving my point. Faith isn’t just believing something. It is acting upon that belief!

To experience the deeper life possible in the Kingdom of God, we have to be willing to ask honest questions and push hard to discover the God’s truth. We will also have to shake off our doubts and take a risk. Make a decision to trust Jesus and live out a faith response to His Word.

Watch for “Eyes to See in an Unreligious World, part two”!

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