Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
From Darkness to Light - March 26, 2017 - Fourth Sunday in Lent - Text: Is. 42:14-21
Most of us know that we have five senses. The sense of touch, taste, smell, hearing and seeing. Most of us also know what it means when we lose any one of these senses. People who cannot hear are called deaf people; people who cannot speak are referred to mute people, although I believe years ago they were actually called “dumb” people; and people who cannot see are called blind people. Now, if you were asked, would you rather be blind or deaf, what would you choose? I believe most people would rather be deaf than blind, for the simple fact that most of us believe it is easier to get around without our hearing than it would be to get around without our sight. Personally, and I believe I speak for most all of us, we would all prefer to have all our senses and have all of them working, at least a well as they can work.
This morning our Bible readings speak to us about our sense of sight. The question we might ask ourselves is, “Do we have eyes that see or eyes that do not see?” In our Epistle Lesson it is the darkness which reminds us of being unable to see, because in real darkness, we cannot see. Paul’s words remind us of the fact that as sinners, when we sin, we are indeed walking in darkness. Very often sin is compared to darkness and sin is compared to blindness. We are spiritually blind, we sin, we do not know what we are doing when we sin. It is only as our eyes are opened, it is only as light is shined into our lives that we become aware of the nature of our sin and our need to repent.
Not only does the Epistle lesson speak of such darkness and blindness, so does the Gospel lesson. In the Gospel lesson we have the account of Jesus healing the blind man. Of course the problem in our Gospel lesson is the fact that Jesus did this healing on the Sabbath day, which was a “no-no” according to the Pharisees. Two important points from this Gospel lesson are these, first notice that, according to Jesus, the man was not born blind because of anyone’s sin in particular, reminding us that we live in a world that has been infected by sin and so there are bad things in this world, and again notice Jesus’ words, that this man’s blindness would give glory to God. Second, notice that it really was not the blind man who could not see, but it was the Pharisees who could not see and here we are speaking of spiritual blindness. The Pharisees were indeed spiritually blind, not being able to “see” that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, even the Savior of the world.
Yes, the Epistle lesson, the Gospel lesson and our text, the Old Testament lesson, all three talk about blindness. In the Old Testament lesson God, through Isaiah, promises to lead those who cannot see. The reference concerning these blind who cannot see is that they cannot see because of their sins. They are blinded by sin and cannot see the way to go, so God must lead the way.
How might we apply this to ourselves and our lives today? When is it that our eyes do not see, especially concerning Christ our Messiah? We become blind when we are blinded by the falsehoods of this world. We mentioned it last week and other times before, but we are very much like the children of Israel. When the children of Israel were given the promised land they were told to go in and destroy all those who were living in the land. This was important because this was God’s judgement on the land and because God did not want the heathen nations living in the land to influence His chosen people. Here we might point out that purity of God’s word is seen to be more important than evangelism. If evangelism were more important, God would have had the Israelites go in and evangelize the land rather than cleanse the land, instead, because God knew the temptation of the idolatry of those living in the land He judged them to be completely destroyed. Anyway, what happened was that the Israelites failed to do what God commanded. Instead of cleansing the land they settled in the land and began to be influenced by those living in the land so that instead of standing firm in their faith and influencing those in the land, they began to be influenced, to be like the heathen nations who were living in the land. They became blind to God’s commands, to God’s will, to their own sin. Likewise, as we live in this country, we have a tendency to be like the people of this country, as the saying goes, “When in Rome, live as the Romans.” We see this time and again as we see churches and denominations give up their teachings and take on the appearance of the world, allowing for sins God does not allow: abortion, homosexuality, infidelity, stealing, killing and the like, often all in the name of what is called tolerance.
We are blinded by the sins of the world and we are blinded by our own sinfulness. How often do we find ourselves sinning and then we attempt to justify our sin. We suggest that there is a gray area and we are not doing anything that hurts anyone else. Or we believe we are sinning, but it is for the greater good. Most often I would suggest that we sin and we simply do not realize we are sinning. And there are also times when we simply do not want to know that what we are doing is sinning because we believe that gives us an excuse, because we did not know. And other times we blatantly simply ignore our sin and go on sinning.
And we are blinded by lack of faith and knowledge of God. Here again, I am amazed at how many people refrain from a serious study of God’s Word, being in Bible class and asking the hard questions because we like our life or our lifestyle and we do not want to know that what we are doing is sinning, because then we may have to stop. Yes, we are by nature sinful and unclean. We are conceived and born in sin. We are spiritually blind, spiritually dead and enemies of God. Yes, every inclination of our heart is evil all the time and this cannot be used as an excuse.
So, how do we learn to see? When do our eyes see, especially when do our eyes see the Messiah? When we are having eye problems and are having a hard time seeing, what do we do? We go to the doctor, the eye doctor. When we are having spiritual eye problems and when we are having a hard time seeing straight spiritually, we go to our spiritual eye doctor, we go to the Lord. We go to the Lord first and foremost when we go to Him in the Word. As some have described the Bible as “Basic instruction before leaving earth.” So, we go to the Word of God where He speaks to us and gives us the good gifts and blessings He has to give. The Bible is God’s Word. The Bible is a book of and with authority. The Bible does what it says because it is God’s Word and God speaking. The problem of our world is that for too many people the Bible is placed on an even level or even below man’s reasoning, in other words, man’s reasoning and thinking is placed on an even level or above God’s Word and the problem with this scenario is that man’s reason has been tainted by sin. It is only as we realize our own blindness and the perfect authority of God’s word that we can come to His Word and allow Him to speak to us through His Word.
When the Holy Spirit comes to us through God’s Word, He opens our eyes so that we can see clearly. Yes, it is God, the great physician and High Priest who comes to us, through the means of His Word, to correct our sight, to heal our blindness, to give us sight. As the Lord gives us sight, He helps us to see and better understand His Word and what His Word speaks to us. He opens our hearts and minds to see the fullness of His Word and His Gospel, even the fullness of His love for us.
As our eyes are open and as we begin to see then we realize our need to stay away from ungodly places. As our eyes are open and we begin to see clearly, we are better able to discern from what is good, mete, right and salutary and what is temptation and sin. Our desire to go in the direction of sin decreases and our desire to be more regular and diligent in the use of the means of grace increases so that we hunger and thirst after the Lord and His Word so that we simply cannot get enough. And interestingly enough, even while we have eyes that desire to do what is good, as we grow in our faith our eyes are open to see that the more we grow in our faith and the desire to do what is good the more we realize just how sinful we truly are and thus just how great God’s love for us truly is and how we need to cling to Him and Him alone for our salvation.
What does this mean? One of the reasons for the season of Lent is that this is the time of the year, especially, that we contemplate our sins and our part in putting Jesus on the cross. Yes, we are susceptible to sin. We are conceived and born in sin. Sinning comes natural to us, so natural we do not even need to practice. And, most of the time when we are sinning we are not thinking about the fact that we are sinning, if we were, we would probably stop. Sinning is not a problem for us, at least from our ability to sin, however, sinning is a big problem to us because it is our sinning that keeps us in the dark. It is our sinning that keeps us blind. It is our sin that separates us from God. And it is the price of our sin that must paid.
Although God commands that we not sin and even more, His command is that we are perfect, we know that we cannot stand on our own. On our own we cannot quit sinning. We need and must have help. Thanks be to God that He has promised that He will never leave us. He has promised that He will help us. He has promised that we may call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.
So it is with the Lord’s help and only with the Lord’s help that we can do all things. We know that when it comes to our abilities, we fail, but we also know that with God, all things are possible. God is the one who called all things into being. God is the one who promised to take care of our sin. God is the one who came in human flesh, intervening in human history. God in Christ, is the One who lived perfectly for us in our place because we cannot. God, in Christ, is the One who took our sins upon Himself in order to pay the price, the eternal spiritual death penalty for us, in our place so that we might have forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Yes, with God’s help and only with God’s help are all things possible.
This morning we rejoice and give thanks and praise to our great God especially because of His gift of eyes, eyes that see. Thanks be to God that He gives us eyes that see our spiritual nature, the fact that we are conceived and born in sin, the fact that we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness, but even more, thanks be to God that He gives us eyes that see that Jesus is our Savior. Thanks be to God that He gives us eyes to see how Jesus is the one promised in the Garden of Eden, the one reiterated to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, King David and the like. Thanks be to God that He has given us eyes to see how Jesus is God in flesh who lived for us, died for us and rose for us. Thanks be to God that He gives us perfect eyesight, faith, forgiveness and life. And thanks be to God that He moves in us to give thanks and to rejoice. Yes, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.