The grace of giving

The grace of giving

Photo by Jordan Rowland on Unsplash

Based on 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

A man said:

“If I had some extra money, I’d give it to God, but I have just enough to support myself and my family.”

“If I had some extra time, I’d give it to God, but every minute is taken up with my job, my family, my clubs, and what have you—every single minute.”

“If I had a talent I’d give it to God, but I have no lovely voice; I have no special skill; I’ve never been able to lead a group; I can’t think cleverly or quickly, the way I would like to.”

God was touched, so out of grace and love He gave that man money, time, and a glorious talent… and then He waited, and waited, and waited. Then after a while, He shrugged His shoulders, and He took all those things right back from the man, the money, the time and the glorious talent. After a while, the man sighed and said, “If I only had some of that money back, I’d give it to God. If I only had some of that time, I’d give it to God. If I could only rediscover that glorious talent, I’d give it to God.” 1

This is how many people think about giving to God. They first give excuses, and, then dismiss Him, yet… God is still gracious and generous.

It can be difficult to talk about money, but there are over 2000 references to money in scripture, and… the Bible urges us to give our money to God.

As we heard in our reading, Paul urges the church of Corinth to give because the church of Macedonia gave.  But giving is a challenge.  However, there are benefits to that challenge, because giving is itself an act of grace, and this is highlighted in our passage from 2 Corinthians.  In fact, the word grace (“charis”) occurs five times in 2 Corinthians 8:1–9.

It is a wonderful thing when Christians enter into the grace of giving.  Paul shows us a number of benefits when our giving is motivated by grace. 2

One benefit is Joy in times of testing.

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. (2 Corinthians 8:2, NIV) 

The example of the churches in Macedonia should encourage you.  Even though they were going through a hard time they still wanted to give.  In fact, they begged to give!  So even if you are going through difficult times, God will still be faithful to you.  He will still provide for you.  That’s the abundance that God gives you in times of testing.

It’s also possible to have wealth through poverty.  Studies show poorer people generally seem to have a greater ability to identify with those in need, have a greater longing for the coming of the kingdom of God, and, as a result, tend to release their finances more easily.

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. (2 Corinthians 8:3–5, NIV)

Paul also talks about how the Macedonians gave themselves first to the Lord (v.5).  This is highlighting our need to have an attitude of sacrifice and joy in our giving.  You see Paul is laying down the principle that people who give generously out of love for the Lord and His church grow and mature in their faith because they don’t count the cost.

Paul goes on to say that giving tests our love for Jesus, as we prove our love by the way we give. This brings us to a major implication:  There is no way to grow to spiritual maturity without committing your finances to the Lord. It’s possible for Jesus to have our money and not have our hearts, but he cannot have our hearts without our money… because money is so entwined with our soul.

Some say that the average person spends 50 percent of their time thinking about money.  How accurate that is I don’t know, BUT I do believe that our handling of money defines our affections, the things we truly treasure, and how tightly we are bound to the world.

There are many “reasons” why we can’t give.  “It’s too hard.”  “I have so many obligations.”  But God’s Word says to excel in this act of grace now.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9, NIV)

The GRACE of GIVING was first revealed in the life of Jesus.  Jesus was rich.  He was God’s Son.  He resided in Heaven.  When He came to Earth, He didn’t decide to be born in a rich palace. Instead, He chose to be born into a poor family. He was born in a borrowed cradle, preached from a borrowed boat, rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, ate His Last Supper in a borrowed room, and was buried in a borrowed grave.  He who made everything laid it all down and entered into total poverty that weI might be rich. The truth is this: through His poverty we have eternal wealth!

So Jesus has made everyone rich but… He himself was in total poverty for His entire adult life. That should say something about our desire for money.  We shouldn’t worry about it, and we shouldn’t seek it above anything else.

This leads me to the next benefit of the grace of giving. Giving in Grace increases my willingness to do God’s will.

And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.  (2 Corinthians 8:10, NIV)

There is a great difference between promise and performance.  The Corinthians had boasted to Titus a year before that they would share in the special collection (2 Cor. 8:6), but… they did not keep their promise.

In 2 Corinthians 8:10–12 Paul emphasises the willingness to give.  You see, grace giving must come from a willing heart; it cannot be coerced or forced.

Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. (2 Corinthians 8:11, NIV)

Note that Paul only gives one command in these verses about giving: that it should be proportionate.  You see I am to give sacrificially, and that is likely to be a different amount to someone else.  The Bible doesn’t say that we should give equally.  However, we are commanded, though, to give equal sacrifice.

At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”   (2 Corinthians 8:14–15, NIV)

This isn’t Robin Hood… for God doesn’t steal from the rich and give to the poor. That is socialism.  God doesn’t give everyone the same amount.  No, what God gives us is miraculous blessings.  When I am in need, God readily uses someone else to provide for my need.  Likewise, when someone else is in need, God uses me to help them.

The bottom line is this; it doesn’t matter how much you make.  What matters is with how much grace you give.

In the name of the Father…

1 Lois Cheney, God is No Fool, by Lois Cheney, 1969, Abindgon Press, Galaxie Software, 10,000 Sermon Illustrations (Biblical Studies Press, 2002).

2 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 655.

Sunday 3rd March 2019

What image of God do you have?

What image of God do you have?

I remember in the 1990’s a book called “The Bible Code” by Michael Drosnin, an Israeli mathematician. It’s about a hidden code in the Bible which is supposed to reveal details of some events which took place thousands of years after the Bible was written.  The book was a good read and fairly plausible, but it failed to convince many serious theologians, despite being published to a frenzy of media attention, and became a Number One bestseller.

The book of Revelation also appears to be written in some sort of code.  Not least because John uses unfamiliar and symbolic language, which makes it particularly difficult to understand. The visions in Revelation draw to a large extent on the Old Testament, especially on the books of Ezekiel, Zechariah and Daniel, which are couched in very similar language.  All these books are known as apocalyptic literature because they’re concerned with disaster and the end of the world and Judgement Day.

There are mixed views as to whether we’re supposed to take literally the vivid descriptions and harsh words found in Revelation.  However, they are nevertheless powerful symbolic descriptions.  For instance, in Revelation chapter 5 Jesus is described as a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes – a very bizarre animal indeed! But it helps to know that in Judaism the number seven signified perfection, that horns signified power and eyes signified knowledge.  With this understanding the description begins to make sense; it becomes clearer that the author is actually describing Jesus as a perfect being, with perfect knowledge, and perfect power.

Today’s reading from Revelation chapter 4 describes a supernatural vision of heaven. How good is your imagination?  When you read or hear this passage from Revelation do you form a picture in your mind, or is it all too much?

The writer of Revelation sees a walled city entered by a door.  This is clearly a supernatural and spiritual vision, where the writer is transported into the court of heaven, which is very similar to an earthly court.

God is seen at the centre sitting on a mighty throne.  Sitting on lesser thrones around God are twenty-four elders, representing the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles, in other words, the cream of the Old Testament personnel, together with the cream of the New Testament.

There are four living creatures who worship the throne.  These too are significant, … but who are they?  There are differing views.  Some say they symbolise Jesus.

The lion symbolises the kingship of Christ, for Christ IS the conquering Ruler of all.

The Ox symbolises the priesthood of Christ, for Christ IS the sacrifice for our sins. By His blood our sins are washed away.

The man symbolises the humanity of Christ.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God; God made flesh, born as one of us.

The eagle symbolises the divinity of Christ, for He has risen high above the earth to the heavenly realm.

Others say they represent the rest of humanity, and all creation.  So the lion, the ox, the human being and the eagle symbolise respectively what is noblest, strongest, wisest, and swiftest in creation. Whichever is the case, all creation is gathered around the throne of God, nothing is excluded.

And the throne itself? Not only is it composed of every kind of jewel and gemstone, but is also somehow organic, for it emits flashes of lightening and rumblings and peals of thunder.  In front of the throne seven flaming torches are burning, representing the seven spirits of God, (see below for details)With seven being the perfect number these flaming torches represent the perfection of God.

When describing the majesty, wonder and immensity of God, it’s difficult to find either adequate words or an adequate scenario to even begin to do justice to God.  Human words fail, and the highest and most impressive scenario is a royal court with all its splendour and majesty, so it’s almost inevitable that an image of God’s greatness should be seen in these terms.

For some the God portrayed in Revelation strikes terror into their heart.  They struggle to see that He is a God ready to act to protect them or to remove terror from them.  They see Him in as being terrifying, just waiting to zap errant human beings who scarcely dare breathe in case they put a foot wrong.  We can understand why people don’t want to know this God; they go out of their way to keep as far away as possible.

On the other hand, some Christians are guilty of portraying a God who is so weak and pathetically indulgent that He could barely be described by the word “God”.  “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild”, has surely put off thousands of red-blooded people over the years.

The truth is God is much vaster than we are. We can never catch more than a glimpse of him.  But we can make sure that the glimpses we get are as accurate and rounded a picture of God as possible.

What image of God do you have?

As Christians, our image of God is conveyed to us by Jesus when he was on earth, because He is, after all, the human face of God.  But we ignore at our peril the majesty, dominion and awesome might of God and Jesus as portrayed in Revelation.

So, if we’re serious about connecting with God, about tuning in to Him, about helping others to meet with Him, then perhaps we should remember (as Revelation shows us so clearly) that God is Creator and Sustainer of everything, therefore, all creatures in heaven and earth will praise and honour Him. 

Worthy are you, our Lord and God to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.  Rev. 4:11

In the name…

Sunday 24th Feb 2019

The seven Spirits of God

1. The Spirit of Justification (1 Corinthians 12:3, 1 Corinthians 6:11).

2. The Spirit of Sanctification: (2 Thessalonians 2:13, Galatians 5:16, 25 and Romans 8:1-14)

3. The Spirit of Life: (Romans 8:2, 11,15-19)

4. The Spirit of Truth: (John 14:17, John 15:26).

5. The Spirit of Wisdom: (Ephesians 1:17, 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, John 14:26).

6. The Spirit of Deliverance: (Matthew 12:28)

7. The Spirit of Prayer: (Romans 8:26, Ephesians 6:18)

Another school of thought maps the four living creatures on to the Gospel writers:

Matthew:  The man

Mark:  The Lion

Luke:  The Ox

John:  The Eagle

Lost sheep

Lost sheep

Photo by FOYN on Unsplash

Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent’ (Luke 15:3-7).

Recently Barbara and I were out on a dog walk and came across a couple of sheep walking down the lane!  It was obvious they shouldn’t be there as we could see other sheep behind the fence to the field we were waking alongside.  They could see their ‘friends’ but couldn’t find the hole in the fence to get back to them.  They were vulnerable and skittish.  Fortunately we guessed correctly who they belonged to and found the farmer who quickly got them back into the field.

Jesus always used parables within a certain context, often in response to a question that someone would ask, or they arose out of a particular situation. The parable of the lost sheep is no exception; it was told by Jesus when the Pharisees criticised Him for socialising with sinners.  In a nut shell this parable is a story of compassion as Jesus reveals his rescue mission for sinners.

The parable begins with a straying sheep. A sheep apart from its shepherd is vulnerable, defenceless and in grave danger. What we can take from this is that Jesus views any person apart from Him as lost.

How are they lost? Well, the truth is their sins have alienated them from God, leaving them groping aimlessly in darkness. Isaiah 59:9 explains, and so warns, what this is like:

“So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows” (Isaiah 59:9).

That doesn’t really sound like a nice place to be walking in.

Maybe some shepherds would have despised that lost sheep and may even have decided to take no action, leaving it alone, maybe hoping that it would find its own way home, as the 99 were more important.  However, the shepherd in the parable didn’t despise his straying sheep, he left the 99 in “open countryside” and went looking for the lost one. I believe that this reveals Jesus’ heart of compassion.

Jesus values each sinner the Father entrusts to Him.  Remember Jesus’ words when He is teaching that He is the bread of life:

“And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39).

God looks for us.  He comes after us in order to rescue us and so save us.  You see God sent His Son, we didn’t ask Him to do this.  God sent His Son at the right time.

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)

Because of this Jesus is intent upon rescuing the sinner not only because the Father gave them to Him but… also because He loves them. His love led Him to sacrifice His life on the cross in order to take their punishment for sin.

What did the shepherd do upon finding the wayward sheep?  He joyfully put it on His shoulders.  This also illustrates Christ’s attitude toward the saved sinner, because there is no indication of the shepherd ever rebuking or chiding the lost sheep.  Instead, he hoists the sheep upon his shoulders and takes it home.  He’s a strong man; an adult sheep may weigh anywhere from 100 to 220 pounds; it would be no small effort to carry one over the shoulder.  For joy over finding that which was lost, the shepherd bears the discomfort.

Likewise, Jesus bore the full weight of the discomfort of our sins upon the cross. We read this in 1 Peter 2:24-25:

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness… For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”

So as High Priest and Mediator, He continues to bear our cares, infirmities and sin before the Father.

Finally, the parable of the lost sheep offers an extraordinarily wonderful glimpse of heavenly emotions.   The shepherd called his friends and neighbours together, saying, “Rejoice with me.” The rescue of the lost sheep was a cause for proclamation and celebration.

Similarly, heaven rejoices when a sinner repents and is restored to fellowship with God.  This joy is cheerfulness; it is calm, considered delight. It is a deliberate emotion — thoughtful and sustained.

This is so much more than a picture of raucous dancing and carousing because it is a picture of lasting pleasure and heartfelt satisfaction. Why? A sinner has come home! Such news delights the heart of heaven. Since the beginning, God has been the Good Shepherd who rescues His lost sheep.

When Adam and Eve were hiding in shame because of their sin, He sought them out. He didn’t wait for them to come out, He went after them.  Yes, He disciplined them.  But He promised a Rescuer.

Sadly, for many it appears easier to understand a God who would forgive sinners who come to Him for mercy.  But… a God who tenderly searches for sinners and then joyfully forgives them without rebuking and chiding them must possess an extraordinary love.  This is the love that prompted Jesus to come to earth, to search for lost sinners and save them.  This is the kind of extraordinary love God has for you and me. 

When we begin to understand, or even have the smallest inkling of this love we need never despair again, for God is always searching for us.  So, we should never feel alone and far from God, for He is always near us and searching for us.  Through the blood of His Son He reaches out for the lost to both cover and recover them, such is His unconditional and unending love for us.

So when you go astray, going your own way by putting yourself above God, stop… and let Jesus come to you, put you on His shoulders and carry you back to the flock!  As He does this you will experience the JOY of what was lost has now been found.  As this happens you will sense the rejoicing that is going on in Heaven for you, because you are bringing delight to the Heart of Heaven.

Such knowledge has the power to take away our fears and unworthiness as we bask again in the glory of God.  Praise be to His name for His promises.

From Sunday 17th February 2019

Seeds, soil and fruit

Seeds, soil and fruit

Photo by Lubo Minar on Unsplash

The parable of the sower
( Luke 8:4-15 )

4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.’
When he said this, he called out, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’
9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ‘“though seeing, they may not see;    though hearing, they may not understand.” [a]

11 ‘This is the meaning of the parable: the seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Footnote: [a] Luke 8:10 Isaiah 6:9

Jesus Christ was the master teacher.  He had the unique ability to take scenes from everyday life and use them to teach profound spiritual truths.  The four soil types in this parable give us a glimpse of how the human heart works and why people respond to the Gospel as they do.  Can you identify with one of the soils?  One of these soils paints a perfect picture of your heart.

The first soil is the Hard Soil:  This refers to the narrow footpaths that ran beside and through the fields.  When the seed fell on the footpath, it could not penetrate the soil, so it remained there in the open, only to be eaten by the birds.

Jesus said that this speaks of the person who hears the Gospel, but who doesn’t “understand it”, they cannot make the connection between the claims of the Gospel and their own life.  Maybe they are steeped in sin and refuse to believe.  Maybe they are calloused and cold toward the things of God and refuse to hear.  Maybe they are just indifferent.  Maybe after years of hardening their hearts against the call of the Gospel they simply cannot hear His call.

When this happens, the devil will send his minions to snatch away the Gospel seed by diverting the mind and helping the person become even more hardened against God.  This person is not prepared to let God’s grace work in their heart, for without God’s grace it is extremely hard to lead them to salvation.  Remember God only hardened Pharaoh’s heart after he (Pharaoh) had hardened his own heart first.

The second soil is the Stony Soil: Limestone outcrops covered only by a thin layer of topsoil are everywhere in Palestine.  The seed cast there will germinate and quickly spring up into a promising plant, but, because there is no depth of soil, as soon as the sun beats down on the tender plant, it withers and dies without producing any fruit.

This soil reminds us of the heart that makes an emotional response to the presentation of the Gospel.  Their profession is a shallow one, so when Christianity doesn’t turn out like they thought it would, they quickly fade away and disappear.  They cannot live up to the radical claims of Christ and the cross

Matt. 16:24. Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Thirdly, The Thorny Soil: In this soil there are also living roots and seeds of thorns and weeds.  As they grow together the thorns and weeds choke out the tender plant, resulting in them withering and dying without producing any fruit at all.

This is a picture of a heart that tries to have the benefit of the Gospel while still clinging to the thorns of sin.  Either the seed of God’s word must have the ground or sin must have the ground, it cannot be both!  Jesus said it was the cares of the world and the quest for earthly riches that spelled disaster for this kind of soil.  Such a person begins well, but soon fades away, having their confession of Christ choked out by sin and the world.

Finally, the Good Soil: This soil had been ploughed and tilled and it was ready to receive the seed when it came.  It can grow to full maturity, producing fruit that brings honour and grain to the farmer.

This a picture of the heart ready to receive the Word of God, for it has been tilled and prepared by the grace of God, thus the seed germinates, grows up and bears fruit to the glory of God.

At the end of the day the difference between these soils was fruit.  On the hard soil, the seed did not penetrate, but it disappeared, being removed by the birds. In the other two, the seed disappeared within the ground resulting in a plant, but only the good soil brought forth the fruit of the harvest.

This parable can be understood from the point of view of how unbelievers receive the Word of God, which is the seed of life.  How well has the Gospel message found a lodging place within your heart and life, because we can also apply this parable to all believers.  Are you bearing fruit to the glory of God as you should?

John 15:1-11 teaches that if we are saved, our duty is to abide in Jesus and He will produce His fruit in our lives, as it pleases Him.

Yet, we still need to be careful, for even though we are saved we can allow ourselves to develop the wrong kind of heart.  We can become hard-hearted toward the things of God, toward His House and toward His Word.  When this happens, we will find ourselves fruitless and defeated as a believer.

Or, we can grow shallow in our commitment to the Lord and His work, this too can hinder our fruit production.  Or, we might allow our lives to become filled with the wrong kinds of things, thorns of sin and worldliness that will hinder us and keep us from being fruitful for the glory of the Lord.

What kind of soil is your heart made of?  Is it the kind that seeks moment by moment the plumb line truth of God? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What kind of soil is my heart?
  • Have I become hardened to the things of God?
  • Am I shallow in my commitment to Him and His work?
  • Am I constantly distracted, burdened and defeated by sin and the cares of the world?
  • Am I bearing the kind of fruit I should be bearing?

All this has a direct impact on how good we are at sharing the gospel, how good we are at not only using the gifts that God has given us, but also how good we are at developing the Gifts we have been given. 

All this then has an impact on our desire to fulfil the ministries God has planned for us. As our Heavenly Father he, and only through His grace, strengthens us to do all such good works as He has prepared for us to walk in.  (BCP Prayer of Thanksgiving).

You alone know where you stand with the Lord Jesus Christ on this. Be honest with yourself and with Him and ask Him to show you need to do now.  If you need Him in salvation, in repentance, in rededication, in anything, Jesus is there for you.  Go to Him and receive the Seed of Life.  He is calling you right now!

From Sunday 10th February 2019

Healing physical and spiritual blindness

Healing physical and spiritual blindness

Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash

Based on John 9:1-12

Of the five senses in the human body, our sight may be the most important to us. In 2015 more than 2 million people in the UK were living with sight loss that is severe enough to have a significant impact on their daily lives. 

Chapter 9 of John’s gospel is about a man who, despite being born blind, had a miraculous supernatural encounter when Jesus arrived in town!  This man’s life drastically changed.  Not only did he see with his eyes, but he also came to a clear spiritual view of Christ; he came to see Jesus for who He truly is: The Christ, The Son of God.  This chapter teaches us that healing through Jesus is a divine encounter in which God is totally and directly involved.

Remember, Jesus performed miracles for two reasons: First to meet human needs, and secondly as a means to confirm the truth of the words He spoke.  His miracles were His “credentials” to prove that He was indeed the Messiah (John 20:30-31). So let’s look at this healing from the view of those involved.

The disciples kicked it all off with a question…

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

The disciples had learned from the Rabbis that all disease and suffering is the direct result of sin. Such an idea misses the entire point of the Book of Job. The question that misses the point is “Why do people suffer?”  A more relevant question is “Will we be true to God when we do not understand the reason for our suffering?”

The disciples wanted to know how this case fitted into what they already believed. Sadly, they did not look upon the man as an object of mercy or a sufferer to be relieved, but as a kind of riddle to be solved.

What was the view of Jesus?

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Jesus answers their question and at the same time helps them to see a broader issue.  His words do not explain the cause of the man’s blindness, but the purpose of his blindness, for He sees in the blind man an opportunity to display the works of God.  When we see suffering, do we see it as a problem or a possibility? Do we see hassle, inconvenience, OR do we see an opportunity to display the works of God?

The reaction of the blind man is amazing…

Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

Put yourself behind the darkened eyes of the blind man. His hearing is just fine, but how would you feel, hearing people talk about your spiritual condition with no concern at all for your feelings?  Yet the blind man put them all to silence: he went out and did exactly as Jesus instructed and returned with his eyesight.  

And what about his neighbours’ reaction:

His neighbours and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”  But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” “How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded.  He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash.  So I went and washed, and then I could see.”  “Where is this man?” they asked him.  “I don’t know,” he said.

The miracle was so incredible that the people could not believe their eyes. What is troubling, though, is that no one seems to be rejoicing with the formerly blind man. They are only concerned with who did this!  “Where is this man?” is the question they ask.  We get the impression that they are wondering what Jesus can do for them – “maybe He has something for me too”.

Paul wrote in Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice.”  This little phrase is difficult for the worldly mind to accept because the world is centred on its own interests. 

This miracle also tells us THREE things that happen at conversion to Jesus Christ.

First:     Conversion Begins with God.  The blind man did not initiate his healing, Jesus did!!

The apostle John wrote,

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4)

Secondly   Conversion Involves Faith.

Remember Jesus gave specific instructions to the blind man, “Go, wash your face.”

Do you think this man would have gained his sight if rather than going to the pool of Siloam he went back home and washed in a bowl there?  To have spiritual sight today, people must respond to God’s love in obedient faith.

Finally…

Conversion Begins a Life of Great Change

The word conversion derives from Latin, meaning “to turn about, turn towards.”  The truth is the blind man was physically blind. However, he moves from physical blindness to physical sight, and… then on to spiritual insight.

When asked by his neighbours “Who did this?” he knew that “a man called Jesus” had healed him (v. 11). When the Pharisees questioned him, he declared his belief that Jesus must be “a prophet” (v. 17). Later, he strongly implied that Jesus must be a man from God (vv. 31-33).  And then finally, he came to see Jesus as “the Son of God” and as “Lord” (vv. 35-38), and he worshipped Him.

So conversion begins with God.

Jesus longs to work supernaturally in and through you!  Perhaps you have a heavy spirit today because of something you’re going through now.  Let Jesus make some mud for you and invite Him to apply it to the area of your life that needs healing.   He is ready to bless you with His supernatural healing, making you whole so that you can continue your life journey with Him and your Heavenly Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Amen.

Based on a sermon delivered on Sunday 3rd February 2019