“Many men live in the dark to themselves all their days; whatever else they know, they know not themselves.” John Owen – great Puritan theologian and non conformist and one of the greatest Protestant theologians of all time.
“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3
This penetrating question of our Savior comes towards the end of what was probably at least a 45 minute sermon, (normally referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount”), given to a crowd of disciples, who presumably wanted to follow Jesus. If you are reading this blog, I’m presuming you also want to follow Jesus.
Since you want to follow Jesus, I hope you will not be offended when I say you are more than likely walking in some degree of spiritual blindness. This is especially true if you are a member of the church in America. The way to know for sure is by answering some questions like these:
Whose sins or problems or weaknesses do you give more attention to in a given day or week – yours or someone else’s?
When you left the last worship gathering/service of fellow believers, and began your trek home, whose sins or need to change was most in your mind and perhaps reflected in your words – yours or someone else’s?
When you read or listen to the news these days, do you walk away in any way aware of your own sins, or do you get caught up in the greatest American pastime – focusing on our government leaders’ sins?
Most Americans even most American Christians in most conversations talk about anything but their own sins.
We leaders of the church have created a church culture that basically says if you as a Christian and member of our churches are busy with church attendance and church activities, be they Bible studies or benevolence ministries or children’s or youth ministries or whatever, then you are a good Christian. And the busier you are in these things, the gooder you are!
Often in the church culture, the very things (programs and activities) that have been designed to help people become godly and holy Christians end up keeping them from it because their participation in them give them/us a false sense of accomplishment and standing with the Lord, and keep us so busy we have no time to listen to the Holy Spirit regarding sin areas in our lives He wants to clean up.
The Laodicean church was well off financially (and presumably had many other “good church” things in place)– which led them to believe that they must have been pleasing to God – yet Jesus said – “Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, …” Revelation 3:17
Jesus was speaking to the church in Laodicea whom He has just rebuked for being lukewarm in vs. 15,16. Central to lukewarmness is that of being oblivious to one’s real spiritual need. We in the West especially are easily fooled into thinking we are doing ok spiritually because we are doing ok materially/financially, and there is no apparent crisis going on in our lives or relationships, and we are busy serving the Lord in one way or another. Please note the stark difference in the way these believers thought of themselves in vs. 17 and how Jesus assessed them.
One of the major lessons from Jesus’s letters to those seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 is there are things the church in all its busyness is blind to. We may be seeing some things correctly. We may be doing some things that please Him. But there are often issues of the heart, attitudes or thought patterns that He is not pleased with, and that we need to repent of. And unless we learn to hear His voice re: these things and unless we come to a place in our walk with Him where we long to see these things, we will continue in spiritual blindness to one degree or another.
So what are some steps towards overcoming spiritual blindness?
Well here are a few things that have helped me (Randy) over the last year and a half wherein God has opened my eyes to much spiritual blindness and lukewarmness.
First, ask God to open your eyes on a daily basis for the rest of your life! You might try praying some of the pertinent biblical prayers like:
“How many are my iniquities and sins? Make known to me my rebellion and my sin.” Job 13:23 (Now Job might have prayed this with a bit of an edge or with some cynicism or challenging God. But he prayed it and God did eventually answer it.)
“Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgressions.” Psalm 19:12,13 (Implied answer to this opening question – No One! Thus he turns to God to open his eyes and make him aware of what he himself was blind to.)
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalm 139:23,24 (Clearly what David is after here is for God to reveal to him anything in his life that was harmful or displeasing to God that he was blind to).
“I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me O Lord, but with justice; Not with Your anger, or You will bring me to nothing.” Jeremiah 10:23,24 (Jeremiah was very aware of his limitations and blind spots. And He knew God would be faithful to point them out if he cried out to Him to do so).
What was Jesus’s prescription after informing the church in Laodicea of how blind to their own desperate need they were? “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed, and eye salve to anoint your eyes to that you may see.” Revelation 3:18 Only by coming to Him repeatedly for the cleansing and illumination and revelation and discernment we need, can we escape this scourge of spiritual blindness.
Second, if you are a husband, give much more attention to living with your wife in an understanding way and honoring her so that your prayers will not be hindered. (see I Peter 3:7). If prayer is key to overcoming spiritual blindness, we want our prayers to count! And often for husbands our prayers don’t count because of the way we are treating our wives. I was blind to this for years for many reasons. But one reason is because I was always around people whose marriages were seemingly worse than mine. So it was easy to justify my lack of really pursuing and cherishing and honoring my wife by contrasting my marriage with theirs.
Third, ask God for the courage and obedience to confess your sins to other brothers or sisters. I John 1:5-10 is a crucial passage for the church to grapple with if we are ever going to get some traction in pursuing and attaining holiness and purity.
“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as he Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”
Fellowship with God and with one another is dependent upon our ability to quit living secret lives, and to quit pretending like we do not struggle with sin, and to thus (when appropriate and not with just anyone) bring our darkness into the light and allow the blood of Jesus to bring not only forgiveness, but much needed cleansing. (See also James 5:14-16 regarding the role confession of our sins plays in our pursuit of healing).
Well may the Holy Spirit give you very practical and tangible help with this journey into the light and freedom of the kingdom of God. Prayers for ourspiritual purity and holiness are always appreciated.