Monday, October 19, 2015

Evil in the Midst, Part Five... Whether He Be a Sinner or No I Know Not

Healing a Blind Man, Brian Jekel
How could it be that God appeared to be using him so marvelously and yet he was so thoroughly evil so long? …Because the spiritually blind do not notice whether or not you are a sinner; all they notice is that now they can see.

Blindness is used in Scripture as an example of an individual’s lost spiritual condition. For instance, Paul tells us in Romans that the Jewish people were spiritually blind in not recognizing the Messiah. On another occasion Paul speaks of sinners who cannot see God but are searching for Him by feeling for Him. Isaiah in a passage that is clearly Messianic equates the coming of Christ to the coming of light to men in darkness.

The Apostle John tells us the story of an encounter Jesus had with a blind man one day. The apostles were eager to fix the blame while Christ was eager to display God’s power. Our Saviour spit on the ground, mixed clay, anointed the blind man’s eyes, and literally sent (Siloam) him to wash it off in a specific pool of water. The result of this man’s faith and obedience coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through Christ resulted in a complete reversal of the man’s natural blindness and he came seeing. Just before healing the blind man in this fashion Christ announced yet again, I am the light of the world. (John 9:5) Clearly this story is an illustration of Scriptural salvation available through Christ via the Holy Spirit when we exercise our faith in Christ with simple obedience.

To a very real extent this blind man’s story is the story of all of us. We were all darkened by sin until by the grace of God the light of the glorious gospel shone, and the day star arose in our hearts. In almost every case of which I am aware this illumination - while empowered by the Holy Spirit using the Scriptures - was facilitated by human intervention. Someone handed you a tract. Someone invited you to hear the evangelist. Someone knocked on your door with an offer of salvation. Someone brought your name repeatedly before the Throne of Grace in intercessory prayer. Someone opened up the Scriptures and took you step by step through the plan of salvation and lead you to place your faith in Christ. Scripture, history, and experience show us that God chooses to use men to advance His Kingdom and share His Gospel with the lost. This is an undeniable fact. We do not mix the clay or apply a poultice of our own devising. We do not send the blind where we wish. We do not in any way heal them. Yet it is through our human instrumentality that others come to see the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings. (Malachi 4:2)

Often when such wondrous sights are revealed for the first time to the spiritually blind the result is a great love, affection, and even loyalty to the man God used to bring them healing for their sin sick soul. This in no way detracts from the glory of the Great Physician. In actuality, it only adds to the sweetness of our earthly spiritual relationships. Paul admonishes the wayward Corinthians as dear sons in one verse and in the next explains why they have such a relationship: For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. (I Corinthians 4:15) Christ did the saving but He used the human instrument of Paul in so doing, and that resulted in a warm relationship between God’s man and the people he had reached.

It is also true there can be a danger here. Sometimes this great affection and loyalty between the people of God and the man of God who has been instrumental in their salvation and spiritual growth can result in an unwitting blindness to the flaws of their spiritual father and mentor. The old phrase “Love is blind” has a great deal of truth. Consequently, when those whom we love as fathers in Christ are clearly seen to be in error by others less emotionally attached it is not rare to find still a great loyalty and affection amongst those whom God enabled that man to reach.

The blind man healed by the Saviour in John 9 was soon swept into the clutches of the Pharisees who were looking for a pawn in their attacks upon Christ. His parents, out of fear, would not defend their son, and so he was shortly called to account for his own miraculous healing. After repeatedly explaining exactly what happened the Pharisees endeavored to get the blind man to agree that his Healer was a sinner. The blind man’s answer is tremendously revealing. He said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. (John 9:25) The point in no way is that the Saviour was a sinner. The point rather is that we notice the reaction of the newly saved to the human instrument that brought them healing.

The people God in His grace enables us to reach often do not realize to what extent we actually are sinful. Indeed, they rarely notice that. What they do notice is their own sight, and with grateful eyes and loving hearts they reject any calls by cooler heads who endeavor to call attention to their spiritual father’s error.

blind-man-hHave you ever wondered how some men, after many repeated and public revelations of secret sin, still have a hard core group of loyalists loudly proclaiming their virtues to the entire world? Those people were often reached personally by them in some way, and their reaction all too often is Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.

The great danger here is that this can lead to feelings of spiritual invulnerability about the consequences of personal and private sin on the part of the man of God. Some crack in his carefully cultivated reputation is exposed to the harsh light of day and his people do not even blink an eye. They are focused on all he has done for them, and thus ignoring the danger signs they unwittingly contribute by such unquestioned devotion to the corruption and pride within his heart. While Scripture clearly admonishes us not to be critical of God’s men we also ought not allow our personal feelings of gratitude, loyalty, and affection for them to cause us to bury our head in the sand when red flags are flying. But sadly, many do, and this in its own way enables all evil in the midst of the congregation.

Your new converts and Sunday School students do not know if you walked with God this week. They only know that they can see now. They have no notion of what is hidden in the chambers of your imagery. They only know that because of you they see some great spiritual truth or gain some wonderful spiritual benefit. Their loyalty and love for you springs from the care and help you have extended to them, and they often do not even notice your sins.

In some sense this can be encouraging. What man has not at some point questioned his fitness to teach, preach, or witness because of sin present in his life? We need to remind ourselves that the people we will hand tracts to today do not care if we struggle with some besetting sin; they only care about the spiritual blindness with which they suffer and with which we might help them. This thought can motivate us to continue with ministry even when the devil would discourage us with thoughts of our own unworthiness.

Yet it is also true that we must not leave our people there! While it is enjoyable to accept the respect, affection, and loyalty of people we have helped we must lead them to maturity in Christ. Such maturity will enable them to look behind even the fa├žade we construct as their leaders, and discern for themselves what is right and wrong in our life. While it might be more convenient for us to leave our people dependent on us, blind to our imperfections, and while we might justify such a condition as only natural and conducive to good leadership, we must be cognizant of the danger inherent in such an approach. We must rather lead our people to become them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14)

1 comment:

  1. Having exclusively read the NIV Bible for most of my years as a Christian -- I know not only can God use flawed believers to minister truth to converts -- He can use flawed Bibles as well. (Though I've retired my NIV)

    What's equally problematic is when truly righteous believers with no besetting sins teach error to new converts. The lack of hypocrisy can make the error easier to digest.