Do You Have a Problem Not Seeing the Forest Because of all those Trees?

Epistle Lesson  Ephesians 5:8-14               

Gospel Lesson   John 9:1-41

Do any of you have problems?

Well, I know I have my share.

However, there is one problem many of us share. That problem is that when it comes to our own spiritual nature, understanding God and God’s Word to us from the Bible, we fail to see the forest because of all the trees.

In other words, we often get bogged down so much in the details that we miss the point. We get hung up in what is said or by the event and we miss the big picture God is trying to convey to us.

Much of this is because each of us are affected by spiritual blindness; experiences, world views, perceptions and biases that obscure our vision.

In many of His teachings Jesus would either begin or end with a formulae, a sort of pray or plea, “Open your eyes that you may see and your ears that you may hear,” and its corollary, “They have eyes but do not see and ears yet they cannot hear.”

And oftentimes, his very own disciples were the ones that struggled with this spiritual blindness the most.  And so too today, we as believers struggle with our own spiritual vision.

Just as we grow in years and our eyesight seems to diminish, the more we grow in faith, the more we discover what we have still yet to understand.

The Lenten Season of self-reflection and introspection gives us the opportunity to identify those things obscuring our vision and removing them, so that we not only appreciate the trees but the beauty of the forest to behold.

Today, I’m only going to touch on a ½ dozen things that impair our vision, but certainly this is not a limited or closed list, so as I share you may have your own to add.

The first is.

  • Un-forgiveness.       Matthew 6:15 says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (NIV).
    • Here Jesus says we cannot receive what we are unwilling to give.
    • So, if you say, “I could never forgive that person,” then I hope you never sin. For we know the course of un-forgiveness leads to bitterness and the result of bitterness is resentment and resentment erodes the soul.
    • The more we forgive, the more we grasp and see the wonder and beauty of God’s forgiveness granted to us. Without forgiveness we are blinded from the full message of the cross and why Christ died on it in the first place.  And when we forgive as Jesus forgave, freely and without hesitation, we find the power of forgiveness in our lives, as well.
  • Tradition.  It is a sociological phenomenon of any group or institution that’s been around in excess of 2 years and their need to adopt traditions…ways of doing things together.  Nations have traditions, each of the military branches has their own unique traditions, Fraternal Orders have their traditions, and, of course, religion, including the church has their traditions. Even within the same denomination churches differ in what their traditions are. 
    • It’s not that tradition is bad if it is understood as a tradition so that the tradition does not choke or asphyxiate the meaning behind the tradition.
    • Referring to the religious tradition holders of His, Jesus confronted them regarding their shallow artificiality.  If you open your Bibles to   Mark 7:9 it says, “Then he (Jesus) said, ‘You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition.’” (NLT)
    • If we’re not careful, the adage “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” will blind us from what God wants to accomplish in our lives together.  How many of you are turned off when a tradition you expected to occur didn’t happen, and it soured your worship experience?  Why? God may have wanted to bless you, but your spiritual blindness kept you from receiving it.
  • Habit.
    • 1 Timothy 5:13 (NIV) In reference to young widows who’ve gotten off their spiritual course, Paul writes: “….they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to hours. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.”
    • What is the comparison today?  What Paul describes as “idleness” can be compared to what you see on Social Media. The taunting, the gossip, the rants…so much so, that people who spend inordinate about of time viewing become depressed, even suicidal.  It’s not that Social Media is evil, but the habit of such is proven to have an evil affect.
    • Habits may start off subtly, but before you know they can consume you, so much so, that you do not see its harmful effects…if fact we come to accept it as normal…
    • Hebrews 10:24-25 encourages us to drop unproductive habits and adopt productive ones, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but les us encourage one another…”
    • Habits are hard to break, and sometimes we need help breaking them; but once broken, we find a new found freedom.
    • Jesus offers Himself first to love us despite our habits, and secondly to show us a better way to live without the stranglehold our habits have over us.
  • Hurts.  Hurts unattended, hurts not healed have a way of blinding us to the joys of life and restricting us from trust and affection we should all be enjoying as believers. 
    • In our Life Tree Café the other night Janet shared how she read of a woman in advanced years who still harbors the hurt of when she was pulled out of the lunch line at school because she didn’t have the 10 cents to by her milk.
    • The damage of hurt can sear the psyche, wound one’s character, and cause emotional immobilization to such extent that they become developmentally arrested or stuck at the point and time of the injury and they just can’t get past it.
    • However, Jesus offers what others can’t or won’t do, “healing for the broken hearted.”  He bids all those who are weary and heavy laden to come to him to find rest and consolation. Jesus hasn’t hurt you as others have, but surely Jesus can heal every hurt, even the deepest of wounds.
    • The problem for many is that they’ve carried the wound for so long that they don’t know what they’d do without it. In a sense it has blinded them to what it would be to live without it…so instead of asking Jesus to heal it, they hold on to it.
  • Expectations (Idealized and Unrealized)
    • The book of the prophet Haggai recounts the time and the age when the remnant that had returned from captivity in Babylon were selfishly preoccupied with their own affairs, and were more concerned in beautifying their own dwellings than in rebuilding the Lord’s house.  Yet, at the same time they expected God to prosper them, bless their lives, their families and their crops, but when it came to devoting themselves to God, they were absent.
    • Haggai 1:9 You expected much, but you see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord God Almighty. “Because of my house (meaning the temple), which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.”
    • How often have you, made your own plans and expected God to bless them?  And, when He didn’t, you got mad at God?
    • We become spiritually blinded by our own expectations, don’t we?
    • We idealistically anticipate God to swoop down and bless us, but when that idealized expectation is unrealized we become distraught, angry and disheartened.
    • We do that with worship, too.  I’ve experienced all varieties of worship modes across the spectrum, and the one’s I’ve appreciated the most are the ones I’ve put aside my expectations and allowed God to move; the ones I went away disappointed were the ones I expected something and didn’t get it.
    • Just think how much we miss that God is in the ready to give because we are blinded by our expectations.
  • Agendas
    • o First off, there is only one true agenda, and that’s God’s.  However, each of us has our own agendas and the more we hold fast to our agendas the more we are blinded to God’s agenda for us.
    • o How many have you taken a class, gone to a seminar, underwent training, attended at conference with an agenda of what you were going to get out of the experience; however, once you got there found that the agenda was different?
    • o I see this when attending our own Annual Conference each year and I find that just about everyone there has their own agenda—their own axe to grind, their own dog in the fight.  When you mix Theological Agendas, with Doctrinal Agendas, Social Agendas and Ideological Agendas you can come up with quite a toxic mix.  Often it is only because of much prayer and petitioning of God’s Spirit that this mix of agendas doesn’t explode.  Yet, when the agendas are put aside, it is pretty remarkable how well we get along…but as long as they are present we are blind to God’s presence and activity.
    • o When we come to worship, by virtue of what roles are being played, people come with their own agendas.
      • The musicians’, directors’ and choirs’ agenda is to provide quality worshipful music.
      • The ushers come to ensure congregants have what they need to worship, to reverently collect God’s gifts and ensure the place is secure after everyone leaves.
      • The preacher’s agenda is that everyone knows Jesus as their Savior, and is able to digest his points and apply them to their own life and living.
      • The congregant’s agenda might be to sing the songs they like to sing, be appropriately inspired and to get out in time for Sunday School or Lunch.
    • You see we can get so wrapped up in our agendas that we fail to see God’s agenda at all.

Well, I’m sure you can think of even more things that obscure your vision and keep you from focusing on the face of Christ within you, but you get my point that we all need to assess what is blinding us spiritually.  Once identified, allow Jesus to remove the obscurity so you can clearly see.

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               The subject in today’s story was blind from birth, being blind, though abnormal by everybody else was normal for him…he had never seen, so he didn’t know what it was like to see.

As Jesus and the disciples came upon this man who had become a known fixture in the community.  He harmed no one, nor had his family.  This puzzled the disciples, for they had learned that infirmities such as his were caused by sin and they wondered whose sin caused his (an example of “tradition” blinding them).

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               Jesus calmly assured them that there are cases just like these that don’t have a reason for happening, they just do, and when they do they become an opportunity to discover the glory of God and their part in bringing it to pass.

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               We don’t have evidence that this man even desired or asked to be healed, but we do know that when Jesus asked him to wash the mud from his eyes, he could see!  He didn’t know how, he didn’t know why, but he did know Who caused him to see.

This created uproar amongst the religious authorities; they did an inquiry on this man, his parents and the man again.

This guy went from complete obscurity to being the center of attention, and he was completely unaware of the political implications all this had for them.

Finally, after being asked for the umpteen time, he replied,  25I don’t know whether he (Jesus) is a sinner,” …. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!” 

26“But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?”

27Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?

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They lost it and they ended up kicking him out of the synagogue.  You see, their agendas kept them from witnessing the greatest power and influence of all time…they wanted to know all about this Jesus, but their agendas kept them from knowing Him.

 

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           As Paul wrote the church in Ephesus, he exclaimed that we, that you, (v8 & 9) “…were once full of darkness, but now you (we) have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! 9For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.”

You can have perfect 20/00 vision, but be totally blind spiritually. As spiritual people we must live as people of the light continually removing the blinders within and without that obscure the light of Christ from our lives.

Darkness, if we let it, has an uncanny way of trying to put out the light, however, when we combine our lights together we hear the promise of scripture ring clear, “and darkness overcame it not.”

We don’t really have to know where the light came from, how the light came about or why, we just, like the nameless blind man of old, need to know Who is our light, so that, we with him can say, “I know this, once I was blind, but now I see!”

Those who have this light, know this light, and live this light understand how to live a victorious life free and unconstrained because they know the One who gives us the Victory!



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