This morning, I am reviewing questions posed by my friend Brian Eshleman as part of his blog. He asks:
They answered and said to him, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out. John 9:34, New King James Version
QUESTION: When has your flesh’s reaction been to point accusations that someone who pointed you to an aspect of Christ’s righteousness that convicted you?
I am reminded of a man who seemingly was “set against me” in some ways. Some of his actions towards me reminded me of bullying from my high school days, and I found myself not being able to trust him — because I was more cognizant of things that appeared not Christ-like in his life than I was looking for any glimmer of Christ apparent in him as an image bearer. But he was trying to teach me to “let go”, to “trust”, to “jump off of cliffs without a parachute”. Such things sound like someone trying to push us out in front of a bus when we cannot trust the messenger.
But there was something of Christ even in that message. Such a message should have reminded me of verses like:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:6-9 NLT
But when we feel the messenger is not trustworthy, how quickly can we ignore the message (instead of testing all spirits), and go deeper into self-defence mode because we are not at peace within ourselves, within our relationships, within our day to day lives.
In my case, I missed out on the conviction of such prompting in my conscious mind — because my heart eas already closed off from letting this person pour into my life. We were seemingly lined up as enemies by the circumstances of the moment — and it took things playing out and removing us from each other’s lives before I could see the need for peace to be restored in my innermost, for forgiveness to be extended for perceived wrongs, and for me to love this person because Christ loves them.
Like the Pharisees, my unconscious mind had discounted and dismissed everything of value they had to offer because of unforgiveness in my heart. Whether they actually intended me harm or not, whether they were a bully or not, whether they were unfair and unjust towards me if for God to judge between us, not me. These Pharisees were more interested in protecting themselves, their reputation, their livelihood, their honor amongst men than they were interested in the truth. While the blind man was only interested in truth and didn’t care how it might make him sound or look.
I wonder how many times we have thought we were zealous for truth like the blind man, but we were operating in our flesh as zealots like the Pharisees. Isn’t it easy to get our motives and agendas and pride intertwined with our “perspective on truth” and try to measure everything by our own rule of law, by our own weighted scales — rather than comparing to the one truth, the one plumbline, the spotless and without blemish or fault? Isn’t this what satanic humanism is all about, any why it fits so nicely within a compromised, hypocritical religious structure (or a God-denying culture just the same) — but why it clashes so violently with One Way, One Truth, One Life?
We must ask ourselves, do we sound more like the Accuser — with pointed finger — casting people out — refusing to listen — more eager to teach than to be taught?
Do we read something like this and level our fiery arrows at another person who we know “needs to hear this” instead of letting our own stony hearts be penetrated by the conviction of the Word of God?
We must repent while there is still time and be more like the blind man in John 9. Maybe we should go back and read his own humble account where he isn’t even trying to teach people, he is just answering questions and speaking honestly — but it is so clear that there is a lesson in this moment that the Pharisees can feel it, can sense it, know that a lesson is there that they refuse to accept. Like the parable stories Jesus told that enraged the Pharisees — life lessons and simple truth can enrage us when we are protecting some type of idol in our hearts that needs to be overthrown.
Only the humble will truly praise God, while the proud insist on praise for themselves. For the proud, even their concept of worship and praise is false and self serving.
Lord, forgive us for our “adulterous hearts” that pridefully seek praise and honor for ourselves — that only you are worthy of. Amen.
For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
COMMENTARY: Jeremiah 29:11 is a T-shirt and meme verse. We want prosperity and not harm. Even if the principle of the verse does fully apply to us as New Testament believers and not just to the particular situation of the returning exiles, I don’t see as many people rejoicing that God is still being gracious if He decides to take seventy years of disciplining to allow us to see His good.
QUESTION: What is an instance where your emotional state and behavior have changed because God has taught you to begin to rest in the LONG-TERM promises of His Word rather than claiming it like a coupon obliging Him to do what you want when you want?
Recently, I found myself unemployed unexpectedly. And since this happened during COVID, I didn’t know how long it might take for me to find a comparable job. In fact, I didn’t even know if it should be possible in this time to find something. I didn’t know if God was going to use this time to close doors to my operating within the professional IT world to share the gospel as best as I can in my day to day career and refocus me on a more full time, traditional “ministry” approach. I didn’t know how I was going to pay my bills, support my family, etc. I just didn’t know.
I knew that we wouldn’t starve, because I will do whatever job or work is necessary to provide — but I wasn’t sure whether we might have to sell the house, move, etc. depending on how things went with the job hunt.
So I prayed for God to rescue, even as I prepared with moves engaging things like forbearance, bankruptcy, debt settlement, 401k disbursements, etc. And God brought into the forefront of my life a new team of Godly companions, not to open doors to “fixing my circumstances” (even though He was working that out behind the scenes as well) — but to help me appreciate the “detour”.
When we are in the “detour”, we don’t know whether it will be 40 days or 40 years, 7 days or 70 years. And sometimes, we don’t even initially understand the reasons for the disciplining, for the trial, for the refining that needs to take place. But what an amazingly humbling and revealing place it is when we cannot “rely on our own understanding”. In Provetbs 3 we are told:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.
Proverbs 3:5-8 NLT
What a powerful place the Lord must put some of us who are used to relying upon our own understanding — a place where we cannot see the end — where we cannot know the timing — where we cannot understand the why or the how of the situation with our own strength, skills, or abilities.
And even while our flesh is screaming out, “This is going to hurt! We might die! This is horrible!” Isn’t that the party of us that needs to die to Christ daily? Aren’t we supposed to have faith in things not yet seen? Aren’t we supposed to wait upon the Lord?
The place that He is wanting us to return to is not prosperity and complacency and presuming upon His mercy, grace, and favor — but the place is fully trusting in Him and abiding in His presence. It is a place of peace that passes beyond circumstances of the moment to trust in The Way that He is taking us. This narrow path looks quite different than the broad way that leads to destruction — and we should not be horribly surprised that it comes with valleys and mountaintops. If we were alone, unattended, unprotected, we might have much to fear — but when we are with the Shepherd, the darkness, the dangers, the storms, even the wolves do not exist so that they can destroy us. They draw us close to Him, ands slow Him to prove once again that He is faithful and true.
When we look past the fleeting moment of this life, and realize that He is molding us through these moments, refining us, shaping us in preparation for who we will be in eternity — we can appreciate that even long-suffering endurance is a sweet tasting fruit in the same way that joy is. So we find a way to “put on the garment of praise”, especially in those times of heaviness.
I’m reminded of Isaiah 61:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord ‘s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord , that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; but you shall be called the priests of the Lord ; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast. Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy. For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord ; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.
Isaiah 61:1-11 ESV
We should make this chapter from Isaiah our proclamation, even our prayer today. Amen.
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