Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Blindness can lead to light, or not . . .


The eye doctor told me that my vision was blurring because my glasses were too strong, that my eyes have improved. That was a nice surprise. New glasses are costly, but now I can see clearly.

Blindness would be terrible, yet I’m aware that there is more than one way to be in the dark. The Bible’s descriptions of spiritual blindness surprise me.

First, there is the blindness that results from choosing sin. That is, those who live in sin wind up in the dark concerning what they are doing. At first, they may realize the choices made are sinful, but become oblivious to their spiritual condition as their choices takes them into spiritual darkness.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (John 3:19)

The second is like the first, the blindness of continued unbelief. That is, people who keep on rejecting the gospel of Jesus Christ and the glory of this One who died for them become blinded by Satan and also don’t know that they cannot see. . .

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

Then there is the blindness that God puts on those who refuse to see. Jesus speaks of this concerning people who have seen His miracles and know what He has done, but continue to go their own way, choosing sin  over faith and righteousness . . .

He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them. (John 12:40)

Oddly enough, for the apostle Paul the cure for spiritual blindness came by plunging him into physical darkness. He was blinded by a bright light. When his eyes were opened, he could not see anything . . .

But Saul (who became Paul), still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (Acts 9:1–9)

Paul was made blind so he could see. That is, the Holy Spirit shut his eyes and made him literally blind to everything else that distracted him so that he could see that he is a sinner and that he needed Christ as his Savior.

This has happened to many people since then, myself included. God had to pull me from my distractions, excuses and everything that I’d put up as a barrier to truth. When He blinded me to all else, then the Holy Spirit opened my eyes and I could see that I am a sinner who needs Jesus.

I’ve learned that spiritual vision does not guarantee freedom from darkness though. Christians who persist in sin wind up in the confusion and ignorance that comes as a natural result of this choice.

But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:11)

Christians who are disobedient or who do not take responsibility for spiritual growth can also wind up in the dark. Peter tells us to add to our faith various virtues. If we don’t grow, aided by the Holy Spirit, then we can become blind to what God has given us . . .

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. (2 Peter 1:8–9)

The Holy Spirit opens eyes to the reality of sin, often using blindness to all else so I can see it. Today’s devotional reading reminds me of the Pharisee who came up to the temple thanking God he was not like sinners, and boasted about his goodness. Not far away, a publican whose eyes had been opened by the grace of God, saw nothing, nothing of all his fasting and tithing, nothing of all he’d done for God. All he could see what that his best was sinful and his life a failure. He cried, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” 

When I see nothing, I see Christ. When I see that my best is rags, I see His riches. When I see at last that I have nothing to claim, then I am ready for mercy and grace.

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