Fear Leads To Spiritual Darkness

7 Comments

John 12: 37 – 43

37 Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

 “Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

 39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

 40 “He has blinded their eyes
and deadened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn–and I would heal them.”

 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The passage in John given above is extremely difficult to understand, especially if we are not familiar with the book of Isaiah and the history of the Jews.  John quotes from two passages in Isaiah, and he was very familiar with the history of his people, and how it was necessary for God to punish, or discipline them for their overt disobedience.

Let us look first at what John is saying in verse 37 and 38.  At this point in John’s Gospel, Jesus had been ministering throughout Galilee and Judea for about 3 1/2 years, teaching about the Kingdom of God, and showing the power of God through the mighty miracles He had been performing.  And yet despite how obvious it was that Jesus had come from God and spoke for God, many of the people, especially the religious leaders were unwilling to put their faith in Him.  Out of jealousy and fear of Roman retaliation, they would rather kill Jesus, than believe in Him.

The quotation from verse 38 comes from the first verse of Isaiah chapter 53, which happens to be one of the clearest Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Messiah and how this Saviour would be rejected and brutally mistreated and finally killed.  This “Suffering Servant” would die in order to free us from our sin and guilt before God and heal our spiritual wounds.  Just as many Jews would not listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah concerning the Messiah to come, so many Jews would not listen to Jesus, who was the Messiah that had finally come for His people.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This brings us to the next prophecy of Isaiah.  Verse 40 above comes from verse 10 of Isaiah 6, which is considered to be the first vision that Isaiah had from the Lord.  In this vision, the Lord God Almighty, who is all powerful and glorious to behold and completely holy, meaning that there is no sin whatsoever to be found within the nature of God.  And this Holy God called out to Isaiah to prophesy against the nation of Israel which had been very unfaithful and disobedient towards Him, as they had worshipped and trusted in all the false gods of the land.  Instead of being a holy people, they had been a blatantly idolatrous people.

So God could no longer endure such God-less people, and told Isaiah to say in Isaiah 6:9, “You will listen and listen, but never understand.  You will look and look, but never see.”  Then Isaiah went on to say what we have quoted above in John 12:40.  Taken out of context, this verse can almost seem that the spiritual darkness of people is the result of what God has purposefully done to them, as if it is His fault that they are sinners and will be spiritually lost forever.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I want to challenge this thought this way.  All people have been given free will, and so the choice to follow after God or to sin and reject God is really the decision of the individual.  When God pronounces judgment upon a sinner, it is really God declaring the natural outcome that the person had chosen for themselves.

Jesus gave a powerful parable about a farmer who sowed seed on four different kinds of soil.  You can read this parable in Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8.  There are many applications to this parable.  What I need to point out here is that there are four kinds of soil, each one representing a different kind of person.  The hard soil is the person under the control of Satan; the soil with shallow ground is the person who may appear to have faith in God, but under pressure will give up their faith.  The soil among the thorns is the one who believes in God but lets the things of life drag them down; the good soil is the person who has an open heart to receive the truths of God.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This article is being posted on the Internet just a few days after Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  These are the most significant days in a year (after Christmas Day).  People long ago rejected Jesus and killed Him, but three days later He rose from the grave.  Some of the people back then refused to believe in Jesus, while some believed but were afraid to declare this out of fear of what the leaders would do to them.

What about you?  Do you let your fears of what others think hold you back from receiving Jesus into your heart and free you from spiritual darkness and the guilt of sin?  Do you have faith in Jesus, but are still afraid of what others might say or do to you?  Remember this: the power that raised Jesus from the grave is the same power that resides within us who believe in Him.  In Christ, you will always be able to overcome the forces of spiritual darkness.  We are children of the King, and children of Light.  Amen!

enw_gospelofjohn_black2

 

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please share it and invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Advertisements

A Heart-Felt Prayer (Phil. 1:8-11)

Leave a comment

A Heart Felt Prayer

Philippians 1:8-11  God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.  I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.  For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.  May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

In this short passage, Paul speaks about the great love that he has for the Philippian believers.  Although Paul was instrumental in bringing the Gospel of Christ to the Island of Cyprus at the port of Paphos, then on to the lower mainland of Asia to such cities as Perga, Antioch, and Iconium, Lysrta and Derbe, I believe that the visit to Philippi had to have been one of Paul’s most memorable events and was certainly directed by God’s Spirit in a powerful way.

Think about the idea that when Paul preached near Philippi and Lydia and her household members believed and were baptized, that this was the first time the Good News of Christ had taken a foothold into the continent of Europe.  It was a very resistant city towards anything religious, and so it was at a great cost of perspiration, perseverance and persecution that the new church was birthed.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Paul talks in verse 5 about how they had been partners together in spreading this Good News.  And in verse 7, Paul speaks of the intimacy he had with the Philippian believers as they shared the experience of also being mistreated, and perhaps jailed along with him, and that they too took a stand publicly by making it known that they believed in the truthfulness of God’s Word.

In fact, in verse 8, Paul goes to the greatest possible lengths to express just how much he loved the Philippians.  He calls upon God to be his “witness” that it is true Paul has a great love for them.  This word comes from the Greek word, “martus“.  This is the root word for “martyr” as well as “testimony” or “one who testifies“.  In other words, Paul calls upon God himself to testify, and Him be willing to die to prove the fact that Paul loves the Philippians in all the depths of his heart.

Now actually, the Greek word for this expression “the depths of his heart” can be literally translated as “inner parts” or “intestines“.  This was their idiomatic way of saying “I love you with all my heart and soul, my very being“.  In old English, they talked about having “bowels of compassion” for someone else.  Today we say we love “with all our heart“.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

It is interesting to see the various body parts being used metaphorically to express the center of our very being, the deepest level of emotional love and commitment to another.  Over in Papua New Guinea, one will say that his inner most being is “the stomach“, “the liver“, or “the throat“.  In any case, the Philippians could not doubt that what Paul was sharing came from the depths of his inner most being.

It is at this point, when Paul was able to reflect on the intimate relationship he had with the people, that he then is able to offer up his heart-felt prayer, and the Philippians would receive it at this deep inner intimate level.  In verse 9 then, he begins his prayer for them and he prays for two important things to happen in their lives.

First, Paul prays that the people would increase more and more in their love for other people.  Think back to all the teachings of Christ, and you will recall that “love for others” is the greatest command, second only to loving God.  And then Paul prays that the people would increase in their knowledge and depth of insight, which most likely referred to them having a greater knowledge of God and how He wanted them to live.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This brings us to verses 10 and 11, and I believe there is a powerful prayer tucked away in these two verses.  They can be brought out and stated as four distinct things that Paul prays for the believers:

  1. That they would understand/approve/discern the things that are best or excellent, or to basically “discern what really matters“.  This leads to the second thing Paul prayed.
  2. If the people came to know what really matters in this life, what things are truly excellent, then one result from this is that they would live pure lives.  They would be able to discern evil, even in its many disguises, and turn away from it before it touched and polluted them.
  3. The second thing they would discern is that when they know and do what is pure and true, then these people would be seen by God as being blameless or without guilt.
  4. By consistently following these practices above, this provides something that is more valuable than gold itself.  According to verse 12, the people described above would produce spiritual fruit in their lives, and have a consistently righteous character, and by means of their faith in Christ, one day would see the salvation of their souls.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Now after examining the passage, I turn briefly to ask some practical questions.  Do you have anyone in your life that would pray a prayer like this for you on a regular basis?  Or is there someone for whom you could be praying this prayer for them?  Remember the example of Paul, that it was never a half-hearted prayer he made.  So we too must say our prayers for others from the deepest part of our being for another, whether that be from our heart, our liver, or our intestines.

May we always honor God and may we take up this example and know and practice how we can and ought to be praying for one another.  Amen.