Fear Leads To Spiritual Darkness

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Heaven Is Our True Home – Pt. 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 5

Do you know what amazes me?  What I find real astounding is just how attached most of us are to the things of this life.  We slave and work hard to earn money.  Some people inherit it, others cheat, lie and steal to get money.  And what do they do with it?  They buy more and more stuff that is bigger and “better” than our old stuff.  Or we use our money to pamper ourselves and make “improvements” to our bodies, in hopes that we might live just a little longer.

Seeing the danger of money, some Christians inaccurately quote the Bible and say, “Money is the root of all evil.”  Actually, it is not the object (money) that is the problem, it is the love of it and pursuit of what it can do that is the problem.  Look at how it is actually quoted in 1 Timothy 6:10

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

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We need to ask ourselves why we allow ourselves to get caught up in the “deceitfulness of wealth” (Mark 4:13).  For many of us, it is not our intention to get caught up in the things of this world.  But as this parable of Jesus states in Mark 4, many people hear the Word of God and would gladly follow its teachings, but the good things of this life and the worries about protecting our possessions that go along with it choke out the possibility of spiritual fruitfulness in our lives.

Max Lucado speaks to this issue in chapter 3 of his book “GOD’S STORY, your story.”  It really is easy for many of us who live in the affluent culture of North America to get wooed into thinking that “this life is a good life” as we are able to surround ourselves with our comfortable materialism.  Lucado says that we can get to the point of actually believing that this life is the “real life”.  That is why we can be so shocked when reality does puncture our bubble.  Listen to Lucado from pp 58 – 59:

But then the flies come out.  People die, earthquakes rumble, and nations rage.  Families collapse, and children die of hunger.  Dictators snort and treat people like, well, like pigs.  And this world stinks.

And we have a choice.  We can pretend this life is all God intended.  Or …  We can come to our senses.  We can follow the example of the prodigal son.  “I will set out and go back to my father” (Luke 15:18.

Perhaps part of the problem for us today is that there is so much to choose from these days.  Our supermarkets abound in food choices, our closets are overflowing with clothes, there are hundreds of interesting places that we can choose from to go have our vacation, and if we don’t do it this year, we will just wait and do it next year.

This world is a beautiful world, no doubt about it.  But we must not get so enamoured by the things in this life that we forget that we are just passing through this life and are being prepared for our eternal life that still lies ahead of us.  We must not lose sight of where we are truly meant to be as we look around at the pretty things in this life.  Lucado paints the picture well in an airplane analogy on page 59:

 Suppose this announcement were heard: “Ladies and gentlemen, this flight is your final destination.  We will never land.  Your home is this plane, so enjoy the journey.”

Passengers would become mutineers. We’d take over the cockpit and seek a landing strip.  We wouldn’t settle for such an idea.  The journey is not the destination.

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I think Jill and I get reminded of this frequently as we move back and forth between Canada, the US and Papua New Guinea in our ministry work for God.  We do have a condo, or should I say a mortgage, back in Canada.  But every year, we are packing our bags up again to travel across the world to do our Bible translation work in PNG.

When we get overseas, we will try to set up our home there for the couple months that we are there.  But it is so obvious that this is just a temporary residence and not really our own home.  The silverware drawer got moved again.  The pictures, if there are any, are not ours.  We have trouble finding a matching sheet set for the bed.

And yet, we keep on coming back over here.  Not for what we can get out of it, or the fact that PNG is a tropical paradise on earth.  But rather, we are trying to make a difference in people’s lives with the translated Word of God.  Because there awaits an eternal home for all of us, and we want to share that Good News with the people here.

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So here is what I am trying to say: for some of us like Jill and me, we will never be able to settle down and “make a home”, while others do have the means to make themselves a very comfortable home.  But for all of us, this should not be our ultimate goal in life, for there is a heavenly home awaiting all who are God’s children.  Let’s not forget: Heaven is our True Home.

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.