So many who call themselves Christians are actually blind to God’s will for their lives. Jesus asks in Luke 18:40, “’What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man replied, ‘Lord I want to see.’”
The scriptures make it clear that to see is to live by faith as a follower of Jesus Christ. This is possible because, while we were yet sinners, Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to provide the redemption of our sins. II Corinthians 5:17 says, “if anyone be in Christ they are a new creation the old has passed away, the new has come.” The question is how does receiving Jesus Christ by faith really make a difference in the way we live our lives in this time and place? In order to have my eyes further opened to what it means to follow Christ I decided to study the lives of some of the great Christians throughout history and how being a Christian enabled them to make a difference in the world in which they lived.
First I studied the life of Francis of Assisi who GK Chesterton called the only real Christian who ever lived. Francis in the 13th Century went about rebuilding the church by becoming a living example of humility, poverty and simplicity. He recognized the destructiveness of pride and greed and remained humble by considering himself a sinner who had not lived up to the gifts God had given him. Throughout his life Francis of Assisi persisted stubbornly in creating a model of allowing the compassionate love of Christ to flow through him.
Jesus said in John 9:39-41, “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’ Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’”
Today, I see a world that is being destroyed by greed. This world won’t be changed by so called Christians identified by prosperity, popularity and personality. What the world needs now are Christians like St. Francis who have experienced the revolutionary fires of Jesus Christ to the extent they aren’t afraid to obey Him even if it means persecution, prison, or poverty. They are people with more passion than fashion.
Why is it so easy for some to remain silent or even cozy up to politicians that claim to be Christians as they treat the poor like parasites and the rich like rightful rulers? Didn’t Jesus say in Matt. 19:23, 24, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
The question is, “When will your eyes be opened to what it is to really be a Christian?” This is the Christianity that turned the world upside down. Where is that powerful smashing, life threatening, anti-institutional gospel that spread throughout the first century like wildfire and was considered dangerous by those in power? It was Tertullian in the 3rd Century who claimed that it was the blood of the martyrs which was the seed of the church.
The problem AW Tozer said, is “Culture is putting out the light in men and women’s souls. Think about it – boredom and dullness is more than just a cultural issue, it is a religious issue. It has robbed work of its meaning, faith of its joy, and marriage of its passion.” When people are more concerned about being nice members of their culture or society than they are about being passionate about the things close to the heart of God then they are living a life of sin.
Sin involves more than turning our back on God. It is being blind to the things of God and turning our backs on life! Immorality is much more than adultery, drunkenness, and dishonesty. It is living drab, colorless, unimaginative and uneventful lives in the presence of the one who says, “I’ve come to give you life and give it to you more abundantly” (John 10:10). The greatest enemy of Christianity may be people who say they believe in Jesus but who are no longer astonished or amazed at who He is, what He has done and what He is doing right now. It may be Christians who allow fear to keep their church doors locked at night to the homeless and hurting while they preach the message of faith.
Do you want to be like Jesus? Then let the Holy Spirit heal your spiritual blindness and you will discover that the Jesus of the New Testament was an activist. He would be crying one minute with those He called the least of these, and then knocking over tables in the temple the next minute because He wanted God’s house to be a house of prayer and not a den of thieves. Jesus was passionate about fulfilling the will of His Father in heaven and He is calling us to do the same.
Matthew 12:18-21 quotes Isaiah as it describes who Jesus is. “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on Him, and He will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.”
Catherine, who cared for the sick and dieing at the hospital in Siena during the Bubonic plague later wrote the Pope when he left Rome challenging him to return by declaring, “Since (God) has given you authority and you accepted it, you ought to be using the strength and power that is yours. If you don’t intend to use it, it would be better and more to God’s honor and the good of your soul to resign.” She knew that Jesus was a dangerous man. He was dangerous to the manipulating power brokers who perpetuated the cultural values that enabled the rich to get richer and the poor, poorer. Jesus was dangerous because “He has brought justice through to victory” as Matthew stated. The question is where is that child like faith in the Living God that will cause all of us to stand up for justice and question a system where thousands are left in cold, dark homes or even homeless while others will bask in extravagance and wealth beyond description? Where are God’s people who are burning with a passion for justice rather than selling out to the cultural fashions of the day? How is it that some who claim to be Christians can endorse politicians who support a payday loan industry which charges rates up to 1950% annually to the poor and elderly who are forced to use these payday loan services.
The living Jesus is a problem in our religious institutions. It was Jesus who taught us how to break the cultural rules of bigotry and prejudice! It was Jesus who touched lepers which was against the rules! It was Jesus who broke the Sabbath by healing people on that day and that was against the rules! It was Jesus who forgave people of their sins and that also was against the rules because those caught in the act of adultery were to be stoned, not forgiven.
In I John 1:5-10 we read, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
Today we live in a society that is increasingly hostile to the poor and homeless. Rules, regulations and ordinances are constantly being created that are making it increasing difficult to house the homeless and feed the hungry. How many future saints have been lulled to sleep by television and computers, which take more priority in their lives then meeting the needs of the starving and homeless? Jesus was not persecuted as long as he was in the carpenter shop. Stephen wasn’t stoned until he started doing signs and wonders. While Peter was fishing he wasn’t beaten and put into jail. It was only when followers of Christ (Christians) started putting a passion for the things of God before what was fashionable in the world that they got in trouble. It is this desire to be fashionable on the part of the church rather than being faithful which often keeps it from getting involved in providing overnight sanctuary to the homeless. I John 3:10 says, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother” (and that includes sisters also).
God cares that homeless veterans and mothers are crying out for shelter as church doors are locked. God cares that mothers find themselves enslaved to utility companies who will cut off their utilities because the company has not gotten their last dollar. God cares that power brokers and fear-laden people support a prison industry that is locking up the poor and mentally retarded in record numbers. God cares that in the name of choice some support cutting up babies in the wombs of their mothers, or flushing them out in a powerful saline that make the unborn baby thrash around in agony, then vacuum them out to be dropped into garbage cans. Yes God cares! The question is do His people care enough to pray and take direct action? Thomas More did and that is why he stood up to Henry the VIII in 1532 and declared as he was being executed, “I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”
At such a time like this we must have our eyes opened and pray and pray some more. As we pray we must be passionately seeking God’s will for our lives. Prayer is the language of the poor. In Psalms 26:1 we read “Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me: for I am poor and needy.” Then Psalms 34:6 declares “This poor man cried and the Lord heard him”.
We must begin to pray “Lord I want to see” as I John 2:11 says, “But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”
The time has come for us to repent of our prayerlessness and indifference. As Joel 2:12 declares, “Now therefore says the Lord. Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting with weeping, and with mourning.” The web of impurity and injustice is tightening around the country. The cup of sin is filling up. The Hand writing is on the wall (Dan.5:26, 27). Someone has said that hell is filled with unrepentant sinners who are blind to the needs around them while heaven is filled with sinners who have repented and can see God at work.
Repentance and earnest prayer resulting from a burning passion for the things of God will bring forth a mighty awakening in the midst of this sinful mess our country is in. This involves caring people who will get down on their knees in intercessory prayer that will push them out into their world under the direction of Almighty God. Such earnest praying will result in healing, help and hope taking place. Push prayer warriors are passionate God fearing people who are fire baptized, concerned and filled with compassion for the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit before the day of wrath. They know that it is, “not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit saith the Lord Almighty” (Zech 4:6).
Today almost everything detestable in the Scriptures have become morally acceptable. Right and wrong is all too often determined by political correctiveness. As long as you are a powerless pew sitter nobody is going to mess with you. The world doesn’t consider you a threat as long as you are weak and whining. The time has come for us to pray and then get out in the world and do good. If we are truly followers of Jesus then we must do what He did! Acts 10:38 says, “Jesus went out doing good and healing all who were under the power of Satan.” Stop being a Sunday warrior and a Monday whiner. The time for action is now! Remember, through the resurrected Christ and see that you are No Longer Powerless.
God’s invitation in II Chronicles 7:14 is an invitation to experience the glorious freedom provided to those He refers to as My people. The phrase “My people” now includes all who declare “Jesus is Lord,” and “believe that God raised Him from the dead.” (Romans 10:9) Such declaration and belief must be followed by decisive action in order to be creditable. It is this necessary action which is spelled out for us in II Chronicles 7:14 when it says, “if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
We live in a land that urgently needs healing today. Our lakes, rivers and streams have such high levels of mercury from our excessive dependence on fossil fuels that small children and pregnant women are advised not to eat the fish caught in those bodies of water. The plague of cancer, asthma, and other infections continue to daily strike increasing numbers. As this happens many who think of themselves, as people of God are indifferent to the ongoing destruction of creation. Thinking that the land to which they hold title is “my land” they forget that they are but stewards of the earth and that in actuality: “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Ps. 24:1).
In America, the land of the free and the home of the self-righteous, it is so easy for those who call themselves Christians to remain silent as the Lord’s earth and everything in it is destroyed in the name of economic development. Blinded by the god of materialism that has given birth to greed, many now refer to God as “my God” not because they love and adore Him, but because they desire to possess Him in order that He might bless their self-centered lifestyles. The term “my God” is now interpreted in the same way one would say my land, my house, and my shoes. Something else to own and control!
God turns this way of thinking upside down when He says, “If My people.” He is making it clear that He is in control. The time has come for those, whom religion has served as a basis for self-righteousness to humble themselves, pray, seek the face of God and turn from their wicked ways.
This invitation is extremely difficult to receive for those who believe they have no wickedness to turn from. For the most part they are nice people, many who regularly attend church, yet are blind to the needs of others, including the groaning of creation. They see no correlation between their materialistic lifestyles and issues like global warming and social injustice. Yet God’s reference to all of us as “My people” offers us hope. We are still His people in spite of ourselves and our sins because of His love manifested through the sending of His Son Jesus Christ. Our hope continues to exist if we will respond by humbling ourselves, praying, seeking the face of God and turning from our wicked self-centered ways. Such action on our part, through the leading of the Holy Spirit and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, results in God hearing from heaven, forgiving our sin and healing our land.
On the night Jesus was betrayed the only charge that His accusers brought against Him was that He stirs people up. Jesus would not compromise with Rome or a corrupt church that was more concerned about theological platitudes then they were about loving the suffering people around them. Jesus went to the cross. He died and rose again. He showed us how to be Christians by living and loving with passion. Jesus never intended His people to be refrigerators in which to preserve personal piety. Instead he wants us to be incubators, hatching converts who will radically proclaim the love of the Lord in word and deed.
This will happen when we grasp the fact that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life as He proclaims in John 11:25, 26, when He declared, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
If you believe this then like the early Christians you will see that you don’t need to be afraid to go against what is considered normal in today’s society. Contrast their courage, faith and zeal with today’s church, which often has more fashion than passion, is more pathetic than prophetic, more superficial than supernatural.
The time for action is now. May God heal us of our spiritual blindness and help us to be His church and not play church at this hour. May we indeed strive to hear and follow His voice and walk in His love and obedience to His word that is so needed at this time. The time has come for us to be Christians who can see the needs that God sees and respond to them according to His word and the leading of His Spirit.