Friday, 2 March 2018

Spiritual Blindness

Speaker: Mike Connell

The Bible describes 2 kingdoms - the kingdom of "light" (Jesus), and the kingdom of darkness (devil). The Bible also describes several spiritual problems in the heart which cause spiritual blindness - hatred, pride, bitter offences. Blindness speaks of limitations and captivity. In Mark 10, a blind man called Bartimaeus obtained his healing. What did he do that caused Jesus to stop and respond to him? What did he believe about Jesus? How did he demonstrate faith? His encounter can be a doorway to your encounter!

Transcription 10 of 12 – Spiritual Blindness

Let’s open up our Bible and we’re going to look in the gospel of Mark. We’re going to read in verse 46-52.

Mark 10:46 –

“Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.” And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said to Him, “Rabbi, that I may receive my sight.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you whole.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus in the way.”

So the story begins as Jesus comes into Jericho. Jericho was a city that was cursed. Many years before it had been cursed. There was a man in the city, his name was Bartimaeus. That means – son of Timaeus. This man had an unusual problem – he was blind. He was unable to see. So he lived in a world of darkness. The Bible says – he was the son of Timaeus – which means to be secret, or to be covered over. There’s something in that family, there were secrets.

The Bible says – this man was blind, couldn’t see, so he sat on the side of the road, and he would just beg. He would ask for people to help him. The blindness affected his life. The blindness changed what he did. Instead of being able to pursue his dreams, instead of being able to do what he had in his heart to do, he was now sitting by the edge of the road, dependent on other people to help him survive in life. He was a beggar and he had the official garment of a beggar on. The garment he was wearing was the evidence of being a beggar.

This day, he did something that caused Jesus to stand still. So we’re going to look into this story and what caused Jesus to stop. This is Jesus’ last visit through Jericho. He is on His way to Jerusalem; He is on His way to the cross. On this day, the man’s life changed. It changed because he encountered Jesus.

Now, I want us to first of all, have a look at the man’s condition. The man was blind – no vision, no ability to see. This was a natural blindness - blindness caused by some physical problem. But there are other forms of blindness – there can be also a spiritual blindness. The Bible says of Jesus – that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him to bring recovery of sight to the blind. In other words, to help people see what they couldn’t see. The story is more than just a blind man being healed. It’s the story of Jesus opening a man’s eyes, moving him out of a world of darkness into a world of light.

I want you just to close your eyes for a moment. As you close your eyes, mostly you’re in darkness. If you were to put your hand on your eyes, it becomes quite dark. Now, with your hand over your eyes, try to imagine how you’re going to walk out of this place. Consider how you’ll find your way home. You have some memory but you don’t know what lies in the way. You can’t see the obstacles. You can’t see what’s in your way. You can’t see the stairs. You can’t see the dangers.

Can you imagine now, living in that world of darkness, how you will find your way home. Can you imagine now, how you would live your life if that darkness was permanent – no colour, no sun, nothing to see. Just darkness, and no way out of it. Can you imagine what that would be like? Now, open your eyes again. Look around – how beautiful everything looks. Your sight is very important to you.

The Bible tells us that the kingdom of God is a kingdom of light. It’s a kingdom which we can see clearly. It’s a kingdom where its nature is love. The Bible also describes the kingdom of the devil – calls it a ‘kingdom of darkness’. When you’re in that kingdom, you are spiritually blind, you are in a spiritual darkness, and you can’t see. You can’t see where you’re going, you can’t see what is in the way, you can’t see the dangers.

The Bible tells us – Jesus came to bring us out of the kingdom of darkness, a kingdom of spiritual blindness, and into the kingdom of light, into a kingdom where we can see. We see life differently. We see people differently. We understand about eternity. Everything changes as you come into the kingdom of God. You come out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light.

Now, there are many things that cause spiritual blindness. I’m going to just give you a couple of them. If we look in 1 John chapter 2, and it says in verse 9-11: “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

So, you notice the Bible talks about hatred. Hatred is an issue of the heart. When people get hurt, they harbour unforgiveness, it can grow to bitterness and hate. We don’t always feel hate, but hate is a spiritual problem in the heart. You can’t always see hatred, but it will often manifest in a person’s life.

If there’s hatred in a person’s heart, they’re literally unable to be loving. They can pretend to be nice, but the love is never authentic or genuine. Love can never flow from a heart where there is hatred. If there’s hatred in your heart, then love cannot flow to touch people. What is worse, if there’s hatred in your heart, it blinds you. You cannot see your way in relationships. Hatred creates a darkness around your life and it’s not surprising, because hatred comes from the devil and his kingdom is a kingdom of darkness.

So when people have hate in their heart, they literally become blinded by their hate. They can’t see clearly to make good decisions. So they make bad decisions in relationships. Literally because they can’t see clearly.

When you grow up in a family where there’s turmoil and trouble – perhaps the family breaks up, perhaps there’s grief and hurt in the family, you are not responsible for what your parents do. You are responsible for what you let get in your heart. If anger and hatred sit in your heart, this is your responsibility.

What you have to understand is this – that if you leave a family with hatred in your heart, hatred towards your father, hatred towards your mother, or even in some cases, hatred towards yourself, it will blind you. You’ll be unable to form good relationships. You will always see others through the filter of your hate and it will affect you.

The Bible says – He that has hatred in his heart walks in darkness, cannot see, because the hatred blinds the eyes. People who hate their parents will express that hatred towards their children. For some of you, the anger and hate you have experienced is generational – that children growing up hating their parents, express the same thing to their own children. This is a serious problem – that generationally, hatred can flow like a river; and generation after generation is in darkness. There’s a lack of love.

Love touches hearts. Love bonds people together. Love causes us to feel connected. So when there’s a lack of love, then we feel it deeply. Hatred can manifest in more than one way. You may not have realised this. The Bible says that hatred is the cause of murder. So if you read that a murder has taken place, there’s one thing you can be sure of, that underneath it was hatred; and all it took was a provocation. The person becomes provoked, their anger flares up, their hatred flows out and expresses as murder.

Let’s see if I can find the verse on that. In 1 John 3 – it tells us that he that hates his brother is a murderer. What an incredible thing that is. See, we’ve already read that he who hates his brother is in darkness. But the Bible tells us also that the person who hates his brother is a murderer – verse 15 of chapter 3. Let’s read it from verse 14: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

So we need to see here in this passage, a murderer takes life from someone. A murderer takes a person’s life. So, if someone is murdered, the motivation was hatred and the life was taken away. So, the first expression of hatred is violent or angry acts against another person. That can be physical violence, or it can be angry words. That’s why when someone is really angry, you will feel frightened because behind it there’ll be a spirit of murder. You can literally feel afraid because this could get out of control.

We’re not designed to hate people. We’re not designed to live with hate in our heart. We’re designed to be loving. When hatred is in our heart, we can’t see clearly, we react against people and then attempt to hurt them. People can really hurt you with their words and you walk away, and you feel your life has been drained away, end up in pain. It can take you some time to recover.

Another form of hatred – what I’ll call ‘cold love’. The love that God has is alive and warm and vibrant. It touches us. Cold love – the person’s heart is closed up against you. They are polite, they don’t do anything that’s really bad, but there’s no flow of love. It’s like a coldness in their heart. So their behaviour is ok, but you don’t feel the love at all. You look and you think, what’s wrong with this? But the heart is closed up. I have found whenever there’s cold love, underneath there’ll be hate. It’s just the person’s learned to manage it and not to learn how to express the love of God.

So you see, the Bible’s very clear – hatred in your heart causes blindness. You can’t see clearly in relationships; causes you to live in darkness; and it affects your relationships with people. The Bible tells us – demonic spirits can cause blindness. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 – “Now, the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe, lest the light of the gospel would shine in.”

So another cause of spiritual blindness is the activity of demonic spirits. The Bible says – the god of this world – it’s talking about evil spirits. It says – it blinds the mind so they can’t see, they can’t understand. You share about Jesus with them, and they don’t understand. They might even say something like this: “I can’t see that.” They’re actually spiritually blind.

This is why we need to pray for the unsaved. All our efforts to reach people, we need to pray for them. We’re praying for the blindness to go. We’re praying for demonic influence to lift off them so that their mind becomes clear and they can see the truth and embrace the truth.

Another thing that causes us to become spiritually blind is pride. Let me give you a verse – Revelations 3:7 – the Bible’s talking about people in church and it says – “You say you have no need, but it says you’re wretched and poor and blind.”

Pride means – I’m excessively interested in myself. Pride has two faces – very arrogant and projecting myself, and I’m so in love with me I can’t see anything about you. Pride causes people to be very self-centred. The person who’s proud has this kind of view – “It’s all about me. Tell me more about me.” So, a person’s who’s proud, when you are with them, you would feel of no value whatsoever because they’re too busy thinking about themselves. When you start to talk with them, you don’t talk much, they do all the talking. It’s all about them. So that’s one face of pride.

The other face of pride is exactly the opposite. “I’m of no value whatsoever.” The person is introverted. They’re focused on themselves. They’re always thinking – what are people thinking about me. I wonder what they’re thinking. I want people to like me. So this again, is the face of pride. All of these things create a spiritual darkness around us. They make us blind – we can’t see.

Here’s another thing that creates blindness – and that is bitter offenses. When people are offended, when they harbour unforgiveness in the heart, it’s very hard to see clearly because you constantly see your offense. The young woman offended with her father, is easily offended by men. Young man offended by his mother, easily offended by women. These things blind us. We can’t see clearly.

You notice with blind Bartimaeus, he was begging. See, he was begging. What does it mean to beg? That means you’re reaching out to someone to come through for you. You’re reaching out to someone to meet your needs. Many people do this.

When you can’t see clearly what God says about you, you will try and get people to affirm who you are. When you can’t see clearly what God says about you – your values, your giftings and your purpose – you will want other people to tell you. So you will use relationships to help you feel better and your relationships will always have a hidden demand. “Please tell me you like me. Please tell me I’m ok.” So, dependent relationships are built, which become very unhealthy.

If we have judgements in our heart, this also blinds us. In Matthews chapter 7 verse 5 – Jesus talked about judging. When you judge people, it says – you can’t see them clearly and we judge people all kinds of different ways. We may judge people according to their gender. “All women are like this.” Or “all men are like this.” We may judge people according to their race. So people who have judgements in the heart can’t see clearly and it affects how we live our life.

Here’s the thing we need to see about this man –this man wanted to be different. He heard that Jesus was passing by and to him, this was significant. He heard that Jesus would soon be there and he’d heard many things about Jesus. He heard Jesus was the coming Saviour, he heard Jesus did miracles, he heard Jesus helped people, he heard Jesus never turned anyone down.

When he heard Jesus helped people – set people free of demons, set people free of sicknesses, faith rose in his heart. He wanted to be different. He wanted the power of God to come into his life to change him. “I don’t want to be blind. I don’t want to sit in darkness.”

In Isaiah 42 – I think about verse 7 or verse 9 – it says that people who are blind, were sitting in darkness in a prison. Spiritual darkness is like a prison limiting your life, stopping you from seeing, holding you captive. If you have pride, it’s holding you captive. Bitterness is holding you captive. Hatred is holding you captive. If you have something spiritually holding you captive, you’re sitting in darkness, in a prison, looking for someone to help you.

This man decided – “I’ve had enough. I want Jesus to change me. I don’t want to stay here in this place.” Most people will stay like they are and will not change until the pain of staying as they are is greater than the pain of change. This man believed Jesus could change him, he believed Jesus could change his life. So when he heard Jesus was coming by, he began to cry out.

You have had enough of living in spiritual darkness, enough of being in a spiritual prison, enough of reaching out to people to try and come through for you. Reach out to Jesus. This is how he did it – he raised his voice – “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” He used the term ‘Son of David’. This was the name given to the coming saviour of the world. So what he’s saying is this – “Jesus I know you save people. I know you can break the power of sin. I know you can break the power of the devil. I know you can change me. Jesus!”

Now, notice what the crowd did – many of them: “Shh be quiet. Don’t do that. Just stay like you are. Be quiet, don’t cause a fuss.” A crowd of people often is not interested in your welfare. They were objecting to being interrupted. They were objecting to the noise. Listen, they were objecting to his faith. There’s no record anyone else was healed. He had faith. Faith is not silent. When you have faith in your heart, it always shows up. It shows up in three ways for this man.

Number 1, he cried out to Jesus. Number 2, he persisted when people resisted. I love this next statement – they said: “Be quiet, stop this noise. This is a national day. Don’t cry out on the national day.” It says – he cried out even louder. When people tried to stop him, he’s more determined. “Wait, Jesus!” They go: “Quiet, quiet. We get the police on you! You’re causing trouble you know.” He cried louder.

Then Jesus stopped. Now, when you have a big crowd of people, there’s a lot of noise. Ever been in a big crowd? There’s a lot of noise. But in the midst of the noise, Jesus heard something that stopped Him. “I hear someone.” “Hey, of course you hear people, there’s hundreds here.” “No, no. I hear someone.” He stopped because He heard the cry of faith. He stopped because there was someone different out there. You see, Jesus didn’t just hear the crowd, His ear singled out one person who believed enough to keep crying out when everyone was against him, resisted him.

Sometimes we don’t get answers straight away from God. There’re a number of stories in the Bible when people didn’t get an answer straight away. Maybe you haven’t gotten an answer straight away when you’ve cried out to God. Maybe if people have tried to discourage you. But faith is never discouraged. Faith never gives up. You cry even louder, even stronger. The more the resistance, the more he cries out!

So number 1, he cried out to Jesus. Number 2, he persisted when everyone resisted him. He was determined! “I will have a miracle today!” Jesus heard him. He said – “Stop, someone’s calling out. Bring him to me.”

Notice how the crowd changes – one moment they said “Quiet. Too noisy. Disturbing us. Be quiet.” Next thing, “Oh, He’s calling for you. Not for me, for you.” Jesus doesn’t call for the person who’s complaining. He reaches out to the person with faith. “Hey, how come He’s calling to you? Why not me? Because I’m complaining and trying to shut down faith.”

So, notice it says – this is what he did – he threw off his garment and he rose and he came to Jesus. Now that garment was very significant. See, it was the official beggar’s garment so you needed that to do the begging. Probably had to pay a license fee for it. So when he threw it off, he’s saying – “my life is about to change.” He said – “I’m as good as got that miracle because Jesus is calling me to Him.”

So what does the garment represent? Number 1, the garment represents his old way of life. When he throws off the garment, he’s saying – I’m changing. The Bible calls that ‘repentance’. My whole life is about to change right now because I’m coming to Jesus; He’s been calling me to Him. So he throws off the garment – “first thing, my life is about to change. The old life in darkness, the old life in poverty, the old life depending on people, it’s all about to change.” So, he throws off the garments.

There’s a second thing about the garments. He’s thrown aside the garment. The garment represents limitations. He was limited in his life, limited because of the darkness, limited because of what he believed. Many people are limited because of what they believe about themselves. Many people are limited – not by God, but because of what you believe in your heart about yourself.

The Bible says – Proverbs 23:7 – “As you think in your heart, so you are.” So if you believe – “I’m of no value”, then you’re living in darkness and limitation. If you believe you can’t, you’re living in limitation. If you believe you can’t get anything right, you’re living in limitation. Whatever’s limiting you, throw it off! Repentance is another word for ‘throwing off’. How I think, how I look at life, it’s changed.

There’s a third thing that garment represents. It represents grief and pain in his life. Every time he puts on the garment, he’s reminded of his hurt: people abusing him and hurting him; making fun of him; ignoring him; sometimes stealing from him. Many people carry hurts, grieves, and sorrows, and they wear them like a garment. You ask them: “how are you doing?” “Oh, not good. You should see what’s happening to me. Oh, so many people hurt me: my father, my mother, my friends, and the teachers; then the pastors. Oh, so hurt.” “Oh, well you’re wearing a beggar’s garment.” “I wear my hurt. Please feel sorry for me. Oh, please feel sorry for me.” Many people are like that. They want someone to feel sorry for them. They’re wearing a garment of hurt, and they’re reaching out, begging – “Please, feel sorry for me.”

See, when the beggar put his hand out, I put some people in. But someone who’s wearing self pity, then they come and tell you how hurt they are. “Oh, so hurt, I’m so sorry to hear that. This is dreadful! Oh, the way they treat you is not good. You’re a good person!” Keep giving to me. Lot’s of people are like that.

So, the garment represented his hurts and pains, the limitations in his life, and his old lifestyle. In coming to Jesus, he’s determined he’s going to make a change. Not only that, the garment is his false security. Just in case. You see, he could’ve kept it, “I’ll go to Jesus, but just in case it doesn’t work, I’ll hold on to it. Just in case Jesus doesn’t work out, I’ll have a second plan.” A lot of people approach Jesus like that – “well, I’ll see, but just in case. I’ll have my escape plan.” But he had no escape plan, throws it off.

He came to Jesus, and Jesus said to him: “Hey, what do you want?” Woah, ask a blind man what he wants. “What do you want?” “I want to see!” He gave the right answer. Remember we saw the other story, the man who’s crippled, and he was asked: “What do you want? Do you want to be healed?” “Oh, you don’t understand, there’re so many problems I have.” He gave the wrong answer.

Jesus asked this man another question: “What do you want?” He knows straight away what he wants. “I want to see! I want to see!” That’s the way to come to Jesus. Don’t come to Him with excuses. Don’t come to Him with: “Oh, whatever you want.” That’s silly nonsense. “I want to see!” Jesus said: “Because of your faith, be healed!” Eyes open, darkness gone. Then he became a disciple of Jesus, he followed Jesus. The man who was in darkness is released out of his prison.

Now he sees. He’s got rid of the beggar’s garment, his life is changed, he’s got rid of the hurts. “I can see!” He got rid of the limitations, “I can see!” He got rid of his old insecurities, “I can see! I see!” What’s the first thing he saw? Jesus. And he followed Jesus. Jesus came to get us out of spiritual darkness. He came to change our life, remove the limitations, heal the broken heart. He came to give us a real security and bring us into a place of life.

In that story there, that was the last time Jesus walked through that city and one man stopped Him and got a miracle. Think about that. Hundreds of people, but one man stopped Jesus. Hundreds of people who were just looking with no faith. One man. One man – “I believe you’ll change me.” He threw off his garment, rose up, and Jesus changed him, just as he believed. I want you to close your eyes right now.

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