Lessons from a Blind Man

It’s a familiar story found in John, Chapter 9. It was a Sabbath Day in Jerusalem.  Jesus and his disciples were walking the city streets when Jesus noticed a Jewish beggar who had been blind from birth, which set off an interesting chain of events.

Relying on Jewish tradition, the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus told them that no one’s sin caused the blindness and that the poor man was blind so that the works of God could be made manifest.

Jesus healed the man’s blind eyes by anointing them with mud and spit and telling him to go and wash in the nearby Pool of Siloam. The begger went, washed, and returned with his sight completely restored!  Neighbors and others who knew the man were divided as to whether this was the blind beggar, or just someone who looked like him.  When they asked him how he received his sight he simply told him the story of what had happened.

The man was hauled off to the Pharisees in the synagogue (it being the Sabbath and all), where he received the third degree from the religious leaders who were conflicted about the matter.  Some said the man who had healed the blind man had violated the Sabbath while others were puzzled how such an obvious ‘sinner’ could have performed such a miracle!  After all, working on the Sabbath was a sin and therefore, the man who had performed the healing had to be a sinner. They asked the blind man what he thought about the man who healed him and he answered “He is a prophet.” 

The angry and still-confused Pharisees had the man’s parents brought in and asked them if the formerly-blind man was their son. They admitted that he was, but were too scared to admit to a possible miracle and played the “We know nothing, ask him!” card like Sgt Schultz (Hogan’s Heroes).  So the Pharisees questioned him again, reminding him that Jesus was a ‘sinner’ (sinners don’t go around healing people) and asking him how his eyes were really opened. 

Then came the classic response, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know.  One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

That was the last straw, and the man was angrily ejected from the synagogue (excommunicated), the worst thing that can happen to a practicing Jew!  What happened next was the most wonderful and astonishing climax to a long day:

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”  Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”  He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him.” (John 9:36 – 38)

What can we learn from the events of that long ago Sabbath Day?  Trust me, there is much we can, and have learned through the years.  But as Alistair Begg commented in a sermon about the events that day, “Not only do we have here an illustration (the blind beggar) of saving faith, and not only do we have here the impact of saving faith in a life in that he worships, we have an example of what we may do endeavoring to lead men and women to faith in Jesus.” (From the sermon “Lord I Believe” & the Sermon Series “A Light in the Darkness” John 9:38 (Aug 27,2006))

In the sermon, Alistair then tips his hat to Charles Spurgeon, who outlined the principles Jesus used in the healing of a blind Jewish beggar (From the sermon “A Pressed Man Yielding to Christ”, delivered October 12th, 1882 at The Metropolitan Tabernacle Evening Service):

1. “If you have a choice as to those to whom you go, seek out the oppressed.”  Yes, we are commanded to go, “into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”; but if we are able to pay particular attention to some more than others, “seek out the sick, the sad, the weary, the poor, the broken-down ones, and especially such as have been put out of the synagogue.”  Out of all the busy people in the streets Jesus noticed and singled out the blind beggar, first to bring healing and later to identify himself as the Son of God.  The hurting and disenfranchised are “likely soil for the good seed of the kingdom to grow in, and bring forth fruit. Those whom nobody else wants, and nobody else will have, our blessed Lord and Master delights to receive.”

2. “Next, when you come to close quarters with them as Christ did, ask them questions.”  Jesus asked the blind beggar, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  It was a very pointed and personal question.  As Spurgeon put it, the preacher in the pulpit can “fire the gospel gun, and the shot flies where God directs it;” but the person in the pew (you) who loves the Lord, can, as it were, “hold a pistol close to the sinner’s head.”  You can deal with the lost and hurting on a personal level, one by one, and call them to respond directly to a direct and very personal question.  When the time is right, ask just like Jesus asked, “Do you believe?”  That is the way to win souls, begin with a personal question.

3. “Next, be ready to answer enquiries.”  This is what Jesus did when he revealed himself to this man.  When Jesus asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  the man answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”  Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”  He said, “Lord, I believe.” When you are asked a question tell them everything you know in answer to the question, and if can’t tell them everything they want to know, take them to someone who is more advanced in spiritual matters, so that with prayer, patience and loving instruction,  they can be lead to Christ.

4. “Next, pray to the Lord Jesus Christ to reveal himself to them, for that is the way faith comes.  We cannot speak of Christ as He should be spoken of; but, when He reveals himself, then the sinners see him.”  All of the mere words we speak in leading someone to Christ will be fruitless unless accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit himself working in the heart of the hearer. “All the portraits of a beauty never touch the heart like one glance from her eyes; and all the portraits of Christ, that ever were painted by his most admiring disciples, never make such an impression on the heart of man as when once he says, as he said to this man, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”  None but Christ himself can preach Christ to the full. He must reveal himself, or the Spirit must reveal him, or else men do not see him.”

5.  Finally, glorify Christ by your personal testimony.”  Remember Jesus’ high priestly prayer, in which he said, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,” meaning the word of his disciples through all the ages of history.  Even though it is the word of Christ we speak, when it comes from deep in our own hearts, from our own experience, it is also our word bringing salvation to the lost and dying.

_____________

The above article was first published in the Christian Military Fellowship April 2021 Newsletter, downloadable here.

Conspiracy Theory or Gospel Truth?–by Clint Archer

On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon.

Or did they?

I find most conspiracy theories to be insufferably far-fetched. I mean obviously the moon landing happened— we have photos, video, mission logs, moon rocks, and the testimony of the men who walked on the moon.

On the other hand…

A conspiracy theorist may point out that photos and video could easily have been shot in a studio, you’ve never seen a moon rock yourself, and the astronauts had much fame and fortune to gain by faking their claims, as did the USA, who won a decisive Cold War victory against the Soviets in the Space Race.

Did you know that there are photos of the lunar module in which there are shadows falling at a 45-degree angle from each other, indicating two light sources?

Did you know that in one photo there is a moon rock clearly labeled with a perfectly symmetrical engraved letter C? The so-called “C-rock” has been weakly explained as a curled hair that interfered in the development process.

Did you know that the American flag in one photo appears in front of the camera’s cross hairs, indicating it was superimposed on an existing photo? And why was the flag rippled since there’s no moving air on the moon?

Did you know in the reflection of a visor there can be seen an image of a piece of equipment not found on any moon landing gear, but looks suspiciously like a stage spotlight?

Makes you think, doesn’t it? And you wouldn’t be alone. After a series of documentaries aired on TV, a poll revealed that 20% of Americans and 28% of Russians believed that the first moon landing was faked.

So, is there any incontrovertible proof that could be used to silence conspiracy theorists once and for all? We’ll get back to that. First, let’s look at an event in history that was far easier to prove.

Paul is writing to the young pastor Timothy and in his letter, in 1 Timothy 3:16, he includes what is widely deemed to be a hymn or confession or creed that was sung or recited by the early church.

6 VOICES HARMONIZING 6 EVIDENCES IN THE EASTER HYMN

1. MANIFESTATION

1 Timothy 3:16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh

The word mystery [musterion] in Greek is a term for a truth that was unknown before but revealed. This revealed truth is the revelation of godliness. Jesus was godliness incarnate, manifest in the flesh.

Christianity isn’t a system or lifestyle choice. It is a belief in the claims, teachings, and events of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle John defended the physicality of Jesus to the Gnostics who were saying Jesus was a spirit, an influence, and emanation from God rather than a real person.

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life

John knew Jesus firsthand, tangibly, in living color.

He’s not a myth like the Loch Ness Monster or the Easter Bunny. He is an historical figure, attested to by history, and seen by countless eye-witnesses. He was manifest in the flesh.

2. VINDICATION

1 Timothy 3:16vindicated by the Spirit

Vindication is when something you claim is proven to be true.

The coming of the Spirit on Jesus vindicated his claims. If he was a crazy man making crazy claims, then why did the Spirit empower him to do miracles?

Romans 1:3-4 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord

The enemies of Jesus questioned his genealogy, his claims, his teachings, but they never questioned his power.

Many people make great claims, but Christ made claims and the Spirit vindicated him with God’s power.

3. CONFIRMATION

1 Timothy 3:16seen by angels

Pop quiz: how many men have walked on the moon? Answer: 12. Who were the 3rd and 4th? Pete Conrad and Alan Bean who walked on the moon in November 1969.

If you landed on the moon in November 1969 and noticed no footprints, no flag, and no evidence that anyone had ever been there before you, wouldn’t you make fuss about being the real first person on the moon? You wouldn’t give that accolade to someone else. But Conrad and Bean came back with photos of Armstrong and Aldrin’s footprints. 

So one major line of evidence used to prove that the first moon landing was not faked, is what was seen by the other astronauts. They would never play along with a hoax.

In the same way the one species of creature who would never play along with a human pretending to be God, is the angels.

And yet, they testified that the resurrection was genuine.

Luke 24:2-6 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.

These are creatures who live in heaven with God would never be party to a human hoax.

4. PROCLAMATION

1 Timothy 3:16 proclaimed among the nations

One proffered theory for a faked resurrection is that the disciples stole the body to perpetuate the myth of Christ’s powers. But that part of their story led not to fame and fortune for them, but shame, capture, and martyrdom.  Hoaxes are meant to make money, power, and prestige.

We understand why Armstrong and Aldrin could be accused of staging a hoax: they got unimaginable fame and fortune as heroes and celebrities. But the preaching of the disciples cost them everything.  And yet they never, ever changed their story. They never watered down the resurrection claim and they never left it out of a gospel presentation. They insisted it was the central tenet of their message.

We’ve seen in Acts that John and Peter get arrested and beaten for preaching the resurrection. James gets beheaded, Stephen gets stoned to death. Eventually every last Apostle ends up martyred (save John who dies in exile).

All because of their unedited proclamation of the resurrection.

Now how is it possible that not a single person accused of faking the resurrection ever faltered on even one detail? Every last one of them would rather die than change their story. Why? Because it was true! So it was proclaimed in the nations.

5. GLOBALIZATION

1 Timothy 3:16believed on in the world

Jesus promises that he would build his church.

Matthew 16: 18I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Jesus said he would take personal responsibility for people in the world to believe the gospel.

Then he left these marching orders…

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations

That promise is impossible to fulfill without the resurrection; Jesus needs to be alive to fulfill that promise. And since the promise is obviously being fulfilled with great effectiveness, it counts as a line of evidence that Jesus is alive, backing up the globalization of his church. He was believed on in the world.

6. ASCENSION

1 Timothy 3:16taken up in glory.

The ascension itself was the physical, visible part of the Father’s promotion and exultation of Christ for what he did. He wasn’t just taken up, he was taken up into glory.

Ephesians 1: 20-21he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

There is no higher position in the Universe than the right hand of the Father in Heaven.

The CEO of all Creation. The Director of the Universe.

There is something hardwired into human beings to reach out and explore and set goals and conquer what’s next. But Jesus, transcended every possible goal in the Universe. He ascended to Glory. The top rung on the corporate ladder.

And the fact that the Father bestowed that honor on him is evidence that the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus was accepted as the ultimate confirmation: Mission Accomplished.

These six voices in this line of evidence are not meant to convince unbelievers.

This is a hymn of faith for we who believe and just love to revel in the truth of what Jesus did.

CONCLUSION:  To answer our question: Is there any incontrovertible evidence for the moon landing to silence conspiracy theorists once for all?

The answer: It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter whether people believe that humans walked on the moon. No one’s soul is in the balance.

But it does matter that you believe God walked on the earth. It does matter if you believe that Jesus claimed to be God and was raised from the dead to prove it. Do you believe?

___________________

Online Source: The Cripplegate,

What is Man? – Yaroslav Viazovski,

We constantly speak about man in theology. But is it legitimate in the first place? Theology, as you know perfectly well, consists of two Greek words that mean “God” and “word.” It is the word about God. This is the shortest and the truest definition of theology. Only R.C. Sproul’s definition can compete with it in sharpness: “Theology is the study of God.”

Theology is about God and emphatically not about man. Theology is not even about any abstract God but about the concrete God revealed in the history of Israel and in the person of Jesus Christ. The focus and intention of the Bible and, consequently, of theology is very narrow and highly specific. So “how dare you” speak about man? Do we have an explanation and justification for the intrusion of anthropology into theology, for the intrusion of the word about man into the word about God?

We can legitimately speak about man in theology for two reasons: first, God created man in His image; second, God Himself became man.

These two facts immediately bring man into the circle of our thinking and talking about God. It turns out that, in fact, we can’t speak about “God revealed in the history of redemption” without speaking about man in the same breath. So, formally, theological anthropology is justified by the very nature of theology itself.

But the reverse is true too. Man cannot be understood apart from his relation to God, or better, God’s relation to him. The very first definition of a human being is that it is a being in a special relationship to God. This is what defines man in his most basic core. Counterintuitively and paradoxically, it is neither outer form (a particular physical body) nor inner experience (thoughts and feelings) but an external link to God—an external attitude of God—that makes this being a human being. 

The center of gravity of the human person is, as David Kelsey put it, eccentric—that is, it is situated outside the person. And this center is God in His creative and redemptive acts directed toward man. As the author of Hebrews formulated it so well, “For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham” (Heb. 2:16). Human beings are higher than angels (and, it follows, higher than any other being in the world) because God saves human beings and does not save angels. God does for man what He does not do for angels, cats, trees, and stars.

What is man? Man is that being which God created in His image. What is man? Man is that being whose nature God chose from the whole universe to take upon Himself at the proper time.Man cannot be understood apart from his relation to God, or better, God’s relation to him.

It is true even for atheists. Existence of man without God is an illusion. No such man actually exists. We cannot define a human being and then, perhaps, add to the definition relation to God or leave the definition unmarred by God and still have a human being. God is not an expensive but unessential extra for man in the way that a climate control system is an add-on for a car. Even entirely secular people are created in God’s image, and it is true even for them that God became one of them. That is what defines atheists and makes them human. All people are in relation to God—positive or negative. As the saying goes: If there is no God, in whom, then, do atheists not believe?

Intrusion of the word about man into the word about God is not only possible and legitimate but, as it turned out, also fruitful. We at once learn that to be human is to be in relation to God—even if this relation is frantically denied from the human side.

I am pretty sure that imago Dei and incarnation are where we should start in current debates about human nature. How many genders are there? Is it OK to be gay? Are men and women fully mutually replaceable? For me as a theologian, such questions are secondary. I do not care about trying to find a place for God in the life of the modern or postmodern man. It is clear to me that the ball is on the human side: How can man find his place in God’s history?

It has been said that the Enlightenment was not so much about reason as about will. And reason was a cover for desire and was used as an instrument to free the will from any external authority and boundaries. By now this Enlightenment project has fully succeeded: man freed himself so much that he lost himself. There are no contours to his being. He is shapeless like amoebae. He lost humanizing boundaries both in his body and in his mind (and will).

What theological anthropology does is bring the boundaries back: to be human is to be in relation to God. The special attitude of God—realized in imago Dei and incarnation—makes humans human. To be human is to be limited by God. Humanity is what God, revealed in redemptive history, thinks and makes humanity to be. Man is not shapeless anymore. He is limited, defined, and outlined by God and God’s attitude toward him.

This starting point—if it is not ruined by moralistic and religious propaganda—potentially is able to undermine the worldview of human absoluteness, shapelessness, and deliberate self-destruction.

Dr. Yaroslav Viazovski is pastor of Evangelical Reformed Presbyterian Church in Minsk, Belarus and author of several books, including Image and Hope.

HT: Tabletalk Magazine

Beth Moore apologizes for role in elevating complementarianism – The Christian Post

One month after announcing her departure from the Southern Baptist Convention, Beth Moore has apologized for her role in elevating complementarian theology to a “matter of 1st importance.”
— Read on www.christianpost.com/news/beth-moore-apologizes-for-role-in-elevating-complementarianism.html

An interesting article on several levels that deserves thoughtful consideration.

The Gospel and the Resurrection

“The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ, whether you are a Christian or not. Through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.”

Two highly questionable statements, at least theologically and doctrinally speaking.

The first, that “The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ, whether you are a Christian or not”, is a direct repudiation of the Gospel. For Christians, there in NO event more transcendent than the resurrection! If there were no resurrection, our faith is vain – useless. (1 Cor 15:13). No matter how deeply and sincerely we believe in Christ for salvation, if Christ was not raised, we will not be raised.

The second statement, “Through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves”, is just a lie. There’s no other way to define it.

Not only is it a declaration of the social gospel (NO gospel), it is clearly contradicted by scripture itself, most notably by Ephesians 2:8-9:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Although the Apostle Paul is making a point about boasting in one’s salvation, that human works can’t save anyone, is a universal principle. The very reason that Christ went to the cross was because we cannot save ourselves.  God’s standard for salvation is complete perfection. If not for the death of Christ, who lived a life of perfect obedience and died for our sins, teamed with His resurrection is the very definition of the gospel!

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

Perhaps as grievous as the statements themselves is who made them. They were  in a Tweet by The Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, the Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta Georgia.

I’ll just leave it right there. Further speculation would distract from the fact that they were spoken at all.

John Calvin on the Sacrament of Baptism

This is an excellent treatment of John Calvin & baptism.

joshuahoffmann1

Abstract

This essay engages with John Calvin’s doctrine of baptism as stated in the Institutes of the Christian Religion. It begins by introducing the topic, listing some of the concerns that underlie Calvin’s doctrine and giving some historical context. The essay then moves to engage with Calvin’s view on the Sacraments in general, before delving into his understanding of what baptism is and what the sacrament accomplishes, and symbolizes. The essay then critiques Calvin’s understanding of infant baptism before presenting a personal reflection on Calvin’s doctrine in light of the study.

 

Introduction

Baptism is a sacrament that is almost universally recognised throughout the many factions of the Christian Church, however, how this sacrament is to be understood has long been a subject of fierce debate[1]. This debate was at its height in the age of the Protestant reformation, where Roman Catholic, Radical, and Magisterial thinkers proposed…

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The Equality Act Makes Everyone Potato Heads • Pastor Gabe

“To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man,” says Wisdom personified in Proverbs 8. “O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense… Whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself. All who hate me l …
— Read on themajestysmen.com/pastorgabe/the-equality-act-makes-everyone-potato-heads/