Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, May 20, 2007
"Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind" (John 9:39).
The Lord never misses an opportunity to reveal spiritual truth in everyday situations. This week, He has used my new glasses to talk to me about the importance of clarity. When I got them, my first response was to say, "These are too strong." Lenny had also just gotten new glasses and he had a similar experience until he got used to them, making me think that I just had to give the new lenses a chance. Over the next few days, they were only marginally better. On Sunday morning, when I was at the keyboard, trying to lead singing at Medicalodge, the words on the page of the song book were blurry unless I leaned in really close to them. Worse, when I was doing the dishes, I noticed that our perfectly round plates looked oval to me. The doctor's assistant told me to come back in on Monday morning so he could check them. As it turned out, the right lens was not ground according to the prescription he had sent them. He ordered a new lens and how glad I'll be when it comes in. Because he replaced the lens in the old glasses, saving me the expense of buying frames, I had no old ones to fall back on.
I know people that can't see well at all, but still refuse to wear glasses, preferring, I suppose, to walk around in a blurry world. Because I spend so much time on the computer and working with printed materials, I have to be able to see clearly and thus, wear glasses all the time now. Sometime during this frustrating experience, I heard today's topic, "My new glasses." I thought it was just my wish to get this ordeal behind me, but it turns out that God has something to say to me about all of this, and perhaps you'll get something out of it as well.
Most of you know that one of the hallmarks of the Messiah was that He would open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf (Isa. 35:5). He would be "a light for the Gentiles," whose mission would be "to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness" (Isa. 42:6-7). Isaiah may have been prophesying about the future release from Babylonian captivity for the children of Israel, but certainly, he was speaking of spiritual as well as physical blindness and bondage. Because of Macular Degeneration in both eyes, Lenny is designated "legally blind." It has happened slowly over the past three to four years, but we both consider it a terrible situation. He's had the best treatment medical science can provide, and still cannot see to read or drive or write a check. The Lord had told him a couple of years ago that He will heal his eyes, so we await that happy day with anticipation. The eyes of his spirit see perfectly, however, and that keeps him from the despair and depression which would be a normal consequence of this condition.
Since I have to see for both of us, the situation with my new glasses was most unsettling, until I found out that in fact, the lens prescription was off and could be corrected. When the new lens comes in, hopefully, my vision will be better than it was before, which is a metaphor for being in-Christ. Like many physical ailments, being blind was a curse in Bible times (See Deut. 28), and the Rabbis had worked out their own theology about sin and sickness. When Jesus encountered the man blind from birth, His disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind" (John 9:1). The study note observes, "The rabbis had developed the principle that 'There is no death without sin, and there is no suffering without iniquity.' They were even capable of thinking that a child could sin in the womb or that its soul might have sinned in a preexistent state. They also held that terrible punishments came on certain people because of the sin of their parents." Clearly, religious nonsense is not new to our generation, but has been around since Adam ate the forbidden fruit.
The One who came to bring Light to the people walking in darkness, replied, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, 'but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life' " (Vs. 3). Having said that, He "spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva and put it on the man's eyes" (Vs. 9). The man did not complain about the unsanitary conditions of having dirt and someone else's spit mixed together and smeared on his eyes, but just did as he was told, going to wash in the Pool of Siloam. He came away seeing, which constipated the Pharisees and caused a great stir among family and friends. For sure, this is another metaphor, for when God opens our eyes to see Him as He is, our friends and family don't like it much and usually criticize us for either trying to amend their world view or for abandoning their belief system.
For instance, after receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, my sisters and I went to the elders of the church we had grown up in and told them that what we and they had been taught was wrong: the Holy Spirit did NOT go back to Heaven, but is alive and well on planet Earth today. The fat was in the fire then, even as it was for the blind man Jesus healed. We didn't attend that church anymore, having moved to California by then, but if we had, we'd have been tossed out of the "synagogue" the same as the blind man was. The elders even told my mother that she couldn't teach this "heresy" in her Sunday School class, as if she were to blame for our apostasy. While I was sorry they took their irritation out on her, it showed again, that Pharisees like the status quo, and woe to anyone who threatens to change it.
John the Baptist was thrown into prison by Herod for daring to condemn the ruler's marriage to his brother's wife, while the brother was still alive (Matt. 14:3). He sent word by his disciples to Jesus asking, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Luke 7:20). That always gets me where I live because John was "the voice crying in the wilderness," the one chosen from the womb to declare Messiah's coming, and here, he seems to be asking if he got it right. In his book, Christ, a Crisis in the Life of God, Jack Miles suggests that John was using Isaiah's Messianic prophecies as a code which Herod's guards wouldn't understand, to order to ask Jesus if He were going to spring him from prison or not? I like that interpretation better than the idea that John was confused about his announcement of Messiah's arrival. Miles observes that when Jesus sent His reply back to John, He left out the part about setting the captives free (Isa. 42:7), listing instead the rest of the Messianic miracles: "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me" (Luke 7:22-23). His last statement may have been a prayer that John not lose his faith because Christ didn't free him from prison.
Not being able to see clearly makes life very difficult indeed, hazardous to your health in fact. Those driving with Macular Degeneration or other visual problems (as often occurs around here), create a dangerous situation for the driver himself and other motorists on the road.
Likewise, trying to see spiritual truth through inadequate lenses, or worse, using someone else's glasses, is hazardous to your spiritual well being. Scripture is perfectly clear about where we are to get our interpretation of spiritual truth: "As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit, just as it has taught you, remain in him" (I John 2:27). There are many Christians who will not question their church, their denomination, their father or mother's religion no matter what, out of fear that they will fall out of favor with the organization, which they look to for salvation. How glad I am that this is not our problem, because for the fourth week in a row, I remind us of Paul's statement that it is Christ's responsibility to make the church (that's us) "holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word (He IS the word of God), and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Eph. 5:26-27). We have no part in that, any more than we had a part in saving ourselves. Yes, the preachers, pastors, elders, and deacons have a responsibility to fulfill, but that does not include, in my opinion, standing in the way of someone who has seen something "outside the box" of their denomination.
Perhaps this is why the dear Old Saints at Medicalodge have received the word God sent me to deliver with gladness. They no longer have to worry about a pastor or elder or deacon breathing down their neck, checking their theology and telling them what they should believe and what is not allowed.
When the Holy Spirit leads and guides us, as John said clearly, we have no need of any man (or woman) to teach us. You don't need my writings or anyone else's to lead you into truth. You only need the Lord. What most of us try to do is represent as accurately as possible what God has shown us. If He didn't show it to you, then it's not for you right now, but don't use church dogma as your measuring stick, your guideline. What I have told them from the beginning at Medicalodge, since God sent me over there to tell them that no one will burn in hell, is this: Don't believe it because I said it. Believe it only if the Spirit confirms it to you. Many of the old Saints can no longer see well enough to read, which puts them in a dreadful dilemma. We are in the "Bible Belt," so called because of the emphasis that the Bible is the WORD of God (said in stentorian tones, of course). Most churches around here preach the need for daily Bible Study. That's OK, but if you can only see church "party line" you may need your glasses updated. I'm praying that the passing of Jerry Falwell may bring some vision correction and freedom in Christ to his followers still mired in legalism and religious bondage.
I recently bought some non prescription reading glasses for a friend, who just needed a little magnification. My grandfather always bought his glasses from the "dime store," because they were cheaper, of course. He would let his grandchildren wear them sometimes, and I remember putting them on and trying to walk. They were so strong, it felt like I was about to go over a cliff. We thought that was great fun. Fun, it may be for children, but adults need to see clearly in order to survive in this world, both physically and spiritually.
The Bible is written for people on every plateau of spiritual growth. John described the various levels of maturity this way: "I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father" (I John 2:13). Knowing whether you are a father, a child, or a teenager helps clarify what you are reading. This has little to do with how long you have been saved, by the way. Some people never grow past the need for milk, a real problem according to the Hebrew writer: "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (Heb. 5:14). How do we know if we are consuming milk or meat, you may ask?
The writer defines milk: "Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so" (Heb. 6:1-3). It is clear from this list, that a goodly portion of Christendom still lives here, still majoring in minors. Churches need to teach the babes, of course, and in fact, Paul said that "the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law" (Gal. 3:24-25). The New Testament admittedly has some Law in it, which is for the babes who have not matured enough to discern Christ for themselves. Rightly dividing the word of God means knowing if Law is for us, or if we're ready for Christ to be our mentor, our teacher, our counselor, and our guide.
We teach our children right and wrong, safety and security, until they are able to make wise choices for themselves. Hopefully, we no longer feel the need to tell our adult children to be careful while crossing the street, and yet, this is exactly what many churches have done. They continue to teach the ABC's when the flock is ready to read "the classics." The Lord gave me a mental picture once when we visited a local congregation, in which I "saw" row after row of infants in the pews, waiting for a sip from the bottle of milk the pastor offered them.
Just as I finished writing this, the eye doctor's office called to say that my new lens is here, and Lenny and I drove down to have it put in. What a difference clear vision makes! I'm thanking the Lord, who came to "lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth" (Isa. 42:16).
Father we thank You that You do all things well, that You bring Light into every darkness we encounter. You cause the redeemed of the Lord to enter Zion with singing, and everlasting joy will be upon our heads. Gladness and joy will overtake us and sorrow and sighing will flee away. We sing Praises to Your Name, now and forever! Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
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