Some people once brought a blind man to Jesus to be healed. Jesus took the man by the hand and led him to a secluded place outside the village where he spat in the man’s eyes. In any culture this would be considered an insult. But Jesus did it anyway.
Jesus then asked the man if he could see anything, and the man answered, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
I’m sure the man was thrilled to have even a hint of sight, but Jesus wanted him to see clearly, to know what he had been missing, to witness the full glory of his Father’s creation. So he put his hands over the man’s eyes again, and suddenly the man could see clearly. His sight was completely restored (Mark 8:22-25).
In so many ways I’ve seen God do the same thing in my life. When I first gave my heart to him, I was filled with a glorious feeling but my vision was blurry and confusing and new. Through the years he continued to disciple me, to shape my heart and spirit, until I could see more clearly. I began to see people plainly, as individuals before me, not as simple masses moving about. I began to see them the way he sees them — hurting and lost, like sheep without a shepherd.
That’s what Jesus’ touch on our lives will do for us, but only if we are willing to let him. So many followers of Christ never get to that stage. We allow God to touch us, to set us free from the blindness, the total darkness of sin, but we somehow remain content with an immature sight.
As we allow Jesus to touch us more deeply and bring our eyes and hearts into clear focus, he will take us further into the vision he has in mind for us. As a result, we will see people the way he sees them.
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
Many Christians have the mistaken notion that God delights only in chastising and correcting us. No! The Bible tells us that he takes no pleasure in disciplining his children. On the contrary, Jesus says, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). He assures us, “I will give you everything you need because my heart is set on blessing!”
Nowhere in the Bible do we find Jesus cursing anyone. (The only thing he cursed was a fig tree.) No preacher, apostle, prophet or shepherd in history ever blessed people more than Jesus did.
Consider the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit … Blessed are those who mourn … Blessed are the meek … Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness … Blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted” (see Matthew 5:3-10). Everywhere Jesus turned he blessed.
He took children in his arms and blessed them (see Mark 10:14). He blessed those who held feasts for the poor and crippled. “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you” (Luke 14:13-14).
It touches my heart deeply that Jesus’ last words before he left his disciples were words of blessing. Luke says that Christ “opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (24:45). And then: “He lifted up His hands and blessed them” (Luke 24:50).
At this point you may be thinking, “I can understand how the Lord would bless children or new converts or even Christians in poor countries who need miracles just to have food. But I can’t understand those kinds of blessings for myself. I feel so unworthy.”
Beloved, you will never be worthy of God’s blessings! No one is — but he comes to us strictly in his mercy and grace to bless us with spiritual blessings beyond our comprehension.
The disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). They would not have asked if they had not wanted to learn. I believe most Christians would love to be faithful in prayer but they lack understanding of how to pray. There has been no shortage of instruction by well-intentioned teachers sharing formulas and strategies for effective prayer, and while I am not condemning any of this, I believe the kind of prayer that most pleases God is very simple.
Many Christians pray out of a sense of obligation; others pray only when tragedy strikes or a crisis befalls them. But we need to grasp the foundational truth that prayer is not just for our own welfare or relief but for the delight of the Lord.
Two basic elements must go together: our benefit and God’s delight. We are not to merely intercede for things we need, but we must ask for the things he desires. Of course, we need to unburden our hearts and seek a supply of his strength, but Christians can be very self-centered when it comes to prayer. He has told us to cast all our cares upon him but our praying is not complete if we do not understand God’s need, as well — his desire for fellowship with us — intimacy and communion.
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). And back in 6:8, Jesus says, “For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”
God is saying to us, “When you come into my presence, focus your attention on fellowship with me, on getting to know me. I already know your needs; you don’t have to ask over and over. I’ll take care of them all! Just seek me and let’s enjoy sweet fellowship.”
The heart of the true message of grace is not a permissive gospel but one that teaches holiness!
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13).
According to Paul, we are not walking in grace until we have broken from worldly corruptions. Unless we are endeavoring through the power of the Holy Spirit to lead godly and righteous lives, looking for the Lord’s coming in our every waking moment, then we do not know God’s grace.
Too many Christians want forgiveness — but that’s all. They do not want to be delivered from this present world because they love it. They are attached to their sins and do not want to give up the pleasures of this world. So they cling to a doctrine that says, “I can live as I please — as long as I say that I believe.” Sadly, these Christians do not want to hear about obedience, repentance or self-denial. They would rather live in this world without restraint.
Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). We are to break from this world completely and be conformed to Christ alone!
Jesus justifies us through faith for a purpose — to embolden and empower us to resist the devil and overcome the world, in the power of God’s Spirit. Yes, Jesus died for us so that we could have eternal life but he also died so that we could enjoy deliverance in and from this present evil world.
“[Jesus Christ] gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father’ (Galatians 1:4).
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
I believe that justification by faith is the foundational truth of Christianity. You cannot know true rest and peace until you are convinced that you can never be made right in God’s eyes by your own works.
If you do not understand the perfect righteousness of Christ that is yours by faith, you will lead a life of toil and sweat, trying to please God through a legalistic, hopeless attempt to establish your own righteousness. But the truth is, you will never have any righteousness to bring to the Lord.
A familiar passage in Isaiah says that all our righteousness is as filthy rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6). This does not mean that God despises our good works — not at all. God does want our righteous deeds and we should do all the good works that we can. But if you think they merit your salvation then they are no more than filthy rags.
Of course, you may feel good because of the good works you do. For instance, you will probably enjoy a moment of victory and satisfaction whenever you resist temptation. But the next day you fall back into a sin and you quickly lose your joy. You think the Lord is angry with you and you think, “I’ll never make it.”
Such a roller-coaster ride of emotional highs and lows can result in a life of misery. Why? Because you are trying to please God in your flesh!
Beloved, no righteousness of the flesh will ever stand before God. Even the best people among us — the most moral, godly saints — have all failed miserably and fallen short of God’s glory. Not one of us can ever be accepted in the Father’s eyes by our own works. But the good news is that we are totally accepted by him through Christ.