Living for Eternity
Treasuring the Glory of God
Turn to John 9. We are going to cover this chapter over the next two sermons. Every once in a while, as we go through whatever book we are doing. I read the passage and think that this is a little more of a heart-to-heart. When I first became a pastor up in Blind River, a gentleman came to me and said I like your preaching but you yell too much. I actually think I yell a lot more now. But I do the value at times to just sitting down and calmingly look at what the Bible is teaching, especially as this is such a passage that we need our hearts to contemplate. So, I promise, I will not yell at you this morning. One of the things that we may ask as human beings is “Why?” This is a question that any person might ask, the Christian and the non-Christian alike. In our passage the question of why came up.
“As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this was so that the works of God might be manifested in him.’”
John 9:1-3 (LSB)
Why was this son born blind? Why? We might ask many questions, Why was I born into this family? Why did this happen to my child? Why did my sibling die, my child, my good friend? Why did my spouse betray me? Why does my spouse act in the way they do? Why did I not get the promotion? Why do I look the way I look? Why did I not receive the same giftedness as someone else? Why did this person do this to me? Why did their children grow up and succeed and mine seem to struggle? Why did I have to face such a terrible thing as a child? This would have been the question of Joni Eareckson, who was paralyzed from the shoulders down after diving into shallow water at age seventeen. And during her two years of rehabilitation, she experienced anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, and religious doubts. Why did I end up in a wheelchair and someone else who doesn’t even serve Christ go on to live a healthy active life? Why did I choose to go swimming that day? Why did I dive into shallow water?
This man who was born blind from birth would live thinking, I don’t want to go through all this. Why was I born blind? The person who gets the tragic phone call in the night finding out that one in his family has been in a fatal car accident, or the business that at one time was thriving completely goes under. Why? Just think of the time we might take to ask the questions of why. Something that happened this morning, last week, last year, or maybe even 50-60 years ago that we may still be brewing over. Lord, why did this happen? Now some of these “whys” may be self-inflicted, a terrible sin, or a decision that you regretfully made. Some of them were done by someone else, the drunk driver or the one who betrayed me. And some of them were completely out of control of anyone, like this man who was born blind.
The whys, or we might say the reason for something, the cause or explanation for something that has happened. And as that reason is considered or that cause for something which is usually bad, our minds can bring regret, or anger, or hatred. If it was something that we did wrong, then probably regret. If it was something that was caused by someone else, likely anger or hatred. Or if it was completely out of human control, then anger at God. So, Jesus is asked in our story, “Lord, what was the cause of this man being born blind?” Someone might ask today, why is this child struggling so much? Well, the mother was an alcoholic or addicted to drugs. Or the father abandoned the family or physically abused them. Or for some reason, this baby was just born with these limitations. Why?
Well, Jesus does not answer the question by blaming the parents or the man himself, but states (vs 3), “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this was so that the works of God might be manifested in him.” Jesus goes deeper than just why or the immediate cause of something, though there can be an immediate or earthly cause to those things. Yet He really explains what we might call the purpose of the circumstance, not the immediate reason, but the purpose. Listen to the definition of purpose: the reason for which something exists or is done or an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal. See, purpose brings an overarching definition to the whys of life. That yes there may or may not have been an immediate cause of something, but there is also an overarching purpose for the event or circumstance. In fact, purpose actually indicates that there was an intent for the situation. In other words, it was not by happenchance but was actually brought about.
See, the whys of the circumstance try to draw whatever information it can, and we can lie in bed at night and drive ourselves crazy as to why this person did this or why God allowed this to happen. I am sure the parents of Joni Eareckson spent many sleepless nights wondering why we let Joni go swimming that day. But purpose, and listen carefully to this, purpose, though often unknown is the explanation of everything. For nothing happens in the world, nothing happens in the entire universe, that God does not have an explanation for or a purpose. Because God:
“… does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can strike against His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’”
Dan 4:35b (LSB)
I want you to think right now of something that begs the question why? That might cause you to stay awake, or become angry, bitter, or hateful. And we, of course, cannot neglect our own sin here. This is not about thinking, it was not my fault when it was your fault. But this is about looking at the situation now, after admitting my own wrongdoing, if any. Saying Lord, what are You doing now? How will You bring glory out of this? John Piper said:
“No matter what mess you have gotten yourself into, no matter what pain you are in right now for a number of human causes, that is not the main point of it … you could drive yourself crazy on that issue and it will get you nowhere … his fault, her fault, my fault … only what God is going to do now … where is He taking us, me. That is the answer you want.”
Because if you think, no, I don’t want to go through all this. I don’t want to be blind for the rest of my life. Lord, I cannot accept this. Then you need to understand that this will do you no good. Was it my parenting? Was it this decision, or was it that decision? After acknowledging my own guilt, if any, then look for the work or the glory of God in the situation. In this case, there was no guilt of the Mom or Dad, or the man himself. Now this does not mean that they did not sin, it just means that it was not the cause of this man being born blind.
Now we know the story, that Jesus is going to restore this man’s sight. But that is not the case in most situations. In most situations, the man would have remained blind for the rest of his life. So, the challenge here for you and me is to be able to place a greater value on what Jesus draws attention to, the work of God. In other words, we are to look more to the glory of God than to the circumstances of life. More to God’s glory than the situation we now find ourselves. And that is not normal human behaviour for us. But that really becomes the question, doesn’t it? Is the glory of God, the treasure of God, the Person of God more valuable to me than life itself? Because if it is, it puts us in a camp of believers who over time have been willing to suffer much for Christ. Through pain, heartache and disappointment not caused by themselves, are able to praise God and see His glory throughout life. Listen to the words of the psalmist:
“Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will laud You.”
Ps 63:3 (LSB)
The value placed upon God and His character is even better than life itself. See, so much of evangelicalism has taught us that serving God means blessings. So, it has actually pitted blessings versus God. So, if I do this, the blessing ratio will also go up. The problem with this is that it is often not true, and the other problem is that we are looking for the wrong blessings. For the blessings we look for are often directly related to life. Yet the psalmist says, “Your lovingkindness is better than life.” The blessing of God’s lovingkindness, not a physical or necessarily earthly blessing, is better than life. Listen to Jesus’ view of this life versus the eternal:
“And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than, having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into the fiery hell.”
Matt 18:8-9 (LSB)
It would be impossible for a person to hold to such truth, that it would be better not to have a hand or an eye if he did not hold to such a high view of the glory of God. This is where Joni Eareckson found herself a few years later, realizing that the value of God’s glory is shown through her accident and her later intimate relationship with God, to be more valuable to her than running or walking or doing what almost every other human being does. Listen to the Apostle John:
“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will [bless you greatly in this life, a bigger house, restored relationships, and solve your problems; no I will bless you in eternity, for I will] give you the crown of life.
Rev 2:10 (LSB)
Principle #1 … Above all other things a believer must treasure most the glory of God.
In other words, I want Christ more than anything else. I want Christ more than even family, more than being a Mom or a Dad. And I love being a Dad! I want Christ more than a nicer house or a dream vacation. I used to think that I just wanted the Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup before the Lord returned. Fortunately, I have matured a little since then. Or I want to get married before the Lord takes me. No, the hope of the Christian is that I want Christ more than anything else. Think of it this way. You have a treasure chest of valuables on this side: gold, money, houses, cars, cottages, health, a great marriage, wonderful children, a well-paying job, and a full box of unfrosted blueberry pop tarts all to yourself. And on the other side, you have Christ, eternal treasures, everlasting worship and praise of God, God is glorified in your life both today and forever. What would you choose? Which box? Where is your heart? See, this is like Christianity 101 isn’t it, but is still so hard. Jesus said:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matt 6:19-21 (LSB)
I want to say at this point that I am so thankful to be at a church, and I know it is not perfect, but you have this desire. The challenge of living on this earth and being surrounded by so much, yet at the same time to cherish more the heavenly things. And how are you doing with this? Sometimes we could ask our kids, “What is your Mom and dad most passionate about?” How would they answer that question? I mean it is easy to tell your kids that they need to be the most passionate about something, but another thing to ask them is what they see in us. You know, I continue to be impacted by the shortness of time. We always have our grandkids stay with us for about four days in the summer, and they come in groups. So, this past week, we had the older group. And as these kids get older, they stay up later, and we get playing games with them at night. And many of the nights were close to midnight by the time we got done. And closer to one, by the time they get asleep. We had a ball, but I was dragging by the end of the week. And now that some of them are teens, you realize so much the urgency of time. The gift of time that the Lord has given to us, though short. So important that we do not waste any of that time.
So, here too in this passage, I see if you are taking notes an urgency. Verse 4:
“We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.”
John 9:4 (LSB)
Urgency! There is an urgency if I am going to treasure most the glory of God. Now, I if am going to treasure the earthly, there is a lot of time. For I have 70-80 years to treasure earthly things. But if heavenly things, there is so much more to do. Jesus says in (vs 5) “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” He even realized the shortness of His own time, and therefore, the need to be urgent about our own time. See, this is a ministry mandate we have been given, that our life and desire is to be for the glory of God. And our decisions and choices will prove whether this is true or not. So be careful how you spend your time. An urgency.
“When He had said this, He spat on the ground, made clay of the saliva, and rubbed the clay on his eyes, and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.”
John 9:6-7 (LSB)
The second thing I notice here is simple: obedience. Jesus simply asked the man to do something and he did it. This is obedience. This is like having great kids. You simply ask them to do something and they do it. This is what God requires of us as His children, He would simply ask us to do something and we do it. Mom and Dad, our greatest example to our children is not our direction to them, though that is hugely important; but it is that they see us being obedient to Christ.
“Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, ‘Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?’ Others were saying, ‘This is he,’ still others were saying, ‘No, but he is like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the one.’”
John 9:8-9 (LSB)
The third thing is steadfastness. The world’s interest and persistence in Christianity. The world has a desire to eradicate Christianity and God. A quote I heard from the culture the other day:
“We thought we could abolish God and still retain a value for human beings, and found out that we could not.”
John Lennox (speaking on behalf of society)
Also verse 27, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to listen again? Do you want to become His disciples too?” There is such a need for steadfastness in our faith, our focus on the glory of God. For every move we make will bring opposition, and we must be ready for that. For when we determine to live for the glory of God, our own human nature will fight against that. But society will also fight against that. And even the semi-religious will fight against us.
“So they were saying to him, “How then were your eyes opened?”
John 9:10 (LSB)
Now we may not get the same question, but they will come with the same intent. How do you know you are truly saved? How do you know that your religion is the only religion?
“He answered, ‘The man who is called Jesus made clay, and rubbed my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash”; so when I went away and washed, I received sight.’ And they said to him, ‘Where is He?’”
John 9:11-12a (LSB)
In other words, prove to me there is a God. What makes you so certain? See, when we are in church, the answers are so easy, but when we are out on the battlefield, it becomes so much harder. I like the man’s response here (vs 12), he said, “I do not know.” Good to know that we will not always have all the answers.
“So the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, ‘He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.’ So then some of the Pharisees were saying, ‘This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.’ But others were saying, ‘How can a sinful man do such signs?’ And there was a division among them.”
John 9:15-16 (LSB)
Hey, what about all the division in Christianity? Why so many denominations? How come this church says this about the Bible and this church says something else? My church is okay with evolution, with abortion, and with homosexual relationships. What makes your church so special? Then of course in the story, they go after the parents and call into question the miracle itself.
“and questioned them, saying, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?’ So his parents answered and said, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.’ His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.”
John 9:19-22 (LSB)
So, what begins in this story (vs 1-7) as a miraculous event for the glory of God is turning into a complete controversy because of the unbelief of the Jews and the fear of the parents. Which brings us to:
Principle #2 … There will be many in the world who will reject Christ [the Jews] and many who will be unwilling to acknowledge Christ [the parents].
Young person, adult, if you have the courage to take your faith to the world, be prepared to get a lot of pushback. Be prepared to look foolish, not to God, but in the eyes of the world. And even be prepared that those who may be the ones who you thought to be loyal, in this case, the Mom and Dad to be the ones who might bail on you. Here their son has been miraculously healed. You would think that they would be jumping up and down for joy. Yet there is such a coolness towards the situation.
For example, you get saved at a conference, or the Lord moves tremendously in your heart through His Word or during a message. And so, you get excited about serving Christ, and you have determined that nothing is going to dampen your faith. So, you make this awesome stand for Christ at school, and your Christian friend bails on you. Adult, you have a situation where you know the Lord is prodding your heart. So, you pray and pray and ask the Lord to give you courage. And you finally get the courage to take this huge stand for Christ at the workplace. And you lose recognition from most, or you lose the opportunity for the promotion. Your boss, who likes you, who appreciates your work ethic. looks on you a little differently now. And though he thinks well of you, there is a hesitancy on his part to make you one of the core group, as you no longer quite fit into the politically correct crowd. And even those who you thought were loyal to you, will distance themselves from you when you live openly for Christ in the world; as in this story, it was fear that caused the parents to buckle. Got Questions said:
“Faith and fear cannot exist together. Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as being ‘certain of what we do not see.’ It is an absolute belief that God is constantly working behind the scenes in every area of our lives, even when there is no tangible evidence to support that fact. On the other hand, fear, simply stated, is unbelief or weak belief. As unbelief gains the upper hand in our thoughts, fear takes hold of our emotions. Our deliverance from fear and worry is based on faith, which is the very opposite of unbelief.
Got Questions, Your Questions, Biblical Answers
Therefore, a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, ‘Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.’ He then answered, ‘Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’”
John 9:24-25 (LSB)
We will look closer at verse 25 next time, and this whole chapter in relation to verses 35-41. But for now, I want to focus on the fact that this whole situation was brought about so that the glory of God would be on display, that the work here of Christ would be magnified. And yet the thinkers of the day believe differently and say that Jesus was a sinner, that Jesus was all wrong about what he was teaching. Because our world believes that today. That either Jesus was all wrong, or they may allow Jesus to tag along, but change what He said. See, the world believes that their condition in life can be completely changed if their purposes, not God’s, are fulfilled. They are able to enjoy good, long health. Their marriage improves. They are able to collect more things that they find appealing. They have better friendships. They believe that the conditions of the world itself would improve if global warming was brought under control so that we could eradicate major storms and earthquakes. If the world was able to speak with one voice. If mankind could agree with morality made by man himself. If serious health issues were curable, that would be much better.
And here is the issue with every one of these, they eliminate God. As the purpose of life is man and his glory, whereas the purpose of this story is the glory to God. In other words, what all this says is that we need to eliminate God, so that, together, we can work on the problems of life and the concerns of the world. Folks understand that the thinking of man without God is going to be completely useless. Here we have a story that is worthy of excitement and triumph, and the world for some reason sees a problem with it. John 12:40 states that:
“[God] has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes and understand with their heart, and return and I heal them.”
John 12:40 (LSB)
This explains why when a person would persevere in a hard marriage, and believes this to be right. Yet the secular marriage counselor and the world cry “NO!” When a young girl believes herself to be a boy, and a Christian comes alongside and encourages that young girl by teaching her that the Lord loves her and made her a female. The world cries, “NO!” Or when a child misbehaves and does not obey their Mom and Dad, and the Mom and Dad discipline that child; so that the child learns to be obedient to Mom and Dad, teaching them what God says is right and true. The world cries, “NO!” When a woman believes the baby within her has been made by God, and though it is difficult, she does what is right and has the child. The world cries, “NO!” When a husband leads his family and spouse, and he loves her dearly, and she follows his leadership and greatly respects her husband. The world cries, “NO!” And when a church family is led by elders who are men, and the church family love each other, and people learn to be honest and kind, and to work hard, and to be generous, and believe what God has said. The world cries, “NO!” Why? Because their eyes cannot see the glory of God.
In closing, I wish to ask some questions that we need to contemplate because contemplation is partly why we gather here each week. Is the glory of God the most treasured thing to you? To your marriage, your family, your actions at work, your church life. Is everything connected with Christ? When I sit down with my family, is Christ oozing from me? When I speak to my spouse, is it Christ-like? When I walk into work, am I Mr. Grouchy, or is it with the joy of the Lord? And how do the reactions of the world determine your testimony? We will look at this more next time, but does friction, or rejection eliminate your testimony? Does it make you fearful? Or does it make you more determined? Do you give up? Or does your prayer life deepen? You may be going through a heartache with a child right now. You may be concerned for your spouse. Where their heart is? Is he or she growing spiritually? Does he or she even love me? You have been praying about something and God seems to be silent or dead. How does your faith perform amid that discouragement? Treasuring the glory of God. Let’s pray. Lord, for what we know not, teach us. For what we have not spiritually, give us. And for what we are not, make us, And all God’s people said, amen.