Overcoming Spiritual Blindness, Part 2
As a community of faith, we have much to be grateful for and joyous about. While 2021 was fraught with challenges, God’s grace is sufficient for every season we face. Our confidence rests in Christ and our new life in Him. For in Him we live and move and have our being—He is our hope, our anchor in a turbulent world.
As we transition into 2022, I felt it important to discuss overcoming spiritual blindness. This dynamic will hinder our vision of the future and what God invites us into. If we are honest with ourselves, to some degree, we all are a little spiritually blinded. Good news, God’s empowering grace helps us overcome, grow strong in Christ and live the abundant life He intends for us.
Is Your Heart Still Hardened?
Our daily lives are busy, and if we are not careful to observe God’s ways, we can miss his gentle impressions and signs that speak “loudly.” You and I can be “seeing,” but not really “see.” That is, we can observe through our natural sight and senses many things around us but be “spiritually dull” to what God may be revealing plainly.
In Mark 6 we read how Jesus calms the storm and the disciples were greatly amazed beyond measure. They had just witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes, yet, they had a vision problem!
Mark injects a shocking interpretation that explains much of the disciples’ perception problems: Mark 6:52 “their hearts were hardened.” No different than the religious Pharisees, their hearts were dulled to the reality of who Jesus is.
Like the account in Mark 6, in Mark 8 after miraculous provision of food for 4,000, the disciples can’t perceive who Jesus really is (see Mark 8:13-21).
This passage brings to a climax the theme of the disciples’ failure to understand the meanings of Jesus’ words and actions.
Mark begins this passage by noting the disciples have only brought one loaf of bread. While it may seem a trivial detail, Jesus uses this to illustrate the purpose of the previous feeding and healing miracles. Simply, Jesus is the “one true loaf,” (literally one bread) in the boat! Jesus is enough, don’t you understand?!
The disciples still do not understand, and Jesus warns them against the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod. Leaven, or yeast, is used to make dough rise; a tiny amount will permeate an entire batch of dough—you could say it is “cancerous.”
Jesus is referring to spiritual leaven—the hypocrisy, insincerity, and ill will the Pharisees, Herod, and his supporters have shown Jesus. It spiritually represents the leaven of religion and politics—how they can permeate and pervert the gospel.
Today, in our polarized society, we need to guard our hearts from the subtle effect politics can have on our understanding of Jesus’ teaching and gospel message. Our vision can be skewed by our political and ideological views.
All of this, however, goes over the heads of the disciples. They conclude that Jesus is reprimanding them for not bringing enough bread! After seeing Jesus twice miraculously multiply bread and fish, with an abundance left over, they are still worried about where they will get their next meal.
In seven questions, Jesus reproves them for spiritual blindness.
Jesus’ emphasis on 1) reasoning, 2) perception, 3) seeing, 4) hearing, 5) remembering, and 6) understanding demonstrate effort is required to see!
The most stinging question 7) is Mark 8:17, “Is your heart still hardened?” (as in Mark 6:52)
The disciples, like Israel, failed to see that God’s miraculous acts revealed His very nature—love, compassion, and care. Like ancient Israel and the disciples, we often ignore God’s Word and previous acts to ignite faith. Hard hearts are not pliable to the impressions and leadings of God.
Often, the poverty of our own faith clouds our ability to see clearly how Jesus can multiply whatever we put into His hands. Many have only “situational faith!” Faith tied to the senses, not Jesus, and what God has promised in His Word!
The great news is that God is the one who initiates understanding—through the cross of Christ, the Holy Spirit draws and reveals God’s love!
Principles to Overcome Spiritual Blindness
Don’t use your reasoning, trust God!
As the writer in Proverbs states, learn to:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6 NKJV)
Human reasoning apart from God’s understanding is illegitimate. Understand that to the natural mind, five loaves and two fish or seven loaves and a few fish never feed multitudes with leftovers … but with God, all things are possible!
Human reasoning calculates by seeing, then attempts to believe. But this is not true faith! Our natural tendency is to have “faith” in what we can see and touch. This is called sense knowledge faith versus real faith through revelation of God’s truth.
Jesus is truth and His word is truth! Start by reading and obeying His Word. Many are blinded because they ignore what is obvious in His Word and are influenced by culture and not the truth of God’s Word.
In Corinthians, Paul quotes from Isaiah, 1 Cor. 2:9-10:
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Then Paul adds,
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” (NKJV)
In other words, Paul is telling us we can know and understand what is not evident through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives!
Beyond our natural senses and understanding, the Spirit is revealing who Jesus is and what His will is! God is working beyond what we can imagine to do for us the limitless! But are we observing, seeing, listening, and understanding from God’s perspective, or ours?
Learn to perceive the subtle impressions of God.
Often, perception comes through very dim or faint encounters with God’s Spirit. To know God—comes from the Hebrew word yada meaning to see, perceive, and to know intimately, like Adam knew Eve. Learning to perceive God’s ways begins through intimate relationship with the Lord. Jesus demonstrated this principle of relationship, in that “He only did what He saw His Father doing.” (see John 5).
Jesus then encouraged us to do the same, “Seek first the Kingdom of God …” (Matt. 6:33) Pursue God, His Kingdom, and righteousness—perception develops through the pursuit of God! James declares, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (Jam. 4:8)
We are to live out of divine relationship with God, making Him our first priority—expecting revelation and the miraculous as normal. He reveals His secrets to friends!
Understanding of God’s ways occurs through daily impressions by Holy Spirit. God’s word is illuminated, a thought comes to mind, a picture flashes across your mind, a sensation or feeling occurs, or perhaps you just have a “knowing” from the Lord.
Learning the language of the Spirit is key. We are not just learning things about God but learning to live from our life in God—united with Him. (see Col. 3:1-3)
Don’t let your heart become hard toward God, keep it tender before the Lord. Disappointment can lead to anger, bitterness, and offense toward God. Through prayer, worship, studying God’s Word, fellowship, serving, and giving we stay connected to God and humble. This helps guard our hearts against disappointment or offense.
Recall what God has done in your life and for others. Remember the good works of the Lord! Look at the Psalms—over and over, the writers would call to remembrance the great acts of God.
For example, Psalm 66:3, 5-6 declares,
Say to God, “How awesome are Your works! … Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men. He turned the sea into dry land; They went through the river on foot. There we will rejoice in Him.” (NKJV)
Stay positive, remember the good works of the Lord! Remind yourself what God has done for you in the past.
On New Year’s Eve Day here in Tucson, it rained most of the day. It was forecasted to rain all day—a wash-out for outdoor plans. But unexpectedly during mid-day, there was a three-hour gap where the sun and blue skies appeared, warming nicely! To the discerning, it was an opportunity to enjoy some outdoor activities. Then, as forecasted, it began to rain again around 3 pm and continued through the night into the following morning.
While I was outside during the sunshine, the Lord reminded me how this moment with the weather was like the last couple of years. There have been plenty of storms and negative situations one could focus upon. But, to the discerning, God’s light was shining through it all, giving hope to humanity.
Don’t be controlled by non-stop news media that primarily peddles negative news. Rather, keep your focus on the Lord, His ways, and His promises! Paul wrote:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phil. 4:8 NIV)
Maintain your life in the Spirit; God’s peace and joy will abound in your life, which helps to safeguard your faith. Paul wrote to the Colossians,
And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.” (Col. 3:15-16 NLT)
Grow your faith and develop your ability to see and hear from the Lord.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen.” (Heb. 11:1 NKJV)
Our hope is anchored in Christ, the focus of our faith. God desires to answer our prayers. But even answered prayer or a miracle received can lead us from undiluted devotion to Christ. Genuine faith is anchored in Jesus—always!
Keep in mind, God doesn’t force faith, He invites us to faith. Through Jesus, God’s gift of eternal life has been freely given. For those who believe, the Holy Spirit has also been given, as Paul states, “shed abroad in our hearts.” The Spirit now leads and guides us into all truth.
Each person is given a measure of faith (Rom. 12:3); it is up to you to develop this faith into one that “sees” into God’s unseen Kingdom realm. Learn to hear, to see, to perceive! Learn to “lean into” God for deeper understanding, believe you can hear the voice of God (the language of the Spirit).
Rom. 10:17 says that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” The English word for word is rhema which primarily means utterance, or Spirit-breathed. God breathes on the written word (logos), and the word now becomes a rhema word to us.
The faith of God is given to those who position themselves to see and hear. It begins with trust, not relying on your senses or understanding, but by the revealed truth and revelation of God and His nature. God is a loving Father, a faithful friend, and the lover of your soul—you can trust Him!
Discern the schemes of darkness
Accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord is the starting point to spiritual vision. Prior to accepting Christ, we are spiritually blinded, for the god of this age blinds the minds of those who do not believe. Much of American society is not only biblically illiterate but spiritually blinded to the truth of the gospel and of God’s Word.
We are called to be the salt of the earth, the light in the world, through our new birth and life in Christ. Yet, if we are not careful, we can fall victim to the schemes of the evil one and be caught up in the deception of the age. Among other things, the enemy comes to rob us of our joy and simplicity in Christ. He attempts to pull us into deception and error rendering us ineffective as believers.
Paul warned us of deception in the last days in his 2nd letter to Timothy,
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Tim. 3:1-5 NIV)
Peter also warns us and provides an antidote:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith… (1 Pet. 5:8-9 NIV)
You are a child of God, adopted into His family, and a citizen of heaven. Your life on earth is temporary. Live from your new life in Christ. Abundant life, peace, and joy are found in Christ! The enemy has no power over you, he is defeated through Christ. But we empower him when we agree with his lies, deception, and temptations. Resist him, being steadfast in the faith.
Don’t give into cultural norms that are anti-Christ or anti-biblical in nature. Abide in God’s written Word and trust the Spirit’s leading, it’s a year of breakthrough for the spiritually discerning and wise!
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Overcoming Spiritual Blindness, Part 2”