Overcoming Spiritual Blindness
I trust your Christmas Holiday was a blessed one. Our Christmas Eve service at Passion Church was glorious (it is available to view on our YouTube channel)!
As a community of faith, we have much to be grateful for and joyous about. Jesus is not just the reason for this season, but He is the reason for every season! In Him we live and move and have our being—He is our hope, our anchor in a turbulent world.
As we transition into a New Year, I felt it important to discuss how to overcome areas of spiritual blindness as this dynamic, when in play, can hinder our vision of the future and what God invites us into.
Our daily lives are busy, 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 6:51 and 52 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 disciple’s 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.
Is Your Heart Still Hardened? (Mark 8:14-21)
Similar to the account in Mark 6, after the miraculous provision of food, the disciples can’t perceive who Jesus really is. This second dialogue that follows the miracle feeding of 4,000 in Mark 8 involves the disciples’ hardness (blindness) of heart. This passage brings to a climax the theme of the disciples’ failure to understand the meanings of Jesus’ words and actions.
The Pharisees are unwilling to change, whereas the disciples are teachable, willing to allow their hearts and minds to change. The fact that they continue to follow Jesus proves their willingness to release stubbornness of heart and allow change.
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 of the Pharisees and 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.
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!
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!
Principles to Overcome Spiritual Blindness
1) 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 the revelation of God’s truth.
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! 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?
2) 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!
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!
Realize that 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.
I’ll continue next week! Enjoy this last week of 2021 and have a safe and blessed New Year Holiday!
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message, “Overcoming Spiritual Blindness”