The Awesome Power of a Transformed Life
The miracle we need most right now is one that the Lord has freely given us already. It is the power of a changed life. The world is poised and ready to see the relevance and power of our message if only we would let them see it firsthand.
There is no power on earth more potent than the gospel in a heart of belief (Romans 1:16). Ed Silvoso puts it like this, in his book That None Should Perish, “The church has been entrusted with something that every politician on earth would give an arm and a leg to have: the power to see hearts changed.” We have been given this power, though we generally leave it unused. Our pews are full of “Christians” whose lives show little difference from those who are in the world.
We already saw in Chapter 1 that Jesus valued the power of a changed life when He called Matthew and immediately put him into service. The New Testament has many examples of people who have only just met Jesus, have little knowledge of His person or work and yet are already able to effectively stand up to others with a bold witness. They do so all on the irrefutable persuasion of a changed life. My favorite such story is found in the ninth chapter of John.
One Saturday, Jesus and His disciples were walking through Jerusalem and happened to come across a man born blind. The disciples asked Jesus a question, “Who sinned, this man (in the womb is implied) or his parents?” Of course the greater question is, “Is it fair that God should have this man suffer all his life for the sins of his parents, or worse, for some sin he could commit in vitro?” But Jesus answered the question with something remarkable. In essence He said it wasn’t for sin that he was born blind but for this very moment. Then He did the strangest thing. (All Bibles should carry a warning label at this portion of Scripture that reads: “Warning, do not try this at home.”) He spat on the ground, scooped up the muddy saliva and smeared it on the eyes of this unsuspecting man. He then gave this stranger a verbal command and said, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” Which he did.
This man did not ask to be healed or saved. Jesus took the initiative and did so in a rather unorthodox if not rude manner. He didn’t even introduce Himself. What’s worse, spitting in someone’s eyes or throwing dirt in someone’s eyes? The correct answer is “all of the above.” Later, after the miracle of seeing, the man described what Jesus did in more sanctified terms, “The man who is called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes, and said ‘Go to Siloam and wash (emphasis mine).’” We do tend to soften Jesus’ actions and words, as though He needs our protection. I am convinced that Jesus wasn’t shy about making a lasting impression on people who otherwise would’ve lived the rest of their lives in mundane routine. To “diplomatically” dilute His actions and words, no matter what the motivation, leads to a mere characterization of the real God-man and is tantamount to idolatry. He doesn’t need our suggestions.
The man obeyed Jesus, which demonstrates at least some measure of faith. Of course, who wouldn’t want to wash his face with saliva and mud spread on your eyes? He was healed as a result of this small amount of faith.
This Sabbath miracle created quite a stir among the town. Everyone was questioning if this was indeed the man born blind. He just kept on saying with glee, “I am the one.” He wanted to tell the world what Jesus had done for him. He wasn’t shy about it. This was the best thing that ever happened to him and he wanted to tell everyone. The people would give him his day in court. They took him to the Pharisees.
It is here in the legal proceeding that we watch as the seeing man becomes just that – a man who sees. Watch as his emerging faith and conviction grows in the heat of examination and debate.
The Pharisees began in inquiry into this event because, in their eyes, a law was broken – the Sabbath law. They were not the slightest bit amazed by the miracle standing right in front of them, all they could see was that their petty rules had been broken. The Jewish leaders by this time had laid down some 39 extra rules to limit people from doing most anything on the Sabbath day. All were punishable by stoning.
A debate ensued among the Pharisees over whether a sinner could perform such miracles or not. In the midst of this discussion the Pharisees made a mistake; they asked the seeing man what he thought of this Jesus. His answer came without hesitation – “He is a prophet.”
The Jewish leaders couldn’t accept this conclusion so they began a ridiculous pursuit – to refute that this man was indeed born blind. They wouldn’t accept the evidence in front of them so they called in testimony of other eyewitnesses; they called his parents to the stand. Fearing the decree that had already gone out – that if any would confess Jesus as the Christ he or she would be excommunicated from the synagogue – the parents simply identified him as their son and validated that he was indeed born blind. As to how he could see, they did not venture to answer but referred to their son who was old enough to speak for himself. That got the Pharisees nowhere. Back to square one.
Getting frustrated by a lack of progress the religious leaders turned again to the seeing man and said, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.” It is interesting that Jesus declared in the beginning of this whole story that this man was born to give glory to God by demonstrating His miraculous work in him. He was, in fact, fulfilling the Pharisees’ very request when he acknowledged the miracle Jesus had done.
While the Pharisees were appealing for him to give the credit to God and not to this “sinner” named Jesus, the seeing man declared an irrefutable argument in behalf of his new emerging faith. He said, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that once I was blind, now I see.” There is no answer for this from the Pharisees. They can spout theology and pious statements of condemnation, but they can’t challenge this simple statement of faith coming from a man who knows next to nothing about Jesus. He may not be an expert about the law, theology or the identity of the Messiah, but one thing he is qualified to be an expert on is his own experience. No one can challenge this.
Out of frustration they asked the seeing man once more how Jesus performed the miracle. By now, the man was weary of this whole proceeding and he began to see that these religious men don’t have any answer to his statement. This gave him a growing sense of confidence. These men were not so “untouchable.” When they asked how it happened again he began to exert some of his strength and a bit of good old-fashioned sarcasm. He said, “I told you already, and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become one of His disciples too, do you?”
Confronted with this strong, uneducated witness who couldn’t even read, the Pharisees began to feel threatened and react with their usual condemnation and pious recital of religious credentials for being right. They pronounced what they considered to be a grave accusation meant to hurt him, but in reality was the greatest compliment the seeing man had ever received. They said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.” Then they went on to spout some theology and said, “We know that God has spoken to Moses; but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.”
I think it was at this point that the seeing man felt a great release. He had never thought of himself as a disciple of anyone. Until this moment he was an outcast, a loser. Now he was a disciple of Jesus! I don’t think he even thought of such a possibility until his highly tuned ears heard it for the first time from his accusers. He didn’t even know Jesus yet, but suddenly he is a disciple of this man whom everyone talks of. He felt a little bolder, a little more confident of his position. The Pharisees had fallen unsuspecting into a trap when they said in essence, our master (Moses) is better than yours (Jesus).
With this new boldness that came from identifying with Jesus, the man took the initiative. He went on the offense in front of the untouchable Pharisees! Without waiting to be asked he said, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes (the Pharisees never like it when they’re told that they don’t know something). We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing, and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time no one has opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”
The seeing man was beginning to see even clearer. He suddenly began to understand that Jesus was greater than these hypocritical Jewish leaders. They played the “my-master-is-better-than-your-master” game by comparing Jesus with Moses, and now the seeing man began to expound on something of which he was an expert – the healing of people born blind. Not even Moses was able to do that! No one, since the beginning of time, had been able to do that! Checkmate.
Why did Jesus choose to perform this miracle in such a strange way? Jesus told us why in the very beginning. He said this man was born blind “in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Jesus healed him in a delayed fashion so that the seeing man could be brought before the Pharisees alone and Jesus would not be the one defending His own actions. I believe Jesus wanted the man to stand before the Pharisees, having never even seen Jesus and knowing little of Him, to refute and totally embarrass them.
A fascinating fact is that just a short time earlier Jesus had been in debate with these same Pharisees and they accused Him by saying, “You are bearing witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true (John 8:13).” Jesus responded in two ways. He first said, “Even if I do witness of Myself, My witness is true; for I know where I have come from, and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from, or where I am going.”
The second thing He did was to send this witness to defend where He came from. And he defended Him admirably. We often think that we need to send our most knowledgeable and intelligent people to witness to this world. We think that it is our education and philosophical arguments that will convince people of Jesus. The truth is that the most persuasive and effective argument for the validity of Jesus’ claims is the testimony of a changed life. This powerful ammunition is given to any and all who follow Him. It doesn’t require a high IQ, a degree or high position in life. Any one of us, no, every one of us has this power available.
Do you find it amazing that Matthew is a despised tax collector at one moment (Matt. 9:9), hosting an evangelistic outreach party the next (vv. 10-13), and then sent into the cities as an Apostle to preach the gospel just a few verses later (Marr. 10:2 ff.)?
Perhaps we have lost faith in the power of the gospel to truly change and empower a life.
Colson goes on to say, “It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn’t want our success; He wants us. He doesn’t demand our achievements; He demands our obedience. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of paradox, where through the ugly defeat of a cross, a holy God is utterly glorified. Victory comes through defeat; healing through brokenness; finding self through losing self.”
The seeing man responded in faith and said, “Lord, I believe.” Then the gospel says he worshipped Him. Who needs a synagogue when you’ve got Jesus right in front of you (John 4:21-24)! After being exposed to the weak and corrupt hypocrites who were in charge of the synagogue, I don’t think it was difficult at all to adjust to being with Jesus as an outcast of the religious system of the day. This was a system in which he was already an outcast simply because of his disability. Finally, he was somebody with meaning that could contribute and even defend the Messiah before rulers! Jesus not only repaired his vision, He gave the seeing man hope and significance. His life now had meaning and purpose because of Jesus. He was completely healed and changed forever.
This true story exemplifies the awesome power of a life that has been touched by Jesus. Such a life is immediately empowered to be a change agent in this world. The church has traditionally hid these precious converts from the world in an attempt to protect them. Jesus shows us that it is the world that needs the protection from these powerful change agents. When we hide them from the world we sever the contacts they have with other lost souls who are, in fact, the very best evangelistic fields since they get to see the power of Christ demonstrated in this converted life firsthand. We also communicate to the world that we are defensive and we hide the very power we have that will set them on the defense. Why would the world want to believe our message if we feel the need to protect and keep its results safe from exposure to the world? Let me tell you that the world won’t believe our message until we do!
Excerpt from Cultivating a Life for God
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