Guarding Your Heart #2—“Blinders of the Heart”

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When it comes to eternal truths, too many people have blinders on their hearts. Our text this morning is about people who cannot understand the reality of God’s coming Kingdom because of certain preconceived expectations that they have. The result is that their hearts are blinded the truth and spiritual realities.

I want to begin this morning by reading you the text from the translation called (The Message). I want to use this translation as the introduction because I believe it gives us a good sense of what is happening here. “There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: “Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?” Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. Jesus answered, “Time’s up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” (John 12:20–25, The Message)

Our story today opens with a group of God-fearing Gentiles (Greeks) who have come to worship at the Passover Festival. But they are more than just curious visitors or one time investigators of Judaism—they are seeking the truth. They’ve heart the stories of a miracle-working Rabbi whom people are saying could be the Messiah. They approach Philip with an appeal to "see" Jesus. Perhaps they came to Philip because Philip is a Greek name. Philip was apparently also perplexed about what to do so he consulted Andrew. And Andrew did what he always did—he brought people to Jesus.

The first part of Jesus' response is startling. He says, "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified." (v. 23) Up to this point His Disciples, have heard him say over and over, "My hour has not yet come." The first occurrence is at the Wedding in Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle when his mother came to him and asked him to do something about the wine for the wedding feast. Jesus said to her, "…. My hour has not yet come," (John 2:4).In the seventh chapter of his Gospel, John tells us that Jesus told his brothers to go on up to the feast at Jerusalem but that he was not going up because "my hour has not yet come" (John 7:6). And, in the eighth chapter, as he is speaking in Jerusalem and already the opposition against him is beginning to form, John says, "No man laid hands on him to arrest him, because his hour had not yet come," (John 8:20). Yet now, when a handful of strangers come and the report is carried to Jesus that a certain group of Greeks want to see him, suddenly, to his disciples' amazement, He seems greatly moved with emotion and says, "Now my hour has come. The time has come for me to be glorified." This event seems to be to Jesus like a great clock striking the hour, a momentous moment of his life when all that he had lived for shall now find its fulfillment.

What Jesus makes clear is that the coming of the Greeks in some way communicated to the Lord the fact that the climax of his work on earth was at hand! The great question of the hour is “Will those who hear His message believe, or will the blinders on their hearts keep them from seeing the truth?” The passage ends with Jesus quoting the Prophet Isaiah: “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” (John 12:37–40, ESV)

What are the blinders of the heart that keep men from seeing the Truth of Jesus?

I. BLINDER #1: This world is all there is

            1. to experience the fullness of faith promised in the Scriptures we must recognize the reality of two very different worlds
                1. the Bible declares that our lives are affected by two worlds
                    1. the kingdom of men and the Kingdom of God
                    2. Christians live in one world—the kingdom of men—but we are citizens of another—the Kingdom of God
                    3. this is why the Bible teaches that the people of God are aliens and strangers in this world
                      • ILLUS. As the song suggests: This world is not our home, we’re just a pass’n through.
            2. the “Kingdom of God” is very much a New Testament concept
                1. interestingly, the term Kingdom of God does not appear in any of the Old Testament canonical books
                2. despite that, every Jew in Jesus’ day understood the term and were anxiously awaiting for the coming of God’s Kingdom
                    1. they saw that kingdom, however, as an earthly kingdom where God would rise up His Anointed One who would come and punish their enemies and reward the just
            3. Jesus, of course, had a different interpretation in mind
                1. the Kingdom of God is not a material kingdom, but a Kingdom where God sovereignly reigns over the lives of His Elect
            4. those consumed with the things of this world will never see the truth of Christ’s Kingdom
              • ILLUS. In an article written almost 20 years ago, entitled “You’d Cry Too,” Peggy Noonan, former correspondent with CBS News and speechwriter for Ronald Reagan offered this insightful observation. “We have lost the sense of mystery about us, our purpose, or meaning, our role. Our ancestors believed in two worlds, and understood this [one] to be a solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short one. We are the first generation of man to actually expect to find happiness here on earth, and our search for it has caused such unhappiness. The reason: If you do not believe in another, higher world, if you believe only in the flat material world around you, if you believe that this is your only chance at happiness—then when the world does not give you a good measure of its riches, you are not disappointed, you are despairing.”
            5. Blinder #1 Is That this World Is All There is

A. TRUTH: Life Eternal Comes Through Death (v. 24)

    • “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24, ESV)
            1. Jesus used the image of a seed to illustrate the spiritual truth that there can be no fruitful life without death; no victory without surrender
                1. in and of itself the seed is weak and useless but when it is planted and "dies" it fulfills its purpose
            2. first of all, in this illustration, Christ speaks of His own death
                1. Jesus died on the behalf of others that they might be the fruit of his death
                    1. in verse 32, Jesus tells his listeners “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32, ESV)
                    2. the simple truth is, If He does not die we cannot live!
                    3. and, if we do not die to self, we cannot live in Him
                    4. His death, is what produces the fruit of life—which is eternal life—the life of Christ in us
            3. are you living as if this life were all there is?
                1. the Bible says there is so much more
                  • ILLUS Are you like the Richman in Luke 12:16-21. Do you see this life as all there is? Is your goal to build ever bigger barns to store all you stuff?
                2. if so, you have a blinder on your heart that is keeping you from seeing Jesus
                    1. Jesus died so that sinnerm may be redeemed
                    2. sinners need to die to self and this world if they are going to live in the world to come

II. BLINDER #2: Life is all about getting more

            1. secularism, materialism, and hedonism are the watchwords of our culture
                1. the secularists of our culture would have us believe that life is about the accumulation of treasures
                  • ILLUS. Madison Avenue encourages us to buy stuff that we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people that we don’t like! In the 1987 movie Wall Street, the main character, Gordon Gekko, tells an audience of young stock brokers, "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.”
                2. our culture has bought into that mentality!
                3. it has even spilled over into the church with the Prosperity Gospel
            2. Jesus taught something different

A. TRUTH: Life Comes Through Spending It (v.25)

    • “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:25–26, ESV)
            1. we have to stop controlling, grasping and hanging on to the things of this life as if they were our security
                1. we are called to place a higher value on eternal things than on the things on this earth
                  • “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1–3, ESV)
            2. the truth is that we lose everything that we associate with this life at some point
                1. it just a matter of time
                    1. we cannot hold on to our youth no matter how hard we may try
                    2. we cannot hold on our athletic ability
                    3. we cannot hold on to our mental capacity
                    4. we cannot even hold on to our loved ones
                2. it's just a matter of time
            3. Jesus tells to start dying to these things now
                1. don't focus on grabbing and keeping what you have
                  • ILLUS. Corrie ten Boom said, "I have learned to hold all things loosely, so God will not have to pry them out of my hands."
                  • ILLUS. Jim Eliot, a missionary killed by Ecuadorian Indians in the 1950s, said, “He is no fool who gives us what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
                2. it is better that we hold the things of this world loosely so that God does not have to pry from our grasp
                  • ILLUS. Watchman Nee was a Chinese Christian author and church leader during the early 20th century. He spent the last 20 years of his life in prison and was severely persecuted by the Communists in China. He traveled throughout China planting churches among the rural communities and holding Christian conferences. He was a prolific author. In one of his books Watchman Nee said that we approach God like little children with open hands, begging for gifts. Because he is a good God, he fills our hands with good things—life, health, friends, money, success, recognition, challenge, marriage, children, a nice home, a good job, all the things that we count at Thanksgiving when we count our blessings. And so like children, we rejoice in what we have received and run around comparing what we have with each other. When our hands are finally full, God says, "My child, I long to have fellowship with you. Reach out your hand and take my hand.” But we can't do it because our hands are full. "God, we can't," we cry. "Put those things aside and take my hand," he replies. "No, we can't. It's too hard to put them down." "But I am the one who gave them to you in the first place." "O God, what you have asked for is too hard. Please don't ask us to put these things aside." And God answers quietly, "You must."
            4. God orchestrates the affairs of life—both the good and the bad—to bring us to the place where our faith will be in him alone
                1. slowly but surely as we go through life, he weans us away from the things of the world
                2. at first the process touches only our possessions (which we can replace), but eventually it touches our relationships, then it touches our loved ones, finally it touches life itself until finally, there is nothing left but us and God

III. BLINDER #3: Life is all about me

            1. when you’re seven years old, this attitude is normal—life revolves all around you
            2. when you’re seventeen years old, this attitude begins wearing thin—it’s really not all about you, and you’d better start learning that truth
            3. when you’re twenty-seven years old, this attitude is absolutely unseemly—if you don’t know by then that life is not all about you, you’ve got a serious problem
                1. my society tells me that my experience and my opinion are all-important
                    1. no one else has the right to set the rules for me
                    2. after all—it’s all about me!
                2. my society tells me that if there’s a God, He (or She or It) pretty much leaves us to make our own choices
                    1. therefore, I am supposed to refer first to my own tastes and desires when making choices
                    2. after all—it’s all about me!
                3. my society tells me how to dress
                    1. were told that we should express ourselves, our own individuality, in how we dress
                    2. the result? People wearing spandex who have no business doing so
                    3. young men wearing their pants down around their thighs
                    4. young women wearing dresses that leave little to the imagination
                    5. after all—it’s all about me!
                4. my society tells me that I deserve good things, so I spend money on things I might not even want, much less really deserve
                    1. gratitude for what we have is not high on the list of virtues these days
                    2. gimme more, and give it to me now ... because I deserve it (and Ill go into debt to get it)!
                    3. after all—it’s all about me!
                5. my society tells us were free to do what we want in our sexual relationships, that we aren’t to be instructed by archaic religious notions
                    1. we’ve been taught that a kiss is to be immediately followed by a romp in the bed
                    2. after all—it’s all about me!

A. TRUTH: Greatness Comes Through Service (v. 26)

    • “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:26, ESV)
    • ILLUS. Most of us are familiar with David Livingston as the great 19th explorer of the African hinter-land. What most forget is that he was a Scottish Congregationalist and medical missionary with the London Missionary Society. During his missionary work, he walked over 29,000 miles, his wife died early, and he worked while half-blind. At the end of his life, the following entry was found in his diary: Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever me from any tie but the tie that binds me to Your service and to Your heart.
            1. Jesus said that if we follow Him, we must serve Him
                1. I think that lot of people have the idea that when we talk about serving the Lord that somehow you take a step down-ward
                2. this couldn’t be further from the truth
            2. Jesus came as a servant, willing to do whatever was necessary in order to move men, and bring them to the saving knowledge of himself
              • “and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:27–28, ESV)
              • ILLUS. Remember the last supper? Jesus is sitting at the table with the disciples, and if any one of them had been perceptive, had any one of them been thoughtful, if any one of them had had a servant’s spirit, they would have done first, what Jesus ended up doing. They didn't do it, and so it was Jesus who got the basin of water, and knelt down and washed their feet. He was a bond servant. He saw himself as a servant of the Father, and a servant of the very ones he was serving. In doing so, He tells them point blank—“I have left you an example.”
            3. a few decades ago Christian writers made much of the idea that there shouldn’t be a division between the sacred and the secular, that all of life should be infused with the sacred
                1. our society works against that
                2. and quite frankly, I think the message of servanthood has been lost to a significant extent in the church
                3. too often, we really do think, after all—it’s all about me!

Con. Among Baptists, one of the most recognized invitation hymns is Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus. Listen to the words: “O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? (because you have blinders on?) There’s light for a look at the Savior, and life more abundant and free! Turn you eyes upon Jesus, Look full in his wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of his glory and grace.”

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