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Aug 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 14, 2010

We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world. John 9:4-5

INTRO: A couple weeks ago I mentioned Anne Rice, who still follows Jesus although she left “Christianity”–because of Christians

This week The Washington Post (online) printed a “pastoral response” to Anne Rice’s announcement
– among his other comments, the pastor had this to say,
“My guess is that she will eventually return to church. In time, she will realize that she is being judgmental, self-righteous, and intolerant, just like the people she is stereotyping.”
– oh yeah! Now that statement is going to draw her back into the loving arms of Christians

I make the assumption that you are a Christian:
– if you know Jesus and
– if through knowing him, Jesus is changing you
This is essentially what it means to be a disciple
– we are enlightened by Jesus, who also enables us to follow him

Last week we saw that this story in John 9 is about enlightenment

  • Blindness in this chaper is both literal and metaphorical
    – the blind man received his sight instantly
    – his spiritual sight came in stages
  • The most important statement I can make on this subject is that spiritual enlightenment is all about Jesus
    1. Jesus is the path to enlightenment (Jn. 1:18; 14:9)
    2. It is Jesus to whom we become enlightened (Jn. 1:50-51; 20:29-31)
     – as in v. 36, the question of enlightenment is “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”
     – notice the enlightenment themes in the following passage:
    And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Co. 2:3-6)
    3. Enlightenment to everything else comes in and through Jesus

Verses 4-5 take us to the heart of the issue

I want to point out two key words and one key phrase
– key words: light and sent
– key phrase “the works of God” (v. 3)

Enlightenment has to do with the works of God and is never given for its own sake (Mt. 5:14-16)

To get a perspective on the works of God, we need to turn back to chapter 6
– the crowds were stalking Jesus, playing detective and going to a lot of work to chase him down
– when they caught up to him, they were curious as to how he got to that part of the lake
Jesus, however, ignored their question and told them,

Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal. (Jn. 6:26-27)

– that prodded them to ask the crucial question

Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (6:28-29)

Can you see how themes converge and overlap
For example:

  1. from John 9, “sent” and “the works of God”
  2. and from the whole gospel of John, “believe” is one of four main threads
    The other threads that are braided into one chord are:
    – the signs Jesus performed (which revealed his identity and inspired belief in him)
    – Jesus’ identity
    – the life of God that people received who believed in Jesus (see John 20:31)

 So to “work the works of God” begins with believing in Jesus – this is the first work that makes every other work possible
– but then the crowd wanted some kind of assurance to help them believe in him (6:30)
– “. . . that we may see” – they needed some kind of enlightenment before they could believe

How does Jesus answer them? With a riddle: “. . . it is My Father that gives you the true bread out of heaven” (v. 32)

  • as we read through the chapter, trying to solve the riddle doesn’t become easier for them
    – in fact, the riddle gets more amd more complicated and frustrating
    – Jesus tells them, “I am the living bread,” then “My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink” (vv. 51, 55)
  • the whole chapter is taken up with them struggling to understand him!
    – finally, “many” of them gave up and no longer walked with him (v. 66)
  • but we have already seen, this is how Jesus works enlightenment into people
    – he presents them with an idea which they interpret literally
    – then he works the idea until it is impossible to take it literally, resulting in confusion
    – out of that confusion comes the necessar faith to grasp the spiritual truth

Enlightenment Comes In A Round About Way

Education for us consists of moving information – from one mind into another mind
– using the lecture, the book, and the lab

Enlightenment does not flow through minds, but comes directly from the Spirit of God
– the way we receive it is more like intuition than education
– if education is about mind-knowledge and information, enlightenment is about soul-experience and formation
Enlightenment entes, not only the mind, but the heart

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places. (Ep. 1:18-20)

To bring enlightenment into the heart, riddles, parables and analogies work better than lectures, essays and charts

What the Parables of Jesus Do

Some of the Lord’s parables and riddles frustrate our normal way of processing information
– we like “control” (we need a certain amount of control)
– the parables, metaphors and riddles take control away from us – leave us disoriented

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” (6:60)

Our brains are constantly busy organizing reality
– basic models of reality are stored in deep structures of the mind
– but some of what is stored is not reality, but the result of bad programming
– therefore, our core perceptions may include unreality in regard to our self-image, relation to other people, and so on

How do people change the false reality stored in those deep structures and internal belief systems?
– or to put the question another way, “How do we get enlightenment into those deep structures?”

In learning to to ride bike, do you remember how hard you had to concentrate?

  • how was it after a few weeks? Months?
    – same w/skating, skiing, tying our shoes, and if we could remember, learning to walk
  • those complicated mental calculations to maintain balance, peddle and so on, were internalized and stored in our nervous system and musculature
    – now we can perform these tasks without even thinking about them
  • what happens if we choose to be aware of our movements while walking, sitting, etc.?
    – we are able to become aware of the direct experience of our actions
    – at the same time, we notice more
  • what if we were able to shut down the mental processing that we do all the time in our thoughts to maintain our sense of control?

Arthur Deikman referred to this sutting down as deautomatization, and explained that it took us out of our normal, analytical and rational thought into mystical (or spiritual) experience. He also said 

“. . . the available evidence supports the hypothesis that a deautomatization is produced by contemplative meditation. One might be tempted to call this deautomatization a regression to the perceptual and cognitive state of the child or infant.”

At this point, I can’t help but think of what Jesus said, “. . . unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3)
– too often, it is our sophisticated intellect that gets in our way when we hunger for the experience that comes only by childlike faith
– further down, Deikman says,

“Rather than speaking of a return to childhood, it is more accurate to say that the undoing of automatic perceptual and cognitive structures permits a gain in sensory intensity and richness at the expense of abstract categorization and differentiation.”

By switching ideas around and changing the meaning of words, Jesus upset normal systems of information processing of his disciples
-those who persevered through the frustration, who struggled with him to understand, finally got past the confusion of the literal

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoke to you are spirit and are life. (Jn. 6:63)

CONC: What have I missed in these verses?

  • A lot, but especially the sense of urgency Jesus conveys
    – “as long as it is day” (see also 11:9-10 and 12:35-36)
    – take advantage of the daylight to open eyes of others; night is on its way
  • I think it is important to feel this sense of urgency
    – it is when there is no desperation, no consuming desire, no passion that we go blindly on our way
    – enlightenment is not usual opened by casual interest or to objective distance

We bring our hunger for God to Jesus and as he talks, we realize the knowledge we want cannot be acquired
it must be given
Jesus has given it to us
– it’s within reach through his riddles and parables
– so we

  • bring our rational mind to them to meditate on them, and
  • bring our spirit to them to contemplate them
    – just hold the parable–or one phrase from it–in your thoughts until it speaks to you
    – for example, “I am the bread of life”–do not analyze this, simply observe it
    “Method for understanding images, symbols, etc. Not to try to interpret them, but to look at them till the light suddenly dawns.” Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace

When you find a moment to relax this week and you settle into your favorite chair, have a parable with your cup of coffee

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