The courage of believing

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The courage of believing

August 23, 2022 - Mark Turman, DMin

© Dilok /stock.adobe.com

© Dilok /stock.adobe.com

My wife Judi is hard on comedians. You must be outstanding at stand-up comedy to make her laugh.

One of my current favorites is the pretty clean comedy of Jim Gaffigan that I discovered on my streaming subscription through my son-in-law’s recommendation. I have no idea what Gaffigan is like in a live show. I’d like to find out before I buy a ticket.

I was watching a Gaffigan show a few weeks ago. I laughed so much and so loudly that my wife renamed me “George McFly.” If you don’t know the reference, rewind your brain back to the first time you saw Back to the Future. Not the most endearing name she could have given me.

I’ve had the opposite experience with another comedian recently.

When Jesus interrupts

I had a very bad feeling during the warmup act. Let’s just call it rough on the ears and the soul. Five minutes into the headliner’s routine, we left as the well-known personality sought to cram every vulgar word he could think of into every sentence he uttered. That was a quick two hundred dollars down the tube. But I digress.

These days I can often find my wife laughing, hard, on a Sunday afternoon, as she cruises around social media in search of a fresh Mark Lowry video. Lowry is the Houston-born comedian, singer, and songwriter who is well known to many in the evangelical world. He’s toured with the Gaither Vocal Band and several others.

Just a few days ago, Judi turned her phone toward me and said, “Watch this.” It was Lowry doing an “unplanned” interruption of a concert at a Dallas-area church. She took notice because Lowry was discussing the same text I had chosen for my sermon, John 9, Jesus’ healing of the man born blind.

“But I know this”

I have reignited my love for John’s gospel. John tells us clearly why he wrote: “But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name” (John 20:31 NLT). We all need the ongoing work of the Spirit, God’s word, and the fellowship of the church to enable and empower us to “continue to believe.” Through his gospel, John is like a lawyer calling one witness after another to testify to Jesus’ divine identity.

You have likely heard this story hundreds of times. Jesus’ urgency, love, power, and courage are all on display here. Jesus’ courage infuses this blind man with courage. His parents fail to stand up for him, and his neighbors and fellow citizens are divided over him with some thinking this is a masterful hoax. The Pharisees grill him with repeated interrogations.

In the last exchange, the Pharisees say to him, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner” (John 9:24). That statement is their attempt to put this man under oath. It would be like saying in our day, “We swear you to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God.” Theirs was an unveiled spiritual threat of damnation if this newly sighted man didn’t disavow Jesus. Many a preacher has led me to the healed man’s response as the climax of the story in verse 25: “‘I don’t know whether he is a sinner,’ the man replied. ‘But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!’”

The most courageous thing we ever do

Mark Lowry perceptively made this statement about the text: “A person with an experience is more powerful than a person with an argument.” There’s a lot of truth in that. No one can well argue with a transformed life, especially when you’ve been known for blind begging for several decades. As we seek to be ambassadors for Christ, sharing our personal stories of God’s grace and power is vital.

However, we need to be careful about making our personal experience the final authority. We live in a world where many believe truth is relative. Our post-truth culture believes that truth is personal and subjective, and we each get to and need to “live our truth.” The healed man’s testimony was not just his truth. It was the truth that could be verified objectively by a simple sight test. His testimony was the powerful combination of a personal, unique encounter with Jesus, including saliva mud in his eyes, and the objective reality of receiving sight for the first time when he obeyed Jesus’ instructions to go wash.

Faith is the wonderful, sometimes mysterious intersection with the objective reality of God in Christ and our personal, somewhat subjective experience of him. Both matter, but the objective reality of God’s power, love, presence, and grace matter most.

All Jesus is and does calls us to the most courageous thing we ever do, believing in him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

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