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335. Walking in the Word, Spiritual Vision

By julie

What does it mean to have Spiritual Vision? Join us for the study of John 8:48-59 as we seek to understand Jesus’ teachings His way instead of the world’s way.

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Welcome to Walking in the Word, the biblical teaching arm of the Women World Leaders’ podcast. My name is Julie Jenkins and I am honored to walk with you as we open God’s Word and continue our study of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

If you are new to Women World Leaders, I want to take a moment to welcome you to our podcast and invite you to step into this ministry. I first encountered Women World Leaders over three years ago when I attended a monthly meeting, which at that time, was held in person in South Florida. As I sat in the back, I clearly heard the voice of the Holy Spirit telling me to help with an upcoming event. So I very carefully dipped my toe in the water – and I found out that the water was more than fine! I want to encourage you today that no matter where you are in your walk with Christ or how you foresee your involvement with Women World Leaders – you are welcome here! We have women around the world who simply listen to our podcast or soak in the teaching from our magazine, Voice of Truth, and we have others who have followed God’s call to dive in. Our goal is to simply to meet you where you are and empower you to walk in your God-given calling and purpose – no matter what that is!! To find out more about the ministry, please visit us on Facebook or our website – www.womenworldleaders.com.

As for our podcasts, we have three offerings for you each week. Besides this, our Wednesday walk through the Bible, on Mondays, founder Kimberly Hobbs hosts Empowering Lives with Purpose – a 30-minute interview with a different woman of faith who shares her story of God’s empowerment in her life. And on Fridays, we have a team of our women who host Celebrating God’s Grace – a short, joyful opportunity to celebrate all that God is doing in this world.

Before we begin with today’s teaching from John 8:48-59, let’s pray…

Dear most holy and gracious God – We give you all the praise and honor from all the ends of the earth as we gather together around your Holy Scripture. God, we thank you for teaching us and leading us every minute of every day, but we especially thank you for the Bible – your love letter and book of instruction and wisdom written specifically to us. God, it is simply impossible for us to understand that you hold us each in your hand and that you had us each individually on your mind even as these words were inspired and penned. I humbly ask that you go before us in this teaching today – let my words be your words and allow our thoughts to be infused in us from you, Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

As we have been walking through Jesus’ teaching on the temple grounds during the Festival of the Tabernacles over the last couple of weeks as recorded in John chapter 8, we have witnessed the temperature rise a bit. The Pharisees and the teachers of the religious law challenged Jesus, and He continued to unapologetically lay out the truth.

 In sharing His true identity, Jesus didn’t shy away from giving his listeners “tough love” – that is – explaining exactly why many of them didn’t believe in Him. He didn’t mince words when he told them they were sinners, unable to understand His teachings because they were children of the devil who wished to carry out their father’s desires. You can imagine that that was tough pill to swallow.

We finished last week with John 8, verse 47 with Jesus’ words:  Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”

The unbelievers were clearly taken aback and even personally offended by these statements. Today we pick up in verse 48 from the New Living Translation…

48 The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?”

This statement could have been meant as a theological dig, or as a name-calling lash out.

“Samaritan” in some senses meant someone who knew scripture but didn’t study under a Rabbi. But more likely, the use of the word Samaritan was meant in this case as a racist insult. 

Regardless of the motive behind the slander, we see Jesus’ grace as He totally ignores the comment, and instead, refutes the more significant claim that He is possessed by a demon. Verse 49…

49 “No,” Jesus said, “I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father—and you dishonor me. 50 And though I have no wish to glorify myself, God is going to glorify me. He is the true judge.

This is an amazing statement, and one that we should each take to heart. “I have no wish to glorify myself, God is going to glorify me.”

This world teaches us, above all else, to glorify ourselves. We are lured by wealth, fame, and prestige. As we climb the ladder of success, it is tempting to look down on others, even thinking, “I used to be there.” We see with our physical vision well-dressed, perfectly groomed individuals, and sometimes become envious. We dye our hair and wear make-up and the best clothes. I am certainly not immune to this allure, and we could have quite an interesting discussion about whether some of these things are sinful in God’s eyes, but that is not the point. The point is that God wants us to obediently do what HE calls us to do, and then to let HIM do the glorifying, rather than seek to be glorified through our own efforts. This can be a paradigm shift, but trust me, God can glorify us better than we could EVER glorify ourselves! Jesus’ next statement is a testament to this…

 51 I tell you the truth, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!”

I can’t imagine how difficult a concept this was for the people to hear. I have been a Christian all my life. When I go to funerals, though I am sad for those left behind, I am filled with JOY for the one whose life is being celebrated, because, if he or she was a believer in Christ, the struggle is over and their true reward has begun!

On the surface, and with our human vision, we all die. What’s the old saying? The only thing sure in life is death and taxes, right? But what is death? Death is a separation. When we physically die, which yes, we all will – even Jesus did – our spirit is separated from our body. But in spiritual death – what I would call “real” death – our spirit is separated from GOD. We will ALL be separated from our bodies. As I get older and my body gets achier and more cantankerous, being separated from my body looks better and better! But to be separated from GOD? That is a darkness and a pain that we can’t even begin to imagine.

Jesus Himself, upon His death on a cross, was separated from God His Father for a time. That’s a fact we can’t really wrap our head around. But what is an even more daunting thought is that Jesus WILLINGLY CHOSE to be separated from God so that you and I would not have to be! Separation from God is THE TRUE death that Jesus overcame FOR us by His death on the cross. We will not live on this earth forever, attached to our failing bodies – we WILL die, experiencing a separation of body and spirit. But Jesus promises that if we obey Him, we will NEVER experience true death – that is, we will never experience a separation from God. I don’t know about you, but that thought brings relief and joy to me. The fact that I NEVER have to be apart from God? That gives me the courage and strength to get through ANYTHING this world can throw at me!

THAT is the point Jesus is trying to get across to His listeners. But they had to choose to see through spiritual eyes rather than trusting their limited human vision to understand this. And their response shows that they clearly weren’t seeing through spiritual eyes…verse 52…

52 The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say, ‘Anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus answered, “If I want glory for myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who will glorify me. You say, ‘He is our God,’[a] 55 but you don’t even know him. I know him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But I do know him and obey him. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”

Now THAT confused the people! How did Abraham SEE Jesus? They said…

“You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?[b]”

We may ask the same questions – if we are still intent on seeing with our earthly vision instead of with our spiritual vision.

It would have been impossible, with eyes of flesh, for Abraham to “see” Jesus, who died long before Jesus was born. But Abraham saw with spiritual eyes. Abraham believed that God was calling him and he left his home without physically being able to see the land he was promised. Then Abraham saw his future family with spiritual eyes despite his physical body being simply too old to father children. And then in the ultimate test of faith, Abraham committed to the physical sacrifice of his own son even while seeing spiritually that God was doing something greater. Throughout his lifetime, Abraham developed his spiritual vision – he stopped seeing with his limited human vision and, instead, began to see and understand through God’s eyes.

Have we developed our spiritual vision? If you are a believer in Christ, your eyes have been opened, and you only have God to thank for that! Still, we must continue to pray that God will sharpen our vision so that we can see from His perspective even more clearly.

When we see clearly spiritually, we can begin to understand Jesus’ next statement…verse 58…

58 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am![c]” 

I tell you the truth – also translated “verily, verily” – means hear and understand me! Or, to follow our analogy – look with your spiritual eyes rather than your physical eyes, and rely on me to see that which you can’t see in your own flesh.

Jesus told his listeners that in His being, He predated Abraham. But then He dropped the bombshell – Jesus claimed the name “I am.” I am is actually the name Jehovah in Hebrew. ‘I am,’ or Jehovah, was the divine name that God called himself when Moses, who was beckoned by God to lead the Israelites out of captivity, said to the burning bush that God spoke from… “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”

God instructed Moses that he should respond, “’I am’ has sent me to you.” Jehovah had released the Israelites from the chains of slavery in Egypt, and now Jehovah – Jesus – was there to set all of humanity free from the chains of death.

This was too much for the listeners who could only see with their limited human vision. Verse 59…

59 At that point they picked up stones to throw at him.

You see, the law stated that if anyone should claim to be God, he should be stoned. And through their human vision, Jesus claimed to be God. But had the people filtered Jesus’ statement through a spiritual lens, they would have realized that Jesus’ statement was not a claim, but a statement of fact. A statement of truth.

When we ask God to allow us to see from His perspective, we can be assured that He will. When we ask for His wisdom, we can trust He will grant it. That’s not a Christian-trick. It’s a blessing and a power that we can claim in EVERY area of our lives. But it requires our humility. It requires us to NOT strive to glorify ourselves, but to walk in obedience as we aim to glorify God alone. Verse 59 goes on to state that after the people reached down to pick up stones to throw at Jesus, they were simply left holding the stones, dismayed…as

 Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.

Yet again we see God’s protection, as the time for Jesus’ death had not yet come. Reminding us that we can always trust that God IS in control!

Let’s pray…

Dear Most Holy God – We thank you for claiming us as your children. God, we ask you to sharpen our spiritual vision – allowing us to see every circumstance from your perspective. We know that our physical vision does not always give us the whole story, and when we come to you, we know you will always reveal the truth to us. God, we commit to walking in faith, trusting your vision and perspective, as we seek to glorify you alone. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.