Look at John 9. We're not going to look at the whole passage: everyone's heard the story of the man who was born blind, how Jesus made an ointment out of clay and gave the man his sight back. But the more important thing that I want to talk about today is the idea that there are two churches within the Christian church.
We know that there are different religions and they have different beliefs. I was talking to a couple of parishioners last Tuesday, and we decided that other religions are like "scale" religions. You have your good deeds and your bad deeds on a scale. And if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds: "woo-hoo," you're in! If your bad deeds outweigh your good deeds: uh oh, that's too bad.
So all other religions, all the philosophies, even atheistic philosophies are like, "do good deeds, and you'll be rewarded." If you don't believe in an afterlife, you'll be rewarded in this life, karma, stuff like that, or karma even extends into the religions that believe in an afterlife: you'll get good things the next time around. So you've got the scale thing going. Christianity is the only religion that says there's no scale: throw it out. Yours are bad deeds, everything you do in the eyes of God, even the stuff you do that's good. Say you go build hospitals and do good deeds. In the eyes of God, if you're not doing them out of gratitude for him, they are sin, too. There's no scale at all and Christ came to say, "there's no scale, toss it out. Believe in me. It doesn't matter what your sins are, I will save you." For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Now, our reaction to that is one of gratitude. And so we begin to do good deeds, not because we're on this scale thing suddenly. God doesn't place us on the scale spectrum where suddenly now I go start weighing my good deeds. That's off the table.
It's faith in Christ and His works on the cross for the deliverance of you from your sins, which we all have, and they were all counting against us until Christ washed them away. Now, we continue to sin as believers. But if you have faith in Christ, your sins come and nip you, but it's God disciplining a son or a daughter and making you more into the image of Christ. Someone who doesn't believe or is working on the little scale method over here, practices sin and the punishments are the wrath of God happening in this life early. It's why sometimes it feels like "oh, there's a believer here suffering and then there's a non believer over here that's doing great!" We can't judge by what we see is happening in people's lives. But we can say, "if this person is a true believer, they're being disciplined by a loving father, to become the image of Christ." Over here, this person is prospering. But because he doesn't believe, it's all going away at some point, either in this life or the next.
In the Christian church, we have the scale religion, let's call it that. It has always been there in some form. In the original Jewish church, at the time of Christ, the Pharisees were all the scale religion. Scale religion is, in a nutshell, "I'm not a sinner, you are, get out!" And that's why it says here, the Pharisees were casting people out of the synagogue, probably to protect themselves, because, "I don't want to sin, and I'm not a sinner." But we are all sinners. And that's what Jesus came to tell everybody: "you're all sinners." Even the Pharisees, because they're doing ritualistic things, but their hearts are not for God. They don't love their neighbors as themselves. They're not obeying those two great commandments: love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. They are putting up an "us versus them" system. "I'm not a sinner, you're a sinner."
So when we read this passage, I want to look at the last part again. We know the story of the guy who was born blind--Jesus healed his eyes. And then he comes before the council who're like, "Oh, we know, Jesus is a sinner." Think about that. The only guy who's not a sinner! Jesus Christ did not sin. We have to have a God who did not sin, otherwise, he can't rescue people that do sin. Sinners can't rescue sinners. Only someone who is holy and righteous and does not sin can rescue a sinner from eternal peril.
So the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "give glory to God, we know that this man is a sinner." They're saying, we know that Jesus is a sinner. Why? Because he is preaching a different religion from what the Pharisees are preaching. The Pharisees are preaching a scale religion. It's a natural state we fall into. That's why I said atheists and philosophers will do it, too. We fall into it, because it's easier to say to ourselves, "I'm saving myself, I'm doing it myself, I'm going to try and try and then I'm going to succeed, and I'm going to be a non-sinner, I'm not going to sin." And so we fall into it. It's a natural inclination. We have this desire to save ourselves, we don't want someone else to do it. It's humiliating. And that's exactly what Christianity is. It's a bunch of people saying, I'm going to humiliate myself to the Lord and have him be my rescuer. And the prayer from The Valley of Vision that I prayed at the very beginning of the service was like, "we're going to make a botch of it. If we leave our salvation to ourselves, we're going to screw it up. We need you, God, to rescue us." And that's a very humbling thing. And you think it's an easy thing to do? Oh, yeah, all I do is just "give it up." You hear that? Let go and let God: people say that all the time. People don't want to do that. It's our natural inclination to avoid doing that.
We know that this man is a sinner, they're so sure. What's the truth? He's not the sinner and they are sinners. He doesn't answer. "Whether he is a sinner, I do not know." He's not going to play on that field. The man who was once blind is not going to play on that field. I'm not going to go into that area. He said, "one thing I do know though I was blind and now I see." And we know that that physically happened. He was physically blind, and now he sees. It's also a spiritual truth. He was blind, he was a sinner. We're all blind. We're all sinners. Jesus comes and opens our eyes in many different ways, millions of different ways Christ can open our eyes. So what this once-blind man has done by saying this, is he's showing the two different religions that are in the synagogue. We can transfer that to being the church, because we still have it going on now. That happens today. There was a reformation, because the church had gone to a scale religion, weighing good and bad deeds. And then here are some things that you can do to try to tilt the scale, or you can pay to the church building fund and have the scales tip in this direction. So many things like that.
The Church has gone this way many times. Cults--there are lots of cults. They're a little bit more secretive than they were back then when they were obvious. They use the same language as Christianity. But how do you know it's a cult? Scales, suddenly you see the scales coming up. Let's talk about good deeds and bad deeds. What this once-blind guy is saying is, "I don't know about that scale religion stuff. What I do know is I was blind and now I see, that's it." If we want to define Christianity, we can say Christianity, instead of being a scale religion is a religion where blind people are made to see. Jesus opens the eyes of the blind. We're all blind people walking around, not knowing God. And Jesus comes in some form: could be a conversation with a friend, it could be a billboard, it could be thrown out my crazy grandma's Bible because she was some crazy Bible believer, but I'll look at it real fast: Oh! It could take anything. It takes the Holy Spirit to do it, but the eyes are now open. So Christianity is the only religion where blind people are given sight. It's not everybody, as we can tell, because everybody else is jumping on the scale religions. Christianity is the one where blind people are given sight by Christ. And once they see, they see the truth and the truth sets them free. So I was blind now I see. So he's showing the two different religions.
They said to him, "what did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" He answered, "I told you already, and you did not listen." See that there's a miscommunication of ideas, something I've been really thinking about a lot lately. I'll just insert that here. Why not? Babel, we know the story of Babel. What's happening? They're building a tower to the heavens, they're unified, all the people have the same goals, have the same ideas. We have prosperity, we have unity, we have all these things that are going well for everybody. And they're using it to build the tower. And God said, "I will confound their language." And then they're scattered, because they can't understand each other. And we always assume, and I assume this too--and I think it's true--there is an aspect of this, that we're talking about spoken language, and so that's why we have all the different languages of the world. But there are plenty of people who don't believe in Christ, who can learn other languages. There are people that know many languages and can communicate amongst people. So my idea is, what if the language that God confounded... Because what the problem was, these people will be unified, and they didn't need God, they didn't need him at all. So he's saying, they need to need me, so I will confound their language. And we think it means spoken language. What if it's ideas? What if it's economic language? Right now we have a big divide in the world: we have socialism, we have free economics, and there the two never meet. Everybody's arguing about what will work, and one side says, "this will work. It's has worked." The other side says, "No, no, ours will work, it just hasn't been tried yet." And the other side says, "Oh, yes. It's been tried many, many times. And it has resulted in mass murder." And the other side says, "that didn't happen, you know," and so, back and forth. What is that's the language that God confounded? Because one side thinks it's obvious, and the other side thinks it's obvious. What if that's what God was doing by confounding the languages: it wasn't necessarily the spoken word of everybody, because we do learn those. They're very similar. We go, okay, there's a verb, there's a noun, we can learn this. I'm trying to learn French right now. It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but I'm starting to learn that. But what if it's ideas, what if it's something deeper?
Anyway, I just wanted to share that with you. Because that's what's happening. We have two churches
and there's an obvious difference between them, but we can't figure out which one is right. But the Bible will tell us which one is right. The real church is the one of blind people being made to see. And the other church is the Pharisees who say, "we're not sinners, you are! We've proven you to be a sinner, get out!" And that's what's happening here.
I'm going to flip to the third letter of John. What you have here is a letter from John to Gaius. It's right before Jude, which is right before Revelation. So, third-to-last book of the Bible, and I'm just gonna read it. I'll make comments throughout. See if you can see the two churches. The elder--John--to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper, and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. For I was very glad when brethren--fellow Christians--came and testified to your truth--not relativism, not his truth--that is, how you are walking in truth. The other Christians have come to me and told me that you were blind, and now you see. You are walking in truth, you are someone whose eyes have been opened. I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in truth. It's essentially saying, I know that in the church of blind people, you are one that has sight, because we have a visible church, which can consist of everybody that professes to be a Christian. And then we have an invisible Church of people who actually see and God knows they see. Beloved, you are acting faithfully and whatever you accomplished for the brethren, and especially when they're strangers. So he's taking care of his fellow Christians, especially when he doesn't know them. That's one of the big hurdles in life. We think, oh, we're all about taking care of strangers. Yeah, yeah, it is one of the largest hurdles in life to take care of somebody you don't know, to help someone you don't know. And to be able to identify if they're walking in the truth, if their eyes are open. And that's one of our goals is to help each other whose eyes are open. And they have testified to your love before the church--so these strangers, to you, have even testified to your love, and you will do well to send them on their way, in a manner worthy of God. For they went out the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Think of them. Remember, Jesus sent his apostles out and he said, "You know, if people are walking in darkness, and they reject you, just stay away. "Accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore, we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth. Think of truth being light, think of truth being sight.
So there's the church. Now, I wrote something to the church, John is saying, but Diatrophes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. He sounds like a leader in the church doesn't he, Diatrophes? He loves to be first among them. He does not accept what we say. And this is John who was with Jesus. If anybody has authority in the church, it's John. But here's this guy Diatrophes in the visible church. And whenever somebody comes to him like the blind man and says, "Hey, Christianity's about blind people seeing," he's like, "get out of here. That's not what we are. We're scales." He does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words. And not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so, and puts them out of the church. It's interesting how the people who were blind and now see don't go about the business of putting the people who are still blind out of the church. (This is different from church discipline in Matthew 18 and properly approaching unrepentant sinners). The idea is to help those blind people see, but the people who are blind and are in a different religion, their goal is to get the people who see out of the church: it's a one-directional thing. One side is pushing the other side out of the church. The other side is trying to help those people see, so that they can be seers of Christ, too.
Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God, the one who does evil has not seen God. Notice he didn't say, the one who does good is of God, the one who does evil is not of God. That would have been very parallel. But he says, the one who does evil has not seen God, is still walking in darkness from birth.
And then he talks about another person: Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone and from the truth itself, and we add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true. So don't be discouraged. Here's another person in the church with you, Gaius. He is also walking in the light. Stick together, become light. As Jesus said, he wants us to become light for others in the church. We think, "oh, we're all here in the church. Let's go out and get these people covered. But there's housecleaning to do, and we don't want to make waves. So we don't we stray away from that. But it's not making waves, because they're the ones that are making waves by trying to push people out. Our waves, and I'm preaching to everybody here, as if we are all people walking in the light, our way is to be light in the darkness and get people who are walking in darkness into the light, too.
Think of yourself. Self examine? Are you someone who has been walking in darkness and are now walking in light? Or are you someone preoccupied with figuring out, "Am I doing more good deeds than evil ones?" This stops becoming an issue because, I've been there. I've said, I'm a Christian, but I'm really worried about whether my good deeds are outweighing my bad deeds. Because that's the religion that we're fed. You have to change your thinking, convert your thinking to, "we are members of Christianity, a religion where blind people see, are made to see by Christ's spirit," and suddenly everything changes: the way we behave, the way we think, the way we speak, the way we act, because we're no longer focusing on, "are my good deeds outweighing my bad deeds? Am I going to get into heaven because of this?" Christ died on the cross. It's already done. He died for your sins. That's happened. Being someone who lives who walks in the light, walks in the truth, is all about gratitude, repaying Christ for what he's already done. If you're worried about the scales, you're not believing that he's already died for your sins, because you're worried about trying to get your sins off the scales, you're trying to save yourself. If you have faith that Christ has already accomplished that on the cross, this goes away, and it becomes nothing, and then it all becomes about walking in the light and showing light to others, and obeying the law but out of gratitude for Christ's sacrifice for you. That's already been done. He doesn't have to do it again.