Do short-sighted Christians make you want to avoid church?

Do short-sighted Christians make you want to avoid church? Not short-sighted as in eye problems. Short-sighted as an not thinking out of the box. Far enough into the future. Beyond the walls of their own church. Things like that.

short-sighted Christians make you want to avoid church

The dictionary definition of short-sightedness is something along the lines of the inability to see things clearly unless they are relatively close to the eyes; nearsightedness.

That’s a problem I don’t have. Haven’t had for twenty years. That’s after my arms weren’t long enough to hold things far enough away for me to read them.

So if that’s what this was about, I can rest easy. No way I’m that kind of short-sighted.

But then, that’s not what this is about.

It’s also not about “going with the flow”. Unless that “flow” is from God, not necessarily from the majority of people in the church.

It’s about following the Holy Spirit.

Short-sighted Christians might not go where God wants us to go.

This short-sightedness is something I feel like God Himself has told me to watch out for. Being too stubborn. Not a good thing.

Of course, it can be a fine line between being too stubborn and being too willing to go wherever the wind blows.

So let’s see what Jesus said about the wind and the Holy Spirit. Yes, He actually did talk about both of them. I the same passage even. Of course, we remember the passage for another reason.

See how quickly you recognize this one. It’s got probably the best known single verse in the Bible. But not so much remembered for much of the rest of the passage.

Follow the Holy Spirit

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

Jn 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jn 3:3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’”

Jn 3:4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Jn 3:5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Jn 3:9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

Jn 3:10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Yes – you probably know John 3:16. But did you know John 3:16 was part of Jesus’ answer to Nicodemus when je asked how a man can be born again? Here’s the first part of Jesus’ answer.

Jn 3:5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

Yes, the wind blows where it pleases. we can’t see it. We don’t really know where it comes from And we also don’t really know where it’s going. At least, those things were true a couple thousand years ago. Now, we have equipment to find out all sorts of things about the wind. We can even, to some extent, predict winds.

But that’s not the point. The point is, we cannot literally see wind. We can see the effects, things that get blown, and stuff like that. But we cannot see “wind” with our eyes.

Given that, Jesus’ words are probably even more relevant to us today than they were to people during His ministry.

People, using only our own capabilities, know nothing of the Holy Spirit. Just like we know nothing about the comings and goings of the wind without the right equipment. We don’t know where the wind will be in 5 minutes, let alone 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 months, or 5 years.

And without the Holy Spirit, we don’t/can’t know where God wants us to be in that timeframe either. Or what He wants us to do. We can know nothing of His plan for us.

Does God have a plan for us?

Christians love to say Jeremiah 29:11 is for every single one of us. It’s debatable. I mean, it was a statement to Jeremiah. A prophet. And God did have a plan for Him. But then, the Hebrew word used is plural. So it’s more than just Jeremiah. But, Jeremiah’s prophecy included a letter to God’s people who were in exile.

Here’s that letter.

A Letter to the Exiles

Jer 29:1 This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 (This was after King Jehoiachin and the queen mother, the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen and the artisans had gone into exile from Jerusalem.) 3 He entrusted the letter to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. It said:

Jer 29:4 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the LORD.

Jer 29:10 This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jer 29:15 You may say, “The LORD has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,” 16 but this is what the LORD says about the king who sits on David’s throne and all the people who remain in this city, your countrymen who did not go with you into exile— 17 yes, this is what the LORD Almighty says: “I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like poor figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten. 18 I will pursue them with the sword, famine and plague and will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth and an object of cursing and horror, of scorn and reproach, among all the nations where I drive them. 19 For they have not listened to my words,” declares the LORD, “words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles have not listened either,” declares the LORD.

Jer 29:20 Therefore, hear the word of the LORD, all you exiles whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon. 21 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says about Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying lies to you in my name: “I will hand them over to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will put them to death before your very eyes. 22 Because of them, all the exiles from Judah who are in Babylon will use this curse: ‘The LORD treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon burned in the fire.’ 23 For they have done outrageous things in Israel; they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives and in my name have spoken lies, which I did not tell them to do. I know it and am a witness to it,” declares the LORD.

You can see, it’s pretty specific. There may very well be some portions of the letter that we can reasonably believe apply to us today. That’s a common theme throughout Old Testament prophecy. However, just taking everything from every prophecy as having an equivalent meaning today is, misleading and potentially dangerous if we rely on false asumptions.

We’ve already seem some potential issues before reading the letter. And now that you’ve read it, you can identify more.

So God doesn’t have a plan for us?

So, am I saying God has no plan for us? No plan for His people as a whole? Not for us as individuals?

Of course not.

God’s overall plan for us is laid out in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. Salvsation. Eternity with Him.

But the problem with the Jeremiah passage is that many individual Christians claim it for themselves. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. That’s a difficult one for us to claim today, given the overall context of the letter.

It’s also very “Old Testament”. It can easily lead to the so-called prosperity gospel. That God wants us to be wealthy. And that’s just not what Jesus said. Not for us.

So what is God’s plan for us today?

Here’s a passage I believe is much better for us to claim for ourselves as Christians.

The Shepherd and His Flock

Jn 10:1 “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.

Jn 10:7 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Jn 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Jn 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Here, for today’s topic, the key is verse ten:

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Life to the full. But what does that mean?

It means living the life God planned for us, not the life we planned for ourselves. However, there’s something missing from that commonly given meaning.

Here’s what’s missing. The Holy Spirit. When we become Christians, we are given the Holy Spirit. As our faith grows, we will learn to listen to Him. To know, to use the earlier reference to wind, where He’s sending us. What He wants us to do. Or not do.

And then, something interesting happens. Our desires for our own life begin to align with God’s desires for our life.

Conclusion – Do short-sighted Christians make you want to avoid church?

When our desires for our lives align with God’s then it’s impossible to be short sighted. God already knows The End. And that means something that’s pretty much impossible for us to understand.

Ay any/every moment, God knows all about everything. Everything that has passed. And everything that’s happening at that moment. As soon as we even think about a moment, any moment, that moment’s gone. But God is outside of time. He created time. He was before time existed. And will still be after time, as we know it, ceases to exist.

And so, something else happens. God has a pan for our lives. One that we’re free to ignore. But when we do ignore it, we’re always short-sighted, at least compared to His plan. However, any time we’re ready, God is also ready and capable of bringing us on board with His plan. And from that moment forward, we can, as close as we can follow the Holy Spirit guiding us on His path, live that life to the full Jesus promised.

And do you know what? Other people can’t stop us from living that best possible life God has for us. Because He knows what everyone else is doing too. And e takes that into account. Where we are is part of God’s plan. If God wants us someplace else He’ll let us know. But He may also have plans for wherever we’ve brought ourselves to while we were doing our own thing.

So ultimately, there’s no reason for us to allow anyone else to thwart our plan, if it matches God’s plan. The only one that prevent God’s plan for us from working out is, well, the person we see when we look in the mirror.

If short-sighted people are in the way of God’s plans, He’ll deal with it, one way or another. Maybe that means we go somewhere else. But maybe it doesn’t. It certainly does not mean we stop going to church. It does mean we must listen for God’s Holy Spirit. And keep our eyes and hearts on the long term goal. Follow God’s path to eternity with Him.

The series on things that make you want to avoid church is based on 10 Ways You May Be Destroying the Church from Of course, from the opposite point of view – ways Christians may be making people avoid church.

Image by andreas160578 from Pixabay

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