Three Kinds of Spiritual Blindness
The “here and now” hole in the middle of our lives produces three fundamental forms of spiritual blindness.
The Blindness of Identity
Many Christians underestimate the presence and power of indwelling sin. They don’t see how easily entrapped they are in this world full of snares (see Gal. 6:1). They don’t grasp the comprehensive nature of the war that is always raging within the heart of every believer (see Rom. 7). They’re not aware of how prone they are to run after God replacements. They fail to see that their greatest problems exist within them, not outside them.
My work with teenagers has convinced me that one of the main reasons teenagers are not excited by the gospel is that they do not think they need it. Many parents have successfully raised self-righteous little Pharisees. When they look at themselves, they do not see a sinner in desperate need, so they are not grateful for a Savior. Sadly, the same is true of many of their parents.
Many believers also fail to see the other side of their gospel identity: their identity in Christ. Christ not only gives me forgiveness and a new future, but a whole new identity as well! I am now a child of God, with all of the rights and privileges that this title bestows. This is important because each of us lives out of some sense of identity, and our gospel identity amnesia will always lead to some form of identity replacement. That is, if who I am in Christ does not shape the way I think about myself and the things I face, then I will live out of some other identity.
Often in our blindness, we take on our problems as identities. While divorce, depression, and single parenthood are significant human experiences, they are not identities. Our work is not our identity, though it is an important part of how God intends us to live. For too many of us, our sense of identity is more rooted in our performance than it is in God’s grace. It is wonderful to be successful at what God has called you to do, but when you use your success to define who you are, you will always have a distorted perspective.
Blindness to God’s Provision
As Peter states, in Christ we have been given “everything we need for life and godliness.” Why does he use two words here, both “life” and “godliness”? The second word is meant to qualify the first. If Peter had simply said that God has given us everything we need for life, it would be easy to add the word eternal before it. This is how this passage is often interpreted.
We find it much easier to embrace the gospel’s promise of life after death than we do its promise of life before death! But when Peter says that God has given us everything we need for “godliness,” we know that he is talking about life now. Godliness is a God-honoring life from the time I come to Christ until the time I go home to be with him. Peter is saying that we cannot live properly in the present unless we understand the provision God has made for us. Many believers are blind to the fact that this provision runs deeper than the commands, principles, and promises of Scripture we normally associate with the pursuit of a godly life.
It is even more fundamental than the conviction of the Holy Spirit or our legal forgiveness. God’s provision for a godly life now is literally Christ himself! He has given us himself so that we can be like him. Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Jesus is Emmanuel not only because he came to earth and lived with us, but because he actually lives within us now by his Spirit. His presence gives us everything we need to be who we are supposed to be and do what we are supposed to do.
Blindness to God’s Process
The New Testament is clear that our acceptance into the family of God is not the end of God’s work in us, but the beginning. God has not called us to a life of “I have spiritually arrived” or “I am just waiting for heaven.” Rather, he calls us to a life of constant work, constant growth, and constant confession and repentance. Making us holy is God’s unwavering agenda until we are taken home to be with him. He will do whatever he needs to produce holiness in us. He wants us to be a community of joy, but he is willing to compromise our temporal happiness in order to increase our Christlikeness.
Any time we find ourselves in difficulty or trial, it is easy to think we have been forgotten or rejected by God. This is because we do not understand the present process. God is not working for our comfort and ease; he is working on our growth. At the very moment we are tempted to question his faithfulness, he is fulfilling his redemptive promises to us. After all, it’s not like there are only some people who really need to change. Change is the norm for everyone, and God is always at work to complete this process in us.
Want more? Pick up a copy of How People Change, from which this post was excerpted.