The Compelling Case of the Capable Convert
This is the first sermon I preached for the Preaching Course I took. I preached it to the UnShackled Life group with about 30 members present. It was probably the first time I got up and spoke before a group for more than 5 minutes. It took about 80 hours to prepare and just under 30 minutes to present. This is the manuscript I preached from, though the Word formatting did not copy over properly.
The Compelling Case of the Capable Convert
We all know not to place our hand on a hot stove burner, right? Right? Now they say that experience is the best teacher, but there are some things that I prefer not having the best teacher for. Hot stove burners are one of them. Fortunately, we can also learn through the experience of others. I learned about hot stove burners from my dad. He carelessly placed his hand on a hot burner early one morning when we were in the kitchen together. Actually, I learned three things. I learned that my dad knew several words that I had no idea he knew. I learned that hot stove burners are very painful and can leave rings of blisters on one’s hand. And I learned that they don’t call aloe vera the “burn plant” for nothing.
Yes, we learn from our own experiences, but we can also learn from the experiences of others. The Harvard Business School is famous for its case studies. For me, the best case study is one that presents a real-life situation – something that actually happened – and invites us to learn from it. That is, we learn from the experience of others. Case studies can be positive or negative. We can learn what we should do or we can learn what we should not do.
The Bible is full of case studies. Today we are going to look at one of these case studies; we are going to look at the case of “The Man Born Blind” in the Gospel of John, chapter 9. This is a story about both light and darkness; about both the positive and the negative. The man himself, the man born blind, is a positive role model. He is someone whose example we should strive to emulate. The Pharisees are a negative role model. We definitely do not want to follow their example.
But I am getting a little ahead of myself here. Let me just say that I love to “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” so we are going to focus on the man himself - the man born blind. We will be focusing on light rather than darkness and blindness. Being a Perry Mason fan, I cannot resist giving this case study a title: “The Compelling Case of the Capable Convert.”
John Chapter 9 is pretty long so I am going to give you the Cliff Notes version of the story. I encourage you to read all of John Chapter 9, but let’s start with the short version.
Jesus walks by a beggar, a man born blind – hereafter referred to as “the man.” Jesus spits in the dust, mixes it to make mud and smears the mud on the man’s eyes. Jesus tells the man to go to the pool of Siloam and wash out his eyes. The man does so and gains his sight. The man’s neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar express amazement and some skepticism at his healing. The man passionately confirms his healing. He is brought before the Pharisees who question him because he was healed on the Sabbath. The Pharisees are hostile to Jesus and wish to discredit Him; either by disproving the miracle itself or at least calling into question the man’s testimony. The man gives his initial testimony to the Pharisees. Not satisfied with his answers, the man’s parents are called in to testify. They restrict themselves to stating that the man is their son and that he was, in fact, born blind. The man is called to testify again and, by refusing to back down from his earlier testimony, manages to infuriate the Pharisees so much that they throw him out – meaning they expel him from the synagogue. Jesus then finds the man, reveals Himself to the man, who then worships Jesus.
The Big Idea
Now what does the case of “The Man Born Blind” have to say to us today? What lessons can we learn as we study this case? What can we learn from “The Compelling Case of the Capable Convert?” This is the story of a man’s conversion; of his journey from non-belief to belief and to saving faith in Jesus. So, are the lessons to be learned just for non-believers, for potential converts or for people who need to ask Christ into their lives? Hardly. The lesson of the story, the Big Idea if you will, is for everyone. And that Big Idea is this: that we must receive God’s light, respond to God’s light and reflect God’s light. Receive, respond and reflect; a never-ending cycle. The man born blind provides us with a good example of this cycle.
A Little More Background
Now what do we know about the man born blind? He was a blind beggar, hardly a respected member of society. We know he was an adult since his parents refer to him as “of age” in verses 21 and 23 of chapter 9. We know he was a sinner. Whoa! Doesn’t Jesus say in verse 3 that “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents?” Yes, but. Jesus is simply saying that no particular sin on the part of either the man or his parents caused him to be born blind. The fact is that we are all born into a fallen world where bad things happen. We are all born in sin. Romans 3:23: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are all born spiritually blind. That is, we do not see Jesus for who he is, we have not asked Him into our hearts and we have not accepted Him as Lord and Savior.
Now we have no idea about what sin there was in the life of the man born blind at this point in his life. The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter. No matter how sinful, no matter what his sins may have been, neither the man born blind nor any of us is beyond hope. 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Not convinced? Remember the thief on the cross? The thief is one being crucified along with Jesus. Who knows just how grievous his sins, but they were enough for him to be executed. In Luke 23:42-43; the thief is speaking to Jesus: And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he (Jesus) said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
So as we begin our story, the man born blind might be considered a proxy or a representative for all of us. For those who have already accepted Christ he is a proxy for us both for today and when we were previously spiritually blind. For those who have not accepted Christ he is a proxy for us as we currently are.
We Must Receive God’s Light
But that is enough background. Let us proceed with the first part of the Big Idea: we must receive God’s light. And just what is God’s light? In John 8:12, Jesus refers to Himself as “the light of the world.” John 8:12: Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So Jesus Himself is light. To put it more broadly, God’s light is God’s truth, God revealing Himself to us. From Psalm 27:1: The Lord is my light and my salvation. From Psalm 43:3: Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me. Isaiah 9:2: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. 1 John 1:5: This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
So if we must receive God’s light, how does God shine His light on us? How does He reveal Himself to us? Certainly he reveals Himself through His Word - the Bible - and through His Creation. But we should not try to limit God’s revelation. He can reveal Himself to us, He can shine His light upon us, in many ways.
So what about the man born blind? How did he receive God’s light? The first and most obvious way is through the compassion of Jesus who gives him his sight. Initially, he certainly has received physical sight and perhaps a little spiritual sight as well. But not a lot since in verse 11 of John 9 the man only recognizes Jesus as “The man called Jesus.” But as we progress though our story, the man obviously receives more of God’s light. We are not certain how since John is recounting a historical event as recorded by an observer. Perhaps the man simply meditated on what has happened to him and on the implications of it. In any case, in his first testimony before the Pharisees in verse 17 he now declares Jesus to be “a prophet.” In his second testimony in verse 33 Jesus has been promoted to “from God.” Finally, in verses 35-38 the man receives God’s light straight from the ultimate source: Jesus Himself. The man now sees Jesus as the “Son of God” and worships Him.
What is the key to receiving God’s light? To receive God’s light, we must at least be open to it and not reject it as the Pharisees did. In verses 28-29, the Pharisees attack the man and Jesus: And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” A believer will accept God’s light for what it is: from God. A non-believer who accepts that God’s light could be from God receives God’s light, though not in full.
A final comment: receiving God’s light can be active or passive. For example, to listen to someone speak God’s Word is passive; to read God’s Word is active. As we progress, we should become more and more active in receiving God’s light.
We Must Respond to God’s Light
Now for part two of our Big Idea: we must respond to God’s light. There are many ways that we can respond to God’s light. Here I want to emphasize that our response is not passive; it must be active. And it must be positive. Our response may or may not involve physical action. The man born blind certainly made a physical response to Jesus anointing his eyes with mud and telling him to wash them in the pool of Siloam. He did exactly what Jesus told him to do! But what if he had just wiped the mud out of his eyes and told Jesus to leave him alone? It certainly would have been a response, a physical response, but not a response to God’s light. He would have rejected God’s light.
Now there are many other ways to respond to God’s light. Whether the blind man did any of these we do not know for sure. Again, remember that John wrote about a historical event. However, is it not likely that the man rejoiced and prayed and meditated over what had happened to him? Over the light he had received? Such a response is both active and positive.
Our response may be observed by others as with the man going to the pool to wash his eyes. Or it may not as when we pray and meditate. Whatever the case, we change when we respond to God’s light. God changes us.
Now that change in us may be extreme and it may be permanent, such as when we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and are born again.
The change may be relatively minor: a change in the way we think, a deeper appreciation for God’s creation or a new insight into God’s Word.
Sometimes God’s light calls us or commands us. Jesus anointed the man’s eyes and commanded him to wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam. And when God calls or commands us, we need to obey. We need to obey just like the man born blind. Examples of people who obey God’s call and commands abound in Scripture. Jesus called his disciples and they responded. Jesus called to Peter and Andrew in Matthew 4:19-20, and they responded. Matthew 4:19-20: And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And Matthew, speaking of himself in Matthew 9:9: As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And here is an abbreviated version of God’s call to Abram in Genesis 12:1-4:
12 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you…. 4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.
Wow! Would any of us today have the courage to respond like these men did?
Well, the list of responses to God’s light is endless but change is the key. We must respond to God’s light in an active and positive manner that changes us.
We Must Reflect God’s Light
So we must receive and respond to God’s light. Finally, we must reflect God’s light. We must reflect God’s light so that through us it shines on others.
Did the man born blind reflect God’s light? Of course he did! He reflected it when he declared that Jesus had given him sight. He reflected it by quite literally when he testified for Jesus in front of the Pharisees, a hostile audience if there ever was one. In John 9, the man responds with one of the most inspiring statements ever made when the Pharisees declare Jesus to be a sinner. John 9:25: He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Isn’t it amazing that we are still quoting the man born blind almost two thousand years later?
But let us reflect a little more on reflecting God’s light. In Matthew 5 during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to his disciples as light. Matthew Chapter 5, verses 14-16:
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
So we as Christians, as disciples of Christ, are also to be light. And Paul, in Ephesians 5:8-11:
8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
So the Bible makes it clear that we must be light; that is, we must reflect God’s light. But how are we to do this? First we need to remember that it is not our own light we must reflect, but God’s light. Or as John Paul Jackson put it: “We do not carry our own light; we carry God’s light, and as His presence grows within us, we begin to radiate His light.”
We reflect God’s light by our example and by our character. Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
By our example and our character.
We reflect God’s light by our actions and deeds. Paul, referring to rich believers in 1 Timothy 5:25, says: They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share. Titus 3:8: The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
By our actions and our deeds.
Finally, we reflect God’s light through our witness and testimony to others. Many of you are familiar with the Great Commission, most likely the one from Matthew. But there is more than one Great Commission. All four gospels contain a Great Commission as does the Book of Acts. So consider this from Acts 1:8: “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Now some of you may say “I’m not ready to witness yet.” Of course you are! We are all ready and able to witness, though we may not be willing. But it is not so hard. All we need to do is testify to what God has done in our lives, just as the man born blind. Dwight Moody said it well. Speaking about Jesus, Moody said:
"I do not know anything that would wake up Chicago better than for every man and woman here who loves Him to begin to talk about Him to their friends, and just to tell them what He has done for you. You have got a circle of friends. Go and tell them of Him."
By our witness and our testimony
Conclusion and Charge
So we must receive God’s light, respond to God’s light and reflect God’s light. These three – receiving, responding and reflecting – are a never-ending cycle; a cycle we do not want to suppress. Consider Luke from 8:16, 18:
16 “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.... 18 Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”
Jesus makes it clear that those who have received God’s light – and responded to and reflected that light - will receive even more light. Arthur Pink describes it thusly: “When a believer walks faithfully according to the light he has, more is given to him.”
Remember the title of our “case study?” “The Compelling Case of the Capable Convert.” The man born blind, our “capable convert,” is a positive example for us, and an example we should emulate.
So receive God’s light. Actively. Don’t wait for God’s light to come to you, but actively seek it through His Word.
Respond to God’s light. Actively. Pray and allow God’s light to change you.
Reflect God’s light. Actively. In your character, in your actions and in your testimony.
Your mission, Mr. Phelps, should you decide to accept it, is to read John Chapter 9, the story of “The Man Born Blind,” and to be a capable convert. Actively seek and receive God’s light through His Word, then respond to it and reflect it. Specifically, I want you to think of two events or incidents – just two – where God has changed your life. Be prepared to share them. John Chapter 9. And remember that in Mission Impossible, Mr. Phelps was always given the opportunity to refuse the mission. But he never did.
Have you received some of God’s light today? Have you decided to respond to God’s light or to reflect more of God’s light? Perhaps you have made the most important decision of all – to receive Jesus into your heart and accept Him as truly the Son of God, your Lord and Savior. Whatever the case, don’t hesitate to make it known. God bless you all.