Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Christian and Depression #4


TEXT:    Mark 8: 22-26 
TITLE:   “The inability to see Truth clearly”   
DATE:     04/ 09/2009   

We continue with  the subject    “ The Christian and depression“,  as  I seek to help you to understand the  complex array of facets   and contributing factors to  this  very common  problem.
Our contention is that depression cannot be God glorifying. It can really present a very poor testimony to an unbeliever in search for meaning in life. A depressed, joyless Christian is a poor advertisement for the Saviour he/she professes to love and follow.

From the Scriptures we know that we are designed and destined for joy. Joy is the Christian’s birthright. This is what Jesus has purchased for us (see Jn 15:11; 16: 24; 17:13). This joy is not conditional upon ideal circumstances. It is possible to be joyful even in the midst of hardship.  1 Thess. 5:16-18 says: “Be joyful always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the ill of God in Christ Jesus for you.

However , Christian joy is conditional upon having Christ   at our center. Joyless, depressed Christians usually cannot see how Jesus can be at their center. 

This brings me to the point of this  message from  Mark 8:22-26. In many ways this is a most peculiar story. We have no other    recollection in the NT where Jesus does a ‘two stage miracle’. Jesus’ miracles as a rule are always instantaneous and always complete!  A simple survey concerning the surrounding stories to our text confirms that:
  • The daughter of the Syro-Phoenician woman is   delivered from the demon (7:24-30). 
  • A deaf man  is instantaneously and completely healed. (7: 31-37)
  • 4000 are fed through instantaneous provision ( 8:1-10)                                                            Why then this peculiar incident? I want to suggest that this is all part of   biblical logic, and all part of the divine inspiration of the Bible. What I am saying is that  the Holy Spirit caused this  story  not only to be recorded by Mark , but that He  caused it to be inserted right here  at this point .
 Explanation:
Why did the Lord Jesus decide to heal this man in two stages? I will show you that this was mainly for the benefit of His disciples.   He wanted to illustrate something that was happening in them at a spiritual level. He was helping them to see themselves.   
This miracle happened at a point in Jesus' ministry where many people who had been completely blind to God‘s presence and God’s work, were now starting to catch glimpses of something they had never seen before. They heard Jesus speak with great authority. They watched Him drive out demons. They saw Him do amazing miracles. They began to sense that there was something special about Jesus.  But they still didn't see clearly that Jesus was God in human flesh. They hadn’t yet grasped that He alone could deliver them from God’s wrath and into eternal life.  They were starting to see, but they needed to see better than that !

Just before our story, Jesus has a talk with His disciples in the boat (i.e. in the wake of the miraculous feeding of the 4000). They had forgotten to bring bread for the journey …they still didn't get it!  Here is the One who had just fed 4000 and 5000 miraculously, and so Jesus asks them: 'Do you still not understand?'  (v.21). They were seeing something – but they did not see completely. The words of the blind man in v. 24 were true for them.
So, it appears then that Jesus wanted to show them something about themselves.     A blind man was brought to Him. Oh, they knew that Jesus  could do something about that! Their struggle was more with who He was .  So Jesus took him and His disciples out of the city (probably to  avoid sensationalism).  Then He   did a peculiar thing - he spat on his eyes - and then asked him what he saw. The man said he saw blurred men – like trees walking.  He didn’t pretend that he saw clearly. Then Jesus laid His hands on his eyes again, and   now he saw everything clearly!

It is highly significant that this story is followed by Peter’s confession of Christ (Mk 8:27-30). Now you o could not have a clearer statement on who Jesus is!   Peter now clearly saw Christ for who He was. The miracle of the "two stage healing " from blindness to  partial sight to full sight has just occurred at a spiritual level in Peter.
The disciples   knew that Jesus was very unusual   in terms of His display  of power and authority. They were starting to see something, but now   at least one of them saw him clearly, "You are the Christ!”
 In Matt. 16:17 Jesus said to Peter, "Blessed are you . . . for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven". God alone, the Holy Spirit alone through His Word alone can give us the grace to see who Jesus Christ really is. We need something as miraculous as the opening the eyes of the blind man  , before we can see the Lord Jesus in this way.

What does this have to do with our subject on depression in Christians?
There are many Christian people who are like these disciples.  You may be one of them.   You feel drawn to Christ, you have seen something in Him, but somehow the significance of Jesus and the gospel are not yet very clear to you.   If you have sat through our ministry of the Word here at Eastside ,   you are certainly seeing more than you once did – but it may be that you have not yet been able to get it all in focus.  You’re not spiritually blind, but you don’t have clarity. You can't say for sure that you know that He is the Son of God and your Saviour.  While you won't say that you're definitely not a Christian, neither can you say that you are one. You know that you do see more than you once did, but it is not clear yet.  If that is   where you are, then you are precisely the person the Lord had in mind when He chose to do this miracle in this way. God is talking to you through this story in the Bible.

The man or woman who is at this point in their lives confesses generally that they are joyless and unhappy. They are living in the shadows and not in the sunshine of   God’s revelation.  Lack of clarity can make you very unhappy, unsure and miserable.  May the Holy Spirit be pleased today to give greater clarity and reveal the Lord Jesus in you!  Since Jesus is not with us in bodily form to explain Himself more clearly, we must know that He has not left us as orphans (Jn 14:18). He has left us His Spirit and His Word to   pierce through the dense fog of our human understanding, as we ask: [1]

a. Why can  I not see clearly?   (7 possibilities)
b. How can  I  be cured of this partial spiritual blindness? (3 encouragements)

 A.  WHY MAY  YOU NOT YET BE ABLE TO SEE CLEARLY? 

1.   You may lack clarity and understanding of certain principles:   You have seen Christ somehow. He seems familiar to you; you know that what He said and did is true. However you haven’t quite yet seen for yourself how He is your Saviour.   You are not clear about the purpose and necessity of His death for you.  You do not yet see why Christ had to die.  You are not yet clear about the doctrine and necessity of the new birth.  You find these things confusing.  You say, “I do not see how …”, and you are quite right!  The result is that you are troubled and unhappy and miserable. “

2.  You may not yet see clearly because your heart is not fully engaged.  I quote Dr Lloyd Jones: “Though they are able to see many things, they do not really find their happiness in Christianity and in the Christian position. Somehow or another they are not moved by it, they do not find real joy in it. They always have to remind themselves of it and are ever trying to pull themselves up to it. They are not happy; they still seem to find their joy, as far as they have any, somewhere else; their heart is not fully engaged. “

3.  Your will is divided.    Quoting Dr Lloyd Jones: “They are rebellious, they do not see why a man, because he calls himself a Christian, has got to do certain things and stop doing others. They think that is being narrow. Yet they denounce the old life and embrace the Christian life in general. They acknowledge Christ as Saviour and yet when it comes to the question of the application of His teaching through the will, there is confusion and they are not clear about it. They are always arguing about this, always asking if it is right for them to do this and that. There is a lack of ease in the realm of the will.”   This causes confusion and ultimately depression, because truth that is not properly applied cannot leave you satisfied.

4.  You may dislike clarity and certainty.  Some people   strangely object to clarity of thought and definition because of its demands. The most comfortable type of religion is always a vague religion, cluttered up with forms and ritual. There is nothing as uncomfortable as clear-cut biblical truths that demand decisions.   For this reason some such people become offended and say:  'You are being too precise, you are being too legalistic. No, no, I do not like this. I believe in Christianity, but you are being too rigid and too narrow “. But if you start with the theory that Christianity is not clear-cut, do not be surprised if you find yourself, like this man, seeing 'men as trees, walking'. If you start your Christian life and experience by saying that you do not want an exact focus or a precise definition in your picture, you probably will not have it.

5.  You may have a problem with accepting the teaching and the authority of the Scriptures.   That is ultimately that is the main cause of spiritual trouble.  You do not submit yourself utterly and absolutely to the Bible.  But you must come as little children and take it at face value and allow it to speak to you. If you did this, this sort of trouble would never arise.
Many people mix their own ideas with spiritual truth.  They accept certain Biblical ideas, but there are other ideas and philosophies which they desire to bring with them from their old life.  They claim that they believe in Christ as Saviour, but they argue that we must not go too far in these matters. Then they begin to modify the Scriptures. They refuse to accept it authoritatively in every respect. That  sort of thinking  leads you  ultimately  to  nothing  but misery  , and the worst aspect about this is that you  do not know why you are miserable , because you have just shut the only  window that would bring light to your soul and your understanding  .

6.  You may not be interested in doctrine.  Some people say that they like the Bible, but they do not like doctrine.  That is a strange thing to say.  What is the purpose of the Bible except to present doctrine – to present truth? What is the value of exposition unless it leads to truth?  It is not difficult to understand their position. It is the doctrine that hurts; it is the doctrine that brings issues into focus. Doctrine speaks to us and insists upon a decision.  It examines us and forces us to examine ourselves. So, if we start by objecting to doctrine as such, it is not surprising that we cannot see clearly and it is not surprising if we are unhappy and miserable. There is nothing that so clears a man's spiritual sight as the apprehension and understanding of the doctrines of the Bible . . .

7. You may not have placed the doctrines of the Scriptures in their right order.
If you take the doctrine of regeneration before the doctrine of the atonement you will be in trouble. If you are interested in the rebirth and having new life, before you are clear about your sin and your standing with God, you will go wrong and you will eventually be miserable. The same applies to placing sanctification before justification. The doctrines must be taken in their right order.

SUMMARY: The cause of unhappiness and depression in a Christian may be a refusal to think things right through. It is the fatal danger of wanting to enjoy something before you really grasp it and possess it.  Such people who refuse to think things right through, generally become victims of this spiritual confusion. .

B. HOW MAY WE BE CURED?

1. Do not claim too soon that your blindness is over.  Don’t say too soon:  "I can see. I'm all right."   People generally tend to say after some counselling : "I'm much better." Often people tell us what we want to hear.  This blind man was a different person. He could see men. There had been a change, but it was incomplete.  He needed  to see completely . He shouldn't testify before he had seen clearly. For this  very reason we  do not encourage young believers to be too quick  in terms of giving  a testimony  or to  engage in public teaching .  We should not encourage a celebrity  ,  a TV star, a politician, a sportsman, who has started to attend church and has even made a profession of faith to address meetings and give his testimony when he is still a novice. It might puff him  up . He may  be filled  with pride  and fall into the condemnation  of the devil  ( 1 Tim 3:6) . He is still  seeing men as trees walking.
Remember that we grow by inches spiritually as we do physically.  Let him mature before the spotlight is put on him.

 2.  Don't give up when you're not instantly transformed:  Sometimes people have seen some change, but it is not clear enough. Men seem like trees walking.  So they stop prayer, attendance at worship , and move to the fringes of the church. They a become confused and muddled people.
It is perfectly natural after conversion to discover the hidden wickedness of our hearts. God hides it from us in the first period of our lives, but then He tests us. "Do you still trust in me when things get tough? Do you still believe that I am working all things together for your good when these disasters happen? Do you believe that I am with you when people desert you and you feel so alone?"

3. Go to the Lord and be utterly honest with him.
 What saved this man was his honesty.  Let me close with these words from Martyn Lloyd Jones:  "Go to God. Stop asking questions. Start with the promises in their right order. Say: 'I want the truth whatever it costs me.' Bind yourself to it, submit yourself to it, come in utter submission as a little child and plead with him to give you clear sight, perfect vision, and to make you whole.
And as you do so it is my privilege to remind you that he can do it. Yea, more, I promise you in his Blessed Name that he will do it. He never leaves anything incomplete. That is the teaching. Listen to it. This man was healed and restored and 'saw every man clearly'. The Christian position is a clear position. We are not meant to be left in a state of doubt and misgiving, of uncertainty and unhappiness. Do you believe that the Son of God came from heaven and lived and did all he did on earth, that he died on a Cross and was buried and rose again, that he ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, in order to leave us in a state of confusion? It is impossible.
He came that we might see clearly, that we might know God. He came to give eternal life and 'This is eternal life that they may know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.' If you are unhappy about yourself as a result of this examination come to him, come to his Word, wait upon him, plead with him, hold on to him.  

May the God of Grace and mercy grant you your desire as you now come to Him in prayer. Amen



[1] I am indebted to Martyn Lloyd Jones for most of these insights : “ Spiritual Depression , its Causes and  Cure “ , Chapter 3 pp 37ff

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