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Telling the Story

 A sermon delivered by Howard Batson, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Amarillo, Tx., on October 24, 2010.
John 9

What is it that keeps you from telling the story?  I guess we’ve just shown you how NOT to do it.  Just because there is a wrong way to share your faith doesn’t lessen the responsibility of sharing your faith.

We live in a culture where it is constantly drilled into our minds that we shouldn’t question anybody’s religion.  We shouldn’t talk about matters of faith.  You know, in reality, as shocking as it is, human sexuality is discussed more on television now than faith.  Talking about one’s faith or religion has become more taboo than talking about human sexuality!  How upside down how our world become?

And slowly and surely we have bought into the ruse that has gotten us where we are – to a place where although you know the girl the cubicle next to yours needs the hope, the peace, and the joy of a relationship with Jesus, you don’t have the courage or the conviction to invite her to church or to tell your story of faith.

We have to tell the story.  It is the only story that really matters.  Of all the stories ever told, there is really only one story at the end of the day.  It’s the story of a broken humanity, of a creation ruined by sin, and a Creator who loved us so much, His creation so much, that He became one with His very creation as He puts on flesh.  He takes on the responsibity for all of our wrong, for all of our sin.  And He, who was totally sinless, becomes a bearer of sin on our behalf.

Sin has its logical consequences with Him.  He dies a horrible, cruel death on the cross.  Yet, despite the fact that He dies on the cross, now the unexpected, the illogical, the unpredictable, the unfathomable, happens.  And it is witnessed by hundreds of eyes.

He who was dead is alive again.  He who was held captive by death is released by the power of a resurrecting God.  The tomb is empty, and Jesus is seen alive.  His hands are touched.  His words are heard.  And the disciples rejoice.  And those who denied Him before went to their death for Him now.  And they spent their life telling the story.

That moment when your story converges with His story changes eternity for you.  When He becomes part of your story.  And nobody – and I mean nobody – knows how He has changed your life more than you do.  How can you refuse to tell the story?

I can’t tell your story.  You, by the power of God, must tell your own story to others.

Sometimes I get amazed when someone says, “Pastor, he needs to know Jesus.  Would you witness to him, Pastor?”  Have we reduced the movement of Christianity, the power of God’s people, down to only pastors or ministers who can tell the story of Jesus?  If you’re depending on us to be the only tellers of the story, there are many ears who will never hear.  Many of those who are lost and need to be found will be left in darkness.

You have a story, and you have a responsibility for telling your story to those around you.  I can’t do that for you.  You can’t tell my story for me.  My story will reach some people, but your story may even reach more than mine.  God has divine appointments for us both.

You are the foremost authority on how Christ has changed your life.  All you need to say is, “This is what He has done for me.”

Let me show you what I mean.  There is a character in the New Testament who tells his story.  He is no theological expert.  In fact, he hasn’t known Jesus but for a moment.  Yet, at the very beginning of his encounter with the Christ, he tells his story.

His story goes like this:

His eyes had never seen the light of day.  The colors of the rainbow were totally unknown to him, for he’d never seen the hue of blue, the richness of red, or the glimmer of green.  He’d never seen the smile of a toothless old woman, a smile well-worn with the trials of life, yet beaming with hope. He’d never had the privilege to behold a baby, chubby in the cheeks, waddling in the walk.

He could hear the trickle of the flowing river, but he’d never seen the water before.  Was it blue?  Was it brown?  Was the water amber after a storm?  What does a camel look like, from tail to snout?  And although he could feel – oh, he could feel, probably better than you or I – the warmth of the summer sun, he’d never seen the glare of that, the brightest of all stars.

He’d heard the flutter of the feathers of the flocks in flight, but he’d never seen an eagle soar nor the waterfowl flying in V formation, trying to escape the cold.

Think for a moment.  Indeed, perhaps some of you hearing the sound of my voice really know the experience of being blind.  But for those of you who don’t, imagine what you would want to see.  If you could open your eyes for the very first time, what would you want to see, to soak in with your sense of sight?  The face of your mother – a face you’d felt with your small hands a thousand times?   The face of your father – to see if his chin really was as chiseled and strong as it felt?  Or, perhaps, you’d want to see a mirror, you’d want to see your own face.  You’d want to meet yourself, in some ways, for the very first time.

John tells us in 9:1 that as Jesus is passing by there is a man who has been blind from birth.  The ancients taught that sin equalled sickness; therefore, if the man was blind, someone had to have sinned.  But how could he have sinned?  He was born blind.  Did his parents sin and was their sin forwarded to his account?

“Oh, his sickness is not because of his sin,” Jesus said in verse 3.  “But through his sickness God will be glorified.”

The man had been a beggar, sitting in the dust all day long, dependent upon the mood, the whim, the mercy of mankind.  He begged for his breakfast, and he had to beg for money for his lunch, and he had to beg for money for his supper.  That was life – sitting in the dust and dirt of Palestine, begging.  “Have mercy upon me, a blind man.  Alms anyone.  Alms for a blind man?”

You can’t have self-esteem and be a beggar at the same time.  To beg is to say “I’m totally helpless.  I’m totally dependent.  I have no way to support myself.”  So his life was that of a belittled beggar.

But, all changed one day. The Sabbath, the day of worship.  This rabbi, this man by the name of Jesus, spat on the ground.  And with His spittle, He kneaded clay between his calloused carpenter’s knuckles.  And He applied the clay on the eyes of the man who had been born blind, as if an experienced potter was repairing a pit in his pot.  And He issued the command:  “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam.”

So, having nothing to lose, the blind man washed his eyes (verse 7).  The greatest moment of his life met him face to face that day, for the very man who was born blind could now see.  He was overcome by the colors, the images, the faces, all flooding his senses at the same second.

The neighbors were aghast.  They were astonished.  “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?  How is it that he now sees?  How is it?”

“Oh, it’s not him.  It just looks like him.  We all know the blind don’t gain sight.”

He kept shouting.  “Hey, hey, hey.  I am.  I am the one.  I am the one.  I was blind.”

“Well then, how can you now see?”

“A man named Jesus,” he said (verse 11).  “He told me to go and wash in Siloam.  I went away and washed and then I received my sight.  I can see.  I can see!”

“Where is this Jesus who gave you sight?” they asked, with a little dab of doubt dancing in their voice.

“I don’t know?” he replied.

Off they go to get the officials, to get to the bottom of this blind man’s mystery.  They summon the sanctified Sabbath police, the Pharisees.

“Well now, if He healed this man on the Sabbath we know that it’s not the work of God,” one of the Pharisees said.

“Why isn’t it the work of God?  If he was blind but now he sees, it seems to me that God has to be involved,” another Pharisee mustered enough courage to contradict.

“What do you say about the man, the man who healed you?” they asked the man once blind.  Since they couldn’t agree among themselves, “What do you say, oh blind man?  Now that you see, who is it that healed you.”

In verse 17, he replied, “He’s a prophet.”

“There is no way a man who was once blind can now see.  Go and get his parents.  Go and get his folks.  There is no possible way.  There is some confusion here.  There has to be a logical explanation.  Go and get them,” barked the faithless fathers of Judiasm.

“Is this your boy?”

“Yeah, that’s our boy, all right.”

“Your son wasn’t born blind, was he?”

“Yes…our son was born blind.”

“Well, how can he now see?  Those born blind don’t receive their sight.”

“We don’t know.  He’s a big boy, ask him.”

His parents were afraid because they knew that if they said anything to uphold Jesus, they would be sent away from the synagogue.  Word was already out.  If you called Jesus the Christ, if you proclaim Him the Messiah, then you would be ostracized by the Jewish community, booted from the bedrock of your faith.

Since the parents will not cooperate, they go back (verse 24) a second time to the healed man.  “Give glory to God.  We know that this man (speaking of Jesus) is a sinner.”

The man makes a ready reply.  “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know.  One thing I do know, whereas I was once blind, now I see.”

I once was blind, but now I see.

That’s the blind man’s testimony in John 9.  And that’s my testimony.  And that’s your testimony. 

The man had just met the Messiah.  He knew nothing of sound theology.  But he did know that while he had been blind, his obedience to Christ, his faith in Christ, his active obedience of going and washing had sent the sunlight rushing into his pounding pupils.

That’s the testimony of every biblical character that accepts Christ in faith.  It is the testimony of every contemporary man or woman who accepts Christ in faith.  “ I once was blind, but now I see.”

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That was his story.  And the New Testament is full of people who tell their story.

The woman was completely yellow, as if there was no blood in her veins.  Her hair was matted. Her face was wet with tears.  Her speech was slurred.  She said, “For twelve years, I have had a blood disorder.  My insurance was canceled.  My husband divorced me.  My inheritance was spent.  I tried everything the doctors have to offer, but I’m not getting any better.”  But then, in faith, she reached out, stretched out her hand in the midst of the crowd and dared to touch the hem of His garment.  The moment she touched Him, the blood that had been flowing for twelve years immediately dried up. 

Not only was her body healed, her soul was made whole as well.

“Who touched me,” Jesus asked.  She was frightened.  “I felt my power go out,” He declared.  She came trembling and fell down before Him, knowing that she could not escape unnoticed.

“Daughter,” He said to the woman who had spent all of her money on doctors and had received no respite from her suffering, “your faith has made you well.  Go in peace.”

The woman who touched the hem of the garment of Jesus would say, “I once was sick, but now I am well.”

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He once lived on the hillside, running nude between the stones in the graveyard, cutting himself – something of a cross between a man and a crazed animal.  His wife would say of him, “That used to be my husband.  He was a good man when I married him.  I am praying that one day he will come back home.  I need to move on with my life, but I love him.  He’s the father of my children.  I don’t know if it will ever happen.  No man can tame him, and no chains can bind him.  He calls himself ‘Legion’ now, because he is possessed by the power of demons of hell.”

But one day Jesus passed by – like He passed by the blind man, like he passed by the woman who touched the hem of the garment, like he passes by you today.  And even as He did, the demons of hell shouted with a loud voice, “What do we have to do with you Jesus, Son of the Most High?  I beg you, do not torment me.”

“Jesus commanded the unclean spirits to come out of me,” the man must have said.

“What’s your name?” Jesus asked the demons.  “Legion,” they said, “for we are many.”

And Jesus pointed to the pigs and drove the demons away.

Are demons hounding on your heels today?

The man now handsome and now clothed, the man now shaven and sure, clean and kept, says, “All I can say is that this was a time when my very soul was overpowered by the devil of hell.  I was once in bondage, but now I am free.”

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• All I can say is that I was once blind, but now I see.

• All I can say is that I once was dominated by demons, but now I’m free.

• All I can say is that my body was once broken with sickness, but now I’m whole, I’m well.

What’s your story?  And how does the story of Jesus become one with your own story?  How does His story change yours?

That’s what happened to each of these characters in scripture as Jesus passed by them.  He walked through their town, on their highways and byways.  They all share the same testimony.  “I once was…but now…but now.”

What is the “but now” for you?  What would you say this morning?  If you were going to write your story and add it to the end of these stories, what would it be?

“You know, pastor, I don’t know everything there is to know about Jesus, but I do know when I accepted Him in faith, when I responded to His command in faith, like the blind man, my life was never the same again.”

It might be your story.

“I never fit in.  I never found my place.  I couldn’t find my place in my family and I couldn’t find my place at school.  So I went from  group to group and from sin to sin, trying to find my position and fit in.  Because no one else thought very much of me, I didn’t think very much of myself.  I was desperate, and depressed and down.

“Then one day Jesus walked by.  One day He passed my way.  There was something in my heart, a spark that was kindled, a desire that reached out to touch the hem of His garment, to step out in faith.  And all I can say is, I found my place because I found my Lord.  I don’t worry so much about what others think about me.  I’m now a child of the King.  The Son of God, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords died in my place, and He loves me.  The one who made me loves me just the way I am.  Yes, the day He passed by, everything changed.  And I have to say I once was lost, but now I’m found.  I found my place in my Lord.”

Would that be your story today – when Jesus passed by your way, when He stopped and reached and touched you, or you touched Him?

“You know, pastor, I once was defeated by death.  I had a child die.  It’s hard for me to talk about it still, but when death robs you of the thing that is most precious to you – your daughter – it is as if someone rips out the very soul of your being.  You’re helpless.  You’re vulnerable.  All I could think about was how things used to be before…before dreaded death came and stole away our little one.  I was paralyzed in life, just as lame as a man who can’t walk, because I no longer could journey down the path before me.

“But then one day, Jesus came.  He reached out and touched me and said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life, and he who believes in me shall surely never die.’  Yes, I was defeated by death until I met the one who defeated death.  I met the Lord who had been resurrected, who had tasted death Himself and yet lived.”

What’s your story?

I once was…but now.

Nobody can tell your story but you.  No one is called to tell it but you.

Who needs to hear what you have to say?  Who needs hope?  Is it a student in your algebra class?  Is it the teller in the window next to yours?  Is it the X-ray technician whom you see every day when you leave the hospital?

When you find yourself in the kingdom of God – upon your death or His return – how many will rush up to greet you and say, “Thank you, so much.  I was in darnkness, and you led me to light.  I was hungry, and you fed me the bread of life.  I was thirsty, and you gave me living water.  I was hopeless, and you told me about the man of hope.  I was in despair, and you told me about the good news.”

Jesus has died so we can live in freedom as the sons and daughters of God.  Thank you.  I shudder to think what would have happened to me if you hadn’t told me your story.