Wretched, Pitiable, Poor, Blind, and Naked

The sermon today was based on John 9:1-41. Such a powerful reminder of the transforming power of Jesus.

The bit that perhaps struck me the hardest was the final passage:

Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”

Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard him and asked, “Are you saying we’re blind?”

“If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.”
John 9:39-41 NLT

I’m reminded of another statement Jesus made. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17 NIV) I like to paraphrase it (thinking of the John passage) as “I came for the sick, not for those that think they’re well.”

I have a long religious “pedigree” going back through countless generations of deeply religious people, persecuted for their beliefs by oppressive governments. It is altogether too easy to puff out my chest, stand on the shoulders of all those that went before, and claim spiritual superiority.

Jesus didn’t come for people like that. He came for the “broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17 ESV). He came for the one who can admit his failures and mistakes and errors and say “I’m sorry. Please help me.” Those that claim to not be desperately dependent on Jesus obviously don’t need his salvation.

Steve Taylor sang,

just as I am / I am needy and dry
Jesus is for losers / The self-made need not apply
Just as I am / In a desert crawl
Lord, I’m so thirsty / Take me to the waterfall

just as you are / just a wretch like me
Jesus is for losers / grace from the blood of a tree
just as we are / at a total loss
Jesus is for losers / broken at the foot of the Cross
“Jesus is for Losers” from the album Squint

If I can’t admit how spiritually lost and broken and hopeless and needy I am, then I can’t admit that I need Jesus’ salvation. And I won’t get it. I can’t stand on my religious pedigree and claim superiority. It’s been done before.

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
Revelation 3:17-18 ESV

There’s a whole category of “Christians” who vehemently claim to be rich and prosperous, and in need of nothing. They claim Jesus already gave it all to them. There’s a very good reason why the above passage was written to Christians in a town called Laodicea. Even Christians, given all the riches and victory of God’s grace, can’t claim to be spiritually prosperous. We must admit to being “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” so that we need no longer be.

My own personal mistakes and failures have cause incalculable harm to me and those around me. Maybe it doesn’t look as bad as somebody else, but those mistakes are mine and compared with what I know and am capable of (for good), they’re tragic. Unforgiveable. I desperately needed forgiveness. Having received it, I still desperately need God’s grace—without it, I can’t do any better than what I did before. I’ve been forgiven for more than I could ask for or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV).

Lost and Found

After the sermon, we segued from the famous John 9:25 MSG line (“I know this: I was blind… now I see!”) into the also-famous “Amazing Grace”. To change it up a bit, I sang it to the tune of The Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, including the partially-altered chorus:

I’ve got a peaceful easy feeling
I know you won’t let me down
’Cause I’m already standing
On solid ground.

We finished the second set with Chris Tomlin’s “How Great is Our God”, in the theme of God’s grace being one aspect of his greatness. At the end, I prayed simply, thanking God for his great grace and mercy. But I couldn’t continue—too choked up. That’s pretty unusual for me. Tears pouring down my face, I choked out the first line of the chorus. Thankfully my kids, in the front row, sang loudly enough for the congregation to follow.

Thanks, God. For everything.

One thought on “Wretched, Pitiable, Poor, Blind, and Naked”

  1. Thanks for the reminder!
    In my last blog posting “Uriah the Hittite“, I had a response from a D.L.Kane (not somebody that I know, but his comments were wonderful!). I think that some of his comments might be appropriate here:

    “There was a day when [David] did not sing God’s praises, when he did not pray. And on that day, he ended up at the wrong place, at the wrong time. That’s the background. He saw, he lusted, and he acted. He took someone’s wife, sending her husband to be slain in battle, and then he felt good, successful, and happy. He thought he had done nothing wrong. For a short time, David felt no remorse, no sorrow, no guilt. When we stop keeping our heart, when we stop praying and praising, we can sin with impunity, or we just might keep up certain rituals of religious duties to convince ourselves and others that everything is fine.”

    You might also say that when we forget how *broken* we really are that we forget to look at our Saviour. But when we go to him and tell him, “I’m cut – I’m bleeding – I’ve sinned” Then we can ask him to wash our wounds and apply the healing salve.

    It’s also when we are watching our Saviour that we can avoid those pitfalls in which we so easily would fall otherwise

    Great Post!! Thanks

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