Did you know you have blind spots? No, not just in your car – in your life. The thing about blind spots though, is that we’re blind to them. If we could see them they wouldn’t be blind spots. Fortunately the Bible has a lot to say about how we can shine a light on those unseen areas of our life. That’s what we’ll be unpacking in this new teaching series, “Blind Spots”.
- I will work to get past the layers that are blocking the truth from being known.
- I will ask myself the question: Am I quicker to pass judgment on or gossip about other people than I am to see and feel the painful truth about myself?
- I will ask God to reveal the truth about my character, speech, habits, ego — as much truth as I can bear.
- When reading the Bible, I will ask God to reveal to me who he wants me to be.
- Instead of defending, resisting or rationalizing, I will be open to learn the truth about me.
- I will read the Bible with a repentant spirit.
Good morning, everyone. I’m so glad you’re here today at the start of this series we’re calling “Blind Spots.”
As we begin this series I want to ask every one of us to be open to allowing God to kind of shine a light on us and reveal the truth about us, because we all have blindspots.
It turns out, when it comes to knowing the truth about me — I don’t know the full truth about me. Because I have blind spots that I can’t see.
In a group, if one person is off-kilter —
If everyone in a group is singing but one person is singing off-key.
If one person has an irritating mannerism.
If one person talks too much.
If one person gets too close to you and violates your physical space.
If one person is emotionally needy and other people cringe when they see that person coming because they know that person is going to suck the life out of them.
If one person has a problem, who’s the last person to know about it?
It’s that one person who has the problem.
In other words, the truth about you is you don’t know the full truth about you. Other people know. And they talk about it behind your back.
This is just true for you and me. You don’t know the full truth about you because you have blindspots.
This is an enormous problem with the human condition. Wise people have always understood this.
Dostoevsky had this fabulous observation. He said:
Every man has reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone, but only to his friends. He has other matters in his mind which he would not reveal even to his friends, but only to himself. But there are other things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a number of such things stored away in his mind.
The writers of Scripture have quite a lot to say about this problem with the human condition and what causes it.
You may not be a Christian. You may not believe the Bible, but it’s worth thinking about this, because you know you have blindspots — you don’t know everything there is to know about you.
And the writers of Scripture say no one is so good, so well-formed, so spiritually mature that they’re immune to this.
There’s an interesting story about one of the great characters in the Bible, King David.
David was so serious about his own spiritual life he’s actually called a man after God’s own heart. But the truth about David was he had blindspots.
One day King David, with a lot of money, a lot of power, many wives, saw the only wife of another man who was much less wealthy, much less powerful, and he took her. Her name was Bathsheba. He took her just because he could, and she got pregnant by him.
Then he abused his wealth and his power to cover up what he had done.
In the ancient world oftentimes politicians thought they could get away with covering up wrongdoing. It’s a strange quality in the ancient world.
Meanwhile, time passes. The baby is born. In other words, at least nine months, a better part of a year, go by. David keeps writing psalms, as far as we know, keeps leading Israel in worship, keeps serving as King, as if he were a man of integrity when in his heart he knew better.
Eventually, a prophet named Nathan finds out about this. Maybe a lot of other people find out. It’s hard to cover this stuff up.
One day at court Nathan says to David, “David, I must tell you about a man with a lot of money and a lot of power who had many sheep, and he saw the only sheep of another man, a much less wealthy, less powerful man.
“The rich, powerful man took the sheep from the poor man just because he could. Now the poor man had nothing. The rich man destroyed that poor man’s life.
“Meanwhile, a traveler came to the rich man, and the rich man, who had all kinds of resources, had a lot of sheep and cattle of his own, slaughtered that poor man’s one sheep to feed the traveler as if he were feeding the traveler out of his own resources. He hosted the celebration as if he were a man of integrity, when deep in his own heart he knew better.”
Nathan tells David about that man and then waits for David’s response.
This is an incredible moment with unbelievable tension. Whoever knew the real story, the backstory had to be just dying — “Nathan, what are you doing?”
This is not like a subtle story Nathan told. You don’t have to be valedictorian to get the point.
They look at David. They’re amazed. David doesn’t look guilty. He doesn’t look caught. He doesn’t look embarrassed. In fact, David is furious at the man in the story. The text says David’s heart burned with anger, so he’s not putting on a show.
This is David’s actual heart. His heart burns with anger against the other guy. David actually says, “As surely as the Lord lives…” Note the piety of this statement and his righteous indignation.
“As surely as the Lord lives…” Really, David? How sure are you that the Lord lives?
“As surely as the Lord lives, that man deserves to die,” that man whose crime is exponentially less dark, less serious than David’s. That man deserves to die, and David pronounces judgment.
And then Nathan says, “David, you’re that man. Do you not get it, David? Do I have to draw you a picture.
“Let’s review the story one more time, David. A rich, powerful guy takes what the poor guy prizes, takes it by force, destroys the poor guy’s life, plays the hypocrite in public for everyone to see unbelievably. Clue phone, David. It’s for you. Thou art the man.”
It’s an amazing phrase — “Thou art the man.”
There was a fabulous sermon preached a couple hundred years ago by a guy named Joseph Butler on self-deception. He talks about this story of David. The language is a little archaic, but it’s so rich. I just want you to see a paragraph. This is what Butler wrote:
There is not anything, relating to men and characters, more surprising and unaccountable, than this partiality to themselves… Hence it is that many men seem perfect strangers to their own characters. They think, and reason, and judge quite differently upon any matter relating to themselves, from what they do in cases of others… Hence it is one hears people exposing follies, which they themselves are eminent for; and talking with great severity against particular vices, which, if all the world be not mistaken, they themselves are notoriously guilty of.
It’s so ironic. As part of our self-deception, we think of ourselves as so much smarter, so much brighter, so much more informed than people in the ancient world.
Let me ask you a question. Has our knowledge of our inner world kept pace with our knowledge of the outer world at all?
I know what happens in a message like this. It happened last time I taught a message like this.
Someone came up to me and said, “Man, that was a really good message. I was thinking of someone who really needs to hear that message.”
I’m not making that up. It happens all the time. Because it goes so deeply in us.
And what I want to get at in this series are the blindspots in me. And in order to get to them I have to get past the layers and layers that are blocking the truth from being known.
I think God wants to talk to each of us about this. I think God wants to talk to me about this.
You don’t have to believe the Bible to believe that there are truths about you that you don’t know and can’t see.
Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, wrote an article called “Our Infinite Capacity for Self-Deception.” He paints an unforgettable picture of this.
He writes about Victor Crawford. Crawford was a lobbyist for the Tobacco Institute, worked for years to defeat anti-smoking bills. His whole career was built on defeating any legislation that might diminish smoking.
He was a lifelong smoker himself. He was diagnosed with throat cancer at the age of 59. He died a few years after that, and this is what he said not long before he died after he had been diagnosed.
In a way, I think I got my just desserts, because, in my heart, I knew better. — Victor Crawford (lobbyist for the Tobacco Institute)
That’s such a fascinating phrase. “In my heart, I knew better.”
Self-deception is such a remarkable, mysterious, confusing phenomenon. The truth about you is you don’t know the truth about you.
To deceive another person — I kind of get that, because I know the truth and you don’t, so I hide it from you. One person doesn’t know, and the other person knows.
But how can I deceive myself? How can I be both the deceiver and the one deceived?
Crawford said, “In my heart (somewhere, someplace, somehow at some level) I knew better. But I rationalized and denied, because the money was so good (I sacrificed my health, my body, and my integrity because the money was good) and because I could always rationalize it. That’s how you make a living, by rationalizing that black is not black, it’s white, it’s green, it’s yellow.” — Victor Crawford (lobbyist for the Tobacco Institute)
There are other things which a man is afraid to tell even himself. Clue phone. It’s for you. Thou art the man.
I want to give you a question I use to try to discern this condition in me, because I really think God wants to do something in me and in all of us in this community where we’re so quick to have really good images.
The question is — Am I quicker to pass judgment on or gossip about other people than I am to see and feel the painful truth about myself?
Am I quicker to see it, pass judgment on it, gossip about it in other people than I am to see it and feel the pain in myself?
It’s so interesting. Nathan brings this account of injustice to David. David is the king. In that day, as you know, they didn’t have separate branches of government. There wasn’t like the judicial system separate from the executive branch. So as king, part of David’s job was to hear cases and dispense judgment, justice.
Nathan brings him this story. David is able to see with great clarity wrongdoing in someone else at a distance, and tremendous passion burns in his heart.
David is utterly blind to what’s in his own mind and his own heart and his own behavior.
Have you ever noticed some people have 20/20 vision for faults and flaws and misdeeds of others but complete myopia when it comes to themselves? Not you, of course, but some people do.
Jesus uses this metaphor.
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, [In other words, if you can’t see the truth about you.] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23)
Of course, what’s most frightening about this is you will find a way to keep yourself from knowing.
It’s so fascinating. Even in terms of physical vision, there’s a condition — there’s a loss of focusing ability in our physical vision that often comes with age.
The eye lens loses its flexibility. It gets stubborn. It gets hardened. It gets stiff. You can detect and discern stuff fine out there at a distance, but you can’t make out the stuff right in front of you. The closer it is the less you’re able to see it.
Is anyone experiencing this in their life yet? I am.
James gives us a warning about this when he writes:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. (James 1:22-24)
Who would do that?
Well, it’s kind of ironic.
It’s possible for me to carry around internally a picture of what I look like, and then in the morning when I get up and I look in a mirror I see the unavoidable, inescapable truth.
There are things happening to the elasticity of my skin and the color of my hair and all kinds of stuff that I don’t carry around with me internally, but when I look in the mirror — does anyone here ever look in the mirror and see something that doesn’t make you happy?
If you’re a woman, at least you can do something about it. If you’re a man and you wake up and you look in a mirror in the morning, that’s as good as it’s going to look all day long.
James says the Bible can be kind of a mirror. It’s indispensable — truth from God, truth from the Holy Spirit, is indispensable for self-awareness.
That’s kind of our modern day term for what we’re talking about, only it has to come from God. It’s way deeper than just myself. It’s way more than just the psychological category.
The Word of God is indispensable for this.
But if I read the Bible the wrong way, if I read it without actually seeking to do what it says and then recognizing how far I fall short from being a Jesus kind of person, I can actually misuse the Bible to deceive myself and think, “What a good person I am because I read the Bible, I know the Bible, or I believe the Bible.”
The writers of Scripture warn us about this. Again, this is all over the Bible.
Paul writes this. It’s so interesting. Notice this.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (Romans 12:3)
I know. I get it. We live in a therapeutic culture, and we never hear stuff like that.
Paul says, “I want all of you to hear this message because there’s something inside you that will deceive yourself and put you at risk. It will not be good, so I want every one of you to hear these words — Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought.”
Paul says, “I tell you this by the grace given to me,” because truth is not opposed to grace. Truth is a gift of grace.
That’s why I’m asking God to help us take these instructions in the Bible seriously and make us this kind of community with each other.
I know it can be painful. But it’s good.
The writer of Proverbs says:
Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, [despises his own soul] but whoever listens to reproof gains intelligence. (Proverbs 15:32)
Whoever listens when they’re rebuked by someone — “What’s the truth about me that maybe I don’t want to hear?” That person gains wisdom.
We received an email from someone who was visiting our church.
The email said, “I stood in the courtyard and watched the teaching pastor greet people. The pastor seemed to look past everyone who stopped by, like there was someone more important coming. Someone asked for help, but the pastor just gave lip service and didn’t really help at all.”
When I read that, my first thought was I just felt bad that they attended on a week Kylie was teaching.
No, actually my first thought, honestly, was:
“They don’t know me. They don’t know my temperament. They don’t know how God wired me. They don’t know the demands on my time. They don’t know my heart. Plus, they clearly decided not to like me or our church, so I can just reject their observations so I don’t have to feel any pain about it.”
That was my first thought.
I didn’t have to strategize to do that. I didn’t have to reflect to do that. It was just reflexive in me.
But I know better.
I mean, really, do I always or even consistently, genuinely love people?
Am I never concerned with my own little agenda and how I’m doing?
Am I really so humble and so free of self-promotion that annoyance is the right response? Is it even sane? Clue phone. It’s for me.
The truth about me is I don’t even want to know the truth about me. The truth about me is only God knows the truth about me.
The truth about the truth is if I go face the truth about me with Jesus, the truth will hurt me. In fact, it will kill me.
But then, it will bring me life.
Jesus said, “…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” but first, it will make you miserable.
That’s the truth about the truth.
There’s a scene in one of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books that I hope becomes reality for every one of us who follows Jesus and kind of marks our church, because there’s so much freedom in it, and grace in it, if we can get to that side.
A boy named Eustace has been turned into a dragon. It’s a picture of how sin dehumanizes us.
He’s invited by Aslan, who’s the Christ figure, to bathe in a pool that can cleanse him, that can remake him, but first, he’s told he has to undress.
He’s confused about this till he realizes it means he has to shed his old dragon skin. In other words, he has to repent. He has to confess the truth about him.
He tries to do this. It’s hard work. It takes a long time, but he peels off that hard, scaly, dragon skin.
When he goes to get into the water, he looks down at his foot, and he notices it’s just as hard and scaly as it was before he started. In other words, there’s a whole layer of dragon skin under the first layer. He tries again, but the same thing keeps happening and he gets discouraged.
Then the lion Aslan, Christ, says to him, “You’ll have to let me do it.”
This is what Eustace writes.
I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.
Then he caught hold of me—I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I had no skin on—and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.
The truth about you is you’re not really you yet. The truth about you is only God knows what the true you is really like.
I was thinking, “What if God peeled that hard, scaly skin off all of us? What if we became the kind of people in our families and in our small groups where we were just honest with each other all the time and people actually, in humility, wide open, no defensiveness, no stubbornness, just sought to know the truth about us because we were so rooted in the love and grace of God?”
This week when you wake up and you go look in a mirror as you probably will in the morning, would you say, “God, just like that mirror tells me the truth about my physical body, would you reveal to me the truth about my character, about my speech, about my habits, about my ego, as much truth as I can bear?”
This week, when someone in your life, someone in your family or your work, says something critical, instead of defending or resisting or rationalizing, will you actually, eagerly, humbly, wide open see if there’s something there to learn?
No one can do this for you, but there’s this weird thing — there’s this weird freedom, and I get tastes of it, not all the time, but tastes of it.
When that switch gets flipped, there’s this enormous freedom of, “I don’t have to impress or look like anything for anyone. God loves me, and nothing is ever going to change that. So I can receive the truth about me.”
That’s such a better place to stand.
When all this hard, scaly, “Look at my résumé. Look at my character. Don’t question me. Don’t say anything bad about me. I’m only the sum of what everyone thinks about me and what my reputation is.”
It’s so much better to stand on the other side, completely vulnerable before God. If we can be the kind of place where it’s safe to do that — if your family, your small group can be a place where it’s safe to do that — man, what God would be able to do.
This week read the Bible, and when you read the Bible, read it in a repentant spirit.
When you begin reading it, instead of thinking —
“What a good thing I’m doing. I’m reading the Bible.”
Or “Here’s what I know now about the Bible.”
Just begin by saying, “God, would you reveal truth to me about what you want me to do and who you want me to be?”
Next week we’re going to talk about the most indispensable mirror God puts in your life, so you’re not going to want to miss that.
Let’s pray and then Christian and the team will lead us in a closing song.
Would you bow your head and close your eyes? And I want to ask everyone here to make a decision about this week.
Would you make this week a different week? Would you say, “This week with God’s help, I will actually seek out the truth about me. If someone says something to me that’s critical about me, instead of leaning away or defending or dismissing, I will actually lean in and ask them to tell me more. I will be as wide open, God, as your Spirit enables me to be.”
God, by the power of your Holy Spirit, would you make what happened between Nathan and David happen once more here? Could that voice that wounds us and then heals us say again, “Thou art the man. Thou art the woman?”
Then, God, could you take off that hard, scaly stuff around our hearts? Let us swim around in the pool of your grace that stings, yet makes us new again so we could be human again. We ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.
Blue Oaks Church