In an effort to cultivate a more consistent joy, I have been reading through Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s book, Spiritual Depression, and posting commentary for each chapter. We now look at chapter 3. To see my previous posts, start here.
The text for this section is from Mark 8:22,26
And He cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto Him, and besought Him to touch him. And He took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when He had spit on his eyes, and put His hands upon him, He asked him if he saw ought. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that He put His hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. And He sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.
Lloyd-Jones now looks at another condition of spiritual depression, specifically the uncertain Christian, the Christian who is uncertain of themselves……..uncertain of exactly what they believe.
Looking at the text of Scripture, he makes the case that as Jesus normally healed in one fell swoop, whenever there is another action or some sort of repetition added, we better pay attention. In other words, there was a lesson here primarily for his disciples, and as an application, for us.
Lack of Clarity
The proposed condition in this chapter is one of Clarity and the lack thereof of many Christians.
It is almost impossible to define them. You sometimes talk to this type and you think: ‘This man is a Christian’. And then you meet him again and you are thrown into doubt at once, and you say: ‘Surely he cannot be a Christian if he can say a thing like that or do such a thing as that’. You are not happy in saying either that he does see or that he does not see. Furthermore, the difficulty is that not only do others feel like this about these people, they feel it about themselves….they are unhappy because they are not clear about themselves. Sometimes when they have been in a service they will say: ‘Yes, I am a Christian, I believe this’. Then something happens and they say: ‘I cannot be a Christian. If I were a Christian I could not have such thoughts. I would not want to do the things I do’. So they are as troubled about themselves as other Christians are about them; they feel they are, and they feel they are not Christians.
These people lack some sort of clarity in their Christian walk. They are not blind because they can see, but at the same time they cannot fully see and what they do see is men as trees walking (unclear)!!
There are different levels of this. There may be “Christians” drawn the profoundness of the Christian life as seen in the Sermon on the Mount, or there may be those who have been provoked by the radical and sacrificial lives of past saints and think it would great if we all could live that way and were drawn to the faith in this manner. Then there are those who have come to see Jesus as their Savior, that he has helped them overcome their emptiness and helped them to become “better people,” but they lack a clear understanding of justification, or they are pursuing sanctification without ever being aware of justification or their total depravity.
They see, but not clearly. They see, but only “men as trees walking.”
Causes for This Lack of Clarity
“Why should people be in this nondescript condition, Christian and not Christian, yes and no as it were, at the same time?”
He gives four reasons:
1. “These people generally object to clear-cut definitions; they dislike clarity and certainty.”
There is nothing so uncomfortable as clear-cut Biblical truths that demand decisions.
A vague religion is a comfortable religion and people sure do enjoy comfort. Many have a hard time with hard truths and what they perceive as “narrow” thinking.
But without clarity, they will never see clearly.
2. People not fully accepting the teaching and authority of the Scriptures.
These are the liberal “Christians.” They like the beatitudes, the golden rule, and the Love Chapter. They acknowledge Christ as their savior. But they refuse to accept the totality of scriptures as authoritative.
3. People are not interested in doctrine.
Doctrine is vital. Many love the Bible but hate doctrine. But exposition of the Bible leads to truth and it is this truth (doctrine) that we must hold to to keep from error. If we reject doctrine then we can rest assured that we will not see things as clearly as we ought.
4. Not taking the doctrines of the Scriptures in the right order (i.e. taking sanctification before justification).
The Cure For This Condition
1. “Above everything else avoid making a premature claim that your blindness is cured.” This is running and proclaiming that you can see before you see clearly.
2. The second principle is the exact opposite of the first…..”the temptation to the second is to feel absolutely hopeless and to say: ‘There is no point in going on. You have put spittle on my eyes and you have touched me. In a sense I see, but I am simply seeing men as if they were trees walking’. Such people often come to me and say that they cannot see the Truth clearly. In their confusion they become desperate and ask: ‘Why cannot I see? The whole thing is hopeless’. They stop reading their Bible, they stop praying. The devil has discouraged many with lies. Do not listen to him.”
“It is to be honest and to answer our Lord’s question truthfully and honestly. That is the whole secret of this matter. He turned to this man and asked: ‘Do you see ought?’ And the man said, absolutely honestly: ‘I do see, but I am seeing men as if they were trees walking’. What saved this man was his absolute honesty.”
….submit yourself to Him, to submit yourself utterly to Him as this man did. He did not object to further treatment, he rejoiced in it, and I believe that if our Lord had not taken the further step he would have asked Him to do so. And you can do the same. Come to the Word of 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.
Trying to be faithful to Christ and to mature as a Christian without clarity on vital truths (such as depravity and justification) can lead to doubt, instability, depression, frustration, etc. What may sound like “heady doctrine,” something you may try to avoid, these pursuits at clarity are absolutely vital in the life of a Christian.
In some of the instances above I would venture that some of these people are not converted. However there are many who ARE, but are unhappy and discontent because they do not see clearly what they have received or who they truly are in Christ.
There are also those who may have been converted and are unfortunately learning under the teachers who have foggy vision, who see “men as trees, walking”…….not completely blind, but not seeing clearly either.
I think we can greatly encourage one another by being clear in our dealings, exhorting one another in truthfulness and honesty regarding doctrine and matters by which we may not be so clear about. This clarity will shed light in those emotional or psychological areas that are dark and dim.
We can also combat this lack of clarity by, as Jones stated, being honest and clear with God, submitting to him, asking him to give us clarity and a clear understanding of our status in Christ.
So lets submit ourselves completely and be truthful and honest with the Lord and with each other in love. And lets strive for clarity as a tool to combat this Spiritual Depression.
Other Posts In This Series:
Introduction – Let’s Strive Toward A More Consistent Joy
Chapter 1 – Spiritual Depression – General Causes and Treatment
Chapter 2 – A True Foundation For Overcoming Spiritual Depression
Chapter 3 – The Uncertain Christian: “Men as trees, walking”
Chapter 4 – The Balanced Christian: Mind, Heart, and Will