Spiritual Depression – Men As Trees, Walking – Mark 8

22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

D.Martin Lloyd-Jones has said multiple times so far in our mini-series that ‘it is sad and tragic that a Christian should ever be miserable‘, and he stated that some are miserable because they do not know they are justified before God purely by faith, requiring nothing but belief on their part. Today he offers up problems and remedies for two groups of people.

The first is the person who unhappy with who they are. They are unhappy with the world, themselves, themselves in the world, and often despair over the ‘hand life dealt them‘, as they may say. They have seen the problem with the world, but not the hope of believing in Jesus. They have asked no-one for help, and are not likely to.

Others see the ‘excellencies of the Christian life‘, and wholeheartedly exhort others to live the kind of life that Jesus taught on the Sermon on the Mount. They know they cannot save themselves from the consequences of sin, but have not yet fully understood justification by faith, and this tension is difficult for them. They have asked to be healed of their blindness (vv.22-23), but have not yet said that things are not all that clear right now (v.24).

Lloyd-Jones offers the remedy in simple form;

  1. Learn and understand the principles and doctrines of the matter at hand.
  2. Fully engage the heart and mind to the matter at hand.
  3. Commit your will to the matter at hand.

The teaching of the full counsel of God’s Word, properly understood, taken to heart, and allowed to influence our will, over time, will remedy both the hopeless and the tense.

Seeing ourselves for who we truly are and seeing Jesus for who He truly is, seeing what we can and can’t do and seeing what Jesus has done, and understanding the teaching of Scripture on how we are saved will take away the hopelessness from the hopeless, and will take away the tension from the tense.

If we don’t understand the teachings and the doctrines instantly, that’s ok, but find someone in your life that you trust to walk you through it all, reach out to them, and ask.

We don’t want to see a world full of trees walking around, we want to live our lives with the clarity that comes from being honest with ourselves, with the Lord, with those around us, and asking for more.

Lloyd-Jones writes this,

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…

…If you are unhappy about yourself as a result [of being honest with yourself], come to Him, come to His Word, wait upon Him, plead with Him, hold on to Him, ask Him…and He will do it, and you will no longer be an uncertain Christian seeing and not seeing.

1 Timothy 1.8-11 – What to Focus On

Today Paul expands on the idea that those who do not understand the law should not teach the law (vv.6-7). 

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

Paul says right away that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, and this seems to be the problem; whether it is used well.


Those who desired to be teachers of the law but had no understanding of the law were actually using God’s very vehicle for salvation as a barrier to it.


So, rather than the law being used to show us that we are sinners, that we will never work our way to God, that we can never earn His approval and justification, and instead we need to come to Him by faith in the substitute that He provides, these wanna-be teachers are condemning people for not living up to the holy and righteous standards that only One can live up to. 

Paul gives an overview of the kinds of ways we have fallen short of the glory of God (vv.9-10), and finishes by saying that, along with the examples given, whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God is what the law came to expose. 

However, for you and for me living today, and for the people in Paul and Timothy’s day too, grace and righteousness and salvation is not actually found in the law, is it. The grace of God, the righteousness of God, the salvation He offers, none of these are to be found by adhering to law, they are to be found by being in right relationship with God by having faith in Jesus. 

Let us focus on that today, not trying to earn our way to God through our good conduct, rather, focusing on being a follower and disciple of Jesus, relying on His good conduct and His finished work on the cross, and the acceptance, justification, and salvation He offers. 

Romans 3.27-31 – The ultimate measuring stick

When I was younger and there was any practical work to be done around the house or garden my Dad would bring out his spirit level, that metal stick with the little bubble in it, to see if what was being done was straight and true. When the work was finished, we would line up the level to see how good the work really was. Until then, we could have claimed to have built the Eiffel Tower in all its glory, but until we measured up, we would never know if what we were boasting in was good or not.

In this short paragraph today Paul tells us about the ultimate measuring stick, the ultimate spirit level to check ourselves against,

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

The boasting is that of the Jew, that of God’s chosen people, that of one who thinks they are pretty set and pretty straight in terms of righteousness. Compared with living a sinless and spotless life, compared to giving our life as a ransom for many, compared to willingly sacrificing our lives to save the entire cosmos, do we have much to boast in? If Jesus is the measuring stick, then our achievements seem to pale into insignificance in a works-based way of thinking, don’t they…

Woop woop, I didn’t shout at my kids for two hours yesterday…

woop woop, I didn’t beep my horn and flash my lights when I was cut up on the road…

woop woop I read my Bible today…

woop wo- you get the picture…

Why is our boasting pointless and excluded? By the law of faith. Compared to the salvation we receive, compared to the justification we receive before God through faith in Jesus, compared to this, our own boasting is excluded. As we read, God justifies the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised by faith, too, not through anything we do.

Paul tells us that God is the God of the Jews and the Gentiles, basically, the God of everyone. God’s law for His people of old always looked forward to the good news of justification by faith alone, apart from deeds, as we will see tomorrow. That’s why Paul can write that the faith we have upholds the law, as we are living the life that God always wanted for His people, a life of faith, and we are living the life now that was always promised and designed from old. 

Part of that is not boasting in anything other than what Jesus has done, what Jesus has done for you, and what Jesus will do for us all in the coming time. 


Point to ponder – Am I boasting in my own efforts of righteousness?


Prayer – Father, forgive me for those times when I may have boasted, maybe even without knowing, about my own earthly efforts of righteousness. I know you are a merciful God, I know you are a God who forgives, and I know you love me. Help me to only boast in the cross of Christ and nothing else. Amen.

Romans 3.19-26 – Sola Fide

When Martin Luther kick started the Protestant Reformation over 500 years ago, much of what he was arguing for was true Biblical Christianity, basically, that we should be turning to the Word of God alone to say what is what.

What came out of the Reformation, in terms of principles, can be summarised in five solas, one of which is sola fide, or, faith alone.

How important is sola fide? Well, Luther said that it is “the article with and by which the church stands.”

In this wonderful passage from Romans 3, Paul talks about sola fide for our salvation,

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 

20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

What else is there to say here aside from sola fide? Paul is so clear! 

…by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight…

…the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…

…justified by his grace as a gift…

…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe…

…all are justified bu his grace as a giftthrough the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith…

…of the one who has faith in Jesus…

We would certainly have to agree with Luther when he said that the church stands on this; we are saved by grace alone through faith alone.

Good works are never going to save us or get us closer to God – for sure, the good works come when we are saved, we feel compelled to do good, to serve others, to have our love come out in service to others (Hebrews 6.10) – but bottom line we are saved by sola gratia, sola fide.


Point to ponder – Am I doing things each day to try and earn God’s favour?


Prayer – Father we know we are able to confidently come to you in prayer only because Jesus stands between us as our perfect high priest, and it is by faith in Him alone, and through your unending grace alone that we are saved. Help us to know this for sure today, help us put no energy into being righteous by our own efforts and trust wholly in your provision for our justification, our ongoing sanctification, and our ultimate glorification. Amen.