Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Do You Want Jesus to do for You?

Mark 10:46-52

Sunday March 21, 2010

"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

As the crowd tried to hush this man he became louder. He knew his one opportunity of a lifetime was passing by. He knew that if he did not take advantage of the situation presenting itself he would regret this the rest of his life.

To be blind in that society did not get you a double deduction on your tax forms for the IRS. Instead, it got you placed on the side of the road begging for alms in order to have something to eat at the end of the day.

Bartemaeus understood the implication of the moment. He knew this was his chance. This was greater than making free throws to win the game or sinking that 40 foot put to win the Master's. This was the chance to see again. Something he longed for since that fateful moment years before.

And now Jesus was coming. Jesus had healed so many people and had done such wonderful things. Surely Jesus would do something today.

"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

And Jesus heard his cry for help and called for him to be brought to him.

And as this blind man stood before Jesus he is asked: "What do you want me to do for you?"

And as Jesus comes through here this morning and if this is your one opportunity of a lifetime for healing what do you want Jesus to do for you today?

Let's understand first of all that a you must:

  1. See your need.

One of the problems of human pride is not seeing one's self the way one ought.

For Bartemaeus, seeing his personal need of sight was not a matter of personal pride. For him, the very thought of being unable to see was horrifying.

It is believed by some scholars that Bartemaeus was able to see before. Many think that when he tells Jesus he wants to see that it is in a reference to being able to once see in the past. Which got me to thinking: how often we might find ourselves looking back to the good old of days of great health and maybe even great wealth. How easy it is to look back to where we once were rather than looking ahead to where God might be leading us.

a. Be ready to do whatever it takes.

Because he was blind, Bartemaeus was ready to do whatever it takes. He was not meekly whispering, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." Instead, he was yelling with desperation.

When I was in college I took voice lessons so that I could be a great singer. Seriously! Well, the great singer thing didn't work out but I did learn some proper breathing techniques when singing. One of the drills that my voice teacher, Drexel, used was to get me to holler at an imaginary man smashing my imaginary sports car with an imaginary sledge hammer. As I attempted to do this Drexel would stop me and get into my face. He would actually make me a tad upset (but because I'm a holiness pastor I really don't know what anger is all about). Finally, I was able to holler properly. I'm not sure Bartemaeus did it right for Drexel but he sure did something right.

This man got Jesus attention. And I think it was because he had...

b. Put Jesus in the right place.

Bartemaeus referred to Jesus as "Son of David." I got at feeling that He knew who Jesus was- that Jesus was the Messiah. I also have a sense that he understood the ramifications of approaching the son of God. I can't help but wonder if Bartemaeus got his spiritual affairs in order. In fact, it would not be unusual for a man in his condition to find himself utterly dependent on God because of his tragic disability. However correct my conjectures, I still can't help but believe that this blind man saw perfectly who Jesus was.

c. Take care of the sin in your life.

I find it therefore essential that a person get their spiritual house in order. If any of us dare approach God for healing then it is imperative that we recognize our personal need of salvation as well as seeking the Lordship of Christ in our life. How can I ask God for healing if I am not willing to let him lead my life? How can I seek favors from him if I am unwilling to surrender areas that are not pleasing to him?

Why should God heal me if it allows me to further a life of sin? Why not be healed so that I can glorify God with my body? (1 Corinthians 6:20)

d. See where the answer lies.

Bartemaeus saw where the answer to his problem was: in Jesus Christ. And so the question begs of us: do we know where to go when we need the healing hand of God in our life?

Obviously, the answer is to come to Jesus. And when you do, you show that you…

2. Recognize the source.

I am convinced that there are three key people in your healing:

First, doctors have their responsibility to heal you. They understand the human body, study medicinal and therapeutic answers and then they give their recommendations. We depend on them to do us right. I didn't go to school for ten years (alright, maybe I did, but not to be a doctor). They did the studying, they understand the answers and they make the big bucks. The medical field has a certain level of responsibility in the healing of your physical problems.

Second, you have a responsibility in healing yourself. When the doctor prescribe medicine to take or recommends that you change a lifestyle habit and you refuse, then you are not taking serious the healing process. For most of us here, to lose weight and exercise would do all of us a world of good. We don't need a doctor to tell us that. But when we don't care for our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit then how can we really complain if something goes wrong? I'm not saying all illnesses and diseases are because of neglect but we have to admit that sometimes it is.

Thirdly, God has a responsibility in the healing process. He has created the human body to heal itself naturally. That is amazing to me. Go out cut a hole in your garden hose, wrap some tape over it and leave it alone for a week. Then go and unwrap the tape, turn on the water and see what happens. The hose will leak. What did you expect? For the hose to heal itself?

The human body can get a cut, bleed like crazy but stick a bandaid on it , check it later and it will likely have quit bleeding.

But further than just the natural process of healing, there is also the supernatural. God can touch the human body by the power of the Spirit and make a person whole. Jesus did this and Christians have been praying this for centuries. Not only instantaneous healing but also a speedier healing recovery.

God holds a certain level of responsibility for healing in your life as one of His children.

And so what do we do with this issue of healing?

3. Put faith into action.

As Christians we witness to the world that we have a Father in heaven who loves us and cares about our deepest hurts and needs. At the very least we testify to a father who at least hears our every prayer. The scriptures say that the righteous man lives by faith. And so I ask you this morning: do you live by faith? What does this mean for us to put our faith into action?

a. By putting faith into action you must make your confession before God.

Is there any sin hidden in your heart? Is your heart and conscience clear between you and God and between you and others?

b. Be sure to apply faith in all the right places of your life.

You might say, "Well, Pastor, shouldn't faith be in every place of my life?" Now you're getting it. The just will live by faith. Therefore, allow your faith in God to lead you in every aspect of your life.

"Without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who seeks him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Hebrews 11:6

c. Establish daily disciplines in your life.

Make habits of reading your Bible and engaging God in a conversation each day. Do the right things that honor your body. After all, the Bible says that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, we are now instruments of righteousness. We should not be doing things that harm or bodies or make them less healthy.

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, love and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7

d. Live your life not by yourself but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is living a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led life.

e. And remember that scars remind us of God's miracles.

I sat in a Pastoral Counseling class with a woman who had been in a near fatal car accident with her boyfriend in Wisconsin. She testified that because of that accident God not only saved her life but God saved her soul. She was healed of nearly every problem that almost killed her. However, she had one part of her that wasn't healed: her ankle. Sure, she had the church pray for healing but that ankle did not heal. What she did was take it as God's reminder to her of how she got saved. And with tears she shared with our class how she never wanted that healed because with every step that caused that foot to drag, she wanted to remember that her Savior suffered and died to save a woman so unworthy as her.

And so I ask the question again: What is it that you want Jesus to do for you? Are you ready to allow yourself to be touched by the Holy Spirit for healing this morning?

Conclusion: The call to healing.

James 5:13-16

13Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

James 5:13-16 remind us that we have an opportunity unlike most unbelievers. When we are in trouble or are suffering we should pray. Duh? Right? And when things are going well sing songs of praise. But if any are sick, they should cal the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.

This is our high privilege as God's people. This is your privilege as a child of the king- to petition the king through this means of grace.

And so I raise the call to all that are present here this morning to come and present yourselves before the Lord for healing. As you do remember four important thoughts behind the idea of healing:

Let God be God. There are simply going to be too many things we don't understand. Just because some people die from cancer does not mean that we don't pray for healing for others with cancer. Just because someone is cured of their diabetes doesn't mean someone else will. Leave these things with yourself in God's hands and let Him do as He sees fit.

Isaiah 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Let Jesus come alive. Too often as Christians we are simply content to let Jesus have his place in our life but not too big of a place. Well, Christian, if you are serious about being truly made whole then you need to allow Jesus to have not simply a bigger portion of your life but let Jesus come alive and have all of who you are.

Galatians 2:20- I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Let the Holy Spirit lead your life. When Christ is allowed to live in your life you will see your life being led by the Holy Spirit. After all, Jesus was led by the same Holy Spirit. I like how in the letter to the Galatians Paul makes a serious point about Christ living in him. And then near the end of his letter he writes this: Galatians 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

He is making very clear that regardless of what people say about you, regardless of what circumstances you find yourself in and regardless of how difficult life may be, LIVE BY THE SPIRIT.

Healing is not a simple matter of human need and the individual but has a lot to do with the Christian community.

And so let's prepare our hearts as a body of believers for this time of prayer for healing.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What Must I Do?

Mark 10:17-31

Sunday March 14, 2010

Let me set the scene for you:

Jesus has just welcomed little children with open arms. The disciples have spoken sternly to the parents for bringing their children to Jesus. To them, these kids were't much more than a nuisance to the teacher. To Jesus they were the perfect picture of what faith in God's kingdom is supposed to look like.

Jesus rebukes his guys and then makes that famous declaration: "Anyone who doesn't receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it."

His statement declares that we must have faith as a little child. This means believing and trusting God for salvation and then putting feet to our faith and walking as a child would with his hand in his father's hand.

As the crowd was dispersing Jesus begins his journey towards Jerusalem. He is now within a short few weeks of enduring the cross and suffering its shame. Death is beginning to rise on the horizon.

And then a man comes running and falls on his knees in front of Jesus. "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Talk about coming out of nowhere!

My best guess is that this man had been trailing Jesus for some time. I imagine him standing near the edges of the crowds and Jesus taught and healed. And I suppose that he was in the crowd gathered around when Jesus spoke about having the faith of a little child to enter the kingdom of God. And so he comes to Jesus with that burning questions: "What good deed can I do to inherit eternal life?"

This dialogue between Jesus, this young man and the disciples serves us this morning as an object lesson about what it means to not simple accept Jesus as our Savior but to live our life with Jesus as our Lord. In other words, being a Christian is about a whole lot more than just accepting Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.

I'm a Kentucky Wildcat basketball fan. My blood bleeds blue. In fact, when I give blood it is marked as for Kentucky fans only; it's not compatible with anything else. You could say that I am a follower of Kentucky basketball. But I can tell you that I am not fanatical like a lot of the fan base is. You won't find me paying $1000 to sit in the arena yesterday and watch my Kentucky Wildcats put the leather to Tennessee- as much fun as that might be. And if they don't win the championship my life will continue forward. I'm not going to let a bunch of 18 and 19 year-olds determine my moodiness. (I don't think, anyway.) Kentucky Wildcat basketball is not my "god."

But Jesus is- and is supposed to be. That is the heart of the issue Jesus brings to the surface with this occasion. The whole truth about salvation is not just making a decision to receive Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins. That's only half of the gospel, as the great Chinese theologian Watchman Nee pointed out. Jesus is making clear that to follow Him- to receive his life- is every bit about walking with him in every occasion throughout life: trials, triblulations, sickness, good times, bad times, with money, without money. Jesus enables us by the Holy Spirit to transcend our problems and live for his glory.

For the main character of our story, that was too hard to accept. To the disciples that made salvation impossible- if even a man of every possible advantage can't be saved then who can?

Jesus remarks that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heave. Wow! Who can be saved?

Understand something about this "camel through the needle" imagery: Jesus meant what he said. The idea that the "eye of the needle" in the Middle East meant a small door inside of a large gate or a narrow pass that forced camels to their knees to get through is nowhere in my research. This idea, according to scholars, was the imaginative creation of tour guides trying to impress their customers. Yes, these places are called the "eye of the needle" now but weren't in Jesus' time. Jesus was serious that money and materialism would be a major hindrance to the rich.

And times have not changed much.

Are you ready for Jesus to point out the hole in your faith this morning? Is there some hang-up to you being totally sold out for Jesus Christ?

With this rich young rule we witness is…

  1. A Desperate Man with a Monumental Question. (v. 17-20)

We refer to the main character of this account as the rich young ruler. The reason being is that he is rich. He is also young and rich. But even more, he is rich, young and a ruler. The three together give us a picture of someone is a very rare specimen- even by today's standards.

We see that he is rich. How he got his wealth is hard to say: inheritance, hard work, swindling or a mix of things. [There are some who would say that you couldn't be young and rich without pulling some kind of shenanigans.]

That he was a ruler is significant. Very likely he is a religious leader of some capacity, perhaps in a synagogue nearby or maybe even a part of the Sanhedrin. Nobody is sure about the specifics. What we are sure of is his desperation. He wants something more.

As he was walking away from Jesus' huddle with the children I wonder if he realized that "if I don't ask Jesus now I will never find out." So…

a. He runs to Jesus and kneels before him.

I think this man had mulled things over for quite some time. Someone of his capacity wasn't going to run to Jesus for an answer to their deepest need- unless they were desperate.

b. He refers to Jesus' deity.

This man was no dummy. By referring to Jesus as "Good teacher" he realized exactly what he was saying and Jesus calls him on it. "No one is good but God." Exactly, seems to be what this young fellow is saying. God has revealed something to him that many others either dismissed out of unbelief or they just simply didn't know to start with.

c. He is searching for something more.

"What must I do to inherit eternal life?" His reference, according to many scholars, was not so much about the hereafter- as important as they might be to us- but about a higher more life of quality.

He has everything. He is young- how many of us wish that we were a little bit younger? He was rich- who wouldn't want a little bit more money than they already have? He was a ruler- who doesn't want to be in charge rather than have someone else telling us what to do?

But something is missing. With everything that he has and achieved there seems to be something still unfulfilling about life. Jesus suggests to him, as a test I am sure, to be obedient to the commands.

d. He is obedient to everything.

This guy is the real deal. If he weren't I would think one of the writers about this story would have indicated so. He obeys all the commands, especially- according to his assessment- the ones dealing with people.

Jesus understood this. This young fellow either is already living a perfect life or isn't willing to admit that there is a problem.

e. …But he still lacks something.

Jesus then puts his finger right into the hole of his faith. There is something that is missing and Jesus has a knack for pointing out these kinds of things with us. He does so with this man.

And so the question begs to be asked of us this morning: Are you lacking something in your desire to walk with Jesus?

I'm convinced that God's work of making us holy is incremental. Sometimes, some are called on to surrender more than others and faster than others. I've seen too much evidence of this. Furthermore, it seems to be that as we grow in the grace of God, he moves us in a certain direction that may not always seem logical to other people.

There's something else that I'm thinking: How we respond to each challenge given to us by our Lord determines the next steps of our life.

For this rich young ruler the next step may be a turning point in his life. He soon discovers that he has encountered…

2. A Loving Savior with a Colossal Demand. (v. 21-24)

Mark tells us that Jesus loved him. This idea of love was not because this man was a goody-two-shoes but because he wanted to love him. Jesus' character is to love. But in this case his love for him must have really shown. Jesus loved him with what we call "agape" love- an unconditional love. If this fellow figured he impressed Jesus with his obedience to the commandments since his bar-mitzvah he was mistaken. Jesus loved him beyond that just like Jesus loves you beyond anything you do right or wrong.

Jesus looks at you right now and loves beyond your obedience, your disobedience, what you have and what you don't have.

And so what Jesus tells him and what he tells you is not out of trying to make you more lovable to him, but because he loves you so much that he wants you learn to love him more than anything else- just like he loves you more than anything else.

As Max Lucado wrote: "God loves you just the way you but he doesn't want you to stay that way; He wants you to be like Jesus." He wants us to follow him so that we can be discipled to be like him.

Jesus tells the man three main directives:

a. "Sell all you have."

Again, sell all you have. Perhaps for this fellow that would be so hard to do except the next part really gets to him. "Sell all you have" and do what?

b. "Give it to the poor."

Let's face a reality here: giving all of your income to the poor rarely- if ever- brings a good rate of return on your investment. I'm not financial guru but I can tell you that the federal government has been investing in the poor in a variety of help for the needy programs for nearly fifty years and the poor are still with us.

c. "Come follow me."

Here's a guy who comes to Jesus and says, "What do I do to get eternal life?" Jesus said, "Give your money away." Is that the right answer?

Can you imagine being a good businessman- such as this young man could have been- and hearing the sales pitch Jesus is giving you. "Sell all you have, give to the poor and then follow Jesus." What kind of investment is this? So I get treasure in heaven. Tell that to my investors!

But what is Jesus saying? The young man said, "I want eternal life." Jesus said, "Yeah, that's fine, but we are going to deal with something else first. Are you willing to follow me?"

He could have asked him to do anything. But instead he says: "Sell all and give to the poor."

Why did Jesus do this? Because He knew that money was the god of this man's life. And so he says, "Let's deal with the heart of the matter here. I will show you the way but are you willing to give up everything, if I ask you?"

He was no and he went away very sad.

I like how our Calvinist friend John MacArthur put it: Salvation is an exchange of all that I am for all that He is. It's saying, "I won't follow me, I'll follow you."

The man went away a broken and sad man because he didn't want to follow Jesus Christ. Instead he wanted to rule his own life. Jesus said, "Keep the commandments," and he said, "I've kept them all!" But he wouldn't submit to the authority of Christ- the greatest of the commands of loving God with all of one's being.

Look at your life. Do you follow Christ? Do you want to follow Christ? Do you want to want to follow Christ?

It's like Teresa Avila who once said: "I don't want to love Jesus; I want to want to love Jesus."

The truly saved "Love Christ and hate sin." They desire to live a life that goes beyond themselves and their desires.

Jesus told the adulterous woman in John 8:11- "Go now and leave your life of sin."

The message of salvation can't be clearer: Christians are called to a life of holiness not to a life of sinfulness. Furthermore, this holiness cannot tolerate selfishness. Christians are called to follow Jesus and his ways, not the devil and his ways.

Dr. John Oswalt makes this observation: "Not only do we need not sin, and we must not sin, we dare not sin. [Why?] For the wages of sin is death. Here, Paul is writing to the believer. Why can we Christians not continue in sin? Because the wages of sin is death! You cannot earn eternal life; that is a gift from God. But you can earn eternal death if you continue in sin after supposedly accepting Christ's offer." (Called to be Holy pp. 111-112)

Yikes! In other words, as a Christian you cannot ultimately have one foot in two kingdoms. As John Wesley aptly pointed out:

The will of God is a path leading straight to God. The will of man is another path: it leads from God. If we walk in the one, we must necessarily quit the other. We cannot walk in both.

2 Corinthians 5:17- "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

So what does this mean when the rubber our faith meets the road of our life?

3. A Salvation Call that Doesn't Make sense. (v. 25-31)

Now you all probably knew by now that I'm probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But there is something nagging me, here. Jesus tells this man to sell all of his possessions, give the money he gets to the poor and then come follow him. And then hardly a few weeks later (according to my estimate of time) a woman named Mary interrupts his supper with some friends by breaking open a jar of expensive perfume, pours it on his feet and then wipes them with her hair. (John 12:1-8)

Are you kidding me?!

Why would Jesus tell this man to sell all he's got, give the money to the poor and then a few weeks later he allows a woman to come and pour a year's wages on his feet? Judas Iscariot makes a valid point, in my estimation that this could have sold and the money given to the poor. After all, that is what Jesus seemed to have indicated to this rich young ruler. (And then Judas is accused of being a thief at heart.)

It doesn't make sense. Jesus appears to be inconsistent.

And that is exactly what I've been learning in life. To follow Jesus is not following a particular recipe. There are plenty of Christians over the centuries who have suffered mercilessly for following Christ. There are plenty of Christians who have suffered disease, sicknesses, loved ones dying, financial despair, and everything else.

Some Christians benefit financially and seem to live a comfortable life. Other Christians struggle just to get their prescriptions and have to gauge whether they are sick enough or hurting enough to go to a doctor.

Some Christians seem to have perfect children who grow up to love God and yet others have children who walk away from God when they grow up.

Some seem to give up everything to follow God and don't reap very many financial blessings because of it while others seem to have surrendered little and are reaping bountiful financial blessings.

And this is what I have concluded and what Jesus' message seems to be here: Follow me and leave the logic to God.

That's it. Because you will go crazy trying to figure this thing out.

a. Following Jesus can lead you anywhere. We only limit God by not allowing Him total access to our life. Jesus must have a backstage pass to who you really are when you aren't on stage.

b. Following Jesus can cause you do anything. This following Jesus is a scary deal. I would have never dreamed of pastoring a church and leading people in the ways of Jesus. It's scary a lot of times. But I know that with my hand in Jesus' hand I can do anything for him!

c. Following Jesus will require you to "sell" everything. There is a price to pay for being a Christian. Friends won't understand so figure that you will lose some friends. Family members won't understand so figure that some family members will think you're crazy. But when you are willing to give up everything to follow Christ the blessed Holy Spirit will give you the power to do just that.

d. Following Jesus will not always make sense. To walk with Jesus won't always seem logical to others- even other Christians- but it will make sense to you in that moment. This is more than just taking a red pill or a blue pill; it's a conscious choice to believe that Jesus saves a person from all sin and sets their life in a completely new direction.

Conclusion: Are you ready to sell all to follow Christ?

What is God speaking to you about today? Are you ready to commit all of yourself to Jesus Christ this morning?

Hymn #516- Search Me, O God

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