Sunday, March 19, 2023

A Rock Solid Faith in the God of the Impossible

I remember growing up there were always students at school who were excluded. Some of them were excluded because they were different, they were handicapped, and others were excluded because they were considered different, were considered “losers” and sat at the “loser table.”

What does it feel like to be different? What does it feel like to be excluded? It feels pretty painful. It feels isolating. It makes you wonder, “Is there something wrong with me?”

To my shame, I was at times one of the students who made fun of those who were different. I’m sure some of us did the same when we were kids. At other times, we were the one who reached out to the ones who were different, and helped make them feel welcome.

I made fun of a kid who was in a wheelchair when I was in 7th grade. I was also bullied by other students, shoved, punched, and so on. But I had done it too. And had it done to me.

Then there was a time a new student came to our school and I made him feel welcome. And as Christians we want to be those who make people who are excluded feel loved and welcome. We want to help them find a place in our community.

This was Jesus’ attitude as well. And as followers of Jesus, we want to emulate his activity.

It’s recorded that in Mark chapter one a man with leprosy came to ask Jesus for help. Leprosy still exists in the world today, even in certain parts of the USA, it's a type of bacteria though that is treatable today. But in ancient times, lepers were excluded from society.

People were afraid to come near them. If they came into the cities they would often be driven out. Most lepers simply had to stay at a distance from people, and beg for food and money. But a man with leprosy had heard about this God-man Jesus, this savior, and had come to him with hope.

It says in Mark 1:40, “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

1. Hope
Here we find our first point for today: Come to Jesus time and again with hope that he can help you.

That is what we did when we first believed on Jesus Christ for our salvation. We came to Jesus believing that he could help us.

And we need to keep coming to Jesus, as we struggle, as we battle sin in our lives and remove it, and come to Jesus, believing, hoping, that he can deliver us.

Sometimes we get stuck in a status quo. Well, Jesus washed away my sins, but he can’t help my lying problem. Jesus washed away my sins, but he can’t help my gambling problem. Jesus can’t help my stealing problem, or my selfishness. But that’s not true. If Jesus can wash away your sins, he can deliver you from any sin in your life.

Continue to come to Jesus with a hope, maybe this can change! Continue to come to Jesus with faith. Maybe that’s why we struggle today we aren’t coming in faith. We’ve surrendered to the sin, or the sorrow, or the depression, but it’s time to take hope again, and believe Jesus can help you. Now. Ask now, for Jesus to give you a new hope and a new faith.

What if this guy with leprosy never came to Jesus? He just said well, I’ve leprosy my whole life, so he can’t help me. I just won’t even come. But that’s not what happened. He came and found Jesus knowing, believing, hoping, maybe Jesus can help me.

Let’s see what happens next:

In verses 41-42: “Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.”

The NIV translation renders verse 41 as “Jesus was indignant” but most other translations render it as “Jesus had compassion on him.”

But maybe it was a mixture of the two? Jesus was indignant means Jesus was angry and disturbed and upset by this man’s condition. I’m sure that’s true. When we see someone who is suffering terribly, our first reaction is often anger, we’re upset, how can this be! It’s not right!

Often at that same moment as we’re indignant we’re also filled with compassion. We have compassion on that person.

2. Compassion
That’s our second point today, as Christians our response to suffering should be compassion. What is compassion?

It’s like we enter into their situation and have a sense of pity, a sense of wanting to help, a sense of love mixed with desire for action. We get involved in the situation.

That is one of our chief jobs as Christians, we feel compassion for hurting people and that compassion causes us to take action.

But I think sometimes we worry, when we come to Jesus with a sin or a problem or anxiety or depression, is Jesus really willing to help us? The answer is almost always yes. Plain and simple. Rarely I think it is no. We may bring a chronic health problem or a mental health problem to Jesus and he may say no, I’m not going to heal you, you’re going to glorify God by dealing with this problem. But if it’s a sin you’re bringing to Jesus, the answer is always yes. There may be footwork on your part though to be free.

You may need to go to a counselor, or attend a 12 step group, or go through a book or workbook on the sin, or you may need to feel the sorrow of the sin for a while until you’re finally willing to repent from the heart. But Jesus is willing to help us in all that process.

He is a God of indignation, evil upsets Him. And when God sees evil, he also has compassion on the one who is struggling and seeks to help them.

Next, in verses 43-45: “Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”

The Lord gives this man a strong warning, don’t tell anyone, because if he tells people it’s going to upset his timing. He tells the man, go to the priests. And it’s going to be a testimony to them, that God is doing something, healing lepers, that they would then believe. But the man does not obey Jesus, instead he starts telling everyone about what happened. The result is Jesus can’t go near the cities, instead he has to go off into hiding.

3. Trust
So third point for today, listening to God, obeying Him is important. Even when we don’t really understand why. Sometimes God has asked me to do something and I don’t understand why, so I don’t do it. And often I see later why God wanted me to do it that way. But I didn’t listen.

Similarly in 12 step groups, often times the person will not take the 12 steps to get better, because they don’t understand why it would help them. So they refuse to do it. Because they don’t understand it.

But if they would just trust the process and do it anyway, they’d see the results.

I always remind all of you to pray in the morning, pray at night, read your Bible, read a psalm, read a chapter of proverbs, read a chapter from the new testament everyday.

Many of you I think, don’t understand why you should do that, so you don’t do it. And as a result your spirituality is weak and you’re always struggling and unable to keep your faith strong at all. But if you would just listen, and do it, even if you don’t understand why, later you’d see, how strong your faith would become, and how you would be much more stable in all your life, if you just listened.

But sometimes we don’t want to listen, because we don’t understand. Or maybe we’re just lazy. In any case, this cleansed man, doesn’t listen to Jesus either. And it upsets the timing of his ministry, where Jesus has to go off into the wild. But still, God’s plan moves forward, as people come out to see him there.

Obey God, even when you don’t understand, trust Him, even when you don’t see all the details. He is trustworthy. Even when we don’t understand. Do what he says anyway. And watch your life be transformed. But if you don’t want anything to change in your life, just keep doing it the same way you always do. And its going to be a mess. But, what if, what if you really did listen to God, do what he says, how would you life be transformed?

For the next few days Jesus is out in the wilderness. But then he heads home.

From Mark 2:1-3 “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.”

4. Hope for another
Point number one, becomes active for others, we’ve received grace from Jesus Christ, now we want others to find that same grace from Jesus Christ, we start to have hope for others. We start to believe others can have faith too. That is hope for our friends and neighbors, and even strangers, people we don’t know.

Next in verses 4-5, “4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

5. Compassion for another
Point number two becomes active through us, to others, compassion for others. Compassion moves us to action. Action for these people is to dig a hole in the roof, and drop their friend down in to it, so their friend can meet Jesus. That is true compassion in action!

Now skip forward to verses 11 and 12, “So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” -Mark 2:11-12

6. Trust for another produces Trust
Faith is the key in this whole situation. They believe. Their friend believes. This means action in love. Trusting in Jesus, leads these friends to bring their friend to Jesus. The result is their friend trusts Jesus too. His sins are forgiven. And Jesus heals him. He takes his mat and walks home. And the result is, everyone around sees this and praises God. Glory is given to God through all this.

The people learn faith as well. They see something amazing happen, this leads them to believe and trust that Jesus really is God.

That’s point number 6, linked to point 3, Trust in God leads to others learning to trust in God too.

Point 1, hope links to point 4, hope for others.

Point 2, compassion links to point 5, compassionate action for others

Point 3, trust/faith links to point 6, others learning to trust through you

Now, to pull it all together, let’s look at verse 6 through 10, which is happens just before the man is healed:

“Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” -Mark 2:6-10

7. Evidence of Christ leads to Trust in Christ  
Why is Jesus healing people? Why is he doing these miraculous things that no one has ever done before in the history of human kind? That’s one of the reasons we remember him. That’s one of the reasons we believe in Him today. We hear about Christians being healed, people being healed after Christians pray for them. It’s real. But why? Why does he do this? Yes, because he loves us. But there is a great purpose behind it all: He is proving to the people of Israel, and indeed to the entire world: I am really God in human form.

Jesus Christ of Nazareth, was saying through these miracles: I am who I am. I really am God on Earth. Which is why the Pharisee has no ground to stand on as far as his complaint goes. Jesus answers his thoughts, which how could Jesus answer someone's thoughts, either, but Jesus says, anyone could say “your sins are forgiven.” Words are one thing. But, look at the signs I perform. Look that this paralyzed man can now walk.

Which is easier to say your sins are forgiven, or to say, get up and walk? It’s much easier to say your sins are forgiven. It’s much harder to tell a paralyzed man to get up and walk. But then it happens. And for that reason, this paralyzed man getting up, the Pharisee should be able to say, well, if the voice of Jesus says get up and walk and it happens, then it must also be true, that when Jesus says “your sins are forgiven” that is also 100% true. Just as true as the miracle he just performed. By speaking.

Faith + Evidence of Christ = Salvation 

So if we’re told we must come to Jesus Christ for eternal life, for forgiveness of sins, we can believe that this is 100% true, because of what Jesus has already done, in the life of the leper, in the life of the paralyzed man, in the lives of billions of people today on planet earth, and in the lives of our family members, our parents, our grandparents, our great-grandparents, all the way into the past, yes, it’s real, and we can, indeed, we must believe it.

And oh what danger we are in if we refuse Him who call us to Himself. We must come. Or we can only blame ourselves for what happens if we don’t.

Once we were the bullies, in some form or another, we were the sinners. We were evangelists of sin you could say, we lived in sin and we taught others to sin by our actions and lifestyle.

Like the story at the beginning, I used to bully other students at times, I was also bullied, part of the system you could say.

Now we become a glitch in the system, we resist the system, we change the system. Now instead of bullying, instead of spreading sin, we spread truth. We compassionately love others. We protect the bullied. We reach out and love others. We bring others to Jesus. Make that your mission for life, bring others to Jesus. That should be your lifestyle now. Don’t be an evangelist of sin anymore, be an evangelist of Christ!