Perception

Too many times we are consumed with perception. Don’t get me wrong. The way people perceive us is important. After all, as Christ followers we are the ambassadors of Christ and His representatives to a lost and sin sick world. Therefore, it is important to let our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in Heaven (see Matthew 5:14-16).

However, there is a difference between letting our light shine through our good works and putting on a show. If we are really surrendered to Christ and are walking in the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) there will be a natural overflow of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). When we walk by faith and in humility, surrendered to God’s Word, then what God is doing in us will be reflected through us!

We need to keep in mind that even in the Christian the flesh is still driven to perform. The flesh produces jealously (Galatians 5:17-20) and pride. As a matter of fact Paul asks the Galatians in chapter three “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3). Sometimes we are erroneously convinced that God’s power saves us by grace through faith, but somehow we then are to live the victorious Christian life through our flesh and “trying harder.” Our flesh may be jealous of the Spirit’s power and capability and the great deceiver plays upon that weakness, encouraging us to live the Christian life in our own power. After all we’ve got to keep up the perception that we are good Christians.

This is exactly what we see happening in Acts 5. Ananias and Sapphira were very interested in being perceived as dedicated, sacrificial Christ followers. They obviously had close ties to the church because they were aware that others were selling their possessions and giving to the church and others in need (see Acts 4:34-37). They decided to come up with a scheme to be perceived as a part of this generous group. They decided they would sell a portion of their property, bring a portion of it to the church and secretly keep a portion for themselves. They did not have to sell their land (Acts 5:4a). The problem was not they kept a portion for themselves (Acts 5:4b). The problem was they wanted to be perceived as a Christ follower who had given it all even though they had not!

Christians still have a battle with the flesh. We no longer have to be controlled by the flesh and we can reckon our flesh to be dead through the power of Christ, but if we are not extremely careful it will raise its ugly head time and time again to trip us up. It will even lead us to do the right thing for the wrong reason or seek to get us to try to do the right thing in our own power and energy. The enemy knows this leads to failure and frustration and may eventually lead us down a road of such despondent failure that we just walk out on the possibility of living in victory at all.

Yes, we should want to be perceived as people who bring God the glory. However, we all need to understand how God is brought the glory! He is not brought the glory by anything we can accomplish in the power and the energy of the flesh. Our righteousness adds up to nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). We bring God the glory when we let His supernatural power work in and through us to do things that point others to how awesome He is!

Jesus went on to remind His followers in John 15:5 that the key to producing fruit was not in “trying harder” or “doing better” but rather was simply found in abiding in Him. If we want to give the perception that we are Christ followers, then through His grace and power of the Holy Spirit we must simply follow Him. If we want to produce fruit, then we must simply through His grace rest in and abide in Him and His power. If we want to be perceived as Spirit-filled people then we must through His grace walk in His Spirit step by step.

Your flesh will always be there to try to trip you up. It will always seek to get you to live the Christian life in your own strength. It will lead you to depend upon the arm of the flesh, but the arm of the flesh will always fail!

I’m not sure what the Holy Spirit would have led Ananias and Sapphira to do had they been following His leadership. But whatever it was, it would have been something that glorified God, not Ananias and Sapphira! It would have been something that said, “Look at what GOD is doing in and through their life,” rather than, “Look at what they are doing for God.”

Yes, perception is important. But the right perception can only be produced through following and being surrendered to the leading of the Holy Spirit through His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit working within.

Help for the Helpless

Someone once said, “God helps those who helps themselves.” I’m sure in the context of that conversation some well meaning person was possibly looking at a lazy individual who refused to work, but was also struggling financially. However, that statement has been used in all kinds of ways and has been used to lead many people away from the Lord. In reality, the greatest help we need is not something we can do to help ourselves at all. The greatest help we need is to be reconciled to God…and we are helpless to make that happen. God helps those who realize they can’t help themselves and turn to Christ for the solution.

We cannot work our way to reconciliation and forgiveness. We cannot do enough good things to make reconciliation or forgiveness take place. It is only God’s mercy and grace that will enable us to experience the help we need that comes as a result of placing our faith in Christ.

In Mark 5 we see three helpless situations. These people could try to help themselves, but nothing was changing. The answers they had hoped for had only left them empty and hopeless. They needed a touch from the Master, and they needed His touch desperately!

The first individual we are introduced to is found in Mark 5:1-20. Jesus interacts with a man who is demon possessed. We will find later that this man is possessed with a multitude of demons. He is a terror to his community. He runs around nude, cutting himself and has super human strength. He is living in the graveyard. Imagine trying to bury a loved one with this guy running around. But then Jesus steps on the scene. The man runs and bows before Jesus and as Jesus sends the demons into a herd of pigs that jump to their death. It isn’t long before this man is clothed and in his right mind. And just like anyone who has been forgiven and changed by the power of God, this man has a desire to spend time with Jesus. However, Jesus has a mission for him. Go back home and let your friends and family know what I’ve done for you! That’s our mission too.

Then Jesus gets word that Jarius’ daughter is deathly sick (v. 23). Immediately Jesus begins to head to Jarius house, but before he can get there he meets someone else with a desperate need (vv. 25ff). She has had a disease for twelve years. She has spent all of her time and money looking for a cure, but no one could help her. She had heard of a man named Jesus. She heard that He was able to touch blinded eyes and maybe she had even heard what He had done for the man possessed with demons. She thinks, “If he can help them then surely He can help me. I won’t bother Him, I will just touch the hem of His garment and I will be made whole.” As Jesus passes through the crowd she stretches out her arm and touches his clothing and immediately she is made well. Jesus rewarded her faith with healing!

But then tragic news! Jarius’ daughter has died. Jesus got distracted and He is too late. No! Jesus is never too late, He is always right on time. Jesus reached down on this little girl’s death bed and raised her back to life (v. 41).

You see friend all of these people were helpless to help themselves! There was nothing they could do to change their circumstances. The needed the touch of God! The same is true for us! Sin has separated us from God and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, we can do to change that. However, Jesus came and took upon Himself the curse we deserved because of our sins and offers to us forgiveness, reconciliation and peace with God. You may look for it in other places, other things and other people, but Jesus is your only hope! Turn to Him today and let Him make you whole!

Take Up Your Bed and Walk

Take Up Your Bed and Walk

We live in desperate times. Our nation is in need of a spiritual awakening and a revival among her churches. The Word of God tells us that there would come a time when that which is evil would be called good, and that which is good will be called evil…WE ARE LIVING IN THAT DAY! We live in a day where addictions run rampant…pain killers, drugs, alcohol, pornography, other immoral addictions, addicted to acceptance by one’s peers, addiction to greed and power, and the list goes on and on and on. We live in a world that is spiritually sick and dying, because it is made up of people that are either spiritually dead or spiritually sick. We need help! We need spiritual renewal. We need a real revival. We need GOD!

In today’s passage of Scripture we are introduced to a group of people, and one man in particular, who seems to be representative of the scenario I just described on a physical scale. However, I believe there is more than just a physical application here. No doubt, Jesus can heal physically if He so chooses, but His greatest desire is to heal us spiritually! In John 5:1-9 we see the (1) Sick Man, the (2) Sympathetic Messiah, and the (3) Striking Miracle

The Sick Man

In John 5:2-3 we find the setting of this event. The TIME is around a Jewish feast day, more than likely one of the three main Jewish feasts during the year. The PLACE is close to a pool of water situated near the “Sheep Gate.” Albert Barnes says that the sheep gate was the area through which sacrificial animals were brought into the city, therefore this gate was probably located near the temple.

The WHO is found in vv. 3 & 5. There are a multitude of people at this pool who cannot help themselves. They are what we would call “invalids.”

  • Some are blind and they, nor anyone else can rid themselves of the blindness they have
  • Some are lame. They are incapable of walking. They cannot change their condition and neither can anyone else.
  • Some are paralyzed. Once again their condition is unchangeable.
  • However, Scripture calls our attention to ONE MAN that stands out from all the rest.
    • This man is DISABLED (see v. 5a)
      • One man was there who had been an invalid (John 5:5a)
    • This man is DESPERATE (see v. 5b)
      • …who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years(John 5:5b)
      • “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool…” (John 5:7b)
  • This man is DISSAPOINTED (see v. 7)
    • Jesus asks him if he wants to be healed and he replies: “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going down another steps before me.” (John 5:7c)
    • He had been sick for 38 years and had come to a place that offered hope. Yet he is still hopeless!

Application: YOU might not want to admit it, but we are no better spiritually than this man was physically. As a matter of fact we are much, much worse!

  • We are not just spiritually disabled apart from Christ, but we are spiritually DEAD apart from Christ!
    • But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59:2)
    • And you were dead in the trespasses and sins(Ephesians 2:1)
  • Apart from Jesus we have a Desperate Need!
    • John 3:18b- …but whoever does not believe in Him is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
  • Apart from Jesus we will always be Disappointed

Application-Your sin problem isn’t going to get any better on its own. You can pretend it doesn’t exist, but it does. You can look for your own solutions, but the problem will be there as real as ever. It will not go away when you get older, it will not resolve itself, it will not heal itself and there is only One cure. We see the Cure coming walking by in verse 6.

The Sympathetic Messiah

  • Jesus knows his place
    • “When Jesus saw him lying there…” (John 5:6a)
    • Jesus knows his predicament
      • “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time…” (John 5:6b)

Explanation of Verse 6-Do you want to be healed? It seems like an obvious answer to the question.

Application-I think there is a desire in everyone’s heart to be free from this blight that curses us and separates us from God. There are all kinds of false hopes out there that are given to others. Some try to find an answer through religion, but religion only leaves them empty and still laying at the pool. Some have chased after so many answers they have given up hope. Some want to ignore their condition and it seems that they believe if they will only ignore it, it will go away. Others want to beautify their condition with “good works” and “good deeds” in hopes that these things will slowly erase their problem.

Verse 7-The man begins to give an indirect answer to Jesus’ direct question. “I want to be healed but…” I’m depending on someone to put me in the water, but someone else always gets there first.

Application: This man had a legitimate problem and the selfishness and problems of others hindered him from experiencing the pool of water that his hope rested in. We also have a legitimate problem. There are also many roadblocks and obstacles that keep us from experiencing the restoration of the soul that we so desperately need. Sometimes our problems persist and grow worse because our hope rests in the wrong place or person. Sometimes our problems persist because of the selfishness and problems of others that confuse us and hinder us from finding the healing and freedom that only Christ can bring.

The Striking Miracle

  • The Astonishing Command

Verse 8-Then Jesus just blows the man away with a command… “take up your bed and walk.” He commands the man to get up. This man hadn’t gotten up in 38 years. He was an invalid. Yet the solution to the man’s problem was standing right in front of him. The solution to this man’s problem wasn’t a little pool of water…it was an overflowing fountain of water! This man didn’t need someone’s help to get him to the pool…this man had the divine Son of God speak healing to his body and would enable him to “get up, pick up his bed and begin walking around!”

  • The Amazing Change

Jesus’ healing did not leave him lying where he was and did not leave him how he was!

Verse 9-The man got up. The man was different, the man was changed. This all took place through the power of Jesus Christ!

Final Application:

  • What does this miracle have to do with us?
    • Just like his disease has messed him up physically, our sin has messed us up spiritually.
    • We are in a helpless and hopeless situation apart from Jesus Christ who can take our sin away and give us abundant and eternal life.
    • The mass of humanity is represented by all here at this pool. Needing desperately God’s healing touch. Looking for something to satisfy their soul. Trying to find answers and hope in all the wrong places. Under the wrath of God because they refuse to turn to and trust in their only HOPE!
    • Jesus stretches His nail-scarred hands out to YOU today and says, “Take up YOUR bed and walk. You can have forgiveness. Your soul is broken and NOTHING, NOTHING else can repair it except ME,” Jesus says.
    • There are many Christ followers who have stumbled and fallen along the way. They live in constant fear, they feel like they can never overcome their past and can never overcome certain habits or addictions. Let me ask YOU this…if it is God’s will for YOU to live a holy, godly, Christ-honoring, God-glorifying life, don’t YOU think He is going to provide for YOU the power to GET UP AND TAKE UP YOUR BED AND WALK?
      • He says to the drug addict…through ME take up YOUR bed and walk
      • He says to the girl addicted to the approval of others…through me take up YOUR bed and walk
      • He says to the men and women deceived and disappointed through empty religion…take up your bed and walk
      • He says to those who are consumed by lust and have their lives scarred because of past sexual sins…take up your bed and walk!
      • He says to those who are trusting in their good deeds to get them to Heaven…You can only take up YOUR bed and walk through me!
      • He says to those who try to laugh away the pain inside their hearts…take up YOUR bed and walk!
      • He says to those who feel inadequate and do sinful things to try to please others…take up YOUR bed and walk
      • He says to those who are being destroyed inwardly by bitterness…take up YOUR bed and walk
      • He says to those who are living a double life and would hold their heads in shame if anyone found out…take up YOUR bed and walk

Philippians 4:13-I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:19-And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Jesus Knows Your Heart

The truth is Jesus knows all about YOU! He knows your heart, your motives, your desires, your faults, your failures, your weaknesses, your struggles, your sincerity, your ____________________________________ (fill in the blank). He knows. The amazing thing is that even though He knows, He still loves us.

As I was reading in my devotions this morning I came across this Scripture:

But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. John 2:24-25

There were many who “believed” in Jesus the “miracle man” (see John 2:23). According to the Amplified Bible they simply “identified themselves with His party” after seeing the signs and wonders He performed. However, we know that the new birth is more than verbal identification. We are to trust in, cling to and rely upon the risen Christ as our Lord and Savior. Faith in Christ leads to the New Birth (John 3:3) and a total transformation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

So as He looks deep into my soul and yours what does He see? Does He see a meaningless mental consent to Christianity or does He see a genuine faith in Him? We often talk about committing our lives to Christ, but we see from this passage that Christ commits Himself to those who truly believe.

He knows YOU and He knows me. What does He see?

The Truth About God’s Forgiveness

Think about what the prophet said in Michah 7:19:

You will cast all of our sins into the depths of the sea. (ESV)

Through the new birth God forgives our sin and He removes the penalty of sin from us and He removes us from the power of sin (see John 3:3-21, Romans 6:14). He declares righteousness where no righteousness has been. This happens because Christ’s righteousness is added to our account when we trust Him by faith (2 Corinthians 5:21).

It is through Christ and His atoning sacrifice that we can experience this forgiveness and have the assurance that our sins have been placed in the “depths of the sea” and have been placed behind God’s back (Isaiah 38:17).

Have YOU trusted Christ to forgive YOU of YOUR sins? He is able to remove the guilt of YOUR past, He will enable YOU to live in victory in the present and give YOU an amazing future. Trust Him today!