Redemption of Relief – Part 3 – Following God’s Perfect Example

This is the third installment of a short blog series titled Redemption or Relief. I hope that this will be an encouragement to our church as we follow Christ together. As you read I encourage you to ask yourself this question, “Would I be satisfied if the only thing redeeming in this suffering were that it gave glory to God?” If you have not read the first two installment of this blog series click here to read them.

Is redemption really better?

As a quick review in our first two installments we began by examining God’s story of redemption as it relates to human suffering. God’s desire is to redeem mankind’s suffering by restoring His relationship with them through Christ’s work on the cross. Then we took a look at the world’s distortions of this story. The world offers the mirage of relief through distraction, but God offers to redeem our suffering. He does not always take it away, but He does promise  to strengthen the sufferer spiritually despite physical weakness (2 Cor 12:9-10). At this point in the series every sufferer must be asking, “How is the offer of redemption really that much better than relief?” The concept may seem like rhetoric. To understand the beauty of redemption through pain and suffering let’s gaze for a moment at the ultimate display of suffering, Jesus. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not (Is 53:3).” The suffering that Jesus faced on the cross provides the perfect example for sufferers to follow. Jesus suffered as no other man, yet he suffered without sinning. Jesus did not revile or threaten his accusers, he trusted himself to the just judge (1 Peter 2:18-25).

This is beautifully pictured in John Chapter 12. The week of the Passover had come and Jesus rode into the city on the colt of a donkey. Imagine the turmoil that Jesus experienced in his soul as the crowds proclaimed His praise. The reality was that on this day, when the rest of Jerusalem was setting aside the lamb that would be sacrificed for the Passover, He too was being chosen by the people as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices (Heb 10:14). He knew that in just a few short days those shouts of adoration would be transformed into murderous cries for His crucifixion. His disciple’s excitement was starkly contrasted with the looming prospect of the cross, the cross on which He, the sinless Son of God, would bear the sins of the world.

Exemplary Pattern for Suffering

Jesus tells the Greeks who came to seek him, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified (Jn 12:23).” Jesus presents His perspective of suffering. He does not say, “The time has come for the Son of Man to suffer.” He presents the suffering of the cross from the standpoint of redemption and its resulting glory. He follows this with instructions for His disciples to follow by first of all presenting them with the exemplary pattern for suffering. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24).” The pattern presented here is death that brings life. He reminds sufferers of the price of redemption, death. The suffering and death of Jesus on the cross would bear much fruit. Jesus looked through the suffering to the fruit that it would bear. The fruit that He speaks of is all who would believe in Him. Jesus died so that we could live. Jesus’ suffering breathes life into the discouragement of the sufferer. While suffering is painful it has a purging effect upon the sufferer (1 Pet 4:1). “Believers can face death with the same attitude their Lord had, that when it comes they will have entered into an eternal condition of holy perfection, free from all sin’s influences and effects.”[1]

Eternal Principle of the Heart

Jesus continues by secondly displaying the eternal principle of the heart. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (Jn 12:25).” Jesus dives into the motivation of the heart. To love this life, is to love this life more than the next. Jesus had an eternal perspective on His suffering. He willingly gave His life on the cross in obedience to the Father for the payment of sin. He looked forward to the eternal rather then becoming engrossed in the temporal. The tendency of a person suffering is to focus on the present remedy for the suffering. Jesus calls believers to hate their lives. This refers to a comparison. A sufferer should hate their life when compared to the eternal weight of glory that Christ offers (2 Cor 4:17). A person suffering must continually check their heart motivation. “What does my heart want, long for or crave? Am I motivated by eternity or engrossed in the current?”

Exclusive Path of the Humble

The third principle that Jesus presents is the exclusive path of the humble. “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him (John 12:26a).” Jesus calls believers to pursue hard after Him. This is incredibly important for a person suffering. It is easy to be so consumed with suffering that a person stops serving. Jesus is calling sufferers to live their life with Jesus and eternity as the object of their desire. The amazing thing is that when a person follows hard after Christ they will receive just that. They get Jesus. The pursuit of their life will be given as they are finally reconciled to God after the resurrection. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is (1 Jn 3:2).”

Extravagant Payment of Honor

The final exhortation that Jesus gives to His disciples is an extravagant payment of honor. “If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him (Jn 12:26b).” What exactly is this honor? The fullness of this honor will not be realized until a believer is in heaven with Christ (1 Cor 13:12). This is why Christ was the perfect one to offer this promise. As God Jesus had experienced the glory of heaven. He knew what heaven was like and offered a perspective that no other human could match (Jn 16:28). Jonathan Edwards in his sermon, The Portion of the Righteous, explains the rewards that believers will partake of in heaven in heaven,

For all shall be perfectly happy, every one shall be perfectly satisfied. Every vessel that is cast into this ocean of happiness is full, though there are some vessels far larger than others… there will be different degrees of both holiness and happiness according to the measure of each one’s capacity, and therefore those that are lowest in glory will have the greatest love to those that are highest in happiness, because they will see most of the image of God in them.[2]

A believer’s capacity to enjoy heaven is contingent upon how he or she followed Jesus here on earth. Jim Fain applies this concept to suffering in reference to 1 Peter 4:12-13, “To the degree that you share in Christ’s suffering you will rejoice in his presence.”[3] Suffering is like air being forced into a balloon that expands its capacity while increasing its tension. Suffering expands a believer’s ability to enjoy Christ by increasing tension in this life. Those who share in Christ’s sufferings most closely in this earth will appreciate Christ most fully for eternity.

Unwavering Commitment to God’s Glory

The next two verses demonstrate the suffering of Jesus and His unwavering commitment to the glory of the Father. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name (Jn 12:27-28a).” Our frail human minds can hardly understand what Jesus meant when He mentioned the trouble in His soul. “In His humanness, Jesus felt all the pain associated with bearing the curse for sin (Gal. 3:13).”[4] The author of Hebrews refers to this prayer of Jesus, and others like it, when he wrote, “In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb 5:7-8).” Jesus did not waver one moment in His obedience to the Father. He cries out, “Father, glorify your name.” And that is exactly what God did with Jesus. Through His sacrifice God was glorified. As a voice from heaven confirmed, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again (John 12:28b).” The focal point of the suffering that Christ endured was giving glory to God through redemption.

A sufferer must ask, “Would I be satisfied if the only thing redeeming in this suffering were that it gave glory to God?” Jesus Christ was the perfect example of a sufferer. In His suffering He never sinned. He never got angry and shook His fist at God. He never pursued relief, but instead paid the hefty price for redemption. As Jesus, by choice, faced unimaginable suffering from which there was no escape His faith was unwavering and His focus was fixed upon the glory of the Father. As we counsel men and women, like those mentioned in the introduction, we must call them to suffer like Jesus did. We must help them to understand their suffering on the timeline of God’s story of redemption, despite the distraction of the world’s distorted story, and beckon them to follow Christ’s perfect example when faced with the prospect of relief or the promise of redemption. “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2).”

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[1]John MacArthur, 1 Peter, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 2004), n.p.

[2] Jonathan Edwards, “The Portion of the Righteous” (text of sermon, Northampton, Northampton, MA, December, 1740), accessed April 16, 2016, http://www.biblebb.com/files/edwards/portion2.htm.

[3] Jim Fain, “Biblical Counseling and the Exclusivity of the Gospel” (lecture, Grace Chapel, Englewood, CO, April 1, 2016).

[4]John MacArthur, John 12–21, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 2008), n.p.

Redemption or Relief – Part 2 – Recognizing the World’s Distorted Story

This is the second installment of a short blog series titled Redemption or Relief. I hope that this will be an encouragement to our church as we follow Christ together. As you read I encourage you to ask yourself this question, “Would I be satisfied if the only thing redeeming in this suffering were that it gave glory to God?” If you have not read the first installment of this blog series click here to read it.

As a quick review in our first installment we looked at God’s story of redemption as it relates to human suffering. God desires to redeem man’s suffering by restoring His relationship with them through Christ’s work on the cross. It is the intention of this installment to help us to recognize the World’s distorted storyline.

Our world is actively telling us a very different story. Its story does not explain suffering; in fact it avoids the idea all together. Its perfect story ends when the handsome healthy hero rides off into the sunset. This story is myopic and incongruent with the reality that many people face. It points to lasting hope through relief, which is out of their control and often an empty promise in this temporal fallen world. When a person’s story doesn’t match this fairy tale story the world offers to edit the storyline to make sense of reality.

Mirage of Relief

Because of the fallen nature of the world is powerless to redeem suffering or give meaning and purpose. Instead the world proposes the mirage of relief. It offers new treatments, medications, diets or homeopathic remedies that promise healing. There is always something new in the medical fields. Well-meaning people are often ready to share a new ‘miracle’ cure that has changed their life, or the life of someone they love. Each of these cures offers hope for healing. And the reality is some of them may actually bring the healing or relief they promise. But because the medical fields are constantly changing and science is bringing new and better treatments every day, pursuing each and every avenue of treatment could become the hopeless endeavor of a lifetime. And a life is exactly what these sufferers are trying to purchase back.

As well intentioned and promising as each of these treatments may seem they offer hope that is not a guarantee. This is not to say that a person should not pursue medical treatment or cures, but that they should guard their mind against the twisted story line of the world that relief will bring them peace. Satan, the crafty serpent from the garden, has been twisting storylines since the very beginning of time. The scriptures record his distortion of God’s story in Genesis 3:1. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” Eve answers the deceitful serpent with God’s command, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die (Gen 3:2-3).’” Satan immediately began to attempt to diminish the command of God by distorting the cost, “You will not surely die (Gen 3:4).” He offers the opportunity to cheat death. This subtle lie can lay hold of the heart of a person suffering from a disease. By taking these pills, doing this treatment, pursuing these cures death can be averted and pain can be relieved. The reality is that because of the curse of sin pain has become an unavoidable part of life. Death cannot be cheated (1 Cor 15:22, Heb 9:27).

Though its intentions may not be as deceitful as those of the crafty serpent in the garden the world offers similar rhetoric. “Since the moment sin entered the world, straightforwardness was lost in communication. Barrier-free communication left creation.”[1] The reality is that at the fall all communication broke down. It is practically impossible to offer a remedy without also offering the resulting hope and relief that will come from its success. Though unintended this communication breakdown is the effect of the fall. The story that the world tells will always become distorted and partial.

Replacement of Perspective

When a person becomes hopeless because none of the treatments are working the world offers a new perspective through therapy that instructs sufferers to look for the positives in the negative. They offer multiple techniques to reduce stress, enjoy each moment intensely, reorient priorities, do something good or learn to love yourself more. Each of these are presented as solutions for suffering. Marshal Segal addresses the folly of these self-care methods when he wrote, “It’s the licensed healthcare equivalent of turning up Taylor Swift so loud you couldn’t possibly think about anything else. Just shake it off. It’s medication by distraction, not redemption. Practicing forgetfulness, rather than pursuing forgiveness.”[2] While Segal’s characterization of self-care may not offer a full understanding of the complex therapeutic methods that the world presents. His conclusion is correct. Therapy seeks to distract from the reality of the pain and fails to give true meaning and purpose. It offers relief through distortion rather than purpose through redemption.

At the end of the day each of these treatments or therapies, no matter how old or scientific, carry with them the seed of a lie. They subtly tell a sufferer that they would be happy if their condition were healed. If the pain would go away life would be purposeful again. If the crushed dreams and desires were attained there would be some sort of meaning to all of this. When this seed is planted and allowed to grow the fruit will ultimately return the sufferer to a new level of hopelessness, discouragement and despair (Jer 6:13-14). They will conclude with King Solomon, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless (Ecc 1:2 NIV).’”

Grace in Weakness

This is not to say that sufferers should simply relegate themselves to the idea that there are no cures, to stop pursuing medical help or just accept the cold hard facts. This mindset diminishes God’s healing the power (Jas 5:14-15). A practical guide to how a sufferer ought to pursue medical remedies will be addressed more deeply in a future installment of this series, but for now it is important to remember that healing is not always what God has in store for those who are suffering. While this may be discouraging for many, Paul actually found comfort in this when he said, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Cor 12:9).” Paul actually rejoiced in his suffering. Weakness was cause for him to worship in the midst of his suffering.

 

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[1] Abner Chou, ed., What Happened in the Garden: The Reality and Ramifications of the Creation and Fall of Man (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2016), 177.

[2] Marshal Segal, “The Insanity of ‘Self-Care’,” Desiring God (blog), March 14, 2016, accessed April 14, 2016, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-insanity-of-self-care.

Redemption or Relief – Part 1 – Understanding God’s Redemptive Story

This is the first installment of a short blog series titled Redemption or Relief. I hope that this will be an encouragement to our church as we follow Christ together. As you read I encourage you to ask yourself this question, “Would I be satisfied if the only thing redeeming in this suffering were that it gave glory to God?”

Introduction

What hope can be given to a young man whose life changed 3 years ago in an accident? Every day is marked with confusion and pain. A middle-aged father of 2 teen boys is on the verge of loosing his job, suffering from multiple medical conditions, the inability to think clearly and an ever-growing mountain of health bills. The feeling of helplessness grows with every moment. A young mother of 4, is given the diagnosis of a debilitating degenerative disease, for which there is no known cure, that will render her with the inability to care for herself in the near future. She experiences a deep longing to be healthy again, that will likely never be satisfied. A frail elderly woman who’s helpless feeling grows daily as she watches her husband’s once brilliant mind deteriorate under the scourge of Alzheimer’s. She fears the day when he will no longer remember her name. Each of these people is suffering and there is no end in sight. They yearn for relief. They have and are pursuing every medical lead, and yet there seems to be no answers.

Each of these men and women are facing different medical issues. None of them have answers, and all of them are losing hope because there is no light at the end of the tunnel. They all desire to be healed from their maladies so they can function as ‘normal’ people. The temptation to believe that they cannot be ok unless their bodies are healed is very strong. God has a grand plan for each of these people, a plan that transcends simple physical relief, a bigger story that climaxes at redemption. The gospel gives hope to these suffering men and women by leading them to seek redemption over relief, by understanding God’s redemptive story, recognizing the world’s distorted story and following Jesus’ perfect example.

Creation

There was not always suffering and disease. The world that God created was perfect. He created man in His image and gave him authority over His creation. He blessed man with the work of filling the earth and caring for it. He provided man with food from every tree in the garden to enjoy and nourish his body. God designed the perfect companion for man and called her woman. They enjoyed daily fellowship with God. The earth reflected its Creator. There was no shame, no pain and no disease. When the creation was finished God proclaimed, “It was very good.”

Fall

Man rebelled against God and all of this changed. The storyline became distorted by sin (Rom 5:12). Everything fell and the world was radically transformed as sin began its destructive work upon the lines of history. God’s creation was cursed. Man had to labor, by the sweat of his brow, to provide for his family. His relationship with his wife was damaged and the seeds of conflict were sown. It is here that we see pain enter the world as part of the curse associated with childbirth (Gen 3:14). But worst of all the entrance of sin demanded that man be separated from the holy God and sentenced to death. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden. Disease, pain and suffering became a part of the daily expectations of life. No one escapes these effects of the fall.

This should give those who are suffering insight into the source of their suffering. Often people ask, “How could a loving God allow people to suffer like this?” The answer is that God’s justice demanded the curse against sin. Man’s rebellion against God is the cause for suffering. This is not to say your suffering is outside of God’s control. On the contrary God uses the very effects of the curse to draw us to Himself. He did not curse the world for sin without adding to the storyline the hope of redemption and restoration.

Redemption

In the very words of the curse God gave the promise of redemption. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel (Gen 3:15).”[1] This is where Jesus is introduced into the storyline. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Gal 4:4–5).” On the cross Jesus paid the penalty for man’s sin in full and offers His righteousness to those who will turn from their sin to Jesus through believing in Him as their Savior and Lord. Redemption begins the process in which God works in believer’s hearts transforming them into the image of Jesus. This process of sanctification does not bring relief from the physical effects of the curse. In fact it is through the tests of suffering that God gives joy and growth (Jas 1:1-4). God’s plan is not primarily to relieve suffering on this earth but instead to redeem it. Redemption gives purpose to pain and suffering that otherwise would seem purposeless. Elizabeth Wurtzel writes about her desire to have her circumstances match the suffering she felt inside, “That is all I want in life: for this pain to seem purposeful.”[2] Christ gives purpose to that which seems to be devoid of purpose, not always by giving relief, but by promising to redeem our suffering.

Restoration

“Without God’s story, everyone should be depressed, hopeless, and despairing because, with all the counterfeit stories, everything we deeply cherish comes to ruins in the end.”[3] God’s redemptive narrative does not culminate in a battle against suffering in which relief is impossible. He offers something infinitely better. The ultimate purpose of redemption is restoration. Jesus died on the cross to restore the relationship that was broken at the curse. He suffered in this temporal world to purchase eternal restoration with God. The disease, pain and suffering of this world will be utterly obliterated. The 20th Century Anglican scholar John Wenhem wrote, “The toils which seem so endless will be seen to have been quite transitory and abundantly worthwhile.”[4] The apostle John records this amazing scene of final restoration, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Rev 21:4).” The rift that was caused by sin will be utterly destroyed when Satan is defeated once and for all (Rev 20:10). God promises to make all things new (Rev 21:1-5). In eternity there will be complete freedom from the curse and the ravaging effects of sin. This restoration is not the end, but the beginning of a new story in a new and perfect world. C.S. Lewis describes this in his last statement in Chronicles of Narnia. As he describes the children’s fear of being sent out of Aslan’s presence and back to their world, the shadow lands, Aslan, the lion that represents God, comforts them by telling them,

“The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.[5]

The world attempts to distort Christ’s work of redemption. It bypasses the focal point of God’s story and offers a substitute relief. Relief is what each person who is suffering so desires, but it is not always best. “Redemption is Christ’s saving work viewed as an act of “buying back” sinners out of their bondage to sin and to Satan through the payment of a ransom.”[6] God desires to redeem man’s suffering by restoring His relationship with them through Christ’s work on the cross.

 

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[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are from the ESV translation.

[2] Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America (New York, N.Y.: Riverhead Books, ©2000), 50.

[3] Edward T. Welch, Depression: Looking up from the Stubborn Darkness (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, ©2011), 227.

[4] Ron Rhodes, Why Do Bad Things Happen If God Is Good? (Eugene, Or.: Harvest House Publishers, ©2004), 225.

[5] C S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, vol. 7, The Last Battle (New York: HarperTrophy, 1994, ©1956), 228.

[6] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Bits & Bytes/Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 1253.

Life in the Shadows

Imagine spending every day in the shadows. Knowing you can’t feel or touch anything. An emotion of hopelessness presides over every day. You have no energy to accomplish anything. Your mind feels numb. You can’t remember what it feels like to have a good day, to experience pleasure, or to accomplish something. You feel haunted by your past, empty, unwanted, unclean, shameful, and guilty. One question continues to plague your mind, “Where are you God?” This question’s theme and variation play in your mind creating a torturous cacophony. “Do you hate me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” “Why are you so far away?”

When we go through life feeling like this we often believe that God doesn’t care. This thinking must have echoed in the mind of the woman with the hemorrhage of blood described in Luke 8:40-48. This woman had lived life in the shadows for 12 years. Her bleeding had rendered her perpetually unclean according to the Old Testament Law (Leviticus 15:19-30). This meant that she could not go into the temple to worship. Anyone that she touched would be unclean. Anywhere that she sat, laid, or slept would be unclean. This would have literally relegated her to the status of a leper, except a leper had the white flesh and companions outside the city. She had to announce her embarrassing condition to everyone who drew near, and as far as she knew she was the only one to suffer with this ailment. She lived in her own personal hell of loneliness. In the beginning she must have attempted to keep her relationships, but now it wasn’t worth it. All her friends and even family had left her long ago. They couldn’t deal with the continual uncleanness of this tortured woman. She felt like she was alone in the world rejected by everyone, accepted by none

Her distress about the perpetual uncleanness that plagued her is evident, “She had spent all of her living on physicians.”(Luke 8:43) Imagine her despair as she walked out of the office of the last doctor having spent her last penny and was still without hope after 12 years with this affliction. These years must have felt like an eternity. 12 years without personal contact. 12 years rejected by men. 12 years without friendship. 12 years of emotional and physical pain, shame with absolutely no hope of recovery. Her shame must have brought her into deep anxiety and depression. Her uncleanness impacted everything she touched. She must have had a feeling of deep despair. It was in that place of despair that she heard about Jesus the healer. Some even said He was the Messiah. She went and found Him. The crowd pressed around Him. Jairus, a respected man in the synagogue, spoke with Jesus. She stood in the shadows and listened wanting to speak, but couldn’t find the words. Her mind screamed, “How can you, a woman condemned, unclean, a woman with such a burden of shame, go and speak to such a respected man? You might contaminate Him. You are not worth the effort?” But through her tortured thoughts she heroically devised a plan, “If only I can touch the hem of His garments I can be healed and He will never know.” She began to press through the crowd. Guilt and shame must have racked this painful journey as she squeezed through the crowd leaving every person she passed unclean by the OT Law. Finally, she could see Jesus. With boldness and faith she reached out and touched the outer edge of His robes. At that instant the bleeding that had continued for 12 years rendering her unclean, ceased. Imagine her joy as for a moment she could imagine life without the horrible disease. But then it all came down upon her when Jesus called out, “Who touched me?” She must have felt guilt and remorse for what she had done. Would He punish her? She retreated into the shadows hoping He would ignore what had happened. All of the pain that she felt before was now intensified by guilt. She had hope when Peter confronted Jesus with the fact that everyone was touching everyone in this large crowd. But Jesus continued to ask, “Who touched me, I felt power go out from me?”

Finally in shame she fell before Him trembling, afraid to look into His eyes she explained her story through tears. Her greatest fear had become a reality. She was expecting a rebuke, expecting the crowd to recoil from her as she had seen happen all too often in these past 12 year. But instead Jesus called her, “Daughter.” She heard words of acceptance, joy, and relationship. This was not what she had expected. Her agonized heart felt warmth. He had not rejected her. In fact He had called her daughter. She who had been an outcast, unclean, shameful was now accepted as a daughter. But Jesus wasn’t done yet. “Your faith has made you whole.” Not only did He accept her, He praised her. She was no longer the walking mistake, a mystery to doctors. She was proclaimed a woman of faith. Then Jesus said to her, “Go in peace.” Words that just a few minutes ago would have caused her to laugh. Peace was the furthest thing from her life. But within seconds of meeting this Jesus she had peace. Jesus hadn’t just healed her physical ailment; He healed her emotional and even her spiritual ailment. She had spent all her money to find healing. She had travelled far, been to every doctor, and tried every remedy. She had pressed through the crowd, endured the shame of being pointed out by Jesus, and now for the first time in 12 long years she felt relief from her pain. She had exchanged her uncleanness for cleanness. Her faith had made her well.

What a beautiful story to help those of us struggling with depression, chronic pain, shame, and anxiety. We feel like outcasts. Some who struggle with anxiety and depression feel as if they told anyone their story they would be thought of as crazy. Men and women who struggle with sin run from the stain that will most assuredly follow them. Those who have been abused cower in the shadows in fear that the sin perpetrated on them might just spill out on everyone. Fearing to speak for fear they may be taken advantage of again. They look at the Jairuses that have it all put together, enviously wishing that they could be like them, but discouraged when they face the “reality” of their circumstances. Some feel unclean because of their own sin, others because of what someone has done to them. Yet, Jesus invites all who are struggling to come to Him and become clean. On the cross He became unclean. He bore more shame than any man can imagine. As He who knew no sin became sin for us, He bore the sin of every man on that cross, every evil thought, rape, genocide, and murder. He took them all upon His back. He bore our shame, guilt, and pain. The just died for the unjust so that the unclean could become clean, so that the stain of sin could be removed once and for all.

Today if you are struggling with depression, pain, shame, guilt. If you’ve asked that question, “Where are you God?” I want to remind you that He is there waiting for you to reach out in faith and “touch His garment.” There is peace at the cross. If this feels like something that you couldn’t do by yourself ask a friend to walk through it with you. There is no giant “easy button” for years of guilt, shame, and depression. Talk to your pastor or a godly friend in church. The healing may take time. This process in our lives takes time, but the Gospel works. Jesus makes the broken whole, the unclean clean. He brings you into His family, commends your faith, and offers you peace that can’t be taken away.

Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Change of Plans for Tubing Tomorrow 3/14/15

Due to the wonderful warm weather that we have been experiencing, we are not able to go sledding tomorrow. Instead, we are looking forward to hiking on some of the beautiful trails Castle Rock has to offer. See you at the church at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

Pastor Josh

Time Change

Spring-Forward

Don’t forget to set your clocks 1 hour forward tonight before you go to bed.

Pastor Josh

February 22 Services Canceled

Due to the snow we have already received, as well as the forecast for more snow continuing until Monday, we are going to cancel all of our services for tomorrow, February 22. I encourage each of you to spend time together with your families around the Word of God. If the weather lets up tomorrow morning and the roads clear we will send out another email and make calls to let you know that we will be having services. Have a wonderful Sunday.

Pastor Josh

Rescheduled snow tubing activity to March 14th

Dear Church Family,

We are going to reschedule the snow tubing activity for this Saturday to March 14th due to the anticipated snow storm. This will enable us to have more people attend the activity. If this storm winds up being what they anticipate it to be I don’t think we would enjoy being out in the weather anyways. If you have any questions call the church @ 720-733-9227 or email Pastor.

Again, the new activity will be March 14th.

Pastor Josh

Disciples Making Disciples

After Jesus’ baptism He began His earthly ministry by calling his disciples. The first two were John and Andrew.

John 1:36–39 “36 and he (John the Baptist) looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.”

He invited them to come and see who he was. And when Andrew ‘came and saw’,

John 1:40–41 … He immediatly found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).”

Jesus immediately began to give these men new purpose. To Simon Peter, the loudmouthed fisherman he said,

John 1:42 “…“You are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).”

This name change began to lay the foundation for Peter’s future ministry. Jesus began to call these men to a new purpose. He went on seek out and call Phillip, “Follow Me.”

Phillip immediately responded with this new purpose, went and told Nathaniel, “We have found the Messiah.” Nathaniel initially did not believe but Phillip encouraged him, the same way Jesus had invited John and Andrew, “come and see.” After Nathaniel had spoken with Jesus for just a few moments he responded.

John 1:49 “… “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!””

Jesus continued to cultivate his relationship with these men. They learned from his teaching. They experienced His miracles. They heard his prayers. They listened to his preaching. They saw him hungry. They watched him weep. They ate with him. They travelled with him. He served them. They did what He had asked, “Follow me and you will see.”

And after about 2 and a half years of following Peter finally saw that Jesus wasn’t just a mere prophet from which they could learn. But he confessed his belief, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Jesus’ response to Peter’s statement of belief must have reminded Him of this first meeting when he had changed his name to Peter.

Matthew 16:18 “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Just a few short months later. The disciples hopes and dreams were shattered. The each abandoned Jesus as wicked men falsely accused and crucified Him. They watched him die, they buried him, they mourned for him. But 3 days later Jesus rose from the grave as he had said. He immediately began to show himself to his disciples. But Peter felt like he couldn’t follow any more. He demonstrated this by saying,

John 21:3 “… “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.”

The next morning Jesus called out to them, Do you have any fish? They answered, “no.” Then Jesus told them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. And when they did their nets were full. Peter immediately put on his coat and dove into the sea just to be with Jesus. Later as Jesus sat and spoke with Peter, He began to call him again. He asked him, “Peter do you love me more than these?”

Peter replied, “Yes, Lord you know I love you.” Jesus then commanded him, “Feed my lambs.”

Jesus asked again, “Peter do you love me?”

Peter responded “Yes, Lord you know I love you.” Jesus answered, Tend my sheep.

Then he asked a third time “Peter do you love me?”

Peter was grieved and he replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus went on to tell Peter the death that he would die and he called the discouraged and disheartened Peter with the same call that he had called his disciples with 3 years earlier, follow me. Peter then talked back and asked. What about John? What will happen to him? Jesus responded,

John 21:22 “… “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!””

The last words that we have recorded from Jesus directly to Peter were those emphatic words. You follow me! And he did. At Pentecost only just a short time from this event Peter stood in the power of the Holy Spirit and boldly proclaimed the gospel.

Acts 2:36 “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.””

The crowd was cut to their heart and asked, “what shall we do?”

Peter responded,

Acts 2:38 “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

And they did. That day the church grew from a few followers in an upper room to over 3,000. And their resulting fellowship was characterized by,

Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

And it spread

Acts 2:47 “…And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Why? because the disciples had become disciple makers. They had followed Jesus. They had learned from him. They had believed in him. He encouraged them when they were ready to give up. And they began to obey his final command to be disciple makers. Will you follow Jesus by becoming a disciple making disciple by beckoning  others to Come and See the Christ?

Preaching Without a Pulpit

Preaching ought to be the natural response to our relationship with Christ. Like the shepherds after hearing from the angels and seeing Jesus the Messiah.
Luke 2:20 “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
An unnamed leper plead with Jesus to heal him. Jesus responded with the unthinkable and touched him. With Jesus’ touch the man was healed. Jesus then told him not to tell anyone and this was the man’s response.
Mark 1:45 “But he went out and began to talk (preach) freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.”
Like the Demoniac of Gadara, a man who had been possessed by a legion of demons. After Jesus cast out the demons and healed him, he began to follow Jesus. Jesus told him…
Luke 8:39 ““Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.”
Like the people who brought a deaf man with a speech impediment to Jesus. Jesus took him aside and healed him. Then he…
Mark 7:36 “And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.”
Shortly after Pentecost the Apostles were arrested and asked to stop preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. This was their response.
Acts 4:20 “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.””
When Paul’s explained why he preached he said…
1 Corinthians 9:16 “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
However, many if not most Christians lose their zeal for preaching the gospel shortly after salvation. Or at best they intermittently preach the gospel when it is convenient. We shirk from our responsibility because we are shy, nervous, or afraid. Paul encouraged Timothy his son in the faith…
2 Timothy 1:8 “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,”
This was not something that Paul just said. It was something he lived for …
Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
and consequently died for…
2 Timothy 1:12 “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”
You may say, “Pastor isn’t that the job of preachers and evangelists.” My response to that is yes it is. It is our privilege to preach the word as a full time vocation. But I also want to remind you that you are called, “Preach the Word without a Pulpit.” Jesus gave us the great commission, which applies to every believer.
Mark 16:15 “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim (preach) the gospel to the whole creation.”
This is what the shepherds did and they were not preachers. This is what the Demoniac of Gadera did and as far as we know he wasn’t an evangelist. That’s what the leper did and he didn’t preach for a living. This is what the people who brought the deaf man to Jesus did. And they were not pastors.
Preaching the word ought to be the natural response of someone who has been transformed by the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is our reasonable service.