No More Sour Grapes
Do You Want To Be Made Well
The sermon was preached by Timothy Williams.
The following is a sermon transcript read by a professional reader.
Do You Want to Be Made Well?
We will talk about whether we want to be made well from our sins or not. We will look at a healing that took place, and how Jesus asked this man a very strange question.
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. (John 5:1–5)
Now, you would think this man would have been ready to be healed.
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)
Now, we think that would be a very strange question. Would you expect the man to say, “No, I don’t want to be made well”? Yet God comes to us all the time asking us whether we want to be made well or not. We will see that this man didn’t respond and say, “Yes, I want to be made well.” He offered excuses and justifications as to why he was not well. Let’s see how this whole business of excuses goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:8–9)
God knew exactly where this man was at, didn’t He? But, He wants man to admit where he is. God is asking, “What condition are you in?” We’re so busy hiding behind our excuses, reasons, and justifications. We’re hiding among the trees trying to keep God from seeing who we really are. We think he really doesn’t know. Yet, God is waiting for them to come out into the open and say, “This is where we are. This is the condition we got ourselves in. We are fully accountable. We did it!” Then, God could have worked deliverance and healing at that point. But, that is not what happened.
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:10)
We run and hide from our sin rather than just come out in the open and say, “We sinned. This is what we did.” The time for running has come to an end. Jesus Christ comes to each one of us and asks if we want to be healed. Instead of bringing back excuses to Jesus Christ, let us admit that we need and want to be healed. A lot of people don’t really want to be healed of their problems. No matter how much they say they do, they don’t because Jesus Christ offers us the answer. The time for the guilt must stop. The time for hidden excuses has passed.
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Genesis 3:11)
You won’t hear, “We’re sorry that we sinned against You.” They weren’t clear and to the point. They offered excuses, but they didn’t say, “God, You are correct. We sinned and need to be delivered.”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (Genesis 3:12)
Who did he blame? In one sentence he first blamed God and then he blames his wife! “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” You refuse to admit you are at fault or that you are guilty. Jesus Christ came to this man who waited at the pool and asked him, “Do you want to be made well?” Yet all he did was offer a bunch of excuses! It goes right back here to the Garden. The excuses have to stop! It can’t be because of any outward circumstances or anybody else. Adam should have just simply said, “I sinned. You are correct. I put myself in this position.”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” (Genesis 3:13)
Do you see how God wanted to dialogue? He asked for conversation. He knew the answer and what the truth was, but He needs us to come into the light and say that we are guilty. Then He can begin to forgive us. But, as long as we hide it, justify it, or excuse it, or our pride gets in the way and we can never get the healing that God has for us.
“What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13)
By now God is fed up with this. He doesn’t even bother to ask the serpent what caused him to do it, and the serpent is the only one who could have said, “The devil made me do it!” God said, “Forget this! You’re out of here!” He pronounced the judgment and discipline, didn’t He? He hopes that as we go through the discipline and misery of our lives that we will stop, consider, and say, “Look, we got ourselves into this mess and we need to be delivered.” That is why bad things happen to bad people.
One thing good about the cross and the good news of Jesus Christ is that a lot of talk can just be over with. It is where we can just simply say, “Yes, we are guilty. Yes, we need to change. Yes, we are stubborn.” Then we can ask for the mercy and grace to give us a soft heart. But, as long as we have an excuse, a justification, or blame somebody else, we will never change. It is really that simple.
We need to let God come to us and speak this to us individually because we all have excuses. We all have justifications, and they all come easy to us. It is part of who we are—it is in our nature. It wound up in the Garden and we are just continuing to eat that fruit every single day.
The word of the Lord came to me: What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: “The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? (Ezekiel 18:1–2)
Here was this nice little saying. This excuse was being refined. It sounded noble—like a proverb. “The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Simply put, the proverb was this: “I have a generational curse in my life and it is having an effect on me and I can’t get out of it,” or “The reason I do what I do is because somebody else in the past ate sour grapes and my teeth are set on edge.” It is simply saying as Adam said, “The woman you put here caused my teeth to be set on edge.” We blame anything but ourselves. Look at what God said in verse three:
As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. (Ezekiel 18:3)
No longer are we to say, “My work situation caused me to sin,” or “The demands of this situation caused me to sin,” or “This person caused me turmoil.” We can no longer blame other things for our trouble. He is the living God. He has the power and the grace. We can rise above those situations. There simply is no excuse. If I fail, I fail. It is my fault—it is my heart. It is because my walk wasn’t what it needed to be. Somewhere in me, in my flesh, my sin came alive. I cannot blame my wife, Carla, nor can she blame me. My children can’t even blame me.
For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die. (Ezekiel 18: 4)
You see, we are in a one-on-one relationship with God, and we are accountable to Him. He can give us grace in any circumstance to say “No” to any sin. You just can’t keep blaming everybody and every circumstance for all of the misery and sin in your life. Somewhere along the line we have to stop and say, “Okay, either I will change, or I won’t. Do I want to be made well by Jesus Christ, or don’t I?”
Even if it was true that your parents caused all of this trouble in the past or circumstances forced you into your situation, He can still forgive and deliver you from that today. He is the living God. That is why He said, “As surely as I live, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel.” The last thing we should be hearing from one another’s lips is excuses. That is the very last thing! When we begin to give excuses and justifications, the rest of the body should swarm in and say, “Forget it! There is a living God here.” He doesn’t need that excuse.
Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right.
He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or lie with a woman during her period. He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. He does not lend at usury or take excessive interest. He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between man and man. (Ezekiel 18:5–8)
God is specific about everyday details, isn’t He? He doesn’t bring up broad situations: “Where were my parents?” “My work situation was so bad—I had no choice.” It comes down to the small, everyday interaction between people. He says, “Here is a righteous man who does these things on a daily basis.”
He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign Lord. Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things (though the father has done none of them): He eats at the mountain shrines. He defiles his neighbor’s wife. He oppresses the poor and needy. He commits robbery. He does not return what he took in pledge. He looks to the idols. He does detestable things. He lends at usury and takes excessive interest. Will such a man live? (Ezekiel 18:9–13)
Again, down to very specific things of every single life. He says, “Look, he can break every single commandment, and he alone will die for what he does.”
He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head. But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things. (Ezekiel 18:13–14)
You see that’s the whole business about excuses. So, you grew up in a bad environment—what should it compel you to do? It should compel you to live and make yourself good, righteous, and holy. But it doesn’t. Instead, you use it as an excuse. Adam should have turned to his wife and said, “You’ve made a drastic mistake and I won’t partake of it.” But, there was something he wanted out of the deal. He wanted his flesh fed in some way. The reason we use excuses is because we don’t really want to be made well. We want to continue on in our sin, and that’s why we have all these refined excuses and justifications. We have all kinds of doctrines allowing us to keep our sin. Instead of just simply saying, “This is sin and God needs to deal with it so I can be delivered from it,” we make excuses because we don’t want to give it up. We don’t want to go through the wrestling process that will allow us to get the strength to want to give it up. “His blood will be on his own head . . .” That is what you need to say to yourself; “If I sin, if I cave in, it is only my fault.”
But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things: He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife. He does not oppress anyone or require a pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. He withholds his hand from sin and takes no usury or excessive interest. He keeps my laws and follows my decrees. He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live. (Ezekiel 18:14–17)
When I stand before God it won’t be Carla and me standing before God. It will be just me standing before God and Carla standing before God. I will not use my father as an excuse or anything else. It is just one-on-one, between me and the living God. He is more than sufficient to heal me. He can give me the grace to stand up and be strong. “He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live.” It is time for us to stop letting other people put a guilt trip us on. Yes, we all make mistakes and commit sins. If we fully repent of those sins, then we need to stand up and say, “Stop using me for your excuse! You need to be holy. You have to answer to God, and we all need to change. Welcome to the club! But, I am not your excuse and you are not my excuse.” When we give excuses about circumstances, people, parents, friends, neighbors, or work associates we really blame God because He is the one that has determined when and where we live and who we associate with. So, you are saying to God, “You put me in the wrong place. You made a mistake. I sinned because of You!” That is exactly what Adam said to God. So, if somebody uses me for an excuse for their sin, they are really blaming God because He arranged our relationship a long time ago—before the universe was created.
And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. (Acts 17:25–26)
“He is not served by human hands.” God made everything. Everything is in His control. He put you in the exact place where you live for a purpose. God determined a long time ago that this is the address where I would live, and these are the people that I would associate with. He determined a long time ago who my parents would be and that I would be raised in that environment. He knew well in advance what would take place. If I blame them or circumstances, I blame the living God. I tell Him to His face, “You made a mistake. You don’t know what You are doing. You’re not loving. You put me under this pressure. You are to blame for my sin.” Verse twenty-six again: “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”
Now, the reason for this is verse twenty-seven. “God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” I know this is tough to accept, but the truth is, if you grew up in a miserable situation, then God knew you needed that miserable situation to cry to Him. He knew you needed the discipline. There was something that needed to happen. If you were raised in a different environment, then He knew that was exactly what you needed. He formed and made you to what you should be so that you would cry out to Him. So, not only are they not excuses—they are blessings! He determined it in all of His wisdom. He knew best where you should live and what you should go through. He knows the pressure He should apply so you would cry to Him and seek Him. So, no matter how rough the situation is, we should just fall on our knees and say, “Lord, where are You?”
God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:27)
Infinite love and infinite wisdom put people together in all of the ways He could do that so that man would just simply fall down and say, “Where are You? Help me and deliver me.”
But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people. Yet you ask . . . (Ezekiel 18:18–19)
It is amazing how we argue with the Holy One.
Yet you ask, “Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?” Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. (Ezekiel 18:19)
How we complain against God, because we think our excuses are justified. We think the pressure was so severe and the situation so terrible that we have some justifiable excuse as to why we sin. So, we have this constant blame game going on and the truth is that we all can blame each other all of the time because we are all guilty and sin against one another. There will always be something you can find. There isn’t a day that I’ve lived such a perfect life that somebody could turn to me and say, “You did something,” or, “You caused this in my life,” and I could say, “I’m totally innocent. I didn’t do anything.” The blame gets to stop, and this is the good news. You finally get to say, “None of this matters and none of the outward circumstances caused me to do anything. I just did what I did! I just turned my back on the living God, and I am the one fully to be blamed!”
The soul who sins is the one who will die. (Ezekiel 18:20)
Over and over again God has to say it. He tries to cut through the excuses, doesn’t He?
The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him. (Ezekiel 18:20)
It is very simple! Think of the people who have gone through concentration camps and wound up serving and following God through those circumstances. The circumstances didn’t matter at all. The worst circumstances you can think of can lead you closer to God. You could go to the worst church on the face of the earth—the most false church that is in this state—and worship there and find God closer there than somewhere else. It can drive you to cry out to Him. It can drive you to ask, “Where are you?” We have to quit blaming everybody else for our problems.
But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. (Ezekiel 18:21)
People don’t like the forgiveness of God, either. If you play the blame game, then you don’t want to be around somebody else who says, “I no longer have an excuse. I have sinned, and I have repented. I am going to change.” They don’t like those kinds of people! They don’t want to think that God says, “I will not remember any of your sin,” because they want to hold a few sins against you. They want to see and justify every time they blame others in their own life.
None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. (Ezekiel 18:22)
Not a single offense will be remembered—not a single one! So, there is grand freedom in saying, “I will no longer keep an excuse. When I sin and my flesh is there, I can step into His forgiveness and it’s over with. I can begin the process of repenting and changing my life because the excuses have stopped.
None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Ezekiel 18:22–23)
Ah, but do we want to be made well? Do we really want His forgiveness? That is the question! Think about it. A couple will get into an argument, and she says, “Don’t yell at me! Don’t get angry!” Then the husband says, “But you did this…!” We want to continue to hold onto our excuses and justifications, so we don’t have to say, “I was in sin when I was angry,” because then we have to change.
But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? (Ezekiel 18:24)
This is also a side of God’s grace people don’t like. We want to think that we can come to God with our excuses. Oh, we admit just enough sin to get His grace and peace, so we admit those kinds of things, but we don’t want to think that if we do wicked things God will not continue to forgive us. We have our excuses and reasons, and we twist Scripture in order to keep ourselves justified.
None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die. (Ezekiel 18:24)
This is a battle for faith throughout our whole life. If we become unfaithful, then every single sin that we committed will be remembered. This is the grandness in Jesus Christ, and when I come to Him and give Him everything, none of my sins will ever be remembered. But, if I turn from that faithfulness and righteousness, then every sin I ever committed will be recalled.
Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is not just.” Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? (Ezekiel 18:25)
“Oh, that is too mean! That’s too hard! It is too narrow!” “Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust?” How practical is this? How simple can this be? If you sin, you will die for your sin. If you repent of your sin, you will live! If you decide to trust in your righteousness and not continue in faith, and then you go back to sinning—you will die for it. That is just and proper. It is not complicated, but very clear! Remember the gospel you were called to.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the fore- knowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:1–2)
Look at that word: “Obedience”! This is not some Old Testament law. We are not looking at something called legalism. We are looking at the very heart, at the shadow, that pointed us to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When I come to Jesus Christ and He asks me, “Do you want to be made well of this?” and if I say, “Yes, I want to be made well of this. I am sick and need the healing touch of Your hand. Yes, I am guilty,” then I am given the obedience and the grace. The blood sprinkles me. I am able to be obedient to Jesus Christ.
I will pick up my mat and begin to walk. “For obedience to Jesus Christ.” So, when we talk to people about Jesus Christ, though they claim to be Christians or don’t, we lead them to obedience. We are talking about obedience and the freedom of walking in righteousness and holiness. We are talking about action. We are talking about purity of heart and mind—everything that has to do with holiness in God. That is what we are given if we will lay down our excuses. It says:
. . . Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2)
Of course! For those who are righteous, seek to be obedient, and no longer walk in their excuses, grace and peace will be theirs in abundance. Think how busy you were in the past running around keeping your excuses propped up. How much energy, time, and arguing in our minds? We run around thinking, “Okay, I will have to sling an excuse or a justification.” We spend all of our time spinning our wheels thinking, “What is the best argument I can lay out so that nobody can see my sin?” In fellowship with other people, I spend most of my time defeating arguments, excuses, and justifications, or listening to the whole thing and asking, “What is your point?”
I hear it all the time; “I don’t know why I did what I did!” I let them talk for about twenty or thirty minutes about why they think they did what they did, and I say, “Now we have discovered why, so what will we do about it?” The excuses have to cease. The arguments have to be demolished. They have to be destroyed because we have been given grace for obedience to Him. That is the freedom and the joy.
If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it; because of the sin he has committed he will die. (Ezekiel 18:26)
Now, don’t think this is just some scary kind of law. “If I slip over there, then I will be doomed to hell.” It means that a heart, committed to God, that says “I will no longer have these excuses. I will let His blood give me life and His grace do its work. So, whether I live or die, I will be with Him.” This is what Paul said:
Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. (Hebrews 6:7)
Right now, God will give you rain. He gives you blessings, grace, and mercy. He gives you time, and answers prayers. He communicates to you and offers you life.
But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. (Hebrews 6:8)
He pours out grace and mercy, and offers His hand to forgive. But, what do you produce? Do you still indulge self? Do you still do your own religious thing and do what you want to do? Are you offering the living God excuses as to why you are not healed? He gives us the grace and mercy. The power is available! But, if all we produce are thorns and thistles, in the end we will be burned!
Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation. God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. (Hebrews 6:9–10)
We see the fellowship again, don’t we?
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6:11–12)
This is a continual thing all the way to the end; walking and living in righteousness, laying down one excuse after another, and finding that rest that says, “No longer will I debate with the living God, I’m just going to say, ‘This is what I need to change and this is what needs to be different.’ I won’t try and get my flesh pleased in any way. I will ask the living God what He wants me to do.” It is really that simple! Do we produce thorns and thistles, or do we offer something of value to God?
But if a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life. Because he considers all the offenses he has com- mitted and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die. (Ezekiel 18:27–28)
Now, the key here is ALL of his offenses! Remember how God listed specifically over and over again certain things? He is trying to point out to us that we need to do the same thing. Paul said that he was not like a man who beats the air! He knew exactly what he was fighting, what he was going for, what he would overcome, and what God wanted to deal with in his life. How many of you are just busy being busy? You don’t have any idea what you are trying to overcome. There should be things in our life where we say, “This is sin, and I want to overcome this in Jesus Christ right now! And then, when I’m through with this, I will go to the next sin and overcome that one. I’ll keep going and going until I have His righteousness, and can just love Him as I need to with a pure heart!”
You have to begin somewhere. Jesus Christ comes to us and says, “Do you want to be made well?” Let us begin to ask that question to one another and people we meet. Let’s forget all of the talk, Scriptures, and debates, and just turn to someone and say, “Do you want to be made well or not?” That is all Jesus Christ wants to know! “Do you want to be delivered from sin and self or not?” That brings it to a conclusion. That brings it down to its essence. Everything else is just a bunch of talk unless we are willing to overcome the sin.
Because he considers all the offenses he has committed and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die. Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is not just.” Are my ways unjust, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust? (Ezekiel 18:28–29)
How we blame God for being too harsh, too narrow, or that He won’t listen to any of our excuses! I want you to bear in mind, as we begin to look at something, if they blame God and say He is unjust, what will they do to us who say that we don’t buy their excuses anymore? There was a guy who visiting here last week. He admitted he was living with his girlfriend. His excuse was that it was because she was looking for God and didn’t have a place to live. Now, to you and I, that seems like the most foolish excuse, but we’ve had just as many ourselves! The excuses have to stop somewhere! Somewhere along the line we have to say, “It will cease, and I will seek after righteousness,” and “Do I want to be made well or not?”
Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. (Ezekiel 18:30)
“Turn away from all your offenses”! Not just the ones you don’t like or are tired of! The world has clinics for that. If you just want to turn away from a few basic sins, then go find those clinics and do it. Are there certain aspects of your life that you just want to clean up and put together, but you want to keep everything else about your life? Then, go somewhere else, because God demands that you give up everything because you are completely wicked. “Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.” Again, this isn’t some legalistic old-time message!
From that time on Jesus began to preach… (Matthew 4:17)
What was His message? It was clear, simple, and to the point. Do you want to be made well? It was this: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. (Matthew 4:17)
In Ezekiel we hear the same message: “Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.” The power to stop sin is now available. It is in Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus Christ can come and demand of us what is impossible. He can come to us and say: “Repent of your sins . . .” because He offers us the grace and the power to overcome those sins. Can this man who is paralyzed at the pool get up? If Jesus Christ had said just, “Get up,” but not have done it in the power of God, the man would have said, “I’m powerless. I can’t get up. I can’t do any of these things.”
But, Jesus Christ offers us the power, and if He can enable a paralyzed man to get up, pick up his mat, and move on, He can give us the power to overcome sin. There is no need for any excuses. There are no justifications for any excuses anymore. It is the very message Jesus Christ began and continued on with. We are to present this with our lives and to other people. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” In Mark 6:12, it says that Jesus Christ sent out the disciples.
They went out and preached that people should repent. (Mark 6:12)
That is the message they went out with— “that people should repent”! But, as long as we use excuses or even Scripture to justify our sin, we’ll never go out and say, “Go re- pent—go change.” When was the last time you were in fellowship with somebody and you got sick and tired of the excuses? Most churches thrive on excuses, it’s almost like they learn from one another new excuses that they can use to justify their sin. Nobody stands up and says, “Shut up, everybody, and just change!” Nobody just says, “This is it—we don’t need any of this talk.” Well, what are we going to do about it? Sit here and moan, groan, and whine about who we are and how nothing can change? Let one person stand up and say, “I’m going to quit what I’m doing today by the grace of God,” and he will be attacked. “You are unloving. You’re unkind. You’re trying to judge the rest of us.” “They went out and preached that people should repent.” A very simple message! So, when I turn to people and they’ve had these sins all their lives and they are enslaved to them, if I don’t offer them a living God, then I’m making a mockery of faith. But, since I know there is no excuse and that they can have the power and grace, I don’t put up
with their excuses. For one thing, God doesn’t put up with my excuses and I thank Him for that.
Ezekiel 18:31 sounds like the New Testament to me…
Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. (Ezekiel 18:31)
The shadow points us to Jesus Christ. If God was able to say this to Ezekiel back then, how much now more through Jesus Christ? If God can demand this under the old law—and everybody thinks that the law is dead legalism—how much more under Jesus Christ now? Besides, under Jesus Christ it is much more difficult. In the old law you just had to refrain from committing adultery. With Jesus Christ, you are not supposed to lust! It takes the divine power, but the excuses have to cease.
Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 18:31)
People are dying with excuses on their lips! Where are the people who turn to them and say, “Shut up! Just shut up! I’m tired of your excuses!”? As we raise our children, we teach them that excuses don’t mean anything. There is power, grace, and the ability to change.
For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live! (Ezekiel 18:32)
Let’s go back to John:
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:1–6)
This is what he said after laying there for thirty-eight years in misery. He complained of weakness and helplessness. He didn’t say, “Yes.”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me…” (John 5:7)
“I have an excuse.” He didn’t answer the question. If we had been lying there and some- body asked us if we wanted to be made well, we would say, “Of course I do, dummy! I don’t enjoy being in this condition.” We would consider it an insulting question. He doesn’t even respond in a normal fashion.
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” (John 5:7)
“It is not my fault that I’m in this condition. Somebody else beats me to it and crowds ahead of me.” “Sir… I have no one to help me…” Jesus Christ was very clear:
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5:8–9)
Why the delay on our part? Why do we hesitate? If He can turn to this man and say, “Pick up your mat and walk,” we can gain the victory we say that we want. We can say, “Yes, Lord, I do want to be made well.”
At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. (John 5:9–13)
How many people don’t have a clue who Jesus Christ is when He shows them kindness? How many people have answered prayers and then have no idea what His demands are, who He is, or anything else? How many people receive the grace, mercy, and the blessings of the Lord, but they still have no clue what He is about? “I don’t know who this guy is. I have no idea who it was” — “for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.” Let us be clear to people as to who Jesus Christ is.
Let us say to them: You might have been touched by God’s grace and received a healing. He might have directed your life. He might have done all of those things—but you still don’t understand who He is. You don’t understand what the demands are. You don’t understand what He is about! To you, He is just another man. He is a worldly Jesus.
Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14)
He found him in church. He found him at the temple sinning. We don’t know what the sin was. He was in church sinning. A lot of people in church sin today because they don’t have a clue as to what Jesus Christ demands and what He is about. “Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, ‘See, you are well again.’” You are made holy. “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” Worse than lying as an invalid for thirty-eight years? There is only one other thing worse. We have to have the Holy Spirit burn His fire within us—the message is “Repent and live, and find it to be life.”
Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been per- formed, because they did not repent. (Matthew 11:20)
Jesus Christ literally stood up and said, “I denounce you because you did not repent.”
You could not deny that the miracles took place and that God did the work. You could not deny that God visited them. They refused to repent.
Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been per- formed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” (Matthew 11:20–21)
Jesus Christ loves to give this comparison. We always have this idea in our mind that this group over here is really bad, but we’re good over here because God gives us miracles and grants us blessings. His spirit really moves among us. We are really holy. He visits us. But, this group over here is really dead in legalism and they are totally gone. Jesus Christ is saying: If I had done the miracles in this group that you look down on, they would have repented—they would have changed. But, I do them among you and you refuse to repent. You refuse to change. You love your excuses. You love your whitewash and justifications.
Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. (Matthew 11:21–22)
We don’t realize the very fact that they could say they had miracles. They could point to all of the powerful things that God did in their lives, and that made them more account- able. I can’t point to all the grand miracles that they could point to. But then, if they had something so grand and powerful from God, then where was the obedience? Where was the righteousness that surpasses? If I am a legalist and walk in legalism, then how come you don’t surpass what I live?
If you have a closer manifestation of the Spirit, then show me a walk that is closer!
And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. (Matthew 11:23)
Do you think they will be lifted up in the rapture—that they will be with Jesus Christ? They think they will be with Him. They look forward to the rapture. They think they are in good standing. “No, you will go down to the depths.” Think of the blindness people walk in because they have their excuses and refuse to preach the gospel that Jesus Christ came to preach. You think you will be lifted up. You think you are holy. You think you will be with God! That is the deception they walk in. They think they are totally fine! Yet, they will go down, He says, to the depths. When we begin to buy into excuses and when our message becomes a message that is not of Jesus Christ, we will believe any lie and any justification. That is why the excuses have to stop in the small things.
That is why Ezekiel listed the small things. Again, watch our conversations with one another. See how we talk about sin. Do we talk about the freedom that says, “I don’t have to have an excuse. I just need to overcome it”? “If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom.” How the church likes to look down on the homosexuals and all of the sexual immorality, and Jesus Christ said, “If I had done those miracles in that town it would be here until today.” “It would have remained to this day.”
But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you. (Matthew 11:24)
You see, what is so sad about all of this is that people want the miracles and the grand things of the Lord. The minute you begin to talk about repentance, many people will turn on you.
Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. (John 5:14–15)
Now, what does verse fifteen say that this man did? Does it say that he went and repented? Did he turn to Jesus Christ and say, “What am I doing wrong?” Did he follow, call Him “Lord,” and say, “Teach me—show me”? Did he ask to even go with Jesus Christ? Instead, the man went out and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Look at the stinking attitude that this man had. You can almost hear this guy saying, “Jesus, You think You are a goody two-shoes, but the teachers of the law—the people who know the Scriptures—they know You are wrong, too. You commit sins.” Here, God showed him grace and mercy. You will show mercy and grace to people. God will answer prayers. He will use you to bless other people. It will happen; you pour out love on them and then demand repentance. But they will not want this part of the message, so they will turn on you. They’ll say, “Your life isn’t perfect! Let me go tell the teachers of the law. Let’s check your life out.” This is all because they do not want to change.
He knew they were looking for Jesus Christ. He knew they were looking for this man. They didn’t want to come in a positive way. Remember, they told the man that the law forbids him to carry his mat. He knew Jesus Christ would get into trouble over this act of kindness. He did it because he did not want to hear the part of the gospel that told him to stop his sinning. Do you want to talk about miracles? Do you want to talk about grace, mercy, and all of the blessings? You will be accepted! But, turn and say, “Okay, let’s stop sinning,” then they will persecute you!
You might as well write it down because this is an absolute fact. There may be a lot of things we can question in Jesus Christ that we are not too sure about, but look at what Timothy says:
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12)
You don’t even have to live it! You just have to want to live it. It doesn’t say, “Anyone who is living a Christian life,” does it? Anyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. You stand up and say that we need to change and repent, and you will be persecuted just for wanting to try! They don’t want you to try! They certainly do not want you to succeed! If you succeed, then every single excuse they have crumbles. If we have a Christianity that works, then they have no more excuses for not repenting. But, if we are all weak and miserable, every church is dead and dry, and there is no hope because there is not a single good church out there—then guess what? We can keep our excuses! If there is something that works, and we have something that needs to change in our lives—then we have no excuse!
This is hard to take! We will show people grace and mercy. We will pray for them. We will seek to bless them, and they will be blessed. But they will turn and begin to slander us. I’ll touch on this now because we will begin to experience this, so we need to be pre- pared. If this guy had been an invalid for thirty-eight years and he was willing to cause trouble for Jesus Christ, how much more will they do it to us? If Jesus, who is holy and perfect, is persecuted because He healed a man, how much will we who do have faults, sins, and make mistakes be persecuted also?
They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn. (Psalms 35:12)
It is a part of the cross! You will be worn out showing people goodness. Your soul will be weary with the whole thing. The tendency will be to run from it. But, love compels and love drives.
Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother. (Psalms 35:13–14)
Look at the love that is poured out for these people.
But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; attackers gathered against me when I was unaware. They slandered me without ceasing. (Psalms 35:15)
I am here to tell you that it is absolutely true! You will not even be able to keep up with all of the slander, the bad talk, and the twisting of words. You will not be able to answer every question—there will be so much of it. It is part of the Christian life and—ironically—showing people love.
Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me. (Psalms 35:16)
He spoke about believers who worshipped God. It doesn’t say that they were ungodly. He said: “Like the ungodly… ” (like those who don’t believe in Jesus Christ.) “They maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me.” Look at the emotion and zeal with which they will slander the acts of good you do. It is all because of one simple thing; you are saying, “Repent!” It is all because you simply say that the excuses do not matter anymore, and they will slander you! You will show them kindness, healing, and the way of life. Indeed, they might even experience it just like this man did. But, when you come back to them in the temple, at the church, saying, “It is time to repent and change,” then they will go out and mock and slander you, especially when you stumble. And, you will stumble! James is very clear, “We all stumble in many ways.” Let us hope that there is a body that catches one another as we begin to stumble. Know this—you will not be able to escape the persecution or the slander, and it will take place. Do not be unsettled by it. Keep your peace! You don’t have to answer all of their questions.
You don’t have to answer any of their questions. As a matter of fact, you owe them nothing. It is very simple, “I know and am in love with Jesus Christ, and you will not move me from it. He gives me the grace and the power and the ability to change, and I will not be moved from that. Slander me all you want. If you can’t find something to slander me about, just make it up. I will give you a list!” Indeed, if I answer their ten different slanders and ten different questions, they will make up ten more! Just love them enough to preach the gospel, to go about fasting and mourning for them, and to continue to love them. They are enslaved just as much as we were.
The question is: Do we want to be made well? Let us hope and pray so.
The message can be found at www.luke1425.org
If anyone does not love the Lord–a curse be on him.
Come, O Lord ! (1 Corinthians 16:22)