What? I Really Have to Change?
I have to really give credit to a lot of people who come into the church for this sermon. I have to give credit to some of you that are still in this body for the sermon today. The title of it is, “What? I Really Have to Change?” It’s hidden in the question of why we’re so small, why people don’t like us. We have people say a lot of times, “Our church preaches the same thing.” And they’ll say, “I don’t know what you do that’s so different from anybody else. You’re saying the same thing that I’ve heard over here.” So I decided it’s not coverings, it’s not the fact that we’re small or the fact that we do something a little strange or a little different. It comes down to one thing: you really have to change. It’s like people are continually surprised at the fact that all of a sudden you really do have to change. You really do have to become different. It’s like you can put it off forever and ever. So the only thing that really makes us different from any other church or any other group of people or makes us different in terms of fellowship is eventually there’s a line there that says you either change or you go. And that’s what’s not there in most churches. You can talk about righteousness, you can sing about it, you can preach about it, all those things, but when you finally start to say, “Okay, now do it. Now change,” that’s when everything begins to go into turmoil.
Acts 24:22 – Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way . . .
That is, he was well acquainted with Christianity. He knew all about it, he knew its doctrines, its teachings, its movements, its revival, all those things that had taken place he knew well of them. I don’t know if he knew the story of Annanias and Saphira or of all the different things he knew or the fact that they had everything in common. But whatever the case is he’s well acquainted, he understands clearly the doctrines or the idea or the concept about Christianity.
Acts 24:22 – Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. “When Lysias the commander comes,” he said, “I will decide your case.”
Paul is being brought before him, he’s going to decide what to do with Paul.
Acts 24:23-24 – He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs. Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus.
So he’s acquainted with the way and now he’s going to hear a sermon from probably the preacher of Christianity and Paul’s going to explain to him, “Okay, this is what it means to follow Jesus Christ. This is what it would mean to have faith in Him or to belong to a church or to say you’re a Christian.”
Acts 24:25 – As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now!”
Now he was able to study all about Christianity. He was able to understand it, to no doubt read whatever scriptures or letters or things that were around. But all of a sudden when Paul begins to say, “Okay, this is what faith in Jesus Christ is, it’s one, righteousness, two, it’s self-control, and it’s the judgment to come.” You live your Christian life with the view of the judgment to come in your life. You talk about righteousness and the fact of whether you’re in self-control or not. That’s when Felix becomes afraid and that’s when he says, “That’s enough for now. You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” In other words, “When I’m really ready to change, when I’m ready to give up my simple ways, when I’m really ready to come down and say, ‘Okay this is what I want,’ then I will send for you.” And that’s how most of us are in our sinful nature. “Okay, I’ll continue to work on it, God, I’m praying about it, I’m doing that,” but it’s in our own time table. It’s when it’s convenient for us. But let a brother or sister or the Word come our way and say, “Okay, now is the time you either change or you leave. Now is the time you decide ‘I want God’ or ‘I turn my back on God.’ It’s no longer when it’s convenient for you.” Paul says you either change or become different. “I don’t want any part of it. I’ll send for you when I find it convenient.” Then in verse 26 it says:
Acts 24:26 – At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe,
“You know, listen, Felix, if you become a Christian, God has a wonderful plan for you. He’ll put your life together. He’ll bless you with all kinds of things.” I mean it may not necessarily be a bribe of money, although I’m sure that was part of it. But if Paul were to bring a prosperity teaching that says if you come to God you receive all this money, that’s a bribe. If Paul were to come and say, “Look, God will give you all these blessings and He’ll lift all these things and you’ll be a great man and you’ll be exalted and held up. Your flesh will be fed and all this pride will be puffed up,” that would have been the bribe he was looking for. But when Paul talks about righteousness and humility and self-control and judgment and being afraid before God and humbling yourself, that’s what Felix doesn’t want to hear. In other words, “Get that kind of Christian away from me. Bring me a Christian who will bribe me.” And you know that’s the problem. There are a lot of Christians that will bribe other people into the kingdom. They’ll tell them, “You don’t really have to change today.” They won’t talk about the judgment to come. So it’s like there’s this astonishment, there’s this light bulb that goes off in people’s heads, “You mean I really do have to change?”
What happens so often is people come into the body and they hang around for five or six years but then there comes that point in time when God says, “Look, it’s time for fruit. It’s time for change. You need to change to go to heaven.” “You mean You were really serious about this? You weren’t just discussing it?” It wasn’t a matter of becoming familiar with the Way or just being able to understand Scripture or know the sermon I’m going to talk about next week because you’ve heard it ten times before. Or that you could stand up here and say the same thing I’m going to say before I get there to say it. I mean it really did become serious whether you’re really going to change and become different or not.
In Acts 26:15, Paul talks about how he met Jesus Christ. And we need to ask ourselves whether we’ve met Jesus like this or not.
Acts 26:15 – Then I asked, “Who are you, Lord?”
And that’s what most Christians fail to do. They fail to ask who is Jesus Christ. What is he really about? They’ll ask about the way. They’ll ask about Christianity in general, they’ll discuss it, there’s all kinds of debates, but we never get before Jesus Christ in the prayer closet and say, “Just who are You and what does it mean to follow You?” And we never hear it from Him. We never hear it from the Holy Spirit. Then Paul asked, “Who are you?”
Acts 26:15 – “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” the Lord replied.
So we begin to find out the Christian life or the religious life we thought we were living was really opposed to Jesus Christ. We fought against the message. We persecuted those who did live the message and we sought to silence those who were really seeking after God.
Acts 26:16-18 – Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.
Let’s understand Jesus explained to Paul what His message is all about. Who He is really about and what it really means to take ahold of Jesus and lay hold of His righteousness.
Acts 26:19-20 – So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.
In other words, Paul is saying, “Look, this is really serious. You really do have to change.” I mean the whole message of him seeing Jesus clearly is this: This is what the gospel means. This is what God has said. Now guess what? You really do have to live it. So when we’re astonished and we wake up and when our hearts say, “You mean this is really serious—I really did have to become a different person?” We’ve only demonstrated that we have not been listening to Jesus but just merely doing what we wanted to do. If all of a sudden all these things are expected for you to live, that is you’ve been studying them and examining them and praying about them and you think you’ve been taking them in and then all of a sudden there’s no fruit there. Or God says, “Now I want you to live everything I’ve been teaching,” and it becomes a surprise to you as if it were something new and you have to learn it all over again, you haven’t been listening to Jesus Christ at all. It’s like you’re repeating the same thing over and over again. You see I taught this to you five years ago. Or you learned this six weeks ago but now you act as though you’ve never heard it before in your life. Or you can’t repeat it back to me any more because you don’t understand it. It’s not in your heart. It’s not even in your mind any more. You confessed the sins, you went through the motions, you did all the outward things but it never penetrated the heart to the point that you knew that you were required to live it. That it really did have to be there.
Acts 26:21 – That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me.
They did not try to kill Paul because he was teaching that circumcision shouldn’t be allowed. They didn’t try to kill Paul because he was teaching some strange and different kind of doctrine. The only reason that they tried to kill Paul and lay hold of him was because he was teaching that you had to turn to God in repentance, and then you have to prove that you’ve repented to everybody. Paul is saying, “That’s why they lay hold of me, not because I’m small, not because I don’t look right, not because I don’t say exactly the right thing they may want to hear, the point is I’m just simply saying this is what it means to follow God. This is what the gospel is and guess what? You really do have to live it.” And that’s why they turned to Paul and wanted to seize him and put him to death.
I want you to notice in verse 21 it says they tried to seize him in the temple courts. You go into the church to preach the message that says, “Okay you claim to be Christians, guys, you’re going to prove it” and they will try to seize you and throw you out of the place. Churches do not want to hear that they really do have to change. So the only thing that makes this church different than the church down the street is that you finally take a stand right there and say, “Okay, before you walk out those doors you’re going to live it.” And that’s the only thing that really makes us different. Not that we’re doing anything strange or extraordinary or just totally weird, it comes down to your heart has to be humble, I mean it really does have to be broken. You really do have to know and have a fear in your heart that there is a judgment to come. There honestly has to be a hunger and a thirst for righteousness. I mean we can’t discuss the things forever. They tried to lay hold of him in the temple courts.
In Ephesians 4:17 we find Paul’s message being this total kind of message of saying, “Look, you really do have to change. You can’t wait all eternity to decide, ‘Well, I’ll take care of this problem.’” I mean there just comes that time in your life when God says, “Okay this is it. This is enough. It has to go today.” You can’t be wrestling with the same thing over and over and over and over again. For one thing there are too many things to change. There are too many problems and too many sins that are in my own life. I’d better take care of the ones I know about today because there are hundreds more to be taken care of ahead.
Ephesians 4:17 – So I tell you this . . .
And then he stops and he pauses, and then:
Ephesians 4:17 – . . . and insist on it in the Lord . . .
He’s saying, “You really do have to change. I’m going to tell you this message. I’m going to proclaim this gospel to you. But guess what? I’m going to insist on it Jesus Christ that you really do have to do this. There’s no question about it.” And what is it you have to do?
Ephesians 4:17 – . . . that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
He’s insisting upon it. He wouldn’t leave a church building and just let the people do what they want to do in their own timing and when it’s convenient, change. The letter comes to them. He says, “Okay this is it God. I insist upon it. It must be done. No questions, no delays, no whitewashings, no reasons, no nothing.” And that’s why people leave. Because somewhere along the line we all came to them and said, “Okay, this has to go. This is wrong. This must be changed.” And they refused to change whatever it was.
In verses 18 and 19 he gives us reasons. I mean the scripture doesn’t just leave us void of why we change and what we do is different. But you know you can talk about God’s love and mercy all day long, but if somebody doesn’t want to change they’ll never see it. I see it all the time. You can say, “Look, all God is wanting you to do is give this up that He might fellowship with you. All God is wanting you to do is surrender your whole life and then you’ll get to do things when He tells you to do them that you might have a peace in those.” You can talk about those all day long. You can bribe somebody, so to speak—to put it in worldly terms—to say, “If you do this God will give you all this peace.” But if you don’t want to give it up you won’t do it. He goes on to say in verses 18 and 19:
Ephesians 4:18 – They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.
What’s he talking about? He’s saying, “Look, this is God’s love. And the reason that I am insisting that you must not live like the Gentiles do is in order that you might have a life that is in God.” Isn’t he? He’s talking about the good news and he’s saying this is the reason why you are to change and these things are to become different. Because there really is life and joy out there but if you do not want that life and that joy no matter what Paul says you won’t want to change. So you can stand up before churches all day long and say, “This is what you need to change and this is the love and mercy of God” but if you don’t insist upon it it’ll never change.
Ephesians 4:19 – Having lost all sensitivity . . .
Think about that—“having lost all sensitivity.” No longer able to go to the Word of God and have it pierce the heart. No longer able to hear anything from the Spirit in order to be convicted or to be inspired unto life. No conscience any more that says there is a God and you must live in reverence for that God. Nothing in there to convict or to give life. And there are people like that, so hardened and so darkened you can talk about love and you can talk about mercy and you can talk about right and proper and moral things and there really is nothing in there saying this is right.
Ephesians 4:19 – Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
Now the sin he’s talking about is not murder. It’s not something so drastic as embezzling. Just impurity, isn’t it? What’s he saying? They have given themselves over to impurity. They might view religious things but the heart and the motives are all impure. It’s whatever feels good. They have given themselves over to what? Sensuality. There are people that are religious and it feels good to them to be religious. There are people that serve other people and go to old folks’ homes and do all those things because it feels good. On TV they advertise to give to the poor because of the good feeling that it brings. It can be the most noble of things or it can be the grossest of things we can think of. But you see they do what they do without any concept of really who God is or any thought of saying, “My heart must be pure and these things must come under the judgment of God.”
Ephesians 4:20 – You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.
I want you to realize that a lot of people come to know Christ the other way. They come to know Christ thinking you can indulge yourself in impurity. You can give yourself over to sensuality. You can have a continual lust for more and you still think you’re going to go to heaven. That is most of what the gospel calls are today. You don’t see within the body of Jesus Christ people waking up and saying, “What? I really do have to change? I have to become different? I have to stop this what I’m doing and begin to do that which is good?” You don’t find that going on because there’s not that sense of insisting upon it in the Lord. And the reason I’m saying and wanting us to notice that is because what does that mean for us to know that Paul insists we must change? It means that we must go out and we must begin to say that this is what it means to come to Jesus Christ and what you’ve been taught is a lie and it’s wrong. We are under a holy obligation to begin to see with everybody wherever they go to church, with all the words they put out, if you don’t see any change going on there and a real hungering and thirst for righteousness you must tell them what it means to come to Jesus Christ. It’s not enough for us to look at this and to know, “Okay, this is how I have to live.” We need to begin to live it now and then to insist upon everybody who says they are a Christian that they must change. With everybody that says to you, “I am a Christian,” then you must turn to them and say, “Then I insist on it in the Lord that you must not live and do what you’re doing.” To refuse to speak and to say anything is to totally deny the grace that has saved you. It’s not just for you to see who Jesus is. Here’s Paul writing to Christians and he’s saying this to Christians. Who is he saying it to? To a very people who say they belong to God. It’s not a rule, it’s not a law, it’s none of those things. It’s a fire that burns within you to speak it or you don’t speak it. You either have a love for God and for other people and for truth and you begin to speak it and insist on it in the Lord or you don’t have it. It’s a holy love for those who know the grace of God. You talk about that with love. And if we love to insist on things in the Lord in our own life, we’ll love to do it for other people.
Ephesians 4:20-23 – You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
I want to remind you that he is speaking again to Christians. They’re acting as if they didn’t come to know that kind of Jesus. And that’s what’s so easy to happen in our own life. We begin to live and to act as if that’s not the Jesus I was really taught about. So one day we do wake up and say, “I really do have to change. I really have to become a different person.” He’s saying, “You were taught in accordance with the truth. You were taught and it was insisted upon that you must prove your repentance by your deeds. You must get into the prayer closet and you must put to death, you must put off the old self and put on the new self.” Every morning you have been taught that you are to go into the prayer closet and you are to say, “God, here is my old self and I set it over here and I pick up the new self and I put it on here.” And you must understand clearly this is who my old self is and I put him over here and this is the new self that Jesus is trying to put on and I put him on. Do you know the difference of the personalities? The one you’re getting rid of and the one you’re taking? Do you realize that there really is a contrast in your life of saying, “This is what Jesus has called me to be and I’m going to put that on and I’m going to put this off”? You wake up fresh to the battle. You insist upon it in the Lord. Your thinking becomes pure and holy saying, “I’m going to get rid of these deceitful desires, this whitewashed, this corrupt nature that made everything look good but it wasn’t. I’m going to put on the new self that walks in light and in truth and say this is why I’m going to do what I do.” I mean that’s the nature of the gospel.
Ephesians 4:23-24 – to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
There’s a false righteousness and a false holiness. There is a religious worship of Jesus. There’s an intellectual understanding. You may be well acquainted with the way. But when it penetrates the heart, when we get up and we insist and we demand from one another and from other people that they must live according to the pure nature, the new nature that comes from God, then we’re in line with Scripture. What causes people to leave and become full of anger and want to kill the message is when you just finally draw the line and say, “You know we really do have to live this.” Paul says:
2 Thessalonians 3:6 – In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ . . .
I mean what other higher authority can he call down upon in his message? Now I want you to think of your conversation with other people who claim to be Christians. When you turn to them with authority, with a firmness, with a sureness, with whatever, and say, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Now I want you to notice something. That’s a test question. Or a test statement. Because if the name of the Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t mean anything to you, if there is no fear and trembling associated, if you don’t understand the righteousness of God, then when I turn to somebody who has no respect for Jesus Christ and I say, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” and then I begin to add, “that which is true,” onto the end of it, if there’s no understanding really of who Jesus is, the last part won’t mean anything. So when you say, “This is the scripture, this is what we need to obey, this is what Jesus commanded” and they can begin to whitewash that and excuse that and begin to move away from that, what’s that tell you? There’s no respect for the name of Jesus. It’s just words, it’s just a letter.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 – In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you . . .
We don’t find any back and forth kind of discussion here. He says, “We command you.” This comes straight from God. You’re going to do it. This is the name of Jesus Christ and there’s no question about it, you really do have to change. I mean, this is something that you have to live.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 – In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.
Not only is Jesus saying we must live the message and it comes from God and He insists upon it then we are directed to insist that everybody else must live the message too. Ask yourself where is the zeal inside yourself for that? “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” First of all, does that name really have respect in your heart? If it does, if Jesus Christ is really set aside in your heart as Lord then you’ll say the rest. “We command you.” When was the last time you turned to somebody who claims to be a Christian and goes to church and take one commandment, take 1 Corinthians and say you can’t associate with anybody in this land you’ve got to leave them? And to say it in such a way that you really honestly knew you have to live it. And if you don’t live it, if you don’t separate yourself from those people, guess what? “I will separate myself from you.” I mean these are really things that we live and look at and begin to do or it’s a joke. “To keep away from every brother who is idle.” Think about that for a moment. Anybody not productive in Jesus Christ, anyone not living with his full heart toward God, doing everything he does in serving for God, we’ve got to keep away from. We are commanded to do it and we are commanded to command other people to do it. “And does not live according to the teaching you received from us.”
Let’s look at 1 Timothy 6:17. Again I want you to look at the authority with which Paul is preaching. The zeal with which he is saying this stuff is real. You will live it or you will not claim to be a Christian.
1 Timothy 6:17 – Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant
Now when was the last time you saw that lived out? Heard about it being lived out? Heard it from the pulpit? Somebody going to somebody who is rich and you go to them and you say, “I command you not to be arrogant in Jesus Christ.” Then you go on to say,
1 Timothy 6:17-18 – nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
Now two questions arise: one is, is my heart pure enough to do it? Am I pure enough to go to somebody who is rich and command them to be willing to be generous and to share? How many false motives would this scripture be used for if somebody got a hold of it to command rich people to give? To look at rich people and to examine their life and to see if they are rich in good deeds or just rich in money? Do they far outshine the poorest person in the church in terms of a giving heart? And if not, to do what? To command them. To remind them. To demand of them. To say, “Look, you really do have to live this.” It’s an honest thing. Now, again, does the fire burn within us to demand that it be lived? Not whether you’re rich or not. But are we so dead to money, are we so concerned with the needs of Jesus Christ, are we so much in love with His Word, do we so much know that it is really life that we would command other people to do it? Not this kind of soft Christianity that just talks about it and examines it and says what a grand scripture it is, but to say, “You will leave through those doors and you will live it.”
Ephesians 5:1 – Be imitators of God,
Almost nothing else needs to be repeated. That ought to cause enough for us all to say, “I’m not living that.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 – Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Now I want to remind you a life of love not only entails sacrifice and surrender and service. Serving does that. But also commanding people to live the message, doesn’t it? That’s what a life of love is. What did Jesus come to do? What did He preach? “Hey, you’ve got to live this. You want to follow Me? This is what it means. Nobody is exempt.”
Ephesians 5:3 – But among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity,
There it is again. All kinds of impurity. Half motive, second truths, watered down truths. Not even a hint of impurity or of greed.
Ephesians 5:3 – or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
Now again, this is something that has to be lived. It’s not a future goal.
Ephesians 5:4-5 – Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure:
Again, can we see underlining all of Paul’s message? He saw who Jesus was. He understood. This is what the gospel call is. You either live this or you’re a liar.
Ephesians 5:5 – For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
He doesn’t have any. Circle it. Not one foot does he own in heaven. Now if that’s striking us as new, if that’s striking us as something we haven’t yet said in our hearts, “Yeah we’ve really got to live this” something’s wrong. If you haven’t said it with zeal and with fire, if there isn’t that overwhelming feeling of you don’t have anything in Christ Jesus because of the way you live and the impurities with which you live your life, if that doesn’t burn in your heart then you’re walking around and you’re going to be surprised one of these days. And you’re going to begin to say, “What? I really have to live this?” If we can’t say it with fire then we’re going to wake up surprised one day. This really is serious stuff.
Ephesians 5:6 – Let no one deceive you with empty words,
You see the temptation is, the deceit is, you can be these things and still go to heaven. You can still continue in them and be found in glory. That is the false gospel call that goes out. That is what lingers in our sinful nature. You see, that’s what I put off every day. Every day I tell myself this stuff really is true. That I will go to hell. That I have no special privilege with the Man above. I can’t buy Him off. There’s no favoritism. If I don’t live this I will go to hell. We’re going to wake up one day, some of us, and be surprised that this really was something that God said you had to live.
Ephesians 5:6-7 – Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
Any one who says to you that you can be impure, you can have greed, you can be immoral, all those things, anybody who says there can be a hint of sexual immorality in the church and thinks that’s okay, you are not to be partners with them and you are to command other people not to be partners with them. If a man can’t stand up at the pulpit and demand that the women dress in a proper and modest way because of what scripture says and demand that it be lived and enforce it, you’re not to be partners with them, you’re not to belong to them, you’re to rebuke them for the people they are.
In a church where the men cannot stand up and the people can’t fellowship by commanding those who are rich to be generous, you’re not to be partners with them. In a church where the motives of the heart are not revealed for what they are, we are not to be partners with them. Why? Why is that scripture there? Because we know that this is something that really has to be lived. You really do have to be modest. You really do have to put on the new nature. You really do have to be surrendered in all things before God. That’s not an option. In 2 Corinthians 12:21, Paul says:
2 Corinthians 12:21 – I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity . . .
Listen to that over and over and over again. The major sin that rides through scripture is what? Impurity. How do you define the sin impurity? It is such a broad sin. It is such a difficult sin to reveal, isn’t it? I mean it’s obvious to know that when somebody pulls a gun out and murders somebody that it’s wrong. Or if somebody swears and cusses you know that’s wrong. But how do you measure impurity? Because it entails so many things that we do. It takes the Spirit to reveal those.
2 Corinthians 12:21 – . . . and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.
Now here’s a group of Christians that went out and they indulged themselves in debauchery. They went and had just a weekend of fulfilling the flesh, you know, the cross was all they could take and they just went out and indulged themselves. They were convicted about the sin, they knew about it, but you know what? They never repented of it. And that’s what he’s really talking about here. He knows that we all fail in so many ways. But what concerned him was the fact that nobody had repented of it. It might have been five years ago, it might have been six weeks ago, but he’s concerned here that nobody repented of it. They really think that you can continue on in those things or allow those things to crop up and never really have to change.
2 Corinthians 13:1-2 – This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others,
Do you think Paul has drawn the line here? Do you think he finally says, “Look, you will live this or I’m not going to spare you.” Patience isn’t there? Three warnings ahead of time. It’s not like there’s no grace or mercy or love. But the people are being stubborn beyond measure. The truth has been presented. Everything is there. All the words, all the sermons, there’s just nothing more to say. And finally you have to come to a point where you say, “This is it. You either repent and become different or I will not spare you.” We do it with everybody that claims to be a Christian. We warn them in patience, we warn them in love, we come to them over and over again, but there comes that point in time when you have to turn to them and you have to say, “Look, if you do not change, this is it.” It really is something we have to live.
2 Corinthians 13:3 – since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me.
You see their attitude was, “Well demonstrate why we should listen to you. By what authority do you have to tell me to change?” You start living this out and you’ll find out real quick people are going to say it to you. “Who are you to judge? You don’t know how I pray, how I serve. You don’t know all the good things I do.” I mean you begin to tell people you really do have to change and they’ll say, “Who are you to say this to me?” And they were doing the same thing to Paul. It goes on to say, verse 2:
2 Corinthians 13:2-3 – I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.
Now how many churches do you know that know this in reality? Who can turn and really say in their fellowship with one another, “God is really powerful among us.” I do not mean in terms of miracles. I don’t mean in terms of revival meetings or projects. I’m talking about in terms of dealing with people. Where it is so obvious that God is arranging things and working things in the church, the only thing you can come to the conclusion is no man can bring it about. No man could take this one little thing in your life and blow it out into a whole atomic mushroom cloud and show your sin. I mean only God can take the most smallest of things that wind up becoming the largest sin to show your heart. Only He can arrange the circumstances to box you in to show you where your heart is at. And in most places this is a totally unknown concept. They can’t walk around saying, “God is really powerful, look at what He’s doing. How can He do that and work it?” They’re not amazed at what’s taking place. Now the temptation, of course, is to go to those kinds of things where God will not be powerful among you. Verse 4:
2 Corinthians 13:4 – For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power.
What’s he saying? Most Christians look at the cross, they look at Jesus dying for them, they look at all of His love and how He’s hung up there for them. They look at the cross, don’t they? They see Jesus in His weakness. They always see Him in terms of His love and His gentleness and His mercy. I mean they only see one side of Jesus. They never go on to the next part that says, “Yet he lives by God’s power.” That is, they don’t see a resurrected Jesus. They don’t see a Jesus with a judgment to come. They don’t see a Jesus that can give us righteousness and purity. They don’t see a Jesus that can really change our lives. They only see a Jesus who gives us love. To be sure Jesus was crucified in love and in weakness for us, but He lives by the power of God. To lay hold of the cross means I go on one more step and lay hold of the righteousness that will change me to become different. And that God demands that that change takes place.
One of these days your mind really does have to become different. You really have to think like Jesus Christ. You have to be able to quote to me scriptures that show that it’s in your heart. After five years I shouldn’t have to say the same scripture, and remind you that this is the way God works, or this is the mind of Christ, and you act like that’s the first time you’ve heard it. Or I’ve got to explain it all over again. “You mean I’ve got to give this up?” It’s the same thing we just heard not too long ago. Why? Because we never change. We never put on the new nature. We never really did become different in our hearts. We were convinced for some other reason. We changed because we didn’t want to go to hell. We changed because I’m a very logical guy and I can make you say the sky is green out there when it’s blue. We change for any reason but that our heart was touched. We change to please other people. We change just because we couldn’t get our way. We change to hold on to our pride. You see the deceitfulness and the sinful nature has to be put off. And we have to become a people who rejoice in goodness and righteousness and truth. In that purity that says, “I do what I do because it’s of God. And not only do I rejoice in it, I enjoy it. It is a pleasure for me to do these things.” Verse 4.
2 Corinthians 13:4 – For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you.
Paul senses his weakness. This isn’t coming from a man that is puffed up. It comes from a very humble man. And yet look at the way this humble man writes. Look at the things he says and the way that he says them. Because why? The Spirit lives in there. He knows he’s nothing. He knows he’s not God. He knows he’s not Jesus Christ. He just knows that he’s a servant of God whom the Spirit works through. But most people deny that it’s a fact that the Spirit can change somebody. That the Spirit can work through somebody who is weak. And yet that is the very gospel call, isn’t it? I mean the very truth of the gospel is that if we humble ourselves and we weep before God and we confess our sins before Him that He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness and purify us and make a people eager to do good, isn’t it? I mean that is the truth of the gospel.
So when Paul says, “I am weak in Him,” he is declaring the truth. But he’s also declaring the second side of the truth, and that is if I am weak in Him my life will change. Because it’s what Jesus longs to do. It’s what grace reaches down to touch and to make different. And he goes on to say in verse 5:
2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?
I wonder what the test could possibly be? Could it be obedience? Maybe, maybe not.
2 Corinthians 13:6 – And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.
Now why would he write that? Because we don’t want to hear this kind of man. We don’t want a Paul that comes to us and says, “I insist upon it in the Lord that you must imitate God.” We don’t want to hear a Paul that says you must put off the old nature and put on the new nature. We don’t like a man who comes up to us and reveals our hearts for what they are. So we begin to say that he’s not really of God, or he’s really got some other ulterior motives. Or if Paul commands the rich to be generous then Paul’s the one after money. He’s saying, “Test us, examine us, see if we are in the faith. And our hope is, our longing is, that when you have done that test and when you have examined us—because that’s commanded to be done—you will find that we have not failed the test either.” We’re not told to just follow any man and not examine and put to the test. You are commanded and it is your own fault if you don’t test. You are told to look. You’re told to pray. You’re told to see if they live the same message. But what do you have to do first? Verse 5. “Examine yourselves.” You cannot take the speck out of somebody else until you get the plank out of your own eye. And the reason why Paul is misjudged here is because they didn’t examine themselves first. The reason why they couldn’t recognize Jesus in Paul was because they weren’t looking to see if Jesus was in them first. They weren’t asking, “Was the judgment that I have and the speaking that I have coming from Jesus living in me, or from the sinful nature?” Examine yourself and then examine others.
Luke 13:1 talks about this group of people walking around thinking that when bad things happen to other people that somehow they are protected by God. That somehow they’re a little better, a little closer relationship to God than the people who had bad things happen.
Luke 13:1 – Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.
I understand that’s not something that Pilate should have done and what he’s saying is that Pilate came along and put this blood in and defiled their sacrifice before God and their conclusion was the people who were offering the sacrifices were under a curse from God. That because these things happened to them and because this terrible event occurred in their life that somehow they weren’t in a right relationship with God and their only conclusion was it has never happened to them and everything goes right for them and they can have all these blessings and answered prayers, therefore, they are in a right relationship with God. How many times do we fall into that kind of judgment?
Luke 13:2-3 – Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they have suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Just because everything is going fine doesn’t mean that you’ve repented and that you’re really on with the gospel.
Luke 13:4 – Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
Just because terrible events happen to other people that doesn’t mean that you’ve repented. Or because everything is going fine for you that somehow you’re okay. But it really does come down to we need to live the message. I mean it shouldn’t shock us or be a surprise. And then Jesus goes on to talk about fruit. Verse 6.
Luke 13:6-7 – Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’”
Three years is the limit there in the scripture. I’m not saying God has this divine time table up there that says in three years you have to bear fruit, but you know if Jesus limits it to three years, I have a tendency to sit back and first of all take it literally. And then ask if that part is the parabolic part. I mean did Jesus really give just three years to find out if there’s any fruit in our lives before that’s gone? I don’t know. I think it would be best to take it that way. Then you won’t wait six years or seven years to bear fruit.
Luke 13:8-9 – “Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”
I mean there really does come a time in our lives where Jesus says, “Where’s the fruit? Where’s the change? Where’s the purity of heart? Where’s the difference in your thinking? Where’s the zeal? Where’s the fire? Where is the fruit that I’m looking for?” I mean it just gets down to that moment that we really do have to live this gospel.
Now there’s some encouragement in this also. Suppose you haven’t borne any fruit for three years? You might have a tendency to think it’s hopeless, why try? No. You can bear fruit in the fourth year. You can bear an abundance of fruit in the fourth year. Not only that, any fruit is acceptable. Any amount I mean. Anything. He’s just looking for anything to show that there’s a change and a zeal there. If there’s just a small portion of fruit you stay. But the truth is after three years the softening of the heart that must take place and the digging of the soil and the fertilizer must have to be great. The attention to that tree must be severe. Because if you’ve hardened your heart and listened to the same words over and over again, you know you get familiar with it. Not only that, you get to a place where you believe your arguments. It’s very hard to convince yourself you’re wrong, at that point.
Romans 2:9-10 – There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Fine, you’re second in line. It’s the wrong line to be in.
Romans 2:10-11 . . . but glory and honor and peace to everybody who does good; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile, for God does not show favoritism.
If you honestly seek God your life really changes. You will have the peace you long for. Now look at what he says. He goes into law. Look at verse 12.
Romans 2:12 – All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.
That is, if you have a Jew seeking God and he obeys the law and he honestly seeks immortality and he seeks God, he will receive his reward from that. But if he also is under the law and continues to sin he will receive his judgment from the law. For those who are Gentiles, who do not have the law, will receive neither one. See what he’s saying there?
Romans 2:13 – For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
It is those who honestly get down to and are obedient who are declared what? Righteous, that is right with God.
Romans 2:14-15 – (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)
That is, someone who doesn’t have all the scriptures, doesn’t have all the law down but does that which is right is a law unto themselves. They understand the law. It’s written in their hearts. He’s saying, “Look, it’s not those who outwardly hear the law.” You can be Jewish and have all the laws down. You can be Christian and have all the scriptures there but if it’s not in your heart, if that’s not where it’s written you will be condemned. But if those who have never heard the scriptures or only have a portion of the scriptures do what is in their hearts the law has been written in their hearts. They really have no need of this. They don’t need the ink. It’s there, it burns, it’s alive. You know, that’s the measurement of what goes on here anyway. The measurement here in this church, in this fellowship, isn’t whether you’ve got your Bible with you or not. I don’t turn to a sister when she’s dealing with something and say, “Do you have your Bible with you?” And she goes, “Yeah,” and I go, “Okay, you’re fine.” It’s not this that makes her righteous. It’s what’s in the heart that makes her righteous. How much really lives there and how much obedience is in our hearts.
Again it comes back to a fire, and it comes back to zeal. It comes back to me not telling you what’s right or the situation forcing you into doing what’s right, you do what’s right because the fire is there. And you notice what it says? It says the heart condemns, the heart accuses, and yet the heart gives peace. That is, you know what it is. You know the areas that your heart is wrestling with to be obedient in. And you know the parts of your heart that’s saying you’ve succeeded in those things. You know the battle that goes on there that says, “I am honestly striving for righteousness and for love and the grace of Jesus Christ continues to have mercy on me.” You see that law is living, and it’s active, and it’s doing its work. I walk around accusing myself and at the same time giving myself the peace. A proper kind of peace.
Romans 2:16 – This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
He’s not talking about the old covenant here. He’s talking about an obedience to Jesus Christ, isn’t he? He’s saying, “This is what my gospel declares, this is what it’s all about.”
Matthew 11:20 – Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.
How many trials and things, and how many blessings God pours in our lives but our hearts never change. We never become different. How much discipline God puts us under but the heart never changes. We never really say to ourselves, “I really have to change. I cannot do what I have done this time and do it again.” And there is no fruit there. There is no preparation for fruit. There’s no life there. So Jesus does all these miracles, and then He denounces them. He goes on to say in verse 21:
Matthew 11:21-22 – 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.
Now I want to ask something. How many miracles were done in Sidon? None. And yet Jesus declares them innocent. He says they would have repented. Now if God knew that and He brought no miracles to bear in their life and yet He knew they would repent, that causes me to back up and ask a question. All these people that have all these miracles in their life and there’s no repentance there, the miracles don’t mean anything, of course, right? Perhaps God withholds His miracles from those who would really repent. So that their repentance might be more sure, more pure. If they would repent at miracles, how much deeper is their repentance when there is no miracles and the Holy Spirit just keeps piercing the heart? Does God withhold some of His miracles from those who repent the most? And give His miracles in abundance to those who are the most stubborn?
Matthew 11:23 – 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.
What’s he saying? The wrath of God would not have come on Sodom if miracles had been performed.
Matthew 11:24 – But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.
Indeed, God must hold His miracles from those who love Him the most. That their repentance might be more pure. I mean I know one of my prayers is, “God, give me a heart that doesn’t have to be disciplined to change.” I mean what testimony is it to God to wind up on a bed full of pain and full of cancer and all those things without repentance and change? The kind of repentance to have is when everything is fine, you’re full of health and everything is going properly, and yet deep in your heart you know there’s that sin that must go. There must be that purity there. Wrestling with that is much harder.
Let me ask you. How many children have you got ready to spank and they’re ready to repent right there? “I’m sorry. I’ll never do it again.” You can bring the rod and the discipline but you know it’s not changing the heart. I mean the hope is that it will. But for God to never have to lift the rod and to bring just the conviction, just the touch of His Spirit, just His presence, just all the way that He works deep within our soul and to repent at that is a pure kind of repentance. You’ll wrestle much harder with that than you will before the rod. In Acts 5:32 and 33 the apostles say:
Acts 5:32 – We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.
Now look at what the next verse says. It’s what we’ve seen all along today.
Acts 5:33 – When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.
You walk into churches, you walk before Christians and you say, “You know, God only gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him,” and they will become extremely indignant and furious. If you take the issue of coverings to churches, or commanding the rich or any commandment you can think of that they’re not living and you say, “Don’t tell me about how somebody spoke in tongues or about how you felt a moment of the Spirit and all those things. If you don’t obey God you don’t have the Holy Spirit. Because God only gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him.” Then they will become furious. Do it and you’ll find out all the arguments people use from “God’s gift is grace, and it’s free, and it’s full of mercy,” to “Who are you to judge?” and all of those things. Of course you can take them back to Matthew 11 and say Jesus denounced most of the cities where miracles were done. In Hebrews 5:8 and 9 it talks about Jesus:
Hebrews 5:8 – Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered
He learned obedience. It says Jesus Christ learned obedience. He was a Son, He was entitled to everything but He had to wrestle and suffer. Look at verse 9.
Hebrews 5:9 – and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation . . .
Hebrews 5:9 – . . . for all who obey him.
“What? I’ve got to live this to be saved?” You bet. Jesus only becomes a source of eternal salvation for what? Those who will obey Him. Whose hearts will become pure. Whose minds will become different. To people who will become self-disciplined to become a different kind of people. You’re not entitled to, nor do the scriptures say that you’re entitled to, any grace from God unless you’re willing to obey. So we go to Colossians 3:5. And we look at three words. And it says:
Colossians 3:5 – Put to death . . .
It doesn’t say “wound.” It doesn’t say “cripple.” It doesn’t say “blind.” It says you are to put to death. You have one goal in mind, a complete conviction of the things you deal with. They are not halfway tolerable, they’re not halfway justified, they’re not three-quarters okay. They are to literally to be put to death, to bury them.
Colossians 3:5-6 – Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
I’ve seen it a million times. People wound the sinful nature but don’t put it to death. If you wound that man, if you wound that sinful nature it’ll be back alive. The only way you’re ever rid of it is to put it death. You can’t wound it. You can’t cripple it. You can’t halfway tolerate it. It has to go and become different and the mind must be transformed and the body become different. We have to become the holy people that we say we want to become.
In Hebrews 3:12 you’re given a commandment. Every single one of you in this body, every one who claims to be a Christian is given this commandment to live. Look at it. See to it.
Hebrews 3:12 – See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.
You are responsible for every single brother and sister in this body, for everybody you meet, to see to it that they do not have that kind of unbelieving heart. You’re going to have to judge the heart. To walk around with the audacity to say we can’t see the heart. If we can’t see the heart then Jesus Christ in Hebrews 3:12 has given us a commandment that we cannot ever obey. I mean how am I supposed to see if a sister has an unbelieving heart or not, if I can’t judge her heart? How is she going to know whether I’m falling into having an unbelieving heart? People do not realize what that statement is; how contrary that is to the gospel.
Hebrews 3:13 – But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
You are responsible to see to it that no one in this body hardens their heart. And how many times have you come to me and said, “This person said this,” and I’ll say, “What did you say to them?” And you’ll say, “Nothing. I didn’t say anything to them.” And then I’ve got to go through the whole spiel and say, “Well, you call them back and talk to them.” What, are you not responsible? I mean you are to see to it that everybody continues to have a soft heart before God. People at work, anybody who claims to be a Christian, I don’t care where you’re at, if they don’t understand what you’re doing, you whip out this scripture and you take out your Bible and say, “This is what it means.”
If they say, “Don’t quote scripture at me,” you say, “Well, scripture says, ‘Let the Word of God dwell in us richly as we teach and admonish one another with all wisdom and understanding in Christ Jesus.’”
Hebrews 3:12-13 – See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily,
Sorry if I keep bugging you and asking you how you’re doing. Or if you’ve dealt with the sin and I keep reminding you of the fact. I am responsible to see to it, more than responsible, I’d like for you to go to heaven. An unusual motive.
In Titus 2:11 it tells us again, and let’s look at it again, just what the grace of God is. I think we forget. One of the reasons we forget is we hear so much other garbage out there it’s clouded up.
Titus 2:11-12 – For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No”. . .
So when somebody says, “The grace of God will cover you,” say, “The grace of God is teaching you to say ‘No.’”
Titus 2:12-14 – . . . to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
The result of grace in my life builds a fire there that says, “I can’t wait till I’m able to bring this body under submission. I can’t wait for this opportunity to do what is good.” You’re eager to do it. You don’t have to be forced into, drug into, bribed into it, you’re just eager to do it. Now listen, only a heart that is changed, and a mind that has been transformed and somebody taking off the old nature and putting on the new nature will find this scripture to be true. It really will become your joy to think like Jesus Christ. You’ll no longer be desirous to do the worldly passions that the world does. You know what I’m saying? You only do that which you enjoy, what you’re eager to do. If you’re eager to do what is righteous and somebody says, “Let’s go to the mountains and go skiing,” and you’ll say, “No, I want to go to church.” Not “I have to go to church” or “Let me ask and see if I can go up to the mountains.” You’re eager to do what is good. You understand? It’s like if somebody says you have a choice of going skiing and going to church I say, “Well, of course, there’s no contest. Of course I’ll go to church.” If somebody says, “The Super Bowl is on,” you have a choice, you can go to the Super Bowl or go to church. Well, there’s no contest, I’ll go to church. You see that’s what must burn in the heart. There’s no contest. You go up to a Bronco fan and say, “You’ve got a choice. You can go to church with me or go to a football game.” You think there’s a contest there? You think, “Well, let me struggle with this for a little while and decide what I want to do.” I guarantee you they’ll choose the Bronco game. “Eager to do what is good.” If somebody says, “Would you rather preach a sermon or go camping? Which will it be?” There’s no contest. “Eager to do what is good.”
Titus 2:15 – These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.
To preach the grace of God, especially pastors, means what? To take the grace of God, to preach it, to encourage, and say, “That was well done, what you did was proper, holy and good,” and then to rebuke. And to do it with all authority in Christ Jesus. Okay? Not your marshmallow preachers. But rather, “This is the way it is. This is the way it’s going to be. You’re either going to change or you’re not, bye.” A brother was just saying the other day if he didn’t know better it would look like I’m trying to get rid of everybody because there’s a million dollars in the bank. Obviously we know that’s not the case. And finally, John 5:1.
John 5:1 – Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews.
A religious meeting.
John 5:2-5 – 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?”
We’ll cover that in more detail in other sermons but the point is we ask that question of everybody. He’s not asking whether he wants to be made physically well. Or whether in his heart he wants to become well. “Do you really want righteousness? Do you really want to be made well of your sinful nature?” is the question. “Do you really want to give up the pleasure seeking, debauchery loving, sinful nature?” Unusual question to ask an invalid.
John 5:6 – “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.”
He doesn’t answer the question. He doesn’t answer the question! He doesn’t say, “Well, big dummy, of course I want to be made well. That’s a foolish question.” Why? Because he loves his sickness. He loves his sin. He’s giving excuses for why he’s not changed.
So you go up to a Baptist or any number of people, and you say, “Do you want to be well of your sins?” “Well, gee whiz, I do this and my husband does that and this situation here and I don’t have the money to go buy. . . ” and all that other stuff. I mean, you get fifteen reasons about why they are not well, but never the answer that says, “Of course” Why? Because it’s not what he wants.
How many people do you go to and you simply say, “Do you want to be well?” I wish you would, go to somebody that’s well, go to somebody at work you know is in perfect health and say, “You know, do you want to be well of that sickness?” They’ll go, “What do you mean? I’m not sick.” There’s your open door. You say, “You’re rotten to the core. I can smell it in the other room. You’ve disintegrated.”
John 5:8-13 – 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. 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.
A man touched by the divine hand of God and he doesn’t know who Jesus is. Now he didn’t bother to ask who He was. Jesus made him well. He touched his life, and he didn’t bother to ask “Who is this Jesus that has touched me?” Think about it. He did not stop and ask himself, “Who is this Guy? Who is this Man who did this? I’ve been laying here for thirty-eight years” and he didn’t even bother to stop and ask Him where He got the power to do it. I mean that totally strikes us as highly unusual and weird. I mean, wouldn’t you want to at least ask some scientific questions like, “How did you do that?” I mean you want something, right? I think I would. Probably just the scientific stuff, but nevertheless, you’d think he’d want that much. Why? He was afraid to go on. Because if this Man had this kind of authority and there was this kind of purity in His eyes and there was this kind of holiness in His talk and He asked me a question like, “Do you want to be made well?” and I knew in my heart, and I knew in my conscience that it was more than getting up and walking, I wouldn’t want to ask Him.
And you’re going to have to do the same thing Jesus says here. You’re going to go to people and you’re going to tell them the truth. You’re going to need to say to them, “This is the scripture you need to obey.” And they go, “That’s right,” and they go out and do it but they don’t really understand. It’s not really in their heart yet. They need something much deeper, mainly Jesus there. And Jesus comes back to this man and look at what goes on.
John 5:14 – 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.”
Jesus didn’t say, “Forget about it.” He went back and He said, “This is who I am. This is My gospel call. Stop sinning or something worse is going to happen to you than being crippled and laying on a mat for thirty-eight years.” And we fall short of that fact, more than our understanding of who Jesus is, we get touched. You know what we do? We’re convicted of sin, all right? We get in the prayer closet, we pray for it and we get peace, and we stop. We stop praying. I’ve done it. I’ve done it. I’ve gotten quiet time where you get in before God and all you’re doing is really feeling guilty. Once that peace is there you go on to do whatever it is you’re going to do and you’re right back in the same situation as before. Why? We never lingered long enough to really hear Jesus say, “Now stop it!” We never laid there long enough and humble enough before God to let the grace teach us to say no. We were content to get up, pick up our mat, and walk. We were content not to know who Jesus is. We were content; we didn’t even care in the least who this Man was, what His message was, or anything else. All we knew is we could walk and we could go do what we wanted so what do we do? We do what verse 14 says. We go to church. Where was the man sitting? Down at the local honky-tonk or a bar or a football game? No. It says that he was in the temple. He’s sitting in church.
So you get out from under the guilt. Big deal. What results from that? Is there a change? Is there a difference? Are people noticing that there’s something more than just being able to walk? “God, how I want that out of my life so that I don’t continue to do the same thing over and over again.” Why I’m not just content with peace. Nor do I always have to have guilt to be changed. Nor do I have to go three days and just fall into all kinds of impurity and debauchery and just lay there and moan and say, “Boy, I’m really tired of this. I’d like to have some peace.” To go back and to find Jesus and to look in the temple and say, “Who are You? What kind of man, what kind of God are You?” So that I can hear the Holy Spirit say so that it can touch my heart so I can hear God say to me, “Stop sinning or something worse will happen.”
John 5:15 – The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Now he knew who he spoke of. How many people are touched by the hand of Jesus and made well but they can’t go out and declare the message to the Jews, can they? They can’t stick with the truth. When God touches them they’re made well, they’re healed, but you know when they share the gospel it’s miserable. It’s defiled, it’s corrupt, it’s impure. They couldn’t tell you the truth in here if their life depended on it, when their soul does. Why? Because they don’t know who He is. They’ve only been touched by Him. When we finally hear from Jesus that we have to stop sinning and that we really do have to learn the message then we can turn and go out and tell the Jews or anybody else the gospel. We really do have to live it and we really do have to become a different people.
Let’s go ahead and pray.
Father, please remove from us talk that says we want to change. In fact, Father, it would be better if those words never came from our lips and we showed it from our heart. May each of us become weary, Father, of the times we declared before You that we want to change, that we want to become different. Father, may we hear Your sigh. May we hear that You’re weary of us telling You that. And may we resolve ourselves to go out and prove to You that we’ve changed, that we say with Zaccheus, “Here and now I give half my possession to the poor and I repay anybody that I’ve cheated four times the amount.” May we say it that way to You, Father. How often the words come out and we say we don’t want the world. And we say, Father, that we don’t want to be like everything else or take on our sin. But, Father, let us show it with our actions, with our zeal, and most of all, Father, with our fire. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional.