Be of Good Courage!
A continuation of my reflections resulting from the WOW sermon today...
At the risk of being WAY TOO encouraging to the one who delivered this message (sorry Dave, try not to get too puffed up [smiley]), I must give it very high praise. Lately, I've been often privileged to get a preview of the sermon before it's delivered. Sometimes elder Dave mentions a point from his upcoming sermon during my accountability sessions. I've recently discovered and started attending the pre-service prayer meetings in Dave's office too.
I commend this pastoral transparency, for to me it reveals an understanding that these morsels are God's ministry to His people - to be shared - and it's not all about a big ole impressive 30-minute show from the pulpit. If the point is going to get across, why not repeat or preview it - at risk of "ruining the surprise" at the moment of the "delivery". Not only that, but I've grown tremendously from investing the time to go to this sort of thing - reminds me of Kinship Groups back at Evangel Baptist, where I was able to see Pastor Jack's insights. Oops: major tangent detected. EXIT DO; GOTO ReturnToMainPoint; In conclusion, I have come to appreciate bearing repetition through hearing the same message more than once. TRUTH BEARS REPEATING! After all, I've read the Bible umpteen times, and it is still SOLID GOLD! (seemingly more than ever) Such can also be true for "repetitious" sermon bits drawn from such a divine source.
When I heard the sermon preview snippet today, I was excited to the core beyond my ability to describe! All Dave did was read the passage - Matthew 9:1-8. He offered his profound, concise discovery (watch while I talk about it with the opposite of concise). Before Dave's sentence was completed I understood what he was getting at, and my spherical eyes must have revealed what I was thinking - WOAH! I can't stress enough how awesome it is to be hearing the Holy Spirit through His Word like this! It's nuts, and I don't expect anyone to believe my excitement. I have to do little dances of delight in order to not burst from otherwise unreleased jocundity! I don't care if I sound like a complete bumbling idiot right now. That's seriously how excited I was about the idea presented from Scripture today!
Here's the background laid. Earlier today we had #2 of what Dave is calling Shepherding Meetings. The idea of these meetings is for us as followers of Christ to gain better understanding of how to shepherd people. "Shepherding" in this case is a broad term used to umbrella all the various methods we as Christians can minister to others - both in relationship with fellow believers and nonbelievers. Of course Scripture is our textbook and Jesus our Example as the Good Shepherd.
This month's discussion topic was Encouragement. Dave outlined four categories of encouragement. I won't go over those now, as that would be a massive tangent (what, writing reform? Nope - but I have enough to blah about even if I manage to stay on track!). I wanted to mention it though, because Dave made an allusion to the encouragement discussion by calling the sermon the "Fifth type of encouragement" and "better than the others". I see this as a key point and very powerful! Oh, and the by the way, rightfully said today's sermon was the shortest ever. It was really short because he gave a lot of time for personal testimonies. He wasn't feeling well. Well, for not being well, I might as well say how well the point got across. In a few sentences I felt like I was drawing from a deep well (corny puns are fun; let me give you an earful... or rather awful!).
Consider again the key verse from Matthew 9: "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." [insert one thousand exclamations!!] Man, that is a packed verse! Like English Professor Jules Hilbert (played by Dustin Hoffman) in the movie "Stranger Than Fiction" (awesome flick) gets excited about the expression "Little did he know" and could write a whole book about it, I feel the same way about this short little verse! It's as if the secrets of the universe are embedded, unraveled and attainable only by a thousand years of intensive study! Okay, so perhaps all of scripture is like that. It is the very Word of God, after all! Yippee!!! (like the annoying scene in Sound of Music after Liesl kisses her dumb boyfriend - consequently my favorite movie in spite of this yuck).
First off, look at the first phrase. There are several modern English translations from the Greek. Some of them are found at the top of this post. The NASB which I am commonly pulling from says, "Take courage". I can see the obvious connection to encouragement that Dave noticed here. However, the encouraging (beautiful, inspiring, jaw-dropping) declaration that follows outshines any other encouragement humanity can possibly hear, much less this paralytic guy.
In a word or two, Jesus puts a tear in my eye here. He calls this man - a total stranger - "my son", or "my child". Let's see how bold and amazing that is. Who is Jesus, a man of just over 30 years old, to be calling anyone "my son"? This paralytic may very well have been older in earth years than Jesus. What it screams to me, yet with a gentle, passionate whisper is this: Jesus is ageless. He is God Almighty, existing outside of time. He came to earth fully man, packed in flesh like we are. That man-God called this man "son", not because He fathered him through a marriage relationship. No, but rather He lays claim to the exalted position of God the Father of all! This word shows more than Jesus as the Creator. It obviously communicates great affection. How meaningful would it be if Billy Graham, the President of the United States, Superman, Aslan, or Gandalf (imagine not hating the man in the highest elected office in the world - I don't, but some do) taking the time to talk to you and looking kindly at you and saying, "Be encouraged, my son..."! Um... leave out the "be encouraged" because the God of the universe calling me son is the highest form of encouragement possible!
Next, look at the further admonishment given to the man - this is the kicker. Get read to do repeated roundhouse kicks in nutty excitement! What did the man expect and hope to receive? Well, he wanted to be healed of his paralysis, of course! Did he know he had a deeper need than this? What could be more obvious than his need for physical healing? I tell you Jesus is the power and the Word of life, if you are willing to hear it. Listen to the Word of Light and Life who came to earth, sent from God - and hear Him exclaim His very purpose for coming...
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!"
Matthew 17:5 NASB
Imagine Jesus being transfigured into pure light, as He now dwells in heaven at the right hand of the Father. Imagine a thundering voice of God Almighty ringing in your ears. Then listen to what the voice says: God claims Jesus as His Son. What other witness do you need, folks? Any doubts? You are doubting the Father if you reject the Son. Don't do it, friends. Not only that, but listen to what He says. Why? Because the voice of God, booming throughout all nature tells you this one thing: "Jesus is my Son. Listen to the very words He speaks. He is my voice. He is the Word. In the beginning, He was with me. He is the I AM. He is one with me, Almighty God!" ...a worthwhile tangent, folks.
And in all that glory, we know Jesus to be the Son of God. And what does God say through His Voice? He says,"Your sins are forgiven!!" And this is a big deal. Jesus even tells us it is a big deal by qualifying it, "Take Heart!". If that's not a freaking ridiculous encouragement to you, my friends and family... it is to me. So much in fact, that I am reeling in tears as I consume the Word one letter at a time. To know that I, mere dust, am worth God coming down to earth to say, "Phil, my son/daughter, be very encouraged by what I'm about to tell you. Listen closely and understand: don't lose a word of it. I love you enough to die for you. By this, all that dark stuff that you did, do you remember it? I am wiping it all from your heart and am giving you a new clean heart to replace the old one, a heart of My own design. I will make my dwelling place with you. You are highly blessed and will get to see me soon! I look forward to it. I won't remember those worthless deeds you did because I paid the price in your stead. Come share in my Father's delights! Even those tears that I see in your eyes right now, I will wipe them away with my finger." Put your name in that paragraph and believe that is what God also wants for you. THAT is what this verse is saying! Hallelujah!
Do you see it now? It is not physical healing that we need. We are cursed, folks. Our sin has sentenced us to death! What we need is not contained in the things of this world. We need healing from sickness of the heart. The forgiveness that Jesus offers is more than the type we understand from the English word. Yes, we are pardoned when we accept Jesus, and we no longer have to feel guilty. Yet even more, His forgiveness spells healing. When He says "Your sins are forgiven" He might as well be saying, "You are no longer a paralytic. You are no longer sick with sin. I've HEALED YOU, SON! Get up and walk with the courage I Myself have bestowed! Come 'home', follow Me." We need the same Jesus who healed a paralytic. Dance for joy, you feet that were broken! Dance for Jesus your Lord! He'll grab your lifted hands and give His child a big toss in the sky, sun 'n' smiles all 'round.
The secret is out. Jesus told His disciples not to share the story of His transfiguration until after He defeated death and returned to the Father in heaven. That is where He is now: with the Father, "speaking to Him" on our behalf. He wants to give you His Holy Spirit to live inside you and comfort you, guide you, transform you. He wants to call you "son" and collect you to Himself in the clouds. Wake up, buster! If that's not fantastic, I don't know what is! Be of good courage!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it...
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-5,14 NASB
Read all of John chapter 1 to get the full picture. God says in an audible voice the same thing He said on the mountain of transfiguration - in case once wasn't enough! John the Baptist, a prophet, filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, also says:
"I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God."
John 1:34 NASB
Don't fear or doubt any longer. He is the One. Look nowhere else. Jesus. Jesus! JESUS!