A big problem needs a big solution

A big problem needs a big solution

Do you agree that no matter your age, gender, ethnic background or financial status, we all at some point in life have to face problems? We are all equals when facing problems, aren’t we?

I personally had to deal with many problems in my life and I still remember one of them in special. In the beginning of year 1 at school, my math teacher said she was going to teach us how to solve many maths problems throughout the year. Unfortunately, I did not pay attention to her classes and by the end of the year; I failed in my final exam. In Brazil, country where I am from, that means two things. Firstly, your parents will punish you and secondly, you will have to repeat the whole year, joining a class of younger students the following academic year. That was for me at that specific stage of life a big problem.

I will tell you how solve this problem latter but right now, let me share with you the story of a man who had a much bigger problem than I had. I would like to invite you to open your Bible in Mark 2.1-12 in order find out not what his problem was and how he managed to have it solved.

  1. What is our big problem?

This passage tells us the story of a man who had three major problems in Jesus’ time. One, he was a crippled, not able to walk. There was no wheelchairs two thousand years ago so he could not move around, independently, but rather had to rely on people’s help even to go to the toilet. Two, he was poor. He could not get a job and during that time there was no allowance for disability. He had to rely on donations to survive. Three, he was socially rejected. Someone in that condition was avoided by the society and even by his own relatives. Many religious people

The paralytic had many problems, but still believed he could overcome all of them with Jesus help. However, it seems that Jesus did notice none of his problems. In verso 5, Jesus instead of healing the crippled man said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Can you picture yourself going to a hospital to see a doctor due your ill conditioned and the doctor turn to you and ask you to go home because your sins are forgiven? What would you think about him? Would you think that he was out of his mind, in need of a pair of glasses or making fun of you?

Jesus, however, was not crazy, blind or mocking around. In fact, he was saying to the paralytic man that his problem was not social, financial or physical but rather spiritual. The paralyzed man was a sinner. Someone who displeases God.

The crippled man had to understand that even though he suffered a lot, due these three problems, they were temporally. Nevertheless, his sinful condition would last for all eternity. Jesus as a good doctor gave him the right diagnosis revealing his greater problem. Without the right, diagnosis we cannot get the right treatment.

Are you facing one of the three problems mentioned here? Are you ill or have any kind of disability? Are you having trouble with your finances? Have you been discriminated or rejected by those who should love you? If you have said yes for one of these three questions I would like to add sin in your list. All of us are sinners who need to realize that our earthly problems are nothing when compared to the eternal problem of sin.

However, how can we be healed from this big problem, called sin? We simply need to find a big solution.

  1. What is our big solution?

This man was disable, poor and rejected but still could move, eat and feel loved because he had friends who took special care of him. The Bible tells us that his friends knew that Jesus, the healer, was in Capernaum so they decided to end up the paralytic man’s problem by taking him to see Jesus. When they arrived where Jesus was, they could not get him to Jesus because of the huge crowd outside the house. Did they give up? No, they actually had a bright idea of removing part of the roof above Jesus and lowered down the paralytic.

Would your friends do it for you in order to see you better? The paralitic man had real friends who were ready to do anything to see him healed. They already knew that Jesus was known as a powerful healer who had cured many people, a teacher who spoke with authority and demon caster who had authority to control the spiritual beings.

In this passage, he reveals more about himself. Jesus was not only a teacher, a healer or a demon caster. When he calls himself the “Son of Man”. He identifies himself as God, the only one who can forgive sins. Wasn’t that the paralic greater problem? Jesus could not only solve the paralict physical problem but spiritual as well. However some religious people who were in the house at the moment doubt Jesus’ claim. They believed that Jesus was a blasphemer, in other words, someone who wrongly claims to be God.

That was not good news for the paralict man, was it? If Jesus was not God, he would either be a liar or a lunatic, right? If Jesus was not God, how could the paralict man have his greater problem solved? But Jesus right away knew what they were thinking. So he told them that anyone can make claims however to show that he was truly the Son of Man told he healed the paralic.

Do you believe that Jesus can forgive your sin? Jesus was crucified because he kept saying that he was God. He was not crucified because he killed someone. He was not crucified because he robbed someome. He was not crucified because he rebelled against the Roman Empire. Jesus was crucified so our sins could be forgiven.

Perhaps you are now facing a different problem but in the end we all have a common problem that only Jesus can solve. He is the only one who can assist you with our biggest problem, sin. Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice so we could have our sins forgiven. That was his mission, he died on the cross to take on himself our sins.

Clonclusion

I shared in the beginning that I had a big problem to solve when I was a child, right? Now let me tell you how I solved the problem. My teacher gave me a second chance saying that if I learned everything that I needed to learn in a week, she would allow me take the test. I did not want to be punished by my parents or have to repeat year one so I studied hard and passed. I learned this lesson when I was a child as I also can learn four main lessons from the paralict story.

First, our earthly problems need to be dealt with faith. The paralictic had reasons to give up fighting for his life but he did not. What would you do in his shoes? Would you blame God? Would you commit suicide? I do not know about you but this paralytic man decided get some help. He still had hope. He was a faithful man.

Second, our spiritual problem needs to be dealt with the right diagnosis. We all are sinners as Paul says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness.” Without the right diagnosis, you cannot be correctly treated. How do you deal with this diagnosis? Do you ignore it?

Third, our earthly friends help us to solve earthly problems. Without his friends, the paralised man would never be able to reach Jesus. They were real friends. A real friend is not someone who goes to the pub with you when you are well but the person who stays in the hospital with you when you are ill. Real friends are not interested in your money, power or status but rather interested in your welfare. Who led you to Jesus?

Fourth, our spiritual friend Jesus helps us to solve our spiritual problem sin. Even though the paralict man had friends who cared about him, they could not do anything to solve his spiritual problem. You also might have friends who look after you but what can they do to salve you if they also need help. Only Jesus can forgive sin. Only Jesus can save us? How are you going to have you problem solved? Are you going to allow Jesus our real friend to help you?

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DRISCOLL’S FALL AND THE DEATH OF MARS HILL CHURCH

dRISCOLL FALL Perhaps the news with the greater repercussion in the gospel media, in 2014, was the departure of Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill mega church and the announcement of the closure of all the satellites churches. What strikes me is the fact that these headlines had already been predicted by Driscoll a while before. In 2012, Driscoll published an article entitled, The 9 Seasons of the Church’s Life (9 Stations of The Life of a church), where he presented the death of the local church as a natural part of their life cycle:

When a church is unhealthy, it dies. A church isn’t healthy when they no longer experience conversion growth or attract young leaders. At this point a church faces a critical dilemma. One, they can deny their impending death, sell off their assets to prolong their death, redefine their mission to defend their death, and simply survive as they slowly and painfully die and rewrite the best years of their history to feel significant and successful. Two, they can embrace their impending death as an opportunity to resurrect.[1]

What can our churches and leaders learn from this experience? Is there a way to prevent the fall of a pastor and the closing of a local church? I would like to answer these questions by highlighting two great lessons of what had just happened through Driscoll’s teaching. The first lesson is that when a church or its leadership is ill it will eventually die.

The disease that led to Driscoll’s fall, according to Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, was: “But the brashness and the arrogance and the rudeness in personal relationships — which he himself has confessed repeatedly — was obvious to many from the earliest days, and he has definitely now disillusioned quite a lot of people.”[2]

Mars Hill Church also recognized arrogance as Driscoll’s main problem saying: “We concluded that Pastor Mark has, at times, been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner”.[3]

Of course several other accusations were made in relation to Mark Driscoll’s ministry, but it is obvious that the root of his downfall and consequently of his church was arrogance, in other word, pride. Wasn’t that the same evil that drove Satan and Adam to rebel against God and consequently fall? The issue is that we are all participants in the fall, for we are sinners, and just as guilty as Driscoll after all, we are all proud, even when we do not admit it.

If we ask several leaders what the purpose of their ministry or their churches is, the will certainly give a biblical answer, right? But when we observe their attitudes we come to the conclusion that some churches and leaders nowadays have as their mission their own glory.

We cannot deny that a multitude of churches and pastors evangelize to increase the number of members of their churches and not to see more people reflecting the attributes of God. There are also many churches that just want to make disciples of their own and not of Christ. There are even some churches involved in social justice issues simply because they want to attract the spotlight to themselves and not to glorify God through good deeds. These churches follow the same church growth model, the self glorification purpose driven church.

The second lesson is related to time. Many churches forget that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven. In other words, they eventually die and do not fulfill their real mission.[4] Mars Hill, for example, is one of the 4,000 churches that, according to the statistics, die every year in the United States.[5] The problem is that many leaders seek immortality of their churches ignoring the natural life cycle. Several churches and leaders, for instance, in order to prolong their ministries and the life of their churches, dedicate time and financial resources in their sumptuous buildings or ministries, rather than focusing on the Great Commission of Jesus.

When we realize that we are limited by time and space, we change our perspectives and attitudes. We began to face the local church’s life with a sense of urgency to its real mission, because the certainty of the imminent death makes us rethink the reason of our existence as a church on Earth and raises questions such as: what would I do if today was my last day of life?

The letters to the seven churches of Asia were not written with the promise of eternity for them, but a reminder that they had a mission to accomplish while alive. Steve Timmis, current executive director of the Acts 29 Network (Church Plant Network founded by Mark Driscoll) view the decline of the churches differently:

It is easy for Christians to feel discouraged when we read about declining church attendance or see the growing secularization of our culture, but we are excited about the future. In many ways the opposite of secularism is actually nominalism, so growing secularism is an opportunity to develop witness to Christ unclouded by nominal faith. Much of the decline in the church in the West has been the falling off of nominal Christians. As a result, what remains may be more healthy. We have the opportunity to become communities focused on Jesus and his mission. The number of true Christians may not be falling so steeply—if at all. What is fast disappearing is the opportunity to reach notionally religious people through church activities. To seize these new opportunities, we first need to recognize that the Christian gospel has moved from the center of our culture to the margins.[6]

We as a church have a great opportunity that need to be put into practice. It is our actions that will open the door for the Holy Spirit. John Piper says that: “Our mission must never be just a mission of ‘come and see’. It has to be a mission of ‘Go and talk’.”[7] God is not worried about your congregation’s death, but how healthy your church is while it is alive.

I hope that Driscoll embraces the apparent death of the Mars Hill and his ministry in anticipation of a rebirth because there is no resurrection without death. I also hope that many of us leaders and churches do not have an arrogant attitude towards Jesus’ purpose for His church but may we have our days prolonged by a humble attitude that seeks only the glory of God.  

[1] http://theresurgence.com/2012/06/11/the-9-seasons-of-a-churchs-life

[2]http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/23/us/mark-driscoll-is-being-urged-to-leave-mars-hill-church.html?smid=tw-share&_r=3

[3] https://marshill.com/2014/10/15/pastor-mark-driscolls-resignation

[4] Ecclesiastes 3.1,2

[5] WIN Arn, The Pastor’s Manual for Effective Ministry. Monrovia, CA, Church Growth, 1988, p.16

[6] CHESTER, Tim; TIMMIS, Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission. Nottingham, UK: IVP, 2011, p.13

[7] PIPER, John Evangelização e Missões: Proclamando o Evangelho para a Alegria das Nações. São José dos Campos: Editora Fiel, 2011, p. 77

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