True Freedom

True Freedom.png

Are you a free person? If so, what does freedom mean to you? Does it mean you have the desire, ability and opportunity do anything you want? If that is your definition, I have to tell you that you are not free at all. Let me illustrate what I am trying to say.

Suppose you have the opportunity to get a free parachute jump from a skydiving company, the desire to go skydiving and the ability to open a parachute but do not check whether the company which provides the service is reliable or not. During the freefall you realize that your parachute does not work. You regret the fact that you should have checked the company before making the free choice of going skydiving. If you had done it, you would find out that it was not the first time that parachutes of this company do not work resulting in the death of many people. Would you say that you are fully free in this situation? No, because you know that you are going to die and you regret the free choice you have made.

Freedom is the desire, ability and the opportunity to do what you want but without regretting your choices. But how do you make the right choices?

In this talk, I would like to look at the last verse in this chapter 6, verse 23, in help you to decide how you are going to use your “freedom” without eternal regrets, by simply choosing the right master to serve.

The master sin deceives people but the master God guides them

First, let’s look at who the masters are in this verse. Paul says that there are two masters and whether you realize it or not, everyone is a slave to one of them. Everyone lives for one of them.[1] So the issue is not whether you have a master or not, but who your master is, Sin or God?

We were created by God to serve him forever. We created to glorify Him by making him famous for all eternity. However since the beginning of the universe, we want to be our own masters. We want all the glory for ourselves. That’s why Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they did not want to follow God’s will both rather their own.

Nowadays, some people even ignore the existence of God in order to believe that they are their own gods. The problem is that when we choose to be our own masters we automatically reject God, our creator, as our master. Did you know that the Bible calls this sin? Did you know that sin is the master of those who believe they have no master?

That is exactly what Paul tries to explain in Romans 6, when he says in verse 12: “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” In other words, Paul is saying that being free to choose does not mean we are free from having a master. Why? Because desires, abilities and opportunities may give you the feeling that you are free, when in reality you are just doing what your master wants you to do.

I personally know many people who had the desire to take drugs but end up addicted to them becoming slaves of sin. I also know people who have the ability to forgive or love but because prefer to hate others, becoming slaves of sin. I know people who had the opportunity to become very rich but end up slaves of greed.

In all these cases, the freedom to act based on the wrong desires, abilities and opportunities resulted in slavery. So if you live to do what sin wants you to do, I have to tell you that you are a slave of sin. However if you are a servant of God he will guide to the right path as it is written, “in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” God is an expert at bringing good out of bad.

Paul knew that from personal experience. God could have kept Paul out of prison in Philippi but instead, He let Paul go to prison and the jailer became a believer as a result. Did He bring any good out of that?  I’d say He did!

We can only have the right desires, abilities, and opportunities that will result in true freedom when doing what God wants us to do.

The master sin, pays wages and the master God, gives gifts

Second, let’s look at how the masters treat their servants in this verse. One master pays wages and the other gives gifts, but what is the difference? The difference between a wage and a gift is that a wage is the payment earned for your work and a gift is something you do not earn it.

Many people may think that the “wage” Paul is talking about in this passage is the pleasure sin gives to his slaves. Maybe that is the reason why many people prefer to serve sin as their master, right? However that is not what Paul is saying. He is actually highlighting that the wage of sin is death. In other words, sin is like an employer who allows you to have the pleasure of drinking a hot drink in the cafeteria, during work hours, but who does not tell you that the coffee you are having is poisoned.

Sin allows you to have pleasure but does not inform the danger of it. That is the horrible way sin treats you, but on the other hand, God treats you in totally different way. Let me give you an illustration of how God does it.

Two centuries ago in America, a slave called Joe decided to be a free man after 18 years of hard work. The issue is that, during that time, slaves did not have this option. A slave was a living possession owned by a master. But Joe refused to be owned. He refused to be a living possession. He refused to be treated as a slave and stop working for his master.

He soon began to be cruelly punished by his master who beat him many times in order to change Joe’s mind. But Joe would prefer to die than to be a slave again. Every single time his master beat him with a rod, Joe used to say, “I am not going to serve anybody else in my life.” His master then decided to sell Joe to a rich man who lived in another farm. Joe was sent on a journey to his new master and on the way kept saying, “I am not going to serve anybody else in my life.”

When Joe finally met his new master he said to him, “I am not going to serve anybody else in my life.” His new master then said, “That is exactly why I bought you Joe. I did not buy you to be a slave but to give you freedom. And I also want you to live here with me. I promise you that you are going to treat you as part of my own family, as one of my own children.” Joe could not control himself and almost crying he said, “Of course I will live here with you. No one has ever treated me like you did. I want to serve you here forever, as your own child.”

Sin will eventually pay your wage by killing you. However God, even though his slaves do not deserve, will give for free eternal life. Whose master treats better a slave, the one who pays with death or the one who gives life freely?

Conclusion

John Piper, a preacher, says that, “To be fully free, we must have the desire, the ability, and the opportunity to do what will make us happy forever. No regrets. And only Jesus, the Son of God who died and rose for us, can make that possible.”[2]

Jesus died on the cross to gives the opportunity to be part of God’s family. He was raised from the dead to gives us the ability to live with God for all eternity. He calls you today, through his Holy Spirit, to give you the desire to freely choose him as saviour.

If you are not a Christian yet, I urge you to choose Jesus as your saviour and master. Jesus is our eternal parachute that is going to guarantee our safe landing. On the other hand, if you are Christian do not forget that Jesus “gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” (Titus 2:14).

[1] Romans 1-7 For You, p.150

[2] http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-free-gift-of-god-is-eternal-life-part-1

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Gratitude

gRATITUDE

Is suffering part of your daily routine? I believe it’s for the majority of us. In fact, no one of us is immune to it. Every time we solve a problem there is always another one waiting to take its place. We all have problems to handle but the way they are solved is what makes us different. How do you deal with them?

There are three major manners to face an adversity. Many people blame themselves for their hardship becoming depressed rather than stronger. Some people, on the other hand, blame others or even God for their pain becoming bitter rather than better. However there is a third group that simply get better and stronger when facing difficulty. But how can we face hardship and still get better and stronger? From the story of the ten lepers we find three steps to overcome life’s trials.

  1. We overcome difficulties when we humbly ask Jesus for help (Vs. 11-13)

Verse 11 says that Jesus was travelling from the North of Israel towards Jerusalem, in the south. The nearest way to get there was through Samaria, located in the middle of the way. The text is clear about all this geographical details but why does not mention the name of the village where Jesus entered? Well, the author probably wanted to draw our attention not to a place but to the people who lived there. That leads us to verse 12.

In this passage Jesus meet a group of men who had a very serious disease. Leprosy was a terrible skin disease that disfigured a person. As it was contagious they lived far away from their family and friends. They could not work and had to depend on the charity of others to eat. Without a miracle they lived in isolation until they either got better or died.

In verse 13 they asked for help. But according to the text of Leviticus 13.45-46 they should have shouted, “Unclean, unclean!” to keep way those who were well avoiding any kind of contagious. These ten men broke the rules when they saw Jesus, didn’t they? Instead of warning him, they yelled, “Master, help us”. But why didn’t they follow the rules? Well, they knew Jesus had power to heal them so they humbly ask for help.

Are you living in isolation far from your friends and family as well? Are you so depressed that death seems your best hope? If you have said yes for one of these questions I want to tell you that Jesus can help you too. Do not be arrogant and proud. Let us cry out to him, for he meets the needs of those who ask him for help in humility. But also let us obey him in faith.

  1. We overcome difficulties when we obey Jesus in faith (Vs. 14)

The verse 14 doesn’t say how the ten lepers knew about Jesus but maybe they heard that Jesus had interacted with a person infected with leprosy before. The book of Luke 5.12-13 tells us that a man was touched by Jesus and immediately got healed. Imagine how this amazing news spread throughout Israel, mainly among all those who has plagued with leprosy. But why didn’t Jesus cured the ten lepers on the spot as he has done it before?

Jesus could have healed them all at once but instead he asked them to go to the priests in order to fulfil the law. According to the law given to Moses the priests would look the person over very carefully and announce if someone was clean or unclean. However they were not healed when Jesus sent them, so what was the point of it?

They had not yet been healed but they believed in Jesus’ word. Jesus required from them obedience in faith, that’s why he did not heal them so quick. It would take great faith for the lepers to be checked before they were healed. However they did not fear being laughed at because they they trusted him.

How big is your problem? How big is your faith? Do you believe that Jesus can solve big problems? The best way to find out is obeying Jesus in faith. So let us be like the ten lepers and choose to obey our Lord Jesus Christ and his commands. Let us follow his commands written in the Bible. But also let us adore him in gratitude.

  1. We overcome difficulties when we adore Jesus in gratitude (Vs. 15-18)

When the ten lepers realized they were completed healed what was their response? The verse 15 says that only one of them returned praising God in a loud voice. Jesus then asked three questions, from verse 17-18, but in order to make a few points instead of eliciting a direct answer. And what were these points?

First, Jesus highlighted that ingratitude is a horrible but very common behave. Jesus helped ten people but only one came back to give thanks. These men suffered from a long time having no reason to be grateful but when they had a reason they still did not show gratitude. That shows us that the problem is not the hardships we face in life. The problem is our attitude about the hardships.

Second, Jesus revealed how religiousness can easily become more important than God’s true adoration. Nine of them followed the religious procedures but only one came back to praised God. They all wanted to act correctly but only thought through and behaved correctly. That shows us that true worship starts in our minds, when we think. Then moves to our heart, when we feel. And then is expressed through actions, not the other way around. True worship is from inside out.

Third, Jesus pointed out how most of us can become sectarians even being from the same species, human beings. He called the Samaritan of “stranger” they were looked at by the Jews as an inferior race of people ethnically and spiritually. Probably even the others lepers thought they were better and superior than this Samaritan but in this passage the Jesus shame the Jews.

Are you grateful even through a hardship? Would you be able to praise God from inside out even when facing a problem? How sectarians are you when among someone different from you?

Conclusion

I want to conclude saying that even though we all face difficulty in life one day grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer simply because we are all going to die. However the Bible says that those who do not ask Jesus for help in humility, obey him in faith and adore him in gratitude will spend eternity in a place full of problems.

As ugly and painful as leprosy was, we live in a spiritual much worse condition. We all have been contaminated by sin. We lived in isolated because of our sins, far from God. But as Jesus healed the lepers can also cure us and bring us back to God.

Would you be able to say, “Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for me in order to heal me for ever”? If so, Jesus surely would repeat what he said in verse 19, “stand up and go. Your faith has made you well.”

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Give us today our daily bread (Sermon Series: Lord’s Prayer)

Lord's prayer.4In two weeks’ time we will celebrate my daughter’s 8th birthday and as the years have passed by I have realized that her birthday requests are getting more complex each year. When we celebrated her first birthday, for instance, milk was her only demand. However, this year she has already asked me for a doll, a new scooter, a birthday party and even a pink pony. If you are a dad or a mom you probably know what I am talking about here. But why do kids increase their petitions as they grow older?

One of the reasons is because imitation is part of a toddlers learning process.[1] As adults are always pursuing more and more. Children then end up copying their behaviour.[2] Most of us, for example, are never content with what we have. I personally know people who have a nice home but want a bigger house. Others who have a well-paid job but want a higher paid one. And some who have a loving partner but want a better looking spouse.

What I am trying to say is that we have to be careful with the legacy we are leaving for the next generation. We need to live in a way that shows them that contentment is not about obtaining more possessions but rather living happily with or without them. Spurgeon put it like that: “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled”.

We all need to understand that only God can provides all we need to feel satisfied. But what are the things that we need from God to live in contentment? And how do we ask God to supply these needs? In order to help you to live a life that pleases God in the same way that satisfies you, I want to study Matthew 6.11 answering these two questions.

How do we ask God to supply our needs?

  • Communicating with Him through prayer in a relational manner (Give)

From Matthew 6.9 Jesus introduces the ‘Lord’s prayer’ as an example of the right way to pray. Jesus teaches his disciples, in the first three parts of the prayer, that God and how he rules are the most important parts of the prayer. And the next three parts are about how they should pray appropriately for they own needs. But in verse 11 his language seemed a little bit inappropriate.[3]

Certainly my English teacher would say that in polite speech, orders or requests are often phrased instead as questions or statements, rather than as imperatives such as: ‘give us’.[4] But was Jesus really teaching us to make requests to God in an impolitely direct way?

In fact he was not being rude or teaching us to treat God in a harsh way but making an important point. God is our father and all the language formalities are not required from us, His children. He does not see us as sellers negotiating a complex deal but as little children who have free access to their dad’s ears.

When we were spiritually born into God’s family we were given an amazing birthday gift: intimate family access. Therefore, we can freely make our petitions to God knowing that our heavenly father cares about us. This is amazing, isn’t it? Even though God is the creator of the whole universe He allows us, Christians, to have a relationship with him.[5]

How do you pray? Is God a stranger or a family member when you talk to him? For some, God is certainly not their father just by the way they pray. That is one of the main differences between our prayers and the prayers performed by other religions. We pray in a relational manner but also in an unselfish manner.

  • Communicating with Him through prayer in an unselfish manner (Us; Our)

The reason why Jesus said: ‘give us our bread!’ and not ‘give me my bread’ is because he expects us to make requests in a godly way. He requires unselfish prayers, having in mind the necessity of others as well.

But why does God want us to pray for others? Because our altruist prayers reflect God’s own character of outgoing sacrificial love. When we ask for the provision of others we think beyond ourselves reflecting God’s compassion and love. Wasn’t that the reason why Jesus, during his crucifixion, asked God to forgive our sins?

Jesus clearly wants us to remember those who are in need, however he also expects us to help those in need as soon as our prayers are responded. In other words, we have to share what God gives us with needy people. It is a huge hypocrisy to ask God to supply someone’s need when in reality we have the resources to do it, isn’t it?[6]

But is it wrong to ask God in prayer for a more personal favour? No, my point here is not to make you an ascetic. I do not want you to abstain from the normal pleasures of life or to deny yourself of material satisfaction.[7] What I am actually saying is that we need to seek God’s kingdom first.

This week for example I asked God to help me to prepare this sermon, but not because I wanted to impress people with my talk. My motivation was to have people praising God through my talk.

Before we make our petitions we need ask ourselves this question: what is the motivation of my prayer request? Do I want to glorify God through my request in first place? God is not a genie of the lamp who will fulfils their masters’ egocentric desires but rather our master.[8] That’s why we also have to pray in a dependent manner.

  • Communicating with Him through prayer in a dependent manner (Daily)

Jesus tells us to pray asking God to provide our basic needs daily.[9] But doesn’t he know what my needs are? If so, why do I need to pray for God’s provision then? We pray to remind ourselves that we need to depend on God because when we do not, things go wrong.

In the Garden of Eden, for example, Adam and Eve lived in paradise. God gave them everything they needed to live a life without problems. They had no reason to make requests. And yet they thought they did not have to depend on God. They then decided they wanted to make their own choices and rebel against God breaking everything.

We are not different from Adam and Eve and prayer helps us to remember that. We all have to enjoy life in a way that is not driven by harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.[10] After all, only God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect for us all.[11]

One quality of children is that they are dependent on others for their well-being. When my daughter, for instance, was two years old she wanted to amuse herself by playing with a sharp knife she saw in our kitchen. She asked me pointing to where the knife was. Did she have any idea of how dangerous that was? Certainly not, but even not understanding why I did not give what she wanted in order to have fun she trusted me and still loved me. We, Christians, should share the same quality of depending on our loving Heavenly Father for everything we need.

But if God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect why doesn’t he give us what is necessary to survive sometimes? What kind of father is this? These questions lead me to another question.

 What do we need from God to survive?

  • Only what is necessary to sustain our physical life (Bread)

Why did I pray for my heavenly father in a relational manner, asking him to heal my friend in an unselfish way, trusting God with all my faith in a dependent manner and he still allowed my friend to die?

Some people would answer this question simply saying that God does not exist. Others would say that he exists but does not interfere with His creation.[12] Those who believe in reincarnation would say that we suffer to have to pay for our wrongdoings in our past lives. But what does the Bible say?[13]

The word of God says this: “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalms 103.19). He is the one in control and knows what is best for us. Surely sometimes we do not understand it but all things works for good.[14]

A good example of this is found in the story of Joseph. God allowed Joseph’s brothers to kidnap Joseph, sell him as a slave, and then lie to their father for years about his fate. Yet, at the same time, all of their sin worked towards a greater good: Joseph ended up in Egypt, where he was made prime minister. Joseph used his position to sustain the people of a broad region during a seven-year famine, including his own family. If Joseph had not been in Egypt before the famine began, millions of people, including the Israelites, would have died.

Everything we have is a gift from God given to us to provide all our earthly needs. And even when death seems to be the worst thing that could happen to us God provides what is necessary to sustain our life in eternity.

  • Only what is necessary to sustain our spiritual life (Bread)

During Jesus’ ministry he used the word bread many times, and in two of them refers to spiritual food.

The first one I want to point to is in Matthew 4.1-4. Jesus was tempted by Satan who said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread”. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’”. His reply comes from the context of Deuteronomy 8.3 where the Israelites spent of 40 years in the wilderness experiencing trials at God’s hand just as Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness. But what is the meaning of it? And what is the application for our life?

It means that the most important things in life are not physical but rather spiritual. We do not truly live by bread but rather by the Word of God. If Adam and Eve had listened to God sin would not have entered and neither eternal death. In other words, starvation killed many on earth but sin killed many more in eternity. Are you reading your Bible daily in order to get fed? Are you feeding those around you with the word of God?

Another passage where Jesus used the word bread, meaning spiritual food, is recorded in chapter six of John’s Gospel. More than 5,000 people after being fed by Jesus were ready to make him their king. However Jesus decided to expose that their excitement and motivation was wrong. He stated that his real followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood and the crowd left him probably thinking that he was a lunatic or a cannibal. But what did Jesus mean by these disturbing statements?

Jesus was saying that he did not come to work as a baker for his followers. He came not to give bread, but to be the bread. He had come to not save them from hunger but from sin. For Jesus gave his own body, the bread of eternal life, to pay in full the penalty for our sins. He died on the cross to give us his perfect bread in exchange for our sinful mouldy bread. Is Jesus Christ your bread? Is he the one who sustains your spiritual life?

Conclusion

I said in the introduction that my daughter made a lot of requests for her 8th birthday however I did not mention one in particular. She asked me to pray for a friend who is in need of a miracle. A friend who needs to be saved and she knows that only Jesus can do that. She understands that only God can provide all we need to feel satisfied on Earth and in Heaven. I hope that you also have God as the source of all you satisfaction not only here in this world but also in eternity.

Notes

[1] http://ilabs.washington.edu/meltzoff/pdf/99Meltzoff_BornToLearn.pdf

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JrtpCM4yMM

[3]“At first glance, asking God to ‘give us’ what we ask for almost sounds a little rude. After all, we rarely speak so blunty even to colleagues at work!” Richard Coekin, Our Father (Nottingham: IVP, 2009) pp. 118.

[4] The use of the imperative mood may be seen as impolite, inappropriate or even offensive in certain circumstances. Wierzbicka, Anna, Cross-Cultural Pragmatics (Mouton de Gruyter, 1991).

[5] God’s nature is relational and that is the reason why he identifies himself in family terms: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

[6] Paul said: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” 1 Timothy 5.8.

[7] John Piper often promotes the idea that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. He says that God designed the world in such a way that he is glorified when we are satisfied. Our joy is not separated from his glory; when we enjoy God, he is glorified. John Piper, Desiring God, (New York:Random House, 2011)

[8] Matthew 6.24

[9] The word daily is hard to be translated because it could mean ‘today’, ‘tomorrow’ or any number of slight variations. Richard Coekin, Our Father (Nottingham: IVP, 2009) pp. 118

[10] 1 Timothy 6.6-11

[11] Romans 12.1-2

[12] Deists deny the Trinity, the inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ, miracles, and any supernatural act of redemption or salvation. Deism pictures God as uncaring and uninvolved. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Nottingham: IVP, 1994) pp.270

[13] How do I discern God’s responses to my prayers petitions? Well it will depend on the kind of request. If the prayer petition is a sin God say: “No, I care about you”. If the request is right but not the timing he says: “Yes, but wait”. If the timing and the petition is both right he can say three things: “Yes but not what you expected”, “Yes, I thought you’d never ask me”, or even “Yes and here is some more”.

[14] Romans 8.28

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Risk is Right (John Piper)

Risk

Piper, John. Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013, 64 pages.

John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For over 30 years, he served as Senior Pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota and has written more than 50 books.

In this work, Piper successfully argues that the ultimate aim of life is to honour and magnify Jesus Christ, then the meaningful life, the unwasted life, is a life in which it is right and good to risk everything for this ultimate goal. He is not trying to say that we should risk in a irrational, physical or foolish way but rather in a spiritual manner that brings glory to God. He supports his point in seven little chapters with many examples from the Bible.

After a foreword by David Platt, Piper starts out by saying that Jesus is very valuable but even though he risked his life for the sake of sinners. Why not risk our life for the sake of others as well? Jesus died so we could have eternal life that means we have not reason to fear anything in this world, not even death. But what is actually risk? The author defines risk as “an action that exposes you to the possibility of loss or injury” (p. 17). Surelly no one wants to experience loss or injury but who can guarantee that when we are safe not taking risks? Piper argues that we cannot play safe because the only one who never risks anything is God. He is the only one who knows the future. Everyone else must take risks regularly because we don’t know the future.

Piper reminds that in the Old Testaments many faithful people took risks that could have led them to death; and in the New Testament he shows how Paul and many others risked everything, including their own lives, to serve our Lord Jesus Christ. But are there wrong and right reasons to risk? According to Piper it will depend on whether you risk for God’s glory or for your own glory. When our motives are the lust for adventure, heroism or even a desire to earn God’s favour we might take risks for the wrong reasons. However when I “recognize that my greatest joy is indeed found in God’s greatest glory, and Christ is clearly a treasure worth losing and letting go everything for” (p.10) we risk for the right motives.

I totally recommend this book that contains a message that must be heard by those, in the church and out of it, who have their security not in Christ but in their comfortable zone. However I need to tell that this book is actually a chapter of the book titled Don’t Waste Your Life, also written by Piper. In other words this book is a repackaged one. So I would not recommend you to buy this book, Risk is Right, if you want to get the book, Don’t Waste Your Life in the future or vice verse. I hope that one these two books bless you and challenge you as they did to me.

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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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