06-24-12 Sunday Main

Freedom from/Freedom to: Freed to Love XI.mp3

Stir it up! – PDF

Key Texts:

  • Deut. 30:6
  • II Thess. 3:5
  • Matthew 9:27-29
  • Matthew 15:22-28
  • Matthew 20:30-34
  • Phil. 2:25-30
  • Luke 13:1-9

Review:

There were many people who were sick in our congregation this week and so I approached our next step in “knowing and believing” the love that God has for us, from the direction of receiving healing.

Up to this point we have established that typically, the following progression is the “typical pattern” most fall into prior to ever knowing and believing the love of God for them.

  • Some form of self-identity birthed out of a wound they received and believed.

– The lost (prodigal) son – identified himself as the younger, the “least”, the underdog.

 – The boy who stayed home – identified himself as the one who had to set the example and be responsible and build his father’s estate.

  • Some sort of “world” they constructed around themselves in keeping with the wound they received.

– The lost son – I will go make a name for myself. I will not live under the shadow of my big brother’s greatness..

– The son who stayed home – I will earn my father’s love and acceptance from what I “do” by never disobeying his “commands”.

  • Once we have run our course, we are often in the place of the “prodigal” son …in a field of pigs with mud on our face and slop in our mouths, and at this point we suddenly have an epiphany. “It was better in my father’s house!”.
  • Out of this comes a determination – “I will arise…I will go.”
  • When we come to our Father, He refuses to hear our self-loathing speech and re-affirms the sonship we never lost and he throws a feast in our honor.
  • At the feast the Father fills our ears with words of love and acceptance.

Now you would “think” that in the glow of such a reception we would open wide our hearts to freely hear anything our Father had to say, but this is MOST often NOT the case.

As we discovered with the examples we offered of the “good sons” (a.k.a. – Paul and David), they went to their Father, but did not always like what they were told.

David was told that the consequences of his actions would be the death of his son.

Paul was told that the answer to his satanic afflictions was to embrace his weakness and allow God’s strength to be made perfect in and through him.

These were not the answers these men wanted to hear, but they were the most affirming words of love and belonging they could ever have desired – IF THEY HAD EARS TO HEAR THEM!

Ears to Hear:

This week we took our example of needing “ears to hear” from the often experienced need for “physical healing”. So often, this topic is abused and misunderstood. Now I am not saying for a minute that I have it all figured out either. I too still see through a glass dimly. I do however, have some very practical Biblical counsel concerning this topic.

We looked at the scriptures listed above and discovered the following:

  1. Healing is a mercy
  2. Mercy is the loving kindness of God expressed towards us in a way which gives us what we do not deserve.
  3. Healing is NOT a right, it is a privilege which is part and parcel with our heritage and inheritance.

Please do not make the mistake of thinking that an inheritance is a right. It is still something given by election of the original owner and it is done by choice not necessity.

We do not come to God with “Big Faith” in order to…

  1. Achieve our healing
  2. Earn our healing
  3. Pay for our healing
  4. Prove our love and dedication to Him for our healing

Healing is a MERCY!

Let’s go ahead and define mercy before we get confused due to our assumptions about that topic.

When asked most people trained in “Christianesse” will define mercy by what is often does. They say it is to “not get what you do deserve.”

Not only is this not a definition, it is a poor example of what it does.

The Greek word for Mercy is ελεέω (G1653) eleéō

To have compassion or mercy on a person in unhappy circumstances. Used trans. in the pass., it means to be pitied, obtain mercy, implying not merely a feeling for the misfortunes of others involving sympathy (oiktirmós [G3628], pity), but also an active desire to remove those miseries.

So it is NOT just to hold back the hand of justice, shielding people from getting what they deserve. It is actually proactive in seeing to it that a person gets what they do NOT deserve. Sometimes this manifests itself in something passive – like being forgiven a debt (nothing bad happens to you). Sometimes it is actively expressed – like when we receive healing.

SIDE NOTE: This puts a spotlight on the sad excuse often used for a definition of Grace. Because if Mercy proactively gives me what I do not deserve, then “unmerited favor” is also a definition for Mercy. The sad truth is we often relegate to biblical terms, definitions which only superficially appear to be their external function, rather than simply defining the words themselves.

Mercy is the loving, tender-kindness of God expressed towards us in various ways. Sometimes in alleviating the consequences of sin (which IS a passive form of getting what we do not deserve), sometimes by proactively giving us something what we do not deserve.

Grace is God’s influence upon our hearts and it’s effect in our lives including gratitude (which is also unmerited and so it is to give something that is not deserved).

How does this connect with healing and having ears to hear?

Because Paul, when we came to his Father and asked Him to superficially fix his problems by making them evaporate – heard Him say words of Grace and Mercy, which he did not like, but had ears to hear.

When it comes to healing, so often we like to think that it is something we can at least contribute to, because after all – it requires faith!

I would like you to read the passages listed above as they would have been understood by a Greek speaking person of that era who understood salvation by grace through faith. They understood that faith was given them by Jesus as a stewardship. It did not originate from them and they did not “own” it. Faith was not seen as a reward for – nor a product of –  much study and toil in the Word. It too was unmerited. Jesus was, is and forever will be the author and developer of faith.

Let me offer an example using the first of the verses. Matthew 9:27-29 would read like this,

“When He entered the house, the blind men came to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you trust that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”  Then He touched their eyes, saying, “Even as you have relied upon Me, be it done unto you.

Reliance is a state of rest. It is a cessation of work, not the result of work. Even the words “great faith” should be understood in this way. It means complete abandonment, through total reliance upon the willingness and goodness of the only One Who can change my life.

In the example of the Canaanite woman, Jesus explained that in truth He was not commissioned to go the Gentiles, but to the Jews ONLY. EVERY answer that precious woman gave was an example of her surrendered belief in His goodness and ability to save her daughter. She was CONVINCED that Jesus COULD and WOULD deliver her child, to the point that she was bold in her appeal, though humble towards His position. He was Lord and she knew it, and treated Him with worship and respect.

Now there are those who will undoubtedly claim that healing is a right and that healing as a mercy or as “getting something you do not deserve” only applied to those who were healed PRIOR to salvation. To them I would refer to Epaphroditus. In Phil. 2:25-27, Paul himself said that Epaphroditus was healed due to God having mercy upon him.

What do we know about Epaphroditus? Well truth is not much, but all we do know about him is good.

He undoubtedly grew up in Asia Minor and had parents who worshiped Aphrodities, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, because his name “Epaphroditus” means one devoted to Aphrodite. He was an eminent disciple of Christ through Paul, who resided at Philippi. He was commissioned by the church in that city to visit the Apostle Paul during his imprisonment at Rome. The apostle alludes to Epaphroditus with strong commendations saying of him,

  • my brother
  • my fellow worker, and fellow soldier
  • your messenger and minister to my need-back to you.
  • Paul seemed to think he was well loved because he said, “I am eager to send him so that you may have the joy of seeing him again.”
  • Welcome him in the Lord with all joy.
  • Make certain that you honor such people (as Epaphroditus) highly because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
  • He was faithful – “I am fully supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus what you sent-a fragrant aroma, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”

Yet, in all of this his healing was not said to be the result of his hard labor in the Gospel.

It was not due to his selfless service to the church of Philippi nor to Paul himself.

It was not even mentioned that it was due to his tremendous faith in Christ for healing that he was healed.

No – it was due to God expressing His Own unmerited tender loving-kindness to Epaphroditus (something he did not deserve or merit), that he was healed.

I suggest to you that this is significant!

All of the following:

Coming to God as the wayward son at the feast.

God coming to you as the son who refuses to enter the feast.

Coming to God as the good son.

All of these result in receiving words spoken from our Father which are words of mercy. God’s tender-kindness is our deliverance!

Be certain of this – that He owes us NOTHING! Everything we have comes from Him and His benevolence!

I am NOT saying God ever denies healing. I have diligently searched the scriptures for examples of God denying health to anyone who requests it with a  heart which relies upon His mercy. Yes, there are those whose healing was not immediate, and those whose healing did not come until THEY stopped wallowing and complaining – like Job, but it always came!

I am not turning a blind eye nor a calloused heart towards those who have not received healing. I know that most Christians don’t have to think too hard to call to mind someone who said they believed, looked like they believed and even acted like they believed and they still remained sick or even died.

For me to agree with the testimony of any human or even the outward appearance of their actions and place it on par with scripture would be wickedness in the highest level! I cannot take personal experience and claim it as doctrine, nor will I! To do that I would have to claim that the testimony of man is greater than the testimony of God (1 Jn. 5:9) Furthermore, to do that I would have to accept the testimony of atheists who claim they have sough God from an impartial heart and did not find Him. When the scriptures tell me that no such thing is even possible – “all who seek will find” – Luke 11:9-13.

What I am saying is that when we come to God…come humbly and gratefully expecting in His mercy. But DO NOT come, as though He owes you something based upon right, merit or even faith!

What does God said about His mercy?

“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.”  ~ Lam. 3:21-24

“He delights not in the strength of the horse: He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy.” ~ Ps. 147:10-11

This is verse sums up the whole issue

“The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage! The LORD looks down from heaven; He sees all the children of man; from where He sits enthroned He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He Who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love, that He may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in Him, because we trust in His holy Name. Let Your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in You.”Ps. 33:11-22

God is not looking for great nobility from you or even to YOUR great faith. He is looking for you to look to Him. He is the source of “your” “great” faith, and He is the source of your hope.

Hope in His mercy!

Going Deeper:

Somehow there is a disconnect between salvation and every subsequent thing we receive from God, when in fact no such disconnection exists.

The faith you “used” (though I loath that phrasing) to rely upon the finished work of Jesus Christ for eternal salvation was in fact given to you – it was not something you earned or produced by your great effort and Bible study. It was His mercy!

The same is true concerning healing!

It is true that the greatest majority of healings we witness in the scriptures are a result of trusting God to heal. The phrase, “Be it according to your faith” or “according to your faith, let it be done…” were words Jesus spoke with great regularity! So, no one is attempting to side step the role of “faith” in healing. I would note however, that faith is not ALWAYS required by the recipient. There are times in scripture where faith on the part of the healed is not even mentioned.

  • 2 Kings 5:1-15 – Pay particular attention to the words of the king in verse 15 “…now I know…”.
  • James 5:14,15 – Notice it is the Elders who pray and it is their prayer of faith they saves the sick, not the faith of the sick person.

This seems in stark contrast to James 1:6,7…

“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”

The word “think” is…

οι’ομαι (G3633) oíomai – To suppose

 

The word “receive” is…

λαμβάνω (G2983) lambánō – and means to take from the Lord or to reach out and grab a hold of for oneself.

Contrary to what is often taught in the various “faith” movements, this verse is NOT saying that it is impossible to receive without personal faith. It is saying, don’t let anyone “assume” that “they” will be able to personally lay hold on anything God is offering if they do not personally trust in and rely upon Him.

As the two prior verses testify, people CAN in fact “receive” healing with no evident faith at all on their part.

This only goes to show that God is not in a box and does not respond to you based upon your merit.

The terminology “my faith” or “I believed God”, when used in reference to receiving healing is tantamount to spiritual arrogance and pride. If you “have” faith, it was given you as a stewardship. If you placed that reliance upon God – you are not to be praise or rewarded – you are only doing what you should with what was entrusted to you.

The words of Paul should be a sharp reminder,

“Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded! By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is One–Who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” ~ Rom. 3:27-31

If we understand faith properly – that it is authored by Jesus and developed by Him as well – this also removes boasting! If we have “great reliance” it is due to great grace – not personal diligence! Boasting has been removed!

 

 

Hi I am Pastor Mark...

I have been a pastor for nearly 30 years now (2018), though never quite like I am today. (more on that in a moment)

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As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my best friend, greatest personal support and most valued aid.
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As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught. I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled). Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then,

"If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling."

~ Fredrick Buechner

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By 2009 I’d been Pastoring for nearly 20 years. Earlier in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our church was not in keeping with the New Testament. This was a shock to me and it is was a revelation that did not come all at once but over the course of a few weeks.

We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until about 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We believe the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly and though we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me. I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!