If you had a friend who was dying of an illness, you would do anything to get them healed. I would bet to say that you would probably help get them to the doctor, get medication, search out articles that address their illness, etc. Or maybe you have friends in your life that are just too stubborn to go to the doctor when they are sick and you have to badger them to go to the doctor because they keep saying they are fine (I am one of those, I hate going to the doctor). Either way, if you had a friend that was sick, you would want them to be healthy and to receive help, and would probably go to great lengths to make sure they are healed.
This is the story of the men who carried their paralytic friend to Jesus in Mark 2:1-12. Four men are told to have been carrying their paralytic friend to Jesus, and mostly likely because they believed in their hearts that if this man could get to Jesus or if he could just touch the paralytic, the man would be healed. They would do anything to get this man to Jesus because he would be healed, so much so that they cut a hole in the roof of the man's house Jesus was in so that they could get the paralytic to Jesus. The story says that the crowds were so large that there was no way to get to Jesus, so these men were so determined that they lowered their friend through the roof to Jesus. Talk about a mighty faith, a faith that so moved these friends to take drastic measures to see their friend healed.
The question that is so convicting here is how great is your faith, does it move you to bring people to Jesus? I promise you we all have a sickness, it is called sin, and the only remedy to sin-sick people are the blood of Jesus Christ. The faith of these men moved them to do anything to get them to Jesus, and as I read this story, I begin to ask myself if I would be willing to drag my friends to a house and lower them through a roof just for them to see Jesus. When people have experienced the goodness of Jesus they cannot help but bring their sin sick friends to Jesus as these friends had brought their paralytic friend to Jesus. Faithful friends bring sick friends to Jesus because they know there is healing and life in Jesus.
This is no prosperity gospel that he does anything and everything you want, rather, in Jesus there is freedom from sin. In this passage, the first thing Jesus says to this man is that his sins were forgiven; he does not tell the man to get up and walk until the end. Jesus frees us from the bondage of sin, so that we may get up and walk. So just as Jesus says to that paralytic, talk up your mat and walk, he says to us, your sins are forgiven because of your faith. Faithful friends bring sick friends to Jesus because they have been able to walk since they've encountered Jesus.
Every person desires to have value, worth, purpose, etc. I think we can agree that all people are born with intrinsic value (even if we may not live like everyone has value, if you know what I mean). There is a longing in everyone's heart to be counted worthy and not disregarded, yet what if you were told that your life was worth nothing? Not that you mean nothing, but that what you are placing your worth in means absolutely nothing? Your job is not your life, your money is not your life, your stuff is not your life; none of those things bring worth to your life.
Paul in the Bible understood this so well. Now that I have got you all confused and probably upset with me because I have told you that you have misplaced priorities and desires, I want us to look at Acts 20:24, "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace." Paul is writing this in the context of leaving behind beloved brothers and sisters at the church in Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem where he knows that he will probably die. He is writing this knowing that he has been faithful to what God has called him to and now he must finish the race and complete the task.
Paul is able to count his life as nothing of value to him lest he share the gospel, can you do this? I think there are many times when I could not say this with a clean conscience. Do you count your life as nothing of value to yourself lest you finish the race and complete the task of sharing the gospel with the world? My heart is convicted as I read this passage, that I would be able to say, just as Paul, that I consider my life worth nothing to me because my only aim is to finish the race and testify of the good news of God's grace! It was once asked, what is the highest and chief end of man and the answer was to glorify God and fully delight in him. Paul understood this, that the chief purpose of his life is to proclaim the gospel and love people as Jesus did.
Jesus says that if one is not willing to leave brother and sister, father and mother, wealth and home, then he is not worthy to follow him. Jesus does not want a quarter of you or even half of you, he wants your whole heart! So I ask you, what is your life worth to you? Is worth giving away for the sake of the gospel and saying yes Lord I will testify to the good news of your grace or are you content with what this world has given you? Paul states, "Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God." This is the proclamation of a life time, Paul is able to say he could stand before God knowing he has given his life for the gospel.
As I was titling this post, I immediately thought of the movie, "The Incredibles". In the beginning of the film, there is a boy that really wants to help Mr. Incredible do his job, yet he simply keeps getting in the way. This boy is relentless and Mr. Incredible continues to tell him, "Go home buddy, I work alone." If you've seen this film, you know that this begins the whole entire plot of the movie; that boy's life is forever changed after that final rejection when Mr. Incredible tells him to go home because he works alone.
In Mark chapter 5, we see a similar line in verse 19 where Jesus tells a man that he has just healed from demon possession to go home. Although, this "go home" is radically different the the "go home" that Mr. Incredible tells to buddy, and praise God that it is. The story in Mark 5 is about a man who has a legion of demons inside him. This man is unable to be bound by any chains, shackles, or irons. It is said that this man lived in the tombs and the hills and would cut himself with stones, he was afflicted and isolated. When Jesus approaches this man, the demons know who Jesus is and are terrified so much so that they ask to be put into the herd of pigs. Then, Jesus casts the demons into the pigs, they run off the cliff into the water and drown. Everyone who sees this event is afraid and ask Jesus to leave. This is basically the plot-line yet at the very end, the man whom Jesus had healed begs Jesus to let him go with them but Jesus turns and says "go home". Thanks goodness this is not all he says to the man.
There are so many things that we could dialogue about in this passage like: Jesus power over demons, the demons fearing Jesus, Jesus power scaring a village, etc. Yet, I want us to notice this, after the man begs Jesus to let him go with them, in Mark 5:19 the Bible says, "Jesus did not let him, but said, 'Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you'." This is incredible, see, the whole village is satisfied because Jesus left but he has just left that village with a man that has been transformed by the power of God. It says that as the man began to tell people in the Decapolis, the people were amazed! The testimony of God's power told by a healed man was able to amaze all the people. Jesus' "go home" is very different than Mr.Incredible's because he never leaves us empty-handed, rather he sends us instead of leaves us, and sends us with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus sends this man to tell all the people what great things God has done for him and the mercy God has had on him. Jesus does not work alone, rather he calls you and I to share what great things God has done for us and what great mercy God has had on us. Being saved from sin and healed by Jesus means being sent out to proclaim the mighty deeds of God. Being saved from sin and healed by Jesus means proclaims the good news of God's great grace. Paul says in Acts 20:24, "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace." The man who had been healed by Jesus was commissioned to do one thing, the same thing that you and I are commissioned to do, to tell everyone what great things God has done for you and what great mercy God has had one you. I am so thankful that Jesus does not simply tell us "go home" because he does not want us, but he says "go home to your own people" because we are sent with a mission to share what Jesus has done in our lives. "Taste and see that the Lord is good;" (Psalm 34:8a).
There are many Christians in the church that, if asked, would say that Jesus died to save us from our sins. While this is true, it does not give the real reason why God sent his only Son to die on the cross. I believe that many people who have left the church is due to this: they only understood the Gospel of Jesus Christ as fire insurance and lost their "fervor" weeks, months, or years later. We do a really good job of asking people to accept Jesus because he died for their sins and we need our sins to be forgiven, but this does not address everything. Often times we stop at justification, being made just before God through forgiveness, but there is more.
The Son of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, came to reconcile us to himself AND free us from sin! If we only see salvation as fire insurance, then we have missed the most beautiful part of salvation. The Jesus of the Bible came to give life and give it abundantly, to be made like Christ, to be restored in the image of God. If we do not have power to live and walk in obedience, then the death of Christ was in vain. In Galatians 2:20, Paul says that he is crucified with Christ and it is no longer him who lives, but Christ who lives in him, and that the life he lives in the flesh he lives by faith in the Son of God who loved him (and everyone) and gave his life for him (and the whole world). Paul says that he has been crucified. I wonder what the church would look like if we began to preach that conversion means crucifixion and new life in the blood of Jesus. A life that is holy unto the Lord. A.W. Tozer says it this way, "The purpose of God is not to save us from hell; the purpose of God is to save us to make us like Christ and to make us like God" (The Crucified Life).
In Paul's letter to the church of Rome, chapter eight is about living in the power of the Spirit. He talks about God sending his only son and how nothing can separate Christians from the love of God. In the power of this love of Christ, Christians are called more than conquerors (Romans 8:31-39). If we are more than conquerors, then we should not view salvation as a mere ticket out of hell, but a mission. We are set free from sin to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our strength, with all our mind, and with all our soul; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are set free to go forth, not be idle and "a get out of hell free card". Salvation is to be made like Christ and continually renewed.
To live a life that is crucified is not an easy task, it means surrender and the first thing that comes in the way of surrender is self-will. I promise you that it is not an easy path, but a life surrendered to the work of the Holy Spirit is a life that is abundant; a life that can experience victory and walk in holiness. Whether you are living in victory or fighting daily battles, know that God fulfills his promises. In Philippians 3:12-15, Paul talks about pressing on towards righteousness and being made perfect, not that he has attained perfection, but that he continually walks in the power of the spirit. Paul begins Philippians by saying that "He who has began a good work in you is faithful to bring it to completion" and ends Philippians with the same encouragement of pressing on toward the mark, which is being made like Jesus. Seek the Lord; seek to be made like Jesus and pray for the Lord to renew himself in you.
So while attending a concert two weeks ago, I found myself in a conversation with the person next to me before the concert began about faith and theology. This person began to talk about how they had left the Presbyterian Church and become acquainted with the Bethel Movement throughout the United States. He began to talk about what has changed in his life and so I mentioned that we cannot throw tradition out the window, where he proceeded to tell me that tradition is worship of ancestors.
To the church's demise today, many Christians hold the same or similar view as this man. As any good protestant, I was not brought up reading in early church tradition: the Patristic era or the Apostolic era. These things are usually attributed to the high church types of congregations that typically still have a sense of catechism or confirmation such as: the Anglican church, the United Methodist Church (in some sense), the Roman Catholic, the Eastern Church, etc. Although I was not raised up in this manner, the Apostolic and Patristic era are of utmost importance to the church today still. The early church produced the canon that we read from today and the creeds that are professed throughout the world in many churches.
The Early Church is where we get our tradition of Baptism (yes this arrives out of scripture, but the manner in which it is performed has a lot to do with the early Christians) and the Eucharist (The Lord's Supper). See if we begin to throw out the early church and the traditions of the church, we begin to miss the reason for the things that the church does and why they are theologically pertinent to the church today. The early church did not have a canon of scripture, they relied on the oral tradition and the reading aloud of documents they found to be scripture. The early church as well had creeds because it helped Christians know what they believe, without those, who knows where the church would be today.
Tradition is not the Word of God. It is not unchangeable and infallible, this is the very reason why the Reformation occurred and for the recently celebrated 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The church should always be reforming, but that does not mean that the grounds on which the church was founded are heresy. Tradition helps us to see where we come from and helps us to keep our focus on the essentials, that being the Kingdom of God. The writing of the Gospels was because of the need to preserve the beliefs of the early Christians and how the church is to function. There are also other documents that are not canonical but considered of much value such as the Didache (anonymous author) and Apostolic Tradition by Hippolytus of Rome.
Finally, what does this mean for the contemporary or post-modern church of today that seeks to be set apart? Well it means that we do not simply disregard tradition because it does not suit our liking or fit our preference of worship. We should seek to maintain the dogmatic beliefs of the early church and the creeds (Nicene, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon) because they help us understand who God is and how he interacts with creation. The Creeds and Councils of the early church were ecumenical, they were pre-denominational; they truly were the Holy Catholic (universal) Church. The Holy Scriptures are the only source of revelation but tradition can be a helpful tool for us to understand the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. So before you decide to throw out commentaries, creeds, and confessions, take a look at them and see how the early church used them and how they are congruent with Scripture.