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A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
5 MARCH 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Psalm 24:4-5)
4. He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood,
And has not sworn deceitfully.
5. He shall receive a blessing from the Lord
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Last week, after having spent five weeks looking at others in order to discern
the true intent of their hearts, we slid a mirror in the path of our gaze and
looked at ourselves as we had been looking at others.
Many of us saw things in ourselves that were not right before the Lord, and it struck us like a sword run through our heart.
What happened to us was exactly what we were told in Hebrews 4:12-13.
12. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged
sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints
and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
13. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
But this two-edged sword is not intended to do harm, but to bring about healing.
The sin of this world is as a cancer that eats away at our very being. And when we allow the word of God to enter, as we have been doing in this body, it cuts away at the disease so that it might be removed from us.
And even though we feel the cutting away within us, it is for our own good, so that it would bring us to repentance and the disease of sin can be removed.
Sometimes we are just sorry about the cutting, and want it to stop; but the disease will reoccur if we only do that, for it is not removed.
True repentance is not a one time thing. It is to be our heart’s desire, so that we never want to repeat that sin.
When we open ourselves up to God in this manner, He is able to enter into us and bring about our healing; and that healing is His forgiveness which we must be willing to receive, or the healing will never be complete.
Turn with me again in your Bibles to Isaiah 33:17-24, our Old Testament lesson for this morning, and listen in on part of Isaiah's message to both Assyria and Israel.
And if God's word is active and living, then it is also meant for us today. Let's see what message it has for us.
17. Your eyes will see the King in His beauty;
They will behold a far-distant land.
Israel had seen the Lord, the King of this passage, and they had beheld His
beauty; but here Isaiah is reminding them that if they return to Him and look,
they will see their future in heaven and the healing it brings.
Assyria knew the truth, and there was healing for them also, if they would listen and return to the Lord; for all of us are being told the same message.
18. Your heart will meditate on terror:
"Where is he who counts?
Where is he who weighs?
Where is he who counts the towers?"
When we come face to face with God, and are living in sin, it fills us with
terror as one who is in the midst of a war, facing death, and watching those who
are preparing for the battle.
But if we turn back to God, there is hope.
19. You will no longer see a fierce people,
A people of unintelligible speech which no one comprehends,
Of a stammering tongue which no one understands.
20. Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts;
Your eyes shall see Jerusalem an undisturbed habitation,
A tent which shall not be folded,
Its stakes shall never be pulled up
Nor any of its cords be torn apart.
21. But there the majestic One, the Lord, shall be for us
A place of rivers and wide canals,
On which no boat with oars shall go,
And on which no mighty ship shall pass –
Our journey into heaven must be by God's will, and not our own. He will carry us
where He wants us to go.
Our hardest struggle will not get us there; neither will we get there if we are all powerful.
We get to heaven when we become totally submissive to the Lord our God.
22. For the Lord is our Judge,
The Lord is our lawgiver,
The Lord is our king;
He will save us –
23. Your tackle hangs slack;
It cannot hold the base of its mast firmly,
Nor spread out the sail.
Then the prey of an abundant spoil will be divided;
The lame will take the plunder.
24. And no resident will say, "I am sick";
The people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity.
Assyria, who had captured the ten tribes of Israel, was living in their pride,
did not heed the word of God, and was destroyed.
But Judah did hear for a season, were delivered, but only partially healed; for they did not wholly turn back to God, and thus they were later led into captivity by Babylon.
Total healing requires total submission to the Lord our God and true repentance, so that the cancer of sin can be totally removed through our receiving of God's grace.
In our youth story for this morning, from Isaiah 6:8, we talked about the journey that this healing must go through and the willing part we must play.
Let's look at this in greater depth.
8. Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
In order for us to possess any of the benefits of all that God has for us, He
must first send it to us.
And in this case, God had a message for the Jewish people, so that they would walk with Him; but this time, with a severe penalty if they would not receive it; and because they didn't return wholeheartedly to Him, the penalty is still in effect today, 2700 years later.
Note also that this message was sent from the entire Trinity.
God also sent us another gift about 2000 years ago, and probably everyone here knows why He sent this particular gift, for it is told to us in one of the best known Bible verses, John 3:16; and at the same time, we should also look at verse 17, so that the full intent of God's message may be received.
16. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
17. "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him."
God gave us the most precious gift that He could ever send.
And what did we do with it?
Most people forget that this message and gift was given to the whole of creation, and not just for us human beings, for God loved the whole of His creation.
These are the people who also continue to exploit creation for their own selfish reasons, and fail to love and protect it, which should be a vital part of any truly repentant person.
As a example, our hearts and souls should ache for for suffering inflicted upon billions of animals, and millions of our fellow human beings every year.
True repentance brings us to the point of removing any contributing aspect of this suffering from our own lives, and resolving to do everything in our power to end it in the world around us.
To us, this is all part of our receiving Jesus Christ.
Some went forth to receive Jesus Christ and the everlasting life He brought with Him, but by far, most did not; and even more tragically, they didn't even acknowledge the gift of God's Son.
We know that the gift was delivered and that to this very day, the message of its delivery is still being spoken of.
Note how Paul expresses this message in his greeting to the Galatians in 1:3-5.
3. Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ,
4. who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
5. to whom be the glory forever. Amen.
And we should all add our "Amen" to that greeting, for it is not only being
delivered to us, but if we receive it, Jesus Christ will also deliver us into
heaven, for we most assuredly need deliverance from this present evil age.
What is sent must be delivered, if it is to be received; but unfortunately not all are willing to receive what God has for us.
But if we do receive Jesus Christ, then we shall also receive the benefits, as Paul tells us in Romans 5:17.
17. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
For by our belief and faith in Jesus Christ we are given the free gift of
salvation by God's grace, but we must receive it with true repentence.
And when we do, our sins, which bring death, are covered by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, and we are considered as righteous, and we are healed from the paralyzing effect of our past life, so that we may walk in life everlasting with our Lord, even at this time.
Let's return to our New Testament lesson for this morning, Matthew 9:1-8, and apply what we have been talking about to the man who was brought to Jesus.
And in keeping with the fact that God's word is the same yesterday as it is today, I would like each and every one of us to get on our own bed of infirmity along with this man, and be brought face to face with Jesus Christ.
1. And getting into a boat, He crossed over, and came to His own city.
This isn't the first time that Jesus has crossed over to us.
He has been reaching out to us all of our lives, but our sins have paralyzed us and prevented us from responding to Him.
2. And behold, they were bringing to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed; and Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, "Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven."
Can you feel what this man must be feeling?
"I am a sinful person. The sins in my life have bound me and made me as I am. And now these believers are bringing me before Jesus."
"I can't go to see Him, for He is the Son of God, and if I see Him face to face, I will surely die."
"O Lord, what am I to do?"
"O Lord, forgive me!"
"Now He is turning toward me!"
"What am I to do?"
"He spoke to me!"
"What did He say?"
"He told me to 'take courage.' "
"He even called me His son!"
"Why would He do that?"
"I don't deserve this kind of grace, and He even told me that my sins are forgiven."
"What a marvelous gift He is giving me, and I am beginning to believe that I am no longer bound to this bed of affliction."
"Some of those around me in this crowd don't want Him to give me this gift of forgiveness and healing."
"He's even turning away from me to look at them."
3. And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes."
4. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?
5. "For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, and walk'?
6. "But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" – then He said to the paralytic – "Rise, take up your bed, and go home."
"Did you hear what He said?"
"He told me to rise!"
"I know I can, for He has forgiven me my sins, and I am no longer bound. I can stand up."
"And He told me to take up my bed and go home."
"And I know I can, for I have new strength."
"I no longer have to live the way I have been living."
"I no longer have to be carried wherever I want to go, or even where I don't want to go."
"I can stand on my own feet, and in the strength of Jesus Christ I can even walk away from the sins I previously had."
7. And he rose, and went home.
8. But when the multitudes saw this, they were filled with awe, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
Has the Lord been speaking to your heart?
Or are you still bound by Satan and the scribes around you, who are only interested in themselves and not you?
The Lord has set you free right now.
Your sins are forgiven, if you are willing to receive His gift and walk away from your sins, as the paralytic did.
All of us have sins.
And all of us can be forgiven them, if we truly desire to walk away from them and if we truly repent of them.
Jesus will take us just as we are, if we are willing to receive what He has for us and be healed.