Monday, January 28, 2013

Sickness and Separation and Jesus and being on Display

There is nothing God cannot fix / forgive. He is willing.

There's a bit of a build up, but hang in there...

In the OT, lepers were commanded to shout "Unclean! Unclean!" everywhere they went (ref: Leviticus 13:45). They weren't allowed to live in society; they had to find a place "outside the camp" and were commanded to "live alone" (ref: Leviticus 13:46).

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine having a diseases, enduring it alone, and being ostracized for it? Can you imagine having to shout your presence and disease everywhere you went?

Lepers were considered "untouchables." Can you imagine losing all points of human affection? No hugs from family. No handshakes from friends. No lighthearted pats on the back from coworkers.

Sometimes, people are sick because of the work of the enemy (ex: Luke 13:10-16). Sometimes, people are sick simply because we live in a fallen world (ex: Genesis 3:17-19). Sometimes, people are sick because God is allowing it that He might ultimately receive glory from it (ex: John 9:1-3ff). Sometimes, people are sick because God is using "affliction" to discipline, shape or disciple them (ex: Psalm 119:67, 71, 75). Sometimes, sickness is due to sin (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).

These days, we've nearly come to the point in which no one feels any societal shame for their sin. People do whatever they want and no one seems to mind a bit at all.

Too many times, these days, we don't consider some sickness as the work of the enemy. Nor do we receive it as refining fire in our sanctification. (But, hang in there; there is a lesson on sickness, but it's really about something else.)

Sickness has all sorts of causes. We can't all be holy doctors; we can't run around accusing people of sin, pretending to KNOW someone's sickness comes from their sin. We can exhort them, pray for them, and even ask them to consider it, but we do not have perfect knowledge to accuse. Unless we are given a divine vision, we cannot say a sickness is caused by demonic work, but we can pray against crippling spirits (and even fast!). We don't always know that God is specifically using sickness as a discipleship tool, but we can pray people endure the trial and come under its training.

Here's the thing...we can't always know (I might say we rarely know...unless divine knowledge is given to us from time to time).


Even IF it is sin...

(I like it when a "but" butts in and changes things.)

"The wages of sin is death, BUT the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23) Even if a sickness is caused by sin, that sin is under the blood, so a person should seek Jesus!

Now, all of that to say some of this...

I love that Jesus isn't afraid to touch untouchables. In Luke 5:12-16 (also Mark 1:40-45 and Matthew 8:1-4), we have the following: While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. (ESV)

See that? The man believed Jesus was able. The man just wasn't sure Jesus was willing. We don't know the cause of his leprosy. Was he a sinner? Was it just because the world is fallen? Was it demonic oppression? Was it for the glory of God? Was it to produce sanctification? I don't know. The text doesn't say. It's not the point. The point is Jesus was willing to touch the untouchable.

I am so glad Jesus was willing to touch me, too. I am so thankful that, though a full-fledged, well-practiced, and wholly horrible sinner, Jesus touched me.

I think many people believe they have gone too far to be forgiven. I think many people feel God won't receive them. The account of the leper proves Jesus is willing. I'm here to testify that He is able! He can heal sickness, but, MORE IMPORTANTLY, He is willing to forgive sin and be in fellowship with the spiritually untouchable.

IF you read Mark's version, you notice that Jesus commanded the guy to keep silent about the healing. I've always though that strange, but I understand it. Jesus did not want anyone to think His primary purpose was to heal sickness. His ability to heal proved He was / is God. BUT, His primary purpose was as Messiah / Savior. He was there to set Israel -- and the world -- at spiritual liberty. He came to die, that all the spiritual untouchables -- which is EVERYONE (ref: Romans 3:23) -- might know His touch of forgiveness.

However, Jesus did command the cleansed leper to show himself to the priest. This was fully in keeping with Leviticus 14:1-32 (specifically vs. 2). He was also commanded to "...make an offering for [his] cleansing."

See that?

  • respect the Law
  • make an offering (in accordance with the Law)
  • show yourself to the priest (in accordance with the Law)
The Law basically just said "Give a testimony to God's work of healing and respond to it also with giving." 

Jesus is willing to touch the untouchable. He then desires to put them on display.

It's bad enough to be cut off from people, but, these days, pretty much no sickness does that. These days, it seems, especially in our American culture, sin abounds so readily and publicly that none of us even flinch. Sexual sin abounds. Gossip. Greed. Arrogance. Pride. Divorce. Thieves and thugs and dope dealers are lauded as cultural heroes. Athletes are made into idols. Hobbies and habits are given preeminence left and right. Gluttony is offered as "value." Lying is seen as a useful skill. Drunkenness and lewd behavior is posted on social sites when it should be an unsocial sight. Folks might be fine with all of that, but it separates us from God.

Thank God, in Christ Jesus, HE IS WILLING to touch the untouchables. He is ready to forgive. He is good. He is loving. He is full of grace. He is merciful.

He then wants to put people on display. He wants to show them to the world. He wants to put them on display...everyone sees us live in shameless sin...God wants them to see us live in humbled forgiveness.

Sin separates. Jesus forgives. Jesus restores. Jesus gives access to fellowship with God, full and free. He takes us from outside the camp, and puts us in abiding fellowship with the Father. Wow...

Know this...God loves you. Your life can be restored, be made useful and you can experience sweet fellowship with God. God is even able to restore what our sin has stolen (ref: Joel 2:25-26).

Don't be afraid to cry out to Jesus. He is willing...