"And when they could not get near [Jesus] because of the crowd, they removed the roof above them and when they made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven".
If Jesus was in someone's home and it was too crowded to get in the door, would you be willing to go through the roof? If you knew Jesus had the cure to cancer and your spouse, parent, or closest friend was near death, would you go through the roof?Mark 2:1-12 is a both beautiful picture of faith, salvation, and healing and a gruesome depiction of the folly of the human heart.
In the one sense, we see the hungry and humble desperation of true faith. I picture their thoughts, "We must get to Jesus! There's got to be a way! He's the only healer who can actually help our friend walk". Then, in a final moment of joyful surrender, "Let's take the roof off and get him in there!" This act of faith pleased Jesus. They saw the face of the Son of God and His words were incredible, "Son, your sins are forgiven.". Faith. Son. Sins forgiven. Entire life changed for eternity. That's far more than they could've asked or imagine (Eph. 3:20-21).
In another sense, the wickedness of unsaved, hideous hearts was on full display. Some scribes were questioning Jesus in their hearts, "Why does this man speak like that? He is a blasphemer! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mark 2:6-7). The Son of God perceived the scribes’ questioning without them saying a word. Let that sink in. These Jewish leaders were questioning in their hearts, and to their utter shock and embarrassment, he answers their private thoughts out loud asking whether it's easier to say "Your sins are forgiven." (He had the authority to do so) or make a paralytic walk. He decided to do both. The result was that they were silenced and all who were around "were amazed and glorified God, saying, 'we never saw anything like this!" (Mark 2:12).
Do you desire Jesus enough to go through the roof? What's holding you back? I'm searching myself now to see whether I have this much faith. Will I put my phone away? Will I pause using social media, making music, writing blogs, doing side hustles, or preparing sermons long enough to meet with Jesus? It may have to look radical, but so was coming in through the roof. Am I willing to do it?
Are you like the scribes who "mastered" the law and prophets, knew the intricacies of the text and yet missed Who they were pointing to? Would you be the one calling Jesus a blasphemer? Jesus knew their hearts and He knows ours (Jeremiah 17:10 and Romans 8:27). Search us, O God and correct our sinful attitudes!
You may not need to go through a roof to find Jesus, but you may need to open a closet door, turn off a TV, or set an alarm. Seek Him, find Him, and remember that He will be pleased when you come in to spend time with Him. And if you have a heart like the scribes, He can change that too!
Will you go through the roof?
Image Credit: Essow Kedelina
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might."
Overconfidence loses sight of weakness.
Over the years, there’s a biblical hero that I’ve often skimmed over because I’ve known his story since childhood. Samson, the long-haired, mighty warrior of God is someone many have heard about in children's books and Sunday school. What happens to the brave warrior? When he has long hair he is strong, but when he has his hair cut off, he’s weak.
However, there’s a lot more to the story than meets the eye. Who was the source of Samson’s great strength? God was. God set Samson apart as a Nazarite when he visited Samson’s parents before he was born. We see in Judges 14:6 that the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him and allowed him to tear a lion in pieces with his bare hands. The Spirit also helped Him strike down 30 men of Ashkelon to do the Lord’s work of helping Israel (Judges 14:4;19). A third time, the Spirit of the Lord enabled him to strike down 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey (Judges. 15:14-15).
His demise came when he got a little too confident and allowed Delilah to wear him down to the point that his soul was vexed to death. Before this, he had been a powerful judge in Israel. After he revealed that his hair was tied to the Spirit's empowering work, he met his demise. The man who could destroy lions and slay thousands couldn’t resist a single woman’s persistence! Sadly, "he did not know that the LORD had left him" when he was finally kidnapped by the wicked Philistines.
This is a good reminder for us to find our strength in the Lord. Matthew Henry, commenting on Samson’s fall, says:
"Satan ruins men by flattering them into a good opinion of their own safety, and so bringing them to mind nothing, and fear nothing; and then he robs them of their strength and honour, and leads them captive at his will. When we sleep our spiritual enemies do not."
We need to know we are weak.
As humans we are more physically needy and weak that we like to admit. We need sleep, food, water, shelter, medication, vaccinations, etc. We battle with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, ADHD, and other mental and psychological ailments. We struggle to control our anger, manage our sadness, and choose to mask our struggles with entertainment, alcohol, work, or drugs.
We are also full of spiritual weakness and sin. We sin against God, ourselves, and one another. Humans in general are unrighteous (Romans 3:9-20) and enslaved to various passions and pleasures (Titus 2). We frequently choose the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life over Christ. Ultimately, we are spiritually dead and must depend on God for salvation. This is depressing and humbling, but it should point us to Christ.
In Christ, though, we still need God for spiritual vitality and growth (Eph 2:1-5). God doesn't just make us alive and save our souls (Col. 2:13-14), but he also sanctifies us and makes us more Christlike (Gal. 3:3:). Paul’s biggest frustration with the Galatian church was self-reliance: “Did you rely on the Spirit to get saved and now you’re relying on yourself for sanctification?” (my paraphrase). That’s ridiculous! If you’re going to grow in Christlikeness, it will never be by your own good deeds or works of the law. You have to lean in and trust Christ!
Our weakness draws us to the strength of God.
In Ephesians 6:11-14, Christians are called put on the whole armor of God in order to stand against the schemes of the devil. We take up the whole armor of God, in order to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. We are called 4 times in this passage to stand in the strength of God. We must never lose sight of this!
Our strength to stand and remain in the faith amidst intense spiritual warfare, worldly hatred, demonic attacks, and internal battles is found in the Lord, not ourselves. To “be strong in the Lord” is a passive command in the Greek. In other words, we are not the ones strengthening ourselves. Rather, we are putting ourselves in the position for God to strengthen us. It’s like saying, "Get your hair cut". It’s not usually assumed that we will cut our own hair. We are putting ourselves in the barber’s chair so that he can do the cutting. Similarly, we are putting ourselves in a position to be strengthened by God. That requires humility!
Do you recognize your weakness?
1. Do you think you have no need for God? Here's a word of exhortation from Scripture. Every drop of God’s furious anger resides on you if don’t repent. And you’re not some innocent person who doesn’t deserve it. You’ve broken His law. You’ve chosen your own path. You’ve said, “away with God and His rules. I’m doing things my way!” You must turn and repent! Though God is patient, His wrath is quickly kindled and once the forest is on fire, it’s too late to call for help! Come now!
2. Do you look back at your religious deeds and think you're good to go? You’ve never had a sense of need for God because you think you've had it all together. You may feel guilty on occasion, but you muster up enough "good deeds" tomorrow to soothe your guilty conscience. You may even create a worldly sort of guilt and shame in your mind that make you think, "surely these tears and this sorrow will warrant my forgiveness!" On the day of judgment when God asks where you belong, will you answer that Christ was enough or will you give a laundry list of excuses and try to justify yourself based on all that you’ve done? Enough of that! It’s time to cast that off and trust Jesus! Believe Jesus! Rest in Him!
3. Are you self-righteous? When you remember where you came from, you have to fight to see the grace of God and His goodness. When you look at your spiritual growth, you need to fight to see that it was the Holy Spirit who convicted you the last time you were in sin. It was He who showed you the way of escape in your last temptation. It was his power that helped you put that sin to death. And if you’re going to breathe another spiritual breath or take another step in your faith, it is He who will guide you into the truth.
4. Do you wallow in self-pity? Maybe you know where you came from and how much you struggle, but you can’t get your eyes off yourself and your sins. You can’t see past yesterday's failures to have hope for today. You, too, need to humble yourself and realize that it’s not in your strength that you’ll be able to pick up and move on. God will carry you. You’re not too messed up or too bad for Jesus. But, as a Robert Murray M'Cheyne once said, take ten looks at Jesus for every look at yourself. Cast your burdens on the Lord, for He will give you the strength to endure.
Learn from my mistakes
In college, I was an All-American triple and long jumper. During my freshman of college, I pulled my hamstring at indoor nationals. It was one of the most painful events in my life. I could barely put on my socks or even sit without pain. Even days later it was still painful to stretch or walk. A few weeks later, though, it felt great. I could stretch it, walk with no pain, and even do some light jogging.
I was amazed at how fast the hamstring healed. With the advice of the trainers, I went out and practiced. The warmups went great, the strides were painless, and I felt like I was finally getting up to speed! I was able to do some high knees, high skips, and even one-legged hops. By the time I got to the long jump pit, I was warmed up and ready to go.
Little did I know, my hamstring wasn’t ready. I stepped to the back of the runway and geared up to jump. I got a few steps into my run-through and felt like my old self. A few more steps and I felt the pop. Again. The dreaded hamstring tear became a full reality. I limped off the track in utter defeat and shock, barely able to stand again. This time it was torn and I was done for a year.
My torn hamstring wasn't the random result of a fateful day. Rather, I had not strengthened my hamstring to withstand collegiate sports. I had been strong enough to win state titles, break records, and find success. However, when the rigor of college track and field came, my muscles were too weak. I didn't recognize my weakness and it took a major injury to prove that I wasn't strong enough. I was relying on yesterday's success for confidence today. In hindsight, I should have been doing strength training all along.
Spiritually, I have often limped through life because I failed to recognize my weakness. In those moments, God graciously withdrew His strength and allowed me to fall. I say graciously because I learned that when I'm weak, He is strong. I am gradually learning the importance of small, daily habits to build my faith. God has called us today to stand firm in Him so that when the evil day comes we can withstand Satan. Abide in Him. Dwell with Christ. For apart from Him, you can do nothing.
How have you seen your own weakness? When you're weak, where do you run for strength?
Image credit: Pixabay
Last week we looked at Psalm 8 and saw that the glory of God should humble us. As we see our sin in comparison to God's holiness, we see our weakness, failures, and sin. In short, we were created for far more than the mud pies we settle for.
We were created to exercise dominion over creation and our desires. We were created to live for more than pornography, alcohol, drugs, entertainment, success, wealth, food, and the plethora of idols laid before us each day. And yet we often chase those things. Even in Christ, we aren’t exempt from falling into sin, even for seasons. We know it is hard to wage war against Satan, battle the flesh, and resist the world!
When we sin, what should we do? Should we lose all hope? Is there any real assurance that God still loves us? There is, and we find God's promise in 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness".
That leaves us with 3 options in handling our sin:
1. We can wallow in Eeyore-like self-pity and live with a “woe is me” mentality, thinking that we will never make progress and never be loved by God. I find myself here sometimes, do you?
2. We work from a foolish sense of self-righteousness and live with a “great is me" mentality, thinking that our progress was our own. I find myself here sometimes, too. How about you?
3. We can rest in Christ’s forgiveness and live with a “God have mercy on me, the sinner” mentality, knowing that God is "faithful and just" to forgive those who trust in Christ. Why? Because Jesus paid it all. Not some, not most, but all! This will also drive our pursuit of repentance because Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Only the gospel has the power to do that!
What do you do with your sin? What are you carrying right now that you need to confess?
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”
We are not strong in ourselves. Even in our age of empowerment jargon and self-help, we are actually weak.
From childhood, we are promised that we can be anything and everything we desire to be. If we have enough intrinsic motivation and willpower, they say, we can achieve whatever we want. This all sounds so great. It appeals to our natural impulses to work hard and find success. Even Scripture shows us the folly of laziness and apathy. Yet the promises of strength and success that our culture offer us are not enough. They are hollow gourds.
We are not strong in ourselves. No matter how hard we try to convince ourselves that we are, we simply aren’t.
We may be able to muster up enough willpower and strength to hit the gym, make the grades, or keep that stellar office job. Yet, we will find our Achilles’ Heel eventually. If we don’t have an emotional breakdown, it will show up through depression, anxiety, foolish eating, etc. Weakness will show up in pornography addiction, egocentrism, criticism, or outright rejection of God.
We are not strong in ourselves. That’s part of what it means to be human.
God knows this and commands us to find our strength in Him. We have heard that He is strong, and anyone with a slightly religious background will acknowledge that. In fact, through creation, we all have clear evidence of God’s eternal power and divine nature (Rom. 1:20). What we do with that knowledge doesn’t excuse us from the fact that God is powerful. If we walk in unbelief or apathy, we will fail to have spiritual vitality. Instead finding our strength in God will allow us to withstand the attacks of Satan.
Knowing we are not strong in ourselves (I told you that, right?), we must ask a question: How strong is God?
1. God showed His strength in creation.
God spoke the heavens and the earth into existence! Don’t ignore the first 2 chapters of Scripture. When we look out into the vast night sky and see the glorious heavens—God made them. When we look at the seemingly infinite microscopic world that escapes even those with flawless vision—God spoke that, too. When we consider that gravity, sunlight, oxygen, water, and everything necessary to keep us alive comes from God, we see His mighty power in creation! Contrary to the notion that God just set things and motion and let them go, He actively governs and upholds the universe. God’s power in creation should draw us to look to Him for strength!
2. God showed His strength in history.
God displayed His majestic power over the nations. The grand narrative of Scripture shows us nations like the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, the Romans, or the Philistines rising to prominence and falling at the power of God’s mighty hand. Psalm 136 zooms in specifically on God’s power over Egypt and shows us what God did with that wicked Pharaoh who wouldn’t let His people go:
He killed their firstborn.
He brought Israel out of Egypt with his strong and outstretched arm.
He divided the Red Sea into two parts and brought Israel through it.
He overthrew Pharaoh and his men.
He carried Israel through the wilderness.
Beyond Egypt, God struck down kings and nations as He brought His people into the promised land—their names are largely forgotten today! We should praise Him for His powerful work in the past, knowing that He can do the same in the present and future for His people!
3. God showed His strength in redemption.
God, our Father, showed His strength in sending His all-powerful and all-authoritative Son to the earth to destroy sin, death, and Satan. Remember, He didn’t lack the power to defeat Satan. Nor does He lack the power to bring life to dead souls. He doesn’t lack any authority, even over His most wicked and powerful enemies.
Jesus, God in the flesh, died to destroy the devil who has the power of death. Not only did He destroy Satan, but He also delivered us from lifelong slavery to that wicked taskmaster. In Jesus, death has been swallowed up and lost its sting forever. We have been redeemed through His blood and brought from death to life! Jesus is powerful, for there is no man who can ransom another and no man who can raise himself from the dead except Jesus Christ!
God, the Holy Spirit, gave life to our dead hearts! He breathed life into our souls and made us new creatures! As He raised Jesus’ body from the dead, so He raised our souls from the dead. As He made dry bones live, so He gives life to dead souls! If that’s not a picture of the strength and power of God, I don’t know what else you’re looking for!
There is none like our God who has power over death and Satan. Even though Satan has the “power of death” (Heb. 2:14), God has the power of life! Death has no victory, no power, and no sting! (1 Cor. 15:54-55).
4. God shows His strength in sanctification (Rom. 8:13)
Not only does God raise us up from the dead and give life to our mortal bodies, though. He also gives us the power to continue killing the sin. Through the Spirit, we “put to death” the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13). We kill sin and become more Christlike. By what strength or what power? Better yet, by Whom? The Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead with power! If the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, we can be confident that He will make us holy (Romans 8:11)!
Elder D.J. Ward reminded us to ask ourselves to look back at our old lives and ask “How did we get from that... to being upright, church folk?”. The answer, of course, is the powerful work of the Holy Spirit giving us life and causing us to walk in the ways of God! What power! The Spirit who gives us life is the same Spirit who will see to it that we finish the race looking more like Christ. The power to grow in holiness doesn’t come from within ourselves, for Jesus is clear: “apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
5. God will show His strength when He returns to overthrows Satan forever (Rev. 20:7-10)
Though the victory is already God’s, there is a sense in which we are still waiting for the fullness of victory to come. Satan is still prowling and still seeking to devour us and deceive the nations, but there will come a day when he will be thrown in the lake of fire and sulfur to suffer for eternity. There is a day when he will do nothing more than face torment day and night! God’s enemies have limited power now, and they will have absolutely no power in the future! God’s power is on display and will forever be displayed for eternity!
Behold God’s Strength
How should we respond to such displays of God’s power? One sure thing we can do is behold the power of God. When we look upon Christ, we are transformed into His image from glory to glory. As we stand in reverence of God, we will be delighted to submit to His supreme authority and find our strength in Him.
As you read your Bible and pray, behold the strength of God. Take seasons to meditate on the glory of God’s work in creation, history, redemption, sanctification, and the last days. Beholding this strength will not only humble us but also draw us to the worship of God that is truly good for our hearts! Behold Him today!
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?”
Do You Look Up?
Do you ever step out and just stare into the heavenly vastness of the night sky? Some nights, like last night, the moon appears more massive and much brighter than others. The Hunter’s Moon and other phenomena in space captivate the attention of people all over the world. But why?
God flexed His creativity in order to display His glory and bring us to awestruck wonder at His majesty. While many people still deny and reject God in their hearts, the heavens are tangible evidence that He is here. And He is glorious! His inexhaustible glory beckons us to respond. Some, being enemies of God, respond with foolish animosity and vain plotting (Psalm 2:1). As we see in Psalm 8, those who love God respond in humility and praise.
In Humility and Praise
Seeing how tiny we are humbles us. When we consider how infinitely miniscule we are in comparison to such a massive universe, our ego becomes too small to see with a microscope. Knowing that God is infinitely bigger than our universe should make us cry out with David, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Contrary to a popular preacher’s opinion, God doesn’t need us. Rather, we should be asking, “Why does He even care for a mere man or woman like me?” This is humility.
In praise, we ascribe to God words of truth and thanksgiving for His works and will for His people. We praise Him for His Son who was made “for a little while lower than the angels… crowned with glory and honor because of suffering death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). This is the ultimate picture of God’s love and care. Jesus didn’t stay in the grave, either. He resurrected with power! This should evoke praise in our redeemed hearts!
Let us sing with all creation: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psa. 8:1,9)
#MinuteMondays are intentionally short reads meant to be worshipful, thought-provoking meditations delivered to you each Monday morning! Enjoy and feel free to share using the #MinuteMondays!