This was the question Jesus asked the man by the pool of Bethesda who had been lame for 38 years (John 5:5). Notice He is asking the man whether or not he really wants to be healed, and indicates after He does so that his infirmity may have something to do with an habitually sinful lifestyle (“Go and sin no more”).
Jesus comes to us today with the same question. This man’s spiritual condition was expressed outwardly by an easily observable physical infirmity, just as alcoholism is an expression of an internal, spiritual condition. It was easy to see he had a problem. However, spiritual sickness is often expressed through different external indicators not so easily recognized in ourselves—anger, bitterness, fear, unforgiveness, etc.
So, when Jesus’ question comes to us, our immediate answer is, “Why would I want to be healed? I’m not sick.” I can’t possibly answer “Yes” to the question until God opens my eyes and shows me that I, yes, even I, am deathly ill. That is why Prayer #1 is always the first prayer in our journey to a relationship with God—that He would show us our dire condition (Psalms 139:23 24 – ”Search me, O God . . . and see if any wicked way is in me”).
Once my sin has been exposed to me, Prayer #2 is a prayer of repentance for what I have seen (Luke 18:13 – “Oh Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.”). I am neither hiding from, excusing, or rationalizing my sin, nor blaming someone else, but eagerly owning it.
Prayer #3 is for God to give me faith to then believe that I personally am fully, completely and permanently forgiven because of Jesus death for me on the cross (Mark 9:24 – “I believe; help my unbelief”).
This is the only gate through which all of us enter into a relationship with God: 1.) to see, 2.) to repent, 3.) to believe. No obedience to God’s law is necessary to be saved. None.
Nothing to see here. Old news, right? The news that is new, experientially, to many Christians, is that Paul also says there is no other path upon which we can daily walk in relationship with Him (Colossians 2:6 – “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him”). No obedience to God’s law is necessary to live every day. None.”
We live every day as little five-year-old children, walking with our hand in Daddy’s, trusting Him to show us when we screw up, quickly repenting when we do, and then believing Daddy’s love, acceptance and favor never once wavered.
This is “walking (or living) by faith,” or “walking in the Spirit,” as opposed to “walking in the flesh, or “living by the law,” all terms Paul uses interchangeably. It is the life God intends for us all, and he is busily at work in our lives to bring us to this experience by remembering that God is always the subject, the initiator, and the actor, while we are always the objects, the responders and the ones being acted upon.
Seems simple, and it is, but it’s not easy. I am called to change a way of living I have followed since I was born. God calls us to a way that flies in the face of everything I have ever done, every way I have ever thought my whole life. How so?
I have lived by “doing my best,” “disciplining myself,” “making good choices,” “always trying to obey God,” never realizing that God never asked me to do any of those things. As a matter of fact, He asks me to unlearn, lay aside, and forsake this whole way of thinking and become like little children who know nothing. Jesus says that then, and only then, can we not only enter HIs way of life (His “kingdom” – Matthew 18:3), but also remain in it (Matthew 19:14)! In other words, HIs kingdom is only for helpless, dependent little children who can do absolutely nothing but trust Daddy!
And here is what God promises He will do for us without any effort on our part whatsoever. Our part is to just to keep trusting Him, in light of all evidence to the contrary, that He is doing exactly what He says He will do, and here is what He promises to do. Do you really believe what He says?
1. To change my “want-to’s” to conform to His “want-to’s” for my life. This means I can do what God wants me to do, not because I try to be obedient to His law in the Bible, but by doing just what I want to do! Is that not what Philippians 2:13 tells us? “For it is God who works in you both to will (to “want to”) and to do for His good pleasure.”
That is freedom. It is not, as I read last week in an otherwise right-on article, the freedom to keep the law of God but not the freedom to go into license and break it. What kind of freedom is that? Certainly sin will have earthly consequences and some of us only learn through experience, but the cross has set me truly free to do exactly what I want to do! Can I not trust God to be at work in my heart by His Spirit, just as He says He is? I commit adultery every time I want to. That is real freedom, and I haven’t done so yet.
2. To produce the fruit of the Spirit in me. This occurs unconsciously and spontaneously, without any effort on my part whatsoever (Galatians 5:22, 23). In Galatians 5, Paul has pictured the contrast between the results of living by trying to keep the law and the freedom of just trusting the Spirit within to change my want-to’s. The result of the law is sin; the result of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc. He concludes this beautiful list of desirable fruit with an interesting statement: “Against such there is no law.”
He is saying that all my efforts to keep the law have produced the works of the flesh in verses 19-21, and with no effort whatsoever, simply trusting God and doing what I want to do, my want-to’s have broken none of God’s laws. Contrary to what all the religious people say, true freedom in the Spirit produces holiness.
3. To give me a vision for the future in my life and in the world. This third thing God does when we are healed and enter His kingdom as little children introduces the fourth and final question we are asking in our summary of Theology for Dummies: “What is My Purpose?” If you believe what you have just read you are, or soon will be, chomping at the bit to get the answer. That begins next week.