Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bethesda: The House of Grace

Many of us can look at our lives, the things we came out of, and see what it is that Jesus has done for us. We can look at our lives before Jesus and see what we had made of them. We can look back and see what the sin that we had allowed to enter our lives had done to us. If you’re a Christian today, you sit in church changed and set free, by His grace and mercy. Today I want to share with you a moment of grace and mercy from the Bible.

John 5:1-13
1After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 3In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. 5Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”  7The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”  8Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.  And that day was the Sabbath. 10The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”  11He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’”  12Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. 14Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”

The House of Grace

The word Bethesda in Hebrew means House of Grace. It is probably named that because of the grace, or mercy, shown to the ill and lame who were healed in the pool. Bethesda had five porches. Five is the number of grace; in the same way that six is the number for man and seven is the number of completion, or perfection.

So here at the pool of healing we see Jesus with a man who is afflicted: A man who has suffered his affliction for many years. This is the place where he meets Jesus; the place where he has that one encounter with Jesus that makes him whole; that sets him free of his afflictions. He has suffered this affliction for thirty-eight years and in one moment of time his affliction is swept away. In one encounter with Jesus his suffering ends. It takes place right here, at the pool of Bethesda. It’s interesting that this meeting took place here at the pool. It didn’t happen on the streets of Jerusalem. This man didn’t meet with Jesus, on his own, some place. He met with him here at the “House of Grace.”

There is a House of Grace in our lives, as well. There is a place where we can meet with Jesus and the pain and suffering or our affliction can be taken away in a moment, just like the man at the pool. Our affliction may be a physical affliction that requires physical healing, but it is also a spiritual affliction. We can have an encounter with Jesus that frees us, in one moment, of the affliction of sin. The House of Grace in our times is the local church. The local church is the place where you can have an encounter with Jesus that will set you free. At the altar of repentance you can meet Jesus and be transformed. Through His death on the cross He has made it possible for our sin, our affliction, to be taken away. By His stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

He is the Angel of the Lord that stirs the water and brings healing. We meet with Him at a place like this where He transforms us, in a moment of time, and heals us of our transgressions and afflictions.

Entering Into the Pool

In order for this man to be released of his affliction he had to enter the pool. The Bible says in verses three and four of our text

John 5:3-4
3In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.

After the water was stirred up, the first one who entered into the pool was healed. You have to submerge into the House of Mercy to be healed. But how many people do you meet that tell you they’re Christians; they tell you their believers, but they have no home church? How many people have you met that have a long list of churches that they’ve attended but not a church to which they’re committed? The problem is that they’ve spent their lives on the fringes. They’ve never been willing to put themselves into God’s method of transformation for their lives, which is to lock into a church. They’ve never allowed themselves to be immersed into God’s will for their lives. They’ve been around the church but aren’t willing to ground themselves in God’s word. Because of their unwillingness to step into that they continue in their affliction.

I used to know a man, who asked me about my church. He wasn’t interested in the church’s doctrine. He asked me about how many people attended. He asked about fellowship opportunities. He told me that he played softball at his church. But he shared with me that he didn’t think they would ask him that year. He said he hadn’t attended church lately. Actually, he didn’t attend at all, he just played softball with them. He had the aura of church attendance, but in fact, didn’t attend church at all. There was no change in his life. He continued to live the way he lived before: His wife was ready to leave him his life was a mess. He was still caught up in his affliction because he was on the fringes. He never immersed himself into the pool of healing.

What do we see in our text? On the porches there was a multitude of people. There were a lot of people on the fringes. They see the power of God manifested in the lives of those who enter the pool. They see the miracles, they see the transformation, and they want those things to take place in their lives but they never make it into the pool. They aren’t aggressively seeking the miracle, they’re hanging around the pool, they’re close to the pool, but…

It makes me think of the woman with the issue of blood.

Luke 5:25-29
25Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”  29Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction.

This woman aggressively sought healing. The Bible says she, “suffered many things from many physicians.” She was looking for a cure, when she heard about Jesus. She knows that if she can reach Him she can be healed. So she’s willing to risk arrest.

She had an issue of blood, so she was unclean. She was required to walk the streets and call out, “Unclean.” She could touch no one. But here she is, she pushed her way through a throng of people to reach Jesus. She had to press past maybe hundreds of bodies to get next to him. She wanted to touch him; she wanted to enter in; she wanted to be made well.

She could have stayed on the fringes. She could have waited for Jesus to notice her. But she risked it all, she went to Him to be healed and set free. The question is, “Are you willing to allow God to stir up the waters of life in you? Are you willing to step in and immerse yourself in the will of God/

The man in our text tells Jesus, “I have no one to place me in the water and when I come down someone gets there before me.” But he wasn’t aggressive about reaching the water. He could have set his cot right at the water’s edge, so when it got stirred up he could roll off the cot and into the water. If you really want it you’ll be at the edge of the water ready to dive in at the first sight of movement not back up in the fringes or on the porches. "Oh look the water’s moving, quick, someone carry me to the pool. Oh, it stopped, oh well maybe next time.”

In order to be healed of the affliction you must immerse yourself. You must enter into the will of God for your life. It’s not going to happen until you take the step, like the woman with the issue of blood, and aggressively seek God’s miracle for your own life. You must enter into the pool with a desire to be healed and transformed, and then God can work with you, and change you.

Continuing in Sin

Finally, let’s take a look at Jesus’ final comments to this man at Bethesda.

John 5:14
14Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”

Jesus is admonishing that if he continues in sin a worse thing can happen to him. You know, you can attend church and lose your salvation. After this kind of encounter you can’t continue in sin, because something worse can come upon you. Understand tis, just because his grace is upon you, you can’t continue to sin and rely on that grace. That’s not how grace is intended. Grace is intended to give us a fresh start, a new beginning. We abuse grace by accepting grace and continuing to sin.

Romans 6:1-2
1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

What’s interesting here is that as this man sat on the fringes, Jesus came to him. In this moment we see a snapshot of His grace as He reaches into this man’s life and gives him the healing he desires. We can see the same snapshot of grace as Jesus reached into our lives and brought healing and transformation to us. He desires that all of us have an opportunity to be cleansed and healed. He wants to use us as instruments of His grace to reach out to others.

But there is a warning here to us that we can fall from his grace, by continuing to sin. How valuable is your salvation to you? How valuable is the free gift that was given to you in the moments of Jesus’ death and resurrection? Are you willing to put to death the “Old Man of Sin”? Or do you esteem so lightly the grace that was given through His suffering that you would put Him on the cross once again? Is there sin you are unwilling to give up?

I know a man who was saved about 25 years ago. Throughout his life God changed him and showed him much grace and mercy. But he continues to smoke. In fact, the day I met him and he found out that I was a Christian he told me, “I know God is going to deliver me from smoking, but he’s going to do it in His own time.” Well, the fact is, that God’s time is now. But God couldn’t deliver him from smoking until he took the first step and put it down. The problem was he wasn’t willing to put off the old man of sin. Then he was diagnosed with lung cancer. I told him, “Look man, God is trying to get a hold of you right now. This is what God is doing to get you to lay that stuff down.” His reply was interesting,, “I already have cancer, now, so why quit.” I was sad to attend his funeral.

In our text Jesus is warning us that if we continue in sin, “a worse thing can come upon us.” We need to take our salvation seriously. He paid for that gift of grace with his life. He willingly gave his life and it cheapens his death by continuing in sin and letting that grace abound.

It is like when somebody gives you something of great value and you don’t take care of it because you paid nothing for it. Are you that way with your salvation? Do you care so little about it that you don’t guard it and ensure that you never lose it? That you don’t work to keep it healthy?

Pastor Glen Cluck once said, “If you live your l;ife like you could lose your salvation, you probably won’t.” In other words if you are aware that your salvation could be lost and live with that awareness, then you will do what it takes to preserve it.

Here is a fundamental truth for life: We need to enter into the House of Grace and submerge ourselves in it. We need to dive into the will of God, so that we can receive the promise of mercy and spiritual healing. Total immersion in the will of God is what does it.

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