What Do You Want?

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” – Matthew 8:1-4

 

 

As you may remember, before Jesus went up the mountain and started teaching the Sermon on the Mount, He was being followed by huge crowds. And He healed every kind of disease and sickness they had. News about him was quickly spreading over the entire region.

 

So it’s no surprise that this man with leprosy wanted to reach out to Jesus when the sermon was over. If I were him, I would have been anxiously awaiting the end of the sermon, wondering if I was going to be able to approach Jesus, and if He would be willing to take the time to listen to me and heal me.

 

I’m not sure I would have heard one word of the sermon, because I would have been strategizing my location and anticipating Jesus’ descent and silently practicing what I was going to say to Him when and if I got His attention.

 

But that wasn’t the case with this man.

 

This man was listening to the sermon. At least that’s what I believe, based on what He said to Jesus.

 

 

 

Have you ever gotten yourself into a pickle and begged God to help you get out of it? But what you really wanted Him to do was rescue you from this particular situation—not necessarily take away the desire that resulted in you being in the pickle in the first place?

 

Let me see if I can explain myself. Say, for instance, you have a bad week at work and you do some emotional retail therapy over the weekend. But now you need money to pay your credit card bill. You ask God to bring you the needed money. But you don’t ask Him to deal with the issue that’s causing you to use shopping as a salve for the emotional wound that’s causing you pain.

 

Here’s another example. Your doctor runs some tests to see if you’re pre-diabetic. You beg God to let the test results show that you are not on the verge of Type 2 Diabetes. But you don’t go so far as to ask Him to heal you of the issue deep inside that’s causing you to medicate with doughnuts and sodas.

 

There’s a difference between asking Jesus to take care of a surface problem and asking Him to heal the heart issue that’s causing the surface problem.

 

Taking care of the surface problem is like treating the symptoms of a horrible disease but never dealing with the disease itself.

 

And that, in my opinion, was the main focus of the Sermon on the Mount.

 

Jesus shared with His audience the difference in religion—which is sin-focused and deals with the surface problems, the symptoms—and the good news of the kingdom that He is proclaiming—which is heart-focused and deals with the core issues, curing the disease of our sin condition, not just treating the symptoms.

 

The reason I think this man with leprosy was paying attention to Jesus’ sermon is because of the words he used—as stated in the Amplified Bible (1987 edition).

 

The man prostrates himself, worships Jesus, and says, “Lord if you are willing, You are able to cleanse me by curing me.”

 

In other words, he wasn’t just asking Jesus to make his skin look good so he would be accepted by society again. So he could go back home. So he could get his job back and provide for his family. So he could go to Temple again and socialize with his peers. This man was asking Jesus to cure his disease at the core. To make him whole again. To remove any remnant of the disease in his body so he wouldn’t have to deal with the symptoms ever again.

 

And that’s what Jesus did.

 

And that’s what Jesus did on the cross three years later.

 

That’s what He has provided for you and me.

 

But sometimes we’re more interested in being rescued from our current situation. We just want to be made socially acceptable. We just want to look good to our peers. And we want it done now! We’re not really interested in going through the process of changing the way we see ourselves. Of making what Jesus did for us on the cross a reality in our day-to-day life. And venturing out into living the whole, cleansed life He provides for us.

 

No, we’ll just take a quick outpatient, drive-thru, in-and-out procedure to fix our current problem, thank you very much. Then we’ll be on our way.

 

That’s not what Jesus offers us. That’s not what He died for. There’s so much more available.

 

He is offering us LIFE. Life abundant! Eternal life—which means abundant life beginning now that never ends—not life by-and-by when we die.

 

The man with leprosy heard what Jesus was offering and decided that’s what he wanted.

 

How about you? Is that what you want?

 

What do you want Jesus to do for you today?

 

 

Look Who’s Talking

Several years ago, we had a special guest share in the worship service of the church I was attending.

 

This guest was a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a Masters in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling, who now has her PhD in Family Mediation.

 

This particular Sunday she shared the sad story of a girl who—along with her little sister—entered the foster care system when she was very young. She shared how the girls went from home to home until finally a young couple decided to adopt.

 

Unfortunately, they only wanted to adopt the older girl. And she ended up having to leave her little sister behind.

 

The speaker shared that at first things were great. But eventually things went downhill. Way downhill. And through the next several years, this young girl suffered physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual mistreatment, emotional abuse, and was pretty much considered a slave by the couple who had gone to the trouble and expense of adoption.

 

Her only saving grace was a classmate who shared the gospel with her. This young girl accepted Jesus as her savior and started attending church, when she was allowed, with her friend’s family. She also started reading the Bible and praying.

 

Later, when the abuse kept getting worse, she ran away. It probably saved her life.

 

She was invited by the mother of another classmate to come stay with them. This family took her in, helped her through a huge transformation in every area of her life, and even encouraged her to go to college—which she did.

 

Then the speaker revealed that she was that little girl.

 

You could have heard a pin drop in that auditorium! We all sat there as tears rolled down our faces.

 

The story was incredible before. But knowing that the speaker had actually LIVED the story added a dimension that amazed us.

 

I think that’s how Jesus’s audience at the Sermon on the Mount felt.

 

I’m sure they had heard similar sermons before, given by the priests and scribes in the temple.

 

But this was different. This wasn’t a sermon by a preacher who had studied the scriptures.

 

This was God sharing His view on how life should be lived. And the people listening to Jesus recognized His authority simply by the way He spoke.

 

Preachers who share TRUTH and are great communicators are a huge encouragement to me to seek God and fulfill my purpose.

 

But that doesn’t come close to how inspired I am when I actual sense God’s presence, realize WHO HE IS, and hear Him tell me the good news of His plans for my life.

 

That’s a whole ‘nother ballgame.

 

 

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Matthew 7:28-29 Amplified Bible

28 When Jesus had finished [speaking] these words [on the mountain], the crowds were astonished and overwhelmed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one who had authority [to teach entirely of His own volition], and not as their scribes [who relied on others to confirm their authority].

 

 

What’s the Difference?

The last analogy Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount talks about two groups of people.

 

The two groups have a lot in common, but their end results are like night and day. So what makes the difference?

 

First, let’s look at what both groups have in common.

 

  1. Both groups hear Jesus’s teachings. In today’s culture that could mean they either read and study God’s word individually and/or attend a church where they regularly hear God’s word and/or listen to sermons on God’s word via some type of media.

 

  1. Both groups build a house. I think we can safely say that Jesus is referring here to building a life. Today that could mean a lot of things like choosing who you will marry, deciding on a career, establishing a home and family, participating in some type of ministry, making financial decisions, being a neighbor and friend, determining how to spend your leisure time, etc., etc., etc.

 

  1. Both groups get hit by a storm. Jesus talks about rain coming down, streams rising, and winds blowing and beating against the house. Storms in our lives today can be weather-related, but they’re typically related to Wall Street, or marital issues, or corporate downsizing, or health issues, or wayward children, or leadership betrayal, or infertility, or any other number of storms that can hit us.

 

The main point I’ve noticed so far is that even those of us who call ourselves believers and continually feed on Jesus’s teachings while we’re building our lives are going to be hit by storms. They are a given for everyone living in this fallen world.

 

However, just because we get hit by a storm doesn’t mean it will destroy us.

 

But it might.

 

One group that Jesus is talking about survives the storm intact. Their house/life did not fall. It was as if they had built a house using a huge rock as the foundation.

 

But the other group did not survive. In fact, their house/life fell with a great crash. It was as if they had built a house on a foundation of sand.

 

With everything they had in common, there was one difference.

 

But it made all the difference in the world.

 

The group that survived didn’t just listen to Jesus’s teachings. These individuals also practiced what He taught. They incorporated His lessons about how to live life into their own life. They used the truths and principles he taught to help them make the decisions that built their life.

 

The group that was destroyed also listened to Jesus’s teachings, but that’s as far as it went. They didn’t put them into practice. They may have talked about it. They may have even planned to do it one day. But they didn’t use His truths and principles to help them make their decisions.

 

What this says to me is that it doesn’t matter how much of God’s word we know, how often we go to church or how many sermons we listen to. As good as those things are, they’re useless unless we’re also putting what we hear into practice.

 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be taken out by a storm.

 

KNOWING what Jesus teaches makes me SMART. DOING what He teaches makes me BRILLIANT!

 

I’ll take BRILLIANT for $200, Alex.

 

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Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

 

The Blue Check

I learned something the other day. I was watching a sermon by one of my favorite preachers and his announcer was listing the ways to connect with the ministry. When he mentioned Facebook, he said to be sure and look for the blue check.

 

He went on to say that unless you see the blue check by their name, it’s not the real ministry Facebook page. He reminded the listeners that their ministry would never ask you to donate money on Facebook. But that impostors had created a fake Facebook page for the ministry and had posted on the fake page asking people to donate.

 

Can you imagine your favorite ministry posting on Facebook about a desperate need and asking for your help? You decide the need is so great that you can’t NOT help. So you click on the link that’s provided and send them your donation—hundreds, maybe even thousands of your hard-earned dollars.

 

Then you find out it was a FAKE Facebook page! And your money is gone to someone you don’t even know instead of to the ministry you love to support.

 

That reminds me of today’s passage.

 

Jesus says that just calling Him Lord isn’t enough to get into heaven—that you have to do the Father’s will. Then He goes on to say that prophesying in His name, casting out demons in His name, and even performing miracles in His name won’t be enough.

 

Geez Louise. So if doing all those wonderful things isn’t enough, what does it take?

 

I think Jesus gives us a clue in verse 23 when He says, “I never knew you.”

 

God is always all about relationship.

 

Being committed to your local congregation won’t get you anywhere close to Heaven.

 

Being devoted to your denomination doesn’t get you near the door.

 

Even relying on the right religion isn’t the way in.

 

You have to have a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus. You two have to KNOW each other.

 

That’s the Father’s will for us. Not just calling Him Lord and doing ‘good’ things.

 

The Father’s always all about relationship.

 

So continuing to call Him Lord and doing good deeds—without actually committing to and spending time building a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus—is a lot like continuing to donate your hard-earned dollars to a fake ministry Facebook page. It might make you look good and it might make you feel good about what you did—for a while. But you won’t get a receipt for tax purposes.

 

And that’s nothing compared with not getting into Heaven.

 

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Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’” – Matthew 7:21-23 The Message

 

21 Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven.

22 Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in Your name and done many mighty works in Your name?

23 And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands]. Matthew 7:21-23 Amplified Bible

2am Televangelists

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” – Matthew 7:15

 

That’s the first verse in today’s passage. It was relevant when Jesus said it, and it’s still relevant today.

 

It was also relevant among the Jews before Jesus’s time. Here’s a little of what Ezekiel, an Old Testament priest in Israel, had to say about the problem in Ezekiel 22:

 

27 Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain. 28 Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says’—when the Lord has not spoken.

 

That kinda reminds of things I’ve heard come out of the mouths of slick televangelists who are on TV at 2am. (Don’t judge me. It was years ago. And it helped me get back to sleep when my hormones kept waking me up.)

 

 

Last week we talked about our need to “check the labels” to be sure we’re on the right path—the one that leads to life.

 

Today we want to be sure we’re listening to the right people and allowing the right people to speak into our lives.

 

There are different types of prophets and prophetic gifts and I’m not going to get into that today. (Or ever.) But one thing they all have in common is that they SPEAK—in some form or fashion.

 

So some questions for today are:

  • Who are you allowing to speak into and over your life?
  • Who are you listening to and following their advice?
  • Whose words about your life, and life in general, do you believe?

 

As the first verse in today’s passage tells us, there are false prophets who pretend to be something they are not. They may look like they are good and kind and gentle and “for us” but, in reality, they are only looking out for themselves. They call wrong right and right wrong. And they twist God’s words.

 

But since they look like a sheep instead of a wolf, how can we tell the difference?

 

The next few verses tell us. We can know who a person really is by looking at the fruit that results from the life they live.

 

One interpretation of this could be to look for the fruit of the Spirit. Does their life produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—in themselves and in those they are leading?

 

Another interpretation could be to inspect whatever fruit is being produced in their life over time. Does that fruit line up with the Word of God? Is it something you want replicated in your life?

 

I’m sure you’ve heard this quote by Jim Rohn: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

 

This could have a lot to do with the fact that you listen more to what those five people say about you, and about life in general, than anyone else on the planet.

 

So check the fruit of the people you spend a lot of time with, listen to regularly, and allow to speak into your life. Make sure it’s a fruit you want reproduced in your life, too.

 

Because it will be.

 

 

Matthew 7:15-20

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”