My Bethany friends,
We are now on the “other side” of Spiritual Advancement. We are into the semester routine…and for many of us that might mean we have misplaced some of the realities we discovered just 10 short days ago. On this Sabbath, could we take just a few moments to reflect upon both the profound words that were shared and the effects in our lives of the movement of the Spirit in our midst. Question: Are you the same today as you were before Rev. Clint Ussher came to Bethany? Can you see yourself falling back into some of the same, possibly even more destructive habit patterns as before? May it not be so!
Think with me about John chapter 5. This passage depicts a beautiful story of Jesus’ care and compassion for the disabled of the world. But more than that, it’s a description of the wholeness that Jesus offers to all who hear His voice. Listen to the description of the event, “Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie-- the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. (ESV 5:2, 4)” Traditionally, as story is told, an angel would “stir up” the water in the pool and the first one to get in would be immediately healed. But the story goes on, “One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’”
Now, you might think that the answer to Jesus’ question is obvious. I mean, the man is in the right place isn’t he? He’s here, near the temple, waiting for a miracle, his miracle. But in actuality, Jesus is not simply asking a question, He is holding a mirror up to the man. How could a paralyzed man be the first to get in the pool? And he has been going through the same quasi-hopeful routine for 38 years. Maybe, just maybe, he is comfortable with the situation that he knows.
But what in actuality is Jesus asking him? Several translations word it this way, “Do you want to be healed?” (ESV) or “Do you want to be made well?”(NKJ, NASB, NIV). Neither word choice gets at the heart of Jesus’ question. Listen to my translation of the unusual word, “Do you want to be made whole?” This word occurs 11 x’s in NT; 9 in Gospels (Matt. 12:13; 15:31; Mark 5:34; John 5:6, 9, 11, 14f; 7:23; Acts 4:10; Titus 2:8). Outside of our use in John 5, the most revealing is in the passage concerning the woman with the issue of blood. Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”(Mark 5:34 NIV)
Now, to John, the question Jesus is asking the man by the pool (and us) is this, “Do you want me to free you from what is destroying you?” Now, hear me carefully when I say, it’s not just his physical condition which is eating away at him. The man may not realize it but its more so his lack of faith that there will ever be any remedy. Moreover, we get even more insight into the man’s spiritual dilemma after his healing when “Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you are well!” (FYI, “well” is the same word we discussed above but this time in the perfect tense; “See, you are restored to wholeness”). But then Jesus goes on and says, “Sin no more that nothing worse may happen to you.’” Jesus explicitly states there are decisions that one can make which can return you to the same situation that you were in before Spiritual Advancement Week. Oh, please do not return but only go forward with the Presence of the Lord.
So, what will each of us do to keep from going back but rather to pursue Wholeness in our lives? First, “Align your lives with the means of grace God has put in your path.” For us here at Bethany, this is place before us every week.
- How about being transparent and utterly open before God and others with your life.
- How about the simplicity of reading a Psalm of Ascent (Psalm 121 for example) as you are walking to chapel. Prepare yourself for the meeting with God. Do not passively sit by the pool…but actively participate with Him. Expect to meet Him even before walking into the chapel.
- Make sure in the busy-ness of your schedule you set aside time for personal Bible study or to meet for public and private prayer. So many people are gathering for prayer walks or times of corporate prayer. Why not engage with them in a pursuit of the high-calling of Christ. Moreover, make D-Group not just another “check” on your Day-Timer but an opportunity to calibrate your spiritual compass in the direction of how God would like to fashion your Soul to look just like Him!
Second, one true shortcoming of many folks today who are trying to overcome spiritual shortcomings in their lives is that they attempt to remain in the grace of God all alone. Just like the man in John 5, “I have no one to put me into the pool for healing.” So why not intentionally align yourself with a spiritual mentor or guide, someone who is farther along the journey than yourself, and knows that wholeness can be attained because they live it before you each day.
May Your wholeness be what we seek.
May Your Spirit guide us on this journey.
May Your Body here on earth assist each of us.
May Your Image be re-created within our hearts.
May the pleasure of Your voice be what we long for, “For you are my beloved child, in you I am well-pleased.”
May we never stop short of anything less.