Tag Archives: John 5

You find what you focus on

My kids and I play a game when in the car called Skittle Punch Bug.  It’s a game where you get a point for being the first to spot a yellow car and shout out, “Skittle!” or two points if you first spot the coveted yellow VW Bug.    One day while we were playing, one of my boys remarked that there seems to be more yellow cars around when we play Skittle than when we don’t.   To which my wife replied,

That’s because you are looking for them.  You tend to find what you focus on.

We tend to find what we focus on.  I’ve been chewing on this for the past week while I have been reading through the Gospel of John along with two other books:  When I Saw Him by Roy Hession and Living in Victory by Steve Gallagher.

John 5 contains one of the greatest questions in all of literature.   It’s the story of the paralytic man who for 38 years has suffered beside a pool called Bethesda, hoping to one day get a chance to bathe in it and thus be healed of his paralysis.   Jesus sees him and asks him the glorious question:  Do you want to be well? 

Those of us who have long suffered under the paralysis of addiction will yearn to say yes to such a question but will quickly qualify what “well” must mean.   Surely, we will insist, it can’t mean cured.  Surely, we insist, it can’t mean free.  We want that, to be sure, but experience has taught us that it’s not for us and we will settle for simple maintenance.   I’ll settle for just not being miserable every day.   The bar is very low for us addicts, isn’t it?

The truth, however, is that things like curing, freeing, saving, etc are the very things Jesus is most interested in doing for us.  He doesn’t come to us offering a maintenance plan to make my life and yours less miserable than it has been.  He comes offering life, and life abundantly!   (And in case you were wondering, the Greek word for “well” in John 5:6 means “restored, whole, sound, healthy.”   Sounds better than “not miserable,” right?)

Jesus is in the business of making us new, not better.

The books by Hession and Gallagher, which I mentioned above, echo this theme of being made whole, or new, by Jesus.    When we see Jesus for whom he really is, and when we see ourselves as we really are, we can live the sort of life God desires for all of us.  So what does that mean?

First, seeing ourselves as we really are.   I need to see myself in relation to a holy God.   There is for a me a profound shift in the atmosphere, so it would seem, when I call my habitual behavior what God calls it: sin.   When I entertain lustful thoughts, look at porn, focus more on my desires than on God and others, I am not walking in the Spirit but in my flesh.   God calls this sin.   And of course, we can become enslaved to sin.   Essentially that is what addiction is – enslavement to sin.

Agreeing with God that my primary issue is a sin issue opens the door to receive good news, because God is a master at dealing with sin.   Jesus died on a cross to deliver us from sin.   Seeing Jesus for whom he really is means I see him as my Healer, my Deliverer, my Savior.   Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3:8), promises that in Christ, sin shall no longer be our master (Rom. 6:12-14), declares that whomever the Son sets free they are truly free (John 8:36) and that in him we are new creations (2 Cor. 5:17).

I’ve discovered that I find what I focus on.  There are times when I veer off track and focus too much on my “disease” and on my “program” that I forget that what I am really fighting against is sin, and this fight I do not fight alone, but with Christ who has already conquered all.    When I remember that my battle is not with flesh and blood but “against spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12), then I have reason to hope that I can live victoriously because I have a victorious Savior.

It all comes down to what I am focused upon.   Where is your focus?

 

The Glorious Question….what’s your answer?

I think one of the most glorious questions in history is the one Jesus asked the invalid of 38 years in John 5:

Do you want to be healed?

Imagine!  The creator of the universe asking this man that question!   But it isn’t a question he asks only of this man.  He asks it to every one of us.

Do you want to be healed?  Do you want to be made well?  Do you want to be whole?    How we respond to that question is every bit as important as the glory of the question itself.

That Jesus has to ask the question speaks volumes, doesn’t it?  I know from personal experience that the answer to that question is not always what we might expect.    The reason for this is explained just 2 chapters prior to this story:

And this is the judgment: the light has come in to the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil (John 3:19)

Jesus is always asking the glorious question to us, every day,  and we often tell him no.   It’s true that the reason is because we love our sin more than God.   Like Gollum with his Precious, we are not keen on parting from the thing which has become our favorite god, the thing we have bowed to time after time.   Even though it threatens to destroy us and everyone we love, we cling to it nonetheless.

gollum

Do you want to be healed?    The question offers us a promise that seems too good to be true because we know how evil we are.   We know the power of our Precious.   It has held our attention for so long, with such intensity, that the thought of it being gone from our lives invites all sorts of other questions:    What will I do without it?   What will be expected of me if I’m healed?   What will I run to when I feel alone?  And the big one…

What if it doesn’t work? 

Isn’t that the biggest fear?   What happens if you put all your eggs in the basket named Jesus and it doesn’t work?  What if you step out in faith, go all-in, take the plunge, and you discover that there is no one there to catch you?

If you feel that way you are not alone.  I remember feeling that way, and I talk to many others who do, too.   Particularly if they are professing Christians.    The reasons come in many shapes and sizes but can generally be summed up one of two ways:  We love our sin too much to want to be healed and/or we are afraid God cannot make good on his promise to heal us.    We have more faith in the power of our sin than we do the power of God to heal.   It’s as though we want to protect God from failure.    Oh, how prideful we are!  Is there any limit to our evil?   

This is why for so many of us it is not until we are at the end of our rope that we will say yes to the question, Do you want to be healed?   It won’t be until we have exhausted every other resource, every other “program,” every other step, and have hurt everyone who loves us that we will then hear the question as though for the first time and cry out like the invalid of 38 years, “Sir, I have no one else!”

When we realize there is no one else, we lose the fear of falling into nothing because we see our sin has already brought us there.   I remember when I first heard the words, “God hasn’t brought you to this point to just make you better, but to make you new.”    I so desperately wanted those words to be true!   Though I couldn’t imagine it could be true of me, I knew that either God had to do a miracle in my heart or I was dead.    There was no one else.  I had tried it all.   God was either going to prove Himself as more powerful than my Precious, or there was no God, and the gospel was pointless.

Thanks be to God, He has been more than faithful!   His word is true, and His promises are real.   He says to you and I time and time again throughout Scripture, in fact, more times than any other command, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”

If you have heard Jesus ask you the glorious question, do you want to be healed?  tell him yes!    Do not be afraid, for He is with you, and will never leave nor forsake you.   Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)….not even defeating your Precious and creating a new mind and heart inside of you.

Do you want to be healed?   

healing

Do You Want To Be Healed?

What is freedom, and what is bondage?  Many Christians try to have it both ways.  They want the freedom of living their own lives, inviting God’s presence on their terms, but never entering into the life of liberty in the Spirit that God intends for them.  Undeniably lukewarm, they possess the worst of both worlds.  They neither live in horrible, outward sin nor in the wedded bliss of the first love.  Since they love their lives in this world, they will not abandon their lives to Jesus.  Therefore, they do not really get to enjoy the pleasures of sin nor the glorious, overcoming life in the Spirit.  Instead, they live in a dismal, gray world which exists between the two extremes – all under the nice sounding title of “being balanced.”  The reality is they live in a spiritual ghetto.

 

~ Steve Gallagher, “Living in Victory” (pg. 150)

 

For a long time I lived in the spiritual ghetto described above.   I became convinced that I had a “shadow side” which was simply part of my make-up.   So convinced was I of this that I insisted others must learn to either love me “as is” or get out of my life.    I once even told my own mother to never speak to me again because she was “toxic to my recovery” as an addict.    What was so toxic?    Her telling me that I was in bondage to sin, not sex, and freedom could be found in Christ.

When you are an addict – to what or whomever – the promise of freedom can sound like  a cruel joke.    When one is so wrapped up in a sinful pattern, as I was, it is nearly impossible to hear truth as something liberating rather than infuriating.  

There is a beautiful story John tells in his gospel of Jesus coming upon an invalid of 38 years.   Jesus asks this man what might at first seem to be a curious question:

Do you want to be healed?   (John 5:6)

Do you want to be healed?  What a glorious question!   And how equally terrifying!   An outsider might find this a curious question, but the one bent over from sin for decades knows it’s import.   We know this question is not always met with a resounding YES! welling up from the depths of a broken, needy heart.   We know that there is a huge part of ourselves that loves darkness more than light, that cherishes our sin like Gollum clinging to his Precious, that doesn’t want to face the responsibility that true freedom would entail.   Yes, it’s a pig sty, but it’s my pig sty, we cry. 

I have a hunch that Jesus learned to ask this question early on in his ministry after encountering far too many people who refused to be made well.  They refused the freedom offered them because they did not believe it possible to achieve.  

Do you want to be healed?

The question still lingers for each of us today whether you be an invalid, an addict, an impatient spouse, an uninvolved parent, a greedy employer or a prideful pastor.   

Jesus does not ask a question of us that he is not fit to deliver upon.   When he asks, he asks in hopes that perhaps this time you have had enough with living in a spiritual ghetto and would like to taste and see that the Lord is good.   He would love to introduce you to a life of freedom where his exhortation to “go and sin no more” no longer sounds like a cruel joke but an invitation to a life you never dreamed possible…until this very moment.

Do you want to be healed? 

Image