|“Jesus versus Religion”|
Lord, if You are willing…
· This is the first time in the Gospel where Jesus is called “Lord”
o Specifically this is the Greek word that is usually used for YHWH when the OT was translated from Hebrew to Greek in the Septuagint
…and the power of the Lord was present…
· It’s significant, I think, that the Spirit specifically puts this here – the power of the Lord was present to heal them – after He records through the good Doctor Luke that Jesus withdrew into the wilderness and prayed. I don’t think that’s coincidental at all.
o “Prayer preceeds power.”
…through the tiling…
· Roofs in that region and culture were constructed with dirt packed between closely-spaced beams.
o It didn’t rain much
o Roofs were flat – not sloped
o The roof was a center of relaxation for the home – often, families would retire in the evening to the roof, not the back yard.
§ So the roof was in a sense the “porch” of the ancient world
o Many people in fact even had gardens up there.
· So it really wasn’t all that difficult for these guys to get up there and…start digging.
the paralytic healed
· [Courson] How do we know sins are forgiven? How do we know the gospel is true? When people who were paralyzed and lame begin to walk and leap and praise God. When people who were paralyzed by sinfulness and foolishness embrace the Good News of forgiveness, the reality of a person’s conversion is manifested in his walk. If there’s no walk, it’s just talk.
…left all…rose up…
· Pay careful attention to the order: First Matthew Levi left all, then he rose up and followed Jesus
o Too often I want to try to follow Jesus before I’ve actually “left all”
§ I want to hold on to my selfish desires
§ I want to hold on to my dreams, my ambitions
§ I want to hold on to my wisdom and understanding instead of leaning on His
§ I want to hold on to my life…instead of giving up my life so that I can experience His life lived in and through me.
o Too often I want to try to follow Jesus before I’ve actually “left all,” but the reality is I can’t.
§ So if I’m experiencing a big, impassable wall in my walk with Jesus, if I’m struggling over the same issues I was last year, two years ago, ten years ago…perhaps it might be because I’m still stubbornly hanging on instead of yielding and letting go.
o The enemy wants to weigh us down with the stuff and the cares of this world and this life, while Jesus wants to set us free so that we can really live.
· …just a thought…
…they will fast in those days…
· An often neglected spiritual discipline, especially in our modern “I want it, and I want it now” culture
· Fasting is the denial of the desires of the flesh for the purpose of focusing on the things of the spirit.
o Many different kinds of fasting:
§ A “complete fast,” no food no water (only about 3 days)
§ A “normal fast,” no food, but water
§ A fast from something specific or from a specific class of foods (“Daniel Fast”)
§ Paul talks about a married couple denying the fulfillment of the desire for physical intimacy in marriage for a short period of time for the purpose of devoting themselves to concentrated, heavy-duty prayer
o Before you undertake a fast like the first two, you should probably check with your doctor first; there are medical conditions which can be made very bad by certain kinds of fasting
§ But there’s always a way to practice the fast if that’s your heart’s desire
· Some people fast from television, or from the “interweb,” or from something else, for the purpose of living out the Psalm that says, “be still and know that I am God.”
· Fasting isn’t only an important component of spiritual growth & development, but it’s also an important aspect of spiritual warfare
o Romans 7 (among other places) clues us in that the flesh and the spirit are constantly at war
§ Which side’s going to win? The one you feed!
§ Now, you can’t just stop feeding your flesh in the sense of eating – you’d die, and what fun is that, really?
· But think about it this way: You feed your physical flesh on average three times a day.
· You spend time washing your physical flesh, grooming your flesh, making sure your flesh is as presentable as you can make it, clothing your flesh, taking great care of your flesh, and otherwise paying fairly close attention…to your physical flesh.
o Yet the average American Christian’s happy to feed his spirit maybe once a week, for an hour and a half at church…perhaps once a day for five, ten, fifteen minutes for a hurried “devotional,” and spend maybe half a minute shooting up a “Good God, good grub, good Lord let’s eat” “prayer” before spending the next half hour scarfing down the burgers…
· …and then we wonder why we’re often so spiritually weak, so spiritually lethargic, so often so greatly spiritually defeated.
· Fasting is a powerful discipline to spend concentrated time focusing on prayer, the Word, and the things of the Spirit.
o Do you feel a bit distant, spiritually?
o Do you feel a tiny bit cast adrift in your walk with the Lord?
o Been a long time since you’ve experienced His presence and heard His voice through His Word?
§ Do this: Turn off the idiot box, unplug the computer, turn off the radio, and just sit before Him with the Word open and just be there with the Lord.
§ Devote a lunch hour to just sitting with the Lord with His Word instead of rushing out to grab a Big Mac or shovel leftovers down your pie hole.
o Do you feel like there’s something in your life, some area where you’d love to see the Lord move, but you’ve pretty much given up on the hope that He ever will?
§ Do this: set aside a day and fast.
§ Take the time you’d normally spend chomping down on food and sit before the Lord with His Word and pray.
o Is there someone you’d love to see come to the Lord, but you feel like they’re so cold, so closed to Him, that they’ll never come…?
§ The Book of James says the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
· Fasting can often serve as an exclamation point to the end of our prayers.
· Our lives are composed of a series of choices – and the choices we make reveal who we really are and what we really want and what’s really important to us.
o For instance: I come home from a long day of “tentmaking”
§ Do I plop down in the easy chair and turn on the idiot box, or do I instead choose to get down on the floor with my son and spend time with him?
§ Do I, in effect, choose at that moment to “fast” from the desire of my flesh to unwind, relax, and vegg out in front of the TV, and devote that time I’d otherwise waste on my flesh to something of eternally greater value?
o In fasting, I’m choosing to devote myself for that time to something of eternally greater value – being still to know that He is God.
· We must bring our flesh into submission to our spirit instead of our spirit being in submission to our flesh. We must make it obedient.
…old wineskins…new wineskins…
· When wineskins age, they become stiff, unbending, and brittle. New wine has a tendency to continue to ferment, releasing gasses in the process which stretch the wineskin and ultimately, if it’s a old, stiff wineskin, bursting it.
o A new wineskin, by way of contrast, can still stretch and adapt.
§ But wineskins were expensive
o The word translated “new” here in relation to the “new wineskin” is different than the word for “new” as in “new wine.”
§ The word for “new wine” means, really and truly new – as in, “did not exist before.”
§ The word for “new” as in “new wineskin,” however, means restored.
o There is a way to restore an old wineskin, to give it back the ability to contain new wine
§ You would soak it in water.
· The analogy as it applies to us: We can become old, stiff, unbending, and brittle in our Christian experience, in our heart of hearts.
o Especially as we experience disappointment and frustration.
o Especially when we experience battle, hardship, and loss.
o Especially when, like Jesus after His baptism, we’re driven by the Spirit into the dry barrenness of the Wilderness.
o So what do we do to restore suppleness and life to our “wineskins?”
§ Soak them in the water of the Word.
· Do you feel hard, brittle, tired, even dry in your Christian experience?
o Immerse yourself in fellowship. Express yourself in worship. Soak in the Word.
o Make these three your top priority.
§ Fellowship can’t be an “oh, if I have the time for it” thing.
· To the extent we make fellowship a priority is the extent that we will find ourselves equipped in this thing called the Christian life.
· To the extent that we treat it as a “well, whatever” kind of thing is the extent that we’re going to be weak.
§ Worship needs to be something we do more than just once or twice a week – it needs to be a lifestyle
· Feel like you don’t get much from the Word? Worship, fellowship and the Word go hand-in-hand, as one complete and absolutely inseparable package (notice that this Psalm ties them all together…worship…holy temple (fellowship)…Word…
§ Getting into the Word needs to be a daily thing and a top priority.
· You can read through the entire Bible aloud in seventy-two hours at a normal, standard pace.
· You can read through the entire Bible in one year if you read it just twelve minutes a day.
· Most of us spend more time brushing our teeth or combing our hair or feeding our physical bodies at breakfast.
· The question really isn’t whether or not we have time to read the Word – the question is whether or not we will just do it.
· [adapted from Courson] There is only one place a believer cannot stay. He cannot stay put.
o That is, he is either growing and expanding in his walk, or he is shrinking and weakening in his walk.
o Your faith is either more radical today than it was last year, or it is less so.
o If we are determined to stay in close fellowship with the Lord and with each other, live lives of abandoned worship of Him, and soak in His Word, we will experience a continuing renewing
§ new discoveries, new understanding, constant softening.
§ And the Lord will be able to pour new wine into our vessels.
…the old is better.
· Here’s the major danger with letting my wineskin get old and brittle: I become incapable of even wanting to grow and experience the constant newness of life with Jesus.
o I can - subtly, over time, but inevitably if I don’t stay plugged in - find myself in a place where I become resigned to never seeing God move in my life, never see growth, never really go deeper with the Lord and experience the life and that more abundantly that He longs to live with me…
§ I become strangely and paradoxically comfortable even in my wilderness.
§ You know the old saying: Better the devil you know, then the devil you don’t.
o And this comfortableness with mediocrity manifests itself in many ways, but it begins with an attitude that goes something like this:
§ “I don’t need to read the Bible that much…I’ve already read it, I know it, I know it better than you know it, in seventeen different translations – it doesn’t speak anything new to me, so what’s the point?”
o Here’s the point: the Bible isn’t just another book. You’ve read it before? Great! Read it again.
§ It’s not the words on the page, it’s the Spirit Who breathed them into existence and moved His chosen vessels to write them down for us in that great mystery of Biblical inspiration.
§ “Your Word,” the Psalmist says, “is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
§ “I have treasured Your Word more than my necessary daily food,” says Job – who by the way clung to that Word during the darkest time of his life, and it was that Word that carried him through it.
§ “In the Word you think you find life,” Jesus said, “ and these are they that testify of Me.”
· The Bible is living and powerful. It is the written Word that speaks to us in the voice of and mediates to us the life of the Living Word, Jesus.
· One final thing, here, a warning:
o The greatest danger of all in this is that it’s too late to adapt and soften the wineskin when the new wine is poured.
o If I’m not daily soaking in the Word, worshipping my God, and in fellowship with my brothers and sisters, I won’t be in a place to receive the new wine when God desires to pour it out in my heart.