Sun, Aug 26, 2001

BRING A FRIEND TO JESUS! MATTHEW 9:1-8

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
BRING A FRIEND TO JESUS!
MATTHEW 9:1-8
 

Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 9 as we are going to look at the extremes some people will go to in order to bring their friends to Jesus. And as you are turning there, listen to this excerpt from Charles Swindoll’s book, Growing Deep In The Christian Life. He said:

Sometime ago I had an evening with Dick and Mary Chase. It was delightful. I’d missed them since their days at Biola. And I met a new member of their family. Her name is Mindy. She has beautiful black, curly hair and a little stubby tail. Now Mindy listens to Christian radio all day long. And when I walked in and I looked over there, they said, "Meet Mindy." And I said, "Hi, Mindy." You know, she heard my voice, she remembered "Insight for Living." That’s the voice. And she began to shake all over. I roughed up her hair and we were having a great time.

Mary has a terrific sense of humor. She said, "You know, this dog really, really knows the gospel. She hears Christian radio all day long. There are conversations in this room between Dick and the faculty members, and they get into serious subjects, and Mindy just sits there, just listens. There are songs and there are prayers. And she hears us talking with students on into the wee hours of the morning. Mindy has been exposed to the gospel for all of her life. But she’s never led one person to the Savior. And she never will, even if she wanted to, ‘cause she isn’t equipped. That’s our job. We gotta do it."

- Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Deep In The Christian Life

In Matthew chapter 9 we are going to see four men bring their sick friend to Jesus, overcoming all kinds of obstacles, because, to them, this was the most important thing that they could do. You see, they cared for their friend so much, they wanted him to be touched and healed by Jesus. With that said, let’s dig into our study this morning beginning in Matthew chapter 9, starting in verse 1, and let’s see what the Lord has for us this morning.

MATTHEW 9:1-8

Picture in your mind what is going on here, and I am also going to throw in some of the details of this story that are given to us in Mark and Luke, for it rounds out the story. And keep in mind that in Matthew chapter 8 we see Jesus deliver the two demon-possessed men from the area of the Gadarenes. These men were bound by these demons, people were fearful of going by the area they lived, in the tombs. And Jesus set them free. Now you would think the people would rejoice over this, but they didn’t. You see, their illegal pig raising business was exposed, in fact in was done away with as these demons, being cast into the 2,000 swine, ran into the Sea of Galilee and all died. And now the people wanted Jesus to get out of town, to leave them alone. They were more concerned about their profits rather than the people that were delivered! So when they ask Jesus to leave, He does! He is not going to stay where He is not welcomed. And thus, He gets into the boat and travels back to Capernaum, which was now the base camp for Jesus’ ministry, and He is probably at Peter’s house. And there, Jesus begins to teach.

Now as word spread that Jesus was back in town, Peter’s house was filled with people wanting to hear of the good news, the forgiveness of sins. The life that Jesus wanted to give, they wanted, and who wouldn’t! And the house was overflowing with people, standing room only!

Now news also spread of the healings that Jesus performed, and it got the attention of four men who had a dear friend who was dying. He was in the end stages of a terminal disease, paralyzed now. This poor man could not walk, he couldn’t care for himself, and it broke their heart to see their friend in that condition. He couldn’t get to Jesus even if he wanted to! So these four friends CARRY their friend to the house of Peter, where Jesus was at! Again, he couldn’t get to Jesus on his own, even if he wanted to. Now for us, many times, we try to carry people to Jesus who are kicking and screaming to let them go, but that is not the case here. There was nothing this man could do and in this condition, I am sure he was not going to argue, he wanted to be healed!

As they arrived to this house, there is a huge obstacle in their way, the house is overflowing with people, they couldn’t get in, even if they tried to squeeze their way in. At this point they could have given up, they could have just left and went home, maybe to try again another day. But not these guys! You see, they were determined, they were on a mission, they were not going to let anything get in their way of bringing their friend to Jesus!

These guys had the mind-set of, "If there is a will, then there is a way!" Thus, Mark tells us they carried and lifted their friend to the top of Peter’s house, to the roof. Now please understand that on the side of houses in those days, as well as Peter’s house, was a staircase leading up to a roof that was flat and was fully functional. These roofs were made up of a composite of grass, clay, clay tiles, and laths. And the roofs would be used in the evenings to sit upon and enjoy the cool evening breeze, as well as other things.

So this was not an easy task for them to do, carrying an adult up to the top of this roof. Imagine, some 150 to 200 pounds of dead weight, and yet, when they reached the top, the work was still not done, there was yet another obstacle in their way of getting their friend to Jesus, and that was the roof! So these guys begin to rip apart the roof to make an opening for their friend to be lowered down through!

Now, also keep in mind that down below was Jesus, and He is teaching all these people, and now clay, grass begins to fall down upon Jesus, probably on Peter who owned the house, and the other people who gathered to hear the words of Jesus. And it is possible that once the people saw what was happening they were yelling for them to stop. I’m sure mild-mannered Peter was not too happy at seeing what was going on with his house. And the religious leaders were probably offended by this. But once they broke through, they lowered their friend down, and I believe he was lowered right in front of Jesus. And I’m sure at this point the room grew very quiet, seeing this poor, paralyzed, dying man. They all were watching, seeing what Jesus would do.

Now I want you to notice the faith of these men. They believed that if they got their friend to Jesus he would be healed. You see, their behavior speaks of their faith. Does our behavior, does our actions reflect what we believe to be true? It should! We should not let any obstacles get in our way of bringing family, friends, co-workers and-so-on, to Jesus!

Now as Jesus see’s this man before Him, He tells him, "Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you." Now I’m sure his friends were thinking and maybe even getting ready to shout out, "No, heal him, make him whole again! He is dying! Do something!" And the reality is, they were right, he was dying, and so, why did Jesus say that? Why didn’t He just heal him?

Interestingly enough, most paralysis in those days was do to syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease. And it is very possible that this man was suffering from this and he had reached the point of paralysis, close to death. His sickness was a direct result of sin, but not all sickness is. Thus, we see Jesus offer him the forgiveness of his sins. You see, it was the faith of his friends that brought him to Jesus, but it was his own faith that brought the forgiveness of sins. You see, the forgiveness of sins can only come to those who repent and ask Jesus to be Lord and Savior of their lives. Jesus is dealing with that which is most important, that which matters the most, his sins!

Like many today, they cry out for physical healing, and yet, they are still lost in their sins, they are dying in their sins. The bigger issue is eternity, not these mortal bodies that are going back to the dust of the earth. The death rate is still one per person, and the issue is, where are you going to spend eternity? If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you will spend eternity with Him. If He is not, then you will spend eternity apart from Him in the Lake of Fire, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth! Yes God does heal these physical bodies as He see’s fit, according to His will, but the bigger issue once again is our spirit, where are we going to spend eternity? Come to Christ and we have this promise that Paul gives to us in II Corinthians 5:8, which says, "We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord."

Also understand that this statement by Jesus was a radical one. You see, only God can forgive sins, as Isaiah 43:25 tells us, "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins." Thus, the religious leaders pick-up on this, and they are thinking this is blaspheme, and it would be if Jesus was not God, but He is! And before they could say anything, Jesus knowing what was in their hearts, asks them this interesting question. He says, "For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?" Matthew 9:5.

Of course it is much easier to say your sins are forgiven because it would be difficult, it would be impossible to prove or disprove it. But, if you healed someone, or say you did, there would be the physical evidence right before you to see. He is either going to walk or he isn’t. If the person is not healed, then Jesus would be exposed as a fraud.

So Jesus, authenticating His ministry and showing that He is God, tells the man to "Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house." Thus, Jesus, by healing this man was showing that He can also forgive sins, which was the bigger issue. And Jesus tests this mans faith by telling him to stand - and he did! And then He tests his obedience by telling him to go home, probably to go and show his family what has taken place - the things that God has done! Which he also did. And God does the same for us, to walk by faith as He leads and to be obedient to His Word.

And the end result is that the people glorified God and that should be the result of what we do for the Lord, not that we get the glory, but our heavenly Father does!

Now we went through all that with one main purpose in mind, our witness, bringing others to Jesus. You see, Paul said in II Corinthians 3:2-3, "You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart."

In other words, we are living epistles for the world to look at and see what God has done in our lives. The transforming power of God, what He has done in us! And the question is "What do people see when they look at us?" They should be seeing the character of Christ flowing through us. People should see the changes that have taken place in us. It is as Paul said,"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." II Corinthians 5:17.

I think that many times when we think of witnessing we think of the words we say. What Bible verses to quote, what portion of Scripture should we speak on. Some use the Four Spiritual Laws, or the Romans Road to point people to Jesus. I am convinced that is only secondary. Some of you may be shocked by that, and maybe even offended by it, but hear me out. I truly believe it is what we do, our actions, that show what we believe much more than what we say!

Think of it this way. At the marriage ceremony the bride and the groom say "I so-and-so, take you to be my husband/wife, to love and to cherish, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part." And those end up being empty words in around 50% of marriages today. Why? Because what they say they do not practice and the end result is divorce. The same is true in the court room where the person says something like this, "I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God!" And again, many times it seems like God is not helping them because they are lying through their teeth! Thus, their words were empty! I think James makes the point very clear when he says, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does." James 1:22-25.

Now please understand, I am not negating the Words of God, I think we need to speak them, to share them, to give a defense for what we believe. But, if we are not living it, those words are empty and meaningless to the hearer. Make your faith real. Let people see that it is not just talk, but you walk the walk, you live what you believe!

Also, what are you letting get in your way of bringing your friends, your family, your co-workers, and-so-on, to Jesus? What obstacles do you see as so big, so overwhelming that it causes you to stop and wait for another day? These four men did not let anything get in their way of bringing their sick friend, their dying friend, to Jesus. They were willing to carry him, lift him up to the roof, open up the roof, and lower their friend down, not worrying about what others would say or do, and they brought their friend right before the loving arms of Jesus. What about you?

I think many times the body of Christ has become weak. We let all kinds of things get in our way, and that is wrong. We are in a battle, and if you don’t want to be in it, too bad. You see, as a Christian, you are in the battle, if you want to be or if you don’t want to be. And can you imagine if on the beaches of Normandy those soldiers said, "Forget it, we are not going to fight!" I wonder what language we would be speaking today? There is a battle for the souls of people today, and we see the results of what the enemy has done by the actions of people, their behavior. And we see the obstacle as overwhelming. We may say things like, "The Lord is coming soon, it is only going to get worse. There is no more revivals. We are just waiting for the Lord!" Wrong! I am not going to give up. I believe before the Lord comes, He will pour out His Spirit in a mighty way one more time, and I want to be ready. You see, God’s desire is that people would come to Him, thus, why don’t you bring someone to Jesus?

I want to share with you this story from Far Reaching Ministries that will show you what a soldier of God is willing to do. Wes Bentley and His organization, Far Reaching Ministries are working with the people of the Sudan. And this is what he had to say in his last newsletter:

Geoffrey was the youngest chaplain in the first graduating class. He was a scrawny little kid and none of us thought he would make it. During the first weeks of class, the older chaplain cadets were very hard on him. I remember one day he was punished for a small mistake, but the punishment was too harsh for what he had done. I started to pull his squad leader aside and talk to him about the level of punishment, but I felt the Lord speak to my heart and say, "Let him endure this. He will have to suffer much for My name to reach his people." As I watched Geoffrey walk away in tears, I prayed the Lord would give him the strength to be a good soldier of Christ.

Geoffrey persevered and he worked very hard to show himself a workman approved of God. His free time was always used to serve others. One day he was working with the construction crew on the compound, the next, helping a widow put a roof on her home, visiting the sick in the hospital, or any task that would give him the chance to tell someone about the love of God. The word idle was not in his vocabulary, and he never missed an opportunity to share God’s word as he worked. He earned the respect of his peers and the right to be called chaplain.

When Geoffrey was deployed, he wanted to be in the field for three months and then return for a rest. As the lorry (motor truck) was taking him to his post he told the driver, "This place is very far." When he arrived he radioed the base and said, "I will not be back for some time as I will be about my father’s business."

It would be almost a year before he would return. When Geoffrey did return, we learned that the trials he endured at school were small compared to what he suffered at the front. Circumstances forced Geoffrey to make suffering his friend. The newly commissioned chaplains were ready for the front, but the soldiers at the front were not ready for this new breed of soldier. The SPLA high command had failed to inform the soldiers about the role of a chaplain. The remote posts, like Geoffrey’s, were suspicious and even hostile to this soldier who was not there to fight with a weapon. When Geoffrey lined up for food rations, he was often denied and forced to go hungry. The first week, as he bathed in the river, one of the soldiers stole his boots. During the first month, he come down with malaria. The lack of food had weakened him and now the fever drained the rest of his strength. Geoffrey found himself lying on the ground exposed to the weather, hungry, without shoes and alone. The fever spiked so high it brought on delusions. As Geoffrey faded in and out of consciousness, he prayed and asked the Lord to take him home because the suffering was so great. But the Lord did not answer that prayer. After two weeks, when the fever did break, he was very hungry so he went to the commanding officer and asked for food. The officer was so angry and offended that Geoffrey would even ask for food that he threatened to cane him and threw him into prison. Geoffrey had already purposed in his heart to be a living witness so he approached his trials as an opportunity to serve. While he sat in jail, he ministered to the other prisoners and all of them came to know Christ as their personal Savior. As the officer watched this young man live out Christ, he was convicted. He wanted to talk with Geoffrey and find out for himself where such a young man had gotten such extreme determination. He ordered the guards to bring Geoffrey to him and to feed him. As Geoffrey ate his first meals in weeks the officer told how Geoffrey’s witness for Christ had touched him...

...The officer thought Geoffrey was weak because he did not carry a rifle, but recognized now that he possessed a strength of character his own soldiers desperately needed.

Geoffrey had earned the respect of the leaders, but he was not going to stop until he was able to reach the soldiers too. He continued serving, preaching, and living out his witness. When word came that their unit was going to engage in full combat, Geoffrey gathered his gear and prepared to leave with them. Immediately the soldiers tried to stop him. They said, "Pastor you must stay here, the fighting will be very heavy ahead." Geoffrey said, "God has called me to serve you. I am going where you go, and I am not afraid of what lies ahead because I know the One who is sending me." At the front the fighting was very heavy, some were wounded and others lost their lives but God used Geoffrey to comfort and encourage the soldiers. Most of the men in his unit became believers during that battle because Geoffrey had lived Christ and won their respect. When the unit returned from the front, Geoffrey was promoted to sergeant major and given leave to return to the chaplain’s base and re-supply.

His journey home was long, he arrived at our compound very thin but full of faith. We listened to his testimonies, encouraged him, and provided for his needs. Before he left, he was able to get a lot of good meals under his belt and a new pair of boots. This time he knew the conditions he would face at the front. He chose his supplies carefully, knowing it would be months before his return. Instead of stocking up on food, he took only Bibles. Geoffrey has learned first hand what Paul meant when he said, "I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere in all things I have learned to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." This young man that we thought might not even make it, has grown and lived Christ in such a way that many soldiers have been eternally changed.

We graduated the second class of chaplains on April 15th. William Tong finished second in his class. He told us before he began training as a chaplain that he had watched the chaplain attached to his unit suffer, be mocked, and mistreated. He saw something he had never seen before. He saw a strength of character and a power emerge that were supernatural. He wanted to live a life that made a difference, one that brought change to his nation. He saw in this chaplain the only hope for real change and told the Lord he wanted to be a chaplain too. He applied, was accepted, and worked hard during the training. William said whenever he felt tired and wanted to quit, he remembered the chaplain from his unit and worked even harder. His unit’s chaplain was Geoffrey.

- Wes Bentley, Far Reaching Ministries, August 2001

I have to say that at times I am embarrassed by the complaints I have. "I can’t believe it, the cable is out again!" "This car, it is good for nothing, it won’t start!" "I can’t believe what that person did to me. It will take awhile before I get close to them again, if I ever do!" "No air-conditioner, what a drag!" I’m probably dating myself, they don’t use the word "drag" anymore, do they? But you can see what I mean, you have been there I’m sure. Things don’t go our way, it gets tough, and we are ready to give up, throw in the towel. I love the example and heart of Geoffrey, what a encouragement to me to forge ahead in the work of the Lord. My prayer is "Lord, make my life a witness. Help me bring people to Jesus, for only in Him is there healing! Help me not to let anything get in the way of the work you called me to do, and if it does, give me the ability to move those mountains, to forge ahead!" I hope that is your prayer too!

You see, Jesus said in John 20:23, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." In other words, as we bring the Gospel, the good news of Jesus and they receive it, we can tell them their sins are forgiven, not by us, but by Jesus. But, if they reject Jesus, we can also tell them they are still lost in their sins. You see, we are ambassadors for Christ, bringing His message of healing, of forgiveness to those who are sick and hurting, dying in their sins.

Remember our story we opened with this morning, how Mindy, the dog, could hear all about Jesus but was not equipped to bring the good news to anyone. But we are! Don’t let those obstacles discourage you or cause you to give up. Remember what Paul said in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." May we not forget that and may we follow the great commission that Christ has given to us, "‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen." Matthew 28:19-20.

Keep the Lord before you and I will tell you this, if you do there is nothing that will get in the way of the work He has for you. There is nothing that will stop you from living what you believe, not matter the cost! But, if you are doing the work out of emotion alone, and not because of the call of Christ upon your life, then that same emotion that caused you to work, can also discourage you and cause you to stop. You have to chose who you are going to serve, self or the Lord. If it is self, then things will get in your way, they will cause you to stop the work you are doing. If it is the Lord, nothing will get in your way, nothing will stop you, because you are serving Him!

Let me give you an example of what I mean. It can be 20 degrees below zero with the wind-chill and yet people will go and sit at a football game and sometimes take off their shirts, cheering and yelling for their team. It is all emotion. You see, once the game is over, they’ve got the heater in the car blasting, several layers of clothing on, and they are still complaining of how cold they are.

They took their shirt off because of emotion, and they now are letting emotion cause them to respond in this manner. The same is true as we serve the Lord, may it be done out of love and a calling and not emotion, that is always waxing and waning! Carry your friends, your family, your co-workers to Jesus! Remember the words of Geoffrey and apply them to your life, "God has called me to serve you. I am going where you go, and I am not afraid of what lies ahead because I know the One who is sending me."

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