How can we overcome spiritual paralysis? Part 3

“Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’” John 5:8

Another way to overcome spiritual paralysis is seen in verse 8. Jesus ignored the excuse of the lame man and gave him some strong medicine. Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’” (John 5:8). First, He asks an impossible thing; secondly, He removes all possibility of a relapse; and thirdly, He expects continued success. All these are involved in the words: “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”

From these words, we discover the third way to overcome spiritual paralysis. RELY ON CHRIST ALONE FOR HEALING (John 5:8). Notice that the first thing Jesus says to do is what the man could not do for thirty-eight years – “Rise.” On what basis does Jesus say these words to him? It’s important to see this. Perhaps the lame man was thinking, “If this Man tells me to rise (and I cannot rise), it must mean that He intends to do something to make it possible.” Thus, his faith is transferred from his own efforts to Jesus: “He must do it. I can’t.” The man must also have reasoned somewhat along these lines, “If this Man is going to help me then I have got to decide to do what He tells me to do.”

Many people and churches miss this when they are looking for help from Christ. There is always something Jesus tells us to believe, and do. This is a word of action. Jesus does not say, “Try to build up faith in your mind. Pray for months first. Form a committee.” He tells them to do something: “Rise! Stand up!” Obviously, it was Jesus’ will that this man should do what He told him to do, and the moment the man’s will agreed with the Lord’s will, the power was there. I don’t know whether he felt anything or not. All I know is that strength came into his bones and into his muscles and he could stand. He knew he could stand, and he did.  

Jesus may ask us to do things as a Christian that we have never attempted before. It may not make sense to us. It may seem impossible to us. But instead of trying to figure everything out, we just need to do it! Over analysis leads to paralysis.

What does the Lord say next? The Lord did not merely say, “Rise,” He said, “take up your bed.” Why did He say that? I like the way G. Campbell Morgan has put it, “In order to make no provision for a relapse.  The man might have said to himself, “I’m healed, but I had better leave my bed here; I may need it tomorrow.” If he had said that he would have been back in it the next day. But he did not. Jesus said, “Take up your bed. Get rid of it; don’t leave it there. Don’t stay stuck.”

Christ is saying something very important to people and churches who need to be healed: do not make any provision to go back on what you have done. If you do go back, the consequences will be worse than the first time. That’s why Jesus says to the man – “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:14).  This man’s paralysis was due to personal sin. This is not always the case with physical ailments, but sometimes it is. And when Jesus enables us to overcome that sin, He says not to make provision for a relapse. Many people fail right here. 

If Christ has enabled you to stop drinking, go home and pour out the alcohol! If you’re off drugs, go home and get rid of the drugs! If you have stopped looking at porn, stay offline or at the very least, get an internet filter. Burn your bridges behind you. Say “No” to the friends you used to drink with or do drugs with or had sex with. You will probably find that some of them will come with you. Burn your bridges. Cut off any possibility of going back. Let somebody know the new stand you have taken so that he or she will help hold you to it. Join an accountability group. Get involved with discipleship. Burn your bridges, is what Jesus is saying. If you have forgiven someone, don’t rehearse the hurtful things they did to you. Let go and move on – burn your bridges. If you have been paralyzed by fear, cling to the promises of God and don’t rehearse those fearful “what ifs.” This is so important. Our Lord knows what He is talking about –“take up your bed.” Remove all possibility of a relapse.

The third thing Jesus said is, “walk.” Don’t expect to be carried – walk. Many people want to be carried after they are healed. They expect everybody to gather around them and keep them going – a common area of failure. But if Jesus gives you the power to rise, Jesus is the One who can give you the power to walk every day, to keep going. That is an important thing to see – you and the Lord. Your eyes are not on your friends, your pastor or on yourself; your eyes are to be on Him now. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2). That is how this man kept going. It is how you as a person can keep going in your Christian life.

It is important to see God’s part and our part in the healing process. Who healed the man at the pool? Jesus. Who had to walk? The man. Who saves us from our sins? Jesus. Who must believe? We must. Who makes us more like Christ and gives us the power to live above sin? Jesus. Who must decide day by day to follow Him and do what is right? We must. Who gives us the vision for our church and the power to carry it out? Jesus. Who must decide to follow that vision and implement changes necessary to complete that vision? We must.

If we are going to overcome spiritual paralysis, we must resolve to get well, refuse to blame others, and rely on Christ alone for healing. Then and only then, will we begin to walk closely with God.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for this strong dose of medicine this morning. You are asking me to do something I have never done, and that is scary. But it also comforts me to know that You would never command me to do something without giving me the power to do it. I have been clinging to secrets far too long that have kept me from walking more closely with You. As I make this decision to rise up out of the mire of my own sin and shame, help me to make no provision for going back to my old thought patterns and behaviors that I used to medicate my pain, especially when I am stressed or lonely. Thank You for providing people in my life who love me and support my commitment to walk more closely with You and experience Your deeper healing in my life. My eyes are fixed on You, Lord Jesus, to bring deeper healing in my soul and lead me to new heights of victory and faithfulness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How do I share the gospel with a religious person? Part 2

“Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.” John 3:11

After Jesus confronts Nicodemus about his need to have two births, both physical and spiritual (John 3:1-8), Nicodemus is still confused. Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’” (John 3:9). Nicodemus wants to know how this spiritual transformation takes place. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?’” (John  3:10). Jesus says, “Nicodemus, you are one of the main guys. You have given your life to the study of the Scriptures, and yet, you can’t wrap your mind around this very basic spiritual truth? You don’t know what it means to be born from above?”

Jesus continues, “Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.” (John 3:11).Nicodemus had begun his conversation with Jesus by humbly referring to himself as one of many authoritative figures who believed that Jesus had come from God when he said, “we know.” (John 3:2). Now Jesus describes Himself as one of several authoritative Figures who was speaking the truth, when He says, “We know.” (John 3:11). Jesus states that His teaching about new birth can be relied upon because it is based upon what He knows and has seen with His Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven. Jesus claimed to be speaking the truth as an Eyewitness along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, but Nicodemus was rejecting Their witness at this time (“you do not receive Our witness”).

John’s purpose in this gospel, similarly, was that his readers would accept his witness that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31). Nicodemus had rejected this witness at this time, and Jesus saw him as representing many other Jewish religious leaders who also did as the word “you” in John 3:11 is plural. Nicodemus had failed to understand (John 3:9), but his more serious error was his refusal to believe Jesus’ testimony at this time about the new birth. It reflected a refusal to acknowledge who Jesus really was, the Christ and the Son of God, which His signs and insight into Scripture revealed (John 20:30-31).

What about you? Do you receive Jesus’ witness about your need to be born from above spiritually? Or do you think your own goodness and religiosity is enough to get you to heaven? Please do not make the same mistake that Nicodemus did at this time. You will regret it for eternity.

Jesus goes on to say, “I should not be shocked, Nicodemus…” If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12). In other words, it should come as no surprise that your sinful mind does not grasp this spiritual truth. Only the one born from above can understand God’s truth.

Jesus had authority to teach about heavenly things because He lived in heaven. He said to Nicodemus, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:13). Jesus is explaining to Nicodemus why He could speak authoritatively about heavenly things. No human teacher had “ascended into heaven” bodily and returned to teach about heavenly things.

The reason no human had ascended to heaven was because believers did not ascend to heaven until Jesus ascended to heaven after His resurrection (Ephesians 4:8-10; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21-23; Revelation 4:1-4; 19:7-9, 14). Before Jesus’ ascension to heaven, believers went to Paradise or Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22; 23:43). They could not ascend to heaven until Jesus’ blood was shed and removed their sins forever (John 1:29; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9-10).

In John 3:13, Christ was referring to being personally present in heaven since, obviously, many prophets had received visions of heaven (e.g. Isaiah 6; cf. 2 Corinthians 12:2-4; Revelation 1:10-20). However, the “Son of Man . . . descended from heaven” so He could teach about heavenly things. The apostle John is contrasting no human who could have ascended bodily into heaven, with the God-man who really did descend from heaven. Jesus claims to be the Messianic “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13-14) who had come “from heaven” to reveal God to humankind (cf. John 1:18, 51). Throughout this his gospel, the apostle John insists on Jesus’ heavenly origin. This is one way in which he brings out his point that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31). Here, His heavenly origin marks Jesus off from the rest of humanity as the Messiah-God.

Because Jesus is from heaven, He alone can get those who believe in Him to heaven (John 14:2-3, 6). When sharing the gospel with a religious unsaved person, we need to confront them with the truth of their need for two birthdays (John 3:1-8) both physical and spiritual – and confront them with the truth about Jesus’ heavenly origin (John 3:9-13). Jesus is God who descended from heaven to share with us how to get to heaven. Next time, we will focus on what Jesus says we must do to get to heaven.

From Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, we learn the following:

Being born again is not about human efforts. If anyone “deserved” eternal life, it would appear that Nicodemus had all of the right qualifications. He was a “Pharisee” (John 3:1), who was extremely devoted to studying and applying the Scriptures to his life. He seems worthy of eternal life. But this conversation reminds us that salvation is not about human effort or merit. We are also reminded that:

Position does not get you to heaven. Nicodemus was “a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1), one of the seventy-one who comprised the Sanhedrin – the Jewish Supreme Court. He was a part of the religious elite. He had a distinguished religious position. But a certain position does not get you to heaven. Being a pastor, a Sunday School teacher, a member of the board at a non-profit organization, an imam, a priest, or a monk does not save you. Being born again is not about human efforts. It is not about positions.

Popularity does not get you to heaven. The name “Nicodemus”  means “a conqueror or victor of the people”. Nicodemus was well liked or popular. Here was a man who won the approval of the people. He was well known and respected in the community. He was popular. He was recognized as a spiritual leader. Mothers pointed to Nicodemus and told their children, “There is a good man. You grow up to be like Nicodemus.” He was extremely popular. But popularity does not save you. Being recognized as a “Christian” person or as a spiritual leader does not save you. Being born again is not about popularity.

Prestige does not get you to heaven. Jesus identified Nicodemus as “the teacher of Israel” (3:10).  He was the one to whom people turned for spiritual answers. He was recognized as the spiritual adviser, the religious guru, the one who spent his life studying the Scriptures, but he did not possess eternal life. He knew the Scriptures, but he did not know the Author of the Scriptures. Nicodemus was “the” man when it came to religious matters but he was not saved. He was not born from above because prestige does not save you.

Piety does not get you to heaven. Nicodemus possessed great religious knowledge. As a member of the Pharisees, he knew and lived what was considered right and wrong. His first words to Jesus, “we know” (3:2) express a certain level of spiritual knowledge. Yet the reality is that Nicodemus did not know Jesus personally nor did he possess eternal life. He was ignorant of spiritual truth, yet he was religious to the core. The Pharisees went to drastic measures to make sure they obeyed the letter of the law. They fasted and prayed and studied the Scriptures. They lived spiritually disciplined lives, but they were lost. Why? Because piety does not save. You can go to church, to a mosque or to a temple, and practice spiritual disciplines daily and still be without Christ. Piety does not save. Why?

Because all of us have disobeyed God with our thoughts, our words, and our actions. The Bible tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Regardless of how good we are, we have still sinned against God. You may not agree with this, but God is the One we must answer to and His Word says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6a). Each of us has gone astray from God and His Word. We have all chosen our own way instead of God’s way.

Even though we have rebelled against God, He still loves us and paid the penalty for all of our sins when He died on the cross. “And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6b).  Three days after Jesus died on the cross, He rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:4-6) and He is alive today. Jesus invites you right now to trust Him alone to save you. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47).

So being born again is not about human efforts. It is not about position, popularity, prestige, or piety. It is about recognizing your own sinfulness and inability to save yourself and then believing in Christ alone who died for your sins and rose from the dead to give you everlasting life and a future home in heaven. If you just trusted in Jesus for His free gift of everlasting life, you may tell Him this in prayer.

“Dear Jesus, I realize that I have sinned against You in so many ways. I did not want to admit it before because I thought I was good enough to get to heaven on my own. My human efforts, my position, my popularity, my prestige, and my piety do not change the fact that I am a sinner who needs a Savior. Lord Jesus, I believe You died for me and rose from the dead. I am now trusting You alone, Jesus (not my human efforts, position, popularity, prestige or piety), to give me everlasting life and a future home in heaven. Thank You, Jesus, for the everlasting life I now have and the future home I will have in heaven. I want to thank You by living for You now. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus Christ, please explore or or

Jesus does not want you to keep this good news of new birth to yourself. He wants you to “testify” or share what you have “seen” and now “know” (John 3:11) with others who do not know Jesus as the only Giver of everlasting life. So if you found this article to be helpful, please share it with those you want to see in heaven. Thank You and may Jesus richly bless you as you make Him known to others.

Where do we turn when we feel threatened?

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

In American society as people become more and more broken, they are turning to “quick fixes” to numb their pain. These “quick fixes” are often addictive. They may be a feeling, a behavior, or a substance. Instead of turning to the Lord when we are hurting or threatened, we turn to that which leads us farther away from the Lord.  

The more broken and vulnerable we feel, the more easily we are threatened. In Psalm 46, the Psalmist was feeling extremely threatened as he faced dangerous calamities such as a storm-tossed sea or an earthquake (46:2-3) or even opposition from God’s enemies (46:6, 8a, 9). Instead of turning to an idol or to his own fleshly desires to comfort himself, he chose to turn to the Lord Who was his “refuge” and “strength.”

The word for “refuge” (machaseh) refers to a shelter from danger or a place of trust. God was his refuge. The Psalmist was not threatened by God’s presence. The Lord was no danger to his well-being. Instead, God provided safety for the Psalmist and He wants to do the same for you and me.

When the Psalmist says God is his “strength,” this word (oz) refers to a mighty fortress or stronghold. This verse may have inspired Martin Luther to write the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” When our faith rests in God, He gives us the security we long for in the face of danger. He defends us from the attacks of the enemy.

Sometimes we face physical dangers such as a gunman opening fire on a church or a terrible winter blizzard. But sometimes the dangers we encounter are of an emotional or spiritual nature. Certain triggers in our lives such as a smell or a sound can access feelings and even memories that cause us to feel very insecure and threatened because of unresolved trauma in our lives. Where will we turn when these triggers take place?

The Psalmist encourages us to turn to “the Lord of hosts” (46:7, 11), the Commander of heaven’s angelic armies, Whose abiding presence in our lives is a great source of safety and security. God is a “very present” (meod matsa) or abundantly available source of “help” (assistance) during these threatening times (46:1). Those we would normally turn to for safety and security (ex. police, family, friends, etc.) are not always available to help us at the moment of our need. But God is “abundantly available” for you and for me. He is never too busy or overwhelmed running the universe to give us His assistance in our time of need.

Two artists set out to paint a picture representing perfect peace. The first painted a canvas depicting a carefree boy relaxing in a boat on a little placid lake without a ripple to disturb the surface. The second artist painted a raging waterfall with winds whipping the spray about. But on a branch of a tree overhanging the swirling waters a bird had built its nest and it sat peacefully brooding over her eggs. Here she was safe from her predatory enemies, shielded and protected by the roaring waterfall. This is real peace – the result of remaining calm in the midst of raging trials and difficulties in life. And this is the peace and calm that the Lord of hosts can give to us when our faith rests upon Him.  

Let’s make 2020 the year we turn to God for the safety and security we need during times when we are threatened. His abiding presence is more than enough to calm our fears and strengthen our faith.

Prayer: O Lord of all of heaven’s angelic armies, thank You for always being available to give me the safety and security I need when I feel threatened. Your comforting presence motivates me to rest in Your loving arms even when my world seems to be falling apart. Although my emotions and circumstances are always changing, Your abiding presence in my life calms my fears and bolsters my faith. You alone are worthy of my complete trust and allegiance. I love You precious Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Facing fear with faith

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid.” Psalm 27:1

What daunting challenge are you facing or about to face? Some of you are about to take final exams in school or in life. Perhaps you or a family member is facing a terminal illness. Maybe some of us are looking for a new place to live or work. Perhaps God has called you to serve in a capacity that exposes your inadequacies and insecurities. Whatever challenges we are facing, I believe Psalm 27 offers us unending encouragement. 

The writer of this Psalm, King David, is facing a difficult circumstance. Some Bible students think he wrote this when he was fleeing from his son, Absalom (cf. 2 Sam. 15:1-37; 17:15-29). Imagine having to run for your life to avoid being killed by your own rebellious adult child? This may have been David’s challenge when he wrote this Psalm.

Instead of choosing to respond with fear, David chose to respond with faith in the One who is the source of his hope (“light”), deliverance (“salvation”), and “strength.” Notice the personal pronoun “my” in this verse. The Lord was not just “a” source of hope and deliverance to David, He was his source of hope and deliverance. David’s relationship with God was personal and dynamic.

What about your relationship with the Lord? Is God simply a theological thought or idea to you? Is He just a distant and uncaring deity? May be you think God is a figment of the human imagination or a superstitious “crutch” for those who need a coping mechanism? But for David, God was a personal Savior Who offers unwavering hope and strength to those who will look to Him in faith? Can you say that the Lord is your light and your salvation, and the strength of your life? If not, what is keeping you from saying that?

If you are not in a relationship with the Lord, please understand that God has revealed Himself to us in the Bible. If you want to know what God is like, read the Bible with an open mind like you would read a newspaper. The Bible is God’s love letter to us. God longs to have a personal relationship with us. But He will not force Himself into our lives. He is waiting for us to come to Him just as we are, and He will welcome us into His family and give us everlasting life (John 1:12; 3:16; 6:35). All He asks is that we believe in His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, Who died on the cross for all our sins and rose from the dead (I Cor. 15:1-5) to give us everlasting life (John 3:14-16).

When God is my light, my salvation, and my strength, there is no one and nothing for me to fear or be afraid of. Why? Because one plus God is always a majority. Since God is for me and not against me (cf. Rom. 8:31), no one and nothing can successfully oppose me. Therefore, there is no need for me to live in fear.

Let’s remember that fear takes us to places that do not exist. It either takes us to a past that is over or to a future that has not happened yet. Neither of these places can bring peace to our lives.

A wise man once told me, “In Jesus we have nothing to prove, nothing to lose, and nothing to hide.” Let that sink in for a moment. Since in Jesus, I have nothing to prove, there is no need for me to live in fear of failure. And because in Jesus, I have nothing to lose, there is no need for me to live in fear of abandoment. And finally, since in Jesus, I have nothing to hide, there is no need for me to live in fear of rejection or shame. Let’s ponder these truths as we go to the Lord in prayer.

Prayer: Lord God, You are not just “a” light or “a” source of salvation, You are “my” light and “my” salvation, and this gives me everlasting hope and security. I pray Your Holy Spirit will persuade me to rest in the truth that says, “In Jesus, I have nothing to prove, nothing to lose, and nothing to hide.” Therefore, there is no need for me to fear anyone or anything. In Jesus’ name. Amen.