DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

Why I Came to Jesus: Healing (John 9:1-41)

Introduction

We've been looking at some of the reasons people came to Jesus. One of the reasons people have come to Jesus is for healing.

It's easy to be cynical about healing. Turn on the TV and we see faith-healers that turn us off. We think of times that we've prayed for healing and been disappointed. It reminds me of the pastor who went to visit three people in the hospital one week. The first two died right after his visit. On the third visit he prayed, "Lord, don't let this one die. I can't afford three out of three." Fifteen minutes after his visit, the man was released from the hospital.

I used to feel the same way. But then I heard stories of how God had healed my mother and her family. And then I experienced God's healing power in my own life. (examples)

Questions: Why aren't all people healed? Why doesn't Jesus seem to heal anymore? What about all of the abuses?

Four actions that we need to take:

1. APPRECIATE THAT JESUS CARES ABOUT ME

Confront the lie that God doesn't care

Jesus never overlooks anyone who calls for help

Jesus' ministry was full of stories of meeting people's needs: emotional, physical, spiritual

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come.(Luke 4:18-19)

"Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.(Matthew 6:32-33)

Don't be discouraged by cynics who tell you that God doesn't heal today, or even worse - that God doesn't care

2. ACCEPT THAT GOD HAS A PURPOSE IN MY SUFFERING

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth."Teacher, his disciples asked him, "why was this man born blind? Was it a result of his own sins or those of his parents' "It was not because of his sins or his parents' sins, Jesus answered. "He was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him. All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent me, because there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end. But while I am still here in the world, I am the light of the world.(John 9:1-5)

Jewish belief in that day that calamity or suffering is the result of some great sin

But we live in a fallen world in which sin does not always directly result in suffering, and not all suffering is directly a result of sin

Why is there suffering? General answer: Because sickness entered the world with sin

Three Reasons We Suffer:

ONE: To demonstrate God's power

"It was not because of his sins or his parents' sins,Jesus answered. "He was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him.(John 9:3)

"Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, "My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.(2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

TWO: To shape our characters

"Even though I have received wonderful revelations from God. But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud.(2 Corinthians 12:7)

THREE: To discipline our wanderings

"My child, don't ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don't be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children.(Hebrews 12:5-6)

God has a purpose in every pain you've gone through

God doesn't always heal - but he does always have a purpose

All healing is ultimately temporary - we will all one day die

Pray that God's purpose would be accomplished through your suffering

3. AVOID BEING DISTRACTED BY SECONDARY ISSUES

We easily get distracted by secondary issues

Working on the Sabbath (v.16), refusing to accept what happened (v.19)

While the Pharisees were conducting investigations and debated about Jesus, people were being healed and their lives were being changed

Today's questions can also distract us

We must never stop asking the questions and looking in God's Word, but we must never be blind to the way that God is working

The one who was blind gained spiritual sight; the ones who could see remained spiritually blind - Jesus called them blind (John 9:41)

The man who was healed didn't have all the answers, but he did have faith.

"Why, that's very strange!" the man replied. "He healed my eyes, and yet you don't know anything about him! Well, God doesn't listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. Never since the world began has anyone been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he couldn't do it. (John 9:30-33)

4. ACCEPT THE GREATEST HEALING POSSIBLE - SPIRITUAL HEALING

When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" The man answered, "Who is he, sir, because I would like to." "You have seen him," Jesus said, "and he is speaking to you!" "Yes, Lord," the man said, "I believe!" And he worshiped Jesus. (John 9:35-38)

Spiritual wellness is always more important than physical wellness

Why I Came to Jesus: Friendship

We've been talking about why different people came to Jesus. We've been looking at the Gospels at the stories of why different people decided to begin following Jesus: reasons like calling, forgiveness, answers, and healing. I love these stories because they're so real. We've been applying some of these reasons to today: people today choose to follow Jesus for the same reasons.

Today we're looking at another reason why people began to follow Jesus. Some people follow Jesus because they're looking for a friend. They don't always express it that way, and sometimes they're not even aware that it's happening. But a lot of people come to Jesus because they need someone to be their friend. Jesus is the friend who never lets you down.

The amazing thing is that when Jesus came to earth, Jesus became actual friends with certain people. Imagine what it would be like to be friends with Jesus - to have him over for dinner; to chat with him at length about your problems; to be able to kick back and relax and enjoy his company. A lot of people had relationships with Jesus, but a few people were really close to him. John 11:5 says, "Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus." They were his friends who lived in a place called Bethany, not too far from Jerusalem. Whenever Jesus had a chance, he would stop by and visit with them, and stay for a few days. When Lazarus died, Jesus cried with grief. Jesus was good friends with this family, and he loved to visit them, just as you might love to pack up your car and stay with some good friends for a weekend. That was the sort of relationship that Jesus enjoyed with them.

Not long before he died, Jesus told his disciples, "You are my friends" (John 15:5). Imagine what it would have been like to hear Jesus say, "Hey, you're my friend. You're my pal." But even among the disciples, Jesus had three closer friends: Peter, James, and John. When Jesus was in need, or when Jesus wanted to just get away with his closest friends, these would be the three that he would take with them. But even among this group, Jesus had a close friend. This was the person in the Bible who's called "one of Jesus' disciples, the one Jesus loved" (John 13:23). Jesus was like all of us. He was drawn to certain people. There were some people that he turned to when he wanted to be alone with his good friends, to be relationally recharged, to be with his close friends. Jesus was God but he was also fully human, and he had the same relational needs that we all have.

As you look at the Bible, it's fascinating to see how Jesus related to people. Jesus knew how to be a friend. And the amazing thing is that Jesus doesn't limit himself to the amount of friends that he has today. Two thousand years ago, he was limited. He couldn't be friends with everyone. There was just a limit - he only had so much time, and so much energy. But today, Jesus has opened himself up to friendship with everyone. We can be friends with Jesus. He is the type of friend who will never let you down.

Luke 2:52 says, "So Jesus grew both in height and in wisdom, and he was loved by God and by all who knew him." Jesus was an absolute expert at relationships. The Bible says that Jesus grew in his relationship with others. He grew in his ability to touch other people's lives; to love others; to make a difference in who people were.

In fact, if you open your Bible to one of the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - you'll find that Jesus spent his life with people. Look on any page, and you see Jesus relating to people. If Jesus had a Day Timer, it would be full of people. His life was filled with touching people's lives, of meeting their needs. That's the kind of person that he was. Jesus wasn't friends with all of those people - he couldn't be. But he cared about them. He cares about you.

What I find amazing in the Bible is all of the people who wanted to be around Jesus. You read of crowds of up to 10,000 or more people coming to see him. You see people inviting Jesus over for dinner, coming up to him, asking him questions. You see little kids wanting to hang around Jesus. What made people want to hang around Jesus? What made him the kind of person that people want to be with?

Why did Jesus attract people so? I want to look at some of the qualities that made Jesus a good friend two thousand years ago. Remember, Jesus was limited in how many friendships he could have back then, but he isn't anymore. Jesus can be your friend today. What are the qualities that make Jesus a good friend? Five of them:

1. JESUS PUTS OTHERS FIRST

One of the qualities that makes Jesus a good friend is that Jesus is puts others first. Nobody likes to be around a person who is selfish or self-centered. We can't stand when others are like this - we can't even stand ourselves when we're selfish. Have you ever been around someone who talks about themselves, but never asks about you? They're self-centered. They're obnoxious. But Jesus wasn't like this. Jesus had every right to be self-centered, because he is the center. He is God. He had every right to be self-centered, but he wasn't. Jesus always put others first.

Jesus once said, "I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others" (Matthew 20:28). There's one qualification for being a servant: you've got to put others first. When you're a servant, you ignore your own needs and desires and focus on the needs of others. You do what they don't want to do. You put them first. Jesus was like this. He could have demanded that others serve him. After all, he's God. But Jesus never did this. Jesus instead chose to serve others. He chose to put them first.

One of the worst jobs I had was working at a kid's shoe store. I don't know if you've ever had a chance to work with kids' smelly feet. Kids really aren't into hygiene in their extremities. They come in with sweaty socks, muddy feet, the works. The worst thing is, the kids know that they've got you. They know that you don't want to even touch their feet. But you're there, you've got to measure them up, you've got to try on the shoes.

Back in Jesus' day, when you arrived at someone's house, the household servant would come out and wash everyone's feet. The roads were dusty, and it was common courtesy. As you can imagine, this job usually got passed to the lowliest household servant - the one with the least seniority. This was the lowest, most demeaning service that could be required of any person.

When the disciples - Jesus' followers - got together, there was a problem. There was no servant to do this menial task. They were all probably saying, "I'm not touching his feet. No way I'm going to do that job." To wash the other's feet would have been an admission of inferiority. But Jesus didn't think this way. The Bible says, "Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God" (John 13:3). Jesus knew his place in the order of things. He wasn't just the most superior person in that room; he was the person with the most authority in the universe. The next verse says, "So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him" (John 13:4-5). That's a beautiful picture of Jesus. He has every right not to be humble. He has every right not to serve others. But Jesus voluntarily chooses to put others first.

When you read the Bible, you see that Jesus talked to all kinds of people - children, homeless people, sick people, visible minorities, those who were marginalized. He also talked to those who were rich and powerful. Jesus treated them all the same. Jesus never looked down on any of them. He approached all of them exactly the same. The Bible says about Jesus, "He will not crush those who are weak, or quench the smallest hope" (Matthew 12:20). No wonder people love Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate servant. Even though Jesus is the King of Kings, he became a servant for you and for me. Eve n though he is first in the universe, he came to put our needs ahead of his own. That's the first quality that makes Jesus such a good friend. There's a second quality that makes Jesus such a good friend...

2. JESUS MAKES HIMSELF AVAILABLE

That's one of the qualities of Jesus that has always amazed me. Jesus was never in a rush. There were times that Jesus got away from the crowds to be alone with God, but Jesus made himself available to people and their needs. The pages of the Bible are full of Jesus dealing with people's needs - their physical needs, their emotional needs, their spiritual needs. Jesus makes himself available to the people that really need him.

Jesus didn't see his contacts with people as interruptions. It's embarrassing to me how often I see my contacts with people as interruptions. We're even taught this in time management classes. How to get people off the phone. But not just at the office - even at home. We could be reading the paper or watching television or working on some important project, and when want our attention, we think it's an interruption. We tell them to go away and we'll deal with it later.

A few years ago, I went through a period in which I needed some friends. I called two of my friends up right away. I said, "I need your help. I really need to lean on you right now." Both of my friends were busy. What if they had said, "We're a little tied up right now. We have some time available next month. Do you think you could schedule your crisis then?" Do you think they'd still be my friends if they had said that? Not likely. When you go through a time of crisis, that's when you need a friend available.

Jesus took time for people. A woman touched Jesus on the way to heal somebody. Jesus stopped and said, "Who touched me?" It's one of those moments that all the disciples give each other the same look that your teenage kids give each other when you say something that doesn't make sense to them. They say, "Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you." But Jesus says, "No, someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me" (Luke 8:45-46). Jesus knew there was a need that he addressed, and he took the time to stop and address it. Jesus made the time.

Another time, Jesus was walking and a blind man beside the road yelled out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Some of the people in the crowd yelled back at him, "Be quiet!" But when Jesus heard him, he said, "Tell him to come here," and then he said to the man, "What do you want me to do for you?" (Mark 10:47-51). And then Jesus healed him. He has the power to heal. He made the time to stop and to deal with a need, even though he was heading somewhere else.

Jesus often took time for those that others ignored - children, lepers, the blind, lame, beggars. Jesus made time for people that the others overlooked. When Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, he passed through Jericho and saw a short guy in the tree named Zacchaeus. He didn't say, "Excuse me! I'm on my way to Jerusalem. I've got a really important appointment." He said, "Zacchaeus! Quick, come down! For I must be a guest in your home today" (Luke 19:5). Jesus made time for people.

I don't know if you've ever thought about the fact that Jesus is never hurried. He's always available to you. Once he becomes your friend, he has said, "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). Thousands of years ago, a prophet asked of another false god, "Perhaps he is deep in thought, or he is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or he is asleep and needs to be wakened!" (1 Kings 18:27) Jesus isn't like that. He's always available for us today. The Bible says that God never tires and never sleeps (Psalm 121:4). That's one quality that makes Jesus such a good friend. Jesus makes himself available to those who need them.

There's another quality that attracts people to Jesus:

3. JESUS PRAYS FOR HIS FRIENDS

That's what makes Jesus a good friend. Jesus prays for other people. In Matthew 19:13, little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. The disciples tried to turn them away - "Jesus doesn't have time for little kids!" But Jesus rebuked the disciples. He said, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:14). He laid his hands on them and he blessed them. It was his priority. You can tell a lot about a person by how they treat children, or those that others think are a waste of time. Jesus had time for them. It was his priority to pray for them.

John 17 is a great chapter of the Bible. We usually call another prayer that Jesus gave the Lord's Prayer. I think a better name for that prayer would be the Disciple's Prayer, because Jesus gave it to his disciples (his followers) to pray. The real Lord's Prayer is in John 17. It's all a prayer of Jesus. The night before he dies, he takes a whole chapter and prays for people's lives - for your lives. You're even in that prayer. Jesus said, "I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony" (John 17:20). Jesus prayed for others.

The amazing thing is that Jesus is still praying for us today. He's praying for you. Hebrews 7:25 says, "He's there from now to eternity to save everyone who comes to God through him, always on the job to speak up for them" (The Message). Romans 8:34 says of Jesus, "He is the one who died for us and was raised to life for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us." Jesus is called our great High Priest. In the Old Testament, the High Priest used to go in the Temple and represent the people to God. Jesus is doing that for us every day.

That's why people were drawn to Jesus - and why they're still drawn to him today. Jesus puts others first. Jesus makes himself available to those who need him. He prays for his friends, and...

4. JESUS RELATES TO US AS FRIENDS

Have you ever met somebody who thinks they're better than you? We all have. You meet them, they size you up, and then you get the impression that they're talking down to you. They're not relating to you as peers. They're looking down on you.

When you think about it, Jesus could have done this and gotten away with it. After all, he did create the universe. The Bible says that he's the image of the invisible God, and that he sustains the universe by his power. Jesus could look down on everyone else, but he didn't. Jesus never talked down to people that he met.

Right before he died, Jesus said an incredible thing. Jesus looked at his disciples and said, "I no longer call you servants, because a master doesn't confide in his servants. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me" (John 15:15). Jesus did an incredible thing. He elevated his relationship with these guys to a friendship. What's the difference between a slave and a friend? A slave can't ask questions. A slave has to obey no matter what. A friend is a confidant. When you're friends, you share knowledge, you disclose your knowledge to them. Jesus wasn't equal to the disciples, but he made them his friends.

Jesus went on to say something even more momentous. Jesus went on to say, "You didn't choose me. I chose you" (John 15:16). It's an incredible thing to realize that Jesus Christ - the one who created all things - has chosen us to be his friends. It's even more amazing that given who Jesus is and given who we are, that Jesus chose us. We didn't choose Jesus; Jesus chose us. Romans 5:8 says, "But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." Jesus is Lord and Master, and he should relate to us as servants. But he doesn't do this. Jesus calls us his friends.

God delights in us as his friends. He pursues a friendship with us. He doesn't relate to us out of duty or status but out of love. Proverbs 18:24 says, "Friends come and friends go,
but a true friend sticks by you like fami ly" (The Message). Jesus is that kind of friend. Jesus invites you to enter into that friendship with him.

There's one more quality that makes Jesus a good friend:

5. JESUS GAVE US HIS ALL

That's another why people are attracted to Jesus. Jesus has given us his everything. In some marriage ceremonies, the vows include these words: "With all my worldly goods I thee endow." In other words, "We're getting married; what used to be mine is now yours." In my case, that wasn't a problem. I endowed my wife with a student desk and chair from Grand and Toy, a full motion waterbed, some books, and a student loan. But it was different for Charlene. She endowed me with a car and some savings. I got a much better deal than she did.

We appreciate others when they make sacrifices for us. When friends make sacrifices, we remember. It endears our friends to us.

In John 15:12-13, Jesus said, "I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it-the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends." It's like that song that Ed taught us:

That's why we praise him, that's why we sing
That's why we offer him our everything
That's why we bow down and worship this King,
'cause he gave his everything.

The Statue of Liberty in the States has these words emblazed on it: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." But thousands of years ago, Jesus extended a similar invitation - a better invitation - to follow him; to become his friend. Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest...Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29). Jesus extends this offer to you.

If you read the story of Jesus, you read page after page of Jesus talking with people. You read of how Jesus became a servant and how he put others first, that he didn't come to be served but to serve. You read of him undertaking the most menial, the most demeaning task in order to demonstrate his love.

We read in the Bible how he made himself available to people and their needs - how even today, he's available. He's always with us. We read of how he prays for us. He lifts us up before God.

We read of how the creator of this universe chose us, and called us his friends. And we read of how he proved this - he proved it by dying for us. He died in our place to take the punishment for the wrong things that we had done.

Out of all the messages that we've done in this series, this has been the most personal, the most meaningful to me. We've been thinking of why different people came to Jesus. When I came to the end of preparing this message in my office this week, I just had to stop and pause and worship God. I realized that I'm one of those people who came to God for friendship - and in doing so, I've received a friend that has never let me down.

If you have already begun to follow Jesus, then take some time today to thank him. He has called you his friend. He's given you his everything. You need to spend some time and thank him.

If you haven't come to Jesus for friendship today, you can. You can receive the best friend that you could ever imagine. Let's pray.

Proverbs 18:24 says, "Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family." Jesus is that friend. He will stick with you no matter what you go through. Jesus will never let you down.

I want to thank you, Father, that you sent your Son to be our friend. Thank you that he makes that friendship available to all of us. Thank you that we can receive that friendship simply by asking for it, simply by saying, "Jesus, I want you to be my friend and my master. I give you my life. I want to follow you. Forgive me, I pray." Thank you that Jesus is the friend who will never let us down.

Why I Came to Jesus: Forgiveness (Luke 7:36-50)

Whenever I'm downtown, I like to go to Yorkville and take a look at some of the trendy shops that they have there. I'm often amazed by how much some of the items cost. That's why I go to look. I've never bought anything there yet, but I've sure gone away with my jaw pretty close to the ground.

I've learned a couple of principals that have come in really handy in my shopping life. First, if the owners insist on calling it a boutique instead of a store, I can't afford it. I'm just not a boutique sort of person. I can look, but I sure won't be buying. It's probably best for me to stay away from boutiques.

The other lesson I've learned is that there are two types of people in this world. There are the Costco people, and then there are the Holt Renfrew people. There are the people that shop at Eddie Bauer, and then there are the people that shop at Eddie Biway. If you're the first type, don't even bother shopping at the other kind of store. You'll just end up frustrating yourself. It really doesn't even matter how much money you have - you just need to stick to your kind of store. Or boutique. Whichever one you fancy.

It occurred to me this week that the same is true when it comes to God. You've got what I'll call your religiously upscale people. You know what I mean. They have it all together. They're holy. You can almost see the halo around their heads. This past week, I had my ducts cleaned at home. The guy comes out midway through the job and says, "Excuse me, are you a minister?" I said, "How can you tell that from cleaning my ducts?" He said, "It's amazing what you can find out about someone by cleaning their ducts." He then went on to say, "In some houses, there's just a sense of calm. You can tell that there's a peace there." I told him, "That's not because I'm a minister. That sense of peace and calm is because the kids are playing outside." Do you know this sort of person? People suppose that there is just a sense of calm and order and peace and tranquility about them. Let's call these the religiously upscale people.

Then you've got what we'll call the religious bargain hunters. They shop at the churches where you have to bag your own stuff, or at least pay five cents a bag. You know what I mean. There are some people that look like they don't belong in a church. They don't really mix well with the religiously upscale.

The thing is, sometimes these religious bargain hunters feel guilty. They feel like the religiously upscale are looking down on them. You get the sense that they know that they've messed up and that they need forgiveness, but there's no way that they're going to go to where the upscale religious people go. If they do, they'll just end up broken, beat-up, and burnt-out. They don't belong. They just don't have it all together.

Today we're going to look at one of these people. We've been looking at the Bible at some of the reasons why people came to Jesus. Today we're going to look at a story of a woman in the Bible who was radically changed by Jesus Christ. She didn't really belong. But her story is an important one, because Jesus reached past the categories that divide the two groups of people. Jesus eliminated the false categories and saw a heart that needs Jesus. She offers hope to me, because I believe Jesus doesn't care whether we look like we belong in church or not. Jesus wants to reach out to us anyway.

This is an important story for us to hear, because in reality, we're all in the same boat. As we'll see in the story, we may look very different. But we all have the same need. We all have the same problems. We all feel a sense of shame, we all carry a sense of guilt, and we all lack the power to change. This story teaches us that Jesus can erase our shame, eliminate our guilt, and empower us to change.

The story is found in Luke 7, beginning in verse 36. I want to give you a bit of background to the story. The story's set in the house of a man named Simon, who is called a Pharisee. Pharisees were a group of people in that day who were very strict religious people. They voluntarily agreed to a lifestyle of prayer, purity, Sabbath observance, and tithing. They were very zealous and very religious people. Now, in that day, it considered meritorious to invite a visiting rabbi over for dinner. People thought that it would get them more points with God. So Simon invited the visiting rabbi over, whose name was Jesus.

It sounds kind of strange to us know, but dinner in a prominent house in that day could be somewhat of a public affair. Needy people were allowed to visit the house and to sit around the walls for two reasons. When the guests were done dinner, then the needy people could eat the leftovers. But there was another reason. While the guests were eating dinner, the needy people could hear the conversation and benefit from what was said. This was especially important when somebody important was over - somebody like Jesus.

What can this story teach us about Jesus? No matter who you are, in what category you place yourself in, Jesus can meet your three deepest needs...

1. JESUS CAN ERASE YOUR SHAME

That's the first thing Jesus can do for you. Jesus can erase your shame. Imagine this scene. The room is full of all these people. Jesus is reclining on a couch, with his feet out behind him. People in that room begin to hear quiet sobbing, and they look to the back of the room and see a woman - but not just any woman. We don't know what she had done, but she's identified as a sinner. Some people think she might have been a prostitute. We don't know for sure, but we do know that she's somebody with a reputation. She was somebody that wouldn't have been received too well at this Pharisee's house. It took incredible courage for her to be there.

But then this woman does something shocking. She breaks open this beautiful jar filled with perfume, kneels behind Jesus, anoints his feet, and wipes them off with her hair. She's just broken two taboos that they had in those days. Rule one: women don't let down their hair in public. Rule two: women don't touch men in public. She's taken an incredible risk by even appearing in the Pharisee's house, and now she's breaking all sorts of taboos and drawing attention to herself.

How would you have felt if you were this woman? What would you have been thinking as everyone turned around and stared? You'd probably feel fearful, a little anxious. You'd wonder whether you were about to get kicked out of the house or not. I'd be scared that somebody was going to get up and tell Jesus all the things that I had done.

The host, in fact, was thinking pretty negative thoughts about this woman. He thought, "If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him" (Luke 7:39 The Message). But Jesus then told a story that completely erased her shame. Jesus wanted to erase her shame, to put her at ease, to let the Pharisee know that he needed forgiveness just like she did. When we come to Jesus, Jesus wants to erase our shame.

The story is of a man who loaned money to two people. He loaned one man 500 pieces of silver. A piece of silver was worth about one day's work, so this would amount to tens of thousands of dollars. To the other man, he loaned fifty pieces of silver. This would amount to a few thousand dollars. Neither of the people were able to repay him. At this point, the man who was owed the money had many options. He could have had both of them placed in prison. But he didn't do this. Jesus said, "He kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts." Then Jesus asks the clincher question: "Who do you suppose loved him more after that?" (Luke 7:42)

The answer's obvious. The more you're forgiven, the more you're grateful. But I love the way the Pharisee responded: "I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the larger debt" (Luke 7:43). I love the "I suppose" part. Talk about a reluctant answer. Jesus replied, "That's right," and he then did something beautiful.

In front of all the guests, Jesus turned to this woman who was on display and eased her shame. The reality is, Jesus said, Simon and the woman weren't that different. Both needed forgiveness. If you carry the parable over and apply it to them, both were in a debt that they couldn't repay. Sure, the woman owed more, but both owed something.

But there was an important difference. Simon refused to wash Jesus' feet. That would be like forgetting to take someone's coat when they came to visit your house. It was common courtesy. But the woman washed Jesus' feet with her hair and with her tears - what someone has called heart water. Simon maybe felt that he was too good to offer Jesus hospitality, but the woman didn't. The woman was so full of gratitude that she couldn't help but express it to God.

Simon refused to give Jesus a kiss of greeting. That would be like refusing to shake someone's hand. But the woman kissed Jesus' feet again and again. She couldn't help but express her love for Jesus. Her love came because she had heard what Jesus taught, and believed what she had said.

Simon refused to anoint Jesus with inexpensive olive oil on his head, as was the custom when you received guests. But the woman anointed Jesus with costly perfume. She went to great expense to honor Jesus.

Jesus looked at Simon, who was a professional religious person. When people asked him what he did for a living, he could say, "I'm religious. I'm full-time. I spend all my time being good." And Jesus looked at this woman, who was known as a sinner. In effect, Jesus said, "Don't put her to shame. It's not about shame." Jesus looks at us, no matter what we've done, and no matter how unworthy we feel next to other people. Jesus wants to ease our shame.

This is so important that I want to lift some principles from what Jesus did. JESUS CAN LOOK PAST MY PAST. There's nothing that you've done in the past that could possibly make Jesus reject you. There's stuff in my past that I'm ashamed of. But it doesn't seem to matter to Jesus. There's probably stuff in your past that you're ashamed of too, but Jesus can look past your mistakes. He can look past your shame. He didn't come to point his finger at you. He came to love you, to embrace you, to receive you.

JESUS CAN LOOK PAST MY SITUATION. This woman had nothing going for her. She had a reputation. He was a woman in a culture that looked down on women. She wasn't even supposed to be there. It's like a lot of us feel. We feel like we're trapped in impossible situations - impossible relationships and impossible jobs. But Jesus looked past that. Jesus looked past the fact that she really shouldn't have touched him, really shouldn't have let her hair down. Jesus looked past the fact that she wasn't the one throwing the party. Jesus can look past your situation too.

JESUS CAN LOOK PAST MY RELIGION. Simon was religious to an extreme. He would have fit in any synagogue. He would be like the guy in church who's never missed a Sunday since his mother took him home from the hospital. She would be like one of my friends who showed up at church in a T-shirt with a pack of cigarettes under one sleeve and a case of beer in the car. Jesus looked at both of them: a religious nut and somebody who had never darkened the door of a church. It didn't seem to matter. Jesus can look past my religion. He can ease my shame.

When you come to Jesus, the first thing that Jesus will do for you is to take away any fears that you have in approaching him. His invitation isn't conditional on how well you measure up, and how many good things that you've done. His invitation is for you no matter how much you've messed up, and no matter what you've done.

I didn't know this until last week, but the event right before this happened was when Jesus issued an invitation to follow him. That invitation is found in Matthew 11:28-30. Let me read those words to you:

Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

In all probability, there was a woman in that crowd who was carrying heavy burdens, who needed rest. She was carrying a load of shame, and she came to Jesus. Jesus took away her shame.

If you're not ashamed over some things that you've done, you're just not thinking hard enough. We all have reason to be ashamed. Jesus sees that, but he looks beyond our shame. That's the first need that Jesus can meet. He can erase your shame.

There's a second need that Jesus can meet in your life:

2. JESUS CAN ELIMINATE YOUR GUILT

Notice the next thing that Jesus said to this woman. He said in verse 48, "Your sins are forgiven." This would have been incredibly shocking for the Pharisee to hear. Only God can forgive sins. He didn't realize that Jesus is God. But Jesus said, "Your sins are forgiven." And then he said the words take on a whole new meaning when God has forgiven you: "Your faith has saved you; go in peace" (Luke 7:50).

Everyone in the world needs to hear those four words: "Your sins are forgiven." Why? We've all blown it. There's not a person in the world who doesn't need to be forgiven. A lot of us spend our time paralyzed by guilt. We feel overwhelmed because we've let God down, and we've let others down. We feel terrible because of the mistakes we've made. We've all messed up. We've all made mistakes. None of us is perfect. We don't measure up to our own standards, never mind God's. So we all need forgiveness.

Guilt is an incredibly paralyzing emotion. Probably the worst one of all. It paralyzes you. It robs you of your energy, your strength, your joy. It destroys relationships. No telling how many marriages have been destroyed by guilt or guilt manipulation.

And it harms your body. Our bodies weren't meant to carry a load of guilt. Studies have shown that fifty percent of the people in hospital beds right now are there because of a stress related illness primarily for unresolved guilt or anger. I'm not saying that all suffering is caused by guilt. It is not. But a lot of it is.

The amazing thing is that God can look at you, no matter what you've done, and say, "It's not a problem. It's been forgiven. Don't even think about it. Go in peace." Jesus can eliminate my guilt and forgive me today.

I did a bit of research into the words that Jesus used. When he said, "Your sins are forgiven," he used the perfect tense. That means that her forgiveness was an accomplished fact. It wasn't conditional; it wasn't in process; it's been done. It would be like saying, "Your debts have been cancelled. You owe nothing." That's what it's all about. It's just like a banker walking up to us when we can't pay our mortgage and rather than foreclosing, he writes of the debt. It's cancelled. We owe nothing.

The Bible is very clear that...

1. Jesus forgives you instantly

Jesus is quick to forgive. He doesn't sulk first or give you the silent treatment. He doesn't let you suffer a while. That's the way that you and I forgive, but it's not the way that Jesus forgives. Jesus doesn't delay. He doesn't have to think about it. The moment you ask for forgiveness, he answers. What a deal!

2. Jesus forgives you completely

Completely. That means every sin that you ever commit in your life - past, present, and future. Colossians 2:13-14 says, "He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ's cross." When Jesus was nailed to the cross, your sins were nailed to the cross as well. It's forgiven. It's instantaneous and it's complete.

We sang a song the other week. It's a song that goes, "My sins, oh the bliss of this glorious thought; my sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more - Praise the Lord, pra ise the Lord, oh my soul." It's an amazing thought. Jesus doesn't forgive us partially. It's not like he says, "I'll forgive you this much, but you're on your own for the rest." When Jesus forgives us, he forgives us completely.

When God wipes out a sin, he doesn't just forgives it, but he wipes it out. The verse we just read said, "He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it." Psalm 103:12 says, "He has removed our rebellious acts as far away from us as the east is from the west." You may not have forgiven yourself, and others might not have forgiven you, but God has. He's forgiven you completely.

3. Jesus forgives you freely

You'll never be able to earn it. You'll never be able to deserve it. It's a gift from God. It's free. You'd never be able to get it any other way, but you can get it for free - just for asking.

Listen to Romans 3:22: "We are made right in God's sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done." I love that verse. How can we receive this forgiveness? It's not anything that we do. It's simply "when to trust in Jesus to take away our sins." It doesn't matter how good or bad you've been. It's only about whether you've received his free gift of forgiveness.

It doesn't matter whether you were extremely wicked, or conventionally good. It doesn't matter whether you're a church-going religious person or a person with a reputation you'd love to live down. You need forgiveness, and Jesus can provide this forgiveness to you - instantly, completely, and freely. He doesn't minimize your guilt. He eliminates it.

You do not have to live with your guilt. Even if there were no such thing as heaven it would be worth becoming a Christian just to have a clear conscience. Because He forgives completely, and instantly, and freely.

When you really grasp that one of the ways he changes you is that he sets you free from guilt, there is only one logical, rational response. To understanding that God's forgiveness is complete, free and instant, there's only one logical response. Utter amazement! Utter amazement and gratitude that God would love you that much.

When I think about myself, knowing me as I do and knowing my past, I'm amazed that God would love and forgive a heart like mine. If you come to Jesus Christ honestly and say, "I don't want to stay the same anymore. I want to be a different person. I want to change," he will first erase your shame. He will, second, eliminate your guilt. But Jesus can also meet another one of your needs...

3. JESUS CAN ENABLE YOU TO CHANGE

If you've ever tried to change by yourself, you know it's impossible. I don't know how many times I've tried to be more loving, more patient, more gracious. I've got a whole list of qualities that I want fixed, but it seems hopeless. It's like what Paul wrote in Romans 7: "I don't understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate...When I want to do good, I don't. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway" (Romans 7:15, 19). We try and we try, but it seems impossible to change. At times it feels like it's time to give up.

But it's not impossible with God. God can change you from the inside out. Everything about you can be different. That's the story of what Jesus does. It's all about changed lives. Jesus takes people who are in hopeless situations, people who are discouraged and weighed down with guilt, and he changes them. Not just cosmetic change. It's not a little tinkering here and there. Jesus can change your heart. He can change the very core of who you are.

Imagine you have an old wreck for a car. The doors are fallen off. The transmission's shot. The muffler is broken. It takes you ten minutes to start. Imagine I gave you a choice: we can fix up that old beater. We can replace the muffler. We can fix the doors. We can put in a new transmission. You'll have a fixed-up old beater - but it'll still be an old beater. Or I can give you a new car - never driven, fully loaded, with the odometer at zero. Jesus doesn't fix us up. He makes us new. Jesus can enable us to be completely new people.

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that we have to get our act together before we come to Jesus. But you don't have to change before you come to Jesus. This woman didn't. She believed, and then Jesus changed her. She wasn't forgiven because she changed; she changed because she was forgiven. A clean-up of life comes after forgiveness. All you have to do is to come to Jesus today - just as you are - and he can completely transform you from the inside out. He can erase your shame. He can eliminate your guilt. He can give you a fresh heart and a fresh start.

The world doesn't operate that way. You can't get a loan unless you don't need it. You can't get a job unless you have experience, but you can't get the experience unless you have a job. But God doesn't operate that way. The people who get forgiveness are the ones who need it. It's why Jesus came. It's what Jesus wants to do for you.

Ezekiel 11:19-20 says, "I'll give you a new heart. I'll put a new spirit in you. I'll cut out your stone heart and replace it with a red-blooded, firm-muscled heart. Then you'll obey my statutes and be careful to obey my commands. You'll be my people! I'll be your God!" (The Message)

The Bible says, "Those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I don't care if you're a religiously upscale person, or a religious bargain-hunter. I don't care if you've got it all together, or if you feel that your life is almost falling apart. You need to have Jesus meet your three deepest needs. Jesus can erase your shame. He can eliminate your guilt. He can empower you to change. All you have to do is ask. You can be forgiven today.

Prayer:

I want to ask you a question. What shame are you carrying? What are you so ashamed of that you don't want anyone else to know? Maybe it's even public knowledge. Maybe you're ashamed because everybody does know. Jesus can erase that shame. You don't have to be ashamed anymore.

What guilt are you carrying? Jesus came to carry that guilt. He came to forgive you - instantly, completely, and freely. He came to make you a new person, to give you the power to change.

If you want to receive forgiveness, please pray this prayer with me:

Father, as we pray, we realize we're all in the same boat. We all need your forgiveness. We all need what Jesus has to offer.

I come to you today, just as that woman came to Jesus. I come just as I am to worship Jesus. I come just as I am, just as he invited. Lord, I want to follow you. I want to become a new person. Take away my shame and my guilt, and give me the power to change. I pray in Jesus' name, Amen.