God is always looking at us with love, pursuing us, and inviting us into lives aligned with Him. What do our responses to Him look like? What would it look like for God’s people to live in ongoing, continual affirmative response to Him?
Well, Hey, if we haven’t had a chance to meet yet, my name is Odalis. I’m part of the pastoral and worship teams here at cornerstone. And I’m so grateful to get to share today. I have loved I’ve really, really enjoyed the Way of Blessing series, considering how Jesus is calling us, inviting us, drawing us to live in His way of blessing, a way that leads to life and considering how
we respond to him, how we engage with Him in our day-to-day lives in the little things and in the big things. And it’s made me pause and ask about, you know, how, how we respond to things in general, in day-to-day life. And I realized I have some bad habits, especially with, uh, my husband. Who’s quite close to me.
Um, my husband, Andrew, he calls me out all the time, so I’m getting good accountability, but I realized a lot of the time he says something I pretty much don’t believe. Uh, it’s not the big stuff. It’s usually a little things. Facts, times, how long it’ll take to get somewhere, a little trivia, things like that.
He says something and I go really, like, are you, are you sure? You know, I didn’t, I’ll just Google it or I’ll just straight up tell him he’s wrong. And that it’s really this other thing. Inevitably, it turns out, he’s trustworthy and smart and right. A lot of the time. And again, they’re a little day-to-day things, but they add up to the point where now, because of my occasional to frequent disbelief, I have heard him say so many times, you don’t believe me.
You never believe me, that I can hear his voice in my head. I can hear his tone and his cadence in how he says it and I’m working on it. I think I’m getting better, or you can ask and see what he says. Um, but I, I don’t want my responses to anybody to prompt that kind of an objection. I want to be supportive, in action, in instinct.
I want to believe, I want to trust. I want to choose. Yes, and not, no. I want this with the people God has given me, and I certainly want it in my faith. I hope for it, for all of us to respond yes to the Lord. Um, and so, so what do our responses to the Lord look like? What would it look like for the, for people who are pursuing God, for his children, to live lives of affirmative response to him. God is at all times looking at us with love.
He’s pursuing us. He’s inviting us to live lives, aligned with him, and we’ll read together an account from the scripture that shows this opportunity we have to respond yes to the Lord. If you have a Bible around you, you want to grab it. We’ll be in John chapter five. If not, we’ll put the verses here on screen.
Um, were the, the gospel of John is this beautiful account of the life of Jesus written by one of his disciples, the disciple, John. He also wrote three letters later on in the new Testament. Um, he’s the disciple who talks most about love, true love, pervasive life-changing love. And that love is the key for us to keep in mind
as we walk through this passage together, that God has so loved the world He gave us Jesus, not just for instances 2000 years ago that we read about now, not just for the moment we got to know Him, but for today and for tomorrow for the deepest parts of our souls to be transformed ongoing and into eternity.
And so I would love for us to just pray together, to pray really a prayer of openness to God, uh, pray a prayer of, um, preemptive response to Him. And then we’ll dive right in. Lord God, we pause before You, and we welcome You in, we thank You God, for this opportunity, we have here to consider You, to respond, even even now in this moment with, with a yes, I’m listening, uh, Lord.
And so we come before You open, we come before You with hearts as soft as we can to hear from you Lord. And we ask that You would speak to us. We thank You for Your word. We thank You for the transformation You’re working even now. And we pray for Your blessing over this, over this time, Jesus, in your good and beautiful name.
Amen. Amen. So let’s pick up right from verse one, John, chapter five reads, after this, Jesus has been in the region of Galilee. He has performed an incredible miracle. A bunch of people have come to believe in Him. So that’s after this, for context, after this, there was a feast of the Jews and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is, in Jerusalem, by the sheep gate a pool. In Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. And in these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for 38 years. So the belief at this time was that an angel stirred up the waters at this pool.
And whoever was the first into the pool, as the waters were stirred, would be healed. The scriptures don’t say exactly what that man, who’d been there for 38 years, they don’t say what his condition was, but we can assume it was some form of paralysis. Um, the people who lay at this pool were desperate. They had no means of receiving medical care.
Usually, in that time of the world, if you had an illness or a condition that restricted your movement, especially to the point of paralysis, um, you were cast aside, you were sort of a lost. I found an image, um, a painting by Robert Bateman from the late 18 hundreds that I felt just so well-represented the vibe at this pool.
Um, and it can help us to get a taste for the context that Jesus walks into. The commentary on this painting points to the lifelessness of it. The dull colors, the contorted human figures, desperate to get into the water, maybe climbing over each other. To be first, the image was said to reflect the despair and hopelessness of those who resorted to such means and it pauses and makes me ask what’s broken in our lives?
We don’t have to be experiencing this extremity of physical poverty and paralysis to still have a poverty or paralysis or pain of the heart and mind. And in our lives, both tangible and intangible. Have we lost our hope that these things will change? Are we like the paralyzed man, stuck, waiting in desperation for the sickness of our hearts to be changed?
As we continue moving together, bring these areas to mind. Maybe even write them down on a corner, on a page, on your phone, bring them to mind, because spoiler alert, Jesus heals the man and He does a healing work in us, too. Bring these areas to him. And don’t lay, in a sense, hopeless by the pool, waiting for an angel to stir up waters that maybe we’ll get into, but bring our brokenness to the living Christ and invite Him in.
When Jesus steps in, everything changes. Let’s continue reading, verse six, when Jesus saw him laying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, do you want to be healed? The sick man answered, sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is stirred. And while I’m going, another steps down before me. Jesus sees this paralyzed, man.
I mean, He sees him. Not just looks in his direction. He sees him Jesus initiates a conversation, to probe this man’s desire, the state of his heart and this man, paralyzed for almost four decades, doesn’t answer, well, yeah. I want to be healed or of course, why do you think I’ve been laying here for so long? He just answers out of what he senses is lacking, someone to help him get in the pool when the water is
stirred. He despairs at what’s missing or what’s broken, out of a loss of hope. And when Calvin wrote on this account, he wrote something that I think is so common to the human perspective. He said the sick man does what we nearly all do. He limits God’s help to his own ideas and does not dare promise himself more than he can conceive in his mind.
He doesn’t dare promise himself more than he can conceive in his mind. Now Jesus knows the abilities of God. Jesus doesn’t question the man’s ability. Can you get in? Or the man’s willingness. Do you want help getting in? Or his qualification. Is it your turn to get in? Or his training. Can you recognize when’s the right moment to get in?
No, Jesus. He doesn’t even look for any, fore- knowledge of who Jesus Himself is. Jesus asks only of desire, fully aware of God’s ability to heal. Inherent in the walk of a Christ follower is the question that we can only answer with full honesty and humility in our hearts. What do you want, what is your desire?
How are you going to respond when something is prompted? Jesus saw that man and saw his limitation and didn’t leave him there. He doesn’t leave us there either. From verse eight, Jesus said to him, get up, take up your bed and walk. And at once the man was healed and took up his bed and walked. That question, what do you want?
Do you want to be healed? Do you want to be made whole, do you want to experience acceptance and love? That question is always there. Probing our desire, inviting us, seeking us out, drawing us forward. The response is up to us. We can respond in many ways, but let’s not be a people who are fixated on our limitation or lack or loss.
Let’s not limit God to our own understandings. What is, what is your sense of limitation? Maybe a lack of experience or not enough time in the week or the day, or the broader sense of time, you feel like not enough money, maybe, to accomplish the things you want to do. Not enough talent. Maybe you’re not married and have a longing.
Maybe you are married and feel the weight of that responsibility. The responsibilities to kids or parents or other family. Maybe something from our upbringing that just ties us. The life of response to Jesus is one that takes any and every limitation, lack, and loss and brings it to His feet for Him to have the final word, for Him to inform the reality of that limitation.
The beautiful Jesus sees our brokenness and our pain and our struggle. And even our, our fixation are on our own sense of lack and asks us, do you want to be well? In his daily study Bible, author and theologian William Barclay, put it this way. The first essential towards receiving the power of Jesus is the intense desire for it.
Jesus comes to us and says, do you really want to be changed? If in our inmost hearts, we are well content to stay the way we are, there can be no change for us. The desire for the better things must be surging in our hearts.
I find this deeply challenging. I find it convicting. I find it inspiring. Because those places in our hearts that even we wrestle and we’re not sure that needs to change or that we even want to change. God has grace and patience and presence for us in those places, too. Jesus is not just after our vision for what do we want.
He’s leading us towards the restoration of how things were always meant to be. A life of faith, a life of response is trust that the one we’re responding to knows better than we do. Jesus will not force healing. And He, He, He doesn’t force us. He longs for us more than human expression can describe, but He doesn’t force us.
He longs for our yes, but He certainly didn’t hear it each time in His earthly ministry.
Let’s continue reading. Uh, now that day was the Sabbath. The man has been healed. He’s picked up his bed, he’s walked and the Pharisees have seen him. So the Jews, this is referring to the Pharisees, the religious leadership, said to the man who had been healed, it is the Sabbath. It is not lawful for you to take up your bed, but he, the now healed man answered them.
The man who healed me, that man said to me, take up your bed and, and they asked him, who is the man who said to you, take up your bed and walk. Let’s pause here. Look at the difference in phrasing, which so illustrates the different points of focus and the different responses between these two groups. The man who is healed, emphasizes the healing, referring to Jesus as the man who healed me.
Whereas the Pharisees focus on the breaking of rules. They say, who is the man who told you take up your bed and walk? The Phari -sees focused so much on what they expected. They missed the miracle. They didn’t even acknowledge that this paralyzed man was now walking. So for us too, living a life of response to Jesus requires us to be open-handed with our expectations.
Whenever we read about the Pharisees in scripture, they’re stubborn, fixation on their own ways, their seeming hardheartedness, the posturing that they did to keep their own positions. We have to remember that we are not so different from that. We too have fixations, our hopes for the future, that become expectations and their delay sometimes results us questioning God or getting frustrated.
We have hardheartedness. Maybe this isn’t the more type a of us, myself included, but we have clear ideas of how things should be, the way they should be done, how they should go. What’s a good result. We, we posture ourselves too, for respect or reputation, almost having no choice, but to do so for some of us in the environments, we’re in where reputation is gold and deviation is career suicide.
And I, and I have to say our collective shakeup from 2020, even ongoing till now has revealed for some of us what we were holding onto, white knuckled with. When we talk about living out our faith, we’re talking about whole life living. Surrendering, even the most ingrained parts of ourselves to Jesus, even the things that we don’t feel like we put there, even the things that we feel like, no, it’s good
that I’m this way. Even those things to Jesus. Remember the Barkley quote, those places that we feel like maybe we don’t want to change. The failure of the Pharisees was that they couldn’t see past their own ways of doing religion in order to see Christ in front of them, God revealed. Let’s not do the same.
Let’s not hold so tightly to what we know, what we’re comfortable with, that we miss what God wants to do in us. And through. We now have the gift of the scripture is God’s mission. God’s vision articulated to humanity, to guide us, to challenge us, to teach us God’s way of freedom and new life. Now for the paralytic now healed, there were still some gaps to be filled in, in his understanding of what had happened in the kingdom of God.
And we keep reading and remember, the Pharisees have just asked him, who’s the man who told you to take up your bed and walk from verse 13. Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn as there was a crowd in that place. Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, see, you are well, sin no more, that nothing worse may happen.
Let’s pause. For some of us, I know, depending on our background, we see a phrase like this and it, it looks sort of tough. The phrasing here, sin no more, than nothing worse may happen to you. Um, it indicates that this man’s infirmity was connected to sin and the hard truth of our broken world is that there are physical demonstrations of sin around us.
And with in us. There’s a brokenness that is passed down, not just from imperfect parents, imperfectly raising children, which all parents do, but think, too, about, uh, the, the relatively new field studying generational trauma, how deeply impactful experiences in one generation affect children and grandchildren psychologically, and even.
There are also choices that each of us make each day that either draw us closer to God, express and build trust in Him, or pull us away from Him. Whatever the case was with this man and the scriptures don’t elaborate. Jesus tells him point blank. What I believe the holy spirit is constantly telling us.
And it’s the core of the life of response. You have been made well, you are accepted. You are loved. Sin no more. Sin no more. G, ah, G Campbell Morgan. Uh, and he, he did an exploration of Jesus’s interactions with individuals throughout the gospels. He wrote in it, Christ never says to anyone, no longer continue to sin until he first says, thou art made, a, whole.
As we make contact with Him, in an act of willing surrender. He gives us the power, which enables us to no longer live under the mastery of sin. I love that. Remember, which is first and we read it again from that verse. See, you are well. See how loved you are. See how accepted you are. See how Christ died on the cross and rose again, to bring you home. Now, go and live a life of yes
to the one who has done everything for us and continues to, and has empowered us with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the living God in us, that we would no longer live under the mastery of the things that bond us and tie us down and draw us, pull us away from God. We ha, we are not helpless. We are not hopeless.
There is a way that leads to life. The way of Jesus fully pursued is the most freeing way to live. So much of TV and social media, and even our own hearts, if we’re honest, are convinced that we can live any way we want to, anything that feels good. You live your truth. You do you, I’m going to do me and it’s fine.
Jesus cares about us more than that. God made us in His image. Each one of us, that person that drives you crazy, that person, you don’t understand, that that sometimes for some of us, that per- person we see in the mirror, and we’re not sure we like them very much. We’re made in God’s image. Perfectly loved. And part of following Jesus is finding the freedom that comes in obedience and in our culture, obedience is not exactly a loved word.
I’m not talking about blind religion or adherence to a set of rules. That’s supposed to get us into heaven when we die. I’m talking about a thriving relationship with the maker of the universe, with Emmanuel God, with us, who came as a baby, not to show anybody up, but to show us the way to God’s heart, to show us who God
is. A life of trust, uh, responding. Yes. To him. That is the moment between Jesus and the former paralytic in the temple. Jesus tells him, I see you. I saw you. I see you now. And I love you. You are healed and have freedom from the bondage that held you the physical bondage of paralysis. Yes. And the internal bondage of sin that we all
face. The paralytic was given freedom in Christ and Jesus offers it to each of us. Now, for some of us, this is a new thing. We have maybe some experience in the past. Maybe some of it is mixed or a bad experience. And maybe we’re wondering what this all means. Welcome Jesus in. Whatever you need healing in, heartbreak or loneliness, or fear, or anxiety: past, present the future, whatever it is.
Welcome in Jesus and say, Jesus, you say you’re a healer. You say that where your spirit is, there is freedom, and I want to be free. I want to trust you. Please show me your freedom and your hope. And if you pray this prayer or any version of that, Tell someone, call that person you know goes to church, email us, drop it in the chats or the comments on the video.
Tell someone. You’re not alone. And we want to celebrate this and walk this with you. Facing each of us is this consistent probing question. What do you want? What is your inmost desire? For those of us who are newer to faith, or we’re just coming back to church either since the shelter in place, or maybe it’s been a little longer, we’ve had a lot of experience between then and now. We’re back because there’s, there’s a desire for change.
There’s something in us that changed. We’ve been the man by the pool for a short period of time, or maybe a long time and nothing has changed. Jesus has come in and disrupted us. We want to change. He’s telling us now, rise, pick up your bed and walk. Be healed. Meet me, live a life with me and sin no more. I want to encourage you to request prayer.
I want you to bring your story and pray into it because God is not done with you. Can drop in a request for prayer if you’re watching this in the premiere, right in the chat, if you’re watching it later, jump onto our website and drop in a prayer request, there’s a link in the description, but you are not alone.
And when the novelty wears off of making a change and things are different and exciting press in with all you have. Our theme as a church this year is breakthrough and I pray it over you in Jesus name. Say yes. Respond yes to what the Lord is doing even now. Now some of us have been at church or following Jesus for a longer time.
And the question for us, this probing question is what hasn’t changed? What haven’t we allowed Jesus to disrupt? What thinking patterns persist or are there areas of temptation or sin that we have left unattended? Habits that we’re allowing or avoiding building. If you think back on the last year or two or three of your life, do you notice a change, up or down, closer to God?
Maybe a little further, maybe the same. If things feel the same, or if you feel like you’ve drift- drifted, the words of the paralytic are the same to us, right? Pick up your bed and walk, God has given us His Spirit to do so. Allow even invite Jesus to disrupt your life. It is a question of desire to get into the places that maybe we don’t want to change.
Even there, even there, He will work and do something transformative. The life of pursuing Jesus is not a neutral one. We can not just coast. And it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing. What would it look like for God’s people to live in constant response to him? Response requires change and disruption in, as we saw in this account from the scripture.
The healed man was disrupted positively away from his sin and toward the kingdom of God, the Pharisees, if you continue reading the account responded negatively and deeper into their anger and bitterness and hardheartedness into what they wanted, digging their heels into their own ways. What would it look like if we viewed every moment with Jesus, as a question he’s asking us. Every moment, every interaction, the little ones and the big ones, the private ones and the public ones.
How would we treat each other? How would we treat strangers? How would we drive? How would we raise our kids or post on social media? How would we behave at work or interact with our friends or translate the news or engage this community, the church, and those who have not joined in yet: the life of response is a life of wholehearted attention to God, a paradigm shift the channels each moment as an opportunity to grow closer to Him.
An awareness of how Jesus disrupts our flawed sense of order and control and brings us into the real- realization of His goodness and His freedom and His hope. Let’s choose this life of positive response. Let’s leave our limitations at His feet and not be constrained by our own understanding. Let’s trust him with our futures, even our boldest ambitions and those areas of our lives.
That we’re not sure we really want to change. Let’s step into the newness of His way that we would believe and in believing receive life in Christ. Jesus. Amen. Now in a moment, the worship team is going to, uh, share a song, uh, that just sings of this. Leaving the past behind, leaving the things we felt so attached to behind and stepping into a new day.
This is also a time for our church body to express our faithfulness and our gratitude to the Lord in our giving, which you can do online. You can mail in a check to the offices, um, but to just give thanks to Him for His bountiful provision and to express trust in Him. Um, but I would love to pray as we get ready to receive this song.
And then Pastor Terry is going to come back at the end to close us out. Lord God, we thank You. For Your life and Your freedom and the hope that we have in You. Jesus, we thank you that You are at all times, probing us, even those places we don’t want to change. And we ask you right now with what has come to mind, these areas of brokenness that we’ve been walking through, or these areas we’ve hesitated from changing Lord, we bring them to You.
We don’t limit you by our own understanding God. But as we look at Your word and the beauty of who You are, we ask for You to have your way in our lives. We say yes to you. Jesus. We say, yes, we want to rise and pick up our beds and walk, aligned with you and an obedience to you. The obedience that brings healing and freedom.
So Jesus, would you have your way? We love you. We pray for your blessing and we pray all these things in your good and beautiful and victorious name. Amen. Amen.
— Pastor Terry
Is that great, step into a new day? What is that? But the invitation we have, we’ve all been given to trust and to believe, and to respond and to receive, right? That’s God’s open invitation to you and me and boy do we need it. And my prayer for all of you is that we would never forget the goodness of God. However, even when things don’t go exactly the way that we’re hoping or we’re anticipating that we would never forget how good the Lord is, how He walks with us through every storm, every season of adversity, there is an opportunity to draw closer to the Lord, a new day.
So don’t hesitate when God’s calling us to trust, burn those ships. And choose to follow Jesus because He’s so good. And He’s so God, and He loves you so much. You are so loved. And my prayer for all of you is that He would keep you, as I’ve been saying, in every way in your spirit and your soul in your body and in your mind, in Jesus name.