by Jim Carmichael
A few months back God put it on my heart to study, and teach about How to Get to Heaven from Here. So, I have been working on a series of lessons and this is the forth in that series.
I started with a lesson on how to develop greater faith, the kind of faith James says we need for God to hear us. In the following lesson, I talked about the principle of becoming what we think, by totally believing we are what we are, not someday, but now.
In the last lesson, I used quite a bit of John Bunyan’s book “The Pilgrims Progress” to illustrate how fierce the battle is, and especially how fierce it is in the village called “Vanity Fair” where the bodies of many former Pilgrims could be found.
Many people who become Christians, fall away. In fact, as much as 90% of all new Christians fall away within the first year.
I believe there are two reasons for this, one is failing to teach Christian apologetics along with the bible instruction for the new convert.
The second reason is commitment. And that is the focus of tonight’s lesson.
Luke 19: 1 Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. 7 But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”
You see, Zacchaeus was a rich man, and when the bible says he was rich, he means rich, Donald Trump kind of rich… he had everything that the world could offer him, so he could easily see what he lacked… a relationship, a true relationship with God, and having experienced all the worldly wealth, he could see that clearly.
But that should also give insight to the falling away of Christians, Most of us do not have all this world can offer, and often lack much, sometimes even necessities, so that need for a relationship with God is blurred by our worldly needs, and often our worldly desires.
We are bombarded with all that glitters as we pass through this place called Vanity Fair, and we are told, and often convinced, how much better life would be if we owned this or that, or looked this way or that.
Can we see our real need? Are we “short” as Zacchaeus and need to climb to a high place and look over the crowd of physical needs and worldly desires that cloud our sight?
If we are to complete our journey, arrive at the gates of glory, it will require total commitment from us for there is no middle ground with scripture, and there can be no middle ground with us either if we are to expect eternal life in Heaven, if we are His disciples, He demands our all and has a right to do so, He created us, and everything around us, and committed His all to us.
I am standing before you here today declaring if your intention is eternal life in Heaven it requires a full and complete commitment to Christ, to the word, to seek God with all your heart, mind, body, and soul.
To do that we must know and understand the truth, and not just the truth of the bible, the entire truth of life. We must know the scripture, we must know how to defend it, we must know the truth of our own short sightedness, we must realize we are every bit as short as Zacchaeus in our spiritual stature.
I would like to share a few bible “stories” with you
Mark 8: 22 -25
Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. 23 So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything.24 And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.”25 Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.
Let’s continue to:
Mark 9: 21 – 24 So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him? “And he said, “From childhood. 22 And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
Luke 18:35- 43 Then it happened, as He was coming near Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the road begging. 36 And hearing a multitude passing by, he asked what it meant. 37 So they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. 38 And he cried out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”39 Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”40 So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, 41 saying,
“What do you want Me to do for you?”
He said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.”
42 Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
Those three bible stores have confused me over the years, first Jesus had to heal a man twice, how is that possible? Why would the Son of God, God Himself in the flesh need to make two attempts at healing a man? He’s God, right? He created all the universes with just a word, yet now He had to heal a man twice? He couldn’t get the job done the first time? Really?
He first healed his blindness, and then healed his brain so it could understand. Maybe we are also in need of “two healings”
In the 2nd verse Jesus asked the man if he believes and he responds yes, I do believe, but please help my unbelief… now in one breath he says he believes and he doesn’t believe. Excuse me? So which is it, do you believe or not?
Does this man also need two healings? One for the Healing, and one for his belief?
In the last verse Christ asks an obvious blind man what he wants, and we answer, well that’s obvious, he wants his sight restored.
C.S. Lewis once told a story about a young man who asked to be made pure, to be delivered from his desires, just not today. That story comes from a confession of Augustine.
Do we really know what we want; do we see the real need? Do we really need two healings, first being healed of our lack of true desire to be healed, and the second to be healed for the physical or spiritual need?
Luke 5:12 -13 And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, you can make me clean.”13 Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him
Leprosy affects the body’s nervous system, concentrating on the cooler parts of the body. Affected areas are skin, eyes, and muscles in the hands and feet. In more extreme cases as the disease progresses, the symptoms only get worse: numbness in hands and feet make the patient vulnerable to cuts and infections that can’t be felt, stiffened muscles cause clawed hands, loss of the “blinking reflex” leads to total blindness, and in some cases amputation of fingers, an arm or leg is necessary.
We have a form of leprosy among us today, it’s called sin, and it destroys both body and soul, and causes spiritual blindness.
We are always willing to have our bodies healed, but are we willing to have our soul, our hearts, our spirits healed? Are we completely willing? Or are we like Augustine who prayed for Sexual purity… just not yet?
This means changing our thinking, our lives, our very being. But, we can’t do it on our own, we must have Christ, He must first heal the desire to be healed. In other words, our first prayer should be lord I desire to be spiritually healed, heal my unwillingness to that healing, place in my heart a true, overwhelming desire to be spiritually healed. Just as the father in the story asked for help with his unbelief. Lord, I pray that you will give me an overwhelming desire to be healed, so I will honestly seek Your healing with complete iron-clad conviction, and commitment to the healing.
We can easily say, yes, I desire to be healed of this leprosy of my soul, please help my desire. Christ will heal us of our sin, and must heal our desire to be healed before a true spiritual healing can take place.
Why would God have to ask the man what he wanted? He was obviously blind. The answer I came up with is simply this, God didn’t have to ask what he wanted for His own information, He already knew, it had to be because He wanted to make sure the blind man really knew what he was asking for, as a lesson for us…
This also explains to us why we must confess sins that God is already aware of, so we will know. It helps us to study ourselves, to look into the true mirror of life, to recognize our true shortcomings.
We are taught to confess our sins to one another, and that doesn’t mean we have to give details, but confess we are sinners, and desire to be healed of that sin… now… not later.
And, Do we pray “lord heal me of my sins, and make me better at making money while you’re at it.”
Now let me clarify this, yes, we absolutely need our desire to be healed first, then we must pray for the desire for the spirt to be healed of this spiritual leprosy, that we may have a full, complete healing so we will, like the blind man in the first story, have our sight fully restored which will lead to a full commitment to our discipleship of Christ.
But we must walk in the world, not be a part of it, but we must still walk in it, and we do have other commitments, obligations and we must be fully committed to them as well. And, as in all earthly things, they are used or should be used as an example of our spiritual life. As a witness to others.
So, here’s a Question: “What does the Bible say about commitment?”
Answer: There are many commitments for the believer: to our families, neighbors, employers, the church, our health, and in all things, we do and say
Ephesians 6:5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ;
Be committed to your job, to your employer as you are to Christ
Hebrews 10:25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Be committed to each other and the assembly, again as you are committed to Christ, for this is the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
But the Bible also teaches that the chief commitment of our lives is to God Himself. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).
This says to me, with everything we have, all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds are committing our lives to God, Job, family, and each other.
Jesus is telling us that every fiber of our being, every aspect of our lives must be committed to loving and serving God. This means that we must hold nothing back from Him because God holds nothing back from us (John 3:16).
Furthermore, Jesus tells us that our commitment to Him must supersede our commitment to even our families: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). Such commitment means our family relationships may be severed. It means our commitment to Christ demands, if given an “either/or” situation, we turn away from them and continue with Jesus (Luke 12:51-53). The bottom line is that those who cannot make that kind of commitment cannot be His disciple.
In other words, the love you have for your family must look like hate when compared to your love for God
Allow me to repeat Luke 18: 39 Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
This blind man was not going to be stopped, and I believe if we knew the whole story, or the rest of the story we would find that blind man had been questioning people about this Man who was healing people and manipulated his situation so that he would be where Christ was going to be, positioning himself for this confrontation.
We must be like this blind man…. No one will stop us from seeking the Lord, no one, no matter what weapons they use to do so, intimidation, ridicule, or whatever source Satan provides them, no one will stop us.
Luke 12:51-53 Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. 52 For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. 53 Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
Jesus is warning us in advance. The reason for such commitment and loyalty is that the trials we may have to endure will be quite demanding; our allegiance to Him at times may be difficult (John 15:18).
Last month I spoke of the battlefield, we will be bloodied and bruised. The narrow path is difficult, dangerous, and few find it and even fewer remain upon it.
Jesus alerted His disciples: “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). The apostle Paul echoed His warning: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Jesus has made it plain the cost of discipleship: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). In essence, the true cost of commitment to Christ is one’s total self-denial, cross-bearing, and the continual following of Him. These imperatives picture for us sacrifice, selflessness, and service. A cross epitomized ultimate punishment and humiliation (Galatians 3:13). More than that, it fully demonstrated the love of God (Romans 5:8)—selfless and sacrificial in the giving of His life for the world (Matthew 20:28).
Paul followed the Lord’s example of commitment in sacrifice and service. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Total commitment to God means that Jesus is our sole authority, our guiding light, and our unerring compass. Being committed to Christ means being fruitful; it means being a servant. Our truism is simple and concise: “For me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).
We have come to the end of the message, yet I still need to tie this lesson together, and tie it with the previous lessons in the series.
Let’s list the commitments we must make:
First Commitment: To recognize our sins, our weakness, our unhealthy desires. To truly see who we are, to look into the mirror and see the true reflection of who we are.
Second Commitment: To be truly healed, First our Desire, Secondly the healing of our physical or spiritual need.
Third Commitment: To be totally committed to families, jobs, each other, and the church
Fourth Commitment: To study the scripture daily.
Fifth Commitment: To learn and share Christians defenses, and learn how to share this information properly for the greatest success in converting others
Ok, I am going to conclude the lesson by summarizing it. We must know the scripture inside and out, we must know how to completely defend our faith with facts and figures, we must already see ourselves as committed disciples of Christ, we must get on the path, expect to bloodied and bruised, we must see our own sin for what it is, pray to have the desire to be healed, pray to be healed of the sin, and be fully committed to Christ and demonstrate that in all aspects of our lives, our work, our play, our families, and our brothers and sisters in Christ, yet all those commitments must pale in the presence of our commitment to Christ.
The way to heaven is not easy, we must pick up our cross and carry it to our Golgotha,