SNAPSHOTS OF THE SAVIOR
March 28, 2004
Dallas/Fort Worth—that’s where we live. The Mecca for miracle workers; the hot bed for faith healers. All you have to do is skim the headlines, scan the dial, or surf the channels and chances are you’re going to run into a man or a woman who claims to be a faith healer.
Last Sunday, after the fifth weekend service, my family and I went to California Pizza Kitchen to get something to eat. Do you like CPK? I love CPK—their Tuscan hummus. I love hummus. Man, it’s awesome! As I pulled into the parking lot I had my car radio tuned on the AM dial, and I heard this over the sound system. It said, “This Saturday night at 6:30 PM God has a miracle for you! Come expecting a miracle. The sick will be healed. The demonized freed up. Saturday night! 6:30! God has a miracle for you!”
When I heard that I said to myself, “Hmm, that’s interesting. God has a miracle, huh? God wants to heal? God is going to heal? And if I come to his place expecting a miracle, I guess God will supernaturally step through time and space and do some awesome and amazing stuff!” But, you know, I say to myself, like you do, “Are these people for real? Are they fake? Or are they men or women of faith? When they pray for the sick, are they really healed? What about supernatural healing? What about healing?”
That’s a pretty good question, and that’s the question that hangs in the balance today. What about supernatural healing? No subject in Christendom carries the weight, no subject in Christendom carries the questions, and no subject in Christendom carries as much confusion as this subject matter. The reason is because many of you right now know some friends or some family members who have an illness. And you’re saying to yourself, “Ed, should I pray for healing? Ed, do you think God can heal them? Can he touch their life?”
Others of you might have just received a bad report from the doctor. Maybe you and your close friends are the only ones who know about it and you’re wondering, “Will God heal me? Should I pray for healing? I mean, does God step through time, space, and history to give us a foretaste of what it will be like in heaven in a physical sense?”
Maybe some of you have recently buried a loved one. Maybe the grave is still fresh and you’re saying to yourself, “Man, I prayed that my spouse, that my friend, that my uncle, that my aunt, that my child would live. But they died.”
So I know a lot of you will be all ears as we talk about this whole thing called healing. Well, to understand healing, I think we have to first understand God. And to understand God, we look to the person of Christ because Jesus is God. I think we need to take a long look at the healing ministry of Jesus. We need to unpack some things, some qualities, some characteristics about Jesus Christ.
CHRIST’S HEALING WAS PERSONAL
As you look at Christ’s healing ministry set forth in the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—you see that Jesus was very personal when he healed people. He was very, very intimate. Many times he might be speaking before 4,000 or 5,000 people, and he would take a person to the side and heal them. And then he would say to people, “Hey, don’t tell anybody.” He did it in kind of in a private-type mentality. That’s unique isn’t it?
So often he would touch people before or while he was healing them. I think back to this guy riddled with leprosy. The Bible says that Jesus touched him. All three synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—talk about it. And they all say that as Jesus touched him, he prayed for him and healed him. If you really consider it, leprosy back in Biblical times had the same social stigma as the AIDS virus today. For Jesus to touch a leper, someone who had not felt the warmth of flesh in years, someone who lived in a colony cloistered away from everyone else, that was miraculous. That was so personal and intimate.
CHRIST’S HEALING WAS PASSIONATE
Christ’s healing ministry was also passionate. Sometimes he cried. When his best friend Lazarus died, Jesus cried before he brought Lazarus back from the grave. One time he healed Jerious’ twelve-year-old daughter who had just died. He brought her back to life, and he looked at her parents and said, “Hey, why don’t you get the girl something to eat?”
Do you remember that he healed the ten guys with leprosy? One came back and said, “Jesus, thank you.” And then Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine?” You almost feel the hurt in Jesus’ heart, the pain he was experiencing, the passion of this whole interchange as he performed a miracle, as he healed leprosy.
CHRIST’S HEALING WAS PURPOSEFUL
I also think Christ’s healing ministry was purpose driven. It was all bringing glory and honor to God. Why did Jesus heal? Why did he perform three dozen or so miracles? Because it signified the fact that Jesus was God’s son. It showed people that he was God. It authenticated the Gospel. It also freed people up to serve. In other words, if you had leprosy or were blind or whatever, it kept you from being all you could be in that context. That’s the why behind Christ healing someone. And every time he healed someone it was all about the will of the Father. It was all about giving glory to God.
So right quick, if you’re taking notes, think about this. Christ’s healing ministry was personal. It was passionate. It was purpose driven. Now, let’s take that template and let’s place it over some of the modern day approaches that we have toward healing because a lot of us are in a lot of contact with men or women who say they are faith healers. Now, there are different styles of faith healers out there.
THE SENSATIONALIST APPROACH
One style that we’re very, very accustomed to and very, very familiar with is one that sometimes people make fun of. But I would challenge you not to do that. When it comes to healing I think we’re messing around with something that’s very holy. The first style I’m talking to you about is the sensationalist. You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the man or woman who has these huge healing miracle services in large venues like the American Airlines Center or something like that. People pack it out and the healer parades people on stage. They pray for these people, and the people, at least the faith healers say, are healed. Well, the tough thing about it is that these faith healers usually heal people of things that are very difficult to document: a toothache, a backache, a limp, or whatever.
We have to ask ourselves questions when we come in contact with the sensationalists like, “Is this person’s healing ministry personal? Why are they doing it? Are they doing it for the applause of men or the applause of God? Is it a lifestyle issue for them or do they just heal when the cameras are rolling and when the lights are on and when the coliseum is packed to capacity? Do these people go through hospitals and pray for people to be healed in private situations or not?” Those are fair questions, honest questions, and Biblical questions. They are questions that we have to ask ourselves.
Sometimes faith healers will have a prayer cloth or they’ll tell you to touch the television screen or send you a little bit of oil in the mail as a catalyst for your healing. Did Jesus do that when he healed? Did Jesus act that way? Did he demonstrate those qualities when he healed? Was Christ like the sensationalists? Those are questions that you have to answer on your own based on the template of Christ’s healing ministry.
THE CONFESSIONALIST APPROACH
There’s another popular approach out there. There’s the sensationalist, and then there’s the confessionalist. That’s the camp of the “name it and claim it, the blab it and grab it” crowd. And here’s what I’m talking about. Confessionalists say, “If you have enough faith, you can put God in a corner. You can leverage against him. You can use your faith as leverage to make God perform the way you want him to perform. God wants to give everybody a miracle. It’s God’s will for everybody to be healed. And if you have enough faith, then you can make God heal you.” That’s what they say. And they say if you confess it enough, you will grow to believe it and then you will receive your miracle. Thus, it’s the “name it and claim, the blab it and grab it” crowd.
Let’s say you have lupus. The confessionalist tells you to just say, “I don’t have lupus. I’m going to confess that I don’t have lupus. No, no, I don’t have lupus.” And this sect, the confessionalist, says that if you confess it long enough then you’re not going to have lupus. Well, nowhere in the Bible can I obligate God for anything. Nowhere in the Bible can I find that God is my messenger boy. No where in the healing ministry of Christ did Jesus say, “Oh, yeah, I prayed that your eyes would be opened. Now, just walk around and say, ‘I can see. I can see.’ Just confess it. Just say it over and over again. And as you say it more and more, you will receive your miracle.” Christ didn’t heal like that.
Again, place the template of Christ’s ministry over the confessionalist theology. Are they all about purpose? Are they all about passion? Is it a private thing and a personal thing? Those are fair questions.
The Apostle Paul, do you remember him? He wrote most of the New Testament. Three times, what does Paul say? “God heal me. God heal me. God heal me.” He had a “thorn in the flesh.” He had some affliction that no one knows for sure what it was. Three times God said, “No. No. No.” It’s the first three-peat in the Bible.
But Paul had some serious faith. Do you think anybody in this house, including me, has the faith that Paul had? Are you kidding me? No. Paul, one of the greatest men to ever walk on planet Earth, he didn’t have enough faith, confessionalists would say, to be healed himself. Pretty interesting. So we’ve got the sensationalists and the confessionalists.
THE DISPENSATIONALIST APPROACH
There’s another one out there—the dispensationalists. The dispensationalists believe that Jesus and the disciples, during a dispensation, during a certain time frame, had the gift of healing. But now they would say that that timeframe has ceased. Now they would say that miracles, that supernatural healings have ceased. They would say, in essence, “Hey, if you’re sick, if you’ve got lupus, cancer, whatever, just grin and bear it. It’s God’s will. Good luck!”
If you have a hard time understanding dispensationalism, ladies, let me put it to you this way. Those of you who are married, think about your husband right now. Think about the way he acts, the way he treats you, and his romance quotient right now. Got that picture? Now, think back to when you were dating. How did he treat you then? “Wow, Ed, he treated me different.” That’s dispensationalism.
In the dating dispensation, he was like Mr. Romance. Love is in the air. I mean, everything was great. Now that you’re married, how is he? Is he on the sofa 24/7 watching, you know, sports? Maybe he is. I don’t know. That’s just kind of a joke. But do you see what I’m saying to you? These dispensationalists believe that God acted in different ways during different timeframes in history.
Well, every time we have a question, what do we say? We say, “What does the Bible say?” We say, “What does God say?” And Jesus is God. So we have to see that Jesus’ healing ministry was personal. It was passionate. It was purpose driven.
Well, now we have to ask ourselves this question, “Has the Great Physician closed down his practice? Has the Great Physician cruised? I mean, are miracles still available? Does God still step through time and history and space and heal people?”
When Jesus Christ did the atoning work on the cross for your sins and mine, he afforded us the opportunity for complete healing. Did you hear that? Jesus Christ, by his redemptive work, afforded us the opportunity for complete healing—spiritually, emotionally, and physically. And the Bible says repeatedly that once we graduate from this life to the next, we’re going to be completely and totally healed.
Sometimes, though—I’ll say it once again—God, in his sovereignty, decides to step through time and space and history and give us a foretaste of what it’s going to be like in eternity. He gives us a foretaste of physical healing here on this planet. And that is the question that hangs in the balance. How does God do it? How does God heal the sick? And what methodology should I take if I pray for this healing? And what kind of healings does God specialize in?
Well to answer those questions, let’s turn to the book of James, Chapter 5. James was the half-brother of Jesus. And what’s so interesting about James was the fact that James didn’t buy into his half-brother until Christ rose again. It was like James was going, “Oh, yeah, you say you’re God? You say you’re the Messiah? Okay, let’s see. Whoa! You’ve come back from the grave. I guess now I will follow you.” James was a heavy hitter, a leader in the church at Jerusalem. And I think it’s cool that he was the half-brother of Jesus because you can fool a lot of people, but you can’t fool your family. Do you hear me screaming?
If Bill Gates talked about money all of us would listen. “Bill Gates, wow, all that money! Really?” If Tiger Woods talked about golf. “Tiger! Really? Okay, my back swing? Man, that’s awesome stuff.” If Martha Stewart talked about the stock market…well, I won’t go there! When James talked about prayer, people listened.
James had a unique nickname—“Old Camel’s Knees.” Historians tell us the reason he had this nickname was the fact that he prayed so much that he had kind of messed up, jacked up knees with calluses all over them.
Well, listen to what he says in James 5:14-15. James said this, “Is anyone of you sick?” Okay, when we think about sickness, what do we think about? A thermometer, a virus, a Z-Pak, and lots of sinuses if you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
SICKNESS FOR DEATH
Well, let me tell you what James was talking about here. He asked, “Is anyone here sick or ill?” There are various types of sicknesses mentioned in the Bible. This first one is a sickness that all of us have. Everyone here has this sickness. The Bible says there is a sickness that leads to death. I checked the stats once again on death. They’re still hovering around 100%. Everybody dies. That’s just the way it is. When we’re born, we’re dying. Our bodies are deteriorating. It’s just part of our fallenness. We die, ultimately because of sin.
Romans 6:23 says this, “For the wages of sin is death.” Or you could say the compensation or the paycheck for sin is death. We’re going to clock out. We will leave this earth. Every single person dies. We’re one germ, one drunk driver, one accident, one heart palpitation away from death. We’re going to die. And we’re going to die because of Adam and Eve; they dropped the ball. We’ve inherited this sin problem, this alienation from God. And because of that, we die. However, if we’ve received Christ, the Bible says, our death will be a graduation into eternity. And that’s amazing. But all of us have this sickness for death. We’re going to die. I’m going to get sick one day; you’re going to get sick one day. And we’re going to clock out.
SICKNESS FOR DISOBEDIENCE
Well, there’s another type of sickness. There’s a sickness for disobedience. You see, sometimes in your life and mine we can actually be physically sick because of a sin in our lives. Now, I’m not saying that every cold, every sinus infection is a result of a specific sin. I hope you know that. The Bible does say, though, there are certain times in people’s lives where they’re sick physically because of a spiritual issue. For example, the Apostle Paul said, “Some of you are sick because you’re making fun of and abusing The Lord’s Supper. You’re coming to the Lord’s table and taking communion, drinking the wine, and eating the bread in a very haphazard way, a very pedestrian way.” And because of that Paul said, “You’re sick.”
King David discovered this when he was at the top of his game. Man, things were happening for King David. He should have been on the battle field. But what was he doing? He was on the rooftop checking out that biblical babe, Bathsheba. He saw her. He lusted for her. He called for her. He slept with her. Then he had her husband rubbed out. This is a guy who was after God’s own heart? This is the genius? This is the man who wrote most of the Psalms doing that? And then David suppressed it. He swept his sin under the rug. [Ed tries to lift the rug on stage to illustrate his point.] I can’t lift this rug. I thought I could. It’s glued down. That’s pretty cool. I didn’t know that.
So you know what I’m saying to you. David swept it under the rug, okay. Whew! Have you ever done that? I have. I don’t mean commit adultery and have someone killed. But we’ve sinned. I’ve sinned before and said, “Well, I don’t want to come clean. I’ll just sweep it under the rug. You know?” You have, too.
What can happen to us is that we can become physically ill because of that. Here’s what David wrote in Psalm 32:3-5, “When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long….” Maybe you feel that way right now. “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” So, there is a sickness for disobedience. And there is a sickness for death.
SICKNESS FOR THE GLORY OF GOD
There’s also a sickness for the glory of God. There’s a sickness for the glory of God. Sometimes God allows sickness in your life and mine, an illness, an abnormality, a problem for his glory. He doesn’t cause it. But he allows it. Jesus Christ did not heal everyone.
There is a story, though, in the Gospel of John, Chapter 9, where the disciples saw this blind dude and they said, “Oh, man, he’s blind because this or that. His parents did this. His mom did that. His dad did that. Now, Jesus, what happened in his life sin-wise that caused his blindness?” They thought that because Jews were taught that.
And Jesus just said, “Wait, wait, wait guys. Take a chill pill.” Of course, I’m paraphrasing. He said, “No, no, no. This guy is not sick because of sin. He is sick for the glory of God.” Then Jesus healed him on the spot.
Remember the apostle Paul? Had the thorn in the flesh, the affliction I talked about earlier? Three times Paul said, “God, heal me. Heal me. Heal me.” God said, “No, no, no.”
Finally, here’s what Paul said about his thorn—powerful words. Second Corinthians 12:7 reads, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh.” He was basically saying, “This problem, this abnormality, this handicap keeps me tethered to Christ.” It’s all about God’s sovereignty. We’ve got to trust God.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Ed, you’ve still, though, not answered the question. Does God heal? How does he heal? And what should I do about it?”
GOD HEALS THROUGH THE NATURAL PROCESS
God heals in three ways. If you’re taking notes write them down very, very quickly. First, God heals through the natural process. Have you ever thought about that? God heals naturally.
Christmas morning we were opening up gifts. I grabbed a present. But I didn’t know that beneath the wrapping paper there was some glass that had been shattered. When I put my thumb on it, I cut the living fool out of my thumb. Right there, I can see the scar. I should have had stitches. The kids were screaming, “Oh, Daddy’s cut! Oh!” But I just taped it up. Look at my thumb now. Get a good look at that. It’s beautiful. Who healed my thumb? I didn’t give him credit, but God did.
Have you ever sprained your ankle or messed up your knee? Ever been cut or had a skinned elbow or knee? Who healed your body? God did. You didn’t give him glory. You didn’t say, “God, here, look, look.” But God healed you. He heals through the natural.
GOD HEALS THROUGH THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY
God also heals in another way. How many of you, for example, are doctors, nurses, or surgeons? Lift your hand. Let’s give it up for the medical community. Alright! This is my personal opinion, but I think doctors and nurses should make more money than anybody around. Well, teachers and firemen, too. But what I mean is that I want people working on me and you to make a lot of money. I don’t want them worrying about, “Wow, can I make the house payment?” No, no, no, no, no.
How many of you have ever had major surgery? Minor surgery? Plastic surgery? You know what makes me laugh? I didn’t really plan on saying this. I’ve heard a lot of Christians piously say, “No one should get cosmetic surgery.” That is the most hypocritical thing ever. If you ever had braces, you’ve had a cosmetic procedure done. If you’ve had caps on your teeth, you’ve had a cosmetic procedure done. So get over it. If someone wants to have cosmetic surgery, good for them, you know. Don’t freak out about it. If you want to put yourself under that risk to have, you know surgery, then cool! Good for you. That’s hilarious, “You shouldn’t have cosmetic surgery.” You have braces? You have a problem with that? “No.” Well, it’s cosmetic.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the medical community. God uses doctors and nurses. Remember Luke? Matthew, Mark, Luke? You know what Luke did for a living? He wasn’t a fisherman. He was a doctor. Christ did not say, “Follow me, and by the way close down your practice. Thank you very….” No, he did not. Let me tell you what Jesus did. Jesus applauded the medical community. The Bible tells us that we need to pray, and it also tells us we need to use our minds. We’re to get the best medical help possible. Have you ever thought about drugs? All the medications that are out there that God has placed on this earth and brilliant minds can put these substances together, and they can heal us. I talked earlier about the Z-Pak antibiotics and all that stuff. The medical community—it’s just amazing how God works through the hands of skilled surgeons and nurses and doctors to give us healing. Wow, that’s good stuff.
GOD HEALS DIRECTLY AND MIRACULOUSLY
God, though, sometimes heals miraculously and directly. Let’s go back to James 5:14-15. He asked, “Is any one of you sick?” Let’s keep going. “He should call the elders of the church to pray over him.” That’s the pastors or the leaders of the church. That’s what the sick person should do. James is talking about supernatural prayer for healing—spiritually, emotionally, and physically. He said if you’re sick, the ball’s in your court. You call for the elders of the what? The what? The church!
This implies church membership. How can I call the leadership of the church if I’m not involved in the church? How can you call the leadership of the church if you’re not a member of a specific local church? I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that healing ministry should be a function of the local church. But sadly, we’ve allowed sensationalists and confessionalists and dispensationalists to take it, and I believe, remove it from the church. Too many churches are not involved in an authentic, engaging, and intentional healing ministry.
For fourteen years at Fellowship Church we have had a healing ministry spearheaded by Pastor Owen Goff. Often, we have healing services right here at Fellowship. We don’t parade people across the stage. We don’t have the cameras rolling. We do it in a private setting. When the sick person, though, calls for the elders or the leadership or the pastors of the church, we come and we pray for them. We pray that God would step through time and space and history and heal. And we have had some amazing answers to prayer in this church.
About five years ago we had a healing service in my office right behind the stage. We prayed for a woman who had cancer, and after that time, she was miraculously healed. She’s been cancer free now for like six years. I can’t explain it. It just happened.
About seven years ago, we prayed for a woman who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. We prayed and prayed and prayed in this healing service. A year and a half ago we had her funeral right here in this worship center. Maybe you’re saying, “Well, Ed, wait a minute. God didn’t heal her.” My response to that is, “Oh really? How about if we could see her now, in heaven? What do you think she looks like?”
And I’ll tell you something else. Every time we have a healing service, there is always healing. It might not be physical, but there is definitely healing in a spiritual and emotional sense. Owen has told me so many times about healing services where maybe God did not supernaturally heal someone physically, but, Owen said, after the healing service, emotionally and spiritually the people were totally different. It gave them octane to go through what they were dealing with. So, yes, we have a very involved, very intensive healing ministry at Fellowship Church. We do not believe that the Great Physician has closed his practice.
Back to James 5:14-15, “Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Now what’s up with that? Oil? What? Oil? Oil symbolizes the power and presence of God, the power of the Holy Spirit. It also symbolizes medicine. “…anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.” Sometimes that’s physically. But I would say it is always spiritually and emotionally healing. “The Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.”
One time Jesus was speaking in a house. The house was jammed with people. The Pharisees were hanging on every word. Some guys tried to bring in their friend who had been paralyzed since birth. He spent his whole life in a horizontal state. But during this scenario, he’s going to have one moment of vertical fame. They couldn’t get him in the house so these creative guys scaled the roof, drug their friend up there, took the tiles off the roof and they lowered this mat down in front of Jesus while he was teaching. All of the Pharisees were wondering, “Oh no, what’s he going to do? What’s he going to say?”
And Jesus kind of throws out some stuff like, “What would be the greatest miracle,” Christ said, “for me to forgive this guy’s sins?” The Pharisees were like, “Forgive sins? I mean, he’s saying he’s God! Can you believe he’s saying that? Forgive? Only God can forgive sins.” Jesus said, “What would be the greatest miracle? For me to forgive him of his sins or to say, ‘Take up your mat and go home and walk?’” Well, obviously the greatest miracle would be to forgive the guy of his sins, because that’s a God thing. And Jesus did that. He forgave him and then he said, “Take up your mat and go.”
What’s the greatest miracle? If we could bring someone on stage who had cancer and pray for this person and have them supernaturally healed just for ten, twenty, thirty more years until they die? Or would the greater miracle be to bring someone on stage who is facing a Christless eternity, to pray for them, and have their sins forgiven and forgotten; for them to have a home in heaven and a clear conscience and a power and a purpose for living? What, I ask you, is the greatest miracle? Obviously, it’s the one with eternal ramifications.
Jesus Christ is the Great Physician and he’s not closed up his practice, but I’ve got to tell you this. There are a lot of people here who are sin sick. There are a lot of people here who are hearing my voice who don’t realize that Jesus has done the work for your spiritual healing. It’s the most important healing that you can get, yet you’ve never received it. You’ve never claimed it. You’ve never asked him to infiltrate your life. You have a sickness unto death, and you’re facing a Christless eternity.
I’m going to tell you something. If you will receive Jesus Christ, you can be healed today. Many of us have prayed this prayer. Many of us are spiritually healed. Some here have not. Isn’t it about time that you made your appointment with the Great Physician?