Episode 1. Treating the Symptom or Healing the Disease
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When you’re sick, when something’s hurting, what you desperately want to do is to get better and stop the pain. And at that point, there is a huge risk. The risk is, that you throw an aspirin or …
When you’re sick, when something’s hurting, what you desperately want to do is to get better and stop the pain, and at that point there’s a huge risk. The risk is this: That you throw an aspirin or two at the symptom, rather than dealing with the disease.
You Need More Than Aspirin
One of the things that I’ve noticed in over ten years of producing this programme is that responses to the various series and messages vary greatly. Now there’s a couple of ways of explaining that: Perhaps Berni’s having a bad day or a bad week, and somehow the messages didn’t really connect. Yeah, that’s a definite possibility, in over two-and-a-half thousand episodes of the programme, but the other possibility is that not everything I talk about is what you want to hear, and if that’s the case, I’m not the only preacher over the last couple of thousand years who’s had that problem. In fact at one point, the things that Jesus said to the crowds were so unpalatable that they left Him in droves. John 6:65-66:
And Jesus said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted by the Father.’ Because of this, many of His disciples turned back and no longer went about with Him.
What I’ve noticed is that when I talk about something that has a strong-felt need for many people, we get a huge response: Asking for the free booklet that goes with the series, requesting prayer, sharing hurts, and most often, those sorts of messages delve into difficulties in relationships or low self-esteem, fear, the need for faith to overcome adversity … You know, the things that universally create challenges and trials in our lives.
I wonder if that isn’t because in our rush to end our pain and suffering, we want some sort of quick fix: A bandaid, an aspirin, something to treat the symptom. And yet more often than not, those aches and pains that we experience in day-to-day life, they’re merely symptoms of other deeper underlying causes. Jesus actually talks a lot about those causes, those underlying diseases, and yet let me tell you, in those series of messages on this programme where we delve deeper, where we hear things from God that we may not want to hear, without fail, the listener response is sharply lower. Could it be that we’re more interested in that quick fix for the symptoms than dealing with the underlying disease?
That certainly seems to be where medicine’s headed these days, at least retail medicine when you go to see your local doctor. At least where I live, the family doctor’s practice of old has all but disappeared. Instead you go into one of these large practices now with multiple doctors, where you can no longer make an appointment.
You just get the next available doctor, and they pop you on the assembly line and in you go to be processed. More and more, people go in and they ask the doctor for antibiotics or painkillers, as though somehow it’s the patient’s role to self-diagnose and more and more, fed by the slick marketing of the drug companies, the doctors are just writing out a prescription and off you go. Problem solved!
Never mind that the heavy use of antibiotics is leading to the development of so-called superbugs, that are completely resistant to any form of treatment. Never mind that perhaps there’s something deeper, like diet or lifestyle or some hidden disease that’s causing the symptoms that you’re feeling. Never mind that the rates of obesity and metabolic syndrome, heart disease, stroke, Diabetes, are skyrocketing around the world; just write the prescription and be done with it.
Woohoo! “Berni, we don’t want to talk about the disease; just give us something that’ll provide a quick fix for my problems; a bandaid; an aspirin” … Now maybe that sounds a little bit harsh, but are you getting the picture?
I was watching a video recently, an amazing video on YouTube of an apostolic minister who was asked to address the United Nations’ General Assembly. Now this man, Reverend Lee Stoneking, had died of a massive heart attack at Sydney Airport of all places.
He’d been pronounced dead, and yet in the ambulance on the way back to the hospital, he came back to life. The paramedics were completely astounded! The blood had already started to coagulate in his extremities. He’d had no oxygen to the brain for over forty-five minutes. You know, just six minutes and the brain starts to die, and this man who’d experienced a resurrection (literally) spoke to the delegates of the United Nations’ General Assembly, and he said to them, “People, if you want to end violence, if you want to end the suffering, if you want to deal with the terrible problems and the atrocities that are going on in this world, then the only answer is this, Acts 2:38:
‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’.”
And you see, right there is the treatment for the disease that’s causing your aches and pains; your distresses and fears, but like Jesus, if I start talking about that sort of radical treatment, no doubt people will turn off the radio; no doubt people will walk away, as they turned away from Jesus there in John chapter 6:66. But listen to me, at the end of the day, if we want the life that Jesus promises, we need more than an aspirin. We need more than a handful of shallowness. We need to dive deep down to the root cause.
One of the funniest signs I’ve seen in a long time (on Facebook, of course) reads like this: ‘Everything happens for a reason and sometimes, that reason is that you’re stupid and you made bad decisions’. I do stupid things that cause pain, and so do you. We have wrong ways of thinking and seeing. We all get caught up in ourselves and forget God and forget others.
It’s so easy in this day and age, with the barrage of lies that cover our lives and penetrate our hearts, to end up in pain because we’ve headed off in the wrong direction, but listen to me: ‘Jesus Speaks, and Jesus Heals’, and if we want healing in our lives, then we need to listen to Jesus speak and experience the power of His healing touch.
That’s what this series of messages over the next few weeks is all about. That’s why I’ve called it ‘Jesus Speaks, Jesus Heals’ – because I believe that Jesus wants to bring some serious healing into your life, and when we actually take the time to listen – I mean really listen to what Jesus has to say about the maladies that affect our lives, it just blows you away! That’s what the crowds experienced that followed Him around. Matthew 7:28-29:
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, not as their scribes.
I have a friend who carries rather a lot more weight than he should – a lot more. I’ve spoken to him many times about the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates that he eats and yet, to no avail. I know that if he turns away from the sugar and the refined carbohydrates, the weight will just fall off him. He’s older than me; he’s in his sixties; he has high blood pressure; high blood sugar, and he’s just an absolute multi for a heart attack or a stroke, and yet nothing changes. I can’t badger him into it; he has to decide for himself, so why doesn’t he change?
He’s not a bad person; he’s a great guy and frankly, I’d like him around for many more years to come, so why doesn’t he change? The same reason that you and I just cling on to the things in our lives that are robbing us of life itself, but there’s one thing that I have to share with you that can give you the power to change – the thing that astounded those people, the words of Jesus, the teaching of Jesus, because it comes with authority from God.
It cuts straight to the heart of what’s going on in us, and it carries with it the power of God to make the changes in your life that you don’t have the power to make. My words can’t do that, but Jesus’ words can, because He is the Word of God. ‘Jesus Speaks, Jesus Heals’. Are you ready for that sort of power in your life?
Pride and Prejudice
I was in a Christian leaders’ conference recently, and one of the speakers there (John Dixon was his name) spoke about communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ, but he came at that subject from a unique perspective. He looked at it through the prism of humility.
Now humility’s a funny thing because the moment you think you’re humble you’re not, and the moment you talk about being humble you’re definitely not. The point he was making was that beating people over the head with the so-called Good News ain’t going to do it – no, instead he said, “Humility is beautiful, and it’s attractive.” I sat and thought about that for a while and I realised he’s absolutely right.
Humility is beautiful: It is, and it is perhaps the most attractive form of love that you and I can have. See, Jesus humbled Himself on that cross. Philippians 2:5-8:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave. Being born in human likeness, and being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
It’s worth pausing on those two phrases – emptied Himself and humbled Himself. Literally He laid His reputation; His life; His deity aside. He poured Himself out, literally emptied Himself of everything He was and had, and to humble yourself means to make yourself low. When you think about it, Jesus the Son of God, the Creator of the universe, had to come a long way down to make Himself low: Not just taking the form of a man, but then allowing Himself to be nailed to that cross.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.
Let’s go back to something that Jesus said about pride and humility, although in this case He comes at it from the opposite direction. Let’s go to Matthew chapter 7 beginning at verse 1. Jesus said:
Do not judge, so that you may not be judged, for with the judgment that you make, you will be judged, and the measure that you give will be the measure that you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but you don’t notice the log in your own eye, or how can you say to the neighbour, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while a log is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.
As I said earlier, one of the greatest evils in our lives is pride, because it spawns so much more sin in us and through us, and the way that pride manifests itself often is through judgement of others. Let me ask you: When was the last time you judged someone? Maybe you’ve grumbled about them either verbally or in your heart; maybe you’ve murmured about them; spread rumours about them; perhaps you’ve written them off as a loser or an idiot; maybe you’ve argued with them and your relationship with them is broken. Put it that way, and the chances are, it’s not all that long ago that you’ve judged someone.
Now, one of the reasons (in fact, the reason) that what we’re talking about here is so incredibly powerful is that we’re talking about the very words of Jesus, and the words of Jesus have the power to heal and to transform your life and mine in a way that nothing else and no one else can, and this passage comes in the middle of a real purple patch of teaching from Jesus early-on in the book of Matthew in the New Testament. His solution to many if not most of your relationship problems? Do not judge.
Now that’s easy to say, but it’s a whole bunch harder to do, which is why He goes on and gives us a couple of clear reasons why not to judge, and there’s a lot of power in those reasons.
Firstly, don’t judge because with the measure that you judge, you will be judged – by God and by other people. Judgment is the opposite of humility. Judgment comes out of pride, and that’s His second point. How come you can see the speck in your neighbour’s eye and you haven’t noticed the log in your own eye? First, get that log out of your own eye, so that you can see clearly enough and help your neighbour with the speck in his. Totally!
There’s the great leveller – the realisation that you and I have our blind spots and our weaknesses, and we do. Right? Who appointed you and me judge, jury and executioner?
Now at this point, I want you to take a look at the sharp contrast between the Jesus that we read about in Philippians chapter 2, the one who emptied Himself, the one who humbled Himself, the one that we’re supposed to be like, and the person with the log in their eye … and that would be you and me.
Jesus had and has every right to judge. He’s God, and He’s perfect, unlike you and me, and yet unlike you and me instead of judging, He dies for the very sinners who prance around in pride as though we’re perfect, when in reality we know we aren’t. When we criticise and we grumble and we complain, all acts of pride. ‘Wake up! What’s the matter with you?’ That’s what Jesus is saying, because that pride is a burden too heavy to carry. That pride becomes so incredibly heavy that carrying it around day after day drains the strength and the very life out of you, which is why Jesus also said (in Matthew 11:28-30):
All you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, come to me, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
One of the symptoms that many people in this world experience is the exhaustion and the stress that come from carrying the burden of pride around with them day after day, and you know that feeling when you carry something heavy around, the longer you carry it, the heavier it gets? The more it hurts, and the more the pain screams out at you, “Stop this!” and the answer, the solution to that pain is not to take an aspirin; the answer is to get rid of the load. The answer is not to treat the symptoms; the answer is to deal with the cause and lay down the load.
Be honest. Is pride doing you in? Is pride and prejudice; is the sin of judgment doing you in? Robbing you of life? Causing you pain? Because if it is, it’s time to bring it to Jesus who is lowly and humble of heart: This Jesus who emptied Himself and humbled Himself to die for your sins.
See, that’s the Jesus who’s ready and waiting to take this load off you; to guide you to a better place; to heal you of the sin and the judgment, and the pride. That’s why there’s so much power in the words of Jesus. Because He’s not just about the talk; He’s about the action. He will forgive you. He will send His Spirit to set you free. He will give you the power to live a different way, and that all starts here and now. All it needs is for you and me to stump up to Jesus and to say to Him, “Yep, that’s me! That’s what I’ve been struggling with, and I’ve been too proud to admit it, but today, I want to be free. Jesus, help me”, and that step of humility is a step into the healing power of Jesus.
It’s no co-incidence we’re together today, you know. It really isn’t. ‘Jesus Speaks and Jesus Heals’ and today we’ve heard Him speak, so I’m believing that from this moment on, there is going to be some serious healing in your life, some serious Holy Spirit-power in your life, some serious freedom in your life, in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.
The Age of Grace
We’ve talked about two things today: Firstly, the fact that Jesus wants to bring healing into your life, and secondly that one of the most powerful forms of healing that you or I can possibly ever experience is the healing that comes when we forgive someone, but there’s another side to that coin of healing and forgiveness, and that’s the healing that we experience when we finally come to grips with the fact that in Jesus, through Jesus, you and I are forgiven.
As a teenager many, many years ago, I accepted Jesus into my life, but then I strayed away; I got into all sorts of stuff. I’ll share with you a little next week on the programme how the love of money caused so much pain and destruction in my life, but the point right now is that because I was into things that I knew that any loving God couldn’t possibly agree with or accept or condone, that guilt kept me from turning my life back to Him.
I always knew He was there, although at the point of almost taking my own life and then crying out to Him, I really wasn’t all that sure anymore because as I saw it, I had strayed so far away. As my guilt stopped me from turning back to Him, the worse things became. It was only when I was at the end of my tether that I cried out, and I know that today, there is someone out there who kind of understands what I’m talking about.
It resonates with you and you’ve heard the words of Jesus today, the powerful words of Jesus, but you’ve strayed so far; you’ve done so many bad things; you can’t begin to imagine that God would have you back. If that’s you, then my friend, today I have some good news for you, and that good news can be summed up in a single word: Grace. Listen carefully to the words of the apostle Paul because through him, God is about to speak His grace His mercy, His forgiveness, into your heart. Romans chapter 5 beginning at verse 1:
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we actually have peace with God through Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access into this grace in which we now stand. You see, we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God, and not only that but we also boast in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance; endurance produces character; and character produces hope, and this hope doesn’t disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
While we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, although maybe for a good person someone might actually dare to die, but God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by His blood, we will be saved through Him from the wrath of God.
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then much more surely having been reconciled, we’ll be saved by His life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
See, that’s grace! And if you’re ready to accept God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s forgiveness, God’s love right this moment, then why don’t you pray this prayer with me?
Father, I have heard about Jesus today, and I know that I so desperately need Your mercy and Your grace. I believe that Jesus is Your Son. I believe Jesus actually died for me, so that You can forgive my sins. Please, forgive me through Jesus. Please take me just as I am, love me and hold me, and fill me with Your Holy Spirit, to give me the power to change. Speak Your Word into my heart. Heal my diseases, in Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Friend, if you have prayed that prayer, you are forgiven, and now you belong to God. Don’t leave it there. Find a Bible-believing church where the love of Jesus flows, and grow in your relationship with Him. Be blessed, as you receive Jesus into your heart.