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The "wall" of sin cuts us of from God's presence and makes Him feel remote - but there is a simple solution.

What is your biggest problem? It is not the illness - but something deeper which, healed, could bring hope

Revd Rico TIce on The Healing of the Paralytic


The text below is a sermon summary. The recording of the full sermon can be downloaded. See here. . To access the recording, click on Home Page + More Sermons (link bottom right) + Advanced sermon search (link bottom right) + By Bible Book + Mark + and this sermon is second from the bottom of the list - "29 September 2005".

What is your biggest problem? What is locked away in your mind, nagging away at you, like a dripping tap? Is your problem preoccupying you?. Be honest, bring it to mind right now. Imagine if we knew the problems of other people around us. Their problems are spouses or children or choices about one child . Others’ problems are their parents and their in-laws. Some have big problems with money - or the lack of it. Then, there are the workplace relationships with a boss or with redundancy, possibly one leading to the other.
The "big problem" may be an illness in a loved one or in yourself, knocking everything “off kilter”. In Mark Chapter 2, a man comes to Jesus with a massive problem. He is a paralytic and his condition “defines” him. In the Bible, he is not called by his name but called “a paralytic”. There was no room for him outside the door. Here is this man: paralysed. We don’t know whether he is paraplegic or quadriplegic, how badly paralysed, whether he was born paralysed or not. There were no social services and no wheelchair services, so this man is reduced to begging. Begging is “rock bottom", in terms of self-esteem. This man is just as “a paralytic”. But he does have something - he has some faithful friends.

There is a Spanish proverb that says, “Friends are worth more than money”. Well, these friends cannot be shaken in their belief that that Jesus can heal their friend. So they bring him to Jesus. In fact, they get on the roof and pass him down through he roof! The reason is that Jesus keeps moving onwards in Mark, moving and healing and preaching a message. So the friends take off the ceiling of the room that Jesus is preaching in! Imagine the sounds of digging while Jesus is preaching inside and pieces falling and getting into people’s hair! Mark 2 v 4 says *Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralysed man was lying on.

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic *Son, your sins are forgiven". Do you think this paralysed man was pleased? I think he was bitterly disappointed. He was thinking about his legs, not his soul. He wanted to say “Jesus, can you do legs as well as soul?. The problem is my “pins” not my sins. The last thing I came for was a sermon…” The man was bitterly disappointed, but he had a massive problem. Being paralysed is a horrific problem (I know because I have a friend who is paralysed). But this man’s problem was bigger than that. Jesus said, "Your sins are forgiven”. Be happy. Happy?!

If you look through Mark 1, you will see Jesus is going about exorcising devils. In fact, we do believe in a supernatural world. Simon’s mother-in-law is healed at a Word, and gets up and makes lunch. Read Mark Chapter 1 for all those healings. Jesus saw these people with compassion, which means “the turning of the stomach”. As he saw the leper, He said “”Be healed”. Suddenly this leper could go home and be a father again. So the friends put this paralysed man down through roof. But Jesus does not heal him. Instead he says, “Your sins are forgiven”. At the end of the story this man is walking around, healed. Here Jesus is full of compassion, but He delays in healing him, to makes sure the man’s sins are dealt with . Jesus says that “sin” is the problem (sin is an awful religious word!). But “sin” is simply "putting myself first in God’s world", "running my life my own way".

The Bible says that it is sin that cuts us off from a relationship from God. Jesus see a great problem in this man, which is this man's top priority. If his sins are not forgiven, he is not right with God and cannot work out what life is about. Caring for others is what he thinks he needs to do. But if your focus is on the things of this life, you can die at any time. A highly successful, rugby-playing friend of mine died last week, aged 39 and I took his funeral service. Was he ready to meet God at judgment? That was the question as I took his funeral. If we are not ready to met God at Judgment, that is our biggest problem. If you met that man, who had been a paralytic in Heaven, he would say “I had 50 years on earth caring for my family but then I had 2000 years in Heaven”. My friend was unexpectedly killed by medical negligence. We learn to put God off. Our diary is too full.

We have a problem and only Jesus can solve it. He has the authority to forgive sins. People said, “Who does he think he is?”. But Jesus knew what they were thinking. How disturbing! Think about Jesus Christ knowing all your thoughts. Is it easier to say “Your sins are forgiven” or “Rise up and walk”? Yes it is, because sins being forgiven is invisible but telling someone to “rise up and walk” is visible proof (of a miracle). As proof of His authority to forgive sins, Jesus said, “Get up and walk”. Paralysed people do not usually get up and walk. But Jesus says, “I am the one to forgive sins”. The Cross is not just about a carpenter from Nazareth being killed.
As a teenager, I went to church and I knew that Jesus had died "for sins". But I did not realise that He died so that my sins can be forgiven. I never knew that that He died for me! Do you know that he has died for you? For the forgiveness of all your past sins, for your present and future sins (if you bring them to Him in repentance). I don't enjoy taking the funerals of people who do not know this.... We have hurt others and we have hurt the God, the One makes the rules. We can get into a right relationship with God - but before we can do that, we must have our sins forgiven. How we treat God and other people matters to God. We must have our sins dealt with.
Ask yourself: Have I had my sins dealt with? Give it some time…

By permission of Revd. Rico Tice, Associate Minister, All Souls Langham Place, London (and with special thanks to Grace McDowell)....please read on


Our problem with the "Wall" of Sin - by Pastor Paolo Castellina

God feels so far away


It is a very common experience to feel God is absent or so distant and remote from us, as to be of little "use" in our life. At the same time, we have in ourselves a deep and secret longing for Him, the feeling that without Him, life is empty, without meaning and miserable. In fact, it is true what the famous St. Augustine wrote in antiquity: "...for Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee." (1)

How can we make sense of this contradiction?


I cannot tell you that God is nearer to you than you imagine Him to be, or that "God is within you," as is claimed today. That would be a lie. If you feel that God is absent or remote and far away from you, you are right, He is! I could say there is a "wall" between you and God, a wall that hinders you from finding in Him your being, purpose and wholeness. You are cut off from God and from true life.

How did this "Wall" happen?


Why is there is "a wall" between you and God? Well, this wall was erected by Mankind itself, in spite of all religions, and we all share this plight. Mankind erected this wall between himself and God because he (and she) foolishly thought that that it would be better to do without the demands of God. But this is a lie and a delusion. Some made up gods of their own imagination and worshipped them. No wonder that they feel they are dumb and useless!

This wall between us and the living God is caused by what the Bible calls "sin". Sin is a rather unfashionable and unpalatable word to us today. Often misunderstood, the word sin meets with lots of prejudice, but sin is actually what this wall between us and God is made of, and that hinders us from enjoying God forever (2), keeping us from we were created for. The Bible tells us: "Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear" (Isaiah 59:1,2). Another translation puts it even more vividly: "There's nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you. Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God. Your sins got between you so that he doesn't hear" (Isaiah 59:2 MSG).

The same text from the Prophet Isaiah specifies what kind of sins the ancient people of God (to whom he wrote originally): "For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity. They hatch adders' eggs; they weave the spider's web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched. Their webs will not serve as clothing; men will not cover themselves with what they make. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways. The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace. Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom." (Isaiah 59:3-9)

We cannot get ourselves right with God


You may say that you never committed the crimes Isaiah accused the Jews of doing. You might be right, but if you understand what God's standards are, that He justly expect us to meet them in order to have communion with Him, we see that we also have our own large share of what the Bible calls "sin". Jesus summarises God's law (God's standards) in these terms: "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. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40) I do not know about you, but I have not loved God and my neighbour with all of my being. I know I am worthy to be condemned by God.

God's standards are too difficult


Furthermore, if we read a slightly expanded version of God's Law, the Ten Commandments, we lose every hope of climbing over the high wall that separates us from God. The Apostle James wrote: "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." (2:10). The sad reality is what the Apostle Paul wrote: "Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:19,20).

God has provided the solution


This all sounds rather hopeless: well, it is. This is what the Bible teaches, what God's Word says. Nevertheless, do not lose hope. If you and I cannot climb over this wall and enjoy the fullness of life with God, God himself has provided, in His mercy, a way to "pull down" this wall in the Person and work of Jesus, on our behalf. The Apostle John wrote: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (...) if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 1:8-10; 2:1,2). In another translation, the same passage reads: "we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus. When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good--not only ours, but the whole world's." (MSG)

The Good News


That is the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we admit, honestly, that the problem between us and God are our sins (the "wall") and entrust ourselves completely to the Saviour Jesus Christ, our "connection" with God is re-established and we gradually can restore, with His help, the fullness of our life in communion with Him. "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

Paolo Castellina (Reformed Pastor, Switzerland), March 18, 2007 http://refuge.wikispaces.com

(1) The Confessions of St. Augustine, (401 AD), Book 1.1, http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/augconf/aug01.htm (Translated by Edward Bouverie Pusey).
(2) Westminster Shorter Catechism, 1, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westminster_Shorter_Catechism.
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The Ten Commandments

Exodus 20:2-17
Deuteronomy 5:6-21
2I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;
6I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;
3you shall have no other gods before me.
7you shall have no other gods before me.
4You shall not make for yourself an image, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
8You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
9You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, 10but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
11You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
12Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13For six days you shall labour and do all your work. 14But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. 15Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
16Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13You shall not murder.
17You shall not murder.
14You shall not commit adultery.
18Neither shall you commit adultery.
15You shall not steal.
19Neither shall you steal.
16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
20Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbour.
17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house;
21Neither shall you covet your neighbour’s wife.
you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Neither shall you desire your neighbour’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.