Thought for the Week - 3rd FebruaryPastor Gareth Watkins
Matthew 9: 18-22
18 As Jesus was saying this, the leader of a synagogue came and knelt before him. “My daughter has just died,” he said, “but you can bring her back to life again if you just come and lay your hand on her.”
19 So Jesus and his disciples got up and went with him.
20 Just then a woman who had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding came up behind him. She touched the fringe of his robe,
21 for she thought, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”
22 Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
We have to choose to come to God. He’s faithful to give us the salvation experience. The saving power of God – the salvation of God – is an easy sentence, but it’s far more than just having a nice feeling.
It’s a lovely experience when you know you’ve been forgiven your sin. You know when that weight and physical feeling that you carry has been taken by Christ. Nobody else can take that sin and remove the effect of that sin. It’s a miracle that only Christ can do.
The salvation experience includes healing us of our illnesses, and removing the victory and sting of death. It includes protection in our jobs, families and lifetime, and restoration of our children and grandchildren. The salvation of God is a big, big thing, and yet people say “I’ve been saved” as such a throwaway statement.
The salvation of God allows Him to fill us with any blessing that’s meant to come our way that’s stopped because of our sins. God wants to bless us with so many things that we can’t even imagine. In the small things, God is there. The salvation experience opens that door to all manner of different blessings that God wants to bestow upon us in our lives, in ways we can’t even comprehend. The blessings are so rich. It starts off with us opening that door, which is the beginning of our walk when we know Christ. Every blessing that Christ has from His death on the cross comes through into our lives from that time on.
The above story shows the blessing of God.
A leader of the synagogue came to Jesus for help. At this time, such a Jewish leader would have been opposed to Jesus. However, I want to focus on the woman. The lady had been bleeding for 12 years. It says that for a reason. This woman, in Jewish tradition, would have been considered ceremoniously unclean. We read in Leviticus how the women had to take themselves away from their homes and couldn’t be touched. They were unclean before God for that time, and this woman had been like this for over a decade.
This woman pushed through the crowds. It was an awkward thing for her to talk about. Yet she comes to Christ, even though she’s not allowed by Jewish customs to be with people. She pushes through to touch Christ. If she had touched anyone else, according to Jewish custom she’d have made them unclean. This would have been a huge barrier between her and God.
The wonder of Jesus Christ looks at a person in their situation – and breaks through any uncleanness – and find a relationship with them, even if they’re not worthy of it. This woman is ceremoniously unclean before God. And yet Christ Himself came to break through the isolation that we can find in our uncleanness, in our sin, and in our walk in life.
Jesus came and countered the teaching of thousands of years before in Leviticus. God had a desire to draw near to people who were described as unclean.
When she touched Him, He knew it. It wasn’t the fact she touched His garment, it was an unclean woman had touched His garment. She was coming to Him for all manner of different things, not just the healing we read of. She knew of her circumstances before God.
The salvation experience healed the woman of her condition, but went far further by restoring her to God.
Life isn’t always straight forward. We can’t always talk very easily about the circumstances that would cause us to be distanced from God. What causes one to be distant from God will be different to another. God Himself will show you what causes that distance, that gap.
The religious people at the time would have thrived on this. They would have kept women in their place. This woman pushes through the crowd to touch Jesus, knowing full well the teaching of the law. Knowing she would be held as unclean.
Jesus starts to give her confidence “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” She’s pushing through all the manner of religious things, her illness and her difficulties, looking to touch Him and to be restored. Jesus picks up on this. He knows the heart of a person. He picked up on this woman, among the many who must have been touching Him at the time. At that moment, that woman was saved and was healed.
It brings a reversal to the laws and the things that would subjugate people under false religion. We can have all the words and theology, but this is real life. All the theology and teaching in some ways can only go so far. After that you need the reality of God to come into the church. And that’s something only God can do. You can have all the seminary teaching and theological degrees, but if you don’t have that reality of Christ in your life you know nothing.
That woman had the salvation experience, and what was unclean was made right by God. Anyone who knows they’ve been sinful and unclean in the sight of God, and is saved, will know what it means to have that experience of being made right with God.
In Titus 3: 4-5 we read what happens from the salvation experience:
4 But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love,
5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.
A person who finds God, as that lady did, finds a new birth, a new life, and the life of the Holy Spirit coming inside them. A life that isn’t available to us before we had an encounter with Jesus Christ. That woman had a special experience.
Are we sure of our salvation? Are we sure He’s washed away our sin? Are we sure of that new birth and that new life?
Some churches take people to the start of salvation and leave them there. I want to see people growing and growing in their faith. I want to see people not just having that initial salvation experience, but seeing the blessings of God, the life changing, and the new life of the Holy Spirit entering lives. All the growth that belongs to God to come in with the blessings attached, and not just to say I’m saved so I’m okay.
I personally don’t believe in once saved always saved. The bible says that if salt loses its saltiness it’s to be thrown away (Matthew 5: 3). Salt was used for purification. And if we, like salt, lose our saltiness and purity, then we have no use. We have to keep ourselves pure and right with God, all through our days. We have to keep on coming back to the cross for forgiveness, for renewal, and for God’s infilling. We need to look after our walk with God.
It says in the bible that if a branch isn’t able to bear fruit then it’s cut off and burnt in the fire (John 15: 2). Some would disagree and say that once you’ve committed to Christ you’re safe forever. You are safe as long as you keep coming back to Him and asking Him for forgiveness. We need to keep coming back to Him. In Communion we’re thanking Christ for His death on the cross for our sins. We’re thanking Him for His blood that He shed that cleanses us from all righteousness and washes our sins away, giving us a new birth.
Salvation is going on and on, growing and building through your life as you progress. It’s a wonderful thing.
To say you’ve been saved by God is a starting point. This salvation over the years, we should be able to write our own books with many chapters with what God has done for us. God intervenes in History. God intervenes in lives. How many of us know that God has intervened in our lives? God uses people to break through. He uses the power of the Holy Spirit. He uses books, writing and songs. God breaks through and intervenes in our lives. How wonderful is our God! Wonderful salvation.
In John 3: 7-8 we read:
7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’
8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
We can’t explain it. We can’t explain why God has saved us and intervened in our lives. But He has. The bit that’s important is that “you must be born again”. There’s no option there. It says you must be born again. We might not agree with it, but it’s there. It’s one of those facts of life – Christ has said you must be born again.
That woman that Christ met, was born again. She had a salvation experience, which included her healing. Some of us have had illnesses that have been healed. Some of us have had illnesses that have not been healed. No matter our condition, the sentence still applies, we must be born again. I once preached in a Church in England. I was told I couldn’t say you must be born again as it’s only mentioned once in the bible! How can we not mention it in the pulpit when Jesus said it in black and white – you must be born again! We can’t take bits out of our bible.
Christ says only humans can reproduce humans, but only the Holy Spirit can give new spiritual life. We go through our lives, but spiritual life has to come from the Holy Spirit itself. The Holy Spirit comes to give us life, and to build on that life, and to give us an ability to God’s people.
When we start off we have different standards. What matters unto God is that we have this rebirth. What happens then is that we have the Holy Spirit in us. Have you been baptised in the Holy Spirit? If we have had a baptism in the Holy Spirit experience and walked away, we need to be refilled. If we’re feeling tired and drained we need to come back to God and ask Him to refill us again.
We need the salvation experience to be there. Every person and every child can start there. Children can find the salvation of God. They’ll still be children doing the thing that children do, being naughty etc. But they can find the salvation of God and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The earlier they can find it, the better for them.
In 2 Corinthians 5: 17 we read:
7 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
The devil won’t leave you alone. He’ll cause you to have doubts and think you’ll give everything up. Anyone who’s been made a Christian has been given a new life in God. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person, maybe someone you don’t even recognise. You’ll know things because God has put it into you. He’ll teach you what to know and what to say. That’s the miracle of new life! You can shake off the chains of the old life. The old has gone and a new life has come.
Have you got this new life? Or are you still holding on to your old life, your grave clothes? Some people live a new life but look back over their shoulders, longing for the things that caused them difficulties before they were saved. The salvation experience allows people to become full in their own selves. It might take years to get there, but that’s alright. It takes time. We have to grow, mature, learn, experience things. God gives us the grace for that. When He washed us from our sins, He gave us a new start.
Jesus taught we must be born again. In doing that, He cleansed us from all sins. When He’s cleansed us, He gives us a new start. When He gives us a new start, He gives us a new life. When He gives us a new life, He generously pours into hat life the Holy Spirit? Because He gives us the power to live that life.
Churches often don’t want the Holy Spirit, they just want God and Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit wasn’t just for thousands of years ago. The Holy Spirit gives you the power to live the life that God has for you. That’s the miracle! He doesn’t just call you to fail. He calls you to succeed. He gives you the strength to stand.
The salvation of God is a lifetime. It’s a power that begins, it’s a blessing, it’s a confidence, it’s a peace, it’s a restoration, and it’s a pulling together. It’s something that God has for each one of us.
You must be born again. The lady above wasn’t just healed. She found the salvation of God.