Sunday, February 8, 2009

Healing the blind man - insight on the sacraments

The Lord alone has saved us by shedding his blood on the cross for all he has given the gift to believe. He has also appointed certain earthly “means of grace” or sacraments to deliver to us the healing that comes to those he has given eternal life. Biblically speaking, he shows us in John 9 that the physical signs that represent the chief sacraments (baptims - water and the bread and wine of holy communion) should not be viewed as either a novel or unusual way for him to work.

There (in John 9) his healing of a blind man includes the use of Jesus’ own spittle and the soil of the earth to make mud. Jesus then applies this mud to the eyes of the man. Jesus commands the man to go to a particular location and wash. The man goes and does as Christ commands and he is completely healed of the blindness he has known since his first breath.

Yes, Christ could have healed this man without all of this (we know, because we read in the Bible many accounts of his miracles without the use of anything of an earthly or physical nature), but instead Jesus chose to do this miracle differently. He utlized all of following: The making of the mud, the applying of mud, the command to go and wash, and the man's act of going and doing, to show us that he (Jesus) does not need to explain his “means of delivering his grace” or “means of healing” to anyone. He will do as he desires and we don't need to fully understand in order to exersize the gift of faith he has given us to simply obey him and reap the fruit of his grace.

When they asked why the man was blind in the first place—was it the man’s own sin or his parent’s sin that made him blind? Jesus answered, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

In other words, this man was born blind to give people a glimpse of the power of God’s healing works in our life. In this case, that healing work of God was delivered through physical elements and actions such as soil, Jesus' spit, Jesus' action in wiping that combination directly on the man's eyes, Jesus' command for the man to go and wash at a particular location and the man's obedient reaction to that command. Why did Jesus do and command all this? Obviously, it pleased him to do it.

So too, it should not be unusual to expect that the two chief sacraments Jesus himself specifically commanded (baptism and holy communion) are meant to deliver God's healing grace to us. Certainly, Jesus himself saved us without these sacraments by dying for us on a cross, and rising bodily from the dead to prove that he has won everlasting life to all who believe in him--as he told us.

But isn't he also telling us, much as he did the blind man, that he has special healing graces to bestow upon those who obey his command to be baptized and to participate regularly in his last supper or holy communion? Our baptism shows our burial and resurrection with him--the washing away of our sins. Our new birth may have happened at the very moment of our baptism, or it may have occured prior to it or sometime after it. That's up to the working of the Holy Spirit--not us. That's why we baptize children. We don't decide to be saved--He decides to save us.

Again, that's why it's not up to us to decide when to be baptized, but simply to be baptized because we know Christ has commanded it.

So too, we obey Jesus' command to take and eat the bread and drink from the cup that we may recieve his very body and blood during holy communion, knowing that while we are already saved, we will be graced to know all the more firmly that he dwells in us and we in him.

Like the blind man,it is for our sake, that Jesus commands us to be baptized and to receive his body and blood that his work in saving us from the cross is made manifest--made obvious--to all. Who is to say what healing he continues to work in us? It is enough to know that he can and does. This much we also know. We are all born blind in sin, and through him only, and the gift of faith that only he can give--now we see. --brother Jim.

The Gospel of Jesus: The Comfort of Believers

These things have I written to you that believe on the name
of the Son of God: that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)

Yes, you can know if you will live forever with Christ in heaven.
Jesus himself tells you how you will know, when he says:

“He who believes in me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47) and
“He who hears my word and believes on him that sent me, has eternal life and
will not come into condemnation (hell); but is passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)

Your ability to believe that Christ died for you on the cross and his death is the essence of faith
and the Bible tells us such faith is a gift that only God can give.

For it is by (God’s) grace you are saved through faith, (in Christ) –and this is not from yourselves,
it is a gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

In other words, if you believe in Jesus and
what he did for you, you have been given a great gift.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16)
he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world… (Ephesians 1:4)

Though you may not “feel” any different, you can know that
the Holy Spirit has given you the new birth (John 3) when you are
able to believe that Jesus is the sinless Son of God who died
to save us from the hell that we truly deserve for our sins.

Who himself (Jesus) bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins,
should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. (Romans 6:23)

Your day of faith is the day you believe that Jesus alone did everything
needed to secure your salvation—rescuing you from sin, death and the devil.
He has saved completely all those he died for.

…he (Jesus) said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
And I give them eternal life; and they shall never perish,
neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:28)

Your day of faith is the day you believe that Jesus has won for you a place with him
where you will go one day to live with Him in peace and joy forever.

“I go to prepare a place for you…” (John 14:2)
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and
receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:3)

In the meantime, Christ commands us to “Love one another, as I have loved you.”
And he gives to us a Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

“He will guide you into all truth… (John 16:13)
“I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father, except by me.” (John 14:6)
Thy (God’s) word is truth… (John 17:17)

And as we travel this rocky road of life with its many ups and downs,
We remember that Jesus promised:

I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. (Matthew (28:20)
I am the resurrection and the life… (John 11:25)
I am the bread of life… (John 6:35)
I am the light of the world… (John 9:5)

In this gift of faith that Christ has given us, he calls us to be baptized into a Church that teaches the truth about his death on the cross and how it means everlasting life for all who believe in him.

Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:29)
…upon this rock (faith) I will build my church and
the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

He tells us to receive him in a very special way at Holy Communion.
This is my body…This is my blood (Matthew 26:26-28)

Jesus tells us that one way to love others as he loves us,
is to forgive others when they sin against us.

For if you forgive men their trespasses,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)

He calls us to live our lives in readiness, watching for his return.

Watch therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape
all these things that shall come to pass and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36)