Last time we saw that the ultimate power and authority of our existence lies with God our Maker and Sustainer in the unseen dimension of the spiritual world. This week we see a good example of this recorded in the first twelve verses of the second chapter of Mark’s Gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
The instance recorded concerns a paralysed man brought to Jesus by 4 others. The paralytic was completely unable to move; he was entirely dependent on the actions of others. Because the crowd was so dense around Jesus, they were unable to actually get the man to him. So they took an extreme action – they went up onto the roof of the building where Jesus was and literally broke it open in order to lower the paralytic down into the presence of Jesus.
The result was that the man was healed. But what do we learn from this incident ? What was actually going on here, beyond the physical actions of the event ?
Let’s look at the different people involved here. First the 4 men. They had heard of Jesus reputation, and they believed it. Their belief in Jesus as a result of what they heard was such that they made the effort not just to take the paralysed man to Christ, but break open the roof. They refused all circumstantial obstacles and acted persistently on their inner conviction that Jesus could, and would, heal this man. They did not let circumstances or other people distract, divert, or undermine their objective.
And Jesus commends such faith. Trust in God and acting upon that trust in God is the first requirement of God. God commends it. Conversely God condemns lack of faith or the refusal to put your trust in God. Disobedience is lack of faith; it is to say that what God says is not true. It is to say that to live my own way, or to live the way other religions or philosophies teach, is better than what God says. It is to set oneself against God. It is to rebel. It is to sin.
And that is what the paralytic had done. He had sinned. That is why Jesus had to declare a pardon, when he said: Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
The paralytic had sinned. He had done something contrary to what God teaches. His disobedience had brought on a physical paralysis – a physical state reflecting a spiritual state of inertia akin to being dead. To get physical healing he needed first and foremost a spiritual healing. And that was achieved by God declaring him forgiven.
Now this tells us something critical and absolutely key to the Christian spiritual life. Would that all the religious but unbelieving church leaders would wake up to this key truth.
The spiritual power and authority of God is mediated via obedience to his teaching. What God says and requires determines our spiritual [and therefore often our physical] health.
Spiritual experience apart from obedience to God’s law as taught by Christ and his apostles is therefore not just suspect, not just wrong – it is evil. It is to mess with spiritual darkness. It is to become ensnared. You can check this out very simply.
Evil spiritual experiences are usually very experiential and emotional. And very quickly lead a person into disobeying Christ’s teaching. James speaks of such experiences in the third chapter of his epistle [letter]:
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
And James goes on then to describe what the true spirituality from God looks like and how it operates:
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
These contrasting descriptions resemble the list of fruits of the Spirit and the contrasting symptoms of the selfish flesh life the apostle Paul describes in chapter 5 of his letter to the Galatian believers. Because evil spirituality always appeals to our fallen, self centred desires where self is exalted, and love and concern for others is eclipsed. Paul writes:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings and such like …. they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance …. if we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Every Christian has the choice and the responsibility to live according to God the Holy Spirit’s life in them, and refuse to live according to their own selfish desires.