Luke: How deep is your faith? (Part 1)-03/19/17

Series Title: ‘Encountering Jesus’

Message: ‘How deep is your faith?’pt1            Text: Luke 5: 12-26

Introduction: A national study of Protestant churches revealed 7 characteristics of Christians who have a deep faith.

  • They trust in God’s saving grace and believe firmly in the humanity and divinity of Jesus.
  • They experience a sense of security/peace.
  • They integrate faith and life; seeing work, family, and social relationships, as part of one’s spiritual life.
  • They seek spiritual growth through study of the Bible, prayer, and discussions with others.
  • They seek to be part of a community of believers who give witness to their faith and support and nourish one another.
  • They hold life-affirming values; including commitment to racial and gender equality, and an affirmation of cultural diversity.
  • They serve humanity; consistently and passionately, through acts of love and justice. (adapted from 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.)

That’s our goal… a mature, a deep, faith.

But to be sure, getting there’s not always easy, and more often than not, can be frightening, as we find in a true story by Ed Snipes, who writes:

ILL: When my daughter was about 5, we spent an afternoon at a river. Some of the adults decided to walk out to an island in the middle of the river. My daughter wanted to come out with me.

I took her hand and as she stepped into the water she held on tightly to a branch on the shore. She was afraid of the river but wanted to go where I was going. I told her, “You must let go of the branch if you want to come.” She said she was afraid that she would sink. “I have your hand. You won’t sink and if you start to, I will lift you up.”

Fearfully she let go of the branch. I knew the water was just over waist deep. When we began, she had no confidence, but she stepped where I led her. With each step she gained confidence until she was eagerly walking beside me and we soon reached the island in the middle of the river.

(adapted from Ed Smipes)

  • Folks, that how God leads us to a deeper faith.

 Read: Psalm 37:23-24 The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in His way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.

Church, to have a mature faith, to go deeper in your faith, isn’t easy, and is often frightening… because we’re led out to the deeper waters, out of  our comfort zone, and into, the unfamiliar.

  • It’s in the unfamiliar that we must walk, not by what we can see, and often, not by what makes any sense, at least to those around us.
  • But when we take those steps, towards a deeper faith, we don’t take that journey alone, our Lord is right there with us, with you, holding your hand and He will not let you stumble.

That first walk of faith, when you go from sinner to saint can be frightening. But, it’s also the most rewarding. As we’ll see in our text this morning.

Transition: Open your Bibles to Luke 5:12 where we’ll examine the question: How deep is your faith?

  1. Luke 5:12-16 The faith of a leper

Read: Luke 5:12

Jesus comes to one of the cities in Galilee and is approached by someone who has leprosy.

  • Not just a mild case, mind you. Dr. Luke implies it’s invasive, covering his whole body.

Allow me to set the picture: This man who approached Jesus and His disciples, would have been difficult, to say the least, to be near:

  • He would’ve been wrapped in cloths stained with blood, pus and other things that ooze out of the body.
  • He would’ve lost some if not many of his body parts; fingers, toes, hands, feet, ears, perhaps even his nose. And there were no plastic surgeons to reconstruct anything.
  • The stench from the rotting flesh and the stuff oozing from his body would have hurt your nose and closed your eyes.

Because of the severe contagious nature of this disease, a leper, by Law, had to live outside the city limits and not enter the city, under penalty of death.

  • In other words, the leper was banished from society, his friends, his family, even his worship, to live in isolation

So, this is the condition of the man who approached Jesus, and His disciples… within the city limits.

We read about this same leper in Matthew 8 which takes place immediately after Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount.

  • Jesus comes down from the mountain and enters the city where He’s met by this man.
  • This man heard Jesus’ sermon… at a distance from the others, but he heard Jesus preach the gospel.

Dr. Luke tells us that the leper called Jesus Lord and acknowledges that Jesus has the power to cleanse him. While we can’t say for certain, it seems this man was touched by what Jesus had said, perhaps even to saving faith.

  • So, in humility, he said to Jesus If you will, You can make me clean.

This is important. This leprous man entered the deep waters of faith:

  • He risked being executed for entering the town and speaking to someone.
  • While not demanding Jesus to cleanse him, he was willing to submit, in faith, to the will of Jesus.

In his desperation, this man,

  • confronted with who Jesus is,
  • hearing what Jesus said and promised,
  • and believing that Jesus was his only hope,
  • chose to wade into the deeper waters of faith.

Read: Luke 5:13-14

It was against the Law for a person with leprosy to enter the city limits and talk to someone.

  • Notice that Jesus didn’t scold or reject him for that.

It was against the Law to touch someone with leprosy.

  • Notice that Jesus reached out His hand and touched the leprous man.

Jesus could have spoken a word and that leper would have been cleansed. But, as we just sang ‘He touched him and made him whole.’

 By touching the man with leprosy, Jesus was  showing him compassion. It was a demonstration of Jesus’ heart for people who are hurting and lost.

  • Don’t we do that?
  • We might touch the hand or the arm, shoulder of someone we are trying to comfort.
  • And they know it’s a sign of our love, compassion for them.

Can you imagine how this man would have felt when Jesus touched him?

  • Remember, he was an outcast, separated from worship at the Temple, his friends, even his family.
  • He could never be physically touched again.
  • And here’s Jesus, w/o any objection, w/o any fear, w/o any signs of being repulsed by his horrible appearance and disgusting smell, Jesus reached out His hand, gently touched him and he was clean.

Think about what this meant.

  • He was now able to worship God in the Temple.
  • He was now able to hang out with his former friends, even make new ones.
  • He was now able to return to his family

Can you imagine, the joy that man must have felt at the very moment Jesus touched him and his leprosy was gone?

I’m sure Jesus’ disciples weren’t feeling the joy at that moment. (By this time He had at least 6 or 7 disciples following Him full time.) They hadn’t been with Jesus very long and here He goes breaking the Law by touching this man who would have been repulsive to them.

But, they’d soon come to see that was Jesus’ MO, it’s what He did, it’s how He connected to the people around them. It’s how Jesus demonstrated His love for the lost.

  • Yes, because of the size of the crowds that followed Him, He often needed to teach from a distance.
  • But, Jesus always made His gospel personal and would often come face to face with someone who needed His tender touch.
  1. In verse 14 we see that Jesus did have respect for the Law, when He told the man to report to the priests and go through the process of being restored to Jewish society as prescribed in Leviticus 14.

Read: Luke 5:15-16

Notice that Luke reports that as more and more hurting and lost people came to Jesus, He withdrew to desolate places to pray.

  • In other words, as the crowds grew bigger,
  • Jesus spent more and more time alone, away from the crowds, praying.

Folks, Jesus felt the pain of our suffering, He felt the bitterness sin leaves in our lives, He knew our struggle.

And He did what we so need to do. He went often to the Father in prayer.

  • It was His life of prayer, His connection to the Father,
  • that sustained Jesus throughout His ministry.

Conclusion: As I prepared for this message, I was struck by the many similarities between

  • Jesus cleansing the man of leprosy who came to Him by faith.
  • And Jesus cleansing us of our sin when we come to Him by faith.

Allow me a few extra moments to highlight the similarities, in the hope, that through it, Jesus might do some cleansing here this morning.

Remember I said that because of the contagious nature of leprosy, the law demanded people infected with it, live outside the city limits? That means they could have no relationship with worship in the Temple, with friends or family.

On the spiritual level, the Bible tells us that our sin separates us from God and from God’s people.

And when we die in our sin, we are forever separated from God and His people, in the very real place called Hell.

Read: Ephesians 2:12a Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ

Read: Romans 6:23a For the wages of sin is death

Remember I said that the people believed leprosy was the result of someone’s sin?

And that person with leprosy would wrap clean white cloths around the areas were the leprosy was? I also said that the blood, pus and other disgusting things that ooze out of the body would stain the cloths?

  • That man tried to do everything he could to cover up his leprosy, but it just didn’t work.

On the spiritual level, the Bible tells us that sin invades our life, so much so that it takes over all that we are. And it defiles us, making us unclean before God.

Even though we try to do things that are good, things we think will cover up our sin before God, will help to warrant God’s forgiveness, we’re reminded by the prophet:

  • We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. (Isaiah 64:6)
  • Another Bible version says our good deeds are like filthy rags.

That means the good things we try to do to appease God and to earn His forgiveness are like the filthy, stinking rags of a leper. They’re worthless and they hide nothing from God.

  • So, like the leper we are without hope.

OK, all that’s the bad news. The good news… is Jesus.

  • The leprous man came to Jesus by faith.
  • He heard His words and believed He was the Messiah. He believed that Jesus was his only hope. He believed Jesus was able to make him clean.
  • So, with great humility, He went to Jesus, he spoke to Jesus and asked Jesus to make him clean.

Jesus, in John 6:37 said:

  • All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

Here’s another related text from the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:11, 13

  • For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in Him (Jesus) will not be put to shame.” For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The leper went to Jesus, and he didn’t ask to be healed. Did you notice that? You see, if he was cleansed of leprosy, it was understood that God had forgiven his sin.

When you come to Jesus, believing He is God, asking to be cleansed, He will touch your heart, and forgive your sin.

Finally, the leper approached Jesus said said

  • Lord, if You will, You can make me clean.

The man knew he didn’t deserve to be cleansed. He was hoping for…grace.

Paul, writing to the Ephesian Church said:

  • For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. So when God extends His grace to you:

  • He forgives your sin.
  • He saves you from an eternity in Hell.
  • He makes you a part of His forever family.
  • He promises you an eternity with Him in Heaven.

Not because you deserve it, but because He loves you.

Remember, Matthews Gospel told us that this leper heard Jesus’ sermon on the Mount and went to Jesus in faith, to ask for cleansing.

You can do the same thing today.

  • You’ve heard Jesus’ words.
  • You’ve heard about His compassion and grace.
  • If you ask Him, He will be gracious.
  • If you ask, Jesus will forgive your sin.

So, are you willing to go deeper in your faith than just coming to church?

  • It may be unfamiliar territory.
  • It may be a bit frightening.
  • But, when you go deeper in your faith, God holds your hand the whole journey… until you reach the shores of Heaven.