John 5:1-6: Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie–the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 4 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
I want to talk to you this morning about deliverance, about being set free. While the text we just read addressed a man who needed physical healing, the question Jesus posed to the man really sets the stage for all kinds of deliverance. While Jesus’ question, “Do you want to get well?” may sound like a ridiculous question to ask a paralyzed person, there was obviously a need to ask it. Why would Jesus ask that question?
Healing was going to mean more than the ability to walk for this man. It was going to mean a whole new way of living. It was going to be life altering, not just physically, but as he would encounter the person of Jesus Christ and experience a Divine touch, there would be life altering implications. How would the lame man handle the buzz about his healing? How would he be impacted by the experience with Jesus long-term? He had been used to begging and handouts. Would he be ready to be productive, take initiative and go to work? Would he view his new ability to move about on his own as an opportunity to make life better for others? What was his motivation for wanting to be healed? What could and would he do with his physical wholeness?
Some people get so use to whatever their life circumstance is that they develop an apathy or entitlement mentality. Even though they have the ability to move forward in life, they stay stuck in what they have known because it is comfortable and moving to a new place emotionally, spiritually, physically or relationally is scary.
Thinking in terms of deliverance this morning, Jesus wants to ask you, “Do you want to be delivered?” If you are bound by something, whether it is incarceration to your past, an addiction to a drug, alcohol, pornography, gambling, physical or some other kind of addiction, do you want to be delivered? If so, you need to make a decision to play a part and allow God’s deliverance in your life be used to play a positive role in the lives of others. Using the exodus account of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery to freedom, I want to explore with you what it means to decide for deliverance.
Exodus 1:11-14-“So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.”
It wasn’t a good time for the Israelites as slaves in Egypt. Their lives weren’t their own. They worked for Pharaoh and at his pleasure. It was a hard life. The Israelites made a decision for deliverance when they cried out to the Lord for help. Exodus 2:23-“During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.”
If you decide to be delivered today, the first thing you need to do is to:
Cry out For Deliverance
Exodus 3:7-8 “7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Every act of deliverance is going to involve some crying out to God, some groaning, some deep calling out over your circumstance. They weren’t just complaining. They weren’t just whining. There was injustice going on. There was abuse going on. There was an enslavement that they were enduring that they couldn’t get themselves out of. This wasn’t a mess of their own making. When God hears that kind of cry-what is called in Hebrew, “ze’akah,” when it is a ze’akah cry, God gets involved.
I have been sent here this morning to tell you that groaning may be very good for you today as it will lead you to call out to the Deliverer who can help you. Now we can moan and groan and let it lead to frustration, anxiety, resentment and retaliation, or we can turn our groan into a cry for help!
“Call upon Me in the day of trouble and I will answer and deliver you from all your troubles.” (Psalms 107:13)
Psalms 116:1-2 – I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
Did you know the Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years? That’s about 399 years and 364 days too long for me. Yet we get the notion from Scripture that this intense groaning and crying out just started.
Here’s what I think. We learn to live with things. They may not be pleasurable or the best, but we just accept them. Over time those things that aren’t right grow worse, but we just toughen up or pretend everything is okay until one day we can’t take it anymore. Stop accepting slavery on any level in your life. It’s not okay for you to be controlled by a substance or a person or fear. Don’t become use to being a slave. That’s what Satan wants! Like the frog that sits in the pot of cold water that remains there as the water becomes slowly hotter and hotter. The frog could jump out at any minute but doesn’t because he just grows use to the gradual temperature change. Some of you have settled for slavery because you have allowed Satan to deceive you and slowly saddle you with thoughts, habits, and relationships that are now incarcerating you. It’s time to cry out to God for freedom. Look at your neighbor and say, “It’s time to cry out!”
Speak to Your Captor With Authority
Throughout the Exodus account, Moses was sent by God time and time again to demand that God’s people be let go. Now God could have dealt with Pharaoh without help from Moses or anyone else, but I believe God wanted to help us understand something about deliverance and the part we are supposed to play. As children of God we are not to fear anything and we are to take authority over everything that would seek to enslave us and keep us from God’s best for our lives. I believe we learn through Moses’s going to Pharaoh time after time after time after time to demand that Pharaoh let God’s people go that we have the right to say to our captor, “Enough is enough. Let me loose.”
Some parents here this morning need to say to the evil one, “Let my child go!” Some people with addiction need to speak to their addiction and the satanic imps that keep monitoring that situation and say, “Enough is enough. I won’t be a slave to you anymore.” Some of you need to tell Fear to take a hike and never return. We need to quit accepting what Satan wants to lay on us-doubt, guilt, blame, condemnation, feelings of inadequacies and let him know we are demanding the freedom that Christ has set us free for.
In a sermon on the power of the spoken word, Dr. Mark Hardgrove said:
“I’ve found that you can’t listen and talk at the same time. The best way to shut the mouth of the enemy and to silence his voice is to open your mouth and start telling him that you are more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus.
Goliath was doing all the talking, defying the armies of the God of Israel while they trembled in their fox-holes. Then David got there and the first thing he did after picking up the stones was start talking to Goliath. He said, “I come against you in the name of the God whom you defy, prepare to die!”
We need to open our mouth and tell the enemy, “Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.”
(1 Jn. 4:4) (http://www.pulpittoday.com/sermons/view/141)
Notice that when Moses spoke to his enemy, he always said, “God says, ‘Let my people go.’” He didn’t go on his own authority or speak his own words, but he consulted with God and used God’s words to speak to Pharaoh. The Bible can be an awesome weapon against whatever has a hold on you if you will start speaking it out with the authority Jesus has given you!
Give God Time to Work
There is much more at stake than just getting you out of trouble. God’s working in multiple ways in every act of deliverance to impact a great number of people and to reveal something about His Sovereignty and character. Moses had to be patient. The Israelites had to be patient. It wasn’t an overnight escape. It took ten plagues and several plagues took more than a day to pull off. It took at least:
One day to go before Pharaoh and perform the snake miracle (7:10-15)
Seven days for the miracle of the waters to blood (7:15-25)
Several days for frogs to cover all Egypt and accomplish the purpose in making life unbearable (8:1-8)
One day to destroy frogs (8:10-15)
Several days for the lice plague to have the desired effect (8:16-19)
Several days for the flies to plague all of Egypt. Two days are mentioned for bringing and removing them (8:23, 29)
Two days-one to announce and one to destroy the animals of Egypt, besides time for Pharaoh to harden his heart (9:1, 5, 7)
Several days for boils to be upon the Egyptians (9:8-12)
One day to announce the next plague (9:13); one day for the plague (hail) to begin (9:18); and one day for Moses to be summoned (9:27)
Two days for locusts to cover Egypt (10:4-6, 13); one day for Moses to be summoned (10:8-11); a day or so for the locusts to cause their destruction in Egypt (10:12-17); and two days to remove them (10:18-19 with v. 13)
Three days of darkness (10:21-23) and one day to call Moses in to end yet another plague (10:24-29)
And one day to ask of the Egyptians and to slay the Passover lamb. (11:1-10; 12:29-36)
Probably at least fifty days were needed for the plagues. That’s a long time to wait for God to deal with your situation. Do you know what God was doing with each one of those plagues? He was showing that He was the true God and over all other gods that were being worshiped at the time.
For example, when the Nile River was turned to blood it was a judgment against the Egyptians and against the Nile River itself, which was treated like a god. It was a judgment on Hapi, the god of the Nile, and Isis, the goddess of the Nile. The Nile River was the nation’s major source of life-giving water for the people and their crops, so taking away their water supply was a devastating judgment. The people dug wells near the river in order to get pure water, but the fish in the river died and their decay produced a terrible stench. The plague and its consequences lasted a week (7:25).
The magicians used some of the pure well water and duplicated the miracle. But if they had true magical powers, why didn’t they reverse the miracle? That would have shown them to be more powerful than Jehovah and would have endeared them to Pharaoh and the people. The answer, of course, is that they didn’t have the power to reverse what Moses and Aaron did; the magicians achieved their results by an illusion and not by any supernatural power.
Another example: The frog invasion was to show God superior to the goddess of resurrection, fertility and childbirth. Her name was Heqet and she had the head of a frog. Each plague demonstrated God, Jehovah, was greater than any god or goddess the Egyptians worshiped. It wasn’t simply about getting a people out of slavery, but it was also about showing the power and glory of God being far superior to the false gods of Egypt. So give God time when you decide for deliverance because He is likely up to something much bigger than just your personal situation.
- Commit to Christian Community
Exodus 12:3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.
Isn’t that a beautiful picture? The whole community is going to be delivered and they are supposed to look out for their neighbors and share with anyone in need of a lamb. Then, they were to slaughter them all together. No one would be left out. Everyone was going to get to be delivered.
Deciding for deliverance means that we recognize that sometimes God wants to use the community of faith to aid in our process. It is simply in your best interest to have strong Christian friendships. It’s to your benefit to be regular in your church attendance because you never know when God will give you assistance through a brother or sister in Christ that will lead to your deliverance.
Our Sunday School and Wednesday night attendance are growing and that is a real encouragement to me. It means more and more of you are putting yourself into discipleship and accountability groups where you can be known and challenged in a personal and relational way.
We’re all journeying through life, and it is difficult. God tells us to journey together to make sure we all make it. Recently diagnosed with diabetes, I am so thankful for the many supporters, encouragers, and prayer warriors who are checking in with me to make sure I am walking in health and doing my part to see my sugars stay under control. God has put many people in my life to make sure I make it.
If deliverance involves community it will mean that we humble ourselves to let our brothers and sisters know when we have a need. Those without a lamb had to knock on the door of someone who did in order to participate in the community’s deliverance.
The Israelites weren’t delivered as individuals, but as a community. Make sure you are investing in relationships in the Christian Community. The more significant Christian friendships you have, the more resources you can draw on when you are in need of deliverance.
Anyone who has been a part of Alcoholics Anonymous or a Drug Addiction support group will tell you that being a part of a community that was committed to make sure you made it through the program was a big key to success.
- Get Rid of Sin-In Exodus 12:15, The Israelites were told to get rid of all of the yeast in their homes and for seven days they were to eat bread made without yeast. They were to call this the Feast of Unleavened Bread and celebrate it as a lasting ordinance for generations to come.
In the NT, yeast is a symbol for sin. Yeast works through a batch of dough, impacting the whole loaf of bread. In the same way, sin works itself through our lives and even one “little” sin can have implications in our spiritual, moral, relational, and physical health. Yeast permeates dough like the little “white lie” that we justify grows and grows as more is added to the story to justify or cover up the initial lie. That’s why Paul says, in I Cor. 5:7-8 “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.”
When ancient people would take flour and water, knead it well and leave it in a cool place for a long time, the dough would rise. They also knew that this process would speed up if you saved a little dough each time you baked to add to your next batch. This reserve is now called a “starter.”
When you use a starter, yeast bread involves a lot of work and reliance on our past bread making. Making unleavened bread is much easier. Once the flour and water are mixed, the bread is ready to bake in a short time. There is no “starter” from yesterday, so unleavened bread has no past.
For the Israelites who are about to become free, leaven would represent a connection with the past. Dough without leaven represents haste and a clean break with the past. If you want to decide for deliverance, decide today to make a clean break with sin. Be done with sin. Put it in the past.
- Apply the Blood
In Exodus 12:7 we read that God tells the Israelites to take some lamb’s blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of their houses. The last plague will involve the death angel striking down the firstborn males both livestock and humans, but wherever there is blood over the doorframes, those houses will be passed over and the firstborn males and livestock will be safe. The Israelite’s homes would only be safe if they applied the blood.
Revelation 12:11 tells us that we overcome by the “blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.” If you are going to decide for deliverance today, you need to plead the blood of Jesus around you, your destiny and your loved ones and their destiny. When you do that, you create a boundary the enemy can not cross!
How does it work? When you are legally accused of something, you enter a plea. You might plead guilty, not guilty or no contest, but you enter a plea that will have an impact on your judgment or sentencing. There is no one or nothing that can incarcerate you when the plea you enter is “I plead the blood of Jesus.” “There is power, power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb!”
Someone here needs to decide for deliverance today and say, “I plead the blood of Jesus for my life, my kids, my safety, my finances, my job, etc.”
Be Willing to Take the Long Road
Exodus 13:17-18 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.
Part of deciding for deliverance means that you make a commitment to keep walking out your deliverance. Though the Red Sea is in front of you and Pharaoh’s army is pursuing you from behind, you will keep walking in the direction God is leading you even if it doesn’t look like it’s going to work.
Part of your deliverance involves learning new things about yourself and about God. Had God taken Israel on the short route, they wouldn’t know God as the One who can part the Red Sea, as the one who can make a way where there seems to be no way. As they would enter the Promised Land and have to start conquering those who were living there, they needed to be armed with the knowledge that God was a waymaker and that they would be victorious.
Deliverance will alter your life. Are you ready for that? Do you want to change? Are you ready to get up and walk toward whatever God has for you? Are you willing to cry out to Him? Can you muster up the courage to start speaking in Jesus’ name to your captor and letting whatever it is that has a stronghold on your life know that its reign is about to end? Will you give God time to work and refuse discouragement in the process? Will you commit to Christian Community and humble yourself to receive prayer and the ministry that comes through Christian friendship and accountability? Can you decide today to quit flirting with sin and be done with it forever? Will you apply the blood in your situation and call out for the protection and delivering power Jesus’ blood has to offer? And will you be willing to make the journey, no matter what it takes, no matter what is in front of you, no matter what is chasing after you, until you are safely in the Promised Land? If so, I invite you to decide for deliverance.