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Mark 2:1-When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home.2 Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them,3 four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat.4 They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” 10b Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said,11 “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”12 And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” Silent Prayer Mark wastes no time exposing his readers to the reasons Jesus came to earth.  His cousin, John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus at the opening of chapter one.  Jesus was baptized and headed into the wilderness where He dealt with temptations from Satan and overcame.  Then, He chose His disciples and “boom,” they were face to face with a demon-possessed man in the synagogue.  The possessed guy started shouting things at Jesus and the disciples and when Jesus rebuked the demon, the demon in the man screamed out, threw the man into a convulsion and then came out of the man. I’m sure Peter and Andrew looked at James and John in shock as they wondered what they had just gotten into.  They were familiar with Rabbi’s who would teach the Scriptures and talk about how people should live, but this Rabbi was “hands on” in a new way.  Jesus showed them right out of the shoot that He had come to set captives free. In the very next few verses in chapter one, Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and a host of others.  Jesus showed them from the “get go” that He had come to bring healing.  Then He turned exorcist again and cast out a whole bunch more demons. To conclude chapter one, Jesus did the unimaginable!  He touched a leper and healed him.  He showed the disciples and all who were following Him that He had come to touch us in a deeply personal and miraculous way. Now we get to chapter 2 where we see Jesus revealed something else about His mission.  When He healed the paralytic, He also forgave His sins.  Jesus revealed that His mission went beyond the physical and right into the heart of man; the forgiveness of sins.  And in this episode, Jesus was also allowing the disciples to see that we have a part to play, we have a role in bringing people to the point where they can receive what they really need, which is salvation and the forgiveness of their sins. What Jesus did for the paralytic man was life altering.  That’s what an encounter with Jesus is.  It’s life altering.   Jesus gave the paralytic new life.  He went home empowered.  He would no longer be helpless.  What had carried him, he now was carrying.  He went home as a joyful worshiper.  Best of all, he went home clean.  His sins were washed away! His salvation was made possible because he met Jesus, and that meeting was assisted by four men who made some amazing and faith-filled decisions.  Who are you helping to get to Jesus?  Whose mat are you carrying? Whoever these men were, they saw something about this man that moved them.  His helplessness moved them.  I can’t imagine how the conversation started.  Maybe they had been dropping by his house, bringing him food, making sure he had what he needed to survive.  Maybe each one of them would take a day during the week just to look in on him, just to talk to him so that he didn’t sink into great depression and obscurity from intense loneliness.  I get the feeling from the text that these men knew the man they were taking to Jesus.  They weren’t likely people who were just walking by and suddenly stopped and turned to one another and said, “Hey, let’s each grab a corner of this guy’s mat.”  No, these were friends, people in relationship with this guy who had an increasing burden to see him get help. You see, taking our friends to Jesus begins with a burden to see them helped, to see them saved.  We used to call it having a “soul burden.”  How easy has it become for us to just keep to ourselves, mind our own business and dismiss the reality that those who are not in Christ will die and go to Hell?  Does that reality bother us?  Does it move us?  Do we care that there are those who are helpless to get to Christ because of sin and their life circumstances enough that we will do something to try to assist the process. We read in Romans 9:1-4 that Paul had a soul burden for the people of Israel.  He says, “I speak the truth in Christ–I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit– 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel.”  He was basically saying he would give his own life, his own soul if his fellow countrymen could know Christ and be saved.  He says his heart is full of sorrow and unceasing anguish over those who hadn’t accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Jeremiah is called the “weeping prophet” because of the tears he cried over the unrepentant people of Israel.  In Jer. 9:1 he says, “Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.”  He saw destruction coming their way and they weren’t listening to his warnings.  It broke his heart. In Exodus 32 Moses was meeting with God on the mountain when God told him he wanted him to go down because the people of Israel had turned away from God. In Moses’ absence they were having orgies and had made for themselves a golden calf, which they were worshiping. God was angry with his people and told Moses, “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation” (v. 10). What an opportunity for Moses.  What a chance of a lifetime!  But Moses declined the offer, telling God they were his people, and if he was going to destroy them, it would put God’s glory on the line. Then he pleaded with God not to destroy them. Then Moses came down and saw the terrible behavior of God’s people. Through the Levites, God killed about three thousand people for their crime, and beginning in verse 30 we read, “The next day Moses said to the people, ‘You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ So Moses went back to the Lord and said, ‘Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written,’” meaning the book of life. In other words, Moses was telling God, “Send me to hell on behalf of these people. Take me out of heaven, throw me into hell, but save your people, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”  Do you hear the anguish these men of God had for souls?  What a soul burden. How long has it been since your heart was broken that your spouse, your parents, your children, your grandparents, your aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, friend, neighbor or coworker didn’t know Jesus as Savior? Getting people to Jesus is in our job description as Christians.  Matthew 28:19 says we are to go and make disciples.  The word “go” implies that we take some initiative.  We don’t wait for people to come up to us and say, “I’ve noticed you seem to have a real peace in life.  Could you possibly come to my house, bring your Bible and teach me how to have the same peace?”  Folks, it’s not going to happen.  We need to start some conversations.  We need to pray again to have a soul burden for those who are lost and we need to try to develop relationships with people who are spiritually helpless.  We need to target them and begin praying for them, talking about the Lord with them, and helping them to see how Christ can make a difference in their lives. On a scale of one to ten right now in this minute, how burdened are you for people who don’t know Jesus?  It’s one thing to want or hope everyone to be saved and enter into a relationship with Christ.  It’s another thing to do something to be a part of someone’s journey in finding Christ.  This past week, did you pray for anyone who was lost?  Did you start a faith conversation with anyone you know?  Did you testify to anyone about an answer to prayer or how God is at work in your life?  Did you post something evangelistic on your FB page and follow up on comments people made who aren’t in Christ yet?  Did you invite anyone to church?  If you didn’t DO anything this past week to pick up someone who is spiritually helpless and carry them closer to Jesus, you have to evaluate how heavy your soul burden really is because there are lost people everywhere. “Well, Pastor we have to be careful.  We don’t want to offend people or hurt their feelings.”  Better to risk offense or a hurt feeling than to risk someone going into eternity being lost in Hell forever. Jesus came to earth and paid the price for our sin. While He was here, He developed disciples that He sent into the world.  They were commissioned to make more disciples.  That’s it.  There isn’t another plan.  Jesus isn’t coming back to give more time or a second chance.  No angels are going to be sent to reinforce Jesus’ message.  His plan is that the message be distributed through the church, through people who are Christians and have experienced forgiveness for their sins.  There is no plan B.  We’re it.  If we don’t do it the consequences are awful. I can’t imagine someone standing at the judgment who is about to be cast into Hell and the reason they give for not turning to Christ is that no one told them they could or should.  Christ has commissioned us to carry the helpless to Him.  Connecting people to Jesus begins with a great burden and a commitment to see that they make it, whatever it takes. Not only did the four friends have a burden for their friend, but they were BENT on getting him there.  They weren’t going to give up until the man on the mat was face to face with Jesus.  Carrying anyone, no matter how light they were, was going to take some effort.  There was great effort involved in getting this man to Jesus.  A lot of people would give up when they saw the crowded house where Jesus was teaching.  They’d be tempted to give up, go home and wait for a more convenient day. There are people who need to be here this very morning, and I’m not giving up on them.  Some of them used to come and have just gotten out of the habit of getting up on Sundays.  Some have had their feelings hurt over something that happened in the past.  Some are embarrassed about the way they are living and they don’t think they should come to church until they get their ducks in a row.  I’m not giving up on them.  I’m going to hound them in love, tell them to quack their way back here and to keep praying for them to return.  Isn’t that what Jesus said in the parable of the lost sheep?  The shepherd leaves the 99 to go find the one that is missing.  Some of your family members are missing this morning.  Some of your friends are missing.  Go after them.  Don’t give up.  Don’t let them just walk away.  Pursue them.  Be bent on making sure they are connected with Jesus.  We should not make it easy for people to leave the Family of God. Sometimes getting people to Jesus takes time and we have to make up our minds that we’ll stick with them for as long as it takes.  We have to be bent on making sure they get to connect with Him.  Sometimes being bent on something requires some creativity, some ingenuity.  Sometimes we have to take a backdoor approach.  Sometimes witnessing has to get unconventional. You may spend months getting to know someone before you ever start a faith conversation.  There might have to be a lot of lunches, tennis matches, soccer games where you sit together, times of fellowship and displays of caring in someone’s life before you talk to them about the Lord.  You might witness through free babysitting, running errands for people, picking people up who are walking on the road, paying for someone’s groceries in front of you when they have come up short.  Occasionally you might get to lead someone to Christ in a one-time meeting, but usually it takes time and some creativity. If these guys were going to get their friend to Jesus, they were going to have to think of another approach.  The front door wasn’t going to get them there.  They couldn’t get in.  They were going to have to carry this man up a set of steps and onto the roof. You’ve heard me say it before that gone are the days where we hang out a sign that says “Revival This Week Ya’ll Come” and people actually come.  Traditional methods of evangelism don’t often work.  Sometimes it’s a creative approach like a “Divorce Care Ministry,”  “Free Voice Lessons,” “Family Fun Days,” and “Free Movies and Pizza Nights.” I believe God is going to use our church and enable us to use basketball, softball, soccer, tennis, activities for senior adults, Addiction Recovery, Bible studies in restaurants and your workplaces, neighborhood dessert nights, Marriage Retreats, Kids’ Camps and more to reach our community. Most of you know that we own 74 acres one mile from this location.  Just drive down a mile and go up the hill on your right where it says Teays Valley Acres.  Waiting there are all kinds of back door, creative approaches for carrying our community to Jesus.  Are we committed to seeing these creative approaches developed and built? We can’t see a crowded room as an obstacle and give up.  We can’t look at someone with a drug addiction and give up.  We can’t look at people who are atheists and give up.  We can’t look at busy people and give up.  We can’t look at cranky people and give up.  We can’t look at foul mouthed people and give up.  There are always going to be obstacles in our way when it comes to getting people to Jesus.  We ought to expect that.  Satan lives to put obstacles in our way and in the way of people who need Jesus. We also can’t look at ourselves and give up.  We can’t look at our limited knowledge of the Bible and give up.  We can’t look at our limited resources and give up.  We can’t look at our time constraints and give up.  There is no one God can’t use.  There is no one God won’t equip.  God is no respector of persons.  God will use any vessel that is yielded to Him and will empower that person to jump over every hurdle, push past every obstacle and break through every barrier when that person is bent on getting someone to Jesus.  Don’t give up.  Look to Jesus for the wisdom, strength, and resources to help you bring people to Him. The men in our text not only creative, but they were bold.  Putting a hole in someone’s roof isn’t usually welcomed.  They literally removed a section of someone’s roof and they interrupted a church service in the process.  Verse 4 tells us that they had to dig a hole in the roof.  Roofs were made of branches, twigs, and mud back then.  They literally had to dig through and claw through the mud in order to take their friend to Jesus.  Listen, God is challenging all of us here today.  If we are going to do our job as soul winners, there are going to be times when we have to get our hands dirty.  Not everyone we will come into contact with will be waxed and polished.  Some of them are gonna be sitting in some dirt and if we’re going to get them to where Jesus is we’re gonna have to get dirty. Not only did they have to get dirty in order to take the man through the roof, but they had to be ready to fix the roof they had just destroyed.  Being bent on taking people to Jesus will affect our pocket books.  They were going to have to pay for roof repairs. Building a community center and community park is going to cost big money.  It will take God using all of us to accomplish it.  But I happen to believe all of the resources we need, God has already supplied.  We’re just going to have to allow our burden for souls create a tenacity in each one of us that whatever it takes is what we’re willing to do. Church, God has sent me to disturb you this morning.  He is asking us to wake up to our calling, wake up to the spiritually helpless around us and He is calling us to action.  These four men had a burden.  They were bent on getting this man to Jesus.  They displayed great boldness.  We see when they reached Jesus they believed in Him to the point that in verse five we read:  Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”  He saw their faith.  Don’t under estimate how important your faith is in the process of bringing people to Jesus.  Jesus saw their faith as they were attempting to bring someone to Jesus.  He knew they believed something! They believed Jesus had an answer for their lame friend’s problems.  They believed that Jesus cared so much about people that He wouldn’t rebuke them for interrupting the church service that Jesus was holding. How much faith do we express when we think about bringing our friends to Jesus?  Does Jesus see your faith?  What do we believe about the part of our job description that says we are to be fishers of men?  If someone you know isn’t a Christian and are struggling do they see your faith that helps them get to Jesus?  Do you see what a gift the four men’s faith was for the crippled man?  Your faith, if it’s on display, is a conduit for miracles to happen!  Do you realize this morning that the first step in healing and help for many of the people around you is for you to put your faith on display? This Bible account shows us that faith and action are a powerful combination! Acts 1:8 says that we are God’s witnesses to the ends of the earth and that in the power of the Holy Spirit we can do what God has called us to do.  We either believe what God has said and trust His empowering or we won’t be able to express faith in trying to bring people to the Lord. The Bible says that “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  (Hebrews 11:6) Without faith, everything we do in church is empty.  For example, we can sing songs, but unless we sing IN FAITH, believing that our worship touches the heart of God and that He responds to us, we might as well be singing in the shower or with the radio. We can pray, but unless we pray in FAITH, we are just mouthing empty words.  However when we pray in faith, God’s Word says we can move mountains.  We can give in the offering to satisfy our own desire to support a local church, but what God wants us to do is give IN FAITH, believing Him and taking him at his word that, when we give He will open up the windows of Heaven and pour out so much blessing we won’t have room for it all!  There is something about the expression of our faith that releases God to do the miraculous in our midst. We need to live with an atmosphere of faith.  Everything we do and everywhere we go should be about expressing our faith.  Do you believe God has called you to be a fisher of men? Andrew is not one of the most talked about disciples. Not like James and John, or Peter, his brother. But every time we read about Andrew, he’s bringing someone to Christ. He brought his brother, Peter, to the Lord. He brought the boy with the fish to Jesus. He brought some Greeks with questions to Jesus. No, he’s not recognized as great. But he shared Christ with the people around him. And when you stop to think about it, what could possibly be greater than that?  He lived in a realm of faith.  He believed what God had said about him being a fisher of men and he believed Jesus had the answer for those that he brought to Jesus. We ought to feel about Christ the way the apostles did when they said, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20). They couldn’t hold it inside of them. They had to share it! Joseph Stowell tells about a time their family was on a Christmas trip to Chicago.  He says, “Each year we brought our family to spend time with Grandpa and Grandma and visit the museums. This year we decided to finish our Christmas shopping at suburban Woodfield Mall. In the midst of all the fun and excitement, one of us noticed that little three-and-a-half-year-old Matthew was gone. Terror immediately struck our hearts. We split up, each taking an assigned location. Mine was the parking lot. I’ll never forget that night—kicking through the newly fallen snow, calling out his name at the top of my lungs. Unsuccessful, I trudged back to our meeting point. My wife, Martie, had not found him, nor had my mother. And then my dad appeared, holding little Matthew by the hand. Our hearts leapt for joy. Interestingly enough, Matthew was untraumatized. He hadn’t been crying. To him, there had been no problem. I asked my father where he had found him. ‘The candy counter,’ he replied. ‘You should have seen him. His eyes came just about as high as the candy. He held his little hands behind his back and moved his head back and forth, surveying all the luscious options.’ Matthew didn’t look lost. He didn’t know he was lost. He was oblivious to the phenomenal danger he was in. Church, the crippled man knew he was crippled, but I don’t know if he knew he was lost.  This is a candy-counter culture, where people who don’t look lost and don’t know they’re lost live. (Joseph M. Stowell, Moody Monthly, December, 1989, p. 4) If he didn’t know he was lost, he knew it when Jesus got finished forgiving him of his sin.  But he may have never known he was lost if his friends hadn’t put some faith into action. Are you bothered that there are people living and working around you every day that are lost?  How do you deal with that reality deep in your soul?  Are you bent on making sure that as far as it depends on you that they’ll get face to face with Jesus somehow?  What bold move have you made to make it happen?  What do you believe about your calling and about Jesus’ ability to transform lives?  I’m asking you today, “Whose mat are you carrying?”
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