Spiritual Paralysis

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Passage John 5: 1-15

Crippled by Sin

Have you ever felt like you weren’t going anywhere in your relationship with God? I have. Sometimes it’s because of unfortunate circumstances or a busy schedule – those are problems in and of themselves. However, often times there are things in our lives, mistakes that we make, sins that we commit, over and over and over again. Can you relate to that? I’m guessing you can. There are repetitive sins that we just can’t seem to shake. And if you’re honest with yourself, you know what they are. For some of us, it’s habitual lying, maybe using coarse language that tears people down. For others it might be lust or pornography. There are also a few others that often fly under the radar: staying up late watching Netflex, making you too tired to do your schoolwork the next day. Well, I guess no one really does that though…

Listen, here’s the hard truth: anything that prevents you from walking with God as closely as you can, is crippling you.  Repetitive sins cripple us.

It’s spiritual paralysis.

Some of us, like the man in the story, have been crippled for an awfully long time. So where are you at? What is crippling you?

Examine the Text

Let’s go back to the text and put yourself in this man’s shoes. You are clearly struggling and frustrated, yet Jesus walks over to you and has the audacity to ask you this question: “Would you like to get well?”

Umm…duh. Yeah I’m crippled Jesus, wouldn’t that make sense?

But what’s interesting is the man’s response. He says, “I can’t.” Then, he goes on to explain how he can’t seem to get help. Everyone else seems to beat him to it. Basically, the dude says to Jesus, “I’ve tried, but this is just how it is.” He’s just accepted his paralysis. But do you know what happens when you accept your paralysis? You stay paralyzed.

Did you see how the conversation went? Jesus asked if he wanted to get better, and the man replied “I can’t.” He didn’t answer the question! He became so accustomed to his situation that he lost sight of the purpose – to get healed.

Would You Like to Get Well?

So for those of us who struggle with the repetitive sins, Jesus comes and asks the same question: “Would you like to get well?” A lot of times, we respond the same way as this man. “Well Jesus, I’ve been trying for a while and nothing seems to work. The people that were supposed to hold me accountable just stopped. I think I’m always just going to be like this. I think I’m just always going to struggle with telling the truth. I think I’m always just going to struggle with lust and pornography.” You’re so far deep in your struggle, you’re crippled so badly, that complete healing seems out of the question. When you kept being defeated, somewhere along the way, you just accepted your current position. Some of us have come to justify it.

So Jesus asks us again, “Would you like to get well?” The easy answer is yes, but I think that it’s a much harder question for some of us than what it sounds like. Do you know why?

Because sometimes we say “yes” with our mouths, but we whisper “no” with our hearts.

I mean, wow, if we stopped doing some of the things that we’re caught up in, that might be a little inconvenient. It might hurt. It might cause people to look at us funny or call us names or disown us as friends. It definitely wouldn’t be as much fun.

See, in some of the things that we do, we actually think that we’re free. We actually think that we’re in control. But when we look at ourselves spiritually, we see that it’s the exact opposite. In fact, the more free you think you are by the world’s standards, often times the more crippled you are by God’s standards. Don’t get caught up in the illusion! Do you really want to be healed?

The Nature of Walking

So to those who are crippled by repetitive sins, just as he did for this man, Jesus says these simple words: “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” As hopeless and as frustrating as things may seem sometimes, Jesus can heal you. There is hope. If you want to be healed – if you want to stop the recurring sins – there is a way. 1 Corinthians 10:3 says “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

There is always a way out. There is always the ability to walk – but the demands might be high. You might have to do something drastic. If you struggle with looking at things on the internet, maybe you need to allow your parents or friends to monitor the internet. What if you went without internet?!! (gasp) If you stay up too late on your phone looking at social media rather than praying, maybe you to need leave your phone on the kitchen table. Maybe your parents need to take it from you at a certain time. I don’t know.

The point here is that there are things that we can do. They might be annoying, they might be painful, they might make you feel less in control, but they also might be very necessary. In fact, Jesus says, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands.” That’s not the Jesus that we normally think of! Now obviously he doesn’t mean that literally, but again, the point is that you might have to do something drastic.

That’s how serious sin is. And even more importantly, that’s how seriously God wants you to walk with him.

At the end of the story, Jesus meets the man again and tells him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.”  The moral of the story is this: Spiritual paralysis is infinitely worse than physical paralysis.

Not being able to walk with God is infinitely worse than not being able to walk with man.

We have to start changing the way that we think. We have to start looking at things from an eternal perspective.

Change is the Point

Listen, I know that this is a tough lesson to hear. It’s not one that’s easy for me to teach – but I can’t help but read this story and feel convicted.

See, here’s the most important part in all of this: God loved us so that we can change.

Sometimes we forget that about the Gospel. We think that it’s just about God forgiving our sins and that’s it. We only talk about the first part – God loved us. But there is a purpose behind the love. For us to deny the purpose is to deny the love. Our faith is a walk. Our lives are going somewhere. Jesus didn’t die so that we could stay crippled. He died so that we could have new bodies and no longer be slaves to sin – and that starts now. That’s what we profess. God loved us so that we can change.

But don’t get it confused. God loved us so that we can change. We don’t change so that God can love us. Don’t confuse the two. God already loves us. He’s already demonstrated that. The cross stands as proof – historical proof. Nothing can alter that. Nothing can separate us from that. I hope that’s a comfort. No matter where you’re at right now, God absolutely loves you. But that immense love – that undeserved love – should absolutely compel you to change.

Let me put it this way: God can heal you, but he can’t make you walk.

Trial to Testimony

So Jesus says to you, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk.” I know that’s hard for some of us to imagine right now. I’m sure it was hard for the crippled man in the story to imagine as well. He hadn’t walked in 38 years! But do you know what the key to walking is?

Take the first step.

And then take another, and another, and another – until without even realizing it, you’re going somewhere. Sure, you might fall down. Have you ever seen a baby learn to walk? It isn’t pretty is it? They fall down all the time! But we don’t sit there and criticize the baby. No, we freak out! We clap our hands and take out our cellphones to take pictures. He’s WALKING!!! I think that’s a little bit like how God views us. He doesn’t celebrate the falling – he celebrates the walking.

So walk.

Because in the end, you’re moving…and the only reminder of your old self – the thing that crippled you – will be the mat that you carry in your hand. No longer does it define you. No longer does it hold you – but you hold it. It doesn’t control you. You control it. The thing that was once your trial, will then be your testimony.

So, what’s your first step?

“Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him.” – John 5:15

God loved us so that we can change.

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Russ Allen

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