Washed in the Jordan

Lesson: 5
Naaman the Syrian general had a terminal case of leprosy until he followed Elisha's instructions and washed in the river.
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This is our heroes of faith program - stories of salvation - where we're taking some of the unique, highlight Bible stories that help illustrate the principles of salvation. And tonight's story, washed in the Jordan, is dealing with an old testament story and a character there by the name of Naaman. Now Naaman, we think, is very important to understanding some of these Bible truths because Jesus references Naaman. And he says - and this is Luke 4, verses 24 through 27 - he says, "assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly.

..many lepers were in Israel in the days of elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the syrian." Now this is a story of a syrian that went down to Israel for healing, which is very unusual because the syrians, with their capital there in damascus, and the people of Israel, have been at war for thousands of years - as it was then, it still is today. Jesus references this non-jew, who is cleansed from leprosy and he tells us it's a sign of something. And so we're going to go to that story of Naaman. And if you turn in your Bibles to the 2 book of Kings - you'll find - you've got 1 and 2 Samuel, and 2 Kings - 2 Kings chapter 5 and we'll be starting with the first verse. "Now Naaman, commander of the army of the King of syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to syria.

He was also a mighty man of valor," - I'm going to stop right there and leave out the last few words in that verse. Now, at first, when you look at the account - a little narrative about who Naaman is, it tells us that he's a very important man. He is the general for the syrian army. Syria is north of Israel there. And it tells us that he was an honorable man - he was a man of honor - he was a man that had integrity.

He is a courageous man, obviously, because he's the general and he's honorable and he's courageous. It tells us he's a man through whom the Lord could give victory - the Lord, not only uses people in his own country, the Lord works with people all over the place. And here, even in the wars that Syria was fighting with the Assyrians - during this time the Kingdom of Assyria, based in Nineveh, was expanding into the country of Syria, where its capital - Damascus - and the Lord had used Naaman the general to fight back that invasion and they gained their independence again. And if you read some of the chapters just before this, you'll find out that King Ahab had been fighting with Syria and Syria with Israel and they were just constantly in ongoing war with each other, though they did still trade together. It's kind of an interesting relationship.

They were at war but between wars they did a lot of business together. And so, it seems likes he's got it made. He's rich, he's famous, he's got a good reputation, probably has servants - oh we know he does, it tells us so. Do you think he's happy? The last few words change the whole picture, "but (he was) a leper." What profit is it if you gain the whole world and you're under a death penalty? So Naaman was not very happy because he had a terminal disease. And, you know, sometimes we look around and you can see the tabloids with the people that are in - you know, the wealthy class and the best dressed and the famous people and we're thinking, 'aw, if I could only be a little better looking; if I could have a nicer home; if I could have better clothes; if I could have more popular status' - here he's hobnobbing with the King of the country.

He knows anybody that is important in syria, but what good is it when it says, 'but he's a leper'? Because he's dying. You know, so many people in the world think happiness comes from fame and from fortune and I can tell you that it doesn't. I don't have time to go into the details of my testimony, but I'll just say this quickly, that I have unusual parents. My father was a multimillionaire. At one time he owned two airlines - had money, jet planes, rolls royce, lived on an island, servants - I mean - and drank himself to sleep every night.

My brother was born with cystic fibrosis. My father lost his first wife and his first baby in a plane crash. And so, the money and the toys - it just hid a lot of sorrow. My mother, on the other hand, she was in show business. She used to write songs for elvis presley and she was a film critic in beverly hills, and she knew a lot of the famous actors and I've got pictures of mom with a lot of, you know, sylvester stallone and clint eastwood and Paul mccartney and george burns and bob hope - and she knew all those people.

And we knew some of those people growing up. Some of them were rich and famous and they killed themselves because they weren't happy. You see, leprosy was a disease that is a symbol for sin, several times in the Bible. Leprosy is hanson's disease, is what it's called today. It affects the nerves and it can create lesions and a person can forget to blink and you can actually lose your eyesight and you - I've been to africa and india where I've seen people that still are afflicted with leprosy and they'll be out begging on the streets and they don't even have fingers to hold the money.

You have to press it kind of in their palm and they took the two clubs of hands that they've got left and they try to put it in their bag. It's very sad. And it's contagious. So when you had leprosy, you were isolated from everybody. In fact, you can read in the law of Moses, it was a pretty bad stigma that went with it - Leviticus :45, "now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, 'unclean! Unclean!'" How'd you like to walk around having to announce your approach whenever you came around healthy people and say, 'better stay back! Unclean! Unclean!'? Now they didn't have those same laws up there in Damascus, where Naaman was, but they did understand it was a contagious disease.

He can't embrace his wife and his children anymore, he's got to live in an isolated room. You know, Israel actually had a king - king uzziah - he was stricken with leprosy. Leprosy could get the poorest person to the richest person. No one is immune from sin. Sin, like leprosy, it makes you lose your sensitivity - where you lose your feeling.

You know, there's a lot of people that they have a conscience when they're young and they're sensitive and they're innocent and they know some things are wrong. But through hyper-exposure, pretty soon, things that you know were wrong, through being over-exposed, they don't bother you anymore. I remember when I was a kid and I was at home with mom and a commercial came on television and it was for the playtex cross your heart bra and it wasn't even a woman, it was a mannequin wearing a bra and they demonstrated the cross-your-heart effect of the bra and I was so embarrassed - I was like eight or seven or something like that - years old - and I saw this and I looked at mom like, 'i know I'm not supposed to be seeing this.' Can you look at the commercials today - but, you know, we get to where, through over-exposure, pretty soon you lose your sensitivity. And that's what sin does to you, is it starts to destroy your conscience. So people can start doing things that just aren't right and you get where it doesn't bother you anymore.

You can start grieving away the Holy Spirit - and one of the things the Spirit does is conviction. And it's really dangerous if you get to the place where you can sin and you have no conviction anymore. That's what leprosy does, it starts to destroy your conscience, little by little, through exposure. You know, one time a man came to Jesus - he was full of leprosy - the gospel of Luke tells us - and everybody ran away except Jesus. And the man fell down before Jesus and he said, 'lord, if you want to, you can make me clean.

' And the Bible says Jesus reached out and touched him - which you were never supposed to do. When Jesus touched the leper, either Christ would be contaminated and the sin was going to flow from the leper to Jesus, or healing was going to flow from Jesus to the man, but someone would be affected by that contact. But when Jesus touched the man he said, 'i will, be thou clean.' And his leprosy went away. Amen. See, Christ came to cleanse lepers.

He did it many times. And all of us are infected with this deadly disease. Can you enjoy life if you know you're terminal? If you could - if you could write a check for a billion dollars, and someone came to you and said, 'look, I'm going to give you a billion dollars. Matter of fact, I'm going to give you an all- expensive - all-expenses-paid vacation. You can go to las vegas.

I'll pay for everything. You've got a billion-dollar account. For six months you can stay in the best hotel - presidential suite - best entertainment, best food, probably buy some friends for that kind of money. But at the end of six months, you've got to go to the lake of fire. Would you enjoy it? How could - you know, day 1 goes by and you think, 'oh sure, I'm going to live it up.

' But oh man, you just keep thinking - just down the road is that punishment. It's all going to go away. It's temporary. How are you going to enjoy it? Well, that's really how it is. What profit is it if you gain the whole world - and all the sins in the world - if you're terminal? And, you know, if you don't have eternal life, you are terminal.

It doesn't matter what your position is. It doesn't matter how famous you are. It doesn't matter how good looking you are - I looked at Karen when I said that. (Laughter) it doesn't matter which kind of clothes you wear, what kind of house you live in - you know, with God the only thing that really matters is are you healed and do you have everlasting life? My grandfather used to say, 'if you've got health you're a rich man.' And the older I get, the more I know that's true. 'But he was a leper' and he was miserable.

You think all that stuff made him happy? The only thing he could think about was he was dying. And then the story takes an interesting turn. It tells us - now the syrians had gone out on raids. They were constantly raiding the borders of Israel and vice-versa. And they brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel.

She was, evidently, sold as a slave. And "she waited on Naaman's wife. Then she said to her mistress, 'if only my master were with the prophet who is in samaria!' " - That being elisha - "'for he would heal him of his leprosy.'" Now I always thought that was very nice of her because, if I was that little girl, and some rampaging syrians came through my family farm and beat up my parents and ransacked the house and carried me off and then sold me as a slave, if my master came down with leprosy I'd say, 'good riddance!' Right? 'Serves him right.' I would have been praying they all got leprosy. It'd be easy to be vindictive. But maybe she remembered the story of Joseph and she thought, 'lord, I don't know why this is happening to me, but maybe you've got a plan.

' And she seeks good. In fact, there's a verse in the Bible where Jeremiah foretold they might be carried off captive to a foreign land. It says, in Jeremiah 29:7, "...seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace." No, the Bible says love your enemies. Do you know, that's not just a new testament concept. Even in the old testament, the prophet elisha once captured an entire army and the King of Israel said, 'man of God, shall I kill them all?' He said, 'no, don't kill them.

Feed them, give them something to drink, and send them home.' You know where Paul says, 'give food to your enemy. Give him something to drink. And in doing this you'll heap coals of fire on his head' - meaning conviction. You don't overcome evil with evil. And so she - she thinks, 'what can be done for my master?' Her heart goes out to him as a person.

Naaman might have been a good master, too. And she says, 'you know, the prophet elisha - if he could go to the prophet elisha, he would heal him of his leprosy.' I'll tell you right now that there's no example in the Bible of anybody going to elisha with a problem that isn't helped. Everybody - and there's a lot of stories - everybody that comes to elisha with a problem is helped. Now I told you the name Jesus is yashua - that's 'jehovah is Savior' - elisha's name is 'elohim - shua' - that's the long derivative of it - it's shortened to elisha. It means the same thing: 'God is Savior'.

So here this little girl is saying, 'if my master was with the prophet in Israel, he could heal his leprosy.' Well, you know, normally the family would think, you know, what - little kids - they dream. They've got imaginations. They get carried away. I mean, how much could that really help? Who would take that seriously? They didn't have any physicians in syria that could help with leprosy, why would they go to an enemy prophet? But when you're dying, people are desperate. There are a lot of medicines and cures that are sold over the internet to people who are desperate.

It's a multi-billion-dollar business. She had this simple child-like faith and because she was so confident - she didn't say 'he might' - she said, 'if Naaman, my master, could go be with elisha the prophet, he would recover him of his leprosy.' She had absolute confidence he could do that. Maybe she was thinking of the story in the old testament where miriam, the sister of Moses - she was struck with leprosy - and Moses prayed for her and aaron prayed for her and she was healed. She knew God could do it. Sometimes we need to have child-like faith.

Jesus said unless you're converted and you become as a little child you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven. You need to be able to believe that God can do miracles - even healing you from something that the world would pronounce to be incurable. A lot of people in the world say, 'sin is incurable. Nothing you can do. You're born that way.

You're stuck with it. It's just - you're a victim of circumstances.' And the world is always telling you there's nothing you can do. But God says that all things are possible to him that believes. You can change. 'Oh, but my mother and father smoked.

I don't think I could ever quit.' I can do all things through Christ. 'My parents - they drank and they beat me so I'm doomed to the same kind of life.' You don't have to be a victim if you don't want to. Amen. You can have a new life. Jesus said, 'all things are possible to him that believes.

' So if you're looking for excuses to continue being a leprous slave, then God - I'm sorry, the devil will give you excuses. But if you want to be healed, God can heal you. Amen. So he's - starts to listen to what she says. And so he gets excited.

And maybe his wife - it was his wife's little servant - maybe she said, 'Naaman, maybe we should try it. We've tried everything else. There'll be hope. If you could be healed, wouldn't it be worth it?' And you know what? The little girl's rumor makes its way all the way to the King. So Naaman - verse 4 - he goes in and he tells his master - the only master above Naaman was the King of syria - and he said, "thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel.

" Now you know why the King of syria is taking the little girl's message seriously? Because elisha the prophet had captured his entire army. Because they had heard that elisha the prophet knew what he said in his war room. You read the earlier chapters, you're going to find out that elisha the prophet had the respect of the King of syria. It was even elijah the prophet who foretold who the next king of syria was going to be, which they usually didn't do anything other than talk about their own Kings. And so, if she says that he can do it - and so he said, 'tell you what, let's not go empty handed.

' Verse 5 - "then the King of syria said, 'go now,'" - make preparations to go - "'and I will send a letter to the King of Israel.'" - 'I know we're at war but this is a different ambassador mission.' - "So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold," - sounds like the medical bills back then were about like they are today, right? (Laughter) - "and ten changes of clothing. Then he brought the letter to the King of Israel, which said, 'now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant'" - you know, the general that's been fighting you - "'i have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy.'" Now did the little girl's message say 'go to the King'? No. Sometimes we get mixed up between God and the government. We think the government's got an answer for everything. And sometimes even the church gets mixed up - we start looking for the policeman instead of the pastor.

We start looking for politicians instead of the pastor. And a lot of things we try to take to the government to solve our problems and really, we ought to take these problems to the Lord. The little girl didn't say, 'go see the King.' She had no confidence in the King. By the way, this king, at the time, is The Son of ahab, who was a very wicked king, and he wasn't any better. She said go to the prophet.

"And it happened, when the King of Israel read the letter," - and here's, you know - Naaman's ridden down - it's a pretty good journey to come down from damascus. He's got a guard with him because he's carrying all this money, so he's got soldiers with him and an entourage and he thinks, 'oh, he's looking for an incident to cause another excuse to go to war with us.' And when he - the King of Israel - read the letter, "...he tore his clothes" - a sign of mourning - "and said, 'am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me" - his own general who's been fighting us - "to heal him of his leprosy? Therefore please consider, and see how he seeks a quarrel with me.'" He's looking to cause an incident. There was quite a ruckus in the palace and I don't know if it was divinely revealed to elisha or if somehow word reached him, but it says in verse 8, "...when Elisha the man of God heard that the King of Israel had torn his clothes," - and carried on - "that he sent to the King, saying, 'why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.'" God still has a prophet. God still speaks. There's still power.

'Send him to me.' Jesus said, 'come unto me.' That's the great invitation - 'all you who are weary and heavy laden.' Elisha's name, very much like the name of Jesus - 'come to me.' "Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of elisha's house." Now elisha's house was not the palace. See Naaman, when he came from the King of syria, he's a general, he's used to dealing with the, you know, international leadership and he thought, 'well, I'll go see the King.' And he was - you know - had the royal treatment. But now he's not at the palace. Now he's at a poor house of a humble prophet and that's a little demeaning. I mean, you know, it's outside the city on a country road and he's standing there and his soldiers come and knock at the doors, 'Naaman, the general of syria has come and he has a special message!' And it says elisha does not even come out to him.

Elisha - verse 10 - he "...sends a messenger to him, saying, 'go and wash in the jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.'" Well when Naaman hears that, he's not just a little bit upset. He thought that he was going to come out and at least see him face to face. What does it mean when you come and you say, 'I'm sick.' And they say you're too sick for the doctor to even see you. And so, they're insulted by this. And furthermore, he says 'i want you to go wash in the jordan river.

' The jordan river is not a very clean river. How many times? Seven. 'Seven times and your flesh will be restored to you.' You know, the way that's worded - your flesh restored - sometimes with leprosy you actually lose your digits or your nose or something. This leprosy was advancing. Now what does it usually imply if someone sends you a message and says you need to take a bath? (Laughter) now what does it mean if they tell you you need to take seven baths? What does it mean when they tell you you need to take seven baths in a brown muddy river? Any of you have siblings growing up? And your parents, wanting to conserve water, would just rotate you all through one bath? I won't ask you to show your hands.

Did any of you enjoy being the last in the train? You were the caboose and you were the last one in that water and it already had a lining around the - a ring around the edge of the tub and, for some reason, they always put me last. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I was the dirtiest and they figured no one wanted to get into the bath after me. So if you can still be cleansed by dirty water, you must really be dirty. See where I'm going? Can you understand why Naaman is a little upset by all of this? When - first of all, he's upset elisha doesn't see him face to face.

Why? He's got leprosy. This'll come up again later. He's saying, 'you need to go wash in the jordan river.' Why the jordan river? It's the lowest river in the world. Where the jordan river runs into the dead sea, it's 1300 feet below sea level. The jordan river - the word 'jordan' means 'descending' because it goes from way up above the - in the mountains of lebanon and it runs down into the - it actually runs down through - the jordan runs through two seas - the sea of Galilee being the biggest one - then it runs out of the bottom of Galilee into the dead sea.

Sometimes you've got one ocean that takes several rivers - the jordan river is a river that supplies three lakes - big lakes - they call them seas, but I'm in Michigan so you guys aren't impressed by the sea of Galilee. (Laughter) you've got some big lakes around you too. Amen. Who else went down and was washed in the jordan? Did John the baptist baptize people in the jordan river? Did Jesus go down in the jordan river? He did. Jordan represents death, burial, and resurrection.

It's a symbol for baptism. You know, we talked about Rahab and about how that story helps us understand the second coming of Jesus and the church, right? The story of Naaman helps us understand water baptism. Now Jesus said there's two kinds of baptism: there's baptism in the water and baptism in the Spirit. And he says in the gospel of John chapter 3, "...unless one is born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven." Tonight we're going to talk a little bit about water baptism and why that's important. Baptism, in the Bible, is as important to a Christian as a wedding is to a marriage.

Baptism represents the moment that you accept the cleansing that Jesus has provided by his life. It's a symbol for - you're lowered in the water - it's like a death - a burial, a cleansing, and a resurrection. When a baby's born it comes out of an envelope of water and it takes its first breath. And when a person briefly holds their breath when they're baptized by immersion and they come up and they breathe again, it's like a new life - it's like a cleansing - all of that beautiful imagery is woven into baptism. God gives us, in this ceremony, a starting point for our Christianity.

Now the h2o does not wash away our sin - it's the blood of Jesus that washes away our sin. Amen. It's the same kind of water that comes out of a tap, when you're baptized. And some people in the Bible were baptized in the sea, some in a lake, some on a river - they were baptized by immersion. The Bible tells us that Jesus went down into the water and he came up out of the water and John the baptist baptized at salem because there was much water there.

If they baptized by pouring or sprinkling, you could do it with a well, a spring a canteen - but they were immersed because it means to be enveloped - to be completely cleansed. And the jordan - the jordan river, like I said, it represents death because when you follow Jesus, it says you take up your cross and you follow him. You're dead to living your own life and you're going to start living a new life. And this was a struggle that Naaman was having. He thought his problem was leprosy.

His problem was he didn't want to surrender to God. He was still preoccupied with the things of this life. Baptism is very important to God. And some people say, 'oh, it's just a religious ceremony.' I would think that if Jesus makes something a priority, it should be a priority for us. Do you know the gospel stories begin with John the baptist baptizing? The gospel stories end with Jesus saying, 'go ye therefore, teach all nations baptizing them.

' And so if you're saying, 'Pastor Doug, why are you talking about this during the heroes of faith program?' Because Jesus told me to. Jesus said, 'go, teach, and baptize.' People need to understand what is baptism? What does it mean to make that commitment, to be married to the Lord, to have all your sins washed away, and to have a new beginning - a new life? And it is a priority with the Lord. Well, let's get back to the story of Naaman. I'll share a few more thoughts about baptism before we're done with our presentation. When elisha said, 'you must go wash in the jordan.

' He thought there must be another way to do this. 'That's ridiculous! I don't need to follow this advice, specifically. Why can't I go back to damascus and I'll wash in the rivers there? "Are not the abanah and the pharpar, the rivers of damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?" And he was right. He began to rationalize. He said, 'i thought, surely the prophet would come out to me and strike his hand over the place and cleanse the leper.

' He doesn't even say 'cleanse me,' he says, 'cleanse the leper' like he's somewhere else, you know? It's hard to admit that I have a problem. He needed to say 'cleanse me.' It's easy for us to say Jesus died for the sins of the world, but it's a little more personal when you say 'he died for my sins. He suffered on the cross for my particular sins. Everything that I've done is what he was experiencing.' And so Naaman, he got upset and it says he turned and he went away in a rage. What's a rage mean? Angry.

He was furious. And, you know, you usually don't think very clearly when you're angry. Why was he angry? Because his pride was offended. You see, Naaman thought his problem was leprosy. His problem was pride.

He was a rich man. He was a powerful man. He was a victorious man - and all that success can go to your head. He was a good man and God wanted to save him, but before he could save him, he had to know what his real problem was. You know what led to the devil's fall? Pride.

Pride is one of the hardest things to reach. Spiritual pride is especially difficult. Jesus talked about even religious people who pray to be seen of men. They give to be seen of men. They fast to be seen of men.

Everything they do is because they're thinking others are watching them and it's not out of love for God, it's out of trying to get attention. It's all about pride - spiritual pride. So he went storming off and he goes galloping home - he starts out galloping but it's a long way to get back to damascus, and eventually his entourage catches up with him. Now God is good. You know, in order for him to go back to damascus, he had to go by the jordan river.

He had to spend all that time looking at the jordan river, hearing elisha's servant gehazi say, 'wash seven times and you will be clean and your flesh will come to you again.' And he kept looking at it. See, God is good. He tries to stand in our way as an obstacle to our destruction. We've been hearing a lot, during these meetings, about the flooding that was going on in south carolina - they called it a 500-year flood and several people have died and a lot of bridges are still out right now and roads are closed. I heard, years ago, a story about a terrible flood in another state and this man - this pastor was actually driving down the road and it was dark - you ever have your windshield wipers on so fast it just - they're slapping back and forth but they still can't clear the windshield because it's pouring - just driving rain? And he was going fairly slow.

He had his lights on high beam and he thought, at first, he saw a deer out in the road, then he realized it was a man and the man looked like he was drunk. And he said, 'oh no, man, here I am out here in this country road and there's a drunk guy out there and I'm not going to pick him up because he looks like he's staggering around.' And he saw him waving his arms and he thought, 'oh, how can I get around him?' And he kind of shifted off into the left lane and then the drunk man went off into the left lane and he's waving his arms and he falls down. And he says, 'oh, maybe if I get over in the right lane.' He said, 'i don't know what - this guy's on drugs or something.' He goes off in the right lane, the guy gets back up and he goes off into the right lane. And he thought, 'maybe I'll gun my car now' - as he got really close he said, 'I'm going to swing around him.' And the man changed lanes again and the - he tried to gun his car and what he thought was a drunk man jumped in front of his car and he slammed on his brakes and stopped just before he ran this man over. And now he's both angry and he's scared.

He jumps out of his car in the rain and says, 'are you out of your mind? I could have killed you.' And the man was sobbing and said, 'the bridge is out! The bridge is out!' He said, 'i stood there and I've watched several cars drive off into the river. I couldn't watch another one perish.' And, you know, Jesus, he stands in our way with the cross as an obstacle to our destruction. He's trying to do everything he can to save us. And you would think that when Naaman said, 'well,' - he got mad and he rode away in a fury, God would have said, 'alright, I gave you your chance.' He gave him a message through the little girl and gave him a message of salvation through Elisha's servant, and now, as he's riding by the Jordan, he's trying not to look, but every now and again he had to go over and look at it. He's in his chariot.

Eventually his soldiers start catching up to him. The Bible says, 'his servants drew near.' They had been keeping their distance because he's got leprosy. But now they take a risk. There's no one around and they get up and they ride along side of him and they ask him a question - verse - I'm in 2 Kings 5, verse 13, "and his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, 'my father,'" - that's a term of respect - ''if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it?' " - Now that's true! If elisha had said to him, 'look, I want you to - I want you to go and conquer 3,000 assyrians.' He would have done that. Or if he had said, 'i want you to go climb a mountain.

' You know, one time king Saul said, 'you want to marry my daughter, you need to go kill a hundred philistines.' And he said, 'oh, I'll kill .' Men like those things, you know? We like to - give us a challenge. Make us feel like we've earned it. But he didn't like the idea that - wash and be clean? That's too easy. Salvation - it's got to be difficult. We've got to earn it.

We've got to work our way. What can I do? He says, 'wash and be clean.' It seems too simple. So they ride up and they say, 'what have you got to lose? Humble yourself.' Now you notice what the Lord is doing? This is the third time now Naaman is getting a message. It probably was going to be the last message because once he went home - once he left the jordan valley he would have gone up to damascus - he couldn't embrace his children or his wife. He'd still be unclean.

He was just going home to die. Finally he realized, before he got to the last fork in the road where he would be leaving the jordan river, 'what have I got to lose?' His servants are pleading with him, 'try it. Humble yourself. Try it. What's the worst that can happen? You get wet and you're going to go home and die anyway.

Why not do what he says?' The Bible says, 'taste and see that the Lord is good.' So many people turn their back on the Lord and they don't try it. You know, when I came to Jesus, I was very honest. I said, lord, I don't even know how to pray, but I've tried everything else and if you're really there, will you please show me?' I was open, but I was testing and God knew it. I said, 'I'm going to see if you're really there. You've got to let me know.

' And God did. All you've got to do is open the door and give him a chance. He is desperate to save you. So Naaman had to get off his high horse and he got down on the bank and he looked at the swampy waters of the Jordan river and he had to peel off his glittering armor and he probably had some robe underneath that because your armor will chafe if you don't wear cloth underneath it. And he takes off his cloth and, you know, he's - the lesions and the evidence of his leprosy is everywhere.

And he's - he's thinking that this is all about being cleansed from leprosy, but really, everything he's going through is dealing with humbling himself and, as he humbles himself, he's preparing himself to be cleansed from sin. You know, to be saved from your sin you must humble yourself. If we would humble ourselves before the Lord. You go through the Bible and you can see time and time again judgment was coming, but if the people humbled themselves before the Lord - if you're going to come to the Lord you need to repent of your sin. The Bible says, 'repent and be baptized.

' Repentance means expressing that you are guilty. Not only is repentance being sorry in your heart, but it's also representing a confession of sin. Repentance and confession is, sort of, the verbal part. Confess to the Lord - 'lord, I know I've done a lot of things wrong.' You might say, 'doug, I can't remember everything I've ever done wrong.' Don't worry, nobody can. You might start with the category of the ten commandments.

Have you stolen? Have you robbed God of his time? Have you lied? Have you thought impure thoughts? Have you gossiped? Bearing false witness - it could all be - fit in there somehow. Confess those sins and then humble yourself and say, 'lord, you've promised in your word that if I confess my sins you are faithful and just to forgive my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. And the promise is that if you do that, he cleanses you from how much? From all unrighteousness. And if you've been cleansed from all unrighteousness, what does that make you before God? You're pure in the eyes of God. That means that when God looks on you, you are sinless now.

'Repent and be baptized and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' - This is acts chapter 2 - 'for the promise is unto you and your children and as many as the Lord God will call.' He makes that promise to you. And so he got down in the water and it must have been a little bit humbling for him - all the mosquitos went swarming away - the little water bugs - and he had to spread aside the moss growing on top of the water and he found - he had to walk out where it was deep enough to plunge himself. And he got out there and he said, 'alright' - plunges himself once and he comes up. Still has his leprosy. And he says, 'look guys, this is absurd.

How embarrassing. What in the world am I doing? This is the craziest thing. No one's ever been cleansed like this before. There's no record of anyone going down in the jordan and being cleansed before.' And they said, 'master, don't quit yet. He said seven times.

You've gone once.' He goes down in a second time. Same effect. Matter of fact, his sores are stinging at this point. Third time. Fourth time.

Every time he goes down, something's happening in his heart and that's what God is after. God wants us to obey, specifically, what he says. Fifth time. Sixth time. The Bible says, when he had gone down and he dipped himself "according to the saying of the man of God;" - after seven times - "and his flesh was restored" - do you think he felt anything? He came up out of the water that seventh time - he might have felt toes and fingers - digits - popping back into place - who knows? He must have felt some electricity.

People say, 'you know, I didn't feel anything when I got baptized.' Well, if you've got faith, you'll have feeling. What I mean by that is if you believe your sins are forgiven, you ought to feel good about that. But first must come the faith. And Naaman finally had the faith to do what God said. And he went down the seventh time and he came back up again and something came over his body - some rush - he must have felt something.

They say your skin is the biggest organ in the body. He must have felt something. You've got more nerves on your - I've got - your little nerve endings attached to every little hair in your body and all that healing that took place - he had to feel something. He came up and, not only was his leprosy gone, it says his flesh was restored. But not just like any kind of flesh, but like that of what? A little child.

You know the story. A little child. You know what it means when you're baptized and you come to Jesus and you're washed from your sin? Christ said, 'unless you are born again, you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven. It's a symbol of a new birth - a new beginning. How many of you wish that you could go back and be a child again except knowing what you know now? (Laughter) if I had to go back and just make all the dumb mistakes I've made and I was just as ignorant again as I was back then, it wouldn't do you any good.

Who knows, I'd just make new mistakes. My father used to say, 'youth is wasted on the young.' Because when you're young and healthy and you've got all that energy, you have no idea what's going on. And finally when you get old enough to stay out of trouble, you start getting all the aches and pains. I think James dobson says, 'once your face clears up your body starts to fail.' I think he worded it different, but that's the - that's the idea of it all. Oh no, he said, 'once your face clears up your mind gets fuzzy.

' (Laughter) that's what it is. But when you're washed from your sin - baptism represents a cleansing where you get a whole new beginning and you become like a little child. I always have this picture of Naaman - he comes up on the shore and he's so excited, he is jumping up and down and the birds are flying away from the river and he is shouting and he is singing and the soldiers - are they happy? They're jumping up and down and they're rejoicing because he was dead and now he's alive. He was lost and he's found. He was sick and he's well.

He's experienced comp - have you ever known somebody that was facing what could be a terminal illness and they maybe battled it for years and then they come to church to a prayer meeting or they e-mail you and they say, 'i had the last test and I'm clear from all cancer.' Are they happy? After having something like that looming over them - then to be declared 'you're healed.' But, you know, even a person who's struggling with a terminal disease, when they're healed, are only healed temporarily. My father - my brother, I told you, was - he was born with cystic fibrosis and so it's - it, ultimately, is terminal. And he lived to 35 and he was my older brother. We struggled watching him suffer, for years, to breathe. And I remember I was out walking with him one day and he'd walk a little bit and try and run and clear out his lungs and then he'd cough and he'd say, 'doug, you're lucky.

He said, 'i'd give everything I have if I could have your lungs.' My brother was good. He stayed at home and he tried to help work for dad and I was the black sheep that went off and got into all kinds of trouble. And he said - he said, 'doug, life isn't fair. He said, 'I'm smart. I'm good looking.

And I'm sick.' He said, 'and you're healthy but you're stupid.' (Laughter) he said, 'life just isn't fair.' (Laughter) but he said, 'i'd give everything that I have if I could have your lungs and live a little more of this life.' Just a little more. Because even - anybody who is healed from any disease in this life - do you realize your healing is temporary? That we're all terminal? And so Naaman's really happy so he could go home and enjoy his life for a little while longer, but how long would it last? But when you're washed in the jordan like Jesus was, that water washes away your sin. It is a healing and a cleansing that God is providing for you that will last forever. Who wouldn't want that? God is offering that to each one of us. And that's what baptism is a symbol of.

It's a cleansing from sin. Now why was Jesus baptized? To wash away his sin? Or was it an example for you and me? An example. You know, everything that Jesus experienced at his baptism is what God is offering us if we follow him. The Bible says Christ came up out of the water. Matthew chapter 3:16 and 17 - let me read it to you real quick.

"When he had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." Jesus was baptized so we could know what we might experience if we are born again. The heavens were opened. The heavens will be opened for you. When you're baptized you've committed your life to God and you have new privileges.

It's like marriage - there's new relationship - new privileges in that relationship. The Holy Spirit comes down. God promises his spirit. It comes like a dove. What does a dove represent? Holy Spirit.

Peace comes into your life because you know that your sins are forgiven. You hear a voice - you not only see the dove coming, you hear a voice from heaven and it says, 'you are now my beloved son.' There's adoption that takes place. You're my son. You're my daughter.' He says, 'and I'm well pleased with you.' What God said to Jesus, he says to us. 'I am pleased with you.

I am looking at you now like you've never sinned. You now have the gift of everlasting life.' Christ also began a life of ministry at baptism. Jesus said, 'unless you're born of the water and the spirit, you cannot' - he didn't say it'll be difficult - 'unless you're born of the water and the spirit, you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven.' Gospel of Mark, he says, 'go therefore and teach all nations baptizing them.' 'Whoever believes and is baptized' - Mark chapter 16 - 'will be saved. Whoever believes not will be lost.' This is a very important subject. You can be washed.

Some of you maybe haven't made that decision. Some maybe made that decision and have wandered from the Lord and they might want to pray about, 'should I be rebaptized?' You know, the story of Naaman is a beautiful story. Here you've got this man who had everything but he was dying. He was ready to lose everything if he could just have life. He was ready to give away a king's ransom if he could just be healed.

And, you know, God gave his son so that you could be cleansed. I always thought it was such an interesting picture. (Soft piano music) Naaman is here - he's this soldier but it says his flesh was restored like a little child. I can just picture the other soldiers coming up to him and saying, 'master, congratulations! You've been healed. Can I pinch your cheek?' (Laughter) a soldier with baby skin.

Isn't that kind of what a Christian is? the Lord washes away our sin, but we're in God's army, but we're like little children. We've got that child-like faith. It starts out with a little child giving him a message. Then the message comes from elisha's servant. And then the message comes from his own servants.

You know, Naaman was so happy, he could have gone back to Damascus but you know what he did? He went back to Elisha to thank him. And now Elisha comes out to see him face to face. Jesus can't see us face to face - God in his glory - because we've got sin. But he wants to wash us from our sin because he is coming soon and we want to be able to behold him face to face. Amen? Amen.

You know the whole Bible is about our being separated from God because of sin and then we're restored to God. And Revelation says, 'and we will see his face.' Elisha came out to him. He tried to pay for his cleansing. He said, 'oh take something.' He said, 'I'm not going to take anything.' He urged him. He said, 'I'm not taking anything.

' Why? Because that cleansing from leprosy is a symbol for you and me today of cleansing from sin and you cannot buy it. You can't buy it with silver and you can't buy it with gold. It is a gift of God. It's a gift that's been purchased at a price that you could never afford. God's son paid that you might be cleansed from your leprosy.

We've all sinned. We're all under that death sentence. And Jesus is offering us a chance to have new life and to be cleansed. How many of you would like to say, 'i want that cleansing. I want that new life.

I want that healing that will last forever.'? Let's ask him. Dear father, we're so thankful for the good news of Jesus' cleansing and I pray many who are listening will take that step and choose to follow and prepare for baptism and go all the way. Fill them with Your Spirit. We thank you for the promise and ask this all in Jesus' name. Amen.

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