Five Ways - Part 3

Scripture: Mark 1:40-41, Acts 4:12, Luke 17:28-29
Leprosy was used by Christ as an illustration of the effects of sin. It separates us from loved ones. We are doomed to be an outcast. The story of Jesus healing a leper shows us the deep love of Christ for lost and broken people. The Lord can cleanse us from leprosy and from sin.
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Our broadcast today continues to explore the intriguing question of that of leprosy. Probably cancer is the modern counterpart of this dreadful scourge. Although the incidence of leprosy, more accurately called Hansens Disease, is very insignificant in comparison to other contagious diseases, it has always horrified people because of its Biblical association with separation and suffering.

In those days when there was no cure for the destroyer, Jesus often used leprosy as an illustration of the defiling effects of sin upon the soul. He also delighted in exercising His mighty healing power to deliver the victims of the despised disease. In Mark 1:40-42 we have the graphic story, in a few words of one such miraculous episode. As you read the account it's not hard to imagine the terrifying experience it must have been to be pronounced a leper, and to realize that there could never be a cure for the disease as far as the victim was concerned.

One day as John comes home he says, "Mary, I'm worried."

His wife says, "I've noticed that something has been troubling you lately. What is it, John?"

"Mary, look at my ear lobes; they're puffy and thick. Look at my cheeks; they're shiny and swollen. Mary, look at my feet. See how they are swelling around the ankles."

"What, John, what? You don't mean it?"

"Yes, Mary, I'm afraid it's true."

"No, No, John, it can't be. You a leper! It simply can't be." "But Mary, I'm afraid it is."

John goes up to the temple and shows himself to the priest as the law requires. The priest looks at him and says, "You come back in seven days." Seven days pass. Again John shows himself to the priest. This time he is officially and ceremoniously pronounced a leper, unclean, doomed to die that awful death of the disease which was used as a symbol of sin.

Picture John as he makes his way back to the little cottage where his wife is anxiously awaiting the news. As the law requires, he holds his hands high in the air and cries out as he walks, "Unclean, unclean." He comes to the gate of their little home. He cries out to his wife, "Mary, Mary, unclean, unclean." She runs to embrace him, but she must not touch him now." He is a leper. The children rush out to hug their daddy, but they cannot touch him now. He is doomed to be an outcast from society. He must leave home and all that is dear. He takes one last look around the home place as his wife packs a lunch for him and gets ready a little bundle of clothes. What a sad parting it is.

As he leaves the city gate the city officials pronounce a final curse upon him and throw dust into the air. Leprosy is a hideous thing and so is sin. He goes out into the wilderness among the wild beasts. He dwells in the caves of the rocks, and sometimes even among the graves of the dead.

Days, weeks, and months pass; maybe even years. His fingers disappear. His feet are mere stumps without toes. His face is hideously disfigured. His hair is long and matted. His clothes are rotting. He hates himself. It is a living death. Leprosy is a terrible thing, and so is sin.

He seldom sees another human, but one day he hears a rumor. Can it be true? No, it can't be. Time passes, and again he hears the same rumor. Could there possibly be help for him, a leper? He decides to find out for himself. He has nothing to lose. He begins the journey. It is long and painful. Finally, one day he comes to a clearing where a large group of people are gathered. He is afraid at first. It has been so long since he has seen large numbers of people. He hides where he can see and hear. He sees the blind receive their sight. He sees the lame made to walk. His heart rejoices, "There is hope for me. I will go. I will go."

When he hears the gentle voice of invitation, all fear leaves him. He raises his stumps of arms and rushes forward crying, "Unclean, unclean." The people begin moving out of his way, not because they are courteous, but because they do not want to be touched by the leper. He throws himself at the feet of Jesus and looking pleadingly into the Saviour's face cries out, "If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and said unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed." Mark 1:40-42. It happened in a moment. It was a matter of decision.

He jumps for joy. He runs with the vigor of youth. I would like to have been there when he was reunited with his wife. Picture him back at the home gate. He cries out, "Mary, Mary, come quickly."

Mary hears the voice. She listens. "No, it can't be! Why that is the voice of John." She rushes to the door, it is John! "Why John, what has happened to you. Why, you look just like you did on the day we were married. John, where have you been?"

"Mary, I've been to Jesus."

That is the story. In that story we have a demonstration of the saving power of Jesus Christ; the power that can transform a life in just a moment of time. How long does it take to be saved? No longer than it takes to make a full and complete surrender of all that there is of us to Jesus Christ. One moment we are lost, and the next moment we are saved. Remember the thief on the cross? One moment he was a hopeless sinner, the next moment he was saved. That can be your experience too. There isn't a young man or woman who needs to go to bed tonight without having the assurance in your heart that He is able "to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy." Jude 24. The reason that it can happen so fast is that it is "by grace through faith" that we are saved. If it were by works, I don't know how long it would take. It would take not only one lifetime, it would take countless lifetimes, and then we never could be saved apart from Jesus. There is no other way. "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Acts 4:12. "For by grace are ye saved through faith." How long does it take? Just as long as it takes to exercise faith and to throw ourselves wholly upon Jesus, depending upon His mercy. Thank God, we don't need to earn salvation by abusing our bodies.

Over in India I have seen people torture their bodies by thrusting spears through the living flesh. Why did they do it? They did it to find favor with God. You can go to the Philippines and there every springtime, at Easter time, you see men who beat their bodies until they become a mass of raw, bleeding flesh. Why do they do it? They do it in the name of Christianity. What a fearful misunderstanding of the God we worship. They think by torturing their bodies they can find forgiveness from God. That is why there is such an urgency about preaching the gospel. There are multitudes who have not yet heard that forgiveness is free. All that we must do is be willing to receive it, be willing to accept. Many a man says, "Oh, but it sounds too good to be true. It doesn't seem reasonable." But it is true, the Lord Jesus Christ is willing to forgive any man who is willing to confess and forsake sin.

Jesus said, "If ye love me keep my commandments." A Christian is so glad to find those words, because when we realize the great love of Christ for us we wonder, How can I let Him know that I appreciate it all? How can I let Him know that I do love Him? Jesus says, If you really want to show that you love Me, one thing that you can do is to keep My commandments. We don't keep the commandments in order to be saved, but we keep the commandments because we are saved. Some people get the cart before the horse. They think that by legalism, by trying to keep all the commandments, if we do it well enough, then maybe we can be saved. But we are saved by grace.

However, when we are saved or born again, we need to grow up. If a baby is born into this world and doesn't grow, it will die. There are just two alternatives. There must be growth or there will surely be death. It takes only a moment to be born again, but as long as we live we continue to grow more like Jesus. There are many people who have been born again, but they haven't grown in the Christian life. They are dead. The pity of it is, some of them are dead and don't know it. There are some people who are spiritually dead, but they don't realize it. A symptom of this dead condition is to be depending on some past experience. I have met men who say, "Oh, I don't need to go to church, I was saved twenty years ago." It isn't what we did or didn't do twenty years ago that is going to get us into heaven or keep us out, but it is how we stand with the Lord right now. Before the flood came in Noah's day undoubtedly there were many who professed to believe in God, but only those who acted on their belief and got into the ark were saved. It was where they were when the flood came that made the difference between being saved or lost. The multitudes weren't flocking into the ark. Just a handful of people recognized the message they heard as the message of God. And they were saved. One moment those people were out with the throng, and they were lost. But just one step across the threshhold of the ark and they were inside and saved. What a demonstration of salvation! With many people it is just one step that needs to be taken. It is a matter of decision. It can happen in a moment.

The very same thing was true in the days of Lot. Jesus used the days of Noah and the days of Lot to illustrate the way it will be just before He returns to this world the second time. "Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all." Luke 17:28, 29. The people of Sodom were so engrossed with the things of this life that they took no time to prepare for eternity. The same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. God had warned these people. God had sent an angel to Sodom. The angel almost had to drag Lot and his family out of the city. The night before the city was destroyed the Bible says that Lot went to his sons-in-law. He pleaded with them to take their stand for the truth. He pleaded with them to get out of that wicked city before it was too late, because God had revealed to him that Sodom was going to be destroyed because of its wickedness. But you know, the Bible says that poor old Lot seemed like a man who had lost his mind to his sons-in-law. They thought, Well poor old Dad is old. He is all mixed up. Now he thinks our city is going to be destroyed. Poor old fellow.

Early in the morning Lot and his wife and his two daughters left the city. No sooner had they left than fire and brimstone fell and destroyed that wicked city. The ashes of that city today lie buried under the waters of the Dead Sea. If Lot and his family had stayed in that doomed city, they would have been lost. Their salvation was a matter of decision. There was the dangerous tendency to linger in Sodom (sin). I have had people tell me, "The reason I'm not coming to your meetings is that I am not willing to give up some of the things that I am doing. I know these things are wrong, but I enjoy doing these things and I'm not ready to give them up, sometime perhaps, but not now." I have had parents tell me this in the hearing of their children. Parents, who should have been helping their children to get ready for eternal life, lingering in Sodom (sin). Some people just go by their feelings, if it feels good, do it. If Lot and his wife had gone by their feelings, they never would have left Sodom. Their relatives and loved ones behind, but he was saved.

God is calling men and women out of sin and confusion today as he called Lot out of Sodom. Some people want to linger in the world, but there isn't much more time. Some people even try to hide from God when He is trying to save them.

Jesus said, "As it was in the days of Lot, so it is going to be again in the end of the world." In other words, people are going to be so busy with their society affairs, they are going to be so busy with their families and their routine affairs that they are going to neglect to prepare for eternal life. God gave a warning message to His people in Egypt as He was calling them out of Egypt in the time of Moses. He warned them that the death angel was going to fly over the cities at midnight. They were to put blood on the lintel and door post. When the death angel saw the blood he would pass over. There comes a midnight hour in every life when the death angel passes over. For someone listening today it may be tonight. I want to ask you, friend, is the blood on the door post of your heart? Only the blood of Jesus can save us. There is no other way.

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