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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Triple Knowledge
Text:LD 1 Q & A 2; Mark 2:1-17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say 
God, Be Merciful to Me
Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed? 
Just As I Am

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

“Triple Knowledge”
Mark 2:1-17; H.C. Q&A 2
Years ago, I went to visit a man who was scheduled for triple by-pass heart surgery the next day. I wasn’t sure how he was taking the news. I didn’t know him that well. But as I talked with him, he said, “This is really a win-win situation. If the surgery is successful, I stay here on earth. I love my family; I can see my grandkids grow and be here for my children. And if it isn’t successful, I’m brought home to be in glory with Jesus. Either way you look at it,” he said, “it’s a win-win situation.” Only a Christian has that blessed assurance.
By contrast, when my father was dying of cancer, during a lengthy hospital stay back in 1964, one of the nurses told us about a patient who was on the floor right above my dad’s room. She had observed that we were Christians, that we read the Bible with my Dad and prayed together as a family. There were no Hippa laws back then, and she was also a Christian. She told us about a woman on the floor above my father’s room who was terrified of death. The nurse said, “She’s not even sick enough to be in the hospital, but she wants to be here because she is so afraid to die.” And then she said, “She is a well-known atheist, instrumental in removing prayer from public schools.”
There is a tremendous difference in the level of comfort that believers and unbelievers have. That difference is seen in life. Christians are generally happier in their marriages, in their employment and all other areas of life, whether single or married. But where the difference is seen most dramatically is at death. At death those who do not believe in the Lord are gripped with incredible fear. They begin to anxiously wonder: “What if those Christians are right? What if there is an eternal God who will demand an account of my life? What if there really is such a place as hell, with weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth?”
In Question and Answer 1, we saw that our only real comfort in life and in death is to know, by saving faith, that we belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. There is no greater comfort in this world or the next. Yet the vast majority of people in the world don’t know this comfort that comes from true saving faith in Jesus Christ. 
The vast majority of people do not have the knowledge that is needed for true joy and comfort in this life and throughout all eternity. What do we need to know? The second question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism:
Q. 2 What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
A. Three things:
      first, how great my sin and misery are;
      second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery;
      third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.
If we are to know the joy of salvation, we must first know how great our sin and misery are. The Scriptures that the catechism references – Romans 3:9, 10 and 1 John 1:10 – both teach that all humanity is sinful, that if we say we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:10). That is also what Jesus teaches in the passage we read from Mark 2.
In Mark 2 we read about this paralytic whose friends recognized that he had a serious problem. The man was paralyzed; he could not walk. Because he and his friends recognized the severity of the problem, they did something about it. His four friends carried him to Jesus.
But before they went to Jesus, they first had to acknowledge the problem. “Friend,” they may have said, “You are in dire straits. You’re paralyzed. There is no way you can heal yourself and there is no human physician around here who can heal you. You need the power of God. We will bring you to Jesus.”
It is no different spiritually. Before we come to Christ we must see, not just our physical ailments, but the severity of our spiritual ailments. In the words of the catechism we must realize “how great my sin and misery are.” 
And that’s where the problem comes in. Sin is not a popular subject in our world today. In prior generations people recognized the reality of sin in their lives. But today sin is seldom spoken about, and when it is spoken about it is redefined. No longer is sin a transgression against God’s law or lack of conformity to his commandments. Sin is no longer seen as a grievous rebellion against a holy God. The biblical doctrine of sin has been watered down to just a series of mistakes and shortcomings. Sin is nothing to be overly concerned about.  
Yet in the Bible, over and over, we see where the first step toward salvation, and the first step in knowing our only comfort, comes as we see and realize the enormity of our sin and the misery it brings. That was the case for Adam and Eve. They tried to hide their nakedness. They played the blame game as to how they sinned, yet through their recognition of sin came the promise of the Redeemer, in Genesis 3:15, as the Lord said to the serpent: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
It was also true for David after he sinned with Bathsheba. He described in Psalm 32:3-5 how –
 When I kept silent,
    my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
    your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped
    as in the heat of summer. Selah
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
    my transgressions to the Lord”—
and you forgave
    the guilt of my sin. Selah
The lost son – the prodigal described in Luke 15 – had the same experience. He asked his father for his share of the family estate and he received it. It was a sizable amount but he squandered it on wild living and prostitutes. When the money was gone, he ended up in the pig pen feeding the pigs. Jesus described how the lost son longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.
      “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:17-20)
Everyone who receives salvation has the same experience. The same principle of recognizing and confessing our sin applies to you and to me, and it applies to everyone who will be saved. Yet, unfortunately, one of the problems in our culture is that sin is no longer acknowledged, not even in the visible church.
One of the most popular ministers of a former generation built a crystal empire on the concept of self-esteem. He taught that since the great commandment tells us to love our neighbor as ourself, that self-love is crucial. Sin becomes not, “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A 13). No, instead, sin becomes a lack of self-esteem. You need to build up your own self esteem so that you really love yourself. Then you can love your neighbor in the same way that you love yourself – according to not only that well known preacher, but so many others as well.                                   
How different from the sentiment of the Psalmist in Psalm 51:3: “I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” Or the dissection of the human heart in Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Or the anguish of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:24-25, What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
The first step of knowing true comfort – of knowing that you belong to Christ Jesus, body and soul, in life and in death – is coming to grips with personal sin. What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort? First, how great my sin and misery are.
Set Free from Sin and Misery
A second truth we must know, “to live and die in the joy of this comfort” – of belonging to Christ – is: “How I am set free from all my sins and misery.”
This paralytic whom we read about in Mark 2 had some excellent friends. Not only were they good friends in that they cared for the paralytic, but by God’s grace, they were also wise friends. The men who brought the paralytic to Jesus knew that he was the only one who could free the man from his paralysis, from the misery that dominated his life. They had such certainty, such faith, that they took their friend to the roof top, made an opening in the roof, and lowered him down. They believed without any doubt whatsoever, that Jesus was the only one to go to for their friend’s healing.
The same is true spiritually. If you and I know something of our guilt, if we are convicted of our sin and our misery, then we must also know and trust that Jesus is the only one to whom we must go, for, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
In John 14:6 Jesus declares: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And in his high priestly prayer, recorded in John 17, he prayed to his Father: “Now this is eternal life: That they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
Jesus makes it clear that the healing of the paralytic is done to show a far greater healing: It is done to reveal the power of Jesus to forgive sins. Jesus explains in verses 9 to 11: Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…. he said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’”
If we are to be forgiven, we must go to Jesus. He alone has the power to forgive. It is only through saving faith in Christ alone that we are set free from our sin and our misery.
He sets us free in two specific ways. First, he covers our sins with his blood through his passive obedience. He passively allowed himself to be declared guilty, to be crucified and thus to shed his blood. By that action Christ has propitiated our sin, meaning that he covers our sin in such a way that the proper and just wrath of our triune God is appeased. He did so by bearing the curse of our sin on the cross as he fulfilled Deuteronomy 21:23: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree” (Gal. 313). There, on the cross, the words of Isaiah 53 were fulfilled: He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him…and the LORD has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:5-6). That describes his passive obedience.
But Jesus not only removed the curse of our sin from us, he also imputes – credits – to us his perfect record in keeping the law. Consider that Jesus never used his Father’s name in vain. He never served false gods. He never killed, coveted, stole, or committed adultery. That defines his active obedience.
His perfection in keeping the law wasn’t just outward, but inward. In other words, he did not look in lust at the woman at the well. He did not murder anyone in his heart by thoughts of anger and retaliation. Not even the Pharisees. Not even those who crucified him. He kept the law perfectly, and after removing every transgression from the slate of your life and mine, he writes on that clean slate – the cleansed white board of your life – his perfect record of righteous obedience to every nuance of the law.
From the passive and active obedience of Christ we see that it was no small thing to set us free from our sin and misery. We realize the great cost through the words of 1 Peter 1:18-21: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”
Thanking God for Our Deliverance
A third truth we must know to live and die in the joy of this comfort – a third key – is that we must know how we are to thank God for such a wonderful deliverance. Can you imagine how the paralytic must have felt when Jesus said to him, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
No wonder verse 12 describes how He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’”
But if physical healing brings praise, how much more should spiritual healing – new life from above and the forgiveness of sin – bring forth our praise? Physical healing is good for the span of this life, yet this life is but a vapor. As Psalm 78:39 puts it, we are “a wind that passes and comes not again.” But salvation from sin has lasting rewards. Through the forgiveness of our sin we have an eternity in heaven. 
The forgiveness of sins is the greatest of all blessings. As such, it calls us to live a life of gratitude and thanksgiving for what God has done. “In view of God’s mercy,” Romans 12:1 instructs us, “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” A life of gratitude and praise involves doing the good deeds that were prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10). And it involves living a holy, faithful, and obedient life, for God’s will is that you and I are sanctified. (1 Thess. 4:3)
This was an amazing miracle, this paralyzed man picking up his mat and walking home. But how much greater is the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ! Such salvation certainly calls us to a life of gratitude and thankfulness. In the words of 1 Peter 2:9-10: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 
Sometimes though, instead of that joyous praise that should mark our lives, there is a lukewarm indifference, even in the heart of a believer. Do any of us really always rejoice in our salvation and live to the praise of our God as we should? J.C. Ryle points out that this passage from Mark 2 should warn us about being lukewarm. Specifically, he warns that we can be so familiar with the Bible that we take its teachings for granted and don’t latch on to them with saving faith in Christ alone. 
Capernaum, the city where this paralyzed man was healed, was a city that had seen many miracles. It has been pointed out that Jesus appears to have spent more time in Capernaum than anywhere else. Yet most people there did not have saving faith in him. Ryle writes: “It was the place where many of His miracles were worked, and many of His sermons delivered. But nothing that Jesus said or did seems to have had any effect of the hearts of the inhabitants. They crowded to hear Him, as we read in this passage, ‘until there was no room at the door.’ They were amazed. They were astonished. They were filled with wonder at His mighty works. But they were not converted.”  (Expository Thoughts on the Gospel, Mark, pg. 27)
Because of that lukewarmness, Capernaum was given this warning by Jesus, in Matthew 11:23-24: And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
But when we overcome our apathy and are convicted of our lukewarmness, when we truly recognize our sin and misery, confessing our sin to God, then we can come to him with great assurance. When we confess our sin and misery we can come in full confidence to Christ Jesus, for he came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.
The men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus did so with great confidence. They were so certain that Jesus would heal that they took the effort to get onto the roof, no small accomplishment in itself. And then they had to dig through the earth – it was probably an earthen roof over rafters – and then slide their friend down on ropes in front of Jesus.
Their faith, which was not of their own but given by God's grace and Spirit’s power, was yet rewarded with salvation. And the same is true for you and me. As we recognize how great our sin and misery are, we can come confidently to Jesus, knowing that he came, not for the self-righteous but for sinners. And he has promised that whoever comes to him, he will never drive away (John 6:37). In Mark 2:17, after hearing of the Pharisees’ accusation that Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Because Jesus came for sinners, each one of us has great confidence in approaching him, just as we are. We are all sinners, but his grace is far greater than your sin and mine.
The late Dr. J. Vernon McGee recounted the background to the hymn, Just As I Am: A minister by the name of Caesar Milan heard the musical recital of a gifted pianist and vocalist by the name of Charlotte Elliot. Afterward, he approached her and said, “Young lady, when you were singing, I sat there and thought how tremendously the cause of Christ would be benefited if you would dedicate yourself and your talents to the Lord.”
“But,” he added, “You are just as much a sinner as the worst drunkard on the street, or any harlot on Scarlet Street. But I am glad to tell you that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, will cleanse you from all your sin if you will come to him.”
Charlotte Elliot was deeply insulted. She reportedly said, “You are the rudest person I’ve ever met.” She turned and walked away. But that night, she could not sleep, and rising from her bed, she prayed, and by God’s grace and Spirit’s power, she repented and believed with saving faith in Jesus as her Savior and Lord. And then she wrote those familiar words: 
Just as I am - and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come!     (illustration by J. Vernon McGee, James, pg. 62)
That is the only way to come to Jesus. That is the only way to gain the greatest knowledge in the world. We come to Jesus as Charlotte Elliot did:

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Just as I am Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come!
May that describe your life and mine, this day, and always! Amen.
bulletin outline:
...Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the
sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Mark 2:17
                                     “Triple Knowledge”
                               Mark 2:1-17; H.C. 1; Q&A 2
I.  If we are to know the joy of salvation (Q&A 1), we must know:
    1) How great our sin and misery are (3; Psalm 51:3-5; 1 John 1:10).
     2) How we are set free from sin and misery (3-5; John 14:6; Acts 4:12)
     3) How we are to thank God (12; Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 2:9-10)
II. Application: We are to come in full confidence to Jesus Christ, con-
     fessing our sin and misery, for He came not to call the righteous, but
     sinners to repentance (17; Luke 5:32)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Ted Gray

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