Friday, July 14, 2017

2 Kings 5:1-19 - Uncomfortable Truth

2 Kings 5:1-19 - Uncomfortable Truth

There were two brothers, well known in the community for their sinful ways.  They were mean.  They were trouble-makers.  They were the scourge of their small town.
One day, one of the brothers died.
The surviving brother wanted to give him a really nice Christian funeral.  So he called the funeral home and bought the very best.  THEN he called the preacher in town and made him an offer he could not refuse.  He said, “I will give you $10,000 to put that new roof on the church IF, you will give the eulogy for my brother and call him ‘a saint.’”
To everyone’s surprise - the normally principled-preacher agreed?!?
The whole town turned out for the funeral… not out of grief, but out of curiousity – “What would the preacher possibly say?”  

He began… “The man you see in the casket today was a vile and wicked sinner.  He was a liar, a thief, a deceiver, and a reprobate.  He destroyed the lives and fortunes of countless people in this town… many of whom are here today.  He was, by all accounts, a dirty rotten scoundrel…
BUT - compared to his brother - he was a saint!”

There is a Russian proverb that goes like this:  

“It’s better to be slapped by the truth, than KISSED by a lie.”
We LOVE the truth – in fact, civilized society depends on it.  We want truth in advertising, truth in our legal system, truth in our government officials.  We ARE all about ‘the truth’

as long as it doesn’t get too personal.  As long as WE are the ones doing the interrogating.  But when the spotlight is put on US, the truth has a way of becoming ⇒ UNCOMFORTABLE.
We see it in our text.  Naaman knew he had a problem, but he really didn’t know the EXTENT of it.  Though a mighty man – though unusually brave and honest - a man held in honor…  he had an incurable problem.
Leprosy is a terrible disease that causes nerve damage in the skin …and eventually causes the flesh to rot away from the bone.  So fearful was this disease that those who had it were often quarantined OUTSIDE the city and if anyone accidentally came near them - the diseased person was to shout, “UNCLEAN!”  Those afflicted with this gruesome disease were forced into loneliness with the prospects of a painful death.  

Yep… Naaman knew he had a problem.  
In many ways, Naaman is a picture of US… and if you will allow me to share the TRUTH this morning - I want to show you three things we have in common with Naaman.

1.  First, just like Naaman, we are Cursed.  Naaman had a disease that had separated him from others and would end in a horrible death.  He was unclean.  He was doomed.  

And so are you.  

So am I.  

His was leprosy of the skin - ours is of the heart.  Sin has infected each one of us.  We were born with it.  No matter how moral we want others to believe us to be - at our very core - we are unclean sinners separated from a holy God.
Though Naaman was held in high esteem – though people thought he was a hero and a statesman, he had a disease he could not hide or ignore.  Should he compare his positive qualities with those of OTHERS, he likely would have stood head and shoulders above the rest of his peers.  
  • Character? <check>  
  • Trustworthy? <check>  
  • Courage? <check>
STILL, he had a problem that would eventually destroy him.
That’s you.  That’s me.  

The Bible is clear about it too.  In Romans 3, God says, “ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  And because of my sin, I am unclean and unworthy of the love, mercy, and grace of God.  By all accounts, we are alienated from Him and will one day, barring some miracle, experience His judgment and wrath.
Naaman knew he had a problem.  He might wear gloves in an attempt to hide it… he might wear perfume to mask the odor of his rotting flesh, he might do many great and heroic deeds to earn the respect of others… but no matter WHAT he did, at the end of the day he was a leper - and there was nothing he could do to change it.
Have you come to terms with YOUR problem?  In the quiet moments no one has to convince us of our guilt.  As we go through life we do everything we can possibly do to assuage our conscience.  We volunteer in the community, we give to the local charity, we compare ourselves with others thinking that being “good” is good enough.  But at the end of the day, we are just splashing cologne on a dead man.
In his book, Heart to Heart, R. G. Lee once said, “Sin has ruined men, women, and angels.  Sin has occasioned every tear of sorrow, every sigh of grief, every pang of agony.  Sin has withered everything that is fair, blasted everything that is good, made bitter everything that is sweet, dried up springs of comfort, rolled far and wide tides of sorrow.  Sin has dug every grave, built every coffin, and enlarged every cemetery that the world has ever seen.”
We - are - cursed.
2.  But not only do we see how Naaman was cursed, we also see how he was cleansed.  One day, according to our text, the armies of Syria had taken captive a little Jewish girl who would serve as Naaman’s household maid.  In the course of her daily work, the young lady told Naaman’s wife that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal Naaman of his leprosy.  With the encouragement of his king, Naaman sought the help of the man of God.
But for Naaman to be cleansed of his leprosy, he had to come to terms with a couple of facts:

First, he learned that cleansing cannot be bought or earned.  He put together a LARGE offering of money, several articles of rich clothing, and animals to give in exchange for his cleansing. He didn’t want charity or for people to feel sorry for him, he would make his OWN way.  He didn’t know that the cleansing offered by God is free.
A LOT of people struggle with the concept of grace.  They believe they can earn the favor of God if they give enough, do enough, join the right organization.  The sinful nature of man looks for ways to make his OWN way … not knowing that cleansing cannot be bought.

Second he learned that God requires faith and obedience for cleansing.  You’ve go to drop your pride and do things GOD’S way.  Naaman thought that the man of God would come out of his house and do some spectacular thing –
  • maybe wave his hands in the air –
  • utter some magic spell
  • or throw PIXIE dust on him – to cure him of his leprosy.  
But no, Elisha didn’t even go to the door to look at him - he sent his servant with word for him to go down to the Jordan river and dip himself seven times and he would be healed.
This made Naaman angry.  “Who does this guy think he IS???  Does he not know WHO I AM???”

I want you to understand something - Pride bars the gates of heaven.  James said, “let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.”
Kinda reminds me of so many people today who would rather give some amount of money, or DO some sacrificial act to secure their own salvation.  But that sacrificial act has already been done - Leading many to be disappointed at the simplicity of the gospel.  God demands repentance and faith.   
Naaman’s pride would have gotten the best of him too, were it not for one of his servants who convinced him to give the prophet’s prescription a try.  “What you’ve tried till now hasn’t worked.  Why NOT give this a chance???” his servant advised.
When he went down to the river and followed God’s directions, he was immediately cleansed and his skin became like that of a newborn baby.
Interesting how God works, isn’t it?  Naaman would never have been cleansed were it not for:

  • The witness of a slave girl who set the mighty man on the road to his healing.
  • The urging of a soldier to at least give God a try.
  • And the miracle never would have happened if he hadn’t dropped his pride and let go of all his own attempts of self-salvation.
Interesting how the Lord does miracles through something as simple as faith and obedience.

A lot of people want to go to heaven.  In fact, I don’t know anybody who DOESN’T want heaven and all the blessings that go along WITH it!  But they want it own their OWN terms.  BUT just as Naaman learned ⇒  it is GOD Who sets the terms.
3.  But there is one more way we are like him.  Not only are we cursed like him, and cleansed like him, we also face a Conundrum like him.  Notice halfway down in verse 17 and then all of verse 18, “from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord.  
In THIS matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.”
Conundrum – now THERE’s a word we don’t use every day.  A conundrum is a difficult, a perplexing situation.  

And that is exactly what Naaman would face when he went back home.
He was absolutely convinced that God had cleansed him and that there was no other God but Elisha’s God.  He is committed to live for, worship, and SERVE the Lord.
BUT – he knew that waiting for him back in Syria was a job where he would face many challenges to his new life.  

He knew that as soon as he returned to Syria, he would face all the idolatry and sinfulness of a people who didn’t know the Lord.  And he needed the assurance that God wouldn’t disown him if he continued to serve as the King’s bodyguard.  He didn’t want God or even Elisha to think that he endorsed that idolatry.  A conundrum.
Going back to the old life, poses a conundrum for you too.  

It’s easy to serve the Lord and do all the right things when you are surrounded by godly people.  It’s easy to do right when you are at camp or at a Christian concert… surrounded by people who are on fire for God.  But you can’t live here.  You have to find the strength to do right when you are away from this place.  You have to get to a place in your walk with the Lord where you resist the pull of your lost friends and family.  

Your faith must hold up under everyday challenges.
The old life will wear you down.  The devil will tempt  you with compromise – he will convince you that “part-way is good enough.”  Every day, you will face this conundrum.  

What should you do??  Three things:

First, Christians MUST BE COMMITTED to living differently.  This can’t be a ‘Sunday-only’ thing.  This NEW life will not be easy for you.  Your faith will be challenged and even ridiculed.  There will be times when you will be forced to draw the line and take your stand – even with people you love.  Your commitment will not make you popular.  The kind of stand I’m talking about might cost you some relationships or even a job.  But you MUST RESOLVE in your heart that you are going to do the right thing - REGARDLESS.
All of us struggle when we go back to our daily lives.  But if you are particularly weak in some area – stop putting yourself in a position to compromise.  
  • If I know that I struggle with alcohol, then why would I put myself in a position where it is served or hang out with people who consume it?  
  • If I struggle with lust, then I need to do whatever it takes to keep myself OUT of those compromising situations.
Second, though Christians have been forgiven of their sins, they are still human – and sometimes fail.  During those times you need to remember that cleansing is still available for you.  God doesn’t just provide for yesterday’s failures… but for ALL of them.  John said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.”  

No matter how committed you think you ARE today – there will still be times when you fail.  Don’t allow that stumble to prove fatal.  God has not given up on you.  His grace will be with you till the end of your life if you will trust Him.

And third, this conundrum requires us to look for ways to introduce people to Jesus.  Make up your mind before you go back out into the world that you are going to share the Lord.  The Bible even tells us to let our conversations be ‘seasoned with salt…’ that is, we are to look for ways to bring the Lord into our conversations.  

  • Whether we talk about the new things we’ve learned in Bible study,
  • OR we offer to pray for those who are going through a difficult situation.  
  • Whether sharing our testimony of the things God has done for us
  • or lending our help to someone in need -
We need to express, publicly, our commitment to Jesus!
So YEAH, In many ways, we ARE just like Naaman:
  • We are cursed with a disease that separates us from God…
  • we are cleansed of our disease when we exercise faith and obedience in God’s cure.
  • And we face a conundrum every time we go back to everyday life.  We cannot go back to life as it was before Jesus.  We - MUST - be - different.
Maybe you are here today and YOU realize that you have a disease that only GOD can cure.  Inside your heart, you know things aren’t right between you and God.  And today you want cleansing.  Why not come to this place of prayer and in faith and obedience trust God to save you??
Or maybe you are here today and you HAVE been saved.  You believe in the Lord and want to please Him.  But the conundrum of living in a world of temptation and sin often gets the better of you.  And today, you want to ask God to give you the strength to stand firm in your commitment.
If God is speaking to your heart, why not pray about it right now??