All the Lost and Lonely
ALL THE LOST AND LONELY
Part 2 of Deep Water Faith. Luke 5:12-16.
Peter Foxwell. The Cornerstone Church. June 4, 2017.
As we launch out into the next season of impact at the Cornerstone, we're asking a very important question: what kind of a church are we going to be? One way to answer the question is this: we're going to be a people of deep water faith, which is defined by five faith principles found in Luke chapter 5.
Last week, we explored the first principle: "Little is much when Jesus is in it." When we step out in faith, we can trust Jesus to work with supernatural power. Therefore, step out boldly; launch out; go for it!!
This week, our second faith principle is this: "Because of Jesus, the excluded are included." This principle is dramatically illustrated in verses 6-12. First, let's take a close look at the details of the story. We’ll see the beautiful thing Jesus did. Then we’ll translate what we learn from the story into three ideas we can take with us into Cornerstone 2.0.
A. A MISERABLE MAN
First, we see that the story is about a miserable man. The backdrop is Leviticus 13, a chapter on how to deal with skin diseases. Let me read you an extract:
“Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp." - Leviticus 13:45-46
The man in our story had that “defiling disease” - leprosy or Hansen’s Disease - a bacterial infection. In those days, it was a death sentence and, because of Leviticus 13, he was cut off from all help and support. His family and friends stayed clear. No one offered him medicine or comfort. Even the synagogue - church - was closed to him.
There were two reasons for his exclusion. The first reason is simple: The disease was contagious and there were no cures. The second reason is more complex: The man’s skin disease made him ceremonially unclean.** Leviticus was written to reveal the holiness of God. Only holy and ceremonially clean people and objects could approach God (Leviticus 10:10). There were sacrifices and ceremonies to make people clean and thus acceptable to God. These were like visual aids to teach the theology of the holiness of God. So this man’s skin disease was a visual aid. It was an outward picture of the inner sin and shame that excludes ALL of us from holy God. His leprosy was a reminder that we all need inner cleansing.
** Why this man? Jesus did not say. Luke does not comment. I have no answer. John 9:1-12 is a possible explanation. A man who was born blind was brought to Jesus. People suggested reasons why the man was blind, but Jesus dismissed their reasoning and said, “this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Then Jesus healed him.
In our story, the man with leprosy suffered a terrible fate: a life of relentless physical, emotional, and spiritual misery. Until Jesus came to town ...
B. A MIRACULOUS, MERCIFUL HEALING
All the sacrifices and ceremonies in Leviticus point to Jesus. He heals and cleanses us - inside and out - from sin and disease and brokenness - although full healing is often delayed until the renewal of all things on the new earth (Revelation 21-22). Exodus 15:26: "I am the Lord who heals you." 1 John 1:7: "The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
Our man heard the healer was in town so he broke all the rules and went into town to meet him. This was faith in Jesus' mercy and power: "When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”" - Luke 5:12b
When you've been excluded for so long - when God and help and hope seem gone forever - doubt is normal: "You are ABLE to heal me, but are you WILLING?"
If you've ever wanted to know what God is like, here it is. Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. The healing was instant and total. This is our God, full of pity and power. He embraces the lost and lonely and transforms them. Jesus’ response reminds us of the revelation of the Lord in Exodus 34:
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin" - Exodus 34:6-7
Next, Jesus told the man to follow the Law in Leviticus 14 and go to the nearest priest for ritual purification. Then, he would be welcome back among the people of God and to God himself. Beautiful!
"Seven times he shall sprinkle the one to be cleansed of the defiling disease, and then pronounce them clean .... 8 “The person to be cleansed must wash their clothes, shave off all their hair and bathe with water; then they will be ceremonially clean. After this they may come into the camp ...." - Leviticus 14:7-8
That's exactly what Jesus does for all of us who come to him in faith looking for his saving mercy. He makes us spiritually clean and brings us back into the camp; into fellowship with God and his people (Exodus 40:34). This story is such a beautiful picture of restoration. Jesus is the friend, healer, savior of the lost and lonely.
C. ALL THE LOST AND LONELY
With the story in mind, here is what Cornerstone 2.0 will look like:
AN INCLUSION ZONE: So many people feel excluded from God and his church. Our theme continues to be “come as you are and you will be loved.” Everyone is welcome here. We can all work together to make this happen: Invite “unlikely” people to church (people who do not believe or behave or look like us). Do what i do, get to church early and meet people. Or join our greeter team and welcome everyone. Let’s make the Cornerstone a “total inclusion zone".
A PRAYER ZONE: We want to connect broken people to Jesus the healer. That happens in prayer. We ask Jesus to show up in power. Our goal is that everyone experiences the presence and power of Jesus in saving, healing, transforming ways. Consider joining our prayer ministry team - come to the Catalyst next Sunday.
A SMALL GROUP ZONE: Everyone needs a place to belong, to be known, to be loved, and to be supported. Cornerstone 2.0 will be focused on becoming a church of small groups. From day one, everyone will be included in a group and encouraged to participate. Group members will serve together, help each other, pray for each other, and grow in grace together. In this way, those who arrive as strangers here will quickly become friends.
"Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." - Hebrews 13:1-2
Deep water faith is about helping outsiders become insiders, strangers become friends, the excluded become the included. It’s a beautiful vision. Let’s pray and work together to make it happen.