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One Small Step

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
March 1, 2021 9:00 am

One Small Step

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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March 1, 2021 9:00 am

When most of us pray, we typically spend the bulk of our time telling God about our needs and desires. There’s nothing wrong with that, in and of itself, but what does it say about our hearts? Do we really want God, or just his blessings?

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Naaman wasn't looking for God, he was looking for a cure for leprosy, but God used his search for a cure to lead him to something even greater. Here's my question for you. What if God in your pain had something beyond, better than the cure for your ailment? And what if it was something so valuable that after you got it you'd forget to even mention the healing that you got for your ailment? Welcome to a new week of Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer.

I'm your host, Molly Vidovich, and I'm so glad to be back with you all. You know, when most of us pray, we typically spend the bulk of our time telling God about our needs and desires. And truthfully, there's nothing wrong with that. God tells us to ask. But the question we should be considering is what might that say about our hearts? Today Pastor J.D.

asks us to take a look inside and consider whether we really want God or just his blessings. We're in a two-part teaching series called Something Better, Something Greater. If you've missed any of the previous messages, you can find them all at jdgreer.com. And don't forget, this is the last week to get the companion study guide, so make sure that you check that out while you're on the website.

But now let's dive into today's study called One Small Step. Second Kings, chapter five, is where we'll be for our final story here in this Something Greater series, Something Better, Something Greater. I will tell you this story is probably my favorite story in the whole Old Testament.

I'm serious. I love this story more than David and Goliath. I love it more than Daniel and the lion's den.

I love it more than Jonah and the big fish. All right, here we go. Second Kings, chapter five, verse one. Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria.

Some translations, by the way, say Arameans, same thing. Was a great and mighty man with his master. By the way, the word great is that word gadol in Hebrew, which just means larger than life, mighty. He was a mighty man in high favor because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. Victory over whom, by the way? That's kind of important. Victory over whom? Israel. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.

Now that's a huge but. Leprosy was the most feared disease in the world. It began in those days, or even today, it's now called Hansen's disease, but it began as a small patch of white and skin, almost a powdery that would kind of break out into a rash. It would slowly spread over the whole body until it deadened the nerve endings. Your bodily extremities began to fall off like your fingers and your toes. It would result in your facial features losing their shape.

You become grotesque to look at. They believed it was highly contagious. There was no cure for it at all, and so you were put outside. It was just the worst. It was a death sentence.

You would be outside where you have to spend the next 10 or 20 years until you died in isolation. Verse two, now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress would that my Lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria.

He would cure him of his leprosy. So Naaman went in and told his lord, means the king, thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel. The king of Syria said go now and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.

I'll write you a cover letter. So Naaman went taking with him 10 talents of silver, 6,000 shekels of gold, and 10 changes of clothing. Scholars, by the way, say this was an enormous amount of money.

150 pounds of gold, 750 pounds of silver. You might think the clothing is a little bit odd, like oh yeah all this, and he went to South Point and bought some stuff from Nordstrom's. Scholars say that this clothing in those days was very expensive, especially this kind of clothing. This would have been party clothing. Most people would never own a set of clothes like this. This is the kind of stuff you would wear if you got invited to the Oscars.

You know, you're a star, this kind of stuff. So we've got 10, the man of God going to be blinging after this right here is what he's taking in. All right, verse six, when they brought the letter to the king of Israel which read, when this letter reaches you know that I've sent to you Naaman my servant that you may cure him of his leprosy.

When the king of Israel read the letter he tore his clothes and said, am I God to make alive that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me. In other words, I know what he's up to. He's trying to pick a fight with me.

He's given me an assignment I could never fulfill and he's going to use this as an excuse for war. But when Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king. Elisha, you see, he didn't live near the palace.

He was way out in kind of the backwoods. He sent to the king saying, why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel. Elisha, get this, perceived by the spirit that there was a greater purpose in Naaman's leprosy and that greater purpose was that Naaman come to know God.

So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots. By the way, notice the plural. This would not have been a subtle thing and this would not have been impressive to the children of Israel. They're not out looking at it out there going, oh, look at that cavalcade of escalades. I wonder who that is.

They must be important. I mean, these are the Syrians that have raided their people. They're like, you know, you better hide your kids. You better hide your wife. You better hide your husband. They'd be snatching your people up, all right? So, sorry.

But that's what they did. And then he went and pulled them up and stood at the door of Elisha's house. Verse 10, and Elisha sent a, watch this, messenger to him saying, go and wash in the Jordan seven times and your flesh will be restored and you shall be clean. Elisha didn't even go out and see him. Now, Elisha's house can't have been that big, which means Naaman could probably look in there and see him sitting in there on the couch.

How'd you like to have been that kid? I mean, that's like Vladimir Putin showing up at my house in my neighborhood with his little cavalcade of tanks and limos and like a MiG or something that he shows up. And I send out one of my interns who says, I'm sorry, Mr. Putin, Dr. Greer has a busy afternoon and he is not able to see you today. Now, he can look in there and see me with my feet up on the couch watching TV. And he's like, but he says, if you'll go jump in this river, you'll be able to see me. If you'll go jump in this river and dip seven times or whatever you need, he's going to be taken care of. Okay, got to go. Sorry, bye.

He turns around and goes back in the house. Well, Naaman, as you can imagine, is angry and he went away. Verse 11, behold, I thought he would surely come out to me and stand out and call upon the name of the Lord, his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Verse 12, are not Abana and Farfar the rivers of Damascus? Are not they better than all the waters of Israel?

Couldn't I wash them and be clean? I mean, they're back where I live when I made this journey. Oh, and by the way, the Jordan River. You ever seen the Jordan River? Ever seen a picture of it? You ever been there? I have been there. I don't even know why they call it a river.

It is not impressive. It's muddy. And he's like, why would I go dip in a creek? I got all these mighty rivers there. There's another 15 miles past where he was. It's way out of the way.

So he turned and went away in a rage. Naaman's like the meatloaf of the Old Testament. I would do anything for healing, but I won't do that. I will not do that. And you children of the 80s that just got that reference, blessings on you, okay?

The rest of you, look it up. Rage, by the way, rage is the Hebrew word for heat, heat, which means his blood is boiling. He's like, I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to go back and I'm going to prepare and I'm going to come back and I'm going to destroy this area. His blood is boiling.

He's hot. Verse 13, but when his servants, there it is again, his servants came near and said to him, my father, if it was a great word, the prophet had spoken to you, wouldn't you have done it? Didn't he just say to you, all he said to you was wash and be clean. In other words, if he told you to go get the berries off a plant on the other side of Mount Everest, you'd have done it. If he'd have told you to swim upstream, one of these mighty rivers and clip the toenails off a dragon and make some broth with it, you'd have done that.

All he told you was wash and be clean. Isn't that worth a chance? Isn't it worth at least taking a risk? What have you got to lose, Nathan?

All you have to lose is your pride. So he went, verse 14, and he dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God. And on that seventh time, his flesh was restored like the flesh of a baby. And he was clean.

And can you imagine one time, two times, three times, no change, four times, five times, six times, nothing. He goes down that seventh time probably angrier than he was even before he went in the water. And he comes up that seventh time, and suddenly that spot is gone, and it's like the skin of a baby. Verse 15, then he returned to the man of God.

He had all of his company, and he came and stood before him. First time face to face with Elisha. Stop for a minute. What would you say? This man just saved your life, right? He just healed you from leprosy. What would you say? It's probably going to come out something like, thank you for saving my life and for restore, for cleansing.

That's what I'd say. What does he say? Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel. Not the first mention of leprosy. Not the first mention of healing.

You remember what Elisha had said? God's purpose in this was not just to cure a leper. God's purpose was to introduce a sinner to God. Naaman wasn't looking for God. He was looking for a cure for leprosy, but God used his search for a cure to lead him to something even greater than the cure for leprosy.

God. What if God, here's my question for you, what if God in your pain had something beyond, better than the cure for your ailment? And what if it was something so valuable that after you got it you'd forget to even mention the healing that you got for your ailment?

Let me take all the what-ifs for a minute because here's what I've learned. I have learned that all of us, regardless of how well our lives seem like they're together on the outside, have an area or two that we would just rather keep covered. And on the outside, everybody thinks you got it all together.

You're successful. Half the time you believe it too. But then in a moment of sobriety or maybe it's when you're alone or maybe it's at night or something triggers it, this area of brokenness will get exposed, a secret habit that you can't break. How many executives do I know who have everything together but have a habit that keeps them on the internet till 1 a.m. that they're terrified of actually being exposed one day because they know what it'll do to their family? Or maybe it's a problem you can't resolve, something in your past that you can't shake that every once in a while will rear its ugly head. Or maybe it's just a deep, unsettled unhappiness, invisible to everyone else but that is rotting you on the inside. Or maybe it's a secret paralyzing fear that when it comes out it just destroys you. It could be a fear of your own mortality. It could be a fear of your wife leaving you. It could be a fear of something happening to your children. Or maybe you've come up against an obstacle that you feel powerless to overcome, a health setback, the loss of a loved one.

You lost your job. Last time this year or last year this time, life looked a whole lot different than it does right now because there's something that's come up. It's a spot that you would love for God to take away. What if God's purpose in that problem is to get you to ask a bigger question? And what if that was a question so big that when you got it answered it would make the problem that you're dealing with seem so trifling that you almost forget to mention it? What if what you weren't looking for was 10,000 times greater than what you were looking for? What if God really was his own greatest reward? What if he was the pearl of great price? What if he was the treasure hidden in a field that after you found him you'd be willing to let everything else in your life glow, including healing for leprosy, after you had found the treasure in him so much so that you've got to even mention it when you finally stood in front of him? What if it was something so valuable that whenever you do finally stand before God, the first thing that comes out of your mouth is not what he did about that problem but what he did in reconciling you to himself?

What if that happens? Now I'm not trying to give you this full explanation of why people suffer. That's not my purpose.

It's just simply to get you to ask this question if you've never asked it. What if God had a greater purpose in your pain? The point of this story is not that every leper who has out of the Jordan River is going to find healing for leprosy. The point of this story is to show you how sinners find God, or better yet how God finds sinners. But before I explain that to you and unpack that, let me finish the story because it's just way too good. In fact, what I'm about to share with you has very little to do with the plot of what I'm going to explain as the point, but I just can't.

It's just too good. You have to finish it. So, except now a present from your servant, says Naaman to Elisha. But he, Elisha, said, as the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none. Naaman urged him to take it, but he refused. A fabulously wealthy guy wants to give a gift to a pastor, but he refuses. I don't know of any other situation in the world where that has ever happened.

It has certainly never happened here, okay? But see, Elisha knows that to receive this gift might confuse everybody watching. Remember, Naaman had started this process thinking that he could purchase this miracle by his riches, and he ended up giving this, if he ended up giving this gift, even in gratefulness, it might lead people to assume that he had been able to purchase it. And the one thing, the one thing that has to be understood about the gospel is that it is a free gift of grace. Verse 17, well, Naaman said, if not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, of dirt, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord. Now, that's quite a jump, isn't it?

What is going on? Scholars say what he's going to do, what he's planning to do, is he's planning to spread out that dirt whenever he offers a sacrifice because he's going to sacrifice it to God, but he's going to be on Syrian land, and he feels like he'd be more honoring to God if he would sacrifice it to God in Israel, so if he can't live in Israel, he's going to take part of Israel there. By the way, that is never in the Bible.

That is never an instruction given. He just made that up. He just made that up, but it gets better. Verse 18, in this matter, may the Lord pardon your servant when my, watch this, when my master goes into the house of Ramon, who's Ramon? That's a false god.

When my master, the king, goes into the house of the false god to worship there, and he's leaning on my arm, when I bow myself in the house of Ramon, may the Lord pardon your servant in this matter. And Elisha says, go in peace. What? I mean, I'll be honest with you, at first I struggled with this. I'm like, what? Because I'm expecting Elisha to be like, uh-uh, unless you take up a cross and, you know, forsake all, and unless you, you know, put your hand on the plow and never look back, you will never be fit for the kingdom of God. That's what I'd have said. And what's Elisha say?

All right. I'm like, what is the point of that? Here's the point, I believe.

Naaman's obedience is imperfect, but it's a start, and God receives it. And to be honest with you, I feel like a lot of Christians forget this. They talk like you come to Jesus and bam, you know, you turn into overnight this mature spirit-filled radical Christian, right? Your relationship with your wife suddenly, boom, transforms. Your kids, you know, are awesome now, and all your gangster rap music on your iPod transforms into a harp instrumental overnight. It just happens.

That's not true. You start out as a baby. You crawl, you drool, you run into stuff, you break things, and that's okay because you're coming the right direction. God, you see, is a very compassionate father, and if you're serious about repentance, he's serious about receiving you no matter how screwed up your life actually is and how long it takes us to unscramble that and for you to become somebody who walks with Jesus.

I'm not excusing compromise, and neither is Elisha. He's just simply recognizing that there is a path of maturity that you have to walk down. I feel like a lot of Christians forget that, and a lot of you come here, and this is probably the worst effect, you come here and feel like immediately you got to start acting like you're a mature Christian and like everybody's judging you.

I realize people do that, but they shouldn't be doing it because we all understand that if we expose to you all the things in our life, you'd see we aren't that mature and radical either, right? So what you got to do is you got to get going the right direction. You got to let God work this out in you. All right, let me draw for you the bigger point in this story that I told you about. Naaman's story is going to tell how each of us will meet God.

Here's what I want to do. I'm going to use the rest of my time to show you two things. I'm going to show you first of all why Naaman came to God, and then secondly, I'm going to show you how Naaman came to God. So why he came to God, then how he came to God. So number one, why Naaman came to God. Let's think about Naaman for a minute. Naaman was the ultimate insider, was he not?

Right? I mean, you couldn't get more into the inside circle than Naaman was. He had everything. He was a very successful general. He was a hero. He was a celebrity. When it says he's highly regarded, that's what it means. Everywhere he goes, people buy him dinner, pay for his drinks.

Right? He's the prime minister. When it says he's on the king's arm, he's the king's friend, that's what it means.

He's the ultimate insider, but he is about to become the ultimate outsider. Leprosy puts you on the outside faster than anything else because not only would it destroy your strength and disfigure you, the moment people knew that you had it, they'd shun you in the outside because they thought it was so contagious they didn't want to be around you. In Israel, you'd have to shout, unclean, when somebody got within 30 feet of you. Leprosy was a sentence of banishment and death. Naaman had found the spot of death. We don't know when, where it was, but he took off his armor one day and there it was, that little patch. But Naaman would never have found God if it had not been for that spot. His spot of death became his portal of eternal life. So here's my question for you.

Do you have a spot? Do you have something that feels to you like a sentence of death? Again, a need that you just can't overcome.

For the first time, your marriage is dissolving and you don't know what to do with it. Or maybe it's something going on with your children. Maybe you've just had children and you've suddenly felt overwhelmed about the responsibility. Maybe it's a habit that you can't break. How do I get rid of this spot?

Because nothing I try can overcome it. What if God had a greater purpose for that spot and it was to show you, see, something deeper that was really broken in your life and maybe you would have never thought about it until that spot appeared. Maybe your spot is that you really want to be a part of that inner ring like Naaman was.

You're like, that's what I want to be is where Naaman was. C.S. Lewis wrote an essay years ago called The Inner Ring. Never read it.

It's great. But he basically said there are three groups of people. Well, first of all, he said everybody has what they consider to be an inner ring. Now, depending on your career field or your personality, it's different. But everybody's got the inner group and we all want to be a part of that group.

So if you're a high school guy, when you're in high school, it's almost always the athletic, the jock kind of guy that you want to be a part of that group. And you're very aware of who's inside and who's outside. As you mature, it changes. Then when you're older, it becomes like I want to be a part of the guys who make a lot of money and do this over here. And you're very aware of who's in and who is out. Lewis said you've got three groups. You've got people who are in who are worried about one day getting kicked out. He says then you've got people who are not in but really want to be in. And then you've got people who have given up on the pursuit of trying to get in and they're now cynical and they just self-righteously make fun of all the other people who are trying to get in. And when I read that in college, I thought that explains my entire high school experience right there. Because you look around the cafeteria and you can see these three groups.

You've got the in, right? You've got in different ones, but you've got like for guys, you've got the jock group and the cool guys. And then you've got the guys who want to be a part of that group. And then you've got a group of people on the other side of the cafeteria who are kind of the, you know, they're kind of the, whatever they are, ghosts or deadheads or whatever. They're just kind of like, oh, we just self-righteously, we're giving up on that.

But essentially it's all the same thing. They feel like outsiders and we want to be insiders. And Lewis said the reason that we're like that is because instinctively we know we're on the outside. And so what we want is we want to be on the inside of some ring that will tell us that we're on the inside. He said, but what we fail to realize is that outsideness goes back way deeper than that ring that we're thinking about. We're on the outside of God's ring.

He said it goes back to a little mysterious scene in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve, the first effect of their sin was, I've told you this before, what was the first effect of Adam and Eve's sin? They felt naked. And Lewis said, no matter who you are, how much you've accomplished, if you're naked, you feel like you're on the outside, right? You follow that? If you're naked, I don't care how much money you have, what kind of car you drive, if you're sleepwalking and you suddenly in these next few minutes come to at our campus and you're like, I'm buck naked, right?

It doesn't matter that you drove Alexis here this morning and that you make $500,000 a year. You want to get on the outside. That's what nakedness does. And Lewis, what he said was the ultimate spot you see is sin. And the circle that we've been excluded from is God's circle. And so leprosy is for us a picture of sin, which is why it's talked about so much in the Bible because sin deadens. It grows in you and corrupts you. More and more over time you lose feeling. Your soul has a disease and it's terminal. And I don't know if you ever realize that. Maybe you never have.

Most people don't. But all these little spots are just pointing you to the fact that there's a real spot and that spot is terminal and it's growing because the wages of sin is death for all have sinned, see, and fallen short of the glory of God. There's none righteous, not even one. They've all together become unprofitable.

We have turned away and gone into our own way. The soul that sins it shall die because it's been appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment. You carry around in you the sentence of condemnation of death and one day you're going to stand before God and all that's going to be exposed and all that leprosy is going to be out there, the leprosy of the soul, and you're going to stand condemned. And if God's got to put you flat on your back with another thing to finally get you to consider where you stand with God and the condition of your soul, then you will learn to call it a good thing. That's why naming came to God is just God put him on his back that showed him a deeper problem and that was the spot of leprosy on his heart. There's no doubt that sin can grow in you and corrupt your heart over time, but thankfully God has the cure and it leads to eternal life. You're listening to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian J.D.

Greer. Visit us at jdgreer.com. We love making all these resources available to you free of charge, helping you dive deeper into the gospel throughout the week. But we can only do so because of people like you who give to support this ministry. When you donate to Summit Life, you're really giving to your fellow listeners, people across the country and around the globe who are growing in their knowledge of God thanks to your faithfulness and giving. So let me encourage you to get on board today. When you donate at the suggested level of $25 or more, we'll say thanks by sending you the study guide that goes along with our current teaching series. It's titled Something Better, Something Greater, A Study of Elijah and Elisha.

Request your copy when you give today. I'd also like to personally invite you to become a gospel partner. Gospel partners join our team by giving a regular automatic monthly gift to the ministry. This empowers us to boldly proclaim the gospel through radio, podcasts, online, and print resources. We'd love to welcome you to the family today when you give us a call at 866-335-5220 or visit us online at jdgreer.com. I'm Molly Benovitch, and I am so glad that you joined us today. Be sure to listen again tomorrow as we take one more small step toward a life fully committed to Christ right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-16 20:41:42 / 2023-08-16 20:53:27 / 12

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