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A Theology on Sin and Cleansing

Notes & Transcripts

A Theology on Sin and Cleansing

2Kings 5                        August 16, 1998

 

Introduction:

          The Bible is full of stories that have theological implications, that is, they illustrate the truth of God - they tell us about God and the way he works.  Remember last week’s message from Luke 4:14-30 about Jesus being rejected in his home town of Nazareth?  His response to the people included this account from the O.T. about how God works.  His grace will not be thwarted.  If those whom he has chosen (the Israelites) would not receive it, he would give it even to the Gentiles.  God’s own people during the time of Elisha the prophet were far from him.  But Naaman the Syrian would come.  He would need some prompting and some direction, but he came and he rejoiced in the true faith he found.  God’s people were so hung up on the fact that they were chosen that they forgot that they must also choose.  God’s cleansing goes to all who really want his grace and remains on those who do not abuse his grace.  Today’s passage tells us a lot about sin and cleansing.  You can remember and use this passage as an illustration of eternal truth for yourself and others.

          The players in this passage are Naaman, the commander of the Syrian forces; Ben-Hadad, the king of Syria or Aram; the Israeli servant girl; Joram, the king of Israel; Elisha, the prophet of God; and Gehazi, Elisha’s servant.

1.       Sin is Fatal  (v.1)

Human gifts, recognition and accomplishments cannot overcome the curse of sin which comes upon us all (Is. 64:6; Eccl. 9:11-12).  These qualities cannot overcome in our battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil no matter how valiant we are, no matter even how moral we are.  Our condition is debilitating and terminal - like leprosy (give analogy of sin and leprosy).  We need help.

2.       Cleansing is Available  (vv. 2-3)

God provides this help to us by sending us messengers of truth in some amazing ways, often in ways we wouldn’t expect.  But we must act on what he shows us.  God’s initiative calls those whom he has chosen (Rom. 8:29-30; Eph. 1:4-6), and yet we know there is no excuse (Rom. 1:20) in ignorance since Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (1John 2:2) and the whole world is held accountable for sin (Rom. 3:19-20).  If you really want God you will seek him and find him - and as you seek him he leads you in the path of righteousness.  For some this path is a little straighter than for  others, but he will not disappoint the one who is really searching for him.  Perhaps you or I can be the one who brings the word of faith as God’s servant to someone who is seeking a cure for sin.  We are like signposts along that path.  We may lament our position or condition, like the servant girl might do, but it is being used by God.  Our faith is contagious in overcoming the contagion of sin.

3.       Cleansing is Valuable  (vv. 4-6)

Once we find a lead on truth and are willing to follow it, God will see that nothing stands in our way of carrying out our desire for obedience.  It is as if he gives us a letter of reference and provides for the journey.  The prospect of a cure for sin is worth a fortune.  If we could pay it, we would be willing.  Certainly there are others in our lives who would be willing to pay a fortune if they could get us cured of sin.  They have a vested interest.  We have great potential value to them, but we are damaged goods.  They want us to be whole.  They, too, are willing to help us if we let them.

4.       Cleansing Comes Only From God  (v. 7)

Perhaps our first thought when we discover how sick we really are is to find us some human healer.  This person may be important (a king), but when faced with the monumental prospect of a cure for an eternal illness, they have no recourse but to be honest and tear their robes in the anguish of inability.  Any person who is truthful will admit that ultimate healing comes only from God.  This healing for sin is tantamount to bringing someone back to life from death.  Indeed, the one who is healed from the curse of sin will have eternal life.  If anyone is ever sent to us for this healing we must point them to the only one who can heal which is Christ.  When we defer to the ultimate authority, they cannot pick a quarrel with us.  If we are called upon to act, we must do so in his Name - and we have a responsibility to remember that Name and to call upon that Name.

5.       Cleansing Comes Only to Those Who Obey God  (vv. 8-10)

So God continues this journey of holy discovery for the one who truly wants healing.  We are brought to the one who is able to act for him.  For Naaman it was Elisha.  For us it is Christ and those whom he chooses to act directly as his servants.  The purpose for it all is that the seeker might know that there is a God in the land who is true and right.  But still, the seeker must continue the journey, right up to the door (Mt. 7:7-8).  He must not turn back prematurely, even if he feels rejected at the door.  Perhaps God is testing his obedience.  How badly do we want what we have come after?  Is it because we truly want to be healed, or is it because someone else has sent us?  Will we do what we are told even if it does not make sense to us?  There was no healing power inherent in the water, but obedience to the Word which said “wash” was required.  Even so there was no healing power inherent in the obedience either, but it was in the Word.  The Word cleanses as we respond to it.  It is whatever God says that heals, but we must do it (Mt. 28:19-20).

6.       Cleansing From God Defies Our Understanding  (vv. 11-12)

Let us admit it.  Christianity seems too simplistic to be true.  Here it is washing 7 times in the Jordan.  Seven is a complete number.  The Jordan is the river that separates us from the Promised Land.  We must be cleansed from the sin which separates us from God in heaven.  For us on the other side of the cross, we are baptized into God’s family in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  The Promised Land is heaven.  But Naaman thought surely there is something more I must do.  He thought there must be something more than this - there must be some visible manifestation or act of God.  He didn’t yet grasp the implications of the obedience of faith.   Perhaps he thought he deserved a personal audience.  But until we are clean we have no audience with God.  We get that audience by obeying in faith.  Naaman tries one more approach.  What about the rivers of other lands?  That is, isn’t there some other religion that will perform a more elaborate ritual that can heal me?  He thought, “I’ve come all this way for this?”  He had some questions that needed to be answered.  He needed to come to terms with God.  God is patient with us as we discover that the only terms he accepts are his own, not ours.  That is what is hard for us, to let God be the provider of everything that we need (Eph. 2:8-9).

7.       Cleansing From God is Complete  (vv. 13-14)

Naaman is still on his journey, although he backs up a few steps to check his course.  A wise man listens to counsel.  God uses many means we might not expect to direct us, like servants that we think are under our direction.  This perhaps becomes a lesson in humility as we are enabled by God to apply this object lesson in coming to him.  Perhaps part of the cleansing we seek is the humbling of our hearts.  How wise the servants were!  “Would you not have done the great thing?  Then how much more the simple.”  So he obeyed and found himself completely clean by the Word of God.

8.       Cleansing From God is Free  (vv. 15-16)

“Hallelujah, I’m free at last!”  Can’t you hear him cry out?  It certainly wasn’t because he did it himself.  He must praise God for giving him faith, for honoring that faith, for setting him free.  The greatest praise we can give God is in believing that he exists and that he rewards those who do so (Heb. 11:6).  Our natural inclination is to offer some form of payment.  But God will not accept perverted goods.  And if he accepted it, it would pervert us once again from the cleansing we received.  The only payment he accepts is the humble heart of faith.  Once we have been cleansed, God will accept our works done in his Name, but he will not accept any payment for the cleansing except that which he provided through his Son Jesus Christ upon the cross.  That is the only payment good enough.  Anything else is an insult.  And the wise man of God will not turn profits on blessings less they become curses upon his own head.

9.       Cleansing From God is Continuously Available  (vv. 17-18)

We cannot buy heaven, but God gives it freely to all who ask.  Naaman got the message.  So he wants all of heaven he can get to keep him through the remainder of his life on earth.  What better picture than to take all of the Promised Land you can carry with you?  Does the prospect of heaven keep you going, and going, and going?  We have been forever changed by our cleansing experience (2Cor. 5:17).  We will never again serve a false god.  But we still live in the world, and a certain amount of contamination is inevitable (1Cor. 5:9-10).  That is why we have been given 1John 1:9.  Isn’t God good?  He has thought of everything.  And we can even possess a little of eternity now.

10.     Woe to Anyone Who Would Abuse God’s Grace  (vv. 19-27)

And with all of this we can go in peace with the blessing of God.  Except for one thing.  There is always someone who wants to make us pay after we have been cleansed and let off the hook by the grace of God.  There is always someone who says we got off too easily.  There is always someone who wants to turn a profit on our good fortune even if it means creating disaster for us.  Perhaps they think our sins were too bad to be taken care of so easily.  They want a cut of the action.  But they forget the power of God, the sacrifice of Christ, and the effectiveness of faith.  And they may make us pay, but only with supreme cost to themselves.  The curse of the sins that were forgiven will come down upon their own heads.  That’s right, even if they try to make us pay a little, once true repentance has been wrought, they only curse themselves - and they denigrate God.  Once something is dealt with at all levels and put under the blood of Christ, it shall not, it must not, it cannot ever be brought up again in God’s sight (Mic. 7:18-19).

Conclusion:

          Do you know for certain that you are released from the bondage of past sin by faith in Christ?  Have confidence before God that you have been cleared by the ultimate power of the universe.

          Do you hold anything against anyone, thinking that they have no present right to peace because of their past sins, even though truly confessed and forgiven?  Beware of God lest you inherit what you detest.

          Do you know of anyone who desperately needs to be set free from the hopeless chains of sin by God’s gift of grace through faith in Christ?  Perhaps you are called to be the signpost along the way.

          A theology of sin and cleansing.  Naaman the leper, the Gentile, the child of God, perhaps an up and coming commander in the army of the Lord.  A picture of the grace of God.  And you?


Sermon Notes:  A Theology on Sin and Cleansing

Scripture:  2Kings 5    

Date:  August 16, 1998                  

1.       Sin is Fatal  (v.1)

2.       Cleansing is Available  (vv. 2-3)

3.       Cleansing is Valuable  (vv. 4-6)

4.       Cleansing Comes Only From God  (v. 7)

5.       Cleansing Comes Only to Those Who Obey God  (vv. 8-10)

6.       Cleansing From God Defies Our Understanding  (vv. 11-12)

7.       Cleansing From God is Complete  (vv. 13-14)

8.       Cleansing From God is Free  (vv. 15-16)

9.       Cleansing From God is Continuously Available  (vv. 17-18)

10.     Woe to Anyone Who Would Abuse God’s Grace  (vv. 19-27)


 

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