God bless you sir…

scrap metal 1

“Are you a God fearing man, I asked?”

“Well I know God in my own way…  I don’t attend church and I’ve never been baptized.”

“The thief on the cross was never baptized, but Jesus told him he would be with Him in paradise today, have you ever heard that story?”

“No, I haven’t”

“Have you ever considered why Jesus came to this earth?”


“Do you have a few minutes?  I’d like to tell you about that.”


“Is your name James, I thought I heard you say that?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Okay, James…”

This is how my conversation began yesterday afternoon with a man named James.  I was outside working in my yard and James was cruising around the neighborhood looking for scrap.  That’s become a big thing recently and there is rarely a time when I put something on the curb and it’s not picked up before the city gets to it.

I’m grateful for the service these men perform.  They scrap out the metal and earn some money, I get rid of some of the useless “treasures” I’ve accumulated over time and the city saves time and effort by not having to pick up as much as they normally would.  It seems to be a win for everyone.   I’ve also observed most of these “scrappers” are friendly when they drive by.  They smile, they wave and they usually greet you.  I suppose that’s part of their customer service strategy.

When James drove past the first time I noticed he seemed to have a warm and friendly face and as he circled my cul-de-sac and came back through I decided I had some scrap I was going to give him.  It had been sitting in my garage for months with big plans for me to strip the wire and cash in a big check.  Suddenly I felt something come over me that just said James needed it more than I did.

So I waved him down and he readily jumped out of his truck and greeted me.  I said “I have something for you.”   When I brought out a box of copper wire his eyes lit up and he proceeded to thank me and was eager to get it into his truck.

As he said God bless you, I asked him if he was a God fearing man and so our conversation began.

James told me quite a bit about his life and he had some interesting stories of changes that many might believe a good sign of a changed man.  James had been a drunk and a drug user.  He had really cleaned up his life and that’s a good thing for the here and now.  This will certainly make James’ life better.  But does this mean James is a new creation? (2 Corinthians 5:17)  Does he have a new heart? (Ezekiel 36:26)  Does he practice righteousness?  This is the key to whether James has truly been converted.

1 John 2:29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.

I asked James if he has a bible and if he read it regularly?

“No, it’s very hard to understand.”

“Yes, I understand…” God’s Word tells us that it is spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

James needed to hear the gospel.  He needed to understand that his sin and my sin put Christ on the cross.  And his sin will be paid for one of two ways.  God poured out His wrath on the Son for James or James will take that wrath for all of eternity in hell.

Think about that for just a moment.  Ten thousand times ten thousand times ten thousand years is only the beginning of eternity.  The torment will never end.  Never!

Much more than a hundred bucks of scrap this is the message James needed to hear.  In a fifteen minute conversation James heard that God is love.  God’s love was manifested through the cross but that love is only available to those that turn to Christ in faith and then live radically different lives.

I’m hopeful James will begin to see his sin.  I gave him a gospel message that challenged his thinking and asked him to read his bible, starting in the New Testament with the book of John.  Then he can read how Jesus requires us to be born again and I’m hopeful he will understand why God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  (John 3:16)

I hope James will labor for the food that never perishes; this is far more valuable than anything he could find on the curb.

John 6:27 “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”


The paralytic

Mark 2:1-11 describes a very interesting scene.  Jesus had become well known through His ministry and the crowds have quickly become very large, almost a mob scene.  People are being healed and Jesus is doing some pretty crazy stuff so of course people want to know what it’s all about.  It’s natural they would be curious.  They are looking for something to happen, maybe they want to see a miracle, maybe they want to be healed, or maybe they want to be fed like in John Chapter 6.

Mark 2:4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was.  So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.  When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

I find this fascinating and wanted to offer a couple observations about this passage.

The most obvious is this man’s friends cared enough for him that they would go to this much trouble to bring him to Jesus.  They wanted him to be healed.  They were willing to go to extreme measures for their friend.  When Jesus saw what they had done he pronounced the paralytic’s sins were forgiven because of “their” faith.

John MacArthur commenting on this

Jesus knew what he really wanted. He wanted healing, sure. But far more than that, he wanted forgiveness. The other guys didn’t seem to care about that, but then again maybe they hadn’t really come to grips with their sin because they were able bodied. The sinner who is paralyzed may have a different view about his own wretchedness and may see that paralysis as a judgment. Certainly they did in that culture. They just connected those and so did the people who were ill. But whatever the motivation, or whatever the stimulation, the man knew himself to be wretched on the inside, as much as wretched on the outside, and He wanted not just a healing, but he wanted forgiveness and he believed that this was the one who could bring him forgiveness from God.

And so, Jesus on this moment on the basis of His own personal authority, absolved the man of all his sins. Listen carefully, “Apart from works, “ right? He didn’t do any works and He obliterated the guilt and this man went from being sentenced to eternal hell to being given the privilege of eternal heaven. The man’s heart must have been like the Publican in Luke 18 who said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” That man went home righteousness, Jesus said.

What is faith?  The word used here is “pis’-tis” moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly constancy in such profession; by extension the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself: – assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.

But you say the verse says the men also had faith, why weren’t they saved, look at the work they did to bring their friend to see the Christ?  Jesus only pronounced the paralytic’s sins were forgiven.  This is a big question.  Many go to see Jesus when He’s performing.  Lots of people attend churches and they seem to have faith but what kind of faith do they have?  Is it faith that brings them to repentance and forgiveness of their sins?

John MacArthur sheds light on this once again

Now they all had faith. They all had faith that Jesus could heal. How could they have that faith? Was this some…some supernatural kind of faith? No…no, they believed He could heal…why? Because He had been doing it. This is natural faith. This is human faith, the same faith that allows you to go into the hospital and have surgery. Why do you do that? Why do you let somebody put you asleep? And then they wheel you into a room and somebody slices you open and messes around…why do you do that? You don’t know the guy, you don’t know how he treats his wife, his kids, his friends, his enemies. Well what do you think he’s going to do to you? Why do you do that?

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith (pis’-tis), and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.

This was God’s gift through no effort of his own.  He was able to see his sin and his helpless condition.  That is saving faith.  Let’s also contrast a couple other notable passages about faith or belief.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes (pisteuō) in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

This uses the verb form of the word as does James 2:19

James 2:17-20 Thus also faith by itself,  if it does not have works, is dead.  But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’  Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe (pisteuō) that there is one God.  You do well.  Even the demons believe (pisteuō) and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

Just as the friends of the paralytic did not have saving faith we can see from the James passage that demons believe and don’t have saving faith.  The question is do you have saving faith or some other type of faith, do you have some intellectual knowledge of god or do you “believe”?

Heavenly Father may You grant faith to those that understand their wretchedness and helpless condition today.  May you open eyes to see that we can only be saved by You and the faith You give us will produce good works.  Works do not produce faith and I humbly ask that you might show someone this today for the very first time, for Your glory Father.  Amen.