Jesus is The Good Physician
Jesus Is Really Good: Jesus is the Good Physician
Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor • Feb 14, 2016 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Senior Pastor
Good morning and welcome to the Vineyard!
We’re so glad you are here with us this morning. If this is your first time or 100th, we are honored that you are here today in our community. Whether you arrived here this morning because of an Internet search, because you were invited, or because you already knew the way, we are grateful for your presence. Our simple prayer for you is that you would experience peace, welcome, and acceptance. We also pray that you would find space to encounter the loving presence of the living God during your time with us this morning!
While growing up in the Black church, I would hear, from time to time, someone say, “God is Good.” Over time, this would become a part of a greeting; it would be shared from the platform and the congregation would respond back, “All the time.” There is something undoubtedly attractive about the declaration that, “God is Good.”
This wasn’t just a theological statement, it was a testimony.
It became a testimony because these church mothers had weathered many storms and crises throughout their lives. They were women who had a lifetime of trusting God, a lifetime of experiencing God’s faithfulness and provision. They had a lifetime of God doing the impossible–paying bills that were due, breaking down barriers, freeing up money, and saving loved ones from danger near and far. Their declaration was a flag being planted in the ground; it became for them a bedrock of stability and it was a source of life. It was more than a saying, it was the truth.
Their declaration that God is Good (All the Time) was a shorthand for what Isaiah says in chapter 64 verses 3 & 4:
For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. (Isaiah 64:3-4)
God is Good, All the Time.
Maybe you have this picture of God? This picture works like this: God is the boss, we are his workers doing his will on the earth. Our payday and reward are the blessings in our lives. So, when things go wrong in our lives, it’s a direct result and consequence of our failure to do our job.
With this picture of God, we are forced to make everything that happens in life make sense. Surely, a good God wants to bless his people, take care of them, and make sure their lives work. What we are really saying is, “God, since we work for you, you should protect us and our stuff from everything that is bad.” This view forces us to understand that when bad things happen, God must be using these bad things to punish us for failing to do our jobs.
Into this view of the world, Jesus has something to say,
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
After our first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, I remember a pastor acquaintance of mine suggested that our tragedy was the result of a hidden unrepentant sin.
What makes someone say something like this? I think it’s found in our desire for security, certainty and, by extension, control. We struggle with difficult things, we struggle with chaos, so we crave certainty. For in it, we hope that it will calm our hearts, steady our minds and give us peace. Certainty isn’t able to do this for us, only God can give us what we need.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32)
Our craving for certainty mars our ability to have faith.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
Certainty can be an obstacle to faith.
Certainty can be a preoccupation to faith.
Certainty can be a cheap substitute for faith.
It undermines our exercise of faith that Jesus says is childlike. Often, we aren’t given enough to be certain, just enough to believe and have faith. This, of course, involves risk.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
This pastor could be forgiven for thinking that God only works in this way. Our pursuit of certainty is the false idol in whom we place our faith instead of placing it in Jesus, the true and living God.
Jesus is inviting us to understand and unlock the kingdom of God by approaching God like a child does: full of trust, full of hope and full of faith.
“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17)
Is God really Good?
The church mothers from my past are offering us a different way forward. They are declaring that God is good even in the midst of hardship, tragedy, and suffering. Their declaration was built on their experience of God’s faithfulness, his presence, his steady presence in their lives, helping them to weather whatever came their way.
Along with their testimony was the presence of joy; I can hear them saying:
“This joy that I have, the world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away.”
Where does a testimony like this get formed? It gets started by understanding that the God of the Bible is good.
Psalm 107:1 says:
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south. (Psalm 107:1)
We need to surrender our pictures of God and how he works. My pastor acquaintance may have had a picture of “The Angry God,” punishing the righteous for their sins. This narrative of God is firmly rooted in history. This god is an angry judge, ready to dole out punishment for bad behavior and blessings for good deeds. The problem, though, is you never know where you stand with this god, and your fear isn’t based on his character, you can’t actually trust him. It’s just a fear of what punishment may be coming your way. When we take up this picture of God, God becomes cruel, capricious and selfish. When we continue with this picture of God, we turn the Gospel that Jesus announced into a Gospel of Sin Management. We rob the Gospel of its Good News. So, how do we move forward then? How do we surrender this distorted picture of God. We turn to Jesus and we ask him to show us the Father.
NT Wright says that
“The being we refer to as ‘God’ was, and is, fully present, and fully discoverable, in Jesus of Nazareth.”
And this is what Jesus says about his Father:
“There is only One who is good.” (Matthew 19:17b)
And the scriptures echo what Jesus already knows about his Father:
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed are those who take refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)
I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them...I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul. (Jeremiah 32:40-41)
In every story that Jesus tells he reveals a heavenly Father who is good–good like no other. He reveals a Father always out for our good, even if we fail to see or understand it.
As I have wrestled with this understanding, someone offered me a different way of thinking about God that I want to share with you. What if, instead of an Unhappy Boss, or the Angry God, we thought of God as the Good Physician.
When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:16-17)
Let me tell you a story: In order to get my acne medication renewed, I had to go in and visit my doctor. I’m an every two-years-kind-of-patient. You know the drill, the excellent nurses weighs you, take your blood pressure, then leave you to wait for your doctor. Of course, being me, I had my computer, so I wrote some software during the wait time. After reviewing my charts, she said, you know Donnell, your blood pressure is a bit on the high side. With your risk factors (stroke and high blood pressure in my family history), I would like you to consider two treatment options: 1.) Go on blood pressure medication, 2.) Start exercising, or 3.) Do nothing until you have an incident–then you will have to take the medication.
You may be surprised to learn that my blood pressure is a bit on the high side, but it’s in my genes. My dad had a stroke when he was 40 and died 16 years later from a stroke and a heart-attack. Both of my grandmothers died from mini-strokes ending in a brain hemorrhage. So, I’m at risk. I also don’t like to exercise and I refuse to go on blood pressure medication. After my dad died, I realized that I should follow my doctor’s advice.
When I finally started exercising, it wasn’t out of loyalty to my doctor. It wasn’t because of my relationship with my doctor, it was purely out of my own self-interest. I want to live a long and full life. I want to see our kids grow up, see our kids have kids themselves, and God-willing see my great-grandkids. Starting to exercise happened because I finally realized that my doctor was offering me a different way to live, one that would be better for me.
If I have earned any trust from you, believe me when I say, Jesus is doing the same thing: he is offering you a better way to live life. Everything he prescribes is for your benefit.
A better way to live
One of my favorite passages in the New Testament is Luke 13:1-5:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)
When I first encountered this scripture, I completely ignored Jesus. As I did my contact evangelism, this scripture fueled my evangelism: unless you repent, you will die. I was calling people to repent under the picture of “The Angry God” punishing evil-doers with tragedy. I thought I was clever by making Luke 13:3 my email signature. But, I thoroughly missed the point that Jesus was making. He’s rejecting the picture of a God who uses tragedy to punish people as if they were some super-class of sinners. He has a warning, of course, and it’s pretty clear: give up your way of living and trust mine.
Let’s press in on that word, repent. It could be translated, “Give up your personal agenda and trust mine.”
Meaning, we could rewrite Luke 13:3 so that it read:
I tell you, no! But unless you give up your personal agenda and trust mine, you too will all perish.
This is important! Jesus says, give up your personal agenda and trust his. I’ll show you the way to life, real life. As we respond to his invitation, we aren’t acting out of sheer obedience, no, we act because it’s in our best interest. Our act of obedience is something we do for our benefit.
I had to change my ways and trust that my doctor was offering me a new way of living, a way of living that would be beneficial to me.
For many of us, doctors have become our modern day high priests. Jesus, is the true mediator between us and God, and he says, “You will not experience life, real life, until you give up your personal agenda and trust mine.”
What’s his agenda for us? (I’m glad you asked):
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:10-11)
Remember, Jesus is presenting himself as the good doctor offering life to those of us who are sick. He is offering hope to those who are despairing. He is offering peace to those wrecked with fear and anxiety.
He is saying that we are all at risk of missing out on life because we refuse to give up our personal agendas, our way of life. Jesus has the key to life and he is offering us living water:
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13)
Think about it this way, God doesn’t need anything from us, but he has everything we need. Jesus is saying, without reservation, if you want to learn what it means to be alive, I'll show you, but first give up your personal agenda and believe mine.
- If you want to experience peace in your life, then learn to trust me.
- If you want to find security, then give up your stuff and trust me to provide for you.
- If you want freedom, then learn how to forgive those who hurt you.
- If you want healing, then be willing to ask.
- If you want to experience real love, then learn to love those you hate you.
- If you want joy, give up your personal agenda and trust mine.
Jesus is inviting us into a whole new way–our posture up until now has been, “what do I have to give God?,” but the God of the Bible flips this on its head. He says, “I am the God that provides.” Abraham experienced this, David experienced this, Joshua experienced this. God declares, “I don’t need anything from you, but I have everything you need.”
Paul explains this to us:
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. (Acts 17:24-25)
1. Get Baptized on Easter: In order to take hold of the salvation that Jesus won for us on the cross, we have to surrender our allegiance to sin and death. We must reject their claims on our life and turn our back on them. Baptism is more than the outward symbol of our loyalty to Jesus, it’s the place where we break solidarity with sin; we change our status, and enter the kingdom of God where we are no longer subject to the rule and reign of sin and death. Sign up at the Events Station in the Lobby.
2. Join a Lenten Life Group: Anna Hillaker & Jade Ho will be leading a Tuesday evening Lenten Small Group. 7pm at the church, focusing on Lenten Spiritual Practices.
3. Renew your mind.
Paul says, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
This week, set aside some time to ask yourself a really honest question, when no one else is concerned, “How do I you truly feel about God?” Write down what you feel, sit with it for a bit (a day or so), then ask, “Is the way I feel about God consistent with the God that Jesus revealed?”
4. Believe that you are an object of God’s care and provision.
Try reading Psalm 23 or Psalm 131 and try to visualizing yourself in the good care of God. As you do this, here are some questions to consider the following questions: How do I feel? Am I defensive? Am I able to surrender? Am I able to accept his provision and care for me? Do I trust that God is really good? Do I believe that God works for me?
As you come forward for communion, if anyone has ever told you that God hates you, that God is disappointed with you, that you have failed God, we want to speak a blessing over you to reverse the word of the enemy.
If you are currently experiencing anxiety, bitterness, regret, jealousy, envy, or false guilt, we want to pray that God’s joy would come to you.
If you are impatient, feeling lifeless, overwhelmed by greed, and aren’t satisfied, we want to pray that God’s joy would come to you.
If you don’t believe or haven’t experienced God as good, would you allow us to pray that this would change.
If you are ready to give up your personal agenda for your life and believe in Jesus’s agenda, we want to stand with you in prayer.
May you come to know that God is Good.
May you come to know that God is good, all the time.
May you come to know that God is good, all the time, and that he is in a good mood.
May you come to know that God is compassionate.
May you come to know that God is full of grace.
May you come to know that God is slow to anger.
May you come to know that God is abounding in love.
May you come to know that God is abounding in faithfulness.
May you come to know that God’s personal mission statement is to fill the earth with his glory.
May the goodness of God overwhelm you, arrest you, establish in your heart and mind an anchor on which you can weather any storm, any attack of the enemy.
May you come to know the long-suffering God.
May you come to know the forgiving God.
May you come to know the God of the Bible, who is good all the time!