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Jesus said, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My Name they will drive out demons …they will place their hands on the sick and they will get well.”[1]

How easy is that? There is no need for prayer or fasting if we believe in Him. Just use His Name to drive out demons and lay your hands on the sick. So where did the traditions and rituals of exorcism, healing masses and praying for the sick come from? Certainly not from the mouth of Jesus Christ, and if we had been listening to Him the way we were commanded to, we would only ever have developed the tradition of discipling believers into the art of driving demons out by His Name and healing the sick by just laying our hands on them.

There would be no need of paraphernalia. Indeed there would not even be the need of Paul’s anointing of handkerchiefs for the healing of the sick if we had learnt to believe Him and take Him at His word, for indeed He said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing.”[2] And He sent only His word and the Centurion’s servant was healed and the royal official’s son was healed. We have to learn to take Jesus at His word.

What is faith in Him compared to believing in Him? Anyone who believes that God so loved the world that He sent His Son to save the world is saved. However, many do believe the Good News of John 3:16-17, but still lack faith in Him. They are the ones who say, “I believe Jesus, but…” To them, there is an innate confusion that although they have been saved by faith, they must also add to that faith, as James the Younger recommended, good works, saying as he did to the Jews in his letter: Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.[3] And so, from James we have learnt to add paraphernalia to express our faith, ranging from special clothing, to relics, to rituals of blessings of items of furniture, utensils, water and so forth, as well as charitable works of helps, and sacrificial denial of the ordinary comforts of life like the ownership of a house, wealth, fields, families, etc. All of which appear to be close to what Jesus was telling His disciples to do when He told them that they had to love Him more than their families, houses and fields in order to follow Him.[4] So, some denominations have taken up traditions of vows of poverty and chastity, none of which take Jesus at His word. If there is anything we are to learn and have learned, it is that whenever we fail to take Jesus at His word, what we do, no matter how good it looks and sounds, or however much we do, it does not work!

The Christian walk is hard, and the burden of living a life worthy of God is heavy, only because we do not have faith enough in Jesus to take Him at His word, even though we believe that He is the Son of God. Testimonies that the ‘Christian’ walk is hard and the burden is heavy are in abundance; we have 2000 years of church history to prove it. And those testimonies make Jesus Christ out to be a liar when He said, “My yoke is easy and My burden light.”[5] Even many of us who have spent years as a Christian in some denominational fellowship can testify to that, and we could spend another 2000 years pointing out all the errors that have been made. If we do that, then we have missed the point of our calling.

The purpose of our calling, as is the purpose of all who are drawn to Jesus by the Father, from Simon and Andrew onwards, is that we might listen to Jesus and do whatever He said. What history shows us is a church that was called to Jesus, but that its disciples, from the very beginning even while the Lord Jesus was still in their midst, did not always listen to Jesus, and if they did, they did not take Him at His word. What history has never recorded is what happens if a group of disciples were prepared to take Jesus at His word and did what He said as He said it.

Even the Bible does not record for us what would have happened if the twelve went to Bethsaida immediately after the feeding of the 5000 as Jesus told them, or what they would have heard or seen had they stayed awake that night in Gethsemane, or what would have happened if they had gone to Galilee that resurrection morning, or if they had waited in the city until they were filled with power instead of going fishing at the Sea of Tiberias, or if they had not appointed Matthias to replace Judas until the Holy Spirit had finally arrived.

History, as recorded in the Bible, shows us only what happened when we did not listen to Jesus and take Him at His word, with glimpses of possibilities of what can happen whenever Jesus is taken at His word, like the royal official whose son was healed, like the lame who washed in the pool in Siloam,[6] and like the servants at Cana who filled up the water jars and served it to the toast master.

The historical record of the four Gospels clearly gives us a picture of those who believed Jesus and took Him at His word, and those who believed Jesus but did not take Him at His word. I use the term, as John’s Gospel recorded: the man took Jesus at His word,[7] to show the difference between a servant and a friend. A servant obeys a master’s command, but a friend will take his friend at his word. Friendship with Jesus must begin and can only begin when we are prepared to believe in Him enough that we would take Him at His word.

And how is anyone able to take Jesus at His word if they are not told to listen to Him and if those who have Bibles are not told to read the words of Jesus first and last and only? So you read Proverbs, good; they are mostly words of Solomon and other men. You read Psalms, good, wonderful; but they are mostly words of David and other men. Even if you read Leviticus and do everything that is written in them, incredible; but they are only the words of God to the Jews, the same God who told the disciples John, Peter and James, “Listen to Him!”[8]

You seen, reading the Bible and practising what is in there indiscriminately is good, but not perfect. For even if you took the men of God, the heroes of faith, at their word concerning what they knew of God, it is only pleasing to God, but it is not until you take Jesus at His word that it is perfect, for the command is: “Listen to Him!” And the promise is that anyone who has faith in Him will do what He has been doing. The promise is not and never was that anyone who has faith in Jesus would do what Noah had done, or Abraham, or Isaac, or any of the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11.

Jesus never said anyone who has faith in Him would do what the apostles had been doing, even if they had walked on water. No, Jesus’ promise is: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing.” We have a history of works and organizations where people imitate what another disciple has done, giving rise to denominations and orders or societies like the Lutherans, the Dominican order, the Sisters of Mercy, to name a few. But history does not record for us, except for a short glimpse in Acts 2–15, that a group who remembered what Jesus did, was actually doing some of the things Jesus did in their midst, that they healed all who came, drove out demons, caused the lame to walk, and even raised the dead. However, the physician Luke was not able to find and record for us the evidence that the early disciples did everything that Jesus did, especially when it came to multiplying the food. The absence of this miracle in the book of Acts may be a fundamental reason for our lack of understanding and our failure to keep out the yeasts of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians. More of this later.

So as to ensure we are not accusers from here on, our attitude is not so much as saying what others did wrong, but rather, to see what Jesus did and to take Jesus at His word. Our purpose from here on is to find out for the sake of His story, what happens when a group of disciples is prepared to listen to Jesus and to take Him at His word when they put it into practice.

Now listen carefully: to take Jesus at His word when we put it into practice does not mean that we add or delete or change it because it seems good to us to do so. To take Jesus at His word and to put it into practice is like the disciples going immediately to Bethsaida as soon as Jesus told them to,[9] and to remember to tell the others what they had seen on the Mount of Transfiguration as soon as they heard Mary’s good news: “I have seen the Lord!”[10] No tarrying, no waiting, no committee meetings and councils, but just simply straight into the boat and go to Bethsaida, just simply grab your coat, staff, purse, even your sword, and make haste to Galilee.[11]

For us, we do not have these journeys of geographical destinations as they did, but we have a journey which has a final destination that takes us to the very throne of God to reign with Him, a destination that can only be achieved if we take Jesus at His word… now and not later! The twelve got into the boat later and ended up in the storm. They did not go to the mountain in Galilee until later, and even though they worshipped Him when they saw Him… some doubted.[12] They got into difficulties they should not have, and they were never free from doubt because they did not take Him at His word.

So, what does it mean to take Jesus at His word? It means believe what He said as He said it, even if you don’t know or understand what He is talking about, whilst doing or practising what you do understand, just as He said it.

Put simply, Jesus said, “Repent and believe.” So, repent unceasingly and believe Him and expect that whatever He has said is true and will surely come to pass. He said, “Drive out demons,” so drive them out; don’t bind them because He never said, “Bind the demons.” He said, “Heal the sick”[13] so heal them by laying on your hands, but don’t pray for them, for when He taught us to pray, He never mentioned the sick in the prayer He taught. Also, nowhere is it written that He said, “Pray for the sick.” Neither did He pray for the sick. He went to those who asked for Him or sent the word for those who had faith in Him, and did what was asked of Him, all without prayer, but rather He decreed, He spat, He made balls of mud, and He told them to take a wash.

Since it is unacceptable in 21st century Sydney that you could spit on the tongue of a dumb man to make him speak, or spit on the ground and make mud to cause blind men to see, then we will have to achieve all this by laying hands on the sick as He said. I have no doubt that Jesus foreknew our difficulties in 21st century society, and so He did not say that “those who believe in Me will spit on the dumb and they will speak,” or, “put mud on the eyes of the blind and they will see,” but that merely laying hands would be sufficient. Perhaps He also foreknew that there will be a time that public prayer would be so offensive as to be a crime. In anticipation of all this, He merely said, Those who believewill be able to place their hands on the sick and they will be healed.[14]

And what if you lay hands and no healing happens? Simple, it means firstly you are not a believer, so repent of your unbelief and try again, or would that offend your sense of Christian righteousness, which may not have anything to do with the righteousness of God? For God’s righteousness now since Jesus Christ is not displayed as works of charity, or external piety, or sacrifice and discipline of the flesh, or harsh treatment of self, or exile from the world to be cloistered away to achieve holiness. But rather, Paul puts it this way: For what the Law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering (for sin).[15] God made Him who had no sin to be sin (a sin offering) for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.[16] This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe… through faith in His blood.[17]

Paul tried to steer the church back to faith in Jesus Christ, or to put it more plainly, to steer those who believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God to faith in Jesus. And if you still are hard of hearing and lack understanding; to steer Christians back to faith in Jesus Christ, and this faith is not just faith that you are saved, will be saved, or will end up in Heaven and not Hell. No, the test of this faith is that you have faith that, because of Jesus Christ and through Jesus Christ, not only do you have righteousness credited to you from God like Abraham did, but that you are the righteousness of God. That you are the evidence that God is righteous because He sent His Son to call sinners to repentance and not the righteous,[18] and that all are made righteous by faith in Jesus and not by works.

That is the single test of faith, that the sinner you are as you are, just like Paul, the chief prince of sinners,[19] who did not do what he ought to do but found himself doing the very things he ought not to do, knew that there is now no condemnation for he who is in Christ.[20] So how do we find ourselves in Christ and remain in Him? You can listen to the church and its theologians, or you can listen to Jesus who said, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him.”[21] Have the attitude that His flesh is real food and His blood is real drink because that is what He said, “For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink.”[22]

And now, from here on, what is the proof of that faith? Paul said test your faith;[23] we say, prove it. The proof of faith is: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these…”[24] The sign that a person is a believer of Christ is that the sick are healed when they lay hands in His Name; demons are driven out, they speak in new tongues, and so on.[25]

That is our personal test from here on; not the test we apply to others for we are not to judge others, but each servant is answerable to their master. Our Master and Lord is the Holy Spirit and He is here to make known to us and remind us what Jesus said, giving us the power to testify to the truth of His words. His words taken as they are, obeyed as they are without any judgement of men added to them, even if those men are reputed to be pillars of the church or are related to the Lord by flesh.

Our work is easy. We do not have to roll back 2000 years of church tradition or history, or clean up 2000 years of imperfection. We merely have to find out for ourselves, not for anyone else, just ourselves, what happens to a group of disciples when they take Jesus at His word. What happens to a group of disciples, a church if you like, when they obey Jesus at His word when He said, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches…”[26]?

So, let us join the royal official on the road who took Jesus at His word, and let us begin our journey and see what good news we will hear even as we are on our way. Jesus said, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at His word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he enquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.”[27] The seventh hour is almost upon us. This is the final hour, for the signs of the end, as Jesus said, are with us.

So rejoice, for God has not called you to walk a road as His Son walked, but rather, He has called you to His Highway of Holiness, where the valleys are filled and the mountains brought low, and it is a straight way, straight and narrow, that does not turn to the left or right.[28] It is the easy road that makes light of any burden if only you will have faith in Jesus Christ.

Now, go and do whatever He says, like friends who also serve Him. Amen


 

[1] Mark 16:17a,18b

[2] John 14:12

[3] James 2:18

[4] Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:29; Luke 18:29

[5] Matthew 11:30

[6] John 9:7

[7] John 5:50

[8] Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:9; Luke 9:35

[9] Mark 6:45

[10] John 20:18; 9:9

[11] Matthew 26:32; 28:7,10; Mark 14:28; 16:7

[12] Matthew 27:17

[13] Matthew 10:8; Luke 10:9

[14] Mark 16:18 NLT

[15] Romans 8:3

[16] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[17] Romans 3:22,25

[18] Matthew 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32

[19] 1 Timothy 1:15-16

[20] Romans 8:1 (7:19)

[21] John 6:56

[22] John 6:55

[23] 2 Corinthians 13:5

[24] John 14:12

[25] Mark 16:17-18

[26] Revelation 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22

[27] John 4:50-52

[28] Luke 3:4-6 (Isaiah 40:3-5)

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