Summary: Part 6 in series Love Never Dies, this message focuses on the critical role of our own desire in being able to move toward spiritual change.
It Starts With Desire
Love Never Dies, prt. 6
Wildwind Community Church
May 9, 2010
Thomas Merton said, “a life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.” I’d like to talk to you about desire today, as we move into John chapter 5. Let’s get right to the text.
John 5:1-6 (BBE)
1 After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now in Jerusalem near the sheep-market there is a public bath which in Hebrew is named Beth-zatha. It has five doorways.
3 In these doorways there were a great number of people with different diseases: some unable to see, some without the power of walking, some with wasted bodies.
5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
6 When Jesus saw him there on the floor it was clear to him that he had been now a long time in that condition, and so he said to the man, Is it your desire to get well?
That’s it. We’re going to look today at just these first five verses. In fact we’re going to look mostly at the one question Jesus asks here. “Do you desire to get well?” It’s worth doing a whole sermon on because I think it’s easily overlooked. Just like Jesus asked this question, we need to ask it of ourselves, and of those who come to us for help. “Do you desire to get well?” Let’s look at this question.
Obviously to ask this is to ask the question, “Is this really what you want?” First, I think “getting well” is not in fact what most people want. Most people don’t even realize they are sick. I mean, they do when it’s physical, but not when the problem is emotional. They think they are normal and everyone else is wrong. Reminds me of when people used to believe the earth was at the center of the universe, and the church came out and said, “You may not disbelieve this.” Questioning the idea that the earth was the center of the universe was heresy! The most natural thing in the world is to believe that everything is revolving around us. And don’t miss the church’s involvement here. This was a spiritual issue. The point was, “Look how special we are. Everything that exists revolves around us, and if you don’t believe that, then you don’t believe that God treasures and loves humanity.” Please do not miss that, because to this day the church still does that. “If you don’t believe in a literal 6 day creation, then you do not believe God created the earth.” “If you do not believe that life begins at conception (which I do believe, by the way!), then you do not value life.” “If you do not believe that everyone is going to hell except those in your group, then you are not a good (whatever –believer in our religion)” This is the myopia most people suffer from. They are not able to self-criticize. I mean, people are critical of themselves, but not of their assumptions about way the world works, or the way God works, or the way other mysterious thing like love and forgiveness work. They will cling to their ideas about these things until death if they can. Most people do not think there is anything wrong with them.
This is an extremely difficult thing to see in ourselves. Extremely difficult. Like I said, people will cling to their ideas about things for dear life. And we cling to them so tenaciously because we are unable to see them for what they are. We see them as issues of right and wrong, when nearly always they are simply ideas, interpretations, and perceptions. Let’s say I have a couple who has come to my office seeking counseling. How often do you think it is that both partners come to me asking, “Where have I gone off track? How can I change? Where am I not seeing clearly?” I’ll tell you this: I’ve never had a case like that yet. Never. How often do you think they come to me with one of them asking how they can change, how they can learn to see things differently? I’d say maybe 10% of the time. The other 90% of the time, both partners have come to me believing what? That the OTHER person needs to change. In other words, my ideas, my beliefs, my values, my expectations, my judgements -- that is all normal. It is completely natural. It is reasonable. It is “the standard.” When something happens that gets my feelings out of whack, I naturally conclude that one of the other bodies in orbit around me has gotten out of joint. This must be the case since I – in the very center of everything – never have to move. It is everything else that moves around me!”