Read John 5:2-9.
“When Jesus saw him lying, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wouldest thou be made whole?” (John 5:6).
The man who lay at the pool of Bethesda had been ill for thirty-eight years. He had lain among these arches a long time to no avail. He is a type of all those people who seek peace with God and victory over sin without ever finding what they seek.
There is something so heartrendingly sad in his answer to Christ’s question, “Wouldest thou be made whole?” “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool. While I am coming, another steppeth down before me.”
Who can measure the agony of soul that lies hidden in this hopeless lament? His eyes are constantly turned to the pool in tense anticipation; the waters begin to be stirred; he exerts his wracked body to the utmost to get into the pool; but he is always too late. Hopelessness became his second nature. The refrain of his life came to be, “Always too late! No one helps me!”
All the days — perhaps years — that this poor man had been lying here, each tense moment, and all the painful efforts at reaching the water, was reason enough for despair. His answer satisfied Jesus too. Now was the hour of deliverance; upon Christ’s word he took his bed and walked off — a saved and free man.
* * *
We have no pool of Bethesda with arches, but we have many who resemble this man. Not only do they suffer in the body, but they are sick of soul. From the hearts of many of these who suffer thus for years there rises a sad lament that runs like this: Others are saved, but not I. Some of my own have found peace, but I have not. Neighbors and friends praise God for salvation, but I cannot be saved.
They have seen the stirring of the waters in the sea of grace many times. Awakenings have passed over the community. Yet these poor people are left tired, melancholy, lamenting, and sick of heart. Such illness is more difficult to bear than a physical ailment.
If you are such a one, let me ask you this question: Do you want to be saved? Take this question to heart and give God a true answer.
* * *
Can our will do anything toward our salvation? This is an old question, yet one that is ever new as long as there is in the hearts of men a desire to be saved. Let us for a few moments gather our thoughts about this eternally new question.
Our first answer is in the negative. Our will cannot save us because it has been turned into by-paths and desires only that which is contrary to God’s will. We have strayed from God and cannot find our way back. As a child that is lost in the woods, we become more confused the more we try to find our way out. For that matter, there is in our will no desire for God; it is perverted, and makes us afraid of God.
“There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that seeketh after God; they have all turned aside, they are altogether become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3: 10-18).
This is the judgment of Scriptures over our will; there is no one who seeks God.
Yet it is our will that is decisively involved in the question of our salvation. How can that be?
The answer is that God meets us first. Salvation is seeking us. God has met me, and He has also met you. The path of the Savior leads straight across the battlefield of sin where we lie wounded and dying. He stands at the door and knocks. He searches until He finds. He seeks out those who are lost; that is the reason why He has sought you and me.
None of those who have been instructed in the Word of God can truthfully say that God has not called him. In the quiet watches of the night Jesus is knocking at the heart’s door.
O Jesus, Thou art knocking;
And lo, that hand is scarred,
And thorns Thy brow encircle,
And tears Thy face have marred.
O love that passeth knowledge,
So patiently to wait!
O sin that hath no equal,
So fast to bar the gate!
We are all acquainted with this knocking. God’s Spirit is at work in us. It is at this point that our will must determine whether we are to be saved or not.
The responsibility is now ours!
Even God cannot assume the responsibility in your stead. Both the Old and the New Testaments testify clearly that it is our resistance to God that keeps us from being saved.
“For thus said the Lord Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, in returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength. And ye would not,” (Isa. 30: 15).
“Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way; and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, “VVe will not walk therein.” (Jer. 6:16).
“0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.” (Matt. 23:37).
Jesus clearly declared that He wanted to save His people, but the Israelites would not; then Christ could not save them. It was this stubborn resistance that caused the Savior to weep over the city. This same resistance keeps the large masses of people from God today. Pastors and evangelists urge the people to be saved, but the majority do not want to be saved; and so they are lost.
For you the portals are open today to both death and life, but you must choose. You and I determine our own destinies. Christ knocks at the door; that is His responsibility. To open the door is our responsibility.
Do you want to be saved? Really now, do you?
Some cannot answer at all; others give a reluctant affirmative reply which is really the same as a negative. This Pilate-like indecision is the rock on which many souls have suffered shipwreck.
Many ask the logical question if God is not able to save us against our will. After all, He is almighty. Yes, the Lord is almighty, but we human beings have been endowed by Him with a quality of nobility; this nobility is a free will. If we lose this we are no longer true human beings, and God can as easily save a stone as such people.
This nobility and responsibility is ours; therefore you and I are to choose our future when God places that choice before us.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come”; whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.
The prodigal son said, “I will arise and go to my father.” Paul said, “To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”
What is it to will? It is to discontinue resistance against God. It is to let Jesus save you. It is to let God do as He pleases with you. It is to place yourself in the arms of the Savior with this one prayer, “Here I am, Lord. Come what may, I want to be saved.”
To desire salvation is not the same as conquering sin; rather it is to be conquered by God. God asks the sinner if he wants to be saved. If he does, the Lord can save him.
Perhaps you doubt His willingness to save you?
His every step toward Golgotha, every stripe and wound, every tear that He shed and drop of blood that flowed proclaim His willingness.
If it is a question of our will in the matter of our becoming Christians, it is much more so in the matter of continuing as Christians. If we were responsible for our life when we lived apart from God, we are much more so after we have found Him. He has promised to care for us so that we need have no worry, but He has not taken our responsibility from us. God’s Word admonishes us therefore to walk carefully and to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
Every day a Christian is faced with new choices and decisions. He has to decide whether or not he wishes to begin the day with the Word and prayer. He has to choose between laying up treasures on earth or treasures in heaven. He has to decide whether he wants to serve the Lord gladly and suffer patiently, or to bear his lot fretfully and complainingly.
Would to God that we all might have the mind of Christ. Then God will work in us both to will and to do.
“He is faithful that promised.”
Copyright 2023 Hauge Lutheran Innermission Federation. All Rights Reserved.