some truth from a sermon by Tim Keller.
In every single one of us there is a raging thirst. There is an unquenchable all consuming thirst, that eventually – if it’s not spiritually dealt with, if there is not a supernatural intervention of your life – eventually you will find nothing good enough. It will make you unhappy with anything. Food from heaven, paradise itself. You will never be satisfied. We have an infinite capacity for boredom, for irritability with the best things.
This syndrome, this sickness we all have develops and progresses faster if you’re successful. The more successful you are the more you come to realize you have a bottomless pit inside. You have a black hole. An infinite vacuum. You put someone or something in there, and at first it’s great, and then you detest it. At first she’s great, he’s great, it’s great, and then you find fault, and you don’t like it, and you want it to go away.
It goes faster if we are successful, but we are all on our way. Unless there is some sort of treatment or intervention we are on our way to being unhappy with everything, nothing will be good enough. This is the reason why we’re so unhappy with where we are in our career, but would be more unhappy the further up we go. This is the reason why we’re unhappy with our spouse, or with our singleness, or with how we look. We’ll never be satisfied because there is something in your centre that is sick. There is a poison in our heart, a raging fever, an all-consuming unquenchable fire that devours everything you throw in there. And nothing will be good enough, until we get treatment.
There are three prerequisites for healing.
- Trouble. The basic principle is that trouble wakes you up to your need. You don’t see what’s wrong or are willing to admit the diagnosis until you start to die. Almost all spiritual growth happens because something comes into your life that forces you to go to the great physician. This was the first prep for the healing of any spiritual trouble, the material trouble or circumstantial or social or economic or physical trouble. Trouble that wakes you up.
- Friendships Kept in Good Repair. You almost never have life-changing encounters with God without friends. The way you meet God the first time is almost always through friends – friends who help you process, who listen, who argue with you, sympathize with you, that might be a bit further ahead than you spiritually. You can’t face the troubles of life, the difficulties of the wilderness without friends. They support you and pray for you and build you up. However, friendships are like houses – they require maintenance, upkeep, they automatically deteriorate and you need to work on them. Unless you’re constantly keeping your friendships in repair, saying sorry, asking for forgiveness, telling people when they’ve sinned against you or you’ve sinned against them, unless you’re continually doing spiritual repair they won’t be there for you to do spiritual healing. Soul repair is made possible by constant friendship repair. Your typical New Yorker doesn’t tell friends about their presence at church. But this whole spiritual journey will go a lot slower if you don’t have friends. You need to make friends at church. Go to small groups. Have people that can help you process and think out and work out what you’re hearing and find out how they work it into their lives. Not only does it take longer without friends, but your spiritual search may not have a successful end without friends. “This is what I don’t like about church. All this repair work. Rubs and snubs and reconciliation. It shouldn’t be this hard!” Yes, it should. Let me show you why: (a quote by Don Carson) “The reason why there’s so many exhortations for Christians to love other Christians because the church is made up of natural enemies. The church of Jesus Christ is not made up of natural friends, but natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income, common politics, common nationalities, common jobs or anything else of that sort. Those are the things that bind other groups of people together. Christians come together because they have all been saved by Jesus Christ and owe him a common allegiance. In this life we should understand the church to be a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.” The fact that keeping your friendships in repair in the church is such hard work is not a sign that it’s a bad place but actually a sign that it’s supernaturally created, better place. It’s harder in here than out there, but there are people in here that you would never know otherwise. If on the basis of Jesus you keep your spiritual friendships in repair, they are the ones that can help you, the ones that you can have strength.
- The End of Blame Shifting. They know their problems are self-induced. There is not a word of excuse. “We sinned.” Spiritual healing starts when blame-shifting stops, and not til then.
What is the treatment? What is the medicine? Jesus took the poison on himself. He became sin, who knew no sin. He became sin on the cross. He got what evil and sin deserves. He said, “I thirst.” Jesus got the soul-poison, the all-consuming thirst of infinite dissatisfaction. He said, “You have forsaken me.” He got the hell of eternal dislocation. He experienced it so that we could be healed. He got what we deserved so that we could be healed.
“By his stripes we are healed.”
He carried our diseases.
Why can’t God just forgive? Whenever someone wrongs somebody, there is a loss. There is a cost. Either the wronger or the forgiver will bear the cost, but the cost doesn’t go away. Either you bear the cost or I bear the cost. No one “just forgives.” The forgiver always bears, absorbs the cost. God forgives us by lifting up Jesus, endures the infinite thirst. The eternal, ultimate, spiritual, cosmic hell on the cross.
How do we get this medicine? “Look.” “So whoever believes in him will have eternal life.” You don’t need only to be forgiven, you need to be repaired. You don’t just need to be pardoned, you need to be healed, restored to life. It’s “looking” rather than “doing.” What we need is to be born again. No one plans or strives or performs their own birth. It is the labour and love and planning of someone else. We get the medicine by stopping “doing” and starting “looking.” We’re born again in an instant. We are born by the labour and suffering of someone else.
Charles Spurgeon was out walking once, during a snow storm, and stopped in a small church.
The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. Now it is well that preachers be instructed, but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was—“LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH” (Isa. 45:22)
He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimmer of hope for me in that text.
The preacher began thus: “This is a very simple text indeed. It says ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain. It aint liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look.
“But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Ay!” he said in broad Essex, “many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some say look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Some on ye say ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ “
Then the good man followed up his text in this way: “Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me, I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sitting at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! look unto Me!”
When he had . . . . managed to spin out about ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger.
Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Well, I did, but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, “And you will always be miserable—miserable in life and miserable in death—if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.” Then lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but look and live!”
I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said—I did not take much notice of it—I was so possessed with that one thought . . . . I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, “Look!” what a charming word it seemed to me. Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away.
Salvation is not subscribing to doctrine but seeing what he’s done, seeing him sweating drops of blood, seeing him taking the poison for you, now you know your worth, your saviour, the things that used to drive you and used to define you and inflate you and deflate you don’t do that anymore. Your identity has been changed. Not completely – things still drive, define, deflate – then you look again. And the healing continues, and continues, and continues. Look to him. And be ye saved.