But what we have in America—and the reason that the church in America is so unfruitful—is a whole bunch of people who are running around spouting off nice things about what Jesus has done for them, but they’re not obeying Him. They think that their lack of obedience is covered by the nice things they say about Jesus. This is leper faith. This is not the kind of faith that Jesus wants promulgated. This does not bring Jesus glory.
The following is a partial transcript of a sermon preached by David Bayly at Christ The Word (PCA), Toledo, Ohio, on Sunday, December 4, 2011. Listen to the whole sermon here.
And O brothers, let us have faith that leads to the fruit of obedience.
And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, and He said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere. – Mark 1:40-45
…We can’t just say it doesn’t matter what this man does. Actually it really does matter what the man actually does. Jesus knows the end from the beginning, Jesus knows what’s going to happen, and what the man does is probably predicated on his character that Jesus saw even as He healed him.
We see that throughout the life of Jesus He knows what people are going to do and He tells them not to do it, but they go ahead and do it—He says to Judas, “It would be better if you had not been born, but go and do the thing you were appointed to”; He knows what’s going to happen, He knows what this man’s going to do—and that it’s going to be disobedience. And so He tells this man, don’t speak about Me. I don’t want you to tell anybody.
Now there have been many miracles already. The whole town came to be healed at the house of Peter, and we don’t have any record of Jesus saying to those people, don’t tell who I am; in fact, He was willing to have Peter’s mother-in-law and the people in the house tell the whole town about him, and the whole town shows up. So at that point there’s no command, “Don’t tell people.” right? But here, with this specific individual, He says, “Don’t tell anyone!”
We have to believe that there’s a reason for it and that it’s told us in Scripture for a specific reason—and that reason, I believe, is that this is a man who’s not going to obey Him.
Now you say, “But David, he goes out and tells the whole world about Him. He’s so happy!”
And I think we have to read from the Scriptures that Jesus prefers obedience to happy talk about him.
Now I say to you, this guy is your classic American evangelical. He has a dead faith, an unfruitful faith, because he doesn’t repent of his sin and obey Jesus, but he thinks that his sin is covered by the fact that he runs around and says nice things about Jesus. He’s going around the world saying, “Jesus is great! Jesus is wonderful! Jesus did this for me! Look what Jesus did!” But what had Jesus told him to do? Jesus said, don’t talk about Me; instead go to the priest (and this is the command of the Levitical law for a leper who’s healed), let him examine you, follow the law of Moses, and if when that’s done you’re healed, then you’re free—and in fact, that will be the testimony to Me that I want, alright? It says that that will be a testimony to them.
So He tells him specifically what he’s to do as to his testimony, which is not to run around telling people, “Hey, I’m healed!” It’s to follow the law of Moses. It’s to do what Moses had commanded a leper to do. So in other words, Jesus is telling the leper, “Look, the testimony I want from you is not happy talk, but obedience. I want you to follow the law of Moses which My Father gave Moses—it’s My law too. I want you to go to the priest, and I want them to see that when I’m at work, people obey the law of God.”
Understand? People obey the law of God when Jesus is at work in their lives and when they truly trust Him. They obey. They do what’s right. They don’t say, “Oh, I’m so in love with Jesus, He doesn’t mind what I do. I can do anything, because I have the grace of Jesus!”
The grace of God, when it comes into a life, leads to obedience. When it’s faith that is the product of grace—when it’s true, fruitful faith—it leads to obedience. But what we have in America—and the reason that the church in America is so unfruitful—is a whole bunch of people who are running around spouting off nice things about what Jesus has done for them, but they’re not obeying Him. They think that their lack of obedience is covered by the nice things they say about Jesus. This is leper faith. This is not the kind of faith that Jesus wants promulgated. This does not bring Jesus glory. He doesn’t want this man saying these things about Him. Jesus knows the character of this man, and He tells him, don’t speak about Me. Don’t go around telling people about Me. Go and obey. And of course he doesn’t, and there we find his measure…