Joy in Jesus, Physician of Repenting Sinners

Bob Roane Jesus Christ, Repentance, Confession, Forgiveness

Christmas 2016 is over, but I’m still celebrating Jesus, God’s only Son. When I fall, He lifts me up. When I fail, He forgives me. When I am weak, He is strong. When I am lost, He is the way. When I am afraid, He is my courage.

William Hunter (1811-1877) was a pastor. I don’t know what healing blessing of Christ caused him to write “The Great Physician,” but he knew he could count on Jesus for repeated help. Hunter’s hymn continues to encourage us today and begins like this:

The great Physician now is near, The sympathizing Jesus;
He speaks the drooping heart to cheer; O hear the voice of Jesus.

Sweetest note in seraph song, Sweetest name on mortal tongue,
Sweetest carol ever sung, Jesus, blessed Jesus.

In The Testament (1999), John Grisham describes one man’s surrender to Christ. Nate O’Reilly is a high-powered corporate litigator who wrestles with alcoholism and drug abuse. He’s been through four detox programs, crashing harder every time. Nate is a workaholic whose imbalance and bad habits ruin two marriages and he has children with each wife. His employer sends him on assignment to Brazil’s tropical wetlands and Nate contracts dengue fever, an acute viral infection caused by a mosquito bite. The disease was called “break-bone” fever, because severe joint and muscle pain make it feel like your bones are cracking. It causes high fever, gnawing pain, shaking chills, vomiting, and extreme exhaustion.

When Nate hits bottom, he surrenders to Jesus. The Lord makes him a new person from inside out. Nate goes to a church and has real dealings with Christ for the first time in his life. With both hands, he grabs the chair in front of him and confesses his long catalog of sins. He admits them all to God–every weakness, flaw, and evil that plagues him. Nate holds nothing back, admitting how he failed the Lord. Nate confesses enough burdens to crush three people and when he finally finishes, he whispers, “Lord Jesus, I am sorry, please, help me.

Immediately Nate feels the fever leave his body and feels the spiritual baggage leave his soul. It is as if, with one brush of mercy, the Savior wipes Nate’s slate clean. He breathes a massive sigh of relief, but his pulse is still racing. Grisham’s story is modern fiction. But he describes what the Lord Jesus really did when He was here on earth 2000 years ago. And what Christ still does now around the world. Luke 5 records a true story where Christ shows Himself to be the Physician of Souls who makes house calls and reaches out to repenting sinners.

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said, and Levi got up, left everything, and followed Him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were present. But the Pharisees and the teachers complained, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” Jesus answered, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:27-32)

Actor Jim Carrey says that everybody should get rich and famous, doing everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that outward success is not the answer. Levi had everything, like Jim Carrey and Nate O’Reilly, but Levi was lost and empty until Jesus rescued him. Christ says that sick people need a medical doctor and emergency rooms are filled with hurting people. People must admit their need and come for help. So Jesus’ church is a hospital for repenting and believing sinners, not a museum for studying ancient curiosities. Admitting our need for Christ is our first step toward spiritual healing.

I love Levi’s true story and seeing how Christ transformed Levi the cheat into Matthew, the Gospel writer and missionary to Ethiopia. Notice that Levi wants Jesus’ salvation for his friends also. Since Christ loves and has compassion for Levi, Levi now loves and has compassion for others. He understands the essence of Christianity. We are blessed by the Lord to be a blessing to others. Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed (Prov 11:25). We must never hog Christ’s blessings for ourselves, but pass them on to as many people as possible. No true believer wants to go to Heaven alone!

We are to evangelize not because it is pleasant or easy or because we may be successful. But because Christ has called us to do it. He is our Lord. We have no other choice but to obey Him. (Leighton Ford)

Let us commit ourselves to sharing Christ’s good news in word and deed all year long.

Note: I’ve adapted and expanded John Grisham’s story.