From The Great Physician To The Great Commission (Part 2)

The classic vampire claim is that they can’t come into your house until you let them.  Kept outside, they can do nothing. Left inside, they will drain your life.  Though Hollywood has turned most vampire stories into gory bloodbaths, this wasn’t always the case. Some of the earliest stories (such as Bram Stoker’s classic work) were deeply connected with Christianity, with the vampire as the figure of Satan or at least of sin. It was meant to shock the reader into recognizing the seriousness and horror of what sin does.

This doorway metaphor echoes biblical imagery. Right before Cain killed his brother, God reminded him that “sin crouches at the door; its desire is for you, and you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7) Sin is the ultimate vampire, the one that wants in to drain our souls.

These spiritual vampires that crouch at the door of my heart want me to be harsh in my home; they want me to love money and fame; they want me to ignore God; they want me to reject the guidelines of the Bible; they want me to overlook my friends and hate my enemies; they want me to objectify people and love things. They want me to shame the name of Jesus in my testimony.

Thanks to Jesus, the most it can do is crouch at the door of my life. But I still have my free will, and I can still choose to whom I open the door of my heart.  

This isn’t the only time the Bible uses this image: When John records in Revelation 3 that God says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” he was talking to the church – the Christians - of Laodicea. They needed to continue to open the door of their heart.

I need Jesus as much after my salvation as I did before. That’s what I want to talk about today: how, after salvation, God has a plan in place for us to help us resist the ongoing temptation of the sin that so easily besets us (Hebrews 12:1).

After we visit our local hospital or doctor for a particular ailment, we learn about ‘after care’; that is, what we need to do so that what the doctor has made new will continue to flourish. This is called compliance:

“Accepting life-saving treatment.  The extent to which a person’s behavior coincides with medical advice. Adaptation or adherence to medical advice.”(

We can undermine our newfound health. In medical terms, this is called non-compliance.

  • “A patient who does not follow the doctors' orders is called a non-compliant patient.” (from Wiki Answers)
  • “We eat foods that kill us, we don't stick to our exercise regimens, and we don't follow our doctors' orders, even when we remember what they tell us. If you ask people whether it's smart to get a colonoscopy if the doctor says you need one, no one's going to say no… but no one wakes up and says, 'Yes, today is a good day for a colonoscopy.'"  (“Mind Your Body: Doctor’s Orders – Without Distress.” (

Granted, some people have had bad experiences with doctors whose diagnosis or after care were deeply flawed. For the sake of this analogy, let's assume we are talking about a doctor who has given an accurate diagnosis and a true course of after care (we are moving toward our involvement with the Great Physician after all...gotta keep this analogy on track!)

 Non-compliance is a huge problem because obedience is hard!

Assume that the doctor gave a blueprint for ongoing health. For whatever reasons, we just have a hard time following even if the advice is spot on. “I’m not that sick…My doctor doesn’t understand…it’s so complicated…but fried food is the nectar of the gods.” So even though we were freed from whatever ailed us and are given new life, we can flounder when we could be flourishing. 

We do the same thing spiritually. “I’m not that sick… it’s so complicated…surely God wants me to be happy, and THIS makes me happy.” So even though we were freed from the sin that was killing us and were given new life, we can flounder when we could be flourishing. 


“Where do you think your fighting and endless conflict come from? Don’t you think that they originate in the constant pursuit of gratification that rages inside each of you like an uncontrolled militia? You crave something that you do not possess, so you murder to get it. You desire the things you cannot earn, so you sue others and fight for what you want. You do not have because you have chosen not to ask. And when you do ask, you still do not get what you want because your motives are all wrong—because you continually focus on self-indulgence. 

You are spiritual adulterers. Don’t you know that loving this corrupt world order is open aggression toward God? So anyone who aligns with this bogus world system is declaring war against the one true God. Do you think it is empty rhetoric when the Scriptures say, “The spirit that lives in us is addicted to envy and jealousy”? You may think that the situation is hopeless, but God gives us more grace when we turn away from our own interests. That’s why Scripture says, ‘God opposes the proud, but He pours out grace on the humble.’

So submit yourselves to the one true God and fight against the devil and his schemes. If you do, he will run away in failure. Come close to the one true God, and He will draw close to you. Wash your hands; you have dirtied them in sin. Cleanse your heart, because your mind is split down the middle, your love for God on one side and selfish pursuits on the other. (James 4:1-8)

There is a dance between what God does for us and what God asks us to do. David asked God to create a clean heart in him (Psalm 51:10); here, James tells people to cleanse their heart. We know that God helps us resist temptation (“Deliver us from the Evil One" – Matthew 6:13), yet we have to fight too (“God gives us more grace when we turn away from our own interests”).

There is a war of love that rages in our hearts. Proverbs tells us to guard it, because everything in our life flows from it (Proverbs 4:23). I read a book last year by James K.A. Smith entitled You Are What You Love. It was a deeply challenging book in many ways; here’s one snippet of what he had to say.

“To be human is to be animated and oriented by some vision of the good life, some picture of what we think counts as “flourishing.” And we want that. We crave it. We desire it. This is why our most fundamental mode of orientation to the world is love. We are oriented by our longings, directed by our desires.

We adopt ways of life that are indexed to such visions of the good life, not usually because we “think through” our options but rather because some picture captures our imagination. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince, succinctly encapsulates the motive power of such allure: “If you want to build a ship,” he counsels, “don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

What if you are defined not by what you know but by what you desire? What if the center and seat of the human person is found not in the heady regions of the intellect but in the gut-level regions of the heart? It’s not just that I “know” or “believe” [in some end design to life]. More than that, I long for some end. I want something, and want it ultimately. It is my desires that define me. In short, you are what you love.”

What we do with what crouches or knocks at the door of our heart will depend a lot on who or what we love. How we experience the new life that God offers us through Jesus is going to be deeply influenced by how much we work with God in doing the hard work of re-ordering our loves. Since James talks about loving the world and loving ourselves, let’s contrast that to love for God.


Pleasure                                                 Sacrifice

Rights                                                    Responsibilities

Individualism                                        Community

Hiddenness                                            Openness  

Choice                                                   Obedience

Rebellion                                               Submission

Eye for an Eye                                      Forgiveness

Self-sufficient                                       Asks for Help

Boasts in self                                         Boasts in Christ

Loves the Stage                                     Loves to Build It

Power                                                    Servanthood

Pride                                                      Humility

Indulgence                                             Self-control

Blame                                                    Ownership

Winning Arguments                              Winning people

Self-justification                                    Christ’s justification

Self-righteous judgment                        Compassionate love

Greedy                                                   Generous

Envious                                                  Content

Lustful                                                    Loving

Mocking                                                 Respectful

Angry                                                     Gentle

We know what we love by our thoughts, our daydreams, our fears, our time and energy, our money.  It’s what we think is part of the good life, so we order our lives around those things. We adopt a way of life that centers on its fulfillment.  And we get incredibly defensive when some calls us out, because it shakes us. We can’t imagine life without it.

Time for an honest self-check: In the following list, what do you love more – I don’t mean in your words, but in how our order your life? What do you long for? Which one do you think represents the good life? For which one of these have you adopted a way of life that centers around its fulfillment?

One thing that stands out to me: a life characterized by love of God looks very, very compelling. That’s why His yoke of obedience is easy, and his burden of sacrifice is light (Matthew 11:30). It’s hard, but it’s easy and light because it brings goodness and the life more abundant that Jesus promised (John 10:10).

So, how do we reorder our loves and experience the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13)?

First, pray for God to do the work only God can do. He must create a new heart in you.

Second, repent of your disordered loves and commit your ways to Jesus. Walk in obedience.

Third, focus on Jesus. Read the gospels. Study the person and work of Jesus. Sing about Jesus. Pray in worship of Jesus. Commit yourself to living in the path of life that Jesus has laid out for us. That must include filling yourself with truth, which is can be found not just in Scripture but in teachings, books, podcasts, counseling, and mentoring.

When we hear those competing knocks on the doors of our heart, let’s let the right one in.  


From The Great Physician To The Great Commission (Part 1)

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  (Mark 2: 15-17)

Jesus is often called the Great Physician because of this claim.  He took a common experience (doctors are trained to help the physically ill) to describe a spiritual reality (Jesus came to help the spiritually sick).

The Pharisees were angry because Jesus was more focused on the “sinners” or the “sick” than he was on them, the healthy non-sinners (or so they thought). It was as if the Pharisees were saying, “Look, we are all cleaned up. Wouldn’t you rather hang out with us?”  And Jesus said by his actions and his words, “Oh, well, if you’re that fine without me, carry on. I will find those who see themselves honestly – they are the ones who are ready for me.”

We, the followers of Jesus, came to him as the Sick.

  • We accepted His diagnosis (sin), cure (salvation), and ‘after care’ plan (sanctification), and we celebrate our health by promoting the doctor (evangelism).
  • We became part of the Fellowship of the Healed (once for all for the eternal punishment for our sin) and the Healing (the good work Jesus has begun continues).
  • Now, we have the privilege of paying forward what happened through the presence of the church, in which more of the sick in desperate need of The Great Physician can find healing and hope. 

This is an image that has guided CLG over the last number of years: when people follow Jesus here, we want them to experience our church as a place where the spiritually sick find healing through the work of Jesus, the power of his Word and Spirit, and the presence of His people. I want to revisit that over the next several weeks.

Assuming that Jesus was very purposeful with that analogy, what can we learn from our experiences with medical hospitals as we help to participate in the spiritual hospital that is our church?

We must decide to trust. We have to have confidence that our doctor cares about us and knows what he or she is doing. Jesus is the doctor for the spiritually sick, and it’s important that we understand that he is the spiritual doctor in whom we have every reason to place our ultimate allegiance. We do this by embracing the person and understanding the purpose of Jesus.

“For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  (John 3:17)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew11:28-30)

A medical doctor desires to bring health, stability and hope to those who are hurting. Jesus offers to save us in ways a medical doctor never can: to bring stability and rest to our souls and to take even those who are dead in their sins and bring them back to life (Ephesians 2:5). It is CRUCIAL that the Jesus to whom we cling and whom we present to the world through our words, attitudes and actions is the trustworthy Jesus of Scripture.

We must give and accept an honest diagnosis. If you go to a doctor, you can’t say, “It hurts here” when it actually hurts “there” and expect the appointment to work. You shouldn’t lie if the doctor asks you background information. You have to tell the doctor what the problem is – which means honesty and humility. In our case, when we come to Christ for healing, we have to be honest about the problem: we are in the kind of trouble that will land us in hell if we continue our current path. Yes, we bear the scars of what others have done to us, but we are deeply sick people whose mortal wounds come from ourselves.

“I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night…I have done what is evil in your sight.”  (Psalm 51:1-4)

“People who conceal their sins will not prosper...” (Proverbs 28:13)

Sin “reigns in our mortal bodies” (Romans 6:12)

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - -of whom I am the worst.” Paul, in 1 Timothy 1:15)

Nobody makes us sin. We are ‘drawn away by our own lusts. We so easily deflect the blame:

  • “I’m sorry I snapped. Bob, at work, was such a jerk today…” 
  • “I can’t help how sarcastic I am. My family was sarcastic.”
  • “Sure, I’m judgmental and critical, but my parents…”

No, what you do is on you. Your history forms you but it doesn’t finish you. YOU finish you. We must be honest about the heart of our sin – our heart.

This is not meant to bring despair. Once the problem is identified, healing can begin.  There is hope to be found on the other side of honesty.  Typically, this involves a medical doctor saying something like, “I know what you have. I can offer you this. I can make you better.” Once again, Jesus, the Great Physician, offers us so much more:

“Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit.” (Ezekiel 18:31-32)

”Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…” (Acts 3:19)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

That’s good news, but what does this mean, exactly? Does it mean suddenly all the accumulated baggage of my life disappears? In a spiritual sense, yes.  When we engage in honest repentance, God does supernatural work in which the eternal penalty for our sins are wiped out.  He breaks the dominating power of sin and takes upon himself what would have been our eternal punishment.

But we have established patterns, habits, ways of thinking and living that require “after care.”  There will be follow up appointments – not because the physician has failed, but because God has allowed us to keep our free will, and we tend to undermine our own spiritual health. We reap what we sow, not because God hates us, but because that’s the way the world God has created works. This kind ofafter care” happens best in an environment where the following things are in place:

The church embraces the spiritually sick with the compassion of Jesus. Jesus’ critics mockingly called him a friend of sinners because he seemed to be where sinners were. The NT writers embraced that: indeed, sinners knew that Jesus was their friend. He didn’t enable their sin – look at what he told the woman caught in adultery – but he loved them in the midst of it. When you walk into a hospital, they aren’t shocked that you need help: they expect it. They don't hear your problem and despise you. They hear and they respond with compassion.

Christians offer ongoing diagnosis carefully but honestly (“speaking the truth in love”). Those in the health care business do no one any good if they refuse to diagnose. There must be truth, and it ought to be offered with grace.

Christians must be honest about the work Jesus has done and continues to do in our life. We haven’t “arrived” just because we left triage. We are a healing project. We must share our stories of how the Great Physician continues to work in our life. It’s one way we build trust in Jesus at times when trust is hard. 

Christians walk patiently and hopefully together as we “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). There’s nothing worse than being sick alone. We may not want someone hovering over us, but we want someone nearby. Church community is meant to be a place of proximity for all of us. Someone pushed us in our spiritual wheelchair or helped us hobble up and down the hall or held a conversational bucket while we puked our guts out. The least we can do is return the favor for someone else.

3) We must embrace a change of life (discipleship). Often, after a doctor makes you whole, you are given a set of instructions: “If you would like to enjoy this new health, you will need to participate with me in your new life.” This could include diet, exercise, medications, support groups, etc. After Jesus brings in the new to replace the old, we, too, are told that there will be a change of direction in our lives.

We will need to participate in our new-found spiritual health. The Apostle Paul wrote: “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)

Think of the example of the woman caught in adultery, where at the end of story Jesus says, “Go now and do what you want!” No…. "I don't condemn you either. Go! From now on don't sin." (John 8:11).

If we want to fully participate in this new life in the Community of the Healed and Healing, we must participate in the after care program.

4. We must recognize that we are all now part of the hospital staff. That’s a slightly different conclusion than what happens after you visit a medical hospital. They might actually frown on that J But in the church, the hospital where the spiritually ill are nursed back to health, we are all staff.  And what does hospital staff do, exactly? The Code of Ethics for Nurses (American Nurses Association) includes the following principles:

Respect for others, commitment to the patient, advocacy for the patient , accountability and responsibility for practice, duty to self and duty to others, contribution to healthcare environments, advancement of profession/ promotion of health

I wonder if the code for a church is that much different?

Compassion for others, Commitment, Advocacy, Accountability and Responsibility, Duty to God and Others, Contribution, Advancement/Promotion of the Kingdom of God

If we at CLG want to fully participate in this new life in the Community of the Healed, we must realize we –all of us - are on call. The original Florence Nightingale Nursing Oath closed with the following: “With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.”  

 Once again, a slight modification gives us a goal for our church:  “With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the Great Physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to His care.” 

How will this happen?

We must take it upon ourselves to engage people. If you walk into the ER, someone will come up to you immediately and ask how you are doing. You are there for a reason; something has not gone well. You are aware you are in need of the doctor.  If someone walks into our church, God forbid that no one greets them – and I don’t mean just greeters. Just…people. You and me. It’s such a basic way of showing that you see them, that you want to connect with them. A handshake and a smile is value laden. It matters. Then there’s lunches, and an evening of games, and potlucks, and fire pits…

We must be willing to talk about what the Physician has done for us. It’s not polite to ask someone in a waiting room, “So, what bring you here today?” That might not be what we want to lead with here either (though there is a time for it). Rather, why not lead with stories about the Great Physician’s work in our life?

Yes, we will have to explain why we need Jesus: addiction, pride, lust, adultery, theft, anger, violence, greed, meanness, selfishness. The symptoms and the cause aren’t always pretty, but I can’t talk about the doc who fixed my shoulder without telling you what my shoulder was like, and I can’t talk about the cardiac doc who saved my life without talking about the state of my heart before and after the heart attack.

I can’t talk about the state of my heart before and after the work of Jesus without talking about my heart before and after the work of Jesus. The doctor is glorified through his patients. The Great Physician is too (Isaiah 48:9–11;  Ezekiel 36:21–32.; John 15:8; Romans 15:9)

This is why our church needs to be a hospital – so that the spiritually sick find a place of healing and hope, and so the Great Physician is glorified.

Church as a Spiritual Hospital


After we visit our local hospital or doctor for a particular ailment (see Part One in this series on the Great Physician), we can sometimes be completely healed of the problem. We can get a new start. But we also discuss with the doctor or nurse about a plan so our new health will continue to flourish. This is called compliance:

“Accepting life-saving treatment. The extent to which a person’s behavior coincides with medical advice. Adaptation or adherence to medical advice.” (

On the other hand, we can undermine our new-found health. In medical terms, this is called non-compliance.

“It is estimated that 125,000 people with treatable ailments die each year simply because they do not take prescribed medications properly or they skip them altogether.” (“Why You Need To Follow Doctor’s Orders,”

“Most patients believe…that the less medicine they take the less sick they are. That is precisely why although we know than penicillin will cure a strep throat in 7 days we prescribe a 10 day course of the antibiotic. Many patients will stop as soon as they feel better.” (“Medicine: Facts and Fictions at

“We eat foods that kill us, we don't stick to our exercise regimens, and we don't follow our doctors' orders, even when we remember what they tell us. If you ask people whether it's smart to get a colonoscopy if the doctor says you need one, no one's going to say no… but no one wakes up and says, 'Yes, today is a good day for a colonoscopy.'" (“Mind Your Body: Doctor’s Orders – Without Distress.”

Preventative medicine and follow-up plans trip a lot of people up. Those in the health profession agree: non-compliance is a huge problem. Why?

Because it’s hard!

The doctor gave a blueprint for ongoing health – and for whatever reasons, we just have a hard time following it. “I’m not that sick…My doctor doesn’t understand…it’s so complicated…” So we get more sick when we could be flourishing.

The Apostle Paul had a plan to help us be compliant once we have been spiritually healed by the Great Physician. By "compliant" I don’t mean non-thinking robots who legalistically follow and judge, and I don’t mean that we can save ourselves in the sense that only Christ can. Christ has a plan for how we can spiritually flourish while we are under His care. In Ephesians 4, Paul explains how the church has been put together in such a way that we can all join together to experience the fullness of life in Christ.

And [God] has given us apostles (founding messengers), prophets (forth-tellers), evangelists (those who tells the good news by vocation), pastors (shepherds who care, feed, and protect) and teachers (instructors of Scripture)….

We spend a lot of time talking about whether or not we fit into any of those categories, but we don’t always connect that phrase to the rest of the paragraph. There is a REASON God has given all these things:

"To equip the saints for the work of ministry , and to build up the body of Christ."

Not only is there a REASON, there is a GOAL, a target:

“Until we all attain to: unity because of our faith, knowledge of the Son of God (experiential knowledge), maturity (a spiritual process involving intelligence and virtue), and stature (being filled up with the presence of Christ when we are ready)."

And then we read the RESULT - the expected outcome is if we follow the doctor’s plan for health:

"We will no longer be immature and simple, tossed around by the waves and carried away by every new teaching, deceitful people, or clever lies that sound like the truth. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we will be put together one piece at a time as we become more and more like Christ, the head of the church."

This sounds like a great plan for ongoing health and life. Is there a practical way to understand how this can be accomplished?

1) Biblical Teaching (sound doctrine)

“The Mayo Clinic found that over half of patients couldn’t list their diagnoses, treatment plan, or prescribed medications and their common side effects… Physicians need to communicate well… so what they’re saying makes sense to the patient in every respect.” (“Compliance Follows Alliance,”

One of the goals of a church is to help people understand the spiritual diagnosis, the treatment plan, and the expected results – as well as learn how to communicate well on behalf of the Great Physician. He has given us his Spirit, his manual (the Bible), and a great hospital staff (the congregation). But understanding the manual is not always easy, and we all need sound knowledge and wisdom to go with a heart for the hurting. So churches can help to provide ongoing "compliance" techniques by:

  • Preaching accurately 
  • Offering classes on theology, apologetics, and the Christian life
  • Choosing songs that accurately capture the truth and wonder of God
  • Studying books from other Christians who have something important to say about the Doctor.

Are people or churches perfect? Nope. That’s impossible. But we can do our best to be accountable to God and to each other as we continually grow in our ability to present the Gospel in its fullness. Philippians 1:9-10 notes:

"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more (a love that has scope and power) in knowledge (precise and correct) and depth of insight (moral discernment), so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure (sifted; free of hypocrisy) and blameless (not offensive) until the day of Christ…”

2) Godly Relationships

"A physician friend and I often speak about the difficulty she and her colleagues have getting patients to do what’s recommended, or change the healthy or unhealthy behaviors they need to address in order to improve chronic and temporary health conditions. She’s come up with her own hypothetical solution. If only she could get all of the friends and family of her patients in a room to support her advice—she’d have better compliance and healthier patients. She’s seen it over and over again as a physician practicing with all ages of patients. She’s seen the epiphany and the behavior change occur not when she’s repeated information for the umpteenth time, but only when her advice is corroborated and supported by a spouse, a sibling, a close friend, a trusted neighbor.” (a paraphrase from “Following Doctor’s Orders: Behavior Change in 82-year-olds.” Behavior

I give this analogy not because Christ in insufficient to change lives, but because there is something to be said for the support of others. There was more than one disciple who followed Jesus. There are many observations in Scripture about the importance of friends:

  • “Where there is no guidance, people fall; but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14)
  • “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor…” (Proverbs 12:26)
  • “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
  • “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

3) Lifelong Perspective

"I tell patients that treating them is more like a marathon than a sprint. It matters a little less to me what happens today, tomorrow or next week, and much more to me what happens over the next 10 years…” (“Why You Need To Follow Doctor’s Orders,”

The analogy here breaks down a bit – it does matter what you do today if we are talking about spiritual health. But the overall point is solid. The Apostle Paul wrote:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Following Jesus is not something we do just in the moment. It’s a journey. There will be ups and downs. One reason the church must stress Biblical teaching and relationships is because we know that as in any long race we will be injured, or distracted, or tempted to drop out. Through the presence of the Christ in our lives, the foundation of Scripture and the support of godly friends, we can all finish the race and keep the faith.

And that's just what the Doctor ordered.