by Alastair Sterne
November 21, 2013
5 min read
In Acts 3 there is an incredible, miraculous healing. An unnamed man, who had been lame from birth, whose survival depended on daily begging, was made whole by the name of Jesus. He asked for alms but got restoration. Luke tells us that he leaped up, started walking, and praising God. He isn’t just mobile, he’s ecstatic and exuberant. And rightly so. But almost immediately, he assumes a very different posture. He “clings” to Peter and John (Acts 3:11). And people gather because of the attention he was drawing, and they were astounded with the Apostles. The man and the crowd looked no further than the miracle and the Apostles. They looked around, they looked at what happened, but they didn’t look up.
We do this too. We cling to the wrong things.
For some, rather than going directly to Jesus, you outsource your spirituality. You cling to authors, or sermons, or friends who get it. You let other people do the work of following Jesus, and think that by association you’re okay. Ultimately you’re not really encountering Jesus. For others, you cling to things that you know aren’t working, but because you don’t know something more is available. You settle for alms rather than restoration. You may cling to a dysfunctional relationship, or your favourite vice and habit. Deep down, you’re thinking: this is all life has to offer. For many still, you’d prefer silver and gold. You cling to your bank statements, career and goals. Or you cling to your family, hobbies or ideologies.
Whatever it is is that you cling to, it becomes your all. But why do we persist in clinging to the wrong things? It’s because we know, deep down, that if we let go and turn to Jesus it’s costly.
If you stop clinging to other’s spirituality and go to Jesus, it means you might actually have to address some of the issues in your life that you don’t want to address. It means work, and that costs you comfort and time. It could mean addressing deep seated resentments towards God or towards family or addressing doubts and hard questions that scare you. It’s too costly to address them. If you stop clinging to what you think life has to offer you and go to Jesus, it might mean you have to let go of something you like: that relationship, that vice or habit (whatever it is). It means you might have to step forward into a changed life, new habits, along with the uncertainty of not knowing what it may entail. It’s too costly. If you stop clinging to the things that give you security and go to Jesus, you might have to give up what gives you a sense of worth. It means your life might start looking different than what you want. It means parts of your life that you don’t want to let go of, may have to go.
So we cling. We cling to people. We cling to less than what’s available. We cling to the things that give us a sense of worth. But when you’re not clinging to Jesus, you’re off course. Whatever it is that you want to cling to — whatever that thing may be — does it even come close to the surpassing treasure of Jesus? The Reformer Martin Luther captures this proclivity of the human heart. He said “Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.”
When Peter addresses the man who was healed and clinging, and the crowd that was gathered around, he points them to the gospel. He says “Turn to Jesus that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:20). The presence of Jesus is refreshing. Do you know that? When we cling to other people and things, we are trying to find some sort of refreshment and fulfillment. We’re looking to be made whole. But often the things we cling to end up taking more from us than we receive from them. But if we cling to Jesus, we’re told that his presence is refreshing. Why? Because his presence is free, it’s fulfilling, and we don’t have to earn it. Jesus is everything our hearts are searching for because in our misplaced clinging, according to Luther, we’re looking for God.
The presence of Jesus is also refreshing because Jesus holds on to us and he will not let us go. The Apostle Paul said, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13). We may tire of clinging to him. Our pursuit of him may be weak, our hearts may easily be misdirected. But Jesus is always faithful to us. Jesus will never tire of holding us. His grip is strong. We can simply drop all of the worthless things that we hold in our hands and be held by our Saviour. Now that is refreshing, and that is worth far more than the cost of letting go of what we cling to. You can rest and be refreshed by the reality that Jesus clings to you.