Do you know when and where the very first Living Free group took place? You might say in Chattanooga, TN in 1988. That was when Dr. Jimmy Lee was invited by the pastor of a large church to start a “Sunday School Class” for people in his congregation that were dealing with alcohol addiction, drug use, and many more life-controlling issues. And in one way, you would be right.

I contend, however, that the first Living Free Group took place in Palestine, in the New Testament, during the ministry of Jesus!

Read the story below and see if you don’t agree:

Soon the house where he (Jesus) was staying was so packed with visitors that there wasn’t room for one more person, not even outside the door. And he preached the word to them. Four men arrived, carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t get to Jesus through the crowd, so they dug through the clay roof above his head. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”…..Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, take your mat, and go home.” The man jumped up, took the mat, and pushed his way through the stunned onlookers. Then they all praised God. “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” they exclaimed. (Mark 2:2-5, 10-12)

There are so many parallels in this story of Jesus to Living Free groups that I have to go beyond my usual three points. But I will make each of them brief!

The sick man had to have four friends bring him to Jesus. Often in Living Free, we have to “bear one another’s burdens” and help each other get to Jesus. 

His friends had to make a special, above and beyond effort, to get their friend through the roof to Jesus. Often in Living Free, it takes extra prayer, extra care, and extra compassion to bring our friends where they need to be with the Lord.

Jesus responded to the faith of the man’s friends. Sometimes when a person first comes to Living Free they have to initially rely on the faith of others in the group to trust God for their healing. Their personal faith may come later.

Jesus starts the healing process by forgiving the paralyzed man’s sins. So many times people come into Living Free concerned about what has paralyzed their life; drugs, alcohol, pornography, anger, depression, etc. But what they need first and foremost is to have their sins forgiven and to know that it is a fact.

Once Jesus brings forgiveness, he then brings healing. And once healing takes place, then it is time for the healed person to act on what Jesus has done. It is time to take up their mat of sickness and move forward! That is why we love and strongly recommend for our group members to take multiple groups. After Jesus does a miracle in a group member’s life, then everybody is amazed and God gets all the glory!

So if anyone ever asks you where the first Living Free group took place, point them to Mark 2.

Written by Dr. Jack Smart, Director of Living Free at James River Church, Ozark, MO, and Board member of Living Free.

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