Doing Jesus a Favor

Here are a few excerpts of passages from Mark 9-10. Yesterday, I preached a sermon on “Doing Jesus a Favor.” The 12 disciples were committed to following Jesus, and had a lot of great intentions, but their heads were not screwed on straight yet. Jesus had to transform their hearts, and that was going to take a lot of time and events, not to mention the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

The disciples were impressed with a lot of the wrong things. The disciples also many times tried to do Jesus a favor, but Jesus always had another idea for what He wanted from them.

“Let us make 3 tents…” (Mark 9:5). Peter thought it would be great to make 3 tents to memorialize the incredible event of Moses, Elijah and Jesus meeting together. God had different ideas – what God wanted was for Peter to listen to Jesus.

For on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-34). Jesus had just told them He was going to be tortured and killed, and it led into a discussion of who the greatest disciple is. Question, are we doing Jesus a favor by serving Him? Jesus says that the greatest in the kingdom will be like a little child.

“We tried to stop him” (Mark 9:38; see also Numbers 11:26-29 & Luke 9:49-56). John thought he was doing Jesus a favor by excluding and stopping others because they were not “following” them. We are not doing Jesus a favor by having a sectarian spirit. Of course, God expects us to stand for truth and to preach sound doctrine, but Jesus wants us to have humble hearts and merciful attitudes toward others.

…and the disciples rebuked them (Mark 10:13). Again the disciples thought they were doing Jesus a favor by keeping the little children away from Jesus. Here is one of a few occasions where Jesus was angry. In fact, the word is “indignant.” Jesus was not impressed by this, He was really angry that His disciples were looking at others, especially kids, in this way.

Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28). Jesus did commend His disciples for leaving everything to follow Him, and He will reward anyone who makes such a sacrifice, but remember that we are not doing Jesus a favor by leaving all to follow Him. Jesus had to remind Peter of a couple things: one is that those rewards come “with persecutions,” and two is that the “first will be last and the last will be first” (Mark 10:30-31).

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mark 10:35). Notice that two times in Mark 10, Jesus asked the question, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36,51). The first time He asked James and John, and they asked for the vice-president seats. James and John wanted the best seats and positions in the kingdom. The second time Jesus asked this question, it was of the blind man named Bartimaeus. He simply requested in faith for his sight to be restored. The heart of Bartimaeus in his request was 180 degrees opposite from the heart of James and John.

So, where is our heart today? Are we committed to doing “great” things for Jesus. Do we want to do Jesus a favor? Remember that what Jesus is looking for is humility, service and genuine faith. Jesus wants us to see with His eyes when we see others. Instead of arguing who the greatest is, realize that this discussion already has an answer – it is Jesus.

It is finished

I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!
(Luke 12:50)

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
(John 17:4)

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
(John 19:28-30)

One of the last words Jesus spoke on the cross was a Greek word which means “it is finished or accomplished.” He used that word several times in His ministry, one of note is the passage above in Luke 12. Jesus was “distressed” until this work was accomplished. I just feel a sigh of relief coming from the soul of Jesus as He said that word on the cross. It is finished, I accomplished the work God gave Me to do. He could now go on to the joy set before Him (Heb. 12:2).

Even though we cannot come close to understanding the level of “distress” Jesus felt, we can understand that there are sacrifices we make and crosses we bear as Christians today. And what Jesus said there at the cross is what every Christian should be able to say at the end of his or her own life. Take the apostle Paul for example:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished (same word Jesus used) the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved his appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Jesus was “distressed,” Paul was “burdened beyond measure” at times, and the same is for the Christian today. But we also have joy in our hearts knowing that God is always with us through those trials, and we know that one day we will lay down that cross and receive a crown. We will then be able to say, “It is finished.”

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
(Revelation 14:12-13)

The Written Word Comes from THE Word

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
(Hebrews 4:12-13)

Last night in our Bible class, we were discussing the power and living nature of the Scriptures. The reason this book is like no other is because it flows from the mind, soul and being of an all-powerful God. The word of God, the Scripture, is the very breath of the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is living, so His words are living. He is active in the world, so His words are also active. Jesus is powerful, so His words are powerful. The words Jesus said were often sharp, so naturally the written word that came from His mouth would also be sharp. Jesus read the hearts of men, nothing was hidden from Him, and the same goes for the words from His mouth, they read our hearts. His word is just like Him in that it shines the light and exposes the darkness.

There is no other document like the Bible ever written in human history because there is no other person like Jesus. He authored every word.

May we today stand in awe of the Scriptures, as we stand in awe of the Savior and Lord who gave it to us.

Do you not yet understand? Part 2

Last Monday, we observed several occasions in the gospel accounts when the disciples did not understand the sayings of Jesus. Several reasons are given to us in the Scriptures as to why they did not understand. They are the same reasons we do not understand today.

In Luke 24, we see the word “opened” used 3 times. I heard a sermon by Andy Cantrell where he pointed this out, and it is very helpful to look at how the word “opened” is used in Luke 24.

And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.
(Luke 24:31)

They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
(Luke 24:32)

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
(Luke 24:45)

Jesus opened their eyes. He opened their minds. And He opened the Scriptures to them. It was then they understood! The power to understand came from Jesus.

In all of this, as we seek to understand God’s word and the truths therein, we must go to the power of God first to help us understand. Remember that the Holy Spirit is given to each Christian, and He is working within us as well. We have our part, which is to be humble, to pray, to seek, to ask, to be diligent in our studies, and to be vulnerable enough to ask others for guidance (2 Timothy 2:15; Luke 11:8-13). Also be patient with yourself and remind yourself of the grace God is already giving you.

It seems that there are two extremes when folks discuss the topic of understanding God’s word. One extreme is that my understanding of the Word is all God’s power and God’s part, and unless I have some special anointing I won’t even be able to understand the simplest truth. It takes all responsibility away from me. The other extreme is that understanding the word is all my part, and that God is not working in me at all as I try to understand His word. It takes away the power of God working in the inner man. Both extremes are un-Biblical. I have my part (James 1:21-22), God does His (James 1:5,17-18).

We need to “find out what is pleasing to God” (Ephesians 5:10), and that happens when we “read” what has been given through the Holy Spirit to us (Ephesians 3:4). But do not forget that God is working within you, and He helps both to desire and to do what He asks us.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (YOUR PART); for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (GOD’S PART).
(Philippians 2:12-13)

Do you not yet understand? Part 1

And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
(Mark 8:17-21)

I was looking at several verses about the disciples and the fact that they did not understand what Jesus was saying. There are several reasons mentioned in the gospels as to why they did not understand what Jesus was telling them.

  • Their hearts were hardened (Mark 6:52).
  • Their mindset was on the things of this world; their mindset was not a heavenly one (Mark 8:33).
  • Their faith was weak, and they were slow to believe (Luke 24:35).
  • They were afraid to ask Jesus (Mark 9:32; Luke 9:45).
  • Some things were hidden from them (Luke 9:43-45; 18:31-34).
  • Some things needed time and events (John 2:22; 12:16).
  • Some things they could not “bear” at the time (John 16:12).
  • Jesus had to open their minds and the Scriptures to help them understand (Luke 24:27,45).

There is more to consider, but we will look at it next Monday. But for today, can you find yourself on that list as to why you haven’t understood some of the truths in God’s word? You don’t see it until afterward, usually. We look back and see that we needed time to understand what God was trying to teach us. Maybe we look back and see that our minds were set on worldly, selfish thoughts and that’s why we didn’t get it. It may have been that we needed someone to come along and patiently open the Scriptures with us and show us the truth of God’s word on a matter. But it may be that our faith was weak and we were slow to accept and believe what God said. Regardless, I believe we all can see ourselves in the same condition as the disciples.

More next Monday, Lord willing.

 

Faith and Humility

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
(Matthew 15:21-28, compare to Mark 7:24-30)

What was great about this woman’s faith?

Did you see that the disciples begged Jesus to send this nagging, annoying Gentile woman away from them?

Why did Jesus use the analogy of children and dogs when referring to this woman?

Jesus wasn’t being mean or rude to this woman. He knew exactly what He was going to do, and He knew the heart of this woman already. He did not need to have this event to know the faith that was in her heart. This was a lesson for the disciples and for us. The Gentiles (non-Jewish people) were called dogs by the Jews. The Jews considered themselves as the only children of God, and disregarded anyone else as dogs. Jonah was not the only Jew that did not value the souls of Gentiles.

Jesus’ disciples were always pushing people away and sending people away, while Jesus was calling those same people to Himself. There are scores of examples of this: the children (Mark 10:13-14), the hungry crowds (Mark 6:35-36), Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:48), and this woman we just read about in Matthew 15.

Send them away? Where is the mercy, disciples? They are hungry people, little kids, and suffering souls! Send them where? Who else has what Jesus has? Send them, why? Are you sending them away because you are bothered by them? Are you sending them away because you don’t value them or see them as Jesus sees them?

This is such a lesson for us. These disciples whom Jesus was training and transforming must understand that faith involves humility. This woman had that kind of faith. She was willing to be that dog who licks up the crumbs under the master’s table. You don’t see her asking for the left or right hand side of Jesus at His throne like the disciples were asking for. She didn’t get into arguments about who the greatest was like the disciples did. She said in her despair, “Lord help me!” This woman of great faith was willing to take any crumb Jesus could give her and she would be grateful for it. The disciples saw her as a Gentile dog woman who annoyed them, and Jesus saw a precious soul with incredible faith and humility.

How do you see others? Do our minds, hearts and eyes need to be transformed to see others (our spouses, our kids, anybody in the community) as Jesus sees them? Let us meditate upon this today and ask for God to help us see others like He helped His disciples to see.

A Little Bit of Jesus’ Spit

Have you ever thought about Jesus’ spit? Crazy question, maybe, but below are three miracles where Jesus used His own spit to perform a miracle. With His spit He healed the blind, the deaf and the mute. After having been touched with Jesus’ spit, they saw clearly, heard clearly and spoke plainly.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
(Mark 7:31-35)

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
(Mark 8:22-25)

Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
(John 9:6-7)

Here are a few quick thoughts about Jesus’ spit.

  1. The way Jesus heals you may not be pleasant or desirable. The way God restores you may temporarily make you uncomfortable. The Great Physician has His own medicine cabinet and how He chooses to heal you is the right prescription every time. If you were blind and Jesus’ spit could heal you, wouldn’t you say, “Jesus, spit on me all day long if that’s what I need”?
  2. Everything that comes from Jesus is divine, holy, merciful and powerful, including His own spit. Contrast the way others used their spit as they mocked and shamed Jesus before His crucifixion. Even Jesus’ spit was used with love and with the glory of God on His mind.
  3. The miracle of this blind man being healed in Mark 8 is a gradual miracle and we can learn a lesson from it. Most of Jesus’ miracles were instantaneous, this one Jesus chose to do gradually. Maybe it is a lesson on how Jesus gradually changes the way we see spiritually. As we grow in Jesus, His spit needs to be on our eyes every day, so that we go from blind to seeing the way God sees. But for a while, we see men like trees walking, not exactly clear, but with enough of the spit and grace of Jesus, we will one day see clearly.

Time, Money, and Energy

Time, Money, and Energy

Here is a chart you may have seen on time money and energy on how it relates to the various stages of life. It may not be true for all people, but it is generally true for a lot of folks.

Whatever applies to you, it comes down to what are you doing with the resources you have been given at this time in your life?

Here is the parable of the talents that Jesus taught in Matthew 25. Let’s meditate upon this today.

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
(Mat 25:14-30)

 

He Makes the Mute Speak

For our meditation today, let’s consider the following passages. Think about what God can do to your tongue and your mouth. If He made the mute to speak, and considering what God did through Moses, Jeremiah and Paul, what can He do for you and through you?

God can prepare your mouth and teach your tongue to be a mouthpiece for Him. Don’t focus on your ignorance, His word will give you knowledge and wisdom will come from His throne.  God can and will send His people to teach you and equip you. Please don’t regard your lack of eloquence, think of what God did through people like Paul. Don’t take a minute to think about your “youth” or “inexperience” – consider what God did through a number of “inexperienced youths” in Scripture. The point in all of this is that glory goes to the power of God, not to how well we speak or how amazingly persuasive we are! It’s not about how witty we are or how good we are on our feet to stand toe -to-toe in a debate, it’s about God’s wisdom working in us and through us to reach out and teach truth to those seeking for it. It’s about God, not about us.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
(Mark 7:31-37)

But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
(Exodus 4:10-12)

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”
(2 Corinthians 10:10)

Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.
(2 Corinthians 11:6)

Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
(Jeremiah 1:6-10)

Why trouble the Teacher any further?

While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”
(Mark 5:35)

Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, had a daughter who was dying. He rushed up to Jesus and put in a 911 call. The need was urgent, but everyone else in the crowd thought their need was urgent, too. They all pressed about Him to get access to Him. Jesus then stopped and began talking to a woman that He had just healed. I can only imagine the urgency in this man’s heart. “Come on, Jesus! Let’s go! My daughter is dying! We don’t have a lot of time!!”

And then the worst news possible comes to Jairus. Your daughter is dead. It’s too late. There’s no need to bother Jesus anymore.

Think about the question that they asked of Jairus, and what it means? “Why trouble the Teacher any further?” This is a lot like the family and friends of Lazarus who saw Jesus as the death-stopper and the great healer, but not as one who could raise a dead person to life (see John 11). That’s just impossible, right?

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”
(Mark 5:36)

We need this reminder from Jesus today just as much as Jairus did on that day. Sometimes we make the same kinds of determinations, that Jesus can help me here, but cannot help me there. This situation we can pray about, but that issue we will have to deal with ourselves.

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
(Jeremiah 32:26-27)

Think about this and how it applies to our congregations. What can God do through a group of praying, faith-filled Christians?

  • Through our prayers, God’s spirit will fill us and we will go out and speak the word with boldness (Acts 4:31; Ephesians 6:18-20).
  • Through our prayers with each other, we who are caught up in sin can be healed of our soul-sickness and be restored (James 5:13-20).
  • Through the prayers of a few faithful people, a dead church can come back to life again (Revelation 3:1-6).
  • Through the prayers of God’s people, God can raise up and provide godly leaders for our congregations (Acts 13:1-3; 14:23).
  • Through the prayers of God’s people, attitudes can change, people can mature and a new mindset can be formed (Col. 4:12).

Don’t limit God. Let’s not have the attitude of the people in the crowd with Jairus, thinking we’ve troubled Jesus enough.

You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
(2 Corinthians 1:11)