Sunday, September 27, 2009

Old and New Wine Skins – Mark 2:18-22

Old and New Wine Skins – Mark 2:18-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 27, 2009 AM

I have found it interesting and sometimes humorous to have conversations with those who claim to have faith in Jesus Christ, but in reality have no idea what it means. A lot of folks will say, “I’m a Christian,” thinking that because they are good people, were born in a religious home, or live in America that they are “Christian.” It is really kind of silly because they would not think that by entering a grocery store that they all of sudden became a loaf of bread! Here is an experiment to try to see if what I am saying is true: Go to the local airport, get on a jet bound for Hawaii, and then insist that you should be allowed to fly the plane because you are now an airline pilot simply because you got on board the aircraft. The TSA would haul you off the plane quicker than you could say, “Wait! I was only kidding! Don’t lock me up!”

Why then do people try to delude themselves and try to fool others into thinking they are Christian, when in fact they are not? Scripture makes it very plain what it means. You cannot get any clearer than when Jesus says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life… Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.” (John 3:16, 18) However, this spiritual blindness is nothing new. In fact, we discover right here in Mark’s gospel those who wanted to argue with Jesus about what it meant to be righteous! Can you imagine? They just could not get it into their heads the newness of the gospel message. Jesus equates it with placing a new patch on old clothes or putting new wine in old wine skins. What did He mean when He said that? Well, let’s find out…

READ: Mark 2:18-22

There are those who think that by their pious acts (religious good deeds) they are somehow more loved of God than others. You know what I mean. If they light a candle, pray more often than anyone else, or if they do good things for others then God will have to love them more than you, right? Wrong! All this is, is a modern day Pharisaical transference! (WHAT!?) Simply put: Folks who believe this way are doing the same thing and thinking the same way the religious teachers of Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, did. We get easily confused because we see famous folks doing it, and we hear about being good and God loving everybody, so we begin to think that “If I try hard enough to be good enough then God will love me more.” The folks in Jesus’ day were just as confused and we find out that Jesus sets them straight by telling them…

I. Not so fast with that fasting thing! (Vv. 18-20)

1. Old habits die hard, that is why Jesus demands we die spiritually in order to live eternally! Some people just cannot get over the old way of doing things. We have all heard the excuses: “We’ve never done it that way before!” or “It was good enough for me!” We find John the Baptist’s disciples doing the very same thing. They were more in line, religiously, with the Pharisees of their day than Jesus! When they were fasting, as the Pharisees did, on Mondays and Thursdays every week all of sudden some of the folks realized that “Hey! Jesus never asked His followers to fast like John’s disciples did! How could this be?” (CAUTION: It gets kind of whiney here.) They come and complain, “How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” In response to the irritating inquiry, Jesus illustrates the incongruity of fasting for His disciples! Simply put, He gives them an example they will understand. He asks them, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?” You see one of the most important happenings in Jewish life were weddings, and at weddings the families all got together and feasted! Kind of like Baptists at a potluck! It would have been extremely poor manners not to eat and even worse to all of sudden ask your own wedding party, whom you have invited, to not eat either! (Can you imagine the gall of it all?) And, besides, fasting signified mourning! Like being sad over the fate of God’s people Israel. In His response Jesus was not speaking against fasting, He was showing the silliness of fasting for God when God was already right there with them in Him. God had provided for the people! They should rejoice! So, Jesus goes on to say, “They cannot [fast], so long as they have him [the bridegroom] with them.” Kind of dumb, right? Fasting was used by these religious folks to show their piety, or to try and gain God’s pity and not to really honor God at all. Jesus’ presence with them amounted to a situation as joyous as any wedding feast. Why fast? It would not last long however, because Jesus reminds them that “the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.” Jesus would die on the cross. He would be taken from their presence and then they should mourn and fast, but not now! Old habits die hard, that is why Jesus demands we die spiritually in order to live eternally! Jesus was literally saying, “Not so fast with that fasting thing!”

EXAMPLE: Fasting was often done by the people of God in the Old Testament in order to gain a clearer understanding of what God desired or to show mourning over sin. During the time of Jesus it was done twice weekly or during the annual Day of Atonement, as an act of repentance. In our day and age, however, we do not need to fast. Why? For several reasons: 1) We now have the bridegroom with us always, and He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, 2) we are already forgiven of our sin and only need to confess it, and 3) the only time we find the church fasting was when the leadership sought a greater understanding to what God desired. Now do not make the mistake in thinking I said, “DO NOT EVER FAST!” Because I did not. What I said, is that we as Christians do not need to fast to gain God’s attention. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us daily. If we begin to use fasting as a means to gain a greater empathy with God, then we can become like John the Baptist’s disciples or the Pharisees and think we have a better spiritual understanding because “we fast.” If we do, I believe Jesus would say, “Not so fast with that fasting thing!”

I learned early on in life that if your mother makes the mistake of putting red socks in with your white underwear, you get pink underwear. Which, by the way, is not good for a seventh grade boy in gym class who has to shower afterward. Teenage teasing can be relentless, even if it is your mother’s fault. And just as you cannot put red things in with your white laundry and expect it to stay white, you cannot expect to be holy and righteous before God by continuing to do things the old way. There is a new covenant, a new testament, a new way of God relating to mankind through Jesus Christ His Son. We discover that Jesus sets us straight by teaching us about…

II. Unshrunk patches on old clothes and new wine in rotten old wine skins! (Vv. 21-22)

1. The stink of sin can only be disguised so long by the smell of false spiritual perfume! Here’s what I mean: Notice that Jesus continued His teaching to the folks who came to Him. I bet He could tell they just did not get what He was relating to them. Their eyes probably kind of glazed over, so Jesus tries another way of explaining what He meant. Old habits and the old way of thinking about things spiritually die hard, as I stated before. Paul would say, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) We find that Jesus uses an old Jewish parable to get the attention of His listeners. No Jewish housewife worth her salt would risk sewing “a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment.” Why? Because she knew that “the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse!” Trying to fast, or do good things to gain Godliness is like that. When people try it, it is like trying to pour “new wine into old wineskins.” The result is disastrous because “the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined!” New wine will continue to ferment and as it does it expands. If you placed new wine in old wine skins, it would burst them from the expansion. Wine was expensive during Jesus’ day and used only for special occasions, so you would not waste it. And for the Hebrew wine also signified the blessings of God, so to spill it or allow it to be spoiled was awful in their way of thinking. However, Jesus was also referring to the trying to put the gospel into the restriction of the old law. In effect that was what Johns’ disciples were wanting His followers to do by fasting. Newness in Jesus cannot exist under the limitations of legalism. Why? It is sin to try to make it do so. And the stink of sin can only be disguised so long by the smell of false spiritual perfume. This is why Jesus spoke about unshrunk patches on old clothes and new wine in rotten old wine skins.

EXAMPLE: I will never forget how I learned that fermentation causes swelling. A few of us boys were down in the lower field and we came across an old dead cow. The carcass was bloated and full of, well, gases from the fermentation of decay. One of us, I forget exactly which one, wanted to poke at it with a stick. The rest of us yelled, “Leave it alone!” Too late. It blew up like a overfilled balloon with kind of a sickening whoosh that engulfed us all with a horrendous stink. We ran as fast as we could to the river and jumped in, clothes and all, and then tried for the rest of the day to wash the smell away. Shall we say that we stunk-eth! Jesus was trying to make the same kind of comparison. If you try to pour new wine into old wine skins, they will burst. As hard as you try it will only end in disaster. If you try to force the gospel, new wine, into the old wineskin of Old Testament legalism you get the same results spiritually. The same holds true if you are trying to be “good” instead of coming to God through Jesus. Some folks still try, and they still stink. The stink of sin can only be disguised so long by the smell of false spiritual perfume! This is why Jesus spoke about unshrunk patches on old clothes and new wine in rotten old wine skins.

Conclusion:

We learned about trying to fast for the wrong reasons, and putting unshrunk patches on old clothes and new wine in rotten old wine skins. What will you do with what you have learned today?
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This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission to use the entire article.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saints, Sinners, and Tax Collectors! - Mark 2:13-17

Saints, Sinners, and Tax Collectors! - Mark 2:13-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 20, 2004 AM

Last week I spoke about friends and this week we discover just what kind of friends Jesus was willing to hang with. Jesus was one of those people who saw everyone He met with potential. It did not matter if they were saints, sinners, or tax collectors, Jesus saw them with the same possibilities to come to faith in God. Of course that is why Jesus came: To seek and save the lost and the lost were everywhere Jesus went. He was surrounded by those who were living separated from God. Things have not changed much from then until now. We still find a lot of saints, sinners, and tax collectors. This section of Mark shows us just who Jesus was willing to befriend even if it meant some harassment from the religious establishment of the day. In fact it dramatically shows us that you cannot claim friendship with God without being made new by His Son, Jesus Christ. Let’s discover what Mark can teach us this morning about saints, sinners, and tax collectors…

READ: Mark 2:13-17

Sometimes people can reveal what they truly believe about God by what they decide to do or don’t do. I will never forget when I asked a young man, “If you were standing before the Lord and He asked you, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ What would you say?” He responded that Jesus regularly “appeared” to him, usually at night. Of course, he added, it was generally after he had been drinking or doing drugs. He admitted that even though he thought he might have seen Jesus, he never did anything about it. Like I said, people can reveal what they truly believe about God by what they do or don’t do. This was the case here in Mark’s gospel…

I. When tax collectors or sinners decide to follow Jesus! (Vv. 13-15)

1. There is no turning back when one’s heart takes a step toward the Savior! Once again Jesus is walking beside the Sea of Galilee, once again the people are following Him as He walks, and once again Jesus uses the opportunity to teach them about the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God welcomes tax collectors and sinners into citizenship. We know that Capernaum was a customs post on the caravan route from Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea. And, while Jesus was walking and teaching, He sees “Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth.” Jesus simply tells this man, "Follow me… and Levi got up and followed Him.” To me this is both poignant and intriguing. The beauty of Jesus affecting one so dramatically and instantaneously is as captivating as it is fascinating. The upshot is that we immediately discover that Levi, we also know him as Matthew, is more than just curious concerning Jesus and decides to invite Jesus for dinner. Levi’s job of tax collecting was often held onto through bribery and fraud. His fellow Jews therefore would have despised him. But when Jesus calls, the old life is left behind and, I believe, because the people saw Levi leave his post and follow Jesus, they were so affected that “many… followed Him” as well! Amazingly this has not changed, for when Jesus calls even today, we must respond immediately like Levi. The wonder is that when tax collectors or sinners decide to follow Jesus, their lives are changed forever!

EXAMPLE: Vernon C. Grounds writes that “Lord Kenneth Clark, internationally known for his television series Civilization, lived and died without faith in Jesus Christ. In his autobiography, he wrote about an overwhelming religious experience he had while visiting a beautiful church. ‘My whole being,’ Clark wrote, ‘was irradiated by a kind of heavenly joy far more intense than anything I had known before.’ Unfortunately, the ‘flood of grace,’ as he described it, created a problem for him. If he allowed himself to be influenced by it, he knew he would have to change. His family might think he had lost his mind. Or perhaps the intense joy would prove to be an illusion. So he concluded, ‘I was too deeply embedded in the world to change course.’ What a tragedy! If only he had responded to that grace-granted glimpse of another world! If only he had allowed it to turn his attention away from this world and toward Jesus! Then he would have become a part of that invisible world, which is not an illusion but a glorious reality.” God can enable any of us, sinner or tax collector, to change, no matter how deeply embedded we may be in this world. The miracle of the new birth (John 3:5-7) will take place when we say yes to the stirring of God's grace in our souls.

Recently a local teacher, Gordon Patterson, was killed while riding his bicycle home. What the news media has not stated is that while some saw him as the quintessential lovable nerd who loved science, he was also a strong wonderful Christian man. Although he was a public school teacher, he homeschooled his children. He always saw the very best and God’s potential in everyone. He will be missed because of his caring attitude that he displayed because of his love for Jesus. Why is it then that when someone takes a step towards God there are always those who find something wrong with the response? Last week I stated that there will always be naysayers when a person decides to follow Jesus and here in Levi’s life there is no exception. That is the case as Jesus and Levi are having dinner together. It comes about…

II. When “saints” ask foolish questions! (Vv. 16-17)

1. If you ask a silly question, you may not always like the answer you receive! Once again we find folks following Jesus, once again we see Pharisees being picky pertaining to personal contact with those they considered sinners, and once again we see Jesus answering their antagonism. In fact, “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’?” Sinners for the Pharisees were those people who did not have formal education as far as the Law was concerned and who could not keep the strict Pharisaic code like they could. Therefore, for Jesus to actually share a meal, which implied friendship and commonality, with such “people” sent these “righteous” men into a tizzy-fit. The Pharisees, which were the most influential religious party in Palestine, were deeply devoted to the Mosaic Law. They strictly regulated their lives by the supposedly binding interpretations of it passed down in oral tradition and were meticulous about maintaining ceremonial purity. Right down to tithing the spices in their cupboards! For Jesus to eat with such common folk, who were uncouth and unrighteous was, well, shocking to say the least! I love Jesus’ response to their insincerity. He used a common proverb, which His opponents would immediately recognize, to show their hypocrisy: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Now, they had to reason why Jesus did not come to “call” them. But then that often happens when “saints” ask foolish questions.

EXAMPLE: Jesus condemned the Pharisees’ self-righteous double standard because it blinded them from seeing their own need for repentance and a Savior. Many Pharisees prided themselves in their strict avoidance of obvious, outward sin. But they refused to look inside themselves and acknowledge the presence of inner sin that didn’t fall within the boundaries of their man-made rules. Jesus knew that in spite of their obsession with outward perfection, they willfully resisted consciousness of their inner corruption and need for grace. Jesus didn’t associate with “sinners” and “tax collectors” because He minimized their sin. He freely associated with them because He knew that they were more open to repentance. Lest we forget, Paul reminds us that we are all sinners, both inwardly and outwardly. “There is none righteous, not even one!” What is keeping you from faith in Jesus? This is not a “foolish” question.

Conclusion:
We have looked at two important things that happened in Jesus’ life today: When tax collectors or sinners decide to follow Jesus and when “saints” ask foolish questions. Now, what are you going to do with what you have learned?
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This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission to use the entire article.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

With Friends Like These! -- Mark 2:1-12

With Friends Like These! -- Mark 2:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 13, 2006 AM

What kind of friends do you have? Are they fair-weather friends? Do they stick with you through thick or thin? What about you, what kind of friend do you make? How do you lookout for those who you consider a friend? Friendship carries with it responsibilities and true friendship demands accountability as well. Friendship can mean that you have to be willing to sacrifice for those you consider a friend.

Jesus saw what true friendship means and what true friends will do for one another. Jesus has come back to Capernaum and the “people had heard He had come home.” So many began to show up where Jesus is living that there is hardly any room except for Jesus to preach from His own doorway. Here in Mark’s gospel we discover five conflicts Jesus has with the religious leaders of the day. They are not in chronological order because the writers of that day were not concerned so much with what order things happened, but rather what happened and what was taught. What occurs here is astounding and has resonated throughout the centuries because of four friends. With friends like these, anyone could say they were blessed. Let’s discover why.

READ: Mark 2:1-12

One of my friends that I hung around with while in high school influenced how I thought politically. In fact, his forcefulness in what he thought politically changed my mind as a rebellious young man to rethink what I considered important in life. Being taught by my father to critically think through every issue in life made me reconsider what this young man said and it began to make more sense than the radicalism everyone else was spouting back then. Friendship should have an impact on your life. We discover here in Mark that…

I. True friendship should influence! (Vv. 1-3)

1. Your life either sheds light or casts a shadow! Four men had a plan for their friend. Four men were willing to risk it all to make sure their plan was carried out. Four men came to the aide of their friend who could not do for himself. That’s what friends do, they help you when you are helpless. The people of Capernaum had heard about Jesus, they had seen Him in their streets, and now they were crowding around His house to see what they could see. As I mentioned before, “So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door” of where Jesus was staying. Into this throng of gawkers come four men carrying their paralytic friend. We learn from Jesus that “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) As Jesus was willing to give His life for us, we as Christians should be willing to give ourselves completely a way so that our lives influence our friends. Jesus reminds us that “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) These four men were true friends by what they were willing to do for their common friend without regard for themselves. True friendship should influence.

EXAMPLE: Visit any junior high or high school and you will experience the power of influence. Clothing, hairstyles, attitudes and even the language are all gained by some amount of influence, whether it is from commercials, fads, trends, celebrities or music. Teen and preteen children are influenced by these various factors. However, a child's friends are the No. 1 influence. Unfortunately, negative influences are just as easily accepted as positive ones. Karen Casey of Akron, Ohio, witnessed just how far the negative influences of friends can go. “My son was involved with various bad influences from age 12 to 15,” Casey says. “His bad behaviors began with staying out progressively past curfew and riding the bus home at 2 a.m. At the worst point, he would come home at 7 a.m. drunk.” The number one thing that can counteract the negative influence of bad friends are involved parents that ask tough questions and set boundaries. Parents who ask their children where they are going, who they are going with and request a meeting with their child's friends and the friends' parents have already taken the first step in taking control of the influence of bad friends and the accountability of their children. True friendship will influence you for the better. The four men in Mark’s gospel truly influenced the life of their friend!

From the lost puppies and stray cats I brought home, to the friends I came home with, I soon learned there could be good things that come from having close relationships. In fact, when I began a friendship as a sophomore in High School it eventually resulted in finding my future wife and the love of good homemade pies! The same was true for some men who brought their friend to Jesus. It resulted in some rather great things happening. We discover here in Mark that…

II. True friendship results in unexpected benefits! (Vv. 4-5)

1. Friends can lighten your heaviest load in life! Paul would later write that Christians are to “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) These men were willing to carry their friend and his burden became theirs for that moment in time. Two legs that could not walk before were now carried along by eight strong and willing ones. Arms that could not lift the littlest of children, were lifted in the arms of his friends. But they “could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd,” so they do what friends do, they improvised. They “made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on!” Can you understand what is happening here? These men lift their friend to the roof, dig through the porch, and lower their friend right down in front of the unsuspecting Jesus! Wow! Here in Mark we discover that true friends benefit those they call friends. They become a blessing in the life of others. In fact, we discover that “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” This is the only time we find Jesus forgiving the sins of another because of the faith of his friends. Evidently they knew their friend had wanted to see Jesus but could not go himself. They knew that Jesus was the answer for their friend’s affliction. What occurs is not just a physical healing, but a spiritual one as well! That’s what happens because true friendship results in unexpected benefits!

EXAMPLE: "More Americans in the last 20 years say that they have fewer close friends or people in their lives with whom they can discuss important matters," says Duke University sociologist Lynn Smith-Lovin. However, those who are joined by friends to loose weight, lose more weight and tend to keep it off. People who have regular friendships live longer and healthier lives. Friends tend to keep one another accountable. In fact studies have shown that senior adults that maintain close friendships live 5 to 10 years longer than those who do not. Friendships tend to help those involved to make better decisions and to remain more in control emotionally and financially in their lives. True friendship results in unexpected benefits. For the paralytic it resulted in him not only getting his sins forgiven but his paralysis cured as well!

Not everyone will like all of your friends. It can be because people see that your so-called friends really do not have your best interests at heart and are just using you. That they are your friend because of what they can gain from having you hang around. However, sometimes true friendship is tested in the foxholes of combat during the battles of life. There can be those who throw stones at your friendship because they are jealous or insecure. In fact, we discover here in Mark that…

III. True friendship will face naysayers! (Vv. 6-12)

1. Cynics build themselves up by tearing you down! Like old hens we find that “some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” They could not even rejoice in forgiveness, instead, hey had to find fault in the paralytic’s new found friend Jesus. Jesus was a good judge of character. He “immediately… knew in His spirit…what they were thinking in their hearts.” Now some folks have a hard time realizing that Jesus sometimes used sarcasm as an effective teaching tool. Not sarcasm as we use it to degrade another but irony and a good old dose of Godly disdain to illuminate hypocrisy. Jesus sarcastically asks some penetrating questions, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?” The first question reveals their narrow-mindedness and the second displays their shallow spirituality. Who would befriend a paralytic? Who in the world would tell a paralytic, who was probably a sinner from birth or his parents had sinned and that is why he was the way he was, that he was now “forgiven”!? But Jesus is not worried. He responds to their pettiness by saying, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” and then tells the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” They could not dispute the healing because of the crowd full of witnesses. To the dumbfounded looks of the naysayers “He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all! This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” True friendship will face naysayers.

EXAMPLE: When I first accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord I got heat from my family, from my closest friend, and from co-workers, including my boss. He called me into his office and basically told me that he did not like Christians and was going to make my life miserable. This is nothing new and I learned that Jesus had told His followers to “make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.” (Luke 21:14-19) True friendship in Christ will face naysayers.

Conclusion:

The Bible teaches us that either we will be friends with the world or with God. Which are you? We learned today that: True friendship should influence; true friendship results in unexpected benefits; and true friendship will face naysayers.
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This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission to use the entire article.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Public and Private Cleansing – Mark 1:35-45

Public and Private Cleansing – Mark 1:35-45
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 6, 2009 AM

Some of us are very private, while others are very public about our lives. If you become famous you soon learn that every aspect of your life is open to public scrutiny. I found it kind of humorous that when President Obama went on vacation recently that he wanted and expected the media to leave him and his family alone. In our world today that is simply not possible with someone in his position. Every word and every nuance is examined, even while the President is on vacation. Privacy can be hard to obtain but sometimes it is necessary for a person to mature in their relationship with God.

We might never think that Jesus would need time alone to pray, but He did. He needed this time to reconnect with God the Father, to get His priorities in order, and to find a personal time of spiritual renewal and personal cleansing whereby He could forget about everything and focus on God and His plan. We discover that in the life of Jesus there were times of both public and private cleansing. Let’s see what Mark has to say about it this morning.

READ: Mark 1:35-45

What do you do before you have to make an important decision in your life? Do you seek the counsel of others that you respect? Do you find a quiet place to get away even for a moment so that you can sort out your thoughts and exactly what needs to be done? Do you begin by seeking God’s face in prayer? We discover that Jesus did all of these things during…

I. A time of private cleansing with God. (vv. 35-39)

1. A period alone with God provides a point of personal purification! For Jesus this was not to take care of any sin, because He was sinless. Let me explain what I mean: We discover very quickly what Jesus found to be important in life. The first thing was that He needed time alone with God. Sure, He is God’s one and only Son and yet He needed time to be with God. Why? Wasn’t He after all there with God since the very creation of all things? Has He not always existed and always will exist? The answer of course is a definite “YES!” to all of these, however, Jesus in human flesh needed time for regular spiritual revival and spiritual renewal. Notice that it was “very early in the morning,” when Jesus quietly left the others and went off alone. No distractions. No inquiring people. No prying eyes. Just Jesus and God. In fact, “while it was still dark.” He withdrew from the clamorous Capernaum crowds to find solitude with God. We discover something very wonderful as Mark describes for us how Jesus did this on three separate and crucial occasions during His life. And, each in a setting of darkness and aloneness: 1) Here, near the beginning of his ministry (Mark 1:35), 2) during the middle of His ministry (Mark 6:46), and 3) at the very end of His life (Mark 14:32-42). All three were occasions when Jesus faced the possibility of achieving His messianic mission in a more, shall we say, “attractive” but less costly way. However we immediately discover that in each case Jesus gained spiritual strength and personal renewal or cleansing through prayer. Again, not from sin, but rather through discovering His connection with God anew each time. That He was where God wanted Him to be. Do you seek out a time of regular private cleansing alone with God? You should.

EXAMPLE: So odd was this for even Jesus’ followers that they had to go and look for Him. But now because of His time alone with God, He was prepared for the oncoming duties God wanted Him to do. To the disciple’s accusation, Jesus only responds, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” To be able to do what God has planned for your life can only come after you have spent time alone with Him on a regular basis. Jesus knew God the Father intimately because he spent time alone with Him regularly. It baffles me that so many Christians think they can skate through life with just the power of a few half-hearted prayers offered up in a vain attempt to justify their walk with the Lord. The whole story of creation and salvation is that the Creator of the universe desired fellowship with us – sinful human beings. He has provided a way for that to happen through faith in His Son, but He has also given us a wonderful opportunity to know and do His will by spending time alone with Him! A time of private renewal and cleansing.

There are those who spend too much time thinking about Jesus or thinking about doing something for Jesus, but never actually do anything concrete for the Lord. Jesus was about ministry. His whole life, wrapped around ministry. Therefore it is not unusual to discover Jesus heading out to do ministry after a time of personal cleansing. For Him, afterwards, there needed to also be…

II. A time of public cleansing in ministry. (vv. 40-45)

1. A moment ministering to others gives our life much needed motivation! We forget about ourselves for a minute and begin to think of others first. The world does not revolve around us when we minister. It is a catharsis so-to-speak. Not by trying to gain “brownie points” or dispensation by ministering, but by discovering for ourselves true meaning in life as we serve others as Jesus served. And notice, again, we find what mattered to Jesus in His life, and so we learn that the second important thing for Him was ministry. Remember, He related, “That is why I have come.” In this, He ministered to those whom He sought out or those who sought Him out in faith. After going “throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons,” we find a “man with leprosy” who comes to Jesus begging “Him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’” Can you imagine? A leper! Lepers could not be cured back then. Hansen’s disease is rarely infectious especially after as little as 2 weeks of treatment. In fact, 95% of all people are naturally immune. But back then, leprosy was feared. Where the normal everyday person would be filled with horror of a leper being that close, Jesus is “filled with compassion” and “reached out his hand and touched the man!” There is freedom found in ministering to those who cannot restore themselves. Jesus’ response is: “I am willing, be clean!” Why would Jesus do such a thing? I believe His disciples needed to see what He was calling them to in a dramatic fashion and God had told Him during His time alone in prayer that this would occur. It freed the disciples later to be able to minster to anyone. It freed Jesus to minister to anyone who came to Him. And, it also freed the leper from a life of utter rejection by everyone he met or ever knew. It was a time of public cleansing in ministry for all involved. Self-sacrificing ministry has a way of doing this.

EXAMPLE: We discover that “Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.’” Why? Scholars are in disagreement as to the reasoning, but all agree that Jesus wanted him to praise God and do what was required of him so that he would not get into trouble later on. But it was not so much that he was disobedient as overjoyed. “Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news.” I mean, wouldn’t you? We find that “As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.” Ministry sometimes does that. Hinders us. It demands the sacrifice of our time, of our talent, and of our treasure. We have to forget about ourselves for a moment and put others before us. Yet when we do follow through we discover a time of public cleansing in ministry.

Conclusion:

Jesus needed to have both a private and public time of cleansing during His ministry. So do you. When will you?
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