Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Cost of Christ - Mark 9:30-37

The Cost of Christ - Mark 9:30-37
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 27, 2010 AM

Sometimes we can hear someone say something to us but not understand what they are saying. There are several reasons for this. They could be speaking a foreign language, we could be hard of hearing, we could be distracted, or we could simply be ignoring the other person. Kind of like the old Peanuts cartoons where all the adults sounded like: “Wah, wah, wah, wah, waah!” However, there are times when we hear the other person speak, and we truly do not understand what they are trying to tell us. I had a calculus class like that. My Mother had a favorite expression she often used with me: “Young man, listen to me when I am talking to you! I am not speaking simply to hear myself speak!” It seemed, as I was growing up, she said this a lot to me. Perhaps it was because I was so easily distracted or maybe it was the fact I did not want to hear what she had to say. Whatever the reason, we find that Jesus’ disciples often suffered from this hard of hearing problem as well.

Jesus often taught his disciples that he would have to suffer and die. He also taught them about the cost of following him. But as often as Jesus tried to teach them these things to them, it seemed as if they were just not listening. Now, least we are too harsh with the disciples we need to realize we do the very same thing. We listen to the pastor preach about the cost of following Jesus, we seem to agree with him about it, but then we go our own way instead. “Wah, wah, wah, wah, waah!” Jesus did not give up in helping his followers understand the cost involved in following him and neither will I. Let’s look at what Mark shares concerning the cost of Christ this morning…

READ: Mark 9:30-37

I have learned repeatedly that emailing someone about something is not always the best or clearest way to convey an idea. It is a good way to keep folks informed, but a poor way to explain some things. Here in Mark’s gospel we find Jesus again teaching his closest disciples about his impending death. It was important that they understand what would occur and why. And, for whatever reason…

I. What we have here is a failure to communicate the cost of Christ! (Vv. 30-34)

1. When we are more concerned about ourselves being heard, we will miss Jesus speaking to us! Jesus takes his disciples to where he can be alone with them. Mark relates, “Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples.” He desires to begin to prepare them for his coming death. His ministry in Galilee is over and his journey to the cross is beginning. We find that his death is a constant theme on this final journey and is continually on his mind. Jesus bluntly tells them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” Surprisingly, Mark writes that the disciples “did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.” (Mark 9:32) Were they that dense? Nope, they were that selfish. They had been so busy arguing about themselves, they had not heard Jesus at all! Can you imagine? I am so glad none of us is like that! Notice what Mark tells us happens next when they get to Capernaum. Evidently, Jesus had heard them arguing, literally “dialoging”, about something as they walked. I love it when people want to “dialog.” What they really mean is, “Be quiet while I tell you what I think.” And, the idea here is that they were so engrossed in their personal diatribe, that they did not care who heard them! Each wanted his position to be heard by the others. So, Jesus asked them, “What were you arguing (dialoging) about on the road?” Just as little children who are caught doing something wrong the disciples are confronted by Jesus. They knew what they were doing, “But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued (dialoged) about who was the greatest.” I believe Jesus knew as well, and in a moment, we will discuss that part. But first, we have to realize that when you are more concerned about yourself being heard, you will miss Jesus speaking to you! Jesus was trying to help his disciples understand what was going to occur and all they cared about was “who was the greatest,” who had the most authority within the circle of disciples. Wow. What we have here is a failure to communicate the cost of Christ.

EXAMPLE: Good communication takes one person speaking and one actually listening. Jesus was doing his part, but the disciples were not doing theirs. Things have not changed much in the past two-thousand years though. How often do we go to God in prayer and all we do is talk and talk and talk and talk, thinking that by the sheer volume of our words, God has got to hear us? We do not shut up long enough for the Lord to get a word in edgewise. And, if he does, we do not understand what he trying to tell us, because we are so caught up in our own “important” little diatribe of what matters most to us, to listen! We can sit listening to a sermon that God desires it to impact our lives with but we are already so involved in some other non-essential daydream that God cannot communicate with us. We search for just the right verses in the Bible to sooth our souls forgetting that God may actually want to speak to us through his word concerning what he desires, but we are so busy with our biblical agenda we fail to hear him speak. Our relationship with the Lord demands sacrifice. When we are more concerned about ourselves being heard, we will miss Jesus speaking to us! What we have then is a failure to communicate the cost of Christ!

The other day, a woman caller to a popular radio talk show pompously declared to the host, “I belong to the Church of Scientology, and this weekend we’re gathering together at the church and we’re going to go to the beach with bags, rakes, and shovels and we're going to collect all the oil that washes up on the shore. My question is what have you done to help protect the environment?” The rest of the story is, in order to get on air; the woman lied about what she would ask. She deliberately misrepresented herself. The disciples kind of do the same thing here in Mark, but Jesus is not fooled. He already knew what was occurring.

II. What we uncover is that the Cost of Christ demands sacrifice! (Vv. 35-37)

1. When we place our selfish selves before the Lord, we are no longer a servant of Christ! I love how Jesus often responds to people’s petty natures. Here he does not openly chide his disciples, instead he uses the occasion of their selfishness to try and teach them a lesson. Perhaps Jesus needed to compose himself first, I am not sure, but Mark tells us that he sat down and then “called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” (Mark 9:35) This phrase of Jesus’ has been heard repeatedly, and it has often been misquoted. It isn’t his personal admonishment for everyone to go serve in a soup kitchen. What Jesus means is that if you desire to follow him you had better get this life lesson of his down pat. He sat down to lower himself for a reason, which would become apparent very soon. What he teaches should impact every area of your life every day. It should become so much a part of your spiritual psyche that, like the Marines with their motto “Semper Fidelis,” you eat, breath, and live it. Whoah! Why would I say this? Notice what Jesus does next. “He took a little child and had him stand among them.” Remember, Jesus is sitting. He gives the child center stage. Then, “Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’” (Mark 9:36-37) Are we supposed to go out and teach Children’s Sunday School in order for God to “welcome us”? Well, maybe, but that is not what Jesus meant here. Jesus displayed for his followers exactly what he desired of them by taking a child, who was viewed by his culture as the most insignificant person in a household, as an example. In fact, in the language Jesus often spoke, Aramaic, the word for child was the same word used for “slave.” The child represented the lowest, the least, among them. No disciple was/is to “Lord it over” another. In fact, we later find James and John vying for a greater position for themselves and the rest of the disciples becoming indignant. (Mark 10:35-45) Jesus bluntly reminds them, “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:43-44) (Hello! Remember the little child guys?) When we place our selfish selves before the Lord, we are no longer a servant of Christ! What we uncover is that the Cost of Christ demands sacrifice!

EXAMPLE: I remember two brothers, no not Ed and I, who used to go to this church. One day they were kind of getting on one another’s and their parent’s nerves. The father of these boys grabbed both of them for a lecture. Which, they both hated more than anything else he could have done. In fact, one later in life confessed to me that he would have rather had a spanking and gotten it over with than the lecture. The father grabbed the older of the two and said, “Here’s an idea, why not treat your younger brother like you want to be treated?” It did not help when the younger one mockingly responded with “Yeah!” Then they began to make excuses as who started what, when, where and why. Isn’t that the way we often act in our sort of kind of walk with Jesus? Far too often, we act like, well, the disciples! When we should be responding like we are maturing in the Lord. Jesus is headed for his death. His brutal murder at the hands of his fellow countrymen and while he is trying hard to get through to them, all his disciples are concerned with is who gets to be first. Things have not changed much, have they? We truly love ourselves before anything or anyone else, yet for the Christian this is not to be so. The startling fact remains, that when we place our selfish selves before the Lord, we are no longer a servant of Christ! Here in Mark, what we uncover is that the Cost of Christ demands sacrifice!

Conclusion:
The cost of Christ demands that we listen more to him and willingly serve others. That is, if we truly want to be great in his kingdom.
----
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 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…

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Cure of Christ - Mark 9:14-29

The Cure of Christ - Mark 9:14-29
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 20, 2010 AM

The likes of John Osteen, deceased, and now Joel Osteen his son, have both preached a health and wealth gospel. A message that is totally contrary to Biblical Christianity. In fact, both have made comments like the following: “It's God's will for you to live in prosperity instead of poverty. It’s God’s will for you to pay your bills and not be in debt. It’s God’s will for you to live in health and not in sickness all the days of your life.” While God does desire that you pay your bills on time, Joel goes on to declare that what he means is God desires that as a believer, you should be prosperous in everything all the time. If you are not, then there is something wrong with your faith. You have not properly claimed the promises of God for your life. Then there are those like Benny Hinn who give their followers an addition to this kind of biblical drivel. He can heal you, if you believe in his rendition of naming it and claiming it, assembly line, commercialized Christianity.

There have always been those charlatans in Christianity that make the miracles of the Bible into their own personal how to guide on performing the miraculous. When they do, they are not only misinterpreting Scripture, but they often have ulterior motives. In fact, much of what they preach and teach nowadays smacks of heresy. If we look at today’s passage in Mark we discover very quickly that there is no set formula to follow, as some would have you believe, in casting out demonic influences. The truth contained within this story of Jesus curing a demon-possessed boy is one that we all should heed in life. Mark teaches us about the cure of Christ for our lives. Let’s see how…

READ: Mark 9:14-29

Sometimes the cure can be worse than cause. But here we find that this is not true. Only those who love being in the sway of the world, run from the cure of Christ in their lives. In fact, it is my contention that most of the social ills of the world today are caused by mankind’s sin and his willingness to stay spiritually sick. Here in Mark’s gospel we discover…

I. What unbelief in Christ causes! (Vv. 14-19)

1. What we see, may not be what God desires for us to perceive! We discover that when Peter, James, John, and Jesus “came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them.” Something was up. In stark contrast to the transfiguration of Christ, we find Mark describing for us the disoriented nature of the unbelief of the world and the disciples. The disciples who had been left behind were arguing with the people and the teachers of the law. When they see Jesus, they are literally excited, overwhelmed, to see him because they know Jesus will have the answers they need. When Jesus asks his disciples, “What are you arguing with them about?” meaning the crowd, a man respectfully answers his question, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” The crux of the matter is not being able to drive out demons, but rather the root of the problem is a lack of faith for all involved: The crowd, the teachers of the law, the father, but also the disciples. In desperation, a father brings his son for healing to Jesus, but only finds his disciples, and they cannot help. And this is after Jesus had earlier sent them out to do exactly what this father was asking and they had been successful (Mark 6:7-13), but why not now? It is an example of what unbelief causes. The disciples had become dependent upon Jesus physical presence instead of their faith in him. Jesus is frustrated over their continuing spiritual blindness and comments, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” Certainly, he was often aggravated at the teachers of the law, but his frustration right then was with his disciples. Unbelief in Jesus not only keeps people in spiritual bondage but it also encourages spiritual weakness in believers. They only saw a man with a demon-possessed son, and because of their spiritual nearsightedness, they could do nothing. This is what unbelief in Christ causes. What we see, may not be what God desires for us to perceive!

EXAMPLE: I was rummaging around in the garage, looking for a particular tool, but having no luck in finding it. Denise came out to do some laundry, turned on the light, and eureka – there was the tool I was looking for! She commented, “It helps if you turn on a light.” Isn’t that just like the spiritually blinded world? John wrote, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:5) Jesus taught, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21) Unbelief in Christ causes people to love darkness. The teachers of the law and the crowd could not see what to do with the demon-possessed man, but neither could Jesus’ disciples. It is a perfect example of what unbelief causes: Spiritual blindness.

There is a cure though. Those of us who have taken the spiritual medication understand the worth of it for our lives. Mark gives us the answer in…

II. How to conquer our unbelief in Christ! (Vv. 20-24)

1. In order to have faith in anything, one must be willing to trust what they cannot explain! We discover that those who were willing to follow Jesus’ directions exhibited their faith. We find that when the demonic spirit recognizes Jesus, “it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.” We discover that this boy has suffered from this influence for a long time. The father answers Jesus question, “How long has he been like this?” with “From childhood.” It is important to note that in the original translation, the word “boy” is not used. The NIV inserts it because they feel it is implied. However, the father’s answer makes it plain that his son suffered a long time and that he was older than a child would have been. Can you imagine, however? The father explains, “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.” And pleads with Jesus, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus took up the father’s words of doubt, “If You can,” to show that the father’s faith should not be in Jesus’ ability to heal the boy. Rather, the man’s faith should be placed in his ability to trust in God who can do what is humanly impossible. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Jesus asserts. The man’s wonderful reply tells us a whole story in of itself. Within the depths of his answer is a pathos that speaks volumes to the human tragedy of life. Bad things happen to good people because sin exists in the world. But also it contains the simple answer in conquering our unbelief in Christ: “Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” If only more people would be as honest as this man was. All this man experienced for decades was his son suffering from something and he could do nothing. That was his reality of life. This is the “essential element of Christian faith.” What is impossible with man is possible with God – if we are willing to believe. I am not talking about healing here I am talking about faith. In order to have faith in anything, one must be willing to trust what they cannot explain! That is how to conquer our unbelief in Christ!

EXAMPLE: We live in a day and age whereby to many think that science, business, education, or government will solve our problems. Yet none has helped the oil flow in the Gulf. Science cannot rescue a person from eternal death. Business cannot buy back your sinful soul. Education cannot make anyone smart enough to understand all the ways of God and the evils of mankind. And, well, government has never solved anything without a multitude of laws, conflict, taxation, and restricting people’s freedoms. I remember well a young man who asked me, “Lee, just tell me what to believe and I will.” His attitude was very much like the father’s here in Mark. It is a willingness to realize you do not have the answers, the means, or the method to cure yourself, but you can conquer your unbelief in Christ. In order to have faith in anything, one must be willing to trust what they cannot explain! That father did not need an explanation, only his son cured. His willingness to admit he did not have the answer was what conquered his unbelief.

Perhaps we have become so used to everything being available to us that we have forgotten what it means to be dependent on another person. We hate to be beholding to anyone. And this pride is what keeps many men form faith in Christ. If only they could understand. Mark teaches us…

III. What belief in Christ cures! (Vv. 25-29)

1. It is not in the words you use, but in whom you place your trust! Mark writes that “When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. ‘You deaf and mute spirit,’ he said, ‘I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.’ The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, ‘He's dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.” What? Wait a minute! No, “In Jesus’ name!” shouts. No, slapping him on the forehead or breathing on him so he would fall over. Why, how could Jesus do any healing without these old charlatan tricks? Sadly, there are those who actually believe this drivel. When we are told to pray in Jesus’ name it means to pray in our faith of what he did and who he is. Using or applying the name of Jesus to our prayers is not some spiritual mystical formula to be rigidly adhered too or as an ending punctuation point. The example here of Christ is beautiful in all of its glory and power as to he is. We see someone who was held under the influence of Satan, die to his old life and come alive anew in the fullness of Christ. We see a desperate father’s faith made complete at the healing of his son. We find a crowd amazed at what they see and the disciples perplexed. And notice, people’s attitudes have not changed. Were the disciples concerned for the young man? Were they concerned for what the crowd saw? Did they praise God? Nope, they were only concerned about one thing: “Why couldn't we drive it out?” After all, it’s all about “me” which is the narrow focus of any spiritually shallow faith! They were asking Jesus for a readymade excuse. There are those who use Jesus’ answer to his disciples here in Mark as a formula, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” But Jesus did not mean it as such. What belief in Christ cures is unbelief, it heals the spiritually hurt, and mute. Healing the body is not as important as healing the soul. The breaking of the bonds of spiritual death is only accomplished by faith in Christ alone. It is not in some formulated prayer, but in prayer that is uttered in total commitment to the belief that Jesus can do it! It is not in the word you use, but in whom you place your trust! That is what belief in Christ cures!

EXAMPLE: You are hanging by a small piece of your t-shirt that accidently got caught on a small limb, dangling over a sheer drop off thousands of feet above a rocky canyon. Someone holds out his hand to you to pull you up and you ask, “What, no rope?” You are drifting aimlessly on the open water with ocean as far as your eyes can see and then a submarine breaks the surface next to your life raft. They ask if you want to be rescued and you reply, “Got any Perrier?” Fire breaks out in your home and you are trapped. You open the second story window to find a fireman on a ladder ready to carry you down from the flames. You remark, “I think I’ll wait for someone to explain to me why wood combusts.” Sadly, this is the state of many in the world today. Their lives are hanging by a thread, drifting aimlessly in a sea of confusion, while the flames of hell are licking their bare feet. Worse, many are happy when someone simply suggests to them to “feel good” about themselves and “everything will be okay.” The power of positive thinking never saved a single soul, only the power of the cross does. That father was not looking for platitudes, excuses, or reasoning for his son. All he wanted was to believe someone had the cure. Someone did and someone does. Belief in Christ cures all doubt. Will you say with me, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” This is what belief in Christ cures.

Conclusion:

We have learned what unbelief in Christ causes, how to conquer our unbelief in Christ, and what belief in Christ cures.
----
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 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…

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Jesus' Elijah - John the Baptist - Mark 9:11-13

Jesus' Elijah - John the Baptist - Mark 9:11-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 13, 2010 AM

The Twilight series of novels and movies have intrigued folks, making them into a multimillion-dollar profitable business. I believe it is because of the mysterious nature of the main characters involved. People love enigmatic characters.

There are enigmatic characters throughout the Bible such as Deborah the female judge who roused the Israelite people from their lethargy to throw off the yoke of subjugation by Jabin, the king of Hazor. I also enjoy Josiah who stands as an amazing king of the line of David for unswerving loyalty to Jehovah. He repaired the temple of God, discovered a scroll of the law written by Moses. However, at the height of his reign he tries to stop the military advance of Pharaoh-Necho II against Assyria and dies doing so. Then there is John the Baptist. Born six months before his cousin Jesus, John became “the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (John 1:23) He is seen as Jesus’ Elijah, this John the Baptizer. Let’s look at John and discover who he is…

READ: Mark 9:11-13

Elijah was also one of those interesting characters of the Bible that is unforgettable. He was at times irascible and then petulant. He could be victoriously confrontational and then utterly dejected, running for his life. He was prepared to meet head-on a queen that was willing to murder or manipulate anyone who got in her way. He makes a mockery of the priests of Baal and then whines when a Mafia-like hit is put on him by Jezebel. Elijah was seen by the Jews as one of the major forces of change and calling Israel as a nation back to God. This is why many in Jesus’ day thought that John was Elijah reincarnated. Therefore, let’s look at…

I. John, the people’s Elijah!

1. John was Elijah trying to turn a nation! After the transfiguration, the disciples ask Jesus, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” They had just seen Elijah and wondered about this prophecy. Jesus’ answer relates that he viewed John the Baptist in Elijah’s role. John stood up to a petty queen and her ungodly behavior and lost his head over Herodias’ adultery: “For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his Brother Philip's wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.’ So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him.” (Mark 6:17-19) John also stood as a divining rod for the nation whose spiritual leadership was corrupt. He mocked the Pharisees and Sadducees, calling them “You brood of vipers!” (Matthew 3:7) However, John was also a messenger to the common folk: “And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” (Mark 1:4-5) Malachi had foretold, “‘See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me…. I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.’” (Malachi 3:1; 4:5) This is why some wondered if John was Elijah and asked him, “Are you Elijah?” I believe because of the corruption both spiritually and nationally, the people wanted John to be Elijah. John was there to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17) In humility, he tried to tell them that he was not the Messiah, Elijah, or even a prophet. (John 1:21) He had an Elijah-type ministry. He appeared on the scene suddenly and even dressed like Elijah, wearing “clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist.” (Mark 1:6) Like Elijah, John fulfilled for God the mantle that the Israelites needed. Sadly, they did not listen. The nation was not turned by John’s message and they suffered because of their rejection of Jesus. God would “strike the land with a curse.” The temple was destroyed, Jerusalem razed, and the people placed in exile. Jesus responds to his disciple’s question by telling them, “But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.” (Mark 9:13) Jesus knew that John was the people’s Elijah.

EXAMPLE: We live in a soft-sell society. Whether it is political pundits or product promoters, they all carefully craft words that are easy on the listener’s ears. While this may be a great strategy for garnering votes or selling toothpaste, it is a lousy way to proclaim the gospel. Christians do not need to go all “John the Baptist” on others, but we do not need to so soften the message of redemption that we make it wishy-washy to its listeners. Paul warns, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) Some believe this has occurred. John the Baptist was a fiery orator because the people of Israel needed to be spiritually awakened. Notice that John came to his own people. Those who thought they were already spiritually saved by God, not the “goyim” of the day, the non-Jew. Perhaps today’s church needs to stop selling the gospel like it is some prepackaged formula and begin to strike a spiritual match under the wet rotting timber of the church? Perhaps we need that kind of Elijah-type of John the Baptist today.

Can you imagine if someone like John the Baptist came today and preached the way John did? Of course, no one will because John’s message and ministry is finished and fulfilled through Jesus Christ. There will be no other John the Baptist that will do as he did. There does not need to be and we know why. Jesus’ words in Mark’s gospel give us the reason. We discover that John came for a special purpose. Therefore, let’s look at…

II. John, Jesus’ Elijah!

1. John was Elijah in fulfilling the task of God! This is why Jesus would remark, “And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.” (Matthew 11:14) John was not a reincarnation of Elijah, as some falsely thought, because there is no such thing, rather John was the last of the Old Testament prophets. Jesus would say that “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.” (Matthew 11:11-13) John was the last of the Old Testament prophets, because now the gospel, written through Jesus’ blood, would finalize “the Prophets and the Law.” John was Jesus’ Elijah, and this was why he remarked, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?” (v. 12) God’s herald, John had come, just as Elijah had been called by God. When Jesus came, God’s purpose was fulfilled. And now those who hear the gospel are accountable for what they hear. John would cry, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Matthew 3:8-11) Jesus came preaching the good news of God’s kingdom and John’s ministry was finished. In fact, we read that, “They came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan--the one you testified about--well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.’ To this John replied, ‘A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, “I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.” The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less…. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.’” (John 3:26-30, 36) Have you heeded the words of John, Jesus’ Elijah?

EXAMPLE: Some endlessly speculate that perhaps the two witnesses written about in Revelation 11:1-19 that one of them might be John the Baptist. Frankly, I do not think so because of what Scripture does and does not say concerning them. Now it could be someone God calls on to be like John the Baptist in that he would take a stand against the ungodliness of the nations. However, nowhere does it say either of these witnesses is John the Baptist, nor Elijah for that matter. Sure, it describes some very powerful things these two men can do, even some Elijah type stuff, but it does not give us their names, nationalities, ages, or anything else about them. In fact, some have speculated that it could refer to both the witnesses of the Old and New Testaments. After all they are described as “the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” (Revelation 11:4) Will there be another John the Baptist? No. Just like, there was not another Elijah in John the Baptist. Can there be those who are raised up by God to witness as John did? The answer is sure, but not for the same reason, because John fulfilled his Godly purpose. John pointed to Jesus and we would do well to listen to his words.

Conclusion:
We discovered two purposes for John the Baptist: 1) John, the people’s Elijah, and 2) John, Jesus Elijah.
----
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 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…

Sunday, June 06, 2010

A Kingdom with Power! - Mark 9:1-10

A Kingdom with Power! - Mark 9:1-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 6, 2010 AM

In our day and age we can be connected 24/7 and do at home what only folks dreamed of doing a few years ago. With personal computers, cell phones, iPads, iPods, and other electronic devices we can contact, process, bank, pay bills, and do a myriad of things. If you are on vacation, you can even turn off the lights at home, use a printer there, or monitor your house through a web camera. It all works great until the power goes off or your battery goes dead. Power is great until you run out of it. Then, after all of the electronic devices are dead, they become just fancy paperweights.

What does power mean for you? For some politicians it means being able to control the lives of people from the womb to the tomb. For others it is seen in the government getting out of the way and allowing individuals to garner wealth and success on their own without governmental interference. Power in this life however is temporary. Here in Mark’s gospel we see God showing his kingdom’s power through Jesus. God displayed Jesus for his disciples in a whole new light. Jesus was establishing a kingdom with power. Let’s see how…

READ: Mark 9:1-10

There is one very important thing we can never forget when we speak about the kingdom of God. Mark shows us that it is a kingdom with power because…

I. God’s Kingdom is established by Jesus! (Vv. 1-7)

1. We are to “listen to Jesus” if we want to be a part of God’s kingdom! This is command of God (v. 7) and God told them, “This is my Son, whom I love.” However, when is the kingdom of God? Jesus told his disciples, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” Six days later, Jesus gives his disciples a lesson concerning it. As we look at what occurs we must remember several things. 1) This statement was said to all of his followers. 2) It is an affirmative contrast to his previous comment, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38) 3) Jesus emphatically states that, “some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come in power.” So, was Jesus referring to his resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the destruction of Jerusalem, his transfiguration, the coming church age, or his second coming? Jesus simply referring to his transfiguration does not make sense. It was a startling event, filled with wonder and awe, but it is extremely odd Jesus would say that “some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power,” and then wham, he does the transfiguration. Did Jesus mean some were going to immediately die? I don’t think so. Jesus’ resurrection was full of the power of God as was the coming of the Holy Spirit. Both however are far more important than the transfiguration. The church age was wonderful, but it does not compare to the resurrection or the Holy Spirit’s coming. And while the destruction of Jerusalem was a national tragedy, it does not compare to Jesus’ Second Coming. But his return cannot be what Jesus is referring to unless somewhere right now several disciples are still alive! Peter was confused as well by the dazzling white clothes, Elijah and Moses’ appearance, and in a confused state relates, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” All of these things, from Jesus’ birth to his resurrection, prove that God’s kingdom is established by Jesus!

EXAMPLE: In Bible times, the sons of Samuel used their appointments as judges of Israel to take bribes, pervert justice, and accumulate personal wealth. Later, God’s choice for the first king of Israel, Saul, abused his power in an effort to kill the man chosen to be his successor. When David became king, he misused the authority of the throne of Israel to commit adultery with the wife of one of his officers. Then David conspired to have Bathsheba’s husband killed. Centuries later, a little-known church leader named Diotrephes, to elevate himself he misused his position by denouncing others. He was so protective of his own position that he would not even welcome the apostle John into his congregation (3 John 1:9-10). We have politicians who misuse their authority all the time. To me it is comforting to realize that Jesus is in complete control of his kingdom. He rules and reigns. Jesus is the one “who sits on the throne… who lives forever and ever.” (Revelation 4:10). Amen.

I believe, concerning the kingdom of God, that Jesus was referring to all of the things I mentioned before. It is a kingdom with power because…

II. The kingdom of God is now! (Vv. 8-10)

1. We are not to build monuments to commemorate God’s kingdom! Either we are a part of it now or we are not. Notice Mark relates that, “Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.” This is significant because it tells us whom we are to focus on. We are not to be building monuments, doing pilgrimages, or worshipping on hillsides. The kingdom of God was here with the coming of Jesus, but its full potential and power had not yet been demonstrated by his resurrection. Contrary to what some think, I do not believe the Second Coming is the establishment of his kingdom, because it is already established. Jesus rules and reigns now. The Second Coming will be the fulfillment and culmination of God’s promise through Jesus, not God’s kingdom coming in power. In Revelation, we find John describing the birth of Jesus and the past war in heaven where the “great dragon” and his minions were defeated. Then John hears a voice say, “Now have [“is” in most translations] come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” (Revelation 12:10). He is describing a past event that is a fulfillment of God’s promise to mankind. John explains it was “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Revelation 12:11) Paul wrote, “God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Philippians 2:9-11) Jesus continually taught, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near,” meaning: “Right now.”(Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:7) Jesus was not talking about the end times to his disciples. Matthew 4:27 relates, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom.” He related, “"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs IS the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) Not “will be,” it was now. He meant for them right then at that time; literally, that it was occurring, would occur, and would be fulfilled in the disciple’s lifetime. Notice, “Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” He did this because he knew folks would believe the wrong things about whom he was and why he had come. The kingdom of God is not about some earthly ruler. His resurrection was the important thing here, not the transfiguration. The kingdom of God is now for all who believe.

EXAMPLE: In 1977, 15-year-old Kevin Baugh and a teenage friend decided to create their own country, just for fun. The Republic of Molossia began as they drew a map, created paper money, and made a flag. Today, Mr. Baugh continues his micro-nation the same way it began—just for fun. When Chicago Tribune reporter Colleen Mastony toured his 1.3 acre kingdom in the Nevada desert, Baugh assured her he still pays US taxes, which he calls “foreign aid.” “It’s always tongue-in-cheek,” Baugh admits. “I’m doing this for the pleasure and enjoyment of having my own country.” Not many of us will create our own nation, but we all have a kingdom of the heart where we decide who will rule. Either we are part of God’s kingdom or we are not.

Conclusion:
So, what does this mean for us today? The disciples still did not understand it for themselves. Mark relates that “They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what ‘rising from the dead’ meant.” (Mark 9:10) We should ask ourselves two important questions: 1) “What is the kingdom of God?” Answer: It is a kingdom established by God, where Jesus is the authority. 2) “When is the kingdom of God?” Answer: Right now, for all who believe. Do you believe?
----
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 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…