A Voice in the
Teachings of Jesus:
I am willing: be healed (Mat 8:1-17)
And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing: be cleansed." Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (vs2-3)
One subject which stirs up controversy almost as much as "tongues" is "healing." The "gifts" of healing. There are those who claim that it's God's will for "all people" to be healthy and wealthy. And at the opposite end of the pendulum are those that don't believe God heals today. Both extremes are in error. There are some interesting things we can come to understand from this passage.
This series is the "teachings" of Jesus. If we understand the concept "let us not love in WORD or in TONGUE, but in DEED and in TRUTH" (1Jn3:18) ...that speaking "words" is not the only method of imparting truth, that showing "by example" is often more effective, we find ourselves looking at what Jesus "did" as well as "spoke," to learn His teachings. He has just spent "three chapters" speaking on the mount. Now He is coming off the mountain, demonstrating that which He has been speaking. Being a "doer of the word."(Jas1:22)
First of all, when God heals, He does so "willingly." Jesus answers the leper, "I am willing." When the centurion came to him about his servant, he comes, explaining the plight. And before he even gets to the part where he would say, "Will you please heal him?" Jesus is already volunteering, "I will come and heal him."(vs7) As if to say, "OK, let's go..lead the way." When He enters Peter's house where his mother-in-law is sick, He doesn't wait for a request, He simply "touched her hand, and the fever left her."(vs15) He saw the need, and acted. "It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear." (Isa65:24)
Later in the evening He was casting out demons "with a word." And He healed "all" the sick people who came to Him.(vs16) Jesus had come, not only to "[bear] our sins in His own body on the tree"(1Pt2:24) but also to bear the burden of the "symptoms" of sin, "our griefs and..our sorrows" as it is "by His stripes we are healed"(Is53:4-5) of our sin as well as the results of sin. As we perhaps recall the studies in James 5, that the prayer for a "sick" person results in that person's "salvation" and cleansing from sin. People in Jesus' day understood well the relationship between sin and sickness. As He would say to a sick person, "your sins are forgiven."(Mt9:2) As they asked, "who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?"(Jn9:2)
If we understand the passage that He is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance"(2Pt3:9) we would also understand that it is not His will (or "desire") for anybody to be sick, either. But then, we equally understand that sickness is one of the results of sin, as begun in Genesis 3. And if a person continues to rebel against God, they cannot expect God's healing upon them.
And here we come to "attitude." When the leper came to Jesus, he did not come "naming and claiming." He "came and worshiped."(vs2) "Worship" is not the act of standing up, wiggling around to sensuous music and raising ones hands. Rather, when one worships the Lord, he comes and "bow[s] down" and "kneel[s] before the LORD our Maker."(Ps95:6) In these cultures when a person came bowing prostrate, it was with the attitude "that I may find favor in your site, my [L]ord.."(2Sam16:4)
And so, the leper came, making a "request." Not a demand, as we usually see in (so-called) "healing" services. Jesus said, "if you ask..in My name."(Jn14:13) And John clarified, "according to His will."(1Jn5:14) In the leper's request was an "unspoken understanding." Quite possibly he had sinned and incurred his illness..? (see: Num12:10,2Kg5:27,15:5) And he had had a while to consider the consequences of his sin. No doubt, realizing his "unworthiness" to receive cleansing. Hardly "daring" to even be in the "presence" of one such as Jesus!
When he was healed, Jesus instructs him to go make the appropriate sacrifices.(vs4) The whole sacrificial system was in anticipation of Jesus' Own death which would ultimately pay for "sin."(1Pt2:24) And He tells the man, "see that you tell no one.." This is not something to boast of. There was sin. The sin has been cleansed away. Now, go make the appropriate offering... for sin.
And then, we come to the "faith to be healed" (Acts14:9) concept. Jesus has offered to "go to" the Centurion's house to heal the servant. And immediately the commander humbly illustrates his own "unworthiness" to even have Jesus come under the roof of his house.(vs8) Understanding Jesus' "authority" to be able to just have the matter "taken care of" through the "chain of command." He understood that words did not need to be recited, nor special "wands" waved. That, if Jesus could heal, He could do it from "anywhere."
Jesus says, "as you have believed, so let it be done for you."(vs13) And people take this sentence, and teach a doctrine that says the sick person must have "enough faith" to be healed. That, if somebody prays "over them" and they remain sick, it was because the sick person didn't have enough faith.
But you notice something. Remember..? Jesus is "willing" to heal.(vs3) Jesus was saying to him "let's go..I'll do it" BEFORE there was any indication of "how much" faith he had. Jesus expresses the man's "faith" as an explanation of the conversation which just transpired. Because, even faith, itself, is a "gift of God."(Eph2:8) People who think they must have "enough faith" are not truly believing in God and His ability to heal. Somehow, they must "help God along" with their own faith. But it must be like the man who cried out, "Lord I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mk9:24)
So.. how does healing take place? How does one cast out evil spirits from people? I've seen video's of Bob Larson having these long, extended conversations with demons, "negotiating" with them. Taking hours to finally "convince" the demons to leave a person. What would you guess those demons were absolutely rolling around in laughter over such nonesense? Or; there are those who believe certain rituals and paraphernalia are necessary in order to effect "exorcisms."
What did Jesus do? "With a word"(vs16) "Go." (vs32) the spirits were gone. How does satan leave? when we say, "Go!" Earlier Jesus had said, "Away with you!"(Mt4:10) "Be gone!" "Get out of here!" We are told, "resist the devil and he will flee from you."(Jas4:7) Any "exorcism" is going to happen in the same manner. But it is with Jesus' "authority." (Acts19:13-17)
And finally, when it was "Jesus" who was doing the healing, you will notice that "all" were healed.(vs16) And He did it right the first time. "And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, "He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak." (Mk7:37) Mark this well. If someone claims to have the "gift of healing" and they are doing so "in Jesus' name," then "all" those they "heal" had better be truly healed. If they are not, you know it wasn't Jesus who did the "healing." And if it wasn't Jesus, there is only one other source it could have been.(2Cor11:13-15) And remember that he, too, has the ability to do "signs and wonders" to deceive. (2Ths2:9, Mt24:24) As we know that even now there are "many antichrists." (1Jn2:18)
When Jesus ministered healing, He did not amass fortunes at the expense of His followers. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." (2Cor8:9) And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (1Jn5:20)
Following Jesus: perilous - (Mat 8:19-34)
Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."(vs19-20)
Scribes were the scholars of Jesus' day. The ones with the seminary degrees and PhDs. If anybody wanted to know an "interpretation" of the Law, all they needed to do was to look up the scribe at the local synagogue. But, like today, people looked to the "scholars" instead of God's "plain truth." The scribes, also, in their emulated lofty position, took it upon themselves to "add" little "nuances" to God's law. As Jesus would say, "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.' (Mt23:16) Nit-picking the fine points, "Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Mt23:24)
Such a one as this wants to "follow" Jesus. Ooo! What a "plum" this would be! Follow Jesus around, and get the "real scoop" on God. Just think of the prestige he could "thumb his collar" with to be able, when sitting around the table discussing "points of doctrine" to say, "Well, [I] was with Jesus...and He says... 'blah, blah, blah'...therefore you have to listen to me, because I [KNOW] what I'm talking about."
These are the ones, "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. (Mt23:13) Much like those who today would presume to "own" God's Word with their copyrights...thereby deciding "who" they are going to allow access to it. (Like the Catholics of years past.)
Jesus cuts him right down. Today He might have said, "We never know where we're sleeping from night to night. Sometimes at Motel-6, sometimes under a freeway overpass. Our meals come at all sorts of weird hours. Sometimes we're starving. There are some women who bring us hotdishes periodically.(Lk8:3,Mk15:41) Other times, farmers let us nibble as we pass by their fields. (Lk6:1) If a storm comes, we don't always have shelter. In fact, I happen to know that as we're getting into this boat right now (vs18), it's gonna give the disciples a real scare. They're gonna think we're going to sink in this storm that's going to come.(vs25) We're barely gonna make it out alive! So... you still wanna come?"
Another person says, "Well, it's not real convenient at this moment. Let me go put some things in order first. After all, my father is about to die, and I want to be around...(maybe?) make sure I get my rightful share of the inheritance."(vs21)
"Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead."(vs22) Jesus said, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Lk9:62) "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. (Lk14:26)
Following Jesus is not a glib matter. One cannot do as many try to: have life continue on as it always has, and simply "add Jesus" to the mixture. After all, my life is finally getting comfortable now. I'm finally getting things paid off. I have job security. A good retirement plan and health insurance. So, now I need a "hobby" of something to do with my spare time. An "interest" to take on. Yes...here we go...Jesus seems like a pretty good "cause" to support and get involved with. And just think how my friends will look up to me when I tell them I'm on the "Jesus committee."
No, dear reader. It doesn't work that way. When we follow Jesus into that frail fishing boat, the sudden storms will come up and threaten to do us in.(vs24) It will seem rather bleak as the waves are washing in. But that's the deal. If we are a true disciple of His, we must understand that "a servant is not greater than his Master."(Jn13:16) Whatever Jesus experienced, we will experience.(Jn15:20) Jesus left His earthly family to do His Father's will. His family even thought He had "gone nuts" and followed Him around, trying to bring Him back home, to "sanity." (Mk3:21,31-35) But if we follow Him, we must even lay aside "family values" and traditions to follow Him wholly.(Lk14:26) After all, if we do follow Him fully, our spiritually-dead "family" will not accept us anyway. (Mt13:57) Thus, Jesus said, "let the dead bury their dead."(vs22)
When we follow Christ, things change. Family will ridicule and try to "straighten us out." Our economics will change, as our time will not be so engrossed in worldly pleasures. And as we change, things and people around us will change. They won't all accept us, even though they see the change is for the "better."
Jesus did a "good thing" for the demon-possessed man, casting the demons out. One would have thought that his friends and country-men would have been happy for him, because he was now "healed." But, no. They asked Jesus to "depart from their region."(vs34) You see, the good done to the man was not good for the economy. The market tumbled that day the large herd of swine were drowned. It didn't matter that swine was on the illegal ("unclean") list, and was a business they shouldn't have engaged in in the first place. It cost a great deal for that man's life. "But we just can't afford any more of these kind of set-backs."
If we truly follow Jesus Christ, we can hope to find fellowship with others of like precious faith (2Pt1:1) and fellow-disciples. But we cannot count on it. The possibility is very real that family will ostracize us, after having tried to first lure us back out of Faith in Christ. We may have to give up that career which requires "professionalism" ...meaning; engaging in "all aspects" of that career, even those things which are contrary to God's law. You may be faced (as this writer was one time) with "Make up your mind; are you going to drive bus or play church?" This...after the situation has been purposely contrived against you, because they don't like Christians.
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who...made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant...humbled Himself and became obedient to death."(~Phil2:5-8) We must "[die] with Christ"(Rom6:8,Col2:20) ...daily...(1Cor15:31)
Sins forgiven: sinners to repentance - (Mat 9:1-13)
'..they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." (vs2)
Now wait a minute, Jesus! What are you talking about?! We've got two bones to pick with You here. First of all, can't you see that the poor boy is "sick?" He's paralyzed. Can't move. What he "needs" is "healing" so he can get up and about, and not be such a burden to the taxpayers and the welfare system! So he can become a "productive member" of society.
And then... Just Who do You think You are, anyway?! "Forgiving" sins! Really now!! Don't you know what's written? God told Moses that He, God, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious...forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." (Ex34:6-7,Num14:18) And You claim to "pronounce" upon this poor boy that his sins "are forgiven"? That's not going to make him "feel" any better!
Just "Who" indeed..! The PhDs were challenging Jesus' authority.(vs3) So Jesus appeals to their sense of "reason" and "intellect" after first labelling their thoughts for what they were... "evil."
First of all, Jesus proves to them His authority by "knowing their thoughts." Remember, it is "Jesus" Who is the "discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb4:12) They might have thought their reasonings were "private" to themselves, not realizing that "there is no creature hidden from His sight.."(vs13)
So, having gotten their attention in this manner, He now reasons with them. "Which is easier to say, 'sins are forgiven you' or to say, 'Arise and walk'?" Think about it a minute. Even in our day of advanced technology where doctors can connect people to machines to keep body "parts" functioning; they have not yet learned how to actually "heal" people. They can treat symptoms, perform corrective surgery. But when it's time for a person to die...there is NOTHING that man can do to stop it. Death is an "appointment" (Heb9:27) when the creature meets his Maker. (Job32:22) So, as Jesus' reputation preceded Him, they were expecting Him to "heal" the boy. So He reasons about the process of healing. The very fact that He could heal, that this "power" flowed from Him (vs20-22,Lk8:46) meant that He is the "Source" of life. "..in Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts17:28) And so, as He healed people, He was fulfilling part of His "purpose" in coming, "I have come that they may have life.."(Jn10:10)
But He didn't come "just" to "heal" people of their physical infirmities. He came that "they might have [life] MORE ABUNDANTLY." That's where the "forgiving" of sins comes in. Abundant life comes from the "fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."(Jn4:14)
So Jesus reasons with them. "How easy do you think it is to SAY 'be healed'?" It's no easier than to say "you are forgiven." The authority for both comes from the same Source. From God. And so, Jesus "authenticates" His authority to "forgive" sins, by then saying, "Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."(vs6)
This, then, brings us to Jesus' "purpose" in coming to the world. The crowd "marveled and glorified [God], who had given such power to men." (vs8) They saw Jesus, a "man," performing with God's power. And He continues along, calls Matthew to follow Him, and goes to dine with him. Trouble is, Matthew was a despised "tax collector." A "sinner." So now the legalistic "list makers" grumble, "How come He's gone in [THERE]?!" (vs11) That was about as bad as our "young lady" in church who was seen going into a tavern on the arm of "a man." (a study some time ago) The "man" happened to be her "unequal yoke" to whom she was being a "wife" in order to "win him." (1Cor9:22-23)
And here, Jesus gives His whole purpose in coming, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick...for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."(vs12-13)
If the ambulance worker were to snobbishly refuse to go into the middle of the accident scene, "because it is such a mess in there...let them get things cleaned up first, and then I'll go" what kind of emergency worker would he be? Jude writes about "sav[ing] with fear, pulling them out of the fire..."(vs23) A fire rescue worker gets dirty, grimy, and smoke inhalation...rescuing people from a burning building. This is what Jesus came to do. He came to "die" doing it. (Mt20:28)
Now, He did not go frequenting the local tavern as a regular place of fellowship, did He. He knew the heart. Remember Heb4:12. He knew Matthew's heart, that he was to be a disciple. Of the paralytic boy it says He "saw their faith."(vs2) Remember? We've talked about the relationship between sickness and sin. Jesus healed people. He also forgave sins. And He went "where they were" in order to change them (repentance), make them "better" than they were, and then to send them "to his house." (vs7) To bring them "out of" the muck and mire, into His light. "..out of darkness into His marvelous light." (1Pt2:9) In clear distinction to today's message from the pulpits which says, "God loves you JUST AS YOU ARE." Meaning..."you don't need to change. You are ALREADY worth so much to Him. He accepts you JUST AS YOU ARE. You don't NEED to change." No, dear reader. Jesus did not leave the paralytic on that "bed." He got him "off" the bed, and the streets begging...to "go home." The tax collector, known for cheating people out of more than they really owed, to following Him in a life of "poverty" ...but honesty. And...eternal life.(Jn10:28)
But of the self-righteous scribes and pharisees, who thought they had it all, "I never knew you; depart from Me.."(7:23) To Peter He said, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." (Jn13:8b) In other words, if Jesus hadn't gone to where the sinners were, to save them "out of" their condition, there would be no salvation. If a person thinks they are already "worth so much" to God and are righteous, and thus refuse to humble themselves and receive His cleansing, they have "no part" with Him. They are NOT "Christians."
But if we recognize and confess that, "..in me...nothing good dwells" (Rom 7:18) and "receive Him" (Jn1:12) and the "washing" of His "cleansing" (Ps51:2,Tit3:5) then we are able to proclaim...
"He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps. (Ps40:2)
Old/New wine/cloth: appropriateness - (Mat 9:14-17)
Shepherd's heart: laboring in the harvest - (Mat 9:35-38)
But when [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.(vs36)
Are you a "people watcher?" Have you ever just sat someplace and observed? Couples, children, frolicking, saddness, contemplative, self-assured, forlorn, angry, proud, etc. Have you ever gotten past the exterior facade they want the world to see, to see into the eyes and into their souls? The deep-set "lostness." Have you ever noticed those traffic "bunches" where it seems everybody in the clump would like somebody to "follow?" Nobody wants to strike out and leave the "pack." They are like sheep.
As you contemplate what you know to be Truth regarding God and Eternity do you ever well up with tears, knowing they are all crowded together, following each other along the "broad way" to "destruction"? (Mt7:13)
Jesus was "moved" with compassion. To be "moved" is what we often call "gut-wrenching" emotions. That which, if a person ponders for a while, brings on that "knot" in the stomach. "Compassion" is to be "aware" of the suffering of people and a deep-seated desire to relieve it.
In modern society, we have so-called telethons or fund raisers, where celebrities are brought in, and will appear on TV or at some "gala event." The idea is to persuade people to give money for certain "causes." So, when they have raised some hoped-for pre-determined amount, everybody goes home, "feeling good" that they have just helped some "needy" people. Or if a "scout" member builds a foot bridge in a park, he proudly proclaims on TV that doing so "made him feel good" at having done it. But these people are not necessarily inconvenienced to do their "good deeds." And in the mean time, the needy are still suffering, while the committee pays all the various expenses incurred to raise the money, and then some "token individual" receives benefit, on TV. These things are not so much "moved with compassion" as they are, "I felt good doing it, so therefore I'm wonderful."
But you see, Jesus was busy "doing." He went from village to village, preaching, teaching, healing. Often so busy there wasn't time to eat or rest. (Mk3:20) And His healings cured "EVERY sickness and EVERY disease."(vs35)
In "preaching" He was presenting the "gospel of the kingdom." As He commanded that we should do, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel."(Mk16:15) This is how we "make disciples."(Mt28:19) With the goal to "open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in [Jesus Christ]." (Acts26:18)
He "taught" in their synagogues. "Teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you."(Mt28:20) Once a person has received the gift of eternal life, then they need instruction in "how to" live. They start out on the "milk of the Word." (1Pt2:2) As they grow, they become strong as they learn, then, to battle and "overcome the wicked one." (1Jn2:13) As they continue in the Word (vs14,2Tm3:14-17), knowing that the Scriptures are "everything needed" for living faithfully before God. Hiding God's Word in our hearts helps keep us from evil and sinning (Ps119:9-11) and shows us the path to take. (vs105)
And then, He also healed people of their infirmities. In the case of Jesus these healings were sometimes as a result of "sins having been forgiven" (9:2,Is53:5,Jas5:15) and at other times, simply, to manifest the power of God and authenticate His ministry as the Son of God (Jn9:3) in fulfillment of prophecy. (Is53:4)
But you see... Jesus did not get network TV to broadcast His wonders, as he stood on the platform, looking earnestly into the camera, making promises to those who would put their hands on their TV sets. He went "about all the cities and villages" dealing with MANY "individuals."
And, He also shot down another modern notion. Jesus did not subscribe to the theory of "that's what we pay the preacher for..." People come into the meeting place, drop their offerings in the plate, go home, and expect the "church" to "grow" because they have paid the pastor to "do it for them."
No! He said the "harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few." (vs37) So, rather than praying, "Lord, make me healthy and wealthy...so we can pay somebody to do it" He prayed, "Send out laborers into His harvest." He commanded "Go YE...into all the world" (Mk16:15 -kjv) [YOU] go...and do it. [YOU] shall receive power...and [YOU] shall be witnesses. (Acts1:8)
There is no "bench" to sit on the sidelines. The Believers are in the arena. We are "surrounded by...a cloud a witnesses"(Heb12:1) who are in the grand stands. The wild beasts are running wild, goring and trampling everything they can. (1Pt5:8) We fit into one of several catagories: We are bringing others into the arena for the conflict (Mt28:19); training those who just came in on "how to" become strong against the wild beasts (Eph4:12); are picking up and assisting those who have fallen and are injured (Gal6:1-2); are getting up, ourselves, from having fallen (Ps51:12); are resisting a charging beast (1Pt5:9, Eph6:14, 1Cor16:13); and in the midst of all this conflict, we are also running a race towards the goal to receive a prize (Phil3:14); etc. If we are not "active" the only other option is that we are being hopelessly trampled and devoured, as we are then "disqualified." (1Cor9:27) There is no vacation. It is a continual battle.
This is the nature of the "harvest." If the lost are not brought into the arena, they will suffer eternal doom. When they are brought in, they must "count the cost." (Lk14:28) But if they do, Christ promises as the "end of your faith; the salvation of your souls." (1Pt1:9)
Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. "But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. (Jn10:11-12)
The LORD, Who is "my shepherd" (Ps23) leads through that "arena." In this warfare (1Tm1:18,2Tm2:4), He sees to the "success" of the mission (1Cor15:57). He provides the necessary sustenance and rest in the midst of the fray (vs5) "all the days of [our] life;" and ultimately the promise is, "[we] will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."(vs6)
Prophets in Service: cost of faithfulness - (Mat 10:5-40)
At the end of Mark, Jesus says, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."(Mk16:15) In this study Jesus sends out the disciples and says, "Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand'."(vs5-7)
We know that God appoints different Believers to various tasks. Some are prophets, some evangelists, some teaching pastors.(Eph4:11) An "evangelist" is one who proclaims the gospel to those who have not heard. While "teaching pastors" are those whose specialty is to train and nurture the believers within the flock.
And then, we have the "prophets." Whom do they minister to? And what is their message? We have a complete Old Testament full of "prophetic" books. To whom did Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, etc. minister? To Israel. Who was Israel? God's chosen people. Those who supposedly "knew Him" and were "saved and on their way to heaven." What was the message of the prophets? "Repent...and return to God...why are you rebelling and insisting on the path that leads to death?" (Jer25:5,Ez33:11,etc.)
If a person has been called as a prophet, is it the duty of the evangelist to tell him he's doing wrong because he's not evangelizing? (1Cor12:14-18) Oh, the stories this writer could tell of condemnation from the "evangelists" for not following "their" footsteps! You see, my whole life, the Lord has had me ministering "to the church." Years ago, I thought it was for the purpose of exhorting "Christians" to live "more holy" and "increase their love and devotion" for God, etc. But in the last few years, I understand the prophet's message. "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand... BE SAVED!!" (Mt3:2,Mk1:15)
You notice, Jesus sends the disciples "to Israel." He tells them NOT TO go to others. They are going to the "LOST sheep." They have a "name that they are alive, but [they] are dead." (Rev3:1) The "church" today is the same. It has a "name that [it] is alive" but it is "dead." This is the great need today! To reach the church people with God's truth. The world knows they are lost. But the "church" doesn't. The world looks to the church. We've gotta get the "church" SAVED first. Which, it then, in turn, can reach the world.
Yes, evangelists...if the Lord has called you to that, keep to your work; the non-church people need reaching, too. But if the Lord has called you to be a "prophet" keep ever so faithful to that task! And don't be dissuaded by the ecumenists, that your services are no longer required! They are needed "now" ever more as the apostasy is in a full nose-dive with after-burners full blast! There is a big "harvest" (9:37) out there which is "going to rot," and aren't going to make it into the granaries.
So, what is the characteristic of service as a prophet? Jesus said, "whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet."(vs14) Yes, you will be "in" and "out" of "churches." And you will not necessarily be leaving "quietly." Sometimes you will be announcing it at the business meeting, explaing "why" you are leaving. Sometimes, you will write a letter of resignation, or to cancel your membership. When you write that letter, be sure to send "copies" to all the key people...because, if you don't, you can expect the leaders to "hide" them, and lie to the rest of the congregation about "why" you left. Your departure needs to be a "testimony" AGAINST them. "Shaking the dust" off your feet...
And yes...you will feel "down in the dumps" over it, too. But take courage! Remember what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah. God's justice will make their judgement seem mild compared to what is in store for those who reject God's message through you.(vs15) In addition, they will find themselves on their knees before you (Rev3:9) as God instills into their consciousness the fact of His love for you.
The company you find yourselves in will seem like you are surrounded by wolves. They will growl and gnash their teeth at you. They will call you before their "church" councils with false accusations. They will even inflict punishments and tortures upon you "in their synagogues." (vs17) You will even find yourselves before judges and governors as they drag you into court. (vs16-18) And we know Jesus wasn't talking about "just" the "twelve" He sent out that day, because He mentions "the Gentiles."(vs18) (Remember, He was sending them "to Israel.") He is obviously speaking prophetically of those who would "believe through their word."(Jn17:20) Even, us today.
When all these things start happening, Jesus says, "do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you."(vs19-20) I receive e-mails periodically from people who are going through these experiences, seeking encouragment, or asking "what shall we do? ...are we doing right?" type questions. And I would expect there are many of you that I don't hear from, too. From personal experience, let me encourage you that, indeed, the Lord gives you "what you should say." You may not understand it at the moment it is happening...but afterward you will find yourself revelling, remembering how the Lord's hand was obviously in it all. And, if you are in communion with Him, He will often have prepared you ahead of time, so you are "primed" for the exact event.
Not only will persecution come from the "church/religious" leaders; Jesus said that even "family" would be against you.(vs21) And rather than "love" which they claim to have, the "love" will be for everybody EXCEPT CHRISTIANS. Believers are hated. If persecution comes from one place, leave and go somewhere else.(vs23)
Always REMEMBER... you are not alone. Remember what they did to Jesus. If we are obedient to Jesus, we are to expect the same treatment He received.(vs25) Jesus said, "I am not alone, because the Father is with Me."(Jn16:32) Jesus promised, "I will not leave you comfortless." (Jn14:18 -kjv) We have Jesus "in" us (2Cor5:17) through the agency of the Holy Spirit. (Jn14:26)
Therefore, "do not fear them."(vs26) They think they are getting away with what they do. But it will "be known." We are to continue faithfully proclaiming the message He has given. To "preach on the housetops."(vs27)
And if it should come down to giving your life as a martyr, do not fear that either. The same Father who knows each sparrow, and has a count of all our hairs, has us in the palm of His hand.(vs29~) He does not promise an easy road or peace. (vs34) The hardest thing to accept is the fact that even "family" will be the ones persecuting. That's the nurturing group under which we grew up. We "trust" them. We lean on them. How can anybody go against their own kin..."flesh and blood"? And so, as it comes, it will baffle us. We will be bewildered. Sometimes in a state of deep emotional trauma, because "my own father and mother, siblings and cousins are against me."
When that all comes...and COME it will! ...the decision must be made. Who are you going to follow? Your family? Your spouse? Your children? ...or Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, Savior, Shepherd and God? The decision will come. And you cannot have it both ways.
Jesus said, "he who loves [family] more than Me is not worthy of Me." (vs37) And "worthy" is what it takes to "walk with Him..in white" (Rev3:4) We must take our cross (instrument of death) to follow Him. If you try to "ride the fence" to appease your family, friends and aquaintances, to "get along" ...you will "lose [your life]" for eternity. (vs39)
Be assured of this one thing: whatever you receive, as you are faithful to Him, is not directed at you. If you receive praise, do not accept it; but rather redirect that praise to Whom it rightfully belongs, as Daniel did, "..there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known...[the king's dream]"(Dan2:28) If you are rebuffed, do not worry about it. It is not "you" they are in antagonism with, but Jesus.(vs40)
And ultimately, whatever they are reacting to Jesus, they are actually doing so to "Him who sent [Jesus]."(vs40) Jesus is the "express image of [the Father's] person."(Heb1:3) Thus, any praise for a Christian, is praise to God. Any persecution of a Believer is rebuff against the Most High.
At judgment day rewards and curses will be measured out, not only according to one's acceptance of God in his heart, but also on his treatment of God's servants on this earth.(vs41-42,25:40,45)
But, whatever the treatment received, the servant is to be "faithful" (1Cor4:2) surrounded by the grandstands, laying aside any weight of sin, striving with "endurance" (Heb12:1) "...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..."(vs2)
Related topic: Persecuted, Flee, Return
John the Baptist: doubts and conflicts - (Mat 11:1-6)
But when John heard in the prison of the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples. And they said to Him, Are You he who should come, or do we look for another? (Mat11:2-3 -mkjv)
This is the same "John the baptist" who had confidently proclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World!"(Jn1:29) Whose ministry (existence) was solely for the purpose of revealing The Christ to Israel, to identify Him to them when he "saw the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove and He abode on Him." (vs32) This was the sign given to him by God as the "identification" of Jesus, and John "bore record that this is the Son of God." (vs34)
Now, he is asking "are You He who should come?" What has happened? What has brought about this doubt?
Well, notice...John is "in prison." He had the temerity to suggest to the king that he was being immoral in sleeping with his brother's wife. (Mt14:4) He was much too "judgmental" and see what it got him! And eventually, it would be the cause of him being beheaded. (vs10) So, you see how it goes... "judge not, that you may not be judged...for with whatever judgment you judge, you shall be judged.."(Mt7:1-2) You see, John was just sticking his nose into other people's business, and he "got what he deserved." So, what does he expect. OF COURSE he's going to be emotionally distraught! He had been busy dishing it out with words like "generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? bring forth fruits worthy of repentance! ..the axe is laid to the root of the trees..!" (Mt3:7-8,10) So "harsh" and "legalistic" and "unloving" was he, it could only be expected that he would land in prison. He had been dishing it out...now, and not a moment too soon, he's getting back what he's been handing out! Phew! He's finally locked away...and GOOD RIDDANCE!! He was doing so much damage, ruffling up the status quo that everybody was comfortable with.
Well, before any of you "pretenders" start getting "smug" in this assessment, let me give you a little clue to the next lesson where Jesus says, "Among those who have been born of women there has not risen a greater one than John the Baptist." (11:11) When John had been thrown into prison, Jesus, even, was affected as it says "He withdrew into Galilee." (Mt4:12 -mkjv) "Withdrew" here, including the notion of being "secluded" for a bit...away from people. Perhaps, "heavy-hearted?"
So, if John was "so great" why was he in the dumps? After all, doesn't "victorious Christian living" mean that we are never in the dumps? That to be depressed is a sign of sin in ones life? Maybe we can take a clue... Jesus said further of him, "this is Elijah who is to come." (vs14) (Mal4:5-6) So, let's look at Elijah a minute.
Elijah had just had a marvelous "victory." Had prayed fire down onto the altar. Had killed the false prophets as people were chanting, "Jehovah, He is God!" (1Kg18:39) Seemingly a "revival" was about to erupt. He had prayed further (Jas5:17-18), and a three-year drought was ended with a down-pour. (vs45) But he has "offended" the queen bee (Jezebel) who is now threatening to sting him. And so he has "run for his life" and is now dejected. They "have slain Your prophets...and I alone, am left. And they seek to take my life away." (19:14)
We can receive wisdom. The writer of Hebrews speaks of "[having our] SENSES exercised to discern both good and evil." (Heb5:14) "Good" and "evil" are moral/spiritual values. And yet the "senses" are physical properties. When there are chemical imbalances (physical) a person's emotions (soul/spirit) are affected. We are created as "body, soul and spirit." (1Th5:23) All three elements make up our being/s. When one is put upon, the others are affected. Even Jesus, the "perfect human" cried out in despair "My God...why have you forsaken Me?" (Mt27:46) Intellectually He "knew" what was happening, but His emotions cried out...He was "alone" on that cross.
Paul wrote of his struggles in Asia, "we were pressed out of measure, above strength; so much so that we despaired even of life." (2Cor1:8) "Despair" is a human emotion. This, from the same person who wrote "Rejoice in the Lord Always!" (Phil4:4) And again, "Rejoice evermore... in everything give thanks." (1Th5:16,18) "..I have learned to be content in whatever state I am." (Phil4:11)
When Paul was in despair he says, "we had the sentence of death in ourselves, SO THAT we should NOT TRUST in OURSELVES, but IN GOD who raises the dead.." (2Cor1:9)
Now, let's go back to Elijah, John's "prototype." After Elijah whines to God about how bad he's got things, God says "Go, return on your way..." (1Kg19:15) I've got more work for you to do. No slacking off. Oh...and by the way, while you're getting back to work, just so you know, you're not the "only one left" ...there's still "seven thousand" who "have not bowed to Baal.." (vs18) OK...back to work with you! Get your mind off yourself...
Think about Elijah a minute. For this object lesson we can receive from his experience, we might be tempted to put him down for becoming depressed. But remember how God looked at him. Out of all of the world's humanity, next to Enoch, he was the only person to be whisked (raptured) away to heaven without dying. (2Kg2:11) And it was his "spirit" which announced Christ through John the Baptist. (Lk1:17)
So, how did Jesus react to John's depression? Did Jesus send a counselor to help lift his self-esteem? After all, "there-there" it's "not your fault" that you're in prison. All these mean people have treated you so badly. You dear, poor thing! ...let's get a prayer-chain going and petition the government to get him released...
"Go and tell John again those things which you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear; the dead are raised, and the poor have the gospel proclaimed to them."(Mt11:4-5) In fulfillment of Isaiah 35:5-6,61:1-2a
Where John was experiencing low emotions, Jesus reminded him of "facts." Where he was feeling low, Jesus reminded him of "reality." Remember, John, you were telling your disciples as you sent them to Me, "..my joy is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease." (Jn3:29-30) As Jesus was fulfilling His temptation from Satan (Mt4) John was imprisoned. He was now taken out of the way so that Jesus could have the people's undivided attention. To the one who felt "unworthy to unloose the thong of His sandals" (Lk3:16) Jesus reminds Him, as though to say, "Here's the EVIDENCE you seek."
John was a servant. He had fulfilled his mission. Now, Jesus was on the scene, doing what He had come for. As Paul says, "..that I shall be ashamed in nothing, but as always now Christ shall be magnified in my body with all boldness, whether it is by life or by death." (Phil1:20) Soon, John would give his life for his faithfulness...
"And blessed is he, whoever shall not be offended in (stumble, begin to distrust and desert) Me." (vs6) 'John, hang on. Don't loose your faith in Me.' And this would apply to others as Jesus would teach, "the one who endures to the end shall be kept safe." (Mt10:22) Trouble and temptation will come, but Jesus has been there ahead of us, has endured everything that might come to His own, and thus, is qualified to "RESCUE those who have been tempted." (Heb2:18)
So He comes to John's aid. 'John, you were told what to look for.' "Go and tell John [again] those things which you hear and see." (vs4) 'Here are the facts.'
John the Baptist: praised - (Mat 11:7-15)
But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yea, I say to you, and one more excellent than a prophet. For this is the one of whom it is written, "Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who shall prepare Your way before You." Truly I say to you, among those who have been born of women there has not risen a greater one than John the Baptist. But the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he. (vs9-11 -MKJV)
John was a rather unusual person. Were he on the scene today, he'd probably be labeled a redneck - hillbilly - hippy - survivalist, all rolled into one. He did not fit into what was considered "normal." He did not dress in designer suits, speak from the local coliseum, nor dine and wine (vs18) in style. Why, he didn't even eat at McDonalds. His clothing was pieced together with gunny sacks, and ate what he could find out in the wild.
But at his preaching "Jerusalem and all Judea went out to him, and all the region round about Jordan." (Mt3:5) Jesus asks His hearers, why did you go out to the wilderness? To enjoy nature and watch the wind blow? No. You also didn't go to see some upper society fashion statement. You went to hear the preaching, "prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight...repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand." (vs3,2)
You see, it doesn't take the right appearances and fashion to draw people to God. John had none of those things. But what he had was God's Word. The message from God, "repent." And the whole region went to hear him, even though he didn't have Rock band entertainment, nor "worship" times.
And how does Jesus praise him? This man was even "more excellent than a prophet." (vs9) Of any man born, he received the highest praise. We don't read of him getting married and having a family. Nor of writing books. His sole purpose was to present The Christ to Israel. Even in the womb, when he heard Mary's voice, the one who would give birth to Jesus, he "leaped in [Elizabeth's] womb" for joy. (Lk1:41) And lived "in the deserts" for 30 years, in obscurity, until "the day of his showing to Israel." (Lk1:80) But his title was "the prophet of the Highest" because he [went] "before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways." (vs76) What greater recognition, than to be known as the Messiah's announcer!
And yet, Jesus says, those who are "least in the kingdom of Heaven" are even greater. Why? Those who receive Jesus in faith receive "sonship" and an inheritance. (Gal4:5,1Pt1:4) As Jesus would also say, "I have called you friends.." (Jn15:15)
As it was time for Jesus' ministry to begin, he was removed back into obscurity, "into prison" (Mt4:12) where he was eventually beheaded. He fulfilled his own words, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (Jn3:30) As he maintained Paul's attitude, "..for [Jesus Christ my Lord's] sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them to be dung, so that I may win Christ...being made conformable to His death." (Phil3:8,10) "...rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be shamed for His name." (Acts5:41)
John & Jesus compared: both rejected - (Mat 11:16-30)
But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the markets and calling to their playmates, saying, We played the flute to you, and you did not dance! We mourned to you, but you did not wail!
John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He has a demon. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man who is a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners. (vs16-19)
Fickle people! People as a rule do not complain about what REALLY bothers them. Years ago I knew of a pastor who taught the Scriptures about as well as any Bible school professor I had ever sat under. He taught from 1 Corinthians to a "carnal" church...faithfully. The accusations against him had to do with his "wife." Or.. matters of him voting at board meetings. 'Never once heard anybody complain... "he's not preaching the Word!" But that was the REAL problem. He did not point to any specific things or people within the church. 'Just taught the Word. But the Word was convicting the hearts.
You see, both John and Jesus preached "repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand." (Mt3:2,4:17) John would say, "bring forth..fruits worthy of repentance." Don't just pretend. Don't just come down and get baptized and "join the church." Make a CHANGE in your lives. Make the confession...but REALLY MEAN IT in your hearts!
Oh, and then, we get to Jesus. People didn't ask Him "what" they should do. He was reading their hearts before they even opened their mouths. "Your sins are forgiven." And He would prove His "ability" by healing. (We've already addressed this.)
You see...this gets uncomfortable when somebody starts making the Message "personal." Oh yes, we can sit in the stands and watch all the "hundreds" of people "go forward" at a Billy Graham crusade and perhaps think...'isn't it wonderful that THEY ALL are going forward. They are such sinners and need to do this.' But the minute somebody starts focusing in on "ME" ...now, just wait a minute! I'm not so bad!
John and Jesus were doing something like what happened to me as a 7th grader. I never needed to cheat. But this one time I wrote some of the more difficult spelling words on the edge of a text book, thinking I could slip little glances at it. Half-way through the quiz the teacher walked up to the front where I was sitting, from the back of the classroom where he was administering the quiz. Walked in front of me, grabbed the book, slammed it on the desktop and shoved it in front of my face..."What is this!!" ..in front of the whole class. I was caught! And what was worse, on top of the fact that we had just barely recently moved to this town, and I was the "outsider" in this small farming community and was struggling with peer acceptance, I was also the "ex-missionary's kid," son of the farm boy who had left the farm to go to Japan, and was now back again. (a certain level of "status" you see) But the "evidence" was obvious. I was guilty. And in front of all the rest of the class... what humiliation!
When people were confronted with their sin, they could not deny it. So, what do they do? Make themselves feel better by dragging the other down. If the message is True, find something else to focus on. Anything but the message and my sin. 'Oh, John...he's such a hippy! Why, do you see how he dresses?! How shameful!' And then, of Jesus, 'He has these ex-convicts following Him around. Oh, and those women...did you know that so-n-so was a HOOKER?! And He lets them hang around Him! How disgraceful!'
Well, yes, Zaccheus did come to Jesus and repented of his swindling practises. (Lk19:8) And as for the hookers, well yes, He accepted them, after saying, "Neither do I give judgment. Go, and sin NO MORE."(Jn8:11)
Even though He was performing miracles continually, they were always looking for some "sign" as proof of His Messiah-ship. "What sign do you show us?" (Jn2:18,6:30) He would never "perform" for them, like a circus act. But He had plenty to say "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the powerful acts which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes!" (vs21) And goes on to say that even Sodom would have repented if His works had been done amongst them.
But then Jesus gets to the "simplicity that is in Christ." (2Cor11:3) Satan had managed to deceive Eve with all sorts of complexities of thought and emotion. But Faith in Christ is really very simple to those who perceive with honesty.
"I thank You, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the sophisticated and cunning, and revealed them to babes." (vs25) Jesus said, "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven. (Mt18:3) Children tend to take things at face value. They have not yet fully developed the "skills" to manipulate thought and contrive excuses. Jesus came saying, "Here I am, believe in Me." He would proclaim "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me...you are angry at Me because I have made a man entirely sound on the sabbath...do not judge according to sight, but judge righteous judgment...He Who sent Me is true, whom you do not know...but I know Him, for I am from Him, and He has sent Me." (Jn7) And judging by the "sight" they presumed that He originated out of Galilee as they rejected Him; not realizing He had been born in Bethlehem, just as prophesied.
To the intellectual snobs, He spoke in riddles and parables, IN ORDER THAT they would not believe. (Mt13:13) But to those "who labor and are heavy laden" (vs28) humbled by the reality of life and their own hearts, Jesus invited "come to Me." As we have seen in the past, Jesus knows the "thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb4:12) To those He knows to be "humble and contrite" (Is57:15) He "reveal[s]" the Father. (vs27) He does not reveal Himself to "all men" because He knows "what [is] in man." (Jn2:25) But to those who are willing to humble themselves before a "meek and lowly" Christ (vs29)(Mt21:5,Zech9:9), He offers "you shall find rest to your souls."
Legalism: Lord of the Sabbath - (Mat 12:1-21)
Behold, your disciples do that which it is not lawful to do on the sabbath day! (vs2)
The family is gathered around the supper table and just as soon as the "blessing" is said, Suzie chimes in, "Johnny had his eyes open during the prayer!" Oookay! How do you know? "I saw him!" If 'your' eyes were closed, how could you see that his were open? "Uhh! Weeell..."
"Have you not read what David (the man after God's own heart) did? (vs3) ..have you not read in the Law.. [what the priests in the temple did]..and are blameless"? (vs5)
What was the disciples' condemnation? They had partaken of food on the Sabbath, and had "worked" by rubbing heads of grain in their hands, blowing the chaff away, and eating. (They "harvested" and "threshed") According to the very strictest sense of the Law, they could not even gather sticks to build a fire to cook on the Sabbath. For the Jews, of all the laws, the "Sabbath" was likely the most significant, as they would condemn Jesus later: "This man is not from God, because He does not keep the sabbath." (Jn9:16)
While the items on the "lists" have changed, in the not-too-distant past a non-Christian was "evident" by the wearing of lipstick, the hemline being an inch or two too short, the hair (male) being over the ears. Now, as I understand it in some circles, those lists include matters of homeschooling, living in the country, growing one's own food.
However, the sabbath was also the most abused law. God had ordained certain things, but they had added to it with numerous traditions. As Jesus would say, "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, the dippings of pots and cups. And many other such things you do." (Mk7:8)
And while they adhered to the sabbath, they also contrived methods to "get around" the sabbath. For instance, they had the "sabbath day's journey." (Acts1:12) Not something God had commanded, but a man-made tradition which they adhered to "strictly." However, by contriving a "boundary" from which to calculate this distance, they could be just about any place within this area, and when they reached the edge and exited the boundary, "then" they calculated their "sabbath distance." So, what of all the travelling within that boundary, and all the running around to "plan" this journey? And, apparently, they had contrivances by which they could daisy-chain these "boundary areas" to one another, which would be within the "sabbath distance" from each other, and actually travel great distances by the time they reached their ultimate destination. But, they were "Keeping the Law" by their man-made "traditions" ...and had not exceeded that "sabbath distance."
Along comes Jesus, Who calls it like it is...but was bucking tradition. Not God's Law. He starts out by informing them that "One greater than the temple [Himself] is in this place." (vs6) And reminds them of God's desires. When Israel had responded, "All that the Lord has said, we WILL DO." (Ex24:3) "..oh that there were such a HEART in them.." (Deu5:29) And that He "desire[s] mercy and not sacrifice."(vs7)(Hos6:6)
And then He makes a lofty claim, "For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath." (vs8)
So far He has been reasoning with them, and making claims. Will He back up His claim with authority and proof? He departs from there and goes "into their synagogue."(vs9) In the assembly was a man requiring His healing touch. But before healing the man, He makes one more point. If one of you has a sheep that falls into a pit, will not the owner "work" on the sabbath in order to rescue the sheep? (vs11) The assumed response..."Yes." So now, what's of more value? A sheep, or a man?(vs12)
To prove His point He calls for the man to "stretch out your hand" (vs13) and it was healed. And upon His performing this work, the Pharisees go out to plot to destroy Him. They have accused Him of breaking "their traditions", He has essentially said, "I'm the Boss around here" and performed a work to prove it, right "in their face" and they don't like it. He has shown them up, in front of all the people.
Let's look at this just a bit more. Remember His reasonings with them in (9:5)? There He was claiming authority to "forgive sins." And asks them, "which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven; or, be healed?" So, as "proof" of His authority to forgive sins, He healed the paralytic. (9:6) Here, He is flying in the face of their most cherished tradition, the "Sabbath." He is claiming "ownership" of the sabbath and of all things...and proves His "ability" as such, by healing the man.
As He is doing this "in-your-face" confrontation with them, He knows they are "lying in wait" for a reason to accuse Him. And in Mark 3 we get a little different take on the scene. They are slithering around hissing, waiting to pounce; He is reasoning with them, asking them, "Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill?"(vs4) But they were silent. They don't want truth. All they want is an excuse to get rid of Him. And it says, "And looking around on them WITH ANGER, being grieved because of the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, Stretch out your hand!"(vs5)
Dear Christian, the list-makers will come after you with self-righteous indignation over your hem-lines or your use of "wrong" homeschooling curriculum. While we are exhorted to not cause a weaker brother to stumble (Rom14:13), when it is a matter of "legalism" there is an aspect where the Lord may call us to be "in-your-face" against man-made traditions. To such types, the same Paul who wrote about "not offending"..."[did not] yield in subjection...even for an hour"(Gal2:5) He exhorts, "..let no one judge you in food or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbaths. For these are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ. Let no one defraud you...being vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind...these things indeed have a reputation of wisdom in self-imposed worship and humility. Why...are you subject to [the world's] ordinances?" (~Col2:16-23) When they condemn, they do so to those "who are not guilty." (Mt12:7) "Therefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days."(vs12b)
One final thought: when the Pharisees went off to plot against Him, did Jesus organize an offensive against them? Gather His troups to do battle? "Cut them off at the pass?" No. "He withdrew Himself from there." (vs15) Did He cower around in fear? No. He continued His work, and as the crowds of people followed Him, "He healed them all." (vs15) He did not change His ways to compromise and conform to the "hypocrisy" (Mt23:23) of the Pharisees. But neither did He flaunt Himself. He just continued doing what He knew to be His Father's will (Jn8:29,5:30,6:38) as had been prophesied of Him. The Pharisees distorted God's law with their traditions. Jesus came to "fulfill" the "law and the prophets" (Mt5:17) to do God's will (Ps40:7-8) and to "magnify the Law and make it honorable." (Is42:21)
Unpardonable sin: blaspheming Holy Spirit - (Mat 12:22-32)
Jesus said, "All kinds of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven to men... whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this world or in the world to come." (vs31-32)
When a Believer talks with an unbeliever about the things of God, quite often the unbeliever will think, "I'm much too AWFUL a sinner for God to be able to save someone like me!" And they will list off the "bad sins" they have done; prostitution, drugs, murder, swindling; and this list can become rather involved. Paul looked upon his past as though he had been the "chiefest" of sinners, because he had persecuted the Church. (1Cor15:9) But understood God's "faithful Word" that "Jesus came to save sinners" such as him. (1Tim1:15) Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Mt9:13) Even if a person is vile like Hitler, and has killed millions of people, with torture and every cruel means, if that person comes to Jesus in repentance and faith (Acts20:21) He promises that He "will in no way cast [them] out." (Jn6:37)
So, what is this sin which "shall not be forgiven.."? What we present here is likely going to arouse the indignation of the theological "scholars" who have spent years trying to figure it out in their seminaries, and when we make application to what we see today, another major segment of you will rise up in arms in anger. But the explanation is actually quite clear and easy to understand.
We are seeing the very core and essence of Who God is. And the very "heart" of the person who either receives Christ's salvation, or rejects. We are seeing the realm of the "spiritual." Many people dabble around in it. But there are others who pierce right to the heart of the matter.
Jesus had proven His ability to "forgive sins" (9:6) and His authority as "Lord of the Sabbath." (12:8) Now, we get to the core of His essence, since "God is Spirit." (Jn4:24) He heals a demon-possessed person. (vs22) This healing was of such a nature that "the people were amazed and said, 'is not this the son of David?'"(vs23) In so saying, they were understanding, in reality, "Is this not the Messiah!" He has proven His authority in the "spiritual realm."
However, the ever-present "list-makers" the Pharisees are there to chime in with their two-cents worth. He's doing this because He's of "Beelzebub the ruler of the demons." (vs24) Many theologians take this passage and say that the "unpardonable sin" is the act of "attributing a work of the Holy Spirit to satan." And then, an offshoot of that teaching is the power-hungry fear-mongering the charismatic practitioners foist upon anyone who would condemn the demonic experiences they engage in, of being "spirit-filled" and jabbering in "tongues", since they claim those activities are from God. "If you haven't experienced it, don't condemn what we're doing, because to do so is to 'blaspheme the Holy Spirit'," they say.
As Jesus is saying this, He is speaking to "Jews." To "Israel." In a little while they are going to crucify Him; as He says, "whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him."(vs32)
Time passes, Acts 2 comes along, and the Holy Spirit arrives, indwells Believers, and the Church begins. As these same leaders resist the message, eventually Stephen is brought before the council. (Acts7) His closing comments to them before being stoned to death is, "O stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the HOLY SPIRIT." (vs51) As other Jewish leaders are rejecting the message, Paul proclaims "well did the Holy Spirit speak through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers.."(Acts28:25) ...as he closes by saying that God's message has been taken from Israel, and sent to the Gentiles, as he writes in more detail in Romans 11. One of the applications of this statement was to Israel, the "specific" people to whom Jesus was saying these things. And it was a "one-time" condemnation, for that generation.
And then, just as we have spoken in the past how a person cannot "lose" their salvation, but can "purposely walk away" from the Lord... after very deliberate thought, meditation and rejection, because they have (among other things) "insulted the Spirit of grace" (Heb10:29) a person can very "purposely" reject God's Holy Spirit, initially. This is not some flippant "casual" rejection, where they "don't know" what they are doing.
To reject Jesus is to deal with something one can see "physically" or read about in Scripture or history books. Jesus said to Thomas that he had "seen and believed." (Jn20:29) Something he could touch, look at and handle. (1Jn1:1) And as a person looks at Jesus he might see, simply, another "human being." But to understand the Holy Spirit, and then reject...that is another matter. Romans 8 speaks of the "Holy Spirit" in the life of the Believer. The Holy Spirit "dwells in" (vs9) and "bears witness" (vs16) to sonship in Christ.
To truly understand the "Holy Spirit" and reject, is to truly understand "God" in the fulness of His essence (Jn4:24,1:16,7:38-39) and reject. At what point has a person crossed that line? We are told that Jesus Christ is the "discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" that He knows the division between "soul and spirit." (Heb4:12)
Now, the "scary" part of all this, is what we see so much of today. Let me hastily insert a "disclaimer" here. What I am about to suggest is not to label any "specific people" by name as fitting what we are about to consider. Only God knows individual hearts (Heb4:12) and only He knows "those who are His." (2Tim2:19) I used to consider that this passage applied ONLY to Israel, and the "one-time deal" when they, as a nation, rejected the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the days following.
What about these people who have been "saved" out of demonism and satan worship? Are they truly saved? Some, possibly, are. Those in Ephesus who had been in the occult came to the Lord and burned their books. (Acts19) Thus far, my observation of any I've known; they come out, but continually make references back to their black magic and occult "wisdom." One such man, whose mailing list I'm on, spends his time referring us to satanic numerology and terminology as supposedly being of some merit, and recounts all the "prayer warfare" he is engaged in as he "prays" for destruction of many thises and thats, because "prayer works." Others I have known, claim to be Christians, but can never seem to "quite" get their "other foot" out of the realm of darkness. Remember, Jesus said, "you cannot serve two masters (Mt6:24) a kingdom cannot be "divided against itself." (12:25) "the one who is not with Me [totally] is against Me." (12:30)
Now let's "leave off preachin' and get to meddlin'." There are practitioners who raise an arm to the heavenlies, stretch out the other...imparting the spirits to the congregants. They get people twitching demonically, and uttering verbal gibberish. This is the stuff Isaiah spoke against, "the mediums and wizards who peep and mutter.." (Is8:19) ("Peep" is to "chatter and/or chirp." "Mutter" is to "roar, growl, groan.") They tell people that it is the "power of God" and that they have just received an "anointing" of the "Holy Spirit" which they can "feel." If the one application is true, that of "attributing the Holy Spirit's work to satan"(Mk3:30), then is the reverse also true? "..attributing satan's work as being of the Holy Spirit!" Folks: what these people engage in, from Isaiah's words, even hundreds of years before Paul's exhortations against it in 1Cor14 & 12:2, calls this activity as being from the "mediums and wizards." Stuff which God condemned. (Lev19:31) As He says, "I will even set My face against that soul..and will cut him off.."(Lev20:6)
Is this activity "blasphemy" against the Holy Spirit? "Blasphemy" is "slander, detraction, speech injurious to another's good name." The name of God and Christ is "wonderful." (Is9:6,Jdg13:18) Is not the activity of satan through his conjurures, subsequently labelled as being "of the Holy Spirit", a "slander" to God's True Holy Spirit?! To lower the Holy Spirit's ALLEGED activities to the level of barking, growling animals, is what Paul condemns; who have "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and birds, and four-footed animals, and creeping things." (Rom1:23)
For such blasphemy to be NOT FORGIVEN is Not "just" following the crowd in this matter in "ignorance" (Acts17:30,1Ti1:13), but fully knowing what they are doing/saying... Is it possible that these practitioners, thus engaged, can never be saved; because they've "sold themselves" to satan?
Now, the scarier part!! It certainly must be possible for people who have participated in such activity to "BECOME saved" and come out of it. The people in Ephesus did. But how many of these people have "babbled/barked/growled" (peeped/muttered) and "slain" themselves into a place, having done so with such militancy and dedication of their "hearts", rebelling against God's repeated warnings to them against it, of no longer being "able" to be saved!
In this is an understanding of God's warning to Israel. "Take heed to yourself that you do not become snared by following them...do not ask about their gods, How did these nations serve their gods that I too may do likewise?" (Deu12:30)
This same warning I relay to you, dear reader! These charismatic experiences appear enticing. People get all carried away in their emotions, "feeling good." And thus, there are many well-intentioned people who go to these meetings "to investigate what's going on." They ask, "what's with all this stuff, anyway?" So they go. Sometimes, they actually "hope to" have the experience, themselves, to help them "understand" what it's about. But if you do so, you are dabbling with "Hell FIRE." How do you know, before going into it, at what point your heart will be "snared" into the devil's clutches...and it's "too late!" It's like a local college student recently on trial for participating in a riot last spring where people were injured. It seems as though he is being aquitted on some of the charges, because he was so fallen-down drunk at the time, that he can't remember what he did. Or, the drunk driver who doesn't remember killing multiple people. You see...these people had the "choice" BEFORE they got drunk. Once they are drunk, it's too late. They're "out of control." These charismatic practitioners boast of "being drunk in the spirit." You see, folks; by the time you get to that stage, it's too late. Satan the Serpent hisses, "Gotcha!!" The one who is of God is "in control" as his "spirit is subject" to him. (1Cor14:32) One of the characteristics of a Believer, ("fruit of the [Holy] Spirit") is "self-control" (Gal5:23, 2Ti3:3, 2Pt1:6)
Isaiah continues... Don't go after the mediums and wizards, but rather, "to the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because no light is in them." (Is8:20) You see, another characteristic of these charismatic experiences is that they place the experience above God's Word. And in many occasions, the pastor will even say words like, "We won't have Scripture today...we've had the spirit." They are in darkness!
Here, again, in my own personal observations, I have yet to meet a person who was "saved" out of it, who didn't have "one foot" still in the "emotionalism" that goes with it, and the "heart" which didn't tend to "lean" in those directions. (This does not necessarily include people on the e-mailing list who have written, saying they were saved out of it. I've not met these people personally, so have no way, at present, of verifying their testimonies one way or the other.)
This kind of thing certainly makes the heart "shudder" to see all that goes on in the (supposed) "name of Christ" but is, in actuality, "locking" the participants into a permanent state of no longer being able to be saved! Remember, after Pharaoh had hardened his own heart enough times, then, God said, "I will harden Pharaoh's heart and multiply My signs..." (Ex7:3) And again, Jesus predicted of those who were doing so many things "in Your name, and through Your name throw out demons" that He would say to them, "I never knew you! Depart from Me, those working lawlessness!" (Mt7:22-23)
You see, it is easier for a "vile sinner" to be saved, than for a "spirit-filled christian" to come to saving repentance. The sinner has no intimate knowledge of God, only his own conscience. (Rom2:15) But the one who has been dabbling around in spiritual matters comes under the judgment of the "knowledge" he had. As Peter says, "it would have been better for them not to have fully known the way of righteousness" (2Pt2:21)
And here we get to a "fine line" for some people. How many of these people "knew" the way of righteousness, and "turn from the holy commandment delivered to them" (2Pt2:21b) They've "walked away" from God, towards dedication to satan in these experiences? How many of those Pharisees of Jesus' day had believed in God at one time? ...only to have Him say, "it shall not be forgiven him" (vs32) And how many of them are "revealed that they were not all of us" in the first place? (1Jn2:19) How does a person know when they've crossed that line? Only God knows.
Perhaps this study has raised more questions than it has answered. But we are exhorted to, "examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith, prove your own selves. Do you not know your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are reprobates?" (2Cor13:5) "Reprobate" meaning "unfit, spurious, not passing the test." Let us diligently "examine [ourselves]"(1Cor11:28) so that we might not be "rejected." (Jer6:30) because "now is the accepted time" (2Cor6:2) if we wait, or insist in rebellion, at what point will God say for any of us "the time is at hand"? (Rev22:10) Whatever your state, there you remain...(vs11)
Known by its fruit: out of the mouth - (Mat 12:33-37)
"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt and it fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by its fruit" (vs33)
Just as Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other.."(Mt6:24,Lk16:13) and "the one who is not with Me is against Me, and the one who does not gather with Me scatters"(12:30) so also is there no fence-straddling regarding "quality." There is no such thing as "MOSTLY good" or "not TOO bad."
The boldness with which we proclaim God's Word, recently prompted a reader (who happened to be in agreement) to jokingly suggest I had never read the book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People." When we forthrightly expose certain false doctrines, invariably the whining retorts will come in, of the order, "Don't criticize the WHOLE LOT because of JUST a FEW rotten apples...I know such-n-such, and FOR THE MOST PART they're GOOD."
Salvation is NOT "for-the-most-part." Isaiah's vision did not include the seraphim crying out, "Holy, Holy, Holy is more-or-less how you could describe God." (Is6:3) Not hardly!! God [IS] holy! There are not "shades-of-gray" to God's righteousness. There was "Abraham's bosom" and "hell" (Lk16:22-23) with no "in-between" stages. The two were separated by a "FIXED great chasm" (vs26) so there could be no mixing. It's an "EITHER/OR" situation.
If one sees something labelled a "church" ...how does one know if it's good or not? If you meet a person who claims to be a "Christian" how do you know their true state?
The Gospel message is the "word of faith." (Rom10:8) The individual "act" of salvation involves two things. The "mouth" and the "heart." Simply put, a person "believes in" the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. (Acts16:31) And when a person has done so, as the Ethiopian did, he confesses "I believe." (Acts8:37) As Paul continues, "if you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses unto salvation." (Rom10:9-10)
Some people say that the "eyes are the window to the soul." By looking into one's eyes, you can tell of what sort the person is. If that is true, then the "mouth is the window to the spirit/heart." "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." (12:34)
James speaks in this manner, "Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing...does a fountain send forth at the same hole the sweet and bitter? ..so no fountain can yield both salt water and fresh." (~Jas3:10-12) The "good man" out of his "good treasure" produces "good." The "evil man" brings forth "evil things." (12:35)
If you know someone who speaks out of "both sides of his mouth" ..WHICH side do you believe? Jesus asked, "How can you, being evil, speak good things?" (12:34) Even satan PRETENDS to be good. (2cor11:14) And his ministers are also good at pretending. (2Cor11:15,Lk20:20)
The thing is...EVENTUALLY...the truth comes out! If you sin "against the LORD...be sure your sin will find you out." (Nu32:23) Remember, He is the One Who "knows" the heart. (Heb4:12,Lk16:15,Ps44:21) And eventually, the mouth WILL "slip" and give you away. It may take years of faithfully conceiling the truth, but ultimately, at some moment, the mouth will tell what's in the heart. Furthermore, if lies have been proclaimed for years, eventually, the mind will "forget" what has been said on which occasion; and eventually the disparities will be evident to others.
This, among other things, is one reason to not appoint brand new converts to positions of Church leadership. (1Ti3:6) Typically, baptism is given to a person based on their verbal "confession of faith." A person can proclaim, "I believe" and is then baptised. While God knows the heart, to fellow-Believers the person's true heart is not always as apparent. Thus, Jesus says, "by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned." (12:37) It is not the "words" themselves which save, but the words show what's in the "heart" in the same way that the "works" illustrate one's faith (Jas2:14-26) since our salvation is "unto good works." (Eph2:10) Thus, as the person is in the fellowship for a time, there is time for the sum of his "words" to prove a "consistency" in one direction or another.
To look at this from another angle, when Isaiah was presented with God's holiness, his first reaction is, "Woe is me! I am undone; for I am a man of UNCLEAN LIPS."(Is6:5) As the "preacher" exhorts, "Do not be rash with your mouth, and do not let your heart be hasty to say a word before God. For God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few." (Ecc5:2) At the Great White Throne judgment is meted out based "according to their works." (Rev20:12) "In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking; but he who holds back his lips is wise." (Pr10:19) Restraining one's words is an indication of a person whose spirit is characterized by "self-control." (Gal5:23) But those who are evil, they are "without self-control" (2Ti3:3), which usually manifests itself in blustering talk.
In worship, "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God, and be more ready to hear than to give the sacrifice of fools. For they do not know that they are doing evil." (Ecc5:1)
Finally, as we have studied in the past, our Faith in Christ manifests itself in our "confession" of Him. The final stage of our salvation occurs when Christ presents us to the Father (Mt10:32) and the "angels of God" (Lk12:8) after we have received our "incorruptible" bodies. (1Cor15:51-54) If our speech denies Him "before men", He promises that He will also deny us "before the Father." (Mt10:33) Denial due to torture does not count, as He also says, "the one who endures to the end shall be kept safe." (10:22) You see...the mouth proclaims what is in the heart...
Thus, the conclusion...
Seeking for signs: condemnation - (Mat 12:38-42)
Certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, "Master, we want to see a sign from you. But He answered and said to them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign. And there shall be no sign given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." (vs38-39)
When John the baptist, in dispair in prison, asks "are You he who should come, or do we look for another?"(11:3) Jesus replied, "Go and tell John [AGAIN] those things which you hear and see: 1) the blind receive their sight, 2) the lame walk; 3) the lepers are cleansed 4) the deaf hear; 5) the dead are raised 6) the poor have the gospel proclaimed to them." (11:4-5) As was prophesied of Him. (Is 35:5-6)
To the Scribes and Pharisees Jesus has now authenticated Himself to 1) forgive sins (9:2) 2) be Lord of the Sabbath (12:8) 3) have authority over demons (12:22~) He has done so in a manner fulfilling what they read regularly in the Prophets.
But they are not accepting Him. They also ask him about the "kingdom" and He says, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, 'see here' or 'see there!'" (Lk17:20-21)
You see...what they want is something "spectacular" like Moses or Elijah. Lord, let's see you "part the Red Sea" or "call fire down from heaven." Then...we'll believe You! Or be like Joshua, and have the "walls of Jericho fall" flat, and restore the kingdom to us out of the hands of Roman occupation. Be "thunderous" and go "Zap! Zap! Zap!" Then...we'll follow You!
But you see, they missed the prophecy "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He shall not break, and a smoking wick He shall not quench." (Is42:2-3) His coming at that time was not to make a "big splash" with trumpets and fanfare.
His true purpose for coming at that time was the "sign" He proclaimed. "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the huge fish, so the Son of man shall be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (vs40) CRUCIFIXION! DEATH! RESURRECTION! ...is what He came for.
When He was DEAD and buried, that was not something "glorious" to behold. Humanly speaking, it was a great "defeat." As a couple disciples spoke back to Him when they didn't recognize Him after His resurrection, "the rulers...crucified Him. But we had trusted that He was the One who was about to redeem Israel." (Lk24:20-21)
But you see, He [HAD] REDEEMED Israel. He had conquered death (Rom5-6, 1Cor15:54-57) He HAD restored the "Kingdom" to Israel, and to the world.(Jn3:16) But it was not the earthly "descendents-of-Abraham" kingdom. It was the kingdom which is "not with observation" ...the one "in your midst [in your soul]." (Lk17:20-21) Instead of the kingdom requiring the Levitical priests, and blood of animals; He shed His own blood. (Heb9)
Just as the unbelievers wanted something they could "oooh and aaah" over at Jesus' first coming; as the world now hastens to "That Day" of His second coming, again, unbelieving practitioners and congregants seek for "signs and wonders." They know they don't have the Holy Spirit (Rom8:9) and rather than trusting God's Word to mean what it says, and repenting before Him, they lust and whore after idolatry which gives a false spirituality. They are not content to 1) believe in Jesus Christ and His self-sacrifice on the cross (Acts16:31), 2) confess and repent of their sins (Acts3:19), and 3) rejoice in sins forgiven and names being written in heaven (Lk10:20). They lust after "feelings." They whore after the spectacular sensationalism of being thrown to the floor, and babbling like insane assylum idiots! And if they are not engaged in such behavior, they flock to the Hollywood-style glitz and glamour of the huge stage "production" concerts and other similar entertainment, and engage in fleshly sensual euphoric "feelings" where they can get all "pumped up" and get their "batteries charged."
Remember that when the disciples came back, all euphoric that "even the demons are subject to us through Your name" (spectacular stuff) is when Jesus said, "Don't rejoice in this, that the evil spirits are subject to you, rather rejoice because your names are written in Heaven." (Lk10:17,20)
Jonah went to Nineveh preaching "this place is going to be destroyed." (Jon3:4) They repented. The queen of Sheba came to hear Solomon's wisdom; by context, God's wisdom.
Jesus was/is "greater than" either of these two. (vs41-42) Jesus proclaimed that these who came to faith in God through these men would "rise in judgment...and condemn" their unbelief. Even as He proclaims through John that the the pretend christians from the "synagogue of Satan" will "worship before [the] feet" of "Philadelphia" to "know that [He has] loved [them]." (Rev3:9)
Empty heart: invitation to Satan - (Mat 12:43-45)
The last several lessons began when Jesus cast out a demon, healing the "blind and dumb" person. (12:22) The scribes and pharisees have accused Him of being "of" satan.(vs24) Have sought for a "sign" from Him.(vs38) At every turn, they have been rejecting Jesus, His teaching and purpose. Jesus has answered all their slanderous comments, questions and innuendo and given them truth. Now, He's giving a brief little lesson about the spirit world.
When a demon-possessed person has been exorcised, what happens to him? Where does the demon go? It would seem that they require/need/desire a "host" in which to live. The spirit is out "loose" looking for someplace to "rest." (vs43) Recall, when "legion" was cast out of the man "in the mountains and tombs" (Mr5:5) they desired for Jesus not to send them "out of the country."(vs10) But the whole group of demons requested to be able to enter the herd of pigs. (vs11)
Demons roam about, seeking something/someone to inhabit. Peter expresses, "..your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone he may devour." (1Pt5:8) And recall, when God asked satan what he'd been up to, the response, "from going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it." (Job1:7)
What is a person's defense against satan or demon-possession? As Christians we are instructed to "be filled with the [Holy] Spirit." (Eph5:18) The primary spiritual definition of a Believer is one who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. (Rom8:9)
You see what the demon looks for? He returns to check out the "house" he left. (vs44) If he gets there and finds it "vacant" ...what does he do? He enters...and takes along some of his "buddies."
If a person is demon-possessed, is it enough to "cast out" the demon? Will that save him? Many purport to conduct exorcisms in the "name of Christ." Is it His will for us to be thus engaged? ...always? Perhaps a question needs to be asked..."Why is the person thus possessed?" Is he never going to receive Christ? If he is exorcised, and doesn't repent before God, he can expect to become inundated next time 'round; as the demon "takes with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter in and live there. And the last state of that man is worse than the first." (vs45)
Do you understand why we don't want to "Empty yourself, forget about yourself and praise the Lord"? (One of the "worship mantras" popularly used for many years) Why we keep saying, here, that such experiences open the heart for demon-possession? The "empty" mind/heart is a "vacant house" for wandering demons roaming about, to indwell. Do you now begin to understand why we call these mindless experiences and their accompanying "manifestations"... "demon-possession"? Do you understand??? Please say you do!!!
What about Christians? Is it possible for a Christian to be demon-possessed? Did you notice...the demon comes back and finds the house "empty and clean." Nobody's living there. In the context of what Jesus is saying, it seems obvious that if the house had been "occupied" the demon would not have re-entered. Since the defining characteristic of a "Christian" is one who is indwelt by the "Holy Spirit" ...a demon is going to come along, find the house occupied, and move on. Furthermore, if we recall "legion's" reaction at seeing Jesus, "Have You come here to torment us before the time?" (Mt8:29) ...it ought to be obvious they are not going to be streaming to, and beating the door down to "get in" to a Believer. They will want to be as far from the Holy Spirit as possible. This is why the Believer is exhorted to "Resist the devil" and the promise.. "he will flee from you." (Jas4:7)
Now...do you also understand why we say that people engaging in these experiences are NOT "Christians"? By definition...they CANNOT BE!!
The Christian life is of "Christ in you" (Col1:27) as we are instructed to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom13:14) so when Satan or his demons come along, all they see is Christ. They won't stick around!
He's gone mad: a new family - (Mat 12:46-50)
Along about now, some of you reading this series have long-ago labelled this ministry as crazy, stupid, really "out there" in left field some place. Gone astray from the "main stream" of theological wisdom and "accepted" doctrine. The list makers have labelled it as "liberal" for not parroting their "lists." Liberals have concluded that we are much too legalistic and judgmental in not "accepting everybody" in love and tolerance... because, after all, we're all going to the "same place." We're just getting there maybe a little different way. But in the end, we're all christian "brothers." So, let's not condemn those who perhaps view things a little differently than you do, as if they are "wrong." And then, there are likely those who would like to take me aside to "instruct" me better. Get me off into a calm setting and see if they can't "work on" these problems I have. After all, it must be the abuse I received as a child, which makes me the way I am now. I just must never have received "love" and "acceptance" and I'm lacking terribly in self-esteem, and I just don't love myself.
And, besides being "too American" ...'anybody got any other ideas to add to this litany?
Well, guess what! This is what they thought about Jesus. (It's Jesus' teachings we are simply relaying here) "While He yet talked with the people, behold, His mother and His brothers stood outside, desiring to speak with Him." (vs46)
Were they getting "homesick" for their "number one son" to be home because He's been away so long...? "Oh, Jesus, we love you... [smother, kiss, hug] We've missed You soo much! It's good to see You! How have you been?"
We get a better picture from Mark ch3. He has "ordained twelve" to be His apostles. (vs14) You see, He's starting this "cult" with all these teachings based on "Himself." He's claiming to have more authority than the Law and the Scribes. And so, "those with Him went out to take hold of Him; for they said, He is insane." (vs21) We need to do a "CULT RESCUE" here! The religious leaders are giving their "expert opinion" and saying "He has Beelzebub" (vs22) He's demon-possessed. He doesn't accept our traditions. He's crazy. 'Needs to go to the loony farm. And his family is called into the whole thing, "if You won't listen to us, maybe you'll listen to your mother and family." So the crowd says, "behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking for You." (vs32)
For having grown up in His "family" for 30 years, it says that "His brothers did not believe in Him." (Jn7:5) And His hometown people rejected the "prophet that is not without honor" as they said, "is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brothers...and sisters...where does this man have all these things?" (Mt13:55-56) (Joseph must have died as he doesn't "appear" once Jesus' ministry begins) So, Jesus is the "eldest son" and instead of taking care of "faaaam'ly responsibilities" He's off running around the countryside like some sort of big shot, starting this new cult. He's "delusional."
The Mary who said, "let it be to me according to your word" (Lk1:38) and "pondered in her heart" (Lk2:19) all the marvelous miraculous things concerning Jesus; as He was beginning His ministry, tried to continue "mothering" Him. "Jesus, they have no wine." (Jn2:3) In other words..."DO SOMETHING about it." He had to be rather firm with her at that point as He exemplifyied what He would teach later "if anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother..he cannot be My disciple" (Lk14:26) and "let the dead bury their dead" (Mt8:22) as he says to her, "Woman, what is that to Me and to you? My hour has not yet come." (Jn2:4) "Woman" instead of "mother." In other words, 'there is a distinction in our purposes and identity.' In other words, "I am no longer 'officially' your 'son'."
You see...everything He taught, He had already "practiced what He preached" before He preached it. "For we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted (tested/tried) just as we are..." (Heb4:15)
He concludes this reality by asking the crowds, essentially, "Who is my family? Who am I related to? ..and they, related to Me?" (vs48) He motions to His disciples, "whoever shall do the will of My Father in Heaven, the same is My [family]." (vs50)
Christian: you will find this to be true. Blood relatives will fall by the wayside in anger when they see Christ in you, and see that you are truly committed to following Jesus. Remember, Jesus said, "I did not come to send peace, but a sword" (Mt10:34) as He continues to describe the family disputes that would arise due to Faith in Him. And the hardest to accept will be the ones who claim to be "Christian."
For a True Believer, his Family is with those who are fellow "sons of God" (Rom8:14,Gal3:26,Phil2:15) through "faith in Christ Jesus" by the leading of the "Spirit of God." Those who are named by the name of Christ "of whom the whole family in Heaven and earth is named."(Eph3:14) We are "one" with the Father and Jesus Christ. (Jn17) We are the "bride" of Christ. (Eph5:32)
So, everybody thought Jesus was "mad." But He has authenticated His authority to forgive sins; as Lord of the sabbath; as Lord over demons; His purpose to die, be buried and rise again; His authority and knowledge about spiritual matters. And now, announces ...not a new cult... but a new "Family" ...as He would call us His "brothers" and "children" (Mt28:10,Jn20:17,Heb2:11-13) and "friends." (Jn15:15)