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Entries in Power (19)

Tuesday
Jul162019

More Parables II

Mark 4:30-41.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Sunday, July 14, 2019.

Today we will continue in Mark 4 looking at another parable that Jesus told.  In it we will see that Jesus knew that his Church would become a large thing and that the devil would take advantage of that to hide his servants among the branches.  Ultimately God is in control and he is not afraid of the things that we fear.

We must learn to pray and to trust his final decisions regarding the difficulties allowed in our life and in his Church.  God always has a way through for us that leads to him and his glory.

The parable of the Mustard Seed

In this parable, Jesus employs the planted seed metaphor again.  We are also told that this is a picture of the “Kingdom of God.”  This parable is also in Matthew and Luke.  In Matthew 13 we told that this is a picture of the “Kingdom of Heaven.”  I only point this out because some try to force a technical difference upon these phrases.  However, at least in this case, it is extremely stretched to think that Jesus means anything other than that these phrases are basically synonymous.  Though the Kingdom of Heaven includes the spirit realm and the earthly realm, the parables are generally focused on the earthly realm. 

This parable is short and makes a clear and simple message that is basically about the size of the plant that grows from the seed.  Since the plant represents the whole Church (geographically and chronologically), the seed here represents the deposit of the Gospel into the earth.  What looks like the smallest of seeds grows into a plant that is larger than the other garden plants.  Historically, we can see that this is very true.  The Church began as a small group compared to the other religions of the world, but grows to become a very large concern, even to the point that there are over 2 billion people today who have some connection to Christianity.

Some point to this parable as an illustration of Jesus being in error.  They state that the mustard seed is not the smallest seed on the earth.  However, in the context, Jesus is talking about seeds that a 1st century Judean would be sowing in their garden.  In fact, the term “on earth” is literally upon the earth and is used in the same way that we would call dirt “earth.”  Matthew doesn’t even use the phrase, “upon the earth.”  There it says of the seed, “which a man took and sowed in his field.”  Jesus is not claiming that the mustard seed is the smallest seed of all the seeds upon the entire planet.  He is not at an International Botany Convention presenting his scientific research on the mustard seed.  When we are intellectually honest with what Jesus is saying, it is clear that he means the mustard seed was smaller than the seeds they would have been planting in Israel at that point in time.  People who make this objection are being bull-headed and attempt to force the words of Jesus to mean something other than what he intended.

Another area people like to pick on is the size of the mustard plant.  They will say that a mustard plant doesn’t get big enough for birds to nest.  However, some mustard plants can get up to 12 feet tall.  The point Jesus makes is not that all mustard seeds will end up big enough that birds will build nests in them.  The main point that it will be larger than the other plants who started with bigger seeds.  Also, that this particular mustard plan will be large enough that birds would nest in it.  The emphasis is its largeness, not that all mustard plants have bird nests.  Thus, the Kingdom of God, or the Church, starts out small, but ends up being larger than the other plants (religions).

In light of the parable of the sower, we must deal with the phrase, “birds of the air.”  There it had a sinister interpretation, and it pointed to the work of Satan and his evil spirits to remove God’s Word from our life.  Though there does not seem to be a need for a sinister interpretation in this parable (due to the fact that it emphasizes the large size of the plant), it makes sense in light of the countless other places where Christ warns that Satan would sow tares among his field, false teachers and prophets would arise, and that deception would be prevalent especially in the last days.  Thus, the Church would become so big that false spirits and leaders would be set up in particular branches without being ran away.

Verses 33-34 tell us that Jesus told many such parables to the crowds, and yet explained the meaning to his disciples later, when they were alone.

To sum up, the parable of the sower emphasizes the importance of the condition of our heart and mind when we hear the word of God.  The parable of the Lamp under a Bushel emphasizes the purpose that God has in giving light, and our responsibility in receiving it.  The parable of the Growing Seed emphasizes that God’s plan is inevitable.  His Word will build the Kingdom of God, until it is ready to be harvested, and then God will harvest it.  Likewise, the mustard seed emphasizes that the Church would become quite large.

Let us remember that Jesus was not contemplating nature and coming up with spiritual knowledge.  He is operating the other direction.  It is his knowledge of spiritual truth that allows him to pick out illustrations from the world around him.  We must be careful of taking these or other natural analogies and attempting to press them into further truths that the Bible does not reveal.  Truth opens our eyes to the world around us.  However, trying to discover new truth by studying nature leads to countless false ideas and false religions of our own making.

Jesus calms the storm

At verse 35, Mark turns back to the narrative of events that Jesus and his disciples encountered.  The next situation starts out with a simple task.  They are clearly on the edge of the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus instructs his disciples to take them to the other side via a boat.  At least 4 of the disciples had extensive experience boating on this sea, so this is not hard thing.  In comparison, Christ gives us a very simple thing to do.  Quit living life for self, pick up your cross, and follow him.  Essentially, we trust him as the way to peace with God and we share that message with those we encounter.  Simple.  These are not difficult things in and of themselves.

However, the disciples encounter difficulty along the way of accomplishing the simple task.  A storm rises up and begins to swamp the boat.  It is clearly worse than any they have seen before and are unable to bail or, at least, keep up with the water coming into the boat.  They sense it is going to sink and they with it.  It is unlikely that they would be able to swim to shore in such a turbulent storm.  It is amazing how even simple things can quickly be complicated by difficulties.  Raising your children for the Lord is a simple thing, but the difficulties we encounter from our culture and from within our own children can sometimes make us feel like we are going under and have failed.  Our mind knows that God allows difficulty, but our heart continually says, “Surely, if God was in it, there would be little difficulty.”  However, without difficulty, we would not be aware that God is truly with us, and we would not become likely him, overcoming adversity.

The difficulty of the storm and their impending death causes the disciples to question whether Jesus cares about them.  Doubt rises in their hearts.  Jesus is sleeping in the stern of the boat.  Why does he not care that we are perishing?  We often judge God’s actions, or more precisely his lack of action, as if he were us.  Things in life often become difficult and threatening.  However, Scripture is abundantly clear on this point.  God cares about us more than we can imagine. He has provided everything that we need, and, when we were without help and hopeless, while we were yet sinners, he stepped in and died in our place in a cruel and horrible death.  The disciples had not seen Jesus on the cross at this point, but we have.  How can we doubt his love when he has shown us by the cross just how much he loves us?  Yes, he cares for you.  Even though it appears that he is doing nothing, or is asleep in the back seat.

Jesus wakes up and rebukes the storm.  “Peace, be still!”  At that point, the winds stopped and it says there was a “great calm.”  He didn’t just turn the storm down enough that they could make it.  He commanded the wind to completely stop and suddenly it was Lake Place, or for our neck of the woods, Lake Serene.

Notice that Jesus had a question for his disciples.  For every question that we have for God in this life, we should remember that he has questions of his own, and we are far less prepared to answer his than he is ours.  Why are you so fearful?  How is it you have no faith?  If I really am a child of God, so loved by him that he would come and die on the cross for me, then what do I have to fear?  Clearly the answer is nothing.  For us, death on a cross or death on the seas are horrible things that we would seek to avoid at all costs.  However, for God these are not problems.   He can “fix” them in a second.  So, if he allows them to continue, he must have a reason.  God’s plans are different than our because even death cannot stop the purpose of the God of the Resurrection.  He can immediately end our difficulty and sometimes does, as we cry out to him in prayer.  Other times, when we cry out to God, he brings just enough relief to help us through the difficulty.  However, sometimes the difficulty, even the death, may be his plan.

Thus, Jesus shows us the way on the night in which he was betrayed and handed over to be executed.  He prayed, “Father, if possible, may this cup pass from me.  Nevertheless, your will be done.”  God knows our fears and has purposed to help us in life as we pray to him.  Yet, sometimes there are things that he will not remove, not because he doesn’t love us, but precisely because he does love us.

The powerful display of speaking to nature and it responding shocks the disciples.  Please…it would shock us today.  Our scientists have enough trouble telling us what the weather is going to do today, much less control it.  Sure, there are projects around the world that seek to use directed energy to affect weather, but such things are child’s play compared to what Jesus did and can still do.  It was pure, raw, and undeniably the power of the Creator.  He spoke, “Let there be peace, and there was peace.”  The disciples went from questioning if Jesus cared for them to questioning just who this guy was.  The answer to that question is that he is the Son of God who has all power and authority over heaven and earth.  If you are on the side of such a being, what have you to fear?  Nothing.  What is there not to trust?  Nothing.  May God strengthen our faith and may all our fears be cast at the feet of the one who is greater than even death itself.

More Parables II audio

Tuesday
May212019

The Authority of Jesus

Mark 3:1-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 19, 2019.

Today, we are back in the Gospel of Mark.  We will be talking about the authority of Jesus. 

After the Resurrection, Jesus told his disciples that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him.  Thus, he was sending them out to proclaim who he was and what he had done.  They were to disciple those who believed in Jesus.  When you bring the Gospel into someone’s life and teach them to follow Jesus, you are operating under the authority of One who is greater than the Washington State Legislature, or the United States Congress, or the United Nations Security Council.  You are operating under the authority of Jesus, who is the King over all kings and the Lord over all lords.

However, this does not mean that we should be arrogant, and neither does it mean that we should be fearful and timid.  May the Spirit of Christ rise up within us and enable us to rise up in the face of the spirit of this world.  May we be bold enough to lead people to Jesus.

Jesus appoints The Twelve Apostles

Though Jesus has already called the twelve disciples to follow him, here we have an actual appointment to a position that these men didn’t understand completely, at the time.  They are not just to be his disciples (a word that focuses on being students of Jesus), but also to be his apostles (we will talk more about this word in a bit).

Verse 14 in the King James Version and in the New King James Version do not have the added phrase “whom he also named apostles.”  This is due to the fact that many more manuscripts and many older manuscripts have been discovered since the creation of the KJV in the early 1600’s.  Modern translators have had to weigh the evidence of the many manuscripts that currently exist and make choices of what was in the original.  In case you think this is unacceptable, you may be interested to know that the translators of the King James Version testified that they had done this very thing themselves.  They did their best with the manuscripts they had at the time.  This is why most modern versions have added the phrase “whom he also named apostles.”  It is interesting that sometimes it goes the other way, a phrase is believed to have been added later and is thus removed by newer versions.  Either way, we want to have what was written originally, no more and no less.  Thankfully, none of these questionable phrases or words affect any doctrinal positions of the Bible.  Even if the word “apostle” should not be connected to this passage (even though the evidence seems to point in the other direction), Mark will undisputedly use the word apostles of these guys in chapter 6.  This is also backed up by multitudes of other passages throughout the New Testament.  The 12 Disciples were also called to become the 12 Apostles.

Before we look at the names that are listed, we should note that it says that these men are those that Jesus wanted.  We should not rush by that statement.  It is his choice; and when you analyze his choices, you find them to be revealing.  None of these men are professionally trained in the Scriptures.  They are also mostly lower class (although Matthew does represent the wealthy).  Even in Matthew’s case, his wealth is attained through taxation and therefore makes him an outcast to his people.  They all are from a rural area of Israel, and all from Galilee except for Judas Iscariot.  He is the only man from Judah picked and his name is also the Greek form of the Hebrew name Judah.  Still he is “Iscariot.”  This is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew Ish Kerioth, or man of Kerioth (a rural town in Judah).  When you connect all of this to the New Testament theme that Jesus calls those who are not always the greatest and wisest of this world, you begin to get the picture.  The greatest and wisest of this world are often so full of themselves that there is no room for God.  Also, God purposefully operates in a way that the simplest among us can understand and come to Him for salvation (not to say that The Twelve were simple-minded).  This is counter to the operations of the great in our world today.  Those who wish to create great organizations look for the brightest stars to work for them, but Jesus calls those who are not the brightest stars.

So, what is an Apostle anyways?  In the vernacular of the day, they would be official representatives of Jesus, at least when he is not available.  They would be his “sent ones.”  The main purpose of this appointment would be evident after the ascension of Jesus.  The text tells us that these apostles would be with Jesus (everywhere he went).  Thus, they would be eye-witnesses of all the miracles that he did and the teachings that he delivered.  They would also be eye-witnesses of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.  They would represent a solid foundational witness that would stand the test of time.  In this sense there are no apostles today.  We operate on the foundation built by Jesus and his apostles, once and for all, in the first century.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 is a better place where the Apostle Paul takes time to describe and explain the appointing of the apostles.  They were those who were eye-witnesses of the post-resurrection appearances and had been given the Gospel directly from Jesus.  In fact, Hebrews 3:1 tells us that Jesus is the Apostle and High Priest of our faith.  Just as the father sent Jesus to the world, so Jesus was sending his apostles to continue his work to the ends of the earth.

Now, I know that there is a lot of controversy in the Church today over whether or not there are still apostles today, and in what sense.  There is a good article online at the Assemblies of God website: https://ag.org/Beliefs/Position-Papers/Apostles-and-Prophets.  This should walk you through all of the pertinent issues and is well-balanced.

Mark emphasizes their closeness to Jesus (as opposed to the many other disciples who did not travel everywhere with Jesus).  These guys would have the most time with Jesus compared to anyone else.  He would explain things to them that he may not have explained to the crowds.  This would enable them to accurately preach, or proclaim, what Jesus wanted them to teach.  The Kingdom of Heaven was here, and whosoever will could join and become a part of it.  Always remember that proclaiming the truth for Jesus begins with first spending time with him, through his Word and spiritually in prayer.

They were also going to be given power to heal and cast out demons.  This demonstrates the power of Christ in regards to physical matters and spiritual matters.  They would truly operate under and in his authority.  This would be especially important as the Gospel was taken to the nations.  These nations represented the territory of the spiritual enemies of Christ and his people.  The apostles were the tip of the spear of Christ’s invasion of the spiritual kingdom that Satan had amassed over the years. 

So just who were these guys?  The apostle Peter is actually named Simon and Jesus has given him the nickname Peter, which means rock.  Yes, Peter may have been the original Rocky!  Jesus also gave nicknames to the two sons of Zebedee, James and John.  They are called the Sons of Thunder.  Boanerges is a Greek spelling of an Aramaic compound word.  We can also notice that there is another James in the list, the son of Alphaeus.  He is sometimes called James the Lesser.  There is another Simon who is a Cananite.  This is not a reference to Canaan (notice the two a’s in a row).  It was a word that was used of a group of Zealots who resisted and plotted against Rome.  Lastly, we have the infamous Judas Iscariot.  He would be the one who would betray Jesus and then go on to commit suicide.  He is replaced in Acts 1 by Matthias.  Yes, Jesus knew very well that he had chosen a guy who would one day betray him, but that was part of the plan.

Challenges to his authority occurred

Jesus had far more authority than people could really accept.  He literally is the One who had given the Law and had brought Israel into the Land of Canaan, but that is another story.  So in these verses, we see several challenges to what Jesus was doing.

First, there is a challenge mentioned from his own family (this is what is meant by “his own people.”)  It could mean those who are from his clan, but most likely meant his immediate family.  The question here is that they think Jesus is out of his mind.  Perhaps it was the continual traveling around causing disruption with great crowds of people.  Perhaps it was the way in which he didn’t fit in with the religious establishment.  We don’t know exactly what bothered them, except the fact that they don’t understand and spiritually are not in the right place. 

Let that be a lesson to us.  Sometimes those closest to us can resist the work of God in our life the most.  This is not always true, but it often can be.  Don’t be that type of person that holds people back from what God is doing, out of your own fears.  Make sure that you are following God and then you will be in a good position to help others to do so.  Yet, even then, remember that you are not God.  Leave room for the Holy Spirit to operate in the lives of your loved ones. 

Now, recognize that this passage is not supporting crazy actions.  Jesus was not climbing up on top of the temple and casting himself to the ground.  Rather, it is showing that what Jesus was doing was far outside the normal, and thus, it was hard to accept for many, including his own family.

The second attack on his authority in this passage is from the scribes who are experts in The Law.  They come down from the big city and proclaim that these country bumpkins are being taken in by a charlatan.  They claim that Jesus is able to cast out demons because he is in league with Beellzebub, which was an Aramaic term for the “Lord of the flies,” (aka, the lord of the demons).

However, Jesus sets the record straight.  He first points out that Satan is not going to cast himself out (that is cast out demons who are there doing his bidding and extending his kingdom).  Clearly, Jesus sees Satan as the head honcho of an evil, spiritual kingdom that had been set up on this earth.  No general or king gives up their territory of authority without it being taken from them in some way, which leads to the next point.

Jesus makes it clear that he is casting out demons because he has first “bound the strong man.”  He has somehow put Satan in bonds and thus can go out and mop up his territory at will.  So, what does Jesus mean by binding Satan?

Revelation 20 speaks of a time when Satan will be captured and bound in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years.  He is then going to be released for a short time before he is recaptured and thrown into the Lake of Fire, never to return again.  Of course, Jesus cannot be talking about this actual removal of Satan from earth because the apostles later warn believers to be aware of Satan and his tactics, i.e. he is not bound up yet.  1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  So, we can call this the ultimate binding of Satan and it is not what Jesus means.

The binding is in his own life.  The gospels all point out that the first thing Jesus does in his ministry is to go into the wilderness, where he is tempted by the devil.  Jesus thwarts Satan’s every attempt to bring him under his control.  That is why Jesus later says in John 14:30 that the ruler of this world is coming, but “he has nothing in me.”  So, Jesus has bound Satan in his own life by countering each temptation and spiritual attack.  Notice that most people are possessed by a demon.  However, if we are to set other people free from the bonds of sin that Satan has used to bind them, t hen we must first bind Satan’s work in our own life.  It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit and looking to Jesus Christ that we can overcome the enemy and then plunder his kingdom.

So, as we close this morning, just remember that Christ calls all of his believers to be learners or students of his word.  He also calls us to pick up the work that the apostles began and go to the world with the good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ.  He is God’s answer for the problem of sin in this world.  Put your faith in him today.

Authority of Jesus audio

Tuesday
Mar052019

The Power of Jesus II

Mark 1:29-39.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 03, 2019.

Last week we looked at two aspects of the power of Jesus: his powerful teaching, and his power over evil spirits.  Today we will see the healing power of Jesus highlighted.

Of course, the more you think about healing, you will quickly realize that there are many different kinds of healing and a physical healing is not always the most important.  Imagine a traumatized person who is emotionally and mentally broken, yet has had all their physical wounds healed.  There may be nothing physically wrong with them, but they can still be a shell of a person, unable to deal with the world around them.

It is interesting that even today in 2019, while experiencing all that modern, medical technology has to offer us, we have not vanquished sickness.  Should the Lord tarry, it is looking increasingly like we will not have all sickness conquered even in a hundred years (I mean definitely and not just for a period in which viruses mutate etc.).    We still do not have the kind of power over sickness that Jesus displayed throughout His time on earth.

The Scriptures make it clear that the main purpose of Jesus was not to physically heal all maladies on the earth.  When He later sends out His apostles, His instructions clearly highlight the focus and it is not on physical healing.  Rather, Jesus ministered physical healing because it is tied together to emotional, mental, and most especially spiritual healing.  People gave Jesus a true hearing about spiritual healing because of what they saw in the natural.  Yet, no amount of physical healing can heal the sin-sick soul. 

Today, as we meditate on this passage, let us come to Jesus and recognize that in His mercy He can heal us, but in His wisdom, He knows what truly ails us.

 Jesus heals those who are sick

Jesus is still in the city of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee.  It is still the same Sabbath day on which He cast the unclean spirit out of a man in the synagogue.  After the service, Jesus goes to Simon and Andrew’s house.  It so happens that Simon’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever.  Now, Luke further describes this as a great fever, meaning that it was a serious sickness that could end in death.  They immediately make Jesus aware of her condition.  So, what does Jesus do?

We are told that Jesus took her by the hand and lifted her up.  The fever instantly leaves her, even without a word from Jesus.  Notice that there is no sense of a ritual, magic, or a crude, barbaric understanding of sickness.  Jesus simply lifts her up and she is healed.  Neither is there a modern sense of scientific knowledge or medical technology.  Both methods are left with their mouths open, as Jesus simply helps her up.  Is this coincidence?  Please.  Anyone who has had a very serious fever break knows that you don’t instantly feel good enough to get out of bed and serve everyone in the room.  We see here the kind of power that Jesus has over sickness.  He simply heals her with the thought. 

Now we could turn this into a mind science, but the Scriptures do not open that door to us.  We are never instructed to work on our mind power.  Even the instructions to believe and have faith are all focused on believing Jesus and having faith in Jesus.  It is not faith in our ability to wield faith like a medical instrument.  Rather, it is faith in the One who has power over all sickness.

It often bothers us that God allows sickness on the earth.  However, remember that God has a goal that is greater than humans not having any suffering.  What would it profit us to live lives free from sickness and yet be spiritually like the devil, to go into eternity lost?  God created us to be like Him, to dwell with Him, and to work with Him.  Thus, sin is a huge barrier to all that happening.  We want God to heal everything, but let us live anyway we want.  Even when ailments are the result of sinful choices, we still want God to protect us from the consequences and yet not expect anything from us.  This attitude is sinful.

So, we want healing and have turned to all manner of things throughout the years.  There is something wrong with attempting spiritual or religious cures outside of Christ.  We are warned in Scripture that only the Holy Spirit and the ways of Christ can be trusted.  The many spiritual cures that exist are only the teachings of evil spirit that want to get permission to attach themselves to our lives.

However, there is nothing wrong with medicine and doctors helping us heal.  The same God who can heal at will has also put things on the earth with which we can make medicine.  Either way, He is the source of the healing.  When our bodies naturally heal themselves, where did they get this ability?  It was not the luck of Natural Selection.  Rather, it was the design of a benevolent Creator.  Yet, we must realize that medicine and medical technology is always limited and cannot take the place of God.  This is why I think that we will have to deal with sickness until the resurrection occurs.

What amazing power that can will sickness away, even without a word.  Christians do not need the proper prayer, or the proper verses to quote, or the proper mix of Christian “spell casting.”  Rather, we simply need to be connected to Jesus and believe upon Him.

At evening time, we are told that a crowd gathers outside of the door where Jesus is staying.  Word has spread about the exorcism done during the synagogue service and perhaps also about Simon’s mother-in-law’s healing.  They show up at evening because all the Sabbath restrictions would now be over.  Although Jesus had cast out the evil spirit on the Sabbath, there was no issue made of it.  Most likely because they were all in shock and amazed.  This was a new thing.  Later, the religious would have time to realize that they should be offended and that Jesus was technically breaking their Sabbath laws.

Regardless, at this point in time it is technically Sunday in our reckoning, and we are told that many who were sick and others who were demon-possessed were healed by Jesus.  This was an incredible day in the city of Capernaum.

If we hit pause on the scene, perhaps we should take some time to mentally digest what the Bible is presenting to us.  Israel had been waiting for God’s Anointed One to come and fix everything in Israel and the world.  The covenant that God made with Israel had many physical blessings.  If they were loyal to God then He would bless their crops, their wives would be fertile, and the diseases of the Egyptians and the Canaanites would not come upon them.  God’s people of Israel had the Creator’s word that He would keep them healthy and they would not need fear any evil spirits of the nations around them.  However, when the Anointed One comes, Israel is filled with people who are sick and even demon possessed.  The great people of God have not been loyal and faithful.  They are a plundered people who have been taken captive by their spiritual enemies even more than by their natural enemies.

Let’s take some time to contrast this with the New Covenant that Christ makes with whosoever will believe in Him.  The Mosaic Covenant was heavy on physical blessings and had some spiritual blessings.  However, the New Covenant was heavy on spiritual blessings and had some physical blessings.  We have no nation on this earth, are not guaranteed crops and fertility, and are not even guaranteed defense against physical enemies.  Yet, we have something greater.  We are guaranteed spiritual fruitfulness, and spiritual offspring.  We even have the Spirit of God Himself dwelling within us.  Yet, if Jesus were to walk among the churches of today, what would He find?  Would he not find a multitude who are still spiritually bound and not walking in the fullness that God has for us?  On one hand we fall far short of the intentions of God and His Savior, Jesus.  On the other hand, we see Jesus, loving us, and touching us in order to set us free from what binds us.  We need to come to Christ and seek to be free from those things that hold us back from walking in faith and trust in Him.  We need to find the leading of the Holy Spirit in our life and trust Him.

Back in Capernaum, there are now 100’s of people who have witnessed the power of Jesus.  Think of the countless numbers of people through the years who can give testimony to the power of Jesus in their life.  Instead of walling ourselves off from God in unbelief, we must learn to hear the testimonies about Him and learn to walk in faith.  Jesus can be trusted, even when I don’t get exactly what I want.  However, He still works powerfully in our lives today, and we need to be good witnesses of it to others.

Jesus seeks out a place of prayer

It had been a busy day.  Yet, the next morning, Jesus gets up before dawn and seeks out a “solitary” place to pray.  The pressure and busyness would no doubt begin anew that Sunday morning.  It is typical for us as humans to allow the times of pressure and busyness to squeeze out spending time with God the Father in prayer and seeking His understanding and purpose for our day.  Here Jesus in the busiest of times, takes time to meet with His Father.

It is good to pray in public.  However, if we do not have times of secret prayer then our public prayers are hollow and empty of any real meaning and power.  Jesus was powerful in these other areas because He also had a strong and powerful relationship with God the Father through prayer.   He is unique in His Sonship, but He is not unique in having a relationship with God that is both private and public.  We must follow His example.  It is secret prayer that makes public prayer meaningful and powerful. 

Jesus has many more people to heal and set free from evil spirits.  However, He also needs to keep focused on God the Father and His plan.  When people are desperate and see you as their answer, they will take hold of your life and set the agenda for you, if you let them.  We must always guard against letting others set the agenda for our life.  Take time to seek God about His agenda for your life each day.  That can only happen in times of secret prayer and on days other than church day.

So, we see Jesus who is not “going it alone.”  He is doing what He does with the Father.  You too were never intended to be alone in what you are doing.  Jesus is up before dawn because those hours are more spiritual.  He is up that early because everyone else is asleep.  Carving out time is not just about one time a day for a certain amount of time.  It is about finding a way to get alone and talk with God.  This should not be the first thing we sacrifice when we are busy, but the last thing.

Meanwhile, the disciples wake up and realize that Jesus is not in the house.  While they begin looking, people are showing up at the door hoping to find Jesus.  This gives us a picture of Christ that we must not miss.  Jesus is not always where you think He will be and is not always in an easy place for us to find Him.  Jesus offers Himself to the world, to whosoever will, but He also has His own agenda.  If we are always thinking that Jesus is in the noisy, loud, public places (perhaps even a church service), we can miss this intimate side of Jesus.  Sometimes we need to get to the solitary place and there we will find Him.  Yes, we need Church and Fellowship with other believers, and Jesus is truly there.  However, He is also in the solitary place with the Father that we can only go to by faith and through prayer in our own secret place.  You do not have to travel all over the world to find Jesus.  He is right here, right now, wherever you are.

Everyone is looking for Jesus because they all want a piece of Jesus.  Yet, Jesus has received instructions from the Father.  He explains God’s purpose.  He must go to other towns and do the same thing.  His purpose is about reduplicating what just happened in Capernaum in the other towns of the Galilee.  Blessed Capernaum would keep slurping up the blessing as long as they could.  If they were allowed to set the agenda and purpose then a huge compound would be built in Capernaum where Jesus would stay and all the world would come in order to be healed and set free, but that is not the plan.  The emphasis is not on such plans.  Rather, Jesus is going out to the people wherever they are.  In fact, you actually have both things happening.  Wherever Jesus went He was seeking people to touch and people were coming from far and wide to find Him.  So, we have this beautiful sense that while we are seeking for God, He is seeking for us.  By the grace of God, we shall meet up!  He cares about you and He wants you to find Him.

Even then, Israel’s greatest need, our greatest need, is not physical healing.  What a tragedy it would be to be healed physically by God, but not to be healed spiritually.  The miracles that Jesus did were not the main thing.  They served the purpose to get people’s attention, but the teaching of Jesus pointed people to a spiritual healing from sin and a healing of our relationship with God the Father.

If you truly believe in Jesus as your savior today then you truly are a Child of God.  And, if you truly are a Child of God then God has a purpose for everything that you are going through today and went through yesterday.  He has a present and a future for you.  That knowledge should become the foundation of our relationship with the Father through prayer.

We live in a desperate world, but in its desperation, it is grabbing on to all the wrong things, things that cannot save.  Humanity cannot heal itself.  We must humble ourselves and come to Christ so that He will heal us as only He can.  We cannot tell Him how to heal us, but must humble ourselves and allow the good physician to apply the balm according to His knowledge, not ours.

Power of Jesus II Audio

Tuesday
Feb262019

The Power of Jesus

Mark 1:21-28.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 24, 2019.

Having introduced us to Jesus, Mark goes on to give evidence of the powerful things that Jesus did while he ministered on this earth.  This is important because we need to recognize that, though Jesus was smart and spoke in a way that amazed people, the biblical authors highlighted his power over his talk.  Paul references the effect of this reality in 1 Corinthians 4:20, when he says, “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power.” (NIV) 

If we only have fine sounding words to offer people then we might as well hang up our hat now.  At some point, they will come to realize that they need real power.  Yes, knowledge is power, but not all knowledge can set you free from the bondage of sin and hurts that so easily entangles us.  Even knowing the Scriptures is not enough to break the bondage of sin.  We must have a living relationship with Jesus, who alone has power to break every fetter!

Jesus teaches in Capernaum

Jesus focuses his ministry in the northern part of Israel for several reasons.  The more he ministered in Jerusalem the quicker the authorities would want to kill Him, and God had a particular timing about all of this.  Another reason is that it was symbolic of God’s care and heart for those who need help.    Jerusalem represented the best of Israel in the natural.  All the political and religious leaders were there.  Compared to Jerusalem, Capernaum represented the country bumpkins.  Jerusalem represented riches and knowledge, whereas Capernaum was a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee and would not have the greatest teachers in the land.  Those who know they are poor are quicker to receive than those who think they already have everything.

So Jesus goes into the synagogue of Capernaum on the Sabbath.  The Sabbath was the day of rest, which corresponds to Friday evening to Saturday evening.  The people of Israel had developed the habit of gathering in buildings in order to worship God, to hear the Word of God read and to have it explained.  The concept of a synagogue developed at some point after Israel’s exile into Babylon and subsequent return to the land.  Before this time, their religious life was mainly at the Temple, where they worshipped God and offered sacrifices.  With the temple destroyed in 586 B.C., they had to wrestle with continuing to worship.  Thus the concept of synagogues that focused on teaching was born.  In fact, early Jewish Christians called their gatherings synagogues as well.  However, the term “Church,” that had been used by Jesus, later became the main word to describe Christian gatherings.  So this is much like a Jewish Church service in its function. 

The fact that the leaders of the synagogue let Jesus teach says something.  He was not a rabbi who had learned under the rabbis of the day.  Normally this would preclude him from being able to teach.  Yet, the prophet, John the Baptist, had gone on record that Jesus was God’s anointed one, the Messiah.  Thus the talk had preceded Christ and the people were eager to hear from Him. 

We are told that the people were astonished because he taught “as one with authority.”  It may be easy to read into these words that Jesus was cocky and arrogant.  However, the emphasis is the contrast between how Jesus taught and how the scribes taught (who were men trained in the religion of Israel).  The scribes normally taught by referring to different views of the great rabbis from the past and the present.  They basically were relaying what others had said and those great rabbis often disagreed with each other.  Though we do not have a text of this teaching, it is safe to say that Jesus did not quote any authorities to substantiate his interpretation of the text.  Jesus is “acting as if” He is the authority on the subject.  Of course, that is because He actually is.  Knowing who Jesus is, we can recognize that He is the most qualified man of all history who could give authoritative understanding on what passages of the Bible meant and what God intended us to understand from it.

Today, we need to be careful that we do not make either of two mistakes.  One, we can forget that we have received authoritative understanding on what passages of the Bible meant and why the Law of Moses was given.  These were given by the true author of the Bible, God Himself, and those who He personally trained.  Two, we can use the authority of Jesus in order to teach things that He and His apostles did not teach.  Confidence is not good if it is placed in the wrong thing, but when it is placed upon the right thing, or right person, then it is a good thing.  We can confidently proclaim the teachings of Christ and His Apostles, but we should never become arrogant and take to ourselves a confidence that sees the authority of Jesus as something that has been handed down to us.  Jesus is still the authority.  Paul Himself said in Galatians 1:8 that even if the apostles were to teach a gospel that was other than what was originally given, they should be considered cursed by God and rejected.   We must never forget this truth.

Jesus casts out an unclean spirit

At some point in the teaching of Jesus a man with an unclean spirit cries out and interrupts the meeting.  It doesn’t seem that he had been brought to the meeting in order to be delivered, but it is possible.  Sometimes a person who is demon possessed may retain their faculties most of the time.  Depending on the situation these demons will “manifest” or show their presence from time to time.  The Gadarene demoniac seems to have been under constant “manifestation.”  He was never in his right mind and people could not interact with his human psyche.  Whereas others have demonstrated varying amounts of self control with times in which the spirit takes control, or manifests.

The phrase that is used in this passage is “unclean spirit.”  What is an unclean spirit?  Unclean is another way of saying evil or bad.  It is a reference to the spiritual defilement that sin and rebellion against God brings to a being.  Therefore this spirit is sinful and in rebellion against God.  In that sense we could say that the Devil and his angels are also unclean spirits.  This would be true technically, but the phrase never seems to be used of the Devil and his angels (fallen angels).  Much speculation and dogmatic ideas have been put forth from then to now.  However, the Bible seems to equate unclean spirits with evil spirits and demons.  There are different beings within the spirit realm and there are hierarchies within the spirit real as well.  Thus we cannot be completely sure what exact “species” (for lack of a better word) demons or evil spirits are.  They may just be lower level beings that rebelled with the devil and his angels, or they may be something else.  However, we can be confident that the Bible has told us what we need to know.  We do know that demons, or unclean spirits, appear to be restless until they are able to control a human being to some varying degree.  How do they get this control over humans?  They are not “spiritual ticks” that happen to fall on people.  Rather, they are able to get control and influence through the activity of the person who has connected to the spirit through some form of spiritual arts (divination, séance, occult rituals, and basically anything promoted by these spirits to get control).  Christians should not be enticed by t he so called knowledge that spiritists of any sort promise to give to them because these spirits cannot be trusted.  They resist God and hate mankind.

At this point, I should point out that it is easy to make the mistake of seeing all mental problems as demonic, and the opposite mistake of seeing all such problems as only a physical problem of the mind.  Unclean spirits are real, but they are not the only reason why people have ailments.

It is clear from this passage that the unclean spirit is afraid of Jesus.  This is notable because it was not common for demons to show any fear in the presence of people, quite the opposite.  Thus, this is astounding to the people watching.  The spirit is afraid and Jesus is not.  By following the text, we can see some of the fears of the spirit.  First, it wants to be left alone.  If fears that Jesus is going to interfere with its control on this human (and for good reason).  It also asks if Jesus has come “to destroy us.”  Since there is no sense that multiple spirits are involved, this seems to be the same fear that the legion of demons in the Gadarene demoniac.  The unclean, demonic spirits know that there is coming a time when they will be evicted from this earth and put in the Lake of Fire.  Thus, they are afraid of that coming destruction.  Third, it is afraid because it knows exactly who Jesus is.  It refers to Jesus as “The Holy One of God.”  It is a phrase that refers to God’s Anointed One who is beside Him in the heavens, but would come to earth one day. 

At this point, Jesus commands the spirit to be silent and to come out of the man.  We do not want to make a big deal out of the fact that the demon calls Jesus the Holy One of God because the spirit is a tainted witness.  He can’t be trusted either way.  The testimony about Jesus is an important theme in the Gospels.  They emphasize that the Father and the Spirit witnessed or testified that Jesus was the Messiah.  They also emphasize that John the Baptist, the greatest prophet of that time, had testified that Jesus was the Messiah.  Then lastly, we have the testimony of the words that Jesus spoke, the life He lived, and the powerful miracles He did.  Jesus had very strong testimony from far better sources than to let demons give testimony.  Demons are liars and as such, you cannot know when to trust what they say and when it is a lie.  If we believe Jesus is God because a demon says so, then we are on shaky ground.

In the exorcism that occurs we do not see Jesus doing any rituals or reciting a mantra, as were common in those days.  He simply commands the unclean spirit to come out of the man.  The power of Jesus is not in ritual knowledge and magical arts.  Rather, His power is in the authority of who He is and the position that He holds.  Jesus has a position that is above all beings on earth or in Heaven, save the Father.  Though this spirit had “legally” gained entry to this human, Jesus had come to set the man free.  Thus, one command from Him was enough to send the demon packing.  Even in cases where one has consciously and willingly chosen things that ail them, there is hope that Jesus will set them free.  Many people today are stuck in things that they know they chose, but Jesus has come to offer us freedom.

We are told that the unclean spirit leaves with a convulsion and a cry.  This seems to be one last fit of resistance and protest from the demon at having to leave.  Of course, the real challenge is to remain free of the spirit.  The man’s life needs to change, if he is not to fall prey to another or the same unclean spirit.

The people watching this are amazed at how easily Jesus does this.  They are flabbergasted that he could make an unclean spirit leave with a simple command.  No rabbi had demonstrated such power in all their experience. 

As believers today, Christ has given us power over the enemy as well.  Yet, we must remember the lesson of the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19.  They attempted to cast out a demon by saying, “We cast you out by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”  The spirit then responded, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?”  The authority that Jesus gives to us is not some special power that we hold in and of ourselves.  It is always His authority.  By their own testimony, the sons of Sceva did not really know Jesus.  When we really know Jesus and have a relationship with Him, then and only then should we confidently stand in opposition to such unclean spirits when they manifest.

Praise God that we need not fear any evil spirits no matter what station they hold on the other side.  It is our relationship with the All-Powerful One that protects us and gives us strength.  I pray today that you will not so easily scoff at the power of Jesus as mere tricks in an age when people were ignorant.  If Jesus were too walk into our mental institutions today and with a mere command give someone their sound mind, who would we rely upon to give an accurate description of what happened, Jesus or the psychiatrists who are often unable to do anything with schizophrenia?    Again, I am not saying all mental illness is demonic.  However, I am saying that regardless the problem, whether they need healing or freedom from an unclean spirit, Jesus has the power to set us free!

Power of Jesus Audio