It is my prayer that the new year will bring you closer to God and that CCM will become a fruitful part of your Christian growth.
I think every Christian, at one time or another, has mused about how wonderful it must have been for the Apostles to be chosen by Jesus, to be with Him and know Him personally, to be taught by Him, the things of God, to have all their questions answered, and to witness the miracles He performed.
"If only I had been among their number," we think, "I wouldn't be hindered in my witnessing and in my service to Him, because I would know his will for my life and my faith would never waver because I was there with Him!"
This week's devotional will cast some light on the Apostle's spirituality and perhaps on our own as well.
Open your Bible to Mark 8, and read verses 11-21. Read it through several times until you are familiar with the text.
Oh LORD, although I am a child of God and believe the Gospel and rely on Jesus for my strength and my wisdom, at times I am filled with doubt. Forgive me Father because sometimes I am afraid to declare my faith in the presents of others and I am silent when people speak against my God. Fill me with your Holy Spirit so that I can obey your call to be faithful at all times........ In Jesus Name, Amen.
It has been a while, (chapter 7), since Jesus crossed swords with the Pharisees only because he has been among the Gentiles in Tyre and Decapolis. As soon as he returns to Palestine the religious leaders are all over Him. Since chapter 3:6, the Pharisees and the Herodians have been seeking a way to destroy Jesus. The best they have been able to do is to try to discredit Jesus as they did in chapter 7, so far their efforts have failed.
In these verses we see a new strategy. The Pharisees know that Jesus is a miracle worker. They have tried to dismiss his healings as a manifestation of Satan. Now they hope to compel Him to perform a great wondrous sign such as has not taken place in Israel since the days of Elisha. They demanded the plagues of Egypt, bread from Heaven, a pillar of fire, an earth quake, or a flood, something along this line.
"Surely this Jesus is no Moses, Elijah, or Elisha, the people will see him fail the test and we will dismiss him as a sorcerer," -- or so think the Pharisees.
This is perhaps the most dangerous attack upon Jesus so far. It is so sinister it must be Satanic in origin.
It appeals to the Hope of the people that God would send them a Savior like Moses who would deliver Judah from the Roman Empire by the power of God. If the Pharisees could make this Hope the issue in their attacks upon Jesus, the people would loose interest in Him when he failed to deliver and the Pharisees could safely arrange His death.
Jesus refuses to participate in their challenge, turns away, and leaves.
It was not Jesus mission to establish God's Kingdom by war, politics, economics, law, social revolution, or through great wonders and signs, but to reconcile men to God through His death on the cross, then, by The Spirit of God, to establish God's Law in their hearts; and through good works and the preaching of The Gospel, to expand His Kingdom to the ends of the earth.
Satan's counterfeit Messiah still appeals to men today. War, politics, economics, law, social revolution, and great wonders and signs still hold out to men the promise of God's Kingdom yet these things have never brought it about since the beginning.
The Church must never loose it's focus on the Gospel of Christ and it's power to save. These other things cannot deliver from sin, or bring about righteousness.
Are your efforts focused on these things? It is good to take inventory from time to time to make sure that both we, and our Churches are committed FIRST, to promoting The Gospel.
Every time Jesus tries to expand men's understanding of His mission and his Deity, He finds their hearts hardened against it. So far we have seen it in 4:13, and 6:52, in future lessons we will see it again in 8:31, 9:19, 9:32, 10:10, and 16:14.
Here we see that Jesus' ministry among the Gentiles has gone over the Apostles head. Their concept of God's Kingdom is becoming confused, "How is it that Jesus goes to the Gentiles yet disputes with the Pharisees and the Herodians, our religious and political leaders?" "What's wrong with seeking a sign?"
When Jesus warns them against the Teachings of the Pharisees and the Herodians, (see Mat 16:12), they think he is warning them against buying bad bread because they only have one loaf with them. Their response to Jesus' words shows them to be completely out of touch with the "real issue." They are becoming more and more worldly in their thinking as the issue of Jesus' mission and Deity are moving to center stage.
The teachings of the Pharisees center around the keeping of traditional ordinances intended to prevent the breaking of the Law of Moses. These ordinances came from the minds of men not from God and in many cases they created loopholes which allowed wicked people to break God's Law while maintaining the appearance of righteousness.
The Herodians promoted the royal house of Herod the Great. This dynasty of rulers had become a puppet of Roman rule and was notorious for immorality and murder.
Both groups had rejected Jesus and though normally enemies, they had joined forces to plot Jesus death.
Jesus' warning shows that even the Apostles were vulnerable to their teachings, and if they were, so are we.
Do you ever get caught up in the idea that works righteousness?, or is your heart diverted from the Gospel hoping that our country will elect the right leaders and establish the right laws in order to promote God's Kingdom?
Jesus' frustration is clearly evident as he attempts to "wake up" the Apostle's sluggish minds. His rebuke is enlightening. It contains two elements. First He asks them direct questions intended to shame them and get their attention. Secondly he forces them to focus on Jesus' miracles involving bread. Though harsh, Jesus words motivate to self examination and do not stray from the issue. Jesus words DO NOT humiliate and reject, but rather humble and direct. His intention is to teach not to destroy.
All too often we fail to follow Jesus' example when we have a dispute. How many erring brethren have been destroyed by harsh words when they could have been restored and reconciled.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, [and] easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
May the Word of God dwell richly in your hearts in this new year.