Tune Into the Heart of God

Mark 9:14-29

v.14And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes [Torah teachers] disputing with them.

While Jesus, Peter, James, and John were away, a crowd gathered around the other nine disciples. The scribes saw this as a great time to engage the disciples in a debate. So they attacked.

v.15 immediately when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him.
v.16 And He asked the scribes,” What are you discussing with them?”
v.17 Then one of the crowd answered and said,” Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit.
v.18 And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”

-Now the key to the Jewish “formula” of exorcism was getting the demon to give up its name.. So, a demon who could make its victim mute was an impossible case. This man had brought his son to Jesus but not finding him there, had asked the disciples for help. They weren’t able to deliver the boy, and that’s when the debate broke out with the scribes.

-So the Torah teachers were pretty hammering away at the disciples saying in their minds, “If Jesus is such a hot shot, then why aren’t His disciples better equipped to deal with the need at hand?” We see here, as in many other areas of the gospels, that Jesus is judged on the basis of how closely His disciples follow His example.

v.19 He answered him and said,” O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.”

-It irked the Lord in the extreme that a father and his child were going through such torment while His disciples and the scribes were debating theology! These guys were supposed to be the godly men of the day - and they stood there arguing over who was right, while a poor boy’s life was literally in danger! Isn’t that so like today though? While brothers and sisters in Christ are arguing over who has the most correct doctrine in regards to how people should be baptized, what day is the most proper day to go to church, if Christ’s sacrifice was meant for all or if He only died for those He knew would accept him…while we are arguing these things, thousands of spiritually dead people around us are in danger of dying to an eternity without Christ.

-Where are our priorities? Making sure our doctrine is the most correct and arguing the points to the death? Or pursuing spreading the message of the cross to a world that is dying!

-In v.19, Jesus cuts through the debate with the words “Bring him to Me.” The solution to the argument was the boy’s deliverance. As the world looks at the modem Church, what do they see, groups of people arguing? Or lives being changed. Are the suffering and the lost being healed? Or are Christians becoming so involved in their own mindsets and churches that they are ignoring the needs of those around them.

v. 20 Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.
v. 21 So He asked his father,” How long has this been happening to him?”
 And he said,” From childhood.
v.22 And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
 Jesus said to him,” If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

-You see, while the so-called religious experts on both sides were arguing doctrine, this man with the demon-possessed son understood Jesus was compassionate. He didn’t care about fine points of theology. His son was tormented and needed help, and Jesus was just the One to give it. So with the scribes standing on one side, and the disciples on another, Jesus showed them all that it was not about head knowledge, but about simple faith in who He was and what God wanted to do that mattered.

-This is an important lesson for us. Let’s not get so caught up in the pursuit of correct theology and doctrine that we lose sight of the HEART of God. Time in the prayer closet is far more important than that spent in a seminary classroom. A head full of doctrine can NEVER substitute for a heart full of faith.

v.24 immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears,” Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

-The man believed in Jesus, and that faith opened him up to the awareness of just how imperfect his faith was. That’s what genuine faith always does - it reveals its own shallowness. We can only see the Lord when we look in faith, and once we look, we realize how far short our faith comes to really knowing Him.

-The one who can truly say, “Lord, I believe” can’t help but saying,” But not nearly as much as I should.” The one who thinks he/she is a person of great faith has no idea what faith is or Who God is.

v. 25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it,” Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!”
v.26 Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said,” He is dead.”
v.27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
v.28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately,” Why could we not cast it out?”
v.29 He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”

-Prayer and fasting are both means by which our spiritual strength and awareness are developed. Though the disciples had earlier been authorized by the Lord to cast out demons, they’d not continued to hone their spiritual senses. As a result, when they came face to face with this demon, they’d not understood the authority that was theirs in Christ.

-Paul makes it clear in Eph. 6 that our real battle is not with or in the physical realm. Our contest is spiritual. If our battle was physical, we’d concern ourselves with diet, exercise, and weapons-drills to hone our ability to wage war in the natural realm.

-Since our battle is spiritual, we need to develop ourselves spiritually. Prayer and fasting are weapons the Lord has given us to secure our position and press into enemy territory. Without these means, we lose our spiritual edge and strength.

-Being a disciple, being a follower of Jesus, doesn’t automatically mean you’re keeping your spiritual edge and relating to life from a primarily spiritual perspective. Why you can even be arguing about doctrine, and still be useless as far as the things of the Spirit are concerned!

-Make sure that in your studies and your acquiring of wisdom and knowledge of the Word, that you don’t become so involved in the nitty gritty of it that you lose sight of the big picture…we can be so involved in putting a microscope to everything, that we ignore what God is trying to say to us…what He is wanting to reveal to us. Be sure that in your study, you do not forget to listen to the voice of God and become in tune with His heart and His will and what He is trying to say to you personally.

-Sometimes when we get involved in disagreements and debates, we read the Word with a mindset to FIND things to tell others…to use as a defense in arguments…like we’ll read and something will catch our eye, and we’ll say to ourselves, “Oh! That would be GREAT to say to this person or to say in that thread…this verse backs up my view perfectly.” We can get so involved in reading the Bible for OTHERS, that we ignore reading it for ourselves.

-Instead of saying, “What is God revealing to me to share to so and so” say “what can God be saying to ME…what is He telling me about my OWN walk; what is He wanting to reveal to me?”

Adapted from a sermon by Pastor Lance Ralston of Calvary Chapel of Oxnard.

Following Jesus Part 2

-In chapter 1 of Mark, we find that when Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John, their reaction was the same as Matthew’s, they dropped their fishing nets, and left their boats to follow Jesus.

– Like Matthew, they’d not had what it takes to be a disciple according to their torah teachers so they had followed the path that was expected of them – the family business of commercial fishing.

– BUT unlike the rabbis and torah teachers of that time, Jesus didn’t look at what they were in themselves – He saw what they would become by the work of His Spirit in them.

-Remember, the goal of discipleship is to become just like the rabbi. So when a young man began his discipleship, he picked a rabbi to follow by asking, “Who could I be like?” But most of them were turned away by the words, “You can’t be like me!”

-But when Jesus said to Peter and Matthew, “Follow Me” He was saying to them “I know that YOU can be just like Me.”

-What Jesus said to them, He says to you and I. We did not choose Jesus – He chose us! He came to us while we were going about our lives in this world, and He showed us there was a whole new way to live.

-We didn’t go to Him and plead with Him to let us follow Him. No – He came to us and said, “Follow Me – and I will make you just like Me.”

-That’s what the Spirit is doing in us – He’s making us just like Jesus. As it says inRomans 8:29 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

-Disciples in Galilee followed their rabbi for 15 years, until they turned 30, then if they had accomplished the task of becoming like him, they became rabbis in their own right.

-But after only 3 years of training the 12, Jesus sent them forth to make disciples of the whole world. Matthew 28:19a says “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”

-Jesus took the narrow doors off of what it takes to be a disciple. Before He came, only an elite few were disciples, based on their skill, talent, and intelligence. But Jesus based the invitation to discipleship, not on our ability, but on His.

-Even to this very day, Jesus comes to men and women who have been beaten down by sin, to those rejected by the authorities, crushed by parents and teachers who have told them they’ll never amount to anything, and He says, “Follow Me, and I will make you just like I am.” Then, even more, He entrusts His mission to us and tells us to go and make disciples who will be just like Him.

-There is one condition though – one necessary thing we must do. Like Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew – we must drop our current identity and occupation if we’re going to follow Jesus. Peter couldn’t follow Jesus and fish at the same time. Matthew couldn’t follow Jesus and collect customs duties at the same time. To be a disciple meant leaving his tax-booth.

– Now, i’m not saying we all should forsake our jobs and live and work in a church…what i’m saying is this, if we follow Jesus, then we must turn our backs on our identity as sinners and drop the things that make for sin…we must shed all those things of the “old life” the “old nature” and embrace the new life, that new nature that Christ offers us in Him.

-In Matthew 16:24 Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” See, the invitation is open to all – “If anyone” Jesus said.

– But the condition to following Him is to die to self so that Jesus can live in and through us. It’s this indwelling of Christ that brings the power to change us so that we become just like Him.

-Being a Christian today means we follow Jesus in the midst of our careers and vocations and family lives. What we leave behind to follow Jesus is the old man, our identity as people who defined themselves by the things of this fallen world.

-Jesus invites you to be His disciple today. He doesn’t invite us to be His student. The invitation isn’t even to be a Christian, or a deeply religious person. He invites you to become just like He is and to enjoy the closest possible relationship with Him.

-It doesn’t matter what’s happened to you in this world. It doesn’t matter what sin you’ve managed to immerse yourself in. It doesn’t matter that others have told you you’re a loser, that you’ll never amount to anything.

-Jesus stops before you today as He stopped before Matthew’s tax-booth, He looks you in the eye, holds out His hand and says, “Follow Me.”

-Just as the disciples were called to follow Jesus TOGETHER, so are we. The Body of Christ embraces men, women and children of all colors, backgrounds, and social levels. Our common bond is our relationship to Jesus, and that relationship erases all other distinctions.

-As Paul says in Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Applying that to today, we could say in Christ there is no Caucasian, Hispanic, African, or Oriental; there’s no distinction between ravers, skaters, Goths, surfers, punks, waxheads, preps, minis, silents, jocks, nerds, and geeks.

-As we follow Christ, we invite all, whatever their background, color, or ethnic group – to come follow with us in following Christ.

-And in Christ we are one.

Following Jesus Part 1

Mark 2:13-14 Then He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. 14As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.

-As Jesus was moving along the lakeside, he came to a building occupied by a man named Levi, aka ‘Matthew.’ Because of where Capernaum was located in Galilee, it was the first real city travelers would encounter as they came to Israel, so it was a prime location for collecting customs duties; import and export taxes.

-That was Levi’s job, to collect the 2-3% tax the rich caravans from Syria & Arabia had to pay to ensure safe passage. As a customs agent, Levi worked, not for the Romans, but for the brutal tyrant Herod, the ruler of Galilee; because of this, Levi was despised by the common people.

-Yet as Jesus passed by that day, He saw Levi sitting there in his office, and said to him, “Follow Me.” That’s all it took for Matthew “ he dropped what he was doing and went after Jesus. Now, in order to understand the full implication of this, we need to take a closer look at discipleship and what it really means. Bear with me as I’m going to delve a bit into the culture of the Hebrews of that time…but it really all does set the scene for the entire story and helps us understand why Matthew so willingly dropped all his stuff to follow Christ.

-The whole idea of rabbis who had an official group of disciples was something unique to Galilee. There were 2 kinds of rabbis: 1) torah teachers, and 2) s’mikah rabbis. Torah teachers, or scribes, as they are called in the NT, were men who had memorized the entire, Tanach (the Old Testament) and what many of the great rabbis had said about the scriptures. Rabbis, on the other hand, had also memorized the Tanach, but they had demonstrated the ability to speak with authority about the scriptures and the things of God. S’mikah in fact MEANS “authority.” So, rabbis had s’mikah, torah teachers did not.

-While torah teachers had students, only rabbis had talmidin (disciples).

-In Galilee, all children, both boys and girls, sat under a Torah teacher and memorized entire books of the OT. This schooling went on until they were 12 to 13, at which point education ended for girls. For the boys, if they had proven themselves skilled at memorization, and shown a mind for study, they would go on to another level of work with the Torah teacher.

-Those who didn’t pass to this level began their vocation, usually working in the family business or entering an apprenticeship. For those boys who did move on to the next level of education with the Torah teacher, the lessons became more intense; the entire Tanach was memorized, along with the teaching & commentary of notable rabbis.

-If after a few more years of this the young man still demonstrated a superior level of skill in his studies, then he would graduate from the Torah teacher to following a Rabbi. He would carefully consider the rabbis currently around and which he most wanted to be like.

-You see, that was the essence of discipleship “ a disciple aspired to be just like the rabbi; that was the goal, the singular aim of being a disciple, and that’s why disciples were always with their rabbi. They wanted to watch him as closely as possible, observing how he responded to different situations.

-So as a young man considered which rabbi to follow, he would ask himself who He wanted to and could be like, for his discipleship would see him become just like his rabbi. Once he picked a rabbi, he would go to him and begin following, but at that point, he wasn’t an official disciple yet; he was letting the rabbi know he wanted to be a talmid.

-After several weeks of just following him around the rabbi would acknowledge the young man and begin to quiz him on his skill with the Word of God. For example,

1) “Quote the law of the Nazarite.”

2) “How many times did Ezekiel see the Lord?”

3) “What is the middle word in the Scroll of Isaiah the prophet?”

-This kind of quizzing would go on for days. Then, after all this, the rabbi would usually say to him something like, “Look, you are a bright young man. Go home, get married, have children, and love and serve God as a fisherman. Have a nice life.” Most young men were turned down by the rabbis. Only the cream of the crop were allowed to become official talmidin.

-Now, we go back to Matthew. Where was Matthew when Jesus found him? Sitting in his tax-office. Matthew was a young man who’d grown up like the rest of the children in Galilee, memorizing the Scriptures in hopes to one day become a disciple of a rabbi. But he’d obviously not proven himself skilled in his studies enough to be declared a talmid, and had gone into the family business “ tax-collector.

-As he’s sitting there one day, he looks up to see a huge crowd coming toward him. They all seem to be following the man who’s in front; he realizes this must be the new rabbi everyone’s been talking about and who’d been making such a stir lately “ Jesus of Nazareth.

-As Jesus arrives in front of Matthew’s tax booth, He stops, looks Matthew in the eye, and simply says, “Follow Me.” Now’s where that brief study in discipleship comes in. Matthew understood exactly what invitation meant “ it was the invitation of a rabbi to a new disciple.

-Matthew immediately dropped what he was doing, and went after Jesus.