Half way obedience is not obedience

Extended reading: 1 Samuel 15:1-23

Devotional reading: vv. 10-15

Samuel told Saul the instructions that the Lord gave him to. He was very clear in his communication of the the message. BUT Saul did not obey the commands given him. God was grieved because Saul had followed his own inclinations rather than God’s clear instructions.

If we’re honest we can relate to this. We know what the Lord requires of us, we do our best to obey, and sometimes we even adjust things a bit because we somehow believe that it will be ok, even better than we were instructed (vv. 13-15)!

“But God’s principles for holy living call us to obey His instructions, to make a clean break with the past, and to refuse to compromise. Saul exhibited none of these qualities. He chose to spare king Agag and the finest animals instead of destroying everything as God had commanded (15:8-9). He even built a monument to himself rather than pay tribute to God for the miraculous victory (vv. 1-2). When confronted by Samuel, Saul tried to justify his actions (v.15), but making excuses has never paved the way to a new life.”

We must accept responsibility for our actions if we desire to grow. If we obey God’s principles for our lives we won’t be placed in the position of trying to justify ourselves for our disobedience.

Adapted from the Every Mans Bible

THE GERASENE DEMONIAC

Mark 5:1-20

5 They came to the other side of the sea, into the region of the Gerasenes.

BRIEF INTRO:
The region named in this account of Mark as Gerasene, *” is also known under three other names: Gergesenes, Gadarenes (Matthew 8:28), and Gerasenes. This was a small town located on the lakes eastern shore. Most of its inhabitants were gentiles.”

Here is one instance of Christ “binding the strong man” (3:27).

2 When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him. 3 He lived among the tombs; and no one was able to bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces; and no one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and cutting himself with stones.

FOCUS ONE: The possessed man

1. This person was in a miserable condition:

2. Possessed by an “unclean spirit.”

3. He was outraged.

4. Led by this spirit to relocate to the “tombs,” among dead people! According to Jewish belief, contact with the dead or graves rendered one “unclean.” (Leviticus 11:24-31; Numbers 9:6-10).

5. The spirit’s (legion) have complete control over him, exhibiting immense strength (chains and shackles broken); no one could bind him humanly speaking, But Christ is not only human; He is also divine!

6. He constantly cut himself with stones.

7. In such a condition, he was a horror to himself and others and very dangerous to those around him.

8. He normally would cast his rage upon others, but not with Jesus! With Him, he or, I should say, the demons possessing him, runs up to Jesus and bows before Him (exhibits a reverence, an understanding of who this man is)!

“The devil is a cruel taskmaster. This wretched creature was night and day in the mountains and in the tombs, crying and cutting himself with stones. What is a man, when reason is dethroned and Satan enthroned” (Matthew Henry)?

6 Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; 7 and shouting with a loud voice, he *said, “[a]What business do You have with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!”

FOCUS TWO: The Son of the Most High God

  1. He is the “Lord” (Master), “Jesus” (Savior), “Christ” (Anointed one)! (Cr. Luke 6:46; Matthew 1:21; Hebrews 1:9).
  2. He saves from sin (Matthew 1:21), wrath (Romans 5:9), all our enemies, including Satan (Luke 1:69-71), all uncleanness (Ezekiel 37:23), and much, much more!
  3. He came to seek and save the lost, call sinners to repentance, gives life, and do the will of the Father (John 6:38).
  4. His Nature is good, righteous, holy, just, all-powerful, all-wise, and as such, even though He came to earth as a man, through the incarnation (Matthew 1:18-25), He transcends all human limitations. He has all perfection, is without sin, and is divine (Psalm 110:1).

5. Unlike the “unclean spirit,” Christ saves us from death and brings life!

Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; 7 and shouting with a loud voice, he *said, “[a]What business do You have with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” 8 For He had already been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he *said to Him, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged Him earnestly not to send them out of the region. 11 Now there was a large herd of pigs feeding [b]nearby on the mountain. 12 And the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us into the pigs so that we may enter them.” 13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the pigs; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

FOCUS THREE: The structure of the narrative

As you can see in the image I posted above, the gospels have a structure to them, 1 “every text has a structure. This structure will reveal an emphasis,” and that emphasis is what we must glean from as we study the Bible and in this case, the gospel of Mark.

The structure of a “narrative,” which we are studying in this post, always has three avenues of approach (Characters, Literary devices, and the plot). The third is what we are focused on in our study, although we witness a contrast and comparison between the unclean spirit in the man and Jesus, as I tried to flesh out in each previous focus.

In these verses, we can establish the “setting” in the country of the Gerasenes, on the east side of the sea where Jesus previously was ministering. There is a mad man possessed by an unclean spirit that has complete control over him. This man dwells among the tombs, unable to be bound by anyone, and upon seeing Jesus, he immediately runs to meet up with him as Jesus gets out of the boat.

The “plot” thickens as the two meet. We now feel the conflict as it begins to unfold! What is the conflict? The demon does not want to be bothered by “Jesus, the Most High God.” He does not want to leave the man, be “tormented,” or be sent “out of the country” (v. 10).

As the conflict elevates, we see Jesus conversing with the unclean spirit (v. 9,13), leading us to the story’s “climax. “There will be a point of no return in the narrative, and in our particular case, that point is when the “legion” entreats Christ to enter the swine (v. 12).

Jesus gives the “legion” permission to go into the swine (v. 13). It is at this juncture that they:

  1. 1. Leave the man.
  2. 2. Enter and kill the swine.

There is no returning from that! Christ allowing it is the “resolution” of the account of Mark about this man. By allowing the spirits to enter the swine He:

  1. 1. Removed the spirits from the man.
  2. 2. Bound the strong man.
  3. 3. Gave a visible testimony to His deity (v.15).
  4. 4. And gave an opportunity for the people to believe in Him.

Sadly, they do not believe in Him but request that He depart from their region. It is sad when people have so much light, evidence, and experience with Jesus and yet reject Him. It is grievous to witness such hardened hearts and calloused minds toward Christ Jesus.

Their rejection in this story leads to a new “setting.”

20 And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis [a]what great things Jesus had done for him, and everyone was amazed.

FOCUS FOUR: The application

  1. We shouldn’t be surprised to face opposition when we follow Christ. We should expect it! Does Satan want us to follow Christ? NO. Does He want us to be victorious in our walk of faith? NO. He will do whatever he can to mislead, confuse, torment, and discredit us. So we have to be alert to the danger, utilizing the whole armor of God consistently, recognizing that our enemy, “the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
  2. We cannot win the battle against Satan and his forces in our own strength. We have to rely on the Lord for strength because He is more potent than Satan. He is strong, much stronger than we are. We must be diligent at seeking the Lord daily for wisdom, faith, and strength to walk through each day, with His help, “avoiding temptation and fleeing evil.”
  3. What other applications can you pull out of these scriptures?

• *The Bible knowledge commentary, pg. 122
• 1 Simeon Trust handout on “principles of exposition.”

GOSPEL AVOIDANCE

Extended reading: Matthew 27:62-28:15

Devotional reading: Verses 12-15

Each of us has friends, family members, and loved ones that seem to do all that they can to avoid the message of the gospel. They want to be “free” of His message for varied reasons that they deem to be legitimate. Some, sadly, will use extreme measures to discredit the gospel message, others, the tactic of avoidance!

“ The religious leaders went to a lot of trouble to be free of Jesus’ message. They spent time and energy trying to discredit Him in front of the crowds. Then they plotted His murder. When they caught Him, they tried to come up with witnesses and then had to convince Rome that Jesus was worthy of the death penalty. Once Jesus was dead, the leaders feared He would come back to life, either in fact or through rumor, so they got permission to seal and guard the tomb.

Finally, they had to come up with a story to explain the disappearance of Jesus’ body. Obviously the easier path would have been to accept Jesus’ message and make the appropriate changes in their lives and beliefs. We must make sure we don’t become so hardened that we, like the Jewish leaders, go to great lengths to avoid accepting the life saving message of the gospel.”

Adapted from the Every-mans Bible

EASTER

                                       

Sing, soul of mine, this day of days,
The Lord is risen.
Toward the sun rising set thy face,
The Lord is risen.
Behold, He give them strength and grace;
For darkness, lights or morning, praise;
For sin, His holiness; for conflict, peace.

Arise, O soul, this Easter Day!
Forget the tomb of yesterday
For thou from bondage art set free;
Thou sharpest in His victory
And life eternal is for thee
Because the Lord is risen!

Author unknown

THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE

Mark 4:21-34

BRIEF INTRO

The disciples are still included with others following Jesus (v. 10). But these parables appear only to be explained to the disciples (v. 34). Why does Mark place them here? Most likely because they reinforce His message of the kingdom. One parable or teaching builds upon another and then another until His listeners have the whole instruction He aims to give them. 

The first reveals how the kingdom’s message goes forth (sowing) and how people (soils) will receive it. These next few that we will discuss today explain the necessity for a proper response to them. 

21 And He was saying to them, “A lamp is not brought to be put under a [a]basket, or under a bed, is it? Is it not brought to be put on the lamp stand? 22 For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, [b]let him hear.”

FOCUS ONE: Let the light shine

These following parables are still a part of Jesus’ teaching to His disciples and “His followers” (v. 10). But later (v. 34), we find that He only explains them to “his own disciples.” it seems logical that this would be the meaning of verse 23: “If any has ears to hear, let him hear.”

“1In this parable Jesus pointed out the self-evident fact that a lamp, a lighted wick in a shallow clay bowl full of oil, was not meant to be lit and then hidden under a measuring bowl (as was done at bedtime) or a bed (lit. Dining couch). Rather, it was to be placed on its stand where it would give light.”

Then adding another self-evident fact to His teaching, Jesus explains how nothing is hidden that will not be revealed. During the night, whatever is hidden or concealed is meant to be brought out into the open (light) for use during the day. A lamp’s purpose was not to be hidden but to light up the space where it is located. How does that add value to our thinking on how a lamp can be used? 

2 Parables are meant to convey spiritual truth. So what is the truth that He was teaching? “The purpose of a lamp is to be put on a lamp stand and not under a bowl or bed, so the present hiddeness of Jesus will not always be —-hidden things are meant to be brought out into the open (v.22)-and God intends that one day Jesus will be manifested in all His glory. But who Jesus really is, is now hidden.”

His teaching was not intended to be kept secret or for a small circle of followers. After Jesus ascends, it would be the disciple’s responsibility to proclaim these truths to others, continuing the work of Jesus so that others would hear and understand His message so that they might be saved!

It is therefore vital for us to be careful hearers of His word.

24 And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. [a]By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides. 25 For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

FOCUS TWO: Open your ears

Just like the previous teaching began with “and He was saying to them,” so too does this one and the next (v. 26). I am not sure much could be said about that observation other than that statement seems to group them in a trilogy of teaching on the kingdom. 

The “carefulness” in which we listen is now highlighted. This listening involves a level of spiritual perception that, when heeded, will bring a greater understanding of more truth. The more a person listens to and appropriates it, the more truth about Himself will be revealed. 

This warning is as much for us today as it was for them. So LISTEN to what is being said here. 3″ The more one appropriates the truth now, the more one will receive in the future. Whoever does not lay hold of the word now, even the little spiritual perception he has will be taken from him.”

It appears that the “standard of measure we use,” is about the way we value and utilize the truth that has been given!

26 And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; 27 and he goes to bed at night and gets up daily, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. 28 The soil produces crops by itself; first the stalk, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. 29 Now when the crop permits, he immediately [a]puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

FOCUS THREE: The mystery of kingdom growth

Let me briefly summarize what we just read in our text. We have a man acting in faith, casting seed into the soil. His purpose for planting seeds rests in the hope that the seeds will grow and produce a bountiful crop. He doesn’t know how, but eventually, it happens; ultimately, he has a harvest. 

The farmer cannot explain how it happens. Seeds are planted and are dependent on something outside of the farmer who planted it. Winds and rain beat against the soil. Sunshine and clouds pass over the crops, and yet, even though he sleeps, it springs up and grows and eventually produces a crop. What joy he experiences because harvest time has come!

After he sows the seed, he does nothing toward its growth. His focus is now on other things, and slowly, over time, it gradually grows! “First the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.” 

This parable is about how the kingdom grows! It explains how spiritual growth is accomplished in the seed planted in the “good ground” or soil (v. 20). It grows gradually. God carries on His work after the gospel seed is planted in an individual’s heart. Sometimes it seems more slowly than others, BUT ultimately, only until He decides to reap the harvest of that soul and saves that person!

I like how Matthew Henry sums it up: “From the fruit of the gospel taking place and working in the soul, Christ gathers in a harvest. When those that receive the gospel aright have finished their course, the harvest comes, when they shall be gathered as wheat into God’s barn” (Matthew 13:30).

30 And He was saying, “How shall we [a]picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is the smallest of all the seeds that are upon the soil, 32 yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants, and forms large branches, with the result that the birds of the sky can nest under its shade.”

33 And with many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to [b]understand it; 34 and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.

FOCUS FOUR: Kingdom growth

This last parable answers the question: “How shall we “picture” the kingdom of God?” In this parable, Jesus again uses something so natural and normal to the listener’s everyday life to explain how God’s kingdom emerges. 

1. Like a mustard seed

The mustard seed may not be the smallest seed known to humanity, but it was the smallest of all the seeds in the fields that day. But, once it had grown, it would become the largest of all garden plants (12-15 feet in height)! The contrast in this particular parable is between the seemingly insignificant beginning of this seed being planted and what it eventually becomes to the seemingly insignificant beginning of the gospel seed planted in humanity’s hearts (soil) and what it ultimately becomes!

The birds of the air nesting in its branches may simply be indicating the surprising size of the results, the incorporation of the Gentiles into God’s kingdom, OR it represents the sphere of salvation, which would grow so large that it would provide shelter, protection, and benefit to the people. These are a few possibilities I gleaned from various commentaries. 

Jesus spoke with many other parables not recorded here. It makes me wonder how many He told that we do not have a record of. Like His signs and wonders that John spoke about, I wonder if “the world itself would not be able to contain them” if they were all written down (John 21:25)!

He explained the parables only to His disciples (privately) we read in verse 34. Don’t just read that statement in passing. It’s important. I believe it marks a shift in Jesus’ teaching method and purpose. This statement stems from a situation that recently happened to Him after He healed the man with the withered hand on the sabbath (v. 1-6). Because of that rejection and the state of the hardened hearts that blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, Jesus would no longer speak openly and clearly to all around Him. 

“3This method of teaching left unbelievers with riddles, and kept them from being forced to believe the or disbelieve Him-they could make no decision to follow Him since they did not understand what He taught.”

MY summation of all the kingdom parables:

Whether it’s Jesus, His disciples, or those that come after them spreading the seeds of the gospel, a large amount of the time it will NOT be heeded as it falls on the hardened, conscience seared hearts of rebellious sinners, who are more interested in this life than the one to come.

But God assures us that there is good soil, hearts He has prepared for His gospel, and they will receive it rightly and be saved. They will slowly but surely produce fruit that is evidence of that fact. 

Our responsibility as Christians is to proclaim the gospel, and spread the seeds so others can hear and believe (Romans 10). We are not prejudiced on where we spread the seeds, but we are to give to all freely. The results are up to God, not us. We can do nothing to affect true salvation growth in the hearer; only God can. So we can sleep easy at night knowing that we were faithful in sowing, and so we trust Him to be faithful in reaping.

His kingdom WILL grow, perhaps not as quickly as we would like to see, but it grows. The result will be fantastic to behold!

1 The NT Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg. 120

2 The Expositors Bible Commentary, vol 8, pg. 652

2. MacArthur Study Bible notes, pg. 1466

WHEN RIDICULE HURTS

Extended reading: Judges 11:1-11

Devotional reading: vv.1-3

Being ridiculed can be very hurtful, especially if we are ridiculed for things that are completely beyond our control. The idea of being mocked or maliciously taunted illicit thoughts of fear, embarrassment, and anger within our hearts and minds. In these verses we learn that Jephthah faced such sin against himself. Even though he apparently possessed considerable courage and natural leadership ability, he was rejected by his half brothers because his mother was a prostitute.

This was something that Jephthah could not control; he had no say in the matter. This situation was a direct result of his fathers sinful choices. We learn rather quickly, as Jephthah had, that sin is NEVER a solitary issue! Its consequences are far reaching.

Like Jephthah, we may have been taunted by others because of our family background or for other problems beyond our control. We need to forgive those people, release the pain and grudges, and let go so that we can put those events behind us. Then we can move on to the tasks to which God has called us.

Adapter from Every man’s Bible

PARABLE OF THE SOWER AND SOILS

Mark 4: 1-20

BRIEF INTRO: I am not sure how much time has elapsed until Jesus arrives by the sea, but that is where we now find Him as we begin chapter four. Jesus is now teaching by the sea, “and such a very great multitude gathered to Him” (v.1). The crowd was tremendous, so much so that Jesus needed to get into a boat to give Himself some space and, conveniently, a platform to preach from.

I do not think that we need to apply some sort of reason or meaning behind Jesus sitting to teach other than what would be the most obvious. I have learned in my study that sitting was the normal or “typical” rabbinic position when teaching. But we can also understand that the boat was likely moving back and forth in the water.

So, with His disciples by His side and the vast crowd gathered around Him, Jesus, sitting in a boat, begins to “teach them in parables” (v. 2).

4 Again, He began to teach by the sea. Such a huge crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat on the sea and sat down, and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land. 2, And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching,

FOCUS ONE: Why parables?

This is not the first time that Jesus spoke in parables (3:23). But in all the instances that He does, He has a particular reason for doing so! We find ourselves with two questions to ask and answer before we dig into the teaching itself:

  1. What is a parable?
  2. Why does Jesus incorporate them into His teaching at times?

A parable is a rhetorical device used to explain the truth. It is a manner of teaching that is meant to stimulate a person’s thinking, make important points, and move the listener toward a rational, reasonable response.

So it should make sense then that Jesus uses parables to draw people to the truth. But why then do we read in verse eleven that there are some people (outsiders) that are NOT meant to understand His teaching?

From other places in scripture, we know that His parables were not always clear; the disciples had trouble at times understanding their meanings, such as we read in Mark 7:17 and our current text. But, we also read (vv.11-12) that there will be those that will not understand them. People who will not have ears to hear or eyes to see (v. 12).

So, before we seek to understand the parable itself, we must first come to grips with their purpose in the teaching of Christ. “*So Jesus taught in parables (at least on some occasions) so that His enemies might not be able to comprehend the full significance of His words and bring false accusations or charges against Him. He knew that in some cases understanding would result in more sin and not in accepting the truth.”

Our context is about Jesus beginning to unfold “the mystery of the Kingdom.” The “mystery” is revealed in greater detail to those who believe but is hidden to those who do not believe, reject Christ, and reject His gospel. A mystery, in this sense, is simply something that was previously hidden but has now been revealed. I believe the sense is that of continual willful rejection, not ignorance.

So, as He begins to teach using this parable, we must recognize these two distinct groups within the crowd. Those who have ears to hear (people who listen, understand, and have faith) and those who do not!

3 “Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundred times as much.” 9 And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, [a]let him hear.”

FOCUS TWO: The parable employed


We notice that Jesus emphasized the importance of paying careful attention to what He is saying twice. He says “listen to this” in v. 3 and “He who has ears to hear” in v. 9. It is not wise to take the words of the Lord superficially. In this case, the importance is that all the other parables coming next can only be understood rightly if the people grasp the truth of this first one. “Do you not understand this parable? And how will you understand all the parables” (v. 13)?

Before we can correctly comprehend and apply this parable, we need to figure out from within the context what the main point is.

The sower and sowing—are not the main point. He only uses one short sentence: “The sower went out to sow” (v.3). That does not mean that the sower is unimportant. Christ Himself sowed the seeds of the gospel of the kingdom, then His disciples, and now those who have come to faith through them!

The seed — is not the main point of the parable either. We read of the seed being scattered, scattered in various places upon different soil. BUT THE EMPHASIS IS ON THE SOILS.

The soils are the main point!

Someone goes out and sows the seeds on various soil types (beside the road, rocky ground, among the thorns, on good soil), and those soils, all but one, prove to be “fruitless.” There is only one soil mentioned in this parable that the seed grew in and produced fruit! And that is the last one that was mentioned.

14 The sower sows the word. 15 These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. 16 And in a similar way these are the ones sown with seed on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; 17 and yet they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution occurs because of the word, immediately they [a]fall away. 18 And others are the ones sown with seed among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, 19 but the worries of the [b]world, and the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things enter and choke the word, and it [c]becomes unfruitful. 20 And those are the ones sown with seed on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundred times as much.”

FOCUS THREE: The parable explained

In verses 3-8, Jesus sought to teach the crowds of people by employing imagery that would be relatively normal in their rural life in Palestine. In our following verses, 14-20, Jesus explains the parable to His disciples and others who are around Him (v. 10). It is evident that the twelve did not understand the meaning of the teaching, and so, with much patience, He explained His words to them so they could grasp hold of the truth He shared. Truth relating to the “kingdom.” This parable is about How the kingdom grows, so it is vital to understand this one or the others will make no sense (v. 13)!

The sower is not identified, but the context indicates that He most likely represents Jesus and/or those who will sow (herald) the kingdom’s message (gospel).

The seed is the word (the gospel) as we see in other places: 1:15, 45; 2:2; 6:12).

The soils represent different people’s reception of the word. The parable teaches them and us that in our faithful witnessing for Christ, we will come across various types of “hearers” in whom the seed has been sown. It is also made clear in His explanation that there will be many people who give a negative response to the seed sown.

Those pesky birds (v. 4)! They represent Satan, who actively seeks, at all costs, to “immediately” take away any coherence of the word given. In effect, these people have no response to what was sown. Read verse 15 over again so that you don’t miss the unveiling of what they represent.

Then there are the “rocky ground” hearers. This group is said to have no depth of soil; no firm roots. In other words, they receive the word in a “shallow” manner. There is no real depth to their understanding or profession. Since their “roots” are shallow and not firm, they last only a short while. Like the seeds landing on rocky places would suffer trials (sun scorching them), these types of hearers of the word are only for a short while because when troubles come or persecution, they quickly fall away (v.17).

The third type of soil (hearer) is said to be like the seed among thorns. These people “hear,” BUT are preoccupied with the things of this world. Their desires for other things, things they give priority to, eventually “choke” out the word that was heard. Sadly, Jesus says of them,” and it (word) becomes unfruitful (v. 19).

But lest we despair and lose hope, He gives us the encouragement we need to persevere in spreading the gospel seed! Any farmer rejoices at having “good soil” to plant in. Such soil produces crops! Often many fold more than he could wish for. So it is with the good soil that receives the gospel seed!

Please recognize that this is the only type of hearer that truly benefits from the gospel. The only ones that are genuinely regenerated! The other three soils are representative of those who flat out reject the gospel, those that are shallow-minded and so hear it, understand it, but turn away from it. None of those people were ever adopted into the family of God. The only ones who will be justified in Christ and adopted into the family of God are those that “hear the word” AND “accept it.” Such people WILL bear fruit in keeping with their repentance (v. 20)!

This is how the kingdom grows.

Be encouraged, dear Christian. We have been told, straight out from the Lord, that many people will not listen to what we have to say, or they may express some superficial sense of belief that, in the end, will reveal itself for what it truly is. Even so, our encouragement comes from the fact that there are people out there who will listen, accept it, and be born again by God’s grace!

So don’t lose heart; don’t give up. Keep on sowing!

*The Bible Expositors Commentary on spreading the gospel seed!

WHEN FAITH IS TESTED

Extended reading: James 1:1-8

Devotional reading 1:2-3

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”

What? Are you kidding me? We are to find joy in troubles because “our endurance” has a chance to grow? I am not kidding, rather, the Bible is not joking regarding a Christian attitude in the face of severe trials! I get it, these words appear to be a contradiction in terms, but I assure you they are not. Troubles are for complaining, problems are for whining, and heartache is for crying, at least we think so. But God seems to have a radically different view on these things! 

James writes to “Jewish believers scattered abroad” (v.1). He wants them to not only face their trials and tribulations but GROW through them as well. “For many of these early believers, their faith created a whole new series of troubles. Instead of complaining, crying, or giving up, James challenged the believers to have joy because their faith would have a chance to grow and deepen during the difficult times.”

Think about it for a moment. How is your walk of faith when everything is going great! I understand, we prefer it that way, but how does immense blessing help you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ? 

Does prosperity and plenty put you on your knees in sincere, deep prayer? Do they drive you into the Bible consistently, or do you become lazy or relaxed in those things? “Most often it’s troubles that bring us back to God. God loves us enough to allow us the opportunity of going through various hardships in order to “conform us more into the image of His Son.” When our faith is tested we have a chance to grow.” 

“He wants us to be fully developed, perfect and complete, needing nothing” (1:4). If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you know that “everything about the Christian faith turns what we consider to be ‘normal’ upside down.’”

JOY IN OUR TROUBLES? WHY NOT

INSTABILITY VS LOGIC

Mark 3: 22-35

BRIEF INTRO: In our previous study, CALLING THE TWELVE, we were focused on Jesus’ appointing the twelve disciples to apostleship. This occurred after the controversy over Sabbath-healing and the Pharisees plotting with the Herodians to destroy Jesus (3:6). 

Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea, where the multitudes from all parts of Palestine followed Him (3:7). There He healed many and confronted demons (unclean spirits). 

Jesus not only faced opposition from without but also from within. That is where our focus in this study begins. 

20 And He *came [a]home, and the crowd *gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat [b]a meal. 21 And when His own [c]people heard about this, they came out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.”

FOCUS ONE: Opposition from within (friends and family)

Jesus returns to Capernaum, His hometown, and it appears that He enters into Peter’s house again (2:1), where He has taken up temporary residence. Once again, many people follow Him looking for a miracle, healing, or just a good show. Mark tells us, “they could not even eat a meal.”

We find an interesting statement in verse 21: “And when His own people heard of this.” Who are His people? Local community, Jews, maybe family? The Greek expression used here describes someone’s friends or close associates. But in its strictest sense, it meant family, which appears to be the best way to understand it in these verses.

Jesus’ family heard that He was back in town, and they went to take Him away from the crowds, using force if necessary (v. 21). What was going on in their minds that they would believe that to be a viable option? They may have thought that He was crazy, a bit off, considering that He was thinking more of others, people He did not know, above Himself and perhaps even them. All His time is spent away, helping all types of people, even people the Pharisees say should not be considered approachable.

The things they heard Him say or that were reported back to them. The wild accounts they hear about most likely became too much for them to reason out, and He needed to be brought back to His senses. We can assume that they did not understand Jesus’ mission or purpose for being there. They had enough and so reacted in kind.

That doesn’t mean that their intentions were evil; most likely, they had good intentions. But, good intentions without proper understanding always leads to poor judgment!

While our intentions may be good and our desire to help another appears noble, is our understanding of the situation and the persons’ motives correct? Have we OR are we in danger of committing the same mistake? Perhaps it would help us consider this truth in light of our daily walk of faith. 

22 The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He [a]is possessed by [b]Beelzebul,” and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”

FOCUS TWO: Opposition from without

Mark tells us that the Scribes came down from Jerusalem. What does that mean? These men were “*Primarily Pharisees, i.e., authorities on Jewish law. Sometimes they are referred to as ‘lawyers.’ They were professional scholars whose speciality was explaining the application of the law.” Most of the Scspecialtylittle interest in the truth and its application. That is evident throughout the gospel accounts. Even though they witnessed many of the miracles Jesus performed, they were more focused on “destroying” Him so they could get back to the status quo (v.6; John 11:45-53).

In these verses, they give voice to their one accusation. “He is possessed by Beelzebul, and He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons” (v. 22).

We need to remember that the “multitudes often surround Jesus.” That group would consist of:

1. Disciples

2. The crowds

3. The scribes

4. Jesus’family

Each group has its agenda:

1. To learn from Jesus and serve

2. Motivated by curiosity and desire for physical healing

3. To accuse Him and argue with Him

4. Exert control over Him, perhaps protect Him

Jesus is confronted by one of those groups, the Scribes, and is accused of being possessed by Beelzebul! 

Such rejection of the apparent truth; rejection of such clear revelation and experience by these men or any other person grieves my heart. To think that a person can come so close to Christ, experience His power, compassion, wisdom, and authority, and yet turn away from Him is concerning.

This is precisely what the writer of Hebrews is warning against (Hebrews 2:1-4)! 

2 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to [a]what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved [b]unalterable, and every violation and act of disobedience received a just [c]punishment, 3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? [d]After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders, and by various [e]miracles and by [f]gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

How sad but true that such a thing does happen. There is no other way to receive forgiveness but through Jesus Christ (John 6:68). You can read about The Gospel here.

23 And so He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but [a]he is finished! 27 But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.

28 “Truly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons and daughters of men, and whatever blasphemies they commit; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

FOCUS THREE: Jesus’ response

Jesus responds to their accusation by calling them closer to Himself as He speaks in parables. While their unfounded accusation was brief, His response was not! Parables were stories that involved present physical realities that illustrated a spiritual truth.

It seems that His argument proceeds from the lesser to the greater. 

1. How can Satan cast out Satan? (The accusation)

2. Kingdom divided cannot stand

3. House divided against itself cannot stand

4. So, Satan would not be able to stand (The logical conclusion) 

Simple logic! That is related to kingdoms and homes is true of Satan’s realm.

It reminds me of Ray Comforts witnessing videos when He gives proof that God, the creator, exists (building, painting, creation). He argues from the lesser-known truth to the greater using physical realities to teach a spiritual truth. 

31 Then His mother and His brothers *came, and while standing outside they sent word to Him, calling for Him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around Him, and they *said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.” 33 Answering them, He *said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” 34 And looking around at those who were sitting around Him, He *said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, this is My brother, and sister, and mother.”

FOCUS FOUR: The family arrives

Again surrounded by the “multitude,” Jesus is notified that His family is outside “looking for Him” (cr. v.21). We learn from this statement that Jesus DID have half brothers and sisters. I say “half” because Joseph did not have any physical participation in the pregnancy of Mary (Matthew 1:18-25).

In Chapter Six, we learn some of their names! 

1. James

2. Joses

3. Judas

4. Simon

5. “His sisters here with us?”

So, His earthly family is still outside, seeking to get near Him to remove Him from the multitude to a designated “safe space” where they can try to bring Him back to some sense of sanity (in their thinking). 

But, in response to that information, Jesus makes a confusing statement for some (immediate earthly family), BUT an encouraging statement for others (Those who believe in Him)!

This statement is like a bomb that just exploded! What does He mean by this? Isn’t family important? Can we pick out or cast aside family at will? Many questions can arise from His statement. But what is His point?

First, we must understand that Jesus IS NOT disrespecting His family with these words. In John 19:25-27, for example. Dying on the cross, His last breath near, Jesus’ thoughts were on the care of His mother, Mary. He tells John to “behold your mother.” And to His mother, He says, “behold your son.” John took her into his household in obedience to Christ at that moment!

The issue is not that anyone can become a “spiritual mother, brother, or sister to Jesus BUT that through faith in Him and obedience to His will, we become part of the “family of God.” Adopted children, by grace thru faith!

*Macarthur Study Bible notes, pg. 1394

CHURCH SIGNS

I am often confused or just outright irritated at the messages that I see on church signs , whether I see them as I’m driving or on pictures that I see online. Have you taken notice to how ridiculous and even blasphemous some of them are? I guess I should title this post ”Venting,” because that’s what I am doing.

Below I am simply going to post a few pictures of some I have found. What are your thoughts?

It is my personal opinion that church signs DO NOT help us draw people into the church, many most likely turn away people because of their foolishness and oftentimes irreverent tones. Why aren’t local churches using their signs to show the community that they are different because of Christ, rather than trying to be cute and loose with religious slogans?

Ok, ok, I am finished venting, LOL. I know that there are good and proper uses for church signs, I just wished more churches would understand that and use them accordingly. Below are a few I have found that trouble me as a believer. I am interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Some of these are silly, but some go way beyond what is proper.

OH, how I wish we could find a more appropriate use for our church signs!