Are People Still Possessed by Demons?

February 18, 2019 at 10:37 am | Posted in Q&A | 3 Comments
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Question: While studying Mark 5:1-17, I realized that how this “wild man” was described sounded a lot like someone who today would be called mentally ill. People say there are no demon possessions anymore, but our hospitals are full of people cutting themselves and crying out in despair (Verse 5). Could mental illness be less of a “chemical imbalance” and more of a demonic presence?

Answer: That’s a great question. I do not think the Bible says anything to indicate that demon possession can’t still occur today, although it is true that it may be misdiagnosed as another problem, because, like you said, “people SAY there are no demon possessions any more.”

There are a couple of issues here, though. First, a person who has trusted Christ unto salvation is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, so that person can not be truly “possessed,” although he or she may be what we call “oppressed,” meaning that sometimes God allows demons to have access to the lives of Christians to cause problems for them as part of God’s secret plan for our good. You can see this happening in Job Chapters 1 and 2, for example. But Luke 5 clearly shows that people without saving faith in Christ can certainly be possessed, controlled, and driven mad by demons. Thankfully, they can also be delivered and set free by Jesus!

Second, some mental illnesses are caused by physical things, such as chemicals in the brain. The doctors examine the levels of certain elements in their blood, and, when certain chemicals in their blood are low or high, they act crazy (crazier than the average person, anyway). They are given medicine, and after a while it gets into their systems, and they start acting normal (or at least some reasonable semblance of “normal”) again. There are Bible verses that encourage us to treat certain illnesses with medication, since God created the chemicals that the medicines are made out of, and since He gave doctors or scientists the wisdom to figure this out. So there’s nothing wrong with doing that, when it is in fact a physical, rather than a spiritual, problem.

Of course, if there are no conclusive medical results, it’s hard to tell demonic activity apart from a chemical imbalance, or conditions caused by past mental trauma, which is why we always need to pray for healing and trust God before we go to the doctors, and even while they’re trying to treat it. He is the one who ultimately gets credit for the healing, regardless of the means used to accomplish it.

Furthermore, one thing that often gets overlooked is that physical illness – in both the body AND the brainCAN be caused by unconfessed or unrepented-of sin in our life, even though that’s not always the cause. Some verses that show this are: Psalm 38:3-8; Pslam 6:2-3; Psalm 51:8; Psalm 32:3.

Personal anecdotes are not authoritative like Scripture, so you don’t have to read this part unless you want to, but I will share one very strange experience I had. At the church where our family served at the time, a young man (mid-20s) came forward at the end of a worship service. His father-in-law, who was one of those big muscular motorcycle-gang-looking men, had dragged him to church against his will. I took him back in a little prayer room we had and talked to him about being saved. He said that he went to church when was a kid, but when he was about 12 he went to some kind of heavy metal rock concert, where they were singing about the Devil and hell and had those pentagram things on the stage. He said that, afterwards, he got out of church and started drinking and doing drugs and other stuff. He looked truly miserable to be in church that morning, and his in-laws and his wife were outside the room praying for him. This dude’s face was just strange. His brows were furrowed down, his teeth were kind of bared, he had a wild look in his eyes, even his hair looked all disheveled and strange. It was so weird, because I don’t think he was trying to make a monster-face, but he just sort of looked like that. However, the longer I talked to him about Jesus and showed him from the Bible how his sins could be forgiven, the more intently he listened, and he started to look more scared and sweaty than mean. Finally, I asked him if he wanted to trust Christ, and we prayed. When we finished praying, he looked up, and it was so bizarre! His whole face looked different! He almost didn’t look like the same person. He was smiling and crying at the same time, his hair was laying down, his facial features were uncreased. To be honest, it kind of freaked me out, and I was thinking, “Is there an invisible demon flying around loose now!?” I probably wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it. When we came out of that room, his family saw the same thing. They kept saying how different he looked, and he kept saying how free he felt. He started coming to church regularly after that, and got involved in some kind of motorcycle-riders-for-Jesus outreach program with his father-in-law. About 4-5 years later I saw him at the local convenience store by our house early Sunday morning on his way to church, and he was still serving Jesus! So, I don’t know if he was really demon-possessed or not – but it sure seemed like something happened to him in that room.

Faith in God

July 11, 2018 at 9:52 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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In Christian ministry we try to balance correction with encouragement. We definitely want to make sure that, as Christians, we are not provoking God to anger by the hardness of our hearts, which is Bible terminology for a willful and obstinate refusal to obey Him. On the flip side, we should be jumping at opportunities to please God in any way we can, after all He has done for us. Well, if you are someone has trouble with the concept of faith, there is no real nice way to say this: If we want to please God, there is absolutely no way to do it without faith.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.

Mark 11:22

It is one thing to believe that God exists. It’s a whole other thing to believe that He will do what He says He will do. Christians must believe that He is real; that He can do what He says; and that He will keep the promises He gives to those who obey Him.

In everyday English, if I say, “I really believe in my wife,” you would not take me to mean only that I believe that there is an existential entity named Laura Hampton. No, you would take me to mean that I have faith in her character. I believe she is going to do what she ought to do in a given situation.

Jesus knew God better than anyone knows God. When He told the Disciples, “Have faith in God,” He was telling them that God can and will do what He has said He will do. Vance Havner used to talk about the seemingly contradictory, but actually miraculous, power of faith, by saying that real faith believes the incredible, sees the invisible, and does the impossible. The miraculous is only the miraculous from our point of view. From God’s point of view there is no “miraculous,” because He can do all things (Mark 10:27). From God’s point of view nothing is invisible, because He sees everything (Matthew 6:4). From God’s point of view nothing that He says is “incredible,” because, as the only One Who can not lie, He is completely credible (Hebrews 6:18). As Christians, we must learn to “believe in God.”

On Your Mark…

September 14, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Posted in Mark | 2 Comments
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I admit it: One of my many faults is that I’m a slow reader. It’s not that I usually have trouble understanding the words or comprehending the sense of what I’m reading. It’s just that I tend to fixate on sentence structure, word choices, and even ambiguous grammar and punctuation. So, while I do read “a lot,” it often takes me far longer than it should to do it.

This goes double for my Bible reading. Bible verses can be so packed with spiritual truth that, if you truly love God’s Word, there is a temptation to go over certain verses, clauses, or even words, multiple times before moving on. Recently I’ve been seeing articles advocating the practice of reading whole books of the Bible in one sitting. While I have done this before, it is a tremendous challenge for me, and I personally don’t recommend it as a proven study method. However, if I had to pick a book which seems most suitable to this practice, I would probably choose the Book of Mark. I’m not saying that I taught or wrote the lessons in this series after a rush-through nonstop reading of Mark, but there is something about the way the Holy Ghost inspired Mark to write about Jesus’s earthly ministry that seems to prompt a desire for “movement,” and “activity,” even “busyness.” Mark shows us Jesus “on the move,” the Divine, yet earthly, Servant Who for about three and a half years went “straightway” about His Father’s business, always on the verge of sprinting off toward the next miracle, teaching opportunity, event, or activity. My prayer is that these lessons will motivate us to stay active and energetic and enthusiastic in emulating His example, as we are motivated by His glorious Gospel:

1. Immediate Service (Mark 1:12-13)
2. A Major Breaking News Story (Mark 1:15)
3. The Ordo Salutis (Mark 1:15)
3. Casting FOR Fish, and Casting OUT Fiends (Mark 1:16-28)
4. Compassion for the Crowds (Mark 1:32-45)
5. Forgiveness, Fulfillment, and Freedom (Mark 2-3)
6. The Gross-Out Factor for Kids (Mark 2:16-17)
7. He Was Beside Himself (Mark 3:21)
8. Serving without Fear (Mark 4-5)
9. Are People Still Possessed by Demons? (Mark 5:1-17)
10. Beware the Furious Fiend (Mark 5:5)
11. Rising Faith (Mark 5:33-42)
12. Faith in Service (Mark 6:1-9)
13. The Direction of True Faith (Mark 6:20-46)
14. Disciples, Defilement, and Division (Mark 7)
15. Clean Hands and Pure Hearts  (Mark 7:1-13)
16. Biblical S.T.O.P. Signs (Mark 8)
17. Okay, Who Forgot to Bring the Food?! (Mark 8:12-18)
18. Doubting Disciples Duped by Demonic Distractions (Mark 8:27-36)
9. The One Question You MUST NOT Get Wrong (Mark 8:29) *
20. What Lack I Yet? (Mark 8:35-36)
22. Overcoming Shame (Mark 8:38)
22. His Glory and His Word (Mark 9)
23. Water, Water, Everywhere… (Mark 9:41)
24. Becoming Part of the Family (Mark 9:42)
25. A Pair of Paradoxes (Mark 10:2-16)
26. The POV of Marriage (Mark 10:2-9)
27. Defining “Impossible” (Mark 10:26-27)
28. A Second Pair of Paradoxes (Mark 10:28-45)
29. Role Reversal Ransom (Mark 10:45)
30. Blind Beggar Boldly Beats Bandwagoners (Mark 10:46-49)
31. The Servant King and Servant Judge (Mark 11)
32. Faith in God (Mark 11:22)
33. The Servant Prophet (Mark 12)
34. Especially the Family (Mark 12:28-31)
35. Living and Giving, Heeding and Proceeding (Luke 12-13)
36. Flipping the Script on the Passover (Mark 14)
37. Purple of Scarlet? (Mark 15:17)
38. Cross-Eyed (Mark 15:29-32)

*most-read post in category

Flipping the Script on the Passover

September 11, 2017 at 4:14 pm | Posted in Mark | 2 Comments
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And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured [it] on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

Mark 14:3-5

We know from John 12 that Judas Iscariot was the main instigator of this criticism against Mary because of her supposed wastefulness. It is ironic that Judas (fittingly named “the son of perdition“) criticized Mary for wastefulness, since he is the one who wasted his life following Jesus while probably never truly believing unto salvation.

There is much scholarly debate and theological dispute about the precise Biblical event which should count as the “birth of the Church,” but here in Mark 14 Jesus institutes the New Covenant.

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.

Mark 14:22

Jesus was following the traditional passover pattern as He blessed and broke the bread, but then He flipped the script drastically by revealing that this was to be a representation of His own broken body.

And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

Mark 14:23-24

Jesus, despite Roman Catholic dogma, did not literally transform the bread and the wine into His body and blood.

Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

Mark 14:25-26

It seems odd to me that the pattern for almost all modern Christian church services is to sing first, and then to proceed with the rest of the service (preaching, etc.), when, IF this really was the first true meeting of the “Church,” they sang last. In any event, the ordinance of communion is for the purposes of memory and fellowship. Its observance holds no saving merit whatsoever, and it does not infuse any grace ex opere operato.

And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;

Mark 14:32-33

The experiences of Peter, James, and John mirror what would later be expressed by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul.

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Philippians 3:9-10

They would see Christ’s deity on the Mount of Transfiguation (“that I may know Him”); they would see “the power of His Resurrection” at the home of Jairus; and they would witness “the fellowship of His sufferings” at the Garden of Gethsemane.

And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

Mark 14:34-35

Jesus, even in His humanity, said, “Abba, Father.” We who are truly Christians have this privilege also, but we can only call God “Abba” IN CHRIST. As a general rule I don’t like to criticize the way people pray out loud in public or in church meetings. I’m certainly awkward at it myself. But I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of closing public prayers with a mumbled “in Your name we pray.” It is such an awesome privilege to be able to intimately call upon the Father in prayer, and such an enormously high price was paid to purchase this privilege for us, that we ought to be extremely clear about in Whom we dare to approach the Most High with our requests, intercessions, praises, and thanksgivings.

Living and Giving, Heeding and Proceeding

August 22, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Posted in Mark | 1 Comment
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And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.

Mark 12:38-40

Jesus warned His disciples of the scribes, not because the scribes would try to physically harm them, but because of the temptation of behaving the way that the scribes behaved. They were proud of their way of living, but there is also a danger of pride in giving:

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

Mark 12:41-44

God is less interested in our portion than He is in our PROportion when it comes to our giving.

Mark 13 contains the Olivet Discourse, which deals with end-times events. Jesus gave four signs or “birth-pangs” that would mean that the “time of Jacob’s trouble” – the Tribulation – was at hand:

1. The success of false Christs

And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

Mark 13:5-6

2. Nations in conflict
and
3. Natural disasters

And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.

Mark 13:7-8

4. Religious persecution

But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. And the gospel must first be published among all nations. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.

Mark 13:9-11

This promise of Christ, that He will provide the words to speak for those persecuted for His sake, is not an excuse for those of us today to be unprepared when we know we are going to have opportunities to speak for Him.

Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Mark 13:12-13

This makes it sound as if some will be saved during the Tribulation, but we need to be watching, and we need to be prepared, not for the signs themselves, but for Jesus Himself, and we must take heed not to be deceived.

And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you:

Mark 13:5

But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.

Mark 13:23

Be careful NOT to listen to men more closely than you listen to Jesus.

Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.

Mark 13:33

Be careful of earthly “wisdom.” Remember God’s Word and do it. Always be alert and praying. The word “straightway” is used 19 times in the Book of Mark. It means to go forward, to keep moving, to keep looking for the next opportunity to serve Jesus. Movement in the Kingdom of God is His prescription for combating spiritual depression and despair.

The Servant Prophet

August 4, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Mark, parables | 1 Comment
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Jesus the Servant was a Servant King, a Servant Judge, and a Servant Prophet. A true prophet teaches, but He stresses obedience. Prophetic teaching is about more than just imparting information. Many of us Christians are educated beyond our level of obedience. Jesus wants us to understand what He says, and to DO what He says.

What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.

Mark 12:9

Why would the Lord of the vineyard do this? Because of what had been done to His servants, messengers, and his son:

And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.

Mark 12:1-8

If you’re rejecting one truth from God, you have no right to ask Him for a second truth to examine. The Jewish leaders rejected John the Baptist, so why were they examining the teaching of Jesus? Have you ever heard a professing Christian complain that, “I’m just not getting anything out of reading the Bible?” If we are not “getting anything” out of the Bible, it is because we are not “doing” what we do get.

A true prophet stresses obedience, and obedience brings responsibility. Prophets prophesy, but they don’t force people to act on their prophecies by putting a gun to their head or a sword to their neck. The responsibility to obey falls on the hearers.

And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.

Mark 12:13-17

Caesar’s image is on Caesar’s money, so it belongs to Caesar. God’s image is on me, so I belong to God.

The Servant King and Servant Judge

July 27, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Posted in Mark, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Jesus Christ was the greatest servant of all time, but He is also the greatest King. A worldly king receives honor by making his people suffer, but the Servant King suffers FOR His own people. Jesus allowed a public demonstration in His honor knowing it would bring about His suffering and death.

And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.

Mark 11:1-6

At first glance, this looks like a God-condoned car-jacking! Can you imagine just walking up to a stranger’s car (or this case, his donkey), and driving it (leading it) away – and when the owner says, “Hey, what are you doing?” you tell him, “Jesus told me to do it!” Actually, this wasn’t a theft because the owners actually gave their consent based on the Disciples’ explanation.

And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him. And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed [them] in the way. And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:

Mark 11:7-9

“Hosanna” meant “save now.” The crowd meant it politically and militarily, but Jesus was fulfilling it prophetically and soteriologically. The culmination of His eternal plan of redemption was going into action NOW.

Jesus was also a Judge, and now He acted as the Servant Judge.

And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;

Mark 11:15

He cleansed the Temple, which had become a den of thieves and a place for the religious leaders to hide and conceal what they were really doing. Jesus served in judgment by cleansing the place where “undesirable” people were supposed to worship – poor people and Gentiles – because these people were being exploited and kept from drawing nearer to God by the religious leaders. Is the local church that you belong to in line for this sort of judgment? Is it a house of merchandise or a house of prayer? Has it become a place to exploit people, or is it a place for people to meet and worship God?

Blind Beggar Boldly Beats Bandwagoners

July 12, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Posted in Mark | 2 Comments
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In Mark Chapter 10 we have been identifying some paradoxical ideas that Jesus used in His teaching:

1. Two shall be one.
2. Adults shall be as little children.

3. The first shall be last.
4. Servants shall be rulers.

A fifth paradox found in Chapter 10 is: Beggars shall be rich.

And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

Mark 10:46-48

When you read about “Blind Bartimaeus” there is a tendency to cheer for him that way you would for the underdog in a sports movie like Rocky or Rudy, except in Bartimaeus’s case even the crowd was against him. Yet, despite all the odds, he wouldn’t give up.

And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.

Mark 10:49

Of course, once he did attract Jesus’s favorable attention, the crowd DID start to cheer for him. People are fickle – God is faithful.

All five of these paradoxes help to show how Jesus the Servant was paradoxically the greatest King of all, and that He truly deserves OUR service.

Role Reversal Ransom

June 22, 2017 at 11:02 am | Posted in Mark | 3 Comments
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The Gospel of Mark stresses the Lord Jesus’s role as the greatest Servant of all time. We know He came to seek and to save (Luke 19:10). We know He came to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8). We know He came to give life, and to give it more abundantly (John 10:10). But we must never forget that He also came to minister.

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Mark 10:45

Any good servant knows he must serve faithfully, fervently, and fondly. However, there comes a time when ordinary servants reach the end of their ability. What earthly servant could sell himself to buy back His master, for is the master not inherently more valuable than the servant? What captor would release a master in exchange for a lowly servant? Here is where we stand amazed at the majesty and intense love of the Master of Glory.

The Lord Jesus came to rescue captives – not merely by paying a ransom, not merely by risking danger in a reckless rescue mission – but by giving Himself as the Ransom to set His Own servants free. Are you free today from death, from sin, from the grave, from Satan, from hell, from the very wrath of the Righteous God Himself? If you are, then do your best to celebrate the Master Who gave His life as ransom to redeem rebellious, hateful, sinful, and helpless servants.

A Second Pair of Paradoxes

June 5, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Posted in Mark, parables | 6 Comments
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Last time I looked at two paradoxes found in Mark Chapter 10:
1. Two shall be one.
2. Adults shall be as little children.

The third paradox is found in the story that is sometimes called “The Great Refusal” (after an episode in Dante’s Inferno) or the story of “The Rich Young Ruler,” and the parable that goes with it, found in Mark 10:17-31.

Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

Mark 10:28-31

“The first shall be last” is certainly not a worldly concept. The world’s system is that the first get the right to stay first, but in God’s system (where the first shall be last and vice-versa) the unknown sufferers will receive glory. Of course, this concept of “first” is understood in a relative sense; obviously, in the eternal realm of Heaven, the Lamb of God will actually be the “First.” Peter, still very much in an “earthly” frame of mind, was focused on his position in the “here and now,” and his temporal point of view has sadly become a staple of the “prosperity preaching” that is so prevalent today. Too much emphasis is placed on the idea that Christians should work for personal rewards, and not for God’s glory.

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.

Mark 10:35-40

We don’t presume to “know” what is in our “heavenly treasure chest,” and, while we don’t ignore the motivation of rewards for serving Christ, as we grow in Christ and in sanctification, we ought to be maturing past the idea of “giving to get.” In fact, that must not be our only, or our highest, motivation.

The fourth paradox in Mark Chapter 10 is that, if you want to be a servant, you are really a ruler – and if you want to be a ruler, you will wind up a servant.

And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Mark 10:41-45

I believe that this passage of Scripture, dealing with the perfect and divine and amazingly gracious servanthood of Jesus Christ, is a key to understanding of one the main themes in Mark’s entire Gospel.

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