Christ’s Power Over Every Need
The Gospel of Mark Sermon Series
Remaining Focused On Your Calling In A World of Distractions
“We say we turn to our phones when we’re “bored.” And we often find ourselves bored because we have become accustomed to a constant feed of connection, information, and entertainment. We are forever elsewhere. At class or at church or business meetings, we pay attention to what interests us and then when it doesn’t, we look to our devices to find something that does. There is now a word in the dictionary called “phubbing.” It means maintaining eye contact while texting.”
Today we are going to see that Jesus is having to fight really hard to stay focused on His purpose in ministry. There are distractions that are constantly trying to derail his ministry. As a disciple of Christ, you too have a ministry that you are constantly being tempted to abandon. Let’s see how Jesus stays focused.
Jesus Knows His Ministry (vv. 14-15)
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
We don’t know how much time has passed, but Jesus has emerged from his 40 days of being tempted in the wilderness. John’s arrest gives us a rough estimate of time, “after John was arrested.” “Mark placed the beginning of Jesus’ ministry after the imprisonment of John.” Jesus then goes into Galilee and is “proclaiming the gospel of God” – Here the “gospel means, for Mark, the message of Jesus himself.”
Having started his ministry, Mark wants us to understand clearly that this message is about God (Jesus is the Son of God), and it is from God (the gospel of God) – it is not a manmade, human thought up myth.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” – “The time” means the time foreseen by prophets, the time fixed in God’s foreknowledge; “The hour has struck.” The Jewish people had longed for God to reestablish his earthly kingdom, where they would be His chosen people amongst all the other nations. The coming king would overthrow all empires that threaten His people, and he would reign as king.
Jesus says, this reigning of God on the earth, “the kingdom of God” is here. He is taking back territory, He is building His kingdom now. So how do we make sure that we don’t miss this “kingdom of God that is at hand?” Jesus says, one must, “repent and believe in the gospel.”
They were to believe that what God had promised in the Old Testament books was now being brought forth, “The time is fulfilled.” Jesus is saying “A new order is at hand. Get a new mind that fits it.”
The good news (gospel) of God’s kingdom being brought back is here – but they didn’t understand that this kingdom would be men’s souls, and their territory He would be getting back would be people not pieces of land, but men’s hearts.
Jesus Must Pass On The Ministry (vv. 16-20)
16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
Jesus surrounds himself with a group or people who will be with him all the way through his ministry. They will be able to give an account of what he did, what he said, and how others reacted to him. Jesus wants the gospel to spread to “the uttermost.”
“Follow me”— is a technical term for discipleship. Jewish teachers called their disciples to follow them: one would not presume to follow without an invitation. “The call to come after someone implies discipleship because it is the disciple who breaks all other ties to follow his master as a servant.”
And the phrase, “fishers of men” was an Old Testament figure of speech (Jeremiah 16:16) – where God was sending fishermen and hunters to catch/restore Israel. In the Jeremiah and other Old Testament passages – God playing the role of fisherman is ominous in tone, one of judgement.
We find ourselves surrounded by the net, and we are hunted like prey by evil – Jesus’ disciples (like in Jeremiah 16) reverse the tables and become the fisherman, seeking to catch and release men from their sin. Jesus came preaching, and the calling to His disciples is that they are be apart of restoring people back to God (away from judgment); restoring people to wholeness.
Mark emphasizes that “they left their nets” and “they left their father Zebedee” – being called by Jesus to become His disciples involves leaving something behind (break ties). Why is it important to emphasize what they left behind? Why not just say, “and they followed Jesus?”
To follow Jesus you have to leave things behind – a sinful lifestyle, a way of thinking about God, family, your career path, what you think makes you safe, even how you think the world works – everything has to be laid down. We are going to see that the disciples constantly think they understand the world, only to have Jesus turn it upside down. The Message of the gospel has to spread – but it has to be the right version of the gospel, it has to be God’s version.
Jesus’ Presence Strikes Fear in the Heart (vv. 21-22)
21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
With several disciples, Jesus now travels about twenty miles to Capernaum, enters the synagogue there and “was teaching.” But Jesus’ teaching was distinctively different than other teachers of His day. “he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” – “The scribes were the official teachers or expounders of the Torah; as a member of a school, the scribe would teach what he learned from his master – viz., the scribal tradition.”
The people reactions to Jesus’ teachings was astonishment; but this also conveys fear and alarm. Jesus taught with authority, meaning that there is no room for theological discussion, theoretical discussion, you were left with the impression that this was the Word of God. “In the presence of Jesus men are disturbed, and this disturbance is the precise act of fishing which Jesus had called the four fisherman.”
Eventually, these disciples would be preaching on their own – and their preaching would also cause people to be amazed, astonished, and faced with the question of “what to do with Jesus?” Also, if we go back to (v. 15) “the kingdom of God” – as reclaiming the hearts of men, reigning in the hearts of men. Jesus is showing his disciples how to preach the truth of the gospel, and that when He is gone, will multiply to truth outward (a multiplication effect instead of one man).
23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
“In his excited cry three elements appear – recognition, repulsion, and dread. The repulsion is first expressed, then the dread, and then the recognition of his character, which of course, the foundation of both.” The demons recognize what Jesus’ presence means, way before the people who are gathered around him understand.
Which do you think causes them more alarm, his teaching or the fact that he just cast out a demon? Look at their response, ““What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Jesus Heals Many (vv. 29-34)
29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
“And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him” – Jesus doesn’t want the demons to tell others about him. He also doesn’t want those he healed to tell others about Him. Why? This is a thread that runs through Mark, what scholars call the “Messianic Secret.” Jesus wants to reveal that He is the Messiah, but He wants to do it in such a way that the people understand.
Jesus Preaches in Galilee (vv. 35-39)
35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Mark mentions Jesus going to a “desolate place” three times in his gospel (1:35; 1:45; 6:31-33), and in each reference it is after he/or the disciples have encountered large crowds of people and miracles were done. Jesus deliberately withdraws from the people to return to an area which has the characteristic of the wilderness where he encountered Satan and sustained temptation.
Mark doesn’t tell us what happened when Jesus faced Satan in the wilderness but it seems to deal with the clamor of the crowds. He is turning from their praise, returning to a place which recalls his determination to fulfill the mission for which he has come into the world.
The disciples are looking around and seeing all the people, and want to continue to capitalize of Jesus’ growing popularity. “Everyone is looking for you.” Or “Why are you hiding when we have this opportunity for you to do more miracles! Look how popular you are!
In response to the crowds looking for Jesus, He says let’s go to the next town, “that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Jesus does not want to become a miracle worker side show. He wants to preach the “good news of the gospel.” The disciples think it’s all about the popularity, the show, the numbers. Jesus does not want the people to misunderstand why He is there.
The crowds response were not appropriate because it did not involve repentance of sin, but attraction to Jesus as a performer of miracles (how Jesus made them feel). Jesus could heal thousands and thousands of people, yet if they don’t repent of their sin, and place their faith in Christ, you haven’t done anything with the eternal, what ultimately really matters.
“and there he prayed” – Jesus separating himself to pray occurs three times in Mark, here at the beginning of his ministry, “in the middle after the feeding of the five thousand (6:46), and at the conclusion in the Garden of Gethsemane (14:32-42)” – These are all three critical moments in His ministry.
Why is this a crisis point? Because there is the danger to fail in His mission before He even gets started. “The crisis is the shallow and superficial response of the people to Jesus.” The people of Capernaum had no interest in Jesus beyond the miracles or any interest in coming under the reign of God.
Jesus Cleanses a Leper (vv. 40-45)
40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.
The leper did not stand at a distance nor was he yelling “unclean” as the law stated and as we see in other healings of lepers in the NT. The “leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling,” – He is showing himself to be a person who acts in his own self-interest, not thinking about how his actions affects others. “Desperation may not be the most noble motive for seeking help, but Jesus does not scorn it.” Jesus shows compassion toward his illness, but anger toward his heart.
The tone of how Jesus responds to the leper seems to be one of anger. “Moved with pity” – some translations have “moved with anger,” also, when Mark says, “sent him away,” it is the same phrase for driving out demons. Jesus shows compassion by touching him, when no one else would touch him, but it is clear that Jesus is angry about something.
He tells the man “sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone” “Don’t tell anyone, be quiet.” So does the man stay quiet? (v. 45) “But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news”
“The command was not obeyed. Now the former leper could go anywhere, in and out of the cities freely. But the one who healed him could no longer openly enter a town without the immediate crush of the crowd.”
“The man had gotten his heart’s desire, but regarded not the heart’s desire of the Healer.”
“Exuberant Rebellion” – the man acted out of his feelings, not according to the mission of God. This man is doing what seems right to him, in direct rebellion of clear teaching of Scripture; he is doing what feels good, despite clear instructions from the Lord. Mark ends this section with this man’s example. “I am going to use Jesus to get what I want, while at the same time ignoring what He has to say.”
 Sherry Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Penguin Publishing Group.
 “Mark apparently wants to show that John, the forerunner, completed his God-appointed task; and only after that had occurred did Jesus enter his ministry.” Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Press, 1984) 624.
 James A. Brooks, The New American Commentary, Volume 23, Mark (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1991) 46.
 George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 7 (Nashville, Tennessee; Abingdon Press, 1951) 655.
 Buttrick, 657.
 Ibid, 656.
 William L. Lane, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993) 67.
 Buttrick, 660.
 Lane, 72.
 “It was commonly believed that if one knew the name of the demonic power, he might exorcise it.” Clifton Allen, General Editor, The Broadman Bible Commentary, Volume 8 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1969) 275. Also see, Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing House, 1984) 627.
 W. N. Clarke, An American Commentary on the New Testament, Volume 2 Mark and Luke (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; Judson Press, 1950) 25.
 C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
 Lane, 81.
 Ibid, 82.
 Gaebelein. 629.
 Brooks, 53.
 Allen, Volume 8, 278
 Clarke, 31.
Jesus regularly asked questions. He did this as a way of teaching the disciples and to help them understand who He was. When Jesus asked questions it also helped those around Him to understand what was important to Him.
- What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he? (Matthew 22:42)
- Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? (Matthew 23:17-19)
- When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up? (Mark 8:19)
Jesusâ€™ ability to ask well crafted questions helped His followers to understand very deep and life changing spiritual lessons. As a leader, it is important to learn to ask the right questions, at the right time, to the right people. We call this evaluation. Questions help to accomplish various things in an organization but consider the following:
- Evaluation helps everyone on the team to define a â€œwin.â€ In organizations there are as many definitions for â€œwinâ€ as there may be staff working for the organization. In church life you may have a staff, support staff, and volunteers who are all working for the church but they may all have a different expectations of success. If the church has a service on Sunday â€“ â€œWIN!â€ If there is a new family that ventures through the door â€“ â€œWIN!â€ If there are no sound or audio/video issues â€“ â€œWIN!â€
When you sit down and ask the hard questions then everyone is able to see what is important, just by what questions are asked. If the organization is not asking questions of evaluation, then that in itself speaks volumes. In sports, identifying a win is easy. Did we win the game? Anything else is a loss. Coaches and players are evaluated by how effective they are at putting points on the scoreboard and winning ball games.
In your organization, what is a â€œwin?â€ Does this help you move toward something? Also, in sports each season is brand new. You get to start over. In church life, every year builds upon the previous one. There are no â€œmulligans.â€ Forward steps are made while pulling the weight of the churchâ€™s past. The first step in evaluation is to have an agreed upon â€œwinâ€ for whatever it is you are trying to evaluate. The older the church is, the more people have to be led to â€œthis is a win.â€
- Evaluation helps to align budgets with expected outcomes. To continue our sports metaphor, there are agreed upon rules, set number of players, and basic needed equipment (balls, bats, helmets, shoulder pads, etc.). It is obvious when a sports team spends money on things that donâ€™t help it to win â€“ because their winning, scoring, etc. is affected (or their new scoreboard is the size of a small planet).
If a football team decides not to hire an offensive coordinator and let a volunteer handle it when they have time, then they may see the drastic effects of this decision on the first game of the season. So while the gold rims on the teamâ€™s bus may look nice, they will lose because they put the money in the wrong place (and they probably are getting horrible gas mileage).
If a new coach is hired (because the previous coach was not winning) and they have a losing season, it wonâ€™t be too long before he/she will be replaced. Why? Not because he was not a nice guy, or loved sports, but because he was not leading the team to win ball games. Churches have different definitions for success, but you can determine what they feel is important by where they put their money. Are you utilizing your resources to accomplish the win? Are you wasting precious resources on things that are not helping you to â€œwin?â€
- Evaluation helps one to better manage time. There is the famous illustration of the college professor who displays an empty jar and has several large rocks that he then places in the jar. He then asks the class, â€œIs the jar full?â€ They say, â€œyes.â€ The professor then gets out pebble sized small stones and pours them over the larger stones. He then asks, â€œIs it full?â€ They say, â€œyes.â€ He then pulls out sand, etcâ€¦ you get the idea. Evaluation helps us identify what are the large stones, the most important things in oneâ€™s life. Those large stones have to go in first, they wonâ€™t fit if you have already put the pebbles, sand, etc. in first. Evaluation asks, â€œWhat are the large stones and are they getting into my life first?â€
I would argue that the most precious resource that you have is your time. If you want to get more out of your day, or accomplish those big goals you have set, then they have to be prioritized â€“ they wonâ€™t fit once you have dealt with the constant urgency of the present. Evaluating helps the leader show where he/she feels time should be spent by the organization. Asking, â€œWhat is consuming most of our time?â€ and â€œis it being effective in helping us accomplish the win?â€ is incredibly important. What are the â€œbig rocks?â€ and are we delegating/prioritizing the needed time to see that they are getting done?
- Evaluation helps to clarify mission. If everyone in an organization has a different definition of a â€œwin,â€ then leaders will budget and calendar with their definition in mind. This difference leads to different goals relating to different missions and values within the same organization.
This leads to an â€œevery man for themselvesâ€ mentality. If you need something then you compete for resources and personnel against other staff or leaders who are trying to accomplish their own mission. When you evaluate and ask the hard questions then resources are directed toward a common direction. Calendars are aligned to accomplish the same things. Mission begins to be clarified among the organization because the win has been defined and questions are being asked to determine if what you are doing is being effective at accomplishing it.
Luke 14:28-30 â€œFor which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, â€˜This man began to build and was not able to finish.â€™â€ (ESV)
Click here to read more articles written by Drew relating to asking questions and evaluation.
We see throughout the gospels that at certain points Jesus was very guarded in letting others know who He was. For centuries the promised Messiah was anticipated. Also along with this anticipation were also traditions and false understandings of what He would do and what He would be like that crept up over the centuries. Some thought the Messiah would be a military ruler and overthrow the Roman Empire. Others though he would act a king. Jesus was working against hundreds of years of false expectations and ideas of what the Messiah would be like.
Matthew 8:29 â€œAnd he asked them, â€œBut who do you say that I am?â€ Peter answered him, â€œYou are the Christ.â€ 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.â€
Matthew 12:15,16 â€œJesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known.â€
Mark 1:34; see also verses 24,25 â€œThat evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.â€
Mark 3:11,12 â€œAnd whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, â€œYou are the Son of God.â€ 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.â€
Mark 5:42,43 â€œTaking her by the hand he said to her, â€œTalitha cumi,â€ which means, â€œLittle girl, I say to you, arise.â€ 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.”
Luke 4:41 â€œNow when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, â€œYou are the Son of God!â€ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.â€
Even Peter, one of Jesusâ€™ closest friends said â€œFar be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you,â€ when Jesus was explaining how He would have to die on a cross. And Jesus responded, â€œGet behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.â€ (Matthew 16, ESV) He would not let the disciples dictate his mission, instead he would direct the mission through them. They just didnâ€™t get it by Matthew 16 â€“ but they eventually would understand.
Along the way people had preconceived expectations and understandings of how Jesus was to be â€œthe Messiah,â€ what he was to do, to not do, and how He would â€œsave mankind from their sins.â€
It seems that it is important to Jesus for him to define what it means to be the Messiah and for Him to define His own mission (as it came from His Father). As He would go about ministry (healing, teaching, raising the dead, etc.) there would be times when His actions would be misinterpreted or used against His mission, so he forbid people from telling others. He would define things himself.
Identifying Your Mission
There is only one Jesus (Savior, Messiah, Emmanuel, etc.) who lived a sinless life in order to lay it down on a Roman cross for the salvation of mankind. His mission was unique, but Jesus has also given His followers a mission to make Him known to the nations (Matthew 28). In that Great Commission to all believers there is also a unique mission in how you will carry it out.
We all have different life experiences, talents, skills, spiritual gifts, etc. that God uses in seeing others led to Him. When the gospels were written by the apostles, God used their life knowledge and skills and weaved them into their writings (Luke as a doctor with medical references, Matthew as a tax collector with money references, etc.) God will take you as you are and use you to His glory.
But just as Jesus guarded his identity and mission we have to do so as well. The leader must not allow others to dictate how they lead, or what they do in their leadership capacity â€“ let the Lord give you a vision and direction and lead with that orientation. If you are in a traditional leadership position (pastor, associate pastor, youth pastor, childrenâ€™s pastor, worship pastor, etc.) there will be set expectations. You were hired as a pastor to perform certain tasks that are needed within the church; I am not talking about going against these things.
But with every position and every organization there are expectations that creep in, that really have nothing to do with your mission and what you are doing for the church. Jesus guarded against these things because they would have taken Him away from His calling. Watch out for anything that will pull you away from your calling. Donâ€™t allow others to dictate who you are and what you do.
How Do I Keep This From Happening?
We do not have the authority of Jesus to â€œtell no one about himâ€ or to command others to do anything. But we follow His example of being aware of encroachments to our leadership and take tactful and thoughtful actions against it. Consider the following:
1. A Written Job Description â€“ When it is in writing it becomes much harder for others to dictate what your job should be and how you should do it. When it is not is writing anything goes and you will constantly find yourself fighting the slow encroachment of additional â€œdutiesâ€ and responsibilities that were not part of the original picture when you were hired.
2. Regular Evaluations â€“ I know, this doesnâ€™t sound like fun, but when you and those who have the proper authority to evaluate you sit down and talk (regularly) it leads to a peaceful relationship because everyone is on the same page with regard to expectations and responsibilities. If this relationship functions as it should there should be no surprises and you should know exactly how you stand in relationship with the church and your ministry.
3. A Defined Mission Statement â€“ If your church functions as silos (as many traditional churches do) then each ministry may even have their own separate mission statement. But if you define yours then it will direct the course of where the mission should go. If everyone who is apart of your ministry has his or her own understanding of where the ministry is (or should be) going then conflict is inevitable.
4. Regular Communication â€“ If you are like most churches you wonder if anyone actually reads the material (bulletin, newsletter, blog, etc.) that you put out â€“ but some do. By communicating what you are doing, where you plan to go, and how they can help, you are well on your way to keeping the expectation encroachment at bay. As a leader stay in front of the battle with communication and direction, so others will not dictate where you go.
I am sitting at a Cracker Barrel on an early Friday morning and can see various families heading out for Spring Break retreats and respites, Sherriffâ€™s deputies huddled around a table laughing over various experiences in their line of duty, and â€˜localsâ€™ beginning their day. As the sun creeps over the ensemble of cars in the parking lot another day begins with its unknown opportunities, life changing surprises, and its mundane workday. It is this potential for change (in me and in the world), this unknown future that drives me to the Father and His holy book. It is not one of fear, but of an excitement that I donâ€™t want to miss the potential opportunity.
Â Internal Struggles
With an upcoming mission trip to India and an awareness that there is a huge potential to be of great service to the Lord there, I am becoming ever more aware of my depravity and sinfulness. I am not sure if it is the Holy Spirit desiring to cleanse me and make me more useful to the Father or if it is Satan trying to keep me from even trying.
At the age of 37 I am keenly aware of my sin nature, how and where I tend to drift and am very alert to my weaknesses. That doesnâ€™t mean that I always remain strong to fight against these weaknesses, but I know who I am as a person, a part of the fallen human race. I have the faint shadow of wisdom to know that my sin nature destroys and it vanishes as smoke when I display my lack of wisdom and depravity and listen to that still small voice and heed itâ€™s foolish instructions.
Â A Walk Through the Garden
If we go back to the Garden at the beginning of time, we discover it was Satanâ€™s desire to disrupt what God had established. Chaos was brought into perfect order, and disruption and death were cast upon peace and eternal life. Everything changed when Adam and Eve fell and sin entered the world.
1. Â Satan desires to use our empty cravings and vain self-deceit to keep us off topic and focusing our lives on the wrong things. We are to love Christ completely and with our whole heart, yet many times we love ourselves and become gods in our own minds.
Genesis 3: â€œNow the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, â€œDid God actually say, â€˜You shall not eat of any tree in the gardenâ€™?â€
What God said was that they could eat of any tree (freedom) except for oneÂ tree (limitations). Satan wanted Eve to think that God was keeping something from her, or taking her freedom away.Â Christ left heaven, took on the flesh of man, and died as our substitute. He then commands for us to follow His example, yet we often times could care less about people and their eternal destinies. When we focus on our own navels, we spend all our money on ourselves, we spend all our time in our own self-adventures, and we tend to stay comfortable in all things.
2. Satan desires to feed our wicked desires with constant temptations so that we increasingly lose potential to do great things for Christ. When we sin, and continue to sin, and have decades of sinful behavior our impact and ability to serve Christ becomes greatly diminished.
Genesis 3:4-5Â â€œBut the serpent said to the woman, â€œYou will not surely die. 5Â For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.â€
It is this knowledge of sin that destroys us. We chase after it with all our hearts and lean constantly on our own understandings of the world around us.
I often times feel that I am in a fog or a deep sleep. My anesthetized soul drags through life as if coming out of a horrible surgery.Â Awake and yet half-asleep. There are moments when it is as though I am coming back to being spiritually awake, only to slide back into a deep slumber of cold callousness. Â Days drag on to weeks, weeks roll on to months, and months to years â€“ this constant sleeping and moments of awakening. Always asking, â€œLord, have I slept too long to be of any use to you and your kingdom?â€
3. Â Satan desires to make us doubt our Creatorâ€™s love for us.
Genesis 3:6 â€œSo when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.â€
In one conversation Satan was able to persuade Adam and Eve to rebel against their Creator. They were perfect, in a perfect world, and having a perfect relationship with God. Every time we take a bite of the forbidden fruit we doubt Godâ€™s love for us, and make ourselves gods in our own minds. We say to ourselves, â€œI know what is better for me, and what I should know, not God.â€
I know my gentle Fatherâ€™s response is always â€œDrew, letâ€™s go â€“ wake up, there is much to do.â€ He loves us enough to make us apart of His plan for the redemption of humanity and the created order.Â Whether that is a â€œbig roleâ€ or â€œsmall roleâ€ â€“ it is hard to tell. It seems to be based on His sovereignty (putting people where He sees fit) and our willingness to turn from sin and being holy.
The Great Adventure
On my trip to India I am taking my camera, every sermon I have ever written, and a heart that desires to be greatly used by the Father. My prayer is that I may be spiritually awake to see what is going on around me, and have the wisdom to hear His voice. Who knows whatâ€™s going to happen, who knows what we will be able to accomplish in His name. Â This is the adventure, this potential to be of great use for the Lord.