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Mark: Lesson 5

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4

Mark 3:

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And 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 is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter,29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. In verses 1-6, we see again one of the major themes of Mark: Jesus’ lordship over the Sabbath. Take a moment to review question 6 from Lesson 4 (link above). What are the similarities and differences between Mark 2:23-28 and Mark 3:1-6? Look at these two passages in a physical Bible. What do you notice about their placement, or sequence, in the manuscript, despite the fact that some time elapsed between the two incidents? Why might Mark have organized his manuscript this way?

2. Why was guarding against profaning the Sabbath such a major issue for the Pharisees? (1-6) What might they have worried God would do if Jesus influenced Israel to (in the Pharisees’ eyes) break the Sabbath? What did Jesus mean by his question in verse 4? Why didn’t the Pharisees answer Jesus? (4-6) Sometimes we think of anger as being sinful. Here, we see Jesus get angry. Why was His anger not sinful? (5)

3. What was Jesus doing (8) that drew such large crowds to Him? (10, 20-21) Compare the crowds, and their reason for flocking to Jesus in verses 7-12, 20-21, with this passage. What was the reason Peter and Jesus’ true followers stuck with Him? Do you see any similarities between the crowds that came to Jesus in droves for miracles, yet turned away from His teaching, and the crowds that fill miracle-promising “churches” today, even though those “churches” do not preach the truth of the gospel? What does Jesus want us to come to Him for?

4. How did Jesus’ ability to heal, his lordship over the Sabbath, His ability to cast out demons, and His definitive teaching on forgiveness (28-29) demonstrate that Jesus was God and that His authority over the physical and spiritual realms was equal to God’s? How would the authority over demons that Jesus gave the disciples for this mission (15) have authenticated the message they were preaching? (14) Was the disciple’s primary objective to preach the gospel or cast out demons? (14)

5. You may wish to examine verses 22-30 alongside these parallel passages in Matthew and Luke for better understanding. What is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (also called the unpardonable sin)? What were the scribes accusing Jesus of? (22) In your own words, explain Jesus’ reasoning to them. (23-27) Why did Jesus say the scribes making these accusations would never be forgiven? (30)

6. Why might Mary and Jesus’ siblings have been looking for Him? (20-21, 31-32) Was Jesus dishonoring his mother or rejecting his siblings in favor of others? (33-35) What point was Jesus trying to make? Compare verses 31-35 with these passages. What do we learn from these Scriptures about the importance of our spiritual family? Think about religions that unbiblically venerate Mary and ascribe supernatural attributes to her. Would this passage seem to support those beliefs?


Homework

Think about your church family. Is there a brother or sister, or maybe even a spiritual “mother” or “father,” who has helped you in your walk with the Lord, encouraged you, been there for you, maybe even led you to Christ? Take a moment this week to touch base with that person and express your love and appreciation.

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Searching for a Church or Recommending Your Own

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One of the great joys of this ministry is helping people find doctrinally sound churches to get plugged into. I often post requests on my Facebook page that I’ve received from readers who are looking for a new church, and other readers from that area have graciously made recommendations that have resulted in some good “matchmaking.”

Not long ago, a reader asked if we could do something more permanent- some kind of list of recommended churches that those searching could peruse for suggestions. So, I’ve posted two documents in the “notes” section of my Facebook page:

If you’ve got a personal connection to a doctrinally sound church and would like to publicly recommend it, click here to find out how and what information to include. If you’re on Facebook, you can comment directly on the note. If you’re not on Facebook, you can comment below or e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com) and I’ll post the recommendation for you, but please read the recommendation parameters, first.

If you’re going to be moving soon and need a new church, or if you have to leave your current church due to false doctrine, click here to find out how to request other readers’ recommendations. If you’re on Facebook, you can comment directly on the note. If you’re not on Facebook, you can comment below or e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com) and I’ll make the request for you, but please read the request parameters, first. Be sure to keep checking back over time to see if anyone has responded.

You might also want to check out the “Searching for a new church?” tab at the top of the blog.

Let’s see how many people we can get connected to doctrinally sound churches!

The Mailbag: How do I move on after God says “no”?

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I loved your article, When God Says “No”. I have a question though: At what point do you move on from the hope or desire? I’m a single mother and feel that I will always have a natural desire for a spouse and I will always desire that for my young children, but the Lord has not provided this for me. At what point do you stop asking for the thing, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be, and move forward?

A dear reader asked this in the comments section of my article When God Says No, and I wanted to share my answer to her here on The Mailbag, because I think it’s something a lot of us struggle with.

When God seems to be saying no to a desire, I think there’s a sense in which moving forward is something you do over and over again every day until or unless God takes that desire away. Taking life “one day at a time” sounds cliché, but if you’ll look at the way Jesus teaches, that’s very much the mindset He wants us to have.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs us to ask for daily bread. This is an echo of the manna God provided in the wilderness on a daily basis. Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us not to be anxious for the things we don’t have and not to worry about the future. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” He says.

Those passages are hard for me because I’m a planner, and I don’t like surprises. I like to have everything mapped out and know in advance what’s going to happen so I can feel secure. But I’ve found that when I’m secure and everything is going well and I don’t really have any problems or unfulfilled desires, I tend to pray less. Depend on God less. Need Him less. And God knows that, more than anything we might desire, what we really need is to need Him. So God does the “daily” thing. God likes for us to get up every day and depend on Him for that day.

So I think what you – what all of us – need to do is get up tomorrow morning, spend time with the Lord, and ask Him to help us honor and glorify Him through our words, actions, decisions, etc., that day. Then, we get up the next day and the next and the next, and do the same thing. We put our hope in the Lord Himself, not in what He might or might not do in our lives, and we simply seek to walk with Him and be obedient to Him day by day.

If it would be something that would help you – sort of a “memorial stone” type of thing – you can set aside some time, maybe even in a special place, to hash everything out with the Lord about your situation. Pour out your heart to Him in prayer, cry, repent of anything you might need to repent of, study some applicable Scripture, commit your heart to trust Him, and, as the old gospel song says, “take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.” In the future, if you start feeling sad or frustrated with God about not having a husband, you can look back on that time as a reminder that you committed to trust God and leave this issue with Him.

Finally, (and I know this might sound silly, but I have to remind myself of this all the time) remember that God’s provision isn’t dependent on our prayers. He truly does know what we need before we ask. In other words, you could stop praying for a husband right this minute and never pray about it again and God is not going to forget that that’s what you want, or move it to a lower priority level on His prayer-answering list, or punish you by denying you a husband simply because you stopped praying about it. There are things God blesses us with that we’ve never spent a moment praying for. There are things we stop praying for that God finally gives us years later. And there are things we pray constantly for that God says “no” about. God is going to do what is best for you and what brings Him the most glory, and that doesn’t hinge on whether you pray about that specific thing every day or not. The purpose of prayer is not to get God to do what we want Him to do. The purpose of prayer is to get us on the same page He’s on- so that we want what He wants.

It can be really difficult and sad when God doesn’t grant our desires, especially when we know they don’t conflict with Scripture, but the blessing is that God can use these circumstances to increase our dependence on Him and conform our desires to His own.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

When God Says No

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When I was sixteen years old, I was convinced God was calling me to be the next Sandi Patty…I wanted God to use me- to put me on a stage every night in front of thousands of people so I could sing to them about Him…Somehow, it never occurred to me to care what God thought about all this or what He might want to do in my life. If I thought about it at all, I just assumed He was on board with my plans. Like, how could He not be, right?¹

There’s much ado about dreaming big dreams for God in modern evangelicalism. Think of the biggest thing you want to do for God and then “step out on faith” and make it happen. Sometimes we’re even told God is offended if our dreams aren’t big enough. It means we don’t have enough faith. It means we don’t believe God – or love Him – enough.

Or does it?

If you study through the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, you’re going to get to know Saul and David pretty well. And as you observe and compare their words, their behavior, and their interactions with God, a major theme that jumps out is obedience to God’s word versus doing what’s right in your own eyes.

Saul was an “I did it my way,” kind of guy. Time and again, he looked out for number one. Tried to build up his own kingdom. Did what he thought was best.

In 1 Samuel 15, God told Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. Everything. Every living creature and all their stuff. All means all.

But Saul had big dreams. So, he destroyed all the worthless stuff and all the people, but he saved the king and all the valuables. He disobeyed God’s clear word in favor of what he wanted to do.

Here’s the interesting part, though. When Samuel showed up and said, “Why did you disobey the Lord?” Saul said, not once, but twice, “I did obey the Lord.”

Why? Because Saul was going to offer some of those sheep he spared in a grand and showy sacrifice to the Lord. He was going to “do great things for God” and, in his mind, that was far better and more glorious than simple obedience to God’s explicit command.

By contrast, God says David was “a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” David sought the Lord and obeyed His words.

But David had a dream, too. He loved God deeply and wanted to do something big to honor Him.

“See now, I dwell in a house of cedar,” David said, “but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” David wanted to build a grand and glorious house for God.

It was a good dream. A dream that stemmed from godly motives. A dream that was, in reality, part of God’s plan.

But God said, “No.” Because it wasn’t God’s plan for David.

Sometimes there are things we want to do for God in life or in ministry because our hearts are fairly bursting with love for Him. Nothing small or insignificant will suffice- we want to do great things for Him because He has done so many great things for us.

Can I just tell you- that heart is what is most precious to God, not whatever it is you can dream up to do for Him. Every parent who’s ever received a clay ashtray or a bedraggled dandelion from her five year old knows this. We love the heart of our child who wants to show her love for us, even if the gift itself isn’t quite right.

And just like you would have to tell your five year old no if she wanted to demonstrate her love for you by having the family skip church on Sunday so she could cook you a four course brunch, God sometimes has to say no to the things we want to do for Him because those things – even though motivated by love for Him – conflict with His word, are out of sync with His timing, or aren’t His specific plan for us, personally.

It might be your heart’s deepest desire to serve God as the perfect Proverbs 31 wife…and God says no by declining to provide you with a husband. Maybe it’s always been your dream to raise a house full of children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord…and God says no by preventing you from bearing or adopting children. “I’ve always loved to tell people about Jesus,” you think, “Surely He’s calling me to be a pastor.”…and God says no in His word because that’s not His plan for Christian women.

God said no to David, too. It wasn’t the right time. It didn’t fit with what God was trying to accomplish in Israel at that moment. And David wasn’t the right man for the job. God had other things He wanted David to do.

How did David respond when God said no? Did he push forward with his own plans and build the temple anyway? Spend the rest of his life sulking or angry at God? Turn away from God all together?

No. David responded with humility that God would use him in any way, joy over God’s love and blessings, and thanksgiving for God’s plans and promises.

That’s what a heart that truly loves God does. It obeys Him. It finds joy in any task He might bring our way. It is thankful and humbled that God takes any notice of us whatsoever and lavishes His grace and mercy upon us by allowing us to do what He wants us to do.

God didn’t allow David to build the temple. God didn’t allow me to become a top Christian recording artist. Maybe there’s something God isn’t allowing you to do. Will you joyfully obey Him in the things He does have planned for you? Will you be thankful and humbled that He desires to use you as part of His good plans and purposes even if those plans and purposes don’t match your own?

May we all follow David’s example – and the Greater David’s example – by saying, meaning, and living out, “Not my will but Thy will be done,” even when God says no.

 

Throwback Thursday ~ Used by God

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Originally published April 9, 2015

When I was sixteen years old, I was convinced God was calling me to be the next Sandi Patty (if you’re under 40, she was the Kari Jobe of my day). I had been singing solos and in church choirs since I was in the second grade. I was taking professional voice lessons and spent my first year of college as a vocal performance major. Not to toot my own horn here, but, while I’m not the greatest singer in the world, certainly not even in the top 10 or 20 percent, I’m also not one of those people you see during the audition rounds of American Idol who makes you want to conduct a nationwide manhunt for every person who ever lied to this poor soul and told her she could sing just so you can beat all of them senseless with a pitch pipe.

But anyway…

I had a modicum of talent and I wanted to put it to work doing “great things for the Lord.” I wanted God to use me- to put me on a stage every night in front of thousands of people so I could sing to them about Him.

Paragon of adolescent spiritual maturity that I was, it somehow never occurred to me to care what God thought about all this or what He might want to do in my life. If I thought about it at all, I just assumed He was on board with my plans. Like, how could He not be, right?

Because even in my day, that was the subtle message that was coming from the pulpit (and Christian media) and landing in the pew: If you really love Jesus and prove it by walking faithfully with Him, He’s going to use you to do some big, fat, hairy thing for Him. You’ll be the next David or Esther or Paul or Mary, and your name will go down in history just like theirs did. You’ll be famous, dahling.

Only I’m not really sure where Christian preachers, authors, and entertainers got this idea, because it sure as heck isn’t in the Bible.

The Bible knows nothing of the idea that we can behave our way into getting God to “use” us in some big way. Quite the opposite, in fact. Take a look at some of the “big names” in the Bible and what they were up to when God drafted them.

Noah- just a godly guy trying to survive a sin sick world

Moses- on the lam for murder and hanging out in the desert with a bunch of sheep

Paul- Christian-killer

David- more sheep

Gideon- just trying to feed his family

Peter- gone fishin’

Abraham- even more sheep

Were some of these guys walking faithfully with the Lord? Absolutely. But they were walking faithfully simply because they loved the Lord and desired to please Him, not with the goal of getting God to do some big thing in their lives. In fact, most of them were downright shocked when God showed up and revealed His plans for them.

And have you ever noticed that God doesn’t just use “good guys,” or guys who eventually become “good guys”? Ever read the story of Samson? Going strictly by his words and behavior mentioned in Judges 14-16, the dude comes off as a self-centered, slobbering ball of lust with anger management issues. Yet, knowing all about him before he was even born, God said He would use Samson to “…begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:5)

And what about Pharaoh? In Exodus 9:16, God says to Pharaoh, “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” The plagues…the parting of the Red Sea…I’d say God used Pharoah for His glory in a pretty big way.

God can use anybody He wants for any purpose He wants, and He’s not at the mercy of their behavior in doing so.

What do we mean when we say we want to be “used by God,” anyway? I think what we often have in mind is something awesome, something grandiose. Something that will bring us fame, fortune, and glory. I’ve never heard someone say she wanted God to use her for His glory like God used Job.

Or, for that matter, Jesus.

The greatest event in the universe, the one that brought God more glory than any other phenomenon in the history of ever, was also the most excruciating moment of sorrow and suffering eternity has ever known: the crucifixion of Christ for our sin.

When we say we want God to use us, we want the stupendous, not the suffering. The crown, not the cross. Yet it is often in suffering that God is most glorified. So, just whose glory is it we’re seeking, again?

If you live your life clamoring after God to make you an Esther or a Paul, or a Sandi Patty or a Billy Graham, you are almost certainly going to be disappointed. And not just because there are only a handful of “big name” God-followers out there compared to the nameless millions who have followed Him faithfully in obscurity, but because being used by God in some big, ostentatious way is not what He calls us to clamor after.

When you stand in front of God on the Day of Judgment, He’s not going to say, “Well done. You did some phenomenal things for Me that people are still talking about!” He’s going to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Faithful servants aren’t out to change the world, they just obey. They go where they’re told to go. They do what they’re told to do. And they do it to honor their masters.

For servants of Christ, most of the time that means getting up every day and doing the same humble tasks over and over for a lifetime: cooking meals, going to work, changing diapers, serving the church, cleaning the house. You know, servant stuff, all done to the glory of God. This is what God calls us to.

God doesn’t call us to seek to be used, He calls us to seek to be faithful.

“So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’.” Luke 17:10


The famous people mentioned in this article are mentioned for frame of reference purposes only – because they are recognizable names with large platforms in evangelicalism – not because I’m recommending you follow them. I am aware of the biblical issues with each of them.


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.

Mark: Lesson 4

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3

Mark 2

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them.14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”\


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. As we study through Mark, keep in mind that the various stories of what Jesus said and did show us who He is. Recalling that Mark’s audience was primarily Gentile, why would it have been important for him to define who Jesus was?

2. Examine verses 1-12. What is Jesus doing as this story opens? (2) Why did the paralytic’s friends bring him to Jesus- to hear Him preach (2), to be healed, or to have his sins forgiven (5)? What two things did Jesus do for the paralytic, and which one came first? (5, 11-12) What did the paralytic’s friends see as his greatest need? What did Jesus see as his greatest need? What do you think Jesus would say about modern day “faith healers” who focus strictly on the “miracle” of healing and never preach the gospel?

3. Read verses 13-17. What is Jesus doing as this story opens? (13) What was Levi’s (Matthew’s) profession? (14) Why would the guests at Levi’s house have been “tax collectors and sinners” (15-16) rather than scribes and Pharisees or tradesmen and farmers? How might Peter, Andrew, James, and John have initially reacted to Jesus calling a tax collector to be a fellow disciple?

This passage is often cited as evidence of “Jesus hanging out with sinners” by Christians seeking to justify hanging out with people they ought not hang out with, going places they ought not go, and doing things they ought not do. Would Jesus, the sinless Son of God, use this passage that way? What was Jesus’ goal in “hanging out with sinners”? (17)

4. How do the story of the paralytic (5,10) and the story of the calling of Levi (14,17) point to the central mission of Jesus’ earthly ministry?

5. Was the fasting that the Pharisees and John’s disciples were participating in and questioning Jesus about (18) Pharisaical ritual fasting, or the type of New Testament fasting that centered around Christ? Why would Jesus not have wanted His disciples to participate in works-based, ritual, old covenant-style, old garment/wineskin (21,22) fasting when He was there to proclaim the new patch/wineskin (21,22) of the new covenant- the gospel?

6. In 23-28, how did Jesus’ use of David’s actions as a parallel to His own actions…

a) provide an example of Israel’s revered king whom the Pharisees would not have wanted to argue against?

b) allude to the fact that He was the Son of David, the Messiah?

As we saw in chapter 1, and throughout the gospels, Jesus’ lordship over the Sabbath is a major theme and a major sticking point for the scribes and Pharisees. Why? Who established the Sabbath and had the right to rule over it? So, when Jesus says in verse 28 that He is lord of the Sabbath, what would that have meant to the Pharisees? In verse 24, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of breaking the law. Since we know Jesus was sinless, was He actually breaking God’s law here? Then whose “law” was He breaking? Why was it wrong for the Pharisees to accuse Jesus of breaking God’s law when He wasn’t?

7. What do each of these stories tell us (and Mark’s Gentile audience) about who Jesus is- His deity, miraculous power, lordship, authority, etc.?


Homework

Do you ever have an opportunity to “hang out with sinners” like Jesus did? Most of us do, whether it’s co-workers, family members, the ladies at the salon, fellow soccer moms, or the next door neighbor. Take a moment to pray for the lost people you’ll hang out with this week, and ask God to help you follow in Jesus’ footsteps and share the gospel with them.

 

YouTubesday

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Just some great little random YouTube videos I thought I’d pass along for your enjoyment and edification…

Here’s what happens when you’re a false prophet and you make the mistake of calling a doctrinally sound pastor up to “receive a word.”

 

I’m going to make Southern Gospel fans of y’all yet. How can you not love these lyrics?

 

I know not everybody enjoys Christian comedy, but if you do, it looks like John Crist might be the next Tim Hawkins.

 

“Only God can judge me!”
“Right. And if you don’t repent, that judgment is going to be ‘Guilty!’.”
Here’s the latest from our friend Pastor Gabe over at WWUTT.

 

Sure, Jesus is calling Sarah Young. Calling her to repent and believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, that is. (More info. on Sarah Young/Jesus Calling under the “Popular False Teachers” tab at the top of the blog.)

The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?

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Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study? 

Can you recommend a Bible study we can do with our teens/children?

Next to being asked whether or not a particular teacher is doctrinally sound, this question, or some variation of it, is the one I’m most often asked. And, to be honest, it’s a question I have a love-hate relationship with.

I love (LOVELOVELOVELOVE) that women ask me this question because it means two things: they want to study/teach their children the Bible and they want to be sure what they’re learning or teaching is doctrinally sound and in line with Scripture. That’s the central reason my ministry even exists- I want Christian women to be grounded in the Bible and sound doctrine, and it brings me unbelievable joy and encouragement when I see women seek that out.

The hate part has nothing to do with the people asking the question, but with the prevailing line of thought in evangelicalism that has led them to ask the question. Namely, that the people in the pew aren’t capable of studying and understanding the Bible for themselves- they need some Christian celebrity to tell them what it means.

This is scarily reminiscent of the pre-Protestant Reformation ideology that ruled Roman Catholic “Christianity.” The pope and the priests, not the Scriptures themselves, told Christians what to believe. Catholic rulers prohibited the people from having copies of the Bible in their own language and martyred many Bible translators and reformers. Only the elite, those in leadership, were supposedly able to comprehend the Scriptures and dispense doctrine to the common Christian.

Twentieth and twenty-first century evangelicalism hasn’t taken that direct and violent route, but rather, has gradually brainwashed – whether intentionally or unintentionally – Christians into thinking that if they’re going to study or teach the Bible, they have to have a curriculum, book, or DVD study in order to do so. Teach straight from the Bible with no leader’s guide or student books? It’s practically unheard of in the average church, and hardly anyone is equipped to do so. Why? Because for the past several decades, that’s how Bible study has been presented to church members. You walk into Sunday School and you’re handed a quarterly. Somebody wants to teach a women’s Bible study? She’s sent to peruse the shelves of LifeWay for a popular author, not to her prayer closet and her Bible. Using teaching materials written by somebody else is just assumed.

Well in my opinion, it’s time for another reformation. A Bible study reformation. And, so, with hammer in hand, I have one resolution I want to nail to the door of Church As Usual:

I will no longer help perpetuate the stranglehold the pre-packaged Bible study industry has on Christians. If you are a 21st century believer with access to a Bible in your native language and doctrinally sound preaching and teaching I will not recommend a Bible study book or program to you. You need to pick up the actual Bible and begin studying the God-breathed text for yourself, and teach it to your children. 

“…my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”¹

Ladies, I know you may feel inadequate, but don’t give in to those feelings. Try. Pick a book of the Bible, start at the beginning, and read it through to the end, taking as much time as you need. You might just be pleasantly surprised at how well you grasp it. That’s because, if you’re a believer, the Holy Spirit resides within you and will help you to understand the Word He authored.

Read directly from the Bible to your children. Ask them simple questions about the passage: How was this Bible character obedient or disobedient to God? What can we learn about what God is like from this chapter? What does this passage teach us about prayer, forgiveness, loving each other, kindness, etc.? Explain any big words they might not understand, or look them up together.

Afraid you might get something wrong? Confused by a particular verse? That may happen from time to time, and that’s OK. Bible study is a skill just like everything else. Nobody ever tried a new task and was perfect at it the very first time. But God has not only given you the Holy Spirit who will never lead you into doctrinal error, He has given you a pastor, elders, teachers, and brothers and sisters in the Lord to help disciple you. Ask questions, trust God to illumine your understanding, and keep right on practicing.

There are also a myriad of reference materials that can hone your skills and help as you study your Bible (see the “Additional Resources” section below). And there are some fantastic, easy to read books on theology by trustworthy authors that can give you greater clarity on various points of doctrine. By all means, read as many as you can get your hands on.

But when it’s time for Bible study, study your Bible. When it’s time to teach your children, teach them the Bible. You can do this, ladies. Women with less education and fewer resources than you have access to have done it for centuries and have flourished in their walk with the Lord.

Trust God. Study hard. You can do this.


Additional Resources:

The Mailbag: We Want Bible Study Answers

Bible Study resource articles

Bible Studies by Michelle Lesley

10 Simple Steps to Plain Vanilla Bible Study

You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

10 Bookmarkable Biblical Resources for Christian Women

Rightly Dividing: 12 Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Bible Study


¹Just a little tribute to Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

A Review of Justin Peters’ “Do Not Hinder Them”

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As I’ve mentioned before, solicited book reviews are not part of my regular repertoire here at the blog. In fact, for a variety of reasons, I have a policy against writing them.

But when one of your heroes in the faith asks, you make an exception. And, for me, Justin Peters is one of those heroes in the faith (even more so because I’m sure he wouldn’t want me calling him that).

I introduced Justin this way in my article, A Few MORE Good Men: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers:

Justin Peters Ministries exists to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost and to help equip the saved to ‘speak the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4:15). Great care is taken to preach and teach God’s Word in its proper context and simply let the text speak for itself.”

The first thing I ever noticed about Justin Peters is his striking example of biblical meekness. Justin is soft-spoken and peaceable, but firm in his gospel convictions and aflame with the desire for the lost to come to salvation. You must read Justin’s testimony of coming to know Christ after years in seminary and ministry as a false convert. What Justin is perhaps best known for is his teaching and discernment ministry exposing the Word of Faith movement. It started with a trip to a faith healer as a teen to have his own cerebral palsy healed and grew into Clouds Without Water, a seminar designed to educate the church on the history, growth, and metastasization of the Word of Faith heresy.

But Justin doesn’t limit himself to discernment ministry, and his new book, Do Not Hinder Them: A Biblical Examination of Childhood Conversion, opens the door to another of his theological interests- salvation and baptism, especially as they pertain to children.

A simple, yet fundamental, point of theology which needs to be understood in order to grasp the concept of the book is the difference between credo-baptism and paedo-baptism. Credo-baptism is also called “believer’s baptism.” This means that a new believer stands before the church, professes her faith in Christ, and is then baptized out of obedience to Him- to demonstrate that she has passed from death unto life and now wishes to be identified as a follower of Christ. Credo-baptists believe strongly that baptism is only to be administered to professing believers.

Paedo-baptism is infant baptism. It is administered to all babies and children (by definition, unable to profess faith in Christ) by a number of Protestant denominations as a symbol that a child has been born into a covenant (believing) family who will raise her in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and the knowledge of the gospel.

There’s an angst that Bible believing credo-baptist parents often experience, which, undoubtedly, is foreign to paedo-baptist parents:

My young child has come to me claiming to have asked Jesus into her heart and wants to be baptized. How can I tell if she’s really saved and that it’s right for her to be baptized at this age?

It’s a long standing dilemma for Southern Baptists like Justin…and me. My mother happened to mention in passing a few years ago that I had begged to be baptized when I was about six. It made sense because that’s about the time all of my little friends were being baptized, but, I was very surprised to hear this story because, as an adult, I had no recollection of it whatsoever, and I can guarantee you I wasn’t saved at the time. My parents wisely said no.

As parents ourselves, my husband and I have faced the same struggle. Five of our six children were baptized as young children. One is not currently walking with the Lord and two of them were re-baptized later at their own request when they realized they had not been saved the first go round.

This is the central issue Justin tackles in Do Not Hinder Them.

But don’t be fooled by the title of the book. While it’s a must read for Christian parents, pastors, and those who work in children’s ministry, you also need to read this book if…

…you’ve ever wondered if you’re really saved.
…you’re wondering if that loved one (of any age) who claims to be a Christian is really saved.
…you’re a paedo-baptist wanting to get a better grip on credo-baptist beliefs and struggles
…you’re brand new to the study of theology and are looking for a resource that will easily help you to “dip a toe in the water” (so to speak)

In other words, though Justin addresses the issue of genuine conversion as it applies to children seeking baptism, the question of “How can I know if I/my loved one is really saved?” is one we all face at some point in our walk with Christ. So, while there may be a few parts of this book that don’t apply if you’re not a pastor, children’s ministry worker, or parent, most of it is helpful for every Christian.

One of the foundational issues Justin cites as having gotten us into the muck and mire of baptizing unregenerate children, only to have them “walk away” from the Lord (though, indeed, they were never saved in the first place) as teens or young adults – sullying the name of Christ and His church – or to seek a second baptism once they realize they were unsaved the first time, is the fact that we have so watered down the gospel and the soteriology our churches subscribe to and practice. “Getting saved” has been reduced to parroting a sinner’s prayer, or mental assent to a simplistic set of facts that even the demons believe. There is little to no presentation of sin and rebellion, guilt before a holy God, God’s wrath toward the sinner, and the eternal punishment of sin. And when was the last time you heard a pastor urge someone contemplating following Jesus to count the cost of being His disciple? Instead, it’s, “Don’t you want to go to Heaven when you die?” or “Just believe A, B, and C, and you’re saved!” or “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” Rarely are young children mature enough in their thinking to be able to grasp the true nature and meaning of why they need a Savior and what repentance, regeneration, and discipleship really entail.

And that’s largely our fault. As Christian parents, we understandably want our children “in,” safe from an eternity in Hell. So we make it as easy as possible for them to complete the transaction. Instead of raising our children up to understand and attain to the high bar of the demands of the gospel, we lower the bar so far that even the youngest child can toddle right over it. In the end, the problem is not that we’re baptizing unsaved babes as our paedo-baptist brothers and sisters do, but that we’re presenting a false gospel that creates false converts who hang their eternity on having repeated a prayer and passed through the baptistry.

The second key issue Justin says has contributed to the epidemic of baptizing unregenerate children is the fact that we base our decision to baptize them solely on their verbal profession of faith rather than on the fruit of a changed life.

I remember all too well the worry over my own small children’s salvation in this regard. How could I tell if they were really saved or not? They had been in church and raised in a Christian home all their lives- they knew all the right answers to give when we questioned them about their salvation experiences.

As Justin wisely points out, this is often the case with “church kids.” They know how to repeat back what they’ve learned in Sunday School, and, because they’ve been raised in a godly atmosphere, they’re likely already good kids, outwardly behaving in what looks like a Christlike way. When they come to us and say, “I’ve asked Jesus into my heart,” how can we tell if it’s genuine saving faith?

Most of the time, the answer is- we can’t. Until, that is, that faith has been tested and their testimony proven true through the refining process of trial, temptation, and persecution. Until he is able to bear fruit in keeping with the repentance he claims. Does your child freely choose obedience to Christ over giving in to temptation? Does he cling to Christ during times of difficulty? Does he visibly stand for Christ when ridiculed for doing so by his peers? What five year old even faces such situations?

And that’s precisely Justin’s point. We rush our children through the baptismal waters as soon as they claim to have received Christ rather than waiting to see their faith prove out over the ensuing years. Your five year won’t face the temptation to use drugs or engage in sex. But your teenager will. It’s unlikely a gang of kindergarteners will surround your child and mock his belief in Christ and biblical values. Sophomores and juniors do so gleefully. How does your young adult, who claims to be born again, handle these types of situations? When it’s his choice, not yours, does he consistently and unrepentantly go along with the worldly crowd or does he bear up and walk faithfully with Christ? Justin suggests, and I can’t help but agree, that the testing of our children’s faith that comes with age and independence, and the fruits of Christlikeness they bear – such as: godly sorrow over sin, personal holiness, hunger for the Word, and increasing discernment –  are a much more reliable barometer of their spiritual state than the “right answers” they are able to give as small children. It is for this reason that Justin suggests postponing baptism until the late teens or early 20s, while encouraging and nurturing our children’s faith as they grow and mature.

Do Not Hinder Them so effectively addresses these matters of concern to the church that I unhesitatingly recommend it to all Christians. Justin writes in a simple, unassuming style that even the newest believer would be comfortable with, and explains complicated theological terms and issues with ease. The book is chock full of helpful footnotes rife with Scripture references and supplementary resources, and is only 112 pages long, making it an easy evening’s read. Do Not Hinder Them is available in soft cover format (not available in e-book format at this time) and is endorsed by Dr. John MacArthur. You can purchase a copy at Justin’s web site or on Amazon.


All yellow “pull quotes” in this article are taken from:
Peters, Justin. Do Not Hinder Them: A Biblical Examination of Childhood Conversion. Justin Peters Ministries, 2017.

Throwback Thursday ~ Revive Us Again

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Originally published August 12, 2009

 

Thirty three per cent of clergy and thirty six per cent of laymen
report having visited a sexually explicit web site.
Christianity Today survey, August 2000

The divorce rate of born-again Christians (32%)
is higher than that of atheists and agnostics (30%).
Barna Research Group 2008

Twenty per cent of women who have abortions
are born-again or Evangelical Christians.
The Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1996

We rarely find substantial differences between
the moral behavior of Christians and non-Christians.
George Barna, Founder, Barna Research Group

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless,
how can it be made salty again?
It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out
and trampled under foot by men.
Jesus, Matthew 5:13

Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, my parents took my sister and me to visit some of our elder relatives. For the evening meal, the lady of the house set a beautiful, formal table, complete with lovely crystal salt cellars at each place.

Having attended approximately zero formal dinners in my decade-long, casual dining existence, I had never seen a salt cellar. Since it happened to be sitting next to my goblet of unsweetened iced tea, I presumed it was my own personal sugar bowl.

I was puzzled as to why the spoon was so tiny, but forged ahead in an attempt to sweeten my tea with spoonful after spoonful…of salt. After one swig, I realized my mistake, but to maintain decorum, I did my best to eat my meal while taking an occasional small sip of the tea-flavored salt water. It was a long dinner.

I have never been so thirsty for a fresh drink of water before—or since—that moment.

We, the body of Christ, are supposed to be salt. Look around. How are we doing? By and large, instead of the church making the world thirsty for the Living Water, we have become so worldly ourselves that we are in danger of losing our savor altogether.

The Western church, the American church, the local church, maybe even your church—is in desperate need of revival. Not a revival meeting. Revival.

Revival is not a special event to win the lost. It is a time when God’s people, both individually and corporately, humble themselves, cry out to God in repentance and return to a fresh, empowered, obedient love relationship with Him.

Aren’t you tired of seeing statistics like the ones at the beginning of this article? Tired of the church having so little impact on a lost and dying world? Tired of simply going through the motions in your spiritual life and at church? Have you ever, as I have, taken a step back, looked at your walk and your worship, and said, “There’s got to be more to the Christian life than this”?

There is more. Much more. God desires that we have a full, exciting, vibrant, dynamic relationship with Him. But it’s going to cost us. It will cost our pride, our time, our repentance, our obedience, and our priority. It will require that we become dissatisfied and uncomfortable with the status quo of complacency.

I think we’re up for the challenge.

Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,
and revive me in Your ways.
Psalm 119:37