Monthly Archives: October 2016

Mark 10:1-16

Title: Faith-filled!

Text: Mark 10.1-16

Let me begin with a story: It was a political time and of course, being outspoken, I waxed eloquent about the sinfulness of abortion, the right to life, and the need for us to pick a leader who would stand for Life! I don’t remember even saying it, but later, Lisa came and spoke to me about what I had said. Someone there at that gathering couldn’t face this judgmental legalist. What was passed on to me through my wife was this: I was right in what I said, but I needed to be aware that when I’m harping on the sinfulness of abortion, there might just be someone in my presence who has experienced it. And for those who had gone through the pain of abortion, their suffering in silence needed my message of hope and forgiveness. My ‘lightning bolts’ and ‘thunderous’ preachingcould be offset with a little bit of rain.

I look back on that time with shame. I wish I could have presented myself with more of God’s grace and mercy. Abortion is wrong, it is murder, but where there is shame, there is mercy and forgiveness, too.

You see, what’s ironic about that is I’m a sinner in need of God’s mercy, too. I don’t think of mercy in areas I’ve never needed it. I’ve never had an abortion nor have I been party to one. But I have knelt before God in need of his mercy, begging for his forgiveness.

Now, You’ve heard the passage read today and you’re probably thinking: uh, oh! Well, I don’t think it will be that bad. Yes, where we have failed, there is a sense of guilt – I say a sense because God’s forgiveness removes our guilt, but it doesn’t remove the feelings – not totally. And if you’re divorced then there is always someone in the church to remind you that you’re a failure. Well, that isn’t the goal here. Because, I wouldn’t say you’re a failure, but rather your marriage failed. There is a huge difference between those two.

I’m not here to cast stones. While it is true that divorce is a very public sin, I want you to know that if you are divorced, you can look around at those here who have never been divorced and know that we have sinned, too. Ours is just hidden. We have failed in that regard. There are folks here who would hear of your divorce, raise their eyebrows in disapproval and then say a secret prayer – please God, don’t let my sin be exposed. Because trust me – we’re all sinners here. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others. Some of us just didn’t get caught in whatever rebellion we were participating in…

So, let me begin with this premise: all of us here today are sinners. I want you to know that we’re not casting stones today. 2nd, some of you are not going to agree with me. I’ve always felt that I’m a conservative – pretty dogmatic about my beliefs. But I’ve changed over the years. I’m not more liberal – not at all. I’ve just come to a place where I don’t accept traditional teaching as readily as I used to. Instead, I’ve searched out the Scriptures to help me formulate my theology – my understanding of what Jesus is really teaching here. I would encourage you to do the same.

I think context gives us what we’re looking for. Taking the words at face value, without context, sets us up for legalism.


Now last week, I had a couple of folks get lost in this phase of establishing the context. I mentioned that there is a cycle that repeats itself three times in 8.22-10.52. Mark is showing us something – he’s giving us context:

You’ll find in each cycle, three key elements:

  1. The Passion Prediction: Jesus will suffer and be mistreated by evil men; they will kill him, but 3 days later he will rise again.
  2. A Zealous Response on the part of the disciples: Peter, John, James & John;
  3. Jesus Teaching on what True Discipleship looks like – misunderstanding what following Jesus means, Jesus then teaches those with him what it means to be a true follower.

Jesus says:

  1. You understand me to be the Messiah. You want to follow me and be like me, good. Let me tell you what the Messiah looks like. I will travel to Jerusalem where I will be betrayed into the hands of sinful men who will shamefully mistreat me and kill me. But, after three days, I will rise again.
  2. The Disciples do not understand what Jesus is saying and demonstrate that with a zealous response:

a. Peter rebuking Jesus.

b. John, rebuking a man who isn’t in their group.

c. James and John ask for positions next to Christ in the new kingdom.

  1. Jesus then says: Uh-Uh… you’re not getting it. Disciples of the Messiah are different than what you’re expecting. They aren’t selfish and self-seeking. They don’t want positions of power and prestige to my right or to my left. They are like me – they give of themselves on behalf of others.

That’s the cycle, and we see it in

  1. 31-9.1; the 2nd in
  2. 30-50; and the final cycle in
  3. 32-45

So, contextually, Jesus is teaching them what the Messiah truly looks like and what disciples or followers of the Messiah look like. That’s our context: What a true disciple of Christ looks like.

Transition: Now, we’re in Chapter 10, verse 1. More detail, more “context” is given here. He moves from private teaching to a more public teaching. Crowds are gathered and the Pharisees are there. Next, what happens is that Christ moves from teaching the crowds to addressing the topic the Pharisees have given him: Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? Here is where it gets quiet. All eyes are focused on him. What will he say?

I think verse one is important in gaining context, because Mark tells us where Jesus is. Do you remember the two men who appeared with Christ when he was transfigured before the disciples on that mountain? Elijah and Moses. This is where both men ended their lives. This place is where a chariot of fire separated Elijah from Elisha and Elijah then went up in a whirlwind to heaven. This is also the place where Moses preached his last sermon – the book of Deuteronomy. This is the topic under discussion – Deuteronomy; and the place Moses was before he marched up Mount Nebo and died.

This is the topic because the Pharisees bring it up. But why? To Test him – this is the same word used of the devil in chapter one, when he was tested, or tempted by the devil in the wilderness when he fasted for 40 days.

Context: What a true disciple looks like in light of the Pharisees testing him; Now, why would they test him?

A Trap is Set: More Context

This is not only the area where Elijah was taken up and where Moses preached his last sermon, but it was also the place where John did his baptizing. He preached against Herod Antipas and Herodias and their immoral relationship. Herod had taken his brothers wife and was shaking up with her. He had tossed the law of God under the bus so that he might fulfill his own selfish desires. Maybe, and I don’t know that this was their motive, but I tie it to this word describing their actions as that of the devil’s in chapter one – maybe they hope he will be like John the Baptist. Maybe they’re hoping Jesus will get on his high horse and criticize the King. If he would do that, they could run to the king and condemn his actions. Which by the way, is what they eventually will do. Not by telling the King that Jesus preached against his immorality, but that Jesus set himself up as a king. And when confronted with this, Pilate sought to set Jesus free, but they said to him, if you do, you’re not friend of Caesar’s. And so Pilate throws it back at them and they say: We have no king, but Caesar!

With this understanding, (they’re trying to trap Jesus as he is teaching the people), Jesus gives them his answer: he answers with a question: rd v 3; What does the Bible say? Rd v 4; “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” Read Deuteronomy 24.1-4:

24 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

From that, the Pharisees condense that law down to: “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.

They have missed it. 1st,

  1. They like the part that reads, if then she finds no favor in his eyes…
  2. However, they totally overlook that part that reads, because he has found some indecency in her… the Hebrew word used here for indecency means she was found naked and her behavior improper; the LXX understands this word and translates it in the Greek as he has found her in an ugly affair. Not affair as a euphemism in the 21st Century, but rather meaning matter. So, to be fair, Moses doesn’t say adultery – and that makes sense. That law has already been addressed. She should be put to death. So, it is a serious matter outside of adultery. Just what? We don’t know.

Well, the religious leadership wanted to nail that down – so they outlined what some indecency in her might mean. And they came up with some of the following answers

  • If she burned his meal.
  • If she feeds him food that isn’t Kosher
  • If he finds someone more beautiful than her because she finds no favor in his eyes.

They have missed it because they like the part she finds no favor in his eyes, and they’ve missed it because they skip the part where he finds some indecency in her, and they’ve missed it because

  1. The law here is he may not take her again to be his wife. All the rest are conditions being set.

24 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

She is defiled because there is no longer a purity between the 1st husband and the woman. The Religious leadership then took it upon themselves to ignore the law of God and interpret their own desires into God’s law. Eventually making it so that a man could put away his wife simply because he wanted someone different; someone younger, prettier, richer, or whatever!

The Savior knows their hearts; he knows their motives. They aren’t interested in the doctrine of Divorce. They want to trap him. They want him to say something that goes against their traditions and teachings. They want him to upset the King. They want to give him enough rope that he will hang himself. But Jesus doesn’t fall for it. rd v 5;

The Law was given to show us our Sinfulness

The commandment stems from your hard hearts. That was never God’s plan for marriage, for God created marriage. His plan was perfect. His plan for marriage is perfect. It is His idea! Do any other combination outside of this picture and you destroy what God has made. And that is what he teaches us!


  • Two men – that’s not marriage – that’s an abomination; punishment: put them to death.
  • Two women – that’s not marriage – that’s an abomination; punishment: put them to death.
  • Adultery – that’s not marriage – that, too is an abomination; punishment: death.

The list goes on: incest, bestiality, fornication, pedophiia – read Leviticus 17-18; The punishment was so severe as to demonstrate to others that God detests something other than what he made. That’s why he gave us His Law – to show us that we are sinners and we need his forgiveness.


Rd v 6; this Gk word translated Hold Fast means to be faithfully devoted to; most lit.: to glue to;

Illustration: In the movie Master and Commander of the far side of the World, there is an old, old sailor on the boat. On his hands, right about here, he has letters tattooed on his fingers. HOLD FAST; So, in a storm, when he’s got his hands wrapped around a rope, he’ll never forget and let go!

That is the idea behind what God has planned in marriage – That we would HOLD FAST to the one we’ve committed our lives to… to the one we entered into covenant with – that’d when the storms of life rage upon this storm-tossed sea of our lives, we would not let go because we know to let go would be the death of us!

(Pause)…but somehow, they miss that! Jesus re-iterates three times: rd v 8; and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” You can’t be any clearer than that!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

The disciples want Jesus to do some clarification. And Jesus answers them plainly: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” Keep this statement within the context of the whole story. Don’t isolate this statement and make it the focal point. I don’t think that is what Jesus is doing here. I don’t think Mark is writing this story to us and saying, now forget everything I’ve said and hang your hat on this statement alone. The context of Jesus’ statement is that a Pharisee can’t just be unhappy with his wife because he finds a pretty young lady and then gives her a writ of divorce and sends her away and marry this other lady. If he does, he is committing adultery and if she remarries, he’s causing her to commit adultery.

Let me also say, I’m not saying go ahead and get a divorce at whatever grievance you may have against your spouse.

Let me be very clear – divorce is granted in certain situations – those situations arise out of sinful behavior.

I think what Jesus is teaching here about remarriage in verses 10-12 must be used within the context of the whole passage. When someone today gets a divorce, it doesn’t negate the vows the person took. You stood before God, your family and your friends and you said…

But let’s go back to what Jesus said in the beginning – the Law there is showing us we’re sinful people. Sinful people need forgiveness. That isn’t an excuse! I’m not saying, Go ahead, get your divorce, God will forgive you. Go ahead, get remarried, you can ask for forgiveness. That isn’t how the mercy of God works. Because the truth is divorce is destructive.

The Destructive Nature of Divorce

I find it very interesting that the next topic is Children. They were the passage above and below. Children are so tender and so vulnerable. Children are impressionable and trusting.

I was a child of Divorce. My parents divorced before my 1st birthday, so I never knew a home where my parents lived and loved together. But I lived the struggle in that both of my parents were married three times.

I asked my dad about it once, when I got bold and he was open to the discussion. I asked him if he ever regretted getting divorced. He said he would tell me the answer, but he didn’t want me to get confused. He affirmed his love for my stepmom. He was glad he had me and my little sister – he couldn’t imagine life without us. But, the answer was yes. Now, I have to admit, at that time, it surprised me. Now that I’m older; not so much. But he said that he wished he would have worked through those problems with his 1st wife and never experienced the damage divorce brought.

Faith-Filled Holidays

I began this message with the premise that we’re all sinners and prone to sin. So what can we do to make our marriages and our families stronger? Cornerstone is beginning another initiative: Faith-filled Families.

Show video…

Over the next so many months, we want to give your family, your marriage some tools to help you. The truth is Satan wants to destroy your marriage, he wants to destroy your family. So, we’re going to do our best to help you with your family devotions, with making sure your have devotional ideas and materials for the holidays.

We will provide you recipe cards in Cornerstone. I’m going to send you an email from time to time. Wendy and Phil will be reminding you along the way to be proactive in your marriage and in your family.

Conclusion: Go with what you know. Well, this is what I know for sure:

  1. Your marriage is a picture of the Gospel to others: your children, grandchildren, friends, workers, and the world. Divorce is not a picture of the Gospel. God has given us evidence of his great love for us in so many different wonders of the world. Marriage is one of those. I believe this is one of the reasons the world has done all it can to redefine marriage and to do away with it all together.
  2. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace. Sin separates us from God. However, Sexual sin is different in that it involves a broken covenant. It is very serious in God’s eyes. And, it should be serious to us. He created the marriage bond to be a spiritual bond. Bearing false witness hurts. Stealing something hurts others. But sexual sin destroys in a catastrophic way. There is a ripping away, a tearing away of these two fabrics that have become one fabric.
  3. Don’t use his grace as a free pass to sin! Shall I sin all the more that grace may abound? God forbid! Don’t cheapen the grace of God, as Bonheoffer says.
  4. Some of you want to know the answer: Can I get a divorce? Can I get remarried? Should I leave my 2nd spouse? My advice to you is what Paul said to the Corinthians: remain as you are. 26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. That would be my advice to you – remain as you are.

a. Therefore, if you are married – protect it! Men, don’t be flirtatious. Don’t open that door. Don’t even go near it. Get accountability. Wives, same advice. If you’re feeling the need for someone to tell you how pretty you are or to make you feel attractive – get counseling. You problem will not be solved by another relationship. And ladies, may I just remind you: all men are jerks. They may act like they care, but you’re headed for disaster.

b. If you are divorced, don’t do more damage by getting remarried. John Piper writes: Temporal frustrations and disadvantages are much to be preferred over the disobedience of remarriage, and will yield deep and lasting joy both in this life and the life to come. Being lonely, or sad, or thinking this will help me financially… and the list goes on, are not good reasons to remarry.

c. If you are remarried – Do not divorce again. New promises have been made and should be kept. Yes, you broke commitments before. Just because your previous spouse broke their vows first, doesn’t give you a green light to violate yours. But, You have and here you are. So, seek forgiveness from God for past sins. That’s what grace is all about. Now that is the easy answer – I know that answer probably won’t work in every circumstance. Remember: your tendency is toward sin. Do your best not to go there.

This is not an easy subject – especially with today’s standards (or lack of them in our society). Just remember, wherever you are, whatever you’ve done up to this point, God’s mercy and grace can extend to you right now. Will you receive his grace and mercy? Right where you are just bow your head and ask God to meet you right where you are. Tell him you’re ready to turn your life over to him or back over to him. Let’s pray.

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Mark 9:30-50

Title: The Picture of a True Disciple

Text: Mark 9.30-50

Introduction: Let’s take a moment and get some context, shall we? This passage is the 2nd cycle of three we will see in this section of Mark. The parts to the cycle are simply these:

  1. The Passion Prediction: Jesus will suffer and be mistreated by evil men; they will kill him, but 3 days later he will rise again.
  2. A Zealous Response: Peter, John, James & John;
  3. Teaching on True Discipleship – misunderstanding what following Jesus means, Jesus then teaches those with him what it means to be a true follower.

We see the 1st cycle, which we covered in recent weeks

  1. 31-9.1; the 2nd in
  2. 30-50; and the final cycle in
  3. 32-45

Let me show you a couple of interesting similarities in this section which will add to our context: When you conclude this section in 10.45 – there is the story of Jesus healing a blind man, Blind Bartimaeus. I was curious to see if a miracle like this was a part of each cycle. Well, the answer is no; however, I did notice there was a healing of a blind man just before these cycles began, in 8.31, There is the story of Jesus healing a blind man in Bethsaida starting in 8.22.

My 1st thought is to ask? Is this a coincidence or an accident? I don’t think so. So, I would bundle this all together in one section with the healing of a blind man serving as bookends.

There is another interesting similarity that adds strength to this idea. Luke brings this out in an undeniable way. He uses the phrase set his face toward Jerusalem. Mark’s reference here is a little more subtle, but very real just the same. Look at 8.27; on the way; we find it again in the 2nd cycle in 9.33-34; on the way; we find it once again in the 3rd cycle in 10.52, after he heals Bartimaeus; on the way; Chapter 11.1 they get to where they’re going – The Triumphal entry. They’ve been on their way to Jerusalem where Jesus will experience what he’s been trying to tell them.

That’s the big picture…

Transition: let’s zoom in now to this 2nd cycle and cover all three steps in one fell swoop this morning in v 30-50…

What we see in this passage is what a true disciple of Jesus looks like…

I.     A True Disciple is one who is…

exp.: in v 30-32, Jesus is trying to keep their whereabouts unknown to the outside world so that he might be able to have a concentrated time of teaching. By the way – that is what discipleship is all about: teaching. Someone who commits his life to Christ is committed to learning everything he can about Christ and the life Christ wants him to live. Jesus teaches with his words and with his life. We’ll see that here… 1st lesson for these men…A true disciple of Jesus is…

  1. He is self sacrificing – like Jesus. (30-32) He isn’t seeking his own way, but rather, is willing to lay down his life. Some of you may be wondering just how this differs from a disciple of Mohammed.

Ill.: This morning I read in the News that a Palestinian attacked and injured 8 Jews in Jerusalem. Well, those ‘disciples’ of Islam lay down their lives with the purpose of killing others. Jesus, however, calls us to lay down our lives so that others may live. That’s a big difference! The Sacrifice of Christ will save millions – maybe billions of lives. We’re called to do no less than be just like him. He’ll tell them this in v 35. 2nd

  1. He isn’t seeking power or prestige. (33-35); in 33-35 Jesus asks them point blank what they’ve been discussing. Vs 34 uses a different word – argue. Jesus has told them that he would suffer and be crucified. V 32 tells us that they just didn’t understand, but were afraid to ask. They then demonstrate that they don’t get it by arguing amongst themselves who is the greatest.

Illustration: in today’s society and in our culture – we’d be appalled at this. Oh, we’d still want to know, but we’d keep it on the down low because we know people would frown at our behavior. It wasn’t necessarily so in their day. Paul demonstrates this for us in his final letter to the Corinthians. Boasting or bragging was a part of their culture and society. It gave them position and power. That’s why Paul apologizes for his boasting. Christian values are different than those of the world. It was then and it is now. Thankfully, Christianity has had an impact on our society for good. Most people wouldn’t know it, but that’s why we frown up boasting and bragging.

Jesus then illustrates this for them through a little child. We see that in v 36; taking him in his arms. Children weren’t thought very much of in those days. But here, Jesus takes the lowly and uses him to teach his disciples what he means when he says he must be last of all and servant of all.

t.s.: So, Jesus is teaching the disciples (and us) that a true follower of his is self-sacrificing and isn’t someone who seeks power or prestige. 3rdly,

  1. He isn’t jealous of others who serve in Jesus name. (36-40) I don’t know why this one is so hard for us – maybe its just because we’re sinful creatures. I think of the two brothers, Cain and Abel. Why is it we don’t celebrate when one of our brothers or sisters is successful? Think on this for a moment: Do you ever find yourself wishing a particular person or group would fail? Have you ever sat watching someone be recognized for an achievement and you sat there in disbelief? Your group was far better, or did more or didn’t cheat! In our text, John seeks to impress Jesus with his zeal. But Jesus corrects John, just as he did Peter back in chapter 8. #4…
  2. He is concerned for the next generation of believers – to teach them correctly and not lead them astray. Rd v 42; v 41&v 42 go together; where 41 is aiding and helping believers, 42 is a word of warning against those who would hurt or harm them. The word sin here is σκανδαλίζω, and it is the word we get scandalize from. The idea is to cause someone to fall into sin. Some translation may say stumble – with the idea of causing someone to fall. To fall, to stumble is a euphemism for sin. The issue here is with the individual who would cause a believer to sin. And what Jesus says is that it would be better for that person if a great millstone were tied to his neck and he were cast into the sea.

Illustration: picture of millstone I took this picture going into the city of Jerusalem – the one from the time of Jesus, which is walled off. It would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea!

Ill.: Now I’m a sinner. I’m grateful for God’s mercy and grace in my life. And I know we all need God’s forgiveness. I think I have great mercy for people because I’ve needed great mercy. But, Can I say, that I detest three types of individuals: Those who hurt senior adults; those who run from or disobey the police; and those who hurt little children. You see that millstone? … That’s pretty harsh… Jesus is communicating to us how God feels about this – about our responsibility to care for and protect our little ones. #5

  1. He is committed to Christ as a living sacrifice – committing all of himself. Rd 43-48; his commitment to Christ is seen…
    1. In what he does (hand)
    2. In where he goes (foot)
    3. In what he sees (eye)

ill.: Gehenna (a.k.a: the valley of Hinnom) is the valley outside of Jerusalem where the trash was taken and sometimes bodies of criminals. It was, akin to what we would consider the city dump – basically. Ahaz and Manasseh sacrificed their children to the god, Molech in the valley of Hinnom. Josiah brought about reform and destroyed what his grandfather had established. In his reforms, he turned that place of idol worship into a dump. There was always a fire going of trash being burned. It came to be a symbol of hell – the place of the dead where the fire never dies. It would also correspond to an unclean place outside the camp in the days of the Tabernacle in the wilderness.

Back in that time – when the Tabernacle existed , Aaron and his sons were consecrated as priests (Lev. 8.20-24). They would have this ceremony where a ram would be sacrificed and the blood from the sacrifice would be touched to the ear lobe, the thumb and the big toe; first, for Aaron and then for his sons. The OT uses the ear and Jesus here says the eye, but I think the same thing is being said – a total devotion for the priest in everything he does – and, for the disciple, a total devotion of one’s whole self to God in everything he or she does.

There is one last part to this passage that sticks out for me: what does Jesus mean when he says: rd v 49-50; Mark Horn writes: Contrary to popular belief in modern NT teaching, the ancients were well used to salt as a flavor that makes food taste better. Then he quotes from Job 6.6: 6  Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt, or is there any taste in the juice of the mallow? Job is one of the oldest books in the Bible! Horn continues: What is more, God revealed to the Israelites that He like grain offerings better with salt. Then Horn quotes from the O.T.: 13 You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt. God is telling them to burn their sacrifice with salt on it. Salt isn’t being used as a preservative in that case! But why the salt and what is it used for? I think the answer in is that verse in Lev 2.13: 13 You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt. We see this term used in Numbers 18 (.19) and in 2 Chr. 13.5. Both refer to an everlasting covenant. The salt symbolizes something that will last and never ends. It is a reminder of God’s faithfulness. The salt was a reminder for the Israelites of God’s everlasting faithfulness.

In the New Covenant – an eternal covenant established by Jesus, we’re to offer our bodies as living sacrifices: our heads, our eyes, our ears, our hands, and our feet. When we’re warned about losing our flavor – it is probably in reference to the living sacrifice we are.

  • When we are not self-seeking – looking for power and prestige;
  • When we are not jealous of our brothers and sisters in Christ, but rejoice in their good fortune and blessings;
  • When we offer a cup of water to drink to those in need;
  • When we care for the least of these – the little ones and protect them from those who would lead them into sin;
  • When we are committed to Christ fully with our lives – with every fiber of our being, then we are salty and effective.
  • Then, we are true followers of Christ.

Let’s pray…


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Mark 9:14-29

Title: O’ Faithless Generation!

Text: Mark 9.14-29

Introduction: In today’s message, Jesus and 3 of his disciples have descended the mountain and find… – or should I say, what they don’t find, is today’s topic! We will see this as we make our way through the passage… But, before we even dig in, I’m just going to give you the answer: Faith

  1. Faith is what they don’t see.
  2. Faithlessness is what they find.

Let that ring and echo in your head for a moment. Faith. What is it? How is it measured out, so that you can track it, see it, feel it, hear it, experience it? Boy, that’s a hard one. Let me stop right here and clarify my intention this morning:

My goal isn’t to lead you on some guilt trip. That’s not what we’re doing here. I’m not going to go through this message with the objective before me to make you feel weak and wimpy. Listen, as I started researching and preparing this message I was overcome with a sense of guilt. For many of you, you’re with me on this, I know. But please don’t let guilt be what drives your listening and your responding. Now, that doesn’t let you off the hook before God. You’ve gotta deal with God and faith on your own. Do as the Lord leads, but understand, the goal isn’t guilt this morning.

Here’s the deal, this is just where we are in the text. I feel this is the message God would have me to preach this morning. I’m standing here telling you about faith, when I sometimes am the wimpiest believer, my faith is lacking and I just sit crying before the Lord. I’m there – and that isn’t where I want you to be.

Yes, make an honest assessment; study, pray, do what the Lord leads you to do – but not out of guilt. Let your drive be energized from your passion to faith. Want, more than anything else, to do this thing called “Christianity” right. Not because people are watching – though that is a good motivator.

So, back to the story: they’re coming down the mountain, discussing eschatological issues; dreaming about what the future will look like and boom: what do they not find? They don’t find faith in the disciples.

Transition: This leads me to a question. Technically, a few questions, but it starts with this one.

I.     How do people act or what do people do when they are faithless? (14-16)

exp.: We see the answer in v 14; Rd v 14; Answer: they argue. The disciples are followers of Christ. They’ve been given the ability to cast out demons and have done so in the past. Mark 3.13-15 – 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. That was intended from the beginning. In 6.7 Mark tells us: And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. And in 6.13 we see that this is exactly what they did: 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.

ill.: But now, they find they’re unable to accomplish what they did before! You ever been there? What worked before isn’t working now? God? What are you doing? Where are you in this? Why can’t I just do what I did before?

Exp.: Can I add to this? There is a lot of pressure with an audience. Man, I’m a rock at 4.30 in the morning, on the couch, under a lamp; just me, my Bible and a cup of coffee and I’m visiting with the Lord. But, put me in front of an audience who is watching me pray – now I’m feeling a little pressure. What if God says no? I’m going to look foolish in front of the skeptics, in front of the unbelievers.

app.: Why arguing? I’m sure they were caught off guard when they couldn’t cast out the demon like they had before. People are watching and all. I can just see them trying to step up and be the man. Peter, who is traditionally the leader isn’t there. Neither is James or John. So maybe Andrew is first. Flop! Let me try… Flop! Come on guys, step aside. This is how Judas and I did it… Flop! Arguing ensues…

exp.: But the real man and the other three disciples come walking up; rd 15; that’s what I’d do; I just read that verse and I’m so moved. Oh, dear Jesus, show up and interrupt my messes. I gladly bow out. Steal my show! My dog and pony routine only takes me so far! I see him and I’m amazed, too!

I wonder if this amazement has anything to do with the Transformation that just took place up on the mountain? I think of Moses and the Exodus story where Moses descended from the Mountain, having been in the presence of the Glory of God and the glory stayed with him. He needed a veil to hide his face from the people.

Exodus 34.29-35 describes in detail how that worked as Moses would remove the veil before the Father as he spoke with God – and then he would cover his face with the veil as he would return to the people.

Is this why they were amazed? I don’t know, but it fits with the Exodus parallel we saw last week.

Jesus then asks them: rd v 16-17; So, they’re all arguing about this casting out of a demon. I wonder how these ‘discussions’ get started. I wonder if the religious leaders were there to investigate Jesus, to trip him up. Well, he wasn’t, but his disciples were and what an auspicious occasion for them as they witnessed their failure.

Funny thing about these religious leaders: we don’t see them anymore in this passage. They cause trouble and then disappear. That is so like troublemakers! I wonder if religious leaders today are like that – not worried about the people and their needs. They just want to maintain their power and position. So, they do their best to stir up trouble and dissention among those who are doing their best for God – even if it is failing, they’re doing their best.

So this father identifies the reason for the arguing going on: the disciples failure and then, Jesus speaks: rd v 19

t.s.: O’ faithless generation. Who is he talking to?

II.    Who is this ‘faithless generation? (19-25)

exp.: Did people look at the disciples? Did they, the crowd, think he was talking to them, too? Did they just lower their heads? How would you respond if that was said to you by Jesus: O’ faithless generation. I don’t want Jesus to feel that way about me. When the son returns, will he find faith here? Please, Lord, let me be found faithful. Let us be found faithful. So, who is Christ speaking to? Answer: I don’t know.

  • The Disciples: some folks think he’s just talking to the disciples. They’ve been taught and trained and have done this before. Make some sense. They’ve failed here – was it their lack of faith that caused this failure. If you don’t understand how faith works, you just might be thinking that he’s talking to the disciples. If they just had the faith, they could have accomplished this.

Listen, Beloved, don’t buy into that lie! Faith doesn’t work like that. When someone tells you that all you need is a little more faith – that’s a cop out. Faith isn’t dispensed like water or gas or soda. There is something super cool about knowing that God can do something and being totally at peace if he chooses not to do that.

Maybe he was talking about:

  • The Father: rd 20-24; is there a more powerful, poignant dialogue between two people in this gospel? Boom – What do you mean: if you can?!?! Years ago, there was a lady in our church, (Copperas Cove), who had been attending a ‘health & wealth; name it, claim it church; she was sharing with me of how the pastor’s message was: when you “can God?”, you “can” God! Like canning vegetables or fruit. Doubting God’s ability makes it where he can’t do something. That’s another lie I’m begging you not to fall for. Yes, it preaches well and makes the preacher sound really witty. But it ain’t true! There is no power on earth that will ever limit the power of our God. Your lack of faith doesn’t weaken him one bit. God isn’t up there crying to himself because he has become inefficient and ineffective at the faith of the people here on earth! There is no faith meter registering the faith of the church at Calvary or in the home of a member.

Ill.: using a meter, demonstrate weakness; Well, there just aren’t enough members putting their faith in me, so, I feel weak. If just a couple of more would believe!

That’s non-sense and it just isn’t Biblical. Look at what Jesus says: All things are possible for the one who believes. Lit.: All things are possible to the one who believes. The ESV, the NIV – I think their translation is weak. The NASB, The Holman – they do a better job of translating from the Gk: to the one, not – for the one. That is slightly different in form – tremendously different in meaning. When you use the word for, you think reason or cause. When you use the word to, you think direction. For would imply that nothing is impossible for him or her, placing the emphasis on faith or even you. But, when you use the word to, which is what the original language uses, that means that nothing is impossible toward you – that work lies outside of you. The idea isn’t that faith does the work, but rather placing faith in an object, which does the work.

Ill.: present the GOSPEL; Romans 3.23; 2 Cor 5.21; Isaiah 53.6 – So faith is not in what you can do just because you believe – but rather, faith is placing your trust in an something else that can accomplish the task. Faith in a chair isn’t faith until you sit in it. Faith in a plane is faith until you get on it and fly. Faith in Christ isn’t faith until you surrender all of who you are to Christ. And trust that what He did – the work of dying on the cross, being buried in a tomb, and rising three days later – trusting that what he did is what saves you.

Ill. #2: There is a story of three men who refused to bow down to a king. The King ordered that they be thrown into the fire – to be killed as punishment for their rebellion. They said they couldn’t bow down, because God had ordered them not to. The King was furious! And in a rage ordered their death. The Bible reads in Daniel: 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

He can, but that doesn’t mean he will! That’s faith – trusting Him to do what He has chosen to do to bring Him Glory and Honor.

Ill. #3: David, fasting, praying, laying on the floor, begging God to save his baby boy. The Baby dies. David gets up, cleans up and goes into the Temple to worship. Then, he comes back and asks for some food. The servants are like, what, you were fasting and praying and beginning God before. Now, the baby is gone and you’re eating? David said: I will go to him someday, but he will never return to me.

That is a picture of FAITH. Trusting, begging God to work, but knowing that He will do what is best for His Glory.

Transition: The 3rd, group some folks believe Jesus is referring to is the…

  • The Crowd: rd v 25; some say, their unbelief would hinder his ability to do this miracle – he’s got to get it done before this non-believing pagans interfere. No. That isn’t what this verse is saying. I simply understand this to say that more people were coming, running to see what was going on. Maybe the disappearing religious leaders have gone back into the town and were overheard talking. We don’t really know. What we do know is that it isn’t just the growing crowd. And, it isn’t just #4…
  • The Religious Leaders: We know they don’t believe.

I think it is all of them. The only one not included in that statement is Jesus. He is different; He is set a part from them – above them.

Now some might argue with me and say look at Mark 6 and Matthew 13 where Jesus was in Nazareth, his hometown, but he couldn’t do any miracles there because of their lack of faith. Let’s clear this up. That isn’t what the Scripture says at all.

Mark 6.1-6a; that doesn’t say he couldn’t because of their unbelief. I don’t think it is even implied. Matthew clears it up a bit. But we will stay with Mark. Mark isn’t saying a lack of faith on the part of the people of Nazareth limited Christ in anyway – only that he marveled at their unbelief. The only reason you and I think this is because we’ve heard it taught incorrectly. Matthew even words it differently than Mark and clarifies it for us that Jesus didn’t do any mighty works there because of their unbelief. Not that he couldn’t because the faith meter was too low limiting his power.

Some might ask, that if it isn’t faith, then what was it? Why ‘couldn’t’ he? My answer is I don’t know. Don’t read in to Scripture something that isn’t there. Jesus was sent by his Father and led by the Spirit.

Ill.: I have a rule with my staff – it is simply this (Diana, write this down): if you ever make plans to do something, and after I’ve prayed about it, feel you shouldn’t do it, I simply ask that you cancel those plans. I may not have a reason, except that I have a check in my spirit – that I just don’t feel good about it when I lay it before the Lord. It may work, it may not, but for unity and respect for my position as pastor – please, just don’t do it.

I can’t explain it. I don’t have a valid reason. It isn’t because I lack the faith. And, when asked why your not doing that ministry, you would simply answer as here: I just couldn’t do it.

app.: Maybe the Father told Jesus not to. Maybe, miracles among unbelievers is like casting your pearls before swine. I don’t know.

III.   What causes a lack of faith? (26-29)


  1. The Father: his experience; repeated attempts to find relief and nothing; each attempt thwarted; no one has been able to help; repeated failure brings frustration; But God had other plans: Our heavenly Father wanted this father and his son to meet Jesus, His Son.
  2. The Disciples: their eyes; what they saw; failure and then, doubt creeps in; hopelessness builds; (describe the boy’s response); foaming at the mouth; that is why we walk by faith and not by sight.
  3. The Religious Leaders: their knowledge – or should I say, what they thought they knew for sure or to be true.
  4. The Crowd: Secular; wrapped up in the world; mostly curious; onlookers – wanting to see a show or something spectacular;
  5. Jesus – he gives us the answer in v 29; rd v 29: a lack of prayer; Prayer and Faith go hand in hand. Al Mohler teaches: prayer doesn’t change God – and get him to align with our will, but rather, prayer changes me – prayer changes the individual – and aligns our will to His. That is nowhere clearer than when one prays to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. The change that takes place is in the repentant sinner.

I’d love to just camp out on this for a while – this idea of prayer and faith. Maybe I will next week. It is amazing to me how prayer and faith go hand in hand. Lyle read it last week in James 5.15: And the prayer of faith will save the sick one, and the Lord will raise him up.

Conclusion: O’ faithless generation… I don’t want that to be said of me – I don’t want that to be said of us. I want to hear: O’ Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your salvation!

Application: So, what are we to make of this or, what are we to take from this?

  1. Understanding faith is hard – especially with all of the strange teaching out there. So let me offer a few steps to make it a little easier:

a. Follow: Let your faith in Christ lead you to a place where you trust that God is in control. No matter the circumstance. I don’t care who dies, who is elected president, what hurricanes or tornadoes do, if the sun rises tomorrow – God is still sovereign!

b. Then, Surrender to His leadership. That may be the hardest part of exercising your faith. Too often my selfish desires get mixed into the equation. But I don’t want to let go of him, her, it, whatever! Don’t let that happen – surrender.

c. Pray: Ask Him to do, accomplish, save – whatever it might be – Just ask, let your requests be made known to God. Pray Psalm 20:

May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!

May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!

    May he send you help from the sanctuary

and give you support from Zion!

    May he remember all your offerings

and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah

    May he grant you your heart’s desire

and fulfill all your plans!

    May we shout for joy over your salvation,

and in the name of our God set up our banners!

May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!

Note: This is a good practice – to align your heart with God’s heart: Weave Scripture into the mosaic your prayers.

d. And then Rest in the power he has to accomplish anything you can think or even imagine.

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