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“The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’”(Mark 10 v26-27)

In the last devotional I mentioned that we have to be very carefully if we have been blessed, because we have the responsibility to be servants, not masters. This is almost impossible to do if we are rich, as we can see in the story of the rich young man that immediately precedes today’s passage.

This rich young man was very devout. He knew all of God’s commands, and he had obeyed them. At least that is what he had thought! But Jesus knew better. When he listed the commandments, he did not actually list the two greatest commands. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)

To obey all the law properly the rich young man would need to rethink his attitude to money, and focus on being a servant instead of a master. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.’” (Mark 9: 21)

Jesus is not condemning the man for having wealth, in fact it says quite clearly that he loved him. What Jesus is doing is showing this man that there is a better way. The blessings he had been given were not wrong in themselves, but the man’s attitude to his blessings was. He did not use what God had given him to serve others, and this meant that he was missing out on the true riches, the treasure in heaven.

Forsaking yourself is not easy. In fact the disciples soon realised that it is impossible. ‘Who then can be saved?’ Who can truly live a life of a servant? Aren’t we genetically programed to be selfish? Isn’t it just natural to want to preserve our own life, and take care of ourselves? If we have to give up everything, then we may as well just give up altogether.

But Jesus looks at us, and he loves us. He knows a better way, where we can have God’s blessings and not get caught up in them. We can be rich and still be a servant. We can live a great life and still carry our cross. We can suffer and still rejoice. With man all this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2: 5-11)

Jesus had every blessing, even the very nature of God. But what did he do with this extraordinary blessing? He made himself a servant, completely and totally, even to the point of going through a humiliating death for us. What did God do? He not only restored Jesus life, and the blessings he had given, but he made him a master of all – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

This is Jesus most excellent way. Whatever God has blessed you with needs to be used with a servant’s heart, then you will not only be blessed in your life here on earth, but you will also be blessed abundantly in your eternal life in heaven. But this is only possible if you take on the very nature of Jesus by accepting his Holy Spirit in your heart.

God Bless,

Matt.

“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9 v36)

Jesus is the way the truth and the life. We have been talking about picking up our cross and following him. In this passage we see the same thing expressed in a very practical way. It isn’t just about the act of dying for someone else, it is also about the act of living for them.

Although Jesus death was critical, we should not lose sight of the fact that it was his life that made all the difference. God is not about death, he is about life. Although Jesus death was necessary, it was his resurrection to new life that is the heart of our faith. “And if Christ has not been raised our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15: 14)

It is the same with our own person life. If we have not been raised as a new creation with Christ then everything we do is useless. The Christian faith shows itself not in our death but in our life. When we offer our lives to Christ it is as a living sacrifice, not a martyr.

Don’t get me wrong. The call to be a martyr is a very high call indeed, but like I have already said, God is about abundant life, not just death. His way is about how we should live as much as it is about how we should die.

So how should we live? But putting to death our human nature. Dying to ourselves. Making ourselves more like Christ and less like the world. Picking up our cross and following him. However you want to put it, we must follow Christ’s example. And in this passage we have a very practical example of what that should look like.

Where are you on the hierarchy of life? Do you have people working for you? Do people do whatever you ask? If you need something, is there always someone there who can meet your needs? Have you finally managed to organise your life so that you can sit back and relax and enjoy it?

There is nothing explicitly wrong with any of that, but if you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, then you need to ask yourself if you are the master or the servant? We are called to live as servants not masters. If our aim is to live a life of ease, then we need to be careful. Putting ourselves first means we will find ourselves at the end of the queue.

So I warn you, if God has blessed you with plenty then by all means you should rejoice, but be wise in how you use what God has given you. He has blessed you so that you can be a blessing to others. You are being called to serve others with whatever God has placed at your disposal.

“Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship…For by the grace given me I say to you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you…We have different gifts, according to the trace given to each of us. If you gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith. If it is serving the server; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12: v1,3,6-8)

What God is really saying is get on with living your life for him, and in doing so you should serve others just as Jesus did. In all things act as a servant, a living sacrifice. Put ourselves last knowing that if we do so God has promised to take care of us. “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.” (James 4: 10)

God Bless,

Matt.

“‘If you can?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for those who believe.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief’” (Mark 9:23-24)

In the last devotional we talked about what is costs to follow Jesus. The sacrifice, without doubt, is a great one. So why would anyone follow Jesus. Why would we put ourselves through suffering, torture, humiliation, rejection, and even death, for the sake of some guy who lived 2000 years ago?

Well ordinarily we wouldn’t. Indeed if Jesus is not the life, and he wasn’t raised from the dead, and he isn’t living in you and me, and we don’t have eternal life, then there is no point in any of this. There is no reason to go through hardship. As Paul says, “If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” (1 Corinthians 15: 32)

If, on the other hand, you believe that the remarkable testimony that we are reading in Mark is true, and you can see that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, then your faith has given you something far greater. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4: 16-17)

We need to pick up our own cross and deny ourselves in order that we can experience Christ. We can’t have a new life, and new beginnings, if the old life is still around. We can find great joy in denying ourselves, because we can see the bigger picture. We know how valuable a new life in Christ is, and so we have courage to follow Jesus all the way to the cross. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:5)

But as we see in this passage, although our faith is predominately aimed at the eternal future glory – an eternal life without sin, without tears, and without pain – it is also good for the present time. Many of us (myself included) still don’t experience the full power of what Christ has made available to us in this life.

Look at this passage from earlier in the chapter, “And [Jesus] said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.’” (Mark 9: 1) What does this mean?

If it was talking about his second coming then he is a liar, because he has not yet returned. If he is talking about eternal life, then this doesn’t make sense because how can you ‘not taste death’ if he is talking about dying?

No. The Kingdom of God is not heaven, nor eternal life. The key to understanding the Kingdom of God is in the start of the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6: 9-10)

There two obvious points here. First The Kingdom of God is concerned with bringing about God’s rule here on earth, both in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. Second the Kingdom of God is about bringing glory to our Father in heaven. Personally I believe these two things are the same. When we subject ourselves to God’s ways in our own lives, we will bring about change in our community, and we will also bring Glory to God.

Okay, so I know the benefits of believing and following Christ, but there is still one serious problem. Even if I am motivated to change my life and those around me, I don’t think I have the strength to do it.

The truth is that you are right! You can’t do it. But that is why we have the Holy Spirit. “Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God’”. (Luke 18:27). If you want to truly follow Jesus then there is only one response to the impossible things he requires of us. “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

God Bless,

Matt.

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” (Mark 8: 34)

When Jesus says he is the WAY the truth and the life, it’s not surprising that the first thing he asks us to do is to follow him. Many of you who are reading this will have already made that decision. But do you really understand what you have committed to? Do you understand what is involved?

What is Jesus way? Is it setting aside a few hours on a Sunday; maybe reading the bible a bit; going to a prayer meeting, but not if it’s raining or I’m not feeling like it. Is this Jesus’ way that he is asking us to follow?

Jesus says quite clearly in this passage that taking up the cross and following him means DENYING YOURSELF. But just how far does this denial go? We can’t do any better than to look at what Jesus went through when he picked up his cross. Let’s take a quick look at what it mean for him.

Betrayal (“Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him.” – Mark 14:44-46);

Abandoned by his friends (“Then everyone deserted him and fled.” Mark 14: 50)

Beaten and insulted (“Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, ‘Prophesy!’ And the guards took him and beat him.” Mark 14: 65)

Even his best friend denied knowing him (“He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know this man you’re talking about.’” Mark 14: 71)

The crowd turned against him and as a result was treated very unjustly (“‘Crucify him!’ they shouted. ‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’” Mark 15: 13-14)

He was humiliated (“They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him.” Mark 15: 17-19)

Even as he died, they fought over his possessions (“And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.” Mark 15: 24)

He lost all credibility with everyone (“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!’” Mark 15: 29)

He even lost the only thing he ever truly valued, his relationship with his father. (“And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’)” Mark 15: 34)

Ultimately it cost him his life. (“With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.” Mark 15: 37)

And for what purpose? Not for his own sake but for everyone else’s. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. ‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’” (1 Peter 2: 21-24)

Is this what you are prepared to offer when Jesus asks you to follow him?

God Bless,

Matt.

“‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’”

We are now halfway through the gospel of Mark, and it is well worth taking stock of what we have seen. If you have been following these devotionals and reading Mark as we have gone along, you would have seen many amazing things. If you believe everything you have read, and I sincerely hope you do, then it is a good time to ask you who you think Jesus is?

You might read the bible regularly. You might become enthralled in the stories. You might be able to quote chapter and verse, coming up with quotes to deal with every situation. But the most important question you can ask yourself, and the only question that really matters is who do you think Jesus is?

Is he John the Baptist, a man who was concerned with the way to repentance and the kingdom, and preparing a way for the Lord? “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the wilderness, Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” (Matthew 3:1-3)

Is he one of the prophets, a great teacher bringing the truth of God? “Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, ‘Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your ancestors.’ But you have not paid attention or listened to me.” (Jeremiah 35:15)

Is he Elijah, a man who, through miracles and wonders, not only brought truth but also life? “The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived…Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.’” (1 Kings 17: 22, 24)

Jesus is all of these things. He is the way the truth and the life, but he is also much more. He is the Messiah. What does it mean for Jesus to be the Messiah?

In Jesus own words, “He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’…He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’” (Luke 24: 44, 46-49)

He is the way, the truth and the life. He is the complete fulfilment of the Law (How to live life), and the Prophets (God’s word to his people) and the Pslams (Worship). He offered himself as a sacrifice for sin, so that he could achieve what we could not, and in return he gives us his spirit to empower us to do the will of God.

Is this what you believe? Is this what you can see as you look at what Jesus did as reported by Mark? What do his words and actions mean to you. Do you really know Jesus? Do you really know for sure why he came and what he has done? Have you made him a part of your life? Do you live by his spirit instead of by your own flesh?

It is time to answer these questions once and for all. If he is the Messiah, then he is YOUR messiah. If he is the way the truth and the life, then he is YOUR way, and YOUR truth, and ultimately YOUR life. The answer to this question is crucial because the very meaning of life depends on it.

God Bless,

Matt.

“Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?’” (Mark 8: 17)

Jesus is the way the truth and the life. He provides direction to our live, all the wisdom we need, and everything else required to live a full life. One of the most important lesson we can learn as we move through Mark is that Jesus is the source of everything. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 18)

So why do we talk about having no bread? Do we still not see or understand? Are our hearts hardened? “’Be careful,’ Jesus warned them. ‘Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.’” (Mark 8: 15) Life is not about trying to please God by doing the right things (as the Pharisees believed), nor is it about achievement riches and power (the folly of Herod). Life is about trusting that Jesus will provide everything we need.

Bring to him whatever we have (even if it is only seven loaves to feed four thousand men). He will use it supernaturally to provide all we need. “The people ate and were satisfied.” (Mark 8: 8) In fact not only will he provide enough for all to be satisfied, there will be an excess.

“‘When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’ ‘Twelve,’ they replied. ‘And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’ They answered, ‘Seven.’ He said to them, ‘Do you still not understand?’” (Mark 8: 19-21)

Jesus wants to provide, and in providing he extremely generous. “The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom” (Deuteronomy 28: 12-13)

But as we saw in the last devotional, the only way we can do everything that God requires is to be filled with his spirit and allow him to change us from the inside out. We must soften our hearts. We must trust him in all things. It is not just a matter of being set free from sin, it is also about receiving every blessing God wants to give us, living life the way God always intended.

When Jesus warns the disciples about the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod he is warning them about their attitude and their hearts. It is not wrong to desire the basic needs in our life. God knows that we have needs. The key is how what we do about them.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Let me state it unequivocally. The first step is to not be anxious. Whenever the disciples were faced with Jesus’ supernatural powers Jesus often had to say to them ‘Do not be afraid!’ We have seen this many time already. We can’t see Jesus for who he really is if we are in fear.

The second step is that we need to be consistent. We need to react the same way in every situation. We should not hesitate. We should know exactly what to do in every situation.

And what is that? To pray. Some people a reluctant to ask God for the things they need, but this is exactly what we should be doing. Not relying on ourselves to supply our needs but on God. “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” (John 6:35)

Finally we need an attitude of gratitude. If we pray with a heart of bitterness or self-pity we should never expect to get anything from God. Before Jesus gave the bread to the disciples to distribute, he gave thanks. It is right that we give thanks, because we know that in all things God will supply all our needs.

God Bless,

Matt.

“Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them” (Mark 7: 15)

When Jesus declares himself to be the truth there are many things he says that are very difficult for us to understand. He is one that would be even more shocking to those in Jesus day than it is to us, but it should still shock us.

Think about this for a moment. What is he saying? Can do anything we want to do? Is it true that NOTHING outside a person can defile them? If this was true then we could do watch whatever we like, read whatever we like, do whatever we like.

But when teaching about the law Jesus himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 17,20)

So what is Jesus saying here? The Pharisees approaches the problem of righteousness from the outside, but God wants to approach the problem from the inside.

Let me explain. The Pharisees obeyed the law in the hope that it would please God. Outwardly they worked on doing the right thing, but inwardly they refused to deal with the very things that were causing the sin, their pride, their anger, their lusts, etc. God knows that rules and regulations never really change a person.

God wants real change and to do that he first has to make us realise how bad a state we are really in. So he gave us the law to help us understand the standard of behaviour he expects. The law didn’t change anything it just made us realise that to please God we needed a complete and radical change of attitude and heart. “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” (Romans 3:20)

So here we are, aware of sin, and powerless to do anything about it. How is that going to help? It will help because we will realise that nothing on the outside makes us unclean. We will understand that we are not a product of our circumstance. Our sin is not anyone else’s fault. It is not external. It comes purely from the wrong decisions we have made. Once we stop blaming everything and everyone else, we can get to the root of the problem – us.

When we understand the problem is on the inside, our thoughts and our heart, we are half way to fixing it. If you go on to read Jesus teaching about the law in Matthew 5 (which I quoted earlier) you will see that he is not after the letter of the law but the spirit. It is not murder we should be worried about it is anger. It is not the act of adultery it is lust. It is not the act of taking revenge, it is the failure to love. It is, and always has been, about what is going on in your mind. “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” (Romans 8: 7).

The only way to clean that up is to completely change our mind. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

And how can I do this? By choosing to adopting the mind of Christ. “But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.” (Romans 8: 10)

So what is the conclusion? Jesus Spirit is a spirit of grace. This means he will provide the strength we need to overcome our sin. We don’t need to look to our own strength or use excuses like “I’m only human”. We have no excuse. If we have accepted Jesus into our lives then we have an obligation to use his spirit inside us to overcome our sin. “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8: 13)

God Bless,

Matt.

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