Sunday, October 19, 2008


I.   Greetings:


II.  Introduction:  Last week we spoke of what a made an individual great in the eyes of God.  It is not position or self-promotion but serving the least:  either servants or children.  What follows is four other ways to greatness and all of them are put in the context of "A Personal Conversation Between Jesus and His Key Men".


III.  Other Ways to Greatness:  Accepting.  Mark 9:38-50.

            Note:  We spoke of becoming great through receiving children.  Now we will see how accepting can make us great.  We are to accept others, responsibility, and suffering, we therefore accept loss of Control.

   A. The Second Way:  Accepting other Groups:  Mark 9:38-40.

            Note:  After Jesus announces His death in chapter 8, Peter was seen to be spiritually imperceptive.  He did not understand the program Jesus was teaching.  Now it is the apostle John's turn.  Sometimes Christians take turns in misunderstanding the will of God.  In chapter 10 it will be John and James'.  Remember, these are the three disciples closest to Jesus.  Take heart with your own behavior.  Even the apostles of our Lord had a hard time being like Jesus.  Even the apostles messed up for a while before they understand the program.  Death to self, death to our self-centeredness is a hard concept to see or to want to do.

>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:38-40.

            Q  What did John attempt to do? 

               An = A person was helping someone get free of demon-possession through the power of Jesus' Name.  They were doing exorcisms, and John stopped them

            Q  Why? 

               An = they were not part of their group.  John seems to have a very controlling view of the ministry of Jesus.  If John was a Baptist and they were Presbyterians (or use denominations that fit your group) then John would see those outside his group as all illegitimate.

            Q How does Jesus respond?  Is He happy?

               An = Jesus is not happy with our interference with the work of other sects.  "Do not hinder others doing good" is Jesus' basic answer and His reasons for saying so are quite interesting. 

            1)  In verse 39, Jesus, not the group or its beliefs or organization, is the issue.  Those others were doing good in Jesus' Name.  The power came from His Name, not the disciples' name.  He was the key issue.  Jesus says they will not soon speak evil of Him.  It does not matter what others think of us, our church, or denomination, etc.  What matters is the exaltation of Jesus Christ.  He saves the world from its sins, not us.  It is not us, who control the machinery and operation of the church which save souls.             

            2)  In verse 40, Jesus is saying:  "Do not look for enemies." 

            Note:  One key element of all the teaching of 9:33-50 is that of aggressive behavior.  Death to the worst part of us has to be done aggressively.  Thus we are not passive when we accept other groups we are aggressively deciding not to stop them in their good acts.

   B. The Third Way:  The Acceptance Of Mercy or Death to Ego.  Mark 9:41

>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:41.

            Q  Is it hard to receive gifts sometimes?  How come?

            Note:  Jesus reminds us that others will be blessed for merely offering us a cup of cold water (A metaphor of performing an act of kindness).  We need to be humble enough to be able to receive, because others will be blessed as they attempt to bless us, for we belong to the Lord.

   C.  The Fourth Way:  The Acceptance of Responsibility.  Mark 9:42-48.

>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:42-48.

            Note:  The term "little ones" has been understood by nearly all scholars to mean either little children or young believers.  We are responsible before Almighty God to take good care of them.  If we hurt them in any manner we will be judged in Hell.  These are very frightening verses.

            Q  Do a lot of you want to eliminate the doctrine of Hell?

               An =  I do not blame you.  The concept of Hell terrifies me, yet Jesus says there is one.   If you do not like the concept of Hell, then take it up with Jesus.  He speaks over 8 times more about Hell than any other person in the New Testament. 

            Part of what motivates me to obey Jesus Christ, to be willing to die to self, is so that I can help others to Heaven thus helping keep them out of Hell.

            Note: Jesus says even the apostles can wind-up there if they do a certain type of action.

            Q  How many types of actions are mentioned that could bring condemnation? 

               An = If our hand, foot or eye causes you to sin.  Our sins can cause others, especially young children or young believers to sin.  Hypocrisy always does this.  Do you know how many people do not go to church because of the hypocrisy of those who do? 

            Q  Why does Jesus give three examples of how to avoid hurting "little ones"?  What do each of them represent?  (i.e.  the hand, the foot and the eye?)

               An = (See Lane, p. 348) The Old Testament forbade self mutilation.  Jesus does want all serious Christians to be possessed of one foot, one eye and one hand.  That is not what He is saying.  What He is saying, in the strongest terms possible, is even those things, good things which are valuable to us are not worth losing our souls.  We will lose our souls in Hell if we hurt the little ones.

            Q  Can you give an example of holding on to things that are not bad in themselves but keep us in a position where we hurt little ones?

            Note:  Perhaps the hand means:  "what we do", the foot means"  "where we go", and the eye means:  "what we see or desire".  Any of these, if they hurt a little one are to be disciplined, so as not to hurt another.

            Q  Is He addressing this threat of Hell to prostitutes and sinners or to the apostles of the Lord?

            Q  Is Jesus talking to atheists here or to the clergy?

               An =  His scariest messages often are to leaders, even Christian leaders.

            Note:  Jesus is saying discipline yourself for the sake of love.  We cut things out of lives not to be holy or more sacrificial than others.  That is the fuel of spiritual pride, the certain path of spiritual danger.  We discipline ourselves so that we do not hurt others.  We are disciplined for the sake of our love for the "babies".

            RQ What is it that needs to go?

               Note:  Remember, your own soul's welfare is at stake.

   D. The Fifth Way:  The Acceptance of Suffering.   Mark 9:49-50.

>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:49-50.

               Q What do you think these verses mean? 

               Q What does salt represent in verse 49?

               Q What does salt represent in verse 50?

               Q Does salt represent different things in each verse?

               Note:  Some scholars think verse 49 is referring to the salt that accompanied the sacrifices.  The allusion being that all of us will be salted with persecution or difficulty.  Only those who have not lived long enough are of the belief that suffering will not come to all.  Verse 49 appears to be saying, rough times are good.  Just as salt with sacrifices is proper, all of us will be seasoned with rough times.  I know some of you in this room are definitely struggling with rough times. 

            Q  Could rough times be good?

            Q  If we understand salt this way, as the seasoning of difficulty or persecution, what does "Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another" mean?

               An = If we accept the Lord's dose of suffering or persecution, it can help bring peace with other Christians.

            Q  Have you experienced this?

>>>> Re-read Mark 9:50.

            Q  Could Jesus be saying you should not try, illegitimately to get out of suffering, or you will be useless?

               An = Some then think that the salt referred to in verse 50 is more concerned with the preservative and seasoning qualities of salt.  Once we are not like a true disciple, in that we die to our ego, accept children, others outside our group, the merciful acts of others, suffering and our responsibility to the little ones then we are no longer the salt of the earth. 

            If we do not act in these ways then we are useless.

               Note:  The last phrase of "Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another" could very well mean in this context that the disputes about who is the greatest that opened this section (9:33-37) are ended when we are what we are supposed to be.  Instead of fighting for position and power we need to be serving, accepting others, accepting our responsibility for the little ones, etc.  We need to be too busy being servants and salt for the world to be bothered with our status with others.    

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I.   Greetings: 


II.  Introduction: 

            Q Have you ever gone to a special meeting?  Have you ever been on a privileged committee?  How did you feel? 

               An = Sometimes, it is fun to be in the inner circle and among the privileged few.  However, when you work for Jesus things can often be quite different than in other settings.  Lets see just how different.  Jesus called special a meeting in Mark 9:30-50.  It is the last episode before He enters back into His public ministry (beginning again in chapter 10), towards Jerusalem and therefore towards His death.


III.  Teaching the Key Truths Once Again:  Mark 9:30-32.

>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:30.

            Note:  He is traveling in familiar territory but not wanting to be known.

            Q What is His goal or intention for not wanting anyone to know?

               An = It appears He wanted to teach His disciples!  He did not want to do public ministry and deal with the crowds.  He wanted to deal specifically and specially with His disciples. 

            So today's lesson, as well as the next lesson, are not for the general public but those who consider themselves part of the leadership or part of the important people in a school, group, or church.

            RQ  Do you consider yourself an important part of the scheme? 

                        Then listen up, this lesson is for you.  You are now in the inner circle. 

            RQ  Do you think you are not part of the inner circle of the spiritually important?

                        Then listen up, so you could see what Jesus would say to you if you ever got into such a group or into a such a special relationship with Him.

>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:31-32.

            Q What three things did He want to teach?

               An = The Son of Man was going to delivered into the hands of men, they would kill Him, and three days later He would rise.

            Q How did the disciples respond? 

               An = They did not understand what Jesus was saying, and they were afraid to ask Him what He meant.  He had told them this exact truth before (8:31 and 9:9-10).

            Q Why did they react this way?

               An = (see Lane, p. 337).  In my opinion they were acting primarily in fear.  To explore further what He was saying or meaning was too painful for them.  There are times we do not want to understand because we are afraid to understand.  Sometimes we do not hear what those closest to us are saying because we unconsciously believe we cannot afford to really look at it. 

            The disciples were much like we are today.  They had selective hearing.  They heard what they wanted to hear.  They did not want to hear their leader was going to be given over to His enemies and killed.

            Q Does Jesus press them further at this time on this issue? 

               An = No.

            Note:   Key to the whole teaching today is this:  if you do not understand the cross then you will not understand the crown.  The disciple's refusal to deal with His death would stop them from understanding His real glory.  If they could not understand His "death", then they could not see the resurrection (9:31 d).  Similarly, they had to understand their own death (especially to their selfishness or selfish ambitions) if they were to understand their real role in the kingdom of God.


IV.  The Key to Greatness Is Receiving:  Mark 9:33-37.

>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:33-37.

            Q Did Jesus need to ask His question about their discussion topic?

               An = He seems to think this is an important issue to discuss.  So He raises the question because they are part of the inner circle. 

            Q Why didn't they answer?

               An = They were probably a bit embarrassed. 

            Have them turn back to Mark 9:31.

>>>> You read Mark 9:31.

            Note:  They will not face the truth of Mark 9:31.  They do not want to deal with this so Jesus tries another route with His men.  He now works off their agenda, their discussion topic which happens to be:  who will be the greatest.  They are going off on power trips.

            Note:  It was a sign of their culture to constantly ascertain their status in social situations.  Sounds familiar today does it not?  We often buy, eat, drive, (and even work at) certain things because it elevates our status, not because it is really good or even enjoyable (Lane, p 339). 

            Jesus' disciples probably thought they were all going to be high up in the coming Kingdom of God.  They would be Secretary of State, Head of Transportation, Vice President, etc.

            Q  What is Jesus' answer to greatness?

               An = See Mark 9:35, >>> Re-read Mark 9:35.

            Q  How does Jesus illustrate His answer of 9:35?

               An = He does so with an object lesson, He uses a vivid illustration, that of the child in 9:36.

>>>> Re-read Mark 9:36-37.

            Note: In Aramaic, the word "child" means "servant" too. (Lane, p. 340). 

            Note: If receiving a child or a servant is the key to greatness then how is such a thing done?

            Q  How do we receive a child or a servant in His Name?

               An = Let me give you four possible ways to apply this.


#1            Q  Is it important how we treat waitresses in a resturant?

            Q  Is it important how we treat any employee that is lower down on the totem pole of where we work?  Is it important to God how we perceive them?

               An = Our greatness is tied to this.  If we receive them graciously and politely and with respect then we receive Jesus, and thus we receive God. 

            Note:  Imagine a child that was extremely rude to the other children.  When questioned as to why they thought themselves superior to the other children they told us:  "I have three quarters in my pocket".  We would laugh, for we have a lot more quarters than that.  We see the value of all the children, and that how many quarters they have in their pockets is not really an essential issue.  Yet how many times do we look down on others because they do not have the money we have.  Jesus is not impressed!  He made the worlds.  All the cattle on a thousand hills are His.  He is not even impressed with Bill Gates.  He will judge Bill Gates not by how much money he gives to charity, but whether he treats his lowest employee well, the lowest servant, well.  


#2            Q  Do we receive children?  Are they important to us?

            Q  Are those who teach Sunday School the great ones in the church, those who work in the nursery, or with our youth?

               An =  It is not those who serve on boards or give money who are great in our church but those who receive the lowly and children.  It is where the heart of God is.


#3            Q  What children do we know of who are not presently received?  Who could Jesus possibly be talking about?

            Q  Are their children in your extended family that are not well received?

               An = It is the true Christian that will go out and aggressively seek to receive such a child, especially the child without a father or mother, or the child that comes from the weaker financial position of the extended family, or the child whose parents are not living the life of wisdom.

            Jesus is watching, hoping.  Remember if we receive them, we are receive Jesus Christ and therefore God.


#4            Q = What about the neighborhood children right here around our campus or church?

               An = I do not think we can say we are followers of Jesus Christ and not reach out to the children in our very neighborhood.  Their only chance of hearing the Christian gospel is us.  We cannot hide behind "that is not our ministry", because our very greatness depends on how we receive these very children.

            Note:  Many folks in this room secretly wish they were greater Christians.  The beginning may not be in getting some type of reputation, joining a mission team, or getting the correct doctrine, but in obeying Jesus Christ.

            What are we doing for children?  What about the outcasts in your own family?  What about helping out in a program that helps children?  What about the evangelism of lost children?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lesson # 23 | MARK 9:14-29 | DEALING WITH FAILURE

I.   Greetings: 

II.  Introduction:  Last week we spoke of "religious experiences".  Such times are marvelous,  what we can learn there, if we listen, is tremendous.  However, there is another good thing about such Mountain-Top experiences:  we must come back down to the Valley.  That may not sound good to you, but maybe it is. 

            If we attend a great service, are in a deep time of prayer, go to an excellent retreat, or a wonderful camp experience, we always have to come home.  We learn a lot in those high occasions, but have you ever been like me and come home and met spiritual failure?  Lets see how this happened to the disciples.


III.  Coming Down to Defeated Disciples:  Mark 9:14-19

>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:14-19

            Q  Who has failed here?

               An = The disciples that were left in the valley.  Three of the disciples were seeing glorious visions of Jesus, Moses and Elijah while the other nine were hard at work trying to help some demon possessed child.

            Q  How do you think the disciples felt?  How would you feel?

>>>> You re-read Mark 9:19.

            Q  Why is Jesus so rough?  Especially in front of the crowds?  Why does He do this?

               An = A lot of us would be mortified if our leader said this to us.  However, they know Jesus, and they were a little tougher than some of us today.  They also knew they had failed. 

            Notice the text does not tell us their feelings.  It quickly moves on to the unfolding drama before us.  Sometimes our feelings need to take back seat to what is happening around us.


IV.  Dealing With Dad:  Mark 9:20-24.

>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:20-24.

            Q  Why does Jesus ask the question of verse 21?  Doesn't He know all things?  Is it important?

               An = It is an easy question, it gets the dad talking so that soon he spills out his guts.  (As teachers, counselors, youth workers, parents talking with children, it is wise to start with easy questions sometimes, as it gets people into the act of thinking.  Then harder, more personal and delicate questions can follow.)

            Q  Is the dad panicking in the end of verse 22?

               An = It almost appears that as the father is describing the boys condition his sense of worry over the boy's needs heightens, and he breaks into a desperate plea for help.

            Q  How sensitive is Jesus' response in 9:23?

               An = It is OK to be puzzled by some of Jesus' behavior.  He is quite well aware of how His dealing with life puzzles us today.  It might help us to grow spiritually if we ponder what His actions meant, so as to learn how to understand them today.  The way Jesus acted then is how He acts now.  He does not change. 

            Note:  First, it is important to understand that love is demonstrated in different ways.  Here, Jesus is forceful and demanding, almost pushing this poor man over the edge.  In verse 23, you can almost hear Jesus scowling in a demanding tone.  The father has expressed his deep pain at his son's condition and asked for help, yet Jesus seems a bit offended and calls the wretched man on it.

            Q  What is the father's response?

               An = I do believe, but help me with my unbelief = He had faith but he lacked much as well.  He is a mixture.  This man is much like the disciples.  This man is where most of us are today.

            Q  What did Jesus do for this parent in a time of deep anxiety?

               An = He did not give him a spiritual formula or ask for money.  He drove the man to confess two things:  his faith and his lack of faith.  When we finally are driven to see ourselves, we become better people.  Most of us here are a mixture of belief and unbelief.


V.  Dealing With the Devil: Mark 9:25-27.

>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:25-27.

            Q  Did Jesus struggle hard to heal the boy?  Does Jesus struggle hard with the devil?

               An = No.  When Jesus and Devil meet heat-to-head there is never a struggle.  The Almighty One is unmitigated, undiluted, unbeatable power.  Jesus merely commands.  The key is to get Jesus into the picture.

            Q  Whose power healed?  Did the father help?

               An = It was Jesus and Jesus alone who healed the boy without any help from the father.  The only thing the father has done is realize that he lacks faith.

            Q  If it is all Jesus' power, why hassle the father when Jesus does all?

               An = Jesus knew He could easily heal the boy.  He knew the boy would then be going home, not only a demon-free boy, but a boy capable of living a good life.  To do that the child would need a spiritually strong father.  The boy needed a deeper and stronger dad.  God can heal our pains, or deliver us from the devil, but the Lord will also stress us, or else the gift would do us little good.  We would remain the same people as before.

            God always has more in mind than we do.

VI.  Dealing With Failure Among the Disciples:  Mark 9:28-29

>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:28-29.

            Q  Do the disciples feel they can approach Him?

               An = Those of us in leadership positions may need to be tough and corrective at times, but those we correct should believe we are approachable after rebuke.  We should be approachable if they have the courage to do so.

            Note: The disciples screw up publicly and so get a public rebuke (9:19).  This is not a nice thing, it would be so much nicer if Jesus would have covered for them and then privately rebuked them.  We notice Jesus is tough, but good to the father.  Jesus is hard on the dad, but it helps the father gain awareness of his lack of faith.

            Q  How then is this public rebuke a good thing?  What possible good could it accomplish?

               An = Maybe, it is an example of fairness.  How often leaders get public praise for public successes, but do not want public rebuke for public failures.  Maybe, it brings them down to the level we all truly live on.  We all make mistakes and all need correction.  It does not  invalidate a leader if he makes mistakes.  He is invalid when he cannot learn from them.

            Q  What is the cure for failure in tough spiritual cases, like this exorcism?

               An = Prayer.  Something we as leaders need to invest much time in.  What is prayer? Nothing but spending time with the Lord and talking to Him?  What the father of the boy was doing was talking with Jesus and Jesus is God.  Talking to God = prayer.

            Note:  If the disciples dialogue and talk with Jesus (as the father did), they too will learn the lessons the father learned in 9:21-24.  They too, will learn they also have faith, and yet need to realize they need more.  It is the facing of our mixture or lack of faith that begins the growth of our spiritual power so we can help others.  To refuse to face our lack of faith keeps us an "unbelieving generation" (9:19).


VII.  Conclusion:

            Note:  As we close in prayer, let me ask you two questions.

            Q  Is there mixture in you?  Would you admit to Christ you have faith but need so much more to face the tough situations that confront you?

            Q  Would you be willing to let Christ deal with you in your daily life in the coming days that could reveal your "mixture"?

                        Note:  Remember if you pray this latter prayer, He will listen.  

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I.   Greetings: 


II.  Introduction:  We're going to read about an unusual spiritual experience today.  It is one of the classic ones described in the Gospels.  We often hear about religious experiences, but... 

            Q  What are religious experiences? 

            Q  Do you know others who have sought after them?

            Q  Do some seek them to authenticate or validate their spirituality? 

            Lets see how one such experience is viewed in Mark.


III.  The Transfiguration:      Mark 9:2-8

   A.  The Event as a whole.

            Q  What are religious experiences for?

>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:2-8.

            Note:  This must have been an amazing experience.

            Q  Who goes up?  All or just a few?

            Q  Do all good Christians have religious experiences of this stunning magnitude?

               An = We hear of such events but here not everybody experiences what the three disciples experienced.

            B.  The Event Itself.  

>>>> Have someone re-read Mark 9:2-4.

            Q  What actually happened?

               An = 1) Jesus changes.  The greek word used here is "metamorphoses".  Something outwardly visible happened.  It was a theophany.  Literally a visible (phany) appearance caused by God (theos).           

                         2) Two ancient people appear:  Moses (the giver of the Law) and Elijah (the great prophet who never died).

            C.  The Aftermath of the Event. 

>>>> Have someone re-read Mark 9:5-8.

            Q  What was Peter's response?  Do you like it?

               An = His answer is a Title of Address (Rabbi or teacher) that basically lets us know that when in a panic he sees Jesus just as a teacher, not the divine messiah.  He then makes two assertions about how good it was to be there and something about building monuments to all three. 

            Q  Why does Peter want to build these tabernacles or monuments?

            I think mankind would rather build monuments to great happenings or experiences than actually learn something from them. The religious world is full of monuments, but has few people who understand what the Lord would really have them know.

            Q  What does the voice of 9:7 say to Peter?

               An = "This is my Son, whom I love.  Listen to him!"  In other words, this is the One most close to Me, you will never hear a more important speaker.  Listen to Him.  Do not do anything religious, just listen.  Remember, also, the word "listen" in Hebrew is the same word for "obey".

            Q  Why are the disciples terrified?

               An = When we really see God is it a tremendous experience, and we sense the majesty and Lordship of God.  It is terrifying.  Perhaps, Peter is running off at the mouth about monuments or shrines because he is a verbal person and is just talking in an attempt to keep control of his fear.

            Q  Why do Elijah and Moses appear?

               An = 1) It could be that this was to help Peter understand that he was right not to confuse them with Jesus six days ago when he confessed that Jesus was not Elijah but the Messiah (8:28-29).    2)  These two men honor Jesus and are in league with Him.  Jesus is not at odds with the Law or the Prophets (in other words:  the entire Old Testament), and this is proved by their appearing.   Jesus is at one with the Old Testament witness. 

            Note:  Be careful of those who throw out the authority of the Old Testament.  To do so, is to be at odds with our Lord.


IV.  The Discussion On the Way Down the Mountain.   Mark 9:9-13.

>>>> Have someone read Mark 9:9-13.

   A.  The Trigger of Discussion.

            Q  Who is it that the voice from the cloud wanted them to listen to?

               An = God does not want you to build a monument, but to listen to His Son. 

            Q What does His Son say on the way down from the mountain, that startled them?

               An = That Jesus mentions rising from the dead.  To rise from the dead means you first have to be dead and die.

            Q  Why do they ask a question about Elijah?

               An = Popular opinion believed Elijah would announce the Messiah.  They expected the coming to be glorious, so rising from the dead did not fit their understanding of the future, especially Jesus' future.  If Elijah was to come first, then why this rising from the dead?  This could imply Jesus would need to rise from the dead.  They did not like that.  Since to rise, meant one had to first die, it must of disturbed them to think Jesus was going to die.

            Note:  In chapter 8:31-38 Jesus spoke about the necessity of His death and of our dying to ourselves.  When I have mentioned this I have often met with strong opposition.  Usually from other religious persons who want nothing to do with such "negative" language.  Those who have found a "comfortable religion" they can control want nothing to do with a faith that demands God is in control.

   B.  The Place and Role of Elijah.

            Q  How many times is Elijah mentioned in 9:2-13?

               An = Five times:  4,5,6,12, and 13.  Have everyone turn to Malachi 3:1,2 and 4:5,6.  >>>> Have someone read Malachi 3:1,2.

>>>> Have someone read Malachi 4:5,6.

            Q  Who does Jesus understand the coming Elijah to be?

               An = John the Baptist.  Not that Jesus believed John was a reincarnation of Elijah, but that John fulfilled the mission of Elijah:  especially Malachi 4:5,6 and John's great preaching of repentance.  Until there is repentance and change, religious experiences, even seeing the Messiah, are of no value.

            Note:  Repentance is not just for drug addicts and prostitutes but good upstanding, strong Christians as well.  If our group wishes to see the Lord and derive any good from it they must repent.

            Note:  John says that children and parents must have their hearts turned towards one another.  Parents need to deeply love and forgive their children and children must forgive their parents and begin to love them.  If spiritual perception, not just experiences, is to take place then dealing with our parents or children is key.  We must obey (or listen) to the Son.

>>>> Have someone read 9:13.

            Q What did they do to John the Baptist?

>>>> You read Mark 6:27,28

               An = Those in power killed John and those who did not repent did not see the Glory of the Son of God when He was right there in their midst.  We will not see God here in this group no matter what good and positive things are done if we do not repent.

            Note:  The disciples still do not want Jesus to die. They want glory, but Jesus reminds them that as the authorities did to John, they would do to Jesus.  Mark 9:9-12 is the second announcement (of five) by Jesus that He must die.


V.  Conclusion:

            Q  So what is the purpose of true religious experiences?

               An = They are to help us listen!  This experience reveals that glory only comes after humiliation.  Jesus spoke of His humiliation.  John the Baptist says our humiliation of repentance must be there if we are to truly see and understand Jesus Christ. 

            Peter soon forgot what God had showed him.  God graciously tried to show him the proper perspective on the way down the mountain.  God continues to try to tell us also, if we will listen.

            Note:  Let me share with you two quotes in closing.  One from Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest,  July 29, says,

            "In the Bible clouds are always associated with God.  Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God.  Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith.  If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith....  They are a sign that God is there.  What a revelation it is to know that sorrow, bereavement, and suffering are actually the clouds that come along with God!  God cannot come near us without clouds...."

            Note:  He cannot always come near us with clear shining brightness, for we would never see what He wants us to see, and what we so desperately need to see.  If we have clouds today, we can try to get away from them, but if we are disciples like Peter of old, Jesus will repeatedly bring us back to the necessity of the cross.


            The second comes from the movie "Princess Bride".  There is a great quote in it towards the end:  "If someone tells you there is no pain, they are either lying or trying to sell you something." 

            Jesus Christ does not want our money.  He wants to give us the key to eternal life, and so He tells us the truth about pain.  Maybe the pain we need to face is the pain of repentance, finally admitting that we could be wrong, no matter how bad we may look in the community.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lesson # 21 | MARK 8:34-9:1 | THE CALL TO GLORY

I.   Greetings: 


II.  Introduction:

            Note:  Last week we spoke of the key aspect of Jesus' life.  Let me refresh your memory. >>>> Read to the audience Mark 8:31.

            Q  Did Peter like it?  Why not?

            Q  How many of you know people who do not like certain things about the Christian faith and so stay away?  Raise your hands if you know such people.

            Q  Are there things about Christianity you do not like?  Can one or two of you share, like Peter did, some things you either do not like now or did not like before?

               An =  In Peter's case, he was against the cross and the rejection Jesus spoke of.  Peter really loved Jesus.  He might have had other selfish reasons, but he also did not want to lose the Person he loved most in this world.  What our lesson for today will show us is what Jesus' suffering, rejection, death and rising again would mean for his disciples.


III.  The Call:  Mark 8:34.

>>>> Have someone read Mark 8:34.

            Q  What does this mean?  What does it mean to you?

               An =  Maybe even have someone take notes or write on a board their answers. 

            Note:  Let me add or repeat a few of your ideas in different words. 

            1)  Notice the word "if".  Jesus does not compel, but asks.  A person must freely choose.             

            2)  Notice Jesus is honest - He challenges us with the fact that following Him will entail death, He does not deceive us, but speaks the truth of the terrible cost of being a Christian.

            3)  Notice verbal confession is not enough.  Remember Peter was willing to say Jesus is the Messiah (see Mark 8:29), but Jesus says there is much more involved. 

            4)  Notice, we are to come after Him, He asks nothing He Himself is not going to do. 

            Note:  William Barclay reminds in this regard that there was a famous Roman general, Quintus Fabius Cunctator, who was discussing with his staff how to take a difficult position.  Someone suggested a certain course of action to capture it, "It will only cost the lives of a few men," this counsellor said.  Fabius looked at him, "Are you," he said, "willing to be one of the few?"  Jesus was not the kind of leader who sat safely in a remote position from the heat of the battle and played with the lives of men like expendable pawns (Barclay, p. 207).

            Q  All of us would agree that Jesus is fair, but why does He make it so hard?

               An =  1) God could have hindered His men from suffering any trials.  They could have always been sheltered from difficulty and pain, but He lets us have the "glory of participation".  2)  The cost involved forces us to shift the center of gravity from self to reckless abandonment to God.  3)  Our faith becomes real only when what Jesus is talking about in 8:34 is acted out in our actual lives.  It cannot remain in our minds. 

            Q  What does it mean to live in the mystery of hiddenness?

               An =  We are to become the great ones of heaven but such greatness will be hidden from most people now on earth.  Jesus was Almighty God, yet He was asked to suffer pain, death and rejection.  Few people figured out Who Jesus was! 

            Note:  I think if we are honest we would agree that it seems hard to pay such great costs to follow God without a lot of praise and acclaim from others.

            Q  Who does Jesus allow to hear such strong demands?  Who was allowed to know the real truth?

               An = Notice Jesus calls the crowd to himself along with the disciples.  Everybody was allowed to hear what He had to say.  Jesus lets all hear such a call and all such a call entails.  He is not like a cult leader who hides part of their agenda from the public.  All can hear, Jesus hides nothing.

            Q  What are the three conditions?

               An =

            1)  One must deny oneself. 

                        What would happen if every mother refused to take the risk of bearing a child?  What would happen if men spent all they had upon themselves?  The very essence of life is in risking and spending it, not in storing and hoarding it.  True, it is the way of weariness, of exhaustion, of giving to the uttermost---but it is better to burn out than to rust out, for denying oneself is the way to happiness and the way to God.

                        Unless we deny a part of our lives, we cannot follow Him.

            Q  Here is a difficult question:  will we be happy if we do?

               An = I have struggled long with this question.  However, the second condition clearly states (2) one must take up one's cross.  One must be prepared to sacrifice and that sacrifice will be painful at times.  Following Jesus always entails more than words on our part.

            3)  One must follow Him. 

            Q  Is self-denial the goal?

               An = No, the goal to is to follow Him, not just deny oneself.  It is not just trials, but trials for Him, not just dying, but obeying His commands.  The goal is not to suffer, but to add His virtues, to follow Him, to be like Him.  Some in religious pride will suffer, but it takes love and humility to follow as well.


IV.  The Reasons for the Call:  Mark 8:35-37.

>>>> Have someone read Mark 8:35-37.

            Q  What do most people fear?  Is it Death, or losing something we value?

               An = Let them give their answers without comment.  Then add, Jesus says you must fear the correct things.  Notice the reasons He gives for denying, taking up our cross, and following Him.  He gives a Threat (35 a), a Promise (35 b);  and then He follows with two rhetorical questions (36,37).

            Q  What is the threat in the first half of 8:35?

               An = If you try and save your life you will lose anyway.           

            Q  What is the promise in the last half of 8:35?

               An = Jesus promises that if we will risk our lives for His and the Gospel's sake we will save our lives.  The whole promise centers on loyalty to Jesus Himself.  Jesus says:  "Be loyal to me and you will win!"

            Note:  Jesus then asks two very searching questions.  He asks them because He wants us to think out why we do things.

            RQ  Can we afford to gain the world's approval and still be loyal to Jesus? 

            Note:  It looks so very risky to follow Christ, but it is the very best investment in the world.  I have noticed that those who really give all to Christ are those who really live and not just in the life to come but in this life.


V.  Choosing What to Fear:  Mark 8:38-9:1.

>>>> Have someone read Mark 8:38-9:1

            Q  What is the threat in 8:38?

               An = If we deny Jesus, then He will deny us.  You cannot live a hidden Christian life in this world and expect Jesus to publicly acknowledge you in the life to come.  That will not happen.

            Q  What is the promise in 9:1?

               An = The "now" sets the future.  Our now must contain loyalty, loyalty to His future glory.  Death in this life is not to scare us.  To see His glory is to loose the fear of death on this side of the grave.  To live in His glory and His absolute freedom from death.

            Note:  There are many interpretations on what Jesus means concerning some will not taste death until they see His glory.   Let me give just one this week.  If we are willing to follow Jesus, and die to ourselves, then we will see, on this side of the grave, the glory of His Kingdom, the glory of His Person.

            Q  Why did Jesus say "some" who are standing here will see the Kingdom of God come with power?

               An = Not all were going to see it.  Maybe our experience of the Christian life is anything but one of power.  The reason is we have yet to really follow Jesus.

            Q  Who have we not forgiven? 

               Note:  Maybe there are people in our lives that it would kill us to forgive.  Go ahead, die.  If we die in that way, we will live. 

                        It is the beginning of seeing the kingdom of God come with power.

            Q  Are there people we are always judging?

               Note:  Maybe there are people we put down, despise and gossip about.  If we do, we are not following Jesus (see Matthew 7:1-5).  Maybe it would kill us not to gossip or despise that person? 

                        But you say:   "I have to gossip!  Someone has to spread the news!!!!!   All  justice in the world will collapse if I do not gossip and put that person down." 

            What will really collapse is our own soul if we continue.

            Until we stop, we will be dead.

            Note:  Jesus' words seem so hard tonight, but the Apostle Paul understood them and believed the same truths.  Lets close with some of his words....

>>>> Have someone read Romans 12:1,2