How do you respond when someone says, “I have good news and I have bad news”? Several times in today’s Bible reading, Jesus does just that.
He talks about the Last Days and His return. In the way He describes things, it would be very easy to be anxious. But that’s not why He tells His Disciples about the end times. Instead, He gives them this information so they would be encouraged. As they see things happen in the future, instead of being anxious, they should be encouraged, knowing that the end and Jesus’ return is coming soon.
Note: The “End Times” isn’t something that will happen sometime in the future only. When Bible teachers talk about “the End Times”, they’re talking about the time that began when Jesus arrived preaching His good news. In other words, we are in the “End Times” now. Yes, we are closer to the end than when the church was birthed in Acts 2, but we have been in the “End Times” for almost two thousand years. We are in an overlap of this Present Age and the Age to Come. A time of “already, but not yet”. Some of the things Jesus prophesied have already been fulfilled, such as the fall of Jerusalem that occurred in AD 70 and prophesied in today’s reading. (Mark 13:2) But Jesus hasn’t yet returned in all of His glory to take His bride — Believers — to her eternal home with Him. 26-27)
Are you ready for Jesus’ return? What does it mean to be ready? It means to live with an expectancy that Jesus will come soon. It means to live an obedient life, telling other people how they, too can have an eternal hope.
Several times in the Gospels, Jesus tells His Disciples — and us — that we should always be ready because no one knows when He will return. Even He doesn’t know when His Father tells Him to bring His children home. If you’re one of His children, He will come for you, so you want to make sure that you’re always ready.
As we continue reading through the Gospels and Revelation during this year, it’s important to see Jesus’ warnings as both good news and bad news.
Spend some time today thanking God that He has a plan to bring His chidren home to live with Him for eternity.
A few days ago, I mentioned that demonic encounters in the Bible are relatively undramatic. And then in today’s Bible reading, we see a very dramatic demonic manifestation with a boy who is thrown to the ground, his mouth foams, he grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. When Jesus casts out the demon, it cries out and convulses the boy’s body. (Mark 9:17-29) That’s pretty dramatic!
But as I said, demons aren’t something that Believers should be afraid of. Jesus is mighter than our enemy, and much more so than our enemy’s servants. There is never a question in Scripture who is stronger and has more authority! If God’s Holy Spirit lives in you — and He lives in all Believers — you have access to a greater spiritual force than your enemy.
So why were the Disciples unable to cast out this demon? Jesus says that sometimes they can only be driven out by prayer. (Mark 9:29) So how were the Disciples trying to drive out the demon? We don’t know, but obviously they weren’t using prayer.
Why do we so often turn to prayer as our last resort? I mean, we may do everything we can. We may ask for other people to help. And then, when we’re at our wit’s end, we turn to prayer. Why?
It goes back to our fallen nature that we inherited from our First Parents, Adam and Eve. They chose independence from God. They chose self-reliance. They chose to do things their way. And so do we, even as Believers.
Spend a few minutes today declaring your dependence on God. Remember that Jesus knew that He could do nothing on His own initiative (John 5:19). And if Jesus had to live in submission, in dependence on God, why would you think you can?
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus rebukes His Disciples for not being able to connect the dots of trusting Him. (Mark 8:7-21) They had witnessed Jesus feed five thousand men (plus wives and children) with five loaves of bread and collected twelve baskets of leftovers. And they saw Him feed four thousand people with seven loaves of bread and collected seven baskets of leftovers. Here, the Disciples worry they only brought one loaf for their boat ride.
He quotes Jeremiah 5:21 which references having eyes, but not being able to see. He drives home the point that if He could feed thousands of people with a little supply could He not provide for His Disciples as well?
Next, we see Jesus heal a man, but it takes two touches for the man to see clearly. (Mark 8:22-25)
Finally, Jesus tells us that if anyone wants to follow Him, they would be choosing a hard life of self-denial. (Mark 8:34-37)
How often do you find yourself troubled about how you will meet a need? You worry and worry. Finally, turning to God, He comes through — as He always has in the past — either with an answer to the need, or the calming peace of His presence.
Too often, we see, but we don’t see clearly that God will come through for us. And sometimes, it takes another touch to see clearly.
Oftentimes, we need to cry out like father of the demonized child (in tomorrow’s reading), “I believe. Help my unbelief!”
There seems to be a great concern among some that they have committed the unpardonable sin and are hopelessly doomed to spend eternity in hell for committing one sin. Well thankfully, Jesus addresses the “unpardonable sin” in today’s Bible reading.
As we look at this sin which can never be forgiven, let’s look at what Jesus actually says and let’s look at the immediate context.
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28–29 ESV)
So what is blasphemy?
Blasphemy means “to speak against someone in such a way as to harm or injure his or her reputation (occurring in relation to persons as well as to divine beings)—‘to revile, to defame, to blaspheme, reviling” To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to slander Him.
Now, look at the context:
“And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” (Mark 3:22 ESV)
From the definition and the context, we can conclude that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to see God’s works occurring before one’s eyes and speak against God in such a way to attribute the works of God to the devil himself.
Have you ever committed the unpardonable sin? Have you sinned so greatly that God will never forgive you? Look at what Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter.” (Mark 3:28 ESV)
Jesus says that God is able to forgive all kinds of sins of all kinds of people. He can and will forgive all of all. Except for one sin: attributing the works of God to the devil. Have you ever done that? Have you ever seen Jesus do the works of God and say, “No, the devil did that!”
It’s important to note something Jesus says in just a few chapters later. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” Mark 7:21-22 (ESV)
In other words, our lips give away the inclinations of our hearts. An unbelieving heart will speak of its unbelief. And an unbelieving heart will speak against the works of God in such a way to attribute God’s works to the devil.
So have you committed the unpardonable sin? Are you unforgivable? Are you beyond God’s redemption?
The fact that you are concerned enough to ask the question speaks of a heart inclined to believe. An unbelieving heart wouldn’t even care if it had done something so heinous that it couldn’t be forgiven.
So take heart! If you’re concerned that you can’t be forgiven for something, that’s the work of God in your heart to redeem you, not to reject you!
 Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains 1996: 433. Print.
God inspired — literally breathed out — His Word so that we could be equipped to obey Him in our day-to-day lives. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) If we don’t regularly spend time in His Word, we starve our souls. Our spiritual malnutrition will result in not being adequately equipped and not having a sharp weapon for encountering the Spiritual Warfare that we will face.
This Bible Reading Plan I’m using was developed by the Navigators. Each day (five days a week), we’ll read an assigned chapter in the New Testament. The chapters are in order through a book in the Bible, but the books are not in the book order in the New Testament. In other words, we won’t start in Matthew and read straight through Revelation.
You can follow along by printing a copy of the reading plan or use the YouVersion Bible App. Just download it from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Other versions of the app are available, including the Web. Create a free account and search for Discipleship Journal’s 5x5x5 Reading Plan. Once you’ve subscribed, the app will track your readings. Depending on the translation you use, the App can even read out loud that day’s chapter. If you ever get behind, you can easily catch up. Given the fact that there are only five readings each week, it won’t be difficult to stay within a day or so if you just put in a little effort.
The best way to get my devotionals is to subscribe to my newsletter. Each morning we have a scheduled reading, you’ll receive an email with that day’s devotional. The easiest way to subscribe is to enter your email address below. Check your email and confirm that you want to subscribe.
Please invite your friends, family, and church to follow along as we go through the New Testament, gaining a 2020 vision for our lives and encountering God in His Word. My prayer is that as we dig into God’s Word, we’ll be transformed to be more like Jesus as we grow in a love relationship with Him.