In today’s Bible reading we read that after celebrating the Passover meal with His Disciples, He leads them to the Garden of Gethsemane singing a hymn. Jesus asked three of His Disciples, Peter, James, and John to pray with Him. He tells them that he is greatly distressed and troubled and asks them to remain there and watch. (Mark 14:34)
If you’ve read the story before, you know that the Disciples grow tired and sleepy. Three times Jesus finds his three “Garden Friends” asleep, despite His urging them to watch.
Unfortunately, Jesus’ Garden Friends choked when He needed them to pray for Him. But with their dozing off, it reminds me that I’m not the only one who sometimes lacks the ability to persevere.
It’s important to have a few “Garden Friends”. Jesus only had three who went deep into the garden with Him. Garden friends aren’t like “Facebook friends”. Garden friends are just two or three people (of your gender) who can hold you and each other accountable in your walk with Christ.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t have to plan your time together. But you do need to meet together. Face-to-face. On a regular basis. When you aren’t able to meet together, touch base with each other with a text or phone call, letting them know you’re thinking about them and praying for them. Ask them how their time with God is going? Are they having any challenges in their quest to walk closer with the Master? Again, the time doesn’t have to be fancy. And you don’t have to have a list of questions for each other every time you meet. Remember, it’s a time to work together to grow closer to Jesus.
At one point, Jesus asks Peter if he could not pray for one hour. (Mark 14:37) When was the last time you spent one hour praying? Alone. By yourself. Just you and God?
If you’ve never done it before, it can seem like much more than one hour. But if you get in the habit of spending one hour in prayer, it becomes easier each time. But it’s important to remember to be well-rested when you’re developing the habit. Try it sometime. Find a comfortable place where you can sit uninterrupted. Turn off your phone’s ringer. Disable your phone’s notifications. Remember to bring your Bible and a notepad. Use the Bible as a pattern to pray, especially including some of the Psalms. Pray God’s Word back to Him. Write out your prayers. Keep a prayer list and link your requests with Bible verses, using these verses as the basis of your prayers.
“Which is the most important commandment?” a young man asks Jesus in today’s Bible reading. (Mark 12:28)
At the time, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day had taken the original six hundred, thirteen Laws of Moses — which included the Ten Commandments — and added thousands of additional laws in the Midrash, a commentary on the Mosaic Law. The main idea behind adding the other laws was to “build a fence around the Law” to ensure that no one broke the laws of Moses.
For instance, the Fourth Commandment concerns resting on the Sabbath Day. (Exodus 20:8–11) The rabbis took that one commandment and added thirty-nine categories of qualifications to it. They defined how many steps you could take before you began to “travel”, thus violating the command to “rest” on the Sabbath.
But instead of helping the people to love, worship and obey God, the additional commandments built a bigger stumbling block that kept people from coming to God at all. The focus became on obeying the Law, not having a relationship with God. And that wasn’t good.
So when the young man asked Jesus which was the most important commandment, he wasn’t asking which of the “Big Ten” was the most important. He wasn’t asking which of the six hundred, thirteen was the most important. He was asking which of the thousands of laws was the most important.
And Jesus told Him which was the most important. In fact, the most important commandment is what the rest of the Law is based on. If you can master this one most important commandment, you won’t have to worry about any of the others. The problem is, no one has been able to master this one: Love God with everything you are. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Here and elsewhere, I have referred to Christian Hedonism. It’s a term coined by John Piper, which he expanded in his first book, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Given that hedonists are pleasure-seekers, Christian Hedonists recognize that the highest source of pleasure can only be found in a relationship with God. And seeking the highest pleasure in a relationship with God brings the most glory to God.
CS Lewis rightly pointed out that our problem isn’t that we seek pleasure/satisfaction. Our problem is that we are far too easily satisfied. We settle for fleshly pleasures found in relationships with people, experiences, and things. But ultimate satisfaction can only be found in a relationship with God.
Do you pursue a love relationship with God? First of all, do you even have a relationship with God? Do you pursue Him with all that you are? Your heart? Your soul? Your strength?
Spend a few minutes today asking God to show you that your ultimate satisfaction is found in Him. Spend time in His Word. Spend time in prayer. Ask Him to satisfy you with all that He has for you in Jesus Christ.
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus encounters a man who has been demonized by a legion of demons. The demons manifested in ways we would describe mental illness today such as self-mutilation and paranoid schizophrenia. Mental illness is real. It is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and it can be debilitating. In many cases, mental illness can be managed with medication. And there should be no more shame for taking antidepressants or antianxiety medications than taking statins for high cholesterol. In other words, there should be no shame in seeking medical attention for medical problems.
But this man didn’t suffer from mental illness. He suffered by being demonized. (Note: The Bible doesn’t differentiate between demonic “possession” and demonic “oppression”; it only describes someone like this man as being “demonized” or “having an unclean spirit” as this man is described. (Mark 5:2b)
We don’t know how many demons there were. The Roman army was divided into several groups of differing sizes; the legion being the largest of these groups. But there wasn’t a hard-and-fast number that comprised a “legion”. However, we do know that the legion of demons was cast into a herd of two thousand pigs. Assuming at least one demon went into each pig, that’s a lot of demons who were terrorizing this poor man!
We can thank Hollywood for portraying demons in violent, dramatic ways. But if you look at how Jesus dealt with demons, nothing like that happens. Demonized people may have violent outbursts before encountering Jesus, but the actual encounter with Jesus is markedly undramatic. Demons aren’t something that Believers should be afraid of. Greater is He Who is in us than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4) Now, that’s not to say that we should go looking for them. But if we encounter them, we should simply claim the authority we have because of Whose we are.
Note that after being delivered from the legion of demons, the man tells Jesus he wants to follow Him. It’s a natural response to want to be with Jesus after such a transformation. But Jesus tells the man to go back home. Jesus wants the man to be a living testimony of what Jesus did than to simply sit at His feet and follow Him from town to town.
A big part of following Jesus is living out our deliverance from sin. And who better to live out our freedom in front of than our family and friends who have seen us at our worst as slaves to sin! In fact, separating from our lost friends and family may be the last thing we need to do when we come to faith in Christ, or become more committed to our faith in Christ. Yes, it’s important to protect ourselves from the temptations to fall back into sin, but doing so can prevent us from having the biggest impact for the Kingdom of God.
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.
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus says, “And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17 (ESV)
Does that mean that Jesus only came for the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other First Century Religious leaders? After all, they were the most righeous. Right? Uh, no.
Ask anyone who has ever been through a recovery program what is the first step. They will tell you that the first step to recovery — the first step to wellness — is to admit you have a problem. The first step to being healed spiritually is admitting you have a problem. We all have a problem. It’s the same problem. It’s the sin problem.
Adam and Eve’s decision to choose their independence from God in Genesis 3 affected all of us to the very core of who we are. It twisted their DNA and altered every human being who would ever come after them. And like an alcoholic, each of us chooses to participate in sin. When we do, we become addicted to it.
The only way we will gain victory over sin and live a life that pleases God — and gives us ultimate satisfaction — is to admit we have a problem. Admitting that we have a problem begins a life of repentance, turning from our life of self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency (and self-deceit!) and turning to Jesus, accepting His death as our atoning sacrifice for our sin. The result is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. A relationship that will grow in time as we continue to walk out our life in constant repentance and reliance on God’s Holy Spirit to live a godly life.
If you have never turned from sin and to Jesus, please do it today. If you’d like help with that, give me a shout!