Repenting and Believing

Repenting and Believing

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:14-15

The abruptness that Mark hits us with is remarkable. Just like that, John was in prison! No details though we know from the other Gospels that he preached against Herod Antipas.

But Jesus continued preaching the saving message John started. He would obviously get into more detail as time went on, but the simple but powerful message was the same, Repent and believe.

That’s it.

Through history we would needlessly complicate the Repent and Believe message because, well, it just couldn’t be that easy, could it? We all know it is that easy but even those two verbs come with their own set of difficulties. No one wants to repent of wrongdoing because they don’t believe they’re all that bad. They may even tell you that compared to certain other evil people, they’re practically angels. And there are so many religions and belief systems out there, which is the right one?

Of course when we compare ourselves with the Perfect One, we all fall short.

And believing? Jesus did it all the sacrificing for us. We just need to believe that He did it as we repent.

It requires all who believe to examine their lives, and that’s probably the hardest part of believing.

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Into the Wilderness

Into the Wilderness

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. Mark 1:12-13

First of all, I need to clarify something I wrote yesterday. An astute reader pointed out to me that I might want to clarify this:
“Jesus was not above the sinner but equal to him, while still retaining His deity.”

Jesus was 100% man and 100% God, yet without sin. He was equal in the sense that he had the same emotions, temptations, and situations we have to deal with. He took on human flesh to become like us, while still retaining His deity. Sorry for any confusion and thanks for allowing me to clarify this very important doctrinal matter and miscommunication.

We know in other places in the Gospels the manner of Jesus’ temptations. The temptations were as real as any we face, yet He resisted. The last sentence is a curious one and it doesn’t give us a lot of information.

What kind of wild animals and how many were there?
How many angels?
What were His needs after the time in the wilderness?

None of that matters else it would have been included in the narrative.

What matters is that Jesus withstood the temptations and knows intensely what that’s about. Later when he’s sweating drops of blood and hanging on the cross, he’ll also overcome those temptations to just call those attending angels and be done with it all (my speculation of how it could happen).

What matters is the Spirit can lead us as He led Jesus into the wilderness. Sometimes He does that anyhow because it’s what we need. Jesus too needed to be in the wilderness with the wild animals and Satan himself. He faced the fears, uncertainties, and chaos of not being in total control. Again, those are emotions and things we go through, and some of us go through them every day!

Being led by the Spirit isn’t easy because we resist and want to take the easy path. But perhaps the easiest path is the one He leads us on.

I know I’m writing hypothetically now, but we’ve all experienced his tug and our subsequent resistance. We also forget the times He’s tugged and we actually followed His lead, often without knowing it.

Rejoice that the Holy Spirit of God can be our Wise Guide when we let Him.

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What a Glorious Scene

What a Glorious Scene

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11

Jesus sought out John the Baptist to be baptized by him. For a full treatment on why Jesus needed to be baptized, see Gotquestions.org. Essentially, being baptized allowed Jesus to publicly identify with sinners. On Earth, Jesus was not above the sinner but equal to him (yet without sin), while still retaining His deity. Without question He was 100% man and 100% God, yet without sin.

We also see the Trinity appear in the baptism scene. The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove came down, the Father spoke, and Jesus the Son was baptized.

This scene set the stage for the next three years of ministry. The groundwork that John had laid leading up to this was important as he was constantly tilling the spiritual soil to break it up and loosen it. He would continue to do that until his untimely death in Herod Antipas’ palace.

The focus on the baptism, however, wasn’t John and he was quick to tell others that. The focus was on Jesus. Elsewhere John would make a statement that could easily be our theme: He must increase; I must decrease.

Over the next few weeks as we look through the Gospel, we will see Jesus continuing to identify with sinners, healing them, having compassion on them, and teaching them great life truths. At the time the people wouldn’t know it of course, but they were a unique part of history. They would see the living God up close and personal. They would be able to examine His life-giving teachings and watch Him spar with the religious leaders. We would later read about it, but they would live it.

Try as you may to walk these people’s sandals for a few miles. What questions would you have asked? What small talk would you have engaged in with the living God as you want from town to town? What would you say or do differently than what His disciples (or others) did?

But His ministry began here in the Jordan. Listen to the voice of God affirming Jesus as His Son. Watch the dove descend.

What a glorious scene that must have been.

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Baptized with Holy Spirit and Fire

Baptized with Holy Spirit and Fire

7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Mark 1:7-8

John made it clear that he was but the servant of the man he would eventually baptize. John’s baptism would be an outward expression, much like the ordinance we experience today, but Jesus baptism would certainly be an internal experience, burning away the crud and sin in our lives while cleansing our hearts. John introduced the Holy Spirit to us as a cleanser and refiner.

Nothing’s really changed except our knowledge of who the Holy Spirit is and what He can do in our lives.

Oh, how we need the Holy Spirit in our lives to refine and winnow out the internal junk of life we seem to accumulate. We need the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom, insight, discernment, and conviction. We need Him to chip away the non-essentials to help us focus on what’s important and relevant.

May He refresh your spirit today as you seek Him, Brothers and Sisters.

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Wild Men and Women For Jesus

Wild Men and Women For Jesus

5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. Mark 1:5-6

I believe we’ve only seen a sanitized view of John the Baptist. His diet was one none of us would choose, his clothing was certainly not what others were wearing during that period, but his message must have been forceful.

A friend of mine recalled going to a Billy Graham crusade. She remarked that his preaching was what she considered mediocre at best but when he gave the altar call, hundreds came forward. Thousands or hundreds of thousands were regularly praying for Billy Graham and his ministry. The anointing was on him and his message. Usually people came to those crusades by invitation of a believing friend. The seeds had been sown long before the crusade took place. Billy Graham just helped to facilitate their conversion.

Not surprisingly, though, many “strays” flocked to a Billy Graham crusade to see what the big fuss was, as they did with John the Baptist.

Could the wild man preach? What was the big fuss?

The “problem” they ended up having was they would actually listen to John, and the Holy Spirit would convict them. They were no longer spectators, but active participants in what John was doing. In fact, they were the reason he did what he did. If he hadn’t been so wild and up front, he probably wouldn’t have garnered such a broad audience.

In many countries across the world, single men and women put themselves in harms’ way for the gospel. They take more risks, are more mobile, and are in greater danger. They, like John the Baptist attract people who would not otherwise be attracted. I recall a single man in Mongolia who decided he wanted to go evangelize a group of people in the western part of the country. Very few Westerners had ever been there and he believed this was their time. How many seeds were planted during his time there is hard to tell. He did have adventures that you only read about in Missions books.

Still, there are men and women who feel called to go these more remote regions to do and eat things you and I shudder at. It’s not only Westerners who are doing this. I’ve heard that many in the Chinese church are doing this in large numbers. They believe they have only small windows of time to do this before their own government catches on and imprisons them.

Pray that thousands of other “wild” men and women are raised up to do this very thing, and then pray for their sustained activity while there.

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