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About this series
How Jesus Chose to Change the World
What does it mean to be a real disciple of Jesus? Through this new series based in the Gospel of Mark, Chip breaks down this complex idea, by using the simple lessons Jesus taught His followers. We'll learn how characteristics like commitment, humility, and trust - set genuine Christ followers apart. Chip helps us better understand how we can avoid sin, grow in our walk with Christ, and just as important, help others mature in their faith as well. Don't miss how real disciples of Jesus, can radically change our world.More from this series
The pathway to power is only through the door of the cross. That’s what He wants them to learn. It’s the theme of this section. The kingdom will only come in power when it goes through the cross.
Now, don’t get that negative idea of what the cross is. “Oh, the cross I’ve got to hurt here and this is…” The cross is the will of God. You and I and the disciples will only experience kingdom power like dynamite when we sign that blank check and say, “Your will instead of mine.” For Jesus, it meant death. At times, it will mean suffering and rejection for us. But it also means power.
And so, the disciples now, their focus has totally changed. And if that wasn’t enough, you talk about confirmation, you know, sometimes we ask God, Oh God, give me a sign.
These guys are the three men that the weight of the Church is going to follow on later.
John is going to write books and end up giving us Revelation at a ripe old age. Peter is going to be the man who gets things going and then Paul takes it to the Gentiles.
He wanted to convince them, “Men, you are in on the most fabulous opportunity that few human beings ever get ever. And I want you to see who I really am.” And that’s His message to us today. And so, this cloud, just like the Shekinah glory comes down, and they actually hear the voice of God tell them, “This is right. This is Jesus. Listen to Him. He is My Son. Follow Him, regardless of the cost.”
You get the affirmation? Now, like us, they have a few questions. And so, after this experience, they are walking down the hill, “They kept the matters to themselves, discussing what ‘rising from the dead’ meant.”
And Jesus, as they were walking down the hill gave them orders that until they see the Son of Man rise from the dead they should not tell this to anyone, and they still can’t figure out what all this resurrection terminology is about.
Verse 11, “They asked Him, ‘Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?’” Now, see, they are convinced He’s the Messiah. Peter knew it before this experience. But now they have heard from Moses, Elijah, and the voice of God, but they have got a couple nagging theological questions like you and I have sometimes.
Sometimes God makes His will clear and you know what to do. But you have always been taught a couple things and they don’t quite jive with what exactly you think God’s will is. And you need it cleared up. And so, this is what Jesus does. During that day they had a lot of, a lot of big I would say extra-biblical ideas about Elijah and what he would do and when he came and what it would look like. So, Jesus clears them up.
Verse 12, “Jesus replied, ‘To be sure, Elijah comes first, and restores all things.’” That’s true. Those teachers of the law, they are correct. And then He adds a question; He gets back to the heart of the issue.
“Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?” But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”
Let’s do a quick review. Group of men have been challenged to the core of their being for about six days.
They saw the King in His glory and power; they saw His deity. They heard from the founders of the faith to affirm and confirm that Jesus was the Messiah. They heard His methodology about the cross was confirmed – by whom? The law, the prophets, and the Father. They had their theological questions answered about Elijah and John the Baptist. And they saw and they heard God.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that would be a pretty, you know, one of those experiences you want to mark up and write down in your journal and read it every day. Question I have is why is this here? Every gospel, this transfiguration follows the great confession. Why? I think the answer is really simple.
The great confession calls the side of the coin of great demand, great sacrifice, follow Christ no matter what. And I think the Lord knows our humanness and knows that we struggle and knows that we need to also be able to focus on who in the world are we following and is it worth it? Is it worth it? And the answer is yes. I mean, can you imagine these guys, if you can’t trust Him, who can you trust now?
Now, what I’d like to say is that this isn’t reserved for them. This Mount of Transfiguration experience is – what? They saw God for who He really was and what He was going to do. And you and I have the Spirit of God living in our life, we have got the Word of God available, we have the fellowship of other believers. And God can allow us to see Him for who He is today.
And also begin to see that His will isn’t some dark, terrible, scary, Oh no, I don’t want to do that because…but it’s the greatest opportunity in the world.
See, a lot of you, like me, I mean, I was the black sheep of every Bible study I was in for the first three years I was a Christian. If you were supposed to memorize Scripture, I wouldn’t do it. If you’re supposed to go to this meeting, I didn’t go. Or I was always in and out and you know why? I had such a faulty view of God.
I was convinced if I got committed to Christ, I’d end up in Africa. I’m serious. So, I don’t want to get too close to this guy. I want to go to heaven, but that’s about it. And then when I was single, some of you are this way, if you think you’re single and you get really committed to Christ, you’ll never get married. And that’s what I thought. So I didn’t want to get too close then either.
And some of us, we get married and we start our career: Well, I don’t want to get committed to Christ. My lands, I’ll never have anything. Committed Christians are poor.
See, what God wants us to learn is His will is good and acceptable and perfect and that we can trust Him. Let me give you one verse and I want you to write this down, because this is the message He wants. Psalm 84:11.
It says, “The Lord God,” it’s the strong combination of two names for God, “the Lord God is a sun and a shield.” What is the sun? A source of power. And a shield, a source of protection. “The Lord,” authority, sovereign One, “gives grace,” what’s that? Unmerited favor, blessing, encouragement, “…and glory.” Enhancement of one’s reputation and life.
“The Lord God is a sun and a shield; the Lord gives grace and glory;” and here’s the killer, “no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” You’ll never get a raw deal going for broke with Christ. You’ll never miss!
The only way your life won’t turn out best is when you arrogantly, like I have done in my life, think that you can follow your agenda and it will make you more happy and more fulfilled than sacrificially following His agenda.
Now, is there a cost? Sure. Is there a balance? Absolutely. But I am convinced that in our day we are so focused on, “I’ve got to give this up. This will never work out.” And on the front end, what I have learned, you let go and it’s really painful and hard, and my experience is God in six weeks doesn’t make everything wonderful. He usually takes me through a period of weaning and learning and trusting. And I look back over a year, two, three, four years and realize that’s the greatest decision I ever made in my life. But it sure was hard for me here. Now, that’s what He wants us to hear.
I want you to understand that God wants you to know His will for you individually is good
and it will require sacrifice and faith.
This was a sneak preview to shape their thinking about the goodness and the power available to them, but then He’s quick to take them down the mountain and let them learn: you’re still in a fallen world. Verse 14.
“When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them.” So, you’ve got a scene. The nine are down here; the three have been up on the mountaintop, had this incredible experience. And as they come down the mountain, here’s the religious leaders and here are the disciples, and they have a royal rhubarb going at it.
“As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and they ran to greet Him.” So, He’s still popular. Jesus takes control, verse 16. “‘What are you arguing with them about?’ He asked.” It’s almost like a father, and your kids, those of you that have children, they are arguing, “Wait, wait, wait, what’s going on here?” And I have found there’s usually a pregnant pause as both kids go, you know, who is going to tell your side of the story first. And that’s what happens here. He comes, “What’s going on here?” It’s a big argument.
And the Pharisees and the scribes, they don’t want to take Him on and the disciples, they don’t know what to say. And so, the only logical person steps up. The whole issue is about a father who has brought his son who is an epileptic and demon possessed. And so, he tells his story. And here’s his story.
“A man in the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought You my son, who is possessed by a spirit and he has been robbed of his speech. Whenever he seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, he gnashes his teeth, and he becomes rigid. I asked Your disciples to drive him out, but they couldn’t do it.’”
We’ve got a problem. While you guys were up on the mountain, Your disciples have failed in the ministry. We’ve got a desperate, disappointed father and a demon possessed boy and the religious leaders are licking their chops going, “Mm, boy, I’m glad He’s gone. We have nailed them on this one. They couldn’t cast it out.” Of course, you notice, they didn’t cast it out either. But this is the time to nail them.
Now, notice, listen for the words as I read this last paragraph or two. Believe, trust, unbelief. This theme of the power only comes by way of the cross. And this whole issue of trusting God with your future, accepting His agenda, believing His Word – see if you don’t pick up Jesus’ major theme in this entire passage.
Verse 19, “Oh unbelieving generation,” the word is faith with an “a” on the front. “Oh no faith generation,” disciples, scribes, crowd, father. These are the most exasperating words I find in Scripture. “How long shall I stay with you?” What is it going to take? I heal people! I answer prayers. I walk on water, I calm storms, I do miracles – what’s it going to take for you people to believe when I say this you can trust Me? How long shall I put up with you?
He’s at the end of His rope. I mean, we are two and a half years into this discipleship process, in six months He’s going to hand the reins over to these guys, and they are still rounding first, almost.
They haven’t learned that it’s not your outward stuff. They haven’t learned yet it’s a matter of the heart and when Jesus says it, you can take it to the bank and you can trust your future and your finances and your relationships and your life on what He says. That’s what He’s trying to get across.
So now, He’s going to instruct. “‘Bring the boy to Me.’ So they brought him. And when the spirit saw Jesus, immediately he threw the boy into convulsions. He fell to the ground, he rolled around, and he foamed at the mouth. Jesus asked the father,” like a good physician, “How long has he been like this?” A little diagnostic question.
“‘From childhood,’ he answered. ‘It has often thrown him into the fire or water to kill him.’” You see, you have now these men who have been on the mountaintop, they have seen who God is, they are moving forward, and what they are realizing is they are called to minister in a fallen world where Satan is on the throne. And we have a graphic picture where Satan has this boy tied in knots and he is blind, and his life is a mess, and he’s hurting.
And Jesus’ plan was that the disciples would trust Him and believe Him and make a difference in that fallen world, but because of their lack of faith, they can’t.
The father goes on to say, “But if You can do anything, take pity on him and help us.”
“If You can do anything.” See, this father heard about Jesus, he heard about the miracles, he heard the stories, he thought, Hey, this guy can do it! And these disciples aren’t – they’re not lightweights. Three or four weeks ago, remember when they were sent out, they cast out demons. They healed people. They are not doing so good now.
Jesus responds, verse 23. This is emphatic. He says, “If you can’?” Are you joking? If? Now, you’ve got to remember, there’s Peter, James, and John over here looking like this, saying, “If? You should hear what Elijah and Moses think. We have heard the voice. We know who He – He’s God! What do you mean, ‘If He can’?”
And then He isolates the issue. “Everything is possible for him who believes,” who trusts. Everything is possible! He can heal a marriage, He can fix your finances, He can turn a wayward child’s heart. Everything is possible for the one who believers, for the one who is willing to say no to his agenda and yes to God’s agenda, sign the blank check, put the chips of your life in the middle of the table and say, “You call the shots and I’ll follow, no matter what. And it may not turn out great initially, but I’ll trust You.”
“Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed,” and I love this. This is how weak your faith can be and get a response from God. He says, “I do believe;” sort of. Really. That’s kind of, “Help me in my unbelief.” I want to trust You; I came because I trusted You. So far, it hasn’t worked. Your disciples aren’t as good as You. There’s a lot of people out there who have met with you or me and tried to find God and because we weren’t walking in dependency, they said, “Christianity doesn’t seem to work. You didn’t help me.”
“When Jesus saw the crowd running to the scene, He rebuked the evil spirit. ‘You deaf and dumb spirit,’ He said, ‘I command you to come out of him and never enter him again.’ And the spirit shrieked and convulsed him violently and came out. And the boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, ‘He’s dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and He lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. And then afterwards, Jesus had gone indoors.”
The scene is over. It’s the third scene. We have been on the mountaintop, we have been in the valley, now we are indoors. “And His disciples asked Him privately,” this is a great question. This is a perceptive question. “Why couldn’t we drive him out?” What went wrong? What’s the problem? I don’t understand it. Two weeks ago, You sent us out, we did it, boy, we talked and they fled. What’s the deal?
“He replied, ‘This kind,’” genos, “this particular type of demon only comes out by prayer.” Mark is giving a kind of veiled view of the real issue here. Matthew says it right out. He says the problem is your unbelief. And Luke confirms it.
See, the problem is, guys, you were running hot. And you were with Me and you saw the power and you did it and I left for a while and you somehow thought that there’s an autopilot and you could just go on on your own. But a faith that is dynamic and vital has to be nurtured. Their problem wasn’t lack of activity; their problem was lack of intimacy with the Father.
We say things, “Oh, I don’t have time. I’ve got time to eat breakfast, I’ve got time to work, I’ve got time, but I don’t have time to pray.”
Time is not the issue. You know what the real issue in my life is? And you can put this shoe on if it fits. The issue is for me to get alone with God for protracted times and be absolutely honest and resign that blank check and tell Him, I’ll do whatever You want me to do, is scary, threatening, and makes me uncomfortable. And I would rather just keep the good, big, moral areas of my life clean, fake it on the small ones, read the Bible a little bit, pray a few quick prayers, and go about my way and have everything think I’m doing it and we’re all in this together. You know the only problem with that? There’s no power. There’s no power in that at all.
Power comes when I get to a level of un-comfortability, when I say, God, I don’t know what You’re going to do with my life. I don’t know what You’re going to do with my future or my family or my life or my finances. But I have read Your Word and I am obeying You by faith. You do what You want to do, and I am scared to death. Help me. Those kind of people come to God in desperation. And those kind of people see supernatural, kingdom power, because it always flows through the door of the cross.
The pathway to power is through the door of the cross. It’s faith. And faith is what? Trusting that God’s will is good for me. And He wants me to have that power and that experience.