Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 28 March 2023:
Job 17:11 – My days are past; my plans are broken off, the desires of my heart.
Would you remain loving and faithful to God and confident in His love for you if all you cared about on this earth was gone?
Mark 6:7 – And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.
God sends His people out under His authority and power to accomplish His will on earth. That includes you.
Mark 6:12 – So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.
The salvation message starts with the demand for repentance. Here’s a message you don’t hear preached much these days – repent! It has become unsophisticated to preach about sin and the wrath of God, causing many to wonder why people need a savior. Even from the pulpits, we hear the message that people don’t need a savior, they need a psychologist, and Jesus merely provides us the example of how to live or how to ‘save’ ourselves from the consequences of bad behavior. Too many have turned the Bible into a supernatural self-help book rather than a message of reconciliation with God through Jesus and only through Jesus. We might still hear someone ask, “Are you saved?,” but saved from what, from the consequences of our bad behavior? No, saved from the wrath of The Almighty, Holy, Just God – Saved from God by God, through faith in His grace, not our good deeds.
We are not communicating clearly that we need salvation from the wrath of God and that we are incapable of saving ourselves. John the Baptist lost his head, ultimately, because he condemned adultery. Remember when preachers once condemned adultery and other sexual sins, not merely because of the obvious consequences of such behavior but because of its offense to a Holy God? Perhaps part of our problem is that we have lost the art of condemning the sin without condemning the sinner, of pointing past the sin to the Savior. Are you proclaiming to people that they must repent, not to turn from bad behavior but to turn to Jesus?
Mark 6:18 – For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
As stated above, John lost his life because He challenged adultery in a corrupt society with corrupt leaders. His words were offensive and negative, but his aim was positive, reconciliation. Today, John the Baptist would have been labelled a hater. But if you truly love God and others, you must hate sin and speak out against it, again, not to make more agreeable sinners, but rather to promote reconciliation with God through Jesus. “O you who love the Lord, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10)
Mark 6:26 — And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word.
Pride, lust, power, fear of man, and impetuous decision-making drove Herod to hideous sin which he had not originally intended and later deeply regretted. The Bible says Herod gladly heard God’s word through John the Baptist and “feared John,” but nonetheless beheaded him. (Mark 6:20) The Bible points out that Herod “was exceedingly sorry,” but sorrow is not the same as repentance.
Herod demonstrated “worldly grief” rather than “godly grief.” Worldly grief leads to death. Godly grief leads to repentance and reconciliation with Jesus.
John the Baptist’s message was one of repentance – “In those days John the Baptist came… saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 3:1, 2).’” Jesus began his public ministry with a call to repentance – “Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 4:17);’” and Jesus sent his disciples with a call to repentance in our readings today – “They went out and preached that the people should repent (Mark 6:12).” Repentance comes from “godly sorrow” (genuine, spirit convicted sorrow) and involves the decision to turn to God for mercy and unmerited forgiveness, to turn away from sin, and to do the will of God, to “walk” with Him. Repentance involves 180-out decisive change with tangible results, the “fruit of repentance.” (Matthew 3:8)
Both worldly grief and godly grief are deeply felt but produce opposite results. Consider the difference between the grief felt by Judas and the grief felt by Peter, both of whom betrayed Jesus. After denying Jesus three times, Peter returned to Jesus with a strong reaffirmation of his love for Jesus (John 21:15-17), resulting in an even deeper relationship with Jesus and a truly changed life. Even to the point of torturous death, Peter never denied Christ again. Conversely, Judas carried his worldly grief to his suicidal death, refusing to turn to God for reconciliation. Many live in pain, misery, regret and perhaps bitterness over mistakes that they have made in life and perhaps continue to make. However, God does not want anyone to live in worldly grief that leads to death, but rather God wants everyone to respond to the godly grief that comes from the conviction of the Holy Spirit, to repent, to live in obedience by the grace of God, and to have life to its fullest with godly joy.
- 2 Corinthians 7:10 — For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
- Psalm 51:17 — The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
- 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- Psalm 103:12 — as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Note that if you travel north on a globe, you will eventually travel south, but if you travel east on a globe, you never reach west – Psalm 103’s choice of direction is very intentional, demonstrating an infinite cleansing of sin through Christ.)
Mark 6:27, 28 – And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother.
Jesus commended John for being the most honorable and faithful of His day, yet John was not spared a brutal, seemingly dishonoring death. Jesus’ most faithful are most hated by the world. They receive no honor on earth but unimaginable reward in Heaven.
Mark 6:31 — And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”
God knows the importance of rest and spiritual renewal for His servants.
Mark 6:45-52 — And straightway He constrained His disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side… .
“We are apt to imagine that if Jesus Christ constrains us, and we obey Him, He will lead us to great success. We must never put our dreams of success as God’s purpose for us; His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have an idea that God is leading us to a particular end, a desired goal; He is not. The question of getting to a particular end is a mere incident. What we call the process, God calls the end. What is my dream of God’s purpose? His purpose is that I depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay in the middle of the turmoil calm and un-perplexed, that is the end of the purpose of God. God is not working towards a particular finish; His end is the process – that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God. God’s training is for now, not presently. His purpose is for this minute, not for something in the future. We have nothing to do with the afterwards of obedience; we get wrong when we think of the afterwards. What men call training and preparation, God calls the end. God’s end is to enable me to see that He can walk on the chaos of my life just now. If we have a further end in view, we do not pay sufficient attention to the immediate present: if we realize that obedience is the end, then each moment as it comes is precious.” (Oswald Chambers)
Mark 6:46 – And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
“What do you do after a spiritual victory? Where do you go after reaching a high point in your Christian life? Jesus went to pray. Jesus had just fed a multitude with only five loaves of bread and two fish (Mark 6:34-44). If there were ever a time to relax and bask in the glow of God’s power it should have been then. Instead, Jesus climbed a mountain to pray. When Jesus prayed, the Father clearly revealed His will and His ways to His Son. It eventually dawned on Jesus’ disciples that Jesus prepared for every major decision and difficult challenge with a time of prayer (Luke 11:1).
As Jesus prayed on the mountain that day, the Father knew His Son was about to face a fierce storm (Mark 6:48). The disciples raced headlong into the tempest unprepared, but Jesus entered the storm after communing with His Father in prayer. The Father had prepared Jesus for what was coming, and Jesus met the crisis with all the power of God.
It is tempting to relax after a spiritual victory, but a crisis could follow at any time. You must stand guard over your high points. It is at these times when you experience God mightily that you should immediately get alone to pray. Then you will not be caught unprepared when trials come. Have you experienced a spiritual victory? Follow your Lord’s example and go immediately to a place of prayer so the Father can prepare you for what is coming.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Mark 6:53-56 – When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was.
Remember, Jesus told the man He had cleansed of demons (chapter 5) that he could not go with Jesus but must stay and testify to others. Now Jesus returns to huge crowds. Do crowds want to know Jesus because of your testimony? Your salvation is a personal experience, but it is intended to also be very public, your witness to the world of the power of the Gospel. Read John 14-17 – Jesus wants you know Him and make Him known – the two endeavors are inseparable and symbiotic.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 28 March 2023: “So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent.” (Mark 6:12) Tell others about the need of repentance today and the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Communicate the truth in love, and trust the Holy Spirit to do the convicting.
- Proverbs 24:11 — Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.