May 18, 2006 Religious or Right? Kathleen Maples Luk 7:18 And the disciples of John showed him of all these things. Luk 7:19 And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come or look we for another? Luk 7:20 When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come or look we for another? You must remember that John the Baptist was sitting in prison at this time. His whole life had been spent seeking God, mostly in a wilderness apart from society. For a brief time he had confronted Israel with the message God had given him and soon after was thrown in prison. Can you imagine the storm of doubt and anxiety that assailed his mind? He was in the will of God, had done the will of God, and imprisoned for it. He hears things that Jesus is doing, and surely considers his own situation. He also must remember what he himself said "I must decrease and he must increase." But, you know that lying devil had to be attacking this dear man's mind with vicious lies, trying to make him despair and give up hope. Jesus knew this when John's disciples came to him, asking for reassurance that their faith was not misplaced. Have you ever been there? Have you been in a hard trial of your faith and wondered? Have you set in your dark place of suffering and heard reports of how he was changing other people's lives and working miraculous things, and despaired at your circumstances which seemed impossible? Don’t listen to that slimy, lying devil whose number one aim is to take down the life and faith of Christ in every person he finds it in and drag them down with him because he’s so vicious and full of malice against the Lord, that even though he knows he’s doomed, he is determined to steal from Christ the ones who make up his Bride. He wants to defile her with unbelief, cause her to fall so she won’t make it. But he will not prevail. Don’t think for one moment the Lord has forsaken you! He said he would never do that! (Heb. 13:5) When John's disciples came, Jesus was delivering people. He showed them who he was. They stood and watched as he healed sick people, delivered those oppressed and bound by unclean spirits, opened blind eyes. Then he says, just go tell him what you have seen. Tell him the gospel is preached to the poor. And then he says, "blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me." After looking that up in the Greek, and seeing what these words meant, it added new depth to my understanding. The word "offended" here in the Greek is where we get our word "scandalize" from. It means to entrap, trip up, stumble, entice to sin, or cause offense, make someone stumble and fall. What would have happened if John had given in to the doubt and had voiced it to his family, or warned his disciples that Jesus was not the real thing, and sent them looking for another Messiah? How would that have shaken things up in a bad way and authored much confusion. You know, I believe that's what the enemy was trying to do here. He's always trying to create confusion so people can't see the truth. Seeing and knowing the Truth is what sets you free! After John's disciples leave, Jesus addresses the crowd. He's well aware of all the attitudes of heart in these people. He knows there are some there who believe, and some who are looking to pick and criticize. He makes a stark comparison, between John the Baptist, and those who live in luxury and ease. Then he himself testified that John was a great prophet. But how sad, because the scripture says the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves. They would not hear and receive his word. And then, and I've never understood these verses but now I'm beginning to see. Luk 7:31 And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? Luk 7:32 They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. Luk 7:33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. Luk 7:34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! Luk 7:35 But wisdom is justified of all her children. The Lord says you people are like children who complain to one another, saying, we've played music for you, we've prayed to you, we've mourned over our problems and you don't care, Lord. But then, Jesus points out how John the Baptist was sent by God to show them the way to deliverance, and they accused him of being evil. And here standing in their very presence is the Holy One himself, clothed in flesh, just like them, taking on their weak and infirm flesh so he can stand before them and teach them, and help them, to find the life he wants so much to give them, and all they can do is wag their tongues and insult him, and falsely accuse him-their very Creator. The one who'd lovingly formed each one of them in the womb, who knew each one by name, who knew their heart, and their need better than they did. They criticized him for helping sinners. Oh, Lord, is that attitude in my heart? How many times have situations overwhelmed my emotions, and my mind, and bowed me down with discouragement, and made me wonder if you knew what I was going through or even cared? We see this attitude so much in the world, where people suffer so much, and bad things happen so often, we become accustomed to it as though it were the norm, and we get hardened, and pay lip service to it, "oh how terrible" but as long as it doesn't touch us, or our kids, we go on and don't consider it once we lay the newspaper down or turn the idiot box off. When none of us have ever suffered like the prophets did, like Jesus did, like Paul did. At least not in this country of America. They accused the Son of God of partying with sinners. How blind could they be? He sat in the midst of sinners, and he did not sin-no his very presence, and the love for their souls that radiated from within his wonderful, compassionate eyes changed the sinners!!!!!! And the religious crowd-they saw but did not see. They heard but did not understand. This religious spirit is so deadly, folks. It wants to stamp out the life of Christ. That life shows it up for what it is: dead religion, with no power and full of hypocrisy. I've been doing some research on the Pharisees here lately, and reading up on them, and they are still around, though they call themselves "Christians" now. They are more loyal to their own ideas, convictions and denomination than their Lord. They are more loyal to their political party of choice than the Word of God. I'm not saying every Christian is a Pharisee. It's just that I've seen too much fault finding. I'll give you a perfect example of what I'm talking about. Let's go back to Mark 9, so I can show you what I'm talking about. After the transfiguration, and I realize James, John, and Peter were the only 3 disciples that got to see this. Don't think a Christian can have a Pharisee spirit? Well, keep reading-for I see it, even in his disciples then, and I've seen it in myself. And it sickens me. It's anti-Christ. It is nothing like him. What a merciful God to show us our heart, and light up the things that are not right so we have opportunity to repent and be cleansed and forgiven. They come upon a crowd, which is surrounding his disciples, and so many voices, full of anger, arrogance, challenging the disciples. Can't you just see it? Here's this poor man, whose son is possessed by an unclean spirit of the devil, that is trying to kill this boy. The people are challenging the disciples to cast it out, the father of the boy is desperate, and just looking for help and gets caught up in this frenzy. They see Jesus approaching this confused scene, and come running to him. When I look carefully at this scene, picturing it in my imagination, all of these people surrounding my beloved Lord, all with their own heart issues, his disciples, shamed and frustrated by their own powerlessness before the people, and the Lord he sees this hurting father, who tries to explain. Mar 9:17 And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; Mar 9:18 And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. Something in my heart tells me when Jesus answered and said "Oh faithless generation," he was talking to his disciples that had failed here. But in the face of defeat, the power of God was there to deliver this child. When the spirit in the boy saw Jesus, he acted up bad, tearing at the child, causing him to fall, in a last ditch effort to try to intimidate and frighten those around. I believe this father is one of the most honest people in the crowd aside from the Lord. He sees what this thing has done to his child. He sees the religious crowd as impotent, they can't help his child. He's tried them, and they failed. But he's heard wonderful things about the Lord, and his power to do good. He has a little faith, a little hope, but he is overwhelmed by the sight of his eyes. His heart is grieved for his child. Mar 9:21 And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. Mar 9:22 And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Mar 9:23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. Mar 9:24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. Can you imagine the Lord of glory looking into the eyes of this hurting father, seeing the tears, seeing the pain, and he sees Jesus is not affected by the disorder and failure around him. He's not worried about what the skeptics are saying or thinking. He's focused on the one in need, and sees in that heart a mustard seed of faith. And when he says 'help my unbelief' he's saying relieve me of this faithlessness. He acknowledged his lack and his need, and the Lord saw that honesty and he acted quickly. He ordered the spirit to leave the boy and come no more into him. And it HAD TO GO. But then, when the disciples, surely ashamed and confused by their own inability to do this, when he'd sent them out two by two and they had indeed cast out unclean spirits, and prayed and seen people healed, (Luk_1:1-12) they got the Lord alone and asked him why they had been unable to help here. In Mat_17:20 where this is also recorded, the Lord answers because of their unbelief. Matthew doesn't give the details of this event as clearly as Mark, but he gives you insight into the reason for their failure. Lack of prayer and fasting, and unbelief was the reason they could not help this family. Just as the storm frightened Peter when he stepped out of the boat and took his eyes off Jesus, the sight of this devil tormenting this child, putting his strength on display, the disciples were intimidated. They were not well enough acquainted with the Father, and with his power, or they would not have been afraid and would not have given in to the helplessness that arose in their hearts when faced with this situation, this demonic display which was in fact becoming desperate because he knew the Holy One was there now, and that changed everything. So, how does the religious spirit play in here? Well, after this, in Mark 9:34, on the heels of their failure, amazingly, they start disputing among themselves who is going to be the greatest. And Jesus, using a child to make a point, shows them, the servant with the humble heart and childlike faith is the greatest in God's kingdom. And incredibly, John speaks up, and he says, well, Lord, we saw this other man, and he was casting out devils in your name, and we told him to stop it because he didn’t' follow us. Okay.....this other man IS casting out devils, successfully, in the name of Jesus, and they who have Jesus with them, have just experienced a huge defeat being unable to do so, but they are criticizing someone who is doing what they could not. It's too easy sometimes to look at others, and find fault with how they are dressed, or things they say, and allow a sense of superiority to taint your spirit. “Well, the Bible says you aren't supposed to do that! You shouldn't wear that! You shouldn't look like that.” But what does the word say about judging others? We are not to judge after the sight of our eyes. We are to have compassion and tread lightly because we can't see the heart. What if the person we are judging is a young Christian who is hungry for God and learning his ways, but doesn't know all this yet? And what if our judgmental attitude wounds them and causes them to fall into discouragement and quit? God help us to be first responders to prayer not judgment and ask the Lord to set things in order as it pleases HIM not us. I remember when I was a child, and this event was the beginning, one of the reasons why I walked away from the church when I was a teenager. When I was a child, my daddy was outside the place where he worked one day, and he saw something shiny sticking up out of the dirt. He found a silver bracelet, the adjustable kind you push up on your arm and it stays there. It was about two inches wide, and engraved with grape vines, and flowers into the silver. He took this electric engraving tool and carved my name, and the date into it. And let me tell you, I was a daddy's girl, and I loved this bracelet because my dad polished it up and brought it to me and gave it to me, and he'd written my name on it with love. I treasured it. I never took it off except when I showered. A few years later, when I was 13, we were in this church, and this lady looked at me and because my dress had short sleeves and the sleeves didn't come down to my wrists, and because of the bracelet on my arm, she warned me that I would go to hell. I was so offended at her, and hurt by what she said, I did not ever want to go back there, and as soon as I hit 16 I flatly refused to go anymore to church. People's critical harsh attitudes gave me a very bad misconception of God. I got bitter, and thought why would I want to serve a God who's just going to burn up the world and send me to hell anyway? I felt if I couldn't please her, and she was one of God's people, then how could I ever possibly please God? My mother tried her best to tell me the lady had spoken out of turn and should have never said that to me. She always told me right. My mother loved God, and she still does. She always would warn me when she saw things that weren't right in his house if I saw it and asked her about it. She would always use the scriptures to show me the right way. But a bad seed had gotten planted in my heart, and it took root, and overshadowed the good seed for about 18 hard and painful years. And when you read on here a little more, what does Jesus say about offending his little ones? This causes my heart to fear and not go this path, ever! Mar 9:42 And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. Mat 18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. See? We can't look at young believers, or newborn Christians with disdain for how they look, or try to do God's job and tell them what we think. That is a religious spirit and it can wound and kill the life of Christ in a young believer. We are not as Paul said in Rom. 14, to judge another man's servant. That's not to say if we see blatant sin, condone it. But when it comes to judging things by what we see, we must be very careful, and prayerful and not overstep our bounds. For it’s his word that will judge us in the end. He weighs our thoughts, actions, even our expressions. Our ways are not His, his ways are so much higher and his thoughts so much higher. To be like him, we must eat his flesh, and drink his blood. Feast on his word and let it work HIM in us. We do better to ask the Lord to help us be a LIGHT that draws others, to pattern ourselves after HIM so that those around us who are young in the Lord can see what's right. Actions speak so much louder than words. Love draws, criticism spoken with harshness drives away. I don't want this spirit working uncleanness in my heart. I thank the Lord for his word, which exposes the unclean, washes and cleanses and sets my feet on the right path as his Holy Spirit opens it up before me and helps me understand. What a precious gift that is!