To Test Him
Mark 8:11-13 NASB
The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him. Sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, “Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” Leaving them, He again embarked and went away to the other side.
The Pharisees were religious leaders in the temple of God, plus they had positions on the ruling council of the Jews, called the Sanhedrin, which was both a religious and governmental agency. They had the power to arrest people and put them in prison, for instance, and they had power to decide court cases, such as our Supreme Court does here in the USA. The Jews, although they were under Roman rule, were self-governing, to a certain extent. The Pharisees wielded enormous influence and power.
The Pharisees, at large, were opposed to Jesus Christ, his ministry, and his teaching. Although the Pharisees and the Sadducees, both on the ruling council of the Jews, differed in doctrine, they joined forces to oppose Jesus. Evidently there were Herodians, a political group who supported King Herod, who also joined in with them to oppose Jesus and his ministry.
The Pharisees were like leeches. They attached themselves to Jesus to try to suck the blood (life) out of him. They were always on his trail, trying to find ways to trip him up so that they could discredit him. One of the commentaries I read described them as “pernicious,” i.e. “having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way; poisonous; dangerous” (Google). The Lord gave me a picture here of someone who is sugary sweet on the outside but who is pernicious, detrimental, and unhealthy for us.
I liken them to people today who are deceptive, manipulative, charming, winsome, and sneaky, who will smile to you to your face, but who will stab you in the back if it suits their purposes. Many of them are leaders in the church who are wolves in sheep’s clothing who pretend one thing on the outside while inside they are full of wickedness.
And, they are dangerous, because they will win you over with their charm and their winsome personalities, but behind all that is a sharp bite, for they will lie to you and trick you into believing what is false while they make it appear as though it is truth. They are good at debating, and convincing, and they will twist the truth to their advantage, so be wise and discerning, and test the spirits to see whether they are of God.
Mark 8:14-21 NASB
And they had forgotten to take bread, and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them. And He was giving orders to them, saying, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” They began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.” “When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?” And they said to Him, “Seven.” And He was saying to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
We need to be on the watch (on guard) against “pernicious leeches” who will suck the lifeblood of Jesus Christ right out of our lives via their manipulations and their deceptions, which are usually subtle, and are gradually introduced in order to not be noticeable. We need to ask the Holy Spirit of God to make us keenly aware of these subtle deceptions so that we can spot them, call them out, and not be caught in the deception ourselves.
The author of them, of course, is Satan, whose goal it is to destroy us, deceive and trick us, manipulate us, twist the truth, and get us to doubt God and to follow our own emotions, instead. Satan will blind our eyes and our minds to the truth through his subtle lies, which he introduces into our minds, too. He will try to get us to question the sovereignty of God over our lives or the Lord’s ability to meet our every need, and he will try to convince us that we need to follow our feelings and meet our own needs, our way.
One of the biggest lies of Satan right now, that many church leaders are spreading, is that God’s grace to us requires nothing of us whatsoever – no obedience, no repentance, and no submission to Christ and to his cross. They convince people that coming to faith in Jesus Christ is merely repeating words after someone else, or it is a mere acknowledgment of who Jesus was and to what he did for us, or that it is a mere acceptance of his forgiveness of our sins, and thus we are guaranteed eternal life with God no matter how we live our lives from that moment forward.
But, those are lies of Satan who wants to keep us bound in our sin and not walking in freedom, continually giving in to our flesh, while claiming God’s grace covers it all, because Satan wants us living in defeat.
Take Up Your Cross
Mark 8:34-38 NASB (cf. Lu. 9:23-25)
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
So, Jesus let us know here, and in other places, too, what it means to be one of his followers, and what is required of us in order to have the hope of eternal life with God. And, it all really comes down to us having a biblical understanding of God’s grace and his plan of salvation for our lives.
You will hear me say this over and over again, because it needs to be said, because these “pernicious leeches” are working hard against the truth, and they are making great strides in sucking the lifeblood of Jesus Christ right out of the lives of those who might be true followers of Christ.
God’s grace to us is not freedom to continue in our sin without guilt. God’s grace instructs us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions (lusts) and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return. True belief in Jesus Christ means we die with Christ to sin that we might live with Christ to righteousness. Jesus didn’t die just to forgive us our sins. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us.
If we claim to have fellowship with God, but we still walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin, wickedness), we are liars. It is those who walk (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit, and not according to the flesh, who are promised eternal life with God. For, if we walk (live our lives) according to our flesh, fulfilling what our flesh desires, we will die in our sins, not have eternal life with God (See: 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Rom. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:19-21; Gal. 6:7-8).
Jesus said, in essence, that coming to him in faith means we deny self and daily we die to sin and self and we walk in obedience to him. He said that if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self) that we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die to sin and self), for his sake, we will be saved from our sins and have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. So, this means that our salvation is a lifestyle, not a one-time experience. So, believe Jesus, and reject the lies of these “pernicious leeches.”
An Original Work / May 31, 2012
Based off Matthew 23
Woe to you, teachers of the law;
Hypocrites, you keep men from God.
You refuse to obey the truth,
Nor will you permit others to.
You travel o’er land and sea
To win a single convert to you.
When he becomes one
You make him twice as much
A “son of hell” as you are.
Woe to you, blind guides of mankind.
You distort the words of your God.
By your practices you declare
Your oaths mean nothing, though you swear.
You give a tenth of your spices,
But you neglect justice, mercy.
When you focus your
Time and talents on
What is external, you miss out.
Woe to you, who appear so clean,
When inside you are crass and mean.
You work hard to look so upright,
While you hide all your sins inside.
You deceive yourselves when you think
You would not have done what others
Did to God’s messengers
And prophets of old,
For you will do much the same.
You’re to blame.
Wednesday, June 20, 2018 – Thank You, Jesus, for these instructions and these warnings. May we take them to heart and obey them. Amen!