The Gospel of Mark – Chapter 1

John the Baptist Prepares the Way
This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written:
“Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
and he will prepare your way.
He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’
This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey.
John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”
Q: Who is this section of scripture talking about?
A: John the Baptist
Q: Where was John the Baptist?
A: Out in the wilderness
Q: What was he doing there?
A: Preaching and Baptizing
Q: What did the people need to do to be baptized?
A: Repent of their sins.
Q: What does “repented of their sins mean”?
A: That they have turned back to God, and confessed they are sorry for their sins, and decided to change their way and walk in obedience instead of disobedience.
Q: Who did John tell the people was coming?
A: Jesus, the Messiah.
Q: John baptized with water, but he said that Jesus would baptize with what?
A: The Holy Spirit (like a dove).
Q: And what is the Holy Spirit?
A: The Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit of God come to live in us and to guide us, teach us, and lead us in the way.
The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus
One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”
The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.
Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
Q: Where did John baptize Jesus?
A: In the Jordan River.
Q: What happened right as Jesus was baptized?
A: The sky opened split apart
Q: What came down from the sky after it was parted?
A: The Holy Spirit descended
Q: Why was John arrested?
A: He was speaking against sin
Q: What did the voice from heaven say?
A: God acknowledged Jesus Christ as His son and that He was pleased with Him.
Q: What did Jesus then go and preach, telling the people to do?
A: Repent of their sins and believe.
Q: What does God call us when we repent of our sins and confess Him as our Lord and Savior?
A: He calls us His children.

Wanted, Dead or Alive

wanted-workout
Dead to Sin, Alive to God
Romans 6:6-14
6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free[b] from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Today’s Workout
———————-
One master wants you to be dead and defeated, powerless against sin and evil and wickedness – while the other master wants you to experience an abundant life that brings encouragement, nourishment, forgiveness, hope, love, and faith to those in your circle of influence. Which will you serve? Will you uplift and empower those around you to be the best that they can be? Will you help people succeed in fulfilling the vision for their life dreams? Will you be a hand up to those around you in need? Will you be a shoulder to lean on for those who need comforting? Will you be a welcome port of peace and encouragement in their storm? Do you realize that through your example, you will either grow the fruit in them that will nourish you in your times of need – or you will allow the weeds that are choking out their possibilities to also choke you out when you need to lean to them?
This life is a team sport. You’re working out, you’re putting in work for one team or the other.
You’re wanted Dead or Alive.
Choose life. Choose Jesus. And let Him come and live in you and through you today – contaminating every part of your life with the overflow of His spirit. Get to work!

Will we enter in? Do we want to?

O Lord , who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
 
He who walks blamelessly
and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart; 
who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend; 
in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord ;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change; 
who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things shall never be moved.
Psalm 15:1-5 ESV
http://bible.com/59/psa.15.1-5.ESV

Can we see some of the words about His followers:
Blameless, righteous, truth, heart, keep oaths, lend

Can we also see some of the words about His enemies:
Slander, wrong, slur, vile, accept bribes

And can’t we agree that we know what is right from what is wrong? Can’t we agree that we have the opportunity to make choices each day between doing right or doing wrong?

And deciding to do right instead of deciding to do wrong has a name in scripture,  and it is called repentance. It is a step that is taken in a new direction,  it is a turning away from our old path as we decide to turn to a life seeking the Lord’s purpose and direction for our lives.

Yes, our deciding to change direction is the beginning of our journey and not the end. Because if repentance under our own power was out goal – if fighting against these old urges to keep them under control and in compliance with the law was all that we had to rely on, wouldn’t everyone turn back from the burdensome curse of the law?

And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.
Acts 19:1-7 ESV
http://bible.com/59/act.19.1-7.ESV

We can see that there is more than just repentance. We can see that there is more than just putting on an outward mask of compliance while wrestling to keep our carnal nature hidden under the wraps of religious exercise. That is not a place of peace, but one of fear, because how could those living that way “speak the truth from their hearts” while still meeting all of the other descriptions of a believer?

You see, it takes a divine intervention,  not just our own turning in repentance.

Yes,  it requires or repentance AS WELL, so please do not misunderstand me to be justifying grace as a license to sin. I expect that some itchy ears will seek out the false teacher they desire if that is the message they seek. But I pray that you would instead remain to hear the truth (even if it proves uncomfortable and convicting) that I share with you from the Word of God rightly divided and Holy Spirit led.

There is a point at which repentance shifts from striving against our old nature into a life of praise and worship to God for what He has done and is doing in our lives. That shift comes when we are made a new creation through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

And I encourage you not to get hung up on which spiritual gifts you have and which you do not, whether you speak in tongues or you do not, whether you prophesy or you do not,  whether the Holy Spirit fell on you like Paul on the Damascus Road, or whether you received it from the laying on of hands like these disciples at Ephesus, or whether you were born with it and grew in it like John the Baptist – because we each are different parts of the body of Christ with our own callings,  seasons,  and purposes.  But I do encourage you to test yourself to see whether or not you are walking in the Spirit and living the life of one “who may dwell in” His sanctuary,  “who may live on” His holy mountain.

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:12-17 ESV
http://bible.com/59/rom.8.12-17.ESV

We have much to celebrate, child of God! We have such a great reason to celebrate in praise and worship over what the Lord has done for us!

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24 ESV
http://bible.com/59/psa.118.24.ESV

The path of humanity

Speaking humanly –

We all know that it is better to do right than to do wrong. We all know that it is better to help someone than to hurt them. We all know that there are ways that we can all work together for the common good of a community.

But why do we on one hand know these truths, if on the other hand we say it is all about serving self and having the right to decide what is right for ourselves? How foolish is it for us to ignore central, unchanging truths about how life is best lived? How foolish is it for us to decide that “I know better”, “This won’t hurt me”, and “I can do what I want”. Are we so blind to the warnings of others, of history, of laws that we are simply fools to the consequences we are lining up for ourselves and others through our poor decision making and lack of self control and discipline? Or are we inviting destruction into our lives like a kamikaze pilot?

So, still speaking within the bounds of our humanly understanding, we should all be able to understand that there are bad paths with negative consequences, and that there are good paths with positive rewards. And yes, we can acknowledge that many times the bad path is trading off some small, immediate gratification at the cost of a later, higher cost – which is attractive to the foolish. And we can acknowledge that many times the bad path is trading off a small pleasure or treasure for ourselves at the cost of hurting, oppressing, or denying someone else – which is attractive to the selfish.

We could go on all day agreeing to what is good and what is bad, and building laws around these things to remind men of what they already know. And we could build prisons and lay out punishments for them, if they are just foolish and need to learn the truth that they are making decisions that are hurting themselves and others.

But through law and punishment alone, we cannot change the hearts and desires of those who are selfish, prideful, deceitful, hateful, gossipers, slanderers, adulterers, lustful, addicts, etc. Because the law doesn’t make any change to the inside, it just strives to force people to conform on the outside, leaving the underlying urges of people’s hearts to do things that are not right or good. The law doesn’t create obedience on the inside, it hides inward disobedience under the mask of compliance.

In fact, the law on its own then serves as a catalyst for those to argue, “But if I am born with this urge in my heart, then who are you to deny me” as they strive for the very lawlessness and destruction that their hearts desire. And can’t we, see this is true when we look at the eradication of our communities which were once vibrant and interactive and alive – but that have been traded for isolation and fear and all kinds of, wickedness rising up around us?

Yes, this world when left in the hands of men is headed on a collision course with disaster. Because men are either foolish, or they are selfish, or they are both. And there is no other kind of man. You yourself that is reading this, have you devoted much time to helping your neighbor this week? Have you clothed and fed the homeless? Have you treated your friends with kindness? How about your enemies, have you treated them with loving kindness? Have you loved and praised God like He deserves?

And some of you will jump at that with a startled reaction, and say “But I thought that we were talking humanly, why did you have to bring God into this?” And yes, that is the reaction of proud men who want to solve this predicament on their own. We do not want to admit that we are not in control and that we are unable to build our own stairway to heaven. Isn’t that the struggle? That we want to do it our way so that we can get some credit for ourselves?

And yes, there is one path that many choose where they can take credit for their own choices, their own decisions, their own works. And they can choose to lay the evidence of their life’s works on the table and be judged by a righteous and perfect God, and they will get what they deserve – the pit of eternal flames. Because each and every one of us deserves that if we are only under the law, right? How many times have you worn clothes of different types of fabric? How many times have you looked at someone other than your spouse with lust and committed adultery in your heart? How many times have you seen something that wasn’t yours and longed for it in envy and jealousy instead of being satisfied and content with the many blessings the Lord has already given you? How many times have you done things in the dark and alone and in secret that you don’t want the world to know about? How many times have you forgotten God’s way and done it your own way?

Do you not know that you are a wicked, foolish person far from the perfect ways of a just God who will judge with righteousness and uprightness? Do you not know your need to be changed on the inside – not by religious adherence to traditions of men, but by the transforming power of something greater than you that can change your very heart, nature, and desires?

As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.
Luke 3:15-18 ESV
http://bible.com/59/luk.3.15-18.ESV

I’m not asking you if you’ve received the baptism of John where you promise with your mouth to repent and interact with some water from this world, friend. I’m asking if you’ve come in contact with the living waters of the baptism of the Holy Spirit coming into your life and changing you from the inside out. Is there any breath of His abundant life in your lungs? Is there any fire in your bones for sharing the Good News with the nations? Is there a transplant for your cold, hard heart so that you now go out to serve and love your neighbors, the needy, the afflicted, the imprisoned, even your enemies?

And do you realize that none of YOUR works are pure, perfect, and good? But do you realize that if you allow Him to use you, He can do amazing works through you? If you realize this in your mind, I ask you, are you allowing it to take place in your heart?

And humanly speaking, if we all lived like Jesus. If we followed His example and His teachings, wouldn’t it be a better world? Are there some things that each of us must give up that our hearts desire and long for by nature, yes. But there is something much greater than desire, than pleasure, than lawlessness – and it is love for God and for others – and the payoff isn’t “someday when I get to heaven”. The payoff is now, both for you and for those around you.

Every good and perfect gift is from God, and His gifts don’t come with hidden consequences and destruction for you and those around you. But how many times have we accepted curses from that genie whose gifts always come at a cost because they come quick and easy – instead of living in the blessing of an abundant life filled with God’s presence.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11 ESV

How many only know about the baptism of John?

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
Acts 18:24-26 ESV
http://bible.com/59/act.18.24-26.ESV

So what is the baptism of John?

Luke 3:16
John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Acts 1:5
for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now

Acts 19:4
And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”

Mark 1:4
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

And the baptism with water (John the Baptist’s type of baptism,  emmersing people under water to demonstrate their repentance from their sins) and the baptism of the Holy Spirit and Fire (the baptism available to us through Christ coming into our lives as the living water) – the two are demonstrated in scripture as separate and different, just as in the case of Alexandria mentioned above in Acts 18,  and also in the case of Samaria in Acts 8:

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:14-17 ESV
http://bible.com/59/act.8.14-17.ESV

So I wonder how many have only been baptized in the name, or in the water – but not by the Holy Spirit and fire? How many know the words and religious practice in their minds,  but do not have the yearning desire for the Lord in their hearts?

Oh,  if you do not have it,  friend,  seek it out. And not like someone wanting power and glory for themselves:

Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”
Acts 8:18-24 ESV
http://bible.com/59/act.8.18-24.ESV

And again, just like Christ warned the seventy two when they returned,  don’t be caught up in the new freedom and strength (because it is His work not your own),  but be thankful that we are His:

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.  Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
Luke 10:17-20 ESV
http://bible.com/59/luk.10.17-20.ESV

So examine yourself so that you will know that you are alive with the Spirit:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’
John 7:37-38 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.7.37-38.ESV

And don’t block up the flow once you’ve received,  let it poor out onto others,  let your light shine.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16 ESV
http://bible.com/59/mat.5.14-16.ESV

So, do you know about the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Does Christ live in you today, friend? Come and drink,  the water isn’t just fine,  it’s amazing.

Baptism

image

One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy. ”
Luke 3:21-22 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.3.21-22.NLT

Jesus Christ himself,  God come in the flesh, our Savior, even though He was sinless and without blemish, participated in water baptism,  being plunged beneath the waters of the Jordan river. The baptism itself was not the act that washed Him clean,  because He was already clean from sin. But the testimony of His baptism brought glory and honor to God.

We should look at baptism in the light of bringing glory and honor to God. If we are saved,  if we have been baptized by the Holy Spirit which is a blessing given to us by God,  we should give thanks to God and participate in water baptism as a testimony to bring glory and honor to God. It is one of the ways that we can bless God in return.

Continue reading “Baptism”