The Passion of Christ – Part Two – Mark 10:1-52

 

 

In Mark 9 we were given a glimpse of the glorified Christ and in the process saw that Christ’s passion is fueled by the love of  God. We also saw that the enemy often chooses to attack us just after a mountaintop experience. Jesus consistently spoke of the necessity to go to the cross. Like the disciples, we often are caught up in personal battles over who of us is greater than the other. But such carnal battles and struggles can be defeated by focusing on the higher calling of Jesus, of flying high with Him. When we do that, the rats in our lives will die off and we can bury some of the old man nature ways that plague us.

 

Now in  Mark 10 we will see Jesus’ passion for evangelism. In this chapter Jesus does touch on some important issues such as divorce, children, greatness, and healing, but the underlying passion throughout this portion of scripture is Jesus passion to save the lost.

 

 

Jesus’ Passion for Evangelism Aims at the Heart

 

Mark 10:1-12 - Then He arose from there and came to the region of Judea by the other side of the Jordan. And multitudes gathered to Him again, and as He was accustomed, He taught them again.2 The Pharisees came and asked Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” testing Him.3 And He answered and said to them, “What did Moses command you?”4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.”5 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.6 “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,8 ‘and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.9 “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”10 In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter.11 So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.12 “And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” [1]

Jesus is now headed for Jerusalem. He leaves Capernaum (9:33), His headquarters on the shore of Galilee and proceeds south into the region of Judea.  “By the other side of the Jordan,” means He went into Perea east of the Jordan River.  Multitudes of people follow Jesus and “as he was accustomed, He taught them again” (10:1).

Then Jesus is confronted with a divine appointment. Some Pharisees come to Him and ask Him about the lawfulness of divorce. This opens the door for Jesus to use the Law to reveal the condition of the hearts of those He is speaking to. We need to take note of a few things here that give us insight into Jesus’ method of evangelizing the lost.

First, Jesus accepted Mosaic authorship of Genesis (Mark 10:3). It has been popular among liberal biblical scholars to purport that Moses is not the human author of Genesis or the entire Pentateuch for that matter. A Documentary Hypothesis has been concocted which contends that there were a number of editors or human authors (“redactors”) who collated and arrange, as well as added their views to the first five books of the Bible. We could go into an in depth study to show how such a theory is false, but there is an even easier way to prove it false. Jesus believed Moses was the author of Genesis and the Pentateuch as Mark 10:3 and Jesus remarks indicate. Now some “scholars” will boldly and proudly state that Jesus didn’t have as much education as they do. I would respond, perhaps, but He was omniscient as God, that should count for something!

The point we need to make here is that Jesus knew the word and had a high view of scripture. That is an essential for effective evangelism because the use of God’s word, especially the Law, is essential for effective evangelism (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:15-17).

Second, Jesus used the Law to humble and break the hard heart (Mark 10:4-9). The hearts of these religious leaders were hardened to the gospel (see Nehemiah 9:16-17,23; Matthew 19:8; Acts 7:51). They were steeped in hypocrisy, greed, manipulation, and pride (see Matthew 23). They were legalists. A legalist is someone who tries to attain and determine righteousness based on keeping a set of rules, (rules that are often manmade – Mark 7:1-23). The truth of the matter is that no one can be righteous before Holy God by keeping the Law.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans he is inspired to write:

  • Romans 3:20-24 – “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” [2] (See also Galatians 3:10-13; James 2:10).

No one can be justified before God by keeping the Law. Paul tells us the Law exposes our sinfulness, it brings to light the sin we so easily overlook or rationalize away. The only way a person can be just before God and qualified for heaven, is by trusting in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross. Without Jesus, all fall short of God’s glorious standard. What is God’s standard?

The reason no one can be just before God by keeping the Law, even His Law, is because His standard is absolute perfection. Jesus made this point in the Sermon on the Mount when He said the righteousness acceptable to God must exceed that of the Pharisees (Mathew 5:21) who were very religious people, and be perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48). No mere human can attain to absolute perfection in keeping God’s Law. But Jesus could and did live a perfectly sinless life and served as our substitute on the cross. Our sin deserved the penalty of death; Jesus paid that penalty for us in our place (Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

This raises the question, “What then is the Law of God for?”

The Heartbreaking Truth About the Law of God

Jesus doesn’t just give up on these religious hardhearted people, He seeks to break their hard hearts so that they can be softened to receive the gospel. The tool He uses to soften and break  hard hearts is the Law.

Evangelist Ray Comfort makes the following comment on the use of the Law of God to deal with hard hearts:

“The Law doesn’t help us, it just leaves us helpless. It doesn’t justify us, it just leaves us guilty before the judgment bar of a Holy God. . . . With the Law He breaks the hard heart. With the Gospel He heals the brokenhearted.” (Ray Comfort from “Hell’s Best Kept Secret”).

 

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he instructs pastor Timothy on evangelism and points out the effective and proper use of the Law of God as a tool in evangelism. Paul is inspired to write:

  • 1 Timothy 1:8-11 – “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully,9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine,11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.” [3]

The lawful or correct use of the Law of God is not to live by it, that is legalism. Many have been guilty of throwing the baby out with the bathwater because of the abuse of the Law of God by legalists (such as those mentioned by Paul in Galatians). But there is a right use of the Law of God. The Law of God is “not made for a righteous person, but for . . .” sinners. The Law of God prepares the way for the gospel by bringing conviction to the conscience of the hardhearted sinner.

19th Century evangelist A.B. Earl was used by God to bring 150,000 souls to Christ. He made the following statement about the use of the Law in evangelism:

“I have found by long experience that the severest threatening of the Law of God has a prominent place in leading men to Christ. They must see themselves lost before they will cry for mercy. They’ll not escape danger until they see it.”

 

There are five purposes of the Law in evangelism:

 

First, the purpose of the Law is to Convert the Soul - Psalm 19:7. Psalm 19:7 states:

 

  • Psalm 19:7 – “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;”  [4]

God has designed the Law to convert the soul.

      

Second, the purpose of the Law is to Stop Sinners Self-Justification and humble them - Romans 3:19 (Psalm 51:4; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5-7). Romans 3:19 states:

 

  • Romans 3:19 – “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” [5]

The unsaved mind is at odds with God and will argue and contend vigorously against God and His gospel (Romans 8:7; 2 Corinthians 2:14). Therefore, evangelism should aim at the heart and that is exactly what the Law does. The Law of God aims at the heart, at the conscience of a sinner. Every person is born with a conscience that discerns right from wrong. You may want to object to that point raising the examples of a psychopath, or cannibal. I would say, even cannibals know its not good to be eaten! And a psychopath or mass murderer is a product of abuse and the rebellion against conscience. The Law strikes at the heart, at the conscience and causes a reality check that reveals utter sinfulness before a Holy Creator God. When a sinner is brought before the mirror of the Law of Holy God, all excuses evaporate, every sinful proud self-justifying, self-excusing mouth is shut.

 

Third, the purpose of the Law is to Bring Awareness of Sin - Romans  3:20; 7:7. Again, in Romans it states:

 

  • Romans 3:20 – “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
  • Romans 7:7 -  “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”  [6]

 

The Law exposes, defines and reveals sin in the sinner’s life. Without the Law a person can justify themselves because they are out of touch with God’s standards and are living by the fantasy notion of “goodness” and acceptability they conjure up for themselves and others. The Law brings such a straw house crashing to the ground and leaves it in a heap of burning cinders.

 

Fourth, the purpose of the Law is to Clarify What Sin Is - I John 3:4. The apostle John wrote:

 

  • 1 John 3:4 – “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.”[7]

God’s Law removes all vagueness and uncertainty about what sin is. The Law spells out the parameters of what God considers to be sinful and what He finds unacceptable. Sin is breaking God’s Law.

Fifth, the purpose of the Law is to Direct Sinners To Christ as Savior, the only way to be saved from sin - Galatians 3:24. Paul wrote:

 

  • Galatians 3:24 – “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”  [8]

The Law is not an instrument to merely expose a sinful sore and then poke at it sadistically. The Law reveals our sin in order to show us our need of a Savior; that is the entire objective. In Christ we find an Answer and relief from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:10-13).

 

Jesus used the Law to expose the hardness of the hearts of the religious Pharisees (10:5). He  exposed their sin and revealed their need for an alternative to their futile self-righteousness.

Jesus also used the Law with His disciples to reveal to them their own need of a Savior. This was part of His effort to lead them into a saving understanding and acceptance of Him (10:10-12). The Law prepares the way for the gospel, by softening the heart to receive it. Before a person can receive the Savior they need to understand they need one. The Law reveals sin in the hard hearted sinner and points them to the Savior for salvation.

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus used the Law to evangelize the lost and soften hard hearts, and reveal to them their need of a Savior, we should too.

Jesus’ Passion for Marriage

If there is a topic that should bring conviction in our day it is the topic of divorce. Marriage in our day has degenerated to a kind of casual dating. Celebrities like Britney Spears enter in and out of marriage like she is on a date. And the sad thing about the situation is that statistical studies repeatedly show a very high percentage of “Christian” marriages end in divorce. Most studies throughout the years have shown that the incident of divorce is not much better among Christians than among non-Christians. Since God hates divorce (Malachi 2:14-16), that should be especially convicting to followers of Jesus. What did Jesus have to say about divorce?

First, Jesus taught that God made us and He is the Author of marriage.

Jesus said, “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female” (10:6). Jesus quotes this Scripture from Genesis (Genesis 1:27) and in doing so lays a foundation of God’s sovereignty and Lordship over the marriage relationship. Marriage is not something that evolved or something that man thought up. Marriage is not something we should fool around with either. Marriage was created by God for very specific purposes. God is Lord of the marriage covenant. 

Second, Jesus taught that God designed marriage to be monogamous, not polygamous.

 Jesus said, ““‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; (10:7-8a). Jesus quotes the Scripture as it is in the Old Testament:

  • Genesis 2:24 – “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  [9]

God made one man and one woman and put them together. That is God’s ideal, for one man and one woman to live out their lives together. He did not make numerous women for a single man or numerous men for a single woman. Polygamy is something that occurs in the Bible, but God does not approve of it as it is not His design. At best He is silent about it at times. At worst He harshly condemns it.

Furthermore, God did not make another man for Adam. God did not put togehter Adam and Steve, or Adam and Ed. God did not make two women; He did put together Eve and Evelyn, or Eve and Edna. He made one man and one woman to be united together for a lifetime. There is absolutely no scriptural support for same-sex unions. This is an abomination in our day (Romans 1:18-32). What is an abomination? An abomination is something a people do that would make God want to bomb a nation. If America approves same-sex unions, it will make God want to bomb this nation!

Third, Jesus taught that God designed marriage is the proper and safe environment for sexual union.

To “become one flesh” refers to the sexual union of the husband and wife. Sex was created by God to be experienced between one man and one woman in the covenant commitment of marriage. SEX IS FROM GOD; SEX IS GOOD! (See James 1:17).The sexual union of two people is designed to bring the two together as one in the marriage. Sex within the safety and security of the loving covenant marriage relationship is serene and blessed. Any sexual activity outside of marriage is sin (i.e. “fornication” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-12). In Hebrews it states:

  • Hebrews 13:4 – “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”  [10]

It should also be reiterated here that God did not create Adam and Ed, or Adam and Steve. He did not create two identical beings. He did not create two men or two women to come together to “become one flesh.” Homosexuality and/or lesbianism is not God’s plan and in fact God finds the practice abominable, it is a sign of rejecting God, and it will be punished by God (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; 1 Kings 14:24; Romans 1:18-32). Furthermore, same-sex unions cannot produce offspring and logically lead to the extinction of the human race. That may be a desired goal for Satan, but it is not God’s goal for humanity (Genesis 1:28).

Fourth, Jesus taught that God designed marriage to be a compound unity.

Jesus quoted, “so then they are no longer two, but one flesh’” (10:8b). Two coming together in the sight of God to become one. A marriage is not made up of two identical people. It does not say that one man identical to one woman came together to make one marriage. Marriage is a compound unity where two people, who are different in many ways,  come together to find completeness. Marriage is an opportunity where two people come together as a team to make each other complete. In such an arrangement the two are more effective because where one is weak the other is strong and visa versa. Differences are all right in the marriage partners, even good, because they balance out two people and complete them (see Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

A “helper” not a slave

We need to take a moment to discuss how spouses are supposed to relate to one another, how their relationship is based on God’s nature, as well as a mirror of God. In Genesis it states:

  • Genesis 2:18 – “And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”   [11]

When some men look at this verse they interpret “helper” to mean, “slave.” There are some who see the wife as the one who does all the stuff nobody else wants to do. While God’s prescribed order is that He gives His agenda to man and the woman helps the man carry it out, a wife is not a sub-human slave for the man who answers and obeys at his every beck and call. No, God did not create women to be men’s slaves; He created them to enable men to accomplish that which on their own they could not do. Men, (unless specifically gifted by God to be single for life) are incomplete without a woman “helper.”  

In Genesis 2:18 the word, “helper” is translated from the Hebrew term ‘EZER (Strong’s #5828) meaning “helper,” which is derived from another Hebrew term AZAR (Strong’s #5286) which means, “to surround, i.e. protect or aid; help.”  [12] Therefore, a wife is a “helper,” one God ordains to be joined to a husband to surround, protect, and aid him.

Marriage is complimentary not competitive

The phrase, “comparable to him,” (Genesis 2:18 - Hebrew – KENEGHDO  - literally:  “like his counterpart”) tells us that while the woman is different in some ways from the man, she is also like him in many ways. There are physical and emotional differences between a man and a woman. The differences are too numerous to consider here. But there is one way in which a man and a woman are similar that I would like to mention here. Both the man and the woman are to be each other’s helper in that each surrounds, protects and aids the other. The spouses in a God ordained relationship are complementary to each other not competitors against each other.  Every person has strengths and weaknesses. In a marriage people are completed as God brings together people who are different but complementary.  Where one is weak the other is strong and visa versa.

It is not good”

Genesis 2:18 is the first mention by God of something that is “not good.” In the verses that follow this that which is “not good” is explained in the following way:

  • Genesis 2:19-20 – “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. [13]

The problem is identified as Adam’s lack of a “helper comparable to him,” the same phrase used in verse 2:18. Adam was incomplete without Eve, (and visa versa). Loneliness is “not good” according to God. Adam could not procreate or pass on a godly legacy by himself and no doubt there were other areas where Adam needed a “helper comparable to him.” The point is, marriage is complimentary in that it provides God’s means to complete people. Just as God would not be Himself without  the Triune Persons (Father; Son Jesus Christ; or the Holy Spirit) so too, people are incomplete without a spouse. Now there are exceptions for some human beings in that God at times calls and gifts certain people to be single for life in order to serve Him. Or sometimes people are born without a desire to marry. But as a general rule, people are incomplete alone and are completed in terms of God’s plan for them only when they are married. The married couple compliments and completes each other, they are a team that helps each other working together in the Spirit to accomplish God’s plan for their lives.

The competition that is not “good”

This is exactly the opposite of what we see in our world today. Spouses often tear down and attack each other rather than see themselves and act as protectors of each other. Spouses compete against each other for what they see as being their rights. But we have no rights. Paul was inspired to write to the Corinthians:

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”  [14] (See also Romans 14:8)

One of the reasons I love my wife so much is that she is my biggest supporter. She covers my back in ministry (as I do hers). We are a team that encourages each other. When either of us is down, we protect and surround each other in times of vulnerability.

When spouses view one another in terms of a slave who is there to meet “my needs” then the result is cancerous competition that will tear down and destroy that relationship. Neither the husband nor the wife should be viewed as a slave; a servant, yes, a slave no. I say that meaning that spouses should have a servant’s heart like Jesus who willingly and humbly came to serve. Spouses though should not play the role of a slave who is manipulated and forced to submit against their will. A servant is compelled by God’s love within; a slave is compelled by outside forces (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

When spouses are compelled by God’s love in marriage, they become a living, loving beautiful illustration of the nature of God, (they do not become God, but illustrate His nature in them – see 2 Peter 1:2-4). This leads us to the fourth aspect of marriage.

 God designed marriage to mirror Himself.

 It’s interesting that the term “one” used to express the compound unity of a married couple in Genesis is the same word used by God in reference to Himself. The Bible teaches, “God is one”:

  • Deuteronomy 6:4 – “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!”  [15]

But what the Bible student will find interesting is that there are two words used in Hebrew that are translated “one.” The Hebrew term YACHIYD means “one and only one.” A second Hebrew term used to define “one” is EKHAWD, which means, “to unify; to collect together; a united one.” This last word EKHAWD, is the one used in Deuteronomy 6:4. What is also interesting is that this word is also the word used in referring to the compound unity of marriage when it says, “the two shall become one flesh.” Why is this significant?

The image of God in humans

God made man in His own image as the Bible states:

  • Genesis 1:26 – “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  [16]

This verse shows us that God is a plural unity or uni-plural in nature. [17]  The use of the pronouns “Us” and “Our” in 1:26 implies the Triune nature of God. (See also in Genesis 1:1 the use of the Hebrew term ELOHIM – Strong’s #430 - used in reference to God.)  We see the Third Person of the Trinity in 1:2 when it states, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Since the Sabbath Rest inaugurated by God in the Old Testament is a shadow of Christ (Hebrews 3-4), the establishment of the Sabbath is further allusion and evidence of the Trinity.

 

How do humans have the image of God in them? Human beings show God’s image in a number of ways, (e.g. intellect; emotion; etc.) but one of the most beautiful ways they illustrate God’s image is through coming together as “one” in marriage. The man and woman interacting and fellowshipping together in marriage illustrate the interaction and fellowship within the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

Helpers that mirror the Holy God

It’s interesting that God chose the word “helper” to describe the spouse He provided for Adam (Genesis 2:18,20) because He uses this very word to describe Himself on occasion such as:

  • Psalm 30:10 – “Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper!”  [18]
  • Psalm 54:4 – “Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is with those who uphold my life.”  [19]

You see, when we, as God’s disciples, help each other or help anyone, in His name, we are illustrating and mirroring God to those around us. When spouses help each other, they are particularly mirroring the relationship of Christ to His church. That is why it is so important for spouses to help each other, be a team, a cooperative, where each one is looking out for the other’s best interests. A marriage is not meant to be a competition; it’s meant to be a cooperative and complimentary relationship. Do the Triune Persons fight amongst Themselves? Of course not! Then neither should the marriage couple fight amongst themselves. The marriage couple should compliment, cooperate and serve one another rather than compete against one another.

When the marriage couple sees themselves as completers and compliments of each other, they serve as a powerful illustration and mirror the image of Christ to His church.

Marriage Mirrors Christ’s Relationship With The Church

 

Later in the New Testament the apostle Paul is inspired to write about how marriage is meant to mirror Christ’s relationship with the Church. Read what Paul says:

 

  • Ephesians 5:21-33 – “submitting to one another in the fear of God.22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”  [20]

The phrases, “so also,” and “just as” (Ephesians 5:23,24,25,29) are literary clauses that point to the presence of a comparison being made.  Marriage is a comparison in that it is an illustration of Christ’s relationship to the Church (Ephesians 5:23-25).

 

What does this passage tell us about the marriage relationship? First, there is to be an attitude of mutual submission amongst believers in general (Ephesians 5:21). The first twenty verses of Ephesians chapter five are a discussion of how people, especially believers, should act toward each other. This first section of Ephesians five ends at verse 21 with an exhortation for believers to have an overall attitude of mutual submission toward one another. No one in the church, no Christian, no disciple should ever have an attitude that is anything other than that of humility and submission to another. There is no support for any proud or haughty attitude amongst God’s people and that carries over into the marriage relationship. 

 

Second, in the marriage relationship wives are subordinate in authority to their husbands and should submit to that authority “as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22-23). As long as the husband does not ask the wife to do something that would be unscriptural, she needs to obey him. As long as the husband does not direct the wife to do something that conflicts with or contradicts God’s word, the wife should follow the husbands lead. This is true because in God’s ordained order in marriage, the husband is “head” over the wife as Jesus is “Head” over the church (5:23-24). The husband is the head of the wife in that God hands His agenda and mission to the husband and it is implemented with the help and support of the wife. The husband and wife are a team whose goal is to accomplish the task that God sets before them.

 

In football from time to time there occurs what is called a quarterback controversy. A quarterback controversy is when a team is divided over who should be quarterback and often players perform differently according to who is in at quarterback. The team does not see how they are blessed with another quarterback who could fill in incase of an injury. But the team divides in their loyalty and it inevitably leads to losses on the field. A quarterback controversy is the kiss of death for a contending team. When a marriage has a quarterback controversy, when the wife wants to lead or the husband refuses to lead according to God’s prescribed plan, the marriage will experience chaos, confusion and will never fulfill God’s plan or mission for the marriage team. For a team to work and win, there must be clear leadership. God has ordained the husband to be the quarterback and the wife the receiver so to speak. A quarterback calls the plays, but without the receiver to catch the ball, they can’t succeed. Both players are indispensable to the team’s goals. In the same way, husbands and wives are indispensable in value to the marriage team. It isn’t a question of worth; it’s a question of assigned work.

 

Third, husbands are to love their wives “as Christ loved the church”(5:25).  We will look later at a description of how Jesus loved the church, but suffice it to say that Jesus did not come to be served but to serve and give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). In the same way husbands should act redemptively toward their wives with a servant’s heart. The husband is responsible to edify his wife with the word of God (5:26) and seek to present her blameless before God in holiness (5:27). Husbands ought to love their wives as much as they love themselves, by cherishing and nourishing them (5:28-29). When the husband fails or refuses to take the lead in the marriage, especially in the area of edifying the wife, the marriage will have a serious flaw and trouble and hard times are the consequence. Husbands are often all too willing to exert authority over   the wife based on Ephesians 5:21, but unless they are fulfilling Ephesians 5:25, they don’t have a leg to stand on, their authority will be undermined and on sandy ground (see Matthew 7:24-27). But when the husband loves his wife like Christ loved the church and seeks her spiritual health and growth, there isn’t a woman alive who wouldn’t be willing to cooperate, compliment, and yes, even submit to her husband.

 

Fourth, marriage is a model of Christ’s love for the church and as such spouses should come together as one in love and mutual respect (5:30-33). Paul says this is a “mystery,” it’s something God reveals through marriage. This is one of the highest and most important purposes of marriage and yet it is often the  most neglected. Many couples, including those in the church don’t even recognize or know that marriage is meant to illustrate Christ’s relationship with the church. This is undoubtedly one of the main causes of many of the divorces we see in society.

 

The humble servant

 

 In his letter to the Philippians Paul exhorts his recipients to follow the example of Jesus and there is no more important place than in the marriage relationship that such Christ-like attitude should be seen. Paul is inspired to write:

 

  • Philippians 2:5-8 – “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” [21]

These verses express the essence of how a spouse should relate to one another.  If you are married, is this your attitude toward your spouse? If it isn’t, then you are probably giving the world a warped view of God’s intended purpose of Christ’s relationship to the church, as well as being miserable in your self-centered sin. Marriage can be a beautiful thing, greatly used by God, when two people see themselves as His helpers and helpers to each other.

 

The right authority in the right place

In Ephesians 5 the husband is to be the servant leader and the woman is to be equal in value to him, but subordinate in authority. We should mention that this is in the marriage relationship and the church (1 Timothy 2:12-13), not in the secular world.

In the secular world there is nothing wrong with a woman being in authority over a man or men. There is nothing unbiblical about a woman president or leader in some other capacity. Women are just as able, (and some would argue even more able) to lead and oversee in the secular realm. In the church and in the home, however, God has ordained that the right and best way to maintain order and for His will to be accomplished is that the man is in the position of authority.

Furthermore, women submit to THEIR OWN HUSBANDS, NOT ALL HUSBANDS IN GENERAL. In Ephesians 5 it states:

 

  • Ephesians 5:24 – “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”  [22]

Women are not mandated by God to walk around whimpering in the presence of men in or outside of the church. A wife is in submission to her husband, not someone else’s husband. There are a lot of men on power trips who think that women are to be submissive to all men. That is not biblical. A woman is to submit or answer to her own husband not someone else’s. No man can come to my wife and expect to order her around, and I cannot go to another’s wife and order her around. There should be no ordering around, period. There has been a lot of tarnishing of the church and the name of Christ because of those who misinterpreted God’s order in the family and between men and women. Right authority is authority that is characterized by servant leadership. The right place is where and what God has ordained that authority to be.

 

The general attitude of all believers to each other is to be one of mutual submission. Paul wrote:

 

  • Ephesians 5:21 – “submitting to one another in the fear of God.”  [23]

Disciples are to have an attitude of mutual submission and humility toward one another. Nowhere does Jesus endorse an attitude of lording it over another. In fact, Jesus specifically says the disciple should not lord it over, or impose their will on others, as this is a worldly way of doing things. Jesus said:

 

  • Mark 10:42-43 – “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.26 “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.”  [24]

The Christian leader, whether it is in the church or in the marriage, is to be a servant leader. The Christian leader is to lead through serving, by example, not by sitting on a pedestal and ordering around those he perceives to be surfs. If the husband has a problem with his wife, if she refuses to do something he believes God wants her to do, then he needs to humbly exemplify God’s plan by serving and showing the wife what God desires for her to do. Husbands simply put, need to walk the talk as well as talk the talk.

 God designed marriage as a means to multiply a godly legacy.

While Jesus did not mention it in His response to the Pharisees, Genesis 1:28 states:

  • Genesis 1:28 – “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”   [25]

The marriage couple is the means by which families are to multiply. The marriage unit is the beginning of the family unit where children are meant to be brought up in the counsel of God as parents teach and apply God’s word to life in and through the family. The family unit started through marriage is the ideal and god-prescribed setting for discipleship to take place. Parents need to disciple their children in the faith. Marriage is the means by which a godly legacy can be perpetuated.

 Marriage is a creation of God, not the world (Mark 10:6-7; Genesis 1:27). Marriage is meant to be monogamous (Mark 10:8; Genesis 2:24). Marriage is meant to complete human beings by bringing together a compound unity (Mark 10:8; Genesis 2:18).  Marriage is meant to mirror to the world the image of the Triune God (Genesis 1:27; Deuteronomy 6:4; Ephesians 5:23-25). Marriage is meant to be used to pass on a godly heritage of disciples (Genesis 1:28; Deuteronomy 6). These are the purposes of marriage and divorce severs this God ordained purposes. Divorce desecrates the intended image of God’s loyalty and love between He and His people.

Is Marriage Just a Sexual Union?

Now there are some people who say that when two people join together in the sexual union of intercourse, they are in a married state. But this is based on unbiblical and faulty reasoning. If the marriage union were entered into simply by way of intercourse, then there would be no sin of fornication. Fornication refers to sexual activity outside of the marriage union. The word “fornication” is translated from the Greek term PORNE (Strong’s #4205) from which we get the English word pornography. PORNE literally refers to, “someone who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse.” The word fornication was first used in classical Greek to refer to a person who had intercourse with prostitutes. In the New Testament the word refers to any unlawful sexual activity. Fornication therefore, is evidence that the marriage union is not entered into by simply indulging in sexual intercourse. Indeed fornication is condemned in the Bible:

  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-10,18 – "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. . . . 18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.”   [26]

Marriage is a covenant commitment entered into by two people (of the opposite sex – sad that we have to add such a comment in our world today) before God who is the One who declares them to be one. This implies the use of God of a sanctioning body such as the church to verify such a union. This is the binding and loosing that is entrusted to the church by Jesus (16:19; 18:18).

Now that we have seen what Jesus says about marriage, let’s see what He said about divorce.

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus had a passion for marriage and its God ordained purposes. Marriage is meant to mirror God. Marriage works when spouses have servant’s hearts toward God and one another. We need to adopt God’s purpose and plan for marriage. 

What did Jesus teach about divorce?

 

Mark 10:9 - “Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.” [27]

There were two schools of thought on divorce in Jesus’ day. The first was the Hillel school, which held a very liberal view of divorce. The Hillel school held a very liberal view of divorce saying:

 

“If a man’s wife said anything against his mother, she would be unclean; and thus, according to the Law of Moses, could be justifiably divorced. If a husband saw someone fairer to look upon than his wife, his wife became unclean in comparison, and he was therefore justified in divorcing her.” [28]

 

The Hillel school went so far as to say a husband could divorce his wife is she burnt his food. [29]

 

The school of Shammai on the other hand held an ultra conservative view on divorce making it virtually impossible to divorce. There was great controversy between these two groups in Jesus’ day. Now the Pharisees were trying to bring Jesus into this controversy. What did Jesus say about marriage and divorce? Let’s see.

 

Jesus stands on the Scripture. “What God has joined together, let not man separate.” Jesus seems to side more closely with the Shammai school of thought on divorce. Jesus is decisive in His statement about divorce, IT SHOULD NOT HAPPEN! Marriage should last for the lifetime of those who get married. Though there are provisions for divorce (as we will see), divorce is always the very last resort and there are only a very few reasons that justify divorce. Jesus then goes on to explain the causes of divorce. But first, this verse tells us something very important about marriage, let’s make a note of it here.

Jesus taught that Marriages are God ordained, not an accident

Jesus notes something very important about marriage when He quotes from Genesis, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:9) Marriages are not entered into accidentally, God ordains them. Two people who are married, regardless of whether they are believers or not, are joined together by God. You may be married to an unbeliever, or you may be having difficulties in your marriage and wondering, “Is this marriage God’s will?” Well, the Bible says that if you have been joined together in marriage, God joined you together! We need to begin to see our spouses as the God ordained partner that God has given us for life.

One commentary makes this point clear when it is stated:

“Notice also that Jesus said, ‘What . . . God hath joined,’ not ‘whom.’ God made the marriage relation; so every marriage is God-joined in principle by this divine provision made for marriage. Even where marriages are made out of God’s will, once the relation is entered into, God does not want it to be broken. He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). He hates its violence He hates what it does to the family, especially to the children. He hates it, because it makes it harder to raise children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.” [30]

Marriages may not always be according to God’s best prescribed plan, but once entered into, God puts His stamp of approval upon and wants them to work out for His glory.

Accepting your mate

In Genesis it states:

Genesis 2:21-25 – “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.23 And Adam said: 1 “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”  [31]

Now let’s think about this for a moment. Adam was asleep when God made his mate (Genesis 2:21a). God took Adam’s “rib,” (which is TSELA (Strong’s #6763) meaning literally “a piece of his side” as opposed to a part of his head or his feet) and made the woman (Genesis 2:21b-22a). Then God brought her to Adam (Genesis 2:22b). Now here is where we need to think about this situation. Adam knew what about Eve? He didn’t know how smart she was. He didn’t know how good a cook she was. He didn’t know if she was wealthy. He didn’t know what kind of voice she had or how she kissed. He didn’t know her interests. There was a lot he didn’t know about this person. All he knew was how she looked, and while as the perfect woman she must have been a knockout, physical appearance is not the basis of making a life commitment to someone. So what was Adam’s response to God’s gift?

Adam’s response was, “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” Someone has translated Adam’s response to the woman as, “WOW! Man! This is the one for me!” And that is the unofficial way Adam’s mate came to be known as “woman.” What’s the point here? The point is Adam did not know this woman, but He did know God. Based on Adam’s knowledge of God and His revealed provision for him, Adam accepted by faith the woman God provided for him. Adam’s acceptance of his mate was a statement of faith in God’s nature and integrity. Adam accepted Eve based on God’s character, not Eve’s performance. No two people coming together to marry can ever know everything about each other. But when Biblical principles in finding a mate are followed and you come to the point of entering into marriage, each spouse must accept, like Adam, by faith, the spouse God has provided for them. This is the most basic of principles for marriage.

It was on this basis, faith in God, that marriage was instituted by God who said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:24-25). Notice, that this is the basis for sexual rightness. There is no shame between those who enter into sexual oneness when they do so by the prescribed standards of God and by faith in Him. When you marry someone you need to accept them by faith in God and trust in His integrity and faithfulness.

Jesus taught divorce is the last resort

While divorce is an option in a very few circumstances, it is always to be the last resort. Jesus expressed this in the words, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (10:9). Even if there are justifiable causes for divorce, forgiveness and reconciliation in Christ are the first and preferred option of the Lord. I say “in Christ,” because only as two spouses come together in Christ, in the presence of Jesus, can the offenses that justify divorce be forgiven and cleansed. Remember what Jesus said:

  • Matthew 18:19-20 - “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.20 “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” [32]

We keep coming back to these two verses because they are so important. If two spouses are willing to come together in submission to Jesus, He is a Wonderful Counselor that is able to work out reconciliation. The cross of Christ is the door to reconciliation because at the cross every sin for all time was atoned for. Read what the apostle Paul was inspired by God to write to the Colossians: 

  • Colossians 2:13-14 – “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”  [33]

Paul then goes on to apply the cross to family life and relationships in general saying:

  • Colossians 3:12-21 – “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. 18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”  [34]

Here we see how important the cross of Christ, (by which forgiveness is possible) is to families and especially those who have the wedge of offense threatening their relationship. When we come together “in Christ” remembering and by faith accepting the love and atonement of Jesus, then forgiveness become possible. Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor, because no obstacle is too great for His cross to conquer, if we let it by faith.

The need for repentance

Again, Paul speaks of the importance of the cross in relationships as he is inspired to write to the Ephesians saying:

  • Ephesians 4:25-32 – “Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,27 nor give place to the devil.28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.”   [35]

Paul says we are to forgive one another, “just as,” God forgave us in Jesus. This implies we are to follow the same pattern of reconciliation with people as we did with God. Just as we repented in the process of being forgiven through faith in Christ; just as saving faith is characterized by repentance; so to is reconciliation between human parties. The cross is not a cheap out for the offender! No, the offender must admit and acknowledge their sin before the offended if there is to be true reconciliation. Reconciliation in human relationships follows the pattern we take in being forgiven by God. Repentance means one not only acknowledges their sin before God, but that they turn away from their sin purposing to not return to it.

The Bible tells us that repentance leads to forgiveness with God and times of refreshing or renewal with Him and also, by implication, with those around us. In Acts it states:

  • Acts 3:19 - “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,”  [36]

The added incentive to repent and forgive

In Psalms it states that if we regard iniquity or sin in our hearts it cuts us off from communicating with God in prayer:

  • Psalm 66:18 – “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” [37]

In Peter’s first epistle husbands are given a particular warning in this regard when Peter is inspired to write:

  • 1 Peter 3:7-12 – “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. 8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For “He who would love life 1 And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit.11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it.12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”   [38]

If you are betraying or cheating on your spouse in some way, your relationship with God will be directly affected. That holds true whether or not you are a husband or wife. God cherishes and holds in high regard the marriage relationship, spouses should too.

Unilateral forgiveness

Sometimes reconciliation is not possible, but even when it is not, the offended party should forgive. A note here, sometimes forgiveness will be unilateral in a relationship in the sense that one party walks away and the offended party forgives them in order to be freed from the bitterness of unforgiveness (see Hebrews 12:14-15). When it is necessary that forgiveness be unilateral, reconciliation does not usually occur. This is because there is an absence of repentance in one party.

Why Then is There Divorce?

Jesus states:

  • Mark 10:5  – “And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.”  [39]

The Bible and the Law of Moses in particular, do indeed make provision for divorce. We find this in the book of Deuteronomy where it states:

  • Deuteronomy 24:1-4 - “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house,2 “when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife,3 “if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife,4 “then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.”  [40]

The Pharisees no doubt thought they had cornered Jesus with the Mosaic instruction on divorce. But how did Jesus respond?

Divorce is a Consequence of a Hard Heart

Jesus said:

  • Matthew 15:19 - “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”  [41]

Here Jesus elaborates on the reason why provision was made for divorce. Divorce is a symptom of a deeper problem, a hard heart and a shallow faith. God never intended divorce to be an option but made a provision for it because of the hardness of people’s hearts. Divorce is a failure to accept your spouse by faith. Divorce is a result of a lack of faith in God, His integrity and faithfulness.

God Hates Divorce

Toward the end of the Old Testament in the book of Malachi we see that the hearts of the people are growing hard once more. They have learned certain things from God’s captivating discipline, but other things they remain hard hearted in, such as divorce. In Malachi God states through the prophet:

  • Malachi 2:16 - “For the Lord God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”   [42]

God hates divorce because it does violence to people spiritually, emotionally and often physically. Divorce greatly tears at the fabric of society as the above statistics show. Even more sadly, divorce tears at the hearts of the children, the true victims, who are involved. Troubled parents should remain together if at all possible for the sake of the children.

 

God Didn’t Divorce His People

 

The Bible illustrates the relationship between God and Israel by way of the metaphor that God is a husband to Israel His wife. Even when Israel persisted in her spiritual adulteries, God did not divorce her as attested to in the following portion of Scripture:

 

  • Jeremiah 3:1-15 - “They say, ‘If a man divorces his wife, 1 And she goes from him And becomes another man’s, May he return to her again?’ Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; Yet return to Me,” says the Lord.2 “Lift up your eyes to the desolate heights and see: Where have you not lain with men? By the road you have sat for them Like an Arabian in the wilderness; And you have polluted the land With your harlotries and your wickedness.3 Therefore the showers have been withheld, And there has been no latter rain. You have had a harlot’s forehead; You refuse to be ashamed.4 Will you not from this time cry to Me, ‘My father, You are the guide of my youth?5 Will He remain angry forever? Will He keep it to the end?’ Behold, you have spoken and done evil things, As you were able.”6 The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot.7 “And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.8 “Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.9 “So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.10 “And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the Lord. 11 Then the Lord said to me, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah.12 “Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: ‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not remain angry forever.13 Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the Lord your God, And have scattered your charms To alien deities under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,’ says the Lord.14 “Return, O backsliding children,” says the Lord; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.15 “And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”  [43] (See also Isaiah 50:1-3 and Hosea 3:1-5).

In all her times of unfaithfulness, God remained loyal and true to His bride Israel. God is our model in this regard. Divorce is rooted in a lack of faith in God. Divorce is preceded by a spiritual faltering faith in God. If a person rushes into marriage without consulting God or disobeying God’s revealed truth in His word, they may find themselves in a difficult relationship situation. But God can repair and make beautiful even such situations. Remember, Jesus is the
Wonderful Counselor and He can work good even in bad situations
(See Romans 8:28).

Be Imitators of God

 

The Bible tells us we should be imitators of God:

 

  • Ephesians 5:1-7 – “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.7 Therefore do not be partakers with them.”  [44]

If we are instructed to imitate God, then this includes our view on divorce. Divorce should be the very last resort and only considered after all other alternatives have been prayerfully explored.

When Is Divorce An Option?

Mark 10:10-12 – “In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter.11 So He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.12 “And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”  [45]

In Mark’s account he does not mention Jesus’ provision for divorce but inMatthew’s account of Jesus’ words it states:

  • Matthew 19:9 - “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”  [46]

Notice, Jesus does not mandate or require divorce even in the case where adultery or sexual immorality occurs. Jesus leaves the door open for reconciliation even in cases where there are legitimate grounds for divorce.

But Jesus does allow for divorce. Jon Courson points out in this regard:

“I find it intriguing from a theological standpoint that initially, according to the Old Testament Law, if there was adultery, the penalty was not divorce – it was death.

The Mishna stated that men and women caught in adultery were to be taken to the town square, made to stand in a box of manure three feet deep, and stoned until they fell face down. A tree would then be planted in the box – as a reminder of the high price of adultery. If your town had a lot of trees, no wonder it was considered kind of ‘shady’. [47]

But when is divorce an option?

First, divorce is an option when sexual immorality severs the covenant relationship. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught:

  • Matthew 5:31-32 - “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’32 “But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”  [48]

“Sexual immorality,” here is a translation of the word PORNE or “fornication.” Sexual unfaithfulness is grounds for divorce in marriage.

One commentary elaborates:

“Jesus accepted no other grounds for divorce except fornication. ‘Fornication (porneia) is a term that includes habitual adultery and all habitual sexual immorality after marriage, such as consorting with prostitutes, practicing homosexuality, and any sexual practices other than the normal marriage relationship. Jesus used the larger term here because to the Jews, adultery was only the dishonoring of the free Hebrew woman and did not include union with a second wife, a concubine, a slave, or a prostitute. Jesus differed with the Jewish viewpoint. Fornication is wrong, no matter who is involved. He told the woman taken in adultery to ‘go and sin no more’ (John 8:11).”  [49]

While not specifically mentioned, physical or sexual abuse effectively severs and breaks the marriage covenant. No spouse should ever remain in a life threatening situation where either themselves or their children are in physical danger or being abused. A marriage in which abuse is taking place should be addressed with separation to a safe position for the victim. This separation can be a means of allowing for counseling and possibly reconciliation. But if fears and scars of abuse cannot be reconciled, divorce is an option. Abuse is an extreme form of adultery in that the offender commits adultery with him or herself against the victim. The abusing spouse is so in love  with themselves, they are willing to abuse their spouse and break the covenant mandate of marriage, i.e. “to love and to cherish.” This reason for divorce would come under the heading of sexual immorality.

Second, divorce is an option when an unbelieving spouse chooses to end the marriage. This is stated in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where God inspires him to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 – “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband.11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him.14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?”  [50]

When Paul says, “yet not I but the Lord . . . I, not the Lord,” he is not lessening the authority of what he is teaching but merely saying that the revelation he is giving does not come from the gospel accounts of Jesus’ teaching but from revelation received from God after those accounts. And what Paul teaches is that if an unbelieving spouse chooses to leave and end a marriage, the believing spouse is no longer bound, they can remarry. In such cases a believing spouse does not have to remarry or give up on his or her unbelieving spouse, they can prayerfully wait for reconciliation if that is what God has put on their heart, but they are not obligated to do so (1 Corinthians 7:15-16). But the believing spouse cannot initiate the ending of the marriage if the unbelieving spouse wants to continue the marriage. This is true because the family is “sanctified” or God is working in it through the saved spouse and perhaps salvation for the lost family members will occur (1 Corinthians 7:10-14).

In his book Divorce and Remarriage in the CHURCH, Larry Taylor (a Calvary Chapel pastor) says the following about divorce and remarriage:

 

“Many would rightly argue that we should emulate God in our dealings with others. Since God would not divorce us, we should not divorce each other. God has a higher plan for Christians - a plan which does not have divorce in the picture. There is no sin God cannot forgive, and there is no broken relationship He cannot heal. Christians should trust God for reconciliation. Divorce should not be considered an option for us.” (p. 12-13)

 

“Many individuals mistakenly believe that God gave them a mate to meet their needs, then they are discouraged and angry when their needs aren’t met. Couples come to us as pastors for marital counseling complaining that their spouses don’t meet their needs, emotionally, materially, intellectually, sexually, or otherwise. We have to tell them that God never intended for spouses to meet each other’s needs. Jesus will meet your needs, not your husband or wife. And, when you are sincerely looking to Him to supply all your needs, finding all your sufficiency in God, you will approach your marriage not for what your partner can give you but for what you can give him [or her] in Jesus’ name” (p. 15).

 

“. . . [T]he higher path is one of forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation. Nevertheless, in the case of marital infidelity where there is no repentance, no desire for reconciliation, divorce may be permitted, even among Jesus’ disciples” (p. 16).

 

“God’s ideal, God’s intention, is for one man fully submitted to Jesus Christ who loves God with all his heart to be closely clinging for his whole life to one woman who is fully submitted to Jesus Christ and loves God with all her heart. Joined by God, nothing should ever separate them. Originally, it was God’s plan that nothing would separate them for all eternity. Before the fall, there was no death. Adam and Eve were designed to be spouses in Paradise forever” (p. 19).

 

“Of course, no Christian should ever marry (or even date for that matter) an unbeliever. We are not to be unequally yoked. But if two unbelievers are married and one gets saved, they should stay together so that both can come to the LORD” (p. 23).

 

“If you are being physically beaten, if your children are being battered, if your mate is living in unrepentant fornication, if your mate is a practicing homosexual, if your mate is breaking the law by dealing drugs out of your home, if your mate is abusing drugs in front of your children, or if your life is otherwise in grave and imminent danger, then you may be justified in leaving and going to a safe place to live where you can pray and seek the LORD” . . . . Even then, in most instances, God will bring the spouse to repentance and save the marriage if you will hang in there and trust Him. Do not, however, be too quick to go back into the relationship - con artists are quite good at making you think they have repented, when in fact nothing has changed. Wait until there is lasting fruit before you return to a former batterer or drug dealer.” (p. 29) [51]

 

Do Those Who Remarry After Divorce Live in the Perpetual Sin of Adultery?

Jesus said, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (10:11-12). When a person who divorces remarries, based on Jesus’ words, they enter into the sin of adultery. In our society today this is all too true as those who divorce for unbiblical reasons enter in and out of marriage through divorce. Adultery is a serious offense as it desecrates the life illustration God intended marriage to depict of Himself and His people (see Ephesians 5). But do the persons who remarry a divorced person live in the sin of adultery perpetually? Is the sin of adultery the unforgivable sin?

Adultery is not the unforgivable sin. Where there is true repentance, there is forgiveness from God. There is Biblical precedent and evidence for such an understanding. In John chapter 8 we see just such a situation. Watch how Jesus handled it:

  • John 8:1-12 – “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.2 Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst,4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.5 “Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”   [52]

Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but He did not condone her adultery either. He said, “go and sin no more.” Jesus is willing to forgive even the sin of adultery, but He does not do so for those who casually come to Him, He forgives the genuinely repentant and to repent means to commit oneself to not repeat the sin. There is forgiveness for those who marry the divorced and commit adultery, but after repentance and sincere confession to the Lord.

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus had compassion on those who fell morally. We too should be understanding and supportive, while not condoning the sin of divorce and immorality.

Jesus’ Passion for the Salvation of Children

Mark 10:13-16 – “Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.15 “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”16 And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.” [53]

It’s no coincidence that we now see children brought to Jesus. Children are the real victims in divorce. But here we something in line with the major theme of this chapter in Mark. Jesus has a passion for he salvation of the souls of children.

A recent study in October 2004 by the Barna Research Group showed that a substantial number of people accept Jesus as their Savior before the age of eighteen. The study found the following:

  • 43% of people who accept Jesus as Savior do so before the age of 13.
  • 64% (2 out of 3) born again Christians made a commitment to Christ before the age of 18.
  • 13% (one out of eight) accept Jesus as Savior between ages 18-21.
  • Less 25% of Christians (23%) accepted Jesus as Savior after age 21.[54]

These statistics only help us understand a bit why Jesus did not want anyone to forbid the children to come to Him. Jesus is a Gentle Shepherd who loves the little children in all their innocence.

MARK THAT ACTION: Children are important to Jesus and we ought to minister to them. We ought to share the gospel with young people.

Childlike Faith

Jesus said, ““Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mark 10:15). Jesus points to little children to illustrate how a person enters the kingdom of God or is saved (Mark 10:17,23-26). The age of the child Jesus refers to here is defined as “a little child.” Jesus uses the word PAIDION here to describe the child. The Greek term translated here means literally, (Strong’s 3813 - παιδίον paidiŏn, pahee-dee´-on;) “a childling . . . an infant, or . . . a hallf-grown boy or girl; . . . an immature (little, young) child, damsel.”[55] So we are not talking about a teenager here, we are talking about what we would call a preschooler. That’s important because young children are still innocent to a great extent, they have yet to pick up the bad sinful habits of the world.

There used to be a television program entitled, Kids Say the Darndest Things. It had yongkids on stage and the host would ask them questions and what they said was insightful as well as humorous. Here are a few responses from children who attend churches:

  • A Sunday school teacher asked her class, "What was Jesus' mother's name?"
    One child answered, "Mary." The teacher then asked, "Who knows what Jesus' father's name was?" A little kid said, "Verge." Confused, the teacher asked, "Where did you get that?" The kid said, "Well, you know they are always talking about Verge n' Mary.

    3-year-old, Reese:
    "Our Father, Who does art in heaven, Harold is His name. Amen."

  • A little boy was overheard praying:
    "Lord, if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it. I'm having a real good time like I am."

    A Sunday school class was studying the Ten Commandments. They were ready to discuss the last one. The teacher asked if anyone could tell her what it was. Susie raised her hand, stood tall, and quoted,  "Thou shall not take the covers off the neighbor's wife."

    After the christening of his baby brother in church, Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, "That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I wanted to stay with you guys."

    I had been teaching the Lord's Prayer to my three-year old daughter Caitlin. For several evenings at bedtime, she would repeat after me the lines from the prayer. Finally, she decided to go solo. I listened with pride as she carefully enunciated each word right up to the end of the prayer:  "Lead us not into temptation," she prayed, "but deliver us some E-mail.

    One particular four-year-old prayed, "And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets."

    A Sunday school teacher asked her children, as they were on the way to church service, "And why is it necessary to be quiet in church? "One bright little girl replied,  "Because people are sleeping."

    Six-year-old Angie and her four-year-old brother Joel were sitting together in church. Joel giggled, sang, and talked out loud. Finally, his big sister had had enough. "You're not supposed to talk out loud in church." "Why? Who's going to stop me?" Joel asked. Angie pointed to the back of the church and said, "See those two men standing by the door?  They're hushers."

    A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5 and Ryan 3.  The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. "If Jesus were sitting here, He would say,  'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.'"
    Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus!"

    A father was at the beach with his children when the four-year-old son ran up to him, grabbed his hand, and led him to the shore where a seagull lay dead in the sand. "Daddy, what happened to him?" the son asked "He died and went to Heaven," the Dad replied. The boy thought a moment and then said,  "Did God throw him back down?"

    A wife invited some people to dinner.  At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said,  "Would you like to say the blessing?" "I wouldn't know what to say," the girl replied. "Just say what you hear Mommy say," the wife answered. The daughter bowed her head and said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"

 

Now those are pretty funny, but they speak pretty loud about us and our walk with the Lord don’t they? We can learn a lot from children. What does a child illustrate to us about what is needed to enter the kingdom of God?

First, to enter the kingdom of God we must “receive” it. The word translated “receive” here is DECHOMAI (Strong’s # 1209 - δέχομαι dĕchŏmai, dekh´-om-ahee;) which is a verb that means, “to receive, accept, receive, take.”[56] This word appears 59 times in the New Testament being translated:

“receive” 52 times, “take” four times, “accept” twice, and “take up” once.’ It cis used to convey the various ideas of: “1 to take with the hand. 1a to take hold of, take up. 2 to take up, receive. 2a used of a place receiving one. 2b to receive or grant access to, a visitor, not to refuse intercourse or friendship. 2b1 to receive hospitality. 2b2 to receive into one’s family to bring up or educate. 2c of the thing offered in speaking, teaching, instructing. 2c1 to receive favourably, give ear to, embrace, make one’s own, approve, not to reject. 2d to receive. i.e. to take upon one’s self, sustain, bear, endure. 3 to receive, get. 3a to learn.”[57]

All of this points us to a trusting childlike faith.

Children are powerless, helpless, totally dependent on receiving from their parent. The only effort they make is to ask, even nag their parent for what they want. What they have they must receive. To get something they ask hoping and believing their request will be answered. Ever seen a child in a store with their parent? They are bashful about asking their parent to bless them or to get them something they want and they see their parent as the source of the blessing and receiving. Ever seen a child at Christmas time when it’s getting close to opening the gifts? They wait to receive their gifts with great expectation and excitement. We need to approach God with great expectation to receive the gift of eternal life, He is all too willing to give us what we ask for of Him by grace through faith in His Son Jesus. 

Second, to enter the kingdom of God we must humbly depend on God the Father. Children depend on their parent or parents to cope in life. They depend on their parents to provide for them, to protect them, to lead and teach them. Everything a child has comes from their parents provision. To them their daddy is the best daddy in the whole wide world, their mommy is the best mommy in the whole wide world. We need to depend humbly on God and trust Him, see Him as the “best in the whole wide world,” because He is.

Third, to enter the kingdom of God we must learn to take all our problems to the Father. What does a little child do when they have a problem, they take it to mommy or daddy. “Daddy will you fix my bicycle?” “Mommy, will you fix my hair?” Daddy, will you help me with my homework?” “Mommy, will you help me find my clothes?” Like a little child who has a problem, we need to learn to bring it to the Lord. And notice how I worded these questions; children say “will you” not “can you,” they assume in faith that their parents can do the task; that’s the faith we need in Jesus. Jesus can help, Jesus can fix it whatever it may be. And if we need to experience the consequence of a sinful decision to teach us a lesson, Jesus will be there for us still to help us through.

Fourth, to enter the kingdom of God we need to learn persistence. When a child wants something that becomes their simple and compete focus. “I want that daddy! I want that mommy!” And they won’t give up until they get what they want. We need to learn persistence, perseverance in asking God for things in prayer, not selfish things, but things that are kingdom oriented.

Fifth, to enter the kingdom of God we must trust and have faith in the Father. Have you ever seen a little child walking with their daddy or mommy? That little hand in the big strong hand of their parent? That’s the picture Jesus is drawing for us here to follow to enter the kingdom of God. Someone once wrote a song that said in part, “Put your hand in the hand of the One who stilled the waters.” No matter what circumstance we find ourselves in, we need to take the hand of Jesus in faith and trust Him. We need to take Jesus at His word by faith.

Sixth, to enter the kingdom of God we must learn obedience. One commentator states:

As a little child (ς παιδιον [hōs paidion]). How does a little child receive the kingdom of God? The little child learns to obey its parents simply and uncomplainingly. There are some new psychologists who argue against teaching obedience to children. The results have not been inspiring. Jesus here presents the little child with trusting and simple and loving obedience as the model for adults in coming into the kingdom. Jesus does not here say that children are in the kingdom of God because they are children. [58]

Now Jesus is not teaching a works-righteousness here, I believe He is simply pointing to the lesson of obedience all children learn in life. James the half brother of Jesus said, faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). The one who calls themselves a Christian and then lives a life of disobedience to God brings into question the genuineness of their faith and standing with God.

There are characteristics of children we should not adopt. Children are very self-centered and selfish. Once we receive Jesus and enter the kingdom of God by faith, we need to grow in our faith relationship with Jesus otherwise we will be nothing more than a carnal immature Christian (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).

Jesus’ Passion To Save the Lost

Mark 10:17-27 – “Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.19 “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ”20 And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”24 And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!25 “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”26 And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”27 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”  [59]

There is a temptation to misconstrue the counsel of Jesus as stating you need to keep the commandments to get to heaven. You might think, “Wait a minute, I thought salvation was by grace through faith, not works; what’s Jesus saying here?”

Jesus witnessed by pointing out the holy standard of God for goodness, (for getting into heaven). The young man approaches Jesus by referring to Him as “Good Teacher” (10:17a) and asks Jesus what he needs to do to have eternal life (10:17b). Jesus responds by questioning the young man in terms of his casual throwing about of the adjective good. He points out that “No one is good but One, that is, God” (10:18; see Romans 3:20-23). The KJV Bible Commentary states:

 

“The young man’s question, "What good thing shall I do? implies that he wanted to perform some work that might gain him eternal life (salvation). Jesus’ challenge was intended to elevate his concept of “good.” The glib comment “good master” is followed by a request for something “good” that he may do to gain heaven. Jesus’ concept of good was that which is divine. Therefore, only an act of God could grant eternal life. The Master’s reply, If thou wilt enter into life, implies that the young man was still on the outside of such life.”  [60]

 

This is important in a number of ways. Jesus in saying this is pointing out to a young man who evidently was very confident in his own goodness, that he and all people were not good. Jesus is also pointing out that only God is good and therefore introducing to the young man an aspect of Jesus’ identity that he probably didn’t fully grasp.

 

Jesus witnessed using the Holy Law of God. Jesus continues with the provocative conversation by bringing the rich young man before the mirror of the Law.  Jesus rattles off a series of the commandments from the Law including, “Do not commit adultery” (Commandment #7 – Exodus 20:14; Matthew 5:27-28); “Do not murder” (Commandment #6 – Exodus 20:13; Matthew 5:21-22);  “Do not steal” (Commandment #8 – Exodus 20:15); “Do not bear false witness” (Commandment #9 – Exodus 20:16); “Do not defraud” (Leviticus 19:13); and “Honor your father and mother” (Commandment #5 – Exodus 20:12).  Why did Jesus share the Law with this young rich man? Because the Law of God acts like a mirror in that when you look into it, it reveals or exposes the true condition of your heart convicting you of your sin.

 

Jesus witnessed gently pressing on. Even when confronted with the mirror of God’s Law, this young man resists being convicted by his sin. The young man responds superficially (much the same a Peter was prone to do). He claims to have kept all the laws Jesus referred to (10:20). That he had kept all these commandments was unlikely but Jesus presses him further. When a person we are witnessing to is not truthful about their sin, or refuses to acknowledge their sin, gently press on.

 

Jesus witnessed with a passionate love for the lost. Notice what it says, “Then Jesus, looking at him, love him, . . .” (10:21a). That’s the key to effective witnessing, Jesus witnessed in love. He genuinely loved this young rich man and had a burden for His soul. Jesus wasn’t looking to put another notch on His witnessing belt. He genuinely cared for this young man. All that we do in witnessing and anything else for the Lord should be compelled or driven by that same kind of love (2 Corinthians 5:14ff.).

 

Jesus witnessed by identifying the heart of the problem and zeroing in on it to bring a point of conviction and decision.  Jesus says, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” (10:21). In a sense Jesus is using the first two Commandments with this man. Since He rejects Jesus offer, it exposes him as not putting God first (Commandment #1 – Exodus 20:1-3). Also, by not being willing to give up his money, he is exposed as an idolator, one whose god is his money (Commandment #2 – Exodus 20:4-6; 1 Timothy 6:6-12). The truth about this young man is exposed by the mirror of the Law.

 

He is also brought to a point of decision; he walks away sad because he was wealthy (10:22). But a seed has been planted in his heart and perhaps it will give birth at a later date. Notice Jesus did not plead with the young man to accept salvation. Jesus did not compromise and promise him health and wealth or lower the standard of God. No, Jesus simply brought him to the mirror of God’s word and let it bring recognition and conviction of sin (James 1:23-25).

 

Jesus Aims at the Heart

 

Charles Spurgeon once said:

 

“Now if you have your hearts broken up by the Law, you will find the heart is more deceitful than the devil. I can say myself, I am very much afraid of mine, it is so bad. The heart is like a dark cellar, full of lizards, cockroaches, beetles, and all kinds of reptiles and insects, which in the dark we see not, but the Law takes down the shutters and lets in the light, and so we see the v]evil. Thus sin becoming apparent by the Law, it is written the Law makes offense abound.”

 

This was a successful witnessing encounter because a heart was reached and a person was made aware of their spiritual need. This is our service and we leave the rest up to the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11).

 

Jesus Aims at the Heart

 

Earlier in our study Jesus referred to the, hardness of your heart” when addressing the Pharisees (Mark 10:5). We saw how Jesus used the Law of God to soften and even break the hard heart so that sin could be exposed and need of a Savior realized. But what is the heart and why is it so important a target in evangelism?

 

In Romans it states:

 

  • Romans 10:10 – “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  [61]

Salvation is not based on a simple superficial assent to certain stated facts; it involves a heart belief that bears fruit in life. God’s sovereign requirements are heart belief that results in life confession (Romans 10:8-9). Jesus has a passion to reach the heart of the sinner. God wants our heart. The heart is the target of God in salvation. Why is the heart so important?

What is the “heart”?

 

Paul refers to the heart five times in Romans 10 (Romans 10:1,6,8,9,10; also Mark 10:5). The word “heart” is translated from the Greek term KARDIA (Strong’s # 2588 καρδία [kardia /kar·dee·ah/]) which occurs 160 times in the New Testament (translated 159 times “heart” and once “brokenhearted”). KARDIA can refer to the physical organ of the heart that pumps blood to the body or more importantly, it refers to the center and seat of all spiritual life. [62]

 

Why is the heart so important?

The heart is the center of the human being. If you want to know the person, you have to get to the heart. The heart is the heart of a person.  The Bible speaks very clearly about this and the following reasons are given to support the centrality of heart in importance.

First, the heart is where the issues of life are considered. In Proverbs it states:

  • Proverbs 4:23 – “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”  [63]
  • Proverbs 23:7a – “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” [64]

What we allow in and what we let out of our heart should be closely attended.

Second, the heart is where sin lodges itself. Jeremiah said;

  • Jeremiah 17:9-10 - “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.”  [65]

Jesus pointed this truth out when He spoke about the content of sinful people’s hearts saying:

  • Mark 7:20-23 – “And He said, “What comes out of a man, defiles a man. For fro within, out of the heart of men, proceed eveil thoughts, adulteries , fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an eveil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.”  [66] (Matthew Matthew15:19-20; Luke 6:45)

Notice too the close connection between the condition of the heart and the words spoken by a person. If you want to know the condition of your’s or another person’s heart, just listen to the words the proceed out of the mouth of each.

In Hebrews it states:

  • Hebrews 3:12 – “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;”  [67]

Humanitie’s problem is a heart problem. We could mention many more verses here but suffice it to say that because the problem of sin is in the heart, God aims the gospel at the heart of sinful man.

Third, it is in the human heart that God has put an inherent desire to know Him. Solomon recognized this when he was inspired to write:

  • Ecclesiastes 3:11b – “Also He has put eternity in their hearts, . . .”   [68]

God created humanity for His good pleasure (Revelation 4:11 KJV). He desired humanity to have fellowship with Him and be the object of His love. Sin separated humanity from that fellowship with our Holy God (Isaiah 59:1-2).  A person will never find contentment or true meaning in life apart from having fellowship with God restored. Human beings were created to have fellowship with God, to live in worship and praise of their Creator, and until they find that there will be a continual void and emptiness. That is the “eternity,” the eternal purpose, the eternal longing created in the hearts of humanity.

Fourth, we seek God and find Him when we search for Him with our heart. It is with the heart that one believes in Christ and is saved (Romans 10:10). If salvation is an arrow shot by God in grace, it is aimed at the heart of people. The arrow that hits the heart and reveals the need for God is the Law. The Law wounds like an arrow piercing the heart. Jesus has the salve that heals the wound.

The Bible repeatedly emphasizes the need for people to come to God wholeheartedly or with all their heart. The following verses attest to this:

  • Deuteronomy 4:29 - “But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”  [69]
  • Jeremiah 29:13 – “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”  [70]
  • Joel 2:12-13 - “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.”  [71]

A person is saved when they are convicted of their sin in their heart and turn to God with their heart. A person may understand a great deal about God, but to be saved a person must come to know God and they can only do that when they come to Him with their heart. Then God is able to give the sinner a new heart.

Fifth, God wants ALL your heart. God wants to be LORD in your heart. Notice in the verses above and those that will follow, God wants all our heart. That is why salvation is based on a heartfelt confession that Jesus is your Lord. Read what the Bible says about giving God your entire heart:

  • Deuteronomy 6:4-5 - “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!5 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  [72]
  • Deuteronomy 10:12 - “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,”  [73] (Deuteronomy 11:13; 26:16; 30:2,6,10; Joshua 22:5).
  • Deuteronomy 13:1-3 - “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,2 “and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’3 “you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”  [74]
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”  [75]

From the very beginning, God has revealed that He wants our heart, all our heart.

When God’s people were relatively young as a nation a situation developed that revealed the heart of their sin problem. Another example of our need to give God all our heart is found in 1 Samuel. God’s original plans for His people is that He would be their King, but a time came where God’s people began to look around and see other nations that had earthly kings overseeing them and they requested a human king too. God granted their wish but through Samuel told them that they had in effect rejected God’s Lordship over them. When the people realize their sin they seek Samuel to intercede for them. Samuel’s words are very telling about God’s desire for us when he is inspired to state:

  • 1 Samuel 12:19-25 – “And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves.”20 Then Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.21 “And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing.22 “For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.23 “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.24 “Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.25 “But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”  [76]

Jesus taught the importance and priority of giving God all your heart. On one occasion He was asked what the greatest commandment of God was and this is what He said:

  • Matthew 22:38-39 - “This is the first and great commandment.39 “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  [77] (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27)

Is Jesus your Lord, or is something or someone else ruling your life? Repent and invite Jesus to sit on the throne of your heart, your whole entire heart.

Jesus Requires We Give Him All of  OUR HEART

 

In the book of Acts when Philip meets up with the Ethiopian Eunuch by Divine appointment the Eunuch asks Philip to baptize him and Philip tells him the condition by which he can be baptized (or saved). The account of the conversation is as follows:

  • Acts 8:36-38 – “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.”  [78]

Now notice, the Eunuch’s salvation is not based on his being baptized, but upon whether or not he believes in Jesus with all his heart. Salvation is a matter of the heart, not any ritual or ceremony done apart from the heart. And God wants all our heart. What is missing in the world and even in the church today is a wholehearted devotion to God. You can repeat all the Spiritual Laws or salvation plans in the world, but if you haven’t given God your heart, you haven’t been saved!

The reason we see so many Millard and Mildred Milktoast wishy-washy Christians in the church is that they likely have never truly given God “all their heart.” The cause of carnality, lukewarmness, and that which is repugnant to Christ is that many who claim to be Christian have never given all their heart to Jesus. Perhaps you are like the church at Ephesus who left your first love (Revelation 2:4), or perhaps you have never truly given Jesus all your heart and are lukewarm in indecision worthy of the Lord spitting you out of His mouth (Revelation 3:15-16). Understand that Jesus wants all your heart. Salvation involves giving Jesus ALL your heart.

Jesus Seeks to Sanctify Our Hearts

 

We are saved by giving God our heart through faith in Jesus Christ. We are sanctified when by the Spirit’s power we set up Jesus as Lord in our hearts. Peter referred to this when he was inspired to write:

  • 1 Peter 3:15 – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”  [79]

In Romans 8 the Holy Spirit is the One who does this holy sanctifying work in us. If salvation is giving Jesus all your heart, then sanctification is keeping all your heart under the Lordship of Jesus. Here in 1 Peter 3:15 we see sanctification as keeping Jesus as Lord in our hearts. Jesus’ rightful place on the throne of your heart ruling as your Lord and Master will come under many challenges. Sanctification is keeping at bay those challenges and challengers to the Lordship of Jesus in your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Spirit we can knock down and knock out every would-be usurper to our Lord and King of hearts in us. The Holy Spirit enlightens the believer to discern challenges to the lordship of Jesus in our heart and empowers them to remove them.  It is only by the help of the Helper that we can set up or sanctify Jesus as Lord in our hearts o that we are “ready” and we might add, unashamed to be used by God in His sovereign plan of salvation ministry for the lost.

 

The use of the Law in Witnessing

 

This rich young ruler thought he was a pretty good person. In his heart he felt okay.  He may well have been a good person. The problem with such a view though is that pretty good people don’t get into heaven. Nothing short of perfection gets a person into heaven. Before the way to become perfect before God is discussed, a person needs to come to the realization that they are a sinner before God and on the outside of heaven looking in. Here is where the Law of God comes in. The Law of God speaks to the heart (conscience) and  reveals the utter sinfulness of the sinner. The Law is meant to expose sin in people and lead them to Jesus who died on the cross to pay the penalty of their sin and make a way of salvation for them. Through faith in Christ a person is made perfect before God.

 

The path to perfection in Christ begins with the Law of God that reveals our sin to us. Read the following passages which point this out to us:

 

  • Galatians 3:10-13 – “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)”   [80] (see 2 Corinthians 5:20-21; James 2:10)
  • Galatians 3:22-24 – “But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” [81]

The purpose of the Law is not to save people, but to reveal their utter sinfulness to them. No one can be saved by keeping the Law (Galatians 3:11). Jesus alone was able to keep the whole Law of God. Only through faith in Jesus can the requirements of the Law be kept perfectly and the ticket to enter heaven is received through faith in Jesus.

When people try to be righteous before God by keeping the Law or a set of rules, they misuse the Law of God. The Law was meant to reveal to sinners their need of a gospel (1 Timothy 1:8-11).

God’s Standard of Perfection

The mistake people often make in gauging their suitability for heaven is that they base their assessment on comparing themselves to other people. You can always find someone worse than yourself. A sheep on a grassy knoll looks white. A sheep standing in the pure white of fresh fallen snow does not look white but its dirtiness is clearly seen. God’s standard for entering heaven is perfection (Matthew 5:48). Note what Jesus said to the rich young man, He said, “One thing you lack . . .”  (Mark 10:21). One thing kept this young man from being saved. It only takes one thing, one outstanding offense, to bar a person from heaven. This is supported by the following other scriptures:

  • Galatians 3:10 – “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”[82]
  • James 2:10 – “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” [83]

These verses instruct us that on our own, the person who depends on his own efforts or works, in order to be sufficiently righteous to satisfy God’s requirement, must “continue in al things,” they must “keep the whole law,” if they “stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” God’s standard is absolute flawlessness and perfect obedience to His Law. That standard removes all chance of working your way to heaven and eternal life. How can the sinner then overcome or deal with this predicament? The answer is Jesus.

Jesus the Answer to the Sin Problem

Jesus alone kept the Law of God. If we are going to try to work out way to heaven, then Jesus is the standard by which we will be measured (John 16:8-11). We can’t measure up to Jesus, therefore, God allows us to have Jesus’ perfection put to our account when we put our faith in Him and receive His atoning cross work to our account. Again the Bible puts it this way:

  • Isaiah 53:4-6 – “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  [84]
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 –“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  [85]
  • 1 Peter 2:24 – “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”  [86]
  • 1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,”  [87]

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus used the Law to show the rich young ruler his sinfulness and need of a Savior. Jesus used the Law to bring conviction of sin to the self-reliant, self-justifying, self-deluded heart of this sinner. Though the rich sinner walked away and chose not to follow Jesus, his being brought to a point of decision was what Jesus purposed to do. He accomplished that mission. We too use the Law to expose sin in the heart of those who think they are “good” or self-righteous so that they understand they need a Savior, Jesus and will hopefully follow Jesus.

 

Jesus’ Passion for the Impossible  God Makes a Way – Nothing is Impossible with God

Mark 10:23-27 – “Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”24 And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!25 “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”26 And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”27 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” [88]

When the rich man walked away unsaved, the disciples were astounded. To them they equated wealth with righteousness. That is not always a good equation for determining right standing before God. Jesus said it was harder for a rich man to get a camel through the eye of a needle, (i.e. it was impossible), than to get a rich man into the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25).  The disciples were baffled at this and wondered aloud, “Who then can be saved?” (Mark 10:26). Jesus then pointed them to the possible route of salvation, only with God. Jesus said, With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible(Mark 10:27).

What Jesus says about the rich man is true of every man, every person, you can’t get to heaven in your own strength no matter how wealthy or smart you are. You can’t buy your way into heaven with good works (Mark 10:23-24). That’s the point Jesus is making with his disciples, that even a rich young man, who had everything going for him, couldn’t’ work his way to heaven. A person can only get into heaven through God who makes the impossible possible in Christ.

Some have conjectured that the “eye of the needle” referred to here by Jesus was an opening in the bottom of the wall in Jerusalem where camels would be made to get on their knees to get through to the outside of the city wall. But that is speculative and it is more likely that Jesus was illustrating the impossibility of working your way into heaven by alluding to an impossibility, getting a camel that is huge through the eye of a needle that is tiny.

No sinner is beyond the reach of God if that sinner is willing to receive the gift of God’s grace to repent in faith in Jesus. The Bible tells us that God goes out of His way to redeem that which was lost. In the Old Testament it states:

  • 2 Samuel 14:14b – “Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him.”  [89]

No matter how far away a lost one seems, God is working to bring them into His fold. Nothing is impossible with God, no one who has a desire to be saved is beyond His outstretched arm of salvation.

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus said it was impossible for a person to enter heaven by depending on riches or good works, buy trying to buy their way into heaven with good works. No person can gain access to heaven or God’s Kingdom in their own strength. The only way to get to heaven and enter the Kingdome of God is by God’s way, God’s enabling, God’s gracious provision.   We need to depend on God to do the impossible in us and others. God can make a way.

Jesus Passion To Reward Us

Mark 10:28-31 – “Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.”29 So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s,30 “who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.31 “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”  [90]

The teaching of Jesus caused the disciples, Peter in particular, to ask how His teaching affected them. Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed you.” (10:28). In other words, Peter and the other disciples had started to walk the talk; they were passing through the superficial understanding of Jesus’ call on their lives to put Him first in everything. They had made progress and Jesus had a passion to reassure them with the promise of reward.  Jesus gives a general statement of what awaits those who forsake all to follow Him by saying that the rewards are “a hundredfold no in this time . . . and in the age to come, eternal life” (10:30). Then Jesus concludes by saying many who are fist now will be last later, and many who are last now will be first later. He is pointing out that the servant-hearted disciple who is willing to be last in this world is the one who will be rewarded in the next (10:31).

Jesus has a plan for your life. His plan is not to leave you destitute. It isn’t necessarily to make you richer in the things of this world, but to give you something of far greater worth. What might that be? The greatest thing a disciple can receive is a part and place in the mission plan of Jesus. It is there that fulfillment and meaning is found. And the final destination of the ministry God calls you to is a face to face meeting with Jesus. Hopefully that meeting will turn out like the parable below:

  • Matthew 25:20-23 - “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’21 “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’22 “He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’23 “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’”  [91]

When we meet face to face with Jesus and He says those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord,” when He says that to us, it will be worth it all. Because of this promise our attitude should be like that described by the apostle Paul who was inspired to write that he counted all things loss for the sake of Jesus (Philippians 3:7-21). Everything in this life pales in comparison to knowing and serving Jesus.

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus encouraged those around Him with the hope of future rewards. We should look forward to our heavenly rewards and look forward to seeing Jesu face to face as we serve Him now.

Jesus Passion to Fulfill His Purpose and Prepare Us

Mark 10:32-34 – “Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him:33 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles;34 “and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” [92]

Jesus presses ever onward in His Divine purpose to go to the cross and redeem the world. As Jesus and His disciples move on toward Jerusalem the disciples had mixed emotions. They were both amazed and afraid. Jesus was sensitive to their feelings and knew what going on inside them. He prepared them by reiterating what lay ahead for Him and them. If we pay attention God usually prepares us for things that we will son encounter. The supreme example of this is His word. God has given us a prophetic word that tells us what to expect in the End Times. It also tells us what to expect in terms of the consequence for sin as well as the reward for faithful service. Our responsibility is to heed His preparatory warning drawing ever closer to Him.

ARK THAT ACTION:  Jesus was steadfast in His mission purpose and He prepared those around Him by reemphasizing repetitively what lay ahead. We should be steadfast in our calling and purpose from the Lord and prepare those around us by repeating our aims regularly to them.

Jesus Passion for Service

Mark 10:35-45 – “Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”37 They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”39 They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized;40 “but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John.42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.43 “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.44 “And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” [93]

Now you might think that after hearing Jesus speak once again of His going to the cross that the disciples would bethinking of Him or praying for Him. Not these men. They are caught up in the carnal concern over who is the greatest amongst them.

It is James and John who start the dissension over who is the greatest. They do this by going to Jesus and asking for a position of privilege; to sit on His right and left in His glory. Matthew’s account gives us the added insight that James and John actually sent their mother to petition Jesus for them (Matthew 20:20). The picture is one of James and John kind of hiding behind their mother as she goes to Jesus for them. Not only was such a move immature, (they didn’t have the gumption to go to Jesus themselves), but it also revealed that they knew their request was out of line and improper, they were too shy and embarrassed to ask Jesus themselves about their position. But what makes this conniving clandestine move all the more reprehensible and tasteless is that Jesus had just explained that He was going to be betrayed and go to the cross to die, they totally disregarded what Jesus was saying (10:32-34).

 

This scenario reveals the blindness and presumption of the flesh. The “flesh” is that attitude and state of being in a person that caters to and focuses upon self, self-serving, self-centeredness, and self-seeking. This state of being is very well described in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. The Corinthians were a very gifted church, but they were carnal to the core. They fought and split into proud factions that boasted against one another. Paul described such behavior as “carnal” when he was inspired to write:

 

  • 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 – “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?”  [94]

The word “carnal” is translated from the Greek term SARKIKOS (Strong’s #4559 – from SARX #4561) which means, “under the control of the animal appetites; governed by mere human appetites and not the Spirit of God.” [95] The carnal are like predator animals that growl and snap at those trying to eat some of their kill. Paul describes such people as “babes in Christ” and unspiritual, not relying on the Spirit of God. That is exactly how James and John and their mother was acting; they did not trust Jesus with their future, they wanted guarantees, they wanted to get their foot in the door with Jesus to make their pitch. They wanted to beat out their fellow disciples. That is carnal, fleshly in its most ugly form.  

Later in this passage the apostle Paul explains the position and attitude of the Lord’s laborer when he is inspired to write:

 

  • 1 Corinthians 3:5-11 – “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”   [96]

If you are going to labor in the Lord, you need to accept that the spotlight must shine on Jesus, not yourself. We were as good as “dead” in our trespasses and sins and are only worth something because God saved us in His Son Jesus. God has a plan to make us into something beautiful (Ephesians 2:1-10). But whenever a laborer seeks the spotlight, it’s like pouring gasoline on the work and lighting a match, it burns up in the fire and no one gets glory. Our glory is to be used by God and demonstrate the reality of our loving appreciation for what God has done, for His love toward us in His Son (Romans 5:8).

Laboring in the Lord is a lot different than laboring in the world.

James and John and the rest of the disciples needed to learn this lesson. Jesus taught them the difference by simply pointing out to them that the person who serves the Lord, does so selflessly and with a servant’s heart (10:41-45). In the world labor is self-centered and self-serving. You work to get more money and a higher position. Labor in the Lord is going in the opposite direction. Jesus is our ultimate example of this because, “. . .  the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (10:45). When you serve the Lord, you don’t serve for accolades; you serve for the sake of pleasing your Master. How does this play out in the church? How do we labor or serve in the church?

 

Laboring in the church with a servant’s heart

 

The Bible describes the church as a body with Jesus Christ as it’s Head (Ephesians 1:22-23). For a body to be healthy and function properly its parts must be in agreement with the head and work in sync with each other. There are many different parts or aspects of a church body. There are many different types of people who God uses in the outworking of His church body. For the church body to fulfill its intended purpose God has given an underlying attitude and spirit that serves as the lubricant to make the labor in the church run smoothly. The attitude and spirit ordained by God for His people is one of service. God wants us to have a servant’s heart.  Why is this so important to God and the church? Because it is the servant’s heart that keeps us humble. It is the servant’s heart that keeps us from stealing God’s glory by seeking to be the center of attention. A person with a servant’s heart is flexible, does not resist change and will serve in any capacity. The person with a servant’s heart will not take offense or resent it when others are put in positions of ministry that perhaps they had their eye on. A person with a servant’s heart will do anything God directs them to do because they love God that much.  The servant-hearted person wants to decrease while Jesus Christ increases (John 3:30). The servant-hearted person desires God to be glorified in His church even if it comes at the expense of personal recognition and sacrifice.  If those who serve the Lord have servant’s hearts there will be far less opportunity for the enemy to distract, divide or destroy in His church body. That is why a servant’s heart is so important to God and His church.

 

The people God assembles to build His church must have servant’s hearts. Everyone and anyone who is involved in the church body need to have a servant’s heart. This includes the pastor-teacher, church leaders, worship ministers, teachers, ushers, sound and tape persons, fellowship persons, bookstore persons, those who clean the church, all ministry related persons both present and future, everyone and anyone who God uses in His church must have servant’s hearts. Having a servant’s heart is a criterion for being involved in the ministry of the church. 

 

Below are some scriptural guidelines, which define the servant’s heart. These should be ingrained in us and meditated upon regularly.  May God teach us and empower us to be His servant’s that He may be glorified in and through us.

 

Fear of a servant’s heart

 

People are often fearful of what they see as the consequences of living with a servant’s heart. They fear being taken advantage of by those they serve. They fear being seen as weak. A wife fears her husband will take advantage of her if she lives by the servant’s heart. Husbands fear the same from their wives. Parents fear their children will take advantage of them as do children toward their parents when a servant’s heart is lived out. Employers and employees, and people in all walks and positions of life fear the consequence of a servant’s heart.  What we need to understand is that living with a servant’s heart is a walk of faith and trust in God. You have to trust God with people’s responses to your servant’s heart. Living with a servant’s heart builds faith and trust in God.

 

Living with a servant’s heart may lead to persecution and people very well might take advantage of you. But in those reactions to your servant’s heart is great opportunity. You see, when we live with servant’s heart we place ourselves in a position to follow in the steps of Jesus and in so doing are in a place where we can learn what He experienced and therefore come closer to Him. Jesus lived with a servant’s heart and He was crucified! In Hebrews it states we should fix out eyes on Jesus and stop our griping because we “have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4). No, no matter what opposition or advantage others take over us because of our servant’s heart, what we learn about Jesus will be well worth it and you know what? It will make us great godly servant’s of the LORD.

 

So just what is a servant’s heart like?

 

A servant hearted laborer submits

 

  • Ephesians 5:21 – “submitting to one another in the fear of God.”  [97]

Submission is a dirty word in the world. Submission is associated with subservience and domination. But mutual submission is the attitude for God’s people.  Christians in general and servant’s in particular are to have an attitude of mutual submission toward each other. Christians may be radical in terms of their devotion to God, but they aren’t rebels. Servants are willing to help and serve at every opportunity.

 

The church would be a better place if its people had attitudes of mutual submission toward one another. What a wonderful place the church would be if instead of people trying to advance at the expense of others they instead looked to boost others up through servant hearted actions. What a wonderful place the church would be if carnality was replaced by consecration, if selfishness was replaced by servant-heartedness, or if the flesh was replaced by following in the steps of Jesus.

 

A servant hearted laborer competes against Him or Herself, not others

 

  • Galatians 6:2-5 – “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.5 For each one shall bear his own load.”  [98]

A servant doesn’t compare themselves to others or compete with others. A servant strives to improve themselves by measuring progress according to their own work. The goal of the servant is to “be crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). The servant wants to serve like Jesus served (Mark 10:45).  (See Romans 12 for further guidance on relationships in the church.)

 

If you’re married, has your spouse ever compared you to someone else? How did that feel? Not good right? Suppose a wife wanted to bless her husband and get closer to him, to know him better by sacrificially watching a football game with him. Now if you’ve watched any sporting event you know that there are the inevitable beer commercials and those commercials have the beach blanket babes in them. What if during that commercial the husband turns to his wife (who perhaps has put on a few pounds over the years and child bearing) and comments, “Hey honey, weren’t you going to start a workout program or something?” You can just imagine the hurt such words would being. And what if the woman in response said, “Oh yeah! Well, weren’t you going to use some Rogaine for your chrome dome?”

 

Now you may find that a bit humorous, but similarly we get ourselves in a lot of trouble by comparing or contrasting our selves with other sin the church. You see you can always find someone better or worse than yourself. The only Person we are to seek to be like is Jesus and that should humble us all. But Paul tells us the only way we should really measure success as a Christian is to measure ourselves against our selves, (i.e., “let each one examine his own work”). What does this mean? It means for instance doing a regular inventory and assessment of your spiritual growth. Ask yourself, “Have I grown spiritually, learned how to handle more situations, grown in faith, become a better servant, since this same time last year?” The only true and valid measure of your spiritual growth is “you.” That is what a servant does, he or she does not live by comparing themselves to others, but assesses their spiritual growth against their own past. That in and of itself will be humbling enough.

 

A servant hearted laborer is mindful of Christ

  • Philippians 2:1-8 – “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”  [99]

A servant fills their mind with Christ. The servant doesn’t serve with ulterior motives of “selfish ambition” but rather seeks the benefit and blessing of others by allowing God to work out the mind of Christ in and through them. A servant gives their all like Jesus gave His all.  (See John 13.) The person with a servant’s heart seeks to be more and more like Jesus, and that mansthey serve like Jesus served.

 

A servant hearted laborer serves God not men

  • Colossians 3:17,22-24 – “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. 22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”   [100]

A servant is not motivated to serve because of anything they might receive from other people. A servant serves because they are thankful for what God has done for them in Christ. A servant doesn’t serve insincerely to get the approval of people. A servant gives their best effort “knowing” that they serve the Lord and He will reward them appropriately. This perspective is the key to doing away with the fear of being taken advantage of by those one is serving. If you are serving God and He decides to bless others through your service, that’s His prerogative, you are serving Him. We simply have to learn to trust God with the reactions of others.

 

A servant hearted laborer serves willingly

 

  • 2 Corinthians 4:5 – “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.”  [101]

Servants do not promote themselves. A servant does not need to be coaxed into service but simply sees a need and meets the need. A servant acts this way because they see each need they observe as a divine appointment and call from God to meet that need. If they see a need they simply assume that God has put it in their path to meet it.

 

A servant hearted laborer serves for the sake of the Gospel

 

  • 1 Corinthians 9:19,22-23 – “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; . . . . I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”  [102]

A servant serves because they have the eternal destiny of the lost in mind. A servant serves in anyway so that “by all means . . . some” might be saved.

Those who labor in the Lord must have a servant’s heart. You can’t labor in the Lord without a servant’s heart.

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus had a servant’s heart and sought to serve and give Himself as a ransom for many. We too should have a servant’s heart and lay our lives down, sacrifice our “rights” to see that the lost are saved.

Jesus’ Passion to Always Serve the Seeker

Mark 10:46-52 – “Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging.47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”48 Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”49 So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.”50 And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus.51 So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.”52 Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.” [103]

Jesus never turns away the one who cries out to Him in need. Bartimaeus was persistent and his persistence paid off, Jesus stopped and had the blind man brought to Him. The language is very descriptive here as Bartimaeus is described as throwing off his garment and coming to Jesus. Jesus asked the question that all seekers should hear from Him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” In these words we see the servant’s heart of Jesus. Imagine, Jesus, Son of God, Creator of the universe, the King of kings and LORD of lords, asking this blind beggar, “What do you want Me to do for you?” That puts it all in perspective. Jesus didn’t ignore the blind beggar. Nor did He tell him He had more important things to do. Jesus didn’t say, “don’t you know where I’m going? Don’t you know I’m on My way to Jerusalem where I’m going to be crucified for your sins?” No, Jesus, with a servant’s heart asked the blind beggar what He could do for him. Jesus was always a servant at heart and that is one of the reasons for His greatness.

After Bartimaeus tells Jesus he wants to receive his sight, Jesus acknowledges his faith and gives him his sight. Bartimaeus had faith that Jesus had what He needed, a healing. The greatest miracle of this recorded event is not merely that a blind man received his sight, but that a spiritually blind man now could see Jesus and followed Him.

In Arlington cemetary there is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is a high honor to serve as a guard of that tomb. Since 1930, the tomb has been guarded twenty four hours a day seven days a week 365 days a year. An account of the requirements of the guards and their sense of duty is a good illustration of a servant’s heart.

 

For a person to apply for guard duty at the tomb, he must be
between  5' 10" and 6' 2" tall and his waist size cannot exceed 30."  Other
requirements of the Guard: They must commit 2 years of life to guard the
tomb, live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on
or off duty for the rest of their lives. They cannot swear in public for the
rest of their lives and  cannot disgrace the uniform {fighting} or the tomb in
any way. After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on
their lapel signifying they served as guard of the tomb. There are only
400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their
lives or give up the wreath pin.
 
The shoes are specially made with very thick soles to keep the heat
and cold from their feet. There are metal heel plates that extend to the
top of the shoe in order to make the loud click as they come to a halt.
There are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. Guards dress for duty
in front of a full-length mirror.
 
The first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone, nor
watch TV.  All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid
to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are
and where they are interred. Among the notables are: President Taft, Joe
E. Lewis {the boxer} and Medal of Honor winner Audie Murphy, {the most
decorated soldier of WWII} of Hollywood fame. Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for
guard duty.


In 2003 as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching  Washington,  DC, our  
US Senate/House took 2 days off  with anticipation of the storm. On the ABC  
evening news, it was  reported that because of the dangers from the  
hurricane, the military  members assigned the duty of guarding the Tomb of  
the Unknown Soldier were  given permission to suspend the assignment. They  
respectfully declined  the offer, "No way, Sir!"  Soaked to the skin,  
marching in the pelting  rain of a tropical storm, they said that guarding  
the Tomb was not just an  assignment, it was the highest honor that can be  
afforded to a  serviceperson. The tomb has been patrolled continuously,  
24/7, since 1930.

 

Now these soldiers serve dead comrades in an earthly temporal setting. How much more should we who are called to service in saving priceless souls serve with servant’s hearts? Jesus said if your eye causes you to sin pluck it our and if your hand causes you to sin cut it off for it would be better to go into eternally blind and lame than to go to hell whole. Our souls are worth more than even our eyes or a limb! That is something worth seeking to save. We need to serve the Lord with servant’s hearts so that priceless souls can be saved. 

 

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus had an ear to hear those who cried out to Him. He was always ready to serve. We should listen for the cries of those who are calling out to Jesus and minister to them.

Conclusion

Charles Spurgeon once said, “The diver plunges deep to find pearls, and we must accept any labor or hazard to win a soul.” We are given the Law of God to reach the lost, to bring conviction of sin to their hearts and show them their need for a Savior, Jesus. We need to serve the Lord and have a passion for the lost like Jesus did, a passion for evangelism. That service will require we dive deep sometimes, but the dive is worth it when an eternal soul is at stake.

 

 



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[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17] Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1976. p. 39

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[26]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

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[28] Jon Courson, Tree of Life Bible Commentary – Matthew – Vol 2 Tree of Life Pub., Jacksonville, OR 97530) 1993. p. 122

[29] David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, (Jewish NT Publications, Inc., Clarkville, MD) 1992. p. 59

[30] Ralph W. Harris, Exec. Ed., The Complete Biblcial Library – The New Testament Study Bible Matthew, (Springfield, MI: The Comnplete Biblical Library, ) 1989) p. 399.

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[47] Jon Courson, Ibid. p. 124

[48]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[49] Ralph W. Harris, Ibid. p. 401

[50]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[51] Larry Taylor, Published by Calvary Chapel Bible College - 1995; A ministry of Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, California.

 

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[54] Barna Research Group – http://www.barna.org.

[55]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[56]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[57]Strong, J. 1996. The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the test of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) . Woodside Bible Fellowship.: Ontario

[58]Robertson, A. 1997. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol.V c1932, Vol.VI c1933 by Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Logos Research Systems: Oak Harbor

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[88]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[89]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[90]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[91]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[92]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[93]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[94]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[95]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

[96]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[97]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[98]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[99]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[100]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[101]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[102]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[103]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.