Impacting our communities with the Kingdom of God cont’d
Part Two. From Richard Earll at Community Church Chafford Hundred
1. The Expectation of Jesus
In our reading from Mark’s Gospel, when Jesus arrived, the boy’s father came to Him with a great need. He said he had brought his demon possessed son to the disciples, but they could not cast it out.
The response Jesus had to this shows He expected His disciples to be able to deal with the situation, because before He told the father to bring his son to Him, He said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?”
This seems to be a harsh response, but if we consider the context in which Jesus said this, we can see He was speaking from a motive of love, and a desire to see people spiritually restored. He wants to bring people into the blessing and normality of the Kingdom of God.
The context in which Jesus responded like this was that He had just been transfigured. He had been in the Kingdom of Heaven, and with the truth, the reality and the normality of that Kingdom.
He had come from that scene to another scene, where the disciples were arguing with the religious teachers, a father was at his wit’s end, and his son was tormented by demons, a crowd was gathering, and there was complete disorder because unbelief and spiritual ignorance were in control.
Jesus was faced with a world whose nature had been affected by sin, and had been deceived, misled and had no true knowledge of, or trust in God. The result was the spiritual chaos we read about before, where Jesus saw that the people were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd… When Jesus said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation…”, He was speaking directly to the real cause of everything that was happening.
The cause was unbelief and a deceived mind-set, which are a hindrance to being able to receive the salvation, healing and deliverance that the Kingdom of God brings.
Jesus spoke directly at that time, and He continues to speak directly to unbelief and deception, because He wants to bring us to the place where we truly understand that He is the Saviour, Healer and Deliverer, Who has given everything to bring the Kingdom of God to people, and to bring people into the Kingdom of God. He wants us to have the understanding and faith to be able to work in partnership with Him to bring the reality of the Kingdom of God to people.
2 Jesus Challenges Unbelief in order to lead us into Belief
Jesus said the people were unbelieving…
An example of this unbelief is seen where the boy’s father came to Jesus, and said, “…if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”
This shows he had an idea that Jesus may be able to do something to help, but he did not really understand Who Jesus was, and that He was God’s answer to his son’s need.
When this man said to Jesus, “…if You can do anything…” he was showing that what he thought he knew about Jesus, and what he thought he could expect from Him was according to the mind-set of unbelief.
That sort of mind-set does not expect much from Jesus; it leads to the expectation that if Jesus could do anything to bring some help to the situation, then that would be at least something.
Jesus responded to this mind-set by saying, “’If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” By answering in this way, He was helping the man to adjust his thinking and expectation towards believing that with Jesus, all things are possible…; not just some things possible.
God wants us to know and fully believe that Jesus is the Saviour, and that through Him we can receive, experience, and demonstrate the power of the Kingdom of God, which makes all things possible.
Because of this, there are times when He speaks directly to and challenges the areas of unbelief in our hearts.
Jesus spoke directly to this man, in order challenge his unbelief, and lead him into becoming a man of faith. As Jesus spoke, His words would have penetrated deeply into the man’s heart, and immediately caused him to experience an inner struggle, which was that he now believed with his mind, but was struggling with his natural tendency towards unbelief. As he cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief”, He was saying to Jesus, ‘I do believe, help me to become a believer by nature.’
When we were ‘born again’, our nature was changed, and God put a living faith within us. However, we are not perfect in faith, and there are times when God speaks to us about this.
When God speaks to us, His words immediately cause us to have an inner struggle, just as the man did, and we cry out to God, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
The reason God challenges the areas of unbelief in our hearts is to lead us into the place of greater belief, where we can experience and express the reality of the Kingdom of God in a greater way.
3. Jesus Challenges Worldly Thinking, in order to lead us into Heavenly thinking
When Jesus described people as being an unbelieving and perverted generation He was highlighting the abnormality of the way this world thinks about God, as a result of their spiritual confusion and misunderstanding.
In the context of Jesus’ statement, ‘perverted’ means ‘misled’ or ‘deceived’. So He was describing people as having been deceived and misled with regard to the true Nature of God, and of His Kingdom.
This was the condition people were in then, and this is the condition people are in now: people are misled and deceived about the true Nature of God because of the influence of the god of this world upon their minds. satan uses deceit, in order to mislead people into a state of ignorance, confusion and misunderstanding of Who God really is.
We have an illustration of what this means in the account recorded in Acts 13:10, where Paul used the same word to describe the activity of Elymas the sorcerer. In this account, Paul was preaching the Gospel to Sergius Paulus, who was the Roman proconsul to Cyprus. As he was doing this, Elymas was arguing and trying to turn Sergius Paulus away from believing the Gospel.
When he did this, Paul said to him, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?”
This statement shows clearly what Jesus was saying. As we saw, Jesus had just returned from experiencing the normality and truth that is the Kingdom of God. Then He was confronted with a manifestation of the spirit of this world, with all of its confusion, misunderstanding and unbelief. This confusion is there because of the influence of the god of this world, which makes …crooked the straight ways of the Lord….
When Jesus was confronted with this, He expressed His displeasure, and His determination to change people’s spiritual confusion when He said, ”…how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?”
Jesus is intolerant of the condition people have been misled into, where there is no true knowledge of God, no knowledge of the ways of God, and therefore no faith, and no thinking like Heaven thinks. Because He does not want to leave people in that condition – as the Bible says – He, The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil (1John 3:8), and He made the way for us to turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that we may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ. (Acts 24:18).
The fact that Jesus is intolerant of the abnormality of worldly thinking about God means that He is determined to lead us to the place where our mind thinks like Heaven does, and where we have an increasingly greater understanding of the ways of the Kingdom of God, with the result that we are increasingly able to work in partnership with Jesus to enforce the power and the ways of the Kingdom of God into impossible situations, in order to bring the salvation, healing and deliverances to people that Jesus gave everything for.
We said the statement Jesus made seemed to be a harsh response, but we can see He was speaking from a motive of love, and a desire to see people spiritually restored, and brought into the blessing and normality of the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God operates by the Nature of its Lord, and brings its power to bear upon situations where spiritual darkness rules, so that the kingdom of darkness is defeated, and the Kingdom of God comes, and overcomes. That is why where the Kingdom of God is operating, it is normal for demons to be cast out, sickness to be healed, needs to be met, salvation to come, and Communities to be transformed.
Having said this, we don’t always see these things happen, and we ask the same question as the disciples did, which is, “Why could we not drive it out?”
When the disciples asked Jesus why they could not cast out the demon, He said it was because of their lack of faith. He also said this sort cannot come out except by prayer. At the beginning of this account, He also said, “how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?”
Where Jesus said, “How long shall I put up with you?”. The Greek word that ‘put up with you’ is translated from means ‘to let’, ‘to permit’ ‘to let alone’. My feeling is that Jesus was saying, ‘How long shall I permit you to remain in this spiritual condition’ – ‘How long shall I leave you like this, without changing you?’
I feel that Jesus was saying, ‘How long shall My Presence be with you, until you are so affected by Me, that you become normal, as normal is measured by the Kingdom of God.’
This means that the statement Jesus made is encouraging, because it shows He will not let His people alone, because He wants us to be affected by His Presence in such a way that we are transformed into the normality of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus also said, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” This shows we need to engage in the right sort of prayers.
If we link this with Jesus’ statement, “how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?” We can conclude that the right sort of prayers are prayers that bring us to the place of being with Him for extended periods of time, then in the place of intimacy with Jesus, He can communicate with us, fill us with the Holy Spirit, transform us into the normality for the Kingdom of God, and impart to us the virtues of the Kingdom of Heaven, which will equip us to overcome the powers of darkness.
I feel it shows Jesus welcomes the question, “Why could we not drive it out?” because it shows the desire of our heart to be who He expects us to be. His response is that He helps us to grow nearer to the place where (as we said) it is increasingly normal for us to work in partnership with Him to enforce the power and the ways of the Kingdom of God into impossible situations, in order to bring the salvation, healing and deliverances to people that Jesus gave everything for.
However, the question Jesus challenges us with is, “How long…?” The answer to that depends on us, and how long we are willing to put ourselves into the place of intimacy with Him, where we are influenced, transformed and equipped by the Presence of Jesus.
Long-term Thurrock resident Richard (right) is a former pastor and elder with the Assemblies of God. In the 1990s he founded and facilitated Prayer For Thurrock which ran for a number of years. He now leads a prayer team at Community Church Chafford Hundred and, with his wife Jane, a weekly Life Group.