Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Some Stains Are Tougher Than Others

Today I will address what is, at least to me, a curious passage in Scripture.  This occurs right after the Transfiguration on the Mount. Jesus came down from the mountain and there was a multitude of people waiting for him and immediately Jesus is confronted by a man in a tragic situation.
Then one of the crowd answered and said, "Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not."  Mark 9:17-18 NKJV
More accurately, this boy was possessed by a demon.  Considering what this demon was doing to the boy, it was a pretty bad one.  What is curious is the fact that the disciples were already given the power to cast out unclean spirits.   So why was this demon not subject to their God-given authority?  That is a question I will answer after we come through our text.
He answered him and said, "O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me." Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us."  Mark 9:19-22 NKJV
"Oh faithless generation."  Indeed that is the cause of Satan's victories in the spiritual war most of the world is not even aware of.  It was the same back then as it is now.  The result of a society that lacks faith is a society under the influence of Satan.  This poor possessed boy was a product of that sad truth.  They brought the boy to Jesus and this demon was so evil and rebellious that it even attempted to put on a display of power to Jesus Himself.  He ignores the demon's show and asks the father how long this has been going on.  Sadly, this has been going on since the boy was a child.  Since he was a child, this father had to watch helplessly as this demon tortured his son, burned his son, and tried to drown his son.  I can't imagine what that must have been like.  It is even more sad that much of this was a product of his own lack of faith.  Look even at how he questions Jesus.  He ask if Jesus "can" do something.  What he should have said is "Jesus I know you can, so if you "will" do something.  His faith was weak, but he did have faith enough to bring him to Jesus.  His faith was finally sprouting and we will see how that fledgling faith is rewarded. 
Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"  Mark 9:23-24 NKJV
I love the honesty of this father's reply.  Jesus tells him basically that his son can be healed as long as he believes.  The father immediately proclaims his faith, realizes it is not entirely honest, then pleads with Jesus to help his unbelief.  How true that is for our own lives.  We proclaim our faith that God can do so many things, but many times, if we were being honest, we really do not entirely believe.  Let us be honest in those cases where our faith is lacking.  Let is plead with God to help up in those areas where our faith lacks. 
When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: "Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!" Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, "He is dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.  Mark 9:25-27 NKJV
Jesus makes short work of this wicked demon, freeing this boy from years of bondage.  The demon cries out one last time in rebellion, but when faced with the power of Almighty God, it had no choice but to leave.  The demon came out, the boy collapsed to the point where the people thought he was dead (and who knows maybe he was dead), and Jesus takes his hand and helps him stand up.  Jesus did in an instant what the disciples could not.
And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?"So He said to them, "This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting."  Mark 9:28-29 NKJV
Matthew gives a more detailed account of this conversation.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."  Matthew 17:19-21 NKJV
Jesus gives two telling answers.  First, he attributes their failure to a lack of faith.  Perhaps the demon put on a show for them as well and just like when Peter focused on the waves, they began to focus on the demon and not on the Lord and so the demon gained the upper hand.  I think it is more than that, though.  Considering Mark does not mention the first part of the answer and both contain the statement that this kind only comes out by prayer and fasting, I believe that God wants us to focus more on that aspect. 

"This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting."  Just like this boy, when we come to Jesus we come with sins that have been a stain on our lives for many many years.  Sometimes those tendencies develop in our childhood and become so entrenched in our lives that seemingly nothing can rid ourselves of that weakness.  We pray though even sometimes that prayer brings to mind that sin.  We answer to countless alter calls even though we are already saved and we stand up every time a call to rededicate our lives is given.  We sometimes even confess that sin to our friends to be more accountable but find it only leads to us hiding it from the very people we try to not hide it from.  Each time we fall right back into that sin.  I think that demon in this story is a great illustration of that sin. Those sins, which are usually destructive to ourselves and painful to those around us, seem impossible to remove.   I believe that the Lord gives us our answer here.  "This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting."   Please note that it is not the prayer and fasting that rids us of that sin, but it is what leads us to the faith that Jesus has done it for us.  We can not rid ourselves of our sin no matter what we do.  That was something that was accomplished by Jesus on the cross. That is something we never have nor ever will be able to rid ourselves on our own.  Just like it required Jesus to remove that demon from that boy, it will require the Lord to remove that sin from our lives.  The answer is faith and the road to that faith is through prayer and fasting.  Why is that?  Because prayer and fasting are acts of submission to God and a denying of the flesh.  Prayer is our submission of our will to God and fasting is a denial of our flesh and an act of faith.  Prayer is our admission to God that our faith is lacking in that area.  We cry out to God, like the father, "Lord I believe, help my unbelief."  We fast to show ourselves that we can deny our flesh in the power of God.  Some stains are hard to remove, but praise be to God we have the blood of Jesus guaranteed to completely cleanse even the most putrid, dark, and set-in stain.  There is no stain the blood of Christ can not remove, if only we believe.
how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?  Hebrews 9:14 NKJV

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