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37. And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met him.
38. And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child.
39. And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him.
40. And I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not.
41. And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither.
42. And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father.
43. And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, he said unto his disciples,
44. Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.
45. But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying.
46. Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.
47. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him,
48. And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.
49. And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
50. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.
I want to talk to you tonight about four particular problems that we face after great mountain top experiences, after we have seen the glory, after we have seen the manifestations of the great and mighty power of God, after we have seen divine revelation and we have heard the voice of the Father giving words of divine approval. When we come back down to the valley, then there are problems that are always plaguing the church and plaguing every one of us that we have to face in our day to day kind of living and our ministry. I want us to look first of all, the great problem that they faced immediately upon coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration is the valley of spiritual warfare.
I think as a pastor for thirty years, I used to go home on Sunday evening after we’d had great services, and sometimes for a while I would think well, maybe we’ll never see another bad day. Maybe the momentum will just keep mounting higher and higher. But I learned not to get too enthusiastic like that because that usually meant that the next week or in the next few days there would be some kind of serious battle and spiritual warfare that we had to face. Seems like God always blessed us in a special way before we had to meet that. I suppose that’s the way it is in most people’s life. When Peter, James, and John came with the Lord to the valley and the others were down there already wrestling with demonic power, they found this challenge of demonic power.
I don’t know if we ever actually get away from the pressure of demonic power in this world. I know there are a lot of people who try to discredit demonic activity, but there’s no way, as we’ve already said, to understand Luke or the Gospels at all without understanding the constant spiritual warfare that goes on between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. Sometimes we’re caught right in the middle. I really appreciated some of the messages we heard at the General Assembly because this theme was lifted up with the idea that God has given us authority and power to cope with whatever demonic activity we may face.
I think most of us have or can identify a great deal with those disciples who were waiting in the valley, who did not see the glory, who were trying to tough it out and hold on the best they could against the forces of evil. Waiting, perhaps, for some help, because no sooner did Jesus come down but what the man who had a child that had an evil spirit came to him and said, “Your disciples could not cast it out.” Jesus with a slight rebuke to these disciples, then took charge and cast out the evil spirit from this young child.
The challenge of the demonic is always coming. Sometimes we don’t seem to be equipped to meet that challenge but anytime that Jesus Christ moves in with his authority, his power, his word, and the power of the Holy Spirit, then there is more than enough power and authority to meet any challenge that comes against us. I think sometimes we forget that the battle seems to be constantly raging. We work and we live and we minister in a valley and we do not sometimes see the glory of God. We have to stand in faith, and upon his word, and upon his divine authority and just simply stand our ground in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is one of the great problems the church always faces – the constant pressure of evil that pushes against our prayers, our life that we live, the songs we sing, the sermons we preach. There is no way in this world we can meet this challenge or handle it without the anointing of the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts in a very powerful and wonderful way.
Probably a more serious challenge faced these disciples with the announcement of Jesus that he would soon be delivered into the hands of men. Now this is a sermon all in itself to talk about what is called the passion predictions of our Lord because he gave them three times and still the disciples did not understand. You’d think, “Well, we’ve seen his glory. He’s the Son of God.” John would say, “We say his glory. We were eye-witnesses to his glory.” And yet, when Jesus began to say on three different occasions, and this one I read to you tonight is the second one, he’s already told them once before and he will tell them again that the Son of Man must go to Jerusalem. He will be delivered into the hands of men and he will suffer many things. Then he will be killed. Then he will always add, but he will rise again on the third day. When you look at the three in Mark, and it is Mark 8:31, 9:31, and 10:33-34, when you look at those three predictions there, you see the details and somehow it does not register. Because they do not fully yet understand how it is you live in this world and you live for God and you do his work with Jesus gone, out of sight, away from them. They couldn’t understand the full impact of it either because with their hearts and minds so filled with Messianic expectations and enthusiasm, all they could see was the Christ of glory already been revealed. His glory has been revealed. How dare you think that he would have to suffer shame and be put in the hands of men to be mistreated and suffer?
It took some of the disciples a long, long time to learn that there is indeed a ministry of suffering for Christ’s sake. That there are many people who really put their whole lives on the line for Jesus Christ. That the Lord calls upon us to be willing to lay down our life and live our life for him and for his glory and honor. They could never accept this. Simon Peter would argue and say, “No, Lord!” and Jesus would have to say to him, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” because any attitude that resists the will of the Father is Satan-like. Did you hear what I said? Any kind of voice that would try to excuse us from the will of the Father and denying ourselves and taking up the cross, our cross, that is Satan-like. Time and time again Satan would try to deter Jesus from the will of the Father, because verse fifty-one turns a whole new portion in the book of Saint Luke. We’ll see that next time when Jesus then is setting his face to go to Jerusalem and all those great things that happen to him in his life on the way to Jerusalem and to the cross and to suffering and to death.
On the other side of the glory of God, there are the threats and the fears and the troubles and the sufferings, the labors and the challenge of the demonic. It is warfare. It is overcoming this illusion about Jesus. It took them a long time to learn it. These disciples would argue against it and they would not understand. The next point I want to make reveals so vividly the fact that they never did quite get in touch with his suffering and what he had in mind. In verses 46-48 we have the challenge of the ambitious disciples who wanted to be the greatest in the kingdom.
They could only see a glorious kingdom coming. They had seen the king manifested in his glory and they had seen the shekinah had almost blinded them. They could not perceive of him as a suffering servant Messiah. It was the furthest thing from their minds. All they could see is when he comes into his kingdom with power and glory, who is going to be on the right hand and who is going to be on the left? Even a couple of the men’s mother got into the action in one case and said to Jesus, “I want you to grant my sons these high positions.” Well, Jesus didn’t say it like this, but he could’ve said, “If you want to see who occupies a position on my right hand and on my left, just wait til I’m on the cross and you’ll see it’s somebody who is crucified on each side.”
It is amazing how carnality, humanity, carnality can be so unsympathetic to the suffering of others. It is amazing how selfish people, self-centered people can be so untouched by other people who give themselves to the will of God. I know there are many great things to be said about the disciples, and we will say that, but again and again they show us the level of humanness and even carnality that they worked on as they thought about Jesus. I think this day calls our time that we are living in, calls for a brand new sensitivity to divine leading. There should be a special honor given to people who are sensitive to the leading of the Lord and the will of God. Who will not push themselves forward with worldly ambitions but who will accept the divine leading of God and the will of God, wherever that may lead.
This argument and discussion would go on and be a part of their lives even to the very end, to the very night that Jesus went in to the last supper and instituted the Lord’s Supper. Luke will tell us that they went in then still arguing who is going to be able to sit on the right hand or on the left. That’s why John gives us the picture of the feet washing episode then. John doesn’t talk much about the Lord’s supper, he just says, “when the supper being ended,” but then he talks a whole lot about Jesus’s example of being humble, his example of love, his example of humbling himself and washing the disciples’ feet. Taking upon him the form not only of a servant but of a slave, because in those days you couldn’t even ask a hired servant to wash your feet. If you had a slave, you could command a slave to wash your feet. It was such an indignity to have to wash someone’s feet, yet here’s Jesus girded with a towel, not girded with a golden girdle now, not girded with a buckler and sword, not girded and clothed with these trappings of warfare. We see that later when John saw him on the Isle of Patmos. If you compare what he looked like and how he was dressed then with the feet washing scene, then I’ll tell you, you begin to understand to just what a low degree he actually came. And he would have to teach the disciples again and again and again, the one who is greatest among you, let him become servant of all. The one who is greatest in the sight of God, let him pay the price and cost of discipleship by becoming the least.
I don’t think we understand that even in this day very well. We probably understand more than we are willing to practice. But here, is one of the constant aggravations that come to people who would serve God and live for Jesus Christ. How do I overcome suffering and the challenge of problems? How do I rise to an elevated place? Jesus would teach these disciples through the feet washing ceremony, that greatness is not where one sits but how one serves. That is where greatness is measured in the sight of God. So his answer is very short. The least shall be the greatest.
Simon Peter may be ready to take a sword and fight, but he is not ready to take the towel of service and wash somebody’s feet or have his feet washed. Who will be greatest? Sometimes I shudder to think what that will be like at the judgment of the Lord and when the Lord himself elevates whom he will.
A fourth problem that they faced and that we still face, and I’m going to have to walk softly here, because I do not want to be misunderstood. They said, “Lord, we saw a man casting out devils in your name and we tried to stop him because he’s not one of us.” They had this exclusivism that said “we are the only ones” and the Lord said, “You let him alone. Let anybody alone who is fighting the devil. Let anybody alone who is casting out devils and delivering people from the power of Satan. Because, if he’s not against us, he’s for us, and if he’s for us, he’s not against us.”
I’m going to tell you that is a spirit that can literally cripple a church and bind them. Here’s why I want to be very careful. At the School of Theology, we’ve had quite a number of Church of God of Prophecy ministers and I know friends – I have quite a few friends there – who have preached that the Church of God of Prophecy is not the only bride of Christ and they have been dealt with and they have suffered. One man was a pastor, a good friend pastoring in Chattanooga, had to disagree with the Prophecy church because he took a firm stand and said that there are other people of God, and there are other people in the bride of Christ. This exclusive kind of idea that says unless you’ve got our label and you’ve got what we’ve got then you can’t belong to Christ. This is a serious kind of thing. Because you see, if God waits on a certain group to evangelize the world, it will never get done. I don’t want anybody else to go before us and beat us, but at the same time, I want to tell you, Thank God for the numbers and numbers of Spirit-filled Christians all around this world who are delivering people from the hand of Satan and winning souls by the multiplied millions!
We heard a man preach who was responsible for bringing two or three million souls to Christ last year alone. It was overwhelming. Rinehart Bonnke was responsible for bringing millions to Christ in one year. We will see some more attitudes that are contrary to real discipleship as we go further in this study. But let me say in this concluding point that these are the kinds of realities that can get ahold of us, not realizing we are in spiritual warfare and therefore not really praying and seeking God until we are endued with power from on high and are able to do what God wants us to do and the works that He wants us to do. Not understanding the ministry of suffering and what Jesus says, and not understanding what true greatness is and not understanding that the Lord is working through a lot of people in this world to get the message to circle this globe. Somehow I feel challenged. When I was putting this message together, I knew that each of these points is a sermon in itself if you want to approach it from a topical point of view. But it just simply puts together concepts that we face every day in our work for God that we need to watch for. I’m going to ask you to join in prayer right now that we may understand Christ and His will, that we will understand the road that He asks us to take, and like Simon Peter we would come to fully and finally understand what it means to suffer for Jesus Christ, that we could someway let the cross cut own and mow down our selfish ambitions and our self-centeredness, that we could rejoice and be counted worthy to be a part of the Body of Jesus Christ.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Oh God, speak to our hearts by your Spirit. May the Word of God be quickened in our hearts tonight. Lord, help us to press the battle forward in the Name of Jesus Christ.
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