VIDEO Safety in Christ

Then [Jesus] asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” Mark 5:9

Many expressions in contemporary culture have their origin in the Bible—like the expression, “Clothed and in his right mind,” referring to a person who is acting sanely, normally. The words come from Mark 5:15, referring to a crazed man who Jesus delivered from the power and influence of demons. After his deliverance, the man was found “clothed and in his right mind.”

The New Testament takes the existence of demons as a fact, not a fantasy. Jesus drove demons out of many people resulting in their being made well or whole again. The crazed man Jesus delivered from demons was so “demonized” that there was a multitude of demons dwelling in him. When Jesus asked the man his name, the demons answered, “Legion; for we are many” (Mark 5:9)—a legion referring to a Roman military unit of six thousand soldiers. The truth then, and now, is that demons have no power or authority in the presence of Jesus.

The best defense against demonic influence is to live clothed in the full armor of God—the life of Christ Himself (Ephesians 6:10-18).

There is nothing holier, or better, or safer, than to content ourselves with the authority of Christ alone. John Calvin


A Fearful Deliverance (Mark 5:9–20) — A Sermon by R.C. Sproul

Confident Prayer


Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Luke 11:11

Having tried for years to have a child, Richard and Susan were elated when Susan became pregnant. Her health problems, however, posed a risk to the baby, and so Richard lay awake each night praying for his wife and child. One night, Richard sensed he didn’t need to pray so hard, that God had promised to take care of things. But a week later Susan miscarried. Richard was devastated. He wondered, Had they lost the baby because he hadn’t prayed hard enough?

On first reading, we might think today’s parable suggests so. In the story, a neighbor (sometimes thought to represent God) only gets out of bed to help the friend because of the friend’s annoying persistence (Luke 11:5–8). Read this way, the parable suggests that God will give us what we need only if we badger Him. And if we don’t pray hard enough, maybe God won’t help us.

But biblical commentators like Klyne Snodgrass believe this misunderstands the parable—its real point being that if neighbors might help us for selfish reasons, how much more will our unselfish Father. We can therefore ask confidently (vv. 9–10), knowing that God is greater than flawed human beings (vv. 11–13). He isn’t the neighbor in the parable, but the opposite of him.

“I don’t know why you lost your baby,” I told Richard, “but I know it wasn’t because you didn’t pray ‘hard’ enough. God isn’t like that.”

By:  Sheridan Voysey

Reflect & Pray

If the neighbor in the parable represents God, what does it suggest God is like? If verses 11–13 clarify the parable, what then is God like?

Father, today I bring You my needs and the needs of others, confident that You’ll hear and answer, and grateful that it’s Your goodness and not my words that count.

Read about the power of prayer at DiscoverySeries.org/Q0740.

Questions in Times of Calamity

Isaiah 55:8-9

Anytime a natural disaster strikes, it’s understandable that big questions come to mind—about things like life, death, and why we are here. The magnitude of death and destruction caused by earthquakes, fires, tsunamis, or floods displaces our normal everyday thoughts, leading us instead to seek explanations for suffering.

Often we answer our own questions based on our personal understanding of God. If He does something that doesn’t fit into the box we’ve designed for Him, we easily become angry or confused. Since we are mortal, earth-bound, and sinful, we have a limited understanding of how life actually works. But our eternal, sinless, and sovereign Creator is omniscient—He sees and knows what we cannot perceive. 

God has given us His Word to help us wrestle through these difficult issues and grow in our knowledge of Him. An accurate viewpoint of the Lord’s role in natural disasters must come from the Bible, not from our own narrow perspective of life. Of course, we’ll never be able to fully comprehend such a mighty, transcendent God, but the more we understand how He works in the world, the greater our trust in Him will be. Keep in mind, however, that when His ways defy comprehension, then faith in His goodness, love, and wisdom must be our foundation.

Almighty God

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” (Genesis 17:1)

This is the first of 48 occurrences of the designation of God by the term “Almighty” in the Old Testament. There are also nine times in the New Testament where God is called “Almighty,” plus once where He is called “omnipotent.” The last time it occurs is very near the end of the Bible, telling us that there is no special temple in the holy city, “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Revelation 21:22).

Thus, in the first and last books of the Bible, and often in between, we are reminded that our God is an omnipotent God. As Jeremiah prayed; “Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jeremiah 32:17).

Sarah “laughed” when God said that she would bear a son in her old age, but God responded: “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14). Many years later, the angel told the Virgin Mary that she would have a son, and she said: “How shall this be?” (Luke 1:34.) The angel replied: “With God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

Some things God cannot do, of course, for “God cannot be tempted with evil” (James 1:13) and He “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), so whatever He does is right and whatever He says is true. We may not always understand just why He does or says something, but in eternity we shall learn that He was indeed able to do what He says. He is omnipotent!

God did create the cosmos in all its macroscopic complexity and all the living kinds with their microscopic complexity. “I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). HMM

Three Gospel Snapshots, II

Luke 9:57-62

IN the ninth chapter of his Gospel, Luke relates three incidents from our Lord’s ministry so briefly that we are in danger of passing too quickly over the treasure of truth hidden there. Three characters flash suddenly by; we never hear of them again; the tantalizing brevity of it all leaves us wondering what became of them.

The first of these, much impressed by the Master, declares in a fit of momentary enthusiasm, “I will follow You wherever You go!” Matthew tells us that this man was a scribe, and his offer to follow must have looked very attractive. Until then, only rough fishermen and common working-folk had volunteered; now the prominent were professing! You or I might have seized that proposition before he had finished speaking.

Jesus did not so hastily accept this distinguished convert. He calmly replied, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” He was saying, “Before you so lightly rush into this adventure of following Me, count the cost. Do you realize that it means surrendering your home comforts, position, reputation, and career as a rabbi to be the despised disciple of a hated ‘fanatic’?”

There it ends. But in a flash it portrays a type all too common: the easily excited, emotional enthusiast, quick-on-the-trigger—a rapid beginner who stalls on the middle mile when reality reveals the actual cost of the thing he has undertaken. The Christian adventure is no romantic excursion for the glib-and-gushing type.

This man was too eager; the next two are not eager enough. The first meets Jesus’ invitation to follow Him with a condition: “First, let me go bury my father.” Whenever a man starts off with “ifs” and “buts,” he has not made a full surrender. Their name is Legion who want to follow Christ but who have not fully let go of something dead they want to bury. Somewhere in their lives there is a carcass of money or lust or cherished evil, or even something not bad in itself (such as this man’s dead father), but which is a millstone that holds them back from absolute dedication. They want to go back, they think, to bury it, but they fall in love with it all over again and never become a disciple.

So Jesus says, “Let the dead bury the dead.” It sounds harsh, but it is the Divine condition. “Give up these dead loves of the old life! If you mean to follow Me, I will have no fondling of these carcasses of earth!” And many a soul has never joined the procession of the redeemed because still he lingers among the graves of this world’s decaying treasures!

The third man merely wishes to tell his family goodbye; surely there is no harm in that! Yet back comes the stern rejoinder: “No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” The danger was this: if the man went home to say farewell, his relatives and neighbors would have cooled his ardor—any man who has tried to serve the King in a matter-of-fact environment knows that full well. “Don’t get worked up over this new preacher. This is a fit of fancy and will soon blow over”—thus they would have talked and toned his fiery idealism down to the drab luke-warmness of those average souls who never see the Heavenly Vision.

So, with this plowman figure (v. 62), Jesus said in substance: “If you are going with Me, let us go. But My road is not for those with their feet turned one way and their head another, who ever look back, like Lot’s wife upon Sodom. My kingdom is no place for the man with the backward look!”

Purity—Not a Popular Thought

He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.—Acts 15:9

Now that we understand what Scripture means by the term “heart”—the core of our being—we ask ourselves another important question: what does our Lord mean when He uses the word “pure”? “The pure in heart are blessed, for they will see God” (Mt 5:8). The word “pure” (Greek: katharos) means a heart that is clean or clear. Unfortunately, purity does not seem to be popular in contemporary Christianity. The emphasis nowadays seems to be more on power than on purity. Most Christians I talk to want to know how they can possess and develop spiritual gifts. Few, generally speaking, want to know how to experience the blessing of what our text today calls a heart purified by faith.

Sixteen hundred years ago, St. Augustine expressed a sentiment in words which might well sum up the thoughts of many—thankfully, not all—in today’s church: “Lord, make me pure … but not just yet.” Most of us would be willing to identify ourselves with the conditions laid down in the first five of our Lord’s Beatitudes, but how do we feel about the condition of being pure in heart? Are we ready and willing to pray:

I want, dear Lord, a heart that’s true and clean

A sunlit heart, with not a cloud between.

A heart like Thine, a heart divine.

A heart as white as snow.

On me, dear Lord, a heart like this bestow.

Prayer

O yes, dear Father, from the depths of my being I cry out make me clean. I have come so far with You—how can I turn back now? I’m a candidate for both power and purity. Give me the deep inner cleansing I need—today. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Further Study

Jn 13:1-17; 2Co 7:1; Jms 4:8; 1Jn 3:3

What was Peter’s request?

Make your request today.

Called to be Saints

1 Corinthians 1:2

When a man receives Christ, he gets more than he asked for. Most of us, taking our first steps toward Him, are seeking simply for pardon and experience real relief when we are assured that our sins are forgiven. Becoming more fully acquainted with the Bible and its teaching, we learn of what happened to us on that red-letter day. We were regenerated (born again), adopted (placed in God’s family), made heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ and much more.

The blessings received at conversion, either present or potential, are so immense that I have a feeling it will take all eternity to learn how much we received when Jesus came into our hearts.

We are given a new title immediately; we are called “saints.” It is one of the names for followers of Christ in the New Testament. Fellow believers, we are saints. What privileges the title implies, and what responsibilities!

There must be no downgrading of the greatness of God’s initial work of grace in the soul. For if a Christian is, at the moment he becomes a Christian, called a saint, that implies momentous things. First, that he has begun to be holy. One cannot receive Christ sincerely, Christ in His purity and burning love, and deliberately hold on to sinful practices, or carelessly tolerate evil thoughts and words.

Just as the new Christian regrets any lapse into sin and longs to be holier, so the title “saints” which he bears is a promise that he will indeed be made more Christlike, by grace. For a saint is a person in whom the Holy Spirit is producing an ever-growing resemblance to Jesus Christ.

It was Chrysostom who said that parents should always give a new baby a great name; it would provide the child with an ideal after which to strive. Turning possibilities into actualities is the Holy Spirit’s specialty! The God who sees the end from the beginning is the God who bestows a name that is a prophecy, and then proceeds to fulfill that prophecy.

Claiming us as His own, describing us as saints, our saving God sets our eyes on the heights. Let there be no doubt about it: God wants and intends to bring to completion the good work He has begun in you. He is faithful! (Philippians 1:6)

Edward Read, Burning, Always Burning