God the Father has gone to great lengths to demonstrate His love for His people. You and I know love because God first loved us. God’s love for His people is patient, offering repentance for those who will seek Him. God’s character is holy. As holy and loving one day judgment will come with such surprise that many will be caught off guard. Jesus reveals to the religious leaders in Mark 12:1-12 that their time of influence will soon expire. Their leaders have shamed God’s messengers, beat them and killed them. God has judged their efforts. They will soon be replaced. So too we look forward to a day when God’s judgment will be final. Jesus will return and all that is wrong in the world will be made right. Until that day, you and I have the opportunity to trust Him and participate in the vineyard work of building His kingdom.
The religious leaders protecting the establishment in Mark 11 are a great picture of what we do NOT want to become. Tragically, the people who were identified in the culture as representatives of God failed to embrace the heart of God. The external evidence supposed the internal health of the leaders but Jesus revealed another reality; their hearts were hardened to the love of God. Jesus assesses the situation in verse 11 and then pronounces judgment on their hardened hearts. With righteous anger, Jesus overturns the tables in the temple and drives away those who have made the Temple a mockery to prayer. God’s heart for the nations is on display as Jesus teaches His disciples and reprimands the chief priests, scribes and elders. The pace of chapter 11 has slowed down so that the reader will not too quickly gloss over Jesus’ teaching. God’s heart for you is that you would relate to Him by the Spirit through prayer, trusting, believing, and longing for more from Jesus.
The categories of popularity, prosperity, and politics may be helpful for us to grasp what is happening in Mark 11:1-11. Riding in on a colt invited the crowd and His disciples to see Jesus as a political leader. These people were desperate for something greater. They longed for a leader who would deliver them from Roman occupation. This crowd had experienced the prosperity of being near Jesus; He drove away demons and took away their sickness. After the feeding of the 5,000 they wanted to make Him king but Jesus had nothing to do with them. Now the crowd has returned and grew when those inside Jerusalem came out to welcome Jesus. Jesus represented a popular movement of hope and expectation. In this moment, Jesus was the greatest thing to happen to the Holy City in 100’s of years. To be a part of the celebration must have been exhilarating. The messiah has come just as Daniel and the prophets of old had promised. The excitement and joy of the crowd would have been overwhelming for anyone nearby. Mark is presenting Jesus as the one who will save Israel. Hosanna!
Too often we think of our spiritual journey as a solo race rather than a relay baton. Each generation of the church is responsible to pass along our faith to the next. Moses famously instructed the people of God to love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, and might and then to teach this to their children intentionally. When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he summarized His answer with Moses’ instruction from Deuteronomy 6. The greatest commandment is to love God and love neighbor. Each generation has the privilege and responsibility of instructing the next through the family and through the community of the people of God. This study will provide some practical instruction in line with the resources from our At Home center equipping you to more intentionally pass on our faith to the next generation.
There is so much in our lives that wishes to capture our affection and energy and steer us away from ultimate life-giving place, which is the presence of the Living God. As the psalmist disciplines himself to be singularly devoted to the Lord, he puts forward this powerful axiom that celebrates reality, affirming what matters most for any true disciple.
It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas while forgetting the reason we celebrate. For many, the sentimentalism of the season is all consuming: trees, gifts, baking, family, shopping, laughter, and music. To some, their schedules will overflow with office parties, Christmas cards, and treats. For others, the season will remind them of their losses, hurts, and brokenness. For all, we have an opportunity to be reminded of the overwhelming grace of God made manifest in the person of Jesus. His entrance into the world through a young couple in a barn 2,000 years ago is underwhelming. Without much fanfare, Jesus’ birth was announced to the most humble of people, the shepherds. This announcement reflects the beauty of the gospel that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. The invitation to believe is the same invitation we preach 2,000 years later. Believe in the lord Jesus and be saved.
You have been called by God to live a life of purpose, moving toward Jesus and taking others with you. This is what it means to be Jesus’ disciple. The essence of moving toward Jesus and taking others with you will include loving, abiding in, and declaring Jesus. When Jesus called the early disciples, they were willing to give up all that was important to them for the sake of following Christ. In the same way, Jesus’ call is still disruptive and all consuming. When you recognize the radical love of God for you expressed through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus you can’t help but want to respond to Him in love returned. Having experienced His love you want to abide in Jesus because you recognize that any spiritual fruit in your life will only come from the work of the Holy Spirit. As the fruit takes shape in your heart and you experience the joy of obedience you long for opportunities to declare the goodness of God in the person of Jesus. These values shape us as followers of Jesus. Identifying these values of loving, abiding and declaring give us a framework for imitating Jesus.
For those who have discovered the treasure of Jesus, their assignment is to share that treasure with others. Jesus frequently called others to, “follow me.” Those early followers were called disciples because they were committed to Him and joined a community centered on His teaching. To be a disciple meant to commit oneself to Jesus as a pupil, an apprentice, or a trainee in the ways of Jesus. Today, it is too easy to spend all of our energy identifying activities that look like one is following Jesus. Instead, this series focuses on three essences which drive any follower of Jesus. A disciple of Jesus is one who is loving, abiding and declaring Jesus. To do this well, we must be trained and train others on what it means to follow Jesus. Our assignment is to establish and equip others who will glorify God with their lives as followers of Jesus.
Abiding in Christ produces spiritual fruit. Jesus is clear in John 15 that apart from Him we can accomplish nothing. Like the branch that is grafted into the vine, you and I will grow spiritually as we depend on the person and work of Jesus. Because you are loved by God and have responded to His love, the Holy Spirit dwells within you. He wills and works to remind you of sin and righteousness. As you submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, your desires are transformed to align with the love of God producing fruit in character with the person of God. His love expressed to you and through you results in fruitfulness beyond your natural talents and abilities. It is this fruit that we want to take advantage of so that at every opportunity we can give testimony to the love of Jesus.
If we want to grow in our love for God and others, Jesus said we must remain in Him. Like a branch remains in the vine, so the follower of Jesus must remain in Him. When we dwell in Christ the result is fruit that looks like His fruit. Just like a grape vine produces grapes, so the vine of Christ will produce spiritual fruit. The Holy Spirit empowers the believer to remain in Christ resulting in joy and fruit unimaginable apart from Jesus. Our fruitfulness provides evidence of God’s love for us and our love for Him. As a follower of Jesus you have tremendous capacity to live a fruitful existence because of the love of God in you and your closeness to Him.
All of us want to be loved. We learned last week the God who created us in His image loves us with an unconditional love. We also saw in the story of the Sons of Sceva that some people try to operate with only the evidence of love apart from experience the essence of love. In other words, there are people today who depend on their religion (evidence) having not experienced a relationship (essence) with Jesus. Settled that we are loved by God through the person of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit we are then set free to love others. Our love for God and our love for others is a necessary response to God’s love for us. This week’s study invites you to a life style of dependence upon the Holy Spirit as He works through you to love others.
This week’s study will give you an opportunity to consider the greatest quality of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Of all the character traits which mark a disciple, love is the greatest. This is easy to say and hard to live. Throughout history men and women have questioned what is true love? Art, books, music, movies and business have all tried to capture and define what is, “love.” Even the word, can feel squishy or soft because of so much noise about what it “really” means. Personally we are challenged by our flesh, a broken world, and an enemy that all war against our understanding of God’s love for you and me. The love that God has for us goes far beyond what is natural and normal. Your heavenly Father’s love for you is a supernatural, loyal, unconditional, patient, loving kindness as evidenced in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Have you experienced this love? Would you like to?