by Mike Ratliff
17 And Jesus, aware of this, *said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? 18 HAVING EYES, DO YOU NOT SEE? AND HAVING EARS, DO YOU NOT HEAR? And do you not remember, 19 when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?” They *said to Him, “Twelve.” 20 “When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?” And they *said to Him, “Seven.” 21 And He was saying to them, “Do you not yet understand?” Mark 8:17-21 (NASB)
The mortification of sin has been a topic that we have looked at a great deal over the last several months. Why? It is vital for our Christian maturity to learn to walk in repentance and that requires that we learn how to mortify the sin(s) that cling close to us. In this post we will take a closer look at a vital aspect of walking by faith. When Jesus rebuked Peter in Matthew 16 it was for having his focus on the things of men rather than the things of God. Because of that focus, Peter had actually rebuked Jesus for telling them about His upcoming crucifixion and resurrection. Peter told Jesus that he shouldn’t talk about things like that. Instead, He wanted Jesus to change His focus to that of his vision of who the Messiah was rather than on what our Saviour had been telling and showing them about Himself. What was Peter’s real problem? Why did he have the wrong “vision” of Jesus’ ministry? Peter’s problem was that his heart was hardened and, therefore, he had a case of spiritual blindness. Before we point our fingers at him let’s turn those fingers around and point them right back at ourselves. All of us have been there and many of us are still there. Not everyone’s faith is as strong as those whom the Lord has drawn into a Spirit-filled walk. Therefore, instead of condemning our weaker brothers and sisters we should come along side them and help them see the truth from God’s Word and show them the way to change their level of devotion to our Lord and submission to His Lordship.
Let’s look at the passage I placed at the beginning of this post. This events in this passage take place right after Jesus fed the Four Thousand from 7 loaves of bread and a few fish (vv1-10). Then some Pharisees came to Him demanding a sign (vv11-13). After Jesus rebuked them He told His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod. (vv14-16) Jesus’ disciples then began discussing between themselves about the fact that they had no bread with them and they thought Jesus was rebuking them because of that when He mentioned the leaven. Jesus was giving them a spiritual lesson and they interpreted it to be about something physical or temporal. The leaven Jesus was speaking of was the evil influence these men could have on those who are not aware. Jesus was giving them a warning to not allow the religiosity of the Pharisees and the Herodians to cause them to dilute their faith with legalism. Jesus’ concern was that believers would seek to serve Him via works righteousness rather than by faith. However, they were spiritually blind. Their hearts were hardened so they were focused on the things of men rather than on the things of God. Think about it. They had just witnessed a tremendous miracle and were still concerned that Jesus would be upset with them for not having brought any bread with them.
Jesus nailed their problem. Doesn’t He do this with us as well? As God removes the callous from our hearts so that our spiritual blindness is removed it is always as a result of our becoming Spirit-filled. How do we do that? When we are Spirit-filled we are not spiritually blind. We are not hardened of heart. We can see and understand spiritual things. We can read and discern from God’s Word things that we never could before. We are humble. We submit to one another. We do not force our wills upon one another. Our faith grows, strengthens and deepens. We pray with faith. We worship in spirit and truth.
On the other hand, when we are not Spirit-filled, we cannot perceive spiritual truths even when they are laid in our lap. We hear those speak who are Spirit-filled and it is like they are speaking a different language. Our hard hearts simply cannot comprehend God’s values because of our callous covered hearts. It is when we are in that state that it as if our Savior is saying, “How is it you do not understand?” Of course, He knows why. He asks us so that we can start the move to correct that problem by drawing near unto God in repentance, worship, prayer, and obedience. When we do this, God will always keep His promise to draw near unto us and clean house in our hearts.
The last year or so that I was in the church that my wife and I left when it went Purpose Driven in 2006 was very stressful for me. Remember, God had started opening my heart in 2003-2004. By the end of 2005 He had drawn me into the battle against apostasy that is rampant in our time throughout the visible church. So, when our pastor started his sermons on “his vision” my discernment really set off some alarms. The more I researched the PDC and other “seeker-sensitive” approaches to “doing church” the more disturbed I became. I did pray about it. I did ask the Lord to stop the move of our church into darkness. However, the more I spoke to those in that church about it the more that I appeared to them as one joking or at least speaking about something that they didn’t care to hear. I was marked out very early as a trouble maker in that church and one that no one should listen to. When I went to the Lord with this all I got from Him was that I was finding out what is like to deal with those who have become spiritually blind. This was a first for me. I never thought I would ever experience anything like that. Man’s reason is easily corrupted. When people pursue idols and do not repent of it, God gives them over to it and they fall into darkness. In this state, they are deceived. They see the truth as irrelevant because they are convinced that they know the truth.
Only a work of the Holy Spirit in cracking through their hard hearts will draw them from it. Until then, all we can do and must do is to continue to speak the truth in love to them as we pray fervently for God to send a revival so that a great restoration will take place. Their spiritual blindness is a fruit of their hard hearts. Their hard hearts have become that way because of their spiritual rebellion and idolatry. This has caused them to be spiritually insensitive so that are unable to understand spiritual truth. They may indeed appear to be spiritual because of their worship style and all that fun they are having in church, but it is all just works of the flesh.
How is it that they do not understand? They have been deceived and made choices that have resulted in their hearts becoming hardened. They are now vulnerable to spiritual deceivers who are leading them down a path of rebellion away from the light into darkness. They are not walking by faith. They are not wise because that is only given to those who ask God for it in faith. Since they are in spiritual darkness and hardheartedness they don’t ask so they don’t have.
We must be on watch and very careful. Our Lord could return at any time. We must be prepared by obeying Him so that we will be found doing what we have been called to do. Also, we must never stop asking God for wisdom by faith from a grateful, humble heart.
Soli Deo Gloria!