Jesus rebukes His disciples for their unbelief
Mark 16:14-18 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
The disciples were reclining. They were at ease in their unbelief. They were more concerned about their bellies than they were their hard hearts. Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart. They had refused to believe the report that Jesus was risen and alive!
The disciples were allowing a fleshly thing to cloud a spiritual reality. Their focus on what was in the past hardened their heart to what was true in the now! This is true of Christians today. We feed our hearts on what God has not done or failed to do. Whenever we dwell on what has not happened, we foster the atmosphere for the spirit of offense and bitterness to arise and then thrive. When we dwell on what has not happened, we legitimize unbelief. We even excuse unbelief as normal. So we promote a sense of justification for not believing God.
Jesus rebuked that attitude in His disciples. He rebukes that attitude now! That attitude and thinking has to die! Christians are at ease in their unbelief. They are reclining at the table of fleshly attitudes and thinking. While we feed our bellies, the world is crying out for spiritual truth that will change their lives. While we are content in our unbelief our neighbors are crying out for something worth believing in.
Too often the Church focuses on keeping people from “sin” instead of taking people into their destiny with the power of the risen Christ. Churches that provide excuses for falling short of and not believing the power of Christ are merely promoters of “religion,” for God’s Word says religion is “form without power!” (2 Tim 3:5)
The area of our greatest unbelief is in our prayers. So much of the content of our praying is for things we already possess in Christ, but fail to believe. So we labor to ask God for things we already have. We expose our unbelief through our boring prayers. We fail to ask God for things we do not possess because we fail to believe what God has given us. No wonder prayer is laborious and cursory to most Christians. No wonder there is a prevailing attitude that their prayers never reach the ceiling! Our prayers are often exercises in unbelief!
John 16:24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
Prayer is not to twist God’s arm, or to make us seem more spiritual. Prayer is to encourage our belief in the reality of Jesus. Jesus wants prayer to take us into fullness of JOY! JOY is the currency of Heaven! God reserves JOY as the reward for the suffering. Christ endured the cross for the JOY that was set before Him. The reality of Christ will deposit the currency of heaven in our lives. JOY is the currency of Heaven! JOY is the result of prayer! Jesus says to all faithful servants who live with His power in their lives, “Well done…enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23)
God wants us to feast on belief in the power of the Name of Jesus. Prayer is designed to be a breakthrough into His heavenly JOY! Prayer is the expenditure of belief in return for the heavenly currency. If we pray only for that which we already possess, we will never experience the breakthrough of JOY. We will never discover the riches of God’s heavenly currency!
Never allow our prayers to contradict what God has already promised. Our unbelief closes heaven’s resources to us. Closed heavens are between our ears. Failure to know JOY is between our ears! We limit our God because our unbelief does not want to take hold of His power and JOY, even when He is standing in front of us with outstretched arms!
This is why Paul prayed so fervently for us:
Ephesians 1:18-19 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might…
Paul saw Jesus, saw His power, and saw that power in His life. Paul experienced JOY even in prison, even in the stockades, even holding flotsam in the middle of the ocean. Paul’s eyes were opened and his heart was on fire for the realities of Jesus Christ! He could see the greatness of the power within Him, the same power that raised Jesus from the grave. Paul never reclined in unbelief after that vision.
Our Vision should FIRE our Heart!
Christians have no excuse for not seeing the same vision. The vision is there for all to see. If we fail to believe, the hardness of our heart is exposed.
When Jesus was baptized, Matthew writes, “immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him” (Matthew 3:16). The picture is of the heavens being divided, rolled back, suddenly exposing the power of the heavenlies, and allowing the Holy Spirit to descend upon Jesus. Stephen saw the heavens rolled back and gazed upon the Glory of God and His Son. The truth is that the heavens have been opened to all Christians! The Holy Spirit has been given to all Christians. The Glory of God is for all Christians. We have the Holy Spirit living within us, a gift from our Savior!
Our Father is jealous for us to know the power of the Holy Spirit within us. He earnestly desires us to belief and experience His JOY!
James 4:5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?
We live under an open heaven. The heavens are rolled back revealing the Power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit lives in every believer, but his POWER is not upon every believer. Luke 4:1 says that Jesus left the Jordan River full of the Holy Spirit. But he did not have the POWER of the Holy Spirit until He believed the Word of God in His confrontation with Satan in the wilderness.
Are You Aware of the Power within You?
The Holy Spirit is in us eternally, but His POWER is not opened to us unless we believe. When we allow the wilderness of this world to influence our believing, we fail to see the power of the Spirit. We fail to influence the wilderness around us. We fail to alter the environment around us. Men who believed in the POWER of Christ influenced the environment into which they were placed. Stephen had a profound effect upon those angry men. Paul had an astounding effect upon prisoners, towns people, and even hardened Roman Soldiers.
Christians must learn how to “host” the presence of God such that He is always before us, influencing the environment of every place we step into. What we are conscious of, we are positioned to manifest. What we are aware of, we are able to release. If we are not conscious and aware of the POWER of God within us, we will never be able to influence those around us. The Gospel is not a ministry of words. The Gospel is the ministry of Power because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Gospel is the ministry of releasing the presence of the Holy Spirit in the whole earth. We will never release that which we are unaware of.
A woman who had struggled for years with an issue of blood made a “demand” upon Christ. In desperation she reached out among the throng to touch the “hem of His garment.” She made a demand for her life. In spite of all the people pressing around Him, Christ was so aware of the Spirit’s presence that He instantly knew when a demand was made to which the Spirit responded. If we are not intensely aware of the Holy Spirit within our lives, we will have nothing to offer those around us who are desperately seeking power for their lives. They are overwhelmed, they are needy, and we have no life-giving power to offer them.
A demand was made upon Peter. Peter confessed he had no silver or gold, but Peter was intensely aware of what he did possess. Peter had life in Christ, and He was willing to share that POWER with the beggar at the gate. Peter said “what I do have I will give you.”
Write a HUGE Check with Heavenly Currency!
Peter knew a heavenly currency that the world knows nothing about. Peter wrote a HUGE check because he knew what he possessed (Acts 3:6). Most Christians can only write tiny checks because our unbelief has obscured what we possess.
We live with such ignorance of what we possess. We possess the very “Kingdom of God.” The one who freed us from our sins, at the same time made us a Kingdom, Priests to His God and Father (Rev 1:6). Jesus said “the words that I speak to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63)
John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
Jesus, being the very logos (word), spoke the Spirit and Life where ever He journeyed. When Christ spoke, His words became the Spirit and brought LIFE to those who believed. When we believe in the Words of Christ, and speak them into the world, we impart the Spirit to our environment, and we impart LIFE to those who believe.
We are Kingdom builders through the POWER that is in us. This Kingdom is not in food or drink, but is righteousness, peace and JOY in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).
When we are aware of the power that lies within us, and we exercise that power in faith, we are building the Kingdom by bringing people to the LIFE in Christ. We are dispensing the heavenly currency of JOY to those around us.
When you are handing out money, people stop and demand some. When you are handing out JOY, joy that this world is so hungry for, people will stop and demand it. The communities around the disciples took note of what they were handing out. They took note of where they went. They even brought the sick and lame into the streets to catch the shadow of Peter and be healed (Acts 5:15). Note: Your Shadow will always release what overshadows you! Peter was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit!
An unbelieving, defeated group of Christians will never see life brought to the dead in sin. They will never see miracles of God. Unbelief and defeat produces inward focused Christians, prone to depression and discouragement. When we turn inward we become a dead sea. An inward focused Christian is a dead Christian. An inward Christian is self-absorbed and self-centered. We need to be pre-occupied with who Christ is! With what Christ can do! We need to constantly release Him into every circumstance we encounter. We release His POWER by faith!
Don’t allow disappointments to obscure Revelation
So much of “Christianity” is based upon disappointment rather than revelation. We fail to see the Glory of God or the Power of His Son. Stephen saw the revelation in the midst of a downpour of stones. Paul saw the revelation in the midst of a hateful heart. John saw the revelation in the midst of loneliness and exile. The Revelation of Christ changes our environment. It changes our heart! Rather than being disappointed in what God fails to do for us, we need to focus on all that God has done for us!
Jesus said that if you see Him, you have seen the Father. So Jesus is the revelation of the nature and power of God. Jesus said that “all power” had been given to him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). His power is the basis of us going into the world. If we do not know His power by revelation, then we will be powerless if we go into the world. We will be overcome by the world!
Christ is in us as a River
Let Him Flow!
Powerlessness is inexcusable and unacceptable. The Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is in you and he wants out. He is not in us as a lake, or a ‘dead sea’, but rather as a river. Rivers flow from. The nature and power of God becomes ours as a believer. We have to believe in our own conversion! We have to believe in the POWER that was given to Jesus and was given to us!
As Paul prayed, the Lord is releasing a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that we can actually rise to who He says we are! We cannot afford to rest in unbelief, nor can we afford to think thought that God never thinks about us. We must learn to meditate on the things the Holy Spirit can say “AMEN!” to.
Paul wrote that in order to serve God acceptably, our minds (that thing between our ears) must be renewed so that our lives are transformed. Our minds must come under the influence of the Holy Spirit. We must learn divine perspective in order to live the divine life.
This renewing of our mind can only come from a divine encounter with the POWER of God. We must see the revelation of Christ as the POWER in our life. Any creed or teaching that does not take us to the person of Jesus in a divine encounter will only make us more “religious.” It will only equip us to argue, not bring life into our environment.
When our beliefs line up with the POWER of Christ in us, we can take the Gospel into our communities without limits, without baggage that weighs it down and renders it powerless. We must have the experience of the Gospel that changes our lives, changes our thinking and makes us intensely aware of the divine POWER within us. Only then can we dispense the currency of heaven to those joyless souls around us.
(Inspired by Bill Johnson of Bethel Church)