by Rev. Robert Griffith
In Mark chapter eight we see a fascinating interaction between Jesus and His disciples and it's really a lesson about the renewed mind. In fact I believe the gospel of Mark illustrates the renewed mind better than any other part of Scripture. The renewed mind is essential to our faith. Every single day of our life the Holy Spirit is working on us to renew our mind because it’s God's heart to invade this world with His will and our renewed minds are a vital part of that process. Before we go to Mark’s gospel, let me read a familiar couple of verses to you from Paul’s letter to the Romans.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)
So Paul exhorts us, through the Holy Spirit, to not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our mind, so that we may what? Prove the will of God - that which is good, acceptable and perfect. What is the will of God? Simply put: heaven on earth is God’s will. That’s why Jesus told us to pray, ”Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” So what does a renewed mind do? It proves the will of God as it unfolds through His kingdom impacting this world.
The un-renewed mind can only see this earthly kingdom and make decisions based on an earthly worldview. The renewed mind can also see the kingdom of heaven and that is supposed to transform our entire thinking process so we can see God at work in His kingdom as it advances and eclipses this earthly kingdom. Increasingly we then see what is true in heaven, becoming true on earth. There's no cancer, no death, no oppression, no demons, no doubt, no fear, no loneliness in heaven and Jesus said to pray, “on earth as it is in heaven.” So the renewed mind sees what’s real in the kingdom of heaven and that produces faith to believe that the reality of heaven can become a reality in this world. The renewed mind produces a kingdom worldview.
Now the renewed mind is not the source of our faith. Faith doesn't come from the mind - it comes from the heart. Faith is not the product of striving – it’s the result of surrender and surrender is always a heart issue. But the renewed mind creates the context for faith to flow – just like the banks of a river. So the Lord is always wanting to renew our mind. Ok – let’s look at this interesting conversation between Jesus and His disciples in Mark chapter eight, reading from verse 13.
“And He left them, and getting into the boat again, departed to the other side. Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat.
Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have no bread.”
But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.”
“Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?” And they said, “Seven.”
So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?” (Mark 8:13-21)
This is the portion of Scripture that I think we need to read over and over again – especially in these times in which we live. Let me zoom in on verse 17.
“Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened?” (Mark 8:17)
Any thought process that begins with what we don't have, will have to be repented of later, because you cannot build anything substantial on that thought. It makes a poor foundation for human reasoning. So Jesus gives them this important instruction. He warns them about leaven: the leaven of Herod, and the leaven of the Pharisees. There is a third level of leaven in the Bible, it's in Matthew 13, it is the leaven of the kingdom. Now we know that leaven is yeast which you work into dough and that causes it to rise before you cook it and then you have delicious bread.
So in this passage in Mark Jesus warns us about two different kinds of leaven and leaven represents worldview - which is our way of thinking and interpreting the world. Jesus warns against the religious worldview of the Pharisees and the political worldview of Herod. The political worldview doesn't mind if you have a belief in God - just don't bring God into our world or our decision-making. Sadly, that sounds very familiar, doesn’t it? In our political climate a belief in God is still tolerated, but not if you try and bring God into the Parliament, the Cabinet or the policy debate. So the leaven of Herod produces a political worldview. The religious worldview – the leaven of the Pharisees - is even more dangerous because it has God at the centre of everything, but with religion, God is impersonal and powerless. He is figurative, not relational and that is what produces the religious worldview.
Now the kingdom worldview is the opposite of both of those. God is truly at the centre of everything, and defines everything by His own person, His own presence. Everything is defined by the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, every value, every principle, every thought. In Him we live and move and have our being. This kingdom worldview is radically different to the religious and political worldviews. So Jesus warns about these value systems that can and will lead you away from the reality of the kingdom of heaven, which is the greatest reality of all and the only reality which is eternal. The Apostle Paul told us what you can't see is eternal and what you can see is temporal.
“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)
It's in the unseen. It's a superior reality and thinking from that place gives you a different approach to every problem. Thinking from the natural realm at best makes you a beggar hoping that God will invade your situation. We leave the posture of sons and daughters when we pray only from an earthly worldview, to get God to invade a problem. So Jesus is always trying to build in us a deep awareness of our identity and purpose, so that we can effectively use His name and His authority to accomplish His purposes. It's not about our kingdoms. It's not about our fame or success or any of those things. It's not about the fulfilment of our dreams. Fulfilling our dreams must always be the by-product of fulfilling His. If you ever think God is not listening to your prayers, maybe you could talk to Him about what He likes to talk about; talk to Him about what He thinks is important.
So these realities Jesus talks about in Mark 8, the political spirit and the religious spirit - both have one overlapping common denominator. If you study the Gospels, you'll see this repeated over and over again. Both of them are heavily influenced by the fear of man. Have you noticed how the Pharisees wouldn't answer a question for fear that the crowd would turn on them? They refused to answer Jesus’ questions. Whereas the political system refused to make a decision. Pilate ended up washing his hands of this whole Jesus situation thereby opening the door for Him to be crucified because of the political environment at the time. Pilate feared the crowd would tell Caesar and turn on him. The motivation for so many decisions in both the religious and the political worldview is the fear of man. But what’s amazing is they all think it's wisdom. Fear masquerades as wisdom, it doesn't matter what it is, fear will always attract whatever information is needed to legitimize its existence. Fear reinforces itself.
Let me just make a side comment here which is important. We all have strengths - but those strengths can be turned into weaknesses, would you agree with me? The boldness of the Apostle Peter didn't always work so well for him, did it? But it worked extremely well, once it came under the Lordship of Jesus. So the fear of man often begins with a tender heart that has compassion and care for other people. But Satan works to manipulate that so we are actually governed by the gift instead of us governing the gift for good of the Kingdom. The enemy turns our perception from compassion and concern for the condition of people to a place where we become imprisoned by the opinions of those around us. Ok, back to Mark 8. Let's go to the end of the story. So Jesus talks to these guys and first, He says:
“When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?” They said to Him, “Twelve.” “Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?” And they said, “Seven.” (Mark 8:19-20)
So did you notice that when Jesus fed the most people, He started with the least amount of food, and He had the most left over? In the kingdom of heaven, starting with more is not an advantage. Starting with more - that's Wall Street's perspective – that’s this earthly kingdom’s worldview. That's not the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven. You were chosen, not because of your strengths, but because of your weaknesses. Now go back to verse 17 again.
“Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened?” (Mark 8:17)
This is interesting because our conversion gave us the capacity to see into God’s kingdom. In John chapter three we see Jesus telling Nicodemus that unless we are born again, we cannot see the kingdom of God. The implication is our conversion gives us the capacity to see everything through a kingdom worldview. Now in this passage, Jesus confronts the disciples and questions them as to why they cannot see the reality before them. Now, He never does that in shame. He will never rub our nose in our shortcomings. It's never to make us feel hopeless. It's always an invitation to maturity. It's always an invitation to grow. So He's just pointing out some weaknesses in their perception.
If you read the previous verses in chapter Mark chapter 8 you will see that these disciples were only just used by God to multiply food a second time for the 4000. So they go from yet another miracle of multiplying food to this boat and they're afraid of not having enough food for lunch! You can see now why Jesus asked them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread?”In other words, “Why did you start your thinking with what you don't have?”
Now it’s important that we observe that this was not the first day on the job for these disciples. Jesus didn’t ask a question like this when they had no experience of the supernatural work of God. These disciples had some history, some very recent history, in fact, of God’s provision and power and the reality of the kingdom of heaven invading the kingdom of this world. So, to put it bluntly, they should have known better than to worry about having enough for lunch – given what they had seen, experienced and been part of during this amazing ministry journey with Jesus! Jesus would never have asked such a question in their beginning stages of their discipleship, He never would have expected them to have that level of awareness. They needed to have encountered the God of the impossible, the God of unlimited supply, the God who invades this broken world and meets people’s needs, physically and spiritually. But now that they have experienced multiplying food twice, it should have shifted their perspective. Such experiences in the kingdom of heaven are supposed to change the way we deal with the situations of our life. Let me put it clearly:
Once you've seen the supernatural supply of God, you've lost every right to start any thought process with what you don't have.
Miracles should produce a shift in our worldview; they should change the way we think. Any thought process that starts with what you don't have will have to be repented of later because anything you build on that thought is built on sand; it’s built on a weak foundation. People around you might applaud you and call it common sense – but common to what world? What kingdom is it common to? “Why do you reason that you have no bread? Don't you understand? Can you not perceive?”
And then Jesus goes on and He asked three questions.“Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?” Now with the first two, most of us would attribute to somebody who has a particular gift. I have met many people who have the ability to see into God’s kingdom and God’s heart more than most and others who seem to hear from God all the time in very specific ways. These are undoubtedly gifts which God has given the Church through some and not through others and you may not have such a gift in this particular season of your life ... but ... you can always remember.
Psalm 119:111 says, “The testimony of the Lord is your inheritance forever.”Say that out loud: “ The testimony of the Lord is your inheritance forever.” Now make it personal. “The testimony of the LORD is my inheritance forever.” Now note that this verse does not say your testimony is your inheritance forever. It says the testimony of the Lord, which then opens it up to everything God has ever done in all of time, in His love relationship with His people; in all His activities with all His people. That then means that when the water came out of the rock, for Israel, that's your story. That's my story – that’s part of our inheritance.
Now at times people don't enjoy their inheritance. They don't use their inheritance, they leave it where it is, you know, they may inherit a home but they never live there. Well sadly, a lot of us who have this great inheritance in God, never embrace or enjoy what is ours. But these are all our stories. In Luke 7 we read where Jesus came upon a funeral procession of a dead child and the mother who was also a widow was weeping. The Father's heart in Jesus was deeply moved with compassion and He touched the coffin and told the young boy to get up – and he did. That's your story. Why? Why is this important? Because prayerfully meditating on the testimony of the Lord equips you with an ability to see and hear God better in your journey.
So Jesus, has His disciples cornered, they're on a boat and they can't go anywhere. He says, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes can't you see? Having ears Can you hear? Can you at least remember?” If you are anything like me then there are times when you can’t really see what God is doing and often those times coincide with spiritual deafness – we pray and pray and pray but we get nothing. We know that God is always at work and always speaking but we just can’t hear Him or see what He is doing. So we might make ourselves feel better by assuming that only those with special gifts can see and hear God. That’s not true, but we know there are gifts associated with those first two questions from Jesus. But then He leaves us without excuse as He hits us with this third question, “Do you not remember?”
The first two questions may be attributed to gifts but this third one is attributed to willingness and it applies to every one of us, every day of our lives. “Do you not remember?”I know from personal experience that at those times when I feel dry and can’t seem to see or hear God – I try to remember God’s faithfulness, God’s provision and God’s miraculous intervention. I have been part of some pretty amazing ministry times where God has healed people from all manner of ailments, injuries, sickness and even genetic malformations. So I have my own history with God which is really ‘His Story’ as I have experienced it. Added to that I have a Bible full of amazing stories of God’s grace, mercy, power, blessing and provision. So I can remember and so can you. I can indeed say, “The testimony of the LORD is my inheritance forever,” and so can you.
It is my prayer that in this next season, everybody connecting to this teaching would literally be a magnet for hope and that our faith, our testimonies and all the things that reinforce why we're here, why we’re alive, would not be void of the supernatural interventions of God. I pray that God will open eyes and ears every day to see the wonders of His kingdom as it invades our lives, our Church and our world. But I also pray that His Spirit will cause us to remember the testimony of the Lord. For He Who promised is faithful and He will do it - in His time and in His way – but He will always do it. We have proof of that on every page of the Bible and in every chapter of our lives as we remember the faithfulness, the provision and the supernatural intervention of God throughout our earthly journey with Him.
May we hear those challenging words from Jesus afresh today, “Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?”
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