During their time with the Lord, the disciples often
seemed like they just didn't get it.
More than once, He appeared to have exhausted His patience with them.
Matt. 15:1-20 is a good example. Some Pharisees had criticized
Jesus because the disciples didn't perform the traditional ceremonial hand
washing before eating. Jesus
responded by pointing out instances where their traditions contradicted
God's Law. He called them
hypocrites and said it's not what goes into a man's mouth that makes him
unclean, but what comes out of it. When the disciples told Him the Pharisees
were offended by His comments, Jesus told them a parable about the blind
leading the blind.
Peter didn't understand and asked Jesus to explain the
parable. “Are you still so dull?” Jesus exclaimed, and then told them how
things that go into our mouth go to our stomach and then out of our body,
but things that come out of our mouth come from our heart, and include evil
thoughts of all kinds. These are
what make us unclean, He said, not eating food with unwashed hands.
And in the very next chapter of Matthew, they
completely misunderstood His reference to the “yeast” of the Pharisees.
Although He had recently created enough bread out of thin air to feed
multitudes of people, they thought He was saying they didn't bring any
Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of
little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do
you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five
thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or
the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you
gathered? How is it you don’t understand that
I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast
of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they
understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in
bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matt.
Even after the resurrection, some did not understand.
On the road to Emmaus after listening to two disciples sorrowfully
recounting the events that culminated in His crucifixion, Jesus said,
“How foolish you are and slow to comprehend all the prophets have spoken.”
While they walked along together He explained all the Old Testament
prophecies concerning His death and resurrection (Luke 24:13-27).
Then we learn that the disciples didn't receive the
Holy Spirit until the evening that followed the Lord's resurrection (John
20:22). Even three years of
daily teaching by the Lord Himself couldn't substitute for this gift.
Peter's sermons in Acts 2:14-41 and Acts 3:11-26 show the
remarkable difference the Holy Spirit can make in a person.
From this we can see that it
shouldn't surprise us when unbelievers can't understand God's word.
After all we couldn't understand it before we became believers
either. But that doesn't
necessarily mean that the person with the Holy Spirit will immediately
understand all the things of God, and automatically yield his or her will to
the will of God like the disciples did.
It means that unlike non-believers we have been given the potential
to understand the things of God and follow his will for us.
But to realize this potential we have to allow the Spirit of God to
retrain our minds.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of
life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful
desires; to be made new in the attitude of
your minds; and to put on the new self,
created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephes.
Paul made it clear that this is something we have to
decide to do. We have to put off our old self, that's been steeped in the
ways of the world, and put on our new self, the new creation we became when
we accepted the Lord's death as payment for our sins (2 Cor. 5:17).
We have to be made new in the attitude of our mind.
An attitude is simply a habit of thought.
As non-believers we all developed habits in the way we think.
We acquired them from exposure to the world around us, and since the
whole world is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19), many
of the attitudes we formed are in opposition to the things of God, and they
didn't go away just because we became believers.
We have to make a choice to exchange our old worldly
attitudes for new Godly ones.
And even with the indwelling
Holy Spirit, this takes time and it takes practice.
Remember, He's only here to guide us into all truth (John 16:13),
not to control us. That's why
He's called the counselor instead of the commander. We still have to make
the choice to allow Him to change the way we think. The reason so many
believers today still live the same way and want the same things as they did
before they were saved is they haven't made this choice, and therefore the
Holy Spirit can't change them (Matt. 13:22).
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s
mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to
God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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 12:2-4)
Offering our body as a living sacrifice means choosing
to live in a manner pleasing to God in gratitude for the priceless gift of
salvation. Renewing our mind means rejecting any worldly attitudes that
aren't consistent with God's word and replacing them with those that are.
In 1 Cor. 6:19-20 Paul reminded us that we are
no longer our own, but have been bought at a price.
According to 1 Peter 1:18-19, that price was not silver or
gold but the precious blood of Christ, and when we agreed with God to let it
constitute payment in full for our sins, He put His seal of ownership on us
and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come
(2 Cor. 1:22). We belong
to Him now, and nothing can change that.
The world tells us we're free to choose what ever
lifestyle, vocation, and world view we want.
But Paul said to experience the full benefit of God's will for us, we
should not blindly conform to the world's patterns, but instead should yield
our lives to Him, and allow Him to give us the abundant life He desires for
us (John 10:10). There's no real sacrifice involved here, because
when we delight ourself in the Lord, He will give us the desire of our heart
(Psalm 37:4). Most people
never realize their heart's true desire, but sooner or later settle for much
less. It's only those who delight in Him who can look forward with assurance
to getting it all.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be
self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus
Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do
not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But
just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
for it is written: “Be holy, because I am
holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
So ultimately everything that's not from God really is
from Satan. Even the things of
this world that we think we've freely chosen are really only an illusion,
because if they're not drawing us toward God they're drawing us toward His
enemy. There is no independent position. For example, do we really believe
that by excluding God from our society we've gained more freedom for
ourselves? Or does the evidence around us point to the conclusion that we've
only acquired a different master, one who does not have our best interests
at heart. Having abandoned God
are we not conforming to the evil desires men had when they lived in
ignorance of Him?
Look around you.
Are we healthier? Are we
happier? Are we more secure? Are our children better off? Can they look
forward to a life of opportunity and promise? Can we trust our elected
officials not to betray us? Have the prospects for the future improved? Is
there any evidence at all that life is better
in a society that's breaking free of God?
People ask me if I think it's too late for the US, but I think a
better question would be, “Is it too late for the world?”
King David had our day in view when he
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in
vain? The kings of the earth
take their stand and the rulers gather together against the
Lord and against his Anointed One.
“Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw
off their fetters.”
The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs
at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath,
saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (Psalm
While this prophecy will see its ultimate fulfillment
in the Battle of Armageddon, it's reasonable to conclude that the world is
already in open rebellion against God. Can His wrath be far behind?