Summary: What the most difficult problem that faces the church today? Its that we try to do God’s will by using human means. Learn how not the short-circuit God’s way of growing you.
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One of the biggest problems in the church today is trying to accomplish God’s will using human methods. We are fooled into thinking that the end justifies the means - so we have people like Jim Baker bilking people for millions, we have fake healers and spiritual "leaders" who claim to speak the truth of God only to totally contradict His Word.
I read a good book recently - called "Victory over the Darkness" by Neil Anderson. In it, Anderson states that
Every temptation is an attempt by the devil to get us to live our lives independently of God. Satan tempts us just as he did Jesus by appealing to our most basic and legitimate needs. The question is: are these needs going to be met by the world, the flesh and the devil, or are they going to be met by God who promises to meet all our needs (Phil 4:19)?
Today we are going to see Jesus put His finger on attempts by men to accomplish God’s will through worldly means - and we have to decide for ourselves - are we going to put our confidence in the ways of men - even though they seem logical - or on the things of God though they seem to fly in the face of logic?
We start out in a familiar setting - big groups following Jesus and getting hungry.
1 During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 2 "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance."
4 His disciples answered, "But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?"
Notice here that the disciples don’t sound a sarcastic note to Jesus like at the feeding of the 5,000. But they still have their doubts - they still are looking to worldly solutions to solve problems in the kingdom. With Jesus the conventional answer is not always the best answer - Jesus wants reliance, not ingenuity.
5 "How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked.
"Seven," they replied.
6 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so. 7 They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. 8 The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 9 About four thousand men were present. And having sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
We don’t know where this place was located - but some suggest it could be Magdala, on the western shore of the Sea - Mary Magdalan’s home town.
11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, "Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it." 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
The Pharisees were not wanting just one more proof before they believed - they wanted to control Jesus - "pull a rabbit out of your hat" they demand. But Jesus will not be controlled - its not about signs but about the Savior. The Pharisees already disbelieved - and showing them a miracle wasn’t going to change that.
Some people say "I won’t believe unless God shows Himself to me," or "I’ll believe in you God if you give me a million dollars," or something like that. That’s not the point - we are dead, and separated from God by our own rebellion and need Jesus to get spiritual life - eternal life - not some short term fix. By the way - short term fixes never satisfy in the long run.
14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 "Be careful," Jesus warned them. "Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod."
16 They discussed this with one another and said, "It is because we have no bread."
17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?"