Monday, September 25, 2017

Mark, Week 5 - Alone Time With God

In the first three weeks of our Mark study, we were given an introduction of Jesus. And in that introduction, we saw that from the beginning of Mark’s book, Jesus is fully God. The way that John talks about him, the scene we saw at the baptism, and then last week, as we started moving into the work of Jesus, we saw his godhood pointed out by the demon. 

At this same time, we have seen Jesus do things so that an example would be set for us to follow. We saw the baptism that he undertook, even though he himself didn’t need to. We saw him be empowered by the Holy Spirit, even though since he is God, wouldn’t need to rely on the Spirit. These two examples are for our benefit. The first teaches us obedience to God, the second teaches us that we cannot walk this Christian life on our own. We must live it by relying on the Holy Spirit.

And when we talked about relying on the Holy Spirit, I mentioned that we would talk more on the subject. And it’s now, only about 20 verses later that we return to this reality of our need to rely on the Spirit.

Today we’ll be in Mark chapter 1 verse 35, but as we get into Mark 1:35, I want to warn you that this is going to be short. We’re only going to be covering five verses, and to tell you the truth these verses do not contain a lot of theology. Yet, even though this is a short section, the practical application of it is where we will spend the bulk of our time.

Let’s see what I’m talking about by reading chapter 1 of Mark, starting in verse 35.

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

See? Short. And not much by way of theology. There’s no display of power. We see no healing, we only hear of more demons being cast out. We don’t get any insights into who Jesus is. But what we do see, are two points that the passage is making. The first point is that we get an example. Throughout are study so far, we have been talking about how Jesus is our example. If Jesus does it, there’s a good chance that we need to follow in his footsteps. And in this section of Scripture, it’s no different.

Going back into the passage we see that it says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

From this one sentence we have our example. Some people call this a devotional, some people call this a quiet time, whatever you call it, it is Jesus giving us the example of one-on-one  time with God. Now let’s step back for a moment. Why does Mark include this? Well if Peter taught on it, then that gives us the answer. But then why did Peter teach on it? I mean let’s be investigative here. In the previous passages we have seen Jesus as being proclaimed as the long awaited Savior of the world. We have seen Jesus go toe-to-toe with Satan. We have seen him muzzle and rip demons from people. And we have seen Jesus heal people of many different diseases.

It’s almost like everything is getting built up and then we’re thrown a curve ball, with an, “oh yeah and he went off by himself to be alone.”

The way I hear Peter saying this is: “Man, Jesus is amazing. John was all like, he’s coming people, the Savior is coming. Then BOOM, Jesus walks on the scene. He gets baptized, God the Father comes down, speaks to everyone saying this is my SON! He gets tempted by Satan, but shuts that guy down hard. The Holy Spirit powers him up, and he starts casting out demons, shutting them up, and heals people, even my mother-in-law got healed. Which is, you know cool, for my wife that is.”

But then,  after all that, he throws in, “Oh yea, and there would be times he would go off alone, and we would have to go after him. Kind of weird, but hey Jesus. Am I right?” This is probably not how Peter said it, but follow me here.

If we read this passage like this, it’s almost a throw away portion of Scripture. But within the passages of the Bible, every word, every phrase, every period and comma has it’s meaning. And like every other part of Scripture, this is not to be thrown away, or to be glossed over. But we have a tendency to do just that.

Taking time out of our day to sit in prayer, to sit reading God’s word, to sit and interact with the God of the Universe, is as easily dismissed as putting on deodorant. Or brushing our teeth. Or wearing mismatch socks. We have a tendency to skip over solitary time with God, because the world is so busy. There are people calling for us and saying, people need you. You need to be at work. You need to make breakfast for your family. You need to be here, or be there. And there is always a need, there is always someone looking for us, and that means things fall off as priorities. And the easiest one to fall first, is our solitary time with God.

Yet, without the solitary time with God, how can we hope to live out this life God has saved us to? We talked a couple weeks ago about how we need to live this life in the power of the Holy Spirit, how is that possible without the solitary time that we are given the example to take?

We talked about how we need to rely on the Holy Spirit, now what we’re getting through Peter’s teaching, is that we need to take time and be solely focused on God. So let me give you a couple of practical steps for solitary time with God.

First, it has to be solitary. Solitary means, “alone; without companions; unattended” No one attends this, its just you and God. Jesus says in Matthew 6:6 when talking about prayer, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

So, to have a solitary time with God, we need to find a place that makes it alone time. That might be a bedroom. That might be a car. That might be an outside place, but probably not during summer in Quartzsite. But what it cannot be, is a place with distractions, a place where our attention will be divided between the people that are in need, and the God whom we need.

The second practical aspect of a solitary time with God is, total focus on God. This can be done by reading a passage in the Bible, and asking questions of it. This is praying, but with active listening. Not just telling God our problems and requesting help, but sitting in silence and waiting for his response. This type of prayer takes a lot of practice and patience. This could be writing in a journal our questions, prayers, answers we receive, or a host of other things. This could be singing songs to God. The only requirement is our focus stays on God. Not our job, not the people out there looking for us, nothing else, only God.

Now, it’s really telling what happened in that solitary time Jesus took, by what he tells his disciples when they find him. Just like in our lives, there was a need that had to be met, a place Jesus had to be. Just like we have needs that we need to meet and places we need to be. And  Jesus responded with, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

And from what Jesus says, we get the second point of the passage. Solitary time with God, puts the work of God into prospective. All the stuff we do, all the needs we meet, all the things we accomplish throughout the day need to have, at their core, an answer to this question: Did I get closer to the kingdom through this, or further away? Are those things that I think are so important, helpful to God’s work, or did they distract from it. 

In other words: us spending solitary time with God helps us realize that the stuff we do, should be spent to fulfill God’s goals and not our own. Our solitary time should affect our work, and how we interact with people. Our solitary time should affect our interactions with our family. Our solitary time should affect our relationships with our friends and neighbors. From our solitary time with God, he molds us to be better used for his work, and he places that work ahead of us. 

We wouldn’t go to work naked, or hang out with our friends with no clothes on, but we do this spiritual when we don’t take time in a solitary place. We face this world spiritually naked, and then we wonder, why did this or that happen? Jesus faced down sickness, demons, and spoke God’s freeing word to people, because he went to a solitary place. And we need to do the same.

So this week my challenge is this: We have one week, that’s seven days to do this challenge. Take five minutes everyday to have solitary time. Five minutes, that’s it. Pray, sing, read, vent, journal. But whatever you, solely focus on the God who desires to meet you in a solitary place.

Jesus set the example for us, and if we truly desire to follow him, we need to do as he does. And that means to meet with him in a solitary place. 

Father in heaven, I ask that you meet with us. That we would take the time to meet with you. And that through our meeting, you would change us. Make us into the people whom you saved us to be. Give us the strength to set aside this time, and may it be honoring to you. Amen.

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