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AND THEY COULD NOT
Intro: Ill. Thomas Aquinas - Roman Catholic scholar who lived between 1225 and 1274. He was a brilliant thinker who left an indelible imprint on the fabric of his time. Ill. His visit to the Vatican.
The Pope is said to have looked at Thomas Aquinas and said, “Behold, Master Thomas, the church can no longer say, as St. Peter, ‘Silver and gold have I none!’”
Aquinas was quick to reply, “Alas, neither can we say what follows, ‘but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.’”
Thomas Aquinas understood a truth that many people never grasp.
· The real measure of success for a church or a ministry is not how fine its buildings are; how large its offerings are; or how great its crowds are.
· The real measure of success for a church or a ministry is in whether or not it operates in the power of God.
We are living in the day of ministerial success. Every church wants to be the largest, the richest, the most influential, etc. Success is measured these days in millions of dollars; tens of thousands of attendees and in worldwide fame and attention.
The sad truth is this: God has a very different standard for determining what constitutes a successful ministry.
In this passage, the Lord Jesus teaches us about the most important ingredient of a successful ministry. The disciples lacked that ingredient and they failed miserably.
We are told in verse 18 of this text that the disciples of Jesus failed in their attempt to cast out a demon from a little boy. The boy’s father summed up their efforts by saying “…and they could not.”
He was right! He came to these men hoping to find some help for his family, but he found that these men had no help to offer. They could not! Why did they fail?
They failed because they lacked spiritual power. They lacked spiritual power because they were missing the one ingredient that assures spiritual power.
I would like for us to look into these verses today because we need the message they teach us. We are here trying to carry out the Lord’s business in these dark, sinful days and too many times people walk away from our churches saying, “…and they could not.” Our problem is the same as that of the Lord’s disciples. Often, we lack the necessary ingredient required for spiritual success.
By God’s help, I want to unpack these verses today. I want to preach on the phrase this father used to sum up the ability of the disciples, when he said, “…And They Could Not”. I want to point out The Lack Of Spiritual Power; The Lord of Spiritual Power and The Lessons Of Spiritual Power.
Let’s listen carefully to what the Lord has to say to us today, both as individuals and as a church. I pray that we will hear the truth and heed the truth so that it will never be said of Calvary Baptist Church, “And They Could Not!”
I. v. 14-19 THE LACK OF
· Let’s set the stage for these verses. In verses 1-13 of this chapter, Jesus had taken Peter, James and John up into Mount Hermon and He was transfigured before them. The glory of His heavenly state became visible on the mountain top. These three disciples say Jesus in His glory. They saw Moses and Elijah and listened to them talk to Jesus about His impending death on the cross. They even heard the voice of God the Father as He praise Jesus Christ His Son!
These men had seen The Midnight Son and they must have been floating with excitement as they came down from that mountain. But, when they arrived back in the valley below, they came face to face with a world struggling under demonic force.
That’s why I told you last Sunday to enjoy those mountain tops for all they are worth. There is a valley just ahead and you will need the blessings and glories of the mountain top experience to sustain you through the valleys.
· When Jesus and the three disciples come down from the mountain, they find the other nine disciples engaged in an argument with some scribes, v. 14. It seems that a distraught father had brought his demon possessed son to Jesus for healing. Jesus was gone up on the mountain when he arrived, so he asked the disciple to heal his son. They could not cast out the demon and the scribes are mocking them for their lack of power.
· Jesus walks upon this scene and asks for an explanation, v. 16. The father, in agonizing detail, describes the pitiful condition of his son. Every verb the father uses in verse 18 is in the “present tense”. The father’s language describes a horrible, ongoing situation of demonic torment.
· It is a sad state of affairs and when Jesus hears the details, He voices His Own dismay over the all that He has heard.
The word “O” in verse 19 is a word of deep anguish. It was usually reserved for a time of burdened prayer. People would come before God and cry out of their hearts and lift their “O’s” to the Lord.
Have you ever been there? Have you ever had a time when your heart was breaking and as your soul vented its pain it cried “O” unto the Lord?
Jesus is expressing His displeasure toward everyone assembled there that day. He is hurt that no one seems to be able to believe. The disciples, who have seen His power first hand, don’t have faith. The religious leaders don’t have faith. The gathered crowds lack faith. Even this broken hearted father does not have the faith necessary to see his son delivered from this demon. Jesus sees this lack of faith and He cries out, “How much longer am I going to have to put up with you?” It was a heartbreaking moment from Jesus, following as it did immediately after the transfiguration and His Father’s affirmation. Jesus was ready to get back to His Father’s house!
· The saddest aspect of this whole scene is not the condition of the boy; the spirit of the scribes, or the anguish of the father. The saddest part of this whole account is the powerlessness of the disciples.
These men had seen Jesus perform countless amazing miracles, yet they still lacked genuine faith. These men had even cast out demons in the past, Mark 6:7; 12-13. These men had seen the miracles and they had performed the miracles themselves, but now it is said of them “and they could not.”
· In many ways these nine disciples are a picture of the modern church. Like them, we have the reputation that we have power. This father came to Jesus, but he thought the disciples could help his son, v. 18. But, they lacked the power to make a difference. As a result, they have lost face with the father, the crowds and with the scribes, who are mocking them for their lack of power and ability.
The modern church has everything it needs to exist. Most churches have nice facilities in which to meet. Most churches have skilled people preaching and organizing the work of the church. Most churches have all the money they need to do the things they want to do. Many churches have all the people they want to fill up their pews and to do the jobs that need to be done around the church. But, most churches lack what they need most: The power of God.
· This building here, beside this highway, is making a promise to the world. This building tells every person who passes by that this is the place God meets with His people. This church house promises a needy world that they can find help when they come here. This church says, “If you need God, we can help you get to Him. If your life is broken, we can show you how God can fix it. If your family is coming apart, we can show you how God can put it back together again. If you are lost, we can show you how to be saved.”
This church makes a promise to the world that we are different than they are; that we are able to help them; and that we care about them.
Our sign says it all!
Ø Calvary – That word means “the place of a skull”. We represent the place Jesus died to save sinners. We represent the cross and the blood of Jesus. We represent the power of God to save souls, secure eternities and change lives. We represent the Christ Who died on the cross to set His people free from sin’s bondage and to give them new life!
Ø Baptist – That name doesn’t mean what it used to! In my mind it still stands for something! We are Baptists! That means we are committed to preaching, teaching, sharing and living out the truth. We are Baptists! That means that we are different from every other denomination in the world. We are Baptists! Baptist means that we are committed to the sovereignty of God; biblical separation from sin and worldliness; and personal holiness. That word is our promise to the world that we are unique; we are different and we are real.
Ø Church – The word “church” comes from a Greek word that means “a called out assembly”. That word tells the world that we have been called out from among them to be different. It tells the world that we gather here to assemble ourselves before God to worship and honor Him. We are a church! We are not a social club. We are a church! We are not an entertainment organization. We are a church! We are not like them, but we are like Him. We are a church! His power should be on us. His truth should be within us. His way should be before us. His Word should guide us.
· Most churches in our day lack genuine spiritual power. There is no touch of God. There is not power of God. The world comes in and there is no help in the church for their condition. What does the world do? It stands around us and it mocks our weakness. May it never be said of this church “…and they could not.”
II. v. 19b-27 THE LORD OF
· Jesus hears the father’s story and commands the boy be brought to Him. When he arrives, the demon in the child recognizes Jesus and attacks the boy again. The child is gripped by convulsions, and he wallows on the ground, foaming at the mouth, v. 20. It is a pitiful scene.
As the child writhes on the ground, Jesus begins to question this father. Jesus is attempting to overcome this father’s lack of faith. Jesus asks him about how long the child has been this way, v. 21. The father’s answer is graphic and telling. He tells Jesus that things have been this way since the boy was little. He also tells Jesus that the demon has attacked the boy repeatedly, trying to burn him to death or drown him in the water, v. 22.
Then, the father bears the true condition of his faith. He looks at Jesus and he says, “but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.” It is a pitiful plea, but it is also a plea from a faithless man.
This father trusted that the disciples of Jesus could heal his son. When they failed, his faith in Jesus and His abilities was shattered as well. In verse 17, this father had brought the son believing Jesus could deliver him. Now, this father’s faith has been reduced to “if thou canst to any thing…”
When Jesus hears this man’s words, He responds immediately! The force of the Lord’s words in verse 23 does not really come through in our English Bibles. I don’t know if you know it or not, but the punctuation was not there in the originals. Here is what Jesus was saying, “What do you mean, if thou canst? Believe! All things are possible to him that believeth!”
Jesus rebukes the father for his doubt and commands him to place his faith in Jesus for the healing his son desperately needs. When the father hears this, he makes one of the most honest and transparent prayers in the entire Bible. He looks at Jesus and says, “Lord I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” He is saying, “Lord, I do believe in You and in Your power. But, my faith is weak! Help me to grow in my faith.”
Then Jesus commands the spirit to leave the boy and to never return, v. 25. The demon attacks the child one more time and comes out. The child becomes so quiet and so still that the onlookers assume that he is dead, v. 26. Then, Jesus does what He does best; He takes the child by the hand and He lifts him up. The child rises and he is free, v. 27.
· There are some spiritual lessons we need to glean here before we move to our final thought today. Let me share them with you.
Ø A powerless church portrays Jesus Christ in a bad light – Because the disciples lacked power, the father assumed Jesus lacked power too. The same is true around the house of God. When a lost world walks into a church building and it sees deadness, coldness and apathy; the lost assume that Jesus is just as lifeless, just as powerless and just as dead. Most churches are guilty of false advertising! They claim to have something to offer the world, but they have nothing but cold, dead religion and that helps no one!
It’s time the church told the truth about Jesus! He changes lives! Knowing Him is exciting! His church is alive and active in the world. His Gospel has power. We should never be guilty of false advertising! We need to live up to what’s written on our sign!
Ø Weak faith is better than no faith at all – This father was filled with doubt, but there was still a kernel of faith in his heart. As a result, he got what he desired from the Lord. God is not put off by our doubts, but total unbelief slams the door on His power in our lives. We need to remember that it isn’t large faith that receives big answers from the Lord. It is simply genuine faith that sees Him move in great power. Matthew 17:20, “And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”
Ø Jesus is still in the “lifting up business” – Just as Jesus took this poor, dead boy by the hand and lifted him up into a new life, Jesus can do the same for all who come to Him by faith. He can lift that dead sinner out of his sins and into a new life in Christ, 2 Cor. 5:17. He can lift that cold, apathetic church member out of his complacency and into a new life of joy and blessing, Rev. 3:20. He can lift that burdened believer out of his fears and give him peace that passes all understanding, Phil. 4:6-7.
III. v. 28-29 THE LESSONS OF
· When this episode is over and the disciples are alone with Jesus, the nine who failed to deliver the child ask Jesus about why they failed, v. 28. These men were concerned about their spiritual failure, and they should have been!
The answer Jesus gave them is both simple and telling. His answer is that these men failed because they lacked spiritual discipline in their lives, v. 29.
Prayer is a state of close communion with the Lord. Fasting speaks of a lifestyle of total submission and surrender to the Lord. These men were not communing with God as they should have been. Neither were they as surrendered to God as they should have been. As a result, they lacked the power of God on their lives and they could not cast out this devil.
· The disciples did not fail because they did not believe! They believed all right, or they would not have tried to cast out the demon from this child. They believed they could cast out that demon and when they failed, they were humiliated, amazed and dismayed. Their problem was they believed in the wrong things. They failed because their faith was in their words and the rituals they used and not in God. Their faith was in the ritual. Their faith was in what they had done before. Their faith was in themselves. These men failed because they were not leaning on the Lord Jesus Christ for the power they needed.
· We fail in the Lord’s work and we lack His power for the very same reasons. We lack the power of God in the modern church because we lack spiritual discipline! We are no longer a praying people. We are no longer a surrendered people. We are no longer a people who walk in total dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
· We have become like the Jews in Acts 19:13-17 who were trying to cast out a demon in Jesus’ name. They had the formula and they had the ritual, but they lacked the power of God to get the job done. That is the state of the modern church!
We look back to the glory days and we rest on what the church did then. We think we can have the power of God because we pray a five minute prayer. We think the fire of Heaven will fall just because we are saved and doing a few religious things in our lives.
The truth is, there will be no power; there will be no glory; there will be no revival in the church until God’s people learn to lean on Jesus and on Him alone for what we need. What do we need?
Ø We need to pray – I am referring to prayer that seeks the face and the will of God. I am referring to prayer assaults the throne room of God, refusing to be silenced until the answer comes. I am talking about the church returning to the days of lying on the altars, seeking God and His power.
Ø We are commanded to pray, 1 Thes. 5:17; Luke 18:1. He has promised to hear our prayers, Jer. 33:3; Isa. 65:24. He has promised to answer our prayers, Matt. 7:7-11; Mark 11:24; John 14:13-14; 15:7. Genuine, faith-filled praying is the key that will open the door of revival and power for this modern age!
Ø We must be surrendered – God cannot bless and use a church that is not separated from the world, 2 Cor. 6:17-7:1. It is God’s will that we place everything we have, are and ever hope to have or be on the altar for His glory, Rom. 12:1-2.
Ø We need to become totally dependent on the Lord for everything – Until we reach the place where we understand that the power of God does not come because of our preaching, our singing, our working or our manipulation of people and things. The power of God rests on us as we learn to rest in Jesus, John 15:5. The cure for what ails the modern church is found in our Lord’s words to the church in Ephesus; we need to fall in love with Jesus once again, Rev. 2:1-7.
· We do not need new programs. We do not need more powerful personalities. We do not need new buildings, new trinkets and toys. We do not need to become more “seeker friendly”. We do not need to change our music or our message. What we need is simple. What we need is available. What we need is the power of God. That power will come when God’s people get serious about seeking His face; walking in His ways and leaning on Him for all we need. It will come then and only then, 2 Chron. 7:14.
Conc: “And they could not!” What a tragic statement! When people come to Calvary Baptist Church and worship with us, what is their thought when they leave?
Can they say, “The power of God is in that place; they serve a mighty, wonderful Lord”? Or do they leave here saying, “I went there for help; I went there for fellowship; I went there for love; I went there for hope; I went there for peace; I went there for acceptance; I went there for Jesus, and they could not”?
Has God spoken to you about what you need to do to make Calvary Baptist Church the church He wants it to be? Has He spoken to you about your faith? He spoken to you about your prayer life? He spoken to you about your level of surrender? He spoken to you about to you about how much you depend on Him? If He has spoken, you need to hear His voice and do what He is telling you to do.
He spoken to you about your salvation? If so, you need to come and be saved.
I have delivered the burden of these verses. I have delivered the burden of my heart. It is time for you to do what He is calling you to do.
We can either be a people who can or a people who could not. Which kind of people we are rests on us.