Leprosy is a terrible disease. There is treatment today, though I don’t know how effective it is. But back in the first century leprosy was a death sentence. Slowly a person would fall apart, losing parts of fingers and toes as the disease spread.
Lepers were not allowed to touch others. They were to stand far off and announce that they were lepers.
This man has heard the reports about Jesus (Mark 1:28). He believed that Jesus had the power and authority to heal him (v 40). He just didn’t know if it was Jesus’ will to do so.
That is a good attitude in prayer and in all of life. Let God decide.
Jesus heals the man and tells him to tell no one.
The man disobeys and spreads the word.
Why did he disobey? Maybe he thought it was best for Jesus if he spread the word. Maybe he wanted the fame that comes from reporting such a miracle. In any case, the result was that Jesus was mobbed wherever He went.
Cole writes, “Disobedience to the express command of Jesus, even if undertaken from the best possible motives, could lead only to a hampering and hindering of His work” (Mark, p. 119).
Maybe this tells us why He did not permit the demons to speak.
God loves us and wants what is best for us. Even if we do not understand the reason behind some of God’s commands, we should obey God and not disobey Him if we think we have a better way.
We may think we would never disobey God in a misguided effort to please Him. But that sort of thing happens a lot in Evangelicalism today. I’ve selected three examples.
Example #1: Evangelism. Many people today share an evangelistic message that contradicts the one Jesus gave. Jesus said that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but has everlasting life (John 3:14-18; 5:24; 6:35, 47; 11:25-26). He gave only one condition–believing in Him for the life He promised.
However, many, indeed most, Evangelicals today share a different evangelistic message. “Whoever believes in Him” is changed into “whoever turns from his sins, surrenders his life to Christ, commits himself to follow Jesus for the rest of his life, and who then follows through and perseveres in obedience, shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life when he dies.” Both Lordship Salvation and works salvation preach that evangelistic message.
Why do they disobey the Lord and His apostles concerning evangelism? I’m sure they would say that they are not disobeying Him. They’ve managed to convince themselves that when Jesus spoke of believing in Him, He really meant committing and following and obeying Him. But I suspect something deeper is going on. Any unbiased reader of the Gospel of John can see that the Lord taught faith alone, not faith-plus. I think that people change Jesus’ message, “even if undertaken from the best possible motives,” because they think that the faith alone message doesn’t make sense. Jesus couldn’t have meant what He said.
Example #2: Marriage. Many Evangelicals adopt marriage practices that are inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles.
The Lord called for marriage for life, with the only allowance for divorce and remarriage being sexual immorality (Matt 5:32; 19:9). But many Evangelicals today believe that divorce and remarriage should be allowed for just about any reason.
The Scriptures tell us that believers are not to be unequally yoked to unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14). That applies to marriage. Yet believers often marry unbelievers today, figuring that they know better.
Premarital sex is clearly forbidden in God’s Word (Matt 5:32; 19:9; Acts 15:20, 29; 1 Cor 5:1, 9; 6:16, 18). Yet many Evangelicals have convinced themselves that God approves of premarital sex.
Example #3: Prayer. Many people think that they have a better idea for how to pray than Jesus did.
One “improved” method of prayer is written, memorized, long, repetitious prayers. It is not simply Muslims who utilize set prayers. Some, if not many, Evangelicals do as well. Yet Jesus forbade praying like that (Matt 6:5; 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47).
Another “improvement” in prayer comes from Eastern mysticism and the practices of Roman Catholic mystics. It is a practice of contemplative spirituality called centering prayer. But centering prayer is not prayer at all. It is an emptying of one’s mind, not filling it with prayers and praises to God. In centering prayer, one empties his mind of all but one word which he focuses on. This might be love, joy, peace, Jesus, or whatever. But God never told us to do that.
I remember a friend of mine who graduated with me in the early 80s from Dallas Theological Seminary. He told me that he gave out a book on contemplative spirituality and centering prayer to all members who came to see him in his office. He kept a stack of books to give out. He told me that he found centering prayer to draw him very close to Jesus. Well, centering prayer may result in people feeling closer to Jesus. But if that practice is contrary to the teachings of Scripture, then it a false practice no matter how beneficial it seems to be.
There are many examples of people doing things contrary to what God said, yet thinking that they are doing the right thing.
Today if we restrict ourselves to do what the Lord and His Apostles told us to do, we are viewed as out of step with what the Spirit of God is doing in the church today. People say we proclaim cheap grace and easy believism. Some say our views on marriage and premarital sex simply are impractical in today’s world. Our prayer practices are seen by many as being boring and lacking the dynamic power found in the practices of contemplative spirituality.
Better to please the Lord and displease men than the other way around. May we obey God, whether what God calls for us to do is popular in Evangelicalism or not.