A Spiritual Checkup
I didn’t want to go to a doctor when I was growing up, but as an athlete, I was required to have an annual physical in order to participate. So, I dutifully went each year. That didn’t change in college. As a student-athlete in college, we had our yearly physical army style. We were lined up at a clinic and marched through various stations.
It was at one of these annual physicals that I was diagnosed with high-blood pressure. Can you image a highly toned and muscular athlete having high blood pressure at the age of 19? This led me down the path that I have had an annual physical ever since. The positive outcome of all of this “doctoring” was that whenever anything was wrong, we caught it very early.
This past July, I was diagnosed with cancer; yet because we caught it very early, it should not pose much of a problem. That’s why consistent checkups are so important. I find that I am often left with questions after my check-ups.
• Am I eating the way I should?
• Do I need to make lifestyle changes to improve my health?
• How did I allow myself to gain so much weight over the years?
Checkups are important not only in our physical lives, but also in our spiritual lives. Therefore, let’s consider what it takes to conduct a spiritual health checkup.
Please stop and ready Mark 12:35-44.
Notice the question that Jesus asks in Mark 12:35. The passage begins with a question. I have noticed that all great teaching begins with a great question. In this case, Jesus questions their view of the Christ. He asks, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David?” Jesus is asking a probing question. It might be restate as “What do they mean…” The teachers expected the coming Christ, the Messiah, to be a descendent of King David. They also expected Him to come as a warrior in nature of David.
Davidic Sonship of the Christ was firmly held by these teachers (2 Sam. 7:11-16; Jer. 23:5-6; Ezek. 34:23; 37:24). They firmly believed that the Messiah would be king promised to Israel to restore the nation and gain its rightful place among the nations of the world. Given their circumstances, they were expecting a king like David, who brought victory and glory to the nation.
However, Jesus corrects their view of Christ. Jesus explains to them that the Son would be the Lord (Mark 12:36). Quoting David (Ps 110:1), who was speaking as an inspired prophet, Jesus showed how the Messiah, promised one his Lord, would be his sovereign.
The teachers of the time recognized this passage as Messianic scripture. Yet on the other hand, the Jewish fathers did not call their descendants “Lord.” David clearly understood the one to come would be greater than he. How can Messiah be his son and his Lord? Jesus’ intent was to provoke deep thought and reflection. His purpose was to perform a “spiritual checkup” on His disciples.
Jesus was pointing out the simplistic and inadequate view of the Jewish leadership. This son would be no mere descendant. He would also be the transcendent Lord. He was already looking ahead to his resurrection (cf. Acts 2:24-34; Rom. 1:3-4). The disciples had likely accepted this teaching since it was what they had heard all of their lives.
Jesus was explaining to them that the Messiah would be more than they expected! Their view of the Messiah need to be changed. How about you? Does your view of Christ need correcting? Could our view of Christ ever be out of focus?
Jesus cannot be described as the best man among all men—He is the son of God! He’s not just the Son of God, but He is fully human, He suffered and He died in the flesh, fully able to sympathize with suffering. He cannot be reduced to being the baby in the manger; He is the coming King. He is the Judge and the Forgiver.
Let’s begin our spiritual checkup.
A PROPER VIEW OF JESUS CHRIST
A spiritual checkup begins with our regaining a proper view of Christ. Our view of who Jesus is makes us distinct from all others in the world. Also, all errors flow from an improper view of Jesus. There is only one cure for correcting (healing) our view of Christ? That is to hold to the truth as unfolded in the Scriptures. So our checkup must begin by answering this question:
Am I in the Scriptures enough to get an adequate view of Jesus?
Believers: Are you in the Scriptures? Are you reading, studying, and memorizing the Bible? Is this a regular discipline in your life?
Seekers: If you want to investigate Christianity, you need to be in the Scriptures. You won’t find Him outside the teaching the Bible.
In order to be spiritually healthy, we must have a regular time we spend alone with God and His Truth. Only then can we hope to develop an adequate, well-focused view of who Jesus, the Christ, is.
Of course, you can have an orthodox, well-focused view of Jesus, but still not be spiritually healthy. What else is involved in a spiritual checkup? Jesus points these out about these teachers in Mark 12:38-40.
Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”
Notice makes two points of condemnation toward the religious elite.
Jesus condemns them for their pride
The teachers walked around in long robes—distinctive white robes that made them stand out. They wanted deferential greetings—people rose when they walked by. They demanded seats of honor—up front in the synagogue, facing people, in full view. They also took great pride in making long prayers as opportunities to gain esteem. This is pride. They made themselves more important than God. They displaced the honor.
Jesus condemns them for their greed
They were greedy, too! They devoured widow’s houses; teachers were not to receive pay for their teaching. It was considered an act of piety to provide for them. Many well to do people subsidized them; however, there were abuses. They took advantage of widows whom they deceived. They took advantage of the benefits they received. They lost perspective in service of God. And they would be severely condemned!
The question for us is to what degree with we be judged for misplaced pride and greed?
The teachers of the Law were hypocrites; they would say one thing and live another. This pattern doesn’t emerge overnight. It begins when God slips from the center. Could we also fall into this pattern of moving God out of the center of our lives and slowly slip ourselves into His place?
The results might not be as dramatic, but it could happen. We could abuse our abilities and our talents…preaching, singing, teaching, board membership, etc.
The cure for this hypocrisy is true Worship—the purifying, transforming presence of God in our lives. When we see who we really are, we encounter the living God we remember that it’s all about Him, not about us. You must answer this question:
Am I in God’s presence enough to be genuine?
This points to another component of our spiritual health.
A GENUINE PRACTICE OF OUR FAITH
One more things we need besides a proper view of Jesus Christ and a genuine practice of our faith. Notice Mark 12:41-42.
Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.
Jesus was very observant. One day as He sat near the treasury, He observed people giving in the Temple. This area of the Temple contained 13 trumpet-shaped receptacles for offerings and gifts. Two groups came to give their tithes and offerings. The passage says that many rich people gave huge amounts. But, a poor widow gave two tiny copper coins; this would not even total a penny! Her absolute poverty estimated by the size of her gift. Who gave more? Whose gift was worth more?
Jesus gives us His answer in Mark 12:43-44. Jesus commends the widow for her whole-hearted commitment to God. In fact, Jesus proclaimed that she gave more than all the rich! Why? She gave everything out of her poverty while the rich gave from their abundance.
Notice, the rich aren’t condemned—they did nothing wrong. She just gave even more than they did. God counts our gifts differently; He doesn’t count what we give, but what we have left. She gave all she had—she didn’t keep one coin for herself. She totally entrusted herself to God. She showed all-out commitment.
We too must demonstrate whole-hearted commitment. Jesus was calling His disciples to absolute surrender to God and total trust in Him. When Spanish explorer Cortez landed at Vera Cruz in 1519 to begin his conquest of Mexico with a small force of seven hundred men, legend has it that he purposely set fire to his fleet of eleven ships. His men on the shore watched their only means of retreat sink to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. There was now only one direction to move— forward into the Mexican interior to meet whatever might come their way. They were committed!
A WHOLE-HEARTED COMMITMENT TO GOD
Money is a great measuring stick of our commitment. In fact, a great cure for our tendency to be half-committed is giving to God and his work. We need to answer one more question:
Am I giving enough to demonstrate a whole-hearted commitment to God?
Some of us spend more on entertainment than giving to God. Some of us give more to our hobbies than to God. Think about it: how do you show commitment, support to issues, organizations, and causes that you support?
In order to be spiritually healthy, we must have a whole-hearted commitment to God
Don’t fall back on the ancient excuse that you give of your time and talents. Those are also important to give, but in this passage, Jesus clearly demonstrates that we must also be willing to part with our worldly possessions.
Are you Jesus’ disciple? Are you whole-heartedly committed to God?