Christ's Change of Strategy - His Plan for Them Then and His Plan for You Now

Gospel According to Mark, Volume 2

Jesus was determined in getting His message out - nothing would take Him off course. Sure, He knew the huge crowds that came to hear Him did so in the hope of physical healing and other miracles. His audiences, however, benefited most from the transformation of their souls, which was Jesus' goal. At Watermark, we measure our effectiveness by our ability to be and make disciples. If we become big in the process of becoming biblical, that's fine. But we must stay on course in our goal of discipleship, and discard the temptation to fall in love with anything else - including growth in numbers.

Todd WagnerJul 30, 2000Mark 3:7-19

You know, what we're trying to do, whether we're singing a song that is familiar to you, maybe like the one we just sang, for those of you who are familiar with choruses, is to really encourage each of us, like we've said from the beginning, to be authentic in what we do, and that might mean for some of you not singing at all. It might be for some of you to listen to the words we declare about the greatness of our God.

You need to know this. No matter how good the music sounds, if it doesn't come from a heart that is really rightly related to him by faith, it's not pleasing in his sight. I want to read you this from one of the Old Testament prophets, a guy named Amos, a man who was a shepherd but who God called to declare some things to his people, that he was not pleased with their behavior though it was extremely pious and religious.

Listen to what he says. This is the Lord speaking to the folks who he had called to worship. "I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs…" Isn't that amazing? See, when we gather here this morning, it sounds good to me.

I don't know if it does to you, but no matter how it sounds in terms of melody and harmony and rhythm, if it doesn't come from a heart that by faith is rightly related to God, that's just expressing our love for him and the greatness of the waves of mercy and the waves of grace he's made known to us, he says, "Take away from me the noise of your songs."

You know, all around this nation and throughout the day all around this world, people are going to be making songs to him. I don't know what's going to happen anywhere else, but it's my heart…it's our hearts…that here this wouldn't be noise, but it'd be a song that has its origins in love and its origins in authentic relationship with the Lord so it's pleasing to him.

Father, we just come, and we thank you that you love us just the way we are, that we don't need to depend on a bunch of airs…we don't need to act a certain way. We just need to be people who are humble, and if we've been far from you this week or if we've been far from you for a long time, we rejoice at the truth of your Word that, if we confess our sins, you're faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Father, many of us in this room have been touched by the reality of that love, those waves of mercy, those waves of grace.

It's easy for us to say, "Take my life and let it be, Father, in every way, glorifying to you." I pray these would not be empty words that are long and far away from distant, calloused hearts but they would be words that bubble up from the sincerity of our hearts within that have been touched by the reality of you and the love that you have shown us in Christ. Allow us to worship in a way that pleases you…that's not a noisy clang or a banging cymbal, but an authentic love. We come.

You know, this last weekend, I was with a group of college golfers. I got back last night late, late at night. I was up in North Carolina with them for three days, and there were just some kids there who, for the first time, came to grips with who Jesus was and how he cares for them and speaks powerfully into a college student's life and, even though they get a lot of stuff catered to them because they're college athletes, how there's something more and how all the worldly success and scholarships and provisions of successes there can still leave them empty and hurting.

There was one little girl who found out that Christ can fill that little hole in her life, and nothing fires me up more… Nothing encourages me more than to sit and share with a flight attendant in a very empty flight on the way back, you know, with two people… There were eight people in first class and me in 30 rows on the flight back last night. I got up and just sat around in different seats just so I could do it…laid out.

I had three flight attendants who were very kind taking care of me. They were fighting over who gave me peanuts, and they had one girl working up there with the eight, and I had such a great conversation with a couple of them about pain that's in their lives right now. Nothing fires me up more, and what a privilege to be here with you guys this morning.

I want to tell you, Christ was so passionate about getting his message out that nothing was going to take him off course, and that's what we want to talk about today. Turn with me to Mark. We're in chapter 3, and we're going to start in verse 7. If you've been following with us through the book of Mark, you'll find out that, what's really happened so far… In Mark, chapter 1, the gospel writer is just talking about what incredible response Jesus is having to his ministry.

There have been all kinds of folks who have come around him and have responded to his words and his works, which authenticate his words that he is in fact from God, and he makes that clear by not what he says but the way he says that and then what he does to back up his words because anybody can say, "Your sins are forgiven," but who can say to a man, "Take up your pallet and walk?" and Christ did both. Christ was not here to put on some sideshow or to impress people by what he did, but he did what he did in order to authenticate his words.

Chapter 1 talks about the increasing popularity this person of Jesus was experiencing. Chapter 2 comes right behind it, and it talks about, as a result of that increased popularity, there was some opposition that came after him, some folks who were not thrilled that people were listening to him. What is Jesus going to do in the face of this increasing popularity and this increasing opposition? It's changed the way he was doing ministry.

Now we talked about how one of our core values as a body is that we will be relevant and innovative. Everything we do is measured by its contribution, effectiveness, and usefulness towards our purpose of being and making disciples, and you're going to find out that Christ did not always operate the same way. Early on in his ministry, it was him and the multitude, him and individuals, having a lot of interaction. In fact, he tried to suppress some of the natural response that will come when you see a person with the person and the power he had.

He kept saying, "Just don't tell people about this. I don't want people following me because of things I've done for others. I want folks to hear the message, so don't go make a big ruckus about how you were lame and now you can walk. Just keep that down for a while, but those of you who were here, you know something powerful is on the scene, and you go tell people about that." Christ was going to change now the way he was going to operate because his popularity was really increasing and so was the opposition.

That's what you have in Mark 3:7-19 we're going to look at today. We're going to look at how Christ is innovative, flexible, and he's constantly asking himself, "Is this the most effective way for me to take my message to stay on course?" He was an on-purpose person. He knew why he was here, to seek and save the lost and not to increase his popularity, not to be voted mayor, not to be TIME magazine's man of the year, and nothing was going to take him off course. Mark 3:7-8 says,

"Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and also from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, a great number of people heard of all that He was doing and came to Him. And He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the crowd, so that they would not crowd Him; for He had healed many, with the result that all those who had afflictions pressed around Him in order to touch Him.

Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, 'You are the Son of God!' And He earnestly warned them not to tell who He was. And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons.

And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges [a language of which the people who Mark wrote to were familiar], which means, 'Sons of Thunder'); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot; and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him."

This is a great text of Scripture of some great application for you and me that, when I look at it, I just get excited about the opportunity to show you more about our Lord and the passion that he has to stay on course and to stay on message. Let's just visit it a little bit at a time. It starts off right there in verse 7. It talks about how Jesus, because of the popularity with the crowds and because of the opposition of those who we just found out were now plotting together to kill him, withdrew from the city.

He could not withdraw from the crowds. In fact, it says people were from the southern part of Judea all the way up to the Sea of Galilee (it's 120 miles; it's like from here to Lorena, you know, just south of Waco) which was really the full scope of what you know today as the land we call Israel, then across the Jordan which is everything to the east which we know commonly as Egypt. Syria is that direction.

It was everything from the city of Jerusalem, the center of this area to up north to the northern part of the region all the way down to the southern part of the state to the east part of the Jordan and then over to the west coast where the Mediterranean is and up to Tyre and Sidon, up where Lebanon is today…that whole region. I mean, there were folks… The word was out; "Something different is here."

They were coming alongside of Christ, and they were clamoring to be in his presence, but you need to know this. Jesus was not satisfied because of crowds. In fact, he was rather suspect of crowds, and what Mark is going to point out right here is that Jesus knew that the reason most of the crowds were there was because of a secondary reason and not the primary reason. They were there because of the fact that he had been healing many and he'd been doing miracles and taking care of the afflictions, and they were pressing about in order to touch him.

Now if Jesus wanted just to have crowds, he had a formula that worked. By the way, you need to know this. There are some charlatans that exist even today that make this the primary purpose of Jesus, and I want to tell you why they do it. They do it because they know it's going to draw a crowd. It's going to meet the basest and lowest needs of people, and by that, I don't necessarily mean vile or wicked needs because it's legitimate to have some physical needs that are met, but Christ was not here to just meet some physical needs.

He was here to minister to physical needs as an illustration of the fact that not only could he heal what you can see but he could heal what you cannot see, and "If you think it's difficult to heal what you can see, let me heal what you can see so you might have faith that I can heal what you cannot see, which is your battered and torn soul." A lot of folks didn't really care about their souls. They just wanted to have their knee healed. They wanted to have their sight back, and boy, I can relate to that.

If all Christ wanted to do was to increase his popularity and his favor with the people, then, "Just let them press. Let them come. Let them get healed. Let them get touched," but what did he say to his disciples? He had a plan, and he was ready. He was prepared because he knew that crowds and popularity had the ability to push him off task, to get him off course.

He was committed to his course because he knew that, in the long run, dealing with the spiritual needs of people was going to be far better than dealing with just their physical ones and limitations, so he said, "You have that boat ready." Now why do you think he did that? He did it for a very practical reason because, as folks pushed up further and further against him, he didn't want to leave them.

He was glad they were there, but he wanted to take advantage of them while they were there in the way he intended to minister to them, so if he gets into a boat and he backs away off the shore, it is not as easy to walk out on the water to him, but he could still preach. In fact, he could preach more effectively. You guys know how well sound carries across water. You can be at a lake and be in a boat 200 yards out, and that voice will just bounce across that lake sometimes.

Christ was not bothered by the crowd, but he was going to make sure that crowd did not get him off course, and he was going to take the message of life to them. He didn't come just to heal. He came to enter into torn and battered and hopeless and darkened lives that were a slave to sin and that were beaten down by the abuse of the religious leaders of the day and to speak powerfully into their lives and to give them hope and healing, so he said, "You have that boat ready because, if those folks come, I want to give them a message, and I want to encourage them."

You know, I just made some notes to myself as I thought about this that, really, you have to be careful with popularity because popularity can very easily get you off course, and you have to make sure your popularity is not coming from or sustained by something that is secondary. You know, this city we are in is well known for going, "Man, you have to go to this place. This personality is unbelievable. You have to see him. You have to hear him," or "This speaker is now at this church. Let's go there," or "This music here is so good and so powerful. Let's go here instead."

Let me just tell you something. We've purposed to have individuals that, when they stand before you and communicate God's Word that you're encouraged by it, that you might want to say, "Well, that was a good message. That ministered to me. It spoke powerfully and relevantly into my life," but we're not trying to build a crowd.

If we find out our message is tickling ears and filling up a room but is not doing what the message should do, then we're going to alter our message and not be seduced by size. We love our music right here now. We think it's the best way to let you in authenticity worship the Lord, but we're not just trying to play music we think will fill up the room. We're trying to play music that will keep us on course and most effective towards our purpose.

One of the subtle things about some success is you can be settled and excited about certain numbers, and you can stop right there. You know, one of the things that's true of us here at Watermark is, like I said, we are committed to measuring our success one specific way and one way only, and that is by our ability to be and make disciples. Everything we do will be measured by its effectiveness, its usefulness, and its contribution towards that purpose, and I want you to know that here.

Our goal is not to be a big church. Our goal is to be a biblical church that powerfully and relevantly and creatively speaks the truth into your life and gives you a chance to encounter God, that you might change from him and move those who are far from him deeper into a relationship with him. If we happen to be big in the process of being biblical, that's fine, but we're not going to let success numb us from our course because we are followers of Christ and devoted to him, and you will find that crowds and success never got him off course.

It's a difficult thing to do, but we ask ourselves, and we measure, "How are we doing?" We don't say, "What were the numbers last week?" People ask me all the time how many folks are going here. I honestly don't know. I can eyeball it, but what encourages me is when I hear about lives that are transformed, individual lives that are changed, marriages that are slowly turning back towards oneness instead of isolation, kids who are giving Jesus a shake and a chance.

That's what encourages me. Folks like myself who have walked with the Lord for a long time like my buddy, Scott Coy… He says, "Todd, I'll tell you something. I have not been so fired up about being with a body as I have these last six months. I just get energized sharing ministry together with the folks at Watermark." I see Scott, though he's walked with the Lord and I've been effective in ministry with him for years, increasing in devotion. That charges me.

A number of years ago, I had the privilege of being involved with a ministry that, when I got ahold of it, there were like 50 or 60 folks who were there. In six months, it had grown 500 to 600 percent, and I gathered the core leadership together, and I said, "Let's just have some time. Let's talk about how we're doing and why we're doing," and there was a man who had been assigned to have some spiritual leadership over that group who was in that room with us.

We sat there, and I said, "Guys, we've been at this for six months, and some apparently exciting things are happening, but what I want to do today is I want to evaluate everything we're doing, and I want to start from the beginning and the foundation and think about our strategies, think about the way we're going about trying to reach the folks who God's called us to in this particular setting at this particular time to reach, and I want us to rework this thing from the bottom."

Before I got another word out of my mouth, this man said, "Well, let me just tell you something. You guys can do whatever you want here today, but the one thing you must do is not change anything," and I thought to myself, "You know, time out. Y'all just have a little meeting right here." I pulled my friend outside, and I said, "You know, if we end up there, that's fine, but please, let's go through the process. Let's let them understand why we're doing what we're doing.

Let's go back and get our purpose and our heartbeat and what we ought to exist for out there on the table, and once we establish that, then we can come back and ask ourselves, 'Is God doing that in our midst?' If we end up being convinced the way we're doing it is the way we need to do it, then fantastic!

We'll have more energy and more passion to do it that way next week, but do not go back in there and tell them that, because we've grown by 600 percent, we're doing the right thing because that is not our purpose. Our purpose is to touch lives not fill rooms. Now I happen to believe that, when Christ sees shepherds who care for sheep, he's going to do all he can to move people that direction, and healthy things do grow, but the way to judge health is not by necessarily just numbers. Numbers are a sign of something. You just have to ask yourself of what."

I would be less than honest if I didn't tell you that I'd be discouraged if I didn't know stories of people who were really saying to their friends who were de-churched and far from God or who were in a church that's not teaching God's Word and calling them to lives of full devotion, that they're saying, "You have to come here. I want you to check this out because you're going to engage God there in a way you're not used to engaging God at church."

I would be discouraged if something wasn't happening in that way because healthy things to do grow, but you don't just take the growth. You ask yourself, "Where's the growth coming from, and what's it looking like?" In another ministry I was involved with, I was sharing with them as best I could and just trying to let them know I really felt like we needed to put a greater call on people's lives and challenge them to really be about the things that Christ called them to be, and I kind of laid out for them what I thought that was.

I had the leader of that group look me dead in the eye and just say, "If you ask that of people, do you have any idea how many other churches are in this area that they will go to? They're not going to do that." As kindly as I could, I looked back at that friend, and I just said, "You know something? Well, let their blood be on their hands because it's not my job to make them come to my church or my pasture. It's my job when they're in my pasture to shepherd the sheep and to love the sheep and to call them to be everything God wants them to be."

You need to know that one of the things we're going to be about here is spurring you on to love and good deeds. We want you to know that you can sit out here as long as you want, and we're glad you're processing the things of God, but there comes a time when you cross that line of faith and you make that decision. Then you're ready to step it up, and that's why once a month or once every six to eight weeks we run this thing called the Discovery Class.

It's the first place we ask you to go where you can discover more about God's design in your life and how he can come alongside of you and encourage you and grow you and use you to be strong in ministry. When you go through that and you discover that, "Yes, this is where God wants me to commit," we will be committed to helping you evaluate how you are doing as a disciple.

In this church, if you're a member, every January (we're coming up on our first one here in just five months) every single member will have a chance to evaluate individually how they are doing as a disciple. There are five ways we measure a healthy disciple here. We use C's.

The first one is commitment. Are you committed to God's Word, purposes, and people increasingly? Are you more committed to that than you ever have been before? What tangible ways can you share with us that you've become more committed to God's Word than you were a year ago, more committed to God's people, and more committed to God's purposes? Please, just in a little one sentence, just share with us how that's true of your life.

Secondly is competency. We'll ask you guys in just one or two little sentences to explain to us how this last year you've felt like you've become more competent in doctrine, less to be blown here and there by every wind or wave of doctrine by whatever the book was that week on Oprah. How have you become more competent in life? How are you a better parent, less abusive towards your kids, less verbally abusive towards your wife, a more faithful and effective worker, a better citizen, a better resolver of conflict?

Thirdly, how are you more connected, more deeply involved in other people's lives? Share with us stories of your connectedness and your commitment to community. That's what you said you'd be when you joined this church. Fourthly is contributing. How are you doing? Do you find yourself increasingly living out the words that we sung in "Take My Life and Let It Be"? Is every part of your life yielded to him?

Then also creatively…how have you thought? How have you spent your entrepreneurial spirit, your energies this last year thinking about the kingdom and how God can use you here? I love the ingenuity that's in this body and folks who come week after week with new ideas, "We need to do this. This is a different ministry I want to introduce." We have scores of them waiting to come online when God raises up a leadership.

Every year, if somebody would come back and say, "You know what? I haven't grown in my commitment to God's word purposes or people. I'm not more competent. I'm not more connected. I'm not really contributing more of my life, and I really haven't been thinking much about the kingdom, and frankly, it's none of your business if I do," then we'll come alongside those people, then we'll just say, "You know what? We want to love you enough to tell you that whatever you are, you are not what you said you wanted to be

We want to help you in any way we can to make some decisions and take some steps and get involved with others and begin to grow in those areas, but if you're telling us you don't want to do that and just to leave you alone and this is not the stage of life where you can handle that right now, then we're going to say, 'That's fine, but we don't want you to confuse yourself with us.'

You're welcome to come here as long as you want, but let's not consider you a member anymore of this body. You're welcome here, but let's just be honest and have the integrity to admit that you're not committed to a life of surrender to Christ." Hey, this is not something where everybody has to grow at the same rate. There are going to be some people who come back and say, "You know what? It's been a tough year for me. I don't have any way that I've grown. In fact, my life is more of a shambles now than it was a year ago, but it is the passion of my heart to change. Will you help me?"

That person is going to have nothing but love, empathy, compassion, and support come around them, and we're going to say, "Let's go at it more intentionally together this year. Will you forgive us for not faithfully shepherding you through that process this last year? How can we help you be the person who you want to be because we know that's your heart?"

You know what? If that drives people away from here to other churches, that is fine because that's what Christ has called us to do. You have to ask yourself, "Why do we exist?" and it's not just to have big crowds. Look what else it says in here. It says in that little verse down there in verse 11, "Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, 'You are the Son of God!' And He earnestly…"

That word earnestly is not translated very well. It's about as strong a rebuke as a holy man can give and still be considered holy. "…He earnestly warned them not to tell who He was." Now why would he do that? Well, there are a couple of reasons, probably primarily because they were known as lying spirits, deceiving spirits, and if they testified that Jesus was this, many folks would go, "Whatever he is, we know he's not that."

You guys have heard the old riddle, right? You come up on a fork in the road, and there are two people there, one brother who always tells a lie and the other one who always tells the truth. If you ask them… If you only have one question and can only address one guy to decide, "Which way should I go?" One path leads to riches and prosperity and the other to certain despair and death.

What question do you ask one of those two brothers to know the right way to go? The riddle tells us the question you ask is, "What way would your brother say is the right way to go?" because if you ask the brother who would tell the truth then he would tell you what his brother would tell you, which would be a lie, so you'd go the other direction.

If you happen to ask the brother who always tells a lie, he will not tell you what his brother who tells the truth would say, which means he'd tell you the wrong way, so whatever guy you ask, you do the other thing, and you're on your way to riches and prosperity in life. If you ever come across that, you can thank me because something relevant happened here this morning, and let me know where that fork is, and I'll come ask the same question. I haven't found it.

Maybe for that reason, Christ said, "Look, these guys are liars. They're deceivers. They're forked tongues," and you'll find out that Jesus doesn't want just anybody representing him and endorsing him. What's Jesus do when his strategy of ministry isn't working? What's he do when these crowds are following, but they're not a spiritual crowd, and he's not able to lead them in the direction he wants to lead them? What's he do when he has people who are witnessing for him who he doesn't want witnessing for him?

He does two things. The first thing he does is he spends a night alone in prayer. You can read it right there with me in verse 13. He's at a crossroads in his ministry. He has to think, and as the Son of God, fully God and fully man, who is fully reliant on the Father just as you and I are, he has a problem before him that is inhibiting and prohibiting him from doing ministry the way he wants to do ministry, so he pulls back, and he does what you and I need to do, and he gets on his knees.

He says, "Father, would you speak to me? Would you tell me what to do here because I'm in a little bit of a fix right here? The crowds are a problem. They're with me, but they're not hearing me, and they're another problem because the leaders who are seeking to destroy me are saying now to Rome that I'm gathering a grassroots revival that I'm going to use to raise up and fight Rome so they can have Rome come and try and kill me. What do we do?"

After a night on his knees, you're going to see, from this point forward, Jesus' strategy for ministry changes, and he stops being a man who speaks powerfully to crowds, and he begins to withdraw from the crowds. You know what he does, don't you? I believe the Father spoke to him, and he said, "Son, there's a little bit of a scuttlebutt around who you are right now, but the way we're going to change the world is going to change now.

It's not going to be with a lot of public acts of healing. It's not going to be with a lot of public ministry anymore. It's going to become increasingly private, and when you do speak in pubic, you're going to speak with parables, and those parables will veil truth to some but will open up truth to others, and they will also increase the interest of those who want to understand what you're saying, but primarily, what I want you to do is stop with the multitude, and I want you to minister to the Twelve."

Do you see what Jesus did? He sought the Father, and then he became flexible. He changed his strategy, that he might be effective at his purpose. Well, this begs the question: if he doesn't like those kinds of witnesses that we just saw there in verses 11 and 12, you have to ask yourself, "What kind of witnesses does he like?" Before we go ahead, I just want to read this thing to you because you have the chance right now; it's an election year, so you have to think, "Who are you going to put before you as a leader that you're going to follow or somebody who you're going to endorse?"

These are three questions I want to fire at you. It's time to elect a world leader, and your vote counts. Here are the facts about the three candidates. First is candidate A. He associates with crooked politicians. He consults with astrologers. He has had two known mistresses. He chain-smokes and drinks eight to 10 martinis a day as a known fact. That's candidate A.

For candidate B, he was kicked out of his office twice where he served publicly. He sleeps until noon regularly. He was an opium user in college, and he drinks a quart of whiskey every morning. Interested? For candidate C, he's a decorated war hero. He's a vegetarian and doesn't smoke. He drinks an occasional beer, and he has not had a single extramarital affair. Which of these candidates would you choose?

Let me just tell you. Candidate A was Franklin Roosevelt. Candidate B was Winston Churchill. Candidate C was Adolf Hitler. Appearances can be kind of deceiving sometimes. That has nothing to do with where we're going, but I thought it was interesting. Christ is about to pick some men who he is going to make leaders, and it does have something to do with it because he doesn't pick the guys who I think he should pick. He picks a pretty rough group of folks, and he says, "I want you to come with me."

Now here are what the people who Christ wants to be with are like. First, he says, "I want men who have been with me. I don't want just somebody who can advocate Christianity. I want somebody who has walked with me," so these are the kind of men who he goes and picks. You can see it right there in verses 13 and down. He picks men who have been with him and who, secondly, are different as a result.

Thirdly, because they are different, they can speak authoritatively about him. Now let me just tell you something. This has not changed. The kind of individuals who Christ uses are people who have been with him, who have been changed by being with him, and who can speak authoritatively as a result. Christ does not call the qualified. He qualifies those who he calls.

It annoys me to no end that certain ministries are consistently looking for the big name to represent Christ. "Oh man, if Tiger Woods would just come to know Jesus, you think we could reach some golfers? Oh baby, if Michael Jordan would just have a conversion experience, I could run a serious basketball camp for Jesus, man, and those kids would hear about it, and they would trust in him."

You know, I call this the Magic Johnson syndrome, and here's why. When Magic Johnson got HIV, when he was diagnosed with the AIDS virus, the people in the HIV community went nuts, and not because they were excited somebody else was going to suffer horribly but because they said this very publically, "Oh now we have a spokesperson. Now we have somebody who the mainstream world will listen to. Now we have a talking head for HIV, and now we can get funding, and now people will know about this disease, and now we can make a dent in the culture."

Well, it's one thing for that community to believe that, but it's another thing for us in the church to be just as guilty and to think, "Wow! If Troy Aikman would just, you know, really take a bold stand for the faith and learn to articulate clearly and illustratively and powerfully and succinctly in sound bites… I mean, if Fidel Castro would really have a conversion experience and turn his country, man, what a difference that would make!

If Saddam Hussein confessed his sin and went on Larry King and said, 'Larry, you need to know this. I've been indulgent in every kind of wickedness imaginable. You know what I've done as far as a dictator, but you need to know that Jesus has changed my heart, and I denounce that, and I repent. Wow! What a testimony!'" Could God use that? Well, maybe he could, but he doesn't need those guys. He just wants men who have been with him.

I don't care if they've run countries, quarterbacked football teams, or won golf tournaments…just men who have been with him, whose lives have been changed and who can speak, therefore, first person, present tense, about what Jesus can do for others. Is that you? Did you know you're the perfect candidate to be useful to Christ? If you cannot testify about a tangible change in your life, then you are not an evangelist. You are in an evangelistic field.

We are in the business here of changed lives, of transformed lives, of letting the Spirit come in powerfully and touch you the way he's touching me. Those are the kind of people who Christ is looking for. I mean, look what it says in 1 Peter 3:15. "…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts…" Which just basically means look more like Christ as you grow in Christ's likeness and competency; sanctify Christ as Lord in your life. "…always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account…"

Has that happened to you lately? Has somebody come up and asked, "Can you explain to me why you respond the way you do to your wife, with that kind of gentleness and love? Can you explain to me why you're so gracious at work and you don't seem to be as driven as other people and you keep your family a priority?

The way you handle your situation with your kids, you don't stress out about that, and you're not a controlling parent who's living out their frustrated athletic career through their child, but at the baseball games, you're a little different…would you explain that to me?" You know, one of the highlights of my life in the last five years is I coached Ally when she was 4 years old in soccer, and I desperately wanted… You know, this was my first big entrée into the athletic scene, and I wanted to start off with a winning record.

I have a bunch of 4-year-olds, and we were going to coach some soccer, baby! The very first practice, I got them together. I got them down in a circle, and I had some drills. I had been to some seminars. I was ready, and I got them together. I said, "Let's just do this. Let me kind of see what kind of talent I have here, so we're going to split you up. You guys over here wear my new jerseys that I bought here for way too much, and you guys over here, you can wear whatever you want.

You guys… Okay, let me just get this straight. You guys are going that way, and you guys are going that way. Everybody got it?" Man, there was a hand that shot right up. I looked at this sweet little blonde kid. I said, "Yes, sir." He goes, "Guess what kind of underwear I'm wearing." I said, "What? Drop and give me 15 push-ups and six laps around the field!" No, I didn't, but I changed my goals at that very instant.

I was thrilled that he was wearing underwear. I said, "What kind?" He goes, "Batman underwear!" I said, "Right on! Anybody else have some cool underwear?" "I do." "Great! What are you wearing?" We got done talking about underwear, and we just were a mess, but we had fun, and my goal for those kids was just simply for them to enjoy soccer and have a good experience so that maybe they'd want to take it up a little bit later when they didn't tell folks what kind of underwear they wore.

You know, I'm coaching this team, and my little girl was awful. I got to the point where I told her she would get an M&M (she loves M&M's) every time she touched the soccer ball. Ally got five M&M's the entire season. I mean, there was no competitive drive, no competitive instinct in her, but you know what? There was a dad whose little girl was really good, and he was up and down that sideline. He was all over that little girl.

Apparently, he worked with her during the week and really was driven in a way that wasn't healthy, and I got word through a mutual friend in Colorado that that family's life was touched by the way they saw me with Ally because during a game when he saw me wanting Ally to play, she goes, "No, I don't want to play," totally contrary to anything her dad would be like. She goes, "Daddy, but will you hold me?" I went, "Sure, sweetie. I'll hold you any time that you want."

I picked her little heinie up and just walked up and down the sidelines with her, and that Dad heard that and saw that, and it touched him. He went home and told his wife, and he said, "You know, I wouldn't have held her." When is the last time somebody has come up to you and said, "Would you explain why you parent the way that you do? Would you give a rational defense for the way you work through conflict?"

This is what it says in verse 16. It says, "…and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame." He wants people who have been with him. That can be you…whose lives have been changed. I want to tell you something.

There have been plenty of times with my kids when I've blown it, but my life is being changed, and I do everything I can to let those who revile me not revile my Lord. I try and live a good life so that they would want to know about Jesus. Have you been with him? Has your life been changed? Can you speak first person, present tense about the difference he makes? I hope so.

Let's see what else it says. As I looked at this passage as closely as I could and prayed about it with you guys, I thought about what witnesses of Christ were called to do, then and now. This is all it was. It's very simple. Look with me right there at verse 13. It says, "And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve…"

There were three things, and it says they were called to be with him. That's the very first one. He said, "I want you guys to come and be with me," and it's exactly what effective witnesses for Christ are called to do today. Do you want to be useful to the Master? You don't have to win an MBA championship. You don't have to become a dictator over a country. He just says, "Come. Come be with me and spend some time with me."

I wrote it up there this way. I just said, "God doesn't want people who are advocates for Christianity. He doesn't want people who are experts in debating and representing the truth proposition of Christianity. He wants people who are walking authentically with Christ and who can speak about the person, not the proposition."

How great to be on the King's side! This is all he's saying, "Just come. Do you want to be my agent? Do you want to be the one who I send out into the world? Then here's the first thing you have to do. You have to come and be with me." I want to tell you something. The intentions and the priorities of a disciple are forever the same.

You just make your way to get in front of Jesus and to be with him. Now I don't have the person of Christ that I get to sit with, but I have his Word. I have his Spirit, and I can commune with him, and I get in the way of Christ every chance that I have. I walk with him by faith, and he never leaves me or forsakes me, and that's the promise he has for you. Come and be with him.

The second thing witnesses of Christ were and are is they are called to be sent out by him, and not just gather here in a holy huddle and not just go, "Isn't it great to all be called by Jesus and with Jesus?" Here's what Jesus said. "When I got out, there are all kinds of crowds, and then my message is diluted, but I can send you guys out two by two, and you take this message, and you go and be with them. In the way that I am with you, you go and be with them."

People, friends, can I just beg you… Can I beg you to be intentional about that? It is so great that we come in here and we're encouraged, that we celebrate what we believe together, but if it just stays right here, we are useless to him. We have to be intentional about forming authentic, loving relationships with our neighbors; authentic, love relationships with lost people…folks who are far from God.

We have to come into their world and to be with them in the same way Jesus would be with them, not always as some heavy-handed confrontational evangelist but as somebody who cares, somebody who loves, somebody who speaks powerful truth into their pain, somebody who provides hope where there was formerly hopelessness, somebody who brings a little bit of light into their darkness, somebody who can come in a put a little salt in their lives so that they are thirsty for a relationship with their daughter like you have with yours.

Go and be with them. It's part of being a disciple. You come and spend time with him, and then, with him, you go and be with them. The last thing is they were equipped by him. See, Jesus gave them everything they needed to be effective, and he gives us everything we need to be effective. Part of our job as leaders and shepherds here is to equip you and to come alongside you and help you grow.

He gave them authority to cast out demons. Let me just speak to this for a second. I believe that, if what I need to do is to take a Linda Blair and get some devil out of her…if that's what Christ wants me to do for him, I could certainly do it. That has not been my typical challenge in ministry, but I want to tell you something. There's been a lot of darkness in marriages that God has called me to speak to. There's been a lot of darkness in relationships…a lot of gossip, a lot of slander, a lot of immaturity.

There's the demon of, "Whatever is good for you, it's okay," in our society. Christ wants us to authoritatively speak to it and to cast that demon out and to learn, if you will, how to communicate to a postmodern world where they will tell you there's no absolute and everything is relative, to learn how to communicate to them and how to take the little smart responses, like "Hey, it's okay for you, but it doesn't have to be that way for everybody," and learn how to respond to it.

He wants us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and to destroy speculations and every lofting thing raised up against the knowledge of God. He has given me the authority to speak to that, and he has given you the authority to speak to that. He wants to equip you to speak to that, but he's not going to do it through osmosis.

You have to be intentional about being with him and growing…getting in the Book, learning Scripture, reading some stuff by Colson, who does a great job with the Christian Worldview and others we can tell you about and that our Equipping classes provide for you. You need to know this. Christianity has failed miserably at taking what Christ has given them and making a difference in a culture.

There's a book by a guy named David Gushee who talks about how few Gentiles in Nazi Germany spoke up. I never knew this before this week. He documents that, of the 300 million people who were under Nazi domination during the time of Hitler, 90 percent were Christian and 60 percent of that 90 would've described themselves as very or somewhat committed to their religion before the war. What this guy basically says is, "B.S. Either that or you don't have a Messiah that's giving you any authority because you all were silent in the face of some of the most awful horror that this world has ever known."

He documents that less than 1 percent of the population did anything to stand against that regime. That's one in 90 followers of Christ who were with him supposedly and who had been sent out by him who had any sense that they had the authority to do it. Well, it's one thing to sit there and to think about Nazi Germany and to wonder why they didn't do it, but the reason I read that is I want to ask us, "Are we doing it? What are the horrors in our land today, and are we learning to speak intelligently to them?"

Do you know he's given you the authority to do that? He has called you to do that, and you do that out of an overflow of being with him. Just very quickly, I'll give you these two points, and we shut it down. First, it's possible that your testimony could be a source of confusion and an unwelcome endorsement of the gospel. Do you know that? It is quite possible that your testimony could be a source of confusion and an unwelcome endorsement of the gospel because there's no consistency in your life, and therefore, you are silenced.

There was a time when I was flying back in a plane from South Texas. This tooth right here is fake. It's a laminate. It's about half a centimeter long and solid black, and my good friend Kyle was helping me. You know, this tooth that had been dead since I was a freshman in high school was getting darker, and darker, darker. It had just been whittled down to a fine nub, and he had given me a plastic laminate to wear over it.

I was going to the beach three days with my family about seven years ago, so I put this thing on, and I went to the beach. The first day we got down to Padre, this sucker kicked out, and it was something to look at. I got some Super Glue, and I stuck in on there, and that did all right for a while, but then it fell off again. I thought, "We're here at the beach, and we're going to go with it," so I had more fun going up and saying, "Can I have a hamburger please? Got any sugar in there I can suck on while I'm waiting?"

That was fine when you were on the beach, but I was flying home. I had to come back to speak Sunday morning, and I'm flying back, and I'm on the Southwest flight. Nobody is on this thing but me and two or three other people, so I'm sitting in one of those seats where I can put my feet up. A nice flight attendant comes to sit next to me, and she's sitting there across from me, and I forget that I have my tooth out.

I kind of smiled when she walked by the first few times. When she sat down with me, I engaged in a conversation, and I saw in her eyes that something was clearly wrong. I kind of began. I went, "All right, we're just going to play with this thing for a second," so I was just going to see what kind of courage she had to keep looking at me. We got to talking, and finally, she asked the question. She said, "So, what do you do?"

I thought, "Here we go." I just gave the biggest smile I could, and I said, "I'm a dentist." You should've seen her. She went, "Oh… Really?" I said, "Do you think I would look like this if I was a dentist?" We laughed, and I told her the story, and I pulled out my tooth, you know. Here's my question. When is the last time you looked at somebody, and you said, "I'm a follower of Christ," and they went, "Really? Oh."

Chances are, you didn't tell them you were a dentist because you were embarrassed by your teeth, and you're missing the greatest privilege God can give you. One last one… It's impossible…impossible…that your life is so base and vile that he doesn't want to transform you to be one of his witnesses. Do you know that? I don't care who you are here today. Come be with him. Let him change your life, and then with authority, first present, present tense go tell him.

It is impossible for you to be so far gone… You could be a terrorist killing Christians (see Saul of Tarsus), and if you come to be with Jesus and your life is changed, he can use you. I don't care what you did last night. I don't care what you did last week. I don't care what your teeth have been like. Will you change? Will you come and give him your life? Let's pray.

Oh Father, I just rejoice that you'd take one such as me and that you'd let me be a part of just your reaching out in love. I know there's someone here today who doesn't believe you love them, and Father, I thank you for the authority you've given me that I can tell them that is a lie from hell and that they have a chance to respond, to know you, and to come and to be with you. "Waves of mercy, waves of grace." When we look at Jesus, everywhere we look, we see your face.

He is the visible image of the invisible God. He's the friend of sinners, and he's the one who's come to bring hope to a hopeless world. Father, I pray for the hopeless, hurting one here today…the ones with smiles that are nasty…that they would sit in your chair and you would let them remake their lives and not put on some laminate but to change them from within and to grow something far more impressive than a beautiful smile…a beautiful life, a beautiful heart.

Father, would you not let them sit? Would you cause them to come? I pray for those of us who know you, that we would be serious about following in your way and we would not get off course but we would stay on purpose and that we would judge our lives' effectiveness by nothing but our ability to be and to make disciples. We say, "Who am I?" and you say that we are your chosen ones who you have loved from creation, and we thank you for that amazing grace.

About 'Gospel According to Mark, Volume 2'

The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 2:14 through Mark 6:6.