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Despite the opinion of His contemporaries, Christ was not crazy. This message shows how He kept His focus and perspective, and how those choices had eternal consequences. Just like ours do.
Putting the Pages Back In - A New Look at Devotion as We Begin Year 2
Jesus' Return to Nazareth - The Shocking Results
Come, Change, Confess: His Pattern to Touch Lives Then and Now
When Little Lambs Arise, We'll All Experience the Joy of Jairus
A Man Living Among the Dead Meets the One Offering the Gift of Life
The Storms of Life: The Reasons For Them, the Captain of Them, and Your Response to Them
Sow the Seed, Shine the Light, Feed the Sheep, and Wait for the Day
3 Sometimes, 3 Anytimes -that You Need to Listen to 1 Time: Jesus on Family & Pharisees
Christ's Change of Strategy - His Plan for Them Then and His Plan for You Now
Their Opposition and His Answer - Getting to Know God for Who He Really Is
Lord, I am sure there are some folks here this morning who need something sweet on their lips. They need some water for a parched soul. I'm sure there are some folks here this morning living in a bit of darkness or at least challenged by it, and they need a lamp for their feet. I'm sure of that, because I fit into that category.
This morning I just thank you for the chance I have to gather with others who can remind me I'm not crazy, who can encourage me to remain steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our toil is not in vain. I thank you that being reminded again of your amazing love… Oh, what sacrifice. The Son of God died for me. I confess that this week my life didn't always reflect being overwhelmed with that amazing love.
It just tears me up, and I thank you that it tears me up this morning, because I feel myself getting pulled back on that path, the path that is life that you've laid out for us. I thank you for the chance we have to come and boldly declare, that we might seem a little crazy raising our hands, not just in some small act of worship, like standing or even raising our hands when we sing, but just the way we live our lives with surrender to you.
The world is going to say, "Why are you doing that? Why are you making yourself subject to this God I don't know or can't see?" and we answer, "If you knew our King, you'd live the same way, and nothing would please us more than telling you of him." It's our desire now to do just that, to look at your Word and tell of our King. May your amazing love and the terrible consequences of scoffing at it be made perfectly clear this morning, for your glory and our good. In Christ's name, amen.
We're looking at the book of Mark, and we're having a great time walking through there. I personally have never had a chance to teach through or never purposed to teach all the way through a gospel. I've always done some other stuff and taught out of the Gospels but never gone through the life of Christ in a consistent manner teaching. It has been great.
Someone once asked, "What's your favorite book of the Bible?" and I think I can say this with a great deal of honesty: it's whichever one I'm in right now, whichever one I'm studying, whichever one I'm consistently focused on, or whichever one I'm teaching through, which are not always the same thing.
I have been amazed at how this story that I'm very, very familiar with has taught me new things and ingrained new thoughts and challenged me in new ways as a follower of Christ. I hope it's doing the exact same thing to you. We happen to be in Mark, chapter 3, verse 20. Last week, we looked at how Christ was confronted with an interesting problem. His popularity had shot off the charts.
His approval rating was way high with the crowds and was way low with those who were in some positions to challenge him. So what he did in light of both his popularity (which was for some misdirected reasons, as we talked about) and the opposition (which was for misdirected reasons, as we talked about)… How he was going to alter the course of his ministry in order that he might still be effective at accomplishing his purposes was way instructive for us.
Christ is redirecting what he was about. We found last week that he is a man who was going to stay on purpose, and if that meant he had to change the forms he was using to stay on purpose, he was glad to do it. So instead of having a very public ministry, which is the way he began, he now pulled away, and after seeking the Father's wisdom, as we're going to have to do as a body, he was instructed to grab 12 men, specifically, and build into them.
From here on out in the book of Mark, you're going to see he still has some public conversations and public confrontations with people, but by and large, he is pulling away and starting to pour himself into 12 men, one of whom he knew from the beginning was a traitor. Those men he knew would shape the world and would have this small seed of the truth of the kingdom grow into this great tree that all of the nations of the earth could come and find rest in. So that was his plan. That's what the Father revealed to him.
From Mark 3:19 to Mark 3:20, what you don't have is Matthew 5-7, which is a very familiar message. It's probably the most famous message ever delivered. It's called the Sermon on the Mount. Mark doesn't really deal with that, because he's more concerned about what Jesus does than what he says, but just to give you an idea, that's what just happened between Mark 3:19 and where we start today.
Let's just read a little bit in this gospel of Mark in the 15 verses we're going to cover today. In light of some fanatical crowds, in light of some frightened demons, in light of some frightening national leaders, and in light of some fearful family members, how is Christ going to respond? You'll see all that today.
"And He came home, and the multitude gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. And when His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, 'He has lost His senses.'" Which is to say they think he's deranged. They think he's crazy.
Just a little interesting note. Down in verse 31 is the one time you see that those folks who came were his mother and his four half-brothers. They came down from Nazareth, about 30 miles, to confront Christ about the fact that his life was a little bit out of whack. Mary, who we have a ton to learn from and is a godly woman, clearly, sure isn't divine. A divine woman would not come and try to alter her son's purposes in ministry.
Boy, was she blessed among women, to be sure, but you'll see that Mary didn't always have a full grasp of what was going on, an indication that she wasn't always what some of us have kind of venerated her to be. A good lady, because she loved our Lord and had faith in his provision for her sinful soul, but certainly not a divine one we need to go to. The Divine One is the one she is going to find right now is disassociating himself from her because she's going to get him off track. A fearful family will do that. Look at what it says.
"And the scribes who came down…" We have two of his closest folks around: his closest relatives and the religious leaders of the day who he sat in the temple and had conversations with. They both misunderstood things about him. The theological experts and his buddies, his mom, his brothers, folks he grew up with, said, "We don't really get what this guy is doing." You're going to find out they're both as offensive to Jesus, because anything which thwarts his purposes is a problem.
One of the things I want to just grab at you right now is as we read through this, you're going to find out that you're easily going to be offended by the folks who are in authority in that day who come and accuse him of being something he was not, but it should be no less offensive to us that his family came to him, and though they didn't accuse him of being a demon, they did accuse him of being crazy. So much so it says they came to take custody of him.
Now what kinds of folks do we take custody of today? When we commit somebody, we say they are not of sound mind and are not able to care for themselves, so we'll go through the courts and try and have them lose their own rights of leading their own life so we can help them. That is exactly the word that is used here. It's actually a word used of criminals, that you would seize a criminal, you would take custody of them because they are out of line.
They weren't coming for dinner. That's what's clear here. Mom hadn't been away, and it wasn't a holiday that she wanted to come and be with her son who was off getting his career started. She was here to say, "We need to get you away from what you're doing. You're a little bit out of whack here." That is just as blasphemous as calling him a demon. Look at what it says.
"And the scribes [the second group] who came down from Jerusalem were saying, 'He is possessed by Beelzebul…'" That is a reflection back to the enemy of the Jews. In the Old Testament it was the Philistines, their greatest and most hated enemy. That's where Goliath was from, if you remember anything about your stories in the Bible. Their god was Beelzebul. It had other names, but what they said was, "You are the enemy of Israel. You are possessed by him."
"…and 'He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.' And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables…" The first time Christ does this. "How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand." Like any great man, he's going to read books of quotes, and here Christ quotes Abraham Lincoln.
"And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished! But no one can enter the strong man's house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house. Truly I say to you…"
Words that are only in the Scriptures by Christ, and that is why again and again throughout the Scriptures you find folks say, "This guy doesn't teach like other folks." Everybody else would say, "This is what the rabbis would say," but Jesus says, "Truly I say to you…" He has inherent authority because he is God.
"Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin** …"** Do you know what's so great about today? If you hang around people who are interested in the Scriptures at all, they're going to come up to you and ask, "What does that mean? Because whatever that is, I have to make sure I didn't do it, and I think I might have. What does that mean for me?" We're going to answer that today.
"…because they were saying, 'He has an unclean spirit.' And His mother and His brothers…" There's this little parenthetical idea. Mark says, "Here comes Ma and friends from up in Nazareth, and they're saying, 'You're out of line.' Then, interrupting their confrontation with him, here come the religious authorities, and though Mom can't get in, the religious authorities do." It was so busy around Christ that family couldn't get in.
They were trying to show their credentials and prove that they were, in fact, related to him and get their back door passes, but they couldn't get in. But when folks saw the authorities coming they just parted. So they got in there and said some things to Christ. They said some things about him, and then they moved away. Then we have to resume the other people who are there who are still having a problem with him, and it's his family.
"And His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him, and called Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, 'Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.' And answering them, He said, 'Who are My mother and My brothers?'"
Evidence that he was nuts. Right? If you forget who your family is, you have a problem. That's not at all what he was doing. He was going to say, "You need to understand that I have different relationships that are more important than even familiar relationships." Let me just say right here, lest we forget it later, Christ makes it clear in the Scriptures that if you aren't kind to, providing for, and loving toward your immediate family, you're out of line.
He rebuked the Pharisees specifically for this. He said, "You guys strain out a gnat, but you swallow stuff that would choke a camel." He said, "You tithe these little things, but then you ignore your mother and your father who are in need and in want, who cared and provided for you." In 1 Timothy, chapter 5, we're told that if you don't care for your family you are worse than an unbeliever.
What Jesus is saying here is sometimes your family can get you off track. You have to honor your mother and your father. That doesn't mean you do everything they ask you to do, but it means they will forever have a hearing in your midst. My mom and dad, though they are not the final authority in my life, always have a chance to give input.
Over the last five years, I've had major times of major decisions, major confrontations, and major stuff I was working through, and my dad had some strong ideas about how I ought to handle some things, and I would always listen to him. There were a lot of people, by the way, who had strong opinions about how I should handle some things, and I did not always give them a hearing, but I always honored my mother and my father.
I don't care how loopy they get. They always get a chance to make that phone call. (I'm blessed that my parents aren't that loopy, in case they get this tape. He's still 6'8" and 260. I'm still not, so I still have to say that stuff.) You honor your mother and your father. You sit with them. You listen. You understand their opinion, and then prayerfully and with fear and trembling before the Lord decide what you ought to do.
Christ said, "'Who are My mother and My brothers?' And looking about on those who were sitting around Him, He said, 'Behold, My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.'" All he's saying is, "You need to know something. Being Jewish isn't enough. It's not enough that you would think that just because you're born in a certain family you have it all right with me and, therefore, with God."
What Jesus is going to say is "My family aren't just my kinsfolk. My family is a kindred spirit. My family shares the passion for the kingdom of God that I do. My family is indwelt with the Spirit of God and, therefore, on course with the purposes of God like I am. These are my brothers and my sisters." You need to know that Jesus remembered his mom. The very last thing he did was he looked down from the cross and said, "Take care of that woman."
So whatever you make of what's going on right here, don't make this license for you to be worse than an unbeliever. But I want to make some applications from this, because you have to make sure that moms who mean well (we're not sure why Mary and the brothers came) and dads who mean well aren't always to be the final authority in your life. Bill Gaither and I part big time on this. I know some great men, Howard Hendricks and others, who are thankful that we should, but we'll get there in just a second.
This little passage of Scripture is filled with some great stuff and how Christ responds to it. The context for what's going on here can be chased back to one place. Just go back to chapter 3, verse 6. If you have your Bible, flip back a few verses, and let's remember that Christ had been confronted three different times by the religious leaders of the day. They challenged him on some things.
"Why do you eat with the folks you eat with? How come you don't go through some of the religious rituals we go through? And how come you don't do on the Sabbath what we do on the Sabbath?" When he responded wisely, incredibly wisely, every time (we've covered this), he finally then confronted them. He said, "Let me ask you a question." When they couldn't respond, they were miffed.
In verse 6 of chapter 3, it says, "And the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him." They're trying to figure out, "How can we keep this guy from being loved and embraced by the people?" It is an election year. Surely you all can understand this. If you don't want somebody else to get the people's affections, you either have to get their affections…
The Pharisees weren't really sure they could do that, so they went into a smear campaign. They started by saying, "We have to take counsel. We have to call in the wise men, and we have to figure out how we can keep folks from loving this guy, how we might destroy his popularity, how we might destroy his message, how we might destroy his credibility."
We cannot be sure they didn't at least go up to his family and say, "You're a good Jewish family. We love you. Don't you love your business? But, you know, your son is acting a little wild. They're starting to say some things. Do you have any idea what he did in the temple not too long ago? We're concerned for him, Mary.
If you don't go down there and get ahold of him, the Roman people might think he's trying to cause an insurrection, and they're going to come after him. He's just acting kind of strange. Mary, if you're not concerned that he's acting strange, there are a lot of people in this town who still think the rabbi's opinion matters, and if your son keeps acting that way, your whole family is going to have a bit of a problem. Good day." That'll move a mom out of her town.
Well, if it didn't work getting the family on him, we know they definitely sought after him. They walked up to where he was, and they decided to have a little bit of a smear campaign. So they came up to him and said (and you guys saw it), "Let me tell you why this guy does what he does. He does it because he himself is a demon. He's possessed by a demon. He is filled with the spirit of the gods who are enemies of Israel."
A guy made a brilliant observation that I was reading this week. He simply said when you can charge somebody with being a devil, it is easy to rationalize any devilish act against them. In fact, it's easy to crucify a devil, isn't it? They knew what they wanted to do, and they said, "We have to crucify this guy. Let's attack his character, and let's get people to question it. We're going to tell you something. This devil is a threat to you. He is a threat to our nation, and anything we can do to stop him is worth it."
Do you see how they start to work right now, right here? Because of the counsel they started to seek in 3:6, they start a smear campaign that eventually wins its mark. Let me tell you, the media has always been a problem for the people of God. The media that day, the method of communication is so effective that on the day the vote is taken…
"Who do you want? Do you want this terrorist Barabbas or do you want this man who says he loves you and has healed your relatives, who has brought hope and light into darkness?" "Give us the terrorist." They've been watching a lot of TV at that point. Their smear campaign worked. It is easy to crucify a devil. What I'm going to do right now is walk you through here and make some observations. I'll give you three sometimes and three anytimes, and we'll have a little fun making some applications from this little text.
Sometimes people with good motives can have bad ideas. We've already made mention of the fact that we're not really sure ultimately of Mary's motives. Her motives could have been that she was concerned. "My boy isn't eating right. My boy's life is so out of control he's not even taking care of himself, so let's go down there. He just needs to get away." Or she could have been concerned, like I said, for the family name. We don't know. Any argument is extra-biblical.
All we know is that she came, and she was there to get Christ off course, and it was offensive to him. Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." It is important for you and for me the rest of our lives to honor our mother and our father. Again, the way I handle that, the way I think I can uphold biblically, is that ultimately you're still to make God sovereign in your life, but with all humility…
Your parents have earned the right to be heard, and you honor them in the same way that a husband honors his wife. He listens to her as she gives all the input in the world. He confidently listens to her, but in the end he has to be what God has ordained him to be, which is the head of his household. Each of us are the head of our own lives.
So you listen and honor your parents. They get a phone call. "What do you think, Mom and Dad? Here's what we're wrestling with. Or if you want to talk to me about the way I'm raising my kids, by all means have at it, but then I have to do what I think I need to do, and you need to respect that, because I'm ultimately accountable before God, not before you."
There are too many people who tell you that you never go against what your mom and dad say. You cannot support that biblically. Howard Hendricks talks about how he's thankful he didn't listen to that advice. He himself would not have gone into the ministry. His mom and dad were both against it. There were times in my life, and continue to be, where my dad says, "I'm not really sure, Todd, that that's the best thing to do. Don't you want to do this?"
I listened to my dad when I was in college. I was going to head to law school, and I was going to take what I thought was the path of least resistance. I was going to get an English degree and a liberal arts degree and read a lot like that. He said, "In case you don't do that, why don't you get a business degree?" So I said, "Sure." I thought it was easier anyway, so I was all for it. And off I went. Then after that I wrestled with my parents about my decision.
I really felt my desire to practice law didn't decrease. For me, personally, my desire to spend all my time doing this just surpassed it. We talked about it, and they had their real concerns and their questions. I listened, but then I had to say, "You have to trust me. I really believe this is what the Lord would have me do or what I am deciding before the Lord I should do." I made it clear to them it's not a higher calling. It won't make God love me any more.
I'm under no illusion that because I've been called to do what I do today God loves me any more than some of you who wrestled through the exact same decision and came out where you ought to be in some other vocation. We're both ministers. We're both committed to be effective in our area, to be salt and light and talk about his amazing love. I do it in certain areas. You do it in certain other areas.
There are many, many weeks when I am very jealous of you because I can't get where you guys get. I'm not in those offices with people and having to collide with them as normally and as naturally as you do. That's why I make every effort to consistently be in places where I'm going to be around folks not just on my turf where folks are coming to be around a pastor. I have to get out there where you guys are by the very nature of your jobs. What a privilege.
My counsel consistently with people is simply this: don't do ministry unless you can't do anything else. I have to clarify that, because you might have sat under some guys who were pastors who you felt like, "That guy can't do anything else, and frankly, he can't do this really well either." There are all kinds of problems.
There are way too many young men and women in their 20s who don't want to get serious about life yet, so they go, "I'll be a youth pastor. All they do is play video games and eat pizza for a living. I'll go for that. Plus, maybe people will think about me the way I thought about my Young Life leader. Wow! He was popular. That'll be good." Wrong reason to go into ministry.
I tell folks, I think we need godly businessmen, godly businesswomen, and if there is any way you can do anything other than vocational ministry, do it, and do it well. For me, I don't think, personally, the way God had his designs on my life that I would have ever been satisfied, that I would have ever felt like I was where he designed me to be unless I was doing what I'm doing today. That's me.
Some of the greatest advice I got was from a guy who came to me whose father actually was an attorney and was a great blessing to him, because he said, "Son, I want you to know something. You can go into ministry or you can sit right here and be an attorney with me, but you're not going to find God's love any more in either place. I want you to be a faithful man of God." He said, "I think for you, son, probably what you need to do is stay where you are on the track you're on."
Kris Cooper up there at Kanakuk, the guy I named my son after. I've never seen anybody as intimately attractive as Kris Cooper is to people. Kris looked at me and said, "Todd, I want to tell you something. You need to feel the freedom to go into law. You'd be good at it. God needs you there. I think he could use you mightily there." It was great for me, because I sat there and I had permission to not be guilted out of college to give my life to the Lord looking a certain way.
You need to know this. We're going to call you to a life of full surrender and full devotion to Jesus Christ, but that may not look like the mission field for you as you've traditionally defined it. It will be a mission field; it just might be at EDS. It might be at DISD. It might be as a housewife. It might be as an entrepreneur.
What you have to settle is who your Lord is and who your King is and who your Master is, and then what you want to do. How has God wired and impassioned you? I'm so grateful for the godly businessmen in this church. But you have to sort it through yourself. Listen to those who love you and know you, and then do the right thing. Sometimes people with good motives can have bad ideas.
Anytime someone attempts to divert Jesus from his purpose, it's a bad idea. Sometimes people with good motives who love you say, "Are you sure you want to live like that?" My dad used to always tell me, "Todd, be careful. You're going to be living on a beer budget with champagne tastes." He had good motives, but he had a bad idea at that particular time in my life. I'll tell you what. My dad has come around me and done nothing but encourage me with the decisions we have made since then.
Anytime someone attempts to divert Jesus from his purpose, it's a bad idea. Let me expand that a little bit. Anytime someone attempts to divert a child of God from the purposes God has for them, it's a bad idea. By the way, Peter himself figured this out. In Mark 8:33, he tried to divert Jesus from his purposes, and he said, "That's a bad idea." Jesus said, "The Son of Man is going to go and be delivered up to the scribes and the Pharisees, and he'll be crucified," and Peter said, "That's a bad idea." Jesus said, "That's demonic. Get behind me, Satan."
Anytime somebody tries to keep you from being faithful at what God has called you to do, that is a demonic attempt to get you off course. Let's just state it in its highest category. Anytime something keeps you from being sold out for Jesus Christ, living with every single one of your resources, your time, your talent, and your treasure fully available to the Lord, who says, "You know what? That's kind of crazy," you need to say, "That is a demonic idea" in your heart.
I maybe wouldn't come at it like that verbally right away, but anytime somebody asks you to compromise on what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Christ, which we think is normative for a believer, it is a bad idea. It has its roots and origins in getting God off course, and it should be no less offensive to us than people who come right out and say, "You are a demon" because they're trying to get you off course.
Satan is a liar. He has come to steal, kill, and destroy. He has come to have you compromise and rationalize away a life of surrender to Jesus Christ. Anytime somebody attempts to reason compromise with you, it's a bad idea. Let me give you another sometimes.
Sometimes living with God's perspective can make you appear flat-out crazy to other people. D.L. Moody, if you know much about Christian history and folks who used to teach and preach a lot, was called "Crazy Moody" because he lived fully devoted to Christ. He was committed to the gospel. C.T. Studd… They said, "You are nuts. You're the most impressive athlete in all of England, and you're going to go to the mission field?" C.T. Studd said, "You bet I am. If it's true that Christ is God and he died for me, then no sacrifice is too great."
Eric Liddell, the great runner from England who won the gold medal in the early part of the twentieth century… People came alongside and said, "Eric, you're nuts. What do you mean you're not going to run in the race you've trained your whole life to run because it happens on a certain day?" Whether Liddell's convictions were right or not, to him it was sin if he ran, so it was wrong, the Scripture says, and people told him he was nuts.
Sometimes folks are going to think people who live with the perspective they have from the Scriptures and from God are crazy. Moody wasn't the only one who was crazy. Look at what it says in Acts 26 about Paul. It says, "And while Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus…" He was a magistrate, a judge, a ruler he had come before. He said, "Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad."
"You're an absolute flake, Paul. But you amuse me, so I will hear from you again. In fact, I have a buddy I'm going to send you to, because he needs to see how nuts you are." That's exactly what happened to Paul. Paul was living in such an other-worldly way they could not figure it out. They couldn't make sense of it. Sometimes when you live with God's perspective it can make you appear crazy to others. Now I want to make this point. You ought to be careful. If you're the only one who thinks the way you're living is God's way, it ought to cause you some pause.
Our country is full of people who have made messianic claims like Jesus did. The thing which set Jesus apart were these little things like raising people from the dead, walking on water, calming storms. There are plenty of folks who say, "This is God's will for me," and such atrocities and lunacy have been committed that you have to look at that sometimes and ask yourself, "Okay. Am I the only one who thinks this is what that Scripture means?" Typically, people make those claims because they either want to get sex or get silver. Typically both.
The proverb says, "The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can give a discreet answer." You could have prayed Billy Graham, Chuck Swindoll, D.L. Moody, Spurgeon, and Samuel from the grave down to Waco a couple of years ago, and there was going to be a guy who was going to say, "You know what? You guys just don't get it," because that guy didn't want to have to look really hard for dates, and that guy didn't want to have to work really hard for money.
He wanted you to sell your life savings and give it to him. He was a classic sluggard willing to die for his laziness and foolishness. So before you claim God's license and God's perspective, make sure you have some other wise men around you who see it as well or at least don't identify what you're doing as clearly unbiblical. Christ justified what he did with the Scriptures, even though the men who were there did not want to listen to the Scriptures.
He at least had the Bible and a right application and interpretation of it to say, "This is why I ought to live the way I live." Sometimes when you live that way with full biblical support and a clear word from the Spirit, people are going to think you're crazy. This is what Paul said in 2 Corinthians, that part I read not too long ago about the love of Christ constraining me.
Paul is saying not only, "The love of Christ compels me to live my life a certain way," but he says, "If people see me living my life this way and think I'm nuts, which is to say beside myself, it is for God. If we are of sound mind, it is for you." All he's writing there to the church in Corinth is, "When you see me live against all the hardship I'm living and make the self-sacrifices I'm making and live with an eternal perspective the way I'm living, people who have a finite understanding of this world are going to think I'm nuts."
That girl who's from Dallas who's going to be the next Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson… She went in to the executive president of Sony and said, "I'm committed to showing folks that you don't have to sell out." Now whether she does or not is probably up to every single person to decide, but she went in there and said, "I'm going to show the world they don't have to sell out, and I've purposed to be a virgin the day I get married."
The world would look at her and go, "Why? Why would you do that? That's nuts!" You need to know something, my high school and junior high friends. If you don't know why, the world is going to say, "Well, I'll tell you why you shouldn't." They have a long list of reasons why you shouldn't wait, and you have to make sure you know why you should so you can have a sound mind to the world.
Paul said, "I do some things that may appear crazy, and the world thinks I'm crazy, but when I sit and they reason with me and we lay it out and apply the rules of logic and common sense, which is not typically what your enemies in debate want to do, they will go, 'Well, you know what? I may not agree with him, but he has a sound mind.'"
Paul says, "I do some things the world thinks are nuts, but if people listen to me, it makes complete sense." We have to know why. You have to know why it makes sense to live the way Christ wants us to live. Sometimes, gang, when you seek to live with God's perspective, the world is going to think you're crazy, but here's what I'd offer to you:
Anytime you live with the world's perspective to avoid looking crazy, it's a bad idea. You have to make your mind up today. Are you going to be theologically sound or politically correct? Every now and then, I like to turn on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect to see if there's anybody on there with a sound mind.
I love to sit there and not just be critical of people but go, "Okay. What would I say right now? What would Jesus say right now? How would he respond? How do I need to equip myself so that not when I'm on national TV but when I'm in a conversation tomorrow I can answer that question?"
Be diligent to show yourself approved as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, who can accurately handle the word of truth, who can take down the world's little trapdoor statements and show that that's not sound thinking and the reason you live is not as crazy as they think. But you have to make your mind up. Are you going to be politically correct or theologically sound? Jesus says, "If you seek to live in a theologically sound way, the world is going to hate you, just like it hated me." This is John 15.
"If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me."
Don't compromise. John 15:18 was a verse that ministered to me again and again in high school when I made some decisions, by the grace of God, to not do some things and my best friends absolutely turned on me. I had to go back, and a friend took me here, the guy who led me to the Lord. He said, "Todd, if the world hates you, you know it hated Christ before it hated you." He was also kind enough to point out some reasons I could not attribute to Christ why people didn't like me.
Then he said, "But you're making some good decisions, and the world doesn't like that either. Your life is a confrontation to them whether you ever say a word or not. When you choose not to do what they do, that insults what they do, and they hate you for it." He said, "Don't stop." By the grace of God, I purposed never to, and by the grace of God I purpose that you never will either. It is normative for a believer to be fully devoted to Jesus Christ.
Sometimes your decisions and attitudes can have eternal consequences. Let's talk about this, because this is where you go in this little passage. It says, "Any sin and any blasphemy can be forgiven man, but anyone who blasphemes against the Spirit of God, it will not be forgiven them." Let me take you to Matthew 21. Jesus tells a parable later in his life. This is a parable where he confronts the Pharisees with some decisions they have made. This little section of Scripture in Mark, chapter 3, appears two other places, and both times Jesus says this in response to being called a demon by the religious leaders of the day.
"'Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey. And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. And the vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them.
But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, "They will respect my son." But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance." And they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?' They said to Him, 'He will bring those wretches to a wretched end…'"
This is not Jesus telling a parable anymore. He stopped. He's done with the story, and he says, "Therefore, what will the owner of that vineyard do on the day that he comes to them?" And the Pharisees responded. "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons." That's what anybody with common sense would do, they said.
Jesus said to them, "Have you ever read your Bible? Do you ever undo those phylacteries bound by leather to your head and read them?" Gentle Jesus, meek and mild. "'The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes '? Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it."
He was making an awful declaration right there, which he had made for the first time some nine chapters earlier in this book of Matthew. He made it right here in Mark, chapter 3. What he's saying is, "I have claimed clearly to do everything I do by the power of the Spirit of God. You heard the testimony of the Father when I was baptized and he said, 'This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.' You've heard my claims that if you've seen me you've seen the Father, if you know me you know the Father, if you love me you love the Father.
Now you see the Spirit's testifying that I am indeed from the Father by the things which I do, but all these things you suppress. In fact, you take what the Holy Spirit is testifying is from God and you make it from hell. You've rejected the testimony of the Father, you've rejected the testimony of the Son, and now you're rejecting the testimony of the Spirit as manifested in my words and works, and there is nobody else to call to the stand. You, as a group of people, have rejected me, and the consequences in your life are horrific."
For the nation of Israel, I believe he pronounced temporal judgment to them at this point, and he said it's going to be given to another nation, another ethnicity. It's where we get the word ethnic. Another people group. Now, people make this one of two things. They sometimes mean it's taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles, taken from the Jewish nation and given to the Gentile church.
The only problem with that, though in effect that has happened for a time, is it doesn't totally connect with what Scriptures teach in Romans 11. It says there's going to be a time when the nation of Israel is, in effect, not the branch through which the provision to the world will be met, but he's going to go back and resume his work, for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.
God has called the nation of Israel, believing Israel to be a kingdom of priests through which, one day, all the world would know that Jesus is who he claims to be and God is exactly who he said he was, but the Jewish nation rejected that, and that age and day of Jew, that group of believers… I believe what Jesus is saying right there is "It's not going to be you. There will be another nation of Jews that one day will be the heralds of my name and will bring in the kingdom, but it isn't going to be you."
I think he's saying at the exact same time, "I'm going to also introduce a new nation. Just like there were twelve tribes, there are going to be twelve disciples. Just like those twelve tribes were to produce a group of faithful people who took my word and proclaimed it to the world and the world would come to me through them, those twelve men will take my message and will be faithful to teach it to others also. But you guys have taken the message of Christ, the message of God, as manifested by the Spirit, and have said it's from Satan, and there's nothing I can do for you. That is unforgivable."
What is clear is that the nation had made its mind up at this point. He's saying, "This nation is not going to repent because you, as leaders, have your hearts hardened." What had not happened is that he didn't say, "Nobody here will ever trust in me again," because there were still some Pharisees after this moment who were a part of that group who individually came to Christ, but as a nation, Jesus pronounced judgment. He said, "The kingdom is not going to come now to the nation of Israel, and the kingdom is going to take on a new form."
He did three things when he was confronted with this. First, he said, "I'm going to start a new nation. Not with twelve tribes, with twelve disciples. I have new family. It's not just the fact that we're all Jews. It's now that you have a kindred spirit, and there's going to be a new kingdom." Next week, we're going to start to look at the new kingdom, because it's not going to be a physical kingdom he's going to usher in as the mighty ruler of David, but it's going to be a new kingdom.
It's going to be a spiritual kingdom that for a time is going to pervade on this earth until, again, that spiritual kingdom is matched up with a physical kingdom and we have what is called in the Scriptures the millennial reign. Very simply, what you need to know is there is an unforgivable sin today, and it is dying apart from trusting in the provision of God. Hebrews 9:27 says, "And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…"
What is clear is the fate of man is determined in this life and cannot be altered in the life to come. That's what the Scriptures teach. What these men had done, as leaders of the nation, is they had declared that they in no way will follow Christ. So the nation was not going to receive the blessings Christ came to offer the nation, but individually, folks could still receive it. Sometimes your decisions and attitudes can have severe and even eternal consequences.
One of my favorite statements Augustine said is that God has offered forgiveness to your repentance, but he has not offered tomorrow to your procrastination. I don't know who's going to be here next week to hear us again declare the good news of Jesus Christ. The unforgivable sin is not saying no to the Holy Spirit. By the way, Satan in his work here on this earth is not the antitype or, if you will, the guy in black that Jesus is the guy in white.
Satan is not the antitype of the Messiah; Satan is the antitype of the Spirit of God. Why? Because the Spirit of God (John 16:8) came to convict of sin, of righteousness, and judgment. And what did Satan do? Satan is here to tell you that sin is no big deal, righteousness is not something you need to be concerned about, and surely you will not die; judgment is not that severe. He contradicts the work of the Holy Spirit.
The very first time I was told about sin, righteousness, and judgment, I said, "I do not think that's a word from God. I don't need to be concerned by that." In a sense, I blasphemed the Holy Spirit, because I attributed something to him that was not true. Blasphemy just means to defame a name, to give something to a person that is not true or to take something away from a person that is true.
You can't hardly meet anybody that the first time they heard the Word of God clearly presented they fell on their knees and repented. In a sense, every time you have spurned the gospel before you trust Christ you have blasphemed the Spirit's effort to convict you of sin, of righteousness, and judgment. This was a historical event. When you take the literal works of Christ and say they are works of the Devil, it is blasphemy.
He said, "I don't know what else to do for you. I've walked on all the water I can, raised all the dead I need to, and healed everybody I should, spoke with all the authority I can, and you're just not getting it. I haven't sinned since the time I was in a manger. That should have been a message to you. But you just say I do these things because I'm a devil?" It's going to have some terrible consequences for this nation, because the entire nation is going to suffer from the leaders' decision.
This is the unforgivable sin: to die apart from trusting in Jesus Christ. Look at what it says in Acts 7:51-53. "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did." All that Stephen is saying here is simply, "It is a problem when you resist the Spirit, resist the Spirit, resist the Spirit."
It is possible biblically, I believe, to have your faith sealed before death comes from a hardened and uncircumcised heart. You need to know I never suppose, nor am I commanded to suppose that somebody I meet is in such a state, but it is true the Spirit of God will not strive with men forever, and I think it is true that it is possible that before you die your eternity is sealed. God just said, "Todd, as far as you're concerned, that's irrelevant. You preach the gospel to all men, calling them to believe and expecting them to receive it."
I warn you that if you stuff the gospel and continue to harden your heart in sin and continue to say, "I'm going to live the way I want to live, and I really don't care what you say," I don't know how many times God is going to come and call. I do know this: if you ever come, he welcomes you. That's the last anytime.
Anytime you're ready, God's mercy and grace can alter your eternity. Anytime you're ready. Sometimes your decisions can have severe and eternal consequences, but anytime you're ready God's mercy and grace can alter your eternity. Look at what Paul says in 1 Timothy, chapter 1. "…even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy…"
Do you guys know this? Please. Paul blasphemed the Holy Spirit of God. He said the new life in Christians was a threat to the ordained, sovereign institution of Judaism, which alone represented the God of Israel. That is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Question…Was that sin forgiven Paul? Answer: Yes. Therefore, whatever the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is in Mark 3, Luke 11, and Matthew 12, you know it doesn't mean you can't come later. Paul came.
But the warning is clear. Today is the day of salvation. Do not harden your hearts, but return to him. Anytime is the right time if you're ready to receive God's grace and mercy. Look at what John says in 6:37. "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." The Scriptures beg you to come. Just come.
Turn to John 3:16-17. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…" I know it's familiar, but listen. "…that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For…" The verse you don't usually read right after it. "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already…"
If you say that the Spirit of God is not drawing you to him through the person of Jesus Christ, that is unforgivable. If you die in that hardened state, it is unforgivable, because it is the only name under heaven by which you must be saved. You need to know you're judged already, and you have to come.
Now if you have come, like I have, and said, "Lord, I was hardened toward you in the way I lived; I blasphemed your Spirit, I blasphemed your Son, I blasphemed the Father with my life, but by the grace of God I came," you can be a part of his family, and you can go from one side to the other like that.
If you've never crossed that line of faith, if you've never made a moment in your life where you said, "You know what? I need to make a decision about who this Jesus is…" That's really what Jesus is saying. You have to decide, "Who is blaspheming? Am I blaspheming or are these guys blaspheming?" You have to decide who really leads Israel, and you have to decide who really is a part of God's family. Jesus says, "I'm the real leader, and the people who are a part of God's family are people who know me."
If you're concerned today that you've committed the unforgivable sin, that's a great sign that you haven't, because a person who still has the ability to be convicted of sin still has the ability to come. I pray that God convicts you this morning that he is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, that he is the provision for your sins, Jesus Christ, that he wants all men to come and none to perish but all to have eternal life. I pray if you've received that gift, as I have, you'll never get over it. Let's pray.
Father, we come this morning and we see in this story that Mary and others were concerned about her son, that he had been taken off course and was now living a life that was going to leave him isolated and alone. We find out that his life was not isolated and alone; his life was right on course with you and he was in communion with the Father and the Spirit perfectly and that you gave him a new family, a family of kindred spirits.
We rejoice that Mary herself came to understand fully one day who this Jesus was. We rejoice that some of those half-brothers who came down there, James among them, became so convinced of what your Spirit was doing in his half-brother that he was willing to die as the first martyr for the faith. Lord, there are some folks who are out here this morning who have been separated from your family and are longing to come home.
They have blasphemed you with their lives. They've said that sin is not that big of a deal, judgment is not that ultimate, and righteousness is something that if they'll get around to it, they'll get around to it on their terms by their own efforts and their own works, and that is blasphemy. Today you say to them, "Come home. Come, and I'll give you a new family, and I'll make you a child of God."
I thank you, Father, as many as received you, even to those who believe in your name, you give the right to become a child of God. For those of us who are, I pray we'd never get over it, and I pray we'd declare the good news about our holy Father who is in heaven. For those who aren't, I pray that now they're moved to come.
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.