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Did you ever wonder what those who grew up in Jesus' home town thought of His ministry? Are you curious about their response to His words and works? That response is relevant and applicable to our lives today. Learn about Jesus' return to Nazareth, and the shocking results.
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
Father, I thank you for my friends, that we can gather on a rainy day, that something is going on in our lives that you have made it make sense for us to be here. I thank you for the opportunity that I have to, in a moment, just share some thoughts from your Word, thoughts that I really pray, more than being impressive or persuasive or even motivational, are just thoughts that are clear and thoughts that rightly reflect what you wanted us to get when you, in your perfect wisdom, left these words for us.
I thank you for this book that is unique among all books that reveals to us the nature of ourselves, the ultimate destiny of man, and the character of the one who we could not know unless he in his grace revealed himself to us. We thank you, Father, that there is no greater revelation about who you are than this person Jesus who you have told us is the visible image of the invisible God, so if we want to know what you're like, we can take a look at him.
We thank you that you have made him unique among all men in that he is not just one who has lived a great life and said some great things, but he lived a sinless life as he obeyed your Spirit as your son you manifested here on this earth so that, even though he suffered the death of a criminal, the grave could not hold him.
Now he freely offers us that gift of life to all who acknowledge their need. We thank you for this Jesus, whose name you have made above all names because he came as a servant and, therefore, you've highly exalted him. We lift him up this morning again as we sing this song and even as we take a moment from our lives to focus on you and his Word.
That's who we're going to look at this morning. This one who we just said those pretty incredible words about walked into a town where folks there were extremely familiar with him, even as many of us who live here in the southwest are pretty familiar with the idea of Jesus. Most of us would have at least an easy time agreeing with some of those titles that are given him that are up there. We would say he's a beautiful Savior, even though we might not even be sure what that means.
We sing very easily, "glorious Lord," but maybe a lot of us have not thought about what it means to really have a Lord in your life; Immanuel, which is to say, as you will hear countlessly these next couple of months, God is with us, and he's a blessed Redeemer. The Scripture says he's the living Word. In other words, we have the written Word, which God has uniquely preserved in order for us to know who he is, but he's also given us the living Word, just like the written Word that is without error.
The living Word was without error in the way he lived, a complete and perfect revelation that God would let us know who he is. We sing that song pretty easily, but we don't often deal honestly with what that song means. What you're going to find, as we go back to the book of Mark, in chapter 6, is there's a group of people who are confronted with the man this song is about. They're pretty familiar with this Jesus, in fact more familiar than we are for different reasons.
He grew up in their town. We grew up in a town where this man is talked about a lot. The folks who we're going to read about today grew up in a town where he grew up, and some of them went to school with him. He did some work in his carpenter shop that some of them now have in their houses. He's just an ordinary man. They can't see how he would be the living Word, the blessed Redeemer.
When he gets there, you'll find out there wasn't any old lady who walked up to him and pinched his cheeks and said, "Oh, there you are, Jesus. I always knew you'd grow up to be the salvation of the world." In fact, because they were so sure he was just one of them, they were convinced he wasn't the glorious Lord. Some of y'all have become so familiar with Jesus… Some of us who have known him have become some familiar with Jesus we've forgotten what it means to have a beautiful Savior, and we've lost the mystery and the wonder of our salvation.
Some of us have lost the fact that God came and was with us. I mean, we've celebrated it every Christmas. We get lots of cards. Some of us have bought them and sent them out, yet we don't know what it really would mean to us, if it's true that God came with us and his name was Jesus. We don't want to make the same mistake the folks in Mark 6, versus 1 through 6, made. Let's just read it together, and then we'll comment on it.
It says, "Jesus went out from there…" If you can remember back a couple of weeks before we got together to celebrate some transformed lives at the baptism, the there is from some regions around there called Capernaum, where he had done a couple of things. He'd dealt with a woman who for 12 years had an illness, a sickness, that kept her separated from all others. Then in the midst of that, he also was confronted with a ruler of the synagogue who had a very sick young daughter, so he left there. He now is moving back, and he comes to his hometown.
"…and His disciples followed Him. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, 'Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands?'"
In other words, "This doesn't make much sense to us; this is Jesus." They go on, in fact, to say, "'Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?'""What's this guy doing speaking like that and doing things like that?"
"And they took offense at Him. Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.' And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief. And He was going around the villages teaching."
You know, one of the things I love to do with God's Word is unpack it in a way that we have to deal with it. It really is not because I'm any brighter than anybody else. We as a church here completely believe what it says in 1 Peter 4:10. "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."
I think one of the gifts God has given me is the gift of teaching, which is to say that sometimes this stuff is just easier for me to get my arms around and to see what maybe is there than for some others. It doesn't make me better. It just is the way I use my gift to serve this body. There are other great and gifted teachers in this body. As I go through this, I'm bent necessarily to go, "Well, what's that mean? What is the point of instruction God wants for us?"
By the way, let me comment on this. Just because part of the way God has given me a gift to serve the body and build the body up, just because sometimes I can get in there and see some things maybe more easily and naturally than others, it doesn't mean I can apply it to my life more easily and naturally than others. I will assure that, every week, there is more going on in my heart than probably is going on in yours.
I have a number of folks who tell me, "Man, I'm a little embarrassed, you know, that you were talking right at me. Did my friend who invited me here today tell you I was coming?" I say, "No, but I knew that I'd be there, and I needed to hear it." So much of what we talk about in here a lot of folks go, "Man, that's talking right to me." You need to know this. It's because the God who wrote it knows you intimately and he wants to speak powerfully into your world so you can meet the blessed Redeemer, because what God is all about is restoring his relationship with you.
We've said it many times. I don't know where you come from today. I don't know what your religion is or your spiritual bent, but I can assure this, God doesn't want to change your religion. We're not trying to hang a new title on you, but God does want to change your relationship with him.
The way you change your relationship with him is not through a religion, but you change your relationship with him through the person of Jesus Christ, which our world has too often hung a moniker on that we think makes you religious if you show up in a certain room and you sing hymns that have reference to the Scriptures instead of a reference to another book or because you practice repetition of certain creeds. We call that religion.
You need to know this. You can recite orthodox creeds all day long. You can sing orthodox songs all day long, but if you don't really do business with the one who God gave for you to be a revelation of what it would be like for you to know God, it doesn't matter what your religion is. God wants to change your relationship with him, and the way he's going to do that is through the Risen One, Jesus Christ.
This Jesus came into this crowd, and these folks thought they knew him fairly well as this person who grew up around them, but they could not escape the fact that there was something unique about him, and they were astonished, it says, by two things, the words that he said and the way he said them and the things he did, because nobody spoke like that they had ever heard.
"He doesn't cite other rabbis or other good teachers. He just says, 'Truly, truly I say to you.'" As we've seen many times already, if you've been with us through the book of Mark, folks were astonished at his wisdom and the power with which he spoke. Then more than that, it wasn't just his words, because men can claim great things and sometimes come up with beautiful thoughts.
But this Jesus did some things that made some folks go, "He is unique. There are not a lot of folks we go fishing with who, when the weather gets kind of bad, he can just say, 'Let's go ahead and make this place skiable. Be still.' That's different than other guys we've wet a line with and thrown a bobber in the water with or cast a net with. There are not many guys you can come to with a problem like, 'I have a dead relative. Can you help me?' and he says, 'I'll be right there.'"
That makes him unique, that a person can have a disease that cripples them or makes them blind or that they're deaf or that they're leprous, and this Jesus can bring hope to them and healing to them. What the people there acknowledged is that he had done some amazing things. Let me give you one little observation I've made from this. I'll say it this way. If you aren't astonished by the transforming power of the ministry of Christ, then you either aren't nearly observant enough or you need to observe that you are not near it. I want to explain what I mean by that.
If you've been around circles that talk about this Jesus and you haven't been astonished by the transforming power of his ministry than one of two things is happening: either you're not looking and you're not in the context of community within a body maybe where you can hear people talk first person, present tense, about what the person of Jesus Christ and the transforming power of his Word has done to them and their marriage and their work attitudes and their life attitudes…
You weren't there three weeks ago when we gathered up there on 635 on a little muddy little pond on a very cold day and heard 25 or so different people stand up and talk first person, present tense about the powerful impact of the person of Jesus Christ on their lives. You're either willingly obscuring the facts and the reality that there are hundreds of folks in this room right here with you who will tell you they will attribute their transformed lives to nothing other than this Jesus, the name above all names…
There's also a chance that you may be gathering around a group of people who take his name, but there are no substantive life changes happening in anybody's lives. It's just as dysfunctional of a group as the folks who meet at some Masonic lodge or who sleep in on Sunday mornings or who have some other club. They take the name of Jesus, and they take even sometimes the truths about Jesus, the doctrines of Jesus, but it's just dead religion to them.
There's no real substantive wrestling with it. They don't get down to their souls and say, "Let's not just say what we believe. Let's wrestle with who he is and respond with integrity to that." There are lots of folks in churches all across this land today, churches that would have doctrinal statements that you and I would not necessarily disagree with, where there is absolutely no life change that is happening.
It's been our conviction as a group of leaders that here are too many churches who measure their success by the ABCs; by attendance, by buildings, and by cash. We have purposed from the very beginning to say, "That is not what God wants for his church to do. He doesn't want them to judge how successful they are by seeing how big the church is. He wants them to judge, if you will, their success in participating with his heart to transform people by seeing how big the people are he grows there.
There's nothing wrong with numbers, and healthy things should grow, but that is true of the body corporately and the body individually, and the number one way we will evaluate how we're doing is by asking ourselves, "Is my life changing? As a guy who's known Christ since 1979, is my life changing in such a way that people are astonished at the way I deal with life?" It ought to change. I am nowhere near done, as those of you who know me better than others are crystal on.
I ought to grow more. If something doesn't happen where I am more committed to my God, to his people, and to his Word; more competent in the way I resolve conflict; more competent in the way I parent my kids and love my wife; more competent in the way I lead this church and work through other issues with people; more competent in the way I share my faith; more competent in refuting error in doctrine, then something isn't right.
You ought to be increasingly astonished at the continuing sanctifying (that's the big word it uses), purifying work of the Holy Spirit in my life as I become less and less of who I am when left to myself and more and more of who I can be when I'm in relationship with the living God, and that's true of you. It doesn't matter what any of us do here, if our lives are not changing, then there is better music.
I mean, we miss Bob Kingsley and the Country Countdown every Sunday because we're here at this church. There is better music during this three hours. There are funnier folks to listen to. There are other things you could do with your time if this isn't real and if it doesn't produce life change and more than just temporal change if it doesn't alter your eternity, and you know we're under the conviction that it absolutely does.
If you're not astonished by the transforming power of the person of Christ like these people were… See, they didn't really deal with it honestly, as we're going to talk about in a moment, but they could not avoid that his words were different and that his way of doing things was different and that he had an ability to touch folks that they could not explain and they could not get their arms around.
That ought to be what happens when folks walk in here. Paul says they ought to get an aroma of Christ. They ought to go, "That group is different; the way they worship with integrity, the way they love each other, the way they work through conflict." We have conflict here, but it ought to be where we purpose to wrestle through those things in such a way we love and honor each other.
You know, we have a little conflict going on right now with the naming of the ministry we're going to call these friends of ours who are around 50. As Kyle made the statement today, if you're around 50, you can go to this thing, and you'll get a card on your way out, and I thought, when you're 50, I know you get that AARP card. I thought of a name down there, Kyle, I'm sure they're going to love. We'll call them AARPs at the 'Mark. I'm sure they'll love that.
You know, we've thrown out a couple of names this week. You don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but we're saying, "Let's just wrestle till we get the right name." You need to know, we had some conflict when we were seeking to name this church, and we wrestled with a long time how we were going to put a little moniker on ourselves that people could know about us. Some fool wanted to name this place Lone Star Community Church, if you can believe it. I'm so glad…
Christy Fagin, who I hope grows in her conflict resolution tactics… This is the way Christy handled that when I go, "Okay, I think I have a name." I go, "Lone Star Community Church." She goes, "If you name us Lone Star Community Church, we are out!" That's what she said. I go, "We have to talk about that, Christy. I mean, the name might be a problem, but maybe the way we went about that discussion right there isn't what the Lord wants us to do either." She goes, "Well, I'm just being honest with you. I'm serious. I am out." So the name was taken off the board.
We ought to get better about the way we share ideas and come up with different names and wrestle through it and don't get so offended personally but really say, "You know, I love you. I'm just trying to do the same thing you're trying to do." You need to know this. What we're trying to do as a body is astonish people with the changed lives in this room, the changed lives in this city. If that isn't happening here on a regular basis, would you please go someplace where it is?
Jesus Christ astonishes people with the power of his Word. If it ever stops being clearly declared here, go. He astonishes people with the power of transformed lives, which if that ever stops happening here, we have to take a real hard look at what we're doing because, whatever else we're doing, we're not doing what Jesus did. We're not a part of that, and that goes for those who are very far from God who need to come into a relationship with him, and that goes for those of us who have known him for years.
We're not done yet, and we need to grow, and people ought to be shocked that I become a better neighbor, a better pastor, a better friend, a better husband, a better daddy. I pray that I'm a better daddy next week than I was this last week because of what Christ does as I humbly go to him and acknowledge that, when I do it according to my flesh, I hurt people. You know, these folks went through a series of questions.
They said, "Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary…" I made this observation. Listing the right questions does not necessarily mean you're honestly seeking the right answers. Why do I say that? There are a lot of folks, maybe even some of you who are here today, that your friend has been talking to you about spiritual things.
You've said you're open to talking about those things, and you've kind of mouthed, "Well, I'll consider some of those things." You say the right words, but you don't really mean them. You know, one of the things we're excited to do here is we want to make this a very safe place for individuals to wrestle through truth.
We have a group of folks who are waiting, who are purposely developing relationships with other people so they can invite them into what we're going to call Seeker Studies to say, "Come in here and investigate this stuff with me. Come in here and consider the truths and the claims of Christ with me. Let's take a doggone good look at it."
This last week on Tuesday night, I had a chance to speak to a lot of students over at SMU with our college ministry that we do with Campus Crusade for Christ with Dave and Robin and Robbie. As we were wrestling with some things over there, I spoke on the issue of absolute truth and what is truth, and I shared with them that one of the problems I had growing up in the church as a young man is that it wasn't a safe place to ask questions and to say, "You know what? I have an issue with you guys. I have some questions about the claims you make.
How do you know your book is inspired? Why is this book any different than the other sacred writing? If you say your God is all-loving and all-powerful, then why would he allow the evil things to happen that clearly happen? How can Christianity be true when so much evil's been committed at the hands of those who call themselves Christians? If you tell me that Jesus Christ alone is the name through which men can be restored and reconciled to God, what about those who have never heard that name? Are they going to hell?"
Those are great questions, and you deserve good answers to them, and there is a group of people out there that is just saying, "We'd love to honestly investigate this with you." It's not loaded. If, at the very end of investigating those questions, you with integrity can say, "You know what? My issues aren't intellectual. They're issues of the will," or "My intellect has not been satisfied,'" where we'll say, "That's fantastic. What are your questions?"
We'll deal with them but be honest with us and be honest with yourself. Don't just mouth off stuff about how, "Oh yeah. Well, I need to get to that. Well, I guess that is something to consider," unless you're really going to be an honest individual to consider it. I've said many times, and I'll say it again. If there's somebody who's out there who's struggling with an issue and that issue is really locking them up in going forward in their faith, moving a step or two closer to Jesus Christ, if they'll say, "I really want to wrestle with this," I'll spend no small amount of time with them.
Now if they just want to debate and when we handle that topic and we kind of are honest about the fact that, at the very best, their belief is rooted in faith and mine's rooted in faith and possibly some of the faith theirs is in is contradicted by some other well-known facts… If at the very least, we can't get to the end to where they have to acknowledge that Christianity is not for those who commit intellectual suicide and where they'll go, "You know, I want to be honest with you. My problem now is not a problem of intellect."
For most people, it's not a problem of intellect. It's a problem of the will… People ask me all the time, "Todd, if Christianity is true, how come so many smart people don't believe it?" and I tell them, "For the same reason so many dumb people don't believe it. They don't want to. They know what it means if they acknowledge that Jesus Christ is glorious Lord and blessed Redeemer.
They know what it means if they knowledge that there is a sovereign one who created them who they are accountable to. It means they out to really wrestle through the way they live their lives, and there are a lot of people who just don't want to do that." I tell folks all the time, "If you want to wrestle with that with integrity, I have no small amount of time with you. Let's look at comparative world religions."
Scott Coy is doing a great job letting folks wrestle through the different claims that different world religions have made and where Christianity is unique and why it does stand alone. I love this faith of ours because, if it is true, then no amount of scrutiny can affect it, but I want to just say to you this morning, being a spiritual seeker is in. In other words, posing the right questions and saying that you're kind of interested in spiritual things is kind of in vogue in the third millennium, but being a spiritual finder is not in vogue.
In fact, when you tell people you've found it, when you tell people you know the way, the truth, and the life, it offends them. Being a spiritual seeker and mouthing words like, "Now let's talk about where this wisdom was given to him" and mouthing words like, "Such miracles performed by his hand suggest that he's from somewhere…" People like to have that kind of discussion, but they don't like ultimately to get to what that suggests and means and demands in their lives.
You know, one of the things we're committed to here is authenticity, and we just ask the same thing from you. If you don't want to believe, that's fine, but admit why you do or don't want to believe. "I'm not ready to surrender my life yet. I've not experienced enough pain or enough loss or have not hit my head up against the wall, or I don't think I am the solution to all my life's problems yet, so I don't need a God, and I think he's a crutch for you." I'd love to talk to you about that. I'd love to talk to you about that.
Let's make it clear that these folks apparently were wrestling with some issues. Let me just take you back through the gospel of Mark so far. This is starting in chapter 1. You'll see it in chapter 2, verse 7, and on through chapter 4. Read with me. "They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, 'What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.'" They threw this out, but I don't think they wrestled with it honestly.
In chapter 2, it says, "'Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?'" This is when Jesus forgave someone's sins, and what they're saying right there is it should offend you when Jesus says, "Your sins are forgiven," because, if you committed a sin, the sin you committed is against God in heaven.
I mean, it would offend you if I'm at lunch with you, you know, and Burke and I go, and we buy Kirk McJunkin a Big Mac and Kirk doesn't have his cash, so Burke goes, "Well, here's $5.00" Kirk says, "Thank you," and I go, "Hey, Kirk, your debt to Burke is forgiven." Burke would look at me and go, "That's not your decision, Wagner." It would offend him if I did that, and rightly so.
So people go, "Wait a minute. What are you saying that their sins are forgiven? Who do you think you are?" That's the right question. Do you want to know the answer to that? I have to believe Jesus was absolutely available to have that conversation. They said the right words, but I don't think they were asking the right question. I mean, I don't think they really meant it. It was more of an accusation than it was a searching.
Chapter 4: "They became very much afraid and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?'" Great question! Let's try and answer it. We reach chapter 6, where we are today, words we've already been through a couple of times now. How are you doing this morning? I don't know what words you're saying as you talk about Jesus in wrestling with what he might mean in your life.
Don't just say, "You know I might need to consider if Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. I might need to wrestle with the fact that there's a God and he exists, and I'm ultimately accountable to him." Either do it or quit saying an intelligent, honest person would consider that. I run into folks all the time, and when I start to talk to them about some of the truths that the Scriptures claim, and they go, "Well, wait a minute. How do you know the Bible is God's Word?"
I say, "Let me just leave that aside for a moment. Before we talk about how we know the Bible is God's Word, I want to ask you, and the question I did ask you is, 'Are you clear on what the Bible says is the way man can be rightly restored to God? Because without question, the Bible is the most read, revered, interpreted, and translated book in the entire history of humankind.
Nothing even comes near it, and to reject the message of this most important book, this central book in the history of the world without ever understanding the message is a rather unintellectual approach. Wouldn't you agree? Let me ask you again. What do you understand the central message of the Scriptures to be about who Jesus is and about how man can be rightly related to God?'"
Boy, there's nothing the Lord loves more than somebody who comes to him. He says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…" I think you can say, "who under and thirst after truth" because if you really hunger and thirst after it, Jesus is not playing hide-and-seek with you. He says, "You'll be satisfied."
We want you to know this is a place where you can come and wrestle. We want you to be honest with us. If you're not ready yet, you can come and listen, and we're not going to run you though a bunch of intellectual debates just for your benefit or ours, but if you have genuine questions, we'll spend all the time you want.
One of the reasons these folks didn't really want to ask the questions, though, is because they were predisposed to believe something about Jesus Christ. I just made this little note. Don't let your prejudices blind you from your present realities. What do I mean by that? Folks had a hard time with this Jesus. You know, a number of years, Bob Dylan had that song.
If I were a carpenter
And you were a lady
Would you marry me anyway?
Would you have my baby?
We hear that song and we go, "If I was a carpenter…" We don't go, "Being a carpenter… There are a lot worse things you can be." I hesitate to put it in there because maybe somebody maybe somebody who is here is that thing I would say is worse than being a carpenter, and maybe you'll volunteer your job, but what Dylan is saying there is (he's probably making a reference back to the fact) that, in this day and age, if you worked with your hands and not with your mind…
In other words, if you weren't a scribe, you were considered to be of a whole different class of people. What these people are saying is, "You are a carpenter." They're saying, "If you were carpenter and I were a sinner, would you be my Messiah? No way. There's not a chance in the world I'd turn to you. You're just a carpenter."
They were predisposed to believe that carpenters could maybe straighten my crooked chair, but they could not straighten my crooked life. They didn't want to wrestle with his words and his works which they could not avoid. Let me just throw out there what Paul said about this, and this is the way God always operates. There's a reason God did not come with a lot of flash and a lot of glitz.
There's a company of guys who go out. You might know who I'm talking about. They advertise the fact that you should come listen to them speak about ultimate things with this statement. "This is the world's greatest exhibition of power, strength, inspiration, and motivation. We've been featured in several national magazines and television shows."
That's the way they billed themselves to say, "Therefore, come listen to us talk about great things." Well, there's nothing wrong with being somebody who has great strength, power, speed, and who can inspire and motivate, but see God doesn't typically deliver his truth through people who are impressive. This is what Paul said when he was describing himself.
"For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure…"
What Paul is saying is, "Listen, we didn't come to you, as it says in that same book in chapter 2, with impressive words of wisdom. We just came to you humbly as servants who professed to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified," and people looked at Paul quite often and said, "You know what? I can't learn about ultimate things from him. He's not very impressive." Listen to what Paul commented on the next time he wrote to this church.
"For God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,' is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this [divine] treasure in earthen vessels…" Which is to say, "We're not looking great on the outside, but inside of us is a light which emanates forth that people go, 'Man, there's something bright about that life.'"
"…that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus…"
What Paul is saying right there is, "You look at our life, and it's not very impressive in terms of how we appear on the outside, but you cannot get away from the power of what you see happening from the inside out." These people looked at Jesus, and they went, "That's Mary's boy. That's the guy who made my kitchen table."
They wrestled with how this guy could do what he did in people's lives and speak the way he did with such force and authority, but their prejudices would not let them deal with the reality of what they saw. Certainly, I want to deal with this, as we have predisposed understandings of what we think folks who follow Christ are like. "Oh, they're just innocent, naïve people who have a child's faith." Some of you believe that. Some of you think Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites, so you don't want anything to do with that.
That's what you're predisposed to believe, so you'll quit wrestling with who Jesus is. Certainly, we need to deal with that, but I'll tell you how it affected me as a pastor when I read this. I thought, "Who are the folks right here in this body who I have slowly seen God beginning to work in, but because I knew them when they were young in their faith, I'll never see them as a key leader?"
As they maybe by the grace of God have the soil of their hearts transformed from a hard soil to a soft soil, as they through the discipline of the means of grace that God gives us, as they begin to not be distracted by the deceitfulness of riches and the worries of the world, and they begin to bear more and more fruit in their lives, will I be able to know them for who they are becoming and not who they were?
You know, there are a couple of situations that I'm familiar with around the country right now in churches, where the churches are looking for pastors, and they have the pastor they need right there under their nose, but because it's their boy who's grown up in some younger ministries, they can't see him. There are other churches that were trying to get these guys to come and serve them, even sometimes more impactful churches than where they are, but folks can't see them because they're just one of their own. Don't we do this to people all the time?
Don't we limit people? "Yeah, I know him because, five years ago, he was like this." I want to tell you something. You meet this person Jesus, and he can change you. He can transform you, and one of the great challenges we have as leaders here is to believe that and to watch it happen. Let me just give you this encouragement. If people around you are limiting you because of who they used to know you to be, 1 Timothy 4:12 is a great verse.
"Let no one look down on your youthfulness…" Maybe they see you as younger in the Lord, if not younger chronologically. "Let no one look down on your youthfulness but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe." I want to tell you, one of the great challenges we have is to not pigeonhole people. God doesn't pigeonhole anybody.
Do you realize that there's not a single person I believe in this group right here who God does not want to raise to the highest levels of Christian service? I don't care where you've been or what you've done. He is well known for taking terrorists and making them authors of his Word. If you sit out there today, you need to know this. As best we are able, we're going to die to our prejudices of knowing where you came from and what you struggle with and believe God can do the work in your life.
As a pastor who deals with a lot of folks who wrestle with stuff, I tell people all the time I'm kind of in a catch-22. When people come in and they share with me at times major issues in their lives, they sometimes avoid me. You know, they want to go over here and have successful pockets of ministry and get their lives together and begin to walk with the Lord, but they kind of feel awkward around me because I'm the guy who knows where they came from, so I'm always trying to bust through some of that perception.
What's really funny is, often when I do get back with them, they kind of have a conversation with me and they'll ask me, "What do you think of when we talk?" and I have to go, "You'll have to forgive me, but what'd we talk about?" Then they're offended because I forgot.
"I tried to share with you a couple of years ago the most intimate, dark secret of my life. What do mean you forgot?"
"I'm sure I can remember. You just have to help me a little bit."
It's sometimes a lose-lose, but what I want to say to you is this. There is no ceiling on your head here based on where you are today, but there's opportunity for you here based on where you want to go with this Jesus, and we want to make sure, if there's any way we can grow leadership from within this body staff and as we need more staff in the years ahead, I hope it comes from right here.
I hope there's a lost person who's out there in Dallas, Texas, who, through the ministry and people of Watermark, comes to know Jesus Christ who one day serves as an elder in this church. That's what Jesus can do, and I think that's what he wants to do in every single one of our lives who's here. We have to stop putting our thumb down on people because we knew them the way used to be. Let them grow.
Don't be surprised when your message is muddled to those who are your own. Jesus said it this way. "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown…" Don't be surprised when your message is muddled to those who are your own, in other words, folks who kind of knew you how you were. Often with family, the way it typically is, your family's the hardest place to share about truth and to be an effective ambassador for Christ. Boy, it sure is with me.
I used to hear stuff like this, especially a lot when I was at home after I trusted Christ. "You call yourself a Christian?" We'd have the normal family arguments and the normal family blowups, and there'd be times I'd definitely participate with them in my flesh. I was all of a sudden known by a different standard, so they would come right at me. They'd say, "You have no authority in this house because you just did what we did, and you say you're not supposed to." That can be a tag that hangs with you for a long time.
There are some people who are just going to always know you as that guy who behaved like this. Sometimes, there's not a lot we can do to loosen people's perceptions about us, but here's what I really want us to wrestle this morning. Don't be surprised when your message is muddled when you go to your own but be aware how of you muddle your message by living on your own terms. In other words, I can't do a lot about people's prejudices, but I can do a lot about the way I live my life.
I muddle my message sometimes with people, not because they want to thumb me down and say, "Oh, you're who you always are, always were, and always will be." There are some folks who know now my life has changed and that I've begun to call Christ my Lord and to seek him passionately and even through a calling to have it be my vocation, and they want to believe God has done a work in my life, but I muddle my message with my life.
See, for some of us, the problem is not people have known us for a long time. The problem with some of us is people still know us now at our office. Ever since we've taken the name of Christ, ever since we've been baptized, we continue to muddle the message with our living. This last week, I was with my kids and I'd played with them for a long time that afternoon into the evening, and we were getting ready to wind it down.
Often, we'll do some little story or some little skit or read the Scriptures a little bit. I had the three oldest, and I was going to read them a story from the Bible, and I put them in my lap, and it wasn't long before I go, "Ally, would you cut it out? Kirby, put that down! Cooper, get over here! Would you stop that? Guys, cut it out!" My wife walked in the room, and she looked at me.
She goes, "You cannot read them the Bible and talk to them like that." I went, "I… Yes, I can." You know, I started to think about that, and I just thought, in that one little instant, "What am I doing? I'm trying to read to them about God's love and God's care, but here I am being, just my tone, not to the way I ought to be," so that became part of what we talked about.
I had a friend who told me a while back, "Todd, let me just tell you something. Everybody loves ice cream, but no one likes it served to them when it's served in a big mess. He was just saying, "Sometimes you can muddle your message." When you serve them ice cream, you go, "You like vanilla? Good. Here's some vanilla," while you throw it in the bowl. He was helping me figure out how I dish up ice cream.
It's funny because I was teasing Skin last week that, had I preached on fear and used that illustration he would, I would've titled it, Don't Be a Birdbrained Christian. That would be the way I would have come at it, talking about how scarecrows keep you away from things that are alive, that a scarecrow can fool a birdbrain. I said, "Title it, Don't Be a Birdbrained Christian." Luckily, Skin who's more bent towards people sometimes than I am, says, "Let's give them ice cream a different way there. Let's not call them a bunch of birdbrains."
I want to say this to you this morning. If you're not effective in taking the gospel to some people, it could be because some people are going to always see you as a terrorist, but I think, honestly for most us, the reason the gospel is not effective from our lips is because our lives speak so loud they can't hear our words. Don't be surprised when your message is muddled to your own but make sure you don't muddle your message by your own living.
There's an interesting verse right here in this little section I have to comment on when it says, "And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them." I just wanted to make an observation about that because that can be confusing to some people. "Oh, so there it is. God can't do something without faith. Faith is something which obligates God." I said it this way, "Our lack of life is often nothing more than a display of our lack of faith."
The reason Jesus could not do many great works there in that city is because a lot of people there did not come to him asking him to do many great works. There were a few who, despite the public prejudice that this was a carpenter and not a Messiah, who said, "You know what? I'm going to come, and I'm going to say, 'I believe you can do with me what you've done we've heard all over this nation.' I'm going to bring you my lame son. I'm going to bring you my lame life. I'm going to bring you my lame thinking. I'm going ask you to speak powerfully into it."
I'm going to let you know this morning, the reason Jesus Christ… The reason God has not been powerful in your life is because of your lack of faith, but that doesn't mean you are limiting God's power. It means you are not availing yourself to God's power. We've already seen two (there's another one coming up) times in the gospel of Mark where people had no faith and Jesus did a miracle.
You need to know that God can do what he wants to do on his own terms, but he still calls you to come. We happen to believe here that, if God doesn't do a special work of grace in your life to draw you to himself, you're probably not going to come, but God doesn't let you off the hook with that. He tells you to come. He tells you to believe.
John said, "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name…" That's what Mark 6 is talking about, and that's what I'd offer to you this morning. If you're saying, "Well, God doesn't make a difference in my life," I would tell you, "It's no wonder because you've never really humbled yourself before his Word.
You might've professed certain truths about him. You might've sung certain songs. You might've been a member of a church for a while, but you've never really laid your life down before him, so there hasn't been that astonishing work of transformation in your life because you've never swallowed the whole pill. You've taken pieces of it, but you've never really been a man or a woman who's been poor in spirit and who said, 'I'm going to lean not on my own understanding.'"
Jesus is not to be a supplement to our fleshly diet. He wants to be the whole meal, and our lack of life, our lack of peace, our lack of forgiveness, our lack of strength to live a righteous life, our lack of healthy relationships is nothing more than a display of our lack of faith. If you live by faith in this book, I will assure you, you will have peace. You may not have health, wealth, and prosperity, but you will have joy.
You may not have freedom from the world's train wrecks, but you will have a sovereign sense of knowing you're cared for and that, in your hour of greatest need, provision has been made and that, when there's a crisis and when you need to manage life, there is a book here the God who loves you has given to you that you can turn to and be encouraged by.
If you're lacking something in your life, I'm going to tell you, it's not because God is not wanting to deal with you. It's because you have a prejudice that he can't really help you with this one issue you're wrestling with. He can. He can, and he desperately wants to. There are a lot of folks in this room today who God has never really dealt with their marriage because you've never come to him and been honest about where your marriage is.
You've never taken the full prescription of humbling yourself before this Word, beginning to wrestle and confess to one another your sins, beginning to pray with others and ask others to pray for you in the context of community. You want to see Christ heal your marriage? Then you take the whole pill. There are folks in this little Nazareth who have never seen Jesus do a powerful work in their lives because they really don't believe.
If you really believe, you need to know this. It's going to shock the world if you make some of the claims who folks who follow Jesus Christ make. It's my last point. Your life is going to shock the world, or your life is going to shock the Lord. See, it says at the very end of this little passage we read this morning that Jesus was astonished at their unbelief. Every single person in this room is going to make a decision.
They're going to either going shock the world that they're going to love their enemies, that they're going to find hope and forgiveness and redemption in a man who lived and died 2,000 years ago, that they're going to absolutely lay down their rights and become a servant to others and that will shock the world… There are people who, if we're living biblically, will look at us and go, "Are you out of your mind? Are you crazy? Why are you so committed to the kingdom of God? Are you nuts?" It will shock the world if you live the way God tells you to.
You need to know something. Based on what God has done in sending his only begotten Son to this world to die for you and to call you out, if you don't respond to that, you shock the King, and he is astonished at our lack of faith. He is astonished he can have one man who the entire history of the civilized world pivots on his birth, death, and resurrection, and you never wrestle with that.
This week, a friend of mine and I were having lunch with a man who has been very, very successful, internationally. He happens to own a piece of land not far from here that we think could be a blessing to us as a body, and we got in a conversation with him, just a chance to meet him and to talk with him about what we're doing as a church.
In the context of that, as we shared some our lives together, this gentleman we were with said, "Talk to me, Todd, about the land, because this thing's for sale, and we want you guys to buy it." I said, "Well, what you want for that land, I'm not sure we'll ever have that kind of cash to pay for it, but I'd love to talk to you about that land. Let me tell you how I could see us using that land in a way that would make a real difference in the eternity of people."
This guy is not a believer, and we talked for a little bit, for a while, and finally, he said at the end of it, "I'm not really sure what's going to happen to that land, but it's nice to meet you, and I just felt really impressed to do this." I said, "I'll be honest with you. I want you to hear me. We're not here today just to work you for the land. In fact, I didn't bring it up. We wanted to get to know you as an individual, and I couldn't care less if we ever get a single square inch of that land.
Now that I'm with you as a friend, I want to talk about what's going on in your life, and I want you consider what I want the whole city of Dallas to know about. You happen to be here in Dallas with me today, and you're my neighbor who's crossed my path. I have to tell you something, I have no idea what's going to happen to that land either, but I do know what's going to happen to you." He laughed. He goes, "Well, what's going to happen to me?"
I said, "You're going to, just like me, stand before the God who created you one day, and he's not going to ask you about your art collection, and he's not going to ask you about your holdings. He's going to ask you, 'Who do you say my Son was? What was he doing on the cross and what does that have to do with you?' You're going to have deal with that, just like I am. That's what's going to happen to you.
You need to know this. I couldn't care less if we ever see your land, but I could care less about what happens to your soul and so could God. Maybe you bought that land 10 years ago for one reason…so you and I would sit down and have this conversation today so you would unmistakably hear about God's love for you." He turned to the group we were with like I wasn't there, and said, in a nutshell, "This guy's crazy. This guy's crazy."
What he said is, in effect, "This man passionately believes that." He goes, "I'm not really sure I agree with it yet, but I like what you're about, and I have a feeling you're going to do some significant things." I said, "You know, I don't know about that, but I'll tell you this, what we're having a talk about today, there's nothing more significant that we'll ever visit about, and I loved you enough to tell you." Then our conversation moved on.
I hope he went away thinking maybe I'm a little bit crazy, but I also hope he went away knowing I told him in love, "If you don't deal with the God of heaven who has through no small effort reached out to you again and again, there's going to be a day when the Lord's going to look at you and he's going to think you're crazy." Let's pray.
Father, this fun little passage of Scripture full all kinds of stuff has applications for our lives, and we just focus now on this last one. We see these people who are with him in Nazareth, some his brothers and sisters, had earlier gone to get Jesus because they thought he was crazy. Now Jesus comes back to them, and they have all the evidence of the power of his words and the truth of his words and the sense his words make.
They look at the works which justify that his words are true, and they still harden their hearts in unbelief, and they will not let their present realities overcome their prejudices, and your Son looks at them in astonishment. Father, I think there are two groups of folks in the room who you are astonished with this morning, so I just pray for both of them.
I pray for those folks who have never really taken the time to talk about what's going to happen to them, and they need to think through the claims of Jesus Christ. They need to think through what will happen to them at the grave. They need to think through how they're going to be forgiven before a holy God, and it astonishes you that, in their unbelief, they don't even have an honest conversation.
I think, Lord, you're also astonished by those of us who have mouthed words where we say we do believe Jesus is the Savior of all men, the blessed Redeemer, God with us, and we have professed our allegiance to him, and you are astonished at how quickly we have forgotten the joy of our salvation. You are astonished at our unbelief and our muddled living, where we continue to take a piece of what you've prescribed to us.
As a result of that, there are not transformed lives like there should be. You look at your church, and you say, "Whatever else it is doing, it isn't doing business with me by faith," and you're astonished. I pray for us as a body and for us as individuals that we would shock the world with the passion with which we respond to who you are.
I pray there would not be a single individual in this room who would one day stand before you and you in disbelief would say, "How could you continue to suppress the truth and unrighteousness? But you did, and now I now I grand you what you want." May that awful day never come for some, and may we be a body that is a city set on a hill, a light the whole world can see and have to wrestle with the miraculous transforming power of what Jesus is all about. Would you make your mark on this earth through us? In Christ's name, amen.
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.