Amazingly, the church today is full of individuals who say they know they're sick and that Jesus is the divine physician, but who do not care to follow His prescription for life. As we begin our second year of pursuing full devotion to Christ together, we are reminded that the Scriptures teach not that the righteous shall profess their faith, but that the righteous shall live by faith.
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, as we said, it's our purpose as followers of Christ to say, increasingly, you're all we want to seek. We know what your Scriptures say. We also know the reality too often of our lives, that we continue and struggle and suffer because we say we've identified you as Messiah, yet we so often don't come to you as Lord. We don't come to you as one who graciously has spoken into our dark world and brought us light.
Too many times, even those of us who have said that you are Lord, that you are King, that you are the living Word and that life is in you, we turn back to find life somewhere else. This morning, as we come together, those of us who gather regularly and even as we invite our friends and welcome our guests, we just want to say, "Help us, Lord, to really be confronted again with the sin of unbelief."
Too often, we find ourselves playing church, playing Christianity, playing churchianity, being drawn into the culture and not being the salt and light you want us to be. I pray you just use the day to change us and to mark us, to teach us and to confront us with truth. May we never be a people who honor you with our lips while our hearts are far from you. Help us to be authentic in our walk. In Christ's name, amen.
Well, this last week, I had some fun going back through the Bible and just looking at some different places that, frankly, are sometimes hard to live with, so I thought I would just try and take a moment and just tell you how often I've seen myself and often others really treat the Scriptures. Our effort this week as we're working through Mark is to go back… As you know, when we usually go through a passage, I like to make a lot of different observations on the text, but today, I want to zero in on one.
In fact, it really is just hammering home one of the last points from last week. One year into this thing, I thought, "We need to get together again as a group of followers of Christ and ask ourselves, 'Hey, we started with a lot of passion and a lot of zeal. We wanted to be God's church. We wanted to be a group of folks who were authentic in our walk, who were focused on Christ and exalted him in every way, who were biblically based.'
We said, one of our first Sundays, that God's Word is our authority, conscience, and guide in everything. We stand firm where it stands firm, and we remain flexible where it is flexible. We've talked about Jesus, and we've said we wanted to be a Christ-centered church. We said we consider, as core members here, that full devotion is normative for our body. We want to be grounded in grace, passionate in prayer; a welcoming, authentic family. We want to be relevant to our world, innovative, and flexible.
We want to be good stewards of all God has given us and use our gifts in serving one another and not floating along on some cruise ship excited about what happens on that ship so we'll come back and sail again but be members of a mission, part of a battleship, each of us taking our stations, each of us doing our part and encouraging each other in that journey, and we ought to often pull back and ask ourselves, 'How are we doing?'"
We determined, as we began this work, to do one thing. That is to measure our success only by our ability to be and to make disciples. It doesn't matter. Anything else we do, if we don't make disciples and if we don't live as followers of Christ, then whatever else we're doing might be successful in the world's eyes, but it's off course. It's off course.
When was the last time you've really thought about some of what the Scriptures teach? I mean, you know, I went through this week, and just the very beginning… What's the first thing it says? "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." I don't know about you, but I grew up in a public-school system. I went to a secular, public college. They didn't really support that idea Sometimes, it's hard to really believe that, so as I look at Genesis 1:1 sometimes, it just might be easier just to go, "You know what? Let's just get rid of it."
Really, think about that. Then the Bible sometimes can be so negative. Have you ever thought about the message of, "…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…"? It can be kind of offensive. That's over here in Romans, chapter 3, verse 23. Who wants to have that negative little passage of Scripture right there confronting them? I mean, I think about Ephesians 6:1. All of us have conflicts with our parents. I flip over there.
In Ephesians 6:1: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. " My kids sometimes do that. A friend of mine, Joe White, tells about a time when his little boy, Cooper, and he were getting ready to go to bed, and Cooper said "Dad, help me. I want to memorize a verse." Joe said, "Alright, Cooper. Let's memorize this one, Ephesians 6:1, 'Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.'"
Cooper, with his little way he makes his R's like I did when I was a kid said, "That's not weawy in there." Joe said, "Yes, it is." How many of us have ripped it out of our Bibles? How about this one? This is kind of any offensive verse. You go back, and you think about the response… This one's back here in Deuteronomy 6.
It says, "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up." Frankly, when you think back to the time that was written, there wasn't the schedules, the soccer practices, the rehearsals and all the things going on we have today. I mean, it's just a crazy world. There are so many distractions.
I would say to Moses, "Have you tried to have a family devotional with five kids under seven? It's just crazy, and I really don't have time to wrestle with that, so I, frankly, would rather not diligently focus on my family in trying to train them up in the way of righteousness." You go to work, and it's such a hard place to be. Colossians 3:23 says over here "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men…" Come on, God doesn't give me a pay raise. My boss does. I want to please him."
You know, we have an election coming up on Tuesday, and there's going to be about half the nation that's angry no matter who is elected. There's this incredible verse in Romans 13:1-2, and it talks about it doesn't matter whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, whether you're an independent or not. It says,
"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation…"
My little girl was asking me yesterday, "Daddy, how come they make people in the back seat where seat belts and not people in the front?" I said, "Everybody's supposed to wear seat belts." She goes, "Well, how come you don't sometimes?" I said, "Because Romans 13:1-2 are not some of my favorite verses."
Have you ever tried to seek first his kingdom and his righteous? I mean, come on. I mean, really. There's a whole lot that's coming at us, a whole lot of things that are going different directions, and Matthew 6:33 is a nice idea, but it's not a livable philosophy. Who really believes that if you seek God first, all these things will be added to you? You know, do you have conflicts with folks? I want to worship God. I have no problem with that, but people sometimes are very difficult.
I know that, in Matthew 5 in the Sermon on the Mount, just one page back from where I was, says, "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering." That whole Sermon on the Mount thing… Let's get a couple of pages here. That's just a difficult section. Is it not?
Oh man, let's move into more interpersonal stuff. Philippians 2:3-4: "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal…" Yada, yada… No way! Would you live like that, really? Who does? We need to be honest. We want to be authentic, right? Well, let's just thin this puppy up.
It's tough to bridle your tongue. Ephesians 4:29: "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." You know, the whole book of Ephesians is another one that kind of sometimes gets on me a little bit.
How about this one? We got rid of the Sermon on the Mount, but if you go back to Luke 6, and you look in verses 27 and 28 (it's called the Sermon on the Plain), Jesus kept repeating some of these things. In case we ripped out Matthew 5 through 7, there's always Luke 6 to deal with. "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." Give me a break! Really!
Oh, Philippians 2:14-15, this is one of my favorite ones to rip out. In fact, I can't even rip it out. it's already gone. "Do all things without grumbling or disputing…" Are you serious? Who among us doesn't grumble or dispute and doesn't frankly feel very comfortable with that? See, the Baptists got in trouble not too long ago because they didn't rip this next one out of their Bibles.
"Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body." Thank you, Ephesians 5. Before I rip it out, there's one for us guys right after that. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church…" Are you serious? In case you've forgotten, Todd, Christ loved the church sacrificially. He loved the church unconditionally. He loved the church perfectly without error. How can a guy love his wife that way?
Then, you know, I mean, the whole money thing can be so hard, can't it? You know, I work hard for that I get. It says in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." I love a 2 Corinthians 8 and 10, but not a 9.
We have a lot of folks who worship here who don't have the opportunity like I do as a married guy to participate in the kind of sex God says is good sex, and there are some of us guys who are married here that our wives are not having kind of sex with us we always thought we'd have when we finally got to have sex. Now surely, God wouldn't want me to be frustrated.
That's why I know that, when I go to 1 Thessalonians 4, verses 3 and , I read, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God…" Well, to heck with that. If God wanted me to have a pure lifestyle, he wouldn't have given me this sex drive, so whatever Paul wrote to those Thessalonians doesn't relate to me.
The funny thing about this is that it's hard enough trying to find somebody, and then God puts all these restrictions on who we should date. Back over here in 2 Corinthians 6:14: "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?"
I mean, come on. I mean, I want to at least meet somebody. We'll see if they eventually will kind of go with me, and my Bible's thinning out. It should get easier and easier to find somebody I can date. Jesus is a good guy and someone I don't mind following, but John 14:6 says, "…I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
Oh, come on, please, let's not be so intolerant. Let's not be so exclusive. Let's not be so narrow. We just happen to believe what we believe because we were born in a country that kind of points itself towards Jesus and the things of what we call the Judeo-Christian faith, but that's not realistic. Jesus doesn't mean he's the only way. He means he's the way for the people who only know that he might be the way, I think.
If you have a hard time believing Jesus is the way, there's a really negative verse back in here in 2 Thessalonians, chapter 1, verse 9: "These [those who reject John 14:6] will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power…" Who likes to talk about eternal damnation and destruction and being away from him forever? I mean, this is really tough stuff, and sometimes I just would rather get rid of it and not have to deal with it.
You know, here's the fact. It's offensive to stand up here and hear a guy during the time we're supposed to lift up God's word rip up his Bible and to thin that sucker out and just say, "We're not going to do those things. We're not going to focus on those being what fully devoted followers really have to do."
What we're really saying, whether we rip it out of our Bibles or live that way, is that we don't want to do as it says in Proverbs 3:5-6. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart…" We want to lean on our own understanding. In all your ways, we don't want to acknowledge him, and we don't want to make him the one who will provide for us the path.
We don't believe, back there in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 where is says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." Does it offend you that I ripped my Bible? Does it disturb you? You know, it ought to. I mean, there are people all around the world who would love to have a Bible like this, and I stand up here, and I rip it.
One of my favorite stories is about a guy who said to his wife one time, "Hey, sweetie, let's go. Wouldn't it be great to go to this trip to Israel and stand on Mount Sinai and to read the Ten Commandments? Wouldn't that be great?" She responded by saying, "Sweetie, wouldn't it be awesome if we just stayed here and obeyed them?"
Last week, we looked at the life of Christ, and we saw that, when he went to his hometown, these people who were used to hearing from him, folks who had his presence on a regular basis growing up and even heard from him a year earlier… Now he comes back. It says they had a hard time with him. They were too familiar with him to really understand who he was. It says, as a result of that, there were a lot of folks in that different town who he couldn't help because of their lack of belief.
I think about us with our Scriptures. I think about how many of us have made a decision about who this Jesus is. See, we don't scoff at him. Most of us in this room, a lot of us anyway, have decided Jesus is somebody worth following, that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father, except by him, but frankly, most of us or many of us or most people in this country, for sure, who claim his name, at times, just go, "You know what? That, today, is not going to work for me," and we choose to live in a different way.
It's one thing for folks to make decisions who don't know God loves them and God has given them his Word that they might be taught, that they might be corrected, that they might be reproved so the man of God and the woman of God could be everything God wanted us to be. It's one thing for folks who don't believe that to not go here and order their lives in that way.
It's another thing for there to be churches today all across this country and all across this world who are full of folks who say they've decided that Jesus is the Messiah, which is to say that he is Eternal Father, that he is Prince of Peace, that he is Wonderful Counselor, that he is Mighty God. We sit there, and we sing songs about how I will give you all my worship, and yet, our lives are too often just like the lives of those who would never think about taking up some time on Sunday morning.
There's a great story about a guy who sent off to a respected… At the time they weren't just a clothing company, but they did all kinds of different things. One of the early mail catalogue businesses was Abercrombie & Fitch. A guy who lived on Long Island ordered an extremely sensitive barometer. Have you ever heard this? He got this thing.
He was very disappointed when he received it because it indicated on there… The needle was constantly pointed towards the sector which was marked "Hurricane" from when he took it out of the box, so he beat the thing, trying to get the needle to reset, and it wouldn't reset. He kept it, and finally, he took the thing, wrote a note, and went to work that day in the city to return it back.
He said, "You sent me this stupid barometer, and it's stuck on 'Hurricane,' and I don't like it," only to return home that day in 1938 to Long Island in September to have the fact that his entire home had been washed away by a hurricane that had come, one of the worst hurricanes to ever hit the east coast.
It shouldn't surprise us that there were some folks who were in their homes that day or who were completely surprised by the fact that there was a hurricane who didn't know it. There wasn't anything they trusted or that they bought thinking it was going to show them when the hurricane was coming, but here's a guy who said, "I'm trusting in this very sensitive weather device, and it says 'Hurricane,'" and instead of going, "You know what? Maybe this thing works. Maybe there's a hurricane," he just beat it. Then he said, "I'm sending it back because it's crazy."
Look what the verse was we looked at last week in Mark, chapter 6, verses 5 and 6, the last little bit says, "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."
I want to talk about this again and focus on this one point because, to me, the most amazing thing about what's going on in our world today is there are a large number of individuals who would feel very comfortable singing the songs we sang this morning but would also feel very comfortable living a life that practically just rips out the parts of the Bible they don't want and living on their own terms, and they see no contradiction.
They see no problem in not being devoted followers of Christ. Even though they say he is God, even though they say they believe the Bible, they really don't trust in the Scriptures, and practically, they…we…I…am an atheist when I live that way. Our purpose is to call folks to be fully devoted followers of Christ and to help them to understand we have been near this Jesus and we believe he alone can help them experience life.
How are we doing? How are you doing in your marriage, men? Have you really evaluated your marriage this week by Ephesians 5:25, or did you rip it out this week? Did you love your wife as Christ loved the church? This last week, how did you do at work when no one was looking? Did you really do what you did with excellence because whatever you do you do heartily as unto the Lord, or did you do it unto men?
Hey, those of you who came to worship this morning who have major conflict in your life with somebody else, did it hit you this morning that part of coming to worship the Lord is also thinking through as an act of worship, "Lord, who have offended this week I need to go to and say, 'Will you forgive me?' I need to leave my offering of worship just for a second and make my most active priority in worship to go and to reconcile with that brother," or did you rip it out this week?
Did you believe that those who ignore these things will escape the penalty of eternal destruction away from the glory of the Lord? Did you believe this week that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that the only way to the Father is through him? Did you tell people that or did you shrink back because you felt like that might be a little offensive? Did you just rip it out, or did you live it this week?
How are we doing as fully devoted followers of Christ? We want to measure our success as a body in two ways, really one way with two parts. I said it already, and that is…How are we doing at being and then making disciples? What does this verse mean? "And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people…" Please listen to me. The reason I want to come back to this is because it is such a central and key point to what some folks will tell you this means.
There will be some who will tell you that the reason Jesus could not do miracles there was exclusively and completely because he needed them to believe in him for him to have power. In other words, they believe faith is a force which obligates or, if he doesn't have it, limits Jesus. I want you to know, we've said it before, but it's worth hitting again. Faith is not a force which obligates or limits Christ, but it is a factor in our witness for him.
In other words, we can sit here, and we can profess all day long what we want to say about who Jesus is, but are we going to be people who live by faith? Are we going to be people who live the way he wants us to live or not? There were already in Mark two different places where there was no faith present that Jesus did miracles. Why in Mark 6 does it say he could do no miracle there, except just to heal a few sick?
Let me repeat to you again. In Mark, chapter 3, verses 1 through 6, he was in the synagogue. He was worshiping, and some Jews were there. There was a man with the withered hand, and they were going to test him to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. Jesus confronted them with a question we talked about. He said, "What's lawful to do, good or bad, on the Sabbath?"
He said, "Which of you, if you had a sheep in a hole, wouldn't pull him out on that Sabbath day?" He said to that man, "You come here. You lift out your hand," and he said, "Be healed." There was no faith that was there, certainly not in the Pharisees. We don't know if there was any faith in that guy. All he did when Jesus said, "Lift out your hand," was he lifted out his hand.
Not too long after that, in Mark chapter 4, his disciples are going across the lake, the Sea of Galilee, and a big storm came up, and they said to him, "Hey, Master, we know you're tired, but it's a very big storm out there, and we've seen you do some amazing things. We need to ask you, 'Could you help us through this crisis? We know you can calm the sea and the waves. Would you please, we ask by faith, calm the storm?'" Is that what happened? No. They looked at him without faith.
In fact, he rebuked them for their lack of faith, and they said, "Master, don't you care that we are perishing?" What did Jesus do? He stood up, and he made the sea calm. Whatever this means in Mark 6:5-6, it doesn't mean that, because there is no faith, God can't do what he wants to do. In Jesus' life, on the cross, full of faith, the perfect God-man said, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" He said, "If this cup can pass, if I can do it any other way, let it pass." It didn't pass. He still felt the sin of the world come upon him.
Was it because Jesus lacked faith that he wasn't removed from the suffering of the cross? Absolutely not. The Father was not obligated by the faith of the Son. Paul said in 2 Corinthians, "I've asked three different times for this thorn to be removed from me." Paul was a man of great faith, yet his trouble, his trial, his travail, his sickness, his issue was not removed, and it wasn't because Paul didn't ask in faith.
There are people who will tell you and use Mark 6 as a proof text that the reason your friend is dying, your husband is dying, your kids are rebellious is because you lack faith and that you can be an intercessory who will step in the way for them, stand in the gap, and move God's hand, and you can obligate God by the force of faith, and if your friend dies, if your son stays a rebel, if your wife continues to be obstinate towards you, it's not just their problem; it's evidence of your lack of faith.
You need to know those are some of the most cruel, manipulative people on the face of the earth, and they don't know their Bibles, and they don't know this Jesus who is not obligated by anything we do. What this passage is saying is that he was there, and he had a heart to help people. He had come to preach the words of life to them, and part of the sign of the Messiah is that the blind would see, the lame would walk.
There were a lot of folks in that town who decided Jesus wasn't that man. He wasn't the Messiah. He wasn't the guy. The basic spirit of the age was, "Don't turn to Jesus right now because, frankly, if you turn to him, it's not going to make much difference. He's not the Messiah. It's Joseph and Mary's son. It's not the Messiah. He's a carpenter," so very few people did come to him in faith or come to him at all.
Those who did come (there were a few), it says he laid hands upon those few sick people and healed them. I believe that's what's going on there, and the context of this passage is a context of unbelief which causes people not to come to the one that God, in that time, in that age, was willing to bring healing to and willing to bring miracles to which would authenticate his words, which were his claims to be the chosen one of God, the Hope of the World, the Light of the World, the Savior of all men.
Because folks rejected that and didn't turn to him, not only did they miss out on the opportunity to have temporal physical ailments healed but they lost out on the opportunity to be reconciled to God. That's what's going on here in Mark 6:5-6. What is not happening here is that faith is shown to be a force which obligates or limits our God. Jesus does tell you to come. He says, "Come." In Matthew 7, he says, "Ask."
He says, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.""But wait a minute, Todd, you just said that, every time I ask, it doesn't obligate God to do something," and that is correct. There are times that God chooses not to give us exactly what we ask for.
Even in the time when Christ walked on this earth, there were times where people came to him in faith, hearing about this miracle worker that they were not healed. There were still many sick, diseased, and suffering among them when Jesus left, but Jesus used his love for people and his ability to touch the temporal needs of humankind to illustrate that he could deal with their unseen needs, which was their greater need, which was the one he wanted to address.
I mentioned before, there are four kinds of folks who really can't benefit from who Christ is, the Divine Physician, First, there are individuals who don't think they're sick. They're a lot of people who just reject the idea that they are need of anything greater than themselves to help them. Secondly, there are other individuals who don't trust that there's a Messiah, that there's a doctor who can care for them.
They've rejected the idea that this is really something special. I mean, maybe he's a great teacher, but he's not God. He's just really, frankly, a glorified man, or they'll come even lower than that. He's just a carpenter. He's Joseph and Mary's son. He's a magician. He's a politician. He's a silver-tongued devil, but he's not the doctor.
The third kind of group who can't benefit is individuals who don't know there is a doctor who cares and can help. There are some people who haven't heard… Believe it or not, there are folks in this city who don't know about this Jesus, and it's our job to tell them we know this individual is there and he cares. The fourth kind is folks who are dead.
What is shocking to me is the group you and I are a part of. That is the group who knows they are sick and knows there is a doctor who cares, and we choose not to go to him. We choose not to take the whole pill, but we pick and choose his prescription.
There are very few of us here who, if we wanted treatment for some ailment or some disease and we went to a doctor, if he gave us 10 things to do, we wouldn't say, "I'll tell you what. I'm into two of them this week, Doc. I'll go with the radiation but not the surgery. I'll go with the surgery but not the medicine. I'll go with the surgery but not the physical therapy." You'd take the whole pill, the whole prescription because you believe this person is learned and trained and is there to help you with your physical ailment.
What those of us who say we've come to know Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life are saying is that he is more than just a Savior. He is Savior because he is Lord, and he has called us to walk with him. I talk to folks a lot in my office, and they say stuff like, "I've come to the realization that I cannot do it alone."
I have to ask them, "Are you willing now that you've realized you are sick and that you just professed to me that you believe Jesus is the Divine Physician who wants to come with grace and mercy into your life, forgive you your sins, and begin to restore the years the locusts have eaten…? You say you've come to that realization, but here's the $30,000 question. Are you ready to act on that realization?"
It wasn't just four of five weeks ago that I said, "What the highlight of my year has been is that, this entire year of our body, we haven't had a marriage blow up in our church." That was five weeks ago. The last five weeks, my days have been filled with talking with people who are hurting in their marriage. I'm so glad they've come. I'm so glad that they, with humility, have just said, "Hey, we want to talk about this. We're not failures (I sure want them to know that), but I want to tell you, our lives are out of control."
They say, "We've come to the realization that the way we're living is going to cause our marriage to end." Where I have to look at them in love and where I look at each of you today, where I look at my life every single day, is to say, "You've come to that realization. Here's the question. Are you ready to act on that realization?"
It doesn't say, "The righteous shall profess faith." It doesn't say, "Fully devoted followers of Christ shall profess faith." It says, "The righteous shall live by faith…shall live by faith." There are all kinds of folks, like I said, who are out there who won't go to the Messiah, and as a result of that, they will not be healed, but there are a number of folks who have said, "The Divine Physician is here in town. We know him. We love him. He's our friend. There's access to him, and we don't go. In fact, we live our lives in destructive ways."
Spurgeon said this way. "There are fools enough in the world, and there can be no need that Christian men should swell the number." Do you hear what he's saying? There are enough people who live like there's no God in the world. We don't need people who profess there's a God in the world to live like there's no God in the world. This is that sheep that I tucked away before.
He said the world is self-existing. There is not God. No deity can save us. We must save ourselves. Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological sanction. This is the "Humanist Manifesto," written in 1973. The amazing thing about this is you look at the way the people who believe this live.
A guy named George Barna went through 152 different spiritual indicators, and he asked folks who professed to know that the Messiah is in town… He's not just Joseph and Mary's son. He's not just a carpenter. He's not just somebody who runs a club on Sunday mornings. Jesus is God. He was raised from the dead. He is the firstborn of all creation. He is the Creator. He is the visible image of the invisible God. All the fullness of the deity dwells in him.
People who say that, in 152 different areas of life, have no distinguishable difference in their marriage, in the entertainment choices they make, in their ethics and their values and their views. Now that doesn't mean that everybody… It just means as a whole, percentagewise, in people who make this profession, the same percent live this way as people who don't know there's a God. Listen to what Paul Harvey said.
"If I were the devil…I would gain control of the most powerful nation in the world; I would delude their minds into thinking that they had come from man's effort, instead of God's blessings; I would promote an attitude of loving things and using people, instead of the other way around;
I would dupe entire states into relying on gambling for their state revenue; I would convince people that character is not an issue when it comes to leadership; I would make it legal to take the life of unborn babies; I would make it socially acceptable to take one's own life, and invent machines to make it convenient; I would cheapen human life as much as possible so that the life of animals [is] valued more than human beings;
I would take God out of the schools, where even the mention of His name was grounds for a lawsuit; I would come up with drugs that sedate the mind and target the young, and I would get sports heroes to advertise them; I would get control of the media, so that every night I could pollute the mind of every family member for my agenda; I would attack the family, the backbone of any nation.
I would make divorce acceptable and easy, even fashionable. If the family crumbles, so does the nation; I would compel people to express their most depraved fantasies on canvas and movie screens, and I would call it art; I would convince the world that people are born homosexuals, and that their lifestyles should be accepted and marveled;
I would convince the people that right and wrong are determined by a few who call themselves authorities and refer to their agenda as politically correct; I would persuade people that the church is irrelevant and out of date, and the Bible is for the naive; I would dull the minds of Christians, and make them believe that prayer is not important, and that faithfulness and obedience are optional; I guess I would leave things pretty much the way they are."
Again, Spurgeon said this: "The devil does not mind having half your heart. He is quite satisfied with that, because he is like the woman to whom the child did not belong: he does not mind if it be cut in halves." Do you hear that? That's some great insight by this guy who, 150 years ago, did what I'm doing right now better than I'll ever do it. He's just talking about when Solomon brought these two ladies before him, both claiming it was their child.
Solomon said, "We'll cut the child in half, and you can take whichever half you want." The one who was the real mother said, "No, don't do that. Give her the child." Solomon said, "Give that woman the baby because that's the real mother because, if the other woman would let it be cut in half, that's evidence she's not the real mom." Satan doesn't mind having half your heart.
He doesn't mind having half your heart because it's not his. He couldn't care less, just half of it, just enough to confuse the world that you know the Messiah, just enough to make you a fully useless followers of Christ, just enough to destroy your marriage, just enough to disillusion your kids, just enough to have the world scoff at your claims and my claims. That's all he wants, just a little bit.
We purpose to measure our success by ability to be and make disciples. I want to tell you, my friends who are visiting here today. We're so glad you're here. All I'm trying to establish is that we don't want to just celebrate that we're doing better than most. "Yeah, our marriages aren't what God wanted, but no one's marriage really is, and no one's really can be. We're just holding it together better than you ever will, and that's good enough for God."
I want to tell you today that I stand against that. I stand against the fact that my life is more moral than most people; therefore, it ought to be good enough to let me be a pastor. No, I want to tell you that I do not always live by Proverbs 3:5-6. I don't always trust the Lord with all my heart, and I don't always lean on his understanding. I want to tell you, when I do that, it breaks my heart. I confess it, and as quickly as I can, I get right with the Lord again because I am devoted to that.
I am committed to being a man of God and using the power of his Spirit which indwells in me and time in his Word and the fellowship of the saints; taking the whole pill, every means of grace God gives me; to grow as a follower of Christ. I will not be satisfied because I'm better than the rest of society. We will never be satisfied here because we're better than most churches. My goodness! We are called to be his church, not just a better-than-most church.
That means we have to ask ourselves daily, "How are we doing?" How are you doing men? How are you doing at loving your wives? How are you doing single folks? Man, I know it is hard, but do you care anymore? Have you still believed that Jesus is able to sustain you through this very difficult time of singleness and even have some joy in the process, or do you just cash it in and go, "You know what? A little compromise surely he accepts"?
Hey, God knows we're going to struggle, but he wants us to take everything he offers us to be successful in the struggle. He says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Too many of us profess to be poor but are still rich in self-dependence. As I look at our one-year anniversary, I just wanted to say, "You know what we are? We are a gathering of people who are absolutely convinced of our moral bankruptcy.
We're absolutely convinced of our inability to choose right consistently over wrong, and we are absolutely unable to discipline our flesh to be the husbands, the wives, the sons, the daughters, the neighbors, the employees we want to be, and we desperately need a Savior, and his name is Jesus Christ. He redeems men and forgives them of their sins and empowers them to walk in righteousness, but he only does that when you come.
You can know him as one who can heal your disease of the soul, and then you can walk away from him, and I can walk away from him at any given moment. We can halve our hearts someplace else, and it destroys our witness for him. Listen to what one guy wrote, as we talk about where we are right now in this year. This is a guy named A.W. Tozer in a book called The Set of the Sail. As we talked about starting out church, we said we were going to be in a battleship, every one of us doing our part, not cruising along, but we were going to set the sail God's way.
He wrote this a number of years ago, four or five decades. "Our most pressing obligation today is to do all in our power to obtain a revival that will result in a reformed, revitalized, purified [fully devoted] church. It is of far greater importance that we have better Christians than that we have more of them. Each generation of Christians is the seed of the next, and degenerate seed is sure to produce a degenerate harvest not a little better than but a little worse than the seed from which it sprang.
Thus the direction will be down until vigorous, effective means are taken to improve the seed. […] To carry on these activities [evangelism, missions] scripturally the church should be walking in fullness of power, separated, purified and ready at any moment to give up everything, even life itself, for the greater glory of Christ. For a worldly, weak, decadent church to make converts is but to bring forth after her own kind and extend her weakness and decadence a bit further out."
Have you wondered how the church could grow in America the last 50 years and our society become more decadent? There's your answer. Read that last line again. "For a worldly, weak, decadent church [which is made up of worldly, weak, and not so fully devoted followers of Christ who pick and choose what parts of the Bible they want to surrender under] to make converts is but to bring forth after her own kind [those converts] and extend her weakness and decadence a bit further out."
These aren't just good words by a man who spoke in this country 40 years ago. This is what Jesus said in Mark 4:13-21. He said, "I'm going to sow the word of truth, and even those of you who don't have that truth snatched away by the Devil who hates you and wants you to be dead in your Spirit and even those of you who aren't persecuted out of the faith, those of you who have soil that lets that word come in, it can choke out your effectiveness if one of three things happens." Look at verse 19 right there.
"…the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." Which is to say, we don't keep thinking, "O Lord! You're beautiful, your face is all I seek," which is to say we don't believe that he alone is the one who can give us life, which is to say we are not authentic in our walk. We are inconsistent, and we find no problem in it because that's what most of us are, inconsistent followers of Christ.
What breaks my heart is to have folks I visit with on a regular basis sometimes come in, and I ask them, "Hey, what do think God would instruct you to do at such an hour of need?" They look at me, and they don't have the first clue about where they should go in God's Word. I ask them to flip to a certain place in their Bible, and they don't know if it's Old Testament or New, and they've been believers for 15 years, or I ask them to turn to a certain place, and I hear the binding snap in their Bibles.
What they've said is they know the doctor, they know they're sick, but they haven't taken a single bit of the pill, and because of that, they've consistently been conformed to the image this world, and they've consistently conformed to the kingdom of darkness, and they have not been transformed by the renewing of their minds, so they are completely unable to prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
One more word from Tozer, it comes out of 2 Timothy 3-4 which says, "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier." Tozer writes, "The laws of success operate also in the higher field of the soul—spiritual greatness has its price. Eminence in the things of the Spirit demands a devotion to these things more complete than most of us are willing to give.
But the law cannot be escaped. If we would be holy we know the way; the law of holy living is before us. The prophets of the Old Testament, the apostles of the New and, more than all, the sublime teachings of Christ are there to tell us how to succeed [where the straight-and-narrow place is]. The amount of loafing practiced by the average Christian in spiritual things would ruin a concert pianist if he allowed himself to do the same thing in the field of music.
The idle puttering around that we see in church circles would end the career of a big league pitcher in one week. No scientist could solve his exacting problem if he took as little interest in it as the rank and file of Christians take in the art of being holy. The nation whose soldiers were as soft and undisciplined as the soldiers of the churches would be conquered by the first enemy that attacked it. Triumphs are not won by men in easy chairs. Success is costly."
Welcome to the opportunity you have today to suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Welcome to the opportunity to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness and to be a fully devoted follower of Christ. We should settle for nothing less. We should be people who extend grace and love and acceptance to each other, understanding that the way is hard, the road is tough, and many will fall, but we'll pick them up and encourage them, but we will not let them sit there and say, "You know, we don't need to walk anymore."
Fully devoted followers of Christ don't quit, on each other or on Jesus. Second Timothy 2:15: "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." How are you doing? Are you more able to handle God's Word this year than last year? Are you more aware of what he's prescribed for you this year than you were last year? If not, we have failed you as a body, and we are committed to helping you, and we are committed to ourselves growing in each of these things.
Listen to what Paul said in 1 Timothy 4:1-16. "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron…" Look what it says down there in verse 6.
"In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness…"
No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life. No fully devoted follower of Christ thinks it's going to be just something that happens by osmosis. We purpose to be the men and women who God wants us to be, and we come to him, and we sit at his feet. The priorities and the attitudes and the actions of a disciple are the same today as they were then.
They come to him, and they sit at his feet. They listen to him teach, and they listen to his Word. They let his presence, if you will his Spirit, empower them to walk in a way that is pleasing to God, and they trust in him to cover for all their sins and shortcomings which surely exist. This next year, I am more excited than ever to be a prevailing church, a church of people that doesn't just like the music, doesn't just like each other, doesn't just have its ears tickled but that says, "You know what? We're on a ship. We're on a mission.
We're going to be the people God wants us to be, and we're going to know the Messiah. We're going to know this Jesus, and we're going to tell others they can come to him. We know he looks like an ordinary man. We know you think he's just Joseph and Mary's son, but this Jesus has changed me. Come and see."
That's what we get to do every Sunday. That's what we get to do throughout all the week. We confess our shortcomings. We acknowledge our struggle, and we purpose to grow, and we come in to folks who maybe have been around a little bit longer, and we say, "Hey, Wagner, I'm one of those guys who hasn't a clue where to go to start to figure out I need to do in my marriage, but I'm not just going to realize that I'm inept, I'm going to act on my ineptness."
Do you know this? This week, I will act on my ineptness, and I will have friends who will love me enough to tell me, "Todd, you are inept as a pastor in this way. You are inept as a husband in this way." My wife loves me enough to complete me and to point out when I don't love her as Christ loved the church, and she does it, recommitting her love to me, full of grace and acceptance, but she says, "Todd, I believe in your heart you want to be this man, you want to be this dad, you want to be this friend. Press on."
We offer you that in community here. Are you in community with others? Come. That's part of what Jesus has prescribed. Are you confessing your sins? Is there a shell of friends who know the struggles in your life, who know the sin that consistently defeats you? Come and pursue full devotion with us.
Here's the point from last week. Our lack of LIFE… I capitalize it this week. It's capital LIFE. That song we sing, "You Alone," "I'm alive. I'm alive. I'm alive." You know what? The first time I heard that, I didn't like it. I felt like we were singing the Coke song, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." I didn't want to do it, but as I thought of that, I thought, "You know what? What we're saying, we're professing that we're people who have experienced the abundant life as we follow Christ.
We're saying there is life with Jesus, and the deceitfulness of sin is constantly pulling us away to make us think there's life in something other than the Scriptures. What we're saying when we gather like that and declare that is, "We reject that and when we think that we follow God alone, not just in profession but in practicality, we are more alive than any other time in our lives."
We are so glad that some of you who don't know that Jesus yet are here to hear us say, "We are alive! We are alive in Jesus Christ." Our lack of peace, our lack of strength to live rightly, our lack of glorifying marriages, our lack of healthy relationships, our lack of being salt and light, our lack of being a prevailing church is nothing more than a display of our practical lack of faith.
Even though we hold up our Bibles, there are many of us who will either not take the time to look at what it says, or we'll go, "I see what it says. I choose not to go there," and we'll rip out as many hunks as we have to not have to deal with it as a follower of Christ should, and it kills us. We're not the church we want to be when we do that. There were many blind, lame, and deaf who continued in their affliction in Nazareth that day Jesus was there because they continued in their unbelief.
I think there are many who are hurting in the room this morning, and I know there are many who are hurting in this city because they continue to not believe that Jesus loves them and that his Word is where life is when you follow and when you confess your sin and when you say to others, "This is where I consistently choose this when I need to choose that because this is what it says, 'to lean not on my own understanding.'
I want to do to this, but God's Word says this. Will you help me be this man? Will you pray for me? Will you hold me accountable? Will you help me be the devoted follower of Christ as I cry to his Spirit, as I turn to his Word, as I rely on his community, and I faithfully seek to be a part of this church. Will you help me and spur me onto love and good deeds?"
Let's be a people of faith. Let's be a church of faith, not just who say it but who live it. The righteous shall profess faith. The righteous shall believe the Bible is God's Word. The righteous shall live by faith. Yes, the righteous will depend upon God's Word and depend upon God's provision for their sin, Jesus the Christ.
I don't care where you are this morning. Come. I don't care who you are. If you see something in my life that is inconsistent with Jesus Christ, would you love me enough to tell me because I want to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus? I celebrate and thank God for the hundreds of you here with me today who share that passion. Let's pray.
Father, as we gather today, it is so good just to be honest with each other and to say, "You know what? So much of what's going on in the world today is not a problem of unbelief in the world. It's a problem of unbelief in the church. Those of us who have come into your presence and who have seen you are able to heal the affliction of man, to release the burden of guilt, to bring forgiveness, to bring hope, to bring life, to send light into darkness and to instruct the minds of the naïve have turned away.
We, too, have continued to go other places, and we mock you. We lose our saltiness, and we lose our light. The world wonders if there's someplace they can go for help, but they know it must not be to our Divine Physician because we've been there, and we still choose to be sick. God, I thank you that what Satan wants to do is burden us with guilt and tell us we can't come now and what you say is, "Just come. Don't let him steal you and your heart away from me. Don't let him kill your marriage, kill your joy, kill your hope, kill your faith.
Don't let him destroy your testimony but just come." "…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." Thank you for this church and the gracious people who have been kind towards me and faithful towards me and pray for me and put up with my shortcomings and extend me forgiveness when I seek it and love me enough to tell me where I'm not living as a fully devoted follower of Christ and who pick up my pages of my Bible and put them back in and say, "Todd, this one will give you life. Don't just say you believe it. Life by it by faith."
O Father, I pray we will rise up and be his church. I pray we would shout to the north, to the south, to the east and the west that we are your people, and that we will prevail and that our success will be known only by our ability to be and to make disciples. 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.