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This week we turn to Mark 8 and the feeding of the 4000. As Jesus used this miracle to remind his disciples of some essential ministry principles that they had learned from the feeding of the first crowd, we too remind ourselves that the compassion and provision that we need for the people in our ministry must come from Him.
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Father, thank you for friends who will come together and will encourage my heart by just declaring truths about who you are in a corporate setting. I thank you for the gift of song, and I thank you for how it ministers to me. I thank you for how you've done a work in so many of us that it's our desire to speak to one another in songs about you in spiritual language, declaring who you are, not based on what we think but on what you've said about yourself, and even declaring in song how we want to respond to you and how appropriate that is.
We've said already today, Father, that there's none like you and we desire nothing more than you. We know that, many times, our lives don't exhibit that, that we get sucked off in a lot of different directions in the worries of the world. The deceitfulness of riches and the concerns for many things choke out your Word and hurt us and keep us from bearing the fruit for you that we want to. Just use this moment just to weed out that which is inconsistent with your will in our lives.
For some folks in this room, what you need to weed out is a self-dependence that is complete and that they're committed to. I pray you would use us speaking of your Son as a means through which they would begin to weed out self-will, self-dependence, and they would turn for the first time where many of us have turned, just in humble gratitude towards a Savior who provides for us in the midst of what looks like a hopeless situation.
I pray, Lord, what we would do in response to you would be authentic, that it would be fervent, passionate, full of devotion and authenticity, as we have said, and you would be glorified in that. Would you use our time together today to take all of us, wherever we are, deeper into an understanding of who you are and a right response to that? We pray it in Christ's name, amen.
Well, in January of this year, as Kyle mentioned to you, we started a series that talked about what it is we purpose to produce here because it's what God purposes to produce in all of us, and that is a heart that is fully devoted in response to him, fully devoted to living as he would have us live, fully devoted to making ourselves available to him; not so God would love us more.
Frankly, as we've said many times in here, until you have a real understanding of grace, you'll never believe what the Scriptures in effect teach, which is there's nothing you can do to make God love you more and nothing you can do to make God love you less. That's what grace teaches. Now there are things we can do to make ourselves more available to him and more useful to him, and there is certainly something we can do to allow for our sins to be removed, and that's ultimately turning to him in faith and trust alone.
We are not trying to even some scale here and cover up for bad works we have done by doing more good works in a way that would ultimately give us a sense of appeasement before God. We as leaders, we as members of this church, we as believers in this body are clear in our sense of what it is that will ever make us acceptable to God. It's simply our humble clinging to and acceptance of his offer of provision for us.
Now having received that provision, we want to say, "Lord, we want to make ourselves wholly devoted to you, knowing that won't make you love us more but will declare to the world more of how you're worthy of our love." That's our effort here. We believe, if Jesus Christ is who he says he is, there is no response to that that is too wild, too committed, too fervent, to devoted where it becomes to cease to make sense, so we spent some time talking about what a fully devoted follower of Christ looks like.
Before that, we were in the gospel of Mark. We started to study the one to whom we wanted to be fully devoted in walking in his path, the life of Christ. We mentioned then that the gospel of Mark was written to people who were not really versed in the Old Testament, a non-Jewish audience, and we talked about how Mark centers on a lot of the actions and activities of Jesus much more than his words as some of the other gospel writers do.
We talked about how, typically when Bible translators go into a culture where there is no written language that, once they take the language that is spoken and translate that into some written form and teach them to read and give them literacy skills, one of the first books they translate, in fact typically the first gospel, is the gospel of Mark, not only because it's the shortest and it's a pragmatic decision to do that, but also because it's a book that holds up what it is that makes a man ultimately great in God's eyes.
The greatest man who ever lived is the one who was not just a man but was fully God and yet fully man, what theologians call the hypostatic union, how these two things which seemingly could never be joined together were joined perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ. The greatest man is not one who lords it over others but is one who serves. God models for us what it is he wants us to do in response to what he has done for us.
The book that we study here, the Bible, explains from the very beginning about the heart and nature of God. Right away, as soon as man, you and I, who God created to live in relationship with him, turned away from him in sin, rebellion, and self-dependence, you see God moving towards man, providing a means through which man's decision could ultimately be forgiven, where a sacrifice could be made that would pay for the sins of man.
We see that, every major act of God, since the fall, as it is called by theologians, since men turned away from God and fell away from a life of dependence upon him, has been a missionary act that is most fully realized in the life of God incarnate, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ.
What God calls us to do, as people who have fallen in love with him, people who have been humbled enough to see the truth of who we are and the greatness of who he is, is to emulate the life of Christ, never thinking our emulation of his life will make us acceptable in his sight but knowing that our emulation, imitation, is the finest and grandest form of worship, so this great man, Jesus, we see to be a servant, and the Scriptures tell us that, if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus because he is the visible image of the invisible God.
You want to know what God would respond like in a circumstance? Look at how Christ responded in the circumstance. Not only everything he said was inspired but also everything he did, so studying his life is a worthwhile task. We are going to continue now to set about mastering the Master's life, knowing him that we might know God, that we might by the grace of his Spirit which lives in those of us who believe, make ourselves available to him and we might walk in the path of life, even as Christ did as the perfect man.
The perfect man is a yielded man to the will, purposes, and Spirit of Christ. Turn with me to Mark, chapter 8. Let me remind you as we get there what has happened. When Jesus came to this earth, he came primarily to a group of folks who were known as Jews; physical descendants, blood descendants of Abraham; men and women of God who God by grace had initiated a relationship with and said, "I'm going to use you to declare my glory."
God chose the Jewish people to be a means through which the rest of the world would learn of him. Now that nation has struggled to do that effectively, even as the church since God has allowed Jews and Gentiles to be the medium through which his goodness and greatness has been declared has struggled for 2,000 years to be effective mediums, to be effective agents, to be effective ambassadors for Christ. Those people struggled.
In fact, when the Messiah, the Anointed One, the one who would deliver them from the great oppression, not of Rome or some other political system, but the oppression of self-will, the oppression of sin which directs us away from God, towards darkness and ultimately towards hopelessness, isolation, and despair… When the one who would come to deliver them from that arrived, they rejected him because he didn't look like they thought he would look.
In the gospel of Mark, in the chapters prior to where we're about to study again this morning, you've seen a slow turning away from addressing just the group of individuals known as Jews, the nation of Israel that God's strives for (that's what Israel means, God strives for or God strives with) them to be consistently in his grace, moving towards them that they might become the vessels to declare his glory that he wanted them to be.
God is turning away for a season to not just now use a Jewish nation but also a nation of people who are like Abraham, not necessarily in their physical form and certainly not in the bloodline and DNA which is passed down, but they are like Abraham in that they believe in God and they have faith in God. God then uses that faith to work in them and through them for his glory and their good.
You have a shift that just happened in the book of Mark, where Jesus is saying, "This nation of leadership that represents Israel is turning away from me and hardening their hearts towards me, so I will now take the bread that I meant to feed the descendants of Abraham, and I will make it clear that the descendants of Abraham are not those who are physically related to him but those who are like Abraham in their faith. The gospel, the good news, is now going out to the whole world, not just Jews but also non-Jews, also called Gentiles."
You had a story that happened at the very end of Mark, chapter 7, about a Syrophoenician woman. All you need to know about that is a this is a non-Jewish woman who came to Christ and asked that Christ would do something for her, and Christ said, "Listen, you know why I'm here. I'm here to basically take the message of hope to people I chose to deliver my message of hope through," and she said to him…
It's worth noting that, in all the Scriptures, Jesus only lost one argument, and it was with a woman. That woman said, "But Master, even the dogs are allowed to eat the crumbs of the bread the children are through with or even the bread the children have rejected," and he turns to her, and he says, "I've never seen such faith," and he gives her what she asks for.
What you're starting to see is God is now taking the Bread of Life, which he had come to give to a group of people, not because he loved them more but because he was going to provide for this group of people in such a way that others would go, "Where are you getting that sustenance and where are you getting that provision? Why is your life so much richer, fuller, and healthier, not just physically but also in a holistic way, than ours?"
They were to say, "Let us introduce you to Yahweh. Let us introduce you to Jehovah. Let us introduce you to our King," but those people were not growing in the spiritual health he wanted them to, so he said, "I'm going to feed everybody who wants it and who by faith will turn to me for provision and through the life they live; the fruit their lives bear of joy, of love, of peace, of self-control, of goodness, of faithfulness, of gentleness, of kindness; people will know they are rightly connected to me." That's where we are in the gospel of Mark.
What you're about to read in Mark, chapter 8, with me is approximately, interestingly enough, about eight months later than a very similar event to this that happened. I went back and looked. It was November twenty-fifth when we looked at Mark, chapter 6, together. It was a little story called the feeding of the 5,000. I told you then that, other than the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it's the only miracle that happens or that is recorded in all four gospels.
There's something significant about that story God wants us to have. In fact, it's so significant that, not only is repeated in all four gospels, but also, in two of the gospels, Matthew and Mark, there's another story very similar to it about eight months later in the life of Christ, scholars believe, where he accomplishes a very similar thing. We're going to study it. It's a great place to be reintroduced to the life of Christ. Let's look at what it says in Mark, chapter 8, together then.
"In those days, when there was again a large crowd and they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples and said to them, 'I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come from a great distance.' And His disciples answered Him, 'Where will anyone be able to find enough bread here in this desolate place to satisfy these people?'
And He was asking them, 'How many loaves do you have?' And they said, 'Seven.' And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve to them, and they served them to the people. They also had a few small fish; and after He had blessed them, He ordered these to be served as well. And they ate and were satisfied; and they picked up seven large baskets full of what was left over of the broken pieces. About four thousand were there…"
There were 4,000 men, according to the numbering system of the day, so if you double that, if there's a woman for every man, there are 8,000. If you throw in a couple of kids for every man and woman, it's not a reach to say this was 10,000 to 12,000 people, much like the feeding of the 5,000 which most folks thinks was 15,000…Reunion Arena…over five loaves and two fishes. Here, we have seven loaves and a number of fish. We don't know how many, but clearly, there was something going on here that was miraculous. It says in verse 10,
"And immediately He entered the boat with His disciples and came to the district of Dalmanutha. The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him. Sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, 'Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.' Leaving them, He again embarked and went away to the other side."
Verse 14: "And they [the disciples] had forgotten to take bread, and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them. And He was giving orders to them, saying, 'Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.' They began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread." Which is to say they were not really tuned in to what Christ was saying right there.
"And Jesus, aware of this…" Aware of the fact that they were distracted, aware of the fact that they were more concerned about their tummies than their heads and their hearts. "…said to them, 'Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?
And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?' They said to Him, 'Twelve.' 'When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?' And they said to Him, 'Seven.'" What's implied there is, "What's your point?" "And He was saying to them, 'Do you not yet understand?'"
Let's take a look at this great little 21 verses of Scripture. What's going on right here in this little section is a number of things, but ultimately, Christ is in the process of trying to reveal who he is to a group of followers who would then reveal who he is to a world that was in need of that understanding. He had been with them a number of times, and he had done some miracles with them.
In fact, if you look back over at Mark, chapter 6, verse 52 (it should be just across the page in your Bible), there's a little verse right there that lets you know that, the first time he went through this little event where he fed a lot of folks with a little food, they really didn't get it. Verse 52 in Mark 6 says, "…they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened."
Here's the question. What did he want them to understand from the feeding of the 5,000, and what did he want them to understand from the feeding of the 4,000, as it is typically called? He rebukes them at the end of the 5,000 and again at the end of the 4,000 by saying, "Man, don't you guys get it? Haven't you gained insight and are your hearts hardened? Don't you see, and can't you hear?" The answer is a resounding, "No. We're clueless."
Christ, being the master teacher, takes a chance to reteach them a central and crucial lesson. Guess what we're going to do again today? Just like they went through this class eight months after the first time they heard it, it's the perfect place for us to go right back and learn some of the exact same principles and be reminded of as a body eight months after we heard it, and then there are some specific things we can glean from this we didn't have the chance to in Mark, chapter 6.
Here we go. Are you ready? I will tell you it's not often enough considered that man needs to be reminded much more than he needs to be instructed. This is true of my life. My problem is not a lack of education on the Scriptures. Mine is a problem of a lack of application. It's a lack of being reminded of the great truths that I said I've committed my life to.
Daily in my life, when I struggle, it's not because I was clueless on how to love my wife, serve my kids, be gracious to people; it's because I did not meditate on the Word of God, keep it in the forefront of my mind, and apply what I know to be true, and Jesus knows it's important for us to be reminded as much as it's important for us to be instructed.
The school year is starting right now, and I have a little third grader and a little first grader, and all they're doing the first number of weeks of school is reviewing what I know they studied the previous year because they need to be reminded before more is dumped on their plates. Here we go. What can we learn from this? Look at Mark, chapter 8, verses 1-3. It says,
"In those days, when there was again a large crowd and they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples and said to them, 'I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come from a great distance.'"
Jesus is prodding his disciples to be compassionate for the masses that come to him. If we are called to emulate the Master's life, to master the Master's life, to say as Paul did, "Imitate me as I imitate Jesus," let's remind ourselves right now again from the very beginning that compassion is a necessary characteristic for ministry. Back in Mark, chapter 6, the same thing happens.
In verse 34, it says, "When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things." Then later, he provided for their physical sustenance. One of the things that encouraged me about this in Mark, chapter 6, and this in Mark, chapter 8, and especially in Mark, chapter 8, is these folks had come from a long way away to be in the presence of Christ. They sat there at his feet. It says for three days they sat there and listened to him teach.
Jesus was never, ever forgetful and mindless about the sacrifices they had made and the need they had as they sought him. I just made myself a note right there in my Bible. Todd, remember this. "He is always mindful of those who make sacrifices to learn from him." Christ is always mindful of those who make sacrifices to learn from him.
I will tell you that has been abundantly true in my life, that whenever I find myself focused on learning more about Christ and setting my mind on the things above and not the things that are on the earth want is not a word I would use to describe what's going on in my life. In fact, I can remember, when I struggled with what I was going to do with my life, I was up in Lampe, Missouri.
I was a junior in college, and I was about to go into my senior year at the University of Missouri, where I was getting to take my LSAT. I was president of the Pre-Law Society, fixed on a law career and a house in Palm Beach and a house in Vail. Then I was going to serve on some Young Life board in the local area. That was my deal.
I was moving in that direction, and I was just wrestling because, for me, if I was being honest with my heart, my desire, though, to serve folks in a vocational way was increasing. It wasn't a greater call in my life than had I been called to be a godly lawyer in whatever town or community I was in, but if I was going to be honest with myself, what God was doing in me was he was saying, "Todd, I'm not calling you to be a godly lawyer. I'm going to put that call on other individuals' lives."
I'll tell you what. I'm so blessed by the individuals in this body who God called to be godly lawyers who have served us as a community and have served the community as a whole by being men of integrity and honor and virtue in the midst of a legal career. That's what God has for them right now. For me at that time, I was kind of suppressing the pull in my life, specifically at that time, to serve families and kids.
I really wrestled with that, and if I had to be honest, the reason I was wrestling with that is because there wasn't quite as much prestige associated with that call in my eye as there was with a legal career and there certainly wasn't the same compensation package that was awaiting you. I was reading in August of 1980 in Psalm 37. I was sitting in this little cabin early in the morning, and I was reading Psalm 37, and I came across a little verse God used in my life.
The verse in Psalm 37 just simply said this. "I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread. All day long he is gracious and lends, and his descendants are a blessing." I thought about that, and I just said, "All right, Lord. There it is. There's my last domino. I've been telling you that, the reason I didn't do this is because I didn't want to be burden on anybody.
I didn't want to be somebody who was always asking for folks to do stuff for me and provide for me in this way and that way," and he said, "Would you just not worry about other folks? Would you just worry about you and know I'll care for you, and if you do what you need to do, I'll take care of the rest?"
Now it doesn't say he's going to make you a gazillionaire. It doesn't say he was going to do anything else, other than that, all day long, I would still do what I wanted to do if I was a lawyer, which is be able to give and provide for other people. By the grace of God, for the entire time I've been in the ministry, not only have I been able to eat well and sleep well, but I've also been able to support others who are in need. In fact, I've been able to be gracious and lend.
He said, "If you pursue my ways, Todd, your children will be a blessing. They're not going to be a burden. You're not going to have to wonder if you should have a kid, if you can afford a kid, if your kids are going to be begging. Your kids will be a blessing to you if you follow after me." Now this doesn't say, "If you go into full-time ministry, you will never beg for bread."
It just says, "If you follow after me and do what it is I've designed you to do, I'll take care of you, and I'll take care of you in such a way that not only will you not want, but you also will be able to provide for others in want as an agent of my grace." All I want to tell you is, "Exceedingly, abundantly, beyond all I've been able to even ask or considered to ask, that has been true in my life."
What happened here in Mark, chapter 8, with these folks who had set aside some time in their lives, who had made it a course of their behavior to be mindful of Christ and to learn from him, is Jesus did for them what he said he would do in Psalm 37. He just said to his disciples, "I have news for you.
Not only do I care about those who want to learn from me, it is your job as individuals my Spirit is going to come into, and right now my Spirit is present in my presence, to be compassionate to others in a like manner. Not just those who are in full-time ministry but also those who are committed to learn from me. It is your job to care for them the way I care for them, and part of the means through which my compassion will be evident on others is through you."
The way we care for one another, especially the brethren, Paul wrote, is a major declaration of the fact that the Spirit of Christ dwells in us. There are members of this body who, right now, are in need, and as they show themselves to be faithful to sitting at the feet of Christ, learning his Word, and ordering their lives according to biblical wisdom, it is our job as a body and our privilege as a body through what we call the Charis Fund, which is the Greek word for grace or charity…
It is the root of the English word charity, which means, through no effort or through no deserving work of your own, you are given this because, as you seek to order your life in a way that honors Christ and as you seek to learn from him, we're going to be as a body agents of which the compassion and care of God may be made known to you. Jesus was prodding his disciples here to remind them that compassion is a necessary characteristic for ministry.
He tells us later we are to love even as he is loved, and the way he has loved his disciples is the way we are to love each other. So much a part of what our witness is to the world is, "Is this a community that's not socialistic and communistic?" We don't ask everybody to throw in all their money and then split it up evenly, but if anyone might have need, it's up to us to care for one another and to be compassionate in the way we reach out to others and care for one another and serve others, so we work hard at that.
If you want to give to the Charis Fund, every single one of us can do it. Rather than individually feeling that burden and rather than individually there being folks who try and meet the needs, what we try and do is, through a team of godly discerning men and women who meet with individuals who are in need, who in fact make sure that their lives are ordered in such a way that they do want to learn from Christ… Then we come alongside of them and care for them. That is also true of those to whom we are in the path of ministering.
Compassion is a necessary characteristic for ministry, compassion for one another and compassion for those we are the midst of introducing to God. Jim Rayburn is the one who said, "Because kids don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care." Jim Rayburn is the one who is also credited with saying, "If you don't cry for your kids, you won't die for your kids." In both Mark 6, the feeding of the 5,000, and Mark 8, what you see in Christ right here is simply this. Jesus looked out on the multitudes, and he had compassion for them.
You know, I didn't know this until a couple of weeks ago, and I'm sure many of you don't know it. The folks who are out there serving us in the parking team see individuals we don't always see in here, and many of them have started to develop relationships with some of the men and women who have been put out of the Baylor detox center early on Sunday mornings.
I know of a couple of individuals who are out there who are weekly ministering to them in a way they believe is responsible and accountable, not just to unburden and unload some guilt off their lives because they see what they have and this person doesn't, but in the name of Christ to see an individual who needs a pair of shoes and to go back to their closet and then, the next week, have some shoes waiting for them and say, "Here, wear these because Christ loves you."
Week after week this one guy has been using his abundance of shoes to minister to guys who come along because he's just showing them compassion in the name of Jesus in hopefully a responsible way where these men are using those shoes to care for their feet and not just to resell them so they can continue to head down a destructive path. What you see happening in that, as it's in accordance with biblical wisdom, is an individual who understood the principle of Mark 6 and Mark 8, which is compassion is a necessary characteristic for ministry.
Let me tell you another thing we learned when we went to the feeding of the 5,000 that we see also here in the feeding of the 4,000. I believe it's why this miracle is so highlighted in Scripture. In Mark, chapter 6, he had the disciples come to him, and after he had broken bread and after he had thanked God for the fish, he said to the disciples the same thing he said in Mark 8.
"Here, you take this little bit of food, carry all you can, and you tell the folks to sit down, and you give them the food. When you're out of food in that basket…" What did they need to do? They were called to come right back to Christ. Here, they did it with 4,000 men and women, and the principle I believe Christ is teaching us in this whole little thing right here is that in order to be effective in ministry, we need to be on constant contact with Jesus Christ.
The little phrase I used when I was working through this is just simply this: what we need for them, we get from him. Now I told you we just had a weekend away with the leaders of this church, and part of what we did with the leaders, any individual who is responsible for shepherding and guiding and leading other folks, is we challenged them to spend some time alone with Christ maybe in a way that not enough of them had on a consistent basis.
What we compelled them to believe and what we asked them to put into practice two weekends ago when we were together is this simple truth. You cannot be the individuals of grace, the individuals of mercy, the individuals of leadership you want to be if you are not ministering in the power of Jesus Christ. You need to consistently have a fresh relationship with Christ in order to be effective with those you're ministering to.
Every single member of our staff has the same three things at some point in our job description, that is that simply we'll be committed to what is called relational trust, that when there's an issue between us we'll take care of it between us. If there's a feeling that is hurt… This last week I had a great time with the guys I really lean on to help me lead this body.
We met on Thursday morning actually, and the first thing we did as an order of business was one of those guys spoke up and said, "Are you ready?" I said, "Yeah, I'm ready. What's up?" He goes, "I have to share with you something you did that hurt me," which is a great way to start your day. I just sat there, and I said, "Man, bring it on. What did I do?" I mean, I was clueless.
When this guy told me what I had done, I go, "Oh, man. I absolutely see that. Thank you for telling me. Will you forgive me for doing that? In no way was that my heart to hurt you, to circumvent your leadership, to make it look like I didn't believe in you and have confidence in you, and I totally see how me doing that did that to you. Will you forgive me?"
The guy said, "Absolutely! Todd, I know that wasn't your heart; nonetheless, you did it, and it was hurting me, and it was going to cause me conflict with you if I didn't tell you." He told me. He helped me grow as a guy to be more sensitive. He helped me learn things I can do that will encourage others around me the way I want to, and we went forward. Relational trust is a huge issue. We are freaks about it at the office.
That doesn't mean just short accounts with us. That means, if we hear somebody speak ill of one of us, we go, "Whoa! Listen, that individual isn't perfect, but I know his heart, and if he in some way hurt you, I can tell you from personal experience that he'll want to hear that. If he's made a mistake, he'll ask for forgiveness. If there's a misunderstanding he can clear up, he will do it."
We'll make sure we do that, not just with each other as a core on staff, but for every member of the body, that is our covenant together as members, relational trust. Secondly, there is the professional trust that we all have a job to do at that church and we do it together, and each of us in our own area are going to be expert and component and efficient in the conduct of it.
Then lastly, there is spiritual trust, and that is that we are having a live and fervent and present relationship with the Savior, not just doing church in the power of our flesh but that all of us are cultivating a first-person, present-tense live relationship with Jesus because we believe as a core foundational understanding that, if you're not constantly with Christ, what you need you're not going to get.
Here's a simple message. You have seven loaves of bread in this feeding of the 4,000 and a few fish. There are 12 of us, and there are 4,000 men, women, and then children, taking it to over 10,000 easily. How much bread can I carry to go after this section to help you have food, those of you who have humbled yourself to learn from Christ for whom he has compassion? He wants me to be involved in ministering to you in his name.
Well, I can probably carry enough for about 30 rows, if I'm lucky, and I can hand it to Martin and to Chris and on down the row and let them pass it out that way, but I'm going to get back there by Scott, and I'm going to start to run out of food. I go, "That's great. I'm about to stiff, you know, Stewart and Mary." What do I do? I don't dump the basket out to see if there are any crumbs. I go, "Well, where'd I go the last time to get my basket full?" and I go right back here to Christ, and sure enough, there's provision.
Then I go right back up there to Stewart and pick it up. This continues. I get back to Greg, and I'm out again, so up I come, and then out I go. How many times would the 12 of us have to do that for a group of about 10,000? A whole bunch. What is Jesus teaching me every time I do it? What I need for them, I get from him. What I need for them, I get from him.
That is a lesion we learned eight months ago here as a body. We talked about that, and it's time to be reminded again that we're not just people who in the power of our flesh are going to do great things for God. We have to be individuals who cultivate spiritual integrity and trust, consistently find ourselves going back to Christ and in the power of Spirit going forward. There's a great little statement here from a guy named A.W. Tozer, and he references a little section in Acts, chapter 1, verse 4. In fact, let's just read it together. Don't turn there but look up here with me.
This is what it says in Acts, chapter 1, verse 4. It says, "Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, 'Which,' He said, 'you heard of from Me…'" Then in verse 8, he says, "…but you will receive power [provision for the masses and ability to glorify me and give them what they need] when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My [agent] …" to declare the goodness of who I am.
What goes on right here is just simply this truth. As individuals who stay in a constant relationship with Jesus, who believe as it says in John 15. Jesus said, "…apart from Me you can do nothing.""You are the branch, and I am da vine, so if you want to bear fruit, you stay connected to the Divine One."
We have gifted, skilled ministers here on staff. We have gifted, skilled ministers here as a part of our body, and one of the greatest threats to us as a church is that, in our giftedness and skill, we would try and do the work of God instead of being agents who are connected with him and our branches that are firmly rooted to the vine. What we need for them, we get from him.
What you need for your lost neighbor, the love for them, the fact that your heart aches that they don't know Christ, you get from him. Pour over your Word. See Jesus' love for the lost sheep. Pour over the Word, see how Jesus acted towards those who are without hope and without God in this world.
Ask him to remind you how great your salvation was, remind you of the burden of guilt, the hopelessness as you moved towards the grave or lost a loved one who you thought maybe didn't know Christ. Remind yourself of how desperate you were until Christ came into your life and provided the answers and provided the hope that only he can bring, and be moved by that then, in the power of the Spirit to minister to them.
This is what Tozer says. "The task of the church is twofold: to spread Christianity throughout the world and to make sure that the Christianity she spreads is the pure New Testament kind. […] Christianity will always reproduce itself after its kind. A worldly-minded, unspiritual church, when she crosses the ocean to give her witness to peoples of other tongues and other cultures, is sure to bring forth on other shores a Christianity much like her own."
I would say, not just to other cultures across other oceans, but right here in our community and right here in our body, if we as a group of leaders are telling you to be good in your flesh and to act a certain way, then we're going to produce that with those who come to worship with us here. Then he says, "The popular notion that the first obligation of the church is to spread the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth is false." I agree with that. He says, "Her first obligation is to be spiritually worthy to spread it.
Our Lord said 'Go ye,' but He also said, 'Tarry ye,' and the tarrying had to come before the going. Had the disciples gone forth as missionaries before the day of Pentecost [the day the Holy Spirit came as a gift to the body of Christ and continues to come today to all who believe in him] it would have been an overwhelming spiritual disaster, for they could have done no more than make converts after their likeness, and this would have altered for the worse the whole history of the Western world and had consequences throughout the ages to come."
This is to say we are not trying to produce a bunch of disciplined moral people who can crucify their flesh on their own accord by their own will but to be individuals. We're to call ourselves and each of you to be individuals who live in constant relationship with Jesus Christ through the ministry of his Word and prayer and fellowship and worship, who in the power of his Spirt, give to them what you get from him. He's teaching that lesson again here in Mark 8.
I'll give you this very simple point. He reminds us that nothing is too small if God is in or if he wants to use it. We developed this idea eight months ago. It's worth mentioning again. One of our great problems is, as we continue to grow and become a church that offers more things, we can begin to think, "Well, of course, God can use us now. Our children's ministry is maturing. Our Community Group ministry is getting easier to assimilate into.
More folks are going through the membership process and are now trained in their gifts and can use their gifts in the way they have been shaped for God's glory." The truth is, no matter how biblical we continue to be, no matter how big we get, we are still in need of Jesus Christ and need to see ourselves as individuals who, apart from the working of his grace, will, and Spirit's power through us, are useless to him because nothing is too small if God is in it or wants to use it, but the corollary is true.
It doesn't matter how big you are, gifted you are, and talented you are if God isn't in it or, by his grace, decides not to use it, but all of us struggle in this way. We typically think, "Well, who am I? What do I have to offer God?" The answer is everything you have. All throughout the Scriptures, you see examples again and again of what God has done with small things to his glory.
I'll remind you of a few of them. He used just 300 men to put an entire army to flight with Gideon. He used spit, as we'll see next week, to heal blindness and to heal deafness. He used a stick to deliver two million people from the bondage of the greatest military power on the face of the earth.
He used a stuttering shepherd to hold that stick to deliver those two million people. He used a stone, the famous one, to fall a giant. He used just a long stick that's an oxgoad to deliver Israel from some oppression from enemies. He used a crippled guy in order to deliver them from an oppressive and abusive king.
Ultimately, the greatest story of this in our modern day is that after 70 years of communistic oppression in Russia, in the Soviet Union, Joni Eareckson Tada, who is a quadriplegic woman; Billy Graham, who is an old man with Parkinson's disease; and a Russian interpreter who is blind did the first crusade in Russia after 70 years. I love Joni's comment.
She said, "It should surprise none of us to discover that, after 70 years of oppression and godliness and darkness, God uses a woman who is a quadriplegic, an old man who has Parkinson's disease, and a young man who can't see to free a nation from bondage." See, that's God's pattern. He didn't look for somebody who was impressive. He didn't look for some NBA athlete, some billionaire, capitalistic businessmen to go over and have an audience in Russia.
He sent three faithful individuals to be a vessel through which his Word might minister and operate. What have you got to offer today? I don't see anybody here in a wheelchair. I don't see anybody shaking as I speak. Other than Angela, I know of no one else who is blind. The question is not, "Do you have what they don't have?" The question is, "Do you have what Joni, Billy, and this other blind man had, which is a heart which was totally available to him?" Nothing is too small if God is in it or if God decides to use it.
Let me give you another principle that's good to be reminded of eight months later. You'll always struggle if you focus on what you have as opposed to what he has called you to do. I'll say it this way. Left to ourselves, we cannot help the masses. If you look at the gifts of other people and if you look at the resources you have; five loaves, two fishes… "All I have, God, is $30,000 a year on a teacher's salary. What can I do to further your work with that?"
You should do everything you can do with it and no more. There's no burden on you to save the world, but it is your responsibility to do your part to be an individual who participates with your life and with your resources to reach the world for Christ. As a church, we're just one little church in Dallas, Texas, that's 21 months old.
We cannot make every church in the world a place where Jesus Christ is held up, God's Word is taught with compassion and with authority and passion. We can't make every church in the world do that, but we can make sure that it's possible that every church in the world can do that by just doing it here.
All of us should say, "Lord, I'm not going to get overwhelmed at what I can't do because I'm going to compare myself to some church in Chicago, on the West Coast, or just across the street." Let's just say, "Lord, you can do with us whatever you want to do." The problem with comparison, if we do it, is we'll become either deceitfully impressed with how great we are, or we'll become desperately depressed at what we don't have to offer.
I've mentioned this to you before (and this is true) that when I hear certain individuals teach God's Word, it overwhelms me to the place that I go, "I'll never speak again. Those guys are so effective in the way they communicate God's Word, I have nothing to offer, and if they ask me to come speak, I'll tell them I will come speak if they will allow me to memorize this guy's tapes and lip-sync them before that group."
Now you may laugh at that, but I am capable of being desperately depressed. There are also some times that I am capable in my flesh of being someplace where somebody else is speaking and thinking, "Hey, they should've had me," and becoming deceitfully impressed with what I can provide in my flesh.
I struggle personally more with being desperately depressed than being deceitfully impressed, but that's no less sin than if it was the other one. Whenever I look at others and stop looking at him, I'm in trouble. When I don't focus on what he has as opposed to what he has called me to do, then I get in trouble. I love what the disciples struggled with in Mark, chapter 8. Look at this with me. Look at verse 14.
It says, "And they had forgotten to take bread, and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them." Well, what else did they have with them? See, they were hungry, and Jesus wanted them to have sustenance because they themselves were individuals who were committed to learn from him, but their hearts were hardened, their ears were closed, and their eyes couldn't see. They were focusing again, now not with 4,000 people but just with 12 guys… They were focusing on what they had as opposed to what he had done and who he was.
They only had one loaf of bread, but what'd they have? They had a bread maker in the boat with them. When you start to be like, "Oh, great! We can't do anything for this hunger in this boat. We only have one loaf of bread." In fact, many scholars believe that the one loaf of bread they had was the Bread of Life, who is Jesus, but they couldn't even understand that, even though he had taught that point explicitly and specifically twice to them now. Yes, we may not have a lot of bread here, but we know and have a personal relationship with the bread maker.
I have one last point, and we'll stay right here. The worries of the world can keep us from hearing the message of hope for our world. This is a point we didn't develop last time because we didn't have this little section of Scripture. Look with me right here in Mark, chapter 8, verse 16. Jesus just got through saying to them, "Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod."
What he's speaking of there is, "Listen. The Pharisees and Herod, in the light of overwhelming evidence of who I am, stopped believing in me. There's nothing I can do." They've just asked him, in fact, for a sign, and he said, "I'm not going to give you the sign you want." The sign they wanted was some act of God pouring fire down from heaven and consuming their enemies, the Romans. That was the Messiah they looked for.
They wanted some superhuman agent who would have access to all the power of heaven to further their human agendas, and Jesus said, "I'm not going to give you that sign. Here's the sign I'm going to give you: wind blowing through an empty tomb. Here's the sign I'm going to give you: love for all individuals. Here's the sign I'm going to give you: absolute commitment to the cause of declaring grace and truth in the face of all opposition. That's the sign."
He'd already given them many signs when they had questioned him, and he said, "I'm done with your signs because you have the leaven of unbelief in your life. You've already committed yourself to not trust me." Jesus is with his disciples. They're in the boat, and they're hungry, and they go, "Man, we only have one loaf of bread here. What are we going to do?"
There was some haggling over who was going to eat that bread, and Jesus says, "Guys, would you just be careful that you don't become like the Pharisees and like Herod, who in the light of overwhelming evidence, struggle with unbelief?" What did the disciples do? If you'll look at verse 16, right after he said that, you have in effect there, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Just for a second, quiet. Let's talk about the fact that we don't have anything to eat."
In verse 17, "And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, 'Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand?'" Let me just share this last truth with you. It's this. It's what he taught weeks and months ago in the parable of the sower. "When my word goes out, some of them are going to have a hardened heart, and the Word's not going to go in at all, and it's going to be fruitless.
Some of you are going to get persecuted, so the Word's not going to grow up and have fruit, but for you, my disciple, for you, my church, here's where my Word will become ineffective in your life." It'll become ineffective in your life when the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the concerns for many things will keep you from hearing from me.
How many of us today are thinking about something else other than saying, "You know what I need to do today, Lord? It's the one day of the week where I have maybe less concerns than any other. I need to go home, get on my knees, and be with you, because what I need for my lost neighbor, my loving my wife, my hurting kids, my roommate, my coworkers tomorrow, I have to get from you. Rather than be worried about a lot of different things, I need to focus on who you are." The disciples missed Jesus' warning of unbelief because they were concerned about their stomachs, concerned about the bottom line of their circumstance in that moment.
As we move forward now back into the gospel of Mark, one of the great opportunities we have is just to simply say, "Lord, we don't want to be distracted by a lot of different things. When we come here, we want to be focused on the Savior. As we go throughout the week, we want to carry a fervent desire to know you personally, that we might make you known." Let's close.
Well, Lord, there's a lot we could go back and focus on today, but the one thing we just simply want to remind ourselves of right now is that it's way too easy for us to be like the disciples. We get worried about a lot of things instead of focusing on the one thing, which is the bread maker, the one who gives us life.
As we pray that little element of the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread," we think of that, Lord, more in terms of what we need spiritually to be effective than we do even to care for the needs we have physically, knowing you have always been a God who cares for those who make it a priority to learn from you. May we stop striving to feather our beds and stop striving to make our lives perfect in the way we think would bring us joy and begin to be individuals who don't have hardened hearts, blind eyes, and deaf ears.
Would you help us deal with our unbelief which sits here today, eight months after we were convicted that what we need for the world we get from you, that what we need to find peace, fulfillment, and full stomach physically and spiritually we get from you? May we be reminded again today Lord. May we people who believe in God, not just in our words but with our lives. Help us, Father, to prioritize our lives in a way that reflects our absolute reckless trust in you. In Jesus' 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 6:6 through Mark 8:38.