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"We are often conditioned to see, and trained to see, what we expect to see." The Jews of Jesus' day expected a reprieve from their physical oppression and saw the Messiah as the triumphant Lion; today we see the meek and mild Lamb, rejected, despised, and crucified to take away the sins of the world. He is both. Know that the spirit of the Lion lives in us and gives us victory over sin and our flesh, that He will roar, that He will return and all will bow before Him.
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Got a Problem? Get a Plan.
We're working our way through the gospel of Mark. Today we're going to pick back up where we were two weeks ago when we came to this pivotal point in the Gospels where the disciples, specifically through their spokesperson, Peter, said, "Hey, we think we know who you are."
They were right in assigning him a title, but they were not quite clear on the role and the method he would fulfill his title as Messiah, which means Anointed One, which the Jews looked to be one that would come and deliver them from the oppression a Roman and godless government was putting them under.
Y'all can turn to Mark 8. I want to show you again a little bit of what we just read, and then I want to remind you of something we talked about. In Mark 8, the disciples had seen enough of what Christ was able to do, but they were convinced that he was no mere man. They knew he ate and slept like they did and was emotionally moved like they were. They knew he was tempted like they were, but they never saw him give in to temptation.
They saw him rule over nature. They saw him rule over physical disease and emotional torment. They saw him speak with incredible wisdom in such a way that they knew this man was not just a man, but finally, at this great point in the Gospels, they said, "You are the Prince of Peace. You are," and with incredible faith, Peter said, "Eternal Father, Wonderful Counselor. You are what Isaiah said would be 'the One.' You are Mighty God."
Now right after they said that, Jesus asked them to keep quiet. Why? He had been working to this point with them and then all of a sudden he said, "Don't tell anybody, I rebuke you, I reprove you. Speak not that to anyone." It was not because Christ was embarrassed by who he was. He came to seek and save the lost and, necessary to doing that, he had to declare who he was, but because the disciples did not yet fully understand what it is that he would do…
We mentioned a study that was done by some psychologists and scientists where they took a group of North Americans and Central Americans and they gave them what is called an autostereogram. An autostereogram is a device that allows you to see two different images out of your eyes. Out of your right eye you would see a bullfighter, and out of your left eye you would see a baseball player.
When they showed North Americans those two images and they asked North Americans what they saw, North Americans saw the baseball player. Central Americans said they saw the bullfighter. This is because we are often conditioned to see, and we are trained to see, what we expect to see.This is called conditioned viewing.
The men and women who lived in first-century Palestine where absolutely fed up with the terrorist regime which ruled over them. If you could imagine, the horrors our country experienced not quite two weeks ago being somewhat of a regular event. There was a large portion of your Scriptures given to you by God that anticipated one who would come with biceps of iron, with just muscles rippling, and power that was from heaven. The Scriptures also mention the fact he would come and he would suffer, but that didn't make much sense to you.
What you saw when you looked for your Messiah is what you needed most in the midst of your physical oppression, which to you is much easier to recognize than your spiritual oppression, the troubled soul you carried with you, the sin which you easily found yourself entangled with. So when Jesus came and talked about the fact he was here to seek and save the lost, they thought he was here to seek and save the lost sheep of Israel who were being oppressed by Rome.
In fact, he says he will, but at this particular time he wanted to make it very clear to his disciples that in order to deliver Israel from a greater Enemy, not just Caesar but Satan the Accuser who takes and torments their souls in such a way that even if they were free from a foreign land ruling them over them, they would still be oppressed by something which would prevent them from having relationships with God, which ultimately keeps them from experiencing life as God intended for them to experience.
Jesus said, "Don't speak about who I am yet, because you'll run out and get everybody excited that I'm here to take on Caesar, and I'm not here to take on Caesar just yet. I'm here to take on the Caesar of your souls as prisoners of the Enemy and to set you free from sin, not Caesar. I will deal with Caesar, justice will rule in this earth, but there is a greater struggle you cannot see, and from that I seek to set you free first."
Now when most of us who live today see Jesus it is very interesting what we see. We see just the opposite. In fact, there is a little section of Scripture…it's in Isaiah 52 and 53…where this Messiah is spoken of in a language that we are frankly more comfortable with, because we see Jesus as more necessary to deal with our soul condition than we do our civilization condition.
So when you ask twenty-first century Gentiles what it is they look for in Christ, they look for Isaiah 52 and 53. But if you went and read the book of Isaiah, you would see what the Jews saw. It talks mostly about the Lion, not the Lamb. Read with me, though, prophecy given to the Jew by God of the Anointed One that would come. It says in Isaiah 52:13, "Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted."
But watch what he says about him. He says, "Just as many were astonished at you, My people…" Meaning folks were astonished when the Israelites came out of bondage in Egypt and moved up in Canaan and wiped out seven nations greater in number and in strength than them. They were astonished God would use these weak people to do a great thing. He said, "You're going to be astonished at what my supposed weak Messiah will do for you."
"…So His appearance was marred more than any man, And His form more than sons of men." But in the mist of that verse 15 says, "Thus He will sprinkle many nations…" Which is in reference to the priestly act of sprinkling with what we would call holy water. It says, "…Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand."
There is going to be a day when the scales will come off the eyes of everyone. Everyone, one day, will see that this Jesus is worthy to be worshiped. There will be no confusion about who he is. Men will be silenced in the face of him by their own sin, overwhelmed with their own attitudes and rejection of who he is, and they will offer no defense. Now look at what Isaiah 53 says.
"Who has believed our message?" This is the believing Jews. "And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground…" Which is to say, "How could such a great source of blessing come from such a small, dry, arid place?"
This individual will have "…no stately form or majesty…" He won't look like a lion. "…that [others] should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him." This man, this Messiah. "He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him." This is speaking prophetically forward in a way of looking back.
Now this is the Jesus most of us in twenty-first century America see: the despised, scorned, rejected, crucified Lamb of God. "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted." Let me just explain what that means. "We thought that he was crucified," the Jews said, "as an act of judgment of God for his sins but now we see looking back prophetically that it was not his sins that caused him suffering, it was our sins that caused him suffering."
We, as twenty-first century Americans, see this Lamb easily; we happen to lose sight of the Lion. Peter and his friends saw the Lion and were absolutely confused when Jesus said, "Don't go preaching the Lion's here. The Lion is here, but the Lion must do a lamb's work first." And your Scriptures talk about this. Now it's not just our fault we see mostly the Lamb.
This section of Isaiah I am reading, and you couple that with the next six or seven verses, is the probably best known section of the entire book of Isaiah because it's quoted about 15 times in your New Testament, and we read more of our New Testament. So when we hear Jesus spoken of, we hear, "Jesus, the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world." Let me just take a moment right here and hit this very hard. That is exactly who he was, in part.
There is no sin that is so awful he has not made provision for, that he has not bore himself on a cross for you. Now I want to take a moment right here while we've got the Lamb clearly before us, the one that we easily see in the autostereogram the Messiah provided in the Scripture, and I want to address something.
I want to address abortion. It is one of those what we would call "red flag" sins. You would throw in homosexuality with that, maybe even marital infidelity and adultery, and quite possibly because of that, divorce. There are certain sins we elevate as the most tragic and horrible sins in our land. We've heard individuals make that mistake and recant that mistake in the last two weeks, but I want to say this about any sin: Jesus is not afraid of it.
Jesus died for my lying, my pride, my arrogance, my attitude of entitlement, just like he died for your abortion, your homosexuality, your marital infidelity, and your unwillingness to walk the way. We will tell you homosexuality is a sin because God the Word made that very, very clear. We will tell you abortion is a tragedy and a sin against God because the Scriptures make that clear, but you can be loved by Jesus, which means you can and will be loved here.
I want to take a chance to tell you about a class that's coming up, it's called Someone Cares, and it's a ministry we have specifically to those that struggle with the act of an abortion, male and female. I want you to take a listen to some gals who want to share with you about what the Lamb of God has done for them and what this ministry, Someone Cares, has done for them.
In the next 10 to 14 days, this class, which is highly confidential, will begin again where women can come and meet the Lamb of God and have their sins forgiven and make peace with their God, make peace for themselves, and continue then a life of fruitfulness for his glory and your good. Let's take a minute and rejoice in the work the Lamb of God has done before we reflect on the Lion.
Woman: I want women to understand, first and foremost, God loves them. They're going to be coming to a very safe place. It's confidential. No one else knows, just God. It will be facilitated by women who have shared the same experience they've had. It will be safe, and it will nurturing, because we are fully committed over the next 10 weeks to wrap you up in God's love.
Woman: I knew that I was keeping a secret, but it was just part of something I felt had to be buried. Deep down inside I knew it wasn't a secret, but I just didn't think it was ever going to come out.
Woman: The burden of carrying that, even though I was probably… It was just me who knew about it. It was something I could have kept a secret forever, but just the burden and the weight of that was too much to bear alone.
Woman: Somehow I convinced myself that was the right decision, and now that I look back over my life, I just see had I made a different decision and had I stood up for myself and stood up for my child at the time, that I would have stood up to a lot of other things that went on in my life.
Woman: I think when I had the secret there was just always this little dark thing inside, that if people knew, they wouldn't accept me, they wouldn't like me, they wouldn't love me, they wouldn't…whatever.
Woman: I felt very… I think helpless is a good word to describe it.
Woman: Afterwards was just a huge sense of loneliness. I have specific pictures in my mind that I can now associate with feelings of just extreme loneliness.
Woman: What I have now that I didn't have before Someone Cares is the real feeling, the real sense, and the real knowledge that God loves me and that I am forgiven for the decision I made to have an abortion.
Woman: I have confidence and just security.
Woman: It's very real to me. It's not something someone else is telling me that I should know. It's something I do know in my head. I feel it in my heart. I see it every day in things that occur around me, the relationships I have. I know how much he loves me, and I know he forgives me, and I didn't know that before.
Woman: I know, and I feel, that I've been forgiven because Jesus died for me, and I didn't feel that before. I knew that was the way it was supposed to work, but I just didn't feel it until I'd gone through the process. Maybe it was just my head convincing my heart, but there is now a surety in my heart God has forgiven.
Woman: In the Bible it talks about having a peace that passes all understanding. It's really true. I don't understand it all the time, but I think the peace comes from this renewed faith. I also think it comes from resting.
Woman: I think the number one reason to come is to break the chain of bondage, to just confront all that Satan has in my life and had for years, perhaps, and to be set free to fully enjoy abundant life that we have through the power and blood of Jesus Christ.
[End of video]
The information for Someone Cares is in your Watermark News. Take it, every one of you. If you are not an individual who needs that ministry, you will know somebody who does. File it someplace.
Now I want to tell you if you held up a lion and a lamb in my eyes and asked me which God I need, I am so grateful for the Lamb, but I have to tell you my adrenaline gets to cranking, my heart beats, and my maleness thrills at the Lion.
Every single one of us when we saw the plane go into the building 12 days ago thrilled at the aspect of the vengeance of God setting right the courses of men. Let me set up where we're going in Mark today by letting you see more of what Peter saw, and I will tell you that I am convinced that the reason the church sleeps, that we as individuals do coddle sin and compromise with our own life, and the reason that we do not deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him is because we read entirely too much of the Lamb and we do not appropriately fear the Lion.
Jesus wanted his disciples to know the Lion was a lamb. We today are going to be reminded the Lamb who comes to take away the sins of the world is a lion with whom you should fear. You should be instructed by the greatness, glory, and grandeur of God. Let me give you a picture this way before we look at some Scriptures.
If you're in a room and there is a lion in the room and a lamb in the room and both of them walk up and lick you gently, which lick do you appreciate more? I am more grateful for the lick of a lion than I am the lick of a lamb. The lamb… I'll snap Fluffy's neck if he gets out of line, all right? The lion… I hope he's not just sampling what he's going to get more of later, but if it comes up and it's a kiss of "Hey, I'm going to love you," grace overwhelms me. The Lion of Judah is Jesus Christ.
Let me tell you some verses I guarantee you Peter memorized and he and his oppressed friends looked to. Listen to Isaiah 63:1-4. "Who is this who comes from Edom…" That is a territory south of Israel that has been forever oppressing Israel. We would know it as Palestine and down there in the northern boarders of Africa, working your way up further to the east. "…With garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, This One who is majestic in His apparel, Marching in the greatness of His strength? 'It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.'"
He says, "This is the Messiah, this is who Peter was looking for." The statement is said to him, 'Why is Your apparel red, And Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press?" Which is to say, "There are juices of grapes that are spit up on your white robe as you tread upon them and squash them. This one who come whose apparel is red is one whose robe is red because he squashes his enemies."
It's a very graphic picture. He says, "I have trodden the wine trough alone, And from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger And trampled them in My wrath; And their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments…" That's why they're red. "…And I stained all My raiment. For the day of vengeance was in My heart, And my year of redemption has come." Sin will have its way no more, for the Lion is here.
Now this is anticipated, again, in Revelation 19, and notice the Lion. "And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse…" This is a very arrogant horse to ride when you go into battle. Traditionally soldiers would ride either read horse or black stallions when they would go into battle. They would only ride white stallions coming come triumphantly from battle back into their homeland, but Jesus has already won the battle, so he's coming to war on the white stallion.
"…and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself." We don't know it. "He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses."
Do you realize that's the way he's going to call us into battle? There's no camel coming with us when we return, because there's not going to be a battle. He says, "Let them see you, I'll take care of it with my word." This is our Jesus. This is the Lion whom you serve.
"From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God…" See Isaiah 63. "…the Almighty. And on His robe…" I love this. "…and on His thigh He has a name written, 'King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.'"
Now you've got to see this, okay? Just for a second, let me just pervert the Scriptures. Imagine a boxing match and one with a robe coming out. It doesn't say Iron Mike. It doesn't say any other name of any other boxer…the Prince, the Hammer, the Hitman. On his robe is this: King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
Then he takes his robe off and you get ready to box with this brother, and you know boxers sometimes have tattoos, but you notice that his guy has an unusual tattoo right there on his thigh and it says, "King of Kings, and Lord of Lords." Can you imagine being there and this guy's thigh… I mean, an Arnold Schwarzenegger quad lapped over the side of a ripped stallion, and you see that printed on his thigh. You might want to think twice about tangoing with that cowboy.
That's what they're trying to get across. This is your Jesus, folks, meek and mild, come to take away the sins of the world, hear me on this. The reason I take the time to do this is because we see more of the lamb and we lose the lion, and we lose the appropriate exaltation of God which rightly motivates us to serve him. With the disciples, he struggled to get them to understand that, "I am your King and I am your Lion, but I'm going to lay myself down for my people."
With us, we celebrate the Lamb, but we trod all over it and keep throwing sins his way, and we forget that having been saved the spirit of the Lion lives in us and gives us victory over sin and over our flesh, and calls us to a life that will be judged by him. Not for salvation's sake if we're his children, but we'll be judged by him for how we served him as individuals who are his ambassadors, his soldiers of grace, who march on this earth in this day.
Peter needed the Lamb and we need the Lion. Mark 8. This is where we pick it back up. In Mark 8:34, Peter just blew it. He said, "You're the Christ." He said, "That's right." And then he said to the Christ, "Look, I don't want to hear anything more about death and dying. I don't know a lamb. I know a lion," and Jesus rebuked him. Then he called everybody within earshot, he said, "Gather around, gather around. I want to tell you something you all need to know. I am going to die, but you'd better get this right, I am also going to reign, and suffering is not just my destiny; it's yours.
So you've got to remember that I am faithful and true. I am King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and if you want to know who to fear, don't fear those who can destroy your body, who can make this life miserable, you fear the one who can cast your soul into hell for eternity, and you love the one who will die for your sins to keep you from hell. But listen to me," he said. "If anyone wishes to come after me…"
Now let's just get this straight, and this is when Jesus is not purring and baa-ing good news. He is letting them know, "Yes, the road I am going to call you to is a tough road. I don't want a bunch of followers who are impressed by my marvelous miracles. I want individuals who will imitate my magnanimous self-sacrifice and death. I don't want somebody who is confused about the fact my way is the way of the cross, but I will tell you if you don't follow in my way you are making a terrible, dreadful, exponentially horrible mistake."
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's shall save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father, with the holy angels."
He's saying, "You don't want to miss that, you want to be on the right side of the pony, and I am going to die, and I'm going to call you to die as I tarry before justice comes. The reason that I tarry is because I love folks who commit abortion, and I love folks who rebel against me. I love folks who sit mindlessly in church week after week, sings songs, say words, even read their Bibles and go to community studies, and yet their hearts are not rent before me, who have not dealt with their sin, who do not walk a life of surrender before me.
I love those sinners, those cultural believers who check 'Christian' on their forms but know me not at all. So I tarry that none should perish but all would come to repent, and while you tarry there, you live your life in such a way the world would consider foolish, but know this: This Lamb who will be slain, who will be delivered up before the Pharisees, scribes and Sadducees, he will roar, and I will come and the war will be done.
The nations will gather against me and I will speak a word and they will fall before me and they will bow and say, 'You are right and true. You are God, we are sinners, justice is ours, and we deserve it,' and they will drop their swords and march happily into hell." Now let me give you my paraphrase of Mark 8:34, because it's confusing. When you think about what it means to deny self and take cross, let me make it clear what deny is not.
To deny yourself is not to deny your personality, God has made you, shaped you, designed you to be exactly you. The writers of Scriptures write in different languages, different tones, different bents, because God loves individuals and he created you to be who you are, and you should not try to be anyone but who you are in the sense of your temperament and your person.
He doesn't want you to deny who you are as an individual. He loves you and created you to have a relationship with him uniquely in such a way that you're the only person who can give him the one gift which you can give, which is you. So it doesn't mean to deny your person in the sense of who God has shaped you to be as a human being. It does not mean to deny things, as in what is called asceticism.
Specifically, it does not mean the denial of something during certain seasons of the year like Lent or Ramadan or some other time so you can show your piety by not taking some delicacy you have chosen for a while. That is not what is in mind here with deny. It has something far greater in mind.
It has in mind the idea of a daily submission of your will. It is to deny your self-preserving, self-exalting, self-understanding ways and begin to let humility inform your life, not by human reason, human affection, and human passion but divine affection, divine revelation, divine spirit, and divine guidance. That's what it means.
It means simply for the proud to renounce the desire for status and honor. For the greedy it means renouncing an appetite for wealth. For the complacent it means they will renounce their love of ease. It means for the fainthearted they will have to abandon their craving for security. It means to the violent they will have to repudiate their desire for revenge. That's what it means.
Now, to carry your cross… What does that mean? It does not mean every single one of us should certainly carry a piece of wood on our shoulders or even will carry a piece of wood on our shoulders. It doesn't mean you will ever be staked to a cross. It just means you must, as a sign of submission to the one who has called you on the way, carry that which you are sovereignly destined to carry.
To a Jew who wasn't familiar completely with the idea of a crucifixion the way that we were, they knew this: When you were a convict, when you were indicted under Roman law, you were forced to carry a part of your cross to the place of execution as a sign of submission to say, "I am wrong, the government is right, and I submit to them by walking to my death and carrying the consequences of my choosing."
So it's a sign of submission to an authority as a result of being forced or compelled into carrying this act. For us, Jesus is saying, "You will carry, as a sign of submission, the way God has provided and arranged for you and sovereignly laid out for you." It might be different for John than it is Peter, (in fact, it was) but all of us, as a sign of submission, must walk faithfully in the way our Father has given us.
Let me just give you my paraphrase, understanding that, of Mark 8:34. "If anyone want to follow me continually…" Which is the idea. "If anyone wants to walk in my steps and lead a life that says to others, 'I am learning how to live life by observing the life of Jesus the Christ,' then let them say no to self-interest, selfish agendas, even self-preservation and human understanding, and say yes to God and whatever he asks, no matter how unreasonable it may seem to you or to others."
That's his call and that's what Jesus is saying when he gives this cute little phrase. He says, "Listen, it's not about you anymore if you're my disciple. If you want the world to say you follow after me then stop informing your day by asking how you feel, and stop informing your decisions by figuring what is easiest for you, and stop making your plans by friends who lovingly come alongside of you and say, 'Nobody should make that decision and nobody should walk that way, and nobody should endure that pain and nobody should wait to execute vengeance upon one such as them.'"
Now I want to make a little side note here in case you're wondering if I'm alluding to what our government should do in response to the resent terrorist attack. Our government should hunt these individuals down and have them proportionately, which in this case means ultimate death and extermination, suffer the consequences of their sin. You can disagree with me if you want but you're dead wrong.
God has given government the sword, and the reason he gave government the sword is for them to execute acts of justice. Now governments will be judged, including ours, for their injustice, and though we can do some things well, if we do some things wrong, you can be sure our government, its leaders, and the people who support those acts of injustice will meet this one who is faithful and true.
We'll talk in the weeks ahead about this idea of what a "just war" is and how a government should go about it, but suffice it to say this week when I say that it's up to us to not execute vengeance, I mean us as individuals. Vigilantism is not an option, scripturally. Is it a natural human response? You bet, but you deny that and you walk in the way, and when somebody speaks a harsh word to you, when someone utters threats toward you and lies about you, follow in the way of Christ who left you an example for you to follow in his steps.
For even though he suffered, he did not utter threats and when reviled, did not revile in return but he entrusted himself to the one who judges rightly. The one who judges rightly exalted him and gave him the name above all names that at his name every knee should bow, and if you want to be exalted, humble yourself under the ultimately vengeance and justice of God, which for a time is now human government. So we should act appropriately, proportionally, swiftly, and justly, and remember as a government we are due the same.
Let me just take some time and share with you some verses in case you're wondering, "Well, what's the big deal?" Let me give you an Old Testament cross reverence in Proverbs 3:5, a very familiar verse. This is, if you will, what Solomon would say is his paraphrase of Mark 8:34. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
Deny yourself. Carry the cross that is your cross. Don't do what seems right to you or what your parents say is reasonable. Live faithfully. Now what does that look like? How about Romans 12? I read this verse this week to a gentleman in my office, as I wanted to read it to his wife. They are in the mists of incredible disharmony in the home. I said, "Do you want to be a fully devoted follower of Christ? Buckle up." Romans 12, beginning in verse 9.
"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who prosecute you; bless and curse not.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written ' vengeance is mine, I will repay.'"
How many of you all are ready to follow this Jesus? I have to tell you something. That is plain and flat-out insanity unless this lamb who died is a lion who returns. With those who know him and have taken their way on this journey called life, that he will be faithful and free with, and he will judge rightly with, and he will put in a place of great favor.
Do you know what makes more sense? What makes more sense to most people is you don't risk it, man. You just do what will give you comfort and advancement in this life. Jesus simply says, "If you want to live for this life, that's fine. You can gain this life and lose your very soul." It's decision day, and it's time for us to stop playing church, time for us to stop sitting here every week and decide for yourself this day whom you will serve.
As a body, it is not enough for us just to want to sit and sing songs. We've got to ask ourselves, are we going to say, "It's not what is reasonable to us but what is revealed by the Lamb of God through the Word of God that has been divinely preserved for us that we might be not conformed to the world but be transformed to the image of God, that we might prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, and perfect, and glorifying."
I want to remind you what comes right after this section in Romans 12 is Romans 13, where it says, "Listen, I will give my sword to government, and they will execute vengeance in a temporal sense so that justice may not be absent for this time, but ultimate vengeance is mine."
You want to know where I stand on the death penalty in general? It's just simply this: when folks take a life, theirs ought to be gone as well. I think we should lovingly and compassionately tell them they can find forgiveness in the Lamb of God and be his friend then walk them to whatever chamber you want, whether it's a hangman's noose, a needle to inject, gas that comes out, or a bullet that goes through.
God has given us that awful responsibility as a government as an image-bearer of his ultimate justice, and so while we execute that justice swiftly, appropriately, and proportionately, we ought to call people to a King who is merciful and tell them to prepare to meet their maker. Look with me at others, in case you feel like you can still sign on. Let's go to Luke 6, verse 27.
"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. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back."
This is not just some pithy statement from some Eastern mystic on some mountain with smoke. This is the Word of God from the Lion of Judah, who expects us to walk as he walked, and we have to read it in that light. We have to ask ourselves: "Do I want to be this follower? Do I want to take this way?" That's the question put before the disciples in Mark, and remember the words of Jesus:
"You can avoid this if you want and have a much more comfortable life that makes much more sense to those who live in this world, but I will tell you, if you don't know me and follow me and make a decision that I am more than just a loving lamb, I am an awful lion, you're going to trade 80 years of comfort and pleasure for an eternity of consequence. Now you do the math." Just as you want people to treat you, verse 31 says,
"Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."
I pray, God, may those verses, by your Spirit working in me and in this body, be more true today than yesterday, and can I with you just agree this, Lord, is a hard way, and it makes me just pause before I worship again. This isn't easy…unless he's a lion and unless he will roar in a way that the whole world will go, "They weren't crazy at Watermark. Watermark had it right. They weren't nuts. They were loving when they told us to live that way. They weren't small and infantile in their intellect. They were genius in their insight by the grace of God."
I've got several applications, but I'm just going to give you one today. I just want us to think about this, and this is really what Christ is driving us to say this day. He simply says, "You have to believe that Jesus bore his cross for you for him to be your Messiah. That is half the equation. You've got to trust that you are a sinner in need of grace and mercy, as I, by grace, have done."
And come boldly to that cross and just say, "God, what incredible love that my King has died for me." Then the second part of this is you have to bear your cross. These two are inseparably joined. You have to bear your cross like him for him to believe that you are his disciple. What is the cross? Most of us will never be nailed to a tree.
A cross is Proverbs 3, a cross is Luke 6, a cross is Romans 12, a cross is friends who hurt us or people who fail us, a cross is passions that burn, and to say, "I will not be a slave to that and, Lord, the world and you will know I am your disciple as I, by the strength of your Spirit, avail myself to you, and when I blow it, I confess it as wrong. I seek forgiveness, make every restitution I can, and then continue in the way."
Who do you say he is? I call you today to come boldly before the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world but to fall humbly in line with the Lion who carried a cross and who will hold men accountable for their life as well as their words. Jesus says, "Bear fruit in keeping with your profession. Bear fruit in keeping with your repentance. Follow continually me. You will never regret the glory you will share with the Lion."
Now, I need you as brothers and sisters to spur me in that direction. I need you to point out when I am not living as Christ, and I will make a covenant with you to do the same. That's why Brett asked you if you're here today and you've never joined with a group of people. Jesus says, "It is wrong to try and do this alone. Come with his people and spur each other on the way, because it is a long way and it's the way of the cross, but there is life there."
We are praying this church will be marked by folks who follow in that way. We're going to give you a tool today to help call others to that way, to meet the Lion and the Lamb, to meet our Jesus. Let's pray.
Father, may we go this week now in the power of your Spirit fully free, having received the gracious blood of the Lamb poured out on us that we might be forgiven, but fully committed to our cross, whatever that way might be, knowing that you will judge rightly in the end. Though the world will scorn and though the world will mock, we will have peace, not as the world gives but a different peace knowing that grave will be empty and the Lion will return. We love you, Lord, and we pray that our lives speak that now as loudly as our world. In the name of the Lion and Lamb of Judah, Jesus Christ, we pray, 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.