Do you ever find that there is not enough time to do everything that seems necessary? Do you struggle to be purposeful and patient as you encourage others with truth? Are you someone who can teach in a way that deeply relates to people through creative methods and illustrations? In today's passage, Christ sets for us the example of how to accomplish all these things.
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Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage: The Ordeal and The Ideal, part 1
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The King on a Hill: Listen to Him to be Transformed
Lord, we are thankful we can turn to you and say, "Give us what we cannot for ourselves provide," which is a condition of the human soul, a condition of a life that would ultimately make it pleasing to you.
Then we thank you for your grace when we come to you and acknowledge the gap and the distance and the separation between your standard and our fallenness and turning away that we then are able to be, not just pleasing in your sight by decree, but as you remake us and as you change our hearts, you then allow us to live lives that give you pleasure and glory and bring goodness into our lives.
We come to you as people who have freely received what we could not provide for ourselves, and Lord, that grace that we have received, we want to freely give. We want to be a body that shamelessly declares the goodness of you toward us. We find that in your Word most fully expressed, so we go there, and we learn from it. We ask that you would teach us and transform us by it for our good and, even more importantly, for your glory. Thanks for this time, Lord. We love you, and we study to be like your Son, whose name we pray in, amen.
Well, we are making our way, as we said at the very beginning, through a book called Mark, that we might find more about this God we long to not just know but to serve and who says that he will conform us into his image in the context of us walking with him. We are in the ninth chapter, and we're going to look at just eight short verses today.
We're going to find out, as we continue to make our way through here now, that what's going on is Christ is really done revealing himself to a watching world, and he is increasingly pulling back and building into fewer and fewer, knowing that, in God's kingdom plan, the one he sent to be the Great Deliverer for his people has been rejected, as he knew he would. He will be delivered to a cross. He will be crucified. He will die. He will be buried, but he will rise again.
Then he will return to reign in righteousness and glory. In God's sovereignty, he has decreed there would be a gap between the cross and the crown, and during that gap, what we commonly call the church age, he would leave behind individuals who would walk like him, talk like him, speak like him, and be empowered by him for the good of the world and for the glory of God, so Christ is building into that which will be the foundational leaders of that new entity called the church.
Really, where we are in Mark, chapter 9, Jesus, it says, is on the way, and the way is the way to Jerusalem, where he will take his cross that he might give clean hands through his sacrifice and allow men's hearts to be pure through his pure sacrifice. We see, as he starts to pull back with these disciples after three and a half some-odd years of relationship, they still don't quite get it, so we're going to find another little section here where he tells them now for the second time explicitly the program and what's going to happen, and we'll find their response to it.
We'll see that this… You know, if Shakespeare were writing this, we're not sure if it would be a Shakespearean tragedy or a Shakespearean comedy, frankly. It's probably a comedic tragedy is what it is. These guys just can't get it right, and it's tragic what they miss, and in them, we see a picture of us.
As we learned last week, one of the things we saw is that nine men were left below as Christ went up and revealed his glory to Peter, James, and John. He came back down, and the nine were arguing with the Pharisees about why they were or were not able to cast out a specific demon from a young individual, so Christ had a dialogue with them, and it ended with, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer."
Jesus, as we said last week, wasn't talking about a magical incantation or some special prayer that would evoke anything. He's talking about what prayer is ultimately a symbol of, which is communication with God. "In relationship with him you can do things that will bring me glory and that the world will cock its head at and say, 'I can't explain that. There is a supernatural origin to that life.'"
This week, I hope… As you walked through the week in a life of worship, which as we've said many times isn't just what we do during this hour and a half but what we do with our very lives throughout the week, the struggles in your life, the consistent habitual hurts, and the hopelessness and the pain of which I am sure there is much can come out by nothing except by prayer through a relationship with the living God.
We want to tell you how available that is to you again this morning if you don't understand that, and we want to call all of us who know that back to it today and to walk with this God in constant, abiding humility in a humble relationship with him. Look at Mark, chapter 9. Let's read verses 30-37, and then let's talk about it and see if we can't learn some things and some applications and some teaching points for us.
It says, "From there…" Where they were where they had been in a room where Jesus was explaining to them about the incident I just described. "…they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it." Meaning where they were going. Why? "For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, 'The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.'"
That's way too easy for us to read, but catch this. This Jesus had just been identified by these men as God in the flesh. He concurred that that opinion was correct, and now he says, "Guess what? The God you've long for, the God you longed to know to speak violently into your world and to show his greatness, is going to die."
Now wouldn't that cause you problems? Absolutely, it would cause you problems, as it did these men. They don't get real hung up on it. It just says in verse 32 that they don't understand, and it says, "…they were afraid to ask…" which we'll talk about in a minute, possibly. In verse 33, it says:
"They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, 'What were you discussing on the way?' But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, 'If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.' Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him** in His arms, He said to them, 'Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.'"**
What I love to do, as we've said before, with the Scriptures is go, "Okay. Great story. I know something else now about the historical life of the person of Jesus of Nazareth, but what does this have to do with me today?" What we love to do here is go to God's Word, and we believe the purpose of studying God's Word is not just information, but the purpose of God's Word is transformation.
It is given to us for teaching, for rebuke, for reproof, for correction so the men and women of God who sit underneath it can be adequate. It says, "…equipped for every good work." What's this little section of Mark going to produce in our lives? What does Jesus want us to know? What did he want his disciples then to know? How does that relate to us in 2001, and what are we going to do with it? So what?
The way to deal with this type of question is you spend time in that little text, and you ask yourself questions. What is really going on there? You take some time. You sit still, and you mull around what it must have been like to be there with him, and you try and make some basic observations about the ebb and flow of conversation, the circumstances they were in. From those circumstances and from those observations, you want to draw out principles of truth.
Then from those principles of truth, you want to drive it home into your life and say, "Okay, am I going to be an individual who lives by these principles and apply them to my life or not?" As we go through this little book of Mark verse by verse, we're going to take what's there and learn from it in our own lives.
It's very simple today what we have, and I want to just walk you through some basic observations, some truths, and some principles that are going to be beneficial…have been in my life already and prayerfully will be in yours. Let's just take it a little bit at a time. Here's the first principle I want us to just chew on today.
It's right here in this text. It's more than okay to prioritize your time with people. In fact, I just observed that it's practical, it's purposeful, and it is Christlike. Now why do I shoot that down there? One of the things that happens in a growing body like ours is individuals just naturally respond to those they see up front. They see me. They see Kyle. They see James.
They see some of the elders who are up here at different times, and they go, "I need to spend time with that individual," or "That individual needs to do my wedding," or "That individual needs to be involved with my baptism," or "That individual needs to be the one I get discipled by." Now, obviously, when you speak to a multitude as Christ did and as some of us, based on our place and position and giftedness, God gives the privilege to speak to a larger crowd, we cannot spend the kind of time we want to and long to with every individual in the body.
I sometimes really struggle with not being able to meet individually with everybody who even wants to in a given week. With as many as are appropriate and trying to be wise in using my time and not just investing wildly according to whatever is just right there before me, but to be intentional and to not let the urgent get in the way of the important, is a difficult task, one that often can produce guilt if I don't again and again come back to this principle which Jesus modeled, which Moses himself was corrected by his father-in-law, Jethro, to understand.
He said, "Moses, you're going to kill yourself and frustrate the people if you try and be the Shell Answer Man for everybody. You can't do it, so you appoint leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, of tens, and if the leaders of those individual groups can't handle it, let them work their way up to other gifted and godly men.
Eventually, Moses, there are some things that, because of how God has sovereignly gifted, equipped, and built into you, that you will speak to, but you don't have to micromanage two million people because (a) you can't and (b) it's not healthy to produce what God wants." Now I don't know what the perfect number is to have direct report or meaningful relationship with. I do know that, when God was here, he chose to focus on 12, and even within that 12, he had three who he was especially committed to, who he built himself into.
Even within the 12, you can make a very strong case that what he did is he had that 12 broken down to three groups of four, and what he did is spend a large amount of time with the multitude, a greater amount of time with the 70, a disproportionate amount of time with the 12, and very special, intentional time with three.
As I was thinking about this week, some little bullet points, some proverbial pithy statements came out even underneath this hopefully proverbial pithy truth. One was this. No one can help everybody, but everybody can help someone. Let's just read what it says right here in this text we're in. Look at Mark 9:30-31, right there before you. Let's read it again.
It says, "From there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know about it." Why? Because he had a purpose. He was teaching, building into his disciples. All through the gospel of Mark, you see Jesus being very clear about the fact that he was not willing to let anybody know where he was at certain times.
Often, he would go away and spend his most effective and special time alone with his Father, and then from there, he'd go back to the three and then the 12, the 70, and the multitude. Now not everybody can help everyone, but everybody can help someone, and that's Christ's plan from the very beginning. It's a ministry of multiplication. Paul said it this way to Timothy. "These things, Timothy, which you've heard from me in the presence of many other people, you take these, and you teach them to faithful other men and women who will be able to teach others also."
Now all of us at times feel burdened and feel bad by not being available to all the people we want to help. Do you know, as I looked through the Gospels this week, I saw again how many sick and hurting people were left, not just at the end of Christ's ministry, but even in specific snapshots of his ministry?
There were times he walked away when there were still folks in line to get the touch, to have an audience with the rabbi, yet in the midst of all that pain and heartache that was still tangibly expressed in the world, Christ said, "Hey, it's finished." Paul said, "Everything the Father has asked me to do or the race I've come here to run, I am finished with."
It can happen, but it won't happen if you make yourself subject to everybody's schedule and the demands that are on your life based on other people's wanting just a piece of you. It takes incredible wisdom, and I think, a deep amount of discernment to try and figure out the best way to serve folks.
I just want to tell you guys, this is not a plea to keep you from calling our office for me or anybody else on staff, but I want you to know, just like when you'd get a whupping from your daddy and he'd say, "This hurts me more than it hurts you," it hurts me every time I hear of an individual who's struggling, a member of God's flock who is caught in a brier and I'm not the one who gets to go and I'm not the one who gets to sit and talk and I'm not the one who gets to minister and shepherd, that I can't be there.
You know what? My job is to build into lives so there will be more and more individuals who, with the wisdom and excellence of Christ, can be there in that given moment. That is our entire philosophy, that nobody here cares for more than 10, that everyone is cared for and no one cares for more than 10.
We have said that from the beginning, and we are working hard through the mission of community to raise up shepherds who have coaches who take care of five leaders who shepherd 10 each who have division leaders over them who have staff over them who build into them so there's a direct line from an elder to every member of our body.
Just like Jethro said to Moses, there are gifted and trained men and women who shepherd in that context and process. It's so easy to feel guilty about that. You know what? The reality is and we know that in your business, in your life, in your family, if you don't prioritize your time, you are out of sync with Christ. It is practical. It is purposeful. It is biblical.
Now I want to make one other comment here about this observation about this point. A number of years ago, I taught a message out of Psalm 127, and in Psalm 127, it talks there about how "…children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward." I say that, every time I say that, it's hard not to think about underwear. It says, "…the fruit of the womb is a reward." I think about it. It says, "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…"
In teaching that message, I made an observation about Billy Graham, and that was that Billy Graham, during the time he had young Franklin and others at home, often found himself on the road at crusades where people said, "Billy, you have to come. We have literally hundreds of thousands of lost people in this region who have never heard the gospel, and you are the one who must bring it," and he consistently found himself overseas.
I made a comment that there were lots of folks God could've used overseas in those places to take his Word, but there was only one man who God had in his sovereignty and wisdom placed in that home to love young Franklin. Some folks really struggled with that and kind of said, "Hey, of all the illustrations you could've used, why'd you take Billy Graham on?"
My response was, "Because sometimes, especially in the name of ministry and in this greater good, we go over here, and you know say, 'It's better for the one to suffer for the millions to be served,'" and I said, "I don't agree with that." I don't care how big our church gets; it's never going to be a glory to Christ if I'm available to the 10,000 at the expense of the five God has specifically placed in my home.
There are lots of folks who are equipped and gifted to serve the city of Dallas and the state of Texas and the country and the world, but God has put one man in the house on Woodcrest, and it's me. I have to make sure I do that, and I have a wife who constantly reminds me about that attention. I have elders who partner in ministry with me and staff brothers and sisters who exhort me toward that end.
Shortly after that (I took some heat, some real heat, for saying that), there was a biography about Billy Graham, and in that book, he talked about his torment because of the decision he himself made and how he had to say at times to his son, Franklin, in retrospect, "You know, I probably didn't spend enough time at home," and deal with that with his son who went through a lot of difficult things because Daddy wasn't there.
The other reason I like to use Billy Graham is because I doubt very many of you are pulled in the same ways he is. I didn't get a phone call this week telling me that, if I didn't go to Tanzania, the country was going to go to hell, and I doubt you did, so we can sometimes think, "Okay. An eternal soul's waiting. I must go, and off we go," but none of us had that. All of us have had things that pull at us, and if God didn't want Billy to do that at the expense of his son, we probably need to realize that part of our prioritization needs to be first and foremost with our kids.
I had to, through a series of difficult things, spend a lot of time at different high schools this week with some stuff that's been going on. I'm going to tell you something. There is an epidemic of sadness in this culture. I walked through one high school in particular, and I was overwhelmed. It's been a while since I've been in that environment on a daily basis, and I was overwhelmed with the pain I saw in our youth.
I just sat there, and I wanted to grab every parent in this city and just say, "Would you spend some time with your kid? Would you figure out that, whatever it is you're doing, if you're not building into your Peter, James, and John and your Mary and Martha who are born into your home, you are missing it?"
I wanted to go home and just hug my kids and just say, "You know your daddy loves you." My little girl was leaving today, and I grabbed her, and I just said, "Ally, you know something? I am so glad that I'm your daddy. You know that?" I love when I say to my little boy, Cooper, "I am so glad that I am Cooper's daddy," and he says, "I'm so glad that I'm my daddy's Cooper."
I just beg you, if you're not building into your children at home, to stop whatever else you're doing. I'm telling you, you're not following the pattern our Lord has set. No one can help everyone, but everyone can help someone. I want to tell you, let's start with those little arrows at home. Here's the second point that comes from this. When you spend prioritized time with people, lead them by example and remind them of the cross and guide your time with them by God's Word.
Now where do I get that? Look at Mark 9:31. We'll come back and put this back up in just a second, but here's the verse. "The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men…" This is what he said after he got those guys away from everybody else. Here's his prioritized time, and he gets away with them, and he says, "Let me just tell you something. Guys, I'm not going to just be here to cut up with you and have fun. I'm going to be here on purpose to tell you some things you need to know.
Specifically, I'm going to teach you something that has been in God's Word for a long time. I'm going to model some things for you, and I'm going to guide our time by God's Word, and I'm going to call you to do the exact same thing because that's where greatness is made, when you align yourself with God's way and will, so come with me, and when you come with me, I want to teach you this. I'm going to be delivered into the hands of men. They're going to kill me, and when I've been killed, I'm going to rise three days later, and let me talk to you about that."
This is the second time in a very short window of days he begins to say that. Let me give you the principle, the observation. When you spend prioritized time with people, lead them by example. Christ was already… He had told them, "I am on the way." "On the way where?" "Where my Father has sent me, which is going to involve a cross. It's not pleasant, but it's his clear revealed way."
Remind them of the cross and guide your time with them by God's Word. I say that because what Christ is sharing right here is the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah, that there would be a lamb who would come and would be led to slaughter. You want to know what to do with your kids? Do you want to know what to do with those who God's called you to spend some time with, those who you're influencing, shepherding as everyone is cared for and if you're an individual who by grace is shepherding and caring for 10?
Do you want to know what to do with your small children, your family, your roommate? First of all, we have to lead by example. That's what Christ did. I love the statement that kids may fail to do what we say, but they will never fail to do what we do, and that's why it's so important to teach and lead by example.
I heard this statement just this week. "We teach what we know but we reproduce what we are." Let me say that one again. Here's a little pithy statement, and you're going to find out that Christ's ministry is packed of them. This one, he didn't say explicitly, but wiser men than I have thought of it, and it is simply this. "We teach what we know, but we reproduce what we are."
We have a fantastic core document which guides us as a body. I mean, it's really worth reading. If you haven't been to the Discovery Class, even if you're not going to plug in here, I would recommend you come just to see some of the material a lot of people have spent hours in putting together because, I want to tell you something. It's biblical, and I think it's excellent, but we will not be a church that reproduces fully devoted followers of Christ if we teach that, even though the Scriptures say that.
We will only be a church that reproduces fully devoted followers of Christ when we ourselves are availing ourselves in every way we can to the Scriptures and of his Spirit. We teach what we know, but we reproduce what we are. What's reproduced in your life? That is why Christ always led first by example.
You've heard the statement, "I can't hear what you say because your life is way too loud," and many of us have told our kids how important church is, how important God is, but our lives are way too loud for them to think we mean it. What we will reproduce is maybe a bunch of cultural folks who attend a building or a gathering on a Sunday but not a bunch of folks who order their lives by his Word and will and Spirit.
Now the trick and the calling is not to teach one thing and do another or not just to do it and not teach but to teach it and to do it and to know God's Word and to teach them God's Word and to let them understand that the way of Christ is the way of a cross. What's that mean? It doesn't mean you will probably end up nailed to a piece of wood. It means, whatever God has called you to do, it's worth living in that way. Even as Christ took up his cross or even as Christ walked faithfully in his way, he was blessed and rewarded so will you be, but find the way.
Look at God's revealed will first in his Word, and then let's talk about his not-quite-so-clear will in the way it expresses itself in your life and the principles that are there that can be draped over you. Let me give you a third. When you spend prioritized time with people, be prepared to go slow and go over the same thing again and again and again and again. I mean, this is not a great insight, is it? I needed to be reminded of it again as a shepherd, so I wrote it down.
When you spend prioritized time with people, just be prepared to go slow and go over the same thing again and again and again. To these poor folks who sat behind me down here this morning, forgive me that it was not really easy to worship right there because, six different times during the service, with my 5-year-old and my 8-year-old I had to say, "Now is not the time to have this conversation about, you know, the golf clubs," or "Now is not the time to have the conversation about whether you can go with me tonight," or "Now's not the time…" I mean, it was constant.
Part of me wanted me wanted to slap them, and I couldn't do that, so pinch them really hard, not so hard that they would cry out loud because then everybody would go, "Geez!" but hard enough to, you know, get some of the anger out and so I could focus for maybe two minutes instead of 30 seconds on what I was doing.
You know, luckily, here I am, sitting on this text all week, and I thought, "You know what? I have two little disciples right here, and they're just learning how to worship, and they're also learning how to handle interruption with grace but with a very clear purpose," so constantly (I don't know how many times. You guys probably do), I had to talk to them.
Then before they left, I just got them, and I just said to them again, "Let me just tell you. You know why Daddy does that. This is what we're doing here. We want to do it with authenticity, which means we focus with everything we have during this time together with our friends declaring who our Lord is." It's not just children who need that, is it? Don't be surprised when you spend prioritized time building into people that they need to hear the same thing. It is not often enough. Remember, that man needs to be reminded more than he needs to be instructed.
Let me give you another one which is kind of an outflow of this. I'll say it this way. When you spend prioritized time with people, be prepared to be patient and make sure you know the difference between goals and desires. I just said you have to go slow and go over the same thing again and again. What I'm saying now is you need to be patient. Also, I would admonish you to know the difference between a goal and a desire, lest you become frustrated and angry.
Look at the verse right here. Look at Mark 9:33-34. It says, "They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, 'What were you discussing on the way?' But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest." You're like, "Oh, my goodness! Didn't we just go over this?"
He just got through saying he was going die. They go, "That's a little confusing for us. I don't know why you're dying. I mean, you've told us why you're dying, but geez, it's a little overwhelming. Let's walk." As your walking, "Who do you think's better, you or me? I have Birkenstocks. What do you have?" They're walking. I don't know what they were arguing about, but can you imagine Christ just pulling his hair out?
I love what it says in the Scripture. It says, "When he got there, he sat down." It was not a casual comment, you know, between plays at a scrimmage, where the coach blew the whistle, and the ball was dead, and he said, "Hey, listen. You have to hit low and drive!" No, it was not that time. This was enough of a crisis that he said, "Let's all sit down because we have to talk about this for a while. This is a big deal."
He told them again this thing we're about to see, and he started to lay it out. He started to be patient. Don't be surprised when folks struggle. I want to tell you, we are so committed for this to be a grace-filled community, where your struggles and failures are not condoned but where you know you can come and say, "Man, help me in a different way than I'm currently experiencing, because I continue to have this catastrophic thing in my life."
This needs to be a place where people can be patient with you as a manifestation of God's patience and forbearance with you. If you and I are lucky, we'll always get exposed when we're this tragically foolish. This is a front-of-the-Bible quote for me. I wrote this down a long time ago. It came from a guy named Charles Spurgeon who did what I'm doing about 150 years ago in a book called Lectures to My Students. I wrote this down in the front of my Bible, and I read it often. It goes right here with this point. This is what it says.
"Who can bear the weight of souls without sometimes sinking to the dust? […] To see the hopeful turn aside, the godly grow cold, professors abusing their privileges, and sinners waxing more bold in sin—are not these sights enough to crush us to the earth? […] The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble. Count it no strange thing, but a part of ordinary ministerial experience. […] Be not surprised when friends fail you: it is a failing world. […] Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are."
You know, when I get discouraged when I have poured my life into friends, sometimes literally for years, and then here comes an event where they're arguing about greatness or something of the like, I think of Christ, and I go, "You know what? He's a much better discipler than I am, and he's striking out after three strong years here."
I think about the patience and the way he sat them down and went over it with them again and built into them. Even when he left, he sent a helper that they may not fail. I go, "Lord, make me that man. You never let me be the one who walks away from a disciple. Let the disciple walk away from me."
Think about how our nation…. We're just over four weeks, going into the fifth week, from the thing that will forever get our attention as a country. Do you remember what we talked about on September 16 here? One of the things we did is reflected back on the Oklahoma City bombing and how we then promised we'll never be the same again.
A new dose of reality came in a tidal wave of destruction from Oklahoma City into our lives, and we will never forget mortality. We will never forget how, if we don't love our neighbor and know our neighbors, how we are prone to destruction. We will never again forget our God and his ways, yet we did, didn't we? In some weird way, we processed it, found out who did it, got them dealt with, built a memorial, had some services, and persevered and rebuilt and went on.
You think about how our country from the halls of Congress to every school in the land prayed that Tuesday. There wasn't one that didn't. Secular radio stations called pastors and said, "Would you just lead our folks in prayer?" News stations posted numbers and asked us to come down to answer phones to love and serve people in the name of Christ. Churches were full at Easter numbers, and our country is starting already to get over it, mark my words.
The war's part of it. A few of the anthrax things are going to keep bringing us back for a time. There will be other tragedies, and I will tell you, part of these tragedies is God's very patient persistence to remind us that we too likewise should perish if we do not repent. He is patient with us, not longing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. You watch this world, and you watch the patience of God with men.
The wonder is not that the World Trade Center towers fell. The wonder is that the earth has not melted at his Word, and mark his word, the earth will melt at his Word one day, and there will be a bunch of folks who will act so surprised. Meanwhile, he keeps preaching the message. Don't invest in financial greatness. It is insecure. What takes 25 years to build, takes an hour to fall. Don't bank on military prowess. It is insecure. Bank on the God who can defend you, even in death.
Mark my words, I said it on the sixteenth. I'll say it again. God in his patience is trying to get our attention. I'm not saying… I don't know why God allowed those planes to fly into the World Trade Center. He did. All I do know is what they can teach us in the midst of the horror which he will himself judge but also now begs to use as a patient teacher in our lives.
Let me give you another one. Proverbs pack power. As I was thinking through this, as I was reading this little section, and as I want to be a dad who does an effective job, I thank you for the privilege you give me this time every week, and I want to do an effective job with your hearts. I pray that God would let me. My wife and I last night prayed again for just your hearts, my words, our time together.
I just observed Christ right here. Proverbs pack power. Zingers help students. I just said, "Learn to reduce great truths to simple statements wherever possible." That's kind of what I do every week when we come together, but just tie them down tighter and tighter. The word proverb, by the way, is a word which means a pithy statement. It can mean a longer dialogue, but it typically means a pithy statement.
I love what it says in the book of Proverbs. It says the purpose of this entire book is to help you discern a proverb. "To understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles." A great statement almost should cause you some curiosity and make you go, "Well, what's that mean? Let me think about it."
Solomon wrote, "Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly." Solomon also wrote, "Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox." They are pithy statements that make you wrestle. Christ was an absolute expert at this.
Right here, we have one of them. Look at Mark 9:35. He sat them down. He wants to go back over it with them one more time and look what he gives them. He gives them a pithy statement. It's paradoxical. It's curious, but he's going to reduce this huge eternal truth to just a bullet point, and here it comes. Mark 9:35: "Listen, gang. I know what you were arguing about, but sit down."
One of the things I love about Christ is he doesn't rebuke their heart. Their heart was to be great. He says, "That's a wonderful thing to want to be great. It is part of your being made in the image of God that you want to be great. God is a God of glory and greatness. You're in his image. You should want glory and greatness, but here's how you're going to get it. It's not by arguing over who's more verbally skilled, who's more physically powerful, who's more financially endowed. The way to be great is this. If you want to be first, you're going to be last. You serve others."
Now listen to other things. I just sat down this morning and thought, "Okay. What are some other proverbial, little pithy statements that have been so strong and so profound they've made a way into the minds, and even of this increasingly bilaterally illiterate nation we're in, we still know them?" Christ said this in response to a difficult circumstance one time. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Have you ever heard that before? That's Christ talking about the foolishness of some of the accusations cast against him.
Here's one. "It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to come into heaven." That is a profound statement. What does it mean? Here's one. "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." Here's one. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I mean, his whole ministry was packed full of these, and I could go on and on and on, where he was a master teacher and so what he did is he gave zingers, little proverbs, stuff like, "No one can help everyone, but everyone can help someone."
Are you making disciples? Are you loving those whom God has given you? Statements like, "We teach what we know, but we reproduce what we are," are fantastic teaching instruments. Spend some time thinking about how to communicate them. I, this morning went through, and I just pulled a few of my favorites. You ready?
Winston Churchill is the king of this, and here's one that Churchill said one time. He says, "It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations." Now you have to think about that for a second because any good proverb or pithy statement makes you do that. Why'd he say that? Well, because if you're stupid, you can't think anything smart to say yourself, so you may as well read what smart people have said and learn to quote it.
That's what I try and do every week. That is the truth. I try and read what God has said and quote it, and then I read what others who love him have thought about what he's said, and when it makes sense with his Word, I try and quote it and, every now and then through some blind squirrel planting an acorn, throw one in myself.
Reagan quoted Churchill when he was being wheeled in after the assassination attempt. He said, "There's no more exhilarating feeling than being shot at without result." That is essentially a Churchill quote during World War II, and Reagan has gotten all this credit for it because some would say our not-very-smart president read books of quotes, mocking this man who was himself smart because he was a learned man who read what others said.
Listen to Churchill. I love this statement. Think about this. "History is going to be kind to me, for I intend to write it." Now that's a great quote. What's it mean? I'll tell you what it means. Churchill said, "I'm not going to sit back and hope, twiddle my thumbs, cross my fingers and hope people think great things of me. I'm going to live my life in a way that demands that history acknowledges my greatness." Now you put that into your child and watch them go.
You know what? I know history is going to be kind to Watermark because we intend to write a history of faithfulness right here. Winston Churchill said, "We are all worms, but I do believe that I am a glow-worm." It's a good statement. Here's one, not by Churchill. "The greatest oak was once a little nut that held it's ground." Teach that to a kid you're trying to raise.
"Remember, people will judge you by your actions not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard-boiled egg." That is a good statement. I used that this week with an individual I was trying to help. "That's not who I am." I go, "Brother, you may have a heart of gold, but all I can see is what you're doing. You may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard-boiled egg."
One guy said this. This talks about the depravity of man. He says, "It takes time to ruin a world, but time is all it takes." Do you have somebody who's out there who doesn't think they need God? You tell them, "Listen. Go for it, big guy. It may take some time for you to know what the Bible has said from the beginning, but time's all it's going to take because I can assure you what's going to happen. Destruction is in your path."
Let me give you a few more that I thought were really good. Here's one. A few years ago, I was struggling with things that were being said about me, and I went and talked to a very old, wise man, a godly man, and I was just asking him about what it was that I thought made him an individual others sought out. Literally, world leaders, presidents had sought this man's counsel.
As I sat with him and I just asked him what it was, he said, "Todd, I'm a truth-teller, and you can't find very many truth-tellers out there anymore, and I believe if somebody wants my opinion that I ought to give it to them." I said, "Well, you know what, sir? How come when you're old and wise when you're a truth-teller, people want to be near you, and when you're young, they tell you, you need to learn to be diplomatic and that you're arrogant?"
He leaned forward over the table, and he looked at me, and he said, "Let me just tell you something, Todd." He goes, "Let me tell you something about diplomacy." He said, "You know what diplomacy is?" I go, "No. What's diplomacy?" I had my pen out and my napkin ready to write it down. He said, "Todd, diplomacy is the fine art of saying, 'Good doggy! Good doggy!' to a rottweiler until you can grab a brick." That's what he said.
Now here's the point. He said, "Don't waste your time with being diplomatic. Speak the truth in love. That's what the Scriptures have guided you to do. Quit trying to be a man, if you ever have, who advances through his tactful way of only speaking when it can advance him, so he can have a greater opportunity next time." He said, "You've already been told what to do. You speak the truth in love. Quit trying to be diplomatic and be like Christ."
I said, "Well, sir. No one's accusing me of being diplomatic. That's why I asked you the question." He said, "Well, just keep doing it, and listen. Know that those who are playing a game of diplomacy are playing a game, and they're just saying, 'Good doggy! Good doggy!' I guarantee you this, when they get a brick, they will not say, 'Good doggy!' anymore. That's diplomacy."
You may disagree with him, but it was a pithy statement that stuck in my heart, so I prayed, not that I'd be a diplomat, but that I would be God's man, and if men hate me for that, I'm willing for that to be my cross. I say to people this all the time: "If what I have said or if the way I have said it offends you, will you forgive me? But if what I said offends you, for that, I cannot ask your forgiveness. Don't lose the truth in the messenger, and if the messenger is messed up, forgive me.
I thought prayerfully before I spoke. I asked God that he would give me words that are spoken apt circumstance so they would be, as Proverbs says, 'Like apples of gold in settings of silver…' I've prayed Proverbs 15:2 that the words of the wise would make knowledge acceptable, and if I've failed in that effort, forgive me, but if the truth is what offends, for that, I will not back down."
It's fun to learn to speak that way. It's what our Savior did and what we should do. As more, I'm going to be disciplined and move on. Let me give you another little principle right here as we begin to power down…just a couple of more. Good teachers illustrate. What did Jesus do? Let's look at the Scripture right here where good teachers illustrate.
He said this in Mark 9:36-37. "Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 'Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me…" Here they are arguing about greatness, and Christ says, "Hang on a second. Come here. Opie, come on over here." He sat Opie on his knee, and he said, "Do you see this? If you love a child…" Now why did he do that? This is not a teaching about how to enter into heaven by being like a child. That will come later.
What he's doing right here is that a child in that culture was not as much a representative of helplessness as it was a representation of something that was not beneficial to you for loving it. I went and just did a little work on the culture this week and let me just read you what one individual wrote about this.
He says, "Children were not regarded as especially obedient, trusting, simple, innocent, pure, unself-conscious, or humble. The point of the comparison is the insignificance of the child on the honor scale. The child has no power, no status, and few rights. A child is dependent, vulnerable, entirely subject to the authority of the father; yet Jesus chooses such a one to represent those who are needy and lowly. …who are little esteemed…socially [unimportant], and easily ignored…"
Jesus says, "You want to be great? You love this kind. Don't just love the superstar athlete. Don't love the guy who can write a big check. You love people. You love like this kid. That's what makes you essentially great." The brother of Jesus, James, said it this way. "This is pure and undefiled religion, to love the orphan and the widow." There's nothing sacrosanct about an orphan or a widow. It is the exact same point as Christ is making right here. "You love those who can do nothing for you," and Jesus was just illustrating that point.
Great teachers illustrate. Jesus is a master teacher. That is why he spoke so many times in parables and, I even think, physical representation. I think our decaying bodies are part of God being a master teacher. It is a sign we are moving toward death, and if we don't deal with that, trouble will come.
He's a master teacher. That is why, when Adam sinned on the day it was told that if he sinned that he would surely die, I think he was sentenced to die right then, but God in his mercy intervened. Instead of him dying on that day, he illustrated the truth of the proverb that God said, that "If you reject me, you'll die."
He took an innocent animal whose throat was slit and paid for Adam's sin right then with another animal and covered Adam's sin in grace in anticipation of the fact that, even man in his sin, will not thwart God's purposes, but God in his character will not ignore his nature, so sin must have a consequence. It did then, and it did ultimately in Jesus Christ. "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" Great teachers illustrate. Learn to do that with your kids.
Let me just give you one you can do. Are you having a problem with kids understanding how, when their words get out, it's tough to get them back in? Go home tonight, if your kids are consistently saying things they shouldn't say about other people, and you take $2.70, get a tube of Crest, and you just squirt it out right there on some waxed paper on your kitchen table and say, "Okay kids. Now let's do this. Let's spend a few minutes getting that toothpaste back in the tube."
After a while, they'll be messy and very frustrated because you told them, if they got the toothpaste back in the tube, they could have some ice cream, and they can't do it. You say, "Let me just tell you the point of what I just did. Sometimes words are going to fly out of your mouth, and you may not mean it to be a destructive thing, but there's no way to get those words back in." I bet your kids won't forget it the next time something unclean comes out of their mouths. Great teachers illustrate.
Here's another one. Great students will be remembered. Mark 9:37 just says this. "…whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me." Jesus' point in saying that is, "You won't ever regret following me." Here's the last point. Great students are great servants, just like their teacher. That's where we're headed with this whole thing today.
Great students are great servants, and if we want to be like this Jesus, if we're going to be fully devoted followers of Christ, then we have to stop thinking we're too good to serve anybody, that we're too something to welcome anybody here, that we're too esteemed to be a part of the break-down and tear-down team, greeting team, coffee team, loving those kids in there who can't tell you how great you are because they don't know how to articulate it yet. If we want to be great like our teacher, we're going to be great servants.
A guy named Phillips Brooks wrote this. He said, "Be such a man, and live such a life, that if every man were such as you, and every life a life like yours, this earth would be God's Paradise." One of the ways to find out if something is true is to universalize it. What if every single person was a servant like Christ? Would this be a good place? You bet.
One of the reasons, one of the ways you know that certain things are error and not good is you universalize them. What if everybody got an abortion? Would that be a good thing? What if everybody was a homosexual? Would that be a good thing? What if everybody was monogamous in marriage, saw kids as a gift, and built into them? Would that be a good thing? I think it would.
If you're trying to figure out if something that you're doing is appropriate or not, universalize it. Say, "Well, what if everybody did this? What if everybody (I say this for the benefit of my wife) felt like it was okay to accelerate through a yellow light and sometimes go through a red one?" I say that, not because she does that, but she sometimes has told me she rides with people who do. Universalize it and see if it's such a good thing.
I want to read you this thing and close with it. This is what it means to be a servant. Are you ready? I pray this for our body.
People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The kindness you show today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be kind anyway.
Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest person with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest person with the smallest mind.
Think big anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway.
If you're a servant, you may never get noticed. Serve anyway, and my Father in heaven, who sees all things, will reward you.
Father, I pray for this body, and I pray for their pastor, that I would serve anyway, that I'd serve a kid who could never even articulate back to me how much they appreciate my love and my self-sacrifice. I pray that I would serve consistently and this body would serve consistently those who will never be able to do anything for us with the same fervor we serve those who you have gifted in ways that can bless us.
Let us not neglect the rich, the beautiful, but let us not be a slave to their love, but let us love them and love you by loving the child, the orphan, the widow, the helpless, the needy, the socially unimportant. May that Spirit of Jesus Christ be so closely linked with this church that, when folks say, "What's unique about Watermark?" before we could speak, somebody else would say, "I'll tell you what's unique there is those people live as Christ lived, love as Christ loved. They serve anyway."
I pray we would learn to love like you did, and I pray we would believe the measure of a man is not in what the world thinks of him, the measure of a man is not in how many people serve him but how many people he serves. Would you make us like our King who didn't come to be served but gave his life as a ransom for many? In Christ's name, amen.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 9:1 through Mark 10:34 and includes the 2-message series "Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage: The Ordeal and the Ideal".