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Although we may all come from different churches, we must all represent the church of Jesus Christ. We must recognize we are all called by Him to share His truth. We must be great servants, celebrate others' service, and not seek the glory. We should be concerned with doing our part in preaching the Gospel and not with living for our own recognition.
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Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage: The Ordeal and The Ideal, part 2
Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage: The Ordeal and The Ideal, part 1
Three Salty Statements to Spice up Your Understanding of and Effectiveness for Him
One for All, All for One - Just be Sure You're for Him.
Prioritization, Patience, Pithy Statements, and the Practice of Selflessness? Do It Anyway.
When Life Throws You to the Ground, Here's What to Do
The King on a Hill: Listen to Him to be Transformed
Well, we've been making our way through the book of Mark. If you have a Bible, we ask you to open it up to Mark, chapter 9. What we're seeing is that Christ is pulling away with his followers, some men he specifically is going to build into.
He's prioritizing his time and his relationships, as we discussed last week, in order that he might leave behind a group of men who would continue in his message as he leaves them not as orphans, we will find out, but how the God we know in the Scriptures who reveals himself as Father, Son, and in the person of the Spirit will continue then to work in them and through them, even as we sang this morning, "Come and fill me up."
He's preparing these men, teaching them truth, correcting their wrong ideas, more fully revealing to them how he is God and how he has come not to reign right now with a rod of iron but to, in mercy, present himself as a sacrifice for the sins of those who have turned against him. That's where we've been the last several weeks, and we continue now to learn the positive by the disciples' negative example.
We're going to see a group of guys who, instead of lowliness and humility, continue to wrestle with a kind of a swaggering self-importance, and we're going to learn that's not the way we should do it. Individuals who should be inviting harmony amongst those who have made a decision for Christ are instead encouraging strife and independence. Instead of acceptance with those types of folks, there is exclusion.
We're going to learn about some attitudes that would be definitely just as destructive and disgusting in us and learn the positive by their negative example. It's Mark, chapter 9. Let's read this, and then we're going to spend some time learning from it. This is interesting. It's one of the few times the apostle named John is singled out. This is kind of the good guy.
If there's one guy you would look and say, "This guy really got it," it was John. He is called in different places in the Bible the disciple whom Jesus loved. Not that he didn't love the others, but there seemed to be a special relationship between Jesus and John. Peter is the one who usually makes comments like this, so Peter fans can take a special pleasure in this this morning. Somebody else is putting their Birkenstock in their mouth.
"John said to Him, 'Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.' But Jesus said, 'Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire…" Where some manuscripts have this. "…[where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]
If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell…" Then again, that same phrase which some of the scribes put in there as verse 46. "…[where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.] If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched."
Now isn't it interesting that Jesus has a sharp response for the disciple that he loved? Let me just remind you what is happening here. Moments before this, Jesus had been up on what we call the Mountain of Transfiguration, where Christ pulled back the veil, and Peter, James, and John saw him in his eternal glory.
They wanted to stay there up on that mountain and not go anywhere else but just say, "Hey, this is unbelievable. Let's not worry about the trouble that's below. Let's just stay here with you. This is the way we want things to be, you in all your glory and us right here in your midst," and Jesus says, "We'll get there, but not just yet," so down the mountain they went.
We saw the other nine were arguing with the Pharisees about an individual who had a son who was possessed with a demon they could not cast out, and they failed with their attempt, and Jesus reminded them, "The reason you failed is because you thought casting out demons was something you could do formulaically, that you could just pray some magic prayer and get it done or, because you've done it before, you can always do it now on your own at your will and whimsey."
Jesus says, "This kind doesn't come out except but prayer,"which is a lesson to remind the disciples simply this. "I don't care how many times you've had success in ministry before, whether that's seeing somebody softening in their understanding of who I am or doing something miraculous in that day and age.
You need to realize that that success and that conversion which you experience is only done in participation with my Spirit, my power working in you and through you, not because you've memorized some formula. You stay in an abiding relationship with me because, apart from me, you can do nothing."
After that, Jesus moves on, and then he reminds them that he is going to go and sacrifice himself, and he's going to be turned over to the scribes and the Pharisees and the religious leaders, and they kind of go, "Okay, great. Whatever," and they start arguing about who's the greatest, and Jesus calls them on the carpet for that and defines for them what true greatness is.
Now the irony of this whole things is they missed both lessons. They missed the lesson of two weeks ago we talked about, where Jesus said, "Look, people who do great things do it in participation with me, and people who are great do it because they follow my example, and they're not concerned with comfort now." As we'll find out in just another chapter, Jesus will later say it this way, "For even the Son of Man [even God himself when he was here] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
John says, almost missing the entire point of the last days with Jesus, "Hey, by the way, if you're done for a second, you know, telling us to love the unimportant and needy in the world represented in this section of Scripture by children, there was a guy over there who was casting out some demons, and I stopped him because he's not wearing our jersey. He's on a different team…same league, but he's not one of us."
Jesus had some rather strong words for him, and said, "John, let me just tell you something. I want you to be more concerned with compassion toward those who serve me than with competition with other individuals." Jesus makes a statement that we're going to explain in a little bit, where he says, "Listen, John, in the context of this world we're in right now and the persecution which will come against those who take my name, those who are not against us are for us, and you should accept the fact that this gentleman over there is not against you and be excited about that."
Let me just walk you through this little section of Scripture because there are some points that are here that are just absolutely crucial to us as we seek to be men and women who are learners about Christ who are students of the Scriptures who want to follow hard after God I think he would not want us to miss.
As I always like to do, I try and boil these things down to points of application, and I'll walk you through the Scripture we just looked at, show you where these truths came from and how they can apply directly to our lives because, as we've said many times in here, this is not just about knowing good information. The purpose of teaching, the purpose of reading God's Word is transformation. That's what he wants. He wants to see us transfigured, changed from within, so we look differently without.
That's the purpose of this word. So when we read these stories, we have to ask ourselves, "What's there for me, God? What do you want to produce in us?" Here, we have a group of men who are arguing about who's the greatest. "How can we protect our own self-importance? How can we protect the way people need us, how we're viewed as significant and necessary to a watching world? If other people start doing things, Jesus, like we're doing, people won't think we're that special. We want to be great."
Jesus has to remind them, "Do you want to be great? Then be a great servant and don't worry about how other servants are great for me. In fact, I'll tell you this. If you see somebody else serving me, you encourage them, pray for them, and celebrate them, and quit trying to protect your turf and protect the way the world views you as the only ones through which God can do good things because this is not about you, guys." He would say, "This is not about you, Wagner." He would say, "This is not about you, Watermark."
This is about the purposes of our Father, of which we are one small expression in the midst of God working this morning and this week all over the world through all different types of people, and when we start to believe, say, or imply that God can only work rightly and fully here, we stand on the wrong side of the equation and find ourselves right where John found himself.
Let me give you a little observation here from this little section of Scripture that we're just focusing on. It leads to the idea of what I think we see today expressed commonly in denominationalism. I said it this way: wrong attitudes will eventually lead to regrettable actions. All the things you see people do are rooted and founded in their thought life.
Again, I mentioned I think not long ago, you sow a thought, and it won't be long before you reap an action. You sow an action, and it won't be long before you reap a habit. You sow a habit, and it won't be long before you reap a character. You sow a character, and it will not be long before you reap a destiny. Wrong attitudes lead to regrettable actions.
Now what was the wrong attitude the disciples had. The wrong attitude they had was that they wanted to be great, and the way they were going to be great was by being loved by people. There was insecurity that was driving these men that, when they saw somebody else doing the work of the Messiah and not one of the chosen 12, they wanted to step on it and say, "Hey, wait a minute. That's our job to do. We're the ones who get to have everybody go, 'Man, that was an awesome message, a tremendous exorcism. Well done!'"
You can imagine the attention that it would draw to them when they were in a certain town, and there are numbers of folks who love to be the solution to the world's problems so they can feel significant before the world. Christ wants to remind us that that attitude is destructive to his purposes.
One gentleman who had it right is a guy named Moses. If you have your Bibles, turn to Numbers 11. If you don't, we're going to throw it up here. I have it all up here in case we wanted to make our way through it slowly. In Numbers 11, there are a number of things going on in the life of the nation of Israel, whom Moses is the great servant of. They've been in the desert now for some time.
He had given them the Ten Commandments. They had kind of gotten themselves straightened out from their worshiping calves of gold, and now they've started to grumble about the fact that, you know, the cafeteria was only serving this stuff called manna, and they served it every day. They were living by it, and they weren't dying of hunger, but they got sick of all the manna. You know, "mannanna" bread, and on and on. There are only so many creative things you can do with it.
They felt like there was a better way to go, and they started to grumble against Moses, and God said, "Hey, listen. I am sick and tired of these people grumbling, so I'm going to cull out some folks." Moses said, "Look, Lord, I'm kind of worn out by them too. You have to help me with this," so God said, "Moses, you get 70 guys to help you, and you come to me." Moses called 70 men to him, and those 70 men came to him, and the Spirit of the Lord which was on Moses…
Note this. Moses was not great in and of himself. Moses was a vessel that God by sovereign grace chose. He had done some amazing things through Moses. We talk about him today as an example of what God can do through a man, but Moses had not the power. The power was with the Lord. When Moses said, "How can I do anything impressive before Pharaoh?"
God said, "You just tell Pharaoh that you're there doing my business, which is to say, in my name, and if he has a problem with you, he has a problem with me, and it's not your power, Moses, he has to contend with. It is mine, so just go and do what I tell you," and Moses did. He was willing, so God did amazing things as Moses, in the name of the Lord, went forward carrying out God's business.
Well, what happened is, when the Spirit of the Lord fell, God purposely was sloppy in his distribution of it, and off in the village away from the 70 who were gathered, there were two individuals who also were touched with the Spirit of God in the way Moses and the 70 were, so let's pick this up at verse 26 for the sake of time. I just walked you through the first 25 verses. In verse 26, it says:
"But two men had remained in the camp; the name of one was Eldad and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them (now they were among those who had been registered, but had not gone out to the tent), and they prophesied in the camp. So a young man ran and told Moses and said, 'Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.' Then Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses from his youth…"
Now watch this. We have John making this mistake in the New Testament. We have Joshua making this mistake in the Old Testament. Joshua goes to Moses saying, "We have a problem here. There are other folks who are prophesying, who are speaking in the name of the Lord and who are doing what the 70 of us who are here are doing (the 68 and Joshua and Moses)." He said, "Moses, my lord, stop them, lest people think they should listen to others and not just us."
"But Moses said to him…" Here's the attitude of a servant. "Are you [Joshua] jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!" Let me just tell you about the attitude of Moses. In fact, in Numbers, chapter 12, verse 3, it says, "(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.)"
That is an impressive thing, until you realize he wrote that, but having a high view of Scripture and believing he wrote it as a man who was moved by the Spirit of God, you have the evidence of Moses' humility right here. He said, "Listen, Joshua, why are we declaring what we're declaring? So that people would be broken before the Lord and would do the Lord's will and work.
I wish that the Spirit fell on everybody and everybody was speaking words of truth. Are you jealous for me, Joshua, or is there a chance that because you're connected to me and I'm the guy that, if other people start to be the guys, being a servant of just one of many isn't nearly as cool as being attendant to the king?"
Fast-forward. You have a man named John hanging around a guy named Jesus whom the Spirit of the Lord is upon, and Jesus says, "Are you jealous for me, John? Hey, I came to remove the demonic oppression that is on people's hearts, the stranglehold of sin that oppressed people since the creation of man. Are you jealous for me that that guy's over there doing that, or are you maybe a little concerned that, if other people start doing my work, other people will not talk about you and the other 11 here with such passion?"
See, denominationalism and the idea that God can only do it in us and through us has hurt the church for centuries. In the thirteenth century, Kublai Khan, the Mongol Empire leader, grabbed the guy named Marco Polo, and Kublai Khan said to Marco Polo, "Would you please implore the church if Rome to send me 100 men to teach my nobles, if you will, about Christianity?"
Now Kublai Khan is one of the most notorious fleshy individuals in history, and he had pleaded with Marco Polo to go to Rome where he had relationships and say, "Send some believers here. Let me hear of this Christianity. You send 100 godly men, 100 Christians who know of this truth about this man named Jesus to come and teach me and my leaders."
Because of the factions and the fighting that was going on in Rome at that time within the church, it took 28 years for them to send one. Twenty-eight years later, one individual finally showed up when they could sort through all the competition; all the argument about who should go, who would represent the church. One finally just went. When he got to Kublai Khan, Kublai Khan said, "Thank you, but I've already grown old in my idolatry."
Now you can look at this in a lot of ways, and I want to look at it from kind of a tongue-in-cheek way to begin with. Let me just kind of walk you through all the different ways that have come out of this one idea which is that we're to serve Christ. One person kind of did some work and, in a creative way, went through and said, "Let's just talk about how different followers of Christ would change light bulbs." They did it by simply asking, "How many individuals like this, in this denomination or this sect, would change a light bulb this way?" It went something like this:
"How many charismatics does it take to change a light bulb? One to change the light bulb and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness. How many Calvinists does it take to change a light bulb? None. God, they believe, has predestined when the light bulb will be on. Calvinists do not change light bulbs. They simply read the instructions and pray the light bulb will be the one that has been chosen to be changed.
How many TV evangelists does it take to change a light bulb? One. But for the message of light to continue, you must send in your donation today. How many independent fundamentalists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one because anymore might result in too much cooperation. How many liberals does it take to change a light bulb? At least 10, as they need to hold a debate on whether or not the light bulb exists. Even if they can agree upon the existence of the light bulb, they still may not change it to keep from alienating those who might use other forms of light.
How many members of established Bible-teaching churches does it take to change a light bulb? One to actually change the bulb, but then it takes nine to say how much they liked the old one better. How many United Methodists does it take to change a light bulb? This statement was issued: 'We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that a light bulb works for you, that is fine.
You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship with your light bulb (or light source, or non-dark resource), and present it next month at our annual light bulb Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life, and tinted—all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.'
How many Amish does it take? 'What's a light bulb?' they said. How may youth pastors does it take to change a light bulb? Youth pastors aren't usually around long enough for a light bulb to burn out. How many Presbyterians? They don't know, but they will appoint a commission to discuss it and report back at the next meeting, at which time it will be discussed and referred back to another committee for further work.
How many evangelicals does it take? Evangelicals do not change light bulbs. They simply read out the instructions and hope the light bulb will decide to change itself. How many campfire worship leaders does it take? Just one, and soon all those around will warm up with its glowing. How many Pentecostals? Three, one to cast it out and two to catch it when it falls. How many missionaries does it take? Ten. Five to determine how many can be changed by the year 2000, four to raise the necessary funds, and one to go find a national to do the job.
How many Southern Baptists does it take? Sixteen million; however, they are badly divided over whether or not changing the bulb was a fundamental need or not. How many Episcopalians? Four. One to change the bulb, one to bless the elements, one to pour the sherry, and one to offer a toast to the old light bulb. How many nominal professing believes does it take to change a light bulb? 'Change?'"
There's something in there that speaks to all of us. Some of you, I would say, "Hey, how does Christ change people?" and you might say, "Change? I mean, he's changed my Sunday mornings." There are others who would say, "Hey, you can only change with a church that's kind of on the cutting edge that does worship the way we do and the pastor doesn't wear a suit or a robe. That's the only way God can work." I want you to know we don't believe that here.
We really believe that God is at work in many different forms and many different fashions with guys who are going to wear robes, with people who are going to sing nothing but hymns, but folks who are going to do a lot of responsive readings, with folks who will wear ties, with people who will ride in carts and not cars, and what's important is that Jesus Christ is preached and that this Word is authoritative and that salvation is taught to be what Jesus said salvation is, which is the complete work of God accomplished by Jesus Christ on the cross.
Then you're going to worship, and some people are going to highlight certain portions of Scriptures more than others, none of us probably having it exactly right. What we're trying to do here at Watermark is what we believe is the most strategic thing for us to do based on how we are wired in the community we are in. If we've said it once, we've said it a numerous amount of times, "If you love the way we're going about our ministry here, brace yourself, because we're not committed to this form of music or to this dress."
What we're committed to is what is effective in producing life change, and if it's going to help for me to get my nose pierced, I will pierce my nose. If it helps to have different forms of teaching than me standing here for 45 minutes teaching, we'll do something else to get the word out. If there are better forms of worship, we'll pursue them. We'll become all things to all men that some night be saved.
We simply believe what we're doing gives us the best chance in this city to scratch the itch, to meet the need that we don't believe is being met as strategically as it could be right now, and we praise God for all the other ways God is at work. We want to do our part and be faithful on our front for Jesus Christ, all the while celebrating other places that love Christ that love his Word and that are unashamed in their preaching of the gospel. Let me just show you what Paul said about this. In Philippians, chapter 1, Paul said it this way.
"Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment."
"As they're out sharing the gospel, they know I'm trapped in jail, and I can't go out, and I can't get on the Roman news. Well, I don't really care, Paul says, because I'm not so much concerned about being the individual about who everybody says, 'I came to Christ through Paul.' I am only concerned about the fact that the gospel is preached." Paul says, "I celebrate that, and God will sort out why they did it. I'm just glad they did it."
I will tell you that, I know for a fact, there are individuals who have taken the vocation that I've taken because they want to be loved and respected the way they loved and respected their pastor, and in their insecurity, they're trying to find their own import in what they do instead of whose servant they are. They are competitive, and they are trapped in their search for significance. Even though they teach from the Scriptures every Sunday, they live a different message, which is "You're only as valuable as the world says you are."
What Jesus is coming through on John with this is, "John, listen. You are a disciple that I love. I love you, John. You don't need the world to tell you that you're great. You celebrate when my Spirit's working through other people. You just be faithful. What is it to you if I use another?" You know what's interesting is, a little bit later, John was given a commission, and Peter said, "Hey, what about John?"
Peter heard the same thing John did: "Hey, Peter. You let me worry about John. You just worry about Peter, and you be faithful to the end, and you fight on your front." I'm going to tell you, we are going to talk about Watermark when we're here because that's where we are. I fully am committed to the idea that God wants his church to prevail everywhere, and for his church to prevail everywhere, it must prevail here, right? It must prevail here.
I can't concern myself this morning with a Methodist church, a Lutheran church, an Episcopal church, a Presbyterian church, a Bible church, or anything else. I concern myself with my friends who I pursue Christ with here, and I pray God would work mightily in other places for his glory. I rejoice when I hear folks are attending and being conformed to the image of Christ at other places, and you get my attention when you smell otherwise.
A couple of years ago, I was at a large conference. It was the night before it began, and there were going to be over 5,000 people there. The guy said, "You know, we have about 5,000 to 6,000 folks who are going to be with us tomorrow. We have dozens of denominations." He says, "I want you just to think. I want you to all just turn to your neighbor and tell the folks next to you how many different churches you think are going to be here tomorrow, so do that. You just guess.
Out of 6,000 folks, dozens of denominations, just turn to the person next to you and guess how many different churches would be represented by that group and that number. Just turn and give a guess to the person next to you. Go ahead. Guess." All right. Let me tell you what happened. While we were doing that, this guy turned around and wrote on a big board the number one. He said, "One church, and it's God's church, and we're going to help that church prevail around the world and do God's job around the world."
Guess how many churches are meeting this morning? One church. It's the church of Jesus Christ, people called by his name, the people of God. Now there are to be sure some who think they are who are not, and God will sort that out at the end. He tells us a parable telling you he will do that perfectly. We need not worry about it too much right now but just to make sure we're faithful on our front, doing our part in the body that has one head, Jesus Christ.
Let me give you another little application. It's right here. The love recognition can wreck a minister. As I think about this, there are times when my flesh wants to be noted as the individual who has said something. My wife and I go through this a lot. She'll go, "Hey, I heard a great illustration today at such and such," and she'll tell me the illustration. I'll go, "Hey, I gave that exact same illustration three months ago. Weren't you listening?"
She'll say, "Hey, isn't it so-and-so who says this?" I go, "No, that was me who said that. Man, it was me." I just think about how small that is, and I think about how, you know, when you hear about pastors who are called into the presences of kings to give them counsel, how your flesh whispers on your ear, "Oh, that should be you. You should get to go there. You'd do better," instead of hitting your knees and going, "Praise God that he would call a man who loves his Word into the presence of our king that he could speak to his heart!"
When you start to live for recognition, you'll do anything to get it, and one of the things that, at times, I will tell you I've gotten right… I'm sure there's been plenty of times I've missed it, but at times, I've gotten it right, where I was missed, I was looked over, and some people who were around me knew it, and they said, "Wagner, doesn't that just drive you nuts that they don't acknowledge you?" or "Doesn't that drive you nuts that your picture's not going to be on the cover of that?"
I have to tell you, by the grace of God, I thought, "You know what? I need this. I need to prove to myself. This is my chance to acknowledge that I'm not doing this so college students around the country think this way of me. I'm doing this because it's what I do." It was hard. Did I lie in bed at night, and did it hurt me? Yeah, it did. I admit it. I just said, "Lord, would you forgive me for that hurt, and would you never let me serve it and just let me rejoice at where you do use me and where you do let my name give you glory?"
Paul says it this way. He says in 1 Corinthians 4:1, "Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." That's all. Here's the thing. Great servants don't care who gets the credit. In fact, one of the greatest marks that you know you're a servant is that, when you serve, if you get treated like a servant, you don't mind. A great servant doesn't sit around and wait for a tip.
It drives me nuts when somebody serves me by carrying by bag somewhere and just stands there, because they're not there to serve me. They're there to get something from me, and that's why I embarrass myself at five-star resorts carrying four bags upstairs, and they look at me like, "What are you doing?" That's why I hate valet parking. "I can park my car, thank you. Just let me park my own car. Can I park my own car, please? Let me park my own car. You don't want to serve me. You want $2. That's what you want. You're after $2. Some of you want $5."
In my own life, I think about something far worse. Clearly, that's their job. We should appropriately in our society tip folks like that. That's the way they make their living. How about us when we do things? Do you stand around waiting until somebody says what a great job you did? If you're doing that, you're not serving them. You're using them to get what you need. There are a lot of folks who get really frustrated in a church when they're not acknowledged by the pastor.
Let me just tell you something. There's somebody better to be acknowledged by than your pastor. Last week, when there were about eight guys carrying away that big old soundboard back there. We kind of laughed. They go, "Excuse us, Todd. Excuse us!" They kind of bumped into me. They go, "We just wanted you to see we were doing this," and I said, "Well, that's a lousy reward, but you just got it." There's a better reward if you just do it.
Great servants don't care who gets the credit. What do great servants want? Great servants just want their master to get served. I want to tell you, the rest of my life, I will battle this issue because I am part of the human race, and so will you. As I seek to be like Christ, I will gain more and more victories as the Spirit works in me. As Kyle is going to do a great job communicating to you in the coming weeks, the role of the Spirit is to glorify the Son.
If the Spirit is reigning in our hearts, we'll be concerned not about who gets the glory but about the fact that Christ is preached. Peter says it this way in 1 Peter, chapter 2. He says, "Don't worry about what the world says about it. You keep trusting yourself to the one who judges rightly. The world may mistake you as unimportant, but God knows." This Scripture we're in this morning says that God knows when you give so much as a cup of water to one of his children and you do it faithfully.
Let me give you another little observation from this little text right here. While we are to expect and be open to God using others, we are still not relieved from our responsibility to discern the spirits. Now this is very important because this morning when I say I celebrate God working everywhere God's working, I want to make myself extremely clear that God is not working everywhere just because it's called a church.
We are still responsible for discerning the spirits. Sometimes, the Enemy disguises himself as an angel of light, and he does it in what we would commonly call sects or even cults. He does it within denominations and in independent community/Bible churches as well, and we are charged to be discerning. Let me just read to you from Galatians, chapter 1, verses 1-10. Follow along.
"Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!"
Paul, who understood that the most important thing was to be a servant and celebrate where God was working in other ways and who did not get upset when individuals, some out of vainglory and self-promotion, were preaching the gospel said, "So be it." Where he took exception is when people, for whatever reason, were preaching something other than the gospel.
What is the gospel? It is the good news. What is the good news? It is that man who cannot save himself because God's standard is perfection has had his provision met in the perfect sacrifice of God, where God himself…fully God, fully man in the person of the Son…freely gave himself up on the cross that he who knew no sin might become sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Now he freely offers that gift of salvation to all who will humbly acknowledge their need, confess the fact that they are rebels and sinners in the face of a holy and perfect God, whose standard they could never meet, and come before him in fear and trembling and mercy and find that mercy and grace in the person of Jesus Christ alone and then respond fully to it as individuals who surrender to God's Word and God's Spirit working in and through their lives.
That, my friends, is the gospel, people who are saved by grace, through faith alone who believe in Christ alone, in the Bible alone. I will support any individual, no matter what he wears or what he sings, if that's what he preaches, but where we get contrary to that, we have to stand against it. Now what's it mean, though, when Jesus says, "For he who is not against us is for us." You have to put that totally in context.
In this context, what he's saying to John is, "John, listen. You are going to be hated on account of all men because of my name. If you find somebody out there who will do so much as give you a glass of water, whether he loves me or not, man, you just take it right now, and you be thankful for that, much less when you have somebody out there, and think about what he just did." In Mark, chapter 3, Jesus was accused of doing what he did by the power of Satan.
What he says here in Mark, chapter 9, is "Listen, John, when that guy goes out and does a miracle in my name, it's going to be a long time before he can speak evil of me because, if he says he delivers people by the power of my name, he can't accuse me of being of the Evil One, and he who is not then against us, John, is for us."
In another place, Jesus said, "He who is not for us is against us," and he says that to the religious leaders who are saying that Jesus is in fact an agent of the Enemy. Jesus says, "You have to make your mind up, people, all of you. You just heard what the religious leaders said. You have to make your own mind up as to who I am. If you're not for me, neutrality is not acceptable.
In the midst of us advancing the kingdom and being able to preach, if you're not against us, in a sense, you're for us, so if we go into a country where we can proselytize, even if they're not believers, we accept that and go preach there and not just in countries that are themselves Christian. They are for us in a sense, but in terms of a salvific message, if you are not for Jesus, you are against him."
Too many pastors have used that text at a funeral and said, "Well, you know, we don't know much about John over here, but we do know this. He wasn't brazen in his disregard for Christ. I never heard him say anything negative about the church. In fact, I think he was almost always congenial when I saw him and was supportive of his family attending, and our Lord has said he who is not against him is for him, so we're going to place him in a place of rest now to give hope to the family" and to pervert the gospel to the listening world, I might add.
While we are to expect and be open to God's working in using others, we're not relieved from our responsibility to discern the spirits. Let me give you one more. Hell is real, and those who realize this take it seriously. Now what Jesus is doing right here is he's just upping the stakes as much as he can.
He's just saying, "John, guys, I am really committed to getting the Word out, and I don't want to just use you. I want my Spirit to reign in and through people, and you guys have some issues. Those things are going to keep you at times from participating with me, and you need to deal with them as severely as you can."
What Jesus is saying right here is, "The point and the issue is, if life can be found only in me," then this gets back to the first time he talked about his cross, where he said, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" He's speaking in what is called hyperbole here. Some of the early church fathers missed this. Folks castrated themselves in hopes it would help them be more acceptable in God's eyes.
Jesus knew the law. He said the whole law would be fulfilled. He did not come to do away with the law but to fulfill it. In Deuteronomy 14, it is expressly forbidden for us to do damage to our own bodies. Jesus, in Mark, chapter 7, made it very clear that it's not the hand which causes an individual to sin, it's the heart. What Jesus is saying right here is, "Listen, if you live for praise and comfort, acceptance and pleasure in this world, you're nuts because this world isn't what you should live for." The thing to live for is where real life is found.
I want to tell you something. There is nothing that is too crazy to do in order to gain eternal life. Now Jesus was clear that you don't gain eternal life by anything you do. You gain eternal life by trusting in him, but he says, "Hey, listen. If your eye, your lust for things, is keeping you from trusting me, pluck it out. If your feet are continually walking in a wayward path, cut them off. If you hand keeps reaching for things that bring defilement into your life, get rid of it. Do anything you need to do to get right with me."
But you could castrate yourself, pluck your eyes out, cut your feet off so you can't run to sin, lop your hands off so you can't take was is not yours, and if you don't deal with the sin in your heart, you will be in the place where the fire is not quenched, and their worm does not die. What Jesus is saying right here is, "Guys, learn that life is in me and not in what the world says or what the world offers."
If you're here this morning and you've never dealt with the reality that Jesus taught, which is that there is a place that is more horrible than my ability to describe, where their body, their worm, doesn't die and where the fire is not quenched, deal with this Jesus. I say to you this morning, "Who do you say he is?"
In terms of your being here today and congenially listening to what we're doing and not going out and trying to get the government to shut us down, you're for us, but in terms of being for him, you cannot sit there and go, "He's a nice enough guy. He seems like a good teacher and a nice prophet." You must make a decision for this Jesus, and if you are not for him, as the only means through which God can restore wicked and corrupt and fallen humanity, you are against him.
I know some individuals who have had the courage to look at me and be honest and have said, "Todd, I don't want to trust Christ because I know if I trust Christ I'll have to give up my sex life, and I don't want to give up my sex life." I've just looked at those folks and just said, "Do you see what you're banking on? You're telling me you have no longer any intellectual hang-ups. You've done the work.
We've had the conversations, yet you still want to avoid the person of Christ because you're going to trade X number of years of sensual pleasure for a relationship with him which has more life than any sensual relationship can give you now, and it goes till eternity. I think that's a bad bet. I admire your integrity, but I rebuke your foolishness. I'll be your friend, and I'll pray you learn to hate that which gives you happiness in the circumstance which will give you great horror in a moment."
If you're here today and there's something you think is too good to give up, Jesus just looks you right in the eye, and he says, "You're playing with ice cream that's going to melt. Turn from it and experience life with me." Let's pray.
Father, this morning, we just look at this little section of Scripture, and we see so much there we need. You know, we see the fact that you remind us that you're not just about working through community churches that talk in relevant language, dress in relevant ways. You're about your Spirit working in and through people.
I pray that, more than anything, we would be the people of God and that we would be individuals who would participate with your kingdom work in proclaiming the purposes of God and that we would not think of ourselves in more grand ways than we ought but that we would just be pleased if the world saw Watermark Community Church as servants of Christ and as stewards of the mysteries of God.
Father, you will elevate who you will elevate, and you will use who you will use. We don't know how you want to use us in this community or this city or this state or this world, but we're saying, "As much as you want to use us, use us." I pray, Father, in the midst of you using us, that we would never love the glory that comes with being used but that we would love you and that we would do what the Spirit always done, which is point to the Son. I pray this body would be marked with humble leadership, humble members who love you and are part of the people of God.
Then Lord, I pray for my friends who are here this morning who are visiting who maybe are still holding onto things they think give them life, that you would use your words to speak truthfully into their lives this morning and just say, "It doesn't make sense to go into eternity with two hands, when all those hands are going to do is suffer beyond description. Better for you that you lose it now, if that's what it takes to get to glory."
I pray that they would cut off the lust of their flesh. I pray they would cut off the pride of life. I pray they would cut off the lust of their eyes this morning and they would find power in your Spirit and the sword of your Word to do that. Would you circumcise their hearts and, O God, would you circumcise ours?
We are people who said we want one pure and holy passion, yet we often find ourselves too easily grouped with the nominal believers who say, "Change? What do you mean change?" and we repent. We stand right now before the forces of darkness, and we stand side by side with all your church who believe in this world and declare we are the people of God called by your name. 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".