In these few short verses we learn what we must believe about Scripture, its fulfillment in Christ, and how it should impact the way we live. This message offers answers to those seeking the true meaning of love and who want to understand how it radically affects a life lived for God.
Habits and Huge Gifts: Two Things That Don't Always Please God
The Main Man, You, and the Main Thing
The Root of All Error and the Truth About Death
The Separation of Church and State
The 'Blessed Idiocy of Grace' and How We Must Respond
A Game God Won't Play
A Tree, A Temple, and A Timeless Truth: The Danger of Leaves Without Fruit
Not Your Typical Spring Cleaning - Jesus in The Temple
The Day the King Came and the Question His Followers Should Ask and be Able to Answer
Busting Out From the Crowd of Darkness: What You Want and What to Do When You Get It
What We All Want and How to Get It
Partly on purpose and partly because I'm not as sensitive as I ought to be all the time, I haven't had a chance to introduce a good friend of mine, and obviously a man who is as gifted in using what the Lord has given him as we want you to use what the Lord has given you for his honor and glory. This is Billy Sprague. Billy is a long-time recording artist in Nashville and is going to be in town for some stuff he's doing with another friend to support Heartlight Ministries.
He was in town and was happy to come and facilitate our worship this morning. This isn't about thanking the Lord for just Billy's gifts, which we certainly are grateful for, but I'm grateful for the people whose gift mix…whom God has shaped their spiritual gifts and their hearts…is for children. Their ability is to be creative, and their personality connects with children. Their life experiences lend themselves. That's a shape toward making them effective in ministering to the other half of our body right now that's down the hall.
I'm grateful for their gifts, and the gifts of the people who have strengths in hospitality who greeted you this morning, for folks who will equip you during the week and shepherd you with all of their gifts. Again, we want to thank the Lord for the gifts of his people, almost as an act of worship. I want to thank him for you, for them, for Billy, for what you're doing in using what God has given you for the purpose of building up and edifying others in the body of Christ. Let's thank the Lord again in that way. I really do. That's an appropriate act of worship. Thanks, Billy.
Are y'all still tired from last week? We moved. We covered some ground last week, covering a biblical view of death and then, necessarily, life. Today we're going to just bring it down a little bit in a way we don't often do. We're going to try and tie a neat little bow in this little section we're looking at.
We've been making our way through the gospel of Mark. Our purpose as a church is to encourage all folks to call all people, wherever they're at, to be more fully devoted to Jesus Christ. The best way for us to live a life that is honoring and glorifying to him is to know more about him. What does it mean to be a man after his own heart? What does it mean to be a woman after his own heart?
The Jews, who had the law, whom God revealed himself to for the purpose of giving them truth and making them stewards of truth so others could hear about it, they were never to keep it to themselves. Remember Jesus rebuked them for making their temple a place that was really, exclusively for people who were of their race and of their bloodline from their father Abraham.
He said, "Listen. This was supposed to be a house of prayer for all nations. There weren't to be walls keeping out women. There weren't to be walls, certainly, to keep out Gentiles (non-Jews), and you've made it that. I'm a little disturbed at that." We looked at that a number of weeks ago, when he pronounced some pretty harsh things on those folks who were endorsing that view of the temple. God wants all of us to have an opportunity to move forward to him, so we look at what the Scriptures say about this person, Jesus. How should we look if we know him?
The Jews debated about the law a lot. There were 613 some-odd laws, about 200-plus positive things, "Do these," and 300-plus prohibitions, "Don't do these." There was always a lot of debate about what the most important law was. There are a few places in the Scripture, no matter how much you've been around a body like this, you are familiar with it to some extent. This is one of them.
If you ever heard somebody say, "What does God really want from you? What's the greatest commandment?" a lot of people can respond by saying, "Well, the greatest commandment is to love God." They'll even give you the four methods or means or adjectives we're to apply toward our loving God: with our whole heart, with our whole soul, with our whole mind, with our whole effort and strength. It's a pretty familiar text. It kind of wraps up, in a nutshell, what God wants for us. I got a little deal not long ago that I'll work into today. It's called "Because I'm a Guy."
"Because I'm a guy, I must hold the television remote in my hand while I watch TV. If the thing has been misplaced, I'll miss the entire show looking for it.
Because I'm a guy, when I lock my keys in the car, I will fiddle with a wire clothes hangar and ignore your suggestions that we call a roadside service until long after hypothermia has set in.
When the car isn't running very well, I will pop up the hood and stare at the engine as if I know what I'm looking for. If another guy shows up, one of us will say to the other, 'I used to be able to fix those things, but now with all them computers in there and everything, I wouldn't know where to start.'
Because I'm a guy, when I catch a cold, I need someone to bring me soup and take care of me while I lie in bed and moan.
Because I'm a guy, I can be relied upon to purchase basic grocery items at the store, like milk or bread. I cannot be expected to find exotic items, though, like cumin or tofu. For all I know, they are the same thing.
Because I'm a guy, I don't think we're all that lost, and no, I don't think we should stop and ask someone. Why would you listen to a complete stranger? How in the world could he know where we are going?
Because I'm a guy, whatever you picked up for your mother for Mother's Day is okay.
Because I'm a guy, you don't have to ask me if I like the movie. Chances are if you're crying at the end of it, I didn't.
Because I'm a guy, I think what you're wearing is fine. I thought what you were wearing five minutes ago was fine, too. Either pair of shoes is fine. With a belt or without it looks fine. Your hair is fine. You look fine."
Many of you can relate to specific ones of those, but here's today: Because I'm a follower of Christ… What? I mean this little text we're about to look at wraps it all up. Because I am God's man, because I am God's woman…what? That was the question posed to Christ. If you have a Bible, turn to Mark, chapter 12.
It says one of the scribes came to him and heard Jesus having the dialogue we looked at last week, heard him arguing with the Sadducees. It wasn't much of an argument. As you remember, Jesus simply said, "Look. The reason you have a perverted view of the resurrection is because you don't know the Bible, and you don't know the power of God." Now this really pleased the individual we're about to meet today because he was of a branch of leaders called the Pharisees, and the Pharisees had an ongoing feud with the Sadducees.
The Sadducees thought only the written Torah was authoritative. The Pharisees also thought their traditions (what they wrote), what is called the Mishnah (which was basically a commentary on the law, the 613 laws of Moses), and the Talmud (which was a commentary on the commentary on the Torah)… They believed those things were just as authoritative. When Jesus basically slammed the Sadducees, it made him quite happy. He was impressed, so he walked up to Christ.
He said, "Now I'm going to ask you a question we often debate amongst ourselves. What is the greatest and foremost commandment of all?" He really, I think, genuinely was curious how Christ would respond because Christ was at least seen as a teacher who taught with authority inherent to himself. He didn't quote other rabbis. He didn't cite the Talmud or the Mishnah. He simply said what in the world he thought. He said, "Verily, verily, I say to you… Truly, truly I say to you…" Not somebody else's words, but he spoke with inherent authority and amazed people all the way along.
"Jesus answered, 'The foremost is…" and he quotes what's called the Shema, which is in Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verse 4, and is Hebrew for hear. What Christ is going to lay out right here is what you heard way back there from Moses in Deuteronomy, chapter 6, this thing you quote every morning and every evening if you're a good Jew.
In fact, if you were a Jew you wore these things called a phylactery. It was a little leather case you would bind around your forehead with a strand of leather, or you'd wear around your wrist with a strand of leather. You would put this piece of the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, in that phylactery, and you would carry it around all the time. "HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD." It continues.
They had these things called a mezuzah. Anybody here who grew up in an orthodox Jewish home or was around orthodox Jews saw these things. They are little cylindrical cans that are tied to every door in a Jewish home. In Deuteronomy 6, it talks about how fathers are to teach their children the law and how they are to know it on their going and their coming.
What this little mezuzah would be was a little cylindrical can they would stuff Deuteronomy 6:4 and following in there. Every time they opened a door anywhere in their house, whether it be the bathroom, the bedroom, or certainly their front door, there would be this little tin can that would go clacking back and forth as a reminder that wherever they go, they were to talk about, honor, and serve the Lord their God. What had happened in that culture is what happens in ours.
Those of us who have slapped the fish on the back of our car, we forget it's there. It doesn't impress us when we walk by anymore. It makes an impression on those who we cut off. They see it, just like when you were a non-believing Jew who would go over to a Jew's house who said they believed, and you'd hear that rattling of the can. You go inside and hear the rattling of the mouth full of gossip and slander and go, "You know what? You stuck that on your door, but there's really no transformation in your heart." It didn't encourage them much about whether or not their God was real.
They took this one little text of Scripture, and they elevated it. They memorized it. If you didn't know anything about the Bible, you knew this. The Shema. "HEAR, O ISRAEL!" By the way, it's an imperative. It makes sure you hear this. The idea is having heard it, you let it change you, and you tell it to other people. Jesus took this, and he said, "Look. This is the greatest deal."
"AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH." Augustine took this little statement when he was asked what the most important thing is a person could do if they were going to have a heart after God. He said simply, "Love God and do whatever else you like." That's the way he reduced it.
There were two great rabbinical schools at the time of Christ, one called the School of Shammai and one called the School of Hillel. The Rabbi Hillel was one time approached by one of his disciples. He said, "I've been learning here for months, and I'm curious if you could just take everything you guys are trying to teach me and boil it down so while I'm standing on one foot, you could give it to me. Before I lose my balance and before that leg tires, could you compress the whole law?"
This is what the rabbi said. "What you hate for yourself, don't do to your neighbor. This is the whole law. Everything else is commentary. Now get off your foot and stand on both of them. There it is. Everything else spells this out." Jesus says the exact same thing here. He says, "You can take all the Bible, and you can reduce it to one simple maxim. Love God and do whatever you want, but if you love God, that's going to inform everything you do and, in fact, everything you want."
"If you love God," the psalmist said, "if you delight yourself in God, he will give you, then, the desires of your heart." Not meaning if you love God you have some cosmic genie who will deliver it up for you, but if you love God, increasingly what he has a passion for, you will have a passion for. What he hates, you will hate. If you love God, you will look to become like God and ask God to do a work in you. Then you will have on your heart what's on his heart, which is to say you will delight in what he delights. You will desire what he desires. Love God and do what you want.
Jesus did a couple of interesting things with this Shema and with the rabbis' ideas. What I want to do is we're going to, as we always do, break out this little section of Scripture. We're going to read the rest of this Mark 12, make some basic principles and observations for our lives, and see if we can't apply it as we head into the week.
What Christ did differently than the Rabbi Hillel did when he said, "If there's something you don't like done to you, don't do it to your neighbor…" You guys remember the Golden Rule. By the way, Confucius said something similar. He said, "Don't do to others what you don't want done to yourself."
Christ didn't say that in the Scriptures when he was giving you a guiding principle. He didn't say, "Don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you." That's what Rabbi Hillel said. That's what Confucius said. What Christ said was…what? Do do unto others as you want them to do unto yourself.
In other words, he took it from the passive…as long as you mope through life and don't cause anybody pain, you'll be okay…to the imperative command where you are obligated to not just not do something to somebody, but if you want somebody to do something for you…encourage you, help you in your time of need, sacrifice for your well-being and comfort… then you should do that for them.
It's also interesting that Jews would say there are three basic things that are essential. The Torah, which was their Bible; the sacrificial system; and basically, to love the community. When Christ is asked, "Boil it down for me," he just says, "Love God and love the community." You can't separate them.
The sacrificial system isn't necessary. That's why he was not trying to reform it, but he was pronouncing judgment on it and was going to remove it. The Bible is there to teach you what God wants, which is to have a relationship with you and have that relationship overflow into the way you love other people. Christ just says, "Look. It ain't three. It's one, and you hear when I say this."
Watch what he does, because you can't just love God and be indifferent to your fellow man. That's why you cannot say you are a follower of Jesus Christ and be indifferent toward those you work with and those who are in your neighborhood. You just can't do it. It is impossible to say you are becoming increasingly like God and to remain indifferent to other people.
After Christ said the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, he follows it up with this: "'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these." In the other places in Scripture where he talks about this, he says, "Everything in the Bible, all the laws, point to this and all the prophets point to this. They are the hooks which hang on all other truth." Verse 32 says:
"And the scribe said to Him, 'Right, Teacher, You have truly stated that HE IS ONE; AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE'S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.'"
The man agrees with him. He notices Jesus doesn't make mention of the fact that the sacrificial system is that important. Now back to verse 34. "And when Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.'" Remember that, because we want to talk about that.
"And after that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions. And Jesus answering began to say, as He taught in the temple, 'How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself said in the Holy Spirit, "THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT THINE ENEMIES BENEATH THY FEET." David himself calls Him "Lord"; and so in what sense is He his son?' And the great crowd enjoyed listening to Him."
Why is this little text right there, and what's it all got to do with us? What Christ does is he grabs a little section from the Old Testament, from the Psalms, Psalm 110. He's still trying to help them, (because he loves them) understand who he is. The reason he told this leader, this teacher, this rabbi, that he wasn't far from the kingdom of God is because he was agreeing with Christ that all the law pointed to a relationship with God. That was the purpose of the law, to show you why there was a breach in the friendship, but all the law didn't just point to love.
All the law pointed to God's greatest expression of love, which was the one who would one day walk on the Via Dolorosa. The one who would one day walk on the Way of Suffering. The one who would lay down his life for you and for me. All the prophets pointed to this Jesus. He said, "You're not far from getting it right. You have this idea of loving God right, but this is love: not that you love God, but that God loved you and sent me to be the satisfaction for the justice you deserve and the judgment you deserve."
What Jesus wants them to understand is, "Listen, you rabbis have done a good job of telling people I am the son of David," which was going to be somebody who would be a descendant of King David, who in their mind would be a mighty, reigning, ruler king who would wage war for the nation, expand their boundaries, and deliver them to a place of peace.
"You are right in noting that I, or the Messiah, would be that individual, but you have neglected to teach the people something else about the Messiah. The reason you're having so much trouble with me is the same reason the Sadducees have so much trouble with the resurrection, and that is you don't know your Bible. Let me remind you."
"You tell people the Messiah will be the son of David. People just declared that I was the son of David. Know this: I'm much more than the son of David, or the Messiah, is supposed to be, and you must determine if I am he. I am also David's Lord." Now how can the Messiah be David's son and also his Adonai, in the Hebrew, his kurios, in the Greek? His Lord and his Master.
Do you remember, we're in the last week of Christ's life, when he's cutting to the chase? He loves these people, and so he's speaking the truth in love. He says, "You have to deal with this. You have half the truths of who I am right, but when you get it half right, you got it all wrong. If you just elevate the fact that I am human, that I am a son of David, that I am man, and you miss the fact that I am God, I can't help you."
It's interesting, a first-century Jew had a really hard time understanding the deity of Jesus Christ. We today have a real hard time understanding the humanity of Jesus Christ. We think the reason he walked on this earth and loved God all the time with all this heart, soul, mind, and strength is because he didn't struggle as we struggle in the flesh. We couldn't be more wrong.
The Jews had no problem believing this Jesus was a man, but they missed the Scriptures in Psalm 110 and myriads of other places that pointed to the fact that this Anointed One, this Messiah, would be Mighty God, the Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father. You get one right at the expense of the other, and you get it all wrong.
What I want to do is make some simple applications from this little section. I told you we're not going to try and complicate it a whole lot today, but let's just roll through a few of them. First of all, when you look at this little section of Scripture, if you look right there at what he says in verse 36, you'll see that your view of Scriptures cannot be separated from your view of Christ.
What do I mean by this? Your view of the Scriptures cannot be separated from your view of who Christ is. There are very few seminaries in our country today, less than 10, that believe in one of our core values at this church, which is that the Bible is our authority, our conscience, and our guide, that we should stand firm where it is firm, and we should be flexible where it is flexible.
There are many who will say glowing things about Jesus but will make all kinds of excuses about this Word. You don't have that option if you're a student of the Scriptures. Look at what it says in Mark, chapter 12, verse 36 right here. "David himself said…" Look at the little phrase there. Guided by the Spirit of God, David said when he wrote in Psalm 110… You all know David wrote it, but what you don't know is David didn't just write it.
David, like all men who God used to put together an infinite book, all finite men delivered infinite truth, fallible men brought an infallible Word because they weren't anything more than individuals who God, in his sovereignty, chose to record truth there is no way we could otherwise know. Imperfect men can produce a perfect book if they are serving a perfect deity who chooses to use them for that purpose. I want to make this observation again.
By the way, we had our first men's breakfast this last week. A couple hundred guys joined us as we started to make our way through 30 questions we feel like everybody who is going to be a leader needs to be competent in. We simply talked about why doctrinal competence was significant. In our next one, the first Wednesday in May, we're going to deal with this issue in detail, which is…How we can say with confidence that the Bible is God's Word, unique in history?
One of the things I'll say then and I'll say right now is simply that if you struggle with the idea that God could give us a book that he could maintain and preserve, and in that book reveal to us what we otherwise could not know…things eye hasn't seen, ear hasn't heard, things which have not entered into the hearts of men…to reveal to us truths about the origin of man, the purpose of life, the meaning of life, life after the grave, what it is God wants…
If you don't believe God could give us that book and preserve that book, then whatever you say about your God, he is entirely too small. If God is God, he can do whatever he wants. If you don't believe in the possibility that a book could be given to us by God, preserved by God, and passed down through generations of imperfect people to where we still have a reliable representation of the original autographs, then your God is too small, just very simply.
The argument then becomes not, "Is it possible that a book like this could exist?" The argument then becomes, "Is it possible there is an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving deity?" You can address that on a different level. The possibility that the Scriptures exist is absolutely verifiable if you grant the existence of a God. If you say there is a God who exists who couldn't do that, your God is entirely too small. Jesus' God wasn't too small. He knew the one God who was God who was unique among all gods. He said, "This God gave you the Word."
Let me remind you of this principle. Your view of the Scripture is not up for debate if you're going to make Jesus Christ your Savior, because if your Savior is anything less than perfect, you have a Savior who is not in any way beneficial to you. He himself would then be a sinner in need of judgment, and his death would only be an appropriate atonement, an appropriate sacrifice, for his own sin. But if your Savior is perfect and that Savior says the Holy Spirit has given us the Word, then it's not up to you to decide otherwise.
Last week we looked at the fact that he claimed deity in the Scriptures right down to the very tense of a verb. Remember what he said? The Scriptures don't say in Exodus 3 that he was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Scripture says that he is the God. Jesus argues for the inerrancy and the truth of Scripture right down to the very tense of a verb. In Matthew, chapter 12, look at this little section of Scripture. We just got through celebrating Easter. Let me show you Jesus' view of Jonah and the whale. This is what it says:
"Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Him, saying, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.' But He answered and said to them, 'An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.'"
Let me explain that to you. If Jesus thought Jonah was a myth, if he thinks Jonah is an allegory, then what he's saying is, "My death, my burial, and my resurrection are an allegory, and they're a myth." He clearly doesn't think that. As wild as it sounds to me that a man could be consumed by a whale, preserved in the belly of that beast, and spit up on the shores of a distance land to preach the gospel of repentance, all I know is my risen Lord said it happened.
My view of the Scriptures is more a question of my Christology, of who I make Jesus out to be, than it is my bibliology, what I make my Bible out to be. It's not a question of genre, "Is it historical narrative or is it prophetic allegory?" as much as it is a question of, "Who is Jesus?" You need to know, we have determined that Jesus is very God of very God, and so our view of Scriptures is his view of Scriptures. It is our authority, it is our conscience, and it is our guide. We stand firm where it is firm, and we'd better remain flexible where it is flexible.
On this little Scripture point we're on, we need to remember that God wants us to teach the whole compendium of truth. To teach half a truth is to teach a whole lie. What the Pharisees were doing is teaching the pieces of the Scripture that fed into their nationalistic pride: "A king is coming who will reign and rule for us and deliver us from oppressors."
They did not teach the part that was beyond their finite ability to grasp, which was that somehow this coming Anointed One is even greater than David, though he's the son of David. In fact, David calls him Yahweh, the Lord. We don't understand that, and Christ doesn't have a problem with things being outside our mind's ability to grasp. He does have a problem with us pushing things that are clear to us out of the realm of that which we must wrestle with.
There's a great illustration of a family who did this. They were a family who knew they had come over on the Mayflower. They were rather proud of their heritage, proud of their family tree. As a gift to their grandchildren, they wanted to put together a little bit of a historical narrative about their family, who were actually a part of the Mayflower and came over.
The only problem was there were two black sheep in the family whom they were embarrassed about, being the socialites they were. One had been hung as a result of some crimes and atrocities committed against their community, and another had been recently executed by electric chair. They commissioned this renowned author, and they told him, "We don't know what to do with these men. It's clear they exist in our family, but we're not sure how we want to represent that to other people."
The guy said, "No problem." This is what he did. He wrote this great story. When he came to these two guys, for the first one he said, "Your great, great grandfather, Sam, took part in a public function and died there when the platform gave away." Then he went on to say, "Your great uncle George occupied a chair of applied electronics at an important government institution. He was attached to his position by the strongest of ties, and his death came as a great shock." Now there's some truth there, but clearly it's veiled in such a way that you don't have to deal with the reality.
There was truth in the fact that Jesus was man, but one of the problems these men had so much difficulty with regarding Jesus is, even though everything he did he screamed at them, "This guy is no mere man," they didn't want to deal with that issue. If he was just a mere man, they could debate him, they could decide they were a greater man than he, but if he was God and he pointed out their issues, then they had better deal with those issues.
I want to remind you that when you hear people talk about the Messiah, when you hear people talk about Jesus, you have to discern what Jesus they speak of. There are more flavors of Jesus out there than there are ice creams at your local Baskin-Robbins. I've used the analogy before, but it works again right here. I've confessed to you that I'm a Barney fan. I know that seems odd. I know he's a little dorky. He's kind of awkward. He can be rather annoying, but as deputy sheriffs go, he was the finest Andy ever had.
Again, we've shared that in here before, but the idea is the first time you hear that, most of us immediately are thinking about an annoying purple dinosaur that we rightly have a problem with. When I'm speaking about Barney, you'd better make sure you know what Barney I'm saying I'm annoyed with. When people speak to you about Jesus, you ought to listen to find out what Jesus they speak of.
I spent a little bit of time this week and pulled together some simple opinions on Jesus by folks who take his name. They'll come knocking on your door, and they will share with you about Jesus. They will want you to hear them speak to you about this Jesus and hear from them about this Jesus whom you ought to know.
The Mormon Church. They put his name right there in their name: The Church of Jesus Christ. All the saints in these latter days, who love him and honor him, what they don't want to tell you is they don't believe God is a Spirit, as the Scriptures teach. They believe God is a material substance. They believe men are gods. In fact, there are many gods.
They believe God himself was once as we are now and is an exalted man. They believe Jesus was not conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. They believe Jesus is the result of a physical relationship between an Adam god and his bride, that he was never resurrected, and that the wedding in Cana was, in fact, Jesus' own wedding to Martha and Mary.
When you hear a Mormon speak about Jesus, you need to know it's not the same Jesus. They're at first offended when you have that conversation with them. They have certain things right about him, but they don't have the whole thing right about him. In fact, they have much more wrong than they do right.
The Jehovah's Witnesses believe Jesus is an ex-angel, Michael, created by God. He was sent to earth. He was stripped of his angelic nature, and he's only a man who was not bodily resurrected. I think I mentioned that the Mormons don't believe in the resurrection of Christ. The Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in the bodily resurrection. The Christian Scientists think he's an outstanding teacher who was not a real man but only his spirit, who somehow could be seen as a material being when he was here on earth. That's not who he was. That's their Barney.
Muslims believe Christ was just a prophet along with Abraham, Joseph, Noah, Adam, and, of course, Muhammad. They don't believe he's the Son of God. They do not believe he ever went to a cross, but that he was removed by God and delivered right into glory. Unitarians would tell you Jesus is just a great teacher, no more, no less. An exceptional teacher, maybe. Maybe one of the world's greatest, but he is simply a good teacher. The Hindus and the Buddhists are right there with them.
The Jews didn't think this Jesus was their Messiah because he didn't deliver the lasting peace they were looking for, though he offered a far greater peace: the peace of God, and even more important than that, peace with God. Let me lay out another little application right there before we move forward.
You'd better make sure when you have some of the information on Jesus right, that you go forward and get it all right. This gentleman who came to him right there agreed with Jesus that the things he said were true. Just because you agree with Christ that the things he says are true, doesn't mean you acknowledge that he is the Truth.
Let me unfold that for you a little bit and show you some places we can go. Look back in Mark, chapter 12, verse 32. Here comes the guy. He said, "Teacher, what you said is right. You have rightly said there's no one beside you, and to love God with all your heart is exactly what you should do."
Jesus responded to him by saying, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." The reason Christ said this is because he said, "Look. You have some things right, but just because you agree with me that what I say is true doesn't mean you have yet understood that I am the Truth, that I am the Way." Notice the T in truth is capitalized on purpose.
There are many folks who will yield to the sayings of Christ, will quote the sayings of Christ, will agree that things Christ has said are true, but they have not yet dealt with the fact that he is the Truth, that he is the Way, and that in him is (capital-L) Life. Apart from him, there is no other means by which men can be saved.
If you're here today, and you're agreeing with much Christ has said as you work your way through Mark, if you think he's a good teacher and you agree with many of his tenets, let me just offer this to you. While that's wonderful that some wisdom has been appropriately unfolded into your life, if you miss out on the greatest claim he made and you don't do more than simply agree with this claim but act on that claim, you've missed out on the greatest truth and the only truth that's going to matter as you stand before the God who calls you into account.
First John 3:18, a very familiar passage, says, "Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." In other words, let's not just get certain things right in our profession, in our agreement with the Scriptures. Let's not just tie cans to our doors and put stickers on the back of our car and sing the right songs at a certain time of the week. Let's respond rightly to who this Jesus is.
There were many folks who, when they heard Christ speak… At the very end of the very first passage we had here, it says people enjoyed listening to him. Let me show from the prophet Ezekiel that this is not unusual. Look what this says right here:
"But as for you, son of man [Ezekiel] , your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, 'Come now, and hear what the message is which comes forth from the LORD.' And they come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people, and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. And behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not practice them. So when it comes to pass—as surely it will—then they will know that a prophet has been in their midst."
In Mark, chapter 6, it says Herod enjoyed listening to John the Baptist, and then he beheaded him. In Mark, chapter 12, it says the people enjoyed listening to the things Christ was saying, and then many of them, just days later…two, three days later…said, "Crucify him." The question we have to ask ourselves is…Do we do more than just enjoy the principles in Proverbs, the speakers who, today, represent the teachings of Christ? Do we do more than just enjoy the stories and enjoy the lessons?
A guy named George Whitefield, who lived in the eighteenth century, in the 1700s, was considered the Demosthenes of the British pulpit, the greatest speaker and orator. One of the most famous actors of his day said, "I would give 100 gold shekels just to be able to say, 'Oh' like George Whitefield." David Hume, the British philosopher and atheistic thinker, supposedly said, "When I went and heard Whitefield preach, I was so overwhelmed with its glory and beauty and artistic value that I almost forgot to be skeptical and scoff."
Benjamin Franklin, who never came to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, was so taken in by this man whose voice was strong enough to preach to 25,000 people without amplification that he would go and he would do tests on Whitefield's voice. He would take notes about his oratory skills. He loved to listen to him, but he never acted on the centrality of Whitefield's message, which is that you must be born again.
Whitefield would say, "You've done so much to study electricity. You've done so much to study my voice. Would you not apply the same diligence to study the credence of my claims?" Franklin would love to dialogue and would agree with him, but never moved in his heart.
Let me give you one more you can wrestle with as we take off today. Those who claim that all we have to do to please God is love are correct. You might expect this message this morning at the Unitarian church over there on Preston Road, that all you have to do to please God is just love. Can't we just all get along? Can't we visualize world peace? Can't we just love one another?
All we have to do… This is the whole law and all the prophets. Don't worry about all the prohibitions, and don't worry about all the things that are prescribed. Just get this thing right. Just love God and love each other. Would you? People who say that are correct, but you have to remember that any man who is not or does not love perfectly needs a Savior.
I can agree with my friends when they say all we have to do is love God. I may not agree with them about their God and who he is, but I'll agree with them that all you have to do is love God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let me break that out for you very quickly. I want to show you something here before we tear into this application.
When it says you are to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength… Even in the last week of Christ, let me show you how tight Christ's teaching was these last days. Do you remember the story we shared a couple of weeks ago in here about the keepers of the vineyard? How the keepers of the vineyard rejected the son whom the owner of the vineyard sent asking for the produce to come from it?
Jesus said, "What will they do to these people who did not love the son and did not love the owner of that vineyard?" He said he will judge those people, and he will give that vineyard to others. What does he want from those others whom he gave the vineyard to? Here's the answer: He wants them to love him.
What does it look like to love him? To love God means to make sure you declare his glory to all men, not just people like you. See also, "This shall be a house of prayer for all the nations." To love God is not to hide behind systems we think appease God and buy off any judgment that might come our way because we pay some spiritual tax, for God delights in obedience and not sacrifice.
To love God is to render to God what is God's. Do you remember the story about, "Shall we give this coin to Caesar? Should we pay the poll tax?" He said, "You can give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but you love God. You give to God what belongs to God." What belongs to God? Just like the coin had Caesar's image on it, and so that coin belongs to Caesar. Give it to him.
God's image is on you, so you give to God what is God's, and you give all of it to him. You give him your heart. You give him your passions. You give him your soul. You give him whatever circumstance you're in, whatever cry you're in the midst of, whatever celebration you're in the midst of. Whatever spirit you have, you give to him. All of it. You give him your mind, your thoughts, your meditations, because it's all made in his image. You give him your strength.
You're going to find out when we look ahead in Mark that he rebukes the Pharisees for not loving him with their hearts. They loved him with their form. He lifts up the widow who gives everything she has. She loves him with all her strength, everything she has. All the resources and the fruits of those resources she has, she gives to him. He says, "That woman loves me." It's everything.
We have a couple of friends who are in this body who are in the senior management of Interstate Batteries. I was sharing with them and talking with them this week about what we are talking about. The neat thing about Interstate Batteries, Norm Miller, and that group of men who are over there who celebrate the opportunity they have to serve God together is the way they put together their entire company to reflect this truth.
These believing men, who want to love God in every aspect of their lives…not the secular and the non-secular, not the spiritual and the working area…have said right there that their mission statement is "To glorify God as we supply our customers worldwide with top quality, value-priced batteries, related electrical power-source products, and distribution services." That's their mission statement.
Their philosophy on the back of their business cards, every one of them, is "Treat others as you want to be treated." You know what I love about Interstate Batteries? They are worshipping God by selling batteries for cars. They see this as a chance to honor him, not in church but with their whole lives; to glorify God; and to treat others well.
A friend of mine who started an entire industry the Lord blessed in the 60s framed his whole company on this principle: Hallmark cares; Hallmark serves. Right out of Galatians, chapter 5, verse 13: "For you have not been made free for freedom's sake, but you've been made free so you could love and serve other people."
He said, "We're going to not use love. We're going to use cares. We're going to use it as an acronym for customers, assets, resources, employees, and suppliers. We're going to love every single one of them. That is our purpose. Then we're going to serve people. We're going to honor our God and see our business as an opportunity to glorify him."
I want you to hear, this morning, that loving God doesn't just happen in times of corporate gathering with music. It's everywhere you go. When you have an opportunity to do that in your law practice, in your classroom, in your homes, that's what he's looking for. You render it all to him. There isn't an area he doesn't expect to be yielded. All you have to do is love the big-G God of the Scriptures. That's it, but here's the catch. If you don't love perfectly, then love isn't all you need.
Let me unfold the Scriptures that teach this to us. They have it right at the Unitarian church. They agree with Christ that all you have to do is love. Look what Romans, chapter 13, says. "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law." When they tell you all you have to do is love your neighbor, you say, "That's exactly right. I have a question for you. Has there ever been a time when you haven't loved your neighbor?"
If they say, "Well, sure, but I'm doing the best I can. That's what we all have to do." You want to say, "That is admirable," but watch this. James, chapter 2, verses 8 and 10: "If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture…" You want to see some consistency? What's the royal law? The Shema. And the second is like unto it: "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." You are doing great. Way to go, Unitarian.
"But if you show partiality [to anybody] , you are committing sin and…" If you keep the whole law and yet blew it with one clerk, one neighbor, one spouse, you're guilty of everything. Now how can that be? It's because when you love God, you'd better make sure you have your God right. The God of the Scriptures is holy. Leviticus 19 says that. "You'd better be holy like I am holy."
In Matthew, he spells out what holiness is: perfection. In 1 Peter, he comes back to Leviticus and says, "Be holy." In Matthew he goes back and says, in chapter 5, verse 20, "Unless you are more righteousness than the Pharisees, you don't have the righteousness it takes." The Pharisees were big into the law, but they missed out on love. And they certainly weren't perfect.
I want to remind you this morning, if you're here and you want to love and just wonder why we can't all get along, we'll join you. I offer you this morning: It's all about love, but if there has ever been a time when you have not loved God as he has revealed himself, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and if there's ever been a time, one time, that you haven't loved your neighbor as yourself, you need this Jesus who wants you to wrestle with him today. You need a Savior.
Today is your day to act on that and not just have this Unitarian view that if we can just all get along and all love each other, that's all God wants. No. What God wants is perfect love, unyielding love, unrequited love. He wants perfection, and not I nor you nor any man or woman has ever met it. This is love, that God sent his Son for you and for me in order that he might pay for our sins. Let's pray.
Father, as we look at this little text, we've heard this a thousand times, as we said early this morning as we were praying for our time together. These four little methods and means to love you, our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength, are very familiar to us, though loving you in that way is not so familiar.
This morning, we respond to this and say we thank you that you showed us what love looks like. You did for us what you would want somebody, if you ever had the need, to do for you, which is to put you into a place of glory, a place of peace, a place of blessing. You died that we might live.
Father, this morning we thank you for Jesus Christ, very God of very God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered unto Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead, and buried. On the third day, he rose from the dead, the one who ascended into heaven, who now sits at your right hand. One day you will come to judge the quick, the living, and the dead. We thank you that you expressed love through him by letting him go on that Via Dolorosa.
Now we respond to that love the best we can, never presenting to you our resume of love, but just wanting to present to you a heart that responds rightly. May we not just sing, but live. All that we have is yours. We thank you that Jude knew what he meant when he said you are able, then, to keep us from stumbling, and one day you will allow us to stand in your presence with full glory, blameless, and with joy. 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. <strong></strong> This volume covers Mark 10:35 through Mark 12:44.