If even the demons acknowledge who Jesus Christ is, then can a simple acknowledgment of Jesus constitute legitimate faith? Could someone spend their life around Christ and church and still be culpable for their sins before God?
Jesus was Known for His Friendships with Sinners: What are You Known For?
Jesus, Two Groups and a Guy: The Danger of Lame Living
Baptism: What It Is and Is It for You? The Leper Revisited
The Leper Who Talked & the People Who Don't: How Disobedience Affects God's Purposes
If Busyness is Killing Your Heart, the Secret Place is the Solution
Do You Know Where to Take Your Suffering Friends?
The Testimony of an Unclean Spirit: Are Words & Information Enough?
Spirit Directed Fishing: Get Near Water, Get Your Line Wet, and Bait Your Hook
The Day All Heaven Broke Out
The Great Forerunner of the Great Servant: A Look at John the Baptist
Church is seen as a place of monotony and boredom. It should be anything but that. We believe, if we're the kind of church that we ought to be, that folks ought to gather with sincerity and gladness of heart. There ought to be increasing favor in the community that's around the community of saints and that people ought to long to be a part of there, but that's not typically the experience that many folks who you know and I know have had with the people of God.
In another story, a little girl was in the back of a church and was looking at a plaque with a list of some men's names on there, and she was there just full of curiosity when the pastor walked by, and she said, "Paster, what's this plaque about?" He said, "Well, that's the names of men who have died in the service," and she looked up and said, "9:30 or 11:00?" How many times do you feel like you could just die. "I'll do anything but just sit through another one of those."
Boy, it should be just the opposite experience when you're around the family of God, when you're around people who know the God who says to know him is to have life. This is eternal life which biblically is not just something that speaks of a quantity but also a qualitative aspect of life. Jesus said, "I've come that you might have life and have it to the fullest," not just in length but in experience.
I want to tell you, it is such a lie that is pervaded out there among society that you can find life anywhere, but boy, don't go to religion. Don't go to people of God because they will choke the life right out of you. I will tell you that what totally transformed me is when I met people who knew God, who knew Jesus Christ, and their lives were so intimately attractive and powerful that I was amazed.
I said, "I need to be around you because you're attractive to me. You are salt, and you are light, and you open up insight into this life I've never seen before, and I want to know how I can experience that." They said, "It's not an experience that we produce in ourselves. It is an overflow of our relationship with the living God who we want to introduce you to," and introduce me they did. Hey, church is not a place for you to come and be bored; to check out emotionally, intellectually, or any other way. There are some doggone interesting people here.
Let me just tell you something, and this is what I was asking for earlier. Last Saturday at our Discovery class, one of the things we did to give people there a chance to know each other…some 80-odd folks who came…when they walked in there, we said, "What we'd like you do to is just write down one interesting fact about yourself."
From this random group of 75 to 80 people who came, I want to just read to you some of the folks who you'd have bumped into last week on a Saturday morning and who are probably here this morning: Folks who were raised by their grandmother. Another person who was into skydiving. Somebody else who was raised in Colorado but never skied until they moved to Texas. Somebody who can touch their nose with their tongue. (We didn't get a chance to see that one.)
Someone who is an Olympic athlete right now and is training for the 2000 Olympics. Someone who was born in New Delhi, India. Somebody who had hiked the Appalachian Trail…all 2,163 miles of it. Somebody who was president of the 12th Man Student Foundation. (They're probably not here; they're in our children's ministry at this time.) Somebody who played college hoops. Somebody mugged at gunpoint. Somebody gored by a bison in Wyoming and then spent five days in the hospital. A pro soccer player.
Somebody who has climbed the mountains and hiked the jungles of Ecuador. Somebody who has a Min Pin. What's that? Oh, a miniature pinscher. Oh, who cares? We all have dogs. All right… Somebody who worked as Santa's elf one Christmas. (Santa's elves are there.) Somebody who took 7.5 years to get out of college just with a bachelor's degree. A first team Academic All-American golfer. Somebody who has had Bevo and Peruna to their house…
Somebody who beat Peyton Manning in an Easter egg race as a young man. That's a great way to meet chicks at parties. "Hey, see that guy up there in 16? I beat him to an egg." All right! Way to go. Somebody who ran the Honolulu Marathon. Somebody who although they're 28 has a 3-year-old brother. (And a frantic mom and dad, I'm sure). Somebody who's been alligator hunting in the Amazon. Now that amazes me. I mean, I was truly amazed as I read over that. That's just an eclectic assortment of people. I thought, "How fun to meet those!"
What we did at the very end, when we were kind of done talking about different things and explaining our core vision and values as a body (that's what you'll find at our Discovery class), who we exist to be, that we are passionate about calling others to join us in a life of full devotion to Christ and why that makes sense and the values through which we will pursue that…
We will be absolutely biblically based. We will seek to raise up Christ; to be grounded in grace; to be passionate about prayer; to be committed to those who are uncommitted, to the lost; to be committed to community; to believe that innovation, flexibility, and relevance to our world is important and of value; to be focused on ministry and service. We talked about those values and why they're so passionately a part of who we are, why we'd rather stop doing this than to compromise on any one of those.
That's what we talked about. Then we said, "Hey, go find these folks," and it was their job just to meet somebody and say, "What was it about you that was on here?" and then the person who filled out the most we gave a nice little thing to. It was fun, and it was amazing, the interesting things that were built in people.
You know, when you're around the people of God, you ought to be amazed like that…not because of maybe some interesting life affects and interesting life experiences but because they have been transformed into an others-centered person and they've learned to forsake their own self-love, their own self-will, their own manipulation, their own strategies for life. They have become people of peace and people of joy because they know the Savior. It ought to amaze you when you meet the people of God.
We sang a song a little bit earlier. It says, "Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?" speaking about God. "It breathes in the air, it shines in the light; it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain, and sweetly distills in the dew and the rain." What kind of love is that? It should amaze you to know that's the love of God. "Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail, in Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail; thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end…" Listen to this. "…our maker, defender, redeemer, and friend."
Another song we sing consistently in here, another spiritual song or hymn says simply, "Even though you're my King, you've become my friend." It ought to amaze you when you hear the good news of the gospel of God, that he would open the heavens and he would rush to earth and that he would interact with those who had spit in his face and had forsaken him, and he would say, "I love you, and though I reign, I want to make provision for your rebellion." It ought to amaze you. Well, it should be no surprise that that's what happened when people were around Jesus.
Look at Mark, chapter 1, verse 21. "They went into Capernaum…" This is about a year into the life of Christ. He had just left his own town of Nazareth, where he had opened up the Scriptures and he had talked about a section in Isaiah that talks about the fact that there would be one who would come among you who would be from God and he would bring life to the people. Then he stood up and he said after he had read those Scriptures, "I say to you today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your presence."
In other words, God is here, the Messiah, the Deliverer. The one who will bring the covenant blessings of God has come, and they rejected him, and they said, "What is this? Who do you claim to be?" They ran him out of his hometown, and off he goes to Capernaum, after he had called Peter, Andrew, James, and John and said, "Follow me, and I will transform you. I will make you fishers of men." This same day, they continued on.
"They went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach." A synagogue is a place in the nation of Israel, where anytime there were more than 10 Jewish men above the age of 12, they would designate a place as a synagogue, and they would call it a place of reading of Scripture, of worship of God and of prayer. They wouldn't have temple sacrifices there because they believed that should only happen in Jerusalem as God had revealed.
After the nation had been brought into judgment and it had been dispersed, when they came back, while they were waiting at the time for the temple to be rebuilt, and then even after it was rebuilt, they would continue to meet in little synagogues throughout the land, where they would read the Scriptures and where they would worship God together and they would talk and pray together about the goodness of God. Jesus went there, as was his practice, and while he was there, he began to teach.
"They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, 'What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God' And Jesus rebuked him, saying, 'Be quiet, and come out of him!'
Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, 'What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.' Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee."
When is the last time you've been in the presence of the people of God and you can honestly say that you experienced something like this, that you were just amazed at what you saw there, and then you went out and said, "You have to experience this! You have to see this!" I have to tell you, that shouldn't just be the experience at Watermark Community Church.
That ought to be the experience at every church that seeks to be the kind of church that God has left us here to be. Everybody wants to be an Acts 2:42-47 church. Everybody wants to be a prevailing church. I don't think there's a pastor in this town who you would get to say anything else. They'd go there and say, "Here are the principles of the church," and they would talk about worship, evangelism, fellowship, instruction, teaching.
Hey, that's great, but are we the kind of people who gather with gladness and sincerity of heart or is there such a Spirit of life among us that people are amazed when they come into our presence? I'm going to make a case today that there ought to be because the same Spirit we have found that has indwelled the Son of God is what he has given to those of us who believe, that we might continue in his path and that others might respond to us in the way they responded to him.
Who is this Jesus who tells people to leave their nets and come and follow him and men do it? Who are these people in Dallas in the twenty-first century who say, "Hey, you need to forsake your self-indulgent life? Let go of the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, and the lust of the eyes, and come, taste, and see the Lord is good. Come dine with us. Come meet these people."
I was so encouraged and am so encouraged when I hear stories of individuals who really broker their influence, who take a chance, and they say to friends, "You know, I want you to come. I know what you think you're going to experience when you're around people who love God, but please come, and let me introduce you to some friends," and they come. There was a story recently of a woman who been asking for a while.
Finally, her friend came, and she said Monday she sat back in awe as her friend did what these people who were around Jesus in Mark, chapter 1, did. She was walking around the office and said, "Hey, so-and-so invited me to her church. She's been inviting to me to church. I know what you think. You don't want to go to a church, but let me just tell you something. You would be amazed. These people are different. This is something else. They love what they're doing."
It's what that email said. It's why we read it. If we are the people God wants us to be, the world ought to be able to see a difference, that people serve in their area of giftedness and they actually look like they enjoy it, and worship is not something we do so we can punch a ticket, but it's something we do because we long to express publicly and outwardly this joy that's in our souls, and people can see that. That's why I don't mind if somebody could be as far from God as a person can get for them to be here during our worship time.
I want them to look around and go, "These folks aren't just doing this because, you know, somebody's telling them it's time to do it. They mean it with their hearts." That's why it's so important to not just honor him with our lips but that our hearts stay near him. That's why we're still before we rush into worship, so we can do it with a sense of authenticity and integrity because the world responds to that and because God loves it. Hey, have you been shocked by the Words of God lately? Have you been shocked by what God wants to do in your life?
Have you been shocked by the people of God? If not, there's a problem. You haven't been listening. This is a true story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who, like most presidents, found himself in a lot of receiving lines. He was in one particular line where he was greeting a lot of people, and he realized that, when folks got to him, they were just so in awe of his presence that they just would shake his hand, and they weren't really listening to him, so he started to tell folks, "Hello. Nice to see you. I killed my mother-in-law this morning."
He said a number of people went by, and they just didn't say a word, that the president just said, "Hello. Nice to see you. So glad you're here. I killed my mother-in-law this morning," just to entertain himself during this diplomatic affair, and finally, one guy grabbed his hand and started to move aside and heard what he said, and he leaned forward, and he goes, "Well, she probably deserved it," and then kept walking on.
If you haven't been shocked by what you've heard from the King lately, you haven't been listening to the King. He speaks with authority. He says things that are different than what the scribes say because what the Scriptures talk about… It says, "They were all amazed…" The idea of that word amazed right there is that they were struck out of their senses. They were blown away at what this guy was saying. Jesus spoke differently than those that traditionally stood up to speak in the synagogue did.
He did not speak by quoting other folks. His authority was not derived from the rabbinical schools of Hillel or Shammai. His authority was self-contained. Listen to the way Jesus spoke, "Truly, truly, I say to you." Now you all would be offended, and I will tell you should be offended if week after week I stood up here and said, "Let me tell you what I think this week."
While there are some men who have incredibly interesting opinions and they can present them in a way that are even engaging and fun to listen to, I will tell you that it's just the opinions of men, maybe good opinions of men, but it's not something I would encourage you to sit at the feet at very long. You don't hear me say, "I'm going to tell you what I think this week," unless I'm in a place where I clearly say, "For a moment, now, let me tell you what I believe the Scripture means," and I just might go a different direction.
When you hear me communicate, what do I say? "Let's go to the Word of God. This is our authority." One of our core values as a body is that we are biblically based, that the Bible is our authority. It's our conscience. It's our guide in everything. We stand firm where it stands firm, and we remain flexible where it is flexible, period. When Jesus was here, he didn't go and say, "This is what the rabbis have always said," as the scribes did. Jesus, when he spoke, was illustrative. He was applicational, and he was authoritative. He had what we would say is… His authority was not, as I said, derived. It was original. It was innate. He said, "In my core, I carry with me authority."
He spoke with illustration, not, "So-and-so said…" He spoke with application, not in obscure or remote ways, and it amazed the people to hear one such as this teach, "Truly, truly, I say to you." Now it's easy to stand up and say you have authority, but if your life doesn't back it up, people should walk away very quickly. That's why you find out early in the life of Christ, as Mark is revealing the story of this Servant King, he wants to tell you that he doesn't just have authority with his tongue.
He doesn't just have power in his lips. There is power in his life, and he's about to confront one who is oppressed, one who is possessed even by a demon. You remember that Christ had already been impelled by the Spirit to go into the wilderness, and while he was there, even though Mark doesn't tell us what happened when he went into the wilderness like Matthew and Luke do, what Mark does do is this.
All throughout his gospel, he shows you, from this time forward, every time he is confronted with a demon in the Scriptures or a demon in the gospel of Mark, they are compelled to prostrate themselves before him and declare his glory and his honor, so we know what happened in the wilderness…that Jesus was victorious.
He led and informed the spiritual powers of this world and said, "You have a new power that's on the scene, and I will bind you, and I will accomplish my purposes, and though you are the prince of this world for a moment, you will melt like wax in the presence of the Lord." He said, "True authority is here," and he begins to reign on this earth and reveal to others who he is, and the people are amazed. Notice, there are two times that folks are amazed. Look in verse 22 with me.
It says, "They were amazed at His teaching…" Then look at verse 27. "They were all amazed [at what he had done] …" If people are amazed at the power of the Words of the gospel that we share here but are not amazed at the transformation that happens in our lives, it will not be long before we lose our authority in their lives. We have to have lips and lives that are amazing and that are transformed, and we will do that, not by quoting our own fantastic opinions but having on our lips the very Word of God.
We will have lives that are transformed, not as we depend upon our own strength to be transformed people, but as the living Word of God through his Spirit dwells in us, our lives will be changed, and then folks will be amazed at who we are. I will make a case today and application out of this text. Look what it says. Information is not enough. It takes more than intellectual assent to become a child of God.
Why do I say that? Because you're going to find out right away here what the demons say. They say in verse 24, "What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!" James says this in chapter 2. "You believe that God is one." Well, that's fine. "You do well…" That's great. "…the demons also believe, and shudder [to their core in belief]."
You'll find out what the demons say right here is that they know, not just in the sense that they've heard of, but the word there for know in the Greek is one of the strongest words you can use. It means they know by experience who this Jesus is. They are absolutely certain that this is God, and he has come to this earth and he has already defeated the prince of demons, and "we know who this is," and they shudder.
Watch this. This is what the demons or the man understood. Notice what he says right here, again in verse 24, "What business do we have with [you] ?" The demon speaks. The man's life is so ultimately inbred with this thing which has possessed him that, when he speaks, he speaks in the plural, "What do we have to do with you?" This is what the demon man understood, and I'm making a case that information is not enough. It takes more than just simply intellectual assent to become a child of God.
This is what the demon man understood: first of all, this very different thing that theologians will talk all about called the hypostatic union. I put it up there just because you can go, "What in the world is that, and why is it before me now?" The hypostatic union is something that you'll go to seminary and study endlessly and you still won't understand it when you walk away. It's a confusing set of words, and it's a confusing idea.
It took the church 450 years to finally articulate it in a way that started to drive out different heretical believes or poor views of who this Jesus was. It took the church four centuries to finally be able to articulate what I'm about to show you about the person of Christ. It didn't take this demon four seconds in the presence of Christ because he knew God, had personal experience with him, to get this right. This is what the hypostatic union says.
At 451 years into the church, this is what they wrote. In the incarnation, which is just a transliteration, a word brought across, trans, into our literal language today from the Latin carnal, which means flesh… So when you hear incarnation, it means nothing more than in the flesh. Jesus' name is called Immanuel which means God with us. Colossians 2:9 says, "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form…" Colossians 1:15 says, "He is the [visible] image of the invisible God…" This is this Jesus.
"In the incarnation of the Son of God, a human nature…" This is the hypostatic union. You ready? I'm saving you about $350 a credit hour right here. "In the incarnation of the Son of God, a human nature was inseparably united forever with the divine nature in the one person of Jesus Christ, yet with two natures remaining distinct, whole, and unchanged, without mixture or confusion, so that one person, Jesus Christ, is truly God and truly man." He is both; he is fully man, and without comingling with deity, he is fully God.
That is why he could identify with us. That is why he was baptized to show he was identifying with us, and that is why the writer of Hebrews tells us with great conviction that, "You have a high priest who can sympathize with your weaknesses." He has been tempted as you have in every way and yet without sin, so come. He knows what it is to weep. He knows what it is to have a schedule with people pulling at him. He knows what it is to want to be drawn into rebellion.
The difference between him and us is that, because of his perfect nature as God, he always chose to be obedient. As a man, he never forsook the leading of the Spirit, so he was sinless. Now we as believers are going to be increasingly conformed in the image of Jesus Christ. How? Not by disciplining our flesh. Remember, we said last week, "Not by doing Jesus," but as we grow in Christ's likeness, as we learn to sin less by depending upon the Spirit, which is what the Son of God…fully God, fully man…depended upon to be who he was.
We've studied already that he laid aside his deity. What does that mean? He got rid of it? No. It stayed right there with him. The church articulated that 1,600 years ago, and all it did is finally say, "We need to formalize what we have always believed," so the Council of Chalcedon, at 451, finally said, "This is where we stand. This is where we've stood, and we stand against all who say otherwise." The demons understood that. Do you understand this? They were absolutely intellectually convinced of this.
More than that, not only did they understand the miracle of the hypostatic union, they understood the inherent authority of Jesus Christ to judge. By the way, where am I getting this? Look at verse 24 one more time. "What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth?" In other words, "We do we have to do with you, Todd Wagner of Dallas?" They're saying, "We know you're a human being with human origins. We can trace you back to your ma and your pa." They had the fact that he was fully man.
You go a little bit further down there, and it says, "I know who You are—the Holy One of God!" Do you see where the demons got it? You are fully man, and you are fully God. They understood that, and they understood that he had the right to destroy them and he had the inherent authority in himself to judge and the inherent ability of a Jesus Christ to judge them, and they were completely aware of that.
Now folks, our problem, and many people's problem in this world today, is not that we lack information, most of us.It's not a function of the intellect that most people reject this Jesus. It's a function of the will. Listen to what it says in Romans, chapter 1. If you want to flip there with me, you can.
Paul is going to make argument that, the reason most men reject the Scriptures in the presence and the person and the presentation of Jesus Christ is not because they haven't heard enough information but because they've taken the information they have, even in what is declared of God in the heavens, and they suppress it. Look at Romans 1, verses 18 and following.
It says, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…" See, the problem is not a lack of information. They have the information, the intellectual assent, but they suppress it. He says, "…because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them." Speaking of all humanity.
"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man…"
That is what we have done, and he's saying again and again, our problem is not with a lack of information. Our problem as a people is our willingness to deal with the truth that is before us. The problem with these demons, gang, and what we can learn from them is that they had better information and more conviction in that information, and they had personally experienced his power and had seen him in the spiritual realm, where we cannot. It took very little faith for them. They knew who he was, "…the Holy One of God!" in their midst, and yet it did not transform.
Again and again I have folks who come to me, and they say they have a series of questions, and I will tell you, I love when people are genuine seekers, and I love when they have real questions, and they're filled with genuine doubt. I will spend no limited amount of time with somebody who truly is hindered in their coming to faith by authentic questions, but I want to ask them simply this.
"If we deal with this problem of creation/evolution, if we deal with this problem of the Christian faith being the inspired Word of God, if we deal with this problem of the existence of evil when there's a God who says he's loving and all-powerful and why do bad things happen, will you then come to faith?"
When I have somebody who says, "Yes, if you can, you know, allow me to not commit intellectual suicide and if you can let me deal with my intellectual integrity and I can see that there is a reason to believe, yes, I will come to faith," then "you have all of me you want, and we'll spend whatever time you want to look and study at this. I'll be frank with you, if you can show me and my studies can prove to me that I'm believing in foolishness, I want out myself."
What I love about this is, "If it's true, then no amount of scrutiny can affect it, so bring your best questions. Bring your greatest doubts, and let's go together, and let's see," but if some people are honest enough, as many have been, to say, "Well, you know, Todd… No. I won't believe because I have another question," I'll say, "Okay. What's that? What if I answer that one?" "Well, no. I won't believe."
I'll say, "Well, then would you at least have the honesty then to admit that your problem is not one of intellect. It's a function of not your knowledge. It's a function of your will, and quit saying that people who believe in God are believing in a pipe dream because you don't want to deal with the facts that are out there."
We have a faith, gang, that goes, not against reason, but it does go beyond reason. It is a faith system. We're required at some point to believe, but as Pascal said hundreds of years ago, we are required to not believe against known facts, but there are certain facts we can't put on a chalkboard and see, but in every area that we can test the Word of God, it has proven reliable, a faith that doesn't go against reason but beyond it.
Let's study, and if the preponderance of the evidence… In fact, if all the evidence we can tangibly look at points to the fact that this God does exist, this Bible is reliable and does stand alone, the resurrection did in fact happen, then we have to deal with that and, like in every court of law, make the decision that the weight of the evidence strongly points to. Most of the folks you're going to run into have not a problem with the intellect. They have a problem with the will.
Information is not enough. Fear of judgment is not enough. The demons show us this. "We know who you are." "Have You come to destroy us?" The demons, it says in James, did what? Shuddered in their belief. The fear of God that is biblical is not a servile fear. It's not the abject terror of somebody who is feeling a sense of doom and impending judgment. Fear of the Lord biblically is more of a reverence. It's the idea of a loving eagerness to please a heavenly Father. That's what biblically a fear of the Lord is.
In fact, while I can tell you the fear of judgment is not enough, if fear of judgment was so important, why do you think the most often spoken words of Christ were, "Fear not! Don't fear!" He tells you to come and to understand that God is with you, the Holy One, and he's made provision for your sin, and he's made provision for your rebellion, so you don't need to fear "because I'm here to seek and to save the lost and not to bring judgment into your life."
We ought to have a biblical fear, which is a reverence and an eagerness to please our heavenly Father, but not a fear like, "Oh, my goodness! He's going to destroy us," because Christ came to deliver us from that fear, but there are folks who are out there that you'll meet who have great information and who have this sense of fear that there is a God who they will one day be accountable to. I will tell you fear of judgment is not enough. Words are not enough. It's not enough that you will say, "This is Jesus of Nazareth, fully God and fully man, the Holy One of God."
It's not enough that you call him Lord. It's not enough that you sing songs. It takes more than profession, is what I'm saying, to be a son of God. You cannot just have good information and agree with that information, and you cannot just be one who says publicly, whether that be at a crusade where Billy Graham asked you to walk forward or whether it be at your own baptism… It's not enough to be somebody who has just simply said, "Lord, Lord."
Look what it says in Matthew 7, "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord…'" See, they know who he is, just like the demons did. "'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"
"You professed a love for me, but the practice of your life was not a fear of me. It was not a reverence for me. It was not a heart that had been transformed and indwelled by my Spirit that had an increasing eagerness to seek the things of God, but you had an increasing and continual practice of pursuing the things of self without any sense of confession, without any sense of brokenness. Oh, you knew that I would judge, and you identified me as the Righteous One who could judge and will destroy, but you didn't know me.
You might've even experienced my conviction firsthand, present tense, but you never responded to that conviction, and you might've said publicly, 'Oh yeah. Jesus is the Son of God, crucified, dead, buried, rose on the third day,' and you might've said, 'Yeah, I believe that Jesus Christ alone is the means through which men can be saved,' but that profession is not enough. It's not profession of facts that brings you into the kingdom. Romans 8:14-16 says it's something else: it is the possession of the Spirit of God which indwells all those who believe." Watch.
"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!'""Oh, God! I have a love for you, a reverence for you." "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God…"
I'll tell you, as a dad and a part of a parental team where my wife and I have poured our hearts out to our kids, it encourages me to no end that I see in them a fear of us, not a fear of a whip but a fear that they would disappoint us because they love us. They have a spirit of affection for us that, when you see and they see in our eyes that they have disappointed us, there is a fear of consequence, but there is also a fear of separation. "Oh, no."
I've had a number of our kids ask, "Daddy, does this mean, you know, you're not going to cuddle with me, you're not going to like me?" I say, "No. You can do whatever you want, and the rest of my life, it will be the greatest desire of my heart to hold you and love you, and no matter what kind of fool you act like the next time we're in public, you can be sure that I will always be proud to be your dad and long for our relationship to be all that it would be," and you see relief come upon them because there's a spirit between us of love.
For God, it's so much more than just that relationship. He has actually indwelled part of himself in us. The Spirt himself bears witness with our Spirit that we are children of God. This is not individuals who just profess that Jesus is great fire insurance. In verse 4, Jude says the false teachers who pervert the grace of God into licentiousness will declare that God has made provision for sin, but they won't be transformed by that.
There's an old line from what sounds like a Woody Allen movie, but it's not. It's a guy actually in this play. He's playing King Herod, and he says, "I like committing crimes, and God likes forgiving them. Really the world is admirably arranged." See, he professes that God is the forgiver of sins, but he doesn't possess the Spirit which creates in him an eagerness to please God.
Hey, is the world admirably arranged for you that I proclaim week after week the grace of God that is available to all who believe, and you go, "I like that," and you continue in your sin so you can go, "Hey, God will cover me"? Paul says, "May it never be." That's not the Spirit of God. It's not an understanding of the grace that leads to license or what is called licentiousness, which is a deep diving into self-will. No, it is a transformation that happens which leads to a hunger and thirst after the things of God.
Information isn't enough. Fear of judgment isn't enough. Words are not enough, and even an emotional response is not enough. It takes more than being amazed at his words and works to be a child of God. Mark 1:27 says the people were all amazed. .You'll find out it wasn't just the demon here who was amazed at who was in their presence, but it was the people themselves. They go, "Hey, this is a guy who teaches with authority and his life is with great authority."
They were emotionally fired up. You'll find out that Mark says at the very end of this passage when they left that the people debated about who this was. It says in Luke, in the other place in the Scriptures that talks about this, that they discussed it to no end. Word went out about this Jesus. This is what God said through his prophet Ezekiel, years ago.
"But as for you, son of man…" Speaking to 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.' 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. 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."
You know, it is wonderful when you have gifted communicators, and there are some guys who are really gifted in talking about great truths and great principles, and they can do it sometimes with power. They can do it with humor, and there are folks who will go no small distance to hear certain men speak.
But for too many of those individuals, that emotional response they get when they hear so-and-so communicate or when they go for great distances to experience a certain community's expression of worship and go, "Man, I've never felt like that before. That was awesome," they'll love the feeling they get when they're taught a certain way or when they worship a certain way.
You need to know that is an unreliable sign of conversion. So is fear of God, so is having good information, and so is saying on your lips that Jesus is God because the demons and the people had every single one of those. Jesus' words were as a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument. "Let's go sit and listen and be entertained."
Hey, I really want to tell you something. I pray and I labor that you might feel what we do at this time in the service is excellent, but if you learn to love any one person's voice or anyone's certain type of delivery, we have greatly shortchanged you. We want our worship to be absolutely moving, but if we teach you to love the worship experience and not to love the one who we are worshiping, we need to ask your forgiveness because we're not here to create in you an emotional experience.
We think that God ought to fully engage your emotions, but that is not what transformed lives are about, experiencing something. It's knowing the true and living God. You will feel affection and love and reverence for your King. You ought to be moved, but don't live for that experience. It is unreliable, and it can be counterfeited. It's possible, folks, that you could sit in a synagogue your whole life and still be culpable for your sin before God.
I love this statement. As you go and as you think about this guy who was in this synagogue, who knows how many different synagogue services he had been at without having any confrontation with truth there. One man wrote, "Who knows how many people come into synagogues every week, and their demons are undisturbed."
You know, I thought about this…all the churches that maybe you even drove by to get here in this city…all the churches that are in our land and across this world… How many people who don't know God are going to go in those churches and, because of a lack of biblical teaching and a lack of biblical exhortation, will walk out of there totally undisturbed at their lives of self-will and lust?
How many husbands will not be convicted to fall at the feet of their wives when they go home and say, "Sweetie, would you forgive me because I've been serving an idol called work and self-advancement, and I have neglected you, and I've been emotionally manipulative and abusive towards you, and I have not cultivated love in this home, and I need to ask you to forgive me"?
How many men can continue to be absent week after week and be in churches Sunday after Sunday? How many couples can continue to tolerate marriages of mutual toleration? How many folks can continue to live together in sin, apart from marriage, and not be bothered when they walk into a community of faith? See, I don't think that happened with Jesus. You might have chosen to continue to do that, but you would've known that it was wrong, and it was rebellious.
How many people can come and still keep their subscription to magazines that pull them deeper and deeper into lust and not tell somebody they're addicted to porn on the Internet and never have the demon confronted? I will tell you that is a great crime, just like it was a crime in the synagogues of Capernaum.
It's a crime here if you can come week after week and never have any conviction and never have anything inside you, a demon, cry out, "We have to get out of here because, if we stay here, we're going to have to change, baby. I'm going to leave, and you're going to follow somebody else. There will be a different Spirit controlling you, and I don't want that. Don't go back there!" I hope you feel that. I hope you feel loved whatever you choose to believe, but if you're not confronted with the holy call of God in your life, then that's a problem.
It's possible that you could sit here week after week in some churches and never have that demon confronted and feel extremely comfortable. I've always said, "There are two great mission fields in this world. One of them is folks who would never step into a church, and the other one is those who are there every week." That's why we have a heart for the unchurched, the de-churched, the dead-churched, and the unmoved in churches, that we would all grow to be fully devoted followers of Christ.
Information, fear of judgment, words of profession, emotional responses are not enough, but gang, faith is enough. You know the verse. Maybe you've heard it. It comes in a book called Ephesians, and it says we have been saved by grace through faith. The point of what I'm saying today, though, is that it's not enough just to believe, to have fear, to have an emotional response. You ought to have all those things in some form or fashion, but you need more.
What you need is a heart that has been convicted to the quick, pierced to within, and you say, "I want to leave and forsake my old way, and I want to turn to one who can deal with my sin and give me life." A guy named John Calvin says it this way, "Faith alone saves, but the faith which saves is never alone." See, information alone doesn't save. Fear of judgment alone doesn't save.
Emotional experiences which we can seek, not just in churches but in every kind of forum of every kind of gathering of people who create an emotionally and psychologically manipulative atmosphere… It happens again and again, even places underneath buildings with crosses on the top, who claim to be sharing with you the experience of God, but I don't think it is because they're not taking you deep into a dependent relationship upon Christ.
They're attaching you to them, to the emotional experience they work up in the room, and they're not driving you deeper into a love relationship with Christ. Faith alone in Jesus Christ saves, but that faith which saves is never alone. It always produces in you a hunger for righteousness and a hunger for serving this God who has saved you. It is possible that your testimony could be a source of confusion and an unwelcome endorsement of the gospel.
That is why Jesus told them to be quiet. It's a much stronger word than that he said. Simply, shut up is really what he says. Be muzzled. It's the same word he uses a little bit later when he's on a lake and a storm is coming up, and he tells the waves, "You be still! Shut up! Enough of yourself. Be calm," and Boom! Immediately the waves were silenced because God does not want certain individuals testifying about him.
It's a very real reality that God wants to remove the lampstand of some and say, "I'm going to take the privilege of proclaiming who I am from you and give it to another." Now it was never given to the demons to begin with, but if your words and your works do not match up, if your faithful witness does not combine lips and lives, then it's possible that your testimony could become a source of confusion and God would say, "I do not want you proclaiming who I am."
He wants us to be folks who live consistent lives, that our lips proclaim one thing and our lives speak of being transformed and speak of being touched, not one or the other. This is what it says in John, chapter 1, verse 18. "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, [Jesus Christ] has explained Him." I want to show you why this is so important.
What it's saying in John, chapter 1, is this Jesus has come on the scene, and he has revealed to you who God is, and you ought to be amazed, and you ought to turn to him, and you ought to cry out, "The heavens have been opened up and now I come into a relationship with him." Jesus Christ has revealed God. This is written by John. Now John wrote four other books in your New Testament; Revelation, 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John. This same John…
Watch the way he starts 1 John, chapter 4, verse 12. "No one has seen God at any time…" Look familiar? The only begotten God who was in the bosom of the Father, he has explained him, but 1 John says, "No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another…" What is implied there is if we walk in the light. What is implied there is if we are Spirit-directed people, even as Jesus was, then "…His love is perfected in us."
In other words, if we live the way Jesus lived and if we depend upon the Spirit which he depended on, then the same way Jesus amazed people with the fact that God was in their midst and brought transformation into their lives through his own birth, death, burial, and resurrection and the giving of his Spirt, the same thing will happen with you, but you can't just proclaim the kingdom of God is at hand, you must amaze them with your life and not your life that is self-willed but your life that is self-surrendered. Did you catch that? Do you see how important this is?
What John is saying right there is it's a miracle that folks were confronted with the personage of God, indwelling the fully God-fully man Jesus Christ, and now people will [audio cuts off] by being confronted with Watermark Community Church and those within it who love Jesus Christ. Matthew then wrote, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Let your lives match your lips.
If you…if we…do immediately (I use that word because Mark uses it 42 times) what Jesus did, then even as… Read verse 28 in Mark 1. Look at it with me. If we live lives whose words are transforming and whose works are powerful, it says, "Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee." If you or if we live those lives, there will be a sense of awe. We will have favor with all the people, and the news about him will go out everywhere into all the surrounding districts of Dallas.
It will not come because we're informed people. It will not come because we're people who are scared of judgment. It will not come because we're people who say certain things. It will not come because we experience this warm fuzzy, this good teaching, this great worship every Sunday. It will come because we live by faith, because we walk in the power of the Spirit, and because we love.
Folks will go, "I'm amazed at the way they serve one another. I'm amazed at the power that's available to people who know their Lord." That's my heart, and that's my goal. I will tell you, if that happens here, in the way that I believe God is starting to lead us to experience here, people will step all over themselves trying to get near it, just like they did Jesus.
If you don't long for and look forward to gathering with us on Sundays, we are not the kind of church that God wants us to be, not so you can experience something but so you can get around others who love this same Jesus, who can "…encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."
You will be amazed at the fact that God is transforming you and growing you in your commitment to God to purpose his people in word, that you're becoming increasingly confident in sharing your faith and in doctrine and in doing life and working through conflict, that you'll become connected in the community like you've never been before, that you'll be able to contribute your gifts and steward your life and your resources like you never have been before and you'll be creative in thinking through different opportunities to serve the Lord like you never thought you would.
You will be amazed, and the word about him will go out all through Dallas. That's his testimony, and that's his plan for us. If we don't amaze people in the same way Jesus did, by depending on the power of the Word of God and by yielding to the Spirit, we're falling short of his goal for us.
Have you in your life ever made the decision to be a person of faith, made that faith transaction? Have you ever said, "You know, I have the information. I can articulate basically the gospel. I even have a fear that I would be judged. I love sometimes the feeling I get when I'm around times of worship. I even have been convicted at times and felt that emotionally.
I have at times even said, 'You know, I believe that,' with my lips, but you know what I've never done? I've never left my own self-willed, self-dependent life and rested in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross"? Today might be your day to just do that, and I encourage you to seek us out and to find us. I'm going to lead a little prayer her at the end. If you've never done that and you want to be sure that you've done that now to be a person who lives by faith, do it now. Repent and believe.
Father, we come to you, and we declare that, when we look closely at what you've done, we are amazed, and we are convicted to the quick. We say, "Where is this authority?" We see it's authority that comes from the heavens. We see, Father, that you weren't just a man who claimed some self-aggrandizing opinions but that you had works that backed up your words.
There are many of us, maybe some in this room, who have known of you, who could articulate facts about you, who have been fearful of the fact that we're not rightly related to you, some even who have professed to know you but have never in their lives become a man or a woman who has by faith surrendered all before you.
Lord, we thank you that you tell us that if we invite you into our lives and say, "Come in," you will come in and dine with us, that you will forgive us and that you will speak those words which every sinner longs to hear in the presence of a holy God whose enemies melt like wax before him, "Fear not." Father, we thank you and we trust in the provision for our sin, the perfect fully man-fully God, Son of God, Jesus Christ who, though he did not sin, felt the full wrath of God poured out on a cross for us. We're forgiven, and he's condemned as we trust in him.
Father, we thank you for that provision, and we turn from any self-dependence, any résumé, any good works, and we say, "We trust in you. Will you forgive us?" By faith, Lord, we'll believe the gift that you have given us. We thank you that, when we do that, your Spirit indwells us and that you allow us to become children of God and that we can increase then in a biblical fear and eagerness to love our Father who is in heaven. You are my King, and we worship you. 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 1:1 through Mark 2:17.