The Gospel of Mark

Mark 6:31-44 “Like Sheep Without A Shepherd”

Posted on June 10, 2009. Filed under: The Gospel of Mark |

Mark 6:31-44 “Like Sheep Without A Shepherd”

Sunday 26 March 2000 PM

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Introduction: As we get ready for revival we must learn a few things, or, relearn them more likely. Tonight’s passage is sooo full of good stuff it could probably be turned into 3-4 sermons, but instead we will do a verse by verse study to see the scope of what Mark was doing and the brilliance of the Lord who orchestrated the whole thing. The key principles we will find do point us toward revival. The main idea is that Christ provides abundantly everything we need because he is the good shepherd and we must not trust in our small resources, rather, we must trust in Christ who will take our smallest offering and use it for his glory.

I. God Provides Food For His People.John 6

The problem: disciples were needing to get alone with Jesus, did not even have time to eat; now they have a crowd and no food! The day is drawing to a close and there is a huge need. A boy with 5 barley loaves and 2 fish is all the food they have. But through the power of God the food is multiplied and everyone eats their fill and there are 12 baskets left over.

Exodus 16- manna and quail.

Num. 11:21ff

1Kings 17:8ff Elijah; 2Kings 4:42ff Elisha

Isa. 55:1-2 contrast with Herod’s birthday feast.

Ex. 18:21,25 Organization

Jesus is shown here to be greater than Moses.

II.Rest in the Desert Place/Green Pastures

Psalm 95:7-11; Isa 63:14; Jer.31:2; Heb.3:7-4:13

Psalm 23; Isa 40:10-11; Jer 23:3,4; Ezek 34:11-31

Worthless shepherds- Jer 23:1,2; Ezek 34:1-10; Zech 11:15-17

III. Looking Forward to the Last Supper and the Wedding Banquet

6:41 matches 14:22

Rev.19:6-9 with Psa 23:5;

Conclusion: The task before this church is impossible in our power. We have so few resources! Yet, if we offer all we have to Christ, he may very well multiply our offering in such a superabundant manner that there is no doubt that it is God at work. Our task is to surrender all to Christ and be satisfied in Him alone.

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Just the barest of outlines here for a sermon on a Great Text.

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Mark 6:14-29 “Religious, But Not Saved”

Posted on March 13, 2009. Filed under: The Gospel of Mark |

Mark 6:14-29 “Religious, But Not Saved”

Sunday 26 March 2000 AM

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Purpose: Evangelistic/Pre-Revival

Thesis: Many are entertained by the Gospel but choose to be religious without repenting and trusting in Christ. Sadly, many in our churches are religious but not saved.

Outline:

Introduction

I. Herod’s Difficult Situation

II. Religious But Not Saved

III. The Results of Sin

IV. The Hope of the Gospel

Invitation

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Mark 6:14-29

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some  said, “John the Baptist  has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s  head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Introduction: We are getting ready for revival by going through the book of Mark, story by story. The idea of revival is not to focus on what God may or may not do with other folks, the idea is to prepare our own hearts for what God wants to do with us! The same is true of preaching or studying the Bible.  It is good to study and preach for what we need. I should not direct my sermons to folks who are not here or who may not be here; I should preach for the glory of God first, preach what I the preacher need, preach for what you the congregation need. As soon as we start thinking, “That sermon sure did apply to Mr. so and so” instead of thinking “I needed to hear that sermon” then we miss the blessings that God has for us.

            Entertainment, while not inherently evil, can certainly be misused and overemphasized. We live in a leisure oriented society that seeks thrills and fun in a desperate way. Our fallen human nature will twist pleasure into a false god very easily. It was the same in Herod’s day. Sadly, many lost people in our day, just like Herod, are somewhat entertained by spiritual things, by the gospel even, but never repent and commit to the Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly, I believe that many religious folks in churches are merely religious without being truly saved! Today’s sermon is designed to help You think through the condition of your soul to examine your heart and see if you are really trusting in Christ alone for your salvation or if you are merely religious.

 

I. Herod’s Difficult Situation.

            1.”King” Herod- Who is Herod? This is Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch,

son of Herod the Great who ruled Palestine when Jesus was born. Herod the Great died around 4BC and his kingdom was divided between 4 sons. The Herod of our text today, Herod Antipas, ruled Galilee and Perea (the land East of Jordan River) from 4 BC to AD 39.

            Mark refers to Herod as “King” probably as an insult because Herod Antipas was not technically a king, in fact, Herod was deposed by Caesar Augustus specifically refused to give Antipas that title which his father had enjoyed. In AD 37 Emperor Caligula gave Antipas’ nephew (Herod Agrippa of Acts 12) the title “King” and Herodias was so jealous she urged her husband Antipas to request the title for himself from Caligula. For this, he got in trouble and banished. Mark would have been familiar with this of course and so he uses the title King to contrast the pretender with the Real King, Jesus, and the announcing of the Kingdom of God. Dr. Garland writes, (p.243), “Mark may be scornfully mocking Herod’s royal pretensions by giving him the title he coveted and that led to his ruin.”

            Herod’s wife, Herodias, was also a descendent of Herod the Great, hence her name. (This family is very complex!). She is Antipas’ neice and sister-in-law, having been married to Antipas’ brother, Phillip. Kent Hughes writes, (p.140), “Herodias was the daughter of Herod’s half brother Aristobulus, and was thus Herod’s neice. Further, when he met her in Rome she was the wife of another of his half-brothers, herod Philip, and therefore his sister-in-law. This was totally unallowable under Jewish law (Lev.18:16; 20:21).”

            John the Baptist was the son of the Priest Zechariah and Elizabeth (a relative of Mary mother of Jesus). A Nazirite from birth, a prophet, whom Jesus said of, Matt. 11:11 “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women, there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist…” John would confront the Pharisees, Matt.3:7-10, “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Saducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘WE have Abraham as our father’…” John was in your face, confrontational preacher, who did not hesitate to point out sins personally.

            This is exactly what got him in trouble with Herod. Mark 6:17ff. Keep in mind that Antipas was the ruler, the “king”, the tetrarch, he was the chief executive, much as our President is, except with more power. John was pointing out the sins of the chief executive. This is perfectly fitting for the role of OT Prophet. See the relationship of Elijah and Ahab/Jezebel in 1Kings18:17; or Micaiah the prophet and his relationship with Ahab in 2Chron.18. The job of prophetically critiquing rulers according to scriptural truth is still important by the way. This is one of the jobs of the church, of individual Christians and faithful ministers- we must, like John the Baptist, confront our culture, our political leaders, with the Law and the Gospel. If you let political party affiliation blind you to the blatant sins of our politicians, then you need to re-evaluate your position. John did not hesitate to correct Herod Antipas for his incestuous marriage that was wrong on two counts. When it comes to preaching on sin and issues John did not hold back. It was not popular then, it is not popular today. It got John in trouble then and it gets me in trouble today! (I included this line because many in my church hated it when I brought up issues like abortion)

           

II. Religious But Not Saved

            Enough of the background stuff!! Here is the meat of the text and sermon. Herod Antipas had placed John the Baptist in prison because Herodias was incensed that John was pointing out their sin in his sermons in a public way (presumably). Herodias, like Jezebel of old (notice how much of the OT shows up in Mark’s gospel? I included this line because many in my church despised OT preaching and constantly complained anytime I preached from the OT) “wanted to kill John but she was not able to because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.”

            Herod was a typical hedonistic sinner who lived for the pleasures of sex, drunkeness, money and power. He divorced one wife in order to steal his brother’s wife. She was so evil that she even sent her own daughter out to dance as an exotic dancer for Herod’s wild party. The teenage step daughter danced a lascivious dance for her step father and his guests when that was normally the job of royal prostitutes. His marriage was incestuous, and this dance had incestuous overtures as well. Herod was deeply perverted, but that was normal for pagan culture.

            Yet Herod knew John the Baptist to be a righteous and holy man. As deeply into sin as he was, Herod was not oblivious to holiness. He saw holiness in John and appreciated it. He was drawn to it. This is a curious truth that I have seen in my experience as well. There are some lost sinners who have a degree of appreciation for that which is true, holy and righteous. Some sinners are like Herodias and Jezebel, totally mean,  wicked and vicious. Others, like Antipas and Ahab, like to hang out with the prophets. They see something in them they like. It is this tendency that I want to focus on, this sin of being religious without repenting.

            In our present day this sin is very prevalent in that most Americans believe in God and generally believe in Jesus and in the Bible. There is a renewed interest in things “spiritual” whether it is angels, reincarnation or prayer walks on ancient labyrinths. But surveys and studies have shown that behaviour amongst church members is no different from those who are not church members. In fact, Baptists have a higher divorce rate than those who are not in any church. It seems that, like Antipas, we like to have our sin and enjoy getting preached at as well!

            In reading a history book I have come across some startling things about the church in America. Let me quote from Henry Steele Commager’s book, The American Mind: An Interpretation of American Thought and Character Since the 1880’s. In his chapter on “Religious Thought and Practice” he writes, “Few things were more remarkable than the unanimity with which Americans professed a religious faith, for the most part Calvinistic, and the indifference which they displayed to its doctrines…in everything but law, America, at the opening of the twentieth century, was a Christian nation….Every people makes God in its own image, and the Americans were no exception….It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that during the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, religion prospered while theology went slowly bankrupt…Certainly by every test but that of influence the church had never been stronger than it was at the opening of the twentieth century…Everyone was a Christian, and almost everyone joined some church…. The typical Protestant of the twentieth century inherited his religion as he did his politics, though rather more casually, and was quite unable to explain the differences between denominations. He found himself a church member by accident and persisted in his affiliation by habit; he greeted each recurring Sunday service with a sense of surprise and was persuaded that he conferred a benefit upon his rector and his community by participating in church services. The church was something to be supported, like some aged relative whose claim was vague but inescapable….Never before had the church been materially more powerful or spiritually less effective….religion became increasingly a social activity rather than a spiritual experience…. ” Preach it brother Commager!

            The fact is that many people want a thin veneer of religion, want a taste of Christ without wanting to repent and follow Him. Human nature tends toward settling for superficiality instead of real commitment. Jesus faced this when in Mk.10 the rich young man approaches Jesus asking about eternal life. Jesus confronts him with his love of riches and the man leaves. Superficiality earns a rebuke from Christ. Look at Rev. 3:1-3, 14-20.

            Folks, if we are going to experience revival, if this church is to grow strong again, we must own up to being like Herod Antipas. We have some who may be religious but not serious, outwardly faithful, knowing some of the Bible and a lot of Baptist, but not committed to Christ, unrepentant of sin.

            What a horrible shame it would be to have attended this church for years, decades, and only to have served this church and never having served the Savior; to have done lots of good deeds to each other and to the neighbors, but never to have been truly born again.

            Do you like to be preached at, but have you never repented? That is what Herod did. Where does that lead?

 

III. The Results of Sin

            Let us look at the horrible descent of Herod down the drain of sin. We see his lust leading him to divorce and an incestuous marriage. We see an evil influence (his wife) that leads him to imprison God’s prophet; and then he listens to the Word of God repeatedly without heeding the Word, thus bringing condemnation upon his soul. (One of the biggest sins in the church is always this one of hearing the Word but not obeying the word). Herod hosts a normal party with lots of drinking and now an exotic dancer, his own step-daughter (incestuous again) and his pride exceeds his intelligence and he makes a rash vow which his scheming wife takes advantage of. This is where we get the crude saying “I want his head on a platter!” Now, facing humiliation before his guests, he sends the executioner after the court preacher. John dies a martyr’s death.

            Herod’s sins do not stop there. Look at Lk. 23 and you see Herod again, this time examining Jesus whom he had heard of for years. “When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer… Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him.”

            Herod wanted Jesus to perform like a court jester, actor or a trained dog. The entertainment factor again. Religious, but only interested in the sideshow stuff. Sadly many folks go to modern day “healing crusades” to see the show, to see God perform. There is an entire theology and church movement now that emphasizes making God perform on demand- just what Herod tried.

            How does it end? Herod mocks and ridicules the Creator himself; the Lord of lords is made fun of by a petty tyrant. Jesus is sent back to Pilate and crucified. One sin leads to another: from lust and drunkenness to treating the Word of God with contempt to murder of a prophet, now to the murder of the Son of God.

 

IV. The Hope of the Gospel

            Another biblical character, a king, was inflamed with lust that led to a murder. David. The difference is that David heeded the prophet Nathan when his sins were pointed out. David repented.

            The gospel is that God is holy and we are sinful to the core, unable to save ourselves. Jesus died as a perfect sacrifice in our place, bearing the full wrath of God against our sins, so that we could be forgiven. He paid the penalty for our sin so we could be declared righteous. The very righteousness of Christ is credited to our account and we are in fact adopted by God. The judge declares us righteous and then welcomes us into his family.

            We must no longer be content to be religiously entertained. We must repent of our sin and follow Jesus in faith. We must pick up our cross daily and follow Christ, walking in the Spirit, living by faith, pursuing holiness and sanctification.

            Being on the church rolls will not save you. Being faithful in attendance will not save you. Tithing will not save you. Studying your SS lesson will not save you.

            If you want to experience revival, if you want this church to experience revival, it begins with repentance and turning to Christ in faith.

           

           

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Mark 4:1-20 “The Fruitfulness of Good Soil”

Posted on December 29, 2008. Filed under: The Gospel of Mark |

Mark 4:1-20 “The Fruitfulness of Good Soil”

Sunday AM November 28, 1999

Introduction: Tonight we shall finish up this parable of the soils when we study the seed that is sown in the thorny soil. This morning we are looking at “The Fruitfulness of Good Soil” since this has a bit more of a theme that fits with Thanksgiving.

Soil, dirt, the earth, the ground- Gen.2:7 “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” 3:19 “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” We are frail creatures of dust, we run with feet of —-. (clay). Yet modern science says we are 98% water, with only 2 % dust! Water plus dust = mud!

Different soils are good for different purposes. The volcanic soil of central Washington state is deep and rich in nutrients producing glorious wheat fields, vineyards, fruit trees, vegetables, berries- some of the best farm land in America. Other soil is better for cotton, some soil is swampy and good for rice. Here in the D/FW area we have mesquite beginning and magnolias fading, cactus begins and heads west from here.

Who is responsible for the types of soil? Who determines the soil composition? Who prepares the soil, changes it, plows it up and adds fertilizer? Who weeds it and tends it? What types of fruit are borne by the soil? Who harvests it? In our study this morning we will see some answers to these questions. The main point is this: Our responsibility is to listen to the Word of God as it is preached, taught, or read, and examine our lives for our readiness to believe it and put into action, thus bearing true spiritual fruit that gives glory to God. If we examine our lives and realize we have little fruit, then we better be repenting and taking steps to increase the harvest! God expects fruitfulness from his people.

I. Who Makes the Soil Good?

In this parable the soil is basically a given, the hard ground was there at the beginning, the stony, shallow soil was already there, the thorns were there too, as was the good soil. But who is responsible for the types of soil? The main point of the parable is to make the listeners examine their hearts to see what kind of soil they are. Action is called for, discernment is required, a heart response is necessary.

So the question of where do the soils come from is in the background and is not answered here. But in the rest of scripture we find the answer. As I explain this, keep in mind that this is a mystery, we cannot fathom the intentions of God, and his ways are not our ways, his thoughts higher than our thoughts. Keep in mind that there are two sides to this coin and I will discuss our responsibilities next.

The soil types are basically God’s area of responsibility, he makes some soil hard packed, other ground is shallow and rocky, he allows thorns to grow in some soils, and he makes some soil very fertile while other soil provides a basic harvest. Here we must realize that God is sovereign, and he makes some people have hard hearts, others he makes shallow, still others he makes with a heart that gets easily choked by the things of this world. But God also makes many with a heart that responds and bears fruit for the kingdom. You and I cannot look at somebody and see what is in their heart, we cannot tell what kind of soil lies in their hearts. We can judge fruit, however, but the heart, that is God’s domain.

Many people today do not like the doctrine of God’s sovereignty; many believe that man’s will is supreme. Most do not like to discuss such things as the doctrine of election, predestination. But these doctrines are found not just here and there, but through and through the scriptures. These doctrines are ignored at our peril!

God is in control, God has a plan for each of us that will be accomplished, and god’s plans are good, wise, loving, and merciful. We must realize that the God who determines our soil is a God of love! Look at Isaiah 64:8-12. The Lord is our Father, he is the potter we are the clay. Isa29:16…. Paul quotes these vss in Romans 9. The idea is that God fashions us, designs us as He sees fit, and we cannot question his wisdom and sovereignty. But notice it is as a Father that he does this, there is love here.

Compare Rom 9:21-23 with 2Tim2:20-21.

We practically see this when in a family of 2 or more kids, raised in the same environment, sometimes the children have radically different responses to the gospel. We see this practically in our prayer life as well, when we pray for a lost loved one or friend, we ask God to send His Holy Spirit to convict them, change them, draw them to himself, to save them, to cause them to be born again. We pray this way because we know God wants to save, is glorified in saving lost souls, and that even some of the hardest hearts ever known are sometimes softened by a sovereign God. God is charge of the soils, and He can change the soil from steel reinforced concrete to deep rich fertile soil, whenever he desires. This is a mystery to me- but just look at Saul whom God turned into a Paul!

Here we just have to trust in God’s love, wisdom, and timing. Our job is to pray for the lost, share the gospel with them, and minister to them. We trust in God to change the soil. Hendriksen writes (1975, p.160) “Let everyone do his best to produce much fruit… always remembering however that even though the parable emphasizes that the result of the hearing of the gospel depends on the condition of the hearts of those to whom it is addressed, so that human responsibility is stressed, in the final analysis every good thought, disposition, deed, character has its source in God and His sovereign grace.”

II. Our Responsibility- Hear and Accept the Word.

While it is God’s responsibility to manage the soils, the responsibility of those who hear the gospel is always to respond and accept the gospel. In the situation that Jesus was immediately facing, he was challenging his hearers to listen and to seek understanding. Even the 12 disciples were challenged! But it was the disciples who came to Jesus with their questions.

For the lost man, he must become convinced of the urgency and import of the gospel, he must realize he is in danger of the judgment of God, in danger of hell’s flames. He must be convinced that Jesus is who he claims to be and that the scriptures are reliable. He must know that he cannot save himself, that he is a helpless sinner, at war with God and that Jesus has died to pay for the sinner’s sins. The lost man must listen to the gospel and believe in a resurrected Lord who demands that we repent of sin and trust in Him for salvation turning our whole life over to His authority and control. It is not a time to try to fix up your life, to get a little religion, to reform your morals a little bit, to cut back on sin. No, to hear the gospel and respond properly is a radical transformation called being born again. To bear true spiritual fruit we must begin at the foot of the cross of Christ, humbly confessing our utter sinfulness, casting our soul at the feet of Jesus for mercy.

Augustine wrote in the 5th century (ACCS, p.57) “Work diligently the soil while you may. Break up your fallow with the plough. Cast away the stones from your field and dig out the thorns. Be unwilling to have a hard heart, such as makes the Word of God of no effect. Be unwilling to have a thin layer of soil, in which the root of divine love can find no depth in which to enter. Be unwilling to choke the seed by the cares and lusts of this life, when it is being scattered for your good. When God is the sower and we are the ground, we are called to work to be good ground.”

Augustine is not here saying that you can work for your salvation! He preached salvation by grace alone, no! He is saying to take this parable seriously and examine the soil of your heart. Take action! Plow up your soil if you fear you are not yet saved, born again. Remove those stones, pull up those weeds! Seek the Lord; cry out to the saviour!

Does this parable speak to the already saved? To the Christian? Yes it does! Many a Christian is backslid, stuck in a rut, plateaued. Many believers are stuck in a comfort zone, retired on active duty. The Christian’s retirement is when we die and go to heaven. Many a Christian needs to heed this call to plow up our dormant soil. Many a believer has a lot of weeds choking the word of God. One of the biggest problems in the church across America today is that we are a shallow people.

Believer, do you long for the things of God? Do you want to be fruitful? Do you desire to get rid of the weeds of this world that make you unfruitful? Do you receive the Word with Joy? Do you listen to the Sunday School lessons and Sermons with an ear to hear? Or with a critical spirit? Have you heard it all before and listen tiredly, boredly, apathetically? The call from Jesus here is those who have ears to hear, listen up! Listen closely!

III. On Being Fruitful.

Jesus says that some soil will bear 30 some 60, and some 100 fold increase. Considering that a great harvest included a 10 fold increase, these are remarkable results indeed. Only with modern day agriculture, hybrid seed, fertilizer and pesticides do you get these kinds of harvests! Jesus was deliberately being extravagant here to show the amazing side of God’s grace. Look at Paul’s fruitfulness- from chief skeptic and persecutor deluxe to missionary, apologist and preacher, whose passion was winning souls for Christ. Throw the guy in jail and he looks at it as an opportunity to start a jail ministry. Put him on trial and he will witness boldly to kings and Caesar himself! Put him on a prison ship that is sinking in a storm and he leads the salvage operation in order to witness.

Yes there is a difference in degrees of fruitfulness. Some are called to faithfully teach the gospel in a preschool class or children’s class, others are called to witness in the work environment, others to the mission field, some become well known evangelists like Billy Graham.

What kind of fruit are we to bear? JC Ryle writes, (1857, p.49) “These are the people who really receive Christ’s truth into the bottom of their hearts, believe it implicitly and obey it thoroughly. In these the fruits of that truth will be seen- uniform, plain, and unmistakable results in heart and life. Sin will be truly hated, mourned over, resisted, and renounced. Christ will be truly loved, trusted in, followed, and obeyed. Holiness will show itself in all their conversation, in humility, spiritual-mindedness, patience, meekness, and love. There will be something that can be seen. The true work of the Holy Spirit cannot be hidden. There will always be some persons in this state of soul wherever the gospel is faithfully preached. Their numbers may very likely be few compared with the worldly people around them, … There will always be visible repentance, visible faith in Christ, and visible holiness of life. Without these things there is no saving religion. And now let us ask ourselves, What are we? Under which class of hearers ought we to be ranked? With what kind of hearts do we hear the Word? Never, never may we forget that there is only one infallible mark of being a right hearted hearer! That mark is to bear fruit. To be without fruit is to be on the way to hell!”

What kind of fruit is the Lord looking for in our lives? Gal.5:22-23 and Eph 2:10 show us some fruits we ought to have.Prov11:30 “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.”

How can we be fruitful? What can we do to increase our fruitfulness?

1) Pursue Christ- worship, prayer, the Word,

2) Study- are you studying the Christian faith? Good books, radio preachers

3) Fellowship- encouragement, training, accountability, challenges,

4) Minister- serve the body humbly, love one another, find a need in the world and serve.

5) Witness- it is unthinkable for a Christian not to witness within their context.)Lay aside the things that slow us down- quit sin! Live righteously.

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Mark 4:21-25 “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Posted on December 22, 2008. Filed under: The Gospel of Mark |

Mark 4:21-25 “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Sunday 5 December 1999 AM

Outline:

Intro.

I. The Word Is A Lamp

II. How To Listen To The Word

III. How We Hide Our Lamps

IV. Do You Hear To Share?

Conc.

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Introduction: We are studying together the Gospel of Mark seeking a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and what the good news is and how we should respond to Jesus and the Gospel. We have entered the portion of Mark’s gospel that has many parables in it. Last week we finished the parable of the sower and now we have this story of the lamp on a stand which seeks to explain further what we learned in the Sower parable.

One aspect of the Sower parable we did not address was vss11-12 (read). Today’s parable helps address that. If you receive the secrets of the Kingdom, what do you do with it? Do we keep the secrets to ourselves? Do we hide the lamp under our beds?

Have you ever been told a secret that was huge, important, juicy, and you had to keep it bottled up inside without telling anyone? Well here in God’s Kingdom we are supposed to tell our secrets! We are supposed to tell the mysteries of the faith, we are to proclaim the gospel.

In the ancient heresy of Gnosticism there were deep mysteries that were withheld from newcomers until they had been initiated into the faith and had grown in the cult. Today’s cult groups operate the same way, they present their faith as being very biblical, practical, and intelligible as they entice new members in; but then later, step by step, they slowly indoctrinate their prey in the esoteric doctrines that are highly illogical, unhistorical and nonsensical.

We are called by Jesus to let our light shine, not to hide it under a bushel or bed. Are we shining forth the gospel as we ought? Are we listening to what the Savior has for us in His Word? Are we considering it carefully?

I. The Word Is A Lamp.

In the previous parable the Word was the seed, the gospel seed. Now we see the Word as the lamp. The purpose of the lamp would be hindered if it was placed under a bowl or the bed, lamps are to be placed on the stand, as Matthew 5:15 says,” Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the room.” Psalm 119:105 “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Prov.6:23 “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light…” Let’s spend some time thinking about this idea of the gospel being a lamp.

First of all this assumes that there is darkness, there is a need for light. This theme of light and darkness begins in Genesis 1:4 “God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.” Darkness was chaotic, it was the absence of light; light was proclaimed good, not the darkness. Light is the first creative act of God and it goes against the darkness. Paul writes in Eph 5:8″ For you were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” Peter writes 1Pet.2:9 “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” John records John3:19 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” and 8:12 “I am the light of the world, Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The world is full of darkness, the fall in the garden resulted in separation from God, man’s heart was darkened by sin as the light was snuffed out. For countless millenniums man has wandered in darkness and sin. Sacrificing to man made idols representing demons, victimizing others, man has made the earth a living hell for most people most of the time. The darkness that fills the heart of lost man is impenetrable by education, religion, morals, good works of any kind; until the heart of man is enlightened by God, man remains in the dark.

The gospel is the light that penetrates the dark of man’s sin. The gospel acts as a brilliant spotlight, a laser beam of highly focused light, that illuminates our soul, revealing the sin that lurks malevolently there. The Law exposes where we have failed to meet God’s standards and condemns us, showing that on our own we are hopeless. Then the good news of the gospel shows us who Jesus is and what He has accomplished for us. Jesus kept the law perfectly and died as the perfect sacrifice for our sins so that we could be forgiven, made just in God’s eyes.

II. How To Listen To The Word.

This text is all about us and how we listen to the Word “if anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. Consider carefully what you hear,” This echoes what Jesus said in the parable of the sower “v9 He who has ears to hear let him hear.” He is calling us to pay special attention to what he is saying, to listen with our minds, with our spiritual ears wide open, with a teachable heart. This requires deep thought, humility, prayer. How are we to listen? How can we improve our listening? How can we improve our spiritual discernment?

JD Jones, writing in 1914 says, “Hearing is not the simple matter some people think. It is not merely a case of possessing the physical faculty of hearing. For the wayside hearer heard, and the rocky-ground hearer heard, and the thorn patch hearer heard. That is to say, they heard the words, but they profited nothing by them; for they did not hear with the soul, they did not understand, they did not accept the word. Hearing, I repeat, demands more than the mere physical faculty. It demands the earnest attention of the mind, the prepared heart, the receptive soul. You would think it strange if your minister should come upon the Lord’s day into the pulpit without having prepared himself to speak. It is, however, equally blameworthy to come and sit in the pews before him unless you have prepared yourselves to hear… The Word will only profit us as we receive it with meekness into honest and good hearts. Take heed what ye hear. Listen , said our Lord, with all earnestness. But be sure first of all that it is the kind of thing to which you ought to listen. There is to be election and selection in the case of the things to which we listen. I think our Lord had in view the fact that false teachers would come teaching pernicious and deadly heresies.” quote p.104.

How can we be better hearers of the word? 1) Come to worship prayerfully, expectantly, leaving behind busyness, worldly thoughts, bitterness, and criticisms. 2)Come to worship already informed. A week without Bible reading or study will weaken your desire for God’s Word. You pretty much are aware of my preaching plan, study ahead. 3)Study on your own, find some good books to read. (Phil’s story from work). 4)Obedience begets an increasing hunger for the things of God. Application builds up your faith. Teens, in history class and English class don’t you take notes? Have you considered taking notes from the sermons so that you can record your study of Mark’s gospel. In the new year I will be preaching at night on the Baptist Faith and Message kids, that would be a great time to take notes too.

Consider carefully what you hear says Jesus. There is a lot of heresy and bad doctrine out there, many of my friends at work listen to teachers and preachers that major on minors, teach way out of balance, and teach false doctrines. Many folks purchase a lot of Christian fiction in Dawn’s bookstore, many believers will read all kinds of literature but will not read something doctrinal and challenging in nature. In the fight for the souls of our generation we had better be well schooled, trained in the core of our faith.

III.How We Hide Our Lamps.

Jesus says for us to not hide it under a bowl. To hide the light under a bowl may be comfortable for us. Under the bowl the light shines all around us and fills us with its warmth. We are dazzled by the light and feel so fulfilled by its splendor. But as we reflect upon ourselves under the bowl and bask in our own glory, we lose perspective on our mission, and on God. An inward reflecting religion causes us to focus on ourselves instead of God, and minister solely to ourselves instead of the world.

Jones describes a few ways that we hide our lamps: “There is the bushel of modesty, false modesty. ‘O Lord, I am not eloquent’, said Moses; and we excuse ourselves today from bearing our testimony on the ground that we are not good enough or wise enough to speak, and so we turn the soul into a dark lantern. And then there is the bushel of selfishness. We do not trouble ourselves that other people are in the dark. And then there is the bushel of timidity and cowardice. Do we not sometimes hide our faith? In certain society do we not keep silence about our Christian allegiance? We are disciples, but secretly. We do not boldly announce it. We keep our lamp under a bushel.”

Think of Nicodemus who came to Jesus secretly at night, but at the crucifixion he and Joseph of Arimethea came to claim the body of our Lord and to give him a proper burial. A secret disciple today is one who goes to church on Sunday and may even read his/her Bible during the week, but at work they are silent. “Oh I witness by my lifestyle” Good! That is the starting point, but if you end there you are being disobedient. To share the good news, to give an encouraging word from the Bible should be as natural for us as eating.

IV. Do You Hear To Share?

Why aren’t you sharing the Word? Why are you hiding what God has done for you under a bowl?

JC Ryle writes in 1857 “All that believers have is undoubtedly of grace. Their repentance, faith, and holiness are all the gifts of God. But the degree to which a believer attains in grace is always set before us as closely connected with his own work in the use of means of grace, and his own faithfulness in living fully up to the light and knowledge which he possesses. Indolence and laziness are always discouraged in God’s Word. Labor and pains in hearing , reading and prayer are always represented as bringing their own reward. Attention to this great principle is the main secret to spiritual prosperity. Those who make rapid progress in spiritual attainments- who grow visibly in grace, knowledge, strength, and usefulness- will always be found to be hard workers. They leave no stone unturned to promote their soul’s well doing. They work hard at the Bible, in private devotions, in hearing sermons… And they reap according to what they sow.”

Let me try to delicately say something that is a terribly difficult truth. If we keep our light under a bushel, and fail to exercise our faith in appropriate ways, we lose our ability to exercise our faith. Just like a muscle that we do not use withers, so to, do our mental and spiritual abilities atrophy and wither if we do not use them. If we fail to study the Bible, to learn how to study the Bible in our younger days, if we fail to learn how to teach the Bible, how to witness, how to defend the faith, then after a while we look around and wonder why we don’t have a vibrant faith, why we don’t bear good spiritual fruit. We grow cold in the faith, and become mere creatures of religious habit. We wonder what God’s purpose for us is after years of neglecting god’s purpose for us.

And if we in a church have neglected to let our light shine for a long time, eventually we recognize that our light has grown small and dim, few in numbers. Entire denominations, even countries that used to be Christian have slowly grown dim through the years of spiritual neglect.

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Mark 4:1-20 “The Sower- Are You Sowing The Word?”

Posted on December 9, 2008. Filed under: The Gospel of Mark |

Mark 4:1-20 “The Sower- Are You Sowing The Word?” Sunday 14 November 1999 AM

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Outline:

Intro.

I. The Seed Is The Word

II. Sow Liberally

III. Are You Faithfully Sowing?

Concl.

Thesis: The Sower is to faithfully sow the word, even on soil that does not look to be fertile soil for the Lord is in charge of the harvest.

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Introduction: In our study of Mark’s Gospel we are going verse by verse, story by story seeking to understand who Jesus is and what is the Gospel as well as what should be our response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are entering a part of the Gospel that is a favorite to many people- the parables. This parable of the soils is one of my favorite parables; it is rich in meaning, multifaceted and challenging. We will therefore spend 4-5 sermons on this deep story, seeking to mine its riches and indeed, do what Christ challenges the original hearers to do, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

            How many of you have been farmers or ever tried to raise a vegetable garden of some kind? I tried gardening once, and failed miserably. I got cantaloupes the size of a good tomato, a handful of radishes, a few small turnips (if you can’t even raise a decent turnip…) very few squash, and that’s about it. I made all kinds of mistakes- the ground was good, but the garden got no morning sun, only the hot afternoon sun, and my hose wasn’t long enough to reach the garden so watering it was kind of a problem, I planted things too close together, and I did not tend it as faithfully as I should have. Though I learned from that first garden, I never gardened again because I realized I just did not have time and then we moved and never had room for another garden.

            When we lived in Washington we saw wheat fields that stretched for miles. In Okla. I have seen wheat and corn fields that have an orderly square appearance. To watch a modern farmer plow his field with a tractor is fascinating. But imagine a small farmer in biblical times, sowing his small, rock strewn field by hand, reaching into his seed bag carried over his shoulder, pulling out a handful of seed and casting his seed.

            Here in this parable Jesus is telling us many things but this morning we will concentrate on the sower and the act of sowing. Jesus tells us that the seed is the word in vs. 14. The sower then is one who casts the gospel message, the word of God, out among the world. This morning we shall see that the Word is to be sowed liberally and faithfully by the sowers. Are you sowing the word? Are you sowing the gospel?

 

I. The Seed Is The Word, The Whole Gospel.

            In vs14 Jesus says that the sower sows the word. The word is the word of God, the Greek word is logon, referring to the words of Christ which are considered as the very words of God, the broader word of God encompassing the whole Bible, the revelation of God in written form. The Law and the Gospel is another way of saying it. All scripture is God breathed Paul says in 2Tim3:16 “and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correction and training in righteousness”.

            From Genesis to Rev. we have God’s revelation of himself, His character, His law, our sinful fallen nature, God’s plan for redemption by grace through faith in Christ’s perfect life and atoning, sacrificial death, the power of the resurrection, how to live the Christian life in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, the church as the body of Christ, our hope for resurrection and the second coming of Christ. The complete Word of God, the seed we are to scatter abroad. The seed is the message about Christ, the story of redemption, the Good News.

            In our day there is actually a controversy about the word of God on several levels. There is a controversy about the authority of God’s word and the relevancy of God’s word. Southern Baptists are splitting over this issue. There is controversy over the nature and extent of the word, the Gospel that is to be sown. I want to address this aspect briefly, for I believe we all here are agreed upon the authority of God’s word. It is the definition of the gospel, the extent of the word that is to be proclaimed that is disagreed with here and in countless congregations across the land. What is the Word that is to be sown from the pulpit and from the individual disciple who ought to be witnessing? If we are to sow the Word we ought to know the word which we are to sow.

            First of all there are those who believe that the word which is to be sown should be limited essentially to the “simple Gospel”, that is the basic plan of salvation. We see this in the common belief that the Sunday morning sermon should always be, or at least most of the time be, a simple evangelistic message directed at the lost people who might be in church that day. This widespread practice in Baptist churches has been in place for 50-75 yrs. and is what most of us grew up with. The presupposition of this practice is that the Sunday service is primarily the main outreach event of the church’s weekly calendar; that the church is to bring the sinners in to hear the gospel instead of going out to cast the gospel where the sinners are. Even in most of our witness training courses the witnessing plans used are usually just a very simple plan of salvation that includes only 6-7 Bible verses.

            When you study the history of preaching what you find is that for hundreds of years prior to this century the sermons were far more in depth and preachers covered much more of the Bible. The broader scope of church history and Baptist history shows that today we have a minimalist approach to the gospel, a watered down gospel that lacks the teeth and the depth, the meat of the full gospel that had been preached for centuries.

            The effects of preaching a truncated, abbreviated and simplified gospel for three generations have proven devastating for the Church in general. You see the effects in church’s having hundreds, even thousands on the roll, but less than half showing up on any one Sunday. In most churches only 20% really participate in the ministry of the church through serving and giving. In essence the church of today has many members but few disciples and one major cause is having a weak understanding of the gospel.

            John MacArthur’s book Faith Works gives a very readable but quite thorough study of this subject theologically and historically. He writes:

            “What is the Gospel? Here we get practical… Twentieth century Christianity has tended to take a minimalist approach to the Gospel. Unfortunately, the legitimate desire to express the heart of the gospel clearly has given way to a less wholesome endeavor. It is a campaign to distill the essentials of the message to the barest possible terms. The glorious gospel of Christ- which Paul called the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, (Rom1:16) includes all the truth about Christ. But American evangelicalism tends to regard the gospel as a plan of salvation. We have reduced the message to a list of facts stated in the fewest possible words- and getting fewer all the time. You’ve probably seen these prepackaged plans of salvation: Six Steps to Peace with God; Five things God wants you to know; Four Spiritual Laws; Three Truths You Can’t live without; Two Issues you must settle; One Way To Heaven.

            “Christians today are often cautioned not to say too much to the lost. Certain spiritual issues are labeled taboo when speaking to the unconverted: God’s Law, Christ’s Lordship, turning from sin, surrender, obedience, judgment, and hell…. This, some believe, preserves the purity of the gospel. What it has actually done is emasculate the message of salvation. It has also populated the church with “converts” whose faith is counterfeit and whose hope hangs on a bogus promise. Numbly saying they “accept Christ as Savior” they brazenly reject His rightful claim as Lord.” (p.193-194)

            Dr. David Garland from Southern Seminary in Louisville writes on this passage, “How many would have the courage to deliver a deliberately obscure message, as Jesus did, and then wait in the church parlor for   worthy inquirers to come for an explanation? This text suggests however that we may fail to understand the truth of the gospel and rob it of some of its power if we think that everything must be kept simple and clear. It may lead us to reexamine what we are trying to do and how we are to go about making committed disciples. Jesus did not strive to make things easier for the crowds to comprehend or to make them feel more comfortable. His enigmatic teaching served to separate those who were curious from those who were serious, those who were seeking only a religious sideshow from those who were truly seeking after God. He was intent on eliciting genuine faith, and Mark’s Gospel insists that faith is born of the tension between the revealing and the veiling of the truth.” (p165)

            What I am not saying here is that we should never preach or witness using the “simple Gospel”. There is a need for traditional evangelistic messages that explain the simple gospel, the plan of salvation. What I am saying is that we must be more thorough in our presentation of the Word, in our sowing of the seed. We must very carefully present the whole counsel of God’s word from the pulpit and in our witnessing. There is a time for a brief gospel presentation when time is brief, but our witnessing these days must take a long term view that includes all the great doctrines of Scripture. In my witnessing encounters in recent years there is a huge difference in the questions I am being asked from the kinds of questions I was asked 30 yrs ago. Simple solutions are rarely accepted today.

           

II. Sow Liberally.

            In this parable some may find it strange that in a culture of scarcity we should see a farmer sowing seed in unprofitable areas such as a beaten down path, stony ground, and thorny ground. Should not the sower be more selective? Perhaps a real farmer would have been more careful and selective but perhaps Jesus wanted to show that in casting the Word we should sow liberally. The sower of the word is to sow everywhere he or she can cast.

            There have been times when I was led to witness to someone that I really did not want to witness to. I was stretched out of my comfort zone to witness to folks whom I thought were like the hardened path or stony ground. But we do not have the prerogative of choosing whom God wants us to cast the word to. We are to sow the word liberally, cast that gospel seed everywhere we can reach.

            In our small congregation you would think that we do not have a very diverse audience for our casting of the seed. But look around and think how many people you come into contact with on a weekly or monthly basis, how many folks this entire church comes into contact with on a daily basis. WE ought to be open to sowing the seed not just to everyone who comes through these doors as our visitors, but to all those we know out There!

            There are certainly many different ways of sowing the seed, inviting folks to church, to a men’s supper, to vbs, our annual cookout; but better is when we go out to them with the seed. The single biggest benefit to my being bi-vocational and working where I work is that I have a captive audience of over 400 souls whom I get to witness to and pray for. For too long most churches have relied on a “Y’all come” evangelism methodology that tries to bring the lost to the church so that they can hear the gospel from the pulpit. Hence the stress on simple gospel messages from the pulpit instead of meaty messages to grow and mature a congregation. “Y’all come” approaches certainly have some validity, but the New Testament method is primarily a “Let’s Go” approach.

            Some would say, well, I am not good at witnessing, that is not my calling. I would say that the Great Commission applies to all of us, not just to the pastor, not just to the youth minister, not just to the young. If you can talk about the price of eggs, the coming presidential election, the trade of Juan Gonzalez from the Rangers then you have the necessary social and verbal skills to witness. If you are not witnessing then you either lack biblical knowledge or witnessing skills (which if you have been a Christian longer than a few years shows the state of our churches training, preaching, etc.) or you lack desire which is sinful. Sow some seed! Sow it liberally! Cast the whole gospel as far and as wide as you can!

 

III. Are You Faithfully Sowing?

            Although I have already addressed some of this in my previous point there are some other issues to sowing faithfully that need addressing.

            First of all faithfulness in sowing means that we remain faithful to our Lord with an obedient lifestyle that gives glory to God alone. If we are not walking in the Spirit but are in the flesh, our sowing will be done in the flesh, for our glory and the wrong motives. We must sow in a godly, biblical manner, remaining faithful to the scriptures, to our Lord’s standards. This implies that good old American pragmatism may not always be the best approach. We can take on some of the world’s methods if we don’t watch it.

            Let me quote Dr Garland again, “This passage forces us to reflect on our goals and methods in proclaiming the kingdom of God. Are we trying to lead people to a deeper understanding of the truth of God and to deepen their commitment, or are we trying to pad our statistics? Many churches that have used mass marketing strategies and have tailored their worship services to attract customers are successful at least in beating Satan from devouring the seed before it even has a chance to germinate. People come to hear who otherwise would never darken the door of a church. But these churches may find that they, like churches following more traditional patterns, have assembled persons who run for the exits the first time there is the slightest cost   for their faith. Their growth in discipleship will be stunted by their desire for God to bless their craving for material securities and comforts more than their spiritual lives.”

            We must be faithful to the message, to the whole word, as we liberally cast the seed. The message of the whole gospel is offensive and we need to remember that. The scandal of the Word is that God is Holy and Sovereign while man is totally depraved and sinful, Jesus died a horrible bloody primitive death as a sacrifice to appease the wrath of an angry God; this God who is angry with us also loves us so much that he willingly gave his son for us as a sin offering. The scandal of the word is that we must repent and submit to Christ as Lord of our lives, that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone not because of our works. This gospel is offensive to modern man- but to this gospel we must remain faithful.

            Dr Garland continues, “Scandal is a necessary part of encountering the divine and having faith, even though it presents an obstacle that may block the way to truth and alienate one from God. It creates a crisis that reveals the hidden desires of the heart. Being offended reveals one’s sin and it can lead one further away from God or back toward the God who always resists human aspirations. If one yearns for God, one can work through the offense and come closer to God. If the heart’s desires reign supreme, one will be alienated. We might ask ourselves what we find offensive about these parables and Jesus’ explanations for them and then try to examine why we are offended. Does our offense stem from the discovery that God’s ways are not our ways?” (p167).

            To remain faithful to sowing the word also mean keeping on task even when we go through the valley of fruitlessness. The sower sowed on a lot of ground that was unfruitful. The majority of the parable is about unfruitful soils. This whole gospel, this casting of the whole word of God out as seed, is not going to be accepted by all. Many will be hard hearted, many will wither under persecution, and many will cave in to the world. Ours is a calling to faithfulness and not necessarily to fruitfulness. Though we will have some fruit, the fruit may not be as plenteous or as rich as we desire. Nonetheless, we must remain faithful to the task of casting the seed. There are people in this world that I have witnessed to and prayed for for 30 yrs. This church longs for fruit, we long for a time of harvest, and we want to see a hundredfold increase. But the harvest is up to God. Our task is to be faithful.

 

Conclusion: Are you carrying a bag of whole seed? The seed of the whole word of God? Are you liberally casting out the word, spreading the gospel as far as you can reach? Are you sowing faithfully? Are you faithful to the Lord of the harvest? Are you faithful to the message? Are you persevering in the sowing?

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Mark 3:31-35 “Are You In Jesus’ Family?”

Posted on December 4, 2008. Filed under: The Gospel of Mark |

Mark 3:31-35 “Are You In Jesus’ Family?”

Sunday 14 November 1999 PM

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Outline:

Intro.

I. Jesus’ Teaching on the Family

II. The  Family of God

III. Obedience

Concl.

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Introduction: Some of you may have noticed that I skipped over this passage this morning, I do try to preach these sermons in the order that they appear  in the text, but sometimes I will preach the stronger text in the morning. This text would fit in with a group of sayings of Jesus known as the Hard Sayings of Jesus because on the initial reading of it it sounds a little bit on the rude side doesn’t it. But Jesus is not being rude here. Jesus’ own family does not understand him yet, they do not know his mission or his message. Jesus takes this embarrassing occasion to make a valuable Kingdom Point.

            We love our families and we grieve over America‘s huge problem of failing families. The Scriptures do have a lot to say about family life, the church ought to be involved in training and ministering to families. So what is Jesus saying here? Is he talking about family life? Jesus is talking about the relationships of the Kingdom and how much more important it is to be in the family of God than to have a biological family.

 

I. Jesus’ Teaching On The Family

            Is Jesus anti-family? He was not married. (this gives purpose and meaning to the singles among us however)

            Matt 8:21-22.Matt.10:34-39.  Mark 5:18-19 “Go home to your family” Mk7:9-13 (5th Commandment)  Mk.9:37 (little children),Mk.10:1-12(divorce-Gen,1:27) Mk.10:14ff accepts children, John 19:26ff (one of his sayings on the cross)

            The very fact that God sent Jesus to be born into a real human family is proof of the value of the family. But for the broader context see Gen 2:18;

Eph.5:22-6:4; Col.3:18-21; 1Pet.3:1-7; Prov.18:22; Ex.20:12,14,17

 

II. The Family of God.

            At this point Jesus’ family thinks he is “out of his mind” they do not understand him or his mission. They are “outsiders” to Christ at this point (though his mother was there at the cross later) James would go on to be a leader in the church, and author of the book of James. Jude also was a brother of the Lord , probably.

            Mk.10:28-30;Gal.3:26-29; Rom8:14-16, 23; 16:13; John 13:34-35; Phil.2:19-22; Philemon 10;

            Our ultimate devotion is to be to God through Christ. In Christ we have a Heavenly Father, we are joint heirs with Christ now, and we have the very Spirit of Christ indwelling us. In the church we are to be as much a team as an Army unit in the battlefield is a team, a family. We are in enemy territory.

            This saying by Jesus would be a huge comfort to those in the early church who were disowned for following Christ (as well as those today to whom this happens).

 

III. Obedience Is the Distinguishing Characteristic of this Family

            Mk3:35 whoever does God’s will” John 14:21

            Discipleship is the sign of having a familial relationship with Christ. Those who just show up once in a while but do not obey may not be in the family.

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These are just the briefest of sermon notes, an expanded outline.

           

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Mark 3:20-30 “The Unforgivable Sin”

Posted on November 25, 2008. Filed under: The Gospel of Mark |

Mark 3:20-30 “The Unforgivable Sin”

Sunday 7 November 1999 PM

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Outline:

Intro

I. Lunatic

II. Demonic Liar

III. The Unforgivable Sin

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Introduction: Have you ever met somebody who worried about whether they had committed the unforgivable sin? Maybe even someone here tonight has wondered about this. As we shall see in this passage the main idea revolves around the question, “Who is Jesus?” We shall find that the unforgivable sin is clearly related to our answer to this question.

 

I. Lunatic?

            Was Jesus crazy? Was he insane? deluded? confused? Was he a religious kook? In vs 20 we see the ministry of Jesus in public again after the time alone with his disciples. We see Jesus in a house with a gathering crowd that is so pressing that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. We see this same phenomenon today with virtually any famous person out in public- the crowds gather for autographs and interviews. Imagine sitting down in a restaurant and looking over at the next table and seeing your favorite actor, sports star, or recording star. You see others around you stealing glances, whispering to each other with quizzical looks. Finally one brave, impetuous person stands and walks over to the table and asks for an autograph, if the autograph is graciously given what happens next? A flood…. and the person’s meal is not eaten. So it was with Jesus, the text seems to say that Jesus and his disciples were merely at the house to eat a meal and the crowd shows up. Imagine you were the host…. your place would be overrun with strangers, the sick, the curious.

            But the next element was certainly embarrassing for many. The family of Jesus shows up, indicating that this story is taking place either in Nazareth or somewhere close, perhaps back at Capernaum. Did Jesus’ family show up to assist in the ministry? To encourage and support Jesus? NO! They went to take charge of Jesus, the Greek means basically to arrest him, to take him by force, to compel him to return with them.

            Why would they do this? “For they said, ‘He is out of his mind’ ” Stories had come back to Jesus’ family that he was crazy, and they wanted to help him by forcing him to come back home. Imagine  their shame and embarrassment over Jesus. But now imagine how Jesus felt knowing that his own family considered him to be insane.

            Keep in mind that the family unit of those days was considerably tighter and more tradition bound than anything we see today. The freedom we have today to do our own thing was not available then. For Jesus to give up the carpenter business and be a preacher was bad enough, but now apparently the stories had floated back home that he was a radical, he was opposing the Pharisees and scribes, that he was saying some outlandish things, that he was casting out demons and demons talked to him.

            Imagine the condescending attitudes of his brothers; imagine the hurt his mother felt, she was just looking out for her son, her firstborn. This showed some genuine love for Jesus however, they were convinced that his extremism was endangering his health, they wanted to shelter Jesus. John 7:5 says that even his own brothers did not believe in him. They were not agreeing with Jesus about who he was and what his calling or task was.

            We see this similar attitude towards Jesus in our day when people say that he was a good man, even a miracle worker, but that he was not the divine Son of God, the risen Lord. People look at his death as an example of courage, dying heroically for right- anything but a substitutionary, penal, atoning sacrifice that appeases the holy wrath of God the Judge. A comfortable way, a safe way of looking at Jesus is that he was just a good guy that was a little bit misunderstood and even misguided as to who he was and why he came here.

            Look at Acts 26:24. 1Cor 4:10; 1:18.

 

II. Demonic Liar.

            What did the experts say about Jesus? What did the educated, trained, religious elites think about who Jesus was? vs22 “He is possessed by Beelzebub” Jesus is possessed by a powerful demon and that is the source of his power. By the prince of demons he is driving out demons. This makes Jesus the son of Satan himself in their thinking.

            Notice that they are not denying the mighty works that Jesus is doing, they never disagree that Jesus is a miracle worker or that the demons obey him. What they are saying is that his power comes from the devil. They are calling evil good, and good evil. Isaiah 5:20. This makes Jesus a sorcerer, a master of black magic. The scribes and Pharisees could not believe that anyone who disagreed with them so much could possibly be working on God’s side; hence they are ultimately very arrogant and proud though they could not do the miracles Jesus did.

            How did Jesus answer them? Vss23-27 Jesus is the one who has entered Satan’s house, the strong man’s house, to bind him. Only one stronger than Satan can overthrow him and can bind him and liberate his possessed souls. Isaiah 49:24-25.

            Here we see outright antagonism and hatred for Jesus by his opponents who not only disagree with him but demonize him. This tactic is common in argumentation when you run out of evidence and logic, simply resort to name calling. We see this all too often in our political processes today.

 

III. The Unforgivable Sin.

            Here Jesus calls it exactly as he sees it, to attribute his works to the devil is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. To call the work of God the work of the devil is blasphemy. Guilty of an eternal sin, never to be forgiven, extremely harsh words by Jesus.

            What is this sin? Quite simply it is the sin of denying the Spirit’s testimony about who Christ is and what he has done. It is nothing more than and nothing less than rejecting Christ persistently, continuously til the day you die. This sin is unforgivable in the sense that if you die in your sins there is no second chance. This is not talking about a one time mistake, an ignorant mistake. This is a steady, thoughtful, informed rejection out of hatred for Christ.

            Look at the life of Paul Phil 3:5-6. 1Tim1:13 Gal 1:13-14

            The unforgivable sin is not the normal laundry list of sins: adultery and lusts, even perversions I Cor 6:9ff

            If you are even worried that you have committed the unpardonable sin that is a sign that you have not! Take time now to repent of your sin and call out to Jesus for his grace and mercy. Today is the day of salvation, trust in Jesus.

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Mark 3:13-19 “Jesus’ Apostles-Twelve Men Who Changed the World”

Posted on November 20, 2008. Filed under: The Gospel of Mark |

Mark 3:13-19 “Jesus’ Apostles-Twelve Men Who Changed the World” Sunday 7 November 1999 AM

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Outline:

Introduction

I. The Twelve

II. Christ Chooses, Calls and Appoints

III. Discipleship Is Separation and Obedience

IV. The Task of the Disciples

Conclusion

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Introduction: In the last couple of hundred years who would you nominate as a person who changed the world? For good or bad, who are the world changers? Politicians, philosophers, theologians, generals, artists, educators, scientists, businessmen- people who have greatly changed our world….

            The Bible is full of important people whom God used to change the world. And that is, by the way, how God works; He uses people, ordinary people, to do His work, to change His world. Ordinary people like you and me, ordinary people the like twelve men from Galilee.

            We are returning to Mark’s Gospel this morning in our verse by verse study of this short, action packed Gospel written to the people in the Church at Rome and to the unbelievers. Many believe that Mark was the first of the Gospels written and that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a reference, quoting him extensively.

            So far in our study we have seen that Mark is showing us the conflict between Jesus and various forces including Satan and even the wild animals, the demonic forces, disease, and the leaders of the Jews. He is also showing us the radical nature of the Gospel, the call to repentance and faith, the demands of discipleship.

            This morning we will look at the twelve apostles. We will see that it is Christ who chooses, calls and appoints, and the obedient disciples are set apart to be with Jesus and have tasks to which they are called. Today we will look at Twelve Men Who Changed the World and we will ask ourselves if we have answered the call to discipleship, have we accepted the challenge to be “World Changers”?

 

I. The Twelve.

            Who were these men? What is their significance? Is there any symbolism here?

            There are three lists of the apostles in the Gospels (Matt 10:2-4; Luke 6:14-16) then in Acts 1:13 is the list minus Judas Iscariat. In each list Simon Peter leads the list and Judas Iscariat is at the end. MacArthur writes, “The twelve are always listed in a similar order. Peter is always named first. The list contains 3 groups of 4. The 3 subgroups are always listed in the same order, and the first name in each subgroup is always the same, though there is some variation in the order within the subgroups- but Judas Iscariot is always named last.” Simon is the recognized spokesman of the group who denied Christ, and Judas is the one who betrayed Christ. That the group is bracketed with men who failed ought to show us how frail and sinful we are indeed, but it should also give us hope that Christ calls even those whom He knows will fail. There are no superheroes here except Christ; the rest of us are but jars of clay.

            Warren Wiersbe notes (p.120) that the names are arranged in pairs when you examine all three lists: the brothers Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew (Nathaniel in John 1:45), Thomas who is called Didymous or the Twin (John 11:16) and Matthew (Levi), James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddeus (also known as Lebbaeus in Matthew and Judas the son of James in Luke and in John 14:22), Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot are the last pair. Jesus did send them out two by two in Luke 10 with the 72.

            J.D. Jones, writing in 1914, says, “I am greatly struck by the diversity and variety both of temperament and of gift that I find amongst them….Each of these temperaments had its representative amongst the twelve: the Sanguine in the impulsive Peter; the Choleric in the Sons of Thunder; the Phlegmatic in the slow and prosaic Philip; and the Melancholic in doubting Thomas. Here you have diversity of gifts- Peter the man of action; John the soaring mystic; Andrew the man of practical common sense; and Matthew the man of literary aptitudes. Here too, you find deep seated difference of political feeling. … There were two men in the Apostolate between whom in the old days there existed a political hate….These two men were Matthew and Simon the Zealot. Matthew had taken service with the hated Roman government; Simon had taken up arms against it. To Simon, Matthew was an apostate and a renegade and a traitor. And yet Matthew the publican and Simon the Zealot are in the Apostolate side by side.”

            We can learn from this list of Apostles that Jesus calls men from all kinds of backgrounds: working class, entrepreneurs, government bureaucrats, etc. The Savior loves all kinds of men. The Savior’s call is a unifying factor that outweighs our natural and unnatural differences. The Lord uses folks of very different talents, gifts, and abilities; in the King’s service there is a task and a calling for all of us; in our diversity there is a greater unity.

            Mark gives us this list of the twelve very soon after he mentions the beginning of the plot by the Pharisees to kill Jesus. This shows that after official Judaism had rejected their Messiah Jesus chooses twelve men who represent the twelve tribes of Israel showing the beginning of the New Israel. Rev. 21:14 “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

 

II. Christ Chooses, Calls and Appoints.

            Jesus called to Him those He wanted. Here we see that after a time of public ministry Jesus is calling a select group to himself, probably the 72, (Luke 6:13 “When morning came He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles”). We have already seen in Mark the call of Simon and Andrew, James, John and Matthew. But there was a larger group of dedicated followers and now Jesus chooses the twelve.

            We see that it is the Lord himself who does the choosing, he does not plead for volunteers, he does not take just anyone, he takes those whom he has been given from the Father according to John 6:37,44 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away….No  one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” John 17:6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.”

            One area that the church of today consistently gets wrong is the idea of volunteerism instead of the biblical idea of calling. We ask for volunteers, we plead for people to help in various capacities, we recruit people, we hire people to do jobs that could be done by members; but we have lost the doctrine of calling by God. The doctrine of the priesthood of believers has been a Baptist distinctive for centuries but we have very subtly forsaken this doctrine by adopting a worldly view that brings a lot of corporate America into the church. We are not a volunteer organization, the church is the community of the called, the chosen.          

            Are you serving because you volunteered, because there was a need in the church that nobody else would do? Or are you serving for the joy of pleasing the Lord who called you to the task you are serving at?

            Jesus appointed twelve- designating them apostles. There were the followers of Jesus, the disciples, the 72, but Jesus appointed the Twelve for a higher calling and task. In the Kingdom of God there are a variety of positions and callings, the twelve apostles and their office were unique in the church. Apostles were the designated witnesses of Christ, his resurrection, and were his messengers of the good news. They had a unique authority and their works included many miracles. Some charismatics today say that the office of apostle has been restored and that there are modern day apostles with even greater powers and authority than the original twelve. One of these so-called apostles, Rick Joyner, has written a book in which he claims to have a conversation with Paul who told him that He (Rick Joyner) has a higher calling than even Paul, and a deeper understanding of the things of God. How proud and presumptuous we are today!

            There is no room in the body of Christ for pride or envy. I cannot be envious of those ministers who have a higher calling than I. The responsibilities I have I should not be proud of and exalt myself against others who have lesser responsibilities. Callings and responsibilities do not equate into one member of the body being more valuable or important to God than any one else. In Christ we are all equal before him in his holiness. We are all sinners saved by grace.

 

III. Discipleship Is Separation and Obedience.

            The disciples were called up to a mountain. There is a very real sense of being called out of the world to Christ. Remember when Jesus called Peter and Andrew, James and John, how they left their boats and nets immediately when Jesus called. The one who would answer the call of Christ must be willing to leave behind his own ambitions, worldly things, and sins, and be separated unto Christ.

            The word for holy means separate from, distinct, set aside for a higher purpose. We are called to be disciples and to separate ourselves from the love of this world.

            There are two dangers in regards to separation for disciples today. One is that we separate from the world so much that we become too heavenly minded for any earthly good. Here we neglect our mission to carry the gospel to the world. Here we have retreated from the world so much that we have no common ground with the lost people around us and our message is so foreign that we cannot effectively communicate. The other danger of separation is that we are not separated from the world much at all; we are not just in the world- the world is in us. This is the more common problem today. Instead of being on the mountain with Jesus (note the similarity with God calling Moses up the mountain) we are down in the camp falling into the sins of the world.

            The disciples answered the call of Jesus to go up the mountain to be with him. Obedience is the key to discipleship for it is in obedience that we show our love for our saviour; faith without obedience is a spurious faith. John 14:21 says, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.”

 

IV. The Tasks of Disciples

            The first task mentioned is “that they might be with Him”. The apostles, the Twelve, were to be with Jesus. They would be taught by him; to them he revealed the mysteries of the parables. The countless hours of conversation, of questions and answers would be invaluable. Through the centuries there have been many who sought to be with Jesus in a deeper way. The monasteries and convents, the hermits and pilgrims, the mystics and the scholars all sought Jesus intensely.

            When I read of the saints of old and even of the ordinary believers during times of general revival, I see people who spend enormous time on a daily basis with Jesus. Time in the Word, prayer, meditation, who memorized vast amounts of scripture and read many godly books, who journaled- writing down their spiritual progress. This was before electric washing machines, dishwashers, and microwaves. All our modern day labor saving devices have not freed us up to seek Jesus more, we are more enslaved by the hectic pace of the modern world. One of the great failures of the modern church is that we do not spend great amounts of time with our Lord. For most people, attending church once a week is all they feel they need.

            Do you have a deep longing in your soul for more time to be with Jesus? Are you frustrated with your sinful inability to maximize your time with the Lord? Do you hunger for more of God? I have a growing longing for heaven so that I can spend my time pursuing and knowing God.

            But the next thing Jesus called the 12 for was that he might send them out to preach. Like Peter on the mount of transfiguration who wanted to stay and build booths, many people in the church simply want to be inward focused; they want to stay in the comfort of the four walls of the church. There is the tendency in some to be so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good, as I said earlier. We can be so enthralled with worship and discipleship that we lose our evangelistic imperative.

            We cannot withdraw from the world, though we are not of the world, and the world should not be in us, yet we should be in the world carrying the message of the gospel everywhere we go. If Jesus called us the salt of the earth, we need to get out of the saltshaker and into the stew of this world. We fool ourselves into thinking that if we invite the world to come to church we have done our duty. We must take the church to the world; bring biblical principles, a biblical worldview into our world.

            The next thing Jesus told his 12 was “and to have authority to drive out demons.” Now the apostles had supernatural gifts and power from the Holy Spirit that we do not have in the same degree or kind today. So what can we gain from this for our lives today?

            Eph 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” We today are still engaged in spiritual warfare in the form of assaulting the ungodliness of our age wherever we find it. In the business world we can operate with integrity as we seek to conduct our business for the glory of God. We can fight against greed, deception, and lies. In education we can serve as teachers and bring our biblical worldview against the secular humanist view. As Christian citizens we ought to vote with a biblical perspective.

 

Conclusion: Have you responded to the call of Christ upon your life? Have you answered Jesus and obeyed by ascending the mount to be with Christ? Are you actively spending time with Him each day, are you growing in Christ? Are you engaged in witnessing, proclaiming the gospel? Are you bringing your biblical faith into every area of your life?

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Mark 3:7-12 “The Crowds Flock To Jesus”

Posted on November 12, 2008. Filed under: The Gospel of Mark |

These are the notes to a Sunday night sermon, only notes. Consequently there are a lot of thoughts in incomplete sentences here.

Mark 3:7-12 “The Crowds Flock To Jesus”

10 October 1999 PM

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Outline:

Introduction

I.A Time to Withdraw

II. The Relentless Crowds

III. The Ever-present Demons

Conclusion

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Introduction: Today we have no problem in Baptist circles thinking of Jesus as the divine Son of God, but sometimes I think I have trouble realizing He was a real man who felt pressure, who got tired (not just physically, but mentally and emotionally), who needed a break. The tendency is to think of Jesus as a superman who was invincible, indefatigable, and tireless, who had a positive cheerful, charismatic, bubbly personality that never turned off, that he never needed a break. Jesus was 100% man and that means not only physically, but emotionally as well. We saw that he experienced anger this morning; this evening we will see that he faced a lot of pressure.

How do we measure the effectiveness of ministry to crowds? Crowds are difficult to gauge and evaluate. We know Jesus drew in the crowds, but what were the crowds there for? What about the demons who kept showing up? Why were they there?

I.A Time to Withdraw

Frequently in the Gospels we see Jesus and his disciples withdrawing from the crowds. In ch.1 after Jesus healed many in Capernaum we see him very early the next morning away from everyone else praying.(see 1:36f). After the controversial healing and forgiving of the paralyzed man in Capernaum Jesus went to the Lake (2:13). Now, after the dramatic healing of the man with the withered hand (right hand says Dr. Luke, 6:6) and the ensuing argument with the Pharisees and the resulting conspiracy to do away with Jesus, we find Jesus withdrawing to the Lake with his disciples.

This story occurs prior to the selection of the 12, so which disciples did he have with him? We have seen the call of Simon and Andrew, James and John, Levi-Matthew, and in John’s Gospel we see Phillip and Nathaniel (though not one of the 12). There may have been others; the list of disciples is bigger than the list of the twelve, so we do not know for sure who was with him at this time.

He went to the Lake; it says Jesus withdrew to the lake. That word withdrew can indicate “to flee” but that is probably too strong of a word, even though the Pharisees and Herodians are now plotting against him. The word would be much like our word for retreat. In one sense it means a hasty military withdrawal under pressure, but in our church usage it is simply getting away from the world for a while for a spiritual purpose. What we sense here is that Jesus needed to get away from the town for a while, and the pressure the Pharisees were placing on him may have been a part of it. Jesus understood where the Pharisees were headed and Jesus knew it was not His time yet, so this is a tactical retreat as well as a much needed break.

Spiritually, we need to take a break once in a while. We are created with a need for rest and recreation in balance with work and ministry. There is a time for fasting and a time for feasting. I think in our day we have an odd mixture of workaholism and leisure worship. We are weak creatures, prone to imbalance.

One of the things I have seen in the ministry is that ministers come in a wide variety of styles, some are workaholics, some are lazy, some are multi-talented do it alls. But what really surprised me is that many people have an attitude toward ministry that is expressed this way, “Other than your twenty minute talk on Sunday morning, what do you do?” I was really asked that about a month ago at work. A lot of people do not see that ministers work. Even inside the church many have the idea that ministers do not really work, are not worth their pay, certainly do not need a vacation.

My atheist friend at work asked me about the ministry recently and when I explained to her that each sermon was like a research paper in college she began to understand. Or you could compare it to a school teacher preparing for teaching his or her classes, or a businessman preparing a presentation. Add in the administration, visitation, crisis intervention, planning, and special events and you get pulled in various directions. When you are committed to people’s spiritual welfare, and you see them harden their hearts, jump into sin, or just ignore the Word you preach, the emotional and spiritual cost is high. One day of ministry I remember well, I went to work at my job, that afternoon I did a funeral, came home in time for VBS, and while at VBS I counseled a friend whose marriage was a total disaster and a divorce was looming on the horizon, and somewhere in there I was also studying for a sermon for Sunday. My atheist friend came away from our talk understanding a bit more about the ministry.

Jesus was pressured from many quarters, most of which we do not have recorded. I am sure there were funerals, weddings, countless appointments to counsel, offers to teach and preach. Jesus needed to withdraw for a respite.

II. The Relentless Crowds.

But the lake trip turned into a crowd scene as a large crowd from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, across the Jordan, and even from the region of Tyre and Sidon gathered.

But what were their motives? Miracles, healings, the curious. The crowds always seem fickle in the gospels, mixed motives. Eventually Jesus offends the crowds and the crowd at the trial turned against Jesus at the instigation of the Pharisees and Sanhedrin. If Jesus had come in our day there would have been the souvenir shops, the video tape ministry, audio tapes, T-shirts, press people, etc. Think of how famous people get swamped for autographs in our day. Cannot even go out to shop or eat in public for the crowds.

Healings– all the sick, birth defects, injured flocked to Him. They were pushing forward to touch him– crowd was out of control. He needed the boat ready for the crush of the crowd. Imagine their desperation

Jesus was doubtlessly being used and taken advantage of. The commentators and scholars are pretty much agreed that the crowds were not there to be taught or changed; they were there for what they could gain in healings and excitement.

The temptation of popularity and success. Size and popularity are not necessarily a sign of truth seeking. Many speakers today draw the huge crowds, but they teach cotton candy or even heresy. The fastest growing religions in America today are cults and Islam. Much that passes as worship today is mere entertainment.

The pressure to feed the felt needs of the crowds, to tell them what they want to hear, to win them over with emotional plays.

III. The Demons.

Why did they show up?

Why did Jesus not want their praise? 1) He is holy and did not want the unholy testimonies 2) Son of God, Messianic secret 3) The Pharisees and the conspiracy wanted to link him with demons.

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Mark 3:1-6 “How The Plot To Kill Jesus Began”

Posted on November 7, 2008. Filed under: The Gospel of Mark |

Mark 3:1-6 “How The Plot To Kill Jesus Began”

10 October 1999 AM

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Outline:

Introduction

I.The Setup

II.The Challenge

III.The Anger

IV. The Hard Hearts

Conclusion: The plot begins.

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Introduction: In our study of Mark’s gospel we have been tracking the controversy and conflict that surrounds Jesus and his revolutionary message, the Gospel. Why should the Gospel, the Good News, be controversial? Part of our study of Mark’s Gospel is precisely to try to define, understand and apply the Good News. In this morning’s sermon we see all kinds of powerful and exciting stuff: here we see Jesus disrupting another worship service, we see a miraculous healing, we see Jesus get angry, and we see How The Plot To Kill Jesus Began. Why did Jesus get angry? Why did the Pharisees get angry? Why was healing on the Sabbath controversial? What does this story mean for us today? The main point I want us to come away from this sermon with is that we Christians of today need not point our fingers at those mean old Pharisees too harshly, for if we look at ourselves in the lens of Scripture closely we may see that, at least on some occasions, we may suffer from the same kind of hard, stubborn, and shriveled hearts that the Pharisees had. This morning, we each need to ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and reveal to us our spiritual condition, as we examine the case of the shriveled hand and the shriveled hearts.

I. The Setup.

What was the situation this Sabbath morning that led to such a conspiracy? What was the problem? First of all, look at the man with the shriveled hand. Luke tells us an extra detail that you would expect of a doctor; he says it was the man’s right hand. The apocryphal Gospel according to the Hebrews states that the man was a stonemason (Hendriksen, p. 114), and that he asked Jesus to heal him so that he would not have to be a beggar the rest of his life.

We do not know if that is true of course, the apocryphal gospels have many interesting and wild stories that just do not have the sound of truth, but doubtless there were many oral stories passed down for generations by the thousands of people Jesus healed in his three years of ministry. Put yourself in this man’s sandals for a minute.

“My father was a stonemason, and his father before him. I grew up learning the trade, and I must say that I was the best stonemason in Capernaum! Business was good, I was earning a decent living for my family, I was respected, and I had every reason to expect that one day I would be like my dad and sit at the gate as a respected elder of our town.”

“But then, one day at work, a scaffold gave way and I fell with a load of stones. My forearm and hand were crushed and broken. I suffered greatly for a year, praying and hoping my arm would heal. Financially, I was ruined. But my arm never healed, my hand no longer functioned at all, it slowly shriveled up as a useless, painful sign that I must have a horrible secret sin. (At least that is what all my friends were saying).

“That accident was several years ago, the pain in my arm eventually diminished, but the pain in my soul grew. Do you know what it is like to not be able to provide a living for your family? To actually have to beg for a handout at times when my odd jobs that I can do left handed dry up.

“My hopes for being an elder in the town and a respected teacher in the synagogue evaporated. Those positions are only for ‘whole men’ whom God has obviously blessed, not for obvious sinners like me. I was in a deep dark hole of depression, feeling useless and hopeless.

“I had heard of Jesus and his healing powers. I met some folks who had really been healed by him; I knew they had really been ill, crippled like me, and some who were even born blind and deaf. But I was never in the right place; I always seemed to miss Jesus. I began to think that everybody in Capernaum was meant to be healed except for me. We had the healthiest town around I guess, because of Jesus. But I was left out.

“Then one Sabbath day I went to synagogue and some visiting rabbis, Pharisees from out of town were there. Before the service a couple of them asked me about my arm, how long I had been injured, how I was doing now. They made me uncomfortable, the way they were talking amongst themselves I felt like something was up, something was wrong. They asked me to sit up front instead of my regular place in the back with the other poor folks and cripples. I was very uneasy about this, but I did it.

“Then right before the start of the service I heard a commotion outside approach the synagogue. In walks Jesus, nobody had to tell me who it was; I just knew it was him. Jesus came to the front and read the scripture. In the discussion that followed, one of the Pharisees asked if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath, he was looking right at me. I just wanted to disappear.

“Jesus now looked at me, such eyes I have never seen before in my life! It was scary yet peaceful all at once; it was like he could see right through me, I felt totally exposed to him, like he knew all about me, yet I had never seen him before. My bitterness and doubts about God were laid bare to him. But I also felt love, acceptance, and compassion. He looked totally confident and sure of himself, there was no fear even though I could tell there was a lot of tension in the room with these visiting rabbis, these Pharisees.

“Then Jesus spoke to me, he said ‘Get up and stand in front of everybody’. Before the gaze of the Pharisees I felt small and wanted to disappear, but when Jesus spoke to me, I felt at peace and I wanted to do whatever he asked. So I stood and Jesus next addressed the Pharisees “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” They remained silent. They refused to answer him, though it was a very reasonable question I thought. Jesus stared at them for a long time. It was sooo quiet, it felt like eternity. His eyes that looked so kind toward me were ablaze with anger as he stared at these Pharisees. That passed, then he turned toward me with a deeply distressed look on his face, there were tears in his eyes, then He said, ‘If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?” What was amazing about that statement was that he said it while looking right at Zecharias ben Ezekiel, who had that very experience one Sabbath about a year ago.

“How much more valuable is a man than a sheep. Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath!” he shouted, turning and pointing his finger right at those Pharisees.

“He turned back at me and told me to stretch out my hand. As I began to obey him my arm began to tingle and burn in a wonderfully pleasant way. As I stretched out my arm my hand and arm were instantly healed! My fingers and hand straightened out and felt strong again. My upper arm that had atrophied through the years of disuse grew muscular again. I was whole again! At the same time as my arm grew whole again, my anger and bitterness towards God melted away. The dark pit I had been cherishing in my soul became instead a joy.

“I must tell you that when I returned to work the next day, I did not even have to relearn my skill or break in my muscles, it was as if I had never been injured, my skills and strength were renewed. I can’t tell you the joy I experienced as I returned to the work I loved; what a joy to be strong again and provide for my family once more.

“But the rest of the story was so strange. Those visiting rabbis were all upset that Jesus had healed me on the Sabbath. There was much discussion and debate in our community over this. Many people chose up sides, I lost some friends, or well, I should say that some of the same people who believed my secret sins had brought about my accident now blamed me for allowing Jesus to heal me on the Sabbath. Imagine that!

What was going on in these people’s lives that a miraculous healing would cause people to get all upset, and even to plot the death of Jesus? Keep in my mind that the Israelites had been severely judged about 600 yrs earlier for ignoring the Law of God, for false worship and ignoring the Sabbath. Through the struggles of war, deportation, captivity and deprivation, the Jews became a very strict and law abiding people. The Sabbath was one of 3-4 distinctives that clearly separated the Jews from the pagans. Sabbath observance was high on their priority list, they became fanatical about it, and they had eventually crossed the line into a distorted legalism about the Sabbath that was not healthy. To the Pharisees, religion had become a system of do’s and don’ts, a series of rules and laws that emphasized the exterior appearance of things; it was formalized, ritualized and fossilized; there was no life in it, no joy, no GRACE.

II. The Challenge.

Jesus here deliberately answers the Pharisees challenge with one of his own. If they were asking him if healing was permitted on Sabbath (considering healing to be work that was unnecessary unless it was to save a life that was immediately threatened, which in this case it was not) he was asking a question that gets behind their question. He was challenging their assumptions, making them think. Jesus uses their own laws against them saying that if they can rescue a sheep, he can rescue a man.

Does evil ever take a day off? No, evil will choose any day, any time; evil does not regard the Sabbath. Should good take a back seat to evil? Should good take a day off? If good is in our power to perform and we do it not, isn’t that evil in itself? James 4:17 “Anyone then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins”

Jesus sees the man with the withered hand and has the power to heal him. To act is to do well, to not act is to allow suffering to continue, and is therefore evil. To remain inactive is to make a choice for allowing suffering to continue. The question would never have arisen apart from the power of Jesus to miraculously heal which was certainly a clear sign of the power of God, the Kingdom of God breaking into our world of sin, pain and death.

Jesus’ presence is a challenge to their legalistic way of life. He challenges their faulty viewpoints, their limited vision, and their lack of faith. He makes them think.

Today many Christians are trapped in a habitual mindset of tradition and legalism that causes us to lose sight of the fact that God’s power and grace are in our midst. We lose sight of the needs of people and focus on preserving our ways, our traditions, and our comfort.

III. The Anger.

In this passage we have a clear example of Jesus getting angry at the Pharisees for their hard hearts, their lack of compassion, their blind legalism.

Augustine writes in the 5th century “If angry emotions spring from a love of what is good and from holy charity are to be labeled vices, then all I can say is that some vices should be called virtues. When such affections as anger are directed to their proper objects, they are following good reasoning, and no one should dare to describe them as maladies or vicious passions. This explains why the Lord himself, who humbled himself to the form of a servant, was guilty of no sin whatever as he displays these emotions openly when appropriate. Surely the one who assumed a true human body and soul would not counterfeit his human affections…”

Jesus was 100% man and 100% Son of God, wholly human and wholly divine. This passage shows that there is a righteous anger that is not sin. Jesus was angry with calloused hearts willing to ignore a man’s need, but perfectly willing to plot a murder. They were calling good evil and evil good.

Let me ask, where is our righteous anger today? We live in an age where we are no longer concerned enough about evil to do anything about it. We have lost the courage of standing against evil; we have lost the ability to discern evil. Perhaps we are more like the Pharisees than we care to believe. We live in a age when people who claim to be Christians can commit the grossest of sins in public and get away with it because the economy is good. The church is ignored today because we do not have the holiness, and the compassion to back up what we say. Where is the righteous anger that should be rising up against the sins of our day? Jesus was angry over a blind legalism that lacked discernment and compassion. We get angry in our churches today if we sing the wrong songs or someone dresses the wrong way.

IV. The Hard Hearts.

What is it to have a hard heart? When a person is religious but not understanding of God’s grace and instead leans on works and tradition and refuses to be corrected, that is hard hearted. When a person values their traditions and comfort more than the needs of another person right before their nose, that is a hard heart. Hard hearts come about from bitterness and a lack of forgiving others. Pride hardens our hearts and makes us unteachable impenetrable to the love of Jesus. Athanasius writes in the 4th century “”While the withered hand was restored, the withered minds of the onlookers were not. “

Conclusion: From this synagogue meeting the Pharisees and Herodians began to plot and discuss how to kill Jesus. Pretty amazing isn’t it? But where do we kill God’s grace? Where is it that we are hard hearted? Is this sermon just for someone else? Is it for only the lost sinners who are out there, or for the one who might show up on a Sunday morning?

Are we going to be like the man with the shriveled hand and obey Jesus by stretching out our weakness for him to heal? Or will we stubbornly be like the hard hearted Pharisees and maintain that we are right and we aren’t going to change any time soon.

To resist the Holy Spirit’s correction and promptings is to be hard hearted, to not obey Jesus out of faith and love is to be hard hearted. To fail to love each other is to be hard hearted. To argue over little things and remain unmoved before great evil is to be hard hearted.

Today we have an opportunity to repent, to stretch out our crippled arm of faith and be healed by the great physician. Will we?

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    This blog exists to study the bi-vocational ministry, explore the Bible & Theology, and look at current events, history and other world religions through scripture, and have fun doing it!

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