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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Matt Messages - Christ-Followers

“Christ-Followers”
February 26, 2006
Mark 9:14-10:31
Last week was a turning point in Mark’s introduction to Jesus Christ.

For the first time in the entire book, a human being “gets it” and actually says that Jesus is the Messiah–the Christ. Peter’s eyes were opened just a little bit and saw that Jesus was the Christ promised to Israel.

And then, Jesus taught them plainly what kind of a Christ He was going to be. He was going to be Cross-Centered Christ. A suffering Christ. A sacrificial Christ. Jesus must head to Jerusalem where He would suffer, be rejected, be killed and then after three days rise again. A Cross-Centered Christ.

And then, Jesus called us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him.

It was a call to discipleship–followership. To become “Christ-Followers.”

My friend, Byron Harvey, who pastors our church in Mercer Pennsylvania told me this week that he has stopped using the word “Christian” because it doesn’t mean very much these days–it could mean anything. Instead, he has begun to use the term “Christ-follower” for someone who is a believing disciple of Jesus Christ.

Christ-Follower.

In today’s passage, Mark 9:14 through 10:31, Jesus takes us deeper into the demands of discipleship, the call of Christ-following. This passage explains further what it means to follow Jesus in discipleship.

I want to read it and then I’ll try to point out six marks of discipleship that I see in this story. Six marks of a Christ-Follower.

Mark #1. CHRIST FOLLOWERS BELIEVE IN JESUS’ POWER AND MISSION.

Mark chapter 9, verse 14 follows right on the heals of the Transfiguration. Jesus is coming down the mountain from having been changed before Peter, James, and John’s eyes. V.14

“When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. ‘What are you arguing with them about?’ he asked.” Stop there.

Uh oh. Jesus’ other nine disciples have gotten themselves into a pickle. There’s a large crowd and some angry scribes. Jesus shows up and the people are awestruck–maybe He still has a bit of glory hanging about Him from the transfiguration–or maybe everybody is just glad to see Him because of the trouble they are in.

Jesus wants to know what the argument is about, but we never exactly find out because another person steps forward. V.17

“A man in the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.’”

Ah. There is a gruesome problem here. And Jesus’ disciples have been powerless to bring relief. And Jesus recognizes the problem here–unbelief. V.19

“‘O unbelieving generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.’ [Jesus sounds like an Old Testament prophet, doesn’t He? He’s pained by the unbelief all around him.] So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.”

Can you imagine the sight? How terrible. How scarey. How desperate the father must feel. V.21

“Jesus asked the boy's father, ‘How long has he been like this?’ ‘From childhood,’ he answered. ‘It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’”

Does this man have faith? He’s desperate. He wants like anything for his boy to be healed. But does he know who Jesus is? He says, “If you can do anything take pity on us and help us.”

Jesus challenges him. V.23

“‘'If you can'?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’ Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’”

Ahhh! What a great answer! What an honest answer! That’s just what Jesus is looking for. Not a great deal of faith just a small bit of genuine faith can move mountains and please the Savior and be richly rewarded. V.25

“When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. ‘You deaf and mute spirit,’ he said, ‘I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.’ The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, ‘He's dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.”

He did it!

He kicked out that demon. He did it! In response to the struggling faith of that father. He did it.

A Christ-Follower Believes in Jesus’ Ability.

Did you notice that the real question wasn’t “Could Jesus do it?” The real question was, “Did the boy’s father believe Jesus could do it?”

And he did. He struggled to believe, but he believed.

A Christ-Follower Believes in Jesus’ ability.

And “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Everything that Jesus wants to do in your life can be activated by mustard-seed sized faith.

So often, we doubt whether or not God can do something. We don’t doubt it intellectually, but we doubt it in our hearts. We don’t act as if we believe that Jesus can do it. We act as functional unbelievers.

But Christ-Followers Believe that Jesus Can Do It.

And they see the impossible happen.

Are you struggling to believe Jesus for His promises to you right now? Muster up all the faith you have and give it to Him with a prayer for more.

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” That’s a great prayer.

The disciples needed to learn something about prayer. V.28

“After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why couldn't we drive it out?’ He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer.’”

Now, I’ve always wondered. What else were they doing?! If not praying?!

They were probably just trying to use their own authority to cast out the demon. Maybe the authority vested in them by Jesus in chapter 6.

But they need to learn about faith, as well. They needed to learn to trust and depend upon God in prayer for spiritual results. “This kind can come out only by [believing, trusting, dependent] prayer.”

A Christ-Follower Believes in Jesus’ Ability.

And prayer demonstrates that. A Christ-Follower Believes in Jesus’ Ability and His Mission. V.30

“They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’ But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.”

This is the second time that Jesus has plainly predicted His passion. Jesus knows that He is marching towards the crucifixion. It’s His mission. But His disciples don’t understand yet and are afraid to even ask what He means.

On the other side of the Cross, however, all of Christ’s true followers understand what His mission was. He has Cross-Centered Mission.

And we need to believe in it.

#2. CHRIST-FOLLOWERS SERVE IN JESUS’ NAME. V.33

“They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.”

How ironic! Jesus was teaching about how He was going to die. And they were arguing about which of them was the greatest! They needed a lesson in “true greatness.” V.35

“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.’”

True greatness comes from humble servanthood. He’s going to talk more about that in two weeks in chapter 10. Here he uses a child as an illustration. V.36

“He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’”

Did you get that? Jesus is holding this child–children were near the bottom rung of the social ladder in that culture–and He was saying that if you welcome (if you embrace, if you care for) a little helpless child IN JESUS’ NAME (that’s the most important factor here–in Jesus’ name) then you are welcoming Jesus. And if you are welcoming Jesus, you are welcoming God!

Jesus turns every expectation on its head. It’s not how you treat the king or the president that shows if you are a Christ-Follower. It’s how you treat the lowest of the low. The neediest of the needy. The children.

This has awesome implications for children’s ministry, doesn’t it? Nursery workers, children’s church leaders, Sunday School teachers. Whoever welcomes one of these little children in Jesus’ name welcomes Jesus and welcomes His Father!

Christ-Followers Serve in Jesus’ Name. The disciples needed to learn that. V.38

“‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’ [He wasn’t following us. He wasn’t one of the Twelve. How about a pat on the back for that one?] ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.”

Now, Jesus isn’t teaching that there are no false teachers out there that come in His name and do miracles. There are.

But He is teaching His twelve disciples that they don’t have the corner on ministry. Among genuine disciples of Jesus, among genuine Christ-Followers, there need not be any competition. In fact, competition is unseemly for Christ-Followers. We’re not against one another. If we are for Jesus (the real Jesus), then we are on the same team.

Christ-Followers Serve in Jesus’ Name. Did you notice the key phrase in v.37 and v.38 and v.39? “In my name.”

Nothing done in Jesus’ name is wasted. V.41

“I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”

The smallest stuff does not go unnoticed by God. He sees. He remembers. He rewards all ministry done in Jesus’ name.

You don’t remember (hopefully!) all of the little things you have done in service to others in Jesus’ name. But there is someone Who does. And he will reward you.

Isn’t that a great incentive to get serving? We’re going to talk more about serving in two weeks, but isn’t it a great motivator to know that God sees everything we do in Jesus’ name and will reward it?

Everything we do in the nursery? Every diaper we change? That’s a cup of cold water. Every bulletin we hand out in the foyer. Every prayer offered in secret for another person. That’s a cup of cold water. And it will be rewarded.

Christ-Followers Serve in Jesus’ Name.

#3. CHRIST-FOLLOWERS TAKE SIN SERIOUSLY.

I think Jesus still has that child in His arms. V.42

“‘And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”

When my wife was growing up every time there was a baby-dedication like we did today for Kevin, the pastor would quote this verse and warn the congregation to be careful in leading little ones towards God and not away. Because Christ-followers take sin seriously.

It’s better to drown than to deliberately lead a child into sin.

And we need to take drastic action with our own sin. V.43

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' Everyone will be salted with fire. ‘Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.’”

Christ-Followers Take Sin Seriously.

Now, I don’t believe that Jesus was being literal here. He’s using hyperbole or extreme exaggeration to make His point.

If you cut off your hand, your foot, or your eye, you won’t keep from sinning. Jesus has taught us clearly in chapter 7 that our sin comes from within, from our hearts.

But His graphic word pictures are meant to shock us to see how dangerous sin is and how seriously we must treat it.

We can’t get cozy with sin. It’s a cancer. It’s a poison. It’s an enemy.

We have to take drastic action to cut it out.

Repentance and faith. Turning from sin and turning to the Savior is what is called for each and every day.

No excuses. No treaties with sin. No compromises. Discipleship is serious business.

Is there a sin that you have gotten cozy with? Jesus’ words are a wake-up call for us to take whatever radical action is necessary to root it out.

People who get completely cozy with sin are not headed to heaven. They will be “salted with fire.”

Christ-Followers Take Sin Seriously. They do something about it.

They put it to death day by day. They fight, they repent, they struggle, they fall (often, more often than we like to admit), but they get back up again and they fight some more. They fight for “saltiness” (godliness).

And they follow Christ by faith. Christ-Followers Take Sin Seriously.

And they take marriage seriously, too.

#4. CHRIST-FOLLOWERS TAKE MARRIAGE SERIOUSLY.

Chapter 10, verse 1.

“Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them. Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’”

Is this a question born of faith? No. They are testing Him.

How is this a test?

Where is Jesus right now? He’s crossed over the Jordan in to the region call Perea. Do you know who’s in power there? Who rules? Herod Antipas. Remember him?

Remember what happened to John the Baptist when he spoke out about divorce?

They think that Jesus can answer one of two ways. The two answers that were normally given to the question. Both could get him into trouble. One would be that you could divorce only in the case of adultery (some rabbis taught that (Shammai)). That would get you into trouble with Herod, like John did. The other would be that you could divorce for just about any reason–even if your wife burnt the toast (some rabbis taught that (Hillel)). If Jesus took that option then He would be disagreeing with John the Baptist. What’s He going to do?

He asks them a question. V.3

“‘What did Moses command you?’ he replied. They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’”

That’s Deuteronomy 24, verses 1 through 4.

But Jesus wasn’t looking for what Moses permitted, but what Moses was saying was at the heart of what marriage was supposed to be. Jesus takes them back further than Deuteronomy 24. He takes them back to the first two chapters of Genesis. V.5

“‘It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,’ Jesus replied. [Because there is sin and human weakness, God permits divorce in certain circumstances. But that’s the not the point of marriage. Divorce is a violation of God’s intention for marriage. V.6] ‘But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. [God does that. Not just a man and woman. God does that! V.9] Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’”

Marriage is serious business.

It doesn’t seem like it in our throw-away-commitment society. But God joins people in marriage. And Christ-followers are not to separate what God has joined.

Jesus makes it very plain to His disciples in v.10.

“When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her [his first wife]. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man [Herodias!], she commits adultery [too.]’”

Now, in Matthew’s account of this Jesus makes it plain that in cases of marital unfaithfulness [Greek Word: porneia] there is an exception to this rule (Matthew 19:9).

And Paul makes it clear that believing spouses that have been left by unbelieving spouses do not have to consider themselves bound either (1 Corinthians 7:5).

But those are the only two exceptions that the Scriptures allow (but never mandate!) for a divorce to be acceptable in God’s eyes. And Mark doesn’t even mention them.

Every other kind of divorce involves sin.

Christ-Followers Take Marriage Seriously:

“What God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Now, I know some of us here are divorced. And each is a unique case. The message here for those who got divorced in an unbiblical way, is to seek God’s forgiveness.

Divorce is not the unpardonable sin. It is forgivable under the Cross of Christ. There is mercy and grace because of Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf. But don’t sugarcoat your divorce and pretend it was right if it was wrong on your part (and there are always two sides to every divorce).

And there is a message here for those of us who are married. Marriage is serious business.

“What God has joined together, let man not separate.”

For some of us, I know it hurts. The pain of a difficult marriage feels unbearable. And I’m not saying that there is no place for some separations, especially in the case of spousal abuse–this passage is not meant to teach that you need to submit yourself to physical or sexual abuse in the name of discipleship.

But it does mean that you need to take your marriage vows seriously. They are an expression of your discipleship before Jesus Christ.

I’ve counseled a number of people now over the years in difficult marriage situations.

Many of them, I think, were salvageable, but one or both of the parties were not really willing to follow Christ in this way.

“What God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Christ-Followers Take Marriage Seriously.

I think there’s a message here for young people and other singles, too. Take care in who you marry. My Dad likes to say that there are only two secrets to a good marriage. Marry the right person and keep your promises.

Don’t enter into marriage lightly because it is serious business. God is involved!

We tend to think that we can marry whoever we want whenever we want–it’s a free country after all! But God is involved.

Christ-Followers Take Marriage Seriously Because God is Involved.

And “What God has joined together, let man not separate.”

#5. CHRIST-FOLLOWERS TRUST JESUS LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN DO. V.13

“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. [No, no! Jesus is too busy. He’s got more important things to do. Shoo!] When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”

Don’t you just love that mental picture of Jesus embracing the children and blessing them like we blessed Kevin Patrick this morning?

Jesus uses these children as an illustration again. This time of needy, trusting faith.

Children are sinner and need a Savior, just like the rest of us.

But they have an unique ability to trust. They are very needy and often know it. And they openly confess their need for help. They call for help.

And Jesus says that unless we receive the kingdom of God like a little child, we’ll never enter it. The key word is “receive.” We need to recognize our desperate need and receive the kingdom of God as a gift.

At home, we’ve been learning the Beatitudes in our kid’s catechism. Who knows what the first beatitude is?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.”

That’s what this is saying.

Christ-Followers are “poor in spirit.” They recognize their need for God and they openly admit it and trust Jesus like little children do.

Christ-Followers Trust Jesus Like Little Children Do.

And (one more), #6. CHRIST-FOLLOWERS LOVE JESUS MORE THAN ANYTHING. V.17

“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ [Notice that he thinks he can do something to get it. Jesus sends a question back. V.18] ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good–except God alone. [Are you thinking about Who I am?] You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'’ [Some of the 10 Commandments given at random. Which one did he leave out? Do not covet? Do not worship any other gods before me?] ‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’ [Now, you and I know that’s impossible. But I don’t think this young fellow was bragging. He just didn’t get it, how radically internalized the commandments were supposed to be. He had tried his best and had done pretty well outwardly. I love Jesus’ response to him. V.21] Jesus looked at him and loved him. [There’s great compassion there. He knows that this young fellow doesn’t get it. He’s not “poor in spirit” yet.] ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’”

Jesus puts His finger on this young man’s problem. He loves His money more than He loves Jesus.

Jesus knows (we all know) that selling all of your possessions isn’t what save you. It’s loving and trusting Jesus more than anything that saves you.

And so Jesus gave this young man a very simple assignment. Sell, give, and then follow.

And following is key here. Did he do it? Unfortunately not. V.22

“At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”

Another way of saying it is that great wealth had him.

Christ-Followers Love Jesus More Than Anything. It’s bound up in what faith means that we love Jesus more than our stuff. V.23

“Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were amazed at his words. [They thought that riches were always a sign of God’s blessing and favor.] But Jesus said again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’”

A camel through a needle’s eye! That’s unthinkable. That’s impossible!

“The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, ‘Who then can be saved?’”

Ah. Finally, they are getting somewhere! That’s a good question.

It’s seems impossible. We can’t DO it on our own. We are needy. We are poor in spirit. V.27

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’”

And what did we learn in our first story today? Chapter 9, verse 23?

“Everything is possible for him who believes.”

Are job is simply to believe. He does all the WORK.

That’s the answer to the Rich Young Ruler. You can’t DO anything to inherit eternal life. You have to receive it by faith.

A faith that trusts in what God has done in Jesus Christ.

A faith that trusts Him so much that He becomes worth more to you than anything and everything else.

Christ-Followers Love Jesus More Than Anything.

Peter wants a clarification on this point. Is it worth it? V.28

“Peter said to him, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’ ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–and [yes] with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’”

It’s worth it! He’s worth it!

Christ-Followers Love Jesus More Than Anything Because They Know that Jesus Is Worth Everything!

Is there something that you need to confess to God that you have been loving more than Him?

We sing, How Great Is Our God but we act like something else is greater.

Discipleship means leaving some things behind. At least leaving our love for those things.

For me, recently, it’s been my love for food and feeling stuffed. And it’s been my love for information and feeling in control of the flow of information.

I’ve been working at giving it up in love for Jesus.

And it will be rewarded.

“No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–and [yes] with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Christ-Followers:
1. Believe in Jesus’ Ability and Mission
2. Serve in Jesus’ Name
3. Take Sin Seriously
4. Take Marriage Seriously / Stay Married
5. Trust Jesus Like Children Do
6. Love Jesus More Than Anything Because They Know that Jesus Is Worth Everything!

1 comments:

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