MESSAGE FROM MARK 10 FOR MAY 25, 2003

(Sixth in a series of message on the mission of Christ’s church)

 

This week we continue to look at what the bible says about the mission of Christ’s church. From what we have seen so far, we’ve been able to conclude that the spreading of the message of the gospel in word and deed is at the core of the biblical identity of the church. The healthy follower of Christ and a healthy church WILL be impassioned about the global spread of Christ’s glory through the gospel. If a believer or church is not impassioned or burdened about this greatest cause then there is something dramatically wrong with them. They are at best not healthy and at worst, not Christian. We saw last week that this is the case from Acts 1:8 where Jesus says to his disciples about Pentecost, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” We said that Jesus does not command his disciples to be witnesses to him and his redemptive work; they will by nature, when the Holy Spirit comes upon them BE his witnesses locally, regionally and internationally. That is simply part of what the Holy Spirit does when He gives a person spiritual life through the new birth. That is intrinsic to the healthy believer or church. When a believer or church witnesses to and for Christ they are simply doing that which comes naturally-that is, by their new nature in the Spirit.

On the basis of that and several other biblical arguments, we have been asking a question. That is: Since an essential part of being a Christian is to be impassioned for the spreading of Christ’s message to the nations, why is it that so many who claim to be Christians are simply NOT impassioned about the spread of the gospel? We have given two answers up to this point. First we said one reason is perhaps we don’t personally treasure the gospel message for ourselves. We do not personally cherish our own forgiveness of sins, imputed righteousness and hope of eternal life held out in the gospel. That is a horrible state for anyone who claims to be a believer to be in and if that describes you, you must labor in prayer, search the scriptures and seek the counsel of others to discover why you are so spiritually unhealthy. But if we do not treasure the gospel on a personal level, it would certainly explain why we would feel no great passion and be unwilling to sacrifice for it to be spread to the nations. Last week we said another reason for not being impassioned for the spread of the gospel is perhaps we don’t care all that much about the plight of lost people.

We saw from the Scriptures the seriousness of this. If we do not care about the plight of lost people on Decker Road and the Republic of Guinea then we are violating not only the Great Commission but also the Great Commandments. If we don’t care all that much about the plight of lost people then we are not loving God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind because if we did that, we would want him to have more and more worshippers. Our love for Him would stir us to seek to spread his glory to the nations. What’s more, if we don’t care about the plight of people whose minds are futile in their thinking, who are imprisoned by Satan and sin and are on a one-way road to hell then we cannot according to Jesus love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Any thoughtful, biblical understanding of the parable of the Good Samaritan with Jesus’ teaching of what it is to love our neighbor and be a neighbor MUST include a deep burden for the plight of lost people.

This week, we will see two more possible reasons why many of us do not have a passion for the extending of God’s kingdom. These are found in a classic missions text in Mark chapter 10. Jesus, in some ways here foreshadows or looks ahead to the Great Commission in this text. His message is about the kingdom of God. He says in verse seven, “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’” The kingdom has at this point not yet been inaugurated as it will be after the cross, but it is near. He gives his disciples special authority to minister the kingdom of God by casting out evil spirits and healing the sick. Unlike the Great Commission where he tells the disciples to go to all nations he tells them this time in verse six, “Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” This mission is much more limited in time-it was a short-term missions experience and it was limited in scope-they were sent only to the Jews.

In verses 1-15 Jesus goes over the basics-the basic methodology of their mission-what they are to bring, who they want to reach, how they are to relate to those who accept them and refuse them. He helps them to see the huge gravity of what they are doing in verses 14-15. He says, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” He tells his disciples that how people respond to them will determine not only the eternal fate of the individuals but also the intensity of God’s wrath given out in the judgment for those who do not receive them. Those who see the light of the approaching kingdom of Jesus seen in the apostolic witness but refuse that light will be more harshly judged than those who see the comparatively dimmer light God showed Sodom and Gomorrah before he reigned down fire from heaven on them.

We who have the even more dazzling, brilliant light of the gospel of the kingdom begun must understand what the implications of this are for us. We have a message that, because of its glaring brilliance, when people reject it, will bring upon themselves much more intense wrath from God than those who live in a dark region of the world who never hear the gospel. That is an incredibly powerful truth because it tells us something about the degrees of punishment in hell. God is a just God and not all sinners will be punished equally. There will be (if you will) a white-hot section of hell and it will be filled with not only the Hitler’s and Stalin’s but even more with people who had seen the light of the gospel in all of its radiance and who ultimately turned away from it. Since we on this side of the cross have more light than the apostles had here in Matthew 10 our mission is more weighty in its’ eternal significance than this one Jesus sends them on.

I was reminded this week of Luke 12:47-48 where Jesus makes a similar argument. He says, “ That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. [He concludes with this overarching principle] From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” That text means that more will be demanded by the Master in terms of the severity of judgment (that’s what Jesus means by being beaten with many blows) of those who have been given much light. But it cuts both ways-we who have been given the piercing light of gospel truth and have been commissioned to give out to others-we have been given a treasure house of truth. Because we have been given so much, much will be required of us.

In Matthew 10, as Jesus is getting ready to send out the 12 on their mission he gives several teachings all of which serve to prepare them for what they are about to encounter. Broadly speaking, he tells them that when they bring this good news that “the kingdom of heaven is near” they are entering into conflict. He says in effect, “you are going to be taking the message of the kingdom of light to the kingdom of darkness and that means you will face hostility. Their hearts are dark and hardened by sin and most of them do not want to hear what you have to say to them. You are bringing the light into enemy-held territory and they will fire on you-don’t be shocked by it or disgusted by it or angered by it-expect it.” As Jesus gives that message to his disciples we can find more reasons why we are not impassioned about spreading the gospel to our neighbors here and to the nations. Let’s look at

Matthew 10 beginning with verse 16. Jesus says, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17"Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. 18On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24"A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household! 26"So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 32"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. 34"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn " 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--36a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' 37"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 40"He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. 41Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. 42And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."

From this text we see one reason why we might not be impassioned about the mission of the church. There is more than one-we will only get to one this morning. The first reason is because we are not willing to be hated and persecuted by the world. Jesus tells these disciples that when you are faithful to give the kingdom message, a hostile world will hate you and beat you up. If you have ever had a dynamic witness for Christ and have unapologetically stood for Christ in word and deed this is not news to you. Likewise if you have never received hatred and persecution from the world (or the worldly elements of the local church) it is simply because you have not been faithful to stand for Christ. We see the utter inevitability of this world’s hatred and persecution of a healthy believer in many places in the text. First, look at verse 17. Jesus says, “Be on your guard against men;” A more literal translation is starker in its accuracy, “But beware of men…” He’s not saying to keep away from those who will oppose you; he is saying that as you go out you WILL be opposed so be on your guard as you walk into this hornet’s nest of opposition. Here’s who will oppose you, “Men.” By men he is not speaking only on males but of fallen humanity.

Opposition will come from all kinds of people-it’s not restricted to bigots or narrow-minded people or Islamic Fundamentalists-it comes from everyone. Some of the nicest, most friendly, pleasant sinners, when they are confronted with the glaring brilliance of the kingdom will grow fangs right before your eyes. They will hate you. When we hear that many of us think-the only reason people will hate you is if you are being obnoxious--if we are not communicating the message in love. “If you are being overbearing or overly “in your face” then people will hate you, but if you tell people in love they may not agree with you but most people will simply refuse you and continue to respect you for your convictions.” If we are articulate or eloquent (or think we are) we may think, “Only the most volatile person would hate ME if I told them about Jesus-I would present it in a way that would not be offensive.”

That view assumes the reason people respond in hostility is rooted in the style of the message. Jesus doesn’t say that at all. The first part of verse 22 says, “All men will hate you because of me…” It is certainly possible to be unnecessarily offensive in the way you present the gospel and that is a sign of immaturity but you can present the truth in the most loving way possible and they will still hate you. No one loved people more perfectly than Jesus and they hung him on a cross. The truth to a lost world enraptured with the lie brings hostility. Paul says in Galatians five that he was being persecuted because of the offense of the MESSAGE not the style in which he presented it. The kingdom of God is offensive to the kingdom of darkness. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…(1 Cor. 1:18). It’s not about how smooth you are, or how sensitive you are or how pretty you are or how intelligent or how logical or down to earth you are in your presentation of the truth. Jesus says, “All men will hate you because of ME…” The unredeemed, even if they sing hymns to him every week in church, in the deepest part of their self-deceived hearts, hate Christ.

They may not think they hate Christ because they have created for themselves a Christ who doesn’t look a thing like the Christ of the Bible. They have a very user-friendly savior. But if the biblical Christ were to show up, they would crucify him out of their life. They hate the truth he brought and their hatred for Christ will be seen in their hatred for you. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Verse 24-25 makes a similar point. Jesus says, “It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household! Jesus says in effect, “if the root target of their hatred is me (and they call me the devil) then as my student, as my servant, as a member of my family, how much more will they hate you?”

If the world does not hate us, then it simply means that we have compromised the truth that when they look at us they see not Christ but their own, self-made counterfeit image of Christ-the “Minnesota nice” Christ. If however they were to see in us the genuine, biblical Christ, they would hate us. Their most charitable response would be to think we are nuts. If we think we can live for Christ and not be hated by the world then we have completely misunderstood both the Person of Christ and his mission. This seems to have been an issue with the disciples. He wants to clear up any misunderstanding about him and his purpose in verses 34-36. He says, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn " 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--36a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'”

Jesus is the great Divider. When he is rightly seen in this world he divided those who are with Him from those who are against him. We see the ultimate expression of this in Matthew 25 when he divided the sheep and the goats in the final judgment. We understand that division. What we don’t often understand is that this final separation is only the fulfillment of the one he has begun now on this earth. Jesus divides-truth divides. All you have to do is look at our culture. What divides our culture? Truth issues like abortion and homosexuality are perhaps the two biggest cultural dividers and the opposition to the truth is characterized by hatred. This is not a friendly discussion. Those who are pro-choice and those who are pro-gay become livid with people who uphold and articulate a biblical world- view on those issues no matter how gracious the truth bearer might be. The reason those issues are divisive is because Jesus is Truth and truth divides-Jesus divides. It’s a myth to think you can witness to your lost neighbors and, as long as you just talk about Jesus and not get into any divisive social issues, they will not disagree with you. Whether they know it or not the source of their disagreement with you on anything related to the truth IS Jesus. They may blame it on your stand on social issues where God has clearly spoken but ultimately their problem is with JESUS and unless God is at work in their hearts to save them, they will express some form of hatred for you.

Some of you that were saved later in life from non-Christian homes know this. How did your unsaved family respond to your new life in Christ? Some people deal better with it than others, but there is division. When we see these kinds of painful division in our own relationships we shouldn’t necessarily run around wondering what went wrong or what mistakes we made. It may very well be that the division in the relationship has occurred because Jesus said it would be this way. If we a follower of Christ and it has caused no division in our relationships with the lost world, then we have simply been unfaithful to the truth. There are only two options here. Either be faithful to Jesus and be hated because the world hates Jesus or be make peace with the world through compromise and that option is not available to the genuine believer. There is no third option of being faithful but not experiencing the hatred of the world. As much as we would like that option to be available to us, it simply does not exist.

We must never forget the context of this is the mission of the church. Bring that context to the whole of verse 22. Jesus says, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” That statement is in the midst of Jesus’ charge to the disciples to go and tell others about the kingdom. What that means in this context is this, “As you go and are faithful to follow my commission to live out and give out this kingdom message-in that context-all men will hate you because of me. But take courage because as you are bringing the message and literally “remaining under” the pressure-as you endure the pain of the hatred and the persecution-those who stand firm to the end are those who will be saved.” Do you hear the radical call of Christ in this? So often when we hear this text, “he who stands firm to the end will be saved” we understand that to mean, “if you do not renounce the Christian faith, if you do not reject the truth before you die, you will go to heaven.” You certainly need to hold onto the right basic doctrine and your profession of it in order to have any assurance of the saving grace of God in your life. But Jesus is not saying here, “If you maintain your right beliefs until you die you will be saved.” The context won’t let us interpret this verse this way. That’s simply not what Jesus is saying here.

Matthew chapter 10 screams to that the church of Christ is about the mission of Christ. It also gives us at least one more reason why we are not impassioned about spreading the gospel to the nations. That is-because we are not willing to be hated and persecuted by the world. Why would we tell someone or sacrifice so someone else can go and tell someone the gospel if in so doing we are hated by our unsaved friends and family? The answer is, if there is something much more important to us than not being hated by the world. For some people there is nothing higher on their priority list than that everyone likes them. Those people are lost because they have never discovered the treasure that makes personal popularity seem insignificant by comparison. Paul had seen this treasure. He wrote, “What is more, I consider everything [including hatred from the world] a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes through the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead.”

Paul had truly discovered Christ and the glory of Christ through the gospel. Although I’m sure he didn’t like having people hate him any more than any one of us does, he was willing to receive that hatred because Christ and his redemptive work was worth it. He knew that knowing Christ meant fellowshipping in the sufferings of Christ-knowing Christ means experiencing suffering on his account-that is the way the system works. His love for Christ was such that if knowing those sufferings was part of knowing Christ he WANTED to know those sufferings. A pregnant mother who is more than willing to go through the travail of child birth because there is a treasure that to them far exceeds the pain-they get their baby to hold and care for.

If you are here today and have been unimpassioned about the mission of the church either through your inactivity to be a witness for Christ here or in your lack of concern for the lost of the nations, perhaps your trouble is your lack of willingness to be hated and persecuted by the world. If that is true of you then your treasures are all messed up. If Christ is truly your highest treasure, you will be willing to take whatever this Christ-hating world gives you and if you in that context endure to the end, you will be saved. May God give us the grace to treasure Christ so that we will be willing to do and experience whatever that requires.

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Page last modified on 6/1/2003

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