Part 9 covers Mark 9:33 through 10:32, and illuminates 6 behavioral characteristics by which we express our gratitude for the free gift of salvation. In this installment we’re admonished to be humble, tolerant, holy, faithful, trusting and generous. We’ll also learn how to distinguish true miracles from counterfeit ones.
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In this session, we’ll be beginning in Mark 9. We didn’t quite get the chapter finished last time, and it occurs to me, as I was reviewing what we had done before, that we really stumbled into a section of the Gospel According to Mark that is quite remarkable, in that it answers the question: What are we supposed to do? How is a believer supposed to live?
The several different little examples that the Lord uses here, are not meant to be seen in a vacuum; they are meant to be seen as part of an overview of the victorious Christian life, and they’re meant to be seen as examples of the ways in which we should conduct ourselves as believers.
Now, I notice on the schedule sheet there, the announcement, that it talks about Bible prophecy. There isn’t going to be much Bible prophecy in tonight’s series, except that we should take this session tonight in the context that prophecy is being fulfilled around us. That we are, day-by-day, approaching—at a very rapid pace, by the way—the day in which we will all disappear and go to be with the Lord.
And while that’s happening more quickly and more obviously than I’ve seen it happen in all my time of studying the Bible, and especially of the time of studying Bible prophecy, I truly believe that our days are numbered here, and that we should be very diligent, let’s put it that way, in striving to live the kind of life the Lord wants us to live, because someday soon He’s going to show up and catch you living it. [laughs]
And what we want is we want Him to catch us doing things right, because that’s always the nicest way; it’s much better than being caught doing things wrong. It’s always better to be caught doing things right.
Now please, I hasten to add, that this is not to make any points with Him, because we already have all the points. This is not to earn anything because we’ve already been given everything. This is simply an expression of our gratitude.
And you know, if He was a long way off and it was going to be a long time, you might say, “Well, I can relax a little bit and when it gets closer I’ll shape up, and that way the last thing He’ll see of me is me being good!”
But folks, those days are over. I mean, we’re well into the end of the age, and we are on the threshold of eternity. It isn’t going to take much for all this to be wrapped up and tied up in a big bow and whisked off into our next great adventure. This one’s about over, the next one’s coming.
So as the old song says:
Let’s go out in a blaze of glory,
Let’s go out doing it right,
Let’s go out giving it our best shot!
You’ve heard all these euphemisms, well, they make sense to us. Okay.
So, with that in mind, beginning in Mark 9:33—we went into this a little bit last time, just a few verses, I think we stopped about verse 37—and I just want to back it up because this little miniseries within the Gospel of Mark begins at Mark 9:33.
We begin by saying:
They came to Capernaum
This is Jesus and the disciples.
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
This is called being caught doing something wrong. [laughing]
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking the child 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.”
All right, as I say, we went into this in some detail the last time, but the one thing I didn’t communicate specifically about these few little verses, is that this is an example of one of the desirable characteristics of Christianity, and that is, humility. We’re going to see several more, but this is the first one.
What is a Christian supposed to be? He’s supposed to be humble. Now, a humble person is a person who doesn’t have to worry about anything, because he already has everything. You understand? And we have reason to be humble, don’t we? Because we don’t have to worry about anything because we already have everything.
We have everything. We don’t have to fight for things, we don’t have to assert our rights, we don’t have to push ahead of somebody else, we don’t have to worry that when somebody gets something maybe that means we won’t.
We don’t have to worry about any of that because we already have everything.
You remember back in the Old Testament when Abraham and Lot couldn’t get along and their shepherds were arguing with each other, and they couldn’t keep the sheep separate, and they were all worried about somebody’s sheep getting into somebody else’s flock, and all that? And do you remember how gracious Abraham was?
He took his nephew Lot up to the top of a hill and he said, “Look out there. See all that?” Of course he’s looking at all of what’s called Jordan today. He said, “See all that? Take whatever you want, and whatever you don’t, take I’ll take the rest.”
That’s being humble, right? Now, how could Abraham afford to be so humble? Because he already had it all! He had walked the length and breadth of the land; he knew he had the whole Middle East. He could afford to be generous with Lot, because he had more than he could use. He had more than he would ever need.
And so, that’s the kind of person who could afford to be humble. That’s you and me. We don’t have to worry about anything, we don’t have to worry if somebody else seems to get the better of us, we don’t have to worry about somebody cutting in line in front of us. We don’t have to—you know, I’ve been through this—we don’t have to worry about it. We can stand back and say, “After you, my friend.” Because you see, we already got it all. They’re still fighting for it; we already got it. You with me? Okay. That’s part one.
Okay, now we’re going into some new territory here.
“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.”
Boy, have you ever heard that before? [laughs] Somebody thinks they have the corner on something, and they get jealous when somebody else seems to be doing something.
Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For 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. 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.
Something so insignificant as a cup of water. “If somebody gives it to you,” He said, “in My name, he has done something great. He will not lose his reward.”
And so, the second way that we’re supposed to act—and you understand by now, it’s okay to write in your Bibles? [laughing] Okay. My Bible has headings for each of these, but it doesn’t have the right words put in them, so I put some other words in. In front of verse 33 I wrote: Humble. In front of verse 38 I wrote: Tolerant. Because that’s the next one, we’re tolerant.
I want to question you here for one minute. It says:
No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,
So here’s my question to you: What if someone appears to be doing miracles in the Lord’s name, and yet is teaching false doctrine? Then what? What do you do now? Someone appears to be doing miracles in the Lord’s name, but in the next moment, he’s teaching false doctrine. This happens a lot, by the way.
What did the Lord say here? He said:
No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,
And so, if he’s saying something wrong or bad about Jesus, then the miracle can’t be legitimate. That follows, doesn’t it? And so, you can’t depend on what you see, you can’t believe anything you hear. What’s the old saying? And only about half of what you see? And that’s true! Everything has to be tested here.
Not long ago we had a huge uproar in the Church over something that was going on in part of the Church, and the body was really exercised about it.
Some were saying, “Look at the miracles! That proves it.”
And other people were saying, “Look at the teaching! That proves it.”
And they were talking about opposite sides. And here, He’s saying that you can’t have both; you can’t have legitimate miracles and false teaching. It doesn’t work. If the teaching is false, the miracles have to be false. And that is your protection against these things, against being led astray by these things.
Turn with me for a minute to 2 Thessalonians, I’ll show you what I mean.
2 Thessalonians 2:9. Here’s our little token bit of prophecy for the evening, okay? So we can still legitimately call this a study in prophecy.
2 Thessalonians 2:9 it says:
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan. Displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles and signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.
Who did it deceive? Those who are perishing. Okay, and then it says:
They perish because they refused to love the truth and be saved.
Now, what that means is, once you reject the truth, you are fair game for anything, and you will be deceived by many things. What is the old saying? The man who doesn’t stand for something will fall for anything, right? And see that’s what He is saying here, don’t trust this.
When somebody says, “God’s doing a new thing now.” Run the other way. God doesn’t do new things. He’s still doing the old things. That’s how you can trust Him.
You can’t have both. You can’t have legitimacy on one side, and illegitimacy at the same time. Mark 9:39 tells you that.
So where do you go when you see stuff like that, and you want to know: Is this real? Is this You, God?
You go to the Word, and you see if what the person is saying matches what the Lord says. You see, another place I can show you here is in Matthew 7:21.
Matthew 7:21 says:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Now, by the way, we’re going to have to come back now and say, well, okay, what is the will of the Father? And we’ll do that because it’s written down, but first let’s go on and finish the passage.
Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
He is calling them evildoers. They say they performed miracles in His name. Now, notice He doesn’t say, “I used to know you but you went off the track and so I don’t know you anymore.”
He says, “I never knew you.”
In 1 John, there’s talk about the Antichrist and John says: “The way we can tell that they were never with us is they went away from us.” He says: “By doing that, we know that they never were with us.”
He’s talking about people who appeared to be part of the Church, who appeared to be right in step with everybody else, who appeared to be walking the walk and talking the talk. And now, all of a sudden, they take this left turn, and they go out and they start teaching, in John’s day, the Gnostic error.
The error that Jesus wasn’t really God, the error that Jesus couldn’t be man and God at the same time. The idea that you’re not saved by His blood, but you had to learn and acquire knowledge to be saved. It was called the Gnostic error. It’s still around today, by the way; it goes under different names, but you’ll find many of our most famous movie stars touting the Gnostic error today. But what He said was, “The fact that they went out from us, proves that they were never with us.”
And so, Jesus isn’t saying here, He doesn’t say, “Look, you used to be a good guy and we were friends, and I loved everything you did. But then you took this left turn, and now I don’t understand anymore.”
He doesn’t say that. He says, “I never knew you.”
Because the fact that they went off proves that they never were part of it. Okay, you might say, “Well gee, okay, if that’s the case then how do we tell what’s going on here?”
And how we tell is we go back to the thing that says:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Now, right away, everybody jumps into legalism on that verse. Okay, they’re not good enough, they’re not keeping the Commandments, they’re not doing this they’re not doing that, they’re breaking this rule they’re breaking that rule. Couldn’t be further from the truth. The Lord told us exactly what the will of the Father is, and it’s in John 6:38-40.
Let’s start on 37, because that’s a good place to start.
All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
I underlined “never” there in my Bible. He will never drive you away.
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
Okay, you ready? Who is the one who sent Him? His Father! Okay. So we’re getting the Father’s will here.
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
Verse 40 in case you didn’t understand:
For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
What’s the Father’s will? Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him. Okay, so what’s the basis of your salvation? Belief in the Son, okay? Belief in the Son. You are saved because of what you believe, you understand that? You are saved because of what you believe. You are not saved because of how you behave, which is a darn good thing, don’t you think? [laughing] You’re saved because of what you believe, just like He said.
He said it so clearly:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life.
You know, Jesus never made half-true statements. He never gave you the broad brush, and then left you to discover the detail later on. If He said, “Whoever believes will not perish, but have everlasting life.” That is exactly what He meant. Whoever believes will not perish.
And so, these people in Matthew 7 who are going around performing miracles and doing other things, they didn’t do the will of the Father. And what was that? To just believe.
Apparently, they are sticking in some other things, some things that Jesus never intended to require of us. Some things that go along with belief. We call that today, if it wasn’t grammatically impossible, we could call it “grace plus works.” There’s a lot of people teaching grace plus works today; you’re saved by grace, but to keep it, here’s what you have to do. Grace plus works. Why do I say you can’t say that? Because it’s an oxymoron; you can’t have grace plus works, because as soon as you add work, it’s not grace anymore.
Now, the nice things we do, like what we’re talking about here, the way in which we try to behave in a manner that’s pleasing to the Lord; these are things we do voluntarily out of gratitude to show Him how thankful we are for what He has done for us. They don’t earn us anything, they don’t help us keep anything, because we already got all of that. We got it the minute we first believed.
The work we do is a demonstration of our gratitude, as long as we do it with that attitude in mind; the attitude of gratitude. As soon as we think we’re earning something by doing it, then we lose the credit for it. As soon as we think we’re keeping something by doing it, then we lose the credit for it.
Because then we’re putting ourselves in the position of being co-savior with God. You want to be in that position? But if you feel you have to work to earn or keep your salvation you are saying: I’m the co-savior with God of my life.
I don’t feel comfortable saying that.
And so back in Mark now, when we’re in this study about the things that believers should do, I want you to keep in mind that this is our response to the cross. While you still hated Him, Jesus died for you, and He did it unconditionally. He put Himself out there for you to accept or reject, freely and unconditionally. To those who accept, He gave this enormous blessing that only begins with salvation, it goes from there—what does John 1:12 say? To those who accepted Him and believed in His name, He gave the authority to become children of God.
This is what born again is, it’s becoming a child of God. You were born physically because of your mother and father. You are born again, spiritually, when you accept what He did, and now you are a child of God.
And we’ve been through this; I think every time we’ve met we’ve talked about this, the fact that being a child of God means you are an heir to His inheritance. This remarkable thing He did for us. And what should be our response to that? Our response should be to devote our lives to the expression of our gratitude. And the way we express our gratitude is, we’re humble and we’re tolerant.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “They will know you are My disciples by your” What? “by your love. They will know you are My disciples by your love.”
How does the world describe Christians today? By our love? No. What they hear from us consists almost entirely of the stuff we’re against. From the world’s perspective, Christians aren’t for anything. They are against everything. If you read the news about Christians in the world, you always see them portrayed as being against this, and against that, and against something else. Which is okay, except that we’re supposed to be known for our love.
And you can be against certain kinds of behavior and still express love, but the Church is not seen that way in many parts of the world today, and that’s one of the reasons that the Church is not perceived as having much influence in the world today because the world says: All those crazy Christians, they’re against everything! They want to spoil all of our fun.
And yet when I read the Bible, it tells me that the Christian life should be the funnest life on Earth. I mean it. Jesus said, “I came so that they could have life, and have it abundantly.”
And there’s a whole series of teachings made up on the abundant life. But I don’t really think the world has bought that.
You know, you look back in the days—and I realize this is more sermon tonight than teaching, I’m sorry, I apologize for that—but do you remember back in the Old Testament when Israel was at the apex of its glory under King Solomon? What was the world’s reaction to that? They came from everywhere to see it. They came from everywhere to see the blessing that comes from being in a covenant relationship with God.
The Queen of Sheba, one of the most powerful women in the world, came and said: “You know, my people told me, and I didn’t believe them. I had to come and see for myself, and I’ll tell you this: They didn’t tell me half of what I’ve seen!” That ought to be the reaction of the world to the Church, because we got it even better than Israel had it. I mean, we have it better than anyone ever has had it.
Ephesians 2:10 says we are the finest examples, the highest examples, of God’s workmanship. In the Greek language it literally says: We are God’s work of art.
And we’re created so that in the ages yet to come, the world might understand the incomparable riches of God’s grace. They’re supposed to look at us, and get a glimpse of the incomparable riches of God’s grace. That’s going to happen someday but it ain’t happening yet! I mean, I don’t think the world looks at us that way now, and frankly I don’t know if it ever has.
Okay, no more preaching. Until we get to the next one. And the next one is down in verse 42, and if you’re writing anything in your Bible, this is the third characteristic that a Christians should strive to demonstrate in gratitude for our salvation, and I call it, holy. So we’re supposed to be humble, we’re supposed to be tolerant, we’re supposed to be holy.
Now here’s an example, this is an incredible example. He says in verse 42:
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those 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.
And then He goes off into this thing:
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
“‘the worms that eat them do 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 among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
A little side note here, the way I just read this is different than it reads in some of your Bibles. The phrase “where the fire never goes out” and “where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” some translations have that after every verse; other translations have it at the beginning and at the end.
And it doesn’t make a big difference, it still means the same thing, but it turns out that the earliest, and what is considered to be the most accurate, Greek manuscripts only have it the way in which I read it where it’s omitted at the end of verses 44 and 46 I think, and it appears in 45 and 47.
And so, it doesn’t matter how your Bible reads because it means the same thing, and it’s not something to make a big issue about. The idea here is, that when it says “the worm does not die” it means the people who are thrown into Hell never lose consciousness. And it says “where the fire is not quenched” it means the fire doesn’t ever go out.
Now consider that for a minute to see what that sounds like to you. You never lose consciousness and the fire never goes out. What that means is, you’re subject to the fire forever, and you cannot escape it by dying. You are subject to the fire forever. This is one of the places where the Bible seems to be pretty clear on the idea that what we call Hell is a place of eternal punishment.
The so-called conditional view of Hell that’s come around lately, there are two parts of it. One part of the conditional view is that people say, “Well, the unbelievers all go to Hell, however some of them have it better than others, because the ones who really did good while they were here on Earth, really don’t deserve to be punished as severely as the ones like Hitler”—and somebody else (they always mention Hitler) and usually Jeffrey Dahmer. Those two usually go together. And they always say, “They’re not nearly as bad as them.”
And so some people believe that the really good people who aren’t believers will experience much less punishment than the really bad people. Others say it’s even more than that, others say that the really good people will be subjected to not only a milder form of punishment, but also it will have a shorter duration, at the end of which they get to die forever, to cease to exist in any form.
And so the really good ones who aren’t believers go to Hell, they have a lighter punishment, followed by which they are destroyed and cease to exist in any form.
The really bad ones go to Hell and have a really terrible harsh punishment and it lasts a long long time. Now that’s a view called Conditional Hell. I hadn’t heard it before a few years ago, but I understand it’s been around for a long time.
These verses don’t support that idea, do they? These verses say—and if you have one of the translations that repeats it three times, it says it three times—they never lose consciousness and the fire never goes out.
People who are proponents, by the way, of the Conditional Hell say, “Well, how about the verse in Revelation 20 where it says they’ll be judged according to their words? What about that? Aren’t there lots of nonbelievers who do very good things, very good works? And shouldn’t they get an easier time of it than the ones who are just mean and nasty all their lives and do everything terrible and bad?”
Well, that would be true if God was going to judge them by our standards. And you see, the thing about this is that God didn’t require any of those works of any of them. Those works were totally irrelevant. If He’s going to judge us by His standard He’s going to judge us according to the work that He requires, wouldn’t you say?
Well here we are again. What is the work that God requires? To believe.
John 6:28-29 they asked Him point blank: “What,” they said, “is the work that God requires of us?”
He couldn’t be any clearer, and boy here was His opportunity. He could have said, “Okay, get out a paper and pencil; if you got tape recorders, turn them on because I’m going to list this. I’m only going to do this once, so you better pay attention.”
You know how you and I would do it if we were lecturing somebody? Well, maybe not you, but I sure would do it that way. And then He could start ticking off the Commandments, there were 613 of those, by the way not ten, there were 613 Commandments. He could shift there, and go to the Sermon and the Mount and say, “By the way, you know it’s not just whether you do it or not it’s whether you think about it or not.”
He could go there, and He could have spewed out pages and pages and pages of requirements. But instead He gave us John 6:29.
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
There’s a period at the end of that and the paragraph, and the subject changes. Nothing else!
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Now, if that’s all that God requires, and if He judges based on what He requires, then they didn’t do anything that He asked them to do. No matter how good a life they lead, no matter how many people benefited for their existence, they didn’t do what He required of them. The work that He asked them to do they refused to do, and so how can you have a conditional sentence based on that, when they either did it, or else they didn’t?
You see, it doesn’t make sense to me. It does not make sense to me that He would resort to man’s standards in judging these people, and then mete out conditional punishments based on the level of good.
The Bible is clear, there isn’t anybody who is good. Nobody; nobody is good. Even Jesus said, “Don’t call Me good.” He said, “There’s only one who is good and that’s my Father in Heaven.”
I believe this passage here says that the traditional view of Hell is the appropriate one. That just as those who believe and are saved achieve eternal life that we didn’t deserve, those who do not believe and are lost suffer eternal punishment that we would say, “Well, they didn’t deserve that.” We don’t understand the standards, and we’re not the judge. Those two factors alone should put an end to the discussion.
Now, how do you know that Jesus was not speaking literally here? I believe all of you do because all of you I see have hands and feet. And yet He said if they cause you to sin you should chop them off. Haven’t your hands or feet ever caused you to sin? And why didn’t you chop them off? Because you knew He was speaking figuratively. But there’s even a better reason than that.
Nobody goes into the Kingdom in an imperfect state. [laughs] There aren’t going to be any people without hands or feet or eyes in the Kingdom! In the Kingdom, we are perfected, remember? We receive resurrection bodies that are perfect, that means everything is there and it all works. And so, you know He’s speaking figuratively because you can’t get into the Kingdom in an imperfect way. There’s also the incidental fact that the Bible over and over again is adamantly opposed to any kind of mutilation or disfigurement.I mean, if He’s not going to let you have a tattoo, He’s going to be okay with you chopping off your foot? I mean, give me a break!
What He’s saying here is that sin is such an important issue for Him that you ought to be so adamantly opposed to anything in you that causes sin that it’s as if you cut that part of you out.
Well, that leads us to the real point here.
Hands and feet and eyes don’t cause sin. What causes sin? The heart. The heart. The only way you can stop sinning is to cut your heart out, and that will put an end to it! [laughs] And only that. You can blind yourself, you can cut off your hands and feet, you can do anything you want. You cannot stop sinning because, you see, you have a sin nature that is a character flaw that you cannot repair.
That’s why you need a savior and that’s why He gives you a new heart along with your new body. So His point here is, If you want to please Me, live holy lives. Love righteousness, (Psalm 46) hate sin.
That’s it. Love righteousness, hate sin. Now, I don’t have to remind you that He also said hate sin, but love sinners. Okay? That gets back to the tolerance thing, doesn’t it? We aren’t going to change the world by preaching at them. I can’t even change you by preaching at you here, and you’re already predisposed to want to learn this. The world will change when they see an example in us that they want to emulate. And right now that doesn’t happen.
Chapter 10. The chapter breaks are not inspired here. In fact, they didn’t appear until several hundred years after all this was written. And so, the fact that we’re in chapter 10 doesn’t mean we’ve changed subjects; we’re still in the same subject, and chapter 10 opens up with another one that we’ll need to talk about a little bit.
Verse 1 says:
Then Jesus left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. And again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.
Okay, now where He is at this point on our maps today would be in central Jordan. He’s in the region of Judea, which is the area around Jerusalem, and He crossed the river, which means He went east, and so He’d be in the area that’s called Jordan today.
Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
And Jesus, as if He didn’t know, said:
What did Moses command you?” he replied.
They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “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 flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
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. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”
Okay, so I think it’s pretty clear here, isn’t it? The Lord sees divorce as a sin, and that we need to be very clear about. The Lord sees divorce as a sin.
In Jewish law, they permitted divorce under certain conditions or circumstances, and authorized the issuance of a decree of divorce which protected both the man and the woman in the situation. And in Deuteronomy 24, they lay out the conditions there, and go as far as to say once they’re divorced, they can never remarry. So, in Deuteronomy 24, the concept of re-marrying someone you’ve divorced is prohibited.
There are two sins that appear in the Church today that many people consider to be unforgivable. There’s only two—that’s pretty good—that many people consider to be too unforgivable. One is homosexuality and the other is divorce. And yet, the Bible doesn’t say that about either one, and tonight we’re on the subject of divorce, and so I want you to be clear about this.
You know, the rate of divorce among Christians is no different than the rate of divorce among non-Christians, right? It’s about the same. And it’s about the same for the second marriage as it is for the first. In other words, we don’t learn anything from history, so we’re condemned to repeat it.
Divorce is a sin. Did God know (if you have been divorced, I’m not going to ask for a show of hands or anything like this, we’re going to keep this in the hypothetical range), did God know you were going to get a divorce? And when did He know this? Before the beginning of time He knew this. He looked down through the ages, and He saw every sin of your life, and then He saw the day that you would come to Him for salvation and He saw Himself accepting you. And He saw all this before a single one of us came to be; before Adam came to be, He saw all of this. And then in the fullness of time, as they say, by agreement, He became man, lived the life of a man among us, went to the cross and was executed, crucified, in payment for our sins. How many of them? All of them. Up until when? Forever.
From the moment you first sinned (who knows when that was, it was pretty young for me) to the last breath of your life, every sin was known in advance, and was paid for. The price has been paid. The pardon is granted at the moment you ask for it, all right? You don’t have to believe me for this, turn to Colossians, and we’ll go to Colossians 2:13. There are other places we could have gone, but this is a pretty clear one.
When you were dead in your sins
Now when did that happen, when were you dead in your sins? Before you asked to be saved, because that’s what you were asking to be saved from.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ.
Now, I didn’t just underline the next sentence, I drew a box around it. It says:
He forgave us all our sins,
How many of them?
He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge
That’s the law
having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us;
In other words, we had broken God’s law, and those violations were subject to penalty, because like breaking any other law, you’re subject to penalty when you break it.
So, it’s not that we weren’t guilty, that’s my point. It’s not that we weren’t guilty—we were guilty, we had broken the law, and it was a matter of record that we had done so. And Jesus took that record of all of the violations of God’s law, and what does it say?
he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
Now understand this, when Jesus was crucified, Pilate had a sign made, as he always did with prisoners, and on that sign they wrote the law that had been violated that led to the punishment of execution. And in the Lord’s case, what did they write? Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Because He was executed by the Romans for treason. Pilate tried all morning to let Him off until one of his own men said, “He claimed to be a king. That’s treason, that’s punishable by death, you don’t have a choice here.” And so Pilate had the sign made, and he hung it up there. Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.
And you remember the Pharisees said, “No, don’t write it that way, write it ‘He claimed to be King of the Jews.’”
And Pilate said, “Listen, I wrote it, it’s written.”
In the physical realm, the people who stood at the foot of the cross, or walked past it along the road looked up, saw Him dying, looked above His head, saw the law He had broken, and the idea was they were supposed to say to themselves, “Boy, I’m never going to do that if that’s what you get for it!” It was supposed to serve as a deterrent.
What Paul is saying here in Colossians 2 is that in the spiritual world, there was also something nailed to the cross, and that was the reason for which He was being executed. And what was that that the spiritual world saw? It saw the list of all of your sins, along with all of our others, from our first to our very last. He forgave all of our sins.
And in the spiritual world, when Satan and his demonic horde looked upon Jesus on the cross, thinking that they had just achieved their greatest victory, they realized that they had just suffered their ultimate defeat. Because there He was, the Son of God, a sinless, perfect man, nailed to a cross and dying an agonizing death because of my sins. And they were listed one by one, every single one of them.
And at that moment Satan understood that I was then off limits, because I had been redeemed. The penalty for my sins had been paid. That’s what redemption is, somebody pays the penalty for you and redeems you, and I was no longer subject to the law, because in His death, the law had been fulfilled in my life.
Okay, what was my earlier question, is divorce a sin? Yes.
Is divorce listed on that list that was nailed to the cross? Yes.
Has the penalty been paid? Yes.
Okay? What’s the example here? What does the Lord want us to be, and why did He use this particular example to show how important it is? He wants us to be faithful. We’re to be humble, we’re to be tolerant, we’re to be holy, we’re to be faithful.
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 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, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
What can you say about children? They are naive, they are innocent, they are honest, they are trusting. And trusting is the title of this example. The Christian is to trust in the Lord, trust in the Lord. We’re to be humble, tolerant, holy, faithful, and trusting.
Trusting for what? Everything! Everything. We trust Him for our salvation; how about the car payment? Weigh those in the balance, which would be a bigger thing to trust Him for, salvation? Car payment? It’s ridiculous isn’t it? But people don’t trust the Lord for their car payments, they think that’s their deal. Never mind the fact that you shouldn’t be in debt anyway, but once you are, trust Him.
Listen folks, when I stopped being responsible for my own life and gave that back to God, it’s worked out so much better, so much better. In every way, it’s so much better. And I’m not telling you to go quit your job tomorrow and send your coupon books back to the bank, that would be silly. But what I am telling you to do is God will give you two choices. You can run your life, or you can let Him run it.
Now, if you’re running it and it’s going okay, all right, no problem. If it’s not going okay, try giving it back to Him. He’s ready and willing to take it, He’s been dying to fix it. He did die to fix it! [laughs] But it will work so much better if you give it to Him.
You are going to be required to do this very soon; start today, it’s much easier when you do something voluntarily than wait until you’re forced. Start today trusting Him. Don’t do anything without asking Him, don’t do anything He hasn’t told you to do; trust Him. If you need a car payment, pray for it! Then sell your stuff on eBay. [laughing]
We’ve got to get back to the idea of seeking Him first. He has promised that He’ll take care of everything. He said, “Don’t worry about what you have to wear, don’t worry about what you have to eat, don’t worry about what you have to drink. Seek the Kingdom, and all these things will be given you as well.”
We haven’t had to do that in our life. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a lot of people don’t have what they had a few months ago, and a lot of people don’t know where to turn and they don’t know what to do, and they are despondent.
Think of people whose working years are over, and who’ve just seen half of their assets disappear. That’s a lot of people in this country, by the way. Some, maybe not half, some more than half, but it averages out to about half. They can’t earn it back, they don’t know what to do. They’re stuck. Unless they’ve read in Matthew, where the Lord said, “Trust Me, I’ll take care of it.”
Trust Him. Okay there’s one more.
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?”
Boy, there’s a good question right? And here’s the thing I warned you about, Jesus said:
“Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone. 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.’”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack, go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
Haven’t you found that to be true, I mean, in your own lives? [laughs]
The disciples were amazed at his words. 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 someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
You see, the Jewish belief was, and this was taught, that riches were a reward for righteousness. That if you were a good enough person you’d be wealthy, and if you were wealthy that was an indication that you were a good person.
And Jesus said, “No, the wealthy are going to have a hard, hard time getting into the Kingdom.”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
In other words, in man’s strength, it doesn’t matter how much wealth he has, it’s not going to happen for him. It can only happen in the Lord’s strength.
Okay, here’s a couple of good things. When Jesus was ticking off Commandments to this rich young ruler, He gave six, the last six. He gave the six that have to do with how we should treat each other. He didn’t mention the first four, how we should act toward God.
And how are we supposed to act toward God?
First of all, we’re supposed to love Him and Him only, that’s the first one.
Second is where you’re supposed to have no idols, nothing other than Him in our lives.
We’re supposed to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
And we’re not supposed to take His name in vain.
Those are the four that have to do with how we should act toward God; the last six are how we should act toward men. And He gave them in order, oddly enough. He said don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.
Now that’s only five, there are six things listed here, but that’s only five. Defrauding is a form of stealing, right? And so when He said, “Don’t steal,” Defraud is a form of theft—where is the sixth one? What’s the last Commandment? Don’t covet.
What was the rich young man’s problem, he was coveting what? His wealth. He had more faith in his wealth than he had in the Lord, and that was his problem and that ruined everything for him, because his God was his wealth and so he violated the first four, didn’t he?
And so what did Jesus say? “Here’s the cure for you, young fella. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor. That’ll prove you don’t covet this stuff; if you’re willing to give it all away that’ll prove you don’t covet it. That’ll prove it to you, that will prove you can do this.” And then He said, “Come follow Me. Believe in the one He has sent.”
And the young man at that point at least, couldn’t do it. Do you know what would have happened if he had? Do you know what the Bible says would have happened if he had given away everything, and sold everything and gave it to the poor? You know what the Bible says would have happened to him? He would have wound up with more!
Because Luke 6:38 it says:
Give, and it will be given to you
With the same measure you give, it will be measured to you.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said, “You will be made rich in every way, so that you can be generous on every occasion.” Everybody reads the first part: “You will be rich in every way.” They don’t read the second part. What’s the purpose of being rich? So that you can be generous! And that’s the name of this little vignette, the last thing in this little miniseries, that we’re supposed to be generous.
So what are they? Humble, tolerant, holy, faithful, trusting, and generous.
Now, if you were all those things, you would be expressing your gratitude to God for all that He has already freely given to you. If you want to know how we should live, what should be our response to this great salvation that we’ve been given? Now you know. You just do these six things.
Luke 6:38 was the passage on “the measure we use when giving will be measured back to us,” I can’t remember if it’s 1 Corinthians or 2 Corinthians, but it’s chapter 8, so let me go find it here for you—oh no I’m sorry, it’s 9.
2 Corinthians 9:11:
You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
Some people say, “Well, when God makes me rich I’ll start being generous!” No, that’s like saying to the stove, “You get me some heat, and I’ll throw some wood in.” It doesn’t work that way! First you throw in the wood, and then you’ll get some heat. First you are generous, and then you’ll be made rich.
I’m going to finish up with this, one of my newly favorite verses. I have favorite verses from time to time, it changes. The old verse never falls out of favor, but I just become sort of taken with a new one for a while, and then it goes on the list of all my favorites—and you know what, my very first favorite was:
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
That’s been the verse I’ve lived by all my Christian life: Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.
I so like that, because it doesn’t say: Delight yourself in the Lord and He’ll make you suffer for all your sins. It doesn’t say that!
It says: Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4, read it! It’s the same in your Bible.
Now look at this one, look at Proverbs 11:24. And here is how I can tell you, as sure as I’m standing here, if that rich man had given away everything, he’d be richer today. You remember this in the days ahead; when you need more money you remember this:
One person gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
So many people, the first thing they do when times get tough, is they stop giving to the Lord. Boy, is that the worst possible thing you could do? When times get rough you better start giving more, because you need more.
One man gives freely, he gives as much as he can. He’s generous, you see, and what does he wind up with? More! Another man withholds what he should have given, and winds up in poverty.
That’s a pretty clear lesson on action and reaction, isn’t it? I shouldn’t end on that note because I got you all sad now.
But the idea, see, is the Lord loves a generous giver. He loves a generous giver. That’s right above that passage in Corinthians, by the way.
And He says to you: “I love you so much when you’re being generous, that I am going to use the same generosity in blessing you, that you use in blessing others. And, I’ll have a contest with you. And as you become more generous, I will become more generous. I’ll bet you right from the start that I am going to win because,” He says, “you will never, ever, ever be able to out give Me. Because I have everything, and I’ll give it to you, knowing that you will give it to others. And in the process you will be richly blessed.”
Here’s a promise to you by the Creator of the universe. If you’ve got financial problems, the best thing you can do is cultivate the characteristic of generosity. You don’t have to have a million dollars to start with; start with a dollar, start with a dime.
Here’s a really good and specific thing that will not be very popular. The Bible says:
Give to all who ask.
Give to all who ask. It doesn’t say, “Give to all who ask if you think they deserve it, if you think they’ll spend the money the way you would.” Or a whole list of conditions I could offer here.
That’s their responsibility, that’s between them and God. If they take the money you give them and do things wrong with it, that’s between them and Him; that’s not between them and you. You were faithful. Give to all who ask. You don’t have to go around throwing money at people, but if somebody asks you for something, give it.
Don’t worry about it, give it. Cultivate the habit of generosity and then watch what happens to your bank account. Now, the whole idea here can be destroyed if you give with an expectation that now God owes you something, and it better come soon because I need it.
You give with an attitude of gratitude; not to receive anything in return, but because you already have received so much. And with that attitude, He will see that, and He will respond. He will not let you—He will not be in your debt, is the way I should say it. He will not be a debtor to you, He will respond.
All right, so there are the six, there are six of them, six ways that you can demonstrate your gratitude for what the Lord has given you. You can be more humble; we can all stand to be more humble. We can be more tolerant. We can still hate the sin, but we can love the sinner. You remember, it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. You can be more holy, you can live holier lives; you can be more faithful, trusting in Him, and you can be more generous. And by doing these things, you will have become the example He was talking about when He said, “They will know that you are My disciples by your love.”
Okay, let’s have a closing prayer, and then I can take any of your questions or comments.