May 17, 2014
“What Have You Got To Say?”
How many times have you heard the saying “talk is cheap?” We all have. Ha! …just look at politics. What a reputation! All this immediately reminds us of those we know unwilling to put action behind his or her words; someone lacking authenticity because they are unwilling to actually practice what they might be preaching.
Check out the words of the Church of England’s Bishop Edward King in 1865: “I long to see a real and simple imitation of the life we have shown to us in the Gospels. It seems to me that if people go on allowing themselves to shape their lives by the circumstances of this world rather than by the Gospel they will be in danger of disbelieving the truths of the Bible itself. I am anxious to prove, if it pleases the Lord, that in my own life the Gospels are true.”
That’s a pretty impressive desire to put upon yourself; is it not?
Jesus also takes this whole thing seriously. Look at what Jesus said to His disciples in the Gospel of Mark when He uses probably the most violent metaphors in the Bible. There have been many attempts to explain away what He said here, and almost all miss His real point. When He said this, Jesus’ point is that our lives are the loudest message that a watching world will ever hear about the kingdom of God.
Jesus had just told them about His coming death and resurrection. He was beginning to point toward them and future followers taking the message He brought from heaven to earth.
Jesus actually starts the background to this in Mark 9:33 but because of time here; let’s focus on verses 42-50: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, 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 stumble, 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 stumble, 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.”
First note that Jesus uses the word “stumble” four times in this passage. The word means to put something in our way to stop pursuing real life, eternal life. It can be something that distracts us or trips us up. That ever happened to you? …especially in your pursuit of following Jesus?
Then Jesus turns to strongly warning us that it is better to cut off the parts of our own body that trip us up. He mentions three things: Our eyes (what we watch); our hands (what we do); and our feet (where we walk). We have to ask if there is something we need to cut off or say goodbye to for the sake of entering into real life?
You see, people all around us are watching our lives. What if we are the only contact with the Gospel they will or would ever have? How about our own kids or grandkids? Do our lives testify to and make them hungry for a life bigger than this world has to offer?
There is another point here but we have to look deeper and the Apostle Paul’s conversion reveals this. In Acts 8: 1-3 Saul (Paul’s name before his conversion by Jesus) had been murdering or jailing Jesus followers and had just had Stephen put to death. As Saul was on his way to do more harm thinking he was doing right, he ran into Jesus on the road to Damascus in Acts 9:1-8. For room here look at Verses 3-8: “As Saul neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.
Note that the words “persecute” or “to stumble Me” that Jesus uses here means “to scandalize.” Jesus told Saul that He, Jesus, was being scandalized.
Question: Stop and think if Saul was here doing these same threatening actions to us today would he scandalize God in your mind? Would you still trust God?
Just for impact take note that the word “fell” to the ground here is actually “smacked down” …or …”decked” as I would put it. Yeah, Saul was decked by Jesus! But in that light Saul saw Jesus, not stars.
I am saying all this to help us realize that Jesus takes His message to the world seriously. We, you and me, are His messengers today …in our words, actions, deeds. Our lives are the message! Our culture has been tripped up. Only Jesus knows if we might be the only message that someone ever sees or hears about God, Jesus. That is the reason Jesus used such violent metaphors here.
Personally, this issue of causing somebody to stumble is what absolutely terrifies me. It always has. Out here among our K&N Series is maybe what scares me the most …even more than my own family because I know that I get the chance to change their opinion of what I said, did, or the way I acted. But, what about you out here at the race track? I could scandalize your opinion of God in one small word or action.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians who were noted for all kinds of ungodly sin; for lack of a better word in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24: “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”
Here they were talking about food sacrificed to idols, and the Corinthians were not Jews under the Old Testament Law, but there was quite a battle over issues that trip up and scandalize people’s view of God. It begins in 1 Corinthians 8 and goes through 1 Corinthians 10. Take some time and read this. It will help you process this whole area. Ultimately it comes to conclusion in 1 Corinthians 13 in the chapter that we use to explain the meaning of love. Isn’t that interesting now? Funny it would lead there…
We don’t have this issue today but we certainly have lots of others in our culture.
My question to us is:
Who …has the right to “judge” …or “move the line” if you will; of what is godly, righteous, truth, …except God? Our cultures sure think they have …and all too often we that abide in the cultures of today’s world do also.
This world has so many ways to scandalize God and/or Jesus, and thus cause others to lose their life. It’s scary to think about isn’t it? We need to remember that WE ARE THE MESSAGE TODAY!
Lastly for this message there is something coming far scarier. That is when the Church is taken away out of this world and those left here because of unbelief in Jesus and His Salvation will no longer have our message which Jesus called the “salt.” Without that balancing message of truth and moral value, life here will become horrible and unfathomable. You see, the Church is responsible for the “salt” of truth and solid values as Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:13: “You are the world’s seasoning salt, to make it tolerable. If you lose your flavor, what will happen to the world? And you yourselves will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.” In Colossians 4:6 Paul rephrases Jesus words when Paul says: “Let your speech always be truth with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”
Therefore, when the Church is taken away from impacting this world in those last days I know I sure do not want to be here. That is scary. I can only pray that if that day happens in my lifetime any person I had contact with will have some seed planted to get them through and find God somehow.
In closing, since I will not be giving the message here is our missionary story; well a piece of it at least; that fits with today’s Gospel message. Here’s the freebie & part of the story:
Look back at Mark 9:43 where we began: “If your hand causes you to stumble, 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.”
Hell, or Gehenna in Greek was a literal place as Hell is. It was the garbage dump outside Jerusalem’s gates where rubbish burned and smoldered always without going out.
It made a literal picture to the Jews. It does still today for many of us missionaries because we often start on garbage dumps around the world to help feed them, build homes for the homeless, treat medically, and share God’s love for them.
Kathy & I along with our daughters have been there and done this in Mexico. It is eye opening and life changing …both to us, the groups that we led there from the NASCAR community, and the people living on the dumps in cardboard shelters or worse.
If I remember correctly we built seven (7) houses during the years we went annually. Sometimes we split into two teams and our daughter Leeanne who is fluent in the language and lived in Ensenada, Tepic, and Guadalajara, Mexico led the second team. All the houses we built were dedicated to a young 17year old girl who died in a race car. It was a humbling, tearful, honor to share the Gospel and the dedication of the house with the people receiving the house, and the racer gal’s parents as we handed over the keys to a furnished, food stocked, tiny two room house that often was their first dwelling that wasn’t cardboard or junk wood and metal scraps …or just tarps over brush.
Truly, it is amazing what can transpire when a bunch of mostly unskilled, rag-tag American NASCAR racers, and a family of YWAM missionaries take on a challenge to raise the money, travel to Mexico, and shed some blood, sweat, and tears to love on a bunch of people we didn’t know from Adam. Then, besides all this guess who always come away feeling blessed the most? …those of us who went to bless the Mexican homeless family!