Friday, September 15, 2017

Mark, Week 1 - Pointing to Jesus

So what will kind of be our tradition moving forward, is that during the summer time when I preach we’re going to go through a book of the Bible. It might be in the Old Testament, it might be in the New testament. Last year we were in the book of Colossians, and it flowed perfectly from what we had been talking about in our vision about loving, lifting, locating, life. It was purely God led, because when I first felt God leading us into the book of Colossians, it was never my intention to connect it to the vision that God is leading us into, but he did. And this seems to be the way things are going to work out in the foreseeable future. In the winter time, we’re going to be focusing on topics, where anyone can jump into a sermon series without having to be here for every week. But in the summer time, we’re going to go through a book of the Bible that will build on itself from week to week.

So, for this summer, instead of focusing on a book that flows out of the vision that God is leading us into, we’re going to instead lay the ground work for the last part of the vision, which we’ll be talking about next winter. That last aspect is, pointing people back to the life Jesus has for them. 

And I say that we’re going to lay the ground work for this last aspect because, the book that we’ll be diving into reveals to us the life of Jesus. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to begin in the Gospel of Mark chapter 1, verse 1. Now, as we get into the Gospel of Mark, let’s first talk about what the book of Mark is. 

The Gospel of Mark is penned by a second generation disciple. This guy has a lot of history behind him and not all of it good. See Mark most likely became a follower of Jesus, through his mother who allowed her house to be used by the Jerusalem Church for a meeting place. From there, Mark became a helper to Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Now for whatever reason, Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas and returned to Jerusalem. This didn’t sit well with Paul, because when he and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem and were about to depart on another journey, Barnabas asked for Mark to rejoin them. But Paul wouldn’t have anything to do with the young man, and this dynamic missionary partnership between Paul and his mentor Barnabas, ended.

Later on when Paul reached Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, and was awaiting trial, he was able to reconciled with Mark and even instructed other churches to welcome him if he ever visited them.

While in Rome, Mark wasn’t alone, but associated with the Apostle Peter. Peter himself had made it to Rome, where he would eventually meet his end. And from Peter’s sermons, Mark pen’s this Gospel. So, what we’re getting, as we read through the Gospel of Mark, is the eyewitness account of Peter, who spent three years with Jesus. This isn’t some made up story, but sights, sounds, and experiences of one of the closes companions of Jesus, as he worked for the last three years of his life.

With that, let’s dive into the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, starting in verse 1.

1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— 3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

Mark starts off with two prophecies that date back, at the minimum, to four hundred years before Christ. Why does he do this? Because he’s connecting. Mark is connecting, what we would call the Old Testament to the work of Jesus. What Mark is doing here is giving us a connector that had been foretold long before, and in doing so, is telling us that the way of the Old Testament is transitioning. We’re at a cross roads, on how God has worked with humanity in the past and how he is going to work with humanity in the future. And this connector is John the Baptist. John is this messenger, John is this voice in the wilderness. John is this one who is preparing the way of the Lord. And John is the last in the line of the Old Testament prophets and how God communicated with humanity.

4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

John’s work is very similar to most Old Testament prophets, in which he preaches that the people need to confess, repent of their sin and be baptized. Like we have said before, sins are the things we do that are not of God. We can also say, that sin are those things that tear down, rather than build up. So lying, gossip, slander, sex in any form outside the confines of man and woman marriage, drunkenness, and the list can go on and on. So, John is preaching that we need to confess these things that we do that are not of God, and then to also repent of them. Meaning we need to not just say that we have sinned, but to turn away from doing that sin. Sin is not something that we say we’re sorry for, but then continue doing it. No, with God we are instructed to confess it, and turn away from it, and follow God’s ways, this is repenting.

We no longer purse the sin, and instead purse godly living in it’s place. Instead of lying, it’s speaking the truth. Instead of slander, we promote. Instead of using sex wrongly, we seek purity. The second part of John’s message is to be baptized. Now we need to understand what John is doing here when talking about baptism. First off, baptism here is a full immersion into the water. Second, this baptism is not a baptism of inner cleansing, but rather of confirmation of the outward actions of the people. John isn’t saying here that he is cleansing the people of their sin, but rather he was providing a place for them to confess, repent, and then have a physical action to correspond with confessions and repenting that the people were doing.

The reason we know that this baptism wasn’t meant to be an inner cleaning, is because of what John was telling the people in the third part of his message. Which we pick up in verse 7.
7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 

In the third part of his message, John says that there is, “one more powerful than I.” In fact, John describes just how different and greater this other person is. See John represents the bridge of the Old Testament and the prophets of the time. And John says, that to untie this coming person’s sandals, would be a far greater position than John could have.

Understand this, we need to also understand that the lowest servants, at this time period, were task to take off the sandals of their masters. And John is saying, that even though he is a servant of God, that he doesn’t even qualify to untie this person sandals. And in turn, because John represents the Old Testament and all the prophets that came before him, none of those other people that we read about in the Old Testament are worthy as well. Now to understand how great this person is compared to John, if we read in other accounts of Jesus’ life (Matthew 11:11), you’ll find that Jesus says that no other man who ever lived is greater than John. So what does that say about the other Old Testament prophets, if John confesses that he isn’t worthy to do the lowest servants job, and Jesus says that none is greater than John, that means that no other Old Testament figure is even close to being worthy.

Which in turns helps us understand just how great this coming person is. And how much greater this coming person’s work will be. Like I said, John’s baptism was merely a confirmation of the confessing and repentance of the people. But in reality, nothing has changed. They’re still subject to sin. Sin still has power in their lives. They are still slaves to it, and even if they want to escape it’s power, they can’t. Because John was merely preparing them for the one who could break the chains that sin had the people in.

John says in verse 8, “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The guy that’s going to follow John is not going to baptize with water, but with the power of God to change lives. Understand this statement and the magnitude of it. In the Old Testament, God would send the Holy Spirit on people for a purpose, and when that purpose was done, the Holy Spirit would leave them. But now, John is saying that there is someone coming that commands the Holy Spirit, and just like everyone of them can be baptized with water, everyone of them can be cleansed and be baptized through the Holy Spirit, by the one who commands the Spirit.

In other words, John is saying that God himself is coming and will cleanse the people with the power of the Spirit living inside of them. We no longer have to listen to sin’s commands, because the Spirit will live within us, breaking the power of sin in our lives.

So, now that we have our introduction to the book of Mark, what can we take away from this? I’m mean we’re not Old Testament prophets right? Well, even though we might not have a prophecy about how we’re going to be the bridge between the Old and New way God is going to work with humanity, we’re still called to the same work as John. Does that surprise you?

I mean, we might not have to be out in the wilderness, but I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Quartzsite isn’t necessarily the hub of social and economic trend setting. We might not have to live off locusts, and honey, though we sure do get our fair share of bugs. But we are called to do as John did, point people towards Jesus. 

John understood that his main work, wasn’t to get people into his group, but to prepare them for Jesus. In fact, later on John says, that he has to become less, so that Jesus becomes more (John 3:30). See, we have the tendency to think if we can just get people into church, or if we can just get them to talk with a pastor, or get them to stop smoking, or cussing, or clean up their act, then we can get them saved. But that’s not it at all. Without Jesus there is no cleansing. There is no victory over sin, there is no conquering addiction, there is no life set free from vices. Pointing people to a church or to a pastor or to a recovery program is trying to help the symptoms. Or like what John was doing, using water on the outside, but what people really need is the washing from the Holy Spirit.

At the beginning, I said that we will be laying the ground work for talking about the last aspect of the vision that God is leading us into, and we’re getting into it right from the start. We are to point people back to Jesus, just like John did. Just like Mark is doing with his Gospel, just like Peter did with his sermons. I am not interested in building the name of the Alliance Church in Quartzsite, I am interested in following these people’s footsteps and pointing people back to Jesus. Building his name among other people. And all I want the Alliance Church to be known for, are people that do just that. Why should we be known for great programs, or great preaching, or great music, when our real calling is to be a group of people that point others to Jesus? That aid others in their developing relationship with Jesus?

At the end of the day, Jesus is lifted up and we’re not because we understand that we’re not fit to tie his shoes.

You know those shirts that say, I’m with her, or him, or stupid? We need to have lives that point to Jesus and lips that say, “I’m with him.” Not to ourselves, or a pastor, or to the Alliance Church, but to Jesus. 

Now may the Lord who’s sandals are to great to tie, give us the opportunities to point back to him. That he may become greater in our lives and the lives of others, and that we may become less. Lord, gives us the strength to point to you and away from ourselves. Amen.

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