2020-03-01 – Mark 9.33-50 – Welcome Me or Fall Away
Bible Text: Mark 9:33-50 | Preacher: Pastor Jerry Higdon | Series: Mark | 2020-03-01 – Mark 9.33-50 – Welcome Me or Fall Away
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us today.
Today we are going to talk about a Christian dynamic that you don’t hear much about anymore, Backsliding. Backsliding, which is otherwise called falling away, is a term used to describe a process by which an individual who has converted to Christianity reverts to pre-conversion habits and falls back into sin. When a person turns from God to pursue their own desire.
We will see this “falling away” dynamic played out in our Gospel book of Mark, Such an amazing journey through scripture we are on, and I hope you are blessed by it.
Please turn in your Bibles to Mark 9.33, pew Bibles pg. 896 of God’s Inspired, Infallible and Living Word. But let us first start with Prayer.
Last week we read where Jesus had healed a deaf and mute boy who suffered from an evil spirit that caused him to have horrible seizures. The boy’s father was beside himself feeling hopeless and desperate for help. He asked Jesus “have compassion on us and help us”, for which He did, immediately the boy was healed. At the end of the verses we read, Jesus told the disciples again about His upcoming demise, and that He was going to be resurrected from the grave three-days after He would be buried. He was preparing the disciples for what He knew was shortly going to happen. The disciples were starting to accept that Jesus was the true Messiah. They understood He was going to be persecuted, and they also realized that His reign was going to continue on in Heaven and that they would be joining Him there. Like us now, they surely had a lot to contemplate as to what it will be like in heaven with Jesus. In verse 33 of Mark 9 it says:
33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, he called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last and servant of all.” 36 He took a child, had him stand among them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but him who sent me.”
This story is also written about in Matthew 18 and Luke 9. Right off the bat Jesus asked them a question that is met with kind of an embarrassing silence. I can just imagine them looking at each other after Jesus confronts them. We, like the disciples, sometimes forget that God walking along with us in our daily lives. How many times have you said or conducted yourself in a way that later you were embarrassed at realizing that God is with us in all that we do. Jesus knew what the disciples were thinking, but with this question, He is having them realize where they were at and what they were doing. All throughout scripture we see this dynamic of God. Even way back to the beginning with Adam and Eve, after they sinned and they saw God coming near them, they hid behind the bushes.
As written in Genesis 3:9 “the LORD God called out to the man, “Where are you?” to which Adam replied, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” I believe again that God knew where Adam was for He knows everything. But He wanted Adam to realize for himself where he was at. Adam was embarrassed at realizing God knew his sin; the disciples were embarrassed at recognizing that Jesus knew their sin; and we too should be embarrassed when we recognize God knows our sin as well.
Then notice the compassion of Christ here, He didn’t yell at them, but He used it as a teaching moment. There is nothing better than when a teacher or mentor uses real life situations to teach their disciples. Effectively Jesus is saying here, that being His disciples we need to endeavor to choose to make our self last not first. This is so contrary of our culture today where being first is cool. Where being king of the hill is the ultimate goal. In Matthew’s version of this incident Jesus adds “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. So you might be asking yourself, how do we become “like little children”? First you should understand that in Jesus’s day, children were considered insignificant, they had almost no value at all. So Jesus was basically taking their prideful arguments and humbling them instead to set aside their “worldly greatness” so they might later enter the kingdom of heaven.
In Philippians 3:7, the apostle Paul wrote about this dynamic. He said, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ”. He said “I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ..” Recall Jesus took the very prideful man Saul, and made him into a very humble servant called Paul who wrote 1/3 of the New Testament.
God constantly chooses to use humble men and women for His amazing works. We see that dynamic throughout scripture. I personally love the quote from John 3:30 where John the Baptist says, “He must become greater and greater; I must become less and less.” Isn’t that beautiful. Are you willing to put yourself aside and surrender “your greatness” for the cause of Christ?
38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.” 39 “Don’t stop him,” said Jesus, “because there is no one who will perform a miracle in my name who can soon afterward speak evil of me. 40 For whoever is not against us is for us. 41 And whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ —truly I tell you, he will never lose his reward.
Now this is the apostle John saying this, who is part of Jesus’s inner-circle along with Peter and James. Several times in Jesus’s ministry He took those three aside and showed them very privileged displays of His power and character. Now John is showing again his pride and envy by calling-out this other person who is getting some attention. John was hoping I believe for Jesus to shut this other person down, however Jesus again corrects John’s misunderstanding.
This situation reminds me of all the different divisions we see today in the various religions, but more specifically the protestant or Non-Catholic Christian denominations. Even here in Orion we are blessed to have several different kinds of churches. Each of them are different in how they present the Bible and teach the Gospel. I think Jesus is showing us here that we should be careful on how we view or scrutinize other Christian institutions. We shouldn’t waist our time being so cynical or insulting the other churches around us. Brother’s and sisters, there is so much work to be done in reaching out and representing Jesus to our community. We need to be thinking more about loving our neighbors then cutting down others who may be doing things a little different than we are. We should instead be showing God’s love by celebrating the areas that we are like-minded. For example, if another church is putting on a play or musical based upon Christ’s life, or if they are endeavor to share meals or love on thy neighbor in some way, then we should consider sharing in their effort for God’s glory and purpose.
John in these verses here I would guess is trying to prove himself, as he was being very judgmental, and Jesus quickly put him in his place.
There is no room for pride, envy or arrogance in Christ’s ministry. I love what the Apostle Paul wrote about this dynamic while he was in prison. In Philippians 1:12 [SLIDE] he said, “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.. It is true that some are preaching Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice”. So Paul, as he was chained and in prison, was rejoicing because the Gospel was being preached by others. That is the attitude that we need to maintain brothers and sisters. Are you with me?
In verse 42 Jesus though gives us a warning statement to consider. He said: 42 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away —it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. Ouch! Sometimes Jesus can be harsh can’t He.
I think you would agree that there are a lot of non-Christian and even evil influences in our arena today. Back when our church first started here in Orion (1843), there was very few challenges to our faith. Sadly today, even in our little town here you can find strong Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, atheist and agnostic influences that are negatively influencing the “little-ones” being our children or young believers. However this warning applies even within the church. We need to be actively looking after the “these little ones” brothers and sisters to keep them from falling away, this is serious business. Jesus said as written in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”. And anyone that promotes anything contrary to that understand will be punished greatly for all of eternity.
Next we will see Jesus turn directions in the conversation with His disciples to address some personal sins. Remember the apostles were pridefully or sinfully discussing who was the greatest amongst them. They were in effect backsliding. Their fleshly desires were getting the best of them. Jesus first humbled them then He addresses the problem of sin and the ramifications of sin if it is not squelched. Jesus knows we all struggle with sin and He gives His disciples and us some stern warnings and instructions. Verse 43 continues:
43 “And if your hand causes you to fall away, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and go to hell, the unquenchable fire.
45 And if your foot causes you to fall away, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to fall away, gouge it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,
where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
With these statements Jesus is not suggesting that your hand, foot or eye has a mind of their own. But instead He is just pointing out the importance for the disciples and us to get ahold of our sin. Our sin can lead to an eternity in Hell. And as these verses point out so clearly that hell is an eternal excruciating experience. Jesus is clear that your body parts are less valuable than your eternal soul. These sins though that we continue to do, should also lead us to recognize that we all need a savior. Earlier this week we talked about temptation. We surmised that temptation in itself is not a sin, but when we succumb to temptation and allow that temptation to manifest itself into wrongful thinking or actions, then it becomes a sin. Ladies and Gentlemen it is a constant battle, even for the most ardent born-again believing Christian. That is what Jesus is pointing out to them and us. Sin is serious, and we need to putting on the full armor of God, and praising God for sending His Son our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen?
Finally at verse 49, Jesus said: 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt should lose its flavor, how can you season it? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
God’s Holy Spirit is what allows the Christian to be flavored or salted with His Holy character. Salt is also preservative. A Christ follower should endeavor to remain in God’s will, and we should be displaying God’s character in all that we do. The disciples were not exhibiting Christ’s servant leadership character. They were backsliding or falling-away. So Jesus pointed out their sin, He corrected and humbled them in the process to prepare them for ministry ahead.
The last sentence here indicates that we also need each other. God gifted us with this church family so we could have each other to help keep us on the right track. He knew He was leaving His disciples soon, so Jesus reminded them that they would need each other for the way ahead. Just like the Iron Sharpens Iron event that Jeremy talked about earlier, we need to be constantly building each other up to resist the devil’s schemes. And most importantly be at peace with one another as we serve together.
So there are a couple of main points here to day for you to consider.
First is that even though there are various opinions among Bible-believing Christians and Bible-believing churches, we should endeavor to continue to demonstrate love and acceptance of one another. However I would argue that we cannot waver on the fact that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God and that He died for our sins and rose from the grave.
Second is this, throughout the new testament and particularly in these verses today Jesus makes both “Welcome Me” and “Fall Away” declarations. Thus the title today of Welcome Me or Fall Away. We have to choose to die to our self daily brothers and sisters. No backsliders here. I know it is a struggle, like walking on ice even sometimes. But we should strive to live each day to its fullest for Jesus Christ.
Would you please stand and pray with me now.
Father, this is why we’re here to worship today, because of the glory of Your precious Gospel. Confirm it to our hearts Lord, as we pray this in Jesus Christ’s Holy name, amen.