Sermon Summary • March 19, 2017
Mark 3:7-19 • Pastor Tim Tseng
13 Jesus went up on a mountain-side and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons.
KEY POINT: As disciples, we should have a desire to be Jesus’ apprentice and a heart for sharing in his mission to the world.
1. Jesus called those he wanted:
First, we do not choose him, he chooses us. Let us not fall under the illusion that we can simply pick and choose when, where, and how we are disciples. An attitude of humility and waiting for the Lord will help us to allow him the choice. All we can do is respond to his calling.
Second, because disciples are Jesus’ choice, we should expect to be in a community of people who are very different from one another. Just looking at the twelve that Jesus called (and this doesn’t include the women and other disciples who where not part of the circle of twelve), one would not expect them to be a team since they had so little in common: 16These are the twelve he ap-pointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), 18Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
2. Jesus calls disciples to be with him:
Most of the time we think about being with Jesus as an encounter of intimacy, friendship, and love. While this is true, within the context of Mark 3, this is not what it means for disciples to be with Jesus.
In fact, the disciples are with Jesus to be his apprentice. It is a life-long experience of learning that takes place in a relationship matrix. It is not information dump, nor is it an assembly line approach to preparing people to do God’s work. Thus, we need to invest time with Jesus and people with more experience with Jesus to be our mentors and teachers.
3. Jesus calls disciples to be sent into the mission field:
Verses 7-12 show us the great need in the world for Jesus, his message of hope, and work of healing and demon-cleansing. Jesus calls disciples to share in this work and go into the world with his message.
When we gather in our small groups, youth fellowship, Sunday school, worship service, let us remember that these meetings ought to inspire us to become disciples. We don’t meet simply to socialize, support one another, and gain more information about the bible. We meet, first, to be apprentices in mission.
Therefore, I invite more people to join Team Barnabas, a small group of Canaan people who are committed to putting discipleship first.
Therefore, I invite more people to take opportunities to explore their callings through programs like Pathway to Ministry.
Therefore, I encourage couples to see the purpose of their marriage and their roles as parents to be making and growing disciples.
Sermon Summary (March 12, 2017
Mark 2:23-3:6 • Pastor Tim Tseng
KEY POINT: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
— 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
When Jesus’ disciples plucked the heads of grain on a sabbath, the Pharisees criticized them for doing illegal work. After all, the Sabbath was meant to be a day of rest (Deut. 5:14). But Jesus had a different interpretation.
— 25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need?”
Jesus referenced 1 Sam. 21:1-16, where David and his loyal companions were fleeing from a hostile King Saul. They were hungry and begged for food in a temple. Only consecrated bread, which was reserved for priests, was available. But they were allowed to eat the bread – a clear violation of Jewish law. Were the priests bending the rules for David? Did Jesus endorse this? No. Jesus was making this point:
— 27 “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
We don’t hear a response from the Pharisees. In fact, they maintained a silent anger into the next chapter where Jesus demonstrates this point by healing a man with a shriveled hand in a synagogue on another sabbath (Mark 3:1-5). We are told that some of the Pharisees “were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus,” (v. 2). Jesus, anticipating this hostility, reiterates his point another way by asking “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” (v. 4) At their silence,
— 5 He looked around at [the Pharisees] in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.
And afterwards, “the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” (v. 6). The die was cast. Jesus was now on the way to the cross.
How do we apply this very important scripture?
First, beware! It is very easy (almost natural) to become Pharisees. God gave Israel his law – which was meant to be used for the good of the people. But instead of worshiping and loving God, they worshiped their own power, security, and morality. And the result of is that Pharisees turned their interpretation of the law into a way to control people, neglect those in need, exclude those who are different. We’re no different, especially those of us who believe that we’re saved. Legalism always starts with good intentions, but it ends up distorting God’s purpose and becomes one of the worst sins since we are blind to it.
Second, know that Phariseeism imprisons us from true faith. Jesus was angry at how it made people with good intentions stubborn. It prevents us from understanding grace and forgiveness. We have a hard time forgiving ourselves, too. So what do we do?
Third, never forget Jesus’ two principles: (1) People are priority. God’s laws are meant for human flourishing, they are meant for good – not to prevent good from happening. (2) Jesus comes first in our interpretation of the bible. He supersedes legalistic interpretation of the bible and therefore, grace and mercy supersedes legalism and exclusion.
I invite us all to come to Jesus, repent of our Phariseeism, and pursue the path of grace and mercy in Christ!
Sermon Summary (Feb 26, 2017)
Mark 2:18-22 • Pastor Tim Tseng
— 18 “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours [Jesus’] are not?” Fasting is to abstain from food or the period in which the abstinence takes place to show humility and repentance before God. It may be that Jesus’ disciples were fasting, but not showing it publicly. After all, Jesus did criticize fasting for show in Matthew 6:16-18. Maybe Jesus’ disciples were fasting according to Isaiah 58, where God criticizes Israel for fake fasting. It’s likely that Jesus and his disciples were part of a prophetic spirituality.
— 20 “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them.” Jesus’ response indicated that his disciples did not fast while he was on earth. But they would again when he leaves them. For us, who do not have physical contact with Jesus, we ought to yearn deeply for him. So strong is our yearning that when we are worshiping, studying the bible, or praying, we actually get a foretaste of the joy of the Lord.
— One of the reasons why Christians yearn to be with Jesus is because he is too new, too different, for the old world to comfortably contain. In verses 21-22, Jesus talks again about himself and his kingdom. But this time, he uses different metaphors. 21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” Jesus and his kingdom are the unshrunk cloth and the new wine. The religion of the Pharisees and maybe fake fasting are represented by old garment and the old wineskins.
— My decision to accept the invitation to renew my service as your pastor was very difficult. Here’s why. Throughout my ministry – from theological education to leadership equipment, I’ve always thought about my ministry as being part of a “super hero” team of dedicated, self-sacrificing, eager activists for Jesus Christ. Sort of like the X-men. I always thought of myself to be like Professor Xavier. Even until now that image is what makes me most happy about ministry. But, after six years at Canaan, I started to feel like my ministry was more like the Huang family of the TV show “Fresh Off the Boat” and that my role was like Grandma Huang who is also wheel chair bound. So just as Professor X would not be a goof fit for “Fresh Off the Boat,” I have never felt that I “fit” into Canaan. But I realized that it’s possible that not “fitting” is actually good. It’s actually how Jesus saw his role. Rather, all of us should see ourselves as old garments and wineskins. Jesus is too new for us. So, we need to ask God to transform us to newness. Not to reject and replace the old us, but to renew and restore us to newness so that he can fit. So I agreed to renew my contract in hopes living with “misfits” may actually help us all seek to be transformed – transfigured!
— How do we apply this? (1) By unlearning what we have been taught. I have to unlearn the image of being Xavier of the X-men in order to be your pastor. And I hope you’ll unlearn the image of being the Huang family. We all have to unlearn in order to be transformed into newness. (2) Rethink and break old routines and be open to uncertainty. This allows us to embrace the new. So try something different in your daily spiritual practice! Let us be transfigured into new wineskins for the new wine of Jesus!
Sermon Summary from Feb. 19, 2017
Mark 2:13-17 • Pastor Tim Tseng
Main point: Jesus’ conflict with the Pharisees shows us the behavior and attitudes to avoid in His Kingdom, i.e., a sanctimonious hypocrisy. Rather, we should identify with and reach out to the brokenness of the world’s marginalized and despised people, just as Jesus did.
In Mark 2 Pharisees begin to question who Jesus is and what he is doing. “Who can forgive sins but God?” (v 6). “Why does Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (v 16). In today’s passage, Jesus calls Levi, a tax collector, to be his disciple. Tax collectors were viewed as traitors who serve the Roman enemy of the Jewish people. Then he hangs out with Levi’s crowd – other tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees objected, so they questioned Jesus, who responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (v 17). This backhanded compliment of the Pharisees actually revealed three things:
1 Jesus makes us (and the Pharisees) realize that our vision of reality is broken
The teachers of the law (who were Pharisees) were confounded. How could the Liberator of Israel hang out with the enemy tax collector? How could the Righteous Messiah hang out with sinners? Jesus made them realize that something about their sense of what was right was misplaced and their vision of reality was broken.
What happens when people with a broken vision of reality use their power? They label people sinners and enemies. They create nationalism and legalism which excludes and punishes people who are labeled enemies, traitors, and sinners because of fear and pride
Indeed, 75 years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, issued Executive Order 9066 which incarcerated 120,000 Japanese-Americans – half of them U.S. citizens – during World War II. The rationale was to protect Americans against the Japanese who had attacked Pearl Harbor and drew the U.S. into the war. Therefore Japanese American families, most of whom lived on the West Coast, were uprooted from their homes and required to move to the inland desert into barracks for the duration of the war. It was later discovered that racism was the main reason for the violation of Japanese American civil rights. For many American Christians, the reality of this type of racism shattered their image of the United States as as land of freedom and equal opportunity. American racism is a broken reality. And this is something that the Kingdom of God is reversing.
2 Jesus invites us to reach into our brokenness
When Jesus said in verse 17 “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners,” he challenged the Pharisees to see their self-righteous hypocrisy. Indeed, throughout the gospels, Jesus seems to believe that the sanctimonious attitudes and practices of the Pharisees were worse than the sins of ordinary people. The definition of sanctimonious: making a show of being morally superior to other people. Some synonyms: self-righteous, holier-than-thou, pious, pietistic, churchy, moralizing, preachy, smug, superior, priggish, hypocritical, insincere.
This is why Pharisaic Christians are so disliked. When sanctimonious and legalistic Christians share the gospel, they point to their behavior, their success, and their morality as being better than others. In truth, the only people who are drawn to this gospel are other Pharisees. That is why, even though I believe that every Christian’s speech should be seasoned with grace and love, to focus on external behavior such as avoiding profanity, is a misplaced way of bearing witness to Christ. Furthermore, I really hope that when our teens graduate from high school that they think of Christianity as nothing more than a code of external behavior and a list of practices to avoid. That kind of Pharisaic faith will crumble within a year of college life.
So if the Pharisees really listened carefully to Jesus, they would understand that he is encouraging them to reach deep into their own brokenness. The Pharisees might have thought that they were healthy and righteous. If so, Jesus did not come for them. But if they were honest with themselves, they would see in their sanctimonious behavior their true inner brokenness.
What about those of us who have professed faith in Christ? Are we truly healthy and righteous? Yes, we are declared righteous (justified) because of the cross, but we are not made perfect. We are still broken even after we decide to follow Jesus. Many Christians forget this and think that once we are in the Church club, we are more blessed and better than others. This is incorrect teaching.
Rather, we need to admit that we are not made perfect in this life. Once we confess this, we can dig into our brokenness and allow the Holy Spirit of Jesus to continue to heal us each day that we live. So how can sanctimonious people reach into their brokenness? Three simple rules:
a. Don’t be afraid (1 John 4:18). Facing brokenness within us and in the world is scary. But Jesus is guiding us. In God’s sovereignty, all things will be made right. Don’t be afraid.
b. Other people are also created in God’s image. Recognize that no matter how different other people are, no matter how much they hate us, no matter how much they fear us, every person is created in God’s image. Therefore, we must never forget to see them as equally worthy of God’s love and compassion.
c. We need Christ’s healing every day. The Holy Spirit is moving us toward maturity, fruitfulness, and healing each day by revealing our brokenness and showing the way to healing and restoration. Thus, we need to be open to whatever the Spirit shows us.
3 Jesus leads us to reach out to a broken world through our brokenness
So before we reach out to others for Christ, let us work on our inner brokenness. This is the only way we can reach people without being perceived as sanctimonious. Let us approach people as one beggar showing another where to find food.
So in the Kingdom of grace tax collectors (traitors and enemies) and sinners are invited in. In fact, Jesus reaches out and eats with them. He embraced their brokenness with his brokenness, for in his crucifixion, his body was broken and his blood was shed to heal and forgive the many. So as we follow and imitate Jesus, may the only thing that is visible as we reach out to our neighbors, relatives, and the world is not our own goodness, but Jesus Christ’s love alone.
Mark 2:1-12 • Pastor Chris Liu
In Mark 2:1-12, we see 4 friends go out of their way to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Since they couldn’t get into the house that Jesus was at because it was too full of people, they went up onto the roof, made a hole, and lowered their paralyzed friend down to Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith in Him, He told the paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven. These friends and the paralyzed man were expecting Jesus to physically heal him, but Jesus gave him something greater. He saved forgave his sins and saved his soul.
Some scribes were present and questioned how Jesus could forgive someone’s sin. To them, only God could forgive sins, so in a sense, Jesus was claiming to be God. That was blasphemous to them. But, Jesus proved that He has authority to forgive sins by physically healing this paralyzed man as well. He did what the scribes thought was more difficult (healing a paralyzed man) and showed that He has power and authority to heal and to forgive.
There are two things I wanted us to learn from this passage. First, Jesus is more than a miracle worker. While Jesus does do some pretty amazing miracles and heals people physically, His ministry was about calling people to repent and believe that He is the Messiah. It is important for us to see Jesus as our Savior and not just a miracle worker because it changes how we perceive Him.
If Jesus is just a miracle worker, than we only call on Him when we need help. He becomes our personal genie and our servant. But, if we see Jesus as our Messiah and Savior, then the opposite is true. We serve God, not the other way around. Our lives belong to Him. We live our lives for God and will strive to do what He desires us to do.
The second thing I wanted us to learn is to have the same heart as these four friends had. Although they only saw Jesus as a miracle worker, they went above and beyond to make sure their friend met Jesus. They only had a partial view of Jesus, but had faith in Him. We, have a more full view of Jesus, and so we should do the same is going above and beyond to bring others to Christ. We have people in our lives that don’t yet know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. What are we doing to make sure we bring them to Him. Let’s have boldness and not give up in sharing the Good News of God’s love with them.
Sermon Summary • Feb 5, 2017
Mark 1:35-39 • Pastor Tim Tseng
KEY POINT: Prayer is the prelude to your greater purpose!
In today’s scripture, Jesus got up in the morning, while it was dark, and prayed in a solitary place (v 35). Was he trying to get away? After all, the day before, he had been preaching, healing, driving our demons all day and all night long in the town of Capernaum (v 34).
I imagine that he might have felt exhausted by attending to and serving so many people. I often feel spiritually and physically drained when I connect with people constantly. So getting up early makes sense to me. No one else is up. I can be alone with God and recharge. Even though the bible doesn’t speak clearly here, Jesus likely woke up early to get closer to God and to recharge.
But let’s take a closer look at this text. If we ignore the rest of the passage we may think that prayer is only about feeling better. So why did Jesus really get up so early to pray?
The key lesson for us is this: Prayer prepares us to enlarge our calling. That is, prayer helps us discern our true purpose and mission in life.
In verses 36-37, Simon and his companions found Jesus and exclaimed “everyone is looking for you!” In the parallel story in Luke 4:42, “The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them.” Jesus was doing great things for the people of Capernaum, so everyone wanted him to stay.
But staying in Capernaum was not what God wanted. Jesus responded that his purpose was to preach the good news in nearby villages, too (v 38). During his morning prayer, God made clear to him that his mission extended to other towns in Galilee and Judea. Without this time alone with God, Jesus might have been tempted to stay in Capernaum where he was needed. But prayer helped Jesus affirm that God had bigger plans for him.
What can we learn from this?
First, without prayer, it is easy to fall prey to peer pressure. Everyone wants you to do this or that. Teachers and parents want you to do so many things to succeed in your studies. Young adults face the pressure of achieving success in order to be validated as adults. But peer pressure distracts us from the most important questions in our life: What is God calling you to be? What is God calling you to do? Where is God calling you to serve?
Second, without this type of prayer, we are tempted to domesticate Jesus. Like the people of Capernaum, we want Jesus all to ourselves. We want him to benefit us while ignoring God’s bigger picture. For example, if parents don’t connect to God’s bigger purpose, we’ll only seek to protect our kids from the world. We forget that God especially wants us to prepare our kids to engage the world that Jesus came to save.
Third, prayer alone with God helps us clear our minds and souls so that his will can come first in our lives. Time alone with God helps us battle the darkness around us and allows us see clearly the light that will wins the day.
In the end, time alone with God prepares us for a bigger purpose in our lives. Without it, I would have given up on my doctoral studies just to meet the needs of my home church in Brooklyn and family. But after much time alone with God, it was clear to me that he wanted me to be a witness in the academic world, an “other” village that also needed Christ! So I gave up my position as a pastor, became a seminary professor, and left my extended family in New York City. And it has been good! So, will you open you minds and hearts and lives to God’s bigger purpose in your life? Then go to God alone and pray like Jesus did!
Sermon Summary (Jan 22, 2017)
Mark 1:21-34 • Pastor Chris Liu
In Mark 1:21-34, we see Jesus do some pretty amazing things, and the people who witnessed it were astonished (astounded, overwhelmed). These things revealed that He has authority and power that no one else had seen or experienced before. So what did he do?
First, Jesus taught with authority. While the scribes taught biblical truth, they could only reference and quote other scribes and teachers. But, when Jesus taught, he would say this: “You have heard it say, but I tell you…” Jesus didn’t need to quote others and reference other teachings. He taught as if God was telling people what they should hear and know.
Another way Jesus taught differently than the scribes (and more so the pharisees), was that the Pharisees would often “teach” for the sake of showing how holy and righteous they were. They would condemn others and lift themselves up. But Jesus didn’t do that. His purpose in teaching was always to drive people closer to God.
For us, we might not be pastors or teachers, but God has also given us authority to share our faith with that same power. Because we have the Holy Spirit in us, we should be bold and confident in telling our story and what we know about God to others. We should share the Good News with authority.
Secondly, Jesus showed his power and authority over demons. While Jesus was teaching in the Synagogue, a man with an unclean spirit spoke out against Him. Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and told it to come out of the man, which it did.
While those of us who are saved cannot be possessed by an unclean spirit, we still struggle with temptations and addictions. These addictions act as chains that keep us from growing in our faith and knowing God deeper. But, know that Jesus has the power to break those chains. He can free us from our addictions. It takes time, hard work, and accountability, but ultimately God can change our hearts and turn it back to Him.
Finally, Jesus showed authority and power over sickness and disease. After teaching in the synagogue, He went to Simon Peter’s home where he learned that Peter’s mother-in-law was ill with a bad fever. Jesus immediately healed her. After that, many people from the town came to the home to be healed by Jesus.
While Jesus has the power to heal sicknesses and diseases, this wasn’t His primary ministry. He didn’t go out of His way to seek those who were sick, but the sick came to Him. And when He saw them, He had compassion on them, and healed them. But, Jesus’ main mission was to call people to repent and believe. And this is what we should focus on too.
Know that Jesus wants to use you and gives you authority to teach/preach/tell others the good news. Know that He gives you power to overcome your addictions. And know that He also has the power to heal, but ultimately desires people to repent and turn to Him.
Mark 1:16-20 • Pastor Tim Tseng
“The time has come…The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” With this bold announcement (verse 15), Jesus now recruits his disciples. When Jesus comes calling, he interrupts and disrupts us, just as he did to Simon, Andrew, James and John.
These four dudes were fishermen. It was a difficult life. They had to get up early every morning in hopes of catching enough to sell and for their families to survive. Yet, Jesus interrupts and invites them to become disciples. And, surprisingly, they follow him – immediately (v 16-18(.
We also discover that Jesus disrupts comfortable relationships, family expectations, and familiar obligations. A little later, James and John leave their father behind in the boat to follow Jesus (v 19-20).
Many Asian Americans find it very difficult to allow anyone to disrupt our family life. There is a feeling of guilt and shame when it feels like we are abandoning our parents or children. It’s also hard to let anyone interrupt our routines, our personal goals, drive for achievement, projects, or things we are engrossed in.
Yet, if we have not been interrupted or disrupted by Jesus, if we have not had to make the difficult decision to follow him, then we may not have actually heard the gospel. Divine interruptions and disruptions is always the beginning of authentic discipleship.
Now, we might hesitate in our response to him. In contrast, the four dudes did not hesitate to leave everything behind to follow Jesus. Why?
First, their lives were going nowhere. In fact, life under the current Jewish and Roman leaders was increasingly bankrupt. It’s difficult for us, who lived in such a rich nation, to see how imprisoned we are to sin in this corrupt world. But the disciples saw it. And despite the evidence of beauty and goodness in God’s creation, the world was and is still fallen.
Second, they saw a better way to live in Jesus. The kingdom of God was coming and Jesus was leading the spiritual conquest of this fallen world.
Third, they were given their real purpose in life. They left their vocation and family behind, but were given a new vocation and family. As fishers of men, disciple-makers, they were not completely erasing their past, but re-purposing it so that they could be what God intended them to be.
In sum, the disciples’ response to Jesus shows us what repentance looks like. Disruption and interruption, leaving the old behind, and following Jesus into his kingdom. Discipleship is the most difficult decision anyone can make. But it is also the most important and rewarding. Not just for us, but for the sake of God’s world.
Jesus is calls us to become disciples now. The invitation is all of us – young and old, even those of us who have grown up in the church or have professed to be Christians. Are you ready to set sail with him to become fishers of people?
Mark 1:9-15 • Pastor Chris Liu
Certain athletes are very particular in how they prepare themselves before a game. They will go through a certain routine that helps them focus on the task ahead of them. Jesus, at the start of His ministry, chose to do a couple of things to help Him prepare for His ministry here on earth.
The very first thing Jesus did was to get baptized. Jesus did not have to get baptized, but He chose to do it for a couple of reasons. First, He wanted to affirm the message that John the Baptist was preaching. John was proclaiming that Jesus was the Messiah and Jesus agreed that He was The One. His baptism was a public announcement of who He was. The second reason Jesus got baptized was to show that God also affirmed His calling and that He was empowered by the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t have the Holy Spirit in Him already, but it was an audial and visual affirmation. A third reason for his baptism was to connect with us as humans. He was setting the example of what we should do when we turn our lives over to God. Jesus was relating to us as humans.
The second thing that Jesus did was to go into the wilderness to prepare His heart and mind for the task ahead. Jesus knew that this ministry was going to be difficult. He knew that people would not understand Him, that people will reject Him, and that ultimately, He would have to suffer and die. He went away by Himself to prepare Himself.
While He was there, the devil appeared to tempt Him and try and take Him off course. In the other gospel books, we see the devil tempt Him in 3 different ways. However, Mark, focuses on the 40 days instead of giving specific examples. I believe that it was a constant temptation that Jesus had to endure. However, Jesus was able to overcome those temptations and angels came to minister to Him.
In the same way, whenever God calls us to serve Him, the devil may also show up to try and tempt us and take us off course. He will try to lie to us and get us to doubt our calling, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can resit temptation and do the things that God has called us to do. Know that whatever God is calling you to do, that He will give you the means to do it.
Finally, Jesus starts His ministry and calls people to “repent and believe in the gospel.” For those of you who have not yet given your life over to Christ, I urge you to repent and believe in the Good News that God has died for your sins. For those who have committed your lives to Christ, I urge you to be baptized (if you have not already done so) and to be true disciples who are growing and serving God in whatever He is calling you to do.
Happy New Year everyone! We are starting a new sermon series and approach this year. Our theme is disciple-making. We’re be looking at the life and ministry of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark as our model of being and making disciples. Each Sunday – until Advent – we will preach through a passage from Mark. Please preview each Sunday’s verses and let Pastors Chris or me know if you have any questions, illustrations, or ideas for our sermons.
Mark 1:1-8 • January 1, 2017
If I could re-preach last Sunday’s message, here is what I would say:
1. The bad news. We live in the wilderness of doomed quests. Whether it is a quest for God without the church (the individualist), the quest for community without God (the socially dependent), or the quest for church leadership without spiritual maturity (the power hungry), all our quests will lead to failure. This is what Israel discovered in their failure to enter the Promised Land and during the Babylonian Captivity. Ultimately, their quests led to idolatry (worshiping anything other than God), disobedience, and its consequence.
2. The good news. Scripture shows us that life isn’t about our quests anyway. It’s about God’s quest for us. Mark 1:2-3 are quotes from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:4, which promises that a voice in the wilderness, a messenger, will announce that God is coming to his people directly. John the Baptist is calling out to us – requesting that we stop our personal quests – and turn our attention to God, who is looking for us and coming to us. Though John dressed and lived like the prophet Elijah, we ought to resist the temptation to ignore him. Rather, let us pay closer attention to his message!
3. The greater news. God not only seeks us, but he invites us to a new quest. John urges the people of Israel to receive the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the Jordan River. Just as Israel entered the Promised Land by crossing the Jordan, we too can join God’s quest. Repentance is turning away from doomed quests in the wilderness. Forgiveness happens when God overlooks idolatry and sin so we can freely join his people into the new Promised Land.
4. The best news. We can join Jesus’ spiritual conquest over the powers of sin and evil in this world. John was not the Messiah, but he points to Jesus, whose Hebrew name is Joshua. The new Joshua will provide the baptism of the Holy Spirit. And he will, as we shall see, reconquer fallen creation by driving out demonic forces, healing the sick, and bringing in the Kingdom of God. We are invited to join his team and his quest. And the kicker is this: when we join Jesus’ conquest team, we will at last find our true quest in life! Will you join? Will you re-commit your life to Jesus and his quest?