Monday, February 22, 2010

The Christian Life

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, February 21, 2010

Mark 6:30-32 - “ Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.”

What is your view of the Christian life? How would you characterize the life that is lived, truly and fully lived, for Christ?

You know, it's interesting the differences that catch your attention as you read and study scripture... The book of Mark, especially these first 6 chapters of this gospel, but it's interesting to me to think back about the verses, the people, the evens, the ideas and the truths that have jumped off the page to me over the last few weeks, as I've been examining this book. Rehearse some of them again with me just now, will you? The beginning of the gospel, as it is recorded here, in the Bible, and the continuation of the Gospel as it is fleshed out by us out there in the world. Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus is Lord! Remember the 3 foundational confessions of the Christian faith?

No Change, No Jesus. Know Jesus, Know Change! We must be NEW wine-skins before Jesus, the New Wine, will pour His life into us!

That huge character, Satan – the Devil – our Adversary, who is continually busy trying to steal, kill and destroy the good news and those who believe that good news! He is the strong man! He is the strong man, that's the bad news. But, Mark 1 – Mark 2 – Mark 3, 4, 5, 6 all the way to the end, these 16 chapters declare to us the good, good news... Remember? Jesus is stronger! Jesus is stronger! We know what manner of man He is, don't we?

Now, I'd like for us to turn a corner to take yet another look at the inspired and inspiring words contained right here in the Bible, and consider something else God wants us to think about and know about. I'm talking about the Christian life, the life that is lived – truly and fully lived – for Christ. Remember the questions I laid out for you a moment ago? As I have looked this last week at the Scriptures here, and at my own life in light of them, I've discovered three very important universals. Three very important universal qualities of the life that is lived truly and fully for Jesus Christ, that are true and evident across the board. May I share them with you?

I don't know for sure what your view of the Christian life might be, but I am regularly reminded that there are a lot of people – young and old, rich and poor, well-educated and not-so-well-educated – who think that, well, the Christian life is BORING!

You know, “You're a Christian, huh? That means that you don't do this... And you don't do that... And you'd NEVER do the other... So, guess what? You must not do ANYTHING! You must not have ANY fun! You must sit around praying all day, reading your Bible all day, singing hymns all day. A real 'spiritual' couch potato! BO—RING! That's what the life lived for Jesus Christ must be!” Oh, really?! Is that what the Word of God indicates the Christian life is like?

See if any of these descriptions sound BO-RING to you... “Follow me, and I will make you FISHERS of men...” (Mark 1:17) Serving up fish sandwiches for 5,000 hungry men, not counting the women and children (Mark 6:32 ff). And, while we're talking about fish and fishing, what about it? My Bible says that fishing – in other words, a man making a living to provide for his family – that's a part of what God calls the Christian life! (1 Timothy 5:8) The Christian life, how do you characterize it?

The book of Mark – this wonderful good news book about the life of Jesus, and about those of us then and now who are learning to live as He lived. How does this portion of the Word of God portray the Christian life?
It portrays Jesus' life – the disciples' lives – as those so full of people – needy, hurting people – and opportunities to preach, teach, heal and comfort those people, that they didn't even have time to eat! (Mark 6:31)

The Christian life, godly parents, what is it? Deuteronomy 6 – it is the all-day-long responsibility you and I have to teach our children about the Lord, to talk about Him to them, as the Scripture says there, from the time we awaken in the morning, to the time we go to bed at night – and all in between.

Or, look at the Christian life the way Acts 10 describes Christ's life, “[Everywhere He went] He went about doing good...” He went about adorning the gospel! He went about calming storms, hugging children, healing sick bodies, teaching immature disciples, confronting obstinate Pharisees... and ultimately, He made His way to Calvary!

And why did He do all of that? Because He was trying to show us that the Christian life – the life that is truly and fully lived for Him – ISN'T a sit around and twiddle your thumbs kid of life. And it ISN'T a lay back and watch the grass grow kind of life! Rather, Matthew 28:18-20 – It's an “As you go, make disciples' kind of life. In other words, Beloved, here's the key word – the Christian life is not BO-RING, but BU-SY! It's BU-SY! Which means, secondly, that it is also TIRING. Yes, you heard me right. The Christian life is also tiring! You think about it with me, the images the word pictures that are used in the New Testament to describe the life lived truly and fully for Jesus Christ are what? They are rigorous, energetic pictures like... “I have FOUGHT the good FIGHT, I have finished the RACE...” (2 Timothy 4:7) “GROW up in every way into Him who is the Head, Jesus Christ...” (Ephesians 4:15) “Offer your BODIES – your whole selves – as live SACRIFICES... be transformed by the renewing of your mind...” (Romans 12:1-2) “Stand firm against the devil's schemes... RESIST him, and he will flee from you...” (Ephesians 6:10 ff, James 4:7)

These images, these word pictures that portray for us what it means to live the Christian life... Beloved, this is no 'couch potato' situation! No! When I read words that talk about warfare, Olympic marathons, sacrifice and transformation, holding your ground and growing... Immediately I think of EFFORT. I think of EXERTION, of blood, sweat and tears. I immediately think of how tiring it must be to live, really LIVE for Jesus Christ!

Does that surprise you? It shouldn't! Look back with me, if you would, to Mark 4, verses 35-41. Jesus, the One who shows us what it means to live – really live - this life for God that is anything but BO-RING, where is He, at the end of that busy, grueling day? Verse 38 – He is asleep! He is asleep! Yes, living truly and fully for Christ is NOT boring; rather, it's BUSY. So BU-SY, in fact, that you and I – if that has been our pursuit – like Jesus was that night in the boat, we'll be tired! The GOOD kind of tired, as we call it around our house. But, why is all of this true?

The third important thing to remember about the Christian life – the third universal truth about the life that is truly and fully lived for Jesus Christ – is that it is DEMANDING. The life really lived for Christ is demanding.

Think again with me about what we've seen so far – and what we look forward to seeing in this Book – the gospel of Mark: the Christian life is demanding, Mark chapter one – Peter, Andrew, James and John left everything – they left everything, the boats, the nets, the fish – they left everything to follow Jesus. Or, how about John the Baptist. As we read in this 6th chapter, right here... his “He [Jesus] must increase, and I must decrease” mindset ultimately cost him his life! Or, think back with me to Mark chapter 2 and Mark chapter 4. W want Jesus – the new 'wine' – to be poured into us, to fill us. But what does that require of us? It means that we must become new wine-skins! We want to be fruitful for the kingdom of God? We must break-up the fallow pathway soil, we must deepen and enrich the rocky soil, we must purify the weedy soil of our life's garden. Or else, we will NEVER be fruitful for the Kingdom! The Christian life is DEMANDING... it's no Sunday School picnic! Rather, it calls us, through the gospel, Jesus calls us to let go of deeply-held wrong ideas - “I would never eat lunch with someone like that!” “I would never touch someone with that disease.” Jesus did! He ATE with tax collectors and sinners! He came to bring healing to the sick! And, in doing so, Jesus calls us to make the ultimate commitment ourselves: the commitment He made at Calvary... Mark 8:34ff - “If anyone would come after Me, he must DENY himself, take up his cross and follow Me... for whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel, the same will save it!”

Yes, beloved, mark it down, the Christian life – the life really lived for Jesus Christ - is not BO-RING, and it is not EAST, and it is definitely not always comfortable or pleasure oriented. But it is BU-SY, it's TIRING and it's DEMANDING! More demanding than anything else on earth. But you know something else? Jesus knows all of that! He knows all of that! And that's what makes the three verse we read at the outset so meaningful!

Look at those verses again with me, will you? Jesus, the One whose life was unbelievably busy – crowds of needy folks gathered around Him all the time, coming and going, seeking His help from dark thirty AM to dark thirty PM and beyond – Jesus, the One who, everywhere He went, He was helping and healing hurting people. Jesus, the One whose words and whose life made the demands of the gospel call what they were! Jesus, the One who even fell asleep one night out on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus, because He knows that to live – really live – like Him and for Him means that His apostles will be busy, tired and stretched to the limit. What does He do? Jesus, the very One who restored the sick woman's health. Jesus, the one who gave strength to the paralyzed man's legs. Jesus, the very One who fed the 5,000 with the fish and bread – look what He does for those who were His chosen ones: verses 31 and 32. He takes His tired, weak, hungry, 'stressed out' apostles – His 12 closest men – to a solitary place with Him, to get some rest! In other words, Jesus provides for these who were desirous of being like Him what they NEEDED to continue that pursuit: a place - a quiet, solitary get away location. A Person – Himself. And a purpose - to feed them, strengthen them and restore them that they might be ready for the busy, tiring, demanding days ahead!

Now, let's look at our lives... Do we wear the name 'Christian'? If we do – guess what? We're the 'apostles' – the Jesus Christ commissioned 'sent ones' of this day and time! We're the ones who are supposed to be BU-SY – not BO-RED, but busy – busy about our Master's business. Have we check our calendars lately? Is that what they reflect?

And, we're the ones who are supposed to get tired. We're the ones who ought to fall asleep on the boat TIRED, because we are so busy working for the Lord.

And, yes, we're the ones who, hopefully, more than anyone else, understand the demands of the gospel call on our lives. Demands like – seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Redeem the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15ff). Pursue holiness, for without holiness no one will see God (Hebrews 12:14). Hopefully, more than anyone else, we understand the gospel's demands... and, by God's grace, we are seeking to submit to those demands and to meet those requirements.

Brothers and sisters – true confession time – this preacher of yours, sometimes I get so busy, so tired, so stressed out doing the Lord's work – serving Christ and striving to be like Christ, as a husband, father, neighbor, preacher and friend – that like those disciples we read about later in this chapter, straining to row across the lake in the middle of the night, I think “I'm in this thing called the 'Christian life' alone!” And worse yet, I'm backing a 40 mile per hour head wind! Can you relate?

I'm tired and backing that horrible head wind... You're busy, serving Jesus in your sphere of influence, stretched to the limit, because you DO realize and fully grasp the significance of Jesus' call to follow Him to Calvary. We're living – really living for Christ, but somehow, we think Christ has forgotten us... That we might as well give up! And throw in the towel... Beloved, did you know something? That's where the very first readers of this gospel – the Christians at ancient Rome – were, when they opened it to this chapter. And you know something? Are you listening? The words Jesus spoke to those first-century believers at Rome, they are the same words being delivered to you and me: (Mark 6:50) “It is I! Don't be afraid!” and “Come with me – by yourselves – to a quiet place and rest awhile (Mark 6:31).

The Christian life... what is your view of it? How do you characterize the life that is lived – really lived for Jesus Christ?

One of my most favorite verses along those lines is Acts 4:13. It's the verse immediately following that famous verse, where Peter declares that salvation is found in no name under heaven other than the name of Jesus... Acts 4:13 – it describes the vantage point of the unbelieving Jewish council – the Sanhedrin – as the members of that ruling council observed the lives of the Apostles, Peter and John. Take a look at that verse and consider this question: How is the life that lived, really lived for Jesus Christ to be characterized?

Acts 4:13 - “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”

“They have been with Jesus.” Now think about it with me, will you? What would prompt the Sanhedrin of that day to say that about Peter and John? Answer: number one – those 2 men were busy about the Lord's work... Number two – And at times they grew tired in doing that work... Number three – And, as their courageous declaration to that council makes clear, they understood the DEMANDS of Jesus' calling on their lives.

But, here's the really important question, that may have been on the Sanhedrin's mind, and that wondering about... “What kept them going? What kept them going, all the way to the point of suffering a martyr's death?”

Answer: number one – Jesus was in the boat with them (Mark 6:51)... and, answer number two – they made regular trips to that quiet, solitary place WITH Jesus to be refreshed and restored. They had been, were and would be WITH Jesus! (Mark 6:31-32) Now, how about our lives? We are the Jesus Christ commissioned SENT ones of today. Busy about His business? Tired? That good kind of tired that comes when we're busy serving the King of kings? Stretched to the limit? To be so, and to continue doing so, we must be with Jesus, and Jesus must be with us! I've got good news for you, beloved... Our Master is ready to climb in the boat with us! Our master has already prepared a quiet place for us.

Yes, in His strength you and I can continue to do the busy, tiring, demanding work He call us to do for Him... through Him.

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