Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
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September 30 – Pentecost 18 – Mark 9:38-50 – Committed To The Cause Of Christ

Introduction:  Grace be to you and peace, from God our Father, and from our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Our text is the Gospel Lesson just read, from Mark 9.  We begin with prayer. 

Dear fellow disciples of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ:

  • Spiritual envy is a very difficult problem – that we would actually be jealous of someone because their “spiritual” health and vitality appears to be superior to our own.  The desire to be “superior” to others “spiritually” is truly a rather dismal aspect of our fallen, sinful human nature – that we would be competitive even about our relationship with God.  And yet this is a rather common inner dynamic in us.  And we see this dynamic in the Old Testament Lesson as well as in our text, the Gospel Lesson.
  • Of a similar nature, and perhaps even more dangerous – in that it can become quite organized – is envy and jealousy and competition among various “religions” or religious groups.  This occurs even between groups that are ostensibly “Christian,” congregations of different tradition, beliefs, or practices.  I can’t tell you how often I have heard people who are just “concerned” that our congregation isn’t as big as this other congregation, or growing as rapidly, or as influential.  Implicit in these “concerns” is the suggestion that we need to compete, to excel, and to become at least as “good” as they are.  I must say that it is quite an interesting dynamic – and also the inner considerations when we realize that another congregation is struggling and in worse shape than we are. 
  • This is not to say that the correct teaching of God’s Word is unimportant, or that we should not be zealous for the truth of the precious and glorious Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  God’s Word encourages this zeal for truth from cover to cover.  But it is to say that we must keep watch over the deadly sin and evils in our own hearts, and to be wise and nuanced in our reaction to the “good” done by others in “Christ’s Name.”  But first, this is important:

I.  We Must Understand Our Limitations, And Our Need For Help And Cooperation From Others


OT Lesson:  “Why have you dealt ill with your servant?  And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You lay the burden of all this people on me?  Did I conceive all this people?  Did I give them birth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that You swore to give their fathers?”


Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Gather for Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. . . . And the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders.”


Statement:  Joshua became concerned about this – being Machiavellian in his thinking, and knowing that this diminished Moses’ absolute authority and that humanly speaking, this put his leadership at risk.    But Moses gave the proper response to this:  “Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit on them.”  This would produce no harm, not to Moses, and not to God’s people.


Application:  This should also be our attitude – when we see God’s Spirit and blessing shining through in other people!  Indeed, this should be precisely our prayer as well, that “the LORD would put His Spirit” on all of God’s people.  It is certainly my prayer for you, and for all servants of God’s Word.


However, this does not mean that there are no fakes and imitators, people who do not want God’s Spirit or to be subject to God – but are eager to bring us under their “spiritual” superiority, control and domination, and who want to rule and govern the church NOT under God’s Word but under their own ideas and notions, for their own egos.  Beware of such people – and highly discerning.  And beware of being such people yourselves – for in the end all such will be identified and visible to all as frauds, as even Jesus Himself warns us:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”  Matt. 7:21-23


But hopefully we are all eager to have His Spirit, and eager to rejoice in the fruits of His Spirit given to those around us within the church!  For surely:


II.  We Must Rejoice In God’s Gifts, His Spirit In Others, All Who Help In The Work Of Christ’s Cause


Text:  “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in My Name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me.  For the one who is not against us is for us.  For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.”


III.  And Likewise, We Dare Not Be Offensive To Others By Being Jealous Or Resentful Of The Good Work Of Others – But We Must Rather Rejoice In It


Text:  “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.  If your hand causes you to sin cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hand to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.”


Statement:  It is interesting that these warnings of Jesus about offending others should come in close proximity to this whole discussion about “spiritual” ego – and how we are to feel about others who at least publicly have taken up the Name of Christ and His work.  Whether Joshua or the very disciples of the Lord Jesus, we are all are warned about the temptations of our own envy and jealousy of others even in “spiritual” matters, and even within the larger work of Christ in building up His kingdom.


Application:  Again, all of this has to do with those who are actually working in Christ’s Name, that is, in accord with His Word.  No one has any right to work contrary to God’s Word, and we are certainly to discern and reject and condemn anything and everything that is contrary to God’s Word.  But Jesus is concerned with “right” things that are being done – and his disciples “forbidding” this.


In our own experiences, there are many “right” things that are done by others along with things that are contrary to the Word of God.  Our temptation is to simplify – that if we see anything at all that is wrong we go ahead and condemn the whole thing.  We do this most often with whole “organizations” – failing to discern and distinguish between what is good and part of Christ’s work, done in His Name, and what is contrary to the Word of God and hence reprehensible.


But we also tend to do this with individuals – especially if we are eager to condemn them and be rid of them.  Jesus forbids this jealousy, envy, and wickedness.  Certainly we must judge the false doctrine and wicked immoral living that may persist in others – but at the same time we dare not condemn or disparage what they teach that IS in accord with God’s Word, or their works that are moral and laudable!  So we are to beware in all of this, lest our envy, jealousy, ego, and selfish ambition get the better of us!  But rather:


IV.  Commitment To Christ’s Cause Avoids Jealousy And Selfish Ambition, And Strives Rather For Peace – For Christ’s Cause Is Our First Priority


Text:  “Everyone will be salted with fire.  Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again?  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”


Statement:  If we understand what it is that Christ seeks to accomplish in His mission and ministry to fallen and sinful human beings, lost under the just condemnation of God’s Law – that He has come as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world, precisely because God loves the world, and wills for all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth – then we have been “salted” with the wonder of His love.  We will have two equally powerful and pervasive concerns:


1]  to rejoice and support anything that is being done that is in accord with Christ’s Word, and that promotes and extends His Kingdom, and

2]  an equal loathing and distaste for anything that is contrary to God’s Word, that obscures the reality of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus and leads people away from a true knowledge of God and His great love for us. 


Application:  But this is hard work, and does not come as naturally to us as making judgments on the basis of our own ego and desire for “superiority” over others – whether we are attempting to demonstrate “spiritual” superiority, or mere “ecclesiastical” [churchly] superiority.  So the warning of Jesus is quite important – and quite contrary to our sinful nature.


The reality when it comes to “spiritual” superiority is that we all remain sinners, in complete and absolute need of God’s gracious mercy and forgiveness.  When it comes to the teaching of God’s Word – not all have His Spirit in the same measure, although all have the right and authority to judge any and all contradictions of God’s Word.  But Moses’ superiority in the Word of God was no ground or basis for ego – but rather was the gift of God.  And so he rightly acknowledged that it would be a great blessing if all of God’s people “were prophets” and “that the LORD would put His Spirit on them.” 


Conclusion:  So, is this the kind of ambition that you have – for yourself and for others?  If not, pray God that He give you this good ambition – and that He take away all sinful ego, jealousies, and envies from your heart.   May God grant this blessedness of spirit to all of us – for the sake of Jesus’ Name.  Amen.


Votum:  And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in the true faith, which is in Christ Jesus, even unto life everlasting, Amen.