Sent: Preaching & Anointing

Sent: Preaching & Anointing
Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
Mark 6:6-29

Series Big Idea:
The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!

Big Idea: Following Jesus is radical and dangerous…but worth it!


Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. According to the Declaration of Independence, these are our unalienable Rights endowed to us by our Creator. Despite its countless flaws, I love the United States, but Thomas Jefferson’s words are not taken from the Bible. In fact, following Jesus may result in the loss of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…but it will be worth it.

Today we continue our look at Jesus from Mark’s biography of him. Last week we saw Jesus’ amazement at the lack of faith among those in his hometown of Nazareth. The text continues…

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. (Mark 6:6)

I want to pause and analyze Jesus’ leadership. Contrary to popular belief, leadership is more than a title or position. At its core, leadership is influence. We all have some influence on others. The best leaders do not merely have followers, but rather they develop leaders. Perhaps my favorite verse describing this comes to Timothy from his mentor Paul:

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)

Four generations are found in one verse: Paul, Timothy, reliable people who teach others.

Here’s Jesus’ model as outlined by Dave Ferguson in his book

1. I do. You watch. Jesus was teaching and healing and the disciples observed.

2. I do. You help. At some point Jesus told them he had a purpose for them beyond companionship. He wanted them involved, helping.

3. You do. I help. We talk.
This is the point of action. The baton is being passed; not thrown, but passed. Debriefing is important, too. Feedback can be so valuable, especially when we are doing something new.

4. You do. I watch. We talk.
Not the leader does not assist except to coach afterward.

5. You do. Someone else watched.
Now the student becomes the teacher, the apprentice is the leader. Things have come full circle.

This process works if you are teaching your kids how to load the dishwasher, training your apprentice small group leader, or equipping a new employee at the office.

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus who is preparing his twelve disciples to transform the world…without cable tv, Twitter, or even the newspaper.

Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. (Mark 6:7)

It sounds like Noah’s ark, doesn’t it, two by two? It’s not good for man to be alone, God said after creating Adam. There’s strength in numbers. A partner helps protect against the dangers of temptation and attack. Who does two by two well? The Mormans and JW’s! They have it mastered, undoubtedly drawing their inspiration for this verse. If only the entire Bible was followed as carefully by them. Notice Jesus gave them authority. He equipped them. He didn’t shove them out the door and say, “Good luck!”

These were his instructions:
“Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. (Mark 6:8-9)

They are to travel light. They can’t even run to the ATM and get some cash! He wants them focused on the mission and dependent upon God for daily bread. Personal comforts are not a priority for Jesus. Now this is not meant to be a universal plan for missions work. Today we raise money to provide for ministries around the world, but this particular mission was dependent upon the hospitality of others.

Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.
(Mark 6:10)

I want to suggest perhaps Jesus is saying, “Get to know the people. Build relationships. Don’t rush off. Preach repentance. Drive out demons. Heal the sick. You’ve seen me do it. Now it’s your turn.”

And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
(Mark 6:11)

This is an odd instruction in our culture, but he’s saying if they ignore you, let them know the consequences. Let them know judgment would eventually fall on them…they’ve been warned. The disciples were commissioned to preach repentance, to urge people to turn from their selfish desires and follow God. Repent means to turn, to do a 180. Not everyone is eager stop what they’re doing and surrender to Jesus. This is obviously just as true today. Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, but to make dead people come alive…but first they must die…to themselves. This is where I struggle with Thomas Jefferson. I’m not against life, liberty or happiness—nor is God—but those are not God’s highest values for us. Jesus calls us to die to ourselves, submit to Jesus as LORD, and pick up our cross and follow him. It is not always easy, fun, or comfortable.

I get worried when I see Christianity sold to USAmericans as just another self-help alternative. Pray this prayer and God will make you happy. Have enough faith and you’ll be rich. The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will. UGH! What garbage!

Jesus gave up everything—including his own life—and he asks us to do the same…because it will be worth it in the end. He doesn’t promise is safety and comfort and pleasure now. We have work to do. We are in the middle of a war…between good and evil. So many so-called Christians are lounging by the pool unaware there’s a battle on the other side of the gate. Look around, friends.

Heroin. Sex trafficking. Racism. Hunger. Homelessness. Violence. Hatred. Injustice.

Jesus didn’t come and die so we could sit in comfy seats for an hour a week with our nice leather-bound Bibles and fancy clothes…and I’m not against any of those things. But following Jesus must take precedent over life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Kingdoms collide.

One final thought on this verse: we are not to coerce, threaten, entice, or pressure people to follow Jesus. The command for the twelve was to preach repentance, to invite people to turn from their pleasure to seek God’s kingdom. And if they don’t listen, move on.

They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. (Mark 6:12-13)

They did it. They obeyed Jesus. The miracles authenticated their message. I wish I had a recording of their conversation with Jesus afterward. The stories must’ve been amazing! God obviously provided despite their lack of provisions. Ministry was accomplished. Lives were changed. The twelve began to get a glimpse of what it truly meant to proclaim truth and follow God.

And then Mark inserts a bizarre flashback, a story that reminds us the risks of obeying God.

King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” (Mark 6:14)

Herod hears rumors about Jesus and begins to think perhaps John the Baptist was back, resurrected.

Others said, “He is Elijah.” 

And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”

But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!” (Mark 6:15-16)

Remember, the central question in our series is, “Who is Jesus?” Herod thinks the only one who can preach with authority and heal is John, whom he beheaded! He killed John but has enough faith to believe in the resurrection, even though John was still dead! Yet he does nothing to pursue Jesus.

For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him. (Mark 6:17-20)

Herod liked John the Baptist even though John spoke out against the king’s marriage. He married Herodias, his niece, who is already the wife of his half brother, according to scholars. It’s rather confusing because Herod was a family name, not one man’s name. This was not Herod the Great. This was his son, Herod Antipas. He was banished to southern France by AD 39 and his kingdom was given to Herodias’ brother Agrippa. Mark calling him “King” Herod was ironic and sly.

Let me be radical and politically incorrect and say despite what some say, our culture does not believe any two people in love should be able to marry. What if one is a minor? What if one is a relative (eww!)? What about polygamy? Then again, it may just be a matter of time.

Herodias hates John because he criticized her marriage, likely a plot of hers to gain power by marrying Herod.

Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. (Mark 6:21-22a)

This was not some Chuck E. Cheese birthday party. Jews saw birthdays as pagan celebrations, and this occasion was filled with paganism: dancing girls at a stag party, a drunken king, …you get the idea. Most likely the amoral Herodias sent her teen daughter to perform erotically for her uncle and these other powerful men.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” (Mark 6:22b-23)

This must’ve been quite a dance! Herod actually can’t give half of the kingdom away because he’s merely a puppet of Rome. Jesus, however, gives his disciples the power of the kingdom of God which brings healing and salvation.

She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” 

“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered. (Mark 6:24)

At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” (Mark 6:25)

I’ve played that genie game many times, the one where you ask, “If you could have three wishes, what would they be?” I’ve never heard someone mention a person’s head on a platter!

The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. (Mark 6:26-29)

What an incredible story.

So What?

What do we do with it? Be careful what you ask for!

It might seem odd, but look what Mark says next.

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. (Mark 6:30)

This is the only time Mark calls the twelve “apostles.” They are sent ones who have completed a commission. It seems like Mark is connecting the dots between John, Jesus, and the disciples. Their mission to preach repentance is the same. Their fate as martyrs is the same. They are hated like the prophets of old. David Garland notes that “what happened to John the Baptizer presages what will also happen to any who preach the same message of repentance in a hostile world. They too will be handed over. They too will have to stand before kings. While Jesus’ ministry began after John’s imprisonment, the disciples’ preaching begins after John’s death.”

Paradoxically, this is how the kingdom of God has grown for thousands of years. Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Kierkegaard stated, “The tyrant dies and his rule ends, the martyr dies and his rule begins.” Mark shows us a cowardly man, Herod, with wealth and no character. He also shows us brave men with character and no wealth. One enjoys life now, the others for eternity.

A choice must be made. Following Jesus is risky business. Sure, we’re blessed with tremendous freedoms in this nation today, but tomorrow offers us no such guarantees. One report I read this past week said a Christian was killed every six minutes last year for their faith. Over 90,000 of our brothers and sisters, slaughtered for following Jesus. That doesn’t include those arrested, imprisoned, and tortured.

It’s a radical thought, but might God be preparing you for a life of suffering, of radical living, of dangerous adventure for the sake of eternity? Jesus never promised us a successful career, good health, or a stocked 401k. He never said obedience would result in popularity, comfort and pleasure. Jesus taught and modeled the denial of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the glory of God, for the kingdom of God.

Credits: some ideas from Stephen Leston, Mark Strauss, Ian Fair, NT Wright, J. Vernon McGee, Scott Pinzon, Richard Niell Donovan, and David Garland.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Homecoming: Amazed & Faithless, 8 October 2017

    Homecoming: Amazed & Faithless
    Mark’s Gospel: The Real Jesus
    Mark 6:1-6

    Series Big Idea:
    The shortest gospel is filled with good news about Jesus!

    Big Idea: Faith is a precious gift from God we must exercise.


    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

    We talked about love last week. God’s grace enables us to love one another. Today we are looking at faith. In many ways, it is what brings us together. We are a family of faith, a community of faith. There are “faith healers” who say with enough faith the sick can be healed and the poor can become rich. There are doubters and skeptics who may struggle with notions of faith. Faith is linked to trust, yet it is different. Faith is a precious gift from God we must exercise.

    Where does faith originate? How can we grow our faith? What even is faith, and what difference does it make? My name is Kirk and as we resume our series on the book of Mark, a biography of Jesus, we’re going to examine faith and, I pray, strengthen yours.

    Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. (Mark 6:1-2a)

    Several weeks ago, we finished the fifth chapter of Mark where Jesus had healed a bleeding woman on the way to raising a dead girl to life. Then he goes to Nazareth, his hometown, and amazes those in the synagogue with his teaching.

    Jesus was a remarkable teacher. Last Sunday we looked at the Golden Rule, words quoted thousands of years later, even by non-Christians who think it’s a good idea to “do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).

    “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mark 6:2b-3)

    Imagine showing up to your high school reunion in a fancy sports car with a gorgeous spouse on your arm, a Rolex watch on your wrist, and the finest of clothes. Many of your colleagues will be…jealous. After all, they came from the same town, attended the same school, and their lives looked like that?! I can just imagine the commotion:

    “Jesus never spoke like that in high school speech class.”
    “ I remembering praying with him for his sick dog in seventh grade and it was healed, but now he’s raising the dead?”
    “He made me a nice kitchen table a few years back, but when I went to buy matching the matching chairs they said he moved away.”

    Nobody knows you like family and close friends. There’s an old expression that an expert is someone with a briefcase who is more than 50 miles from home. It’s easy t fool strangers but hard to fool your neighbors and kinfolk.

    People change, of course, but our roots and family of origin matter and often influence us throughout our lives. These people couldn’t believe their hometown carpenter had become a teacher, a healer…a celebrity.

    Jesus said to them,
    “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” (Mark 6:4)

    They were skeptical, perhaps understandably. I’ve heard stories of people who grew up in a church as children who struggle to get respect as adults because everyone remembers “little George” or “little Mary.” But honor wasn’t the only thing Jesus failed to receive. The people lacked faith.

    He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. (Mark 6:5-6a)

    This is an incredible text. First, Mark nonchalantly says Jesus only healed a few sick people. That’s more than I’ve done today…this week…this month…this year? But his lack of power seems to be connected to their lack of faith, something which amazed Jesus.

    I would love to amaze Jesus…but not because of my lack of faith.

    Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. (Mark 6:6b)

    Jesus hit the road in search of people with faith.

    So What?

    What does this mean? If I have enough faith I can heal or be healed, but without faith I’m hopeless and helpless?

    What is faith?

    The faith chapter of the Bible, Hebrews 11, famously begins…

    Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

    Faith is a gift. We are saved through faith…by grace.

    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

    This is a perfect bridge to our previous series on grace. We are not saved by our good works. We can’t be good enough. Every other religion emphasizes trying hard to be good enough for a holy God, but none of us is perfect so without grace, we’re all hopeless. We are saved not by works but by grace through faith, putting our trust and faith in Jesus Christ, trusting in his sacrifice on the cross, believing in his resurrection, and making him LORD of our lives, surrendering our will and desires to his.

    Faith matters. But love is the greatest of all.

    If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)

    This addresses another issue from last Sunday, the propensity of many to love God but not their neighbor, to believe the right things in their head but fail with their mouth, heart, and hands.

    But how do we obtain faith, especially if it’s a gift? Romans says in regards to the proclamation of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ,

    Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:17)

    Our faith grows as we study God’s Word, the Bible, as we pray and see God’s activity in our broken world, as we are encouraged by others who are encountering God, and as we trust Him for our daily bread.

    Claro Update

    One of the seven core values of The Alliance states,

    Achieving God’s purposes means taking faith-filled risks. This always involves change. Hebrews 11:6

    Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)

    Do not be anxious about…anything! My wife put these words in our bathroom:

    Worry about nothing. Pray for everything.

    And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

    God is clearly on the move and we’re just getting started! I can’t wait to hear and share more stories in the coming days of God’s goodness not only financially but also with transformed lives. May we have increasing faith in our faithful God! The best is yet to come.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Grace is Greater than Yourself, 1 October 2017


    Grace Is Greater Than Yourself
    Series: Grace is Greater
    John 13:33-35

    Series Big Idea: No sin is so great, no bitterness so deep that God’s grace cannot transform the heart and rewrite the story. This 3-week series, based on the book Grace is Greater by Kyle Idleman, explores what the Bible teaches about grace, developing a deep understanding of the life-changing power of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. For more resources and information on the book, visit

    Big Idea: We receive grace every day…and need to share it every day, loving one another.


    A pastor recently sent me an e-mail which contained this question:

    “Why is it that so many Christians make such lousy human beings?”
    In other words, why are so many of us judgmental, defensive, unapproachable, and touchy?”

    This might not apply to you, but I have met some Christians who are…not graceful.
    We receive grace every day from God…and need to share it every day, too.

    We’re concluding our series,
    Grace is Greater. To review, grace is unmerited favor, a free gift, an undeserved blessing. It’s not fair! We all want to receive grace but often struggle to extend it to others for whom we naturally want justice.

    In week one, we said
    grace is greater than your mistakes.

    The More We Recognize the Ugliness of Our Sin, the More We Can Appreciate the Beauty of God’s Grace.

    God’s Grace Is More Beautiful than Your Brokenness.

    God’s Grace Redeems All Our Past Regrets.

    And quoting author Philip Yancey,

    Nothing you can do can make God love you more than he already does.
    Nothing you can do can make God love you less than he already does.

    That’s amazing! That’s grace!

    Then we said
    grace is greater than your hurts.

    We must release our feelings of anger, bitterness, and rage over to God.

    We must release the person who hurt us over to God.

    Reconciliation may not always be possible or appropriate, but It can reflect God’s grace and forgiveness toward us.

    Last week we saw how
    grace is greater than your circumstances.

    Thankfulness helps us trust God and acknowledge His grace in our lives.

    We’re able to receive God’s grace only to the extent we’re able to recognize our need for It.

    We must trust God’s goodness, even when life Is difficult.

    Since life is filled with storms, I want to remind you of two resources. First, we have a list of Christian counselors available at the information kiosk and in the
    FAC Focus e-newsletter each week. My family has benefitted greatly from Christian counseling and you may, too. Second, we are excited about launching Celebrate Recovery soon. See Dennis Belkofer, last Sunday’s “my story” presenter, for details.

    Grace is greater than your mistakes.
    Grace is greater than your hurts.
    Grace is greater than your circumstances.

    I want to suggest to you that
    grace is greater than yourself. That’s right, sometimes we get in the way of God’s grace. Like a dam holding back rushing water, our own sin, pride, selfishness, condemnation, and insecurities can keep others from experiencing the flow of God’s grace. Listen to these words from Jesus:

    “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

    “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:33-35)

    The world will know we are followers of Jesus if we…

    have our theology correct?
    attend Sunday School every week?
    volunteer in the church nursery?
    wear Jesus t-shirts?
    are for the poor?
    pray and read the Bible daily?

    No. The true sign of the Christ-follower is if we
    love one another. He says it twice in these three verses. The message is restated several times later in the New Testament, including

    Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)

    Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. (1 Peter 1:22)

    For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. (1 John 3:11)

    Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:11-12)

    I think we can all agree it’s a good idea to love one another. I’ve never heard anyone around here argue against love. After all, Toledo loves love.

    But what is love? It’s not always nice. It’s not necessarily about sex. The Golden Rule is a start:

    Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)

    We can make excuses all day long—I don’t feel well, I’ve had a bad day, my mom was not nurturing enough, that was a stupid question, you caught me at a bad time, it was a full moon last night—but Jesus doesn’t leave us any loopholes:
    love one another.

    Before I continue, I must say I am speaking to a wonderful group of people. Heather and I are so glad God called us to First Alliance Church. You are family, we have been loved deeply, and we love you deeply. Many of you extend grace generously, giving others the benefit of the doubt, asking clarifying questions when uncertain about something, and offering
    constructive criticism when appropriate.

    occasionally I’ve heard unkind words spoken, harsh tones expressed, and fingers pointed. How we treat one another matters. Jesus said so. And it not only impacts us, it announces things to the world.

    Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “
    I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Imagine if Gandhi had become a follower of Jesus.

    Steve Jobs had a similar impression of Christians. He told biographer Walter Isaacson,
    “The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it.” Imagine if Steve Jobs had become a follower of Jesus.

    Brothers and sisters, people are watching us, and if we can’t even love one another, why would anyone want to join us? Years ago I was attending a conference and the speaker said, “The greatest obstacle to people coming to know Jesus is the Church.” I wanted to scream, “Foul” but he may have been right.

    Is your life attractive?
    Are you known for your love?
    Do people ask the reason for the hope you have?
    Is our reputation in the community one of love for one another?

    We all know actions speak louder than words. It’s not enough to agree with the idea of loving one another. We must do it! So just do it! Love!

    Putting this message together, I was tempted to offer a few choice words, such as

    Don’t be mean.
    Stop being so critical.
    Shaming is not godly.
    Get the log out of your own eye.
    Turn that frown upside down.
    Who made you God?
    Or my favorite…edify stupid!

    Then I realized none of those would be all that graceful!

    Love one another. It sounds so simple, yet it can be so challenging. Our lack of love can be expressed in so many ways:

    - Complaining about the music being too traditional or modern, loud or soft
    - Posting divisive thoughts on Facebook
    - Offering gossip disguised as prayer requests
    - Rolling our eyes or other non-verbal expressions of disgust
    - Behaving selfishly rather than putting others first
    - Jumping to conclusions rather than graciously giving others the benefit of the doubt

    Here’s one of my favorite passages for weddings…and for our church family:

    Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

    Humility is a rare commodity these days. What if we took the lead? People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

    We all agree we need to love, but let’s go back to that original question:

    “Why is it that so many Christians make such lousy human beings?”

    Here’s Pastor Pete Scazzero’s response:

    A large part of the reason is a faulty, compartmentalized understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.

    The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were passionate about holiness and purity in their relationship with God. They memorized books of Scripture, fasted twice a week, gave generously, evangelized, prayed three times a day, attended worship without fail, and kept Sabbath.

    The problem was that in their zeal to love God, they were not equally zealous to love people. This put them on a collision course with Jesus.

    A Pharisee in Jesus’ day would say, “First, complete your worship to God, and then be reconciled to your brother. God is more important than humans.” Jesus said, “Leave your gift at the altar. Go first and get right with your brother or sister” (Matthew 5:23-24).
    - A Pharisee would say, “Obey the commandments and do not murder people.” Jesus said that even angry and dismissive words towards another person are equivalent to murder. We may think calling someone idiot
     or stupid doesn’t matter. Jesus argues it is a hell-deserving crime (Matt. 5:21-22).
    - A Pharisee might say: “It is important to forgive.” Jesus says forgiveness is so indispensable that if we don’t forgive, our heavenly Father will
     not forgive our sins” (Matt. 6:14-15).
    - A Pharisee would say, “Be holy by separating from sinners.” Jesus, quoting Hosea 6:6 said, “Discipleship is about being merciful and kind to people, especially our enemies. That is the heart of what it means to follow me” (Matt. 8:13).
    - A Pharisee might say, “You will be evaluated at the Final Judgment on your faith evidenced by acts of holiness before God.” Jesus says, “You will be evaluated at the Final Judgment on your faith evidenced by your love for the people the world discards” (Matt 25:31-46).

    Jesus summarized the entire Bible as an unbreakable union of loving God and loving people (Matt. 22:37-40). This was a difficult teaching in the first century and it remains a difficult teaching today.

    You cannot love like Jesus if you don’t know Jesus.
    You cannot love like Jesus without the Holy Spirit.

    When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment…

    Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

    Sometimes it’s much easier to love a God we cannot see than a brother or sister right in front of us who may say something we disagree with, act in a way which offends us, look different than we look, or simply has different preferences. We are to love our enemy. We are to love our neighbor. But most of all we are to love one another. We’re going to spend a lot of time together—eternity—so we might as well get used to one another, and that means extending grace.

    Jesus never talked about grace, he simply modeled it.
    Many Christians talk about grace but fail to model it.

    I confess this is me. I fail to love. I fail to extend grace. I jump to conclusions when I should say, “Help me understand.” I speak when I should be listening. I have agendas and want to be in control when I should discern and submit.

    Who do you need to love more graciously?

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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