Your calling and gifts are for Christ, not for you.
When James and John found a stranger casting out demons in Jesus's name, their offense must have come from a sense of propriety in Christ and His ministry. After all- Jesus had personally called them to follow him and empowered them to drive out evil spirits and heal the sick. Who was this stranger, casting out demons in Jesus's name? When did Jesus call this man by name? John brought his offense to Jesus, saying, "we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." With these words, John lumped himself in with Jesus and defined the stranger as an outsider. Pastor Andy explained that at best, John's vision of God's Kingdom was a class system with himself and the disciples near the top (with Jesus) and others below them. In this moment, John saw Jesus as his bridge to status and power. Does your relationship with Jesus fuel a sense of pride or act at times as a path to other idols?
Previously in Mark's Gospel, Jesus empowered his disciples to exorcise demons (Mark 6:7). While trying to fulfill this task, they sometimes failed for lack of faith (Mark 9:18). So when they saw this outsider successfully casting out demons in Jesus's name, they must have felt jealousy, and perhaps insecurity. Casting out demons was their "turf," and this man was trespassing. They felt they had ownership over Jesus's ministry, but Jesus rejected this mindset. The work of advancing God's Kingdom belongs to the Lord, and this outsider was a tool in God's hand just as James and John were. Reflect on how you view other believers, both in your own church and in others. Do you covet their relationship with Jesus? Do you see yourself as someone who "has it figured out" compared to others? Ask the Lord to redirect your eyes to Him and His work.
As sinners, we were born into this world as enemies of God. Our sin-debt made us true outsiders to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But for His own glory, God is establishing a Kingdom. This Kingdom diverse; it is filled with rich and poor, men and women, people from every nation and tribe, all of whom were once outsiders. It is God's own glory that has secured a path to salvation for us. Have you given your life in worship, submission, and obedience to Christ, who undeservedly died a sinner's death so that you could enter God's Kingdom? Do you depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to bring other outsiders into the fold? Do you give your time and treasure to the pursuit of building God's kingdom or your own little kingdom?
Father, Your Kingdom is a beautiful, rich, dynamic reflection of Your own glory. Our sinful hearts are self-serving, and we have sought to benefit socially, materially, and pridefully off of Your good and glorious Gospel. Forgive us, Jesus, and restore our hearts to righteousness. Thank You for dying in our place. Lord, thank you for reconciling us to each other and securing a place for us in Your eternal Kingdom! Holy Spirit, empower us to live as a radically reconciled and diverse Body, glorifying You across our city.
"Nothing That My Hands Can Do" - Soverign Grace Music
Jesus is the dividing line.
We all struggle, wether consciously or unconsciously, with categorizing one another and ourselves. It beings as early as elementary school. We divide into groups with those who look like us and there is no room for outsiders. We tell the world around us, “you must look like me to sit with me.” As followers Jesus we must work against this idea. Jesus said in John 13:34, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Jesus is teaching us that his kingdom and our churches should be marked by diversity; that we out to be inclusive rather than exclusive. We acknoweldge our neighbors differences and we love them still. In John 13:35 Jesus says, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” How diverse is your friend group? On a given week, how diverse is your dinner table when you invite guests over? Is there room in your life for people who look, think, act, and live differently than you do?
Pastor Andy expressed his desire for our church in Sundays sermon when he said, "My hope for us is that we’d be more excited about Jesus than we are Immanuel Church.” It would be very easy to develop a tribe mentality at Immanuel Church; to single out ever church in the city that doesn't do things the way we do. We must realize that the mission of Jesus is ultimately not about us or our preferences. We cannot become a diverse family of disciples if Immanuel Church is our standard of fellowship and not Jesus. Are you willing to become like Paul and say, “For we are God’s fellow workers.” Believer, your effectiveness is stifled by your pride and partiality. Are you willing to set aside your preferences for the glory of God and the advancement of his kingdom?
As Immanuel Church we believe that there are three core identities that we share as believers in Christ. Here they are…1) We are God’s adopted children who care for each other as a family. 2) We are servants of Jesus who serve Him by serving others. 3) We are missionaries, empowered and sent by the Spirit to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, making disciples. These identities are not exclusive to Immanuel Church and they are not exclusively practiced within Immanuel Church. These are Identities that we believe we share with all those who are in Christ. We serve alongside those who are not of Immanuel and by doing so we serve Christ. We out to be willing to work along side other churches on our city to make Jesus known and advance the kingdom. Consider Pastor Andy’s question from Sunday, "Do you struggle with limiting the Kingdom of Christ to your little circle?"
Father help us to see that your kingdom is robust and diverse. Help us to take our eyes off of ourselves and our preferences, so that we may love and serve others and make the name of Jesus great in Birminghsm and beyond. Give us a personal conviction to pursue diversity in our friend groups, around our dinner table and in our church. We thank you for what you are doing in churches all over Birmingham and as Pastor Andy asked on Sunday, we pray that you would use us as you see fit.
"Cornerstone" - Hillsong Worship