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27 November, 2016

Do Whatever it Takes to Help Others Trust Jesus

Mark 9:38-50


Friends, one of the most difficult things about going to high school for me was that most
of the students were in cliques. You see, in our high school we had lots of small groups
that you werent allowed to join & if you were already in one of these groups - it was
almost impossible to change groups. And in our high school we had the following
groups (or cliques). We had the Revheads (they just loved cars), we had the Nerds
(they were always studying), there were the Athletes (they were mainly Aussies & they
always played sport), we had the WOGS (that's ethnic people - mainly from Greece,
Lebanon or Italy), there were the pretty Australian girls (they were pretty & they were
Australian) & then there was everybody else. Now, if you werent in one of these
cliques, life at school was difficult & lonely. Because people in those groups wouldnt
really talk to you & they certainly wouldnt want to be your friend. And so for many
students, life in high school wasnt much fun at all. But friends, even after you leave
high school, cliques dont just disappear. And even after people die, many people are
still in cliques. Dont believe me? Well, if you drive through Rockwood Cemetery you will
find the burial spots for Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists,
Lutherans, Muslims & you will find a section for Chinese. You see, even when were
dead, we humans still like to be in small, tight cliques that show we belong to a group&
that exclude people who are different to us. And yet, here at the end of Mark chapter
9, Jesus makes it very clear that Gods action in this world cannot be limited, & it
cannot be contained & it cannot be restricted to one group of people. Look at v38.
John said to Jesus, Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons,
but we told him to stop because he wasnt in our group.
39 Dont stop him! Jesus said. No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil
of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you
belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will be rewarded.

Friends, whenever I read these words from Jesus to his followers they make me feel uncomfortable &
uncertain. I mean, John is right, isn't he? This man who is walking around using the name of Jesus to cast
out demons is not part of the group. Hes not one of the close disciples of Jesus. He hasnt been with
Jesus & so he hasnt been properly trained. And so this man is not authorised to do things in the name of
God, is he? And yet Jesus is very clear in his teaching here. Jesus says Don't stop him! No one who
performs a miracle in my name will speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us - is for us. You see
friends, Jesus seems to be a lot more generous & open than we normally are with people who are
different to us with people who are not in our clique.
And really over the last few years I have come to see that many Christians have made a very big mistake
in the way they think about how God works in this world. You know, its almost like we to try to limit God &
put God in a box which is normally our box, our group, our clique. And I think that the big mistake many
Christians make is that they sincerely believe that it is more important to be right than it is to be
Christlike. Friends, let me say that again because this is a very important thing to think about. I think
Christians, in the past & even today, have made the mistake of thinking that it is more important to be
right than it is to be like Jesus Christ gentle like Jesus, patient like Jesus, kind like Jesus.
Friends, if you look at the history of the people of God around the world you will see that Gods people
have been separated into groups who each believe & teach certain, very specific things about God, &
who all think that they are right & that everyone else is wrong. Now, there are many problems with this
way of thinking. For example, in the United States there are over 20,000 registered Christian
denominations & they are all teaching different things. Friends, can all these churches be right?...No! But
can they all be wrong? Yes! And you see there is the real problem because we could be wrong about
many things. And so really, we should be extremely humble in how we think about God & how we
expect God to work in this world & in our lives. And we should be especially humble in the way we think
about the different people who act in the name of God.

Now friends, please don't misunderstand what I am trying to say because I am not saying that everything
is the same & I am not saying it doesnt really matter what you believe. No, no, truth is very very
important. But truth is not important because it makes you right! Truth is important because it helps you to
clearly see the world as it really is. And because truth helps you to see the world as it really is, truth helps
you to make wise & good decisions & so truth helps you to do what is good & best for people around
you. And so you see, truth helps us to love people & it helps us to love God- who is love & who speaks The
Truth to us for our good. And so friends, we should not be lazy in our thinking. Instead, we should always
strive & seek to learn & understand the truths that God reveals to us - more widely & more deeply,
because as Jesus said, The truth will set you free. You see, Gods truth will set you free to live as a child
of God in this world -spreading Gods goodness & kindness to people all around you & bringing glory to
Friends, a wise teacher once said that Jesus did not come into this world to make Anglicans, or to make
Catholics, or to make Presbyterians or Methodists or Baptists or Lutherans. No! Jesus came into this world
to make disciples. Jesus came to save people from living a life separated from him & his goodness. Jesus
came into this world to invite us to come into the kingdom of God, where we are students of Jesus &
where we learn to think & act & do good- just like him. And really, this is why I think Jesus goes on to talk
about sin & about the need to protect Gods people from stumbling in their life with God. Look at v 42.
Jesus said:
But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts me to stumble into sin, it would be better for you to be
thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. 43 So if your hand causes you to sin, cut it
off. Its better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the fires of hell with two hands. 45 And if
your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. Its better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into
hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out

Friends, can you see what is most important to Jesus here? What is most important in the mind of Jesus is
for us to be very careful not to cause one of our Christian brothers or sisters to stumble in their own
friendship with Jesus. That is far more important than if someone is not like us! Indeed, harming someone
elses precious friendship with God is so serious that Jesus calls it a sin. And punishment for this sin will be
worse than having a big stone tied around your neck & then being thrown into the sea. Now thats a
pretty serious punishment, dont you think? And friends, that is why Jesus says that we should do
whatever it takes to stop sinning like this. And friends, this will probably mean getting rid of a lot of pride
from our hearts. Indeed, Jesus uses very strong pictures here, doesnt he? Jesus says if it means cutting off
a hand then cut it off. Or if it means cutting off a foot, or taking out an eye then just do it. In other
words, Jesus is saying do what ever it takes to make sure our words & our actions & our whole lives do not
lead people away from trusting Jesus with their lives that is what is really important to Jesus!!!!!
Friends, right here at the end of chapter 9, as Jesus continues to teach his disciples how to follow him in
their daily lives, Jesus teaches us that we have a serious responsibility for the spiritual well being of each
other. And this means that our behaviour & our words & our attitudes & our thoughts should always show
the truth the truth that Jesus came into this world to save us from our sins, & to bring us into a new life
with Jesus, in the kingdom of God, today. Friends, hat is the greatest truth we must learn & do.
Lets pray