There was a Montana sheepherder who got sick and was taken to a hospital. His faithful sheep dog Shep kept watch outside his hospital door. It was not long before the sheepherder died and his body was taken to the train station, to be shipped back to his family in the East.
The story is told, that when the coffin was being loaded onto the train that Shep appeared, looking for his master. As the train left the station, he vainly ran down the tracks after it. Later in the day, he came back to the station exhausted, and for the next five and half years, Shep met every train that came into train station, as he kept looking for his master to come home.
Shep became well known, and kindly people took care of him; but he refused to be taken to anyone’s home. He had but one reason for living: waiting for his master to return. Shep’s loyalty to his master did not end until one cold winter day in 1941, when he died.
When I first heard about Shep and his loyalty to his master, I could not help but think; if only I, we, could demonstrate that same unwavering devotion to our God. For it is when we take our eyes off Jesus, that our daily living loses its ultimate purpose, its point for living. We become distracted.
Let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean:
Take your eyes off Jesus, and the Bible becomes a book of nice moral and spiritual sayings. That is why some people like Proverbs. Nice teachings, but what is their ultimate point?
Another example of what happens when you take your eyes off Jesus is that other things become your reason for living. They might be good things, like family, health, or career. On the other hand, they could be bad things, like alcohol, or drugs. It could be greed, or maybe you are being pulled in so many different directions that you feel like there is no point in anything.
So what is the point? The point is that our focus should be only on our Savior, Jesus.
There is another way we become distracted as Jesus’ disciples.
Question: Who thinks that we are the best church?
Have you ever compared our worship to other services?
Compare what we do as opposed to what they do?
Talk about the revival and how it is different experience that I’m used to.
In Mark’s gospel text this morning we see this distraction taking place amongst His disciples.
Talk about the context: denied again Jesus’ prediction of death/resurrection; failed to cast out a demon; saw someone else doing it and tried to stop him
Read Mark 9:38
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”
“not following us” - do you see what they did there?
they are focused on themselves
they didn’t say “he was not following you, Jesus”
there was a sense of comparison between their failure & the exorcists success
“he is not one of us”
They’ve drawn a circle around themselves
they are focused on themselves and not Christ.
I mean just a bit before this, they were arguing amongst themselves as to who the greatest was
And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.
They’ve become distracted
We too become distracted
who’s the greatest
this church or that church… or even amongst ourselves… who’s the greatest Christian, etc.
this church is doing it wrong or that church isn’t in the right circle
Talk about revival differences
We become distracted from the One who deserves all the glory, praise, and worship.
But the beautiful thing is that we have a gracious loving God who understands our sin to compare and divide and says to us in v. 39:
Read Mark 9:39-41
But Jesus said, “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.
Redirect - Cut it out of your life
Redirect - Cut it out of your life
Jesus is redirecting His disciples & us back to Himself and His mission of salvation of all people.
When we get distracted from Jesus, we need examine our motives for what we are doing and why
Do we oppose others because we are jealous of them, because we are anxious to protect our own turf, or because we insist that others follow us?
We must recognize who the real enemy is.
Our common enemy is the evil that maliciously destroys human lives.
Missionaries who struggle in hand-to-hand combat with this evil frequently understand that cooperation with soldiers who come from different armies but who fight the same foe makes more sense than competing with them.
Should we not rejoice that others outside our close circle can be our friends in a world where we need all the friends we can get?
Transition: Becoming distracted from Jesus and His mission leads to division and this division causes us to sin against others and causes others to sin.
“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. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’
Woo… (talk about the seriousness of these statements)
The violent images of cutting off hands and feet and tearing out eyes are quite shocking.
Jesus isn’t being literal here.
He does not want you to mutilate yourself.
But He is taking it to a deeper level… to the heart.
He is saying:
if you sin by your hands… cut it out of your life
if you sin by your feet… cut it out of your life
if you sin by your eyes… cut it out of your life
What is causing you to sin… what is in your life that is distracting you from Jesus and His mission?
Give examples of things… (tv, phone use, computer, sports, etc)
Transition: So how do we cut it out of our life… what if we stumble… what if we fall into the devil’s trap of the inner circle we are the ones that need to be followed?
Pray to your Savior!
Fall to the foot of the cross where His blood washes away your sin… your comparisons…
By God’s graced you are forgiven and renewed.
Filled with the Holy Spirit who not only strengthens and guides you, but who preserves you like salt.
Jesus says, “You will be salted with fire.”
The H.S. is the fire that salts you… that preserves you… Christ is the only one who can make you salty if you falter and lose your saltiness.
Yes, there will be times when we stumble, we are sinful. But Christ has paid it all!
He has covered you… created a new heart within you, filled with the H.S.; guided in His mission to “Go and make disciples of all nations”
Don’t let denominational politics distract you from Christ
Don’t let your hand, foot, or eyes distract you from Christ.
Stay focused on the one who was sacrificed on the cross for you!
When you are focused on Jesus, filled with His grace… guided by His Spirit… you will be at peace with one another.
Whatever particular group we belong to is not the only group of Christians in the world.
Perhaps when we lay aside our labels, we will recognize that together we are all Christ’s servants and will then find ways to cooperate rather than to compete in serving him.
Without compromising our convictions we can have fellowship (have salt) with one another.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Our unity will be a sign of what God’s power can do to drive out the evil and chaos infecting our world.
Praise God that He uses not only us, but others outside our circle for His mission of salvation.
And praise God that by His saving grace through the blood of Jesus, forgives and renews me when I get distracted.
Let us pray, (pray Phil 2:1-4)