In this lesson you will learn that living in peace involves radical acceptance. Jesus teaches the work of God is more inclusive than you think.
If you have your Bibles turn to Mark 9:38 or you can follow along in the bulletin or screens behind me. When I was in school I was taught to summarize the paragraph I was writing in the first sentence. The first sentence of that paragraph would tell you what that paragraph was about. In Bible times they did something similar to this and sometimes it was at the beginning, sometimes in the middle, and sometimes at the end of the paragraph depending on various factors.
For our scripture today we see the purpose of the paragraph at the end. Jesus is going to teach His disciples and us about living in peace with others, especially those who do ministry in the name of Jesus and especially regarding those who are doing ministry outside the box of what we would call normal.
Let’s read the Bible and then let’s unpack it. Mark 9:38 says,
John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.” 39 “Don’t 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 surely be rewarded. 42 “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. 45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s 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. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’ 49 “For everyone will be tested with fire. 50 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.” (NLT)
As a pastor, over the years, I have found two types of people in the church: those who are passionate about unity and those who are passionate about truth. Those who are passionate about unity must be careful not to compromise truth and those who are passionate about truth must be careful not to sacrifice unity. For some this can be difficult.
The Bible has a lot to say about being unified as believers and a lot to say about defending God’s truth. In Mark 9:38 we get to see Jesus teach a lesson about unity and the work of God among believers. The disciples are passionate about defending and protecting God’s truth, specifically the name of Jesus. In their zeal they correct and admonish a man who is a sincere believer in Jesus and who is doing good work in His name. In this event we find a warning for those who are zealous about truth and yet whose zeal may lead to unnecessary separation from other believers. As you grow as a believer and do ministry, you are going to face what the disciples faced. You are going to be tempted to reject some believers because the way they are doing ministry does not fit into your mold of understanding.
Remember, Jesus is trying to teach us about living at peace with other believers who are doing ministry outside of how you think it should be done.
The driving principle that we need to see here is the work of God is more inclusive than you think. Let me say that again, the work of God is more inclusive than you think.
Look at verse 38 where John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.” This sets the stage for an important lesson for every believer.
John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons….” At some point, Jesus and the disciples were doing their own thing. Maybe Jesus was off praying somewhere, meeting with someone, or taking a nap. The disciples were going through town and came across “someone” who was casting “out demons” in the “name” of Jesus. It’s important to note that this “someone” was not trying to cast out demons, he was actually doing it. By using the name of Jesus he was representing Jesus. So they are walking through town and they hear and see a commotion. They make their way through the crowd and see this stranger perhaps laying hands on people and commanding demons to come out of them. They witness one deliverance after another. Demons are leaving these people. People are being set free.
Then John says something to Jesus that is surprising. He says, “we told him to stop.” Can you imagine the disciples pushing their way through a crowd of people to get to this man and they tell him to stop casting out demons in the name of Jesus. People are being delivered and they are telling him to stop doing it. Why? Is it because they don’t know this man? Is he doing it differently than they did it? Who told him that it was okay for him to do this? Does he really know Jesus?
John gives the reason why he told the man to stop and he says to Jesus, “because he wasn’t in our group.” Most translations word this as “because he was not following us.” What John is saying is, “We stopped him because he is not part of the 12 and he is not even a part of the crowd that follows us around. He is not part of our group. He doesn’t know us and we don’t know him. He doesn’t know how this is supposed to work. We have been trained on how to do this and he has not. He is not a part of our group and he is not following our ways of doing things.” There is some irony happening here. Just a few days earlier nine of the disciples were unable to cast out an evil spirit from a boy (Mark 9:14-29). This outsider was consistently doing what they could not consistently do.
One of the issues the disciples started having was they were thinking to highly of their “group.” Pride was still an issue for them. What happened right before this event? Jesus had to rebuke the disciples because they were arguing over who was the greatest among them (Mark 9:33-37).
Jesus responded by saying, “Don’t stop him!” John and the disciples they thought they were doing something good, noble, and honorable. They thought they were protecting their group and the name and reputation of Jesus. They thought Jesus would be proud of what they had done so they decided to tell Jesus they had his back and tried to stop this rogue man from using the Lord’s name without permission or approval from the group.
Remember, the work of God is more inclusive than you think. Instead of seeing someone they should support and encourage, they saw someone they should stop. This kind of thing happens all the time in ministry. Let me give you some examples from my own life.
- When we started Genesis there were several rumors going around. One of them was we were a cult and we required new partners to show us their W2 forms so we would know how much they made and how much they should give. None of that was true. We knew we were different as far as churches go for Mexico. We didn’t dress up. We met at the YMCA. We didn’t take an offering. Our songs were a little different. Our approach to discipleship was a little different. We met throughout the week in Life Groups in homes. There were people who wanted us to fail. We were doing ministry outside the box. For whatever reason, we were that odd church that met at the Y. There were some pastors, churches, and believers who thought we were weird and if you were a part of Genesis at the beginning people thought you had been brainwashed. We knew what they were saying was not true. We believed that over time as we loved the town, focused on making disciples, and taught the Word of God a lot of those rumors would be replaced with truth. For the most part they have. There were some who wanted Genesis Church to fail and stop, just like the man who annoyed the disciples.
The work of God is more inclusive than you think. It takes all kinds of believers and all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people.
- I remember when I first became a pastor I did the Lord’s Supper at a hospital with an elderly lady who attended the church. We had done the Lord’s Supper the previous week and she missed it and she asked me if I could come to the hospital and have the Lord’s Supper with her. I told her absolutely. I went. We did. The next week one of the deacons confronted me and told me that I should not have done that because the Lord’s Supper should only be done at the church.
- A few years later I was pastoring another church. At the time, I was wearing a suit and tie Sunday morning and Sunday night (there is nothing wrong with that). I decided to stop wearing a suit and tie and went business casual for outreach purposes. I had a man in the church confront me on this and told me how my suit and tie honored God and it was my uniform as a pastor and I should dress up on Sunday. One of the reasons why I started dressing down was because of the target group we were after didn’t have suit and ties. Dressing down was an evangelist strategy.
- Over the years I have been told by other believers to “stop” doing various things in the name of Jesus. I have been told to stop having the Lord’s Supper off church campus, stop dressing down on Sunday morning, stop using those new songs, stop using stage set designs, stop trying to change this or change that in order to reach more people for Christ and make disciples.
For me, I identify with the man that the disciples are trying to stop. But thank God for Jesus and people like Jesus who says, “Don’t stop him.”
After Jesus says, “Don’t stop him” from doing ministry in my name, Jesus then gives three reasons why.
Number one, Jesus says in verse 39, “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me.” Jesus is saying, “No one who works miracles in my name will soon turn and say something bad about me” (CEV). Jesus is not concerned that this man is going to say something bad about Him. It would be like a man successfully pounding in nails with a hammer and then say that hammers are useless. There is no way this man is going to see person after person delivered from demons and then walk away and slander the name of Jesus. This response by Jesus gives insight into what the disciple were thinking. They were thinking this man would gather a crowd by using the name of Jesus and then say something bad about Jesus so the crowd would follow him rather than Jesus. Jesus did not feel threatened by this man at all.
I think we tell people to stop doing ministry because we are afraid of them. Maybe there are going to be more successful. Maybe they show us how we are doing it wrong or reveal how our ways are not as effective as they once was.
Number two, Jesus goes on to say in verse 40, Anyone who is not against us is for us. This man was actively combating the enemy of Christ and His people. He was using the authority behind the name of Jesus and casting out demons from people. He was pushing back the kingdom of darkness. People were being set free in the name of Jesus.
The disciples were struggling with understanding how this guy and his ministry fits into the ministry of Jesus. They didn’t know him, he hadn’t been trained by Jesus, nor had he been trained by one of the disciples. Jesus was taking this opportunity to expand their understanding of how the work of God will be spread out among many followers around the world. The work of God is more inclusive than you think.
- About thirty years ago believers started thinking outside the box when it came to reaching people for Christ. As a result, cowboy churches started popping across the county. Churches were being started in bars on Sunday morning and they began to sing new songs and things began to shift to a relational approach to ministry rather than a program approach. Churches began to have strange names like AZ-U-R church and Scum of the Earth church or Elevate Church or Vertical Church. They were all criticized and all of them had people who said in one way or another “Stop doing this!” They were all for the kingdom of God. They were all trying to reach new people for Christ and make disciples even though it was different.
So Jesus says, “Anyone who is not against us is for us.” Regardless of their motives, regardless of why they are doing what they do if they are for the gospel that is a good thing. Later on the apostle Paul would address a similar issue. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:15, “It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16 They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. 17 Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. 18 But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice” (vs. 15-18, NLT). Paul is saying, “I know there are people out there preaching the gospel because of jealousy. They are jealous of me and they are jealous of the big church down the street. Some people are sharing the gospel out of selfish ambition, they want to be seen as a great person of God that God uses mightily. They want to have a spiritual giant reputation and have people hanging on to every word they say. Some are preaching the gospel not sincerely – they are preaching the gospel and they don’t believe it or struggle with parts of it. Some of these people who are sharing the gospel have false motives and some have genuine motives.” Then Paul says, “That doesn’t matter.” What matters is “the message about Christ is being preached either way.” Jesus said it this way, “Anyone who is not against us is for us.” In this particular case, Jesus is saying, even though this man was different from them, not a part of their group, he is not opposing them. In fact, he is “for” them because he is doing the work of the kingdom – casting out demons. He is not the competition, he is an assistant. A fellow worker for the kingdom. Therefore they should not try to shut him down and get him to quit.
Number three, Jesus goes on to say in verse 41, If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded. The Christian Standard Bible words it this way, “And whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ —truly I tell you, he will never lose his reward.” To make sure there is no confusion or unnecessary emphasis on the man who is casting out demons, Jesus mentions people who will serve Him by giving people “a cup of water.”
Here’s is what you have. You have the guy who is casting out demons in the name of Jesus and you have a person giving a cup of water in the name of Jesus. Jesus is saying, don’t stop either one. Don’t make one be like the other. The work of God is more inclusive than you think. We need all these and all those in between to being doing the work of God the way they are called and designed to do the work of God.
When you get to the end of verse 50 you hear Jesus say, “Live in peace with each other.” One of the ways we, believers, can live in peace with other believers is to allow them to minister without us trying micro-manage them.
Live in peace with other believers who do ministry different. Let’s support and encourage the area churches. Let’s support and encourage other believers doing ministry in the name of Jesus. Let’s thank God for them. Let’s be radical and accept them knowing the work of God is more inclusive than we think.