We leave with Jesus and for Jesus. We leave, but, in leaving, we follow the command to “Go!”
How should we leave Mark’s Gospel? How do you leave behind the casting out demons, the feeding the 5,000 and then the 4,000, the raising of Jairus daughter
Last week we saw that we should leave Mark’s Gospel by following the command to “Go!” Go with the Gospel to the world. Go to those in your world. Go to those in your life. Let your life be a broadcast for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember Jesus commands us to Go, and that command is something He modeled for us first. His mission was to Go! He came from heaven to earth. Now having returned to heaven, which we’ll see, he leaves us to Go and continue the mission.
How should we leave Mark’s Gospel? I suggest 3 more things we are to leave with: Baptism, Discipling, Ascension
First Baptism. Notice Jesus says in verse 16, “Whoever believes [the good news] AND is baptized will be saved…” Is Jesus saying that baptism is required to be saved? Is the formula for salvation BELIEF + BAPTISM = SALVATION? If I believe but haven’t been baptized am I still condemned? The answer is no. Baptism is not required to be saved. Let me offer 3.5 reasons we know Baptism does not save.
First, while it seems that Jesus says belief and baptism equals salvation, notice he says in the same verse about those who are condemned: “but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” No mention of baptism. He doesn’t say, “Whoever does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned.” He leaves baptism out. No statement that failing to be baptized will result in condemnation. The reason why is because when it comes to you being saved or condemned baptism does not factor in. Let me say it like this: If you believe, but have not been baptized, you’ll be saved. However, if you have been baptized, but you don’t believe, you’ll be condemned.
Second, if salvation required baptism, then everywhere the Bible speaks of salvation it would mention baptism. But its not. In all the many verses talking about salvation every one of them say it’s by faith. Not one passage speaks of salvation and doesn’t have faith in it. Yet, only a couple have baptism mentioned (this one and Acts 2:38 for example). If baptism were salvific – meaning it could save – then it would be everywhere faith is mentioned.
Third, baptism is a human work. If anything is made clear in the Bible it is that salvation is not by human works. “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.” “A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ” Galatians 2:16 says. Romans 4:6 says, “David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works” Baptism is a human work, and, there is not one human work a man can do to be saved.
Three-Point-Five: baptism would have been preached by the Apostles as a means to salvation. Paul would have made sure that everyone he preached to was baptized. But he says in 1 Corinthians 1:17, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…”
Does this mean then that Baptism isn’t important? Absolutely not. While baptism cannot save you, don’t make the mistake of thinking that its therefore optional. God places a tremendous importance on being baptized. The Great Commission says “Go into all nations, making disciples and baptizing them…” Even Jesus was baptized, remember?! How could we not follow the command and the example of Jesus?!
The reason Jesus (and Peter in the first sermon in Acts 2) includes baptism is precisely because it is so important. It does not save, but, the expectation is that once someone believes the normal next step is to be baptized. You could say it is the first step a new Christians makes in living their brand new life of obedience to Christ.
And Obedience is precisely the point here. I applaud someone for understanding that faith and not baptism saves them. But, does any lover of Jesus truly live picking and choosing which commands of his they will follow? Isn’t a disciple someone who says “Here am I Lord – what is your will? I am ready to take up my cross and follow you. How can I show you my love today and how can I live for your righteousness today? I deny myself so that you can use me for your cause” Jesus said, “Whoever obeys my commands is the one who loves me.” What does it say about us if we live with the attitude that says “Eh, if it won’t affect my salvation I’m not worried about doing it”?
Just to clarify: Baptism is commanded by God to those people who have believed. This means that here at EFC we hold that baptism is only done biblically when someone has personally put their faith in Jesus and then afterwards chooses to be baptized because they want to obey Jesus. This means that we do not find infant baptism to be biblical. While I don’t make a fuss with anyone who was baptized as a baby and finds that sufficient, I still encourage anyone like that to look at the Bible and see that baptism is supposed to come after your faith, not before it. Anyone willing to follow that and wants to be baptized let me know!
DISCIPLESHIP (MT 28:19-20)
Remember that Mark’s Gospel emphasizes the evangelism part of the Great Commission. The discipleship aspect is found in Matthew 28:18-20. Turn there with me and follow along…
Notice the progression: 1) Go, 2) Baptize, 3) Disciple. Can you see how the Great Commission is modeled after Jesus Christ’s own career? In a very real sense He fulfilled the commission to “Go”….to earth, to us. He was baptized Himself. And His whole career on earth was to teach people to obey the commands of God. That’s the mission He left the Church with: Go, baptize, teach obedience. Go, baptize, teach obedience. That’s what Jesus did, that’s what we do. If we aren’t going, if we aren’t baptizing, if we aren’t obedient, then we may be doing something as the Church, but we aren’t doing what He told us.
So what is discipleship? It is living up to your salvation by living out your salvation. Salvation is how you get eternal life. Discipleship is learning how to live out that life. Salvation is deliverance from the penalty for your sins. Discipleship is learning how to no longer live in those sins. Salvation is being saved by Christ, discipleship is learning how to live like Christ. Salvation is coming to God, discipleship walking with God. Salvation is pardon from all your evil, discipleship is you pursuing righteousness. Salvation is forgiveness for all your disobedience to God, discipleship is learning now how to be obedient to God. Turn to Ephesians 4:17-24…..(That’s discipleship)….now Philippians 3:15-21…..(that’s discipleship)…….now Colossians 3:5-14……(That’s discipleship)
The Bible treats growth as normal, and so therefore the Bible expects believers to grow. In other words believers are to be disciples active in their growth.
- We can see this simply by looking at the Great Commission “Make disciples…”
- Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
- 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from teh Lord, who is the Spirit.”
- Ephesians 4:1 says, “Live worthy of your calling”
- 1 Peter 2:2 says, “As newborn babes crave pure spiritual milk so that by it you may grow up in your salvation”
- 2 Peter 1:5 says, “Make every effort to add to your faith…” and then he goes on to describe Christian character traits
- 2 Peter 3:18 says, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”
How does discipleship happen? This could be a sermon series in itself so let me just give a couple key elements of how discipleship happens.
First, with the word of God. No one is being discipled without a steady diet of the milk and meat of God’s word. Discipleship happens when you immerse yourself in the word of God.
Illustration: Infuser Water Bottle. Annie has a cool water bottle that has an “infuser”. She can take healthy foods like fruit and put it inside that infuser and then fill the bottle up with water. Whatever she puts in there gets soaked by the water but the water gets both the flavor and nutrients from the fruits. Solid Church leaders are like infusers with the fruit of God’s Word in them. As believers get soaked by their teaching they become enriched with the nutrients of God’s truth.
in church when you hear sermons and teaching and learn how to live righteous for God. It happens in small group Bible studies when you learn the Bible from others who know more than you. It happens in one on one meetings where a believer whose further along comes alongside another believer to help them come along.
Through the word, Discipleship is learning more about this God who saved you, more about what He’s said in His word, how to pray to Him, how to deny your flesh….its even more than that: it’s learning to love the world less and to love what God has promised is coming even more, it’s finding the purpose for your life in serving Him, its learning how to bear the fruit of the Spirit and less the fruit of the sin nature. Discipleship is learning how to care for the lost souls all around you enough that you tell people about the Jesus you believe in who can save them and you know He can because He saved you.
Second, with the people of God. Discipleship happens with other believers who also take discipleship seriously. This means you have to make being with other believers important to you. Illustration: I remember when Evan was about 4 or 5 and we were sitting at the table. I was working on my laptop while the kids were having lunch. Evan had a mouthful of PB&J sandwich when he asked me if I knew about the red rock crab (they love to watch kid science shows). I was busy typing and not really paying attention and said, “No, I have never heard of the red rock crab.”
So he chewed his bite and decided to inform me, “The red rock crab eats gunk off of the Marine Iguana and the Marine iguana protects the red rock crab from predators.”
Still not really paying attention I said, “Oh, is that so?”
He said, “Yeah, do you know what that’s called?”
“It’s called: Symbiosis.”
I looked up from my computer at him, interested that word just came out of his mouth. “What?”
He said, “Yeah, symbiosis is when two creatures help each other out and do something for the other that they can’t do for themselves.”
I looked at him for a moment. Then I said, “Yeah I knew that. Go outside and play.”
All believers in the Body of Christ have a symbiotic relationship with each other. The lessons of our faith are meant to be learned in community with each other. Watching church online alone at home is not the same as being in church live with the rest of the Body of Christ. In the Church is where you find mentors and examples to learn from and follow. Let me ask you two things.
First, Are you intentional about making Christians at church your friends? This means that who you spend your time with has to matter to you. It says a lot who someone’s friends are. You will be influenced and shaped by the friends you choose, and, at the same time the friends you choose are a reflection of your values.
Illustration – Don’t Talk Like A Parrot. We’ve become acquainted with the idea of quarantining in the last year. But in a British Zoo, 5 African Grey Parrots have had to be separated from their colony of over 200 other parrots. Billie, Eric, Tyson, Jade and Elsie are not allowed to be with their other parrots because of their bad language. The zookeepers were hoping that being in a colony would teach the birds different words and reduce the amount of swearing the birds were doing in front of visitors. But since the birds encouraged each other to keep swearing the zookeepers decided it was best to keep the birds away from the rest of the parrots who didn’t know how to swear. The director of the zoo said, “if they teach the others bad language and I end up with 250 swearing birds I don’t know what I’ll do.”
The Bible says “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor. 15:33). Who are your friends? Proverbs 1:10 says, “My son, if sinners entice you do not give in to them…” and the father of Proverbs goes on to urge his son to be careful in choosing his company. Even Psalms opens up regarding the wisdom of choosing the right company: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” (Ps 1:1) Again, who are your friends? Who are the people in your life that you allow to have the most influence over you? That’s a choice that you make.
Second, have you ever had any pastor, or mature believer tell you to imitate them? Edmund Burke said “Example is more efficacious than instruction.” Paul told Timothy “Always set an example for the believers…” and “let your progress be evident to all…” (1 Tim 4:12, 15).
Here’s the thing: examples should be intentional. Paul intentionally called Christians to look to him as an example – and he did it all the time.
- To the Corinthian Christians he said “I urge you to imitate me” (1 Cor 4:16).
- “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
- To the Governor he said, “I pray God that …all who are listening to me today may become what I am” (Acts 26:29).
- To the Philippians he said, “Join with others in following my example…live according to the example we gave you.” (Php 3:17).
Paul didnt just invite, he urged all his churches to look closely at his life and imitate what they see. Have you ever had anyone do that with you? People have mentors in sales, in business, in sports where people intentionally say “Learn from what I do”. But where is that in the church? I think this is one of the worst oversights of the Church – it is in my ministry at least – that we don’t do what Paul did and actively call people to imitate us. That takes boldness, and a clear conscience. It’s not arrogance, to do it right actually requires humility because it brings on accountability – no everyone is watching very closely. Frankly we need more of that – that is intentional examples. People who call others to imitate them.
Someone might say, “Nah! I can’t do that. There’s nothing in my Christian life that I would tell anyone to imitate.” And I would say, “Really? And why is that? How many sermons have you heard? How long have you been a Christian? How many times have you read the word of God? Are you telling me after all this time that God through His Church has invested in you that you have nothing to show for it in your faith? It is, however, possible to HUMBLY say, “Yes, I’m not perfect, but, there are ways that I’m doing well and it could help someone to do what I’m doing.”
Imagine how powerful it would be to have someone look at you and say, “Imitate me”?
***Are you ready? I say to you, EFC, look at me as your pastor and imitate me. Do you see a love of Jesus? A love of God’s word? Any righteousness? Any humility? Any boldness? Any care for others? Any discipline? Any grace? Any concern for the lost? Any zeal? Then by all means if you see it in me imitate what you see in me. I invite you to look and look closely. You won’t find perfection, but, you’ll find someone chasing perfection.
This is important because of anyone in church I’m the first person you should be able to look at when you’re looking for an example. If you can’t, then why am I your pastor? All the lessons and teachings should be seen in the flesh in my life.
Third, being a disciple will result in you discipling others. Your growth will turn out to benefit the growth of others. Hebrews 5:11-14 I really believe that somewhere down the road, after some time, we as believers must start helping others grow in order for us to grow. I am really emphasizing the critical need in the church for discipleship. “Though you should be teachers by now you need someone to give you milk all over again.” Are you past the milk? If not then get to the meat. If you are past the milk then the question is “Are you now helping give milk to someone else?” Remember Jesus’ words, “Go therefore and make disciples”
#3: The Ascension (19-20)
The Ascension is a crucial doctrine that often seems to be neglected in light of the Resurrection. But this is a powerful doctrine. Jesus went back to heaven. And He didn’t go to some low-level position where He has to explain to others up there who He is. The Bible says not only did He go to heaven, but, to the highest place in heaven: the right hand of God.
The Ascension is important for several reasons – reasons that each of us ought to know as disciples.
First, Jesus went back to heaven to be honored. The right hand of God is the place of honor and power and authority. Every knee…every tongue confess…God gave Him the highest place…the name above every name….all of that is His because He ascended to the right hand of God.
Second, it demonstrates that Jesus first of all came from heaven. He never spoke of going to heaven as though it would be the first time He’d ever been there. He always spoke of heaven as the place He came from in the first place. “Father” He said in John 17, “glorify me now in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Speaking of Jesus as “the Word” John’s Gospel opens up so utterly fantastic with these words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” Eternally existing as God with God, when it came time to start creating everything that was not God it was all created through the Word. This is the very same eternal, divine, Creator Word that “became flesh and dwelled among us”. That’s talking about Jesus! He came from Heaven in the first place
Third, you need to make much of His Ascension because it means His sacrifice on the cross for your sins was accepted by God. God sent Him on a mission into this world to rescue sinners by His own death and the fact that God raised Him from the dead and received Him back into heaven at His right hand is God’s declaration that what Jesus did for you is acceptable to God. Hebrews 1:4 says, “After He had made purification for sins He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven.” Pay attention here: God will not accept anything you do to save yourself. He has accepted what His Son did for you though. You can keep trying yourself, but, you will go to Hell for your pride. Or you can turn to Jesus and believe on Him as your Savior and have eternal life right now.
Fourth, Jesus went to Heaven to pray for you. Romans 8:32….1 John 2:2…..Praise God Jesus is alive and in heaven! He prays for you.
Fifth, Jesus went so the Holy Spirit could come. The Holy Spirit was going to be sent to the earth in an unprecedented way after Jesus left the earth. John 14:__ ….this is part of what Jesus meant by “I will build my Church” in Matt 16….1 Peter 2:___ we are being built like living stones
Sixth, it means our Great Commission has heavenly authority. What we do in the world is done with an authority higher than anything in this world.
Seventh, Jesus ascending to heaven means He is going to come back in glory. Make no mistake, He will come back. And it will be glorious.
So today we leave Mark’s Gospel. We leave with Baptism, with Discipleship and with the Ascension. We leave with Jesus and for Jesus. We leave, but, in leaving, we follow the command to “Go!”