Monday, March 26, 2012

Sermon on Mark 10:35-45, for the 5th Sunday in Lent, Children's Sunday, "Ransomed for a Reason!"

Sermon Outline: 
1.      James’ and John’s bold-faced request—sit at the right and left hand. Go-getters, ambitious, passionate; seeking power, glory. Didn’t sit well with the other 10 disciples. Know or learn from experience that a sure-fire way to alienate co-workers, friends, or others from you is to be arrogant and self-promoting—seek to grab power, put yourself over them, etc. Jesus calms the disciples and uses this as a teachable moment for them all.
2.      Way of the world vs. way of the kingdom of God. It’s dysfunctional. Putting our interests and quests for power first, makes for conflict, hurt feelings, etc. And passive-aggressive manipulation is no better, because it just puts our interests first in a “sneakier way.” Jesus compares this self-seeking to the ways of the politicians of His day, who were domineering in their power, or “threw their weight around” to show who’s in charge. Same today. Endless cycle of it in politics and news, as one party blames the other when they’re in control, or they’re not in control, or when everything lands in gridlock. For every finger pointed, three more point right back at you. Rise in the polls by making everyone else look bad.
3.      Happens not just in politics, but in family, in the workplace—we know it’s dysfunctional and it needs to change. Jesus says, “It shall not be so among you.” Kingdom of God doesn’t work this way—reversal of values from the world and our selfish, sinful nature. In the kingdom of God, we’re to put others first—and to lead by humility and service. Greatest will be a servant, the first must be a slave. This is the way of God’s kingdom.
4.      Not James’ and John’s greatest hour—true colors, unflattering picture. But instead of being quick to sneer at their failings, we should see our reflection in them. Good news though! God can work through “characters” like them and us! Don’t have to fit a certain “personality profile”—God has a place too for the rough and tumble, for the go-getters or the bull-headed, for the ones who learn by repeated mistakes, as well as for the mild and timid, the questioner, the intellectual, or the emotional one. God will take the Jameses and Johns and Marys and Marthas, and make them His followers. He loves you already because He made you, and also loves you enough to want you to change for the better.
5.      He can take a James or a John like me or you and know that you’ll be a “work in progress”—even if it’s your whole life long (trust me—we will be!). This is hope for us: freeing us from our sins, shape the new identity. Humility of service & bold courage of faith. Generosity and concern for others instead of selfishness and stinginess. And rest assured that you don’t have to have the right “Myers-Briggs” personality type to qualify! Do you think Jesus didn’t know the character strengths, faults, and flaws of each and every one of those twelve disciples, before He chose them? Of course He knew, and He had a purpose for each of them. And He’s got a purpose for each one of you. “If God didn’t work through sinful people, He wouldn’t get a whole lot done, would He?” Of course that’s the beauty of God’s love for us!
6.      So how’s Jesus going to do it? Many of you are employers who have other people working for you. Most of you here are parents. Everyone here has responsibilities toward a boss, an employee, a parent, a child, a teacher, a pastor, an aunt or uncle, a neighbor. An “arena” to live out our life and practice doing what is either right or wrong, practice loving and serving, or being domineering and selfish. So how does Jesus propose to enter into our lives, our arena, and change how we live? By an unexpected way—by serving us.
7.      “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.” [Unpack “ransom.”] “The ransom metaphor pictures those whom Jesus came to purchase as helpless slaves, chained in the marketplace, standing on the auction block with no hope of freedom...Imagine it! There you are, on the slave block, about to be sold into who knows what kind of slavery. You look up, and there stands Jesus, giving Himself for you, standing in your chains, shedding His blood for you, buying your freedom. ‘You are free to go,’ you hear the auctioneer say. ‘You are free!’ The price? the eternally valuable blood of Jesus Christ, the priceless perfection of His obedience in life and in death, the precious treasury of His merit on the cross. This was the payment to buy freedom for the entire world”. (Preus, Just Words, 81, 83).
8.      But probably most of us would say “I’ve never been a slave to anyone; I live in a free country; I’m the master of my fate, I’m the captain of my soul.” Jews had said nearly the same thing to Jesus, when He had suggested that they needed to be set free. “What do you mean? Set free from what?” Sin. Hostages to our own self-will. At our best, we still can’t free ourselves from it—and more troubling, God says that the end result of sin is death.
9.      Sin is more than mere dysfunction. If sin leads ultimately to death, and God judges us after—then our prospects don’t look too good! If we can’t free ourselves of wrong actions, wrong words, wrong motives and desires, then how do we assume that God’s evaluation of us will be that we were “good enough”? Cast in this light, we see our slavery to sin as a truly serious problem. Eternal life is in the balance, and God is always there to remind us, whether through our conscience, through the works of His creation, or through a crisis that drives us back to Him, that He’s still there, even when we’ve forgotten Him. Speaks to us through His Word, the Holy Bible, reveals His love for us and to show His plan for how to get us out of this mess. How His Son Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for us.
10.  No easy fix or solution, because we humans have brought a lot of hurt and evil into this world, and our lives are extensively intertwined with sin. God wasn’t going to go through a “selective elimination” process where He just removed the worst people from the world, and all our problems would be solved. Church is not a “rose garden” where God selected the best and the brightest—but is made up of forgiven sinners of all shapes and stripes.
11.  But what a solution! Nothing we would have imagined. That God would take on and own the problem of sin—which was rightfully ours—and make it His own burden to bear. That Jesus would sacrifice His own life on the cross, getting our just penalty, so that God could count His good and perfect life to our credit. That He’d take the penalty due to us, and grant us His pure record by faith in Him. This means we need not fear death, and have the assured verdict of innocence—that God will evaluate those who believe in Jesus—not by their sins and failings—but by the perfect love and obedience of His Son Jesus.
12.  That is what the Christian Gospel—the Good News about God’s love is all about. Jesus, made a transaction that cost Him His life on the cross—but that purchased ours! He ransomed us from an inescapable slavery, and gave us a new life of freedom. He calls us to be His followers, with all our faults and blemishes, but grants us a new life and a new identity, to start walking and living after Him. To be those who would serve others, and to show His humble love. Those who strive to live by the reverse values of the kingdom, instead of the ways of the world. To turn away from our pride and domineering, to follow after Him. God has ransomed you for this reason, so live and rejoice as the ransomed children of God, in Jesus’ name, Amen!

Sermon Talking Points
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1. What were James and John seeking from Jesus in Mark 10:35-45? How did their question affect the other 10 disciples? vs. 41  When have we had similar self-seeking, self-promoting thoughts? What is usually the result of “power-plays”, being domineering, arrogant, or self-seeking? What attitude does Jesus direct us to have instead? Vs. 43-45; Philippians 2:1-11. How is this attitude Jesus’ own attitude toward us?

2.  Do we ever make the excuse or even fear that we can’t “fit the bill” to be a Christian? The picture we see of the different disciples shows that God can have a plan and purpose for all different “characters” and personalities. All of us are sinners, and God can accomplish much through our lives if we will humble ourselves to believe and follow Him.

3. God gives us many “arenas” in life and in our relationships where we practice the love and the service that He directs us to. In all parts of our life, and in our responsibilities, God is working to bring about godly change in us. Colossians 3:3, and 3:5-17.

4. What is a “ransom?” Unpack the meaning of the word. As Jesus applies it to us—who is in slavery (or held hostage?); what is our slavery; what is the price Jesus paid for our freedom? Mark 10:45; 1 Tim. 2:6; 1 Peter 1:18-20; Rev. 5:9.

5. How is the cross, Jesus’ ultimate act of service for us? Now that we’ve been ransomed, how should we live in this freedom we’ve been given? Gal. 5:1, 13; 1 Peter 2:16. Take a moment to give thanks to God for His salvation, and ask for Jesus’ love to reshape your life for Him!

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