September 27, 2015 Faith, Beaufort, SC
The 18th Sunday after Pentecost 1812 Boundary St.

“If You’re Not against Us, You’re for Us”
(Mark 9:38-50)

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

TEXT: Mark 9:40 ~ [Jesus said,] “For the one who is not against us is for us.”

Building Committee is making such strides I wanted to dance on the table.
I was reminded this was a bit premature, that a lot can happen. As Yogi Bera said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Sort of like former President George W. Bush making his “Mission Accomplished” speech from aboard the Abraham Lincoln as our troops returned from Iraq. The confusion then came from thinking “Mission Accomplished” meant the war on terrorism was over, that we had won. That banner flew in 2003 and a lot has happened this then.

We don’t want to be too hasty today and jump to any premature conclusions about what exactly Jesus Christ meant when he told his disciples, “The one who is not against us is for us.”

Some want to believe Jesus is here teaching that there is no special Office of the Holy Ministry, that everyone is a minister and the pastor is just a hired hand who works for the congregation, doing for pay what you all have to do for free.

Let me just say that we are expected to “tell everyone what He has done,” that all Christians can’t help but sing God’s praises for saving us through His Son, Jesus Christ. If you insist on believing “Everyone a Minister” eliminates the Office of the Holy Ministry, that is a topic for another day. For now, let me refer you to the three books of the Bible addressed specifically to pastors: First and Second Timothy and Titus. These letters to Pastor Timothy and Pastor Titus are commonly called “The Pastoral Epistles” and have much to say to all of us about the “noble desire” to be an ordained pastor and the stringent requirements for a man to be considered eligible for ordination. And don’t forget what God said to us through the Epistle of James recently: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

Another way we’re tempted to twist this Scripture is to say, “Well, Jesus meant to say it does not matter what a church teaches and believes, that we’re all on the same side no matter what false doctrine a denomination stands for.” This confusion can be avoided when we consider that Jesus also said, “Whoever is not with me is against me.” (Matthew 12:30)

What exactly did Jesus mean? When you listen to God’s Word with an open mind (rather than first deciding what we want to believe and then looking in the Bible for God to seem to say what supports our preconceived notions)… When you listen to God’s Word with an open mind, it’s really not confusing at all.

“If you’re not against us, you’re for us”
“Whoever is not with me is against me.”

Both of these statements are simply two ways of saying the exact same thing:

There is no neutral ground. You are either for Jesus or you are against him.

As C. S. Lewis put it, in his famous book, Mere Christianity: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

When it comes to Jesus, there is no neutral ground, so it is foolishness to think Jesus was somehow endorsing false teaching here. Scripture is full of warnings to be careful what we teach, especially what we teach the little ones. In the strongest of terms (using the example of wearing a millstone necklace while swimming in the deepest of seas), Jesus makes very plain that we should go to extreme lengths to avoid sinning – especially the heinous sin of leading his little ones away from the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Jesus hammers that point home again and again and again, just in today’s Gospel lesson alone. He tells us repeatedly to do whatever it takes (however extreme) to avoid such sin: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off… If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off… If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out…” Harsh and extreme! And this was on top of his warning that “it would be better for [the one who causes a little one to sin] if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

If you still think Jesus might be tolerating denominations that do in fact preach the saving Gospel, but simultaneously contradict God’s Word, then consider that in today’s Gospel, the man in question, the one who was not one of The Twelve, he had successfully cast out demons, and was doing so in the name of Jesus: “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name.”

Consider, too, the concluding word of Christ to his disciples: “Be at peace with one another.” This peace we have with one another is not holding hands and singing Kumbaya. This peace we have with fellow Christians is our harmony in the Word of God. Our peace with each other is rooted in our peace with God, which is founded on the Word of God, both the written Word and the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. Jesus would not encourage us to agree with one another without first agreeing with God, because we have no peace apart from the Word of God. No, Jesus would never encourage us to tolerate teachings that contradict and lead us away from the Word of God. He would rather see such a perpetrator held at the bottom of the deepest sea rather than lose one of us, his little ones.

Examples of Questionable or False Teachings:
Good works are detrimental to our salvation
Good works are necessary for our salvation
By faith… (“By grace through faith” is better, if you trust in you believing.)
“Plastic text” of the Bible… (Bend it till you like it?)
Only Lutherans go to heaven
You must _____ in order to be saved.

All Lutherans (or Baptist, or RC) believe…
[Distinguish official public confession vs. personal faith in the heart]

We cannot see faith in the heart, but we can see and hear the confession being confessed.

“How can you be confessional, if you don’t confess?” — Robert Preus

Thank God for “felicitous inconsistency,” but don’t bet your eternal soul on it!

My good outweighs my bad…
I said more than enough rosaries…
I volunteered many, many hours at the soup kitchen…
I shed tears when I invited Jesus into my heart…

I, I, I, I, I! ??? Christ alone! “in your name”

Childlike trust in what Christ did for us: “Jesus Loves Me.”

God has created in you a clean heart and a right spirit.
Remain in the Word, so the Spirit can renew you continually. Don’t join in your brother’s sin of contradicting God’s Word. Instead, remain in the Word, so you can reach out to restore your brother. (James 5:19 ~ “If anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

Be salty in the Word, not saltless with twisted Scripture.

Saltless salt is a startling concept – as startling as a Christian without the Word of God. (Believing twisted Scripture is at least as bad as being without the Word entirely.)

So what is he saying here when he tells his followers, “The one who is not against us is for us”? What are we to make of his statement that “whoever is not with me is against me”?

Do whatever it takes to avoid sinning and losing your eternity in joy. What it takes is not cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye. Jesus said to do that only “IF” they cause you to sin. It is not your members; it is your heart that abuses these parts of your body and causes them to make you sin. If you’re going to pluck out something to stop you from sinning, you’ll need to pluck out your heart…

But there’s no need for such draconian measures! Jesus has done something even more extreme: Jesus has already given you a new heart, when he took all your sin away on the cross. He gave you his perfect righteousness. God credits you as faultless and holy; God Almighty clothes you in the righteousness of Christ. Our gracious heavenly Father has given you a new heart, a heart that is with Christ (not against him). Working through the Word, the Holy Spirit of God has given you the heart of a child of God, a clean heart that trusts in Jesus and what He did for you on the cross. God has created in you a new heart that can reach out in love to help restore your brother and sister, help return the one you love to the arms of our Savior. You already are with Jesus, and…

The peace of God, which is beyond understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.