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Living on Mission



February 4, 2024|Living on Mission|Mark 1:29-39

JD Cutler


Click here for the sermon audio


Last week we began looking at roughly 24 hours in the life of Jesus during the early part of his earthly ministry. What stands out to me about this is that these 24 hours begin and end with Jesus faithfully serving his mission. 

Jesus goes into the synagogue and proclaims the kingdom of God and displays its saving power through a miraculous healing of a man consumed with a demonic spirit, and it ends with him doing the same thing throughout all the surrounding area of Galilee.


Jesus was a man on a mission. He would articulate that mission later on, recorded for us in Luke 19:10, “For the son of man came to seek and to save the lost.“


Many of you know that our church is going through a process called Regenesis through the SBTC. For weeks now we have wrestled with articulating the mission of Emmanuel Baptist Church, understanding that every church has the same core mission, to make disciples and glorify God, but the words we use to talk about that mission can vary from place to place.

We have studied different scriptures, we have prayed, we have brainstormed, and we have raised probably more questions than we have answered, and we are only about halfway through the process! 

But one thing that none of the six people on our team, or the other 3 churches in our local Regenesis cohort have ever doubted is the fact that we do in fact have a mission. 

We understand that Jesus Christ does not save us and leave us purposeless. 

He has not called us out of darkness into the kingdom of light for our own benefit alone, but that we might together reach the lost, build the kingdom of God through his church, and be representatives of him in all the various places he has called us to. 


Why then, does our church need the Regenesis process, for that matter, why does any church? The answer is often called ‘mission drift’. That is over time, unless one is very intentional, a person, an organization, can drift off course from their mission. Yesterday, our Regenesis team heard the functional great commission that most churches in North America seem to have. 

“Go into all the world and make more worship attenders, baptizing them in the name of small groups, and teaching them to volunteer a few times a month.”


It raises a similar point as the statement ‘the church is a battleship, not a cruise ship’- some of our ladies recently went on a cruise…

It is a battleship, where everyone has duties and responsibilities to be a part of the forward movement of the mission. 


So putting aside the unique way in which we are going to articulate our mission, for this morning let us merely say, we know we are called to be on mission, we know that the mission involves making disciples, and we know that God calls us to this labor, not as individuals, but as a corporate body of believers that he has gathered together for his purposes. 


How do we faithfully carry out this mission and what can we learn from our supreme example in our Lord Jesus Christ’s own ministry? I’d like to answer that question by looking at our text this morning under three statements. 


Let’s pick up our text where we left off last week. 

Mark 1:29-39 (ESV) 29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Jesus Preaches in Galilee

35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.


So Jesus goes from Synagogue to where he is staying, in this case, at Simon and Andrew’s house. According to the way many of us live, he should be done. After a long morning in the Synagogue, he can now get on with his life. Having come to church, oops, I mean synagogue and fulfilled his responsibilities, we should see him now resting, serving himself, enjoying the game, right?

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? 

Of course it does, because we know that isn’t what Jesus does. Although he is removed from the primary religious gathering place, he is no less on mission in Peter and Andrew’s home than he was when he was standing in the synagogue reading from the scriptures, or teaching on them, or casting out the unclean spirit. 

So besides this most obvious lesson, that our mission is not something relocated to a tiny part of our life, or a centralized religious location, what can we learn from our master about living on mission from this text?


Three statements, the first is 


Living on mission is going to require hard work.

Jesus teaches and heals in the synagogue, then he comes home we could say and his work continues, then just as we think that now he is being served, now he can relax and enjoy the evening, a knock comes, then another, and pretty soon, Mark says the whole town has gathered at this house to see Jesus. 

They have heard about what he did and said in the synagogue, now having waited until the Sabbath was over (sabbath went from Sundown on Friday to sunset on Saturday, the people begin bringing all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 

And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. 

Then he gets up early and goes to spend time in prayer. If this is indicative of the way Jesus lived, and I absolutely think that it was, then we clearly see that Jesus was a diligent laborer and a hard worker. 


If we are going to live on mission, the mission of God, then we have to accept upfront and without reservation that it is going to be hard work. When Jesus compared the two ways, the way of destruction and the way of life, how did he describe it?


Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV) 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Now, you have no doubt heard that before but listen closely again. 

The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction. 

Easy- means spacious and broad, that is to say there is plenty of room for you to do whatever you want, live however you want, chase whatever you want and stay on that path. You can carry as much stuff as you like and if you run out of room just get a bigger truck, right?

The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life. 

Hard- means compressed or pressing in on, that is to say there is no room for you to do whatever you want, live however you want, chase whatever you want and stay on this path. It requires commitment and hard work to follow this path. 

No wonder, he says many take the easy way and few take the hard. 


When large crowds gathered around Jesus and wanted to follow him, what did he say?

Luke 14:25-28 (ESV) 25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?


Isn’t it interesting that for the most part, the church has taken this radical call to difficulty and turned it into an easy decision for Christ? We say things like, God has a wonderful plan for your life, plans to prosper you and bless you, if you would just let him, your life would be so great with Jesus sprinkled on top!


What did Jesus say following him would look like?

Bearing a cross. This imagery would have been readily available to first century Jews who had watched Roman executions before. The condemned would be made to carry either the totality or a portion of his own device of torture and death, struggling, laboring to bring it to the very location it would be used to put him to death. We see Jesus being made to do this very thing in his crucifixion, beaten and abused until he collapsed under the weight of it. 


Dying to self is not easy, it is hard work. 

Living for Christ is not easy, it is hard work. 

Faithfully proclaiming Christ is not easy, it is hard work. 

Loving your neighbor as yourself is not easy, it is hard work. 


Listen, I am going to tell you something because I love you and I want you to hear it now, rather than when it is too late. 

If Christianity is easy for you, you are not doing it right! If becoming a Christian has not made your life difficult, I am afraid that maybe you haven’t become a Christian at all.

Now, is it as difficult here in America as it is in other places, no, we are blessed that our lives are not threatened daily, that our churches are not raided and our families abused and murdered because we name the name of Christ. But just because we are not under persecution, does not mean that our lives should be easy. 

Because Jesus says that when we are his, when we live like he did, the world is going to hate us because it hates him. 


Listen, the world’s way is easy, there is room for everyone to do whatever they want as long as they don’t infringe on someone else’s right to do whatever they want. You can love who you want, you can live how you want, you can pretty much do whatever you want and the world will be okay with it as long as you accept the way they want to live.


Jesus’ way is hard, there is only room for obedience to whatever he commands, it requires you to lay aside the burdens of this life that can ensnare you and to focus all your attention on Jesus. 

Jesus demands obedience and lordship over every aspect of your life. Your time, your resources, your relationships, your vocation, etc… This is the cost of following Jesus, this is the cost of living on mission, they are the same thing. To be a follower of Jesus is to be called to be on His mission of redemption.


Yes, Jesus says, Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  

Did you hear what he said, the easy yoke and the light burden are in reference to rest for your souls. 

You do not have to labor to enter the kingdom of Heaven, you do not have to earn your salvation, you do not have to anxiously wring your hands over whether you have done enough to be acceptable to God, in Jesus, that burden is light. But never does he say that our labor for the kingdom of Heaven on this earth will be easy, in fact, in many places and in many different ways he says the opposite. 


We see in our master an unrelenting pursuit of the mission which requires hard work, which interrupts his rest, which takes priority in his schedule, which extends from the public square to his private life. This is the example Jesus leaves us when he commands us to go and make disciples. The second statement I want to share with you this morning is…

 

Living on mission is going to require intense prayer. 

After what sounds like a very long day that stretched on into the evening, we would expect Jesus to sleep well all through the evening and yet, what we find is that the Bible says that he rose very early in the morning, while it was still dark. 

Now, I know some of you are early risers, so just how early are we talking about?

Mark gives us a few details that help us understand. The word he uses for morning is the word for day break, or dawn, in first century time division, this word covers from about 3 o’clock in the morning until around 6 o’clock, but he says it wasn’t just during that particular time, but in the greek, he says while it was exceedingly dark or greatly night. So at the very least we see that Jesus chose to get up in what I would call the middle of the night and not just leave the comforts of a house, but specifically seek out a desolate place. That word is sometimes translated as wilderness or desert. It is in reference to an uninhabited place. And having retreated the bible says that ‘there he prayed’.

And this was no 15 minute devotional time, Mark uses the imperfect verb tense that indicates that he kept on praying.


Luke tells us that this was not a one time event, but a way of life for Jesus, and from his report it sounds like the busier Jesus was, the more he made time for intense prayer. Listen to what he says.

Luke 5:15-16 (ESV) But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.


Lest you think that living on mission is all about working hard, we find a beautiful balance between the intense labors of Jesus with the intense prayer life of Jesus. 

We only have a few of Jesus' prayers recorded for us in the scriptures. 


Prayers of gratitude to the Father like in Matthew 11 and John 11. 

Prayers that God’s name would be glorified like in John 12. 

Prayers that God’s will would be done even in the difficulties of the cross in the garden of Gethsemane. 

His longest recorded prayer for us is in John 17. Here he prays for his followers, prayers that they would be protected in the world, that they would be sanctified, that there would be unity among them, that they would know the love of both Christ and the Father because of their relationship in Christ to the Father he proclaimed to them. 


From these, I want to share with you three things that prayer does in a believer’s life that I think are important in the context of living on mission.  


Prayer keeps us focused on God’s will for our lives. 

If we do not regularly come before God in prayer, with his word open before us and a desire to know him and his will, it is too easy to replace his will with our wants. Ultimately, following Jesus’ example, times of prayer need to be times where we petition the father for what we desire, but ultimately surrender to his will for our lives. Prayer aligns our hearts and minds with God’s will for us because prayer is where we voluntarily surrender our desires, our plans, our aspirations to his good and perfect will. 


One of the reasons many of us do not have the vibrant and intense prayer life that Jesus modeled is that we are unwilling to do this. We want to keep God as far away from our actual lives as possible. 

Right? We like to keep God in the spiritual conversations and out of the practical ones. So we pray about generic things, or we pray about spiritual things, but we don’t make our day to day lives a part of our prayers, because whether we would say it out loud or not, we do not want to turn them over to God and say, nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. Because we know that there is danger in that prayer, danger that God’s will for our lives is not going to line up with our wills and so we pretend that we can keep them separate at great cost to not only our prayer lives, but our lives as well.  


Prayer keeps us connected to God’s power for our lives. 

Jesus promised that he would send the helper, the comforter to empower the disciples to carry out their mission. That He would come and dwell within his people. Prayer is recognition that we do not have the power within ourselves to accomplish the work. 

Listen to what Paul says about this reality. 

1 Corinthians 15:9-10 (ESV) 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Or in another place, 

Colossians 1:24-29 (ESV) 24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Paul literally reminds these churches that he is one of the hardest working apostles, he has suffered beatings, imprisonments, and yet labors on with all energy, ‘that is’ he says, ‘his energy that he powerfully works within me.’ 

How did Paul experience this kind of power? If we take his commands to the Ephesian church as normative for his own power then the answer is by staying in prayer in the Spirit. 

Ephesians 6:16-18 (ESV) 6 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

Listen, when I say, prayer keeps us connected to God’s power, I’m not talking about supernatural revelation by way of the Spirit, don’t misunderstand me. I do not believe praying in the Spirit is praying in some supernatural language, or that it is some powerful charismatic experience, or that you will be given visions or revelations straight from the Spirit. Listen to what Paul says, take the word of God and pray at all times in the Spirit. 

How does prayer keep us connected to God’s power for our lives? The Bible promises that the Spirit will testify of Christ and declare the things of God, that by His power we can understand the things of God. To me, praying in the Spirit is then praying while reading God’s word and having the Holy Spirit illuminate what he inspired, and friends if you are reading God’s word and the Spirit is giving understanding, and then He will empower you to live out what you read. 

Does that make sense? 


Prayer keeps us unified with the community of God in our lives. 

Many of us have lackluster prayer lives because we are the sole object of our prayers. 

Jesus modeled for us a much different way of praying. 

In the Lord’s prayer, listen to how he teaches us to pray. 

Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV) “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Jesus tells us that our prayers are to be corporate in nature, that we are to pray for one another. 

How different would your prayer life be if you began praying, by name, for everyone in this church?

How different would your attitude be towards one another? It is hard to be mad at someone that you are praying for regularly and passionately. Amen?


What I am describing, a prayer life that sees you bringing your life before God saying your will be done, a prayer life that sees you with an open Bible, praying that God would show you his truth and empower you to live it out, a prayer life that sees you regularly and habitually praying for all of your brothers and sisters in Christ is not an easy or sparse prayer life. It is an intense one that means you are going to have to be intentional, you are going to have to be committed, and you are going to have to prioritize prayer over some of the other things in your life. Which is a good introduction for our last statement this morning. 


Living on mission is going to require total clarity. 

Let us go back to his ministry in the home of Simon and Andrew before we look at the encounter with his disciples after his prayer. Mark makes specific mention that he would not allow the demons to speak, similarly to what we saw last week in the synagogue. One commentator says this. 

Jesus would not allow the demons to speak, why? The answer is almost certainly twofold. 1. Confessions of demons are inappropriate. They do not arise from saving faith, nor do they bring me to faith in Jesus. 2. More importantly is the context of the confession. The casting out of demons and healing the sick are not the primary reason for Jesus’ mission. He did not want to be known only as a miracle-worker. He wanted to proclaim the gospel in order to bring men to saving faith, and ultimately to give his life as a sacrificial offering to God on the cross. -The Complete Biblical Library (summarized)


Jesus was totally clear about why he had come and he would not allow demons to foil it, he would not allow people to change it, and he would not allow Satan to tempt him to abandon it. Let us go back to the end of our text. 


So the disciples get up and notice that he has gone, so they go searching for him, Peter says, the whole town is looking for him.

These are two different words, that I think are worth mentioning…


But having found him, Peter says, everyone is looking for you. 

What is the unspoken expectation or assumption of Peter here? 

Why have you come out here, the crowds are already gathering this morning. After last night, everyone is ready to listen to you, everyone is ready to celebrate you and their new found freeness from disease and oppression. Capernaum is perfect for you this morning. According to Simon the master seemed to be losing precious opportunities and must be brought back. 

What does Jesus say? 

Let us go on to the next towns- literally the small villages around here

That I may preach there also- I love that Jesus summarizes everything he does as preaching. 

The word is kēryssō and carries the idea of a herald. Jesus is proclaiming the Kingdom of God whether he is expounding scripture, revealing God’s will, casting out demons and healing the sick among the Jews not only affirms his testimony but makes way for it. 

Jesus served the people’s immediate and physical needs, but make no mistake, he came to proclaim the cure for their spiritual needs. 


For that is why I came out- Jesus saw his mission clearly

Isaiah 61:1-2 (ESV) 1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor,


Could Jesus have done good things in Capernaum, had he gone back? Yes. But Jesus says no to some good things in order to keep on his mission. 

Listen, in the same way, you are going to have to say no to some good things in order to say yes to the most important thing. 

And this goes in everything from what our church does to how you raise your children. 

This is the whole point of the Regenesis process, to try and get absolute clarity on what we should be doing, why we are doing it, how we are going to do it, and what it looks like when we are successful. It is a tool to gain clarity on what God is doing and where he is leading us as a church. 


But the same thing can be said of every aspect of your life. For instance, if we were to evaluate the time and resources you spend on your kids, if we were to evaluate the things you prioritize in their lives, what would someone say your mission for your kids is?

For some of you it is abundantly clear that your mission seems to be that they become professional athletes. 

For some of you it is clear that making honor rolls and getting into the right college is the mission for your kids. 

For others it is abundantly clear that your mission is that your kids will get to experience everything that you never did. 


Shane Pruit,the Next Gen director for North American Mission Board and an amazing advocate for our kids says this. 

“Parents, one day our kids will also stand before King Jesus and the top priority won’t be their social status, bench press, looks, points per games, hobbies, scholarships, or class rank. These things are okay, but how are we investing in their soul? That has to be top priority”

But I’m not just picking on parents, in the same way, our whole life is evidence of the mission we are on.

How you spend your time, how you spend your money, the things you prioritize, it all speaks to what mission you are living for. 


Unfortunately, for many Christians today, there seems to be no clarity on how they are to be on mission for the Kingdom of God.

Make no mistake, if we have learned anything in this Regenesis process, you will not get clarity by accident. 

For a good many of us, we don’t have clarity because we are just going with the flow, going along to get along. Friends, doesn’t that sound a lot more like the wide, easy road than the narrow, hard road?


If we are going to live on mission, we are going to have to evaluate the way we are living in light of scripture and its truth. 

We are going to have to say no to some good things because they are not the main thing. But the good news is when you get absolute clarity in your mission, many of those decisions, many of those choices, become a lot easier to make. 

Jesus makes it clear that you can not be lukewarm, half in and half out. That is not what following Jesus looks like. 


This morning I want to close with a time of reflection. 

If these three statements sum up our master’s example… 

Living on mission requires hard work, living on mission requires intense prayer, and living on mission requires total clarity…

Then where are we failing to follow his example?


What things do we need to let go of in order to labor more diligently?

What things do we need to stop doing so we can spend more time in prayer?

What things do we need to eliminate or change  so that we can be clear about how we live our lives and what we are pursuing?


Listen, God has given us a mission, as individuals and as a church, are we going to be faithful to it, or not?


This morning, the response time is going to be a little different, we are going to stand and sing, but rather than being down front to receive you, Brittany and I are going to be on our face at the altar praying that these things would be true in our lives and for each one of you, the altar is open for you to do the same, if you are able to join us. Let us pray. 





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