Summary: We must strive to be Christians only, but we must never be so arrogant to claim that we are the only Christians.
A. There’s a story told of a man who was out on walk when he saw another man about to throw himself from a bridge into the river.
1. He ran over to the jumper to save him and asked, "Why do you want to kill yourself?" The man answered, "I've nothing to live for."
2. The rescuer asked, "Don't you believe in God?" The jumper answered, "Yes I do."
3. "What a coincidence-so do I! Are you a Jew or a Christian?" "A Christian."
4. "What a coincidence-so am I! Protestant or Catholic?" "Protestant."
5. "What a coincidence-so am I! Anglican or Baptist?" "Baptist."
6. "What a coincidence-so am I! Southern Baptist or Independent Baptist?" "Southern Baptist"
7. "What a coincidence-so am I! Premillenial or amillenial?" "Premillenial."
8. "What a coincidence-so am I! Pre-tribulation rapture or mid-tribulation rapture?" "Mid-tribulation rapture."
9. At that the first man walked away from the suicidal man shouting, "Jump heretic, Jump!"
10. How narrow and nitpicky we can sometimes be!
B. Today, I want to remind us of some very important principles and attitudes about our relationship with God and our relationship with others.
1. This sermon is based on the booklet, “Christians Only,” that was written many years ago.
C. Many people appear to be under the false impression that the power of faith is in the believing subject.
1. In other words, the power of my faith is in me.
2. Therefore, to the degree that I believe more things more strongly, then I will be able to be and do more in my spiritual life.
3. To be sure, there is something to be said for that side of faith.
4. Faith can and does grow within us.
5. Faith is stronger in some persons and weaker in others, and can even be stronger or weaker in any one of us at different times in our lives.
D. Ultimately, however, the real power of faith is not in its subject, but in its object.
1. You or I may believe ever so strongly in the wrong thing, and the fact that our faith is strong, means nothing about the legitimacy of that faith.
2. It may be altogether misplaced and directed toward something false, deceptive or powerless.
3. Surely it is better to have a weak faith in the right person and the right thing, than an abundant and never-failing faith in the wrong person or thing.
E. When there is spiritual failure in the lives of Christians, it is usually because of a failure of faith.
1. Faith has failed when one quits trusting in Jesus and starts trusting himself or herself.
2. It has failed when one turns from Holy Scripture to human tradition, human intellect, or personal feelings.
3. It has failed when one stops believing in divine grace and starts trusting in one’s own self-righteousness.
4. Faith fails when it comes to be focused on the wrong things.
F. One of the main points of the Gospel of Mark is to direct people to the one thing that is worth believing: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
1. We believe in Jesus because of the many impressive proofs of his deity.
2. He was virgin-conceived and born. He was bodily raised.
3. He taught as no one ever taught.
4. He worked miracles that made honest persons, like Nicodemus say, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (Jn. 3:2)
G. The confession of Jesus as the Christ by the apostle Peter is a crescendo in Mark’s Gospel (8:29).
1. Yet that event didn’t solve all the problems of Peter and the other apostles.
2. Their lives continued to demonstrate weakness, frustration and failure.
3. They could not accept Jesus’ announcement of his impending death (8:31-33).
4. They still had selfish ambitions about personal greatness in the kingdom of God (9:33-37).
H. What was the problem with these men?
1. It was their lack of faith. Jesus kept rebuking them for their unbelief.
2. In Mark 9:19, Jesus said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?”
3. So often they were faithless and unbelieving, and therefore, they were weak and failure-prone.
4. Strange as it may sound, those whose faith and understanding are weak are the ones most likely to exhibit spiritual pride and arrogance.
I. The episode from our Scripture Reading almost appears to be trivial and misplaced within the Gospel of Mark.
1. The apostle John tells Jesus about a man they had met. “Teacher, we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” (9:38)