Summary: It is important for us to have a Christian life that is on fire for God and we must make sure we do not put out our own fire or the fire of Christian ministries outside our own tradition or the fire of the little ones.
Once upon a time I went camping. A few of us stayed up late and talked around the campfire. From time to time one of us would add some wood to the fire so the “fire wouldn’t go out” and the camp site would remain warm, secure, and lighted. If you haven’t noticed the camp fires of the Lord’s army are suffering today. They are suffering because fires of devotion that once burned brightly have been extinguished. The passage of Scripture in Mark that we turn our attention to this morning, is not a poetic, feel-good message from Jesus. We would prefer to sit around the warm fire and hear our Savior say something like, “In my Father’s house are many mansions, I go to prepare a place for you, if it were not so, I would have told you.” (John 14:2) But here we get a graphic and unsettling picture of the consequences of putting the fire out. You mean we can put the fire out? Not totally, God’s fire will always burn, but we can heap buckets of water on the fire as it relates to our world.
I. DON’T PUT OUT THE FIRE OF CHRISTIAN MINISTRIES OUTSIDE OUR OWN TRADITION
Mark 9:38-39. The disciples see someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name and they tell him to stop, because he was not part of the disciples’ group. John is the one who tells Jesus what they did. It’s almost as if the beloved disciple expects a medal from Jesus. Didn’t he learn anything from the recent argument about who is the greatest. Instead of seeking to be a servant, the disciple put their concern for the demon remover’s authority over the people that were being helped. People were having demons removed, and the disciples halt the miracles. Jesus tells them to stop hindering the one who is casting out demons, saying, “He who is not against us is for us.”
This nameless miracle worker reminds us of Jesus himself and the problem he encountered from the religious leaders when he cast out demons. In Mark 3:23, Jesus responded by saying, “How can Satan drive out Satan?” It’s pretty persuasive. Jesus notes that the man who uses his name to remove demons will not soon be able to speak evil of Jesus.
This passage has tremendous parallels to our time. How much fighting is there going on between different Christian organizations. There are actually some pretty big movements that feel that their group is the only one’s going to heaven. We’ve all heard the joke about getting to heaven and over in the corner is a group sitting by themselves. We come to find out that that particular group thinks they are the only one in heaven, so they refuse to acknowledge anyone else.
Such won’t be the case in heaven. I wouldn’t be a Nazarene, if there wasn’t an inclusive part of our teaching that gives credence to the believe that we are only one group of the universal Christian church which is made up of the entire body of Christ. That’s one reason why I went to Asbury Theological Seminary instead of Nazarene Theological Seminary. But I’ve go to confess to you we in The Church of the Nazarene have sinned in excluding people. We don’t come out and say others aren’t going to heaven, but in our small denominational family network there is sometimes apparent a “good old boy” feeling of superiority. In my own life recently I caught myself saying this. Carolyn Wilson shared with me about a minister in a charismatic church who might be able to provide a special service to us, and the first thing I thought of was, “but we have different traditions.” I feel the need to be repentant for my judgment of other denominations in the past. We need to build unity in the body of Christ. Think of all the ways we are blessed by the work of other churches in our community.
Who watches TV 65, Pine Bluff’s Christian Television Station? That’s the ministry of Immanuel Baptist Church.
Who has been to the “Book of Life”, where our own Michelle Harrison accepted the Lord at? That’s the ministry of the First Assembly of God.
The list could go on and on, if we thought about the role of the body of Christ in our city of 60,000 people. This message, is exactly why I have tried to be supportive of the interdenominational Jay Strack Crusade at the Convention Center Oct. 12-16. I’d like us to send a few volunteers, and I’ve made the decision to cancel our evening services that coincide with the crusade services, so some of us can attend a be a part.
Carmine DeSena in The Air Down Here (Chronicle Books, 1995, p. 7) states, “There’s a lesson my grandmother use to recite: ‘The world is like a hand and all the people its fingers. If you hate and destroy one group of people, you lose a finger, and the grasp of the world is less.’” How much of our grip do we need to lose before we are all crippled?