Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: This is the seventh and final installment in a series I did on the Great Commandment from Mark 12. This final message is evangelistic in nature.

Priority 1

Mark 12:28-34

October 13, 2002

Not Far, But Not In

Today we conclude a series begun a few weeks ago which I entitled “Priority 1”. We began by saying that churches manage to busy themselves with a variety of pursuits, some of them quite wholesome and valuable. At the same time, it is very possible to be engaged in doing the “stuff” of ministry and miss the essence of what Jesus would have us be doing. What is “priority one”, we asked, for our churches and for our lives? We resume that study in a moment, but first,

From the diary of John Wesley comes A Lesson in the Price of Spiritual Usefulness:

Sunday Morning, May 5

Preached in St. Anne’s. Was asked not to come back anymore.

Sunday Evening, May 5

Preached in St. John’s. Deacons said, “Get out and stay out.”

Sunday Morning, May 12

Preached in St. Jude’s. Can’t go back there either.

Sunday Evening, May 12

Preached in St. George’s. Kicked out again.

Sunday Morning, May 19

Preached in St. Somebody Else’s. Deacons called special meeting and said I couldn’t return.

Sunday Evening, May 19

Preached on street. Kicked off street.

Sunday Morning, May 26

Preached in meadow. Chased out of meadow as bull was turned loose during the service.

Sunday Morning, June 2

Preached out at the edge of town. Kicked off highway.

Sunday Afternoon, June 2

Preached in a pasture. 10,000 people came out to hear me.

The Spirit of God was upon John Wesley, a man who preached a message so discomforting to the established religious folk that they kicked him out of their pulpits and demanded he not return. John Wesley was a man greatly used of God to lead multiplied 1000’s to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Eternity will be filled with souls who have been impacted by the life and ministry of this giant of the faith. As part of the message this morning, I tell a little of the story of John Wesley’s conversion. Would you now stand with me as we read together from God’s inspired Word in Mark 12:28-34?

John Wesley was born in 1703 the 15th child of a clergyman; he was well-educated and devout. At the age of 25, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England. At Oxford, he joined a group of men, including brother Charles and George Whitefield, who were dedicated to living holy lives. He prayed for an hour a day, took Communion weekly, fasted twice a week, visited prisons, helped the poor and the sick.

Can we agree, given that pedigree, that John Wesley could be termed what the world calls a “devoutly religious man”? So was the gentleman described in this passage, this scribe, this lawyer. He had a lot going for him!

What the scribe had going for him:

I. He was a religious man who knew the Word.

Skilled in the knowledge of the OT Law, it an absolute certainty that this man was devoutly religious. He was undoubtedly a devout observer of religious rituals, such as the giving of burnt offerings and sacrifices, the keeping of the Sabbath, etc. These scribes devoted their lives to the study of the Law. We can be absolutely certain that this man was devoutly religious. Similarly, John Wesley!

II. He was a man of moral integrity.

Again, this is a likely deduction from our knowledge of the fastidious lifestyles of these scribes and religious leaders. While Jesus makes it clear that these religious leaders were far more concerned with a letter-of-the-law approach to spiritual living than they were to discerning the real essence of the Scripture, it can also be said that there existed among them a sincere level of moral uprightness.

III. He was a man of intellectual sincerity.

If Jesus is Who we believe He is, then as God in the flesh, He was uniquely qualified to answer the man’s question. And what better question can be imagined than, “what does God want from us?” The scribe had an intellectual sincerity. He was capable of thinking for himself. Jesus had a respect for him as a man who went beyond merely parroting the “party line”. He evidenced a sincerity unlike his peers whose interest in questioning Jesus was reserved for a desire to trip Him up, a desire to see Him fall into the traps they attempted to lay for Him so as to discredit Him.

We live in a shallow world filled with shallow thinking. This man was a thinker! Many people blithely traipse through life without thinking of eternal realities, or at least determining that such issues are beyond them, and that they’d rather watch Jerry Springer than consider the possibility that God might not be pleased with their sin! This was a serious man who had intellectual integrity.

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