The Cross and Christian Ministry

We are all about the cross.

Or are we?

I am afraid that sometimes we fail to apply the way God worked through the cross to our lives as believers. The disciples in Luke certainly did. In Luke 9, Jesus shows several symptoms someone is forgetting about the cross.

We looked at the first in a previous post.

Now, here is a second.

The second symptom someone’s forgetting the cross shows up in their attitude towards other believers.

When we forget about the cross, our religion becomes about appearances. And because it’s about appearances, we stop thinking so much about the cause of Christ and we start focusing on promoting our own cause instead, which usually causes us to be tough on other genuine Christians, especially, when we see them doing well, and succeeding.

Instead of rejoicing in what they are enabled to do for Christ, we attack.

Like say John here actually in 9:49.

Luke writes, “John answered.”

Which, is sort of a weird verb for him to use, if you think about it, because, who is John answering exactly?

I think, Luke’s just wanting to make sure we connect this story to the previous one.

This is all flowing out of the same basic problem. The same thing that was making them think about who was the greatest, was causing John to say what he was saying here to Jesus. 

“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.”

And you know even though that’s one sentence, basically, there’s still a lot to think about.

At some point, obviously, John saw someone casting out demons. And it doesn’t say exactly when but, it does say is that he was doing it in Jesus’ name, which is important, and is actually, the same way Jesus told the disciples they were to receive the child in the verse right before.

“Whoever receives this child in my name, receives me.”

Which tells us this is not just receiving a child, generically, or even, casting out demons, whichever way, you might try. There’s a connection here, a strong connection, between what this person is doing and his relationship with Jesus. He’s doing this on the basis of Jesus’ name. Which is I think, we can assume, John is talking to Jesus about someone who was a genuine follower of Christ. This is not an unbeliever, randomly casting out demons. He knows who Jesus is. He’s associated himself with Jesus. He’s promoting Jesus’ cause, which wasn’t easy to do, necessarily because the religious leaders weren’t really happy with Jesus at this point.

And, yet, even though I think he is a believer, he’s still actually kind of hard person to figure out, in the gospels. Here’s this unusual, random man going about casting out demons, which maybe is what caused John’s confusion as well because, as far as we know, Jesus had only given this authority over demons to the twelve which we see at the beginning, in Luke 9. Though we are going to see in chapter 10, he expands that authority, for a period of time, to the seventy, as well, which is why, I suppose this man could have been among the seventy, really, like a preview, of what was to come.

But I don’t know.

I do know, that whoever or however, this man came to be casting out demons. He was a legitimate follower of Jesus. He wasn’t an unbeliever. And he wasn’t a false prophet.

Which means I don’t think, John’s concern here was Jesus’ reputation. And I don’t think, John’s concern was this man’s relationship with Jesus either.

Which we know actually, because John says,

“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.

And the key pronoun there is us.

It’s not you.

It’s us.

In other words, John doesn’t say, we tried to stop him, because he does not follow you, Jesus.

And if he had, I really think, that would have been something different. Because we find Jesus saying later, in Luke 11:23.

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

Which is different than what he says here.

And makes reading this story in Luke 9, a little more complicated, now and days, because there are lots of people out there, who do proclaim the name of Christ, and even say they are casting out demons in the name of Christ, but don’t actually preach the truth of Christ.

Which I think, uou need to know is really not the kind of person John is talking about here.

That’s not the problem Jesus is addressing. John is not talking about someone who is speaking lies about Jesus.

That’s actually the kind of person Jesus is talking about, instead. When he says whoever is not with me, is against me.

It’s only right, for us, to stand up against those kind of people, if they do proclaim the name of Christ, but they don’t preach the truth of Christ, we have to stand up against them, because the gospel is on the line, and we obviously, can’t have unity, with people who are using Jesus’ name to spread lies and to promote their own agenda instead.

That’s important.

And yet, you know, it’s also important, when we do stand up, against what we think is false teaching, that we make sure, we really our taking a stand because of a passion for Christ. And not because of a wicked, twisted, passion for us.

Because as we see here with John that hostility, can actually be a sign, you are forgetting the cross. When you start becoming jealous of people who are actually speaking the truth about Jesus and trying to serve Him just because they are more effective in doing so, than you it can be a sign you’re missing the significance of the cross.

I know, it’s easy. It’s crazy, but it’s easy to get distracted from the big picture, and what God’s accomplishing, and almost become angry and try to stop them.

Again, not because, they are making Christ look bad or leading people astray. But because they are not with you. They are not with us. And I think, we have to be really, really careful, especially as people who are serious about the truth, because, we all have this tendency to try find our identity and importance outside of Christ and outside of what he’s accomplished in the cross, and we will use anything, even good things to do it.

It’s like we really, somehow, want to make it about us. 

And so sometimes we try to make it about us, by comparing ourselves with others, and thinking we are better than them. And other times we try to make it about us, by doing what John is doing in this story, which, essentially, was using Jesus to make himself feel important. And, I guess, you have to know, this is just such a powerful tendency, it’s not something, we get over easily, in fact, way back, even, in the early church, after this, had already been worked out, there were divisions, later, because some people were saying, I follow Paul and others I follow Apollos and others I follow Peter. And, you can read about that in 1 Corinthians.

But Paul’s like, are you kidding me? Seriously. This is weird.Was I crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Which is same thing that was happening here with John, essentially.

You see, most people want to be someone important, and yet, obviously, most people know, they are not going to be someone important, and so the way they make themselves feel important, is by lining themselves up behind someone, who they think is important.

And, it can become kind of tricky, actually, like, with John, here, because obviously John and these others had lined themselves behind Jesus, which is you know, a good thing,  but, it still can get messed up, if we are not careful, if we forget the cross, where like John, we actually start using Jesus, here, to kind of promote ourselves.

And proof of that, with John, was how upset John got when he saw someone else casting out demons who wasn’t part of his group.

Because, you have to think.

Why we would he try to stop him?

And it’s, the tense is continual, so this is something he kept trying to stop him.

Why did John put so much effort into that.

If he was casting out demons in the name of Jesus, and it seems like he really was, he wasn’t trying, John saw him do it, which means he was actually helping people, and it doesn’t seem to have been about greed otherwise, John would have brought it up, which makes it kind of strange, that John was upset, because he wasn’t obviously, thinking much, about the good of the person from whom the demon was cast out. I mean, this is actually, amazing, as we think about what real demons do to people, that, John wasn’t concerned so much, about the way this man was delivering people from that kind of suffering.He just wanted it stopped. And he wasn’t thinking about, the fact that this person was a follower of Christ, either. I mean, it was all being done in Jesus’ name, and at this point in time, that was a big deal, and yet, it didn’t slow John down. He wasn’t thinking about who the person was helping. Or why the person was doing it.

It didn’t matter to John that he was promoting Christ’s cause, either.

John has no problems with what he was teaching, or concerns about doctrine.

That’s not even mentioned.

And it seems John wasn’t thinking very practically as well. In that, at that point, Jesus and his disciples, kind of needed all the friends they could get, with the religious leaders wanting to crucify Him and John the Baptist being beheaded.

Instead, you know, what John was thinking?

John was thinking about himself.

John was thinking, I am the one, who is supposed to be doing this.

We, the twelve. This is what makes us special and important.

And so, this man needs to be stopped.

Which is why, Jesus is like.

No.

John.

No.

Your selfishness and your pride are causing you to miss the big picture.

The cause of Christ, the kingdom of God, is about something much bigger and better than just you and your glory.

It’s tempting to want to take religion and use it.  

When you start to forget the cross, you start to use religion, as a means of self-promotion, but when you are standing before the cross, and you are seeing that your salvation, rests solely in the work of this beautiful, awesome, glorious person on your behalf and you are seeing how much God’s loved you through Him, and how much God’s given you through Him, and how good God’s been to you through Him, you know, it’s not, and it can’t be, about you somehow using Him to make yourself feel important.

Instead, it’s got to be you using everything you’ve got, to make Him look important, and to help everyone see how great, and significant, He is.

And so as long as you know people are getting him right, and the gospel, right, even if they are different than you, and even if they are not, necessarily in the same group as you, and even if they are doing better than you, if the cross is in the center of your mind, and your thinking, you are going to be happy, and even excited, because, Jesus is being glorified and you know that’s what the universe is about, what the church is about, and what you are about as well.

Is it?

Or have you forgotten the cross?

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