Cookie Cutter Christianity
Sermon by Timothy Williams. This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional.
This sermon is about cookie cutter Christianity. We’ve begun looking at it for the last several weeks, but I want to put the nails in the cross. I want you to be so nailed to the cross that you don’t embrace anything else but Jesus Christ. I want your feet nailed in so that you’re not able to run to anything else except this. Most people like a cookie cutting kind of Christianity. By that I mean everybody is stamped out, all looking the same way, coming from the same mold. Cookie cutter Christianity is a lot easier to live than the kind of life Jesus calls us to live. In Galatians 2:20, Paul tells what kind of life he lives.
Galatians 2:2 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
When you go to a church and the leadership begins to cut out people from a set mold, (that is, they have certain standards, actions or conduct that will demonstrate whether you’re spiritual or not), this action eliminates a life of faith. You will wind up seeking to please other men, whether you do it consciously or not is not the point. The point is that we really end up being idolaters, because we seek to please our neighbor, the church or the people around us. Everybody seems to be cut out of a certain form or mold and Christianity becomes nothing more than cookie cut.
The Pentecostals have certain forms of conduct that will demonstrate whether a person is spiritual. Everybody is supposed to speak in tongues. You’re to act and raise your hands in a certain way. I don’t know whether it sets in consciously or unconsciously. We’re not here to psychoanalyze it, we’re here to put it to death. The Baptists have their set of standards, which show you’re conservative, your doctrine’s straight, and your action and behavior is really what Jesus had in mind. It’s cut out of a certain mold. It’s so easy when somebody asks you what kind of church yours is comparable to and you can say, “Well, we’re like the Baptists (or whatever denomination).” They immediately know what you’re talking about. Why? Because everybody’s cut out of basically the same mold. Oh, there are certain kinds of shifting from it, but generally everybody can say, “Okay, I understand who you are and where you’re coming from,” because you’re cut out of this mold. Very seldom do you find somebody saying, “Well, it’s really hard to describe what group we fit into or how we really form, because everybody is following Jesus Christ.
Now, Paul said he lives his life by faith; that is, he seeks to follow Jesus Christ. He doesn’t seek to conform to any man’s standards or any ideas of what is spiritual. He’s not even sure himself what he should be. All he knows is that he must follow Jesus Christ. Now, you can see why it’s an easy thing to go to the cookie cutter kind of Christianity. You don’t have to think. You don’t really have to be anything. There’s no calling by Jesus Christ to be more than you really are. You know that the minute you start to follow Jesus Christ, it will require faith on your part. He will cause you to step out of the boat and get out where you don’t want to go. He will give you a cross that you really don’t want. But if pastors preach about the cross, and we have certain ideas of what the cross means, then you can apply the cross to your life and pick it up in a way that’s comfortable for you. But if I tell you, “Now look, you have to follow Jesus Christ. You have to pick up the cross that He gives you,” you know that will have a cutting edge to it. The cross has a rough and biting edge that no man can produce. That’s why so many people like to live the kind of Christianity that requires no faith at all, even while they boast of faith. Of course, there are other motives and we’ll look at those.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
You see, those people who live by faith will know, experience, and feel the love of Jesus Christ. Most people who live a cookie cutter Christianity get their sense of love from other people around them who affirm to them that they are really living like Jesus wants them to. They get their peace from other people telling them they have a peace. If you conform to a certain pattern or set of standards, then you can turn to yourself and say, “Well, I must really be a Christian because I do these things. I have these things in my life and I perform these certain acts.” But if somebody gets out of kilter with the normal kind of thing that’s accepted as Christianity, then everything is thrown into disarray. So they try to conform back to the “standard.” But if you want to know the love of Jesus Christ, what do you have to do? You have to begin to live by faith, and that’s all we’re talking about. You have to stop trying to please man and let go of your standards of what it means to be a Christian. You have to pick up a cross and follow Jesus Christ only.
We will get the nails in the hands and feet and get this thing on the cross. If you want to know God’s will for you, you’ll be required to pick up a cross hourly and daily. If you want to live by faith, you’ll have to pick up a cross at each hour to try to find out what the will of God is for you. You will have to follow Him. Now, we’ve been saying that a hundred times over, but like I said, we will put the nails in the hands.
John 21:18-19 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
You see, most people don’t want to live a life by faith because they don’t want to glorify God. That’s not their central thought. They want the peace that Jesus Christ brings. They certainly want the everlasting life that He promises. But when you examine their hearts, you will find they have no desire to live for and glorify God. God will take a hold of you and He will give you a cross in your life. This is not just to deal with sin, not just to give you peace, not just to give you freedom, but to glorify His name. Now, that’s a rough kind of cross.
It says in Romans that when God looks at us, He considers us his sheep to be slaughtered. That is, God will lay hold of each of you and say, “Okay, how can I glorify My name through this individual? What can I bring into their lives that will glorify My name?” Now can you imagine all the different things that God can produce in your life? Some of them are terrifying and some of them are good. Some of them will create some fear within us. Some of them will cause us to be excited about the possibilities of what God could do. But the truth is, we don’t know what He could bring. Very few people know what Peter knew. I don’t know that Peter really wanted to know that he would be led where he didn’t want to go. But you see, we have a Christianity that cuts everybody out into a certain mold. If you remove the fear then you remove the trust in Jesus Christ. With cookie cutter Christianity everybody can plan his or her own course in Jesus Christ. It’s already outlined for you. You know what you need to do and nothing really all that drastic could possibly take place, because you’ve got everything organized.
But to simply come before God and say, “Okay, God, here is my life; You do with it whatever will glorify Your name” is a far different cry than “Give me the peace, joy, rest, love and mercy that are in Your hands.” Yet Jesus Christ seeks to lay a hold of us. He bids us to come to him and stop trying to conform to other people around us. He says, “Let me work in Your life what will glorify My name.” That’s when it comes down to the crucial element of who we really will follow.
John 21:20-21 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
Now another reason why people like cookie cutter Christianity is because no one else gets blessed in a special sort of way. You see that especially among charismatic groups, don’t you? Everybody can heal and cast out demons and everyone is meant to be made well. There’s really no deviation from those “rules.” Everybody’s promised all the same blessings. Everybody is a priest. They are all exalted. Everyone has all these things in Jesus. What is really going on is a kind of secret, selfish ambition and jealousy that doesn’t want anybody else blessed more than the other person. You become overly concerned with what Jesus might do in someone else’s life.
You see, Peter isn’t consumed with what will glorify God. He’s consumed with how God will deal with his life and how God will deal with everybody else’s life; and so that’s why Peter turns and says, “What about him? What about the one that you love? What will you do with his life?” We will see in a moment that God can do anything He wants with another’s life. The ultimate aim and quest for you is to do what God is calling you to do without worrying about what God will do with someone else. The fact that no one gets anything special in Jesus Christ is what drives people to settle into a Christianity that allows them to do the proper, holy, reserved, and quiet thing.
We will see in a moment that Hebrews talks about the contrast in the way God works in people’s lives. It might be one of you has a family member raised back from the dead, while somebody else suffers in prison. Everybody wants somebody raised from the dead. We’re talking about coming before God and allowing Him to work whatever He sees fit for His name’s sake.
John 21:21 “When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’”
It’s real comfortable to sit in a church when nobody will be blessed in an exciting way. Nobody will receive anything any more special than you. God won’t give him any more comfort or blessing than you will get. Everybody feels equal and selfish ambition settles in. It’s kind of a backward thing. Everybody feels comfortable when no one is blessed, but a walk by faith means they’re more open to God doing whatever He wants to do with their lives. All you have to do is begin in Genesis and read through Revelation to see all the different ways God has dealt with man. There are many different ways God has put men through things in order to reveal His glory, in order to change men, in order to make them different. One can only conjure up in his own heart what God might possibly do with a life that is surrendered to Him.
Ah, but if we could come down with a certain standard, we could find out what God will do with everybody else, then we could sit comfortably and live our quiet little Christian lives. We don’t have to strive to serve God because nobody else is doing it either. Nobody else is really striving to live for the glory of God. Nobody else has a special relationship with the Holy Spirit that causes us conviction. If everybody is just sitting there lukewarm, then you look on fire, don’t you? You could say, “Well, this must be what Christianity is all about. Nobody has to strive to live anything that is different. Nobody has to really love God with all of their hearts.” We can relax and say, “Well, God doesn’t deal differently with anybody else, so I must be okay.”
John 21:22- Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
Over and over again, we see the same calling by the Spirit. We see the word of God saying the same thing to us, “You must follow me,” You must follow a living God, a living Spirit. What is ironic is there are people who will say the same thing that I’m telling you. There are people who will sing about it and talk about it. I just heard somebody really preaching on the subject the other day―about a living Jesus in you. Yet, when you look at all the different people that God has supposedly touched, why do they all look the same? Why are they all cut from the same mold? Why is there no different moving of the Spirit? Of course, even in different moving we will still see the same cross of Jesus.
We don’t want to live by faith, so we’re more concerned about what other people might receive in Jesus. You see, what finally happens is most of us in the church live by rumors. Here Jesus says in verse 22, If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you. You must follow me. So what happens? The church gets in on the ball game, doesn’t it?
John 21:23- Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die.
Now, that’s how most people live their Christian lives. They don’t get their information from the Holy Spirit. They’re not listening to Jesus Christ. What I am telling you is that most people get their affirmation from rumors. That is, they are told they’re in a right relationship with God because everybody else is saying they are. Or someone says that another person has a certain gift, but not because the Holy Spirit has told them to tell this person. It’s only rumors going around. People are talking about the talent that somebody had and the fact that it turned into something spiritual and significant.
Here you see Jesus speaking about somebody’s life, telling him or her God’s will. God―Jesus just merely saying, “Well, look, whatever I do with someone’s life is My business;” and because of that the whole rumor began that John would never die. Today, there’s the same kind of ridiculous talk going on within the Body of Jesus Christ. You see it every day. When people say things about what they are or are not in Jesus Christ, this is nothing more than rumors. It is man’s own evaluation of what Jesus has said applied to somebody’s life.
John understood fully what Jesus was saying. Nobody else did because they weren’t listening to what the Spirit had to say about a man’s life. It’s like somebody takes the word of God, reads it, and then tries to impress it in on somebody’s life. They try to push out that cookie, don’t they? They think they understand the word of God. They think this is how God deals with everybody’s life and this is how He will work. They try to press everybody out to what they understand the word to be saying. That’s what is going on here in verse 23. They heard the word of the Lord, right? They took God’s work and began to press John into that mold to get him to conform to what they thought Jesus Christ said. What they thought Jesus Christ said was that John would never die.
There are absurd things going on within the Body of Christ today. People take the word of God and press people out to be a certain thing. They leave no room for the Holy Spirit, even as they talk about the Holy Spirit. What winds up happening is everybody lives a bunch of rumors. Nobody’s hearing directly from Jesus Christ. That takes too much effort, doesn’t it? That takes too much struggling in the prayer closet. That really takes too much of us going before God every day to say, “God, what is Your will?” We’re just so lazy and comfortable. We don’t want to be spurred on to really love God at all. We really don’t have the love in our hearts that we say we do. It just takes too much effort to go in every day and say, “Okay, God, what is Your will? What is it You want to work?” It just takes too much effort to walk by that kind of faith. People don’t strive and they don’t go for it because they’re not really lovers of God. We just want to conform to something.
John 21:23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
John understood, and those who listen to the Spirit understand also. I’ve had brothers and sisters come to me and say things in love. I knew they were just speaking out of themselves. The rebuke had nothing to do with Jesus Christ moving them. There was no need for me to rebuke them for this action. I can love and appreciate the brother and his heart or a sister and what she’s telling me. But what I really want to know is what the Spirit says in every circumstance and situation.
I mean, it doesn’t really do you or me any good for you to come to me and say, “I really think you’re a spiritual brother in Christ Jesus.” If the Holy Spirit hasn’t sent you to say it then it really doesn’t mean anything. It’s your opinion. There will not be an election in heaven. Nobody will say, “How many people think Tim’s spiritual? Let’s let him in.” I’m glad there isn’t, actually. I probably wouldn’t get in. But the point is, we can’t go by what each other says. Now, if God tells you to tell me something encouraging, then I want to be able to recognize what the Spirit is saying. John is able to recognize what Jesus is really trying to communicatewhat each of us has to begin to do. That’s why people are motivated by all kinds of worldly motivational things. Why? They don’t listen to the Spirit. They listen to rumors and gossip. They listen to man’s ideas of what they think Jesus is saying. Then everybody’s motivated to do everything that they think they’re supposed to do. And everybody’s running around thinking they won’t die. I mean, how many people run around today think they will go to heaven? They do not think they will die and go to hell. Why? Because it is only rumors. They can’t say, “But Jesus really told me.”
Basically what Jesus tells each of us is that it’s none of our business what He does with somebody else. What you have to be concerned with is, first of all, following Jesus Christ and then letting Jesus do what He wants to do with others. If He wants to tell you something about another person’s life, great! But He won’t ever do that until you consider it none of your business. Let me give you this contrast.
Luke 2:25-26 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
It’s amazing, this is before Pentecost, but we won’t get into all the ramifications of that. Luke 2:27 says, “Moved by the Spirit”―this is long before Jesus Christ gave them the example of the cross. Here is a man surrendered to God, understanding the things of God, and Jesus hasn’t even set the example yet.
Luke 2:27-35 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
This man is coming out with some grand prophecies about this child’s life. He’s moved by the Holy Spirit. He’s a priest of God, and most people would accept this kind of man. He’s moved by the spirit. He’s a priest of God. He’s been a priest for many years. He’s an older man. He comes out with eloquent things about Jesus Christ, and all of that is with God. But look at the next woman here.
Luke 2:36-37 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying.
Now, in today’s church, you would not find this kind of contrast going on at all. The man that is highly exalted is the priest. But a woman who does nothing but stay in church all day long fasting and praying would be challenged in many churches or thought of as “off her rocker.” They would say, “How come you’re not out evangelizing? You’re just in the church praying and fasting ‘cause it’s easier to do than to be out there in the real world facing all kinds of problems. Look at Paul over here and how he goes on missionary journeys and how he’s beaten and he’s robbed. Here you are in sin, just quietly staying in the church. Oh, you do a little fasting, but that’s nothing compared to what other people are doing.”
You see, we’re not as open to the Spirit as we think we are. We have this kind of narrow cookie cutter outline, and everybody has to conform to it. We don’t have the broadness to allow the Spirit to do whatever, without getting out here into just ridiculous kinds of things. We can’t understand that the Spirit will move in all kinds of different ways and that God accepts all kinds of different servants. It’s amazing we can’t look at all creation and the variety in what God made and come to an understanding that God works in a multitude of ways. We can’t even begin to count them all.
Now granted, it all has to be holy, it has to ring of the cross and it must have the Holy Spirit in it―those are the testing things. I’m just saying you have to be open to God doing whatever He wants to do in your life. You might be married for seven years―God gave you the husband you always longed and prayed for and all of a sudden he dies. Then God calls you to spend the rest of your time doing nothing but praying and fasting.
Think about it for a moment. If the priest walked around with the attitude of, “Oh, my, I need to be praying and fasting like this woman” and never leaving the church building or doing anything else, he would be in sin for what he was doing. It was not God’s will. It was not what God had in mind. If she said, “My, I’m in sin and I need to be out there in the real world. I need to be helping other people, serving them, baby-sitting childrenI need to be doing those things,” she would be in sin also because that’s not what God had called her to do. That was not His purpose for her life.
Are we able to recognize the Spirit working in all of those different ways within the body? The sad answer is, of course not. How much we miss because we don’t allow God to work in all those different ways. How sad it is that you rob so much from His body and Jesus Christ, because you won’t let God work. You refuse to allow God to work things in you that are so different and vast, things we haven’t begun to imagine yet. You try to be like me or like somebody else. We like to copy so and so. We’re not content just to go in before Jesus Christ and allow Him to mold us and make us into what will glorify His name. This is a very difficult thing to achieve and it doesn’t come easily. But there is supreme joy in it when we have it.
Luke 2:36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.
Now, how many women do you know who are even open to asking God whether they should just pray and fast for the rest of their lives? I mean, if they are widowed after seven years of marriage, usually the first prayer is, “Bring me another husband.” Scripture says “She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying.” Now, look at that. Are our lives spiritual enough to recognize God moving in other people’s lives? How open are we to allow God to do whatever He wants to do with our lives, whatever it might possibly be? Most people would think she was going through menopause and had lost some of her senses and that’s why she stayed there all the time. That’s not a jokethat is seriously what people would consider.
Luke 2:38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
What a blessing she had. She was able to see the Baby Jesus. I don’t know what she prayed and fasted for that whole time, but it might have been just for that moment, to see the very redemption of Israel. How sad it is when people live their whole lives doing what they think they’re supposed to do for Jesus, and they miss the one opportunity he had in mind especially for them. It might take 80, 60 or 50 years of waiting, but eventually that moment is theirs. If they’re in line with the will of God, if they live by faith, and if they’re being crucified with Christ they will see Jesus. Stop trying to be like somebody else and be what God created you to be.
Acts 21:10 gives us a warning that God could speak through somebody else about His will for your life. Those are arrogant people, who don’t pick up a cross, yet they think they have this one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ. They think He will never speak through somebody else about God’s will for their lives.
Acts 21:10-11 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”
Now, if Paul would have been as arrogant as most people are today, he would have said, “God didn’t tell me this” or “I’ve got to test this before I can ever accept it.” What people really mean is, “I don’t want to hear this.” Paul was thankful for this kind of prophecy. He was thankful for God’s direction, though it came through somebody else. None of us, however, will receive this kind of wisdom until we consider everybody else’s business to be none of our business. When we are open to God doing whatever He wants to do with each individual life, then God can begin to communicate to us what His will is for each individual person.
1 Thessalonians 5:19 tells us of this kind of fire where everybody is following Jesus Christ. When you consider everyone else’s life to be none of you business then God’s spirit is able to move within our lives to communicate and to direct. Together as a body, we move where God directs. Nobody is trying to cut anybody else out of the same kind of mold. We allow room for the Spirit to do whatever the Spirit wants to do with anybody’s life. Let me tell you, that’s when church worship and fellowship becomes exciting. We never know what God will do with a person’s life the next moment, and we can watch it unfold.
1 Thessalonians 5:19 “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire,”
That’s exactly what happens when people come along with their nice little cookie pressers and they begin to cut out the same mold over and over and over again. You put out the Spirit’s fire. You quench it. He’s not allowed to move. Nobody has the faith to do it, nor does anyone really want to do it. Everybody’s afraid somebody else will be blessed in a special sort of way, and so you put out that Spirit’s fire.
1 Thessalonians 5:20 “do not treat prophecies with contempt.”
What is he saying? If God gives direction for somebody’s life or if you get counsel from somebody else, recognize it as being from the Lord. Don’t look down on it and think, “Well, God’s got to speak to me, and He’s got to tell me directly. The angels have to sing in the background while I hear what God has to tell me.” Don’t walk around with an attitude like some people who don’t even believe in prophecy. What foolish people they are! Not only do they put out the Spirit’s fire, you couldn’t come with a prophecy if you tried. They no longer believe that anybody can come and say, “Your hands will be bound in this sort of way.”
Then there’s the other group. You know, the only prophecies they receive are the kind that are always grand. The two prophecies we’ve looked at so far have to do with dying and glorifying God. They’re grand, but not in terms of your flesh. “Do not treat prophecies with contempt.”
1 Thessalonians 5:21 “Test everything.”
That’s to be done for sure. Everything that somebody says to you must be examined to see whether it came from God. It doesn’t mean that I automatically receive what someone has told me. I’ve had a lot of people tell me a lot of things about my life. All of them had to be tested and most of them thrown out, but you “Test everything and hold on to the good.”
No one should look at how Jesus does things differently because the minute you start cookie pressing each other, do you know who you’ve cookie pressed? Jesus Christ. If there’s somebody very hard to contain and put into a certain mold, it certainly is God. Yet people seek to do it all the time. If you will press people out in a certain pattern, and say the Spirit only works in certain ways, then you will also do it to Jesus Christ. You’ve got to limit Him in the way that He acts and move. I will give you one example out of a multitude.
John 9:6-7 Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
Look at all that Jesus Christ went through in order to make somebody well. Those who cookie press assume that Jesus will do this in every circumstance in the future. Especially when you’re young in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit speaks to you in one way. For example you flip open to the word of God and a wild description just jumps out at you. You know that was the Spirit’s call to you. So every day for the next three months, you go in and flip open your Bible. You think that Jesus Christ will speak to you every time you flip open your Bible. But you don’t get anything. You become confused. Why? Because God won’t let us confine Him to our thoughts and our definition of what He’s supposed to be. We won’t be able to put the living God in a box and carry Him around.
This time, he takes some spit and mixes it with mud. He puts it on the man’s eyes. He tells him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam, and then he’s able to see. In Matthew, Jesus does something different.
Matthew 9:27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”
These guys are crying for mercy. Jesus didn’t answer. He didn’t respond.
Matthew 9:28 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you”; and their sight was restored.
No mud, no saliva, no washing in the Pool of Siloam. He just touched them and that was it.
We can’t lay down a pattern for anything concerning how God might make somebody able to seeyet we try to all the time. It’s a very fearful thing to worship a living God. It’s kind of an earth-shattering thing to worship Jesus. You just never know how He will respond. But if you got this guy cookie cut, you know He will only respond to this boundary and stop. You know He will never deal with you in a harsh sort of way. He always will back off. If you have this certain box and you have Jesus Christ contained, you know He never will do something requiring a whole lot of real faith. He never really will come to you and tell you to get in the boat and set out only to have a storm come up, because you’ve got Him confined. You understand the basic principle, and you know Jesus never really asks somebody to do all that much anymore. You’ve never seen it done to anybody else’s life in the church. There is nobody that can testify this to you. So you’re comfortable. He just doesn’t do that kind of thing.
Do you see why it’s so comfortable to worship in a church where Jesus is cut out in the pattern that you want Him to be? Nobody’s standing up and saying, “I was in this situation. It was terrifying. We did these really weird things. God called us to go here and all these bizarre things happened.” Everybody’s sitting in the pews thinking, “Oh, my God, I hope you never call me to do that.” But since nobody’s ever testified that God does those things, they are pretty comfortable. They all just peacefully go right in to hell because they never wind up serving the living God. They just cut Jesus out in the pattern they want Him to be.
Matthew 9:29 Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.”
Jesus is saying, “Don’t go preach the gospel” A bizarre kind of Jesus we worship! But, I can’t take that as a pattern. I can’t lay down a rule that says if somebody is healed of something, they aren’t allowed to tell anybody. We’ve had a sister healed of back pain and a crushed disc. I couldn’t just lay down a rule that says don’t go tell anybody.
Luke 8:38 “The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return home and tell you much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”
What? We can’t lay down a nice little cookie press? I can’t lay down a rule that says God’s blessed you and done something in your life, now go tell everybody. Neither can I lay down a rule saying if you’ve been blessed, you can’t tell about it. The only rule I can lay down is there is no rule. You have to pick up a cross. You have to seek to follow Jesus Christ. You have to allow Him to speak to you and direct you. Whatever He tells you to do must be done. The Jesus Christ we worship and follow cannot be contained and pressed out. We are not to press and contain other people thereby quenching the Spirit within them so that God cannot move in their lives.
What slowly filters in and seems to grow among those who are cookie pressers is the idea that you’re missing something spiritual if you’re not a part of them. They portray a sense that others are not quite up to par or not the people they need to be. There are also within the Body of Jesus Christ people who feel they have to be like a certain group of people, otherwise they’re not quite as spiritual or as close to God as everybody else. They have to be like so and so. Some might feel they have to be like me in order to be more accepted by God. Some might feel that I have to be like them and somehow that will cause me to be in God’s nice little group.
Mark 9:38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
If you ever feel like you’re not one of the group that feeling is not coming from the living God. Now, you might have a problem in terms of your relationship with God, but the solution is not to seek to be like a certain group or clique.
Mark 9:39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,
He’s saying you will have to recognize when somebody is doing something in his name. Yet you need to contrast this with the Scripture where Jesus says, “Will they not say in my name they cast out demons and healed the sick and raised the dead and prophesied?” He’ll say, “I never knew you.” How do you put those two together? Very easy. “In my name” means they knew Jesus. They were in a relationship with him. That’s all He’s saying. No one who honestly does a miracle because they know and love Jesus can in the next moment say anything evil. Why? Because they really love him. Of course, we have to be able to recognize the false prophets. But we also need to recognize those whom God is working through in ways that are different from our own little group or our own lives. However, I’m afraid today’s problem is everybody just accepts everybody else, but that’s a different sermon.
Mark 9:41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
Mark 9:42-48 And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”
I want you to notice the context of what we are looking at in verses 42-48. What is he discussing at this point? The looking down upon other people. Here God is seeking to move in somebody’s life and someone steps in and blocks the movement of the Spirit in their life. “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin.” They go up to the man casting out demons and they tell this man that the Spirit is not really in him because he does not belong to this certain group. They cause the man to sin. Jesus says, “it will be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.” What is the context of what Jesus is saying? It is our judgment of what God is doing in other people’s lives, isn’t it?
He’s not, at this point, talking about sin in a general sort of way. He is saying there’s a man casting out demons and John has told him to stop. Jesus turned and said, “Look, John, if your hand is causing you to sin, if you’re causing these little ones to stumble, better to lose the hand. It is better to have a millstone tied around your neck.”
Mark 9:43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.
How many people do you know within churches where the Spirit seeks to move in ways that are not quite to their thinking, and the Spirit is quenched? It happens all the time, because the people aren’t being cut out and pressed out according to what they think and exactly according to their standards.
Mark 9:45 “And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”
This sounds like a very serious warning to me. He could have just simply said tie a millstone around your neck and left it at that, but He goes on and on and on and on to warn us over and over again that it’s none of our business. More than that, we have to get past the place of just saying it’s none of our business. We have to long for and pray for God to move in many different ways among people in order to glorify His name. We have to be in tune with the Spirit to encourage other people, to hear what Jesus Christ is calling for their lives. We need to urge them to submit to whatever God has called them to do and to glorify His name. We need to rejoice in the way that Peter might die or the way that John might die or the way that God might work in any man or woman’s life. When we can rejoice, be thankful, and recognize the Spirit of God moving in a man’s life in ways that aren’t quite cut out to our ideas, then we are in a position to rejoice before God and man.
Mark 9:49 “Everyone will be salted with fire.”
Everybody gets the calling of God. God has a specific work, direction, calling and cross for every one of us. Every single one of us gets the salt and the fire in our lives.
Mark 9:50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?”
Look at what it says. “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” He’s saying to throw away the cookie cutter. Have salt; be different; let the Spirit move; don’t hinder what God is trying to work. We’re to be excited about what God might work in the multitude of lives that are around us. We’re to be excited about how He can be glorified and how we can be blessed together as a body. We are to be at peace with each other in the way that God is working. Of course, it goes without saying that God will never go contrary to His word and that everything will always ring of purity, holiness, and the cross. The rock and roll singer for Jesus Christ who tells me that Jesus has called him to wear long hair and a three-day growth of his beard is trying to deceive me. That guy is doing it to sell records and be popular with the world, not out of holiness.
We are talking about being able to recognize and see God working in all the different ways that He works. If you don’t think He works in different ways, walk in your back yard and look at the creation that’s contained there and then ask yourself, “How open am I to all of the different ways God might want to work in my life?” There are a multitude of ways God could speak to you about His will. There are lots of different ways that He might move, communicate, discipline you, love you, and pour grace upon you. How little have we tasted of even our back yard. Jesus has so much to offer people who are willing to come before Him in full faith, and who are willing to say, “I’ve been crucified with Christ and I live by faith. I never know what might happen in the next 30 seconds.”
Isaiah 56:1 says the same thing as Mark. Nobody can say because they don’t belong to a certain group. “I won’t be blessed in God because I don’t have a certain talent or an ability God won’t work and move.”
Isaiah 56:1-7 This is what the LORD says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant―to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant―these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
You submit yourself to God without worrying about how somebody else is blessed or what he or she receives in the Spirit. Let Him work in you in what He sees fit. Let Him teach you. Become His disciple following Him, and He will guide you all the different ways He can.
You know, first of all, a lot of the stories you hear about the Spirit are just that, stories. If you’ve ever been in those kinds of groups or at least opened your eyes to watch, one person tells a story and then everybody else has a different story. Everybody has all these magnificent things, grand miracles, and movements of God. When was the last time you heard anybody get up and say, “You know, I really feel the presence of the Lord, but He hasn’t moved and communicated anything to me in the last five years? All He has done is humble me. I’ve been quiet, and all I’ve done is gently and quietly waited for Him. All I do is pray and fast.” Do you really think everybody will give a round of applause to the Lord for this and are just as excited for this man as for the man who received back the dead? Why? There’s a selfish kind of ambition, isn’t there? They consider everybody else’s blessing to be their business, and they compare it to what they have. What that leads to is boasting and bragging. A lot of what you hear is exaggerated and pure fiction. It didn’t even really take place.
If you start being motivated by that kind of thing, you will start making up things in your life. You will start seeing the hand of God in everything. The saltshaker rolled off the table, and that means God was moving and clearing the way for you? You can make all kinds of stories of what God wants to do if you begin to compare yourself with other people rather than just the living God.
Galatians 2:6 As for those who seemed to be important―whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance―those men added nothing to my message.
There are people who get up and talk about the hand and the movement of God in their lives. They’ve had more happen to them than Moses had happen in his life, and that was just last week. “God does not judge by external appearances―these men added nothing to my message.” They didn’t bring holiness. They didn’t know about the cross. They really didn’t talk about surrender. They didn’t add anything to the message of Jesus Christ.
Galatians 2:7-9 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.
What do you see here? You see men recognizing what God’s will is for an individual’s life. They see and recognize the grace of God in Paul’s life. They don’t fight against it. They learned what Jesus Christ taught. Don’t hinder somebody just because they don’t belong to your particular group. Just get rid of that and have it crucified. Instead, they see that Paul is given grace to go to the Gentiles, and they say, “You go to the Gentiles and we’ll go to the Jews. That’s our calling, and that’s what we will do.”
Each of you has a purpose and a work in God. You may not know what it is yet. I certainly long for you to find out what it is. I might even tell you if God tells me what it is, but I want you to get on with whatever God tells you to do.
Galatians 2:10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
Oh, can we recognize the grace in other people’s lives? Now, don’t be fooled with a lot of people who say grace is in their lives. There are those who claim God called them to do a certain thing and it is so contrary to the word or what God has in mind, that you know it’s not true. I’m not endorsing this kind of mush compromise out here that says, “I recognize God works in all different situations and all different groups,” so you just let everything go by. You cannot accept at face value just anybody who claims God is moving. “Test everything,” just don’t put out the Spirit’s fire.
1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Yeah, we know that. I want to know if everybody’s running or not. Do we have to stop and pick up some of you and carry you on up? Do we start running and have to keep going back to pick some of you up again and again? In a race, they all have to run, right? Do we have that rule down? There’s at least a running taking place, but only one gets the prize. “Run in such way as to get the prize.” That’s the only kind of true Christian there is. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
1 Corinthians 9:26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.
A lot of you have no purpose or direction of what Jesus Christ is trying to work. A lot of you don’t understand which sin God wants you to deal with this week. I will beat it, I will run the race, and I will seek to conquer that specific sin. In some form or fashion, I will follow what Jesus Christ has pointed out to me has to be dealt with. What is so complicated about that? Here is the starting line and there is the finish. When the gun goes off, run. That way, not over here, not there, or not turning backwards and looking to see what everybody else is doing. You’re to run in such a way as to win the prize. Forward toward the finish line. He says, “I don’t beat the air.” A lot of you are worn out by the end of the week and you haven’t done anything except beat the air. You lose every time.
There are specific things in my life that God wants me to conquer, and I am fighting those now. There are certain people that God has put in my life whom He wants me to present perfect in Jesus Christ. I do that with purpose, with direction, with hearing from the Spirit. I aim for that goal. I go for it.
A lot of you are spending a lot of energy doing a lot of nothing because you want me to press you out into a certain cookie cutter position. You don’t have to think. You don’t have to be what Jesus wants to you to be. You don’t have to come before him and let him mold you. You don’t have to have faith. You just do what you want to do. You can go on aimlessly doing something. Everybody says, “My, aren’t they busy?” Busy doing what? That is the question.
1 Corinthians 9:27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
You see, not everybody who’s running a race or fighting a battle is beating their body to make it their slave. With cookie cutter Christianity there’s no cross. Nobody likes to beat his or her body. Your flesh doesn’t like to be beaten and told what to do. I’m talking about the kind of cross that Jesus Christ will give you. I don’t care if it’s raising the dead, being sawed in two or being tortured, all require a cross that makes you beat your body. I don’t care what the calling of God is, even if it’s to be a pastor sitting in the office all day, you have got to beat your body in some form or fashion. Whether it’s riding the bus and going to work, both require a beating of the body, a purpose, and a direction. You must finish the race that God has called you to run. Of course there are churches that’ll cause you to beat your body by pressing you into what they want you to be, so beware. This next scripture shows you why you just simply cannot take a cookie press and start saying, “This is what Christians look like, and this is how God will work.” Everybody has to follow the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 11:32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets,
Take all those guys and outlined what happened in their lives. Were any of the two of them the same? What if David had tried to copy Samuel? What if Samuel had tried to become king like David? What if when he went to anoint David, he said, “I don’t think so. I think to be really godly. I need to be like David. I’ll anoint myself and become king.” You see people trying to fulfill positions that God has not called them to fulfill. Worse yet, there are pastors and whole churches who press somebody into a mold of what they think they’re supposed to be in Jesus Christ. We’re back to the rumors again.
Hebrews 11:33-34 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
Amen. Wouldn’t we like all of those things? That was God’s will for these men’s lives, and that was to the glory of God. Nobody should try to stop or quench it.
Hebrews 11:35- “Women received back their dead, raised to life again.”
All of us would like those things in Jesus Christ. I would. I would even be content to raise somebody else’s dead. It doesn’t even have to be mine, just to be able to do it! Those of us who still believe in miracles believe that’s the grace of God. But now look at what the rest of verse 35 says. “Others were tortured.” Oh, now we start to squirm a little bit in the soft pews. I’ll be a David, no problem. Yeah, you think you would. I’ll be a Samuel. I’ll do all those things, oh, Lord. We try to press ourselves in to that cookie mold. Not too many of us want to be tortured.
It goes on to say that they were tortured, but “refused to be released.” That’s a classic example of somebody who knows the race they must run. There is somebody who knows they must beat their body. They are not just hitting the air. The jailer comes with the keys and says, “You’re free to go today.” Their response is, “No, I will not leave,” because they understand what the will of the Lord is for their life. It requires just as much to be a David conquering all of your enemies to beat the sinful nature as it does to be tortured and not be released. We don’t know this because we’re not picking up a cross. It is as difficult to be as holy as David, to fight the battles that he fought, and deal with the sinful nature, as it is to be beaten in prison. The reason people can’t testify to that is they haven’t picked up the cross in all the good things they think God has given to them. It is as difficult to receive a new house from the Lord and have that house essentially become a prison cell as it is to literally be in prison. We must let Jesus Christ put the cross on us to crucify our sinful nature.
There are stories of people in prison being tortured, starved, and all of the other horrible things that go on. Yet they say, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I’m released now, but I really want to go back. Those were such grand times.” Why? God’s spirit is in the man that’s in the prison cell and he’s with the housewife that has a home. The cross is the same. The joys are the same. He meets every need the same. The problem is He can’t find enough people to be surrendered to any and every circumstance, can He? They run a race, but not according to his rules.
Hebrews 11:35-39 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated―the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith.
David and Samuel were holy men. Gideon was commended for his faith, and so was the person sawed in two. Whatever glorifies God. Whatever God’s will is for your life. If it is God’s will for you to be sawed in two, you will be sawed in two. If it is God’s will for you to die quietly in a hospital bed reaching out to somebody next to you, that is to the glory of God also. If you’re picking up a cross, you will feel the weight of that cross in any and every circumstance, and you will also have the joy in any and every circumstance. They were “all commended for their faith,” yet none of them received what had been promised.
Look at this―I love it―verse 40. “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” Hey, the ones we excluded, the ones we thought were destitute and poor and lived in holes in the ground; the ones that wandered in deserts and in the mountains; that were sawed in two; the ones that didn’t receive back the dead; those who quenched the flames and those who were burned by the flames; only together in all of those varied ways that God glorifies His name would we all be made perfect. Now, the one that was burned by the flames should not feel inferior to the one who quenched the flames. The one that was sawed in two by the governing authorities should not feel ashamed because he was sawed in two rather than being like the one who conquered the kingdom. They both were doing God’s will as God had directed in their life. They can be at peace knowing that together everyone will glorify God for whatever God did in their life.
I don’t know how God will work in everybody’s life, but you can’t seek to be like somebody else. You can’t even decide you want to be like a famous person in the Bible. You have to let God work within you what He desires to work. You have got to lose your life. You must be consumed with glorifying God; otherwise, this kind of life holds no promise of any joy for you. You’ll always compare yourself with somebody else. You’ll always wonder why they have these blessings or why God isn’t torturing them in prison or why they live in a palace. We have to be able to recognize the grace of God in a man’s life, and the only way you’ll do that is by having the grace in your own life. Oh, only together will we be made perfect. He means in individual churches as well as Christians around the world as a whole.
In this body, if God is to be glorified you must get in the prayer closet and surrender and let God work in whatever way He wants to work in your life. Let me tell you, He will do so much. In just our everyday life, what He can do to glorify His name is amazing. We are extremely small and insignificant, yet God has worked amazing things just in the everyday circumstances. No, I haven’t raised the dead. I haven’t even made anybody well, but that’s only one small facet of what God works. There are a lot of other things He does.
1 Corinthians 12:14-15 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
You see, even though it’s a body, and you recognize the grace of God in everything that’s being done, it’s different, radically different, isn’t it? My ear is nothing like my foot. They don’t do anything remotely the same. My nose does not perform the same function as my hands. There’s no way. They are totally different. Even though I recognize that it is a part of my body. So it is within the Body of Jesus Christ. There should be these kinds of distinctions coming out among all of us. Why is it that everybody seems to blend together and there’s a blurring of people’s functions? It’s because everybody’s trying either to be like somebody else or they’re not giving themselves enough to God to become the different part God had in mind. I don’t expect people to speak like I speak or to do what I do. People have different gifts, and are able to do other things. I’m as dependent upon them as they should be on me.
“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?” That means some people will be quick to see things, while other people will be quick to hear things. The eye shouldn’t be trying to hear things and the ear shouldn’t be trying to see things. Think about it for a moment if everybody were doing exactly what they knew God called them to do, we could be a powerful body, couldn’t we? If every part of the body was finely tuned to whatever function God had called them to, think of the power of that body. But it’s pretty hard to walk when the foot is trying to walk with ears on it. It’s hard to do what God has called us to do. The ear can’t hear with a shoe on. It’s that simple.
1 Corinthians 12:18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
“God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be,” not as I decide or just because I like a certain brother or sister. Not because I wanted a certain person to have a job, so I try to press them into a mold. I was in a church one time where those who taught looked and dressed and sounded just like the man who was in leadership. To me, those are mighty boring sermons. You know exactly what will be taught, how it will come across, and you can predict it before you ever get to church. Let God arrange you into the part that He wants you to be.
“If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” Oh, let us pray that there’ll become drastic distinctions in this body. We want to know a foot for a foot. It won’t look like a blend of an ear and foot. The feet won’t have eyes on them, they’ll be what God has called them to be. My goodness, when you look at the flowers in the field, don’t you marvel at the variety? Each one has its own beauty. We’re attracted to the mightiness of creation. If everything were lilies and it all looked the same, where would the beauty and the variety be of God’s handiwork? All I’m saying is I desperately want you to be different than I am. I am not that exciting.
1 Corinthians 12:20-21 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
There is a sense of dependence on each other. I don’t care how small a part you think you have in the body or how little you think the Spirit moves through you, I cannot in my heart say that I don’t need you. We desperately need each other.
1 Corinthians 12:22-26 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
If you stub your little toe, does the whole body respond? Of course! “If one part is honored, every part rejoices.” If you take care of the little toe and it feels better, guess what? The whole body feels better. A lot of us have a hard time rejoicing when God blesses in the body. If somebody receives a dream, a vision, a special blessing, or a $10.00 check in the mail to help pay the rent, everybody needs to rejoice. That’s how God’s arranged the body. We’re talking about unity, connection, and a love for one another that only the Holy Spirit can bring. It will depend on each of us. Each of you, first of all, will have to feel like you belong to the body. How? Get in before the Lord and ask him which part of the body you are. Then by faith, begin to fulfill that part of the body. All of the feelings of not being in fellowship will disappear because you are a part of the body. You will begin to feel the Spirit and the life and the blood of Jesus flowing through you. You will have the life that you need and want.
1 Corinthians 12:27-30 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
Of course not. We all have different parts that we should be in the body. Don’t ask me to be a part that I am not. I will complement those who have other parts. The hands can help the feet. The eyes can help the body have direction. Everybody works together in harmony. I won’t try and press you into something that God hasn’t directed. Now, if God wants you to be something and you refuse to be pressed in to it, I will press a little harder. That’s called the cross of Jesus Christ, and that’s a blessing. But we have to avoid those who would seek to press us in to a certain mold. They rob us of true faith in Jesus Christ. They rob us of joy.
Do you know what sin is committed when someone uses a cookie cutter? Verse 31, “But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.” Everybody knows the most excellent way. It’s “love.” What is missing in cookie cutter churches is love. Love for God and love for each other. Love is concerned for the other parts of the body.
A church that is quenching the Spirit is missing love, even if they put their arms around each other and speak about love. Churches that don’t believe in spiritual gifts are missing love. Love compels me and to strive for you to have all that God would work in your life. I don’t want you to be like me. I want you to be like Jesus Christ. My love for God is so strong that I’m not concerned about my glory, or whether you’re like me or I’m like you. I want you to be what God has called you to be. I want you to have all the joy that God can bring. That will only come when Jesus Christ is fully formed in you. But the people who are more concerned about pressing out people in a certain mold don’t have love because they’re not concerned about you. They care nothing about you being perfected in Jesus Christ. They don’t care about you having the joy that comes from heaven. They are only concerned that they can sit in the pews and feel comfortable about their nice, religious life. The churches that don’t believe in spiritual gifts have so little love. If someone in the body is sick and they don’t cry out to God for the gift of healing to make that person well, what does that tell you about their love? Even if God wrote in His Scripture that there’ll be no more miraculous, spiritual gifts, no more gifts of healing and somebody is sick and dying, guess what a child of God would do anyway? He would cry out for God to make some exception to heal the one they love.
Don’t you think Jesus put that to the test? He said, “Woman, why should I give to the dogs what should go to the children?” Oh, cookie cutter Christianity is missing one thing―love. Love for you and love for God. Jesus said, “By the fact that you love one another will show that you belong to Me.” Let’s not be fooled; this is no minor thing. This is life.
Father, as we look around at creation, and we see the sun, the moon, the stars, and even the trees in the field. Father, in all the things that You’ve created, how slow we are to learn that You work in such mighty and different ways. Father, write with Your spirit in our hearts what Hebrew says “that only together will we be made perfect.” Father, glorify Your name. Work mightily in this body and in your church around the world for each person to fulfill its part of the body, and for each person to come in rich faith. Father, to surrender themselves that they might know and feel the love that only You can bring. Make each of us content, Father, not worrying about what You will do with somebody else’s life, but still thrilled and excited in what You’re doing with their life. They don’t have time to worry about somebody else. May Your name be glorified, Oh Lord. Amen.
This transcription has been edited to a reader friendly format. Every effort has been made to be true to the speaker’s original message. Any mistranslations are unintentional.