38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name. We tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”

39 But Jesus said, “Do not try to stop him, because no one who does a miracle in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil about me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Amen I tell you: Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ, will certainly not lose his reward.

42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall into sin, it would be better for him if he were thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around his neck. 43 If your hand causes you to fall into sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed, than to have two hands and go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 44 ‘where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ 45 If your foot causes you to fall into sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell, 46 ‘where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ 47 If your eye causes you to fall into 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, 48 ‘where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good. But if the salt loses its flavor, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Mark 9.38-50

No person is an island. Oh, I know there are some who will object. “I prefer to be alone.” But a person who thinks like that would be the exception. In fact, God himself designed human beings to interact, and since that’s true, it’s important to get along with others. This is even more true when it comes to sharing the gospel with people. Think of it like this. Let’s say you wanted to invite someone to worship. How likely would it be for that person to accept your invitation if you didn’t get along? You might even be thinking it would be easier to invite a stranger with whom you don’t have a strained relationship, then with a relative that knows lots about you, or your about them. But, we know Jesus is concerned about their souls, too? So, if we had a healthy relationship with people, even people whom we might consider enemies, wouldn’t there be a greater chance that they might be interested in joining us to worship and praise the Lord God who created us, saved us and wants us all to spend eternity with him in heaven?

Relationships provide a bridge for sharing the good news about Jesus.  Today, Jesus calls us to remove the barriers that prevent us from sharing the gospel with others—impatience, selfishness, carelessness and boredom.  That’s why we turn to our Savior today with the plea:

Help Me Share Jesus With Everyone

Help me be Patient, Generous, Careful and Salty

I know you’ve figured me out already and know that I don’t like it when people don’t do things my way. I really began to think about this when after taking Strength Finders and learned by #1 characteristic was harmony—just how much I strive that people be in harmony with my way of thinking. So, what if we are talking about doing God’s work and carrying out the Savior’s commission to reach the lost, and people go about it in a different way than I would? Is that OK? The apostle John learned the answer from Jesus himself. Apparently John and other members of the “Twelve” were beginning to think that theirs was an exclusive club.

“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.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.’

Don’t take this reply by Jesus out of context. Jesus is not saying, “Let false doctrine go. Just ignore doctrinal errors.” No! If another person is actually proclaiming the truth of the Scriptures but going about it in a different way, then let’s be patient.

I witnessed an illustration of this while serving as a missionary in Japan.  People in different cultures bring the good news about Jesus differently than we might in America.  For instance, how would you go about sharing Jesus with someone?  Wouldn’t you say, “Hey, I’d like to invite you to my church on Sunday.”  In Japan they didn’t think of doing it like this.  No, first they would sit down for tea, a talk and share the Bible in a very personal way and eventually get to coming to church.  The missionaries in Japan were a pastor to many more people outside the church than inside the church. We think about this, too.  We go into our communities, construct a church building, and invite them to come in. So, who does it better, the missionaries or us?  The answer is, “It depends. If the missionaries from foreign countries and the missionaries in American disagree on which approach to use, then they need to be patient with one another and perhaps try both strategies.” As Jesus said,Mark 9 40

“Whoever is not against us is for us.”

Let’s be sure we’re working patiently to build up the kingdom of God, not tearing it down!

You all can tell stories of patience in order to share the good news with people. Patience is essential for us if we want to begin a relationship with someone and get along so that we can share Jesus with them. That’s why we pray, “Lord, I just want to get along. Forgive my impatience and prejudice!” And he does. Jesus’ forgiveness is the pump that fills our heart with patience so we can get along with others and share the gospel with them. Now, while you’re being patient you will also be looking for ways to build that relationship and one way to do that is to

Be giving

If you’re patient enough, a connection can be made with another person. But what’s one of the best ways to make that relationship grow? Giving! I’m not talking about giving to buy someone’s favor, but giving with no expectation of response or return. It doesn’t have to be big. Even little will do.

“Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ, will certainly not lose his reward.”

The reward Jesus is talking about does not come from the person who receives the gift but from the ultimate Giver who has already graciously supplied us with the ultimate reward of heaven.

It works like this. You won’t run out of little Goldfish Crackers to give to Mornings with Mommy toddlers if you have a dump truck of little Fish Crackers in the kitchen. You won’t run out of fresh water to give to thirsty soccer players in our back yard if the hose is hooked up to the faucet of our church. And you won’t run out of ways to generously build a relationship when you have the Jesus’ dump truck loaded with His gifts of love permanently parked in your heart.

Therefore, fight against the natural selfishness programmed into your DNA from birth.  Satan uses your sinful flesh to constantly tempt your fingers to be tightly gripped around your own stuff.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to continually fill up your heart with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Pray, “Lord, I just want to get along. Forgive my impatience and selfishness.” And he does. Jesus’ forgiveness is the pump that fills our heart with generosity so we can build up our relationship with others and share the gospel with them. Now, while you’re being generous you will also be looking for ways to strengthen that relationship and one way to do that is to

Be careful

Accusations seem to be in the news these days. I’m not saying something did or didn’t happen, but it makes the point about being careful.  Doesn’t it?  Someone might say, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Oh yeah? Stinging words stick with you, don’t they? If I asked you to make a list of the three nastiest things someone ever said to you and to write down the name of the person who said them, you would probably not only remember who said them – your science teacher, coach, ex-boyfriend – about how old you were, and the buildings around you, too. One careless comment can ruin a relationship.  No wonder Jesus calls us to be careful!  “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall into sin, it would be better for him if he were thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around his neck.” That’s serious business, how do you think God feels when someone hurts another person’s faith? Whoa! Stand back! Jesus fires both barrels and even uses intense exaggeration to make his point,

42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall into sin, it would be better for him if he were thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around his neck. 43 If your hand causes you to fall into sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed, than to have two hands and go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 44 ‘where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ 45 If your foot causes you to fall into sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell, 46 ‘where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ 47 If your eye causes you to fall into 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, 48 ‘where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”

We get his point, “Be careful!”

Why? Because we are talking about eternal consequences! Be careful that you’re not the reason why someone’s relationship with God is ruined. For young children, remember that you’re Jesus lambs who loves you and forgives you.  Say “Thank you” to Jesus by listening to your parents and being nice to your friends!  For adults, say, “Thank you” to Jesus by living what God has made you.  What a dis-service to Jesus if people hear you say you’re a Christian but then refuse to listen to authority, and continue to make bad choices that will impact your life for years to come! That’s why we listen to Jesus today and pray, “Lord, I just want to get along. Forgive my carelessness and thoughtlessness.” And he does. Jesus’ forgiveness is the pump that fills our heart with wisdom so we can build of our relationship with others and share the gospel with them. Now, while you’re being wise you will also be looking for ways to sweeten that relationship and one way to do that is to

Be salty

Ask a child, “What’s salt for?” and she’ll tell you, “Popcorn!” or “McDonald’s fries!” Ask a recovering heart patient how the food tastes without salt, and he’ll tell you, “Bleaach!” Salt is a seasoning that when used moderately adds flavor. But that’s not all salt can do. Centuries ago, before deep freezers existed, salt was also used as a preservative. But there were some potential problems with the salt people used back in Jesus’ day, especially if it had been extracted from the marshes and lagoons or from the rocks in the neighborhood of the Dead Sea. Sometimes another chemical like calcium sulfate got mixed in with the salt, giving it a stale taste and rendering it useless. In addition, there were always a few crooked salesmen who would sell people salt that was not pure, making it unusable. That’s why Jesus said,

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

Like a pinch of salt on popcorn or steak brings joy to your taste buds, or like pure salt is used to preserve something.  So, Jesus calls you to be salty so you can preserve the relationship you have with others.

I think you’re catching on!  We can cause a sour life for people in the way we treat them. We can be greedy, rude and bitter and ruin the opportunity to share Jesus’ love with them.  Tell me, how can you bring joy to others, especially in the family of believers, when we are not very joyful in the Lord ourselves?  I know.  Go to Jesus and pray, “Lord, I just want to get along. Forgive my impatient, selfish, careless, stale attitude for others.” And he does. Jesus’ forgiveness is the pump that fills our heart with his “salt” so we can season our relationship with others and share the gospel with them.

Now, don’t leave here with a pile of guilt on your shoulders thinking, “How can I possibly be a patient, generous, careful, salty Christian? Through Jesus who was just that for you!  Jesus ran into difficult people all the time and was perfectly patient with them.  He provided for the needy perfectly.  He was always careful in using his words to share just the right law and just the right gospel.  Finally, like salt, his holy, precious blood preserved the world from sin, death and the devil.  Yes, Jesus removed all the barriers and cleared the way for us to freely proclaim his gospel to others.

God did not create us to be an island unto ourselves.  Mark’s gospel records these very practical words of Jesus. Jesus shows us the way to remove barriers so we can connect with more people and connect with them better in order to share Jesus’ love and forgiveness with them. His instruction is the answer to our prayer, “I just want to get along.” But Jesus doesn’t just show us the way. He also empowers us by sending the Holy Spirit to us through reminders of our baptism that establish our status as members of his family, through his Holy Word which we read, study, and take to heart, and through his holy supper by which he extends his arms down from heaven to wrap us in forgiving mercy and empowers us to extend our arms in faith-building love.   Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Share Jesus With Everyone with patient, generous, careful, saltiness!  Amen!