Words of Faith 7-25-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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 "Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us."
 "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you."
 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.  And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him;  but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.  When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?"  But Jesus turned and rebuked them,  and they went to another village.
So let's get this straight. Is Jesus saying that anyone out there doing good deeds is actually working for Jesus? Notice that the man was casting out demons "in the name of Jesus." Jesus was not endorsing mystic religion. This was not some cult. The man was doing work in the name of Jesus.
What John had failed to realize was that the power and name of Jesus was already spreading and the disciples could not control it. The Name of Jesus was authoritative even in a place that John was not aware.
There was a temptation among those who had been to the mountaintop to suggest that this guy was not properly certified. The disciples who had been rebuked for trying to figure out who was greatest and in charge had, in fact, decided for themselves who was in charge. They were! If they had not approved this guy, then they wanted to shut him down.
Whoever is not against us is for us. Wow that is wide open. Jesus, do you mean that anyone who is doing Kingdom work or driving out the demons that control people in the name of Jesus, even if I don't agree with their theology or even if they have no theology, I should just leave them alone? Yep. That's it.
But the disciples didn't get it. It makes us wonder if Jesus did not send these puffed up disciples into the Samaritan village purposely to bring them down a notch or two, so they would know what it is like to be on the receiving end of bigotry.
As they sought to make some effort to reach the Samaritans, it was the Samaritans who rejected the party of Jesus. It was so infuriating that James and John came with this rather drastic solution. "Hey boss-- you want we should rub these guys out?!" Like some kind of heavenly thugs, they wanted to perform a hit on the Samaritans.
These disciples were so confident in how right they were that they were ready to destroy a village. That is scary. More frightening is the reality that the same attitude exists today in all sorts of religious bigotry. People get so certain of their theology or their interpretation that they are ready to kill people over it. Ethnic cleansings and mass murders in the name of religion are so common that we almost brush past them in the news.
Division is an attack. The enemy will do anything possible to deter you from where God wants you to go. Division is a sin. It is the height of arrogance. If the enemy can get you to do his dirty work cloaked in the holy Name of Jesus, he is thrilled.
If we turn to the book of Joshua 5:13-15, we see that Joshua came to Jericho on the night before battle. As he was personally spying out the city he met a mysterious figure with a drawn sword. Joshua asked, "Are you with us?" The man answered essentially-- "Wrong question. I am the Commander of the Lord's Army. You are on Holy ground. Take off your shoes."
When we claim to be sole representatives of Jesus we are tromping on Holy ground. The proper response is-- "How may I serve YOU, Lord." Anytime we are arrogant enough to say "Either you are with or you are against me", we are tromping on Holy Ground. Get your shoes off and fast.
So what is the answer?
The Apostle Paul says that we are to be "ministers of reconciliation." A part of being reconciled is to become a reconciler. You cannot preach reconciliation with Jesus and promote division among the people of God. They just do not go together.
Jesus gave us an example among these same people in John 4:4-26. Jesus risked talking to the Samaritan woman. It is scary to reach across racial and ethnic barriers. Jesus built a relationship upon that conversation. He actually did so by asking for something. We build relationship when we acknowledge our need for one another. Jesus needed this woman in order to get a drink.
Jesus was not afraid to confront the deepest need in this woman's life. She had sin to deal with. Jesus had no personal sin to deal with but for us reconciliation involves confronting the sin in our own lives. Breaking down walls may involve confession and seeking of forgiveness. Jesus refused to be sidelined by religious division. The Samaritan woman attempted to draw Jesus into a religious argument, a division, regarding the proper mountain for worship take place. Jesus had to persevere with her through that division.
Where are you today? Are you divided from someone or from some group? Have you been living by a credo-- If you are not with me you are not for me? Some people treat church this way. Others treat politics or differing theologies this way. Perhaps it is time to confess the sin of division. Risk something. Build a relationship. Deal with truth and persevere.
Father, show me how to be a minister of reconciliation. Show me how to discern the difference between those who are truly against You and those who simply do not yet know You. In Jesus' name.