Damariscotta Baptist Church
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

10/07/12 Sermon

Mark 10:2-16

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts


A photographer for a national magazine was assigned to take pictures of a dangerous forest fire. He was advised that a small plane would be waiting to fly him over the fire.

The photographer arrived at the airstrip just an hour before sundown. Sure enough, a small Cessna airplane was waiting.

He jumped in with his equipment and shouted, “Are you ready to go?”

The man sitting in the pilot’s seat simply looked at him with a tense nervousness.

So he asked again---Are you ready?

The nervous pilot answered, I guess so and he swung the plane into the wind and soon they were in the air flying erratically.

“Fly over the north side of the fire,” said the photographer, “and make several low-level passes.”

“Why?” asked the nervous pilot.

“Because I’m going to take pictures!” yelled the photographer. “I’m a photographer, and photographers take pictures!”

The pilot replied,…… “You mean you’re not the flight instructor?”……………

Not asking the right question to begin with can often be a problem.

And that’s what we see in our scripture reading today.

The Pharisees have a question for Jesus but their question isn't the right question.
You know when I first began working on the message today I looked at the scripture and I thought I'd give a message that was about divorce and marriage.

I thought about discussing what marriage is; a covenant between a man and a woman. I thought about a message on how to build a strong marriage that would not end in divorce.

And I thought about talking about when or if a divorce is acceptable and whether remarriage is permissible.
But I was kind of struggling on how to incorporate the last part of our scripture with the rest of the story.

Mark places this story about Jesus telling the disciples to let the little children come to him. But what did that have to do with divorce?

How was I to fit in this part with a 3 point sermon on “How to Have a Happy Marriage?
But as I began to prayerfully think about the scripture as a whole, I looked at how the story began and then compared it with how it ended.

And there was such a contrast between the two.

The scripture begins with the Pharisees coming to Jesus with this question. But it really wasn’t a question, it was in reality a trap.
The Pharisees already had a belief about divorce. They followed Moses’ law that said you could get a divorce if you wrote out a certificate.

So they come to Jesus not with an open-mind but rather with their mind already made up. They were coming to see if Jesus agreed with them or not.

Their question, besides being close minded, is also a wrong question because it's legalistic in nature. Their question shows that they approach faith and scripture as a manual of do’s and don’ts.
Now on the other hand, the end of the scripture is different.

People are bringing to Jesus their children. And the disciples (who by the way had no problem letting the Pharisees come to Jesus) want to block the children from coming to him.

Well in this culture children were seen as stupid. They didn’t know anything about religion and faith. They needed to grow up first. Besides all children know how to do is to ask questions all the time.

For any of you parents or grandparents out there you know how a child can “but why” you to death……..

Why do helium balloons rise? 

Why does soap make suds? 

Why do spiders spin webs? 

Why is the ocean salty? 

Children ask tons of questions. Some might say that children are in fact just one big question!
But in asking questions, they want to learn. They have humility and want to listen. They are teachable; their imaginations are open.
Now that’s completely opposite to how the Pharisees came to Jesus.

And so as they ask Jesus a question, its completely the wrong question because where they start from is flawed.

They start from a legalistic place that is only interested in black and white answers.
Answers that they want to match what they want to hear.

Answers that don’t challenge and lead one to grow, answers that keep one at a distance from God.

And isn’t that the way many of us can approach questions about faith?
We come to God without imagination that God actually hears us and listens to us. We come to God not with a willingness to grow and learn but rather trying to get God to do what we want Him to do; to agree with what we have already decided.

We see God like a Magic 8 Ball-----remember the Magic 8 Ball.

We ask a question and shake it to get an answer. And if we don’t like the answer we keep on shaking it until it agrees with us.
But as we see in this contrast of the beginning and end of this scripture, Jesus calls us to come to him as little children. To come to him with an imagination; with an innocent, humility and a willingness to learn and grow.

That’s the proper starting place before we come to God with difficult questions.

And yet so many of us are asking the wrong questions because we come to God from a legalistic, impersonal starting place:
We go to God with a newly diagnosed illness and we ask “Is this because of my sins”? Are you punishing me?

Or we go around asking questions like: “Is it permissible to listen to rock and roll stations?

Is it permissible to go trick or treating on Halloween?

Is gay marriage permissible?

Is it permissible to get a divorce?
Where’s my Magic 8 Ball???????

If the Pharisees had been in a close personal relationship with God, open to learn and grow as a child they wouldn't have asked the wrong question.

They would know the answer in their hearts.
They would know that as you go into a marriage you don't go into it thinking that divorce is ever a possibility.
We live in a culture today that sees marriage as disposable. If you don't like this person in a few years, get you a new, improved model.
We have a certificate of divorce handy and ready whenever we need it.
So many marriages today, even by Christians, get off to a bad start.
Christians don't marry someone who is also a follower and God is no where involved in their marriage.
If you’re close to God in an intimate relationship, and Christ is the most important Person in your life, then you don’t marry someone who is going to get in the way of that.

Nor do you go into the marriage thinking this person will change eventually or that you can change them.

You see when two people are first of all followers of Christ seeking him and his ways, divorce is never even on the radar screen.......

Still there are so many today who find themselves in marriages where one spouse is a follower of Christ and the other is not.

Perhaps you came to Christ and your spouse hasn't or you have grown closer in your relationship and regret your choice of spouse.
There are many who are in this place who need direction. Many of them let the culture influence them and make up their mind to divorce and like the Pharisees want God to put his stamp of approval on the certificate.

But their is another option.

And it speaks to having an intimacy with Christ that leads to you being a witness to your spouse.

1 Peter 3:1 says: Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 

Instead of divorce they see “your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,........”. (verse 4)
You see because you are close to God and have an intimate relationship with God you are changed and you are now a witness to your spouse BY YOUR BEHAVIOR---(not a nag with your words)
Lee Strobel who wrote the best selling book “The Case for Christ” was a self-proclaimed atheist.
But his wife, Leslie became a Christian that led him to become a Christian. He said it wasn’t her words that caused the change; that would have alienated him. It was instead who she was becoming.
He wrote:

“I began to see changes for the good in her values and character and the way she related to the children that I found attractive.   It was her very behavior, influenced by her relationship with Christ that eventually prompted me to give church a try.

Strobel has gone on to be a strong man of faith writing many books to help those who question.
The point here again is that when we start from being in an intimate close relationship with God, where we are open like a little child for God to have us and change us we won't ask the wrong question like the Pharisees did.

We won't look at getting out of our marriage because of the culture's easy disposable way nor will we see being stuck in our marriage as some legalistic chain of bondage.

We will be following Christ living with an inner peace and inner joy.

And if we’re in that place, and we’re in an abusive marriage or in a marriage where our spouse is living in adultery we know that thru our conversations with God that divorce, while not ideal, is indeed the only option.

We know that a follower of Christ lives in mercy and grace. We have a God who loves us, who will help us and wants what’s best for us...........

We will also know in our close personal relationship with God that asking God about remarriage is not to be a legalistic question either.

So many divorced Christians are again at the wrong starting point asking the wrong question when it comes to remarriage.
But when we're in an intimate relationship with God as a little child, we know that God is a God of mercy, forgiveness and grace to those who repent.

We know that when Christ spoke about divorce and adultery and remarriage that he did so is not ever wanting us to go into a marriage thinking there is an out.

Call it preventive maintenance so that we would remain faithful to the seriousness of our marriage covenant with our spouse and God.
But when we personally know the God of forgiveness and mercy and grace we stop seeing things legalistically and know that God always wants what's best for us.

That's why he put forth the law to begin with, for our own good, but also why he gave us Christ to help us when we fail.

Today we're being reminded that where we start at determines how we live.
If we begin at a place like the Pharisees, we will always be asking the wrong questions because we will see faith as a set of rules of do’s and don’ts.
But if we begin as little children, who come to God not with a question first but rather as a question first, we are in a place of intimacy with God who is seeking God’s will.
This morning Jesus is calling us to come to him as a little child. Come to him with humility and innocence, open to learn and open to grow.
For as we come to him each day as a little child, we will no longer see our God as a God of do’s and don’ts, but rather as a God of mercy and grace.
Don’t ask the wrong questions; instead be a question who is learning and who is seeking the ways of the Kingdom of God.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.