This week, Pastor Miles used stories about Jesus from the second and third chapters of Mark to challenge us not to be scared away from the obedience that God desires from us.
Pastor Miles began with a brief review of last week's message. Mark was the first gospel, written to a gentile audience in Rome. Mark is largely a book of action; the word "immediately" is used over 40 times, and in many cases it is used to describe the powerful transformation that Jesus' authority caused in the people around him.
In order to clarify the idea of transformation, Pastor Miles described the metamorphosis of a butterfly or a moth: from an egg to a caterpillar, a cocoon, and finally, to a full-grown creature. He pointed out that in each stage of a moth's development, it has different enemies--while little boys are probably the caterpillars' greatest threat, bats often eat moths. Pastor Miles used this metaphor to remind us that this is also true of our Christian walk, because depending on our stage of spiritual maturity, we are at risk of being attacked in different ways.
Throughout the talk, Pastor Miles encouraged us to overcome our shallow, earthly fears and follow Jesus' example with boldness. This boldness was demonstrated with five convicting questions:
1. Why don't you forgive others like Jesus forgave others? Mark 2:1-12
Pastor Miles explained that when we are hurt, we look for healing. Sometimes, we do the right thing and turn to God. Other times, we look for healing through revenge, hatred, holding grudges, or even lawsuits. Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for them. Pastor Miles challenged us to consider if we owe someone an apology for not forgiving them.
2. Why don't you express God's love to sinners? Mark 2:13-17
In the days when Jesus walked the earth, Pastor Miles explained, the Pharisees believed that sinfulness and punishment for sin could spread through physical contact, much as fourth graders believe in the spread of cooties. This is not the example that Jesus set for us, however, as he was often found ministering to people who were suffering from sin, contagious diseases, or other forms of marginalization.
Again, Pastor Miles set out a challenge: We are to return to the darkness where Jesus found us and bring His light to anyone there. Jesus not only transformed us, but the Spirit protects us so that we can temporarily return to our old lifestyle and spread the gospel to those who don't know Jesus.
3. Why don't you submit to God's word, not tradition? Mark 2:18-22
With this question, Pastor Miles addressed an attitude that is common in churches: Why do they do it that way? Why don't they do it like my old church? His answer to this concern is another question: What is biblical? Is it biblical for the pastor to wear a suit? Is it biblical to take communion on the first Sunday of every month?
Though many churches have these traditions, understanding that they are only traditions and not God's command can help all of us to do what the Holy Spirit is leading us to do in our own congregations. Man was not created for the Sabbath or the church; rather those things were made for man. Mark 2:27
4. Why don't you live according to the Spirit of the Law, not the Letter of the Law? Mark 2:23-27
Again, Pastor Miles used a question to present a challenge. To the body of the Rock Church, he has challenged each individual to reach out to a non-believer once a week for a year. If each of the 9,000 semi-regular attendees did that, after one year we would have reached 486,000 people with God's love!
Our new church building in Point Loma will have three times the capacity for services. If each attendee reaches out to one person a week, we will have touched 1.4 million people in San Diego!
In order to meet this challenge, Pastor Miles encouraged us in a few ways. First, he advised everyone to get comfortable praying in public. Second, he reminded us that pain and embarrassment are overrated-rejection and awkwardness for Jesus' sake is nothing compared to obedience to the Spirit.
Finally, he challenged everyone in the room to pray or get prayed for before leaving church, as training for doing it in a less friendly environment. He reminded us that this is not about the letter of the law (reaching one person a week), but the spirit of the law (spreading the good news!).
5. Why don't you live a life of consistent "obedience" as your rule, rather than fearing man? Mark 3:1-6
Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Stand up in front of everyone."
Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they remained silent.
He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
In this passage, Jesus is far from ashamed of the work he is doing. The immediate and significant transformation that Jesus caused should have been the focus of everyone watching, but instead they were concerned with appropriate behavior on the Sabbath.
Pastor Miles said that like Jesus we are always being watched. Though we may stumble oftentimes stumble in our actions, we are called to be faithful, to persevere, and to ignore expectations that people have when they hinder our obedience.
In closing, Pastor Miles gave us homework. This week, we are to pick one act of obedience that we fear will bring criticism, and do it.