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Mark 6-10 Continued...

Mark 7:1-37

"Turn in your Bibles if you would to Mark chapter 7. Let's say one more word of prayer as we read God's Word and look at God's Word together. 'Father we know your Word goes out and it doesn't return void. So give us hearts to receive your Word. Give us ears to hear. Give us understanding God, I pray, in Jesus name. And please speak to us Lord, and for those that maybe have never heard your voice before, I pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit that they would clearly hear you this morning. But Lord, thank you, and just please Holy Spirit move amongst us, speak to us. We certainly desperately need you. We pray this in Jesus name, Amen.'

I was speaking with a Calvary Chapel pastor recently, and this particular pastor pastors a large church, and he was sharing with me just his heart, how he feels so unworthy to do what he does. Not that being a pastor is necessarily anything special. But he was just explaining how he feels very unworthy. And expressing concern with some ministers, at least from his perspective, but best that he can tell, that they don't seem to, well they, they seem to think anyway, by the way they appear, that they deserve the blessing of God and that they deserve or they've accomplished with their church or something. And he says, "You know, I feel so unworthy. And I'm just concerned for these other folks who don't really seem that way." And you know in my life there's times where God just reminds me how unworthy I am, just of His love and of His blessing. I really haven't accomplished anything good in and of myself. I don't deserve anything. Yet God for some reason, all because of his love has blessed my life, and certainly our lives here this morning.

I've been reading through the book of Exodus, and you know, you come, as you're reading through the book of Exodus, you come with the Israelites from Egypt and through the Red Sea and you come into the wilderness. And early on God begins to set up his methods of dealing with his people. He set these people apart, the Israelites. And early on in the wilderness, it's only been a short time, God appears to them in Mount Sinai and he is showing the people that he is the true and living God. So he appears, and there is smoke and there's fire, and there's thundering on top of this Mount Sinai, and the people are in the wilderness below and they are in great fear as you remember the story. They even say to Moses, "Hey, Moses. We don't want to have God speak to us directly, because it's fearful to even hear his voice. We want you to speak with him, and we want you to come and tell us all the things he's told you." We also see there that Moses goes up and spends some time with God, and God begins to just give him the Law, and this is right in the very beginning, just a few weeks out of the Red Sea.

I was reading this last week in the part of the Law, that first experience with Moses up on Mount Sinai with God where God even begins to institute the sacrifices, you know, the sacrifices of the lambs, and the bulls--all these sacrifices, and even makes a comment that they're going to be a continual thing forever with his people, of course pointing ultimately to Jesus Christ. You know, I was reading that, and as you do sometimes, you like--'man this is gory stuff'--and it seems kind of bizarre sometimes. You read, you know, here's the worship of God, and here's all this blood and all these dead animals. I was thinking about the priests, all they had to go through, all these days of just going in and taking these animals and killing them and pulling out their insides as God had commanded, and taking the fat off from the liver and fat from different parts and burning it. And I was like, 'That's just gory, you know.' Maybe you would think the same, I don't know. Maybe you enjoy that stuff. I thought it was gory. You know, worship for us is a lot different. On the other side of the Cross we come and sit comfortably with air conditioning, bagels and coffee upstairs, and great worship songs to worship God with. And there's a reason for that. But you know, you ask, 'Why such the gory scene, why the gory sacrifices?' And as you think about that and you read that, you're like, 'Wow.' It really speaks of the holiness of God--how holy God is. In order for him to set apart these Israelites as his people it required that all these bulls, all these animals continuously to be sacrificed because of their sin. God is just so far above them, he is so holy, yet they're sinners, we are sinners. And, as you read through that you consider that you're just like in awe of what was required, fellowshipping with God. Now when God had communion with the people of Israel, they still had the veil. You know the last song we sang this morning, 'God, we want to enter the Holy of Holies.' We want to go right through, past that veil, right to your presence, past the brazen altar. But you read, with the people of Israel, they weren't able to do that. Only the priests could do that. But God was so Holy and he was showing them how Holy he was, and how far they were from that, just the distance between God and man, and what was required temporarily, to have that type of relationship with him, ultimately pointing to the Cross--and the work that ultimately God had to do for you and I to have a relationship with him. And, you know, I was reading that, and I was like, 'Lord, I'm just so unworthy. I see all the gore, I see all the blood, and I know that's required for me too, just the blood of your Son because of who I am and what I've done. You're a Holy God, a Holy and awesome God.' You know, there's a passage that's repeated multiple times in the Bible. Whenever something is repeated multiple times, God is emphasizing a truth he wants us to know. His truth, of course, is throughout the Bible. But these specific words are repeated three times, summarized another time, in Psalm 14, Psalm 53, I don't know if you've noticed--it's like the same psalm. You're like 'Wait a minute here. Did someone just copy this Psalm a second time?' Almost verbatim, I think they are the same Psalm. And then Paul quotes that, those Psalms written by David. He quotes that in Romans chapter 3, he says, "There is none righteous, no not one. There is none righteous, not a single one. There is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside, they have all together become unprofitable. There is none who does good, no not one." The Bible says very clearly, there's not a man or a woman, child that has ever lived that has ever done good, because of our condition. And you read through the book of Exodus, and you see the gore and the blood and that just says that God is Holy, and we are far from that. We are so unworthy as people. Now I'm not trying to make you feel guilty. But there is a truth as we go to Mark chapter seven that we will see. Solomon declared the same. He said "And there's not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin." There's not a just man, we are all unworthy before a Holy and Righteous God. You know, you read through the book of Exodus, you consider all this, but then you look at America today [this sermon given 07.11.99], you look even at the church today in America. It seems there is a very different attitude, there's a very different understanding. I'm amazed to see how highly people think of themselves, especially in America as we stand on our successes and our achievements and our wealth, as if we've achieved something, as if we have some kind of favor before God, as if we've something special. I think we need to consider the Psalmist in Psalm chapter 49. The Psalmist wrote this. "Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him, for the redemption of the souls is costly." He says, 'You know, the rich, those that have all this accomplishment, those that trust in their own works, and their accomplishment, what are they going to do about the grave?'--is what the psalmist says. What are they going to do to redeem their own soul or soul of their brother. They can't do anything, because it's too costly for any man to pay for that, to redeem the soul from the grave. Today, many people boast of wealth and accomplishment, but you know, the grave is still right around the corner, still waiting. Not a whole lot they can do about the grave, not a whole lot man can do about the grave. "Who can pay the price to redeem their own soul or their brother's soul?"--the Psalmist says. He says, "No one, it's too costly." Well then, the Psalmist goes a little bit further. He says, "This is the way of those who are foolish, and of their posterity who approve their sayings." The N.I.V. says "This is the way of those that trust in themselves. Like sheep they've laid in the grave. Death shall feed on them. The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning, and their beauty shall be consumed in the grave far from their dwelling." He says, 'That's where it's going.' All those that trust in themselves today that look one way, the grave is still there, just waiting, waiting for them. I was, a couple weeks ago, was in a graveyard, as I was invited to go to a funeral in New York. And I went to this funeral service, and this service was in a church of course. And there was a good crowd of people, and at the end of that--I had to run to the boys room, and I went to the boys room--and all of the cars had left to go to the graveside, you know, the little service there in the cemetery. And because I had to make that special little trip I was left behind and I went on my own to go to the cemetery, and got there late. And you know how cemeteries are, they got the little tote-road that goes through it, and with all the cars that went, that little road was backed up for quite a ways. So I had to park behind a long line of cars quite a ways from the graveside. And you know funerals, they kind of get you thinking about things, about the reality of the situation. So I was walking through this cemetery looking at these tombstones and reading the names, some of the dates. Some of the dates were old, some weren't so old. Some had the birth date and didn't have the death date, evidently because the person hadn't died yet. And just considering that, and on the way back I was able to do the same, as they buried this person. As I was walking I was just thinking, you know, "Lord, this is where I'm going if Jesus tarries, if he tarries for another X-number of years, this is where I'm going, as far as life today the way I know it." I know I have eternal life in Christ. But as far as the body, this George right here today, this is where I'm going, I'm returning to dust. I'm going to be seen, basically, if Jesus tarries, as just a name on a tombstone. In some cases the tombstones say a little bit more about the individual and in some cases they don't. And as I was walking and thinking that, I just said a prayer, a prayer I've said before. I said, 'You know Lord, I don't want to be remembered for something foolish that I've done, I don't want to be remembered for worldly achievements. There's only one thing that matters, and it's serving you, you're the only thing that matters. This is clear, look at the tombstones. The only thing that matters in life is God. I want to be remembered as a man--if anybody does remember me, if there's anything extra on the tombstone--as a man that walked with you, that was used in your hand as an instrument.' But that's the reality of the situation, isn't it? That's where we're all going. Not to many people have gotten out of that one yet. If Jesus tarries much longer that's where we all go, every one of us, to the grave, to the tomb. And what are we gonna live for? What are we going to do with our lives? What are we going to be remembered for? You know, time is short, it's so short.

Well, I considered these things, I considered 'Lord, you've blessed my life so much, I don't deserve a single thing I have. I am so unworthy. I considered the things that I've done, the sin that I've committed all through my life, what I get and I've gotten from you God I just don't deserve. What I deserve I'm very glad I don't get, that you're not giving it to me some of the things I deserve for what I've done.' But I am unworthy. You know, if I got what I deserved, I would be there in that graveyard in that cemetery that I was in a couple weeks ago--I would be there in fear, considering what was ahead of me. But fortunately because of the grace of God... You know, Psalm 49 that Psalmist continues and I can shout out with the Psalmist in Psalm 49:15, he says, all that about those who trust in themselves and then he says, "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave...for he shall receive me." That's what he says. He says, "And God shall redeem my soul from the power of the grave." And that is the only way any of us are gonna get beyond the grave, by the power of God. You look in Exodus, you read about the sacrifices, you see a Holy God and you see a sinful man. But the Psalmist cries out, 'Im gonna get past the grave because of God.' And so, I can say that this morning, and so can many of us here. You know, we're going to be reminded a little bit later in Mark chapter 10, verse 45, "For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life a ransom for many." You know the Psalmist in Psalm 49 says, you know, 'Who can pay the ransom?' Nobody can pay the ransom for themselves. But Jesus came and he paid that price to redeem us. He paid that ransom, we were captive. He came to set us free, captive to the grave. All that says to you and I, God is a God of incredible love. The height to God, the depth to us, the distance between the two is so great. God is a God of incredible love, incredible compassion, incredible mercy, incredible grace. Truly understanding his love, truly understanding that has an effect on our attitude. Understanding how God loves me, understanding how far he had to go to save me. And Paul says something about that attitude that you and I should have in Philippeans chapter 2, he says, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit. But in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. But each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God [cf. John 1:1-11] did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to the death, even the death of the cross."

We're going to see in Mark chapter 7, as we look this week, and this is kind of the backdrop for these things that I've talked about. Mark 7:1-24. "Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, 'Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?' He answered and said to them, 'Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'

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