Greg Laurie - The Gospel For Busy People
We're starting a brand new series based on the gospel of Mark that I'm calling, the gospel for busy people. Another thing you could call it is, the gospel for people with ADD, right? People was short attention spans. You see, Mark's gospel is a very fast pace series of truths laid out in this amazing book. He uses the word immediately, 42 times. Mark uses a historical present tense, 150 times. In other words, Jesus comes, Jesus heals, Jesus says, all in the present tense, not the past tense. So, it's almost like you are there. Mark almost reminds us of a breathless reporter giving us the events in real time as they're unfolding.
And I think this is a gospel we can all relate to today, because it seems like we collectively have a short attention span. Unique to Mark, is he does not record all that many sermons of Jesus. In fact, Mark focuses more on what Jesus did, than he does on what Jesus said. It's a record of the achievements of Jesus, if you will, and it's action packed from beginning to end. It's a short, concise book of 16 chapters. And by the way, it's probably the first of the gospels that was written.
So, who is this guy Mark? His full name is John Mark. He's the author of this gospel, and he is the nephew of Barnabas. You may remember Barnabas because he traveled with Paul. And let's just say that John Mark, who was much younger than the others, got off to a weak start. He was given the opportunity to go on a missionary journey with his uncle Barnabas and the great apostle Paul. And I don't know what happened, but Mark got cold feet and wanted to go home. Maybe he was just homesick and he bailed on them. So when they went on their next missionary journey and Barnabas suggested they take Mark along, Paul was supposed to, and I don't want to take him along, and because he didn't stay with us on the last journey. And so, this was a setback for Mark, but whatever had happened, he was able to repair his relationship with Paul, because later Paul writes of Mark in Second Timothy 4:11, "He's been helpful to me in ministry".
So think about this guy, he's a kid. His uncle is Barnabas. He is a personal friend with the apostle Paul, and then add to this, the fact that he was very close to Simon Peter. In fact, Peter refers to Mark as his son in First Peter 5:13. And in fact, many believe that the gospel of Mark was actually written by Mark, but dictated by Peter. So, it is believed by many, and I happen to agree with them, that this is effectively the gospel according to Peter, but yet at the same time, Mark was there. He was a young man, but he did witness the ministering of Jesus.
Later on in the book of Acts, we read that Peter was put in prison. You remember that story in Acts 12? And they were praying for him, and Peter showed up at a house as an answer to their prayer because God delivered him from the jail. What house was that? That was the house of John Mark, that he lived in with his mother, Mary. I mean, so this guy was right in the epicenter of so many biblical events that were so incredibly significant. So the backdrop of the gospel of Mark as the believers were suffering in Rome. According to the Roman historian Tacitus Nero, the Caesar over Rome at that time, had declared war on the Christians. He had a hand in burning Rome down, and then he blamed it on the followers of Jesus Christ, who had nothing to do with it. So the Christians were forced to flee to the catacombs to survive.
So Mark wanted to write a book that would encourage these believers. He wanted to show Jesus in the present tense, able to deliver them during their times of crisis. As the Bible says of God, "He is a present help in times of trouble". So I hope, as you might be going through your own difficulties, maybe you're being harassed for your faith. Maybe you're being hassled for what you believe. I pray that this newest series that we're doing in the gospel of Mark will be a great encouragement to you. So let's read some of this gospel together, grab your Bible or your phone or your tablet, or wherever you have your Bible and read these words with me if you would.
I'm in Mark chapter one, I'm gonna read verses one to eight. And by the way, this is the New Living Translation. This is the good news about Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written, "Look, I'm sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare the way. He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord's coming, clear the road for him.' This messenger was John, the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. All of Judea, including all of the people of Jerusalem came out to see and hear John. They confessed their sins and he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from course camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist, and for food, he ate locusts and wild honey".
John announced, "someone is coming soon, who is greater than I am, so much greater," says John, "I'm not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit". Wow, well, we'll stop there. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus Christ. He was a radical, he was a revolutionary. He was like a rock star. Everybody wanted to see and hear John. As Mark writes, "All of Judea, including the people of Jerusalem, went out to see John".
You have to understand, that John was not just a prominent figure, he was super prominent. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus actually wrote more about the life and ministry of John that he wrote about Jesus Christ himself. And so John, what was a significant figure? You ask well why? Well understand, Israel had not heard from God for a long time. From the time of the last Old Testament book, the book of Malachi, to the emergence of John was 400 years. Think about that, Israel, which was so used to prophets and miracles and angels, hadn't heard from God for 400 years, and then seemingly out of nowhere, but right on God's schedule, emerges this colorful, colorful character, John the Baptist. And he had a simple job to do, which was to prepare the way of the Lord.
John was the last of the Old Testament prophets. The last of the Mohicans, if you will. And not only was he the last of the Old Testament prophets, he was the greatest of all of the prophets of the Old Testament. Jesus himself said in Luke 7:28, "I tell you, of men born of women, there has never been a greater prophet than John the Baptist".
Now, you know, we read the story of John and we think, well, I understand he was a great prophet, but greater than Isaiah, greater than Jeremiah, greater than a Elijah the prophet who performed miracles. I mean, to the point, John never called fire down from heaven. John never stopped it from raining. John never raised a person from the dead. John never wrote a great Old Testament book like Isaiah and others. So, why was John the greatest of the Old Testament prophets? Here's the answer. John and John alone was the direct herald and forerunner of Jesus. His greatness was a direct result of his nearness and connection to Christ.
Now, he was dressed in an unusual way, because he was an unusual guy. Interesting, archeologists recently discovered an image of John, so we can see exactly what he looked like. So here's what John looked like. No, that's actually Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty, I'm just kidding, but it kind of gives you an idea of how John may have appeared to the people of that day. And despite this great calling on his life, despite this great popularity that he had, he was a really humble guy. Look at verse seven of Mark chapter one. He said, "Someone is coming, who is greater than me. So much greater, I'm not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of His sandals".
Let me update that. John is saying, I'm not even worthy to tie his shoes. He's so great! But John understood exactly what his role was. Even though he was a great public figure and very popular, his mission was to get out of the way and prepare people for Jesus. That's amazing, and guess what? That's our mission as well. You might say that John's motto was, I must decrease and He must increase. Can you imagine if you put that on your mirror, and you saw it as you're getting ready in the morning, I must decrease and He must increase. Or if you put that on your Instagram account, before you did a post, I must decrease and He must increase, but that was John, he was setting the stage for Jesus.
Now, Jesus enters the scene. Go back to Mark chapter one, look at verse nine. "It came to pass on those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and He was baptized by John, and immediately coming out of the water". Notice the way that Mark writes, coming out of the water, not he came out of the water. Coming out of the water, we're there, Mark puts us right there. And you know, he's this very urgent kind of a writer, coming from the water. "He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, which said, 'You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.'" Now look at this, "Immediately, the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness where He was tempted by Satan for 40 days. He was out among the wild animals, and the angels took care of Him".
Have you heard of the Trinity? Did you know the Trinity, or at least the word Trinity is not in the Bible, but the Trinity is in the Bible. And I don't know that there's a clearer verse in all of scripture than this, showing us the Trinity in action. We have Jesus the Son being baptized, we have the Holy Spirit coming upon Him as a dove, and we have the voice of the Father saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased".
Now, Mark does not give us a full account of the temptation of Christ as do Matthew. In Matthew chapter four and Luke chapter four. But we'll start here, and then I'm gonna go over to Luke for a little more detail. But look at verse 12 of Mark chapter one, "Immediately, the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness". The Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. This is not suggesting Jesus didn't wanna go. What it is saying is, this was something that was urgent that the Holy Spirit was doing, because this was something Jesus had to go through.
So, no time basking in the glory of God, this was straight to work, and that's pretty much the painting of Mark. Jesus has a job to do, but it also shows us something very important. Often, trials or testings or temptations come after moments of great blessing. I mean, here is Jesus in the Jordan River, being baptized by John, having the Father say, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased". And the Holy Spirit come upon Him in the form of a dove, and immediately, right on the heels of that, He goes into the wilderness to face Satan. After the dove came the devil. After the blessing came the trial.
Now, He faced three temptations by the devil and in effect, you and I will face these same three temptations in life. Here's the first one. Now I'm going over to Luke chapter four, who fills in some gaps for us that we don't have here in Mark's gospel. In Luke chapter four, verse three, Satan says to Jesus, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread". Now, by the way, in the original language, a better translation would be, since you are, not if. So Satan was not challenging the deity of Christ, in a way he was affirming it. So what he was saying is, "Since you're the Son of God, Jesus, and you've been fasting for 40 days and 40 nights, and obviously you're on the very brink of starvation. Why don't you tell that rock to turn into a piece of bread"?
Interesting. You know, it's worth noting that Jesus never did a miracle for His own benefit. You know, if Jesus had to get from point A to point B, He walked there like anybody else. You know, if He had to walk from Galilee to Jerusalem, He could have airlifted Himself over there if he wanted to, but He would walk with his disciples, thus Jesus was tired like we are. Jesus was sleepy like we are. Jesus was hungry when we are. I mean, He could have done whatever He wanted. He could have been eating an In-N-Out burger, gone forward in time, grabbed that thing, eating it, and the disciples would say, "Lord, what is it that you're eating over there"? And He could have said something like, "It is not for you to know these things. Just eat your fish and unleavened bread and I'll get back to you". Or he could have just met them in Jerusalem, and just popped over there, but no, He put Himself under the restraints of human frailty.
Now look, Jesus had a physical body. He was tempted and tested, but He did not have the inward vulnerability to fall. So he felt the presence of temptation, but being God, He didn't really have a sinful nature that would incline him to give into it. The Bible says, "He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh". So yes, He had a body. Yes, He bled like any man, He had tears like any man, but He was God walking among us. Fully God and fully man. There has never been a man that walked the earth like Jesus. So, if this is the case, what is the point of Him being tested? Here's the answer, ready for it? To show us how to face temptation. He's giving us a model. He's showing us what we should do when temptation comes our way.
"Hey, Jesus," says Satan, "Why don't you turn a rock into a piece of bread"? What does Christ say? He says, "It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God". Now look, we face this all the time. Here is the essence of what Satan was saying to Jesus. Put the physical before the spiritual. He'll come to us and say, Hey look, man, you need to have a little fun. You know, you can play now and pay later. Don't worry about the repercussions of sin. You'll be okay, you're the exception. God's okay with this, you can trust me, Satan says. That was the kissing of a snake, in case you missed it.
Listen, the Bible says the devil is a liar and he is the father of lies. And sometimes people get their lives out of whack. You know, they put physical things before spiritual things. Look, there's nothing wrong with eating food. God has given us food to enjoy and to eat together, but there's a difference between eating to live and living to eat. Some people are obsessed by their appetite. They're obsessed by food. They're obsessed by things, they're obsessed by sensual things, and they let those things become more important to them than God Himself. So, just put God in His rightful place in your life.
It's fine to have a career, but don't put your career above God. It's great to have a relationship, but don't put a relationship above God. So by saying, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from God," Jesus is simply pointing out, that we should have our spiritual priorities in order and put God first. Here's another thing, and we don't want to miss this. What did Jesus do when He was tempted by the devil? He quoted scripture.
Now, remember, Jesus was God. And be God, he could have said, "Satan, be banished". And Satan would have left. He had that authority and power over the devil. In fact, when He would encounter demons, the demons would say to Him, through the people they were possessing. "Don't send us to judgment before our time". They recognized the power and authority that Christ had. But He didn't do this, He faced the devil as we should face the devil. You say, well, how? Well, first of all, we quote scripture. He's giving us a model. This is what you do when you're tempted, you quote the word of God. This is why you need to study the Bible. This is why you need to memorize the Bible.
Over in Psalm 119 verse nine, it says, "How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your Word". Psalm 119 verse 11 says, "Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You". Look, it's good to carry a Bible in your briefcase or in your purse, or have a Bible app on your phone, but the best place to carry the Word of God is in your heart. So don't just get it in your mind, get in your heart, commit it to memory. And then when you are tempted, you can pull out the appropriate scriptures to defend yourself.
So the devil realizes that this first temptation is not working. Now he does something really strange, or it seems strange to us perhaps. He's giving Jesus a hack, if you will, a shortcut. He's effectively saying in this next temptation, "Look, Jesus, we both know why You're here. You're here to purchase back that which was lost in the garden of Eden. And I'm gonna make You a deal You cannot refuse". Bad Godfather imitation. I'm gonna give You what You want. I'll give it to you on a silver platter, all you have to do is give me the satisfaction of worshiping me for a moment.
Look at Luke chapter four, verse five. "The devil took Jesus to a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, 'All this authority I will give to you and their glory,'" and it's been delivered to me and then the devil says, "And I can give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if you will worship before me, all of this will be Yours". Notice Jesus did not refute it. Notice Jesus did not say you're wrong devil, you can't do that. And I'll tell you why He didn't say to the devil that he was wrong, because the devil was actually telling the truth in this instance. The Bible says that Satan, who by the way, is a fallen angel. A very powerful fallen angelic being is the God of this world, the prince of the power of the air.
So, when our first parents, Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden and fellowship with God was cut off, a curse came upon the world. It's effectively under the control of the devil. Jesus came from heaven on a rescue operation to planet earth to buy back that which was lost in the garden. The devil saying, "Look, I'm gonna make this easy for You Jesus, no pain, no suffering, no crucifixion. I'll give it to You if You'll just worship me". But here's what Jesus did, He refused this offer. Look at verse eight of Luke, chapter four, Jesus answered and said, "Get behind Me Satan, for it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord, your God and Him only shall you serve.'"
I heard he story of a woman that was gonna go down to the mall and look at the new outfits that were coming out. And her husband said, "No, I don't want you to go to the mall. Every time you go, you buy something". She said, "No, I'm just gonna browse. I won't buy anything". "No, you always buy something. I don't want you to go, we can't afford it". "I'm just gonna look". He said, "All right, look, but don't buy anything". She said, "Okay". So she comes home a few hours later with a brand new outfit.
He goes, "Well, I asked you not to go buy an outfit, what happened"? She says, "Well, I went into this, I walked by this store, there was this cute outfit in the window on the mannequin, and so I walked in and asked if I could try it on". He goes, "Ah, I can't believe you did that. Well, what happened"? She says the devil himself appeared and he came and appeared in the dressing room and said, "You look great in that outfit". And then the husband said, you should have said, "Get behind me Satan". She said, "I did". I said, "Get behind me, Satan". And then the devil said, "Hey, it looks good from the back too".
No, but seriously, when the devil tempts you, you don't want to listen to him. You don't want to have extended conversations with him. You want to put them behind you, and that's exactly what Jesus did.
Now we come to the last temptation of Christ, at least in the wilderness. Luke chapter four, verse nine, "The devil brought Jesus to Jerusalem. Set Him on the pinnacle of the peak of the temple, and Satan said, 'If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.'" Notice, the devil then says, "For it is written, He will give his angels charge over You, to keep You, and in their hands, they will bear You up, lest You dash Your foot against a stone". Wow, the Devil's quoting the Bible. Did you know, the devil knows the Bible too?
The story is told of the famous comedic actor, WC Fields, who was known to be an alcoholic. And one day someone was surprised to see Fields actually reading from the Bible. It said, "I can't believe the you, WC Fields are reading the Bible, why"? And Fields responded, "Looking for loopholes". And that's what the devil's been doing for a long time. Reading it, quoting it out of context, misusing it, looking for loopholes, if you will. Closing thoughts, every Christian is going to be tempted, but listen, it's not the bait that constitute temptation and sin, it's the bite. Just because the bait is dangled before you, doesn't mean you're sinning.
By the way, it's not a sin to be tempted. As my friend Erwin Luther said, and I quote, "Temptation is not a sin, it's a call to battle," end quote. You know, we may think if we're really spiritual, we'll never be tempted. Let me tell you that that is not true. The fact is, if you are really spiritual, if you are really living a godly life, you will be tempted, why? Because the devil does not want you to succeed. He will oppose you.
So if you are watching this right now, and you're saying, "Greg, I get tempted all the time. What's wrong with me"? Maybe it's not what's wrong with you, maybe it's what's right with you. Remember the story in the book of Job, when God was bragging on his servant, Job, and He said, "Have you considered my servant Job? A perfect and upright man, one that fears God and shuns evil". And the devil heard God say this, what happened? A series of attacks came against God's man named, Job. And sometimes the attacks we're facing are a result of living a godly, not an ungodly life.
Hey, thanks for watching our TV program. And I wonder if you yourself have accepted Jesus Christ. You know, a lot of times people tune into programs like this who aren't believers and they're kind of checking it out. Maybe you're laughing at it at first. Maybe you think it's not real, but something has happened, and maybe in something that's been said, you've suddenly discovered you need Jesus Christ. You know, the day I accepted Jesus, let me tell you, it was the last thing I planned on doing. I didn't plan on becoming a Christian that day, but that was the day that was appointed in eternity for me to believe in Jesus.
I wonder if this is not that day for you. You've been eavesdropping, you've been checking it out, but now God's speaking right to your heart and you realize you need Jesus Christ. Would you like to have your sin forgiven? Would you like a second chance in life? Would you like to go to heaven when you die? Would you like your guilt removed? Listen, it can all happen, because Jesus Christ went to a cross and died for your sin and then rose again three days later, and He'll come into your life right now and be your savior and your Lord and the best friend you've ever had. Let's pray together. Pray this after me.
Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner, but I believe You died on the cross for my sin, and I'm sorry for that sin and I turn from it now. And I ask You to come into my life and be my savior and be my Lord and be my God, and be my friend. I choose to follow you from this moment forward. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
If you just prayed that prayer, I want you to know on the authority of God's Word, that Christ Himself has come to live inside of you. The Bible says, "These things we write to you that believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life". But let me say, God bless you, and welcome to God's family.