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Steve Mickel: A Divided Kingdom, Mark 9:39-41

February 7, 2022

Audio Recording

Church History
Church History
Steve Mickel: A Divided Kingdom, Mark 9:39-41
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:06 Hey everybody. It's great to see you today. Welcome to the new and improved nine o'clock service. I'm so glad that you all made it here. And I walked through the children's hallway and screaming babies and screaming workers, and no, they were, they were having a great, great time. And it's so fun to see some life a little bit earlier here on campus than just in the second service. I don't know if you were here last week during the second service, but if you were, let me just say, I can't follow that up. That was an amazing service. If you weren't here. Let me just tell you a little bit of what happened. Pastor Evan launched our series on church history. You're thinking that doesn't sound exciting, correct? It doesn't sound exciting. But what happened is that at the end, Evan emphasized a ritual that we have a tradition that we have throughout church history of both communion and baptism.

00:57 And then he spontaneously invited anyone that wanted to be baptized. And we didn't, we weren't prepared for it, by the way, we didn't have tanks or anything. There was nothing. Would you believe it that a guy, a young man named Chuck, he said in the second service, he said, yeah, I want to be baptized. And so Evan called an audible, got a bottle of water and the guy stood up here and Evan baptized him. It was beautiful. It was absolutely awesome. Yeah, it was so good. And I, and I'm emotional because it's, I don't know about you, but I needed that kind of a moment, especially at over the last several years of what the church has experienced. And then, especially as I've been digging into church history and how depressing it is, I needed that moment to remind me and for God to remind us that he is still on the move.

01:46 He is still working. He is still transforming people's lives through the church. And I'm so glad that God did that. The opening week of our church history series, because you're going to see today that sometimes it's really hard to find hope in the church. It hasn't always been easy and we need moments like that to remind us that God, God is still working through his church. The gospel think of it. Think of the gospel, like an ancient river that has spawned different tributaries over history. And at times some of those tributaries have dried up and there's no life in them. And then others have flourished. And then at times the, the river of the gospel might look stagnant from the outside, but there's always motion. There's always a current that is keeping the true unadulterated gospel alive. And we see it today. And Jesus reminded us that he would build his church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it.

02:45 So Jesus, as we open up your word today, would you remind us of what's really, truly important and how to be the people of God in this day and age, your church alive in central Oregon and beyond we pray in Jesus name. Amen. Well, let me give you a little history lesson real fast. It's not going to take long, a little timeline of church history. We see it up here. Jesus, the death and resurrection four to three, four to 35, a D and then ground 0 35 to 3 0 5, a D divided kingdom 300 to 1500 a D we're going to land there and just a moment falling, rising and reforming pastor Ben. We'll talk about that next week, the American dream, the world at war, the age of ideology to today. And so today we're focusing in on 1200 years in about 20 minutes. So it shouldn't be a problem at all.

03:36 We'll find our way through it. Here's the general flow of the era of that. We're in, in the church strictly related to the church. So around 380 persecution of the church ended so up until from the time Jesus ascended until a little, little after 380, the church was persecuted. they were marginalized. They were considered second class citizens. They were distrusted by the Roman empire. And so they were, they were persecuted, many, many disciples of Christ gave their lives for the sake of the gospel during that, during that era prior to 318 and then emperor Constantine, and, declared through the edict of Milan, the freedom of religion, many people think it was a freedom for Christianity, but actually the statement was a freedom of religion. All religions were free to exercise their right to practice their faith. That was in three 13 D what happened though is that Christianity became the dominant religion quite quickly because Constantine converted to Christianity.

04:39 And so did so did many other rulers at that time. And so Christianity actually became the predominant religion. Although all religions had the freedom to practice at least initially, and then Constantine gathered councils together. This era, these 1200 years is marked by council church council. After church council, after church council, they love to gather together and talk about who was right and who was wrong. That's really what happened is that the council of Nicea, they brought all these different doctrines. And by the, by the way, it didn't take very long for heresy to begin to, to prop up, in the early church. one particular heresy was that some Christians believed that Jesus was not fully God. And so the council of Nicea, was one of the first councils to bring everybody together. Some Christian leaders together, along with Constantine and talk about what is it that we actually all believe and we've all will hold to.

05:31 And not only that, how, what, what, what are we not saying is truth? And let's make sure everybody that's not aligned gets aligned. the council of hippo is another council. That's where they decided what was going to make it into the Bible. what would be, what would be the makeup of the sacred text. And so that happened, church councils, Islam was founded in 6 22. division really was mark this whole. and finally in 10 54, a D the Western church and the Eastern church split, completely, they had their own leadership structure. and it was done at that point. You had the, the Catholics in the west, the Orthodox in the east, and then the crusades took place 150 years of, of the, the, those that were not in alignment with Christianity, were, were arrested or were killed. And so it really was a religious war at that time.

06:26 And it was many people didn't know that the crusades, it wasn't just between Christians and Muslims, actually Christians, persecuted the Jews, Muslims, and other Christians. as you'll see in just a moment that didn't believe that didn't align themselves with the, with the doctrines that the, that the religious rulers and the emperors had agreed on. And then, you had the council of Constance in 14, 15. I'll talk a little bit more about that. and, and a little bit, and then the birth of Martin Luther, and that's kind of where Ben's going to pick up next week. So see, we could do it, we can do this. You guys, we're going to make it just fine. When Constantine declared a freedom of religion across the Roman empire, the church rose up, and it really did take control. It became the dominant religion, as I mentioned, even to the point where emperors, would persecute those who did not declare themselves to be Christians, emperors became the Pope.

07:25 So the Roman emperor actually took on the religious realist to not only were they the political ruler, but they were also the religious ruler to illustrate this. The actual name of the chief high priest in ancient Rome was Pontifex Maximus, chief priest. That's what that meant. and then emperor Augustus actually took that knowing the power of religion to control, he took that title for himself and every emperor after that kept that title chief priest. And so you see in this era 300, 1200 years, this intermingling of political control and religious control, and several things happen during this time, any division that existed between the church and the state was eliminated. So the church was the state and the state was the church. There was the, there was this very tight, the same, as a result, the church grew, because, it was politically and socially expedient to be a Christian.

08:30 and it was illegal. it became illegal eventually to practice other face. there was corruption within the clergy during this time, as you can imagine, abusive power was common. A tax exemption for clergy began, during this period America didn't invent that, separation from of clergy from latency, happened during this era, the priesthood of all believers, that kind of that theological concept and scripture was, was disregarded. What we see is that the worldly values the values of the world crept into the church class structures, dominated Christianity. the church became one of the wealthiest organizations in the empire and all of this ultimately led to the greatest travesty ever committed by the church, the crusades, what the Jews thought Jesus would do when he came takeover rule kick-out Rome actually did take place 300 years after he ascended. In essence, the church propped itself up promoted the kingdom of God using the kingdoms of this world.

09:43 They use the same mechanisms of the world systems to propagate the kingdom of God. And the question that we're asking throughout this series, we'll ask ourselves today, is this, is this what Jesus had in mind? Is this what Jesus had in mind? There's this moment in Jesus' ministry recorded in mark chapter nine, where his disciples saw someone, they saw someone not part of their group. They weren't, they weren't this person, he wasn't a follower of Jesus. And the, in the sense of like, he was like Peter and John and James who followed Jesus. And, but he was casting out a demon in the name of Jesus. Can you just put yourself in that moment? Kind of think that through like, okay, we see someone, we actually don't know who he is. He's not part of us. And he's casting out a demon in the name of Jesus.

10:32 So guess what the disciples tried to do, stop him, of course, like, excuse me. we're the chosen ones, you're not allowed to do that. We don't know who you are. You know, of course that's what they would do. That's what we would do, right? But Jesus said, don't stop. Do not stop him for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me for the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. He says a phrase in this. I don't know if you caught it. That is a little bit backwards from what we say for the one who is not against us is for us.

11:21 What do we say? If you're not for me, you're against me. We flip it. So meaning that if you're not, if you're not aligned with the way I think with what I believe with what I, how I interpret scripture, how I vote with whatever you want to put in there, then you're not with me. You're against me. And Jesus is like, none of that stuff matters. Listen, if they're not, if they're not actively working against my way, they're with us, they don't have to be part of our group and think everything's exactly the same. Why do you think, how do you, why do you think denominations exist today? If you're not for me, you're against me. So we're going to go start our own thing. I mean, I'm, I'm actually okay with, with all the denominations, we have different strokes for different folks. That sort of thing.

12:13 I appreciate that. But the reality is that this era was marked by division after division, because we did not heed the teaching of Christ here, that he taught his disciples. You have to be on my side, do exactly what I want or you're our enemy. But the church of the middle ages was clearly against anyone who was not for them. in, if you think cancel culture is a new thing, we invented it 1800 years ago. If you didn't, if you don't align, if you didn't align to the exact doctrines or the political structure, the Pope or the emperor, sometimes it was the same person, right? Then you were outcast, persecuted often even put to death. there's this great story in Matthew chapter 20, where, the mother of James and John, come, she comes to Jesus and she kneels before Jesus.

13:10 He says, she says, she, this mom of two of the disciples comes to Jesus kneels before him and says and tells Jesus, he, that she doesn't ask him, by the way. I think it's really interesting that she is not, there's no question in this. She says to Jesus, Hey, here's the two, here's two. Here's my two sons, you know, James and John, right? W I would like for you to have them sit one at your right hand and one at your left in your kingdom. And I mean, all the other guys are standing around. It's like, they're listening. They're in earshot of this. They're like what James and John, what is, go get, get your mother up off her knees. What? And they were, they were indignant. The scripture says probably because they were like, why didn't I think of that? I didn't know. We could ask for that.

13:57 Right? And, and Jesus uses it as an illness as a, as a, as a lesson like Dave was talking about earlier, right? He pulls him in and he says this, but Jesus called them to him. And he said, listen, let's listen to you guys. And by the way, he told the mom, you don't know what you're asking. Like they can't, they can't carry what I'm going to carry. And he says to this disciples, you know, that the rulers of the Gentiles lorded over them and their great ones, exercise authority over them. What Jesus is saying here is he's saying, listen, you know how wrong rules, how they Lord it over you? How they're they, they they're abusive in their power, how they, they use power to control you, how they have used power to marginalize the Jewish people. You know how the Gentiles lorded over you and the great ones, exercise authority over you. It shall not be so among you.

14:54 Jesus knows that it's not right now that these, these young men will have control of the church. He, they don't have it yet, but he know they th that one day they will. And he's saying to them, listen, you know how the rulers of this world lead, you will not lead like them. Don't let it happen to you, but whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be your slave. Even as the son of man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom. For many he's saying, listen, this is the way my kingdom works. It's so opposite from the way of this world, those who lead serve those who want to be the greatest, become the least. This is the way of my kingdom.

15:53 And that other way might be appealing because of what you can get done and how you can control and how you can make sure everybody aligns to your way. But that is not my way. Jesus says, this is not the way I intend for my church to lead in our community group discussion this week, by the way, those questions are always available on our website. for anyone, we look at Matthew chapter four, and some of you might remember that story is the temptation of Jesus. And one of the temptations that Satan offers to Jesus's what to rule the kingdoms of the world to actually be the ruler over this, over all the kingdoms of this world. And Jesus resists that offer. And he asks us as we just saw to also resist that temptation. And sometimes we did in the early church, but most often it seems we try to prop up the kingdom of God with the powers of this world. And as I studied this era, I began to see the church fathers, many of whom I I've always respected in my studies. People like Anthony Jerome, like Augustine Boniface, even St. Francis of Assisi, as I read their stories of the well, the early church, many of them co-opted their ministry to gain political power and influence.

17:28 So they wouldn't be silenced or persecuted by the Pope's and the bishops who did hold power. And it causes, it caused me to consider, as I was studying this, as I was thinking this through. And as I saw people that historically have always admired, and I thought to myself, well, maybe that's what we have to do to be hurt. Maybe, maybe, maybe for us to have the kind of influence

18:08 For the gospel to expand. Maybe, maybe we have to use the systems of this world to propagate the kingdom of heaven. And I realized, that I'm just as tempted as Jesus was by the enemy to not fully follow the way of Jesus, but to allow this systems of this world, to influence me in my leadership in the way that I am a Christian in this context. And so we end up often sacrificing some of the values of Christ in order to follow the ways of this world. I'm reminded of course, of a Lord of the rings clip in this moment, Frodo offering the ring of power to Gandalf. And I can't remember the exact quote. I was just thinking about it during the service, but I think Gandalf says something like I would intend to use this for, but it would will such evil in me.

19:23 Maybe I've traded, maybe you've traded some things, some of the values of Christ, the self-sacrificing cruciform life that Jesus taught us to live to in order to have more influence, maybe we've sacrificed some of the ways of Jesus, goodness, and kindness and gentleness compassion in order to make sure that our voice is heard above the noise. Maybe we've picked up the ways this world gets things done in order to get God's things done. In the end, we sacrifice the way of Jesus. Two days ago, an article was published called the dissenters, trying to save evangelicalism from itself. This is what the author wrote. Think of your 12 closest friends. These are the people you vacation with. Talk about your problems with do life with and the most intimate and meaningful ways. Now imagine if six of those people suddenly took a political or public position you found utterly vile.

20:28 Now imagine learning that those six people think that your position is utterly vile. You would suddenly realize that the people you thought you knew best and cared about most had actually been total strangers all along. You would feel disoriented, disturbed, unmoored. Your life would change. This is what happened over the past years to millions of American Christians, especially evangelicals. There have been three big issues that have yet that have profoundly divided them. The white evangelical embrace of Donald Trump, sex abuse, scandals in evangelical churches and para-church organizations and attitudes about race relations. Especially after the killing of George Floyd. There is now a common desire to pummel shame and ostracize

21:15 Other Christians over disagreements. It wasn't God that failed, but the human institutions built in his name. We now see young evangelicals walking away from evangelicalism. Not because they do not believe what the church teaches, but because they believe that the church itself does not believe what the church teaches. Institutional rot has been exposed. Many old relationships have been severed. This is a profound moment of turmoil, pain change. And while it's too early, to be sure possible transformation. I think we are seeing the logical conclusion conclusion of so many years of a culture war mentality that polarizes us and them. The future of the Christian Church is not going to look like the past. Hence of Christian renewal are becoming visible. There can probably be no evangelical renewal. If the movement does not divorce itself from the lust for partisan political power.

22:26 So studying this era, I was struck by a couple of figures in particular, one, some man named Patrick,

22:37 If you're Catholic, you would know him as Saint Patrick. It was during this era that he decided to go to Ireland to preach the gospel. And he did it so distinctly different than what was happening during that era. He did not go to Ireland and tear down pagan temples. He did not go down and, and try and force the, the leaders of communities to convert to Christianity or face death. Cause that was kind of the norm normal way of evangelism. Back in those days, he did not do any of that. He came in, he served the poor healed, the broken hearted, amended, broken relationships. He brought the kingdom of heaven, not through the ways of this world, but through the power of Christ, his crucifixion and his resurrection. I think about, about, John Huss, he was a local, a local church pastor in Prague.

23:34 In the 14 hundreds, he stood up to Pope's held fastest scripture. He promoted moral reform among the clergy. Eventually he would write these words that a Pope through ignorance and love of money can make many mistakes in that to rebel against an airing Pope is to obey Christ in November of 14, 14, the console, the council of Constance, which I mentioned earlier, they convened in 14, 14. And, and even though he was promised safe passage, John Huss was immediately arrested upon arriving, condemned as a heretic, along with John White cliff who had already died. He white cliff, translated scriptures from Latin into English. And then on July 6, 14, 15 Huss was taken to the cathedral, dressed in his priestly garments. And then he was stripped of them one by one. He refused one last chance to recant at the stake where he prayed Lord Jesus. It is for the, that I patiently endure this cruel death. I pray thee to have mercy on my enemies. He was heard reciting the Psalms as the flames engulfed him. All he wanted was for the Pope's to not have so much power. And for the people to have the Bible in their own language and the church put him to death for years, I thought that the greatest enemy to true Christianity would come from an increasing secular government and society. I'm not sure that's true anymore. Now. I wonder

25:35 If the true enemy of Christianity is within Christianity itself. So I've studied church history. I began to see a pattern emerge that I believe has shown its ugly head in America and the American churches. Well, a desire to use worldly power in order to establish God's kingdom on earth. And it sounds appealing to be in charged, to legislate our morality on the masses to get our way really God's way. Right? It sounds appealing. But in the process, we end up sacrificing the very values of Christ in the way that we promote his way.

26:16 But there's always a remnant. There's always reformers who call the church to repentance and return to the simple way of Jesus, a cruciform life, a laying down of our own rights for the sake of Christ, putting away of the powers of this world in order to embrace the power of God in us. And that's what we're asking of our faith community today to begin the process of a new reformation of his church through repentance, to repent of our animosity toward the world, our hatred of those who think differently toward other believers who practice differently to repent of our fear, that if we don't stand up, like the world stands up, then we'll get pushed aside to repent of using the weapons of this world to fight a spiritual battle, to repent a breeding disunity in the body of Christ.

27:19 So Jesus father, God, we come in humility and with a recognition that we have often sacrificed the very values of Christ for the sake of getting our way of trying to promote your gospel. And in the process, we, we tainted, it becomes less pure, becomes something that it wasn't ever intended to be in. So Jesus, we repent of our hatred towards others. We repent Jesus of those places and times where we have what we have brought disunity into the body of Christ, by speaking evil of other brothers and sisters, Jesus, we repent of our fear that causes us to get so riled up against this world. And we'd start to use the ways of this world. Jesus, we repent. Lord, would you restore a right spirit within us?

28:34 Would you help us Jesus in this moment to resist the temptation, to use the things of this world to propagate your way, would you fill us with your spirit so that we can so that we can be emissaries of your righteousness in this time we're not waging war. According to the flesh, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood. That's not where our battle lies. It's a spiritual battle and there's only one way for us to fight a spiritual battle. And that is on our knees. That is the place where we start always. And so as Ben and the team lead us in this last song, would you continue to allow your spirit to be convicted of where we've tried to use the weapons of this world to fight a spiritual battle and to allow the spirit of God to breathe new life, his way, the fruit of the spirit love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness. Self-control into your hearts today.