Mark 9.38-40, “John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ Jesus said, ‘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.’”
What I see in this passage strikes me as very powerful indeed; something we all need to take stock in and stop for a second to pray over and meditate. Here we see the mind of Christ, in response to John, asking him about someone carrying on works of God that would glorify God. Christ responds in a way that both humbles me and challenges me.
This man in whom the disciples were talking about was no doubt doing a mighty work. He was fighting in the same trenches, on the same battlefield, in the same fight, as the disciples. Notice that this, however, did not satisfy John. From his perspective, this man was not walking with the disciples; he was not one of them and was not fighting the same front as the disciples in the war for souls. We notice too, from John’s response, that in his arrogance he forbade him from doing so. “If you are not fighting with us, then you are fighting against us (my translation of John’s heart).” How then does the Head of the Church respond to this heart?
“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.” How many people in how many churches are prone to think too highly of themselves!? The audacity for some to believe that the only good work that is done in this world is either done within the confines of their church’s building walls, or among their specific parishioners. Many in churches are so prone to think that unless it is done by their denomination, then they cannot conceive of the possibility that the Lord may be glorified by others. They indeed make an idol of themselves and their own church, as they can see no value in others.
To this intolerance indeed we owe some of the blackest history of the church. Christians have persecuted other Christians for reasons so mundane and simple as to be more than shameful. They have proclaimed to the world not only the lack of love of Jesus, but to other brothers and sisters that, “if you are not with us in our church, you are not for the work of God.” This is not very far removed from cultism.
But the same reality is not only applied to our churches, but individually as well. We must guard against this sort of feeling; it is very close to the hearts of many. If you do not look like me, smell like me, act like me, or worship like me, then you are not for Jesus. Surely Christ wouldn’t accept someone like you! Yes, we may believe that some of our evangelical brothers and sisters differ on some points, and we may believe that a greater work for the gospel could be done would they have our same convictions over things, but this too is very arrogant. We may see some pretty amazing things that would question other’s walks indeed, but all this is not meant to prevent us from rejoicing if the works of the devil are destroyed and souls are saved for Christ into eternity.
My question for you is not, “are you for Calvinism or Arminianism,” but are you warring and laboring and working for the glory of Christ? This is the grand question, the best question, the question of contention.
JC Ryle states, “Better a thousand times that the work of God should be done by other hands than not done at all.”
We must take care here. The reality of John may be all over some of us in our zeal for Christ. Secretly, in our desires for Christ, we may have some sort of deception in our hearts, for we truly try to emulate ourselves in disguise of our humility. We very easily mingle our own interests with the interests of Christ, and in our vanity use the glory of His name only as our veil to hide our own intentions. As a pastor and preacher, sometimes I imagine that my only desire is the glory of Christ and that all men and women should follow hard after Him, yet sometimes it is myself in whom I wish people to follow; it is my own glory I desire. Oh I have to be careful that this is not the case.
Particularly in others, whatever their reasons for persevering in good, isn’t it the Lord Himself who has ordained that good to pass before the foundation of the world, that we should walk in it according to His good purpose? Ephesians 2.10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Lord, give us hearts for your glory, not our own. Rid me of a heart like I see here in John; help me to see the deceptiveness of my own vainglory, and to run hard after you. Help me to get lost in you as a child of the Most High God.