FAITH ADVENTURE "Let Jesus Lead" audio podcast by award-winning western author Stephen Bly. Recorded at Fillmore Bible Church, Fillmore, California, Circa 1982. Sponsored by BlyBooks.com Legacy Series.
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LET JESUS LEAD
Recorded at Fillmore Bible Church
Old Testament reading . . .
Daniel 5:17-21 NASB, “Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself, or give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription to the king and make the interpretation known to him. ‘O king, the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory, and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father. And because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations, and men of every language feared and trembled before him; whomever he wished he killed, and whomever he wished he spared alive; and whomever he wished he elevated, and whomever he wished he humbled. But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne, and his glory was taken away from him. He was also driven away from mankind, and his heart was made like that of beasts, and his dwelling place was with the wild donkeys. He was given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind, and that He sets over it whomever He wishes.’”
New Testament reading . . .
Mark 3:335 NASB, “And His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him, and called Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, ‘Behold Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.’ And answering them, He said, ‘Who are My mother and My brothers?’ And looking about on those who were sitting around him, He said, ‘Behold, My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.’”
“Father, I do ask that You will open our eyes to Your Word, that we might hear, that we might understand, that we might respond in a way that pleases You. For I pray it in Jesus Name, Amen.”
How many of you found the last seven days to be the most exciting days in your spiritual life?
How many of you found the last seven days to be the dullest, most boring days you’ve ever experienced spiritually?
How many of you found the last seven days?
I’ve been talking to you about how to cure spiritual dullness. I told you about roadblocks to remove. You do this through public confession of sin, releasing the Holy Spirit, sharing the gospel, giving up something valuable. You need to tell Satan where to go, bring needy people to Christ, remain faithful in prayer, and expose personal ugliness to the Lord.
I also said to expose your faith. Have the kind of faith that people see, in your actions for hurting people, with quick and open response to Christ’s commands, in how we treat sinners, and how we enjoy our faith and so on. Now, if you have done all of that, and still need to get your spiritual life going, I’ve got some good news.
Mark 3 gives us some more advice. We should let Jesus lead our lives.
Who’s the leader of your life?
That is, who sets the spiritual goals you aim for? There’s a way to tell. If your spiritual life has little design, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, if the center of your life is sensuality, that is, anything that pleases your senses, or selfishness or complacency, then I know right away who your spiritual leader is. YOU are your spiritual leader.
Maybe your spiritual life is different. You may be tossed to and fro with every dilemma that comes along. The central motivation of your life is anxiety. Or your most common characteristic is indecisiveness about, “What am I going to do next?” If that’s true, I know your spiritual leader is some other person you’re trying to follow.
Or maybe if you’re honest, your spiritual life is on a course that’s destructive with a poor foundation. Your basic motivation is fear or deceit and lies. You’re following Satan.
Ah, but if your spiritual life is on course and if you’re accomplishing something, and if the center motivation is holiness and doing right before God, and you find the most basic characteristic in your life is pleasing God, then you’re letting Jesus lead. Mark 3 shows us how we can go about letting Jesus lead.
Mark 3:5, “And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of hearty, He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.”
The first thing to do . . . Make sure your heart is softened.
Jesus looked at those religious leaders and was amazed and angry at the hardness of their hearts. Some things happen that produce hard hearts.
Signs of Hard Hearts
~~ Ignore personal hurt in order to further personal advantage (Mark 3:5). The man with the withered hand was hurting. But to some observers that didn’t matter. They wanted to maintain their spiritual advantage. So, Jesus said they had a hard heart.
In Exodus 7:13, it says you can ignore God’s Word in order to maintain your present position. Wasn’t that Pharoah’s problem, one of the most classical examples of a hard heart? He wanted to keep his position even though he had seen God work. So he ignored what God was doing in the miracles.
~~ Ignore God’s commands to follow after vanity (2 Kings 17:14). The passage talks about Israel’s ten northern tribes and how the people were so enamored with vain things. The ladies so concerned with what they were wearing, and what people said about them, and how they looked towards others. They were so caught up in these things they ignored God’s commands.
~~ Ignore God’s power and rely on your own (2 Chronicles 36:13). Zedekiah, the last king of Judea and Jerusalem, depended on the Egyptians to deliver them from the Babylonians. He rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar who made him swear allegiance by God.
~~ Ignore God’s wisdom and follow your own wisdom (Jeremiah 7:26).
~~ Show fear at Jesus accomplishing the impossible (Mark 6:52). Jesus came walking on the water and they had such a tough time believing because of hard hearts. They really feared that Jesus could do the impossible.
~~ The deceitful nature of sin (Hebrews 3:13).
~~ When you lie and refuse correction (Jeremiah 5:3).
~~ Fail to believe reliable people’s accounts of God’s work in their lives (Mark 16:14).
~~ Thinking that God’s patience means He approves of sin, rather than revealing kindness for time to repent (Romans 2:5).
But what do we do to get our hearts softened? It seems like we need one of those funny wooden handles that soften meat to be able to soften our hearts. Or we could follow one of these four ways to do that. Three of them are very difficult to do.
How to Soften Your Heart
1.) Willful obedience in tough situations.
At a college age Bible study, we discussed how to find joy in the midst of trials. Now, willful obedience in easy circumstances won’t soften your heart. But when the situation is tough, when you want to be some way different like you should be, when the trials seem overwhelming, when you don’t know what to do at all, that’s when willful obedience will begin to soften your heart.
2.) Continual public exposure of your life to the light of God’s Word.
As you open up your actions to the truth of Scriptures, let who you are be known. Be transparent, not hidden. Ask others to examine your life in the light of God’s Word, through the teaching and the preaching, as well as your personal reading and study. You’ll find your heart begin to be softened against any callous, cold parts.
3.) Sincere denial of self.
Jesus said, “If anyone come after me, he must deny himself and take up the cross and follow me” (Matthew 10:38). We memorize this Scripture and even sing songs about it, but do we really deny much for ourselves? Begin to think of other people first. Give yourself to their best interests rather than your own. That’s one way to start.
Now, you can ignore all the above. You can do nothing at all. If you’re a child of God and know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you can let Him soften your heart for you. And it will come through failure, trials, persecution, and sorrow and anything else it takes. Because He’s going to soften it.
Or the option is ours. If we’re going to let Jesus lead, we have to make sure we’re softening our hearts.
The second thing we can do to let Jesus lead . . .
Give Him room to work.
Mark 3:9, “Ane He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the multitude, in order that they might not crowd Him.”
At times Jesus got so crowded He couldn’t do His work. In this particular case, He asked to have a boat ready so He could get away from the crowd. That way He could stand in the boat away from the people on the shore, so He could exercise His ministry.
To let Jesus lead, we’ve got to give Him room to work.
5 Most Common Ways We Crowd Jesus
1.) We make unthinking demands upon Him.
Remember the first miracle, according to John. He had gone to the wedding reception in Galilee and His mother said to Him, “There’s no more wine. You ought to do something about it.” And He replied, “Woman, it’s not yet my time.”
What He said in effect, “Woman, don’t crowd me.” Unthinking demands on Jesus.
After a good time at the beach, and stopped by to watch a movie, and got up early to study for that final test, then fell back asleep. Finally, made it to class. And right there when the teacher hands out the exam, we plead for God’s help. We’re crowding Him and not letting Him lead.
2.) We plan out His schedule for Him.
In Mark 1, after a crowded ministry at Peter’s house, he got up early the next morning to pray (vs. 35). And people rushed back to Peter’s house—inside, outside, and all around. Peter ran out to get Jesus. “You must come back,” he said. “Don’t you know what time it is. Everyone’s here already.”
And Jesus said, “Don’t crowd me, Peter. I’m not going back. It’s not on my schedule. I have other places to go and other towns where I should preach.”
In the same manner, we plan out Jesus’ schedule. We know where we want Him to be and what we want Him to do. And we get upset if we think He’s in anyway late. We’ll never let Him lead if we plan His schedule for Him.
3.) We harass Him for supernatural miracles to meet our own special needs.
After He fed the 5,000 people He went around to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. “Where did He go? He disappeared.” The crowd came around the northern part of that Sea and caught up with Him.
“We wanted to be with you,” they said. Jesus told them, “All you wanted was some more free bread.”
We do the same. “Lord, help me make the car payment.” We want Him for supernatural miracles.
4.) We demand that He prove Himself.
The Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “We know people are saying that you’re the Messiah. That would be nice if you really were. Now, prove it once and for all. Do some miracles for us.”
Jesus said, “I’m not going to do any miracles for you. Don’t crowd me.”
We can do the same thing. “Lord, if you’re really there, then you’ll do this for me.” Whether we’re in the fox hole with the bullets flying or on the freeway with the cars whizzing by. We call on Him to prove Himself.
5.) We limit His ability to perform by our own lack of faith.
When He went home to Nazareth, He began to teach in the synagogue, but He could do very few miracles there because the people didn’t really believe. The crowded Him.
We say things like, “Lord, there’s no way you can put that marriage back together.” “That person is beyond any kind of help.” Or “My whole life is falling apart and nothing but depression and gloom await.” We limit His ability to perform. If we want to follow Jesus as our Leader, we’ve got to give Him plenty of space.
The third thing we need to do . . .
Respond To His Summons
Mark 3:13, “And He went up to the mountain and summoned those whom He Himse4lf wanted, and they came to Him.”
If we’re going to let Jesus lead, we’ve got to respond when He calls. There are three characteristics of that response . . . We need to respond with thoughtfulness, with enthusiasm, and with the total Kingdom in mind.
~~ Jesus Calls Us to Be Thinking People
Paul writes to his friend, Philemon, in that short letter before the book of Hebrews, “I could just demand that you take your servant back and you treat him right or send him to me. I have the spiritual authority. But I’m not going to demand it.” Then Paul goes on to spell out why it’s good wisdom to do just that. He’s saying, “Philemon, think it through yourself. I’d like you to respond by thinking it through.”
So, as we respond to Jesus’ summons, we need to also think it through.
~~ We Also Need to Respond with Enthusiasm
Paul was a reluctant Christian. That is, until he got a major nudging from the Lord. On the road to Damascus, Jesus appeared to him, and he was converted. For several days he was blind. And then his eyes were touched, and God gave him a calling, a summons to be a preacher.
Immediately, he went into the synagogue and began preaching. He preached until they were ready to throw him out and stone him. Then he went down to Jerusalem. When he was finally accepted by the disciples, what did Paul do? He began to preach until they threatened to kill him there. But he kept going.
Paul responded with enthusiasm. And so should we.
~~ We Should Respond to God’s Summons with the Total Kingdom In Mind
That is, not just what this calling of God will bring to me, but what will it be for the whole Kingdom of God?
He doesn’t call us just for our own enjoyment. One of the delights of ministry is that He calls us to tasks that can enjoy. But that’s not the main point.
We can see all the importance of all these responses in Mark 3:14,15, “And He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons.”
He call them to be His followers. He sent them out to do ministry, to be a witness, and have authority over Satan. They should do all that with thoughtfulness, enthusiasm, and with the Kingdom in mind. If we’re going to let Jesus lead, we’ve got to respond to His summons.
Fourth, we’ve got to be busy promoting His actions.
Mark 3:22, “And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebub,’ and ‘He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.’”
The great mistake and unforgiveable sin of this passage is that some people looked at the work of Jesus, and knowing it came from the Holy Spirit, yet out of their own motivations saying this was from Satan. They were not promoting His work. What they should be doing is saying, “Hey, everybody, come see what this guy Jesus is doing.”
In any given month, how many thousands of TV or radio promotions that we call commercials do we view or hear? Or how many newspaper or magazine advertisements? Or spam on our phones? Then there’s people at the door promoting cookies and candy bars, walk-a-thons and jog-a-thons. But few people have been promoting what God is doing.
Most of the time we talk about what God is not doing for us. Instead, we should see ourselves as living commercials for what God is doing. Now, sometimes the production is better than the product.
One time I was in Ohio and a fellow introduced me to his congregation. He said something about one of my books, Radical Discipleship, being one of the most challenging books he ever read. And that Moody Bible Institute mentioned I was one of their best speakers. And then he said, “I’d like to introduce to you, Dr. Bly.” And 1,500 people clapped.
I thought to myself, “Wow, that intro is sure better than what’s coming now.”
But that wouldn’t be true with promoting God. Whatever we would say would not be half as good as what He is really like. Let me give you some handles.
Let’s suppose you’re in the doctor’s waiting room and you want to promote God’s work. Why don’t you just sit down and say in a loud voice, “Well, did you hear what He’s doing now?” And everyone will grow quiet and strain to hear. And you’ll say, “He’s off helping orphans in Africa.” And sooner or later, someone will say, “Who?” And you can say, “The Lord. And I figured the least I could do is send a love offering from our household.” That’s promoting what God’s doing.
Maybe you’re at a coffee shop with a friend. Just look at him and smile and say, “Isn’t it amazing what happened to old Buford?” And your friend will say, “But Buford died.” And you can respond, “Yes, and isn’t it amazing. He was a believer and right now he’s living in heaven with God and all His forever family. Can you imagine what that’s like?”
Imagine you’re walking along a trail with a group of people and another group comes by. You’re looking at a beautiful scene and you stop and announce, “The following breathtaking spectacular panorama has been developed and funded by the Lord God Almighty. Isn’t it great what He made?”
Maybe you’re in line at the supermarket and see someone you know. You can just say, “You’ll never guess who I ran into last Sunday?” “Who?” they say. “Well, I was at church and there he was. Did you know the Lord was at church in this town last Sunday?”
Or you’re in a carpool to go to work. You can say something like, “Well, He did it again!” And someone says, “What?” “Well, the Lord saved another person. If He keeps doing that, the whole church will be full.” You begin to share what He’s doing.
We need to be promoting God’s work, if we’re going to let Jesus lead.
Fifth, we need to live up to family standards.
Mark 3:35, “For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
Now, maybe your family has certain standards. Our family has certain rules. We have a rule that goes like this. Dad is supposed to know when, where, who, what, and how long until you’ll be back, every time you go out the door. We have a family rule that every decision that affects the whole family is not finalized until the Family Council meeting, where everyone has a chance to add their thoughts. Another family standard says, anytime, day or night, twenty-four hours a day, the Lazy Boy recliner is for dad.
God has some family standards too. Verse 35 says we are of God’s family and the first standard is to do the will of God. We obey the Father.
I yelled at my son, Aaron, at age three, to come back in the house as he ran out the door. He informed me, “No, I don’t have to mind you. Only mommy can tell me to come back.”
Sometimes that happens between us and God. We say, “I’m only going to obey Jesus, not the Father.” Or “I’m only going to obey the New Testament, not the Old Testament.” Or “I’m only going to obey parts of the New Testament.” The family standard is to obey the Father.
That might mean getting up early to read the Word of God after being up late the night before. It might mean losing some prestige and status in order to achieve some spiritual gain. It might mean consistently giving ten percent of our income to the Lord’s work, even though that’s a tough thing to do. It might mean singing songs of praise when everything around us is collapsing.
The second characteristic of the family is love for the brothers.
God expects us to show love for one another.
One afternoon I came home and heard some yelling in the backyard. So, I went outside to see what Aaron was doing in his new playhouse. I went outside and found our 6’2” Russell, our nineteen-year-old playing with him and pushing him in the swing. In this case, it was a real sacrifice of love.
Love shows itself and Jesus says there should be love in the family of God. That might mean singing “Deep and Wide” with all the hand motions with the little ones. It might mean refraining from criticizing the ministry that doesn’t meet your own personal needs.
It might mean baking the first roast you’ve purchased in months and taking it to the church potluck. It might mean babysitting with your prayer partner’s five little ones as she’s in the hospital having another one. It might mean spending a week of your vacation time helping the guy next to you in the pew find a job. Love is a basic standard in God’s family.
Third, we build up the body, the church.
Become possessive about your fellowship.
Aaron at three years old was at a very possessive age. It’s his toys, his house, his mommy, and this is his church. And he goes to his pre-school. It doesn’t belong to anyone else.
There’s a sense in which we need to become possessive, as we build up the body, the church. That shows itself in action.
There are a lot of lost people in our world. That includes a lot of lost Christians. This is what I mean. You can’t lose your salvation, but some Christians are lost. They’re wandering around with no leader at all. Their spiritual life is on zero because they’ve lost sight of Jesus. They haven’t kept up with Him. And they haven’t allowed Him to lead.
Now, if you’re lost in the woods, there’s one of four things in order to be found.
You can take out your compass, if you have one, to see what direction you need to be headed. You can follow a stream down to a river until sooner or later you discover civilization. Or you can go back down a trail where you took a fork and go the other way. Or you can sit right down where you are and pray somebody finds you.
I think if you’re spiritual life is on zero and you’ve lost the leadership of Jesus, and you can’t see Him on the horizon, you can do one of those same four things. You can get out your compass, the Bible, and begin to get some direction of where you should be going. You can follow the stream, the Holy Spirit’s in other people’s lives, until you find how Jesus is fulfilling them. You can go back down the trail and go the other way to where you made a mistake or sinned. Or you can stay right there and pray because the Good Shepherd looks out for lost sheep.
If your spiritual life is on zero, it just could be it won’t get going again until you let Jesus lead.
Father, we thank you for your Word and I pray we’ll understand and we’ll begin right where we are. Lord, don’t overwhelm us with so many new things, but may we begin one point at a time and let you lead in our lives and our family’s life and the life of our church. We pray in Jesus Name, Amen & Amen.