Mark 6:7-13 Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. 8 These were his instructions: "Take nothing for the journey except a staff-- no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them." 12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
One of the darkest secrets of Christianity in America is that we are losing our kids. We hide it with paintball trips and Christian outings to baseball games, but it’s true. And it’s nothing new. It has been happening for more than fifty years. It is still happening right at this very moment.
Worse than that, it’s not just happening to our kids. It’s happening to our college students and senior citizens. It’s happening to newly married couples and those in mid-life crisis.
Christians are losing faith. Christians are falling away. Christians who were once on fire for the Lord are burning out.
That’s because for the last few decades, we American Christians have bought into the age old lie of “enthusiasm.” Enthusiasm is trying to find God apart from His Word.
We have emptied God’s Word of its power. We have fooled ourselves into thinking that God’s Word contains no wisdom. We have shortchanged ourselves into believing that God’s Word is not God’s conduit for eternal salvation.
Because of this we attempt to find meaning in anything other than God’s Word and Sacraments. If we really believed that God’s Word was ultimately and only the voice of God, we would do anything we could to hear God’s voice speaking to us. We would clear our schedules for worshiping Him, hearing His voice, and singing His praises. We would wake up in the mornings to read our Bibles and plan our evening routines around a family devotion at the dinner table. We would make a point of being in as many Bible studies during the week as we could fit in.
But we don’t do any of those things do we? Instead we fit God’s Word around our schedules. We try to find fulfillment in sleeping in or working long hours. We try to find rest in sleeping in or long vacations. We try to fill up our lives with kids’ activities and family events.
In every sense, we are the same as the enthusiasts that Martin Luther wrote about five centuries ago. By “enthusiasts,” Luther meant that the devil had convinced them that the real source of goodness was not in God’s Word. It was in themselves. He wrote, “Our enthusiasts today condemn the outward Word. … They fill the world with babbling and writings, as if the Spirit could not come through the apostles’ writings and spoken Word, but has to come through their writings and words” (Smalcald Articles III VIII 6).
Congregations are shrinking. Churches are dying. Children are being lost. Why? Because we fill up our lives with so much babbling that we and our children can no longer hear the clear voice of God.
Jesus sent His disciples out in groups of two. “Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.” They were to have so much confidence in the power of the Word that they didn’t need to pack a lunch or take any extra money or carry a suitcase or book a reservation. God’s Word would soften hearts and unlock doors. God’s Word would convert souls and open purses. God’s Word would even heal the sick and exorcise demons.
The disciples were going to preach Christ’s Word and change the world. Which they did.
Sadly, it seems that lately we have allowed the world to change us. And not for the better.
Because we longer see God’s Word as the essential truth for converting hearts and saving souls, we have come to see the Bible as nothing more than a book of rules to be followed. It has become a set of principles to inform us how to reshape our world. It has become for us nothing more than another self-help book that sits on our shelves collecting dust.
Whether in church or WLS or at home, we often treat the Bible as if it were nothing more than a book of wise sayings, some of which may be practical enough to make a small difference in the ordinary and mundane of our world. We treat so casually what is essentially the voice of God who is speaking to us in Scripture. We act as if the gems we uncover in Scripture are just plain, old pebbles and not the treasures of salvation.
When the disciples’ stomachs began to growl or they were looking for shelter for the night, it was simply not an option to tone down their message to make it more palatable to get what they needed. What these twelve disciples spoke and what they did was to give the people Jesus. And if that meant that they would go wanting, if that meant that they would be persecuted, or if that meant that they would be rejected – they had to be ready for that. If it happened to Jesus – and it just did happen to Jesus in His own hometown – then it would also happen to those sent out by Jesus in His place, with His Word and authority.
There was power in Christ’s words to heal the sick. There was authority in Christ’s words to expel the demons. There was influence in Christ’s words to supply all their needs. We enthusiasts forget that. We put our confidence in our own strength. We trust in our own wisdom. We find influence in any place other than Christ’s words.
Jesus sent His disciples out with nothing but words – His words. He wanted them to learn what we still need to learn. There is nothing more important, more life-changing, more soul-saving, more heaven-opening, than the words that flow from the very mouth of God.
Why do we want to read our Bibles? Why is God’s Word so important to us? What kind of influence and change can it really have in our lives?
A young grandson lived with his grandfather on a farm in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. Each morning, Grandpa was up early sitting at the kitchen table reading from his old worn-out Bible. His grandson who wanted to be just like his grandfather tried to imitate him in any way he could.
One day the grandson asked, “Papa, I try to read the Bible just like you but I don’t understand it, and what I do understand I forget as soon as I close the book. What good does reading the Bible do?”
The Grandfather quietly turned from putting coal in the stove and said, “Take this old wicker coal basket down to the river and bring back a basket of water.” The boy did as he was told, even though all the water leaked out before he could get back to the house. The grandfather laughed and said, “You will have to move a little faster next time,” and sent him back to the river with the basket to try again.
This time the boy ran faster, but again the old wicker basket was empty before he returned home. Out of breath, he told his grandfather that it was “impossible to carry water in a basket,” and he went to get a bucket instead. The old man said, “I don’t want a bucket of water; I want a basket of water. You can do this. You’re just not trying hard enough,” and he went out the door to watch the boy try again.
At this point, the boy knew it was impossible, but he wanted to show his grandfather that even if he ran as fast as he could, the water would leak out before he got far at all. The boy scooped the water and ran hard, but when he reached his grandfather the basket was again empty. Out of breath, he said, “See Papa, it’s useless!” “So you think it’s useless?” the old man asked, “Look at the basket again.”
The boy looked at the basket and for the first time he realized that the basket looked different. Instead of a dirty old wicker coal basket, it was clean. “Son, that’s what happens when you read the Bible. You might not understand or remember everything, but when you read it, it will change you from the inside out.”
The moral of the wicker basket is to read a portion of your Bible every morning. Have a family devotion every evening. Hear a sermon every week. Worship the Lord every Sabbath. Receive His Sacrament as often as it is offered. Even a little of God’s Word every day will affect you for good … even if you don’t retain a word.
And why is that? Because of all the books in the world, the Holy Bible is the most unique. It has stood the test of time. It has withstood all of the attacks by counterfeit Christianity – our mysticism of trying to find God in our hearts, our rationalism of trying to find God in our minds, and our enthusiasm of trying to find God in anything apart from His Word.
Irrespective of age, culture, or language, the Bible has influenced the lives of people. For the weak the Bible offers strength; for the poor it offers unlimited wealth in Christ; for the blind it offers a new vision that scans the horizon of eternity; for the hurting it offers divine healing. In place of despair God’s Word offers hope. In place of guilt if offers forgiveness. In place of failure it offers victory in Christ. In place of our made-up gods it offers the one true God. In place of trying to save ourselves it offers salvation in Jesus Christ alone.
Whether you are bent on sin or are filled with sadness, the Bible introduces you to God’s Son, to forgiveness, to grace, and to eternal life. Because the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, and inspired Word of God, be warned! It can wonderfully effect change in one’s life … it has and it will.
The devil has only one trick for destroying the Christian Church. It is replacing true Christianity built on Christ’s words with a counterfeit Christianity of anything other than Christ’s words. The devil is a one-trick pony, but he is very good at that one trick. That’s the reason why our churches are empty, our congregations are bleeding money, and people are staying home.
Now you know the devil’s trick. You can discern it. You don’t have to believe it. You don’t have to get sucked into counterfeit Christianity.
Jesus has already broken the devil’s lie. He has stormed the gates of hell. The battle is over. Jesus bled for you. He died for you. He rose for you. The victory is won. This is true Christianity. And this is what the Bible is all about. There is nothing you must do but hear of it. Read it. Listen to it. Believe it. Put it into practice. Carry it with you and then nothing else will distract you. Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ. Weekly. Daily. Often. Hear Christ’s voice. He is sending you out with nothing more than His words. Amen.