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Real Men Belong to Christ and Each Other
Part 2—Real men are part of a team from Mark 3:16a
He began his life with all the classic handicaps and disadvantages. His mother was a powerfully built, dominating woman who found it difficult to love anyone. She had been married three times, and her second husband divorced her because she beat him up regularly.
The father of the child I’m describing was her third husband–he died of a heart attack a few months before the child’s birth. As a consequence, the mother had to work long hours from his earliest childhood. She gave him no affection, no love, no discipline, and no training during those early years. She even forbade him to call her at work. Other children had little to do with him, so he was alone most of the time.
He was absolutely rejected from his earliest childhood. He was ugly, poor, untrained and unlovable. When he was thirteen years old, a school counselor said he probably didn’t even know the meaning of the word “love”. During adolescence, the girls would have nothing to do with him, and he fought with the boys. Despite a high IQ, he failed academically, and finally dropped out during his third year of high school.
He thought he might find a new acceptance in the Marine Corps–they reportedly built men, and he desperately wanted to be one, but his problems followed him. The other Marines laughed at him and ridiculed him. He fought back, resisted authority, and was court-martialed and thrown out of the Marines with an undesirable discharge.
There he was–a young man in his early twenties, absolutely friendless and shipwrecked. He was small and scrawny in stature. He had an adolescent squeak in his voice. He was balding, had no talent, no skill, no sense of worthiness. He didn’t even have a driver’s license. Once again he thought he could run from his problems, so he went to live in a foreign country, but he was rejected there too. Nothing had changed.
While there he married a girl who herself had been an illegitimate child, and he brought her back to America with him. Soon, she developed the same contempt for him everyone else displayed. She bore him two children, but he never enjoyed the respect a father should have. His marriage continued to crumble, and his wife demanded more and more things that he could not provide. Instead of being his ally against the bitter world as he hoped, she became his most vicious opponent. She could outfight him and she learned to bully him. On one occasion she locked him in the bathroom as punishment.
Finally, she forced him to leave. He tried to make it on his own, but he was terribly lonely. After days of solitude, he went home and literally begged her to take him back. He surrendered all pride, crawled, accepted humiliation, and came on her terms. Despite his meager salary, he brought her seventy-eight dollars as a gift, asking her to take it and spend it any way she wished, but she laughed at him. She belittled his feeble attempts to supply the family’s needs. She ridiculed his failure.
At one point, he fell on his knees and wept bitterly, as the greater darkness of his private nightmare enveloped him. Finally, in silence he pleaded no more. No one wanted him. No one had ever wanted him. He was perhaps the most rejected man of our time. His ego lay shattered in dust.
The next day he was a strangely different man. He arose, went to the garage, and took down a rifle he had hidden there. He carried it with him to his newly acquired job at a book storage building, and from a window on the sixth floor of that building, shortly after noon, November 22, 1963, he sent two shells crashing into the head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Lee Harvey Oswald, the rejected, unlovable failure killed the man who, more than any other man on earth, embodied all the success, beauty, wealth, and family affection he lacked. In firing that rifle, he utilized the one skill he’d learned in his entire, miserable life.
Oswald’s personal problems do not excuse his violent behavior. Yet an understanding of his inner torment and confusion help us see him, not only as a vicious assassin, but also as the pitiful, broken man he became. Every day of his life, from the lonely days of childhood, to the televised moment of his spectacular death, Oswald experienced the crushing awareness of his own inferiority.
The greater tragedy is this–his struggle is not unusual today. While others respond less aggressively, this same consuming awareness of inadequacy can be seen on every campus, in every home, every church, and for most of you, in each man’s life at some level. That is why it is essential for us to gain hope in our relationship with Christ. It’s crucial we see what kind of men God desires to use.
You need to know, God doesn’t necessarily use popular men, good looking men, rich men, or athletic men. God uses real men, genuine men, flawed men, and weak men and women to be His tools. God has a plan to use men and women in awesome ways. God desires for men to love their wives, train their children, lead His Church and impact this world for the Gospel. And God intends men to initiate, be responsible, provide, and to sacrifice for others around them. God made men to literally, 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”
What does it mean to act like men? What’s a real man? Open your Bibles to Mark chapter 3, and take the outline in your bulletin as we continue our verse-by-verse study of this great gospel.
As we open to verse 13, Jesus is now about to call His men. Christ is going to pray all night before He finalizes His team. He will pick twelve disciples to be His chosen followers. He’ll call these men to be with Him and send them out for Him. And He’ll give them great authority in order to represent Him. In the process of choosing these men, today and for eight weeks, Christ is going to show us what a real man is. And we’re going to buy up the opportunity to call the men of FBC and any you invite to rise up and dependently embrace the expectations God has for being His man. Not our own man, her man, a company man, a party man, a church man, a fighting man–but first, above all His man. God takes men with a background like Lee Harvey Oswald and transforms them into real men.
Listen, as we all read aloud verses 13 to 16a, “And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. 14 And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, 15 and to have authority to cast out the demons.16 [And He appointed the twelve:]”
Some of today will pick up what we missed last time. Do you recall that last week Jesus is changing directions and these verses involve . . .
#1 PREPARATION Verses 13-14a
As you read these verses, you may miss the importance of what is going on. God sovereignly chooses this time to select His men, but humanly there are two main reasons why Jesus picks His team now.
1 Opposition is heating up. Back in verse 6, the religious leaders are now plotting to kill Christ.
2 The crowds are too numerous. Back in verses 7 and 8, the crowds are so numerous they have the potential to crush Christ. And though Christ has already identified seven of the twelve, He’s not officially affirmed the twelve as His special team until now. This is an important moment, a signal the cross is looming and the last half of His earthly ministry has arrived. So to prepare for what remains of His earthly ministry, and to prepare for His eventual death, resurrection and ascension, Christ will take three steps.
Stop and listen–especially those of you with red letter Bibles. Friends, it’s not merely what Jesus said, written in red that’s inspired, but what Jesus did that’s inspired. The Lord shows us by how He lives how we should live. Remember these three steps when you face a big decision. Remember these steps when you change directions. The all-powerful God of the universe shows what to do when we face a looming wisdom issue. What should we do?
First Pull out Verse 13, “And He went up on the mountain”
The first step Jesus took in order to manage the demands and pressure of His ministry, and to meet these new challenges of death threats and uncontrollable crowds, was actually to escape the crowds and get away. Most believe the Lord went to the hills just west of Capernaum, where He was soon to preach the Sermon on the Mount, or many believe He went up to the highest and most prominent point on the northwest side of the lake, on top of the cliffs of Arbel. But the point is, Christ got away by Himself.
The gospels make it clear though Christ was 100% man, at times He needed to be away from man. Often in life, we have a pressing decision to make, a directional change to consider. And when it is not a clear, black-and-white principle from God’s Word, then we need to take time to pull out of life and get alone. As one pastor said, if we do not follow Christ’s example to come apart, we may indeed just come apart.
Too many of us wake up to a clock radio, clean up to the news, drive through noisy traffic, work in the din of an office, listen to the news and traffic reports on the way home, relax in front of the TV or computer, and drift off to sleep with headphones in. We need silence–we need sanctuary. It’s not that hard–park your car in the park, walk on a lighted path, or take a few minutes downstairs before the family wakes up.
Too many of us keep ourselves in constant noise so we don’t have to deal with our hearts, because as soon as we are silent our hearts will begin to remind us where we’re at with Christ. The pressures of this life and the example of Christ demand that we consider pulling out of regular life consistently and occasionally for extended times. The next step Jesus took to finalize this decision was to . . .
Jesus got away–that was the first step. But he always took the second step—He prayed. The parallel passage in Luke 6:12 says, “It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.” Wow–the greater to lesser logic here is overpowering. If Jesus Christ, God incarnate, God in a body, the God Man, the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity had to pray, how much more do we, His adopted sons and daughters need to follow His example?
Like us, Christ was pressured–but unlike us, Christ was not only jostled by the regular demands of life, but by floods of the needy, overwhelming cries for help from the ill, even conflict with the demonized. All that must have pressured Him beyond physical limits–He needed to pray.
As believers, we are to 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing,” and Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” The Lord knows prayer is what we need most, and prayer is what will meet our greatest need. In prayer, we are not pulling God to our will, but aligning our will to the will of God. And thinking and acting in the will of God is our greatest need. As a child of God, prayer is kind of like calling home every day.
The Lord had seven men set apart, but not the final twelve. These twelve would define His remaining earthly ministry and be the foundation of the Church, which would continue the Lord’s ministry for over 2,000 years–so this decision to get away and pray is big. It is worth an entire night of prayer. Our pressured Lord knew He needed to spend extended time exposing His human heart to that of His blessed Heavenly Father. And with whatever decisions or directions you are facing, “If you worry, you didn’t pray, but if you pray, you don’t worry.” So first PULL OUT, then PRAY, and now . . .
Third Pull together
Jesus gathers His team to share the responsibility and continue the work after He is done. Look at verses 13 and 14, “And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. 14 And He appointed twelve.” Though Jesus the God Man needed His time alone, and carved it out of His impossible schedule, He also desired companions to serve with Him and was strengthened by their imperfect sympathy and flawed love. The word wanted, “summoned those He wanted [ethane],” means desired, wished, preferred–He wanted these men.
The Lord desired to have a team to train, to count on, to share the load with the huge crowds and carry on the work. There are no Christian Rambo’s, no solo saints, isolated believers–you need others as well. This is why God saved you to be immersed into His Body, the Church of Jesus Christ. You were never meant to exist outside a body of Christians, any more than your liver was meant to survive outside your body. You’re a part of a whole, a member of the body–you need other functioning believers. You can’t survive spiritually without them.
Many of you left a church because that church was not teaching the Word as written or behaving in a way you could trust, and that was a wise decision. Yet there is a mentality today that views the church as a club to join or leave, instead of a family to belong to for life. The current culture of church-hopping, take-or-leave-it attendance and spectator involvement is evil! Attending one church for two months or two years then hopping to the next church, not for doctrine or integrity of the leaders only convinces deceived, so-called make-believers into thinking they’re genuine Christians. That process only glues weak Christians into a life of immaturity, and that culture continues to weaken the entire Church today. And if you’re one of the floaters, please be upset. Please be bothered enough to examine your heart and change. Do you understand–the New Testament teaches that every Christian is committed to the local church like you are to a family?
If Jesus needed people to share his great work, so we in our imperfections need other men and women to share our load. When you’re seeking God’s will, wondering which way to turn, then pull out, pray, and pull together with other believers. But why did Jesus do this? What is the point? The purpose of His twelve, His team, His go-to men . . .
Look at verse 14, “And He appointed twelve, so that.” Do you see the phrase “so that”? By it Mark is indicating purpose. What was Christ’s purpose in appointing the twelve? Three things:
Verse 14 “And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him.” Christ created twelve men so they could be with Him. Jesus was a true man Himself, and it was instinctive in His human nature to desire the companionship of other men. He rejoiced in the bonds of their friendship. He loved them, taught them and grieved over their faults. Though complete in Himself, because all humanity is made in God’s image and designed to function in relationship, you could even carefully say this, Jesus needed His men, being fully human Himself since it’s never good for man to be alone.
Plus the Lord wanted His men to be with Him for their sakes as well as His own. Only through deep intimate contact with Christ would His men truly be able to fulfill the task of being Christ’s witnesses and ultimately the foundation of His Church. Only by being His allies, His life companions would they be fully exposed to the powerful influence of His life and ministry.
And years later, people would be astonished at the apostles’ power and wisdom, especially by their knowledge of the Scriptures. They never studied theology, which is the study of God. But they did live and study, theo, which is to study God Himself. Later, people took notice that these twelve had been with Jesus.
Remember Acts 4:13, “They observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” That became the secret of their lives. And the good news is, through the very Scripture you hold in your lap, and the Spirit who indwells you, it is still possible for you now to live with Christ, for you to grow intimate with Him too. God took normal, blue collar working stiffs, and He turned these men into powerful scholars, apologists, preachers, and missionaries who could take on all comers. They appeared to be uneducated, but they had been schooled by Christ Himself. So Christ made these men into His allies, and also made them into . . .
Verse 14 “And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach.” The verb “send them out” is the same root word for “apostle”, a sent one. A textual variant actually does declare here in verse 14 that Mark actually calls the twelve men apostles in this verse. And Mark later gives them the title of apostle in Mark 6:7, but here in verse 14, it is clear Mark is commissioning these twelve to do the work of an apostle, to be sent out with authority. These twelve would now help carry the huge load of ministering to the current crowds, and expand Christ’s public ministry.
Even more strategic, they’d continue the ministry after Christ ascended, by representing Christ in every way, by preaching the Gospel that God has provided a way for mankind to be rescued from Hell, forgiven of their sins, justified, transformed and made ready for Heaven. They would no longer be mere disciples–they were apostles, the proxies of Christ. You see a disciple is a learner, a follower. But an apostle is a sent one–more than a mere ambassador, an apostle had all the authority, and power, and words of the one they represented. You could only be an apostle if you had seen the risen Christ personally, not merely walked with Him during His earthly ministry when He was veiled. You had to see the Christ of glory.
In Acts 1:22, when the 120 met to elect a successor to Judas, Peter, speaking on behalf of the apostles, declared that any candidate needed to be “a witness with us of His resurrection.” Paul even affirmed in 1 Corinthians 9:1 (and many other places), “Am I not an apostle, . . . have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” It was the apostles themselves whom Christ used to establish His Church. They are the unique, laid only once, foundation as Paul says in Ephesians 2:20, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.”
It was only the apostles and their companions who were used by God to write the New Testament Scriptures. Even as Peter comments on Paul’s writings, he referred to them as Scripture in 2 Peter 3:15, “Just as also our beloved brother Paul . . . wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
As the early church grew by thousands, Acts 2:42 says the people continued “in the apostles doctrine.” I don’t think many of us have grasped the importance of apostles to hold the title of “Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ,” the highest title conceivable for any mere mortal–higher than a president, pastor, professor, principle, pilot or police. Apostleship carried so much power that the apostles were given unique and special power–the same power and authority of Christ, telling us the third purpose for selecting the twelve.
Verse 14, “And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him [allies] and that He could send them out to preach [apostles], 15 and to have authority to cast out the demons [authority].” In order to be a true apostle, you were given the authority to do what Christ could do. You would heal, cleanse lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons just like Christ. Later in Mark 6:7, the gospel writer says, “And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.”
The apostles were the ones who spoke in foreign languages when the Church was birthed in Acts 2. The writer of Hebrews tells us that these signs were given uniquely to these apostles, Hebrews 2:3, “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard apostles 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”
And Paul makes it clear in 2 Corinthians 12:12 that all true apostles would perform these unique indicators of their Christ-given authority, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” Before the completion of the New Testament Scriptures, all genuine apostles were authenticated by the same signs that marked Christ’s ministry. It’s clear from the text that these signs were given to apostles. And it seems clear this authentication was not intended for all preaching through the ages, because these men held a unique role, and were given a unique authority.
So here in Mark 3:15, just as Jesus had the authority to cast out demons, so did His apostles. This gift was given uniquely to the apostles and those they laid their hands on, but not to all of Christ’s followers then, and not now. Today, we battle spiritual warfare together as a church with the armor of God in Ephesians 6.
Christ wanted these men as friends, as the future of His ministry, and as those who would prove they were from Him by displaying His unstoppable authority. Talk about taking a bunch of blue-collar men and turning them into those who would radically transform this entire planet. And before you say, “I could never do that,” Jesus says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
God has prepared great tasks for each of you who are His in this room that only you can do. “But I am just too common, too imperfect, too messed up . . . .” Then look at who God wanted for His twelve–Preparation, Purpose, and now People. Who were these men, these real men, genuine men, diamonds in the rough?
#3 People of the Team
Mark 3:16, “And He appointed the twelve.” Mark says Christ literally created twelve men. Why not eight, or twenty-four? Twelve has historical ramifications. It looks backward to the Old Testament, is representative of the twelve tribes of Israel. So significant is the number that when Judas committed suicide, the eleven apostles deemed it necessary to choose a new apostle, Matthias, as the twelfth. Jesus, in essence, was appointing twelve new leaders for the Kingdom of God that was at hand. Here are the new leaders of God’s people–not the Pharisees or the High Priest, but the apostles.
Look at who they are and who we will study as real men. Verses 16 to 19, “Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), 17 and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder”); 18 and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot; 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.”
This list of apostles is given in the New Testament a total of four times–here in Mark 3, Matthew 10, Luke 6 and Acts 1. In all these lists Peter is always first, and Judas is always last (except in Acts, since after Judas’s death, Judas Iscariot is not listed at all in that final list). Looking at all four lists shows us each list has the apostles placed in three groups–each containing four men.
Group one–Peter, James, Andrew, John
Group two–Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas
Group three–James, Thaddeus, Simon, Judas
Each group listed contains a decreasing amount of biblical information about the men in that group. We know more about the men in group one than in group three, which lets us know that the groups are in decreasing order of intimacy to the Lord. Group one is extremely close to the Lord, group two is close, and group three is more distant and less intimate still.
Obviously the seventy sent out later, the one hundred twenty in the upper room, and the five hundred who met with Christ after His resurrection would also be in descending groups of intimacy to Christ relationally. Let me ask you to be brutally honest–which group would you be placed in right now, as far as it depends upon you? How intimate are you with Christ?
Real men are not men of wealth, popularity or physical strength. Genuine men of God are not men who can talk well or fix anything. God’s men are not wise, smart or those who get good grades. Jeremiah 9:23 and 24 tell us who God’s men are, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.”
God’s men are intimate with Christ, and to act like men and be a man after God’s own heart means you are striving to be as intimate with Christ as you were when you sought to win your wife. You work at it, you pursue it, you are passionate about it. And if not, quite possibly you have lost your first love. Have you?
There were no clones in this group. It was a motley crew. Personalities were evident. It is strongly possible, if you or I were the ones appointed to choose, we would have overlooked them:
Peter–leader, strong, aggressive, loud, and rough around the edges; and John–loving heart, quiet, reclines on His breast, faithful. Can you imagine those two at an elder meeting?
Nathaniel–always ready to believe, trusted Christ and never doubted; and Thomas–skeptical, would not believe anything unless he could touch it or see it.
Matthew–the tax collector for Rome, and despised; and Simon the Zealot–a radical, religious revolutionary whose entire existence was to dethrone Rome. Can you imagine what these two would have done to each other before Christ?
In the twelve, there were remarkably two sets of brothers–Peter and Andrew, and James and John. And those of you with brothers know how hard it can be to get along with your bro. Some of the twelve were with Christ right at the beginning, but others now became a part of the twelve in the middle of Christ’s public ministry–rookies and veterans. What a mixed bag. There are political differences, economic differences and temperament differences. Yet God molded them into a team to change the world.
Next week, we will look at the first real man, the one with the foot-shaped mouth–the Babe Ruth of the apostles . . . the one with the most homeruns, and the most strike-outs too. But learn from these real men–would you? All with the letter “I”, they were . . .
1 Identified–real men identify with Christ and His followers
Today, lots of men are identified as those who attend church, those who believe stuff about God, or don’t cuss, but genuine believers are identified with Christ. They honor Christ, speak about Christ, make certain people know it is Christ they follow, not a religion, but a person.
Jesus put it this way in Matthew 10:32 and 33, “’Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.’”
Is your identity in Christ, or as a moral church attender? Don’t start trying hard–surrender to Christ, give Him control of all, and you will be identified as following Christ.
2 Involved—real men are involved
These blue collar apostles were intimately involved with Christ and with one another. And real men are involved with their wives, in tune with the hearts of their children, engaged in relationship with godly men, and involved in the community called the church. The New Testament knows nothing of a man who is a spectator to Christianity. You’re in the game, pursuing Christ–you’re involved.
You are baptized, you’re faithfully attending, serving others, giving sacrificially, and you are so interconnected to others they know what is happening in your life. But don’t merely attend an RMG now, surrender to Christ, give Him control, and you’ll be involved.
3 Intimate–Real men know Christ personally and intimately
John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Genuine Christian men and women don’t merely know about Christ, they know Him personally, intimately, relationally. They are not a part of the watching crowd, they are part of the 500, 120, 70, 12, 3 or 1 of Christ’s inner circle—are you? You must surrender to Christ, put your whole life in His hands.