Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me.” Mark 9, verses 38-39.
This isn’t permission to sin and be absolved. This isn’t carte blanche to do whatever we want, say we believe in Jesus, and then get away with it. Sadly, that’s what many folks seem to think. It’s not what Jesus is talking about here.
Jesus is talking about folks who believe, who cling to His name in good and bad, in doubt and strength, in sin and redemption. Not so many years ago, I was a despicable man. Adulterer, liar, slanderer, arrogant, angry, pathetic, untrustworthy, unreliable: that was me. I did things, said things, acted out in ways that were dishonorable to Jesus, to my wife, to my family, and to myself (in that order). That wasn’t how I saw things, or how I looked at myself. I can honestly tell you that I believed, and I tried to do good because I believed in doing good, in being good.
Trying isn’t doing.
The sad part is that God was working in me and through me even then and I ignored it. I meant well, felt well, spoke well, and tried hard to be well. God was blessing me in so many ways but I was a hypocrite. I was the kind of man who would do miracles in Jesus’ name and then speak things in His name but be disingenuous.
Here’s part of the miracle: He believed in me even when I didn’t live out my belief in Him.
The Jesus I spoke of then and now is the real God-man who loves us enough to hold us up to the highest standards, who gives us justice and rebuke when we need them. It seems He pours burning vinegar on our wounded souls when we’re hurting and rebellious. It’s only when we allow ourselves to see Him as He really is that we see, instead, how He is a doctor, scouring out our wounds so that He can heal them with His good medicine. When He heals us, we see how we can’t act in ways that make others think we believe and not actually believe in Him. To act in such a way is transparently phony, something people can see through. Is it any wonder that Christians make the church look so awful?
If you let Jesus run your life, it’s impossible to speak and act apart from Him.
Jesus taught me discipline and honesty. He encouraged me to leave behind ways I was ashamed of, to try to make amends for wrongs I had done, to tell others how such an imperfect and flawed man as me was gifted to serve Him and others by sharing my story of what He was doing. It’s been a tough ten years; I’m far from perfect. Many folks who know me know how unconvincing I can be, how I struggle with pride and vanity and language and anger. Yet Jesus is always encouraging me by reminding me that the good I speak and do is Him, not me, and that doing such things is impossible without Him. In Jesus, there is only doing, not just trying.
Lord thank You for redeeming unworthy me, for living in the world through me.
Read Mark 9, verses 38-41.