How Jesus Built the Church

Wooden Doors

When most of us think of Jesus, he is a meek and mild Savior who brings comfort and peace. That’s certainly true of him, but the Gospel of Mark highlight’s Jesus’ authority and power. This is a side of Jesus we easily overlook after years of familiarity with the Bible.

The opening verses (Mark 1:1-13) set the stage for Jesus to walk into the spotlight. Jesus is identified by John the Baptist as the Messiah, the long awaited “chosen one” who was foretold by prophets of centuries past. When Jesus is baptized, God himself speaks and identifies Jesus as “my beloved son.” Immediately after being baptized, Jesus endures temptation in the desert for forty days and nights. These present Jesus as the Messiah who is both God and human. These opening verses highlight that Jesus was always God’s “Plan A.”

Mark 1:15-19 is significant because Jesus’ first words are preserved for us (since Mark was the earliest-written Gospel in the Bible) are these: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” He identifies himself as the Messiah who has come to bring the kingdom of God, and he welcomes sinners to enter into it through repentance and faith in the gospel. This is Jesus’ mission… and immediately after his mission is announced, he starts to build his Church by recruiting the first disciples.

Mark 1:21-45 highlight Jesus’ authority over demons and sickness. When Jesus is teaching in the temple a demon-possessed man literally cried out for mercy. The crowds begin to flock to Jesus, seeking deliverance and healing. In v.38 the disciples say, “Everyone is looking for you.” But Jesus responds, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” He could have stayed and built a huge ministry-platform, but he rejected the ministry opportunity in order to fulfill his mission. His time had not yet come to be recognized as the Messiah. While the Gospel of Mark was written in the generation after Jesus’ ascension, the gospel was spreading and Christians were being persecuted and Jesus’ authority was the foundation of their perseverance. These verses demonstrate the power and authority of Jesus, and encourage believers to live in faith rather than fear.

When we look in Mark 1 we see Jesus built his Church through two ministry priorities:

  1. Preaching the good news and inviting sinners to repent
  2. Training disciples

The Great Commission was not something Jesus thought of near the end of his ministry. It was the driving force behind everything he did… that all peoples of the earth would repent and believe in the gospel and become disciples who are “fishers of men.” He would not allow miracles and social ministry to distract him from these two priorities. Obviously, he healed many and performed miracles, but the miracles always led to preaching or proved his authority to say what he said.

Jesus is the savior of those who are desperate and weary from their labors. He also causes demons to shudder and beg for mercy. Jesus brought the kingdom of God, and sinners are invited to enter through repentance and faith in the gospel. Speak the gospel to people with confidence, not embarrasment. Remember the authority of Jesus Christ and confidently proclaim the kingdom of God and invite others to enter in as new disciples, because Jesus continues to build his church through the gospel.

The Proverbs 31 Woman is About Jesus

The description of the “wife of noble character” has always been a picture of biblical womanhood. She is a woman who provides for her family by fearing the Lord, shrewd business leadership, compassion, and tender care. On one hand, this woman is no push-over, and she isn’t a weak-willed subordinate. On the other hand, the “P31 woman” is not simply climbing a corporate ladder (note: this isn’t sexist, I also regularly caution men against ladder-climbing attitudes); she works hard for the sake of her husband and her children and she presses forward each day to provide for her family.

Proverbs 31:10-31 is King Lemuel’s advice to his son about what to look for in a godly wife. To be clear, this article is not written in an attempt to correct a perceived misunderstanding, but to fill out that she is noble and excellent because she is like Jesus. While it’s too far to say “Jesus is the Proverbs 31 woman,” it should be clear that we see Jesus through her description.

Holding Flowers Continue reading

Does God Have Feelings?

Glowing Tube

Would it be possible to hurt God’s feelings? Can we make God happy or sad? At first, it seems like there should be a quick and obvious answer.

If God is emotionless, then he would seem like a heartless monster. But if he is emotional, then he may be unstable and fickle. So how should we think about this in light of Scripture and the Church’s teaching over the last 2000 years?  Continue reading

Can I be Sure I’m Going to Heaven?

My youth group recently began a study on “The End: Hard Questions About Eternity.” In preparation for that series, I sent a survey to students asking for their questions about heaven, hell, along with other issues. The overwhelmingly most common question was this:

What if I don’t go to heaven?
What if I go to hell?

This isn’t a fear that only teenagers struggle with. I’ve talked with many Christians who struggle with assurance of their salvation and eternal destiny. Assurance is simply confidence that something will happen… so the question is this: Is there eternal assurance for the Christian?

Sitting on a Snowy Rock Wall Continue reading

What’s it Mean to be a “Salty Christian?”

One of my favorite types of posts to write are responses to questions that readers have submitted. If you have a question or suggestion for a future article, please visit here to Ask a Question. Here’s the question for today:

Salt and Pepper

“I came across a passage that I think is really important in the Bible and once again, I wish I knew what it meant. Col 4:6 – let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt. I have heard various interpretations of what that means and I still can’t say I really get it or remember. Yet it’s obviously so important, giving instructions on how we should behave with non- believers.”

The short answer is this: Salt was a preservative that kept meat from going rancid. In the same way, because Christians have received the grace of God through Jesus Christ, our words should be marked by graciousness and a life-giving spirit.  Continue reading

Four Reasons to be Confident in the Resurrection 

Easter makes Good Friday good. Without the resurrection, that Friday would’ve been the most terrible Friday in human history. The only thing that could compete would be if Adam and Eve ate from the tree (Genesis 3). 

What would happen to your faith if Jesus never rose from the dead? Some people may be tempted to say, “Well, I’d still believe. Jesus’ teachings are still worth following, and he did die for our sins even if he didn’t rise from the dead.”

The Apostle Paul says this,“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-17)

How Can We Be Confident in the Resurrection? 

(The following is a summary of the video above along with some of my thoughts added. The video is worth your time, it’s very well done.)

“I’m not saying they really saw the real Jesus. I don’t know what they saw. But as a historian, I know they must have seen something.”
(Dr. Paula Fredrikson, Boston University)



The Body 

They never found Jesus’ body. How did the disciples overpower the armed-guards and roll away the stone to steal the body? After they started preaching about the resurrection, the whole region was swarming with people looking for the body, but they never found it.

The Apostles

They were hopeless at best, cowards at worst. Their master and lord had been killed. Terrified and dejected, they hid from the authorities in a locked room to protect themselves from suffering the same fate as Jesus. These were not men bold enough to devise a revolution.

But something happened. Suddenly these men were in the streets of Jerusalem preaching about the resurrection. They set the world afire through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As the video above states, “liars make terrible martyrs!” They truly believed they saw what they said they saw. Not one of them ever recanted their faith, even while being tortured and killed for it. If they were lying, someone would’ve cracked and squealed. Instead, their courage came because they truly saw the risen Christ.

The Skeptics

James was the brother of Jesus. He thought Jesus had a few screws loose and didn’t believe his message until after Jesus’ resurrection. Suddenly, he does a 180 and becomes the leader of the church in Jerusalem (which endured incredible opposition and persecution) and he wrote the book of James in the New Testament.

Paul was so opposed to the resurrection he was essentially the leader of ISIS, arresting Christians and killing them if they refused to deny Christ. Paul tells his story in Acts 9 where he meets Jesus and is called as a missionary and teacher.

What happened in these men who were so opposed to the message of Jesus? They must have seen something…

The Church

If I was going to start a lie about the resurrection of Jesus, Jerusalem would be the last place I’d start that lie. That’s where he was just killed, so it’s not exactly a “friendly” crowd. Besides, if it’s a lie, these are the people who would know better. I’d start this new teaching somewhere far away from where I’m saying this miraculous thing happened!

It would have taken a long time for the apostles to agree on their story of what they saw and what it means. Instead, at Pentecost they immediately started proclaiming the resurrection the Church exploded onto the scene from the very place where Jesus was crucified.

Live With Confident Faith

There is always the need for faith. Yes, there are arguments against these “proofs.” If you are looking for a reason to doubt, you will likely find one.

But these are provided to encourage you that your faith does not need to be blind or unreasonable. There have been many times when my faith has been rescued and restored by the simple question, “What about the resurrection?” The Christian faith really boils down to that one foundational question… what happened to Jesus? If it was a big conspiracy, then you will deny everything else. But, if Jesus really did rise from the grave, that changes absolutely everything.

Don’t Sterilize the Cross

Cross

“Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:1b-2 (CSB)

On this Good Friday, let us remember the Cross was a brutal form of ancient torture so barbaric the Romans outlawed its use. It was like the electric chair or waterboarding… something only done to those who are the worst-of-the-worst of criminals. Like the electric chair, it’s goal was always death in a way that was shameful and painful; like waterboarding, it was only done to those who are not citizens but people who are considered great threats against the government.

Meanwhile, we have sterilized and gilded it as a piece of jewelry to wear around our necks. Perhaps your cross necklace truly draws you to remember the shame and torture Jesus endured for your salvation. But my gut says most of us have simply covered the cross with gold and made it into an ornament.

We don’t like considering the pain and torture Christ endured. It seems so barbaric and inhumane. But today, as we consider Christ’s sacrificial and atoning death on the cross, remember what he endured for you.

Take a few minutes to glimpse into the reality of crucifixion by meditating on The Horror of Crucifixion, which features a powerful audio clip which conveys the shame and terror that the cross would bring.

This Easter season, let the cross remain gritty. It was there that your sin and guilt and shame were removed – and replaced with purity and holiness and grace.