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June 25, 2008

The consequences of this decision have been more obvious to me personally than to others. I didn’t get up one Sunday morning and announce to the congregation that I was going to…
…free the church from my desire to promote myself and control their lives
   with guilt.
…turn the church over to Jesus Christ, to be loved and motivated by Him and 
   His deep desire to support and save them

(As I think about it now, it would probably have been a good thing to do but I’m not sure I was ready to be that transparent at the time. That is still not one of my strengths.)

The Decision Gave Me The Freedom
To Present A Picture Of God That Was More Like Jesus!

I became comfortable with a God who called a sin a sin, a hypocrite a hypocrite and a struggler a friend. That was huge! It allowed me to no longer choke on words like joy, peace, easy, light, hope and know. I was freed from my own conflict to speak with an excitement about experiencing an inexpressible and glorious joy, and the peace which goes far beyond anything we can imagine, and the yoke of God we take upon ourselves as something that is easy and light, and hope in this life and the life to come, and the knowledge that we are saved. The gospel really was good news!

The Decision Helped Me Understand
That The List Would Not Change People!

There were also consequences in the way people related to my method of preaching and teaching. It was not uncommon for people to say, “I have never heard anyone preach like that.” I knew that wasn’t necessarily a compliment but it was telling. A few times someone would ask me to be “more specific.” When I would ask them to explain, their request had come as a result of me not using “The List.” I still preached about sin but I left much of the specific applications to them. Do you remember the list?

The List:
Being absent from Sunday PM worship, use the expletives “gosh”
“dog gone it” and “jees”, wear pant suits, smoke cigarettes, own
two cars and a boat, not give 10 percent of gross income, not
have personally shared the gospel with and baptized someone,
mix bathe, dance in any shape form or fashion, drink any alcohol
other than medications, use a modern translation, hold hands in
church, wear shorts, etc. etc. etc. (This was the middle Tennessee
version of the list. Other lists may differ in specifics)

The list will not change people! Colossians 2:20-3:1ff

You died to the world. Why do you need a list of worldly stuff?
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations- 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)-according to human precepts and teachings?

The list looks good and even appears wise but it is only an effort to create your own religion!
23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body,

The list is impotent/powerless and will never rescue your from sin!
but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

You died with Christ so act like it and think like it instead of making a list!
1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

You are going to go home with Jesus so start acting like Him and you won’t need a list!
3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Since you have died with Christ, are hidden with Christ, are thinking and acting like Christ then get rid of everything that is not like Christ!
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity….

This kind of Focus on Christ – Relationship with Christ has the power to change people!

The Decision Led Me To Always Ask
“What do these spiritual principles look like?”

I came to believe that Christians need to be helped to think clearly about and apply biblical principles to themselves: Love as I have loved you; be holy as I am holy, do not be sexual immorality, do not lie, die with Christ, etc., “What do these spiritual principles look like?”  I became unimpressed with Christians being able to give the answers and recite the list while living in direct opposition to the principles of Christ. (Example: Mark 7:6-13)

So, the teacher asks,
What is the second greatest command?” The hands go up all over the auditorium! “Love you neighbor as yourself.” cries the crowd. Then from that same group are heard the whispers of gossip, the hatred of others, angry exchanges, conflict at every effort to do anything, the congregation has split every few years for as long as anyone can remember, etc.

I decided that “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care about what you know!”

The Decision Left Me Insisting That I Lead People
To Confront Jesus With Their Knowledge.

Being a Christian is not a preparation for an Ivy League University Challenge where we compete with the religious world and answer the most questions correctly to win! It is a life, based on spiritual truth that is filled with ups and downs! Knowledge is obviously essential but it must not be an end within itself! Spiritual knowledge is the means to the spiritual end of being like Christ! He is the completion and application of spiritual knowledge! I decided that until I had called people to confront Jesus with their knowledge that their knowledge is useless information good only for “Religious Trivial Pursuit” and could not produce transformation.


I don’t know what Jesus has or has not done with me as a result of the decision being made.  I simply hope that in some small way what has been done and what I have become in Christ has Brought A Smile To His Face!

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill C. permalink
    June 25, 2008 9:40 am

    Good suff! My dad always added a couple more for Hickman County. Wear a tie, shirts must be tucked in, not religious music ever played on any instrument.

    One of the worst whippings I can remember was for waiting on the table on Sunday night with my shirt tail out! Real salvation stuff.

    Thanks for sharing.


  2. lesjr permalink
    June 25, 2008 10:00 am

    Thanks for finishing this series, Mark. It’s good stuff–and it will preach. Poor Bill. He will hear some of this my sermon Sunday. You and me are tracking in the same direction!
    Call me!

  3. June 25, 2008 10:08 am

    It brought a smile to my face! Thanks little Bro. I am very proud of what He has done in your life.

  4. Terry permalink
    June 25, 2008 10:19 am

    Good stuff! I’ve been waiting to read the end of this! I’m gonna “borrow” it if you don’t mind….
    Love you!

  5. June 25, 2008 10:54 am

    I wonder what our children and the youth of our congregations will write about when they tell about the things that warped them? I pray that they will be kind! 🙂

    Maybe we should start a “People Of The List” recovery group. 🙂

    By HIS Grace!

  6. J D permalink
    June 25, 2008 11:27 am

    Loved the series, Mark. Thanks for sharing from such a personal perspective.

  7. Terry permalink
    June 25, 2008 10:19 pm

    Ha, Mark! I guess I’ll have to join…knowing from whence I came! 😉

  8. July 3, 2008 11:13 pm

    Mark –
    Thanks for sharing this series. I’m a day late and maybe a few dollars short, but as a kid who grew up having heard your preaching and going to bible camp under your influence – you were a huge encouragement to me. At that time you blessed my life with greatly and taught me and a bunch of other kids how we should live by following Jesus and investing in time with all of us. And that time investment paid huge dividends with me. Some from our heritage might say that I have “missed the point” or “lost it” but thanks to men like you and families like yours. I am positive it’s a big part of the reason that I decided to continue the path to ministry. I am sure that you and Ms. Vicki are still blessing, influencing and encouraging people as you always have. I am glad that I was there to be a part of this “decision” in your life. I’m thankful.

  9. July 4, 2008 2:02 pm

    Hi Chris!
    It is great to hear from you! I had lost contact with you for a while but I am so glad to see you up and running on your blog again. Thanks for your encouraging words. I have great memories of you and your family. They have been a huge blessing to Vicki, myself and the girls. I look forward to staying in touch.
    By HIS Grace!

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