Welcome to the In Touch Podcast with Charles Stanley for Wednesday, September 27th. Today you'll be reminded of the number one priority for those who follow Jesus.
Let's get this right and everything else will take care of itself. Would you turn please to Mark chapter three, verses one through fifteen and beginning in verse one, And he entered again into the synagogue, and there was a man there which had a withered hand, and they watched him whether he would heal him on the sabbath day, that they might accuse him. And he said unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth, and he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil, to save life, or to kill?
But they held their peace. And when he had looked around about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth on hand, and he stretched it out, and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him how they might destroy him. But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Adumiah, and from beyond Jordan, and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him. And he spake unto his disciples that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him, for he had healed many, insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.
And he straightly charged them that they should not make him known. And he goeth up into a mountain and call unto him whom he would, and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sickness, and to cast out devils." Now when you think about discipleship and what's involved in it, as you read the scriptures, there are so many facets of it that are here that most of us have never discovered.
And in reading this third chapter of Mark, there's a little phrase here that is the heart and the core of the effectiveness of any life of discipleship, and it's in verse 14. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach. Now the key that says something about discipleship that probably you've not thought about, and that is that he ordained twelve, that they should be with him.
Now, what is he talking about? He's simply referring to his fellowship with those twelve apostles and their fellowship with him. Fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ is absolutely essential if discipleship is to be effective. So I hope you get a pencil, a piece of paper, because it's going to give you lots of things that you need to write down, and remember, and recall, and be able to recall for yourself, because what I want to discuss here is our fellowship with Jesus Christ as his disciples. And the first thing I want you to notice here is the preeminence, the preeminence of fellowship in the call of the disciple. Look what he said, and he ordained twelve, that they should first be with him, and secondly then go forth to preach him. And remember what he said in John chapter 1, that before he came to this earth, he was already having fellowship with the Father.
John chapter 1 verse 1 says, in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God. And the word with here means that he had a face-to-face relationship with the Father, but the Son and the Father were fellowshipping together even before the beginning of this world. He fellowshipped with the Father in heaven. When he came to earth, he continued his fellowship with the Father, but he extended that fellowship not only with the Father in heaven, but also with men upon this earth. Now God created you and me to have fellowship with himself. Somebody says, oh, but he created us to serve him. He had multitudes, innumerable hosts of angels to serve him.
He didn't need you and me to serve him. He created us to fellowship with him. Having learned to fellowship with him, we in turn of course would desire to serve him. He did not create us in essence priority, number one, to serve him, but first of all to fellowship with him. Therefore when he came to earth, he came to Lord Jesus Christ, as the scripture says here, he came beginning in his ministry to fellowship with a handful, a small group of men.
Now won't you notice two or three things in this verse. It says he ordained 12 that they should be with him. He chose out of those who had been following him 12 men whom he would disciple, whom he would commit the great truths of the Father, teaching them in turn how to commit the same to faithful men that they in turn may train others and disciple others also. He chose them for discipleship. He ordained them. Now it's interesting when you look at that word ordained, in the Greek it is the same word that means to make.
So what is he doing? He made 12 disciples that what? He made them to fellowship with him. He set them apart first of all for fellowship and secondly for ministry.
Because you'll notice the priority here. He says he ordained them first of all that they should be with him, fellowship. Secondly that they should go forth and to preach. Therefore his priority in his relationship with these 12 men was fellowship before service. Fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ before ministry for the Lord Jesus Christ. He ordained 12 that they should be with him.
Now when you think about what's involved in that, we think of the conflict we have in our mind. Because you see today we say that the man who's really effective for God is the fellow who's always busy and always on the go and the person whose priority is in serving Jesus Christ. The priority for effective discipleship is not service first but fellowship with Christ first. Because when our fellowship with him is right, our service for him is going to be effective, you can serve God and be barren and fruitless, you cannot fellowship with him and be barren and fruitless.
If the fellowship is right, the service is going to be right. And he said to them, he ordained them first of all what? That they would be with him. A fellowship whereby he and his disciples gave themselves to one another. And often time when he was teaching others the scripture says that he would depart from the multitudes, pull his disciples aside in the small group and he would unfold deep spiritual riches of truth to them he would not tell to the multitudes. He first of all said his priority with the 12 was fellowship, not preaching, fellowship, not casting out demons, fellowship, not healing, fellowship with a few, not fellowship with the multitudes.
And my friend will never forget that. That your effectiveness for God is based on your fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Not our eloquence, not our ability, not our experience, not our education, not anything else before fellowship, fellowship before everything else. So the preeminence of fellowship in the call of Christ is evident here. Second thing I want you to notice is this, and that is the purpose of this fellowship.
He says he ordained 12 that they should be with him and that he might send them forth to preach. Now what was that purpose? I think there are two purposes here.
First of all a secondary purpose and then a primary purpose. He called them, made them his own in order to fellowship with him. Now his secondary purpose was that the Lord Jesus Christ might have an intimate group with which he could unburden his heart, share himself, unfold his life and pour out his soul to that group of men.
Everybody needs that because you see no man was created to be an island. God made us a people to fellowship one with the other. Because you see he made us to fellowship with him. It is absolutely essential and primary but he knew that fellowship with each other likewise is essential to a well rounded life. Secondary purpose was that he and the disciples may have fellowship with each other. He needed to give himself away to them. There in the garden of Gethsemane when he knew the cross was only hours away, he called them aside. Then he called three of those intimate friends, Peter, James and John to go with him just a little bit further. More than likely he probably shared some things with Peter, James and John.
He did not even share with the rest of those apostles. All of us need friendship and fellowship, somebody with whom we can pour out our heart and believe and trust and know that they will keep our confidence. Primary purpose for that fellowship was preparation for ministry.
Now watch this. He says in verse 14, he ordained 12, that is he made them his own, set them apart that they should be with him and that he might send them forth to do what? To preach or to proclaim the message of the Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Listen, no man, no woman is fit to serve God until first of all he or she has learned to fellowship with him. He said he sent them forth to preach. And my friend, any preacher or any preaching that is not first of all based on private intimate personal fellowship with Jesus Christ will be light and frothy and people will starve to death listening to preaching that has not been built and soaked and baptized in private fellowship with Jesus Christ. Listen, if you don't like what your preacher is doing, pray for him. Don't criticize him, just pray for him because every man of God needs the people of God to pray for him. And you see the greatest need in the preacher's life is warm intimate personal private relationship with Jesus Christ and that is the only kind of man who can feed any flock and Jesus knew that.
He said to them preparation for service first of all must be preceded by private fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The second thing I want you to notice, he says they were to go forth and preach and to have power, have power to heal, have power to cast out demons. Now listen, people talk about having power with God and so often someone says well you know I want power with God, you know what they want?
They want a shortcut to power. There is no such thing as having power with God without first of all having fellowship with God. There's no such thing as having power and influence with men until first of all you've got power with God. He's not going to give power to any person's life who bypasses him and substitutes service for the priority in the believer's life which is fellowship with Jesus Christ and you will know why churches are dead and why preachers are dead and why things are just dying everywhere because men have substituted things and service and activity for the one thing that is absolutely essential to service and power and effectiveness and that is simply being quiet before God. There is no substitute for that and he said to them, he ordained them first of all to be with him, then to serve him because he knew what would happen if they traipsed off to serve him without first of all understanding what was going on. Now listen, how in the world can you as a Sunday school teacher or I as a pastor feed anybody if first of all my heart is not fed? You say oh but I come listen to you preach, that feeds me. It may feed you to some degree but my friend no meal, listen, no meal is well rounded until first of all you have been alone with God by yourself. The disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ who's going to be effective for him understands that every day he needs a fresh new energizing from God.
He doesn't get that from reading books, he gets it from fellowship, from being quiet, from being alone with him and Jesus said preparation for ministry, prerequisite to that, part of the preparation is fellowship with him. Now when you now look around us today and we see churches that are active, we see people that are active and they're just going and going and going and going and caught in the cycle of activity and yet how many times they say well I don't see anything happening much, I don't see any fruit. Why is my life so barren?
Why is it that nothing ever happens supernatural in my life? Why is it since I'm a church member and I've been baptized and I read the Bible once in a while and I pray sometime and I go to church and I listen to sermons, why is my life not effective I'll tell you why. Listen I've met a lot of people in my life, great ones and those who had no reputation but I've never met, I have never met in all of my life a man or a woman whose life was effective for God who did not have a time of quietness set alone and set aside for God in their daily activity, never.
My friend listen, you can wear yourself out for God in activity, needlessly may I say, you can wear yourself out with God in activity and be as barren and as fruitless as a desert. I mean nothing and Jesus said priority number one is not activity but fellowship with him and he says the purpose of that fellowship is preparation for the ministry, preparation for service begins not with activity but with being quiet before the Lord Jesus Christ. Now I want you to notice something else here and that is the problem of the fellowship.
What is that problem? First of all it is this, we have the mistaken idea of what our priorities are, you see nobody told most of us that priority number one in serving God is doing nothing but being quiet and listening to him speak and move and search and feel and re-energize your heart and you see everything in the human, watch this, everything in the human mind just is repelled by this. We say the world's going to hell, people need to be saved, lives need to be changed, activity must go on, work must proceed, progress must be made so what do we do? We sit down and we be quiet and we just listen and the carnal minded man says man you'll never get it done sitting down doing nothing. Now I didn't say how long you sit, you see that's the key, you watch this, the key to effectiveness in serving God is the word balance, now watch this, there not only must be service for God, if it's all service you're going to get out of balance, any man who gets out of balance before long is going to have a curvature of his spirit, did you get that? Any man who gets out of balance on the other side is likewise going to have a curvature of the spirit, God intends for us to be balanced that is fellowship with him first followed by service for him second and once it gets all on this side and not enough on this side you're out of balance, God has balanced the thing beautifully and that's why he said first of all he made them for himself to fellowship with him secondly then to preach and proclaim the gospel of Christ but we misunderstood what he said. The second thing I want you to notice is that we have misdirected our priorities, not only have we misunderstood that our number one priority is fellowship, we've misdirected our priorities, now a beautiful example of this is found in Luke chapter 10, you remember beginning in verse 38, you remember that Mary and Martha who loved the Lord Jesus Christ and they were intimate friends, just loved each other, Lazarus their brother, you see Martha had the right idea when the Lord Jesus Christ came, she did the natural normal thing, she wanted to prepare him a delicious lunch or dinner so she got in the kitchen and she got to wrestling pots and pans or earthenware or whatever they had then and she was getting everything just right and kneading the dough and preparing the drink, everything, she was just busy busy busy, now listen, her motive was as pure as pure gold, nothing wrong with her motive and he never questioned her motive, it wasn't a matter of her preferring that over Jesus, it was not a matter that Mary loved Jesus more than Martha did, they loved him probably equally as well but you see it was a matter of misdirected priorities, first was fellowship with him not service to him, you see Mary loved him and Martha loved him, Mary knew that the most important thing in her life was to get him by herself and just listen to him, let him speak to her heart and feel the warmth and the intimacy and the power and the love and the mercy and the grace and the kindness of the Holy God expressed through him, Martha wanted the same thing, it's just that she let her pride just get out of place and while she was busying herself, watch this mom, she got so busy doing the thing that she thought was necessary then you know what she did? She got a little irritated because she not only wanted to get the dinner prepared but she didn't quite like it that Mary was in there getting all the blessing while she was in the kitchen getting her hands dirty, now I want to tell you something, when you don't put fellowship first I guarantee in the service of God you'll get irritated and you'll want to blame somebody and you'll begin to look around and say why doesn't he do so and so, why doesn't she do thus and so, you see when our priorities get out of place we get critical, we get discouraged, we get down in the mouth and we'll look for somebody to blame, Mary chose he said the better part, now eating dinner was great but that secondary first is fellowship with Jesus Christ and my friend unless it is first in your life you're going to find irritations, you're going to find frustrations that quiet, warm, intimate, wonderful fellowship with him can soothe beautifully but when you get so active and you don't have time for him after a while what happens?
Your old nervous system begins to react, your self-image goes down, criticize others, look around you to criticize your circumstances and your environment, nothing is right and the problem is not your circumstance but your attitude, your priorities are all confused. Thank you for listening to The Disciples Fellowship. If you'd like to know more about Charles Stanley or In Touch Ministries stop by InTouch.org. This podcast is a presentation of In Touch Ministries, Atlanta, Georgia.
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