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Here is an excerpt from an article that was quite disconcerting to me – Reclaiming the Mission » The Mars Hill Seattle “Cease and Desist” Letter: Why Branding Is the Ultimate Anti-Missional Act:

The part of the story I know goes like this: There was a church in Sacramento that named themselves “Mars Hill” several years ago. It is the same name as the well known Mars Hill church led by Mark Driscoll in Seattle Washington. A couple weeks ago the Sacramento congregation received a “Cease and Desist” letter which came from attorneys representing the Seattle Mars Hill Church. They were told that the Seattle Mars Hill had copyrighted the name “Mars Hill” and they demanded that the Sacramento California Mars Hill church stop using the name and any logos with similar lettering.” These events were made known by a blogger/pastor in the area (see here). A storm was stirred up. Then the Mars Hill Seattle pastors contacted the Mars Hill pastor in Sacramento. There was some good discussion, apologies and reconciliation. Sacramento Mars Hill agreed to change its logo so there would be less confusion surrounding its identity with the larger Mars Hill church in Seattle. (These events are reported here, here and here).”

My purpose here is not to attack Mars Hill Church (any of them) or Mark Driscoll, but I’m saddened that this seems to be what the institutional evangelical church is coming to – let’s trademark “our church,” and send threatening “Cease and Desist” letters to other ministries who use any portion of  “our” kingdom’s marketing tagline. Has the contemporary church become all about “logos and egos?” If this is being “missional” then I’m inclined to believe the goal is misguided. I know there are 2 sides to every story and my opinions here will offend some (I do have a right to be wrong, you know) but what is so disappointing to me is that this ministry (which includes Mars Hill Church, Acts 29 Network, and The Resurgence), one I have often appreciated and applauded, should not be anywhere close to this fracas (actually, none of these ministries should be).  

Known for their emphasis on missional living, the theology of Driscoll’s ministries may be pretty solid but this sounds like a sound bite from the Google vs. Apple controversy, with similar innuendo, greediness, and sensationalism. Why are respected ministries resorting to the world’s tactics when God’s Word strictly forbids one Christian suing another (alright, there was no actual lawsuit, just the threat of one – see 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 anyway)? Understanding we all make mistakes and God’s grace covers a multitude of sins, this situation makes me question my approval of this ministry and its leadership.

Why? Because a lost and gospel-antagonistic world celebrates our pettiness and self-promotion. Since when do we think it is “missional” to brand or trademark a ministry (or church name and imagery… I do, however, totally understand content copyright) that is supposedly called to exalt the name of Jesus and His kingdom above all else? How many funds are being diverted for these kinds of secular tactics that are better served spreading the Good News and reaching those who are in spiritual darkness? Is this good stewardship (attorneys don’t come cheap)? Also, let’s not give the unregenerate more reasons to discard the claims of Scripture while we haggle over names and logos.

Let me continue my rant. Since when is the name Mars Hill so sacred? After all, we find the first example of the connection between Mars Hill and the preaching of the gospel in the book of Acts (see Acts 17 for the text). It (the Areopagus) was the place where Paul spoke God’s truth to pagans and polytheists. Figuratively speaking, “Mars Hill” was providentially designed as a platform for the proclamation of God’s truth not a scene of litigious protectionism. Haven’t we, like Paul, better things to do? 

With no disrespect towards Mars Hill Church or Mark Driscoll intended – I could insert the name of any ministry or minister, mine included – let me take some radical (and to some, unacceptable) liberties with a passage from the great Apostle himself.  You can find this text in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. It is part of Paul’s letter to a church filled with worldliness, strife, and carnal self-promotion. Please take particular note of the very last phrase of this passage:

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by [the Media] that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow [Mark Driscoll],” or “[I follow Mars Hill Seattle],” or “I follow [a church growth methodology or the “missional” creed],” or “I  follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was [Mars Hill] crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of [Mark Driscoll]? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of [trademarks, branding, and threatened lawsuits], lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”

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“For if we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we have a sound mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: if One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:13-15, HCSB). 

With the recent onslaught of books like Radical (and Radical Together), Crazy Love, and Unfashionable, I’m wondering when the book Foolish (see 1 Corinthians 1) is going to be released. Frankly, I have enjoyed all of these books because they have deepened my desire to lose my mind and take on the mind of Christ, to be so counter-cultural that people don’t understand what would compel me to be so consumed with Jesus and knowing Him (see Philippians 3:10). Call me crazy, but I want to be like and think like my Jesus. 

Before you start driveling on about how I have already lost my mind (a fair accusation in some cases), let me explain that this post’s stated purpose has some very real spiritual ramifications. I want to lose my mind – that is the carnal, worldly, fleshly, and selfish thing that my mind is in its natural state (I bet you didn’t know I was all of those terrible things, did you? Well, I am and, apart from Christ, we all are!) and take on a Holy Spirit controlled mind. Here is what is so amazing: as Christ-followers who yield to His Word and indwelling Holy Spirit we already have His mind! God has purchased us, taken up residence in us, and thus, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3). Paul makes it clear have been given the mind of Jesus: 

“The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2: 15-16). 

So what is the mind of Christ? Here are some thoughts: 

  • Having the mind of Christ means sharing the person, purpose, and perspective of Christ, and this is something that all believers should possess. 
  • Having the mind of Christ means we understand God’s plan in the world—to bring glory to Himself while restoring creation to its original splendor and providing salvation for sinners. 
  • Having the mind of Christ means we identify with Christ’s purpose “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). It means we share Jesus’ perspective of humility and obedience (Philippians 2:5-8), compassion (Matthew 9:36), and prayerful dependence on God (Luke 5:16). 

Paul captures this beautifully in writing to the church at Philippi: 

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your [mind] should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:1-10). 

Let’s see some additional nuggets that Paul reveals to the church at Corinth. In the verses leading up to 1 Corinthians 2:16, we note some truths concerning the mind of Christ: 

  • The mind of Christ stands in sharp contrast to the wisdom of man (verses 5-6).
  • The mind of Christ involves wisdom from God, once hidden but now revealed (verse 7).
  • The mind of Christ is given to believers through the Spirit of God (verses 10-12).
  • The mind of Christ cannot be understood by those without the Holy Spirit (verse 14).
  • The mind of Christ gives believers discernment in spiritual matters (verse 15).

In order to have the mind of Christ, one must first have saving faith in Christ (John 1:12; 1 John 5:12). After salvation, the believer lives a life under God’s influence. The Holy Spirit indwells and enlightens the believer, infusing him with wisdom—the mind of Christ. The believer bears a responsibility to yield to the Spirit’s leading (Ephesians 4:30) and to allow the Spirit to transform and renew his mind (Romans 12:1-2). 

What a great privilege! If we are willing to lose our mind to our Lord we are given the very Son of God’s mind! This may sound radical, crazy, unfashionable, and foolish, but it is true. The Scriptures tell us that capitulation to Him, His Word, and His ways allows us to access and be empowered by His wisdom. And don’t we all need that? So, as God enables us, let’s all lose our mind and take on the mind of Christ!


This powerful phrase represents the message of hope we find in the Gospel. You can put an infinite number of thoughts ahead of this phrase and then say, “But God,” and you get to the heart of His good news. So let’s do an exercise. I’m going to make some statements, comments that might be common thoughts to many of us, and let some Scriptures that use this encouraging phrase respond (all emphasis mine).

My sin is so great and I’m burdened with the guilt of my poor choices, mistakes, and unholy bent. How can God love and forgive me? – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

I have so little to offer my Lord. Really, I’m a “nobody” and don’t see how He can use me. – “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

There is so much I don’t understand about Him, His ways, His will, or His Word. How can I know God and how I can best be His servant?  – “…but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10).

I’m not sure how I can serve Christ’s church, how I fit in, and if I’m really needed?  Am I important to the body of Christ? – “…while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it” (1 Corinthians 12:24).

I feel endangered and unprotected in a cruel world. Sometimes I feel that everyone is against me and I have no real shelter from their attacks. – “…Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, But God did not allow him to hurt me” (Genesis 31:7).

I feel defeated and powerless. Where do I get the wisdom and strength to live for Jesus and be the kind of Christ-follower that advances His kingdom and gives Him glory? – “…for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:9).

I’m so discouraged, maybe even depressed. I can’t get out of this rut and I feel distant from Jesus. Where should I turn for hope and help? – “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus…” (2 Corinthians 7:6).

I feel as if I try so hard, but even with all of my effort I feel like a spiritual failure, as if my all resources and “works” don’t add up to much in the sight of God – “For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything” (Hebrews 3:4).

Looking at my circumstances, I feel as if I’m being punished by God. I know most of this is if of my own doing, but how is God involved? – “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).

Who can I trust? What can I trust in? It seems like there is no one or no thing that I can really count on in this life – “We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son: (1 John 5:9).

Is there hope? There have been so many defeats, broken promises, and my past is littered with a myriad of things that haunt me today? Can I trust that my future is bright and, if so, in whose promises do I need to trust? – “For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise” (Galatians 3:18). Or, But it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him’. But God has revealed them to us…” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

“But God…”  I don’t know what your thought or question might be today but I encourage you to make the statement and then search the Scriptures to find His answer. For in Christ we have received the promises of God and God can not lie (Titus 1:2: Hebrews 6:18). His promises are real and by believing in Christ you can find the great meaning and hope found in this simple phrase that changes everything – “But God!”

So how does this happen? By faith in Jesus through the grace given by God. Let’s add a couple more passages:

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by His grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4 ).

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5).

All of this reminds me of a cliché that we often hear, an anecdote that actually has rich significance. I think it sums this up well. And that phrase? “But for the grace of God, there go I.”


 

*Section 1: Kingdom Character

His Countercultural Kingdom

The Sermon on the Mount most clearly delineates what it means to serve as a follower of Christ and to live as a participant in His kingdom. In a sense, The Sermon on the Mount gives Jesus’ manifesto on the kingdom of God, and its truths stagger. The sermon speaks not just of God-fearing people living as part of the kingdom that He said “is within [us]” (see Luke 17:21). But surprisingly, Jesus reveals that His followers actually comprise the kingdom itself! Christ’s teachings invert virtually every guiding principle that both humanism and religion espouse, even as they reveal and encapsulate the mind and heart of God.

Christ’s profound Sermon on the Mount rises out of a deceptively simple context. Matthew 5-7 unfolds at a point near the beginning of His ministry. Jesus recently endured forty days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness, the prophet John baptized Him, and Christ began preaching. To all who listened He proclaimed, “The kingdom of Heaven (or kingdom of God—as these phrases are used interchangeably) is near” (Matthew 4:17). Interestingly, Christ’s theme was spoken against a backdrop of the religious and political imprisonment of the Jewish people, a nation awaiting a warrior Messiah who they believed would deliver them from persecution by military means.

When Christ communicated the premise and essentials of kingdom living to those desiring to embed themselves in the experience of God’s kingdom—in this life and forever—He stated His mission to the world. His teachings regarding love and humility, however, must’ve come as a surprise to those expecting Messiah to lead a militant rebellion. Modern believers who’ve heard Christ’s coming taught as a sign of entitlement to health, wealth, and prosperity might feel similar shock as they unpackage the startling realities of this message.

Just as Christ, the warrior King who leads and sets free by a law of love, is a beautiful paradox, so too is the nature of the kingdom. Jesus said that the kingdom had already come near (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15); it happened in His incarnation. We know, however, that the full consummation of His glorious kingdom is yet future: Jesus taught us to pray for His Father’s kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10). Christ’s description of His reign and rule is full of such mysteries, yet only when we grapple with these paradoxes do we begin to grasp the beautiful realities of Jesus and His kingdom.

Six pivotal concepts aid in understanding The Sermon on the Mount clearly and applying it effectively. Those desiring to fully follow Christ and grasp this great revelation from the Son of God should note …

Jesus’ supremacy serves as the common thread. Christ, based on the totality of His nature and mission, is both the message and the messenger of God. He provides the means through which the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount become a reality in us. Jesus is both lawgiver and the fulfillment of the law. In a real sense, He embodies the law of the New Covenant.

Relationship with God requires “new birth.” The sermon’s text presumes that we don’t live as a part of Christ’s kingdom and cannot understand His teachings until we first are born-again (see John 3:3). Jesus’ teachings present humanity with a New Covenant, a new means by which man can have relationship with God (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Entrance into God’s kingdom comes through salvation by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus and His teachings stand as absolutely authoritative. Christ’s infinite wisdom and rule are projected in The Sermon on the Mount. He is portrayed as our ultimate Judge and the incarnate Word of God (John 1:1-3). Christ alone expressed the heart and mind of God in all of His teachings, and His deity was the source of His authority (see Hebrews 1:1-3).

Relationship with Christ encompasses the only means to true happiness—deep, rooted, abiding joy! Living as one blessed of God far surpasses any transient pleasure life offers (John 16:24). Typically measured in the temporal and tangible, true satisfaction in life comes only through divinely spiritual character qualities. The Beatitudes give the recipe for how to live in the blessing of being God’s royal children.

True disciples of Christ should prove different! Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus consistently repeats, “You have heard it said … but I say …” (Matthew 5:21-48). Cutting against the grain of popular secular and religious philosophies of His day (and ours as well), Jesus suggests a life diametrically opposed to contemporary thought. The wisdom of this world equals foolishness from God’s perspective (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-31); to receive God’s best believers must often break with societal norms.

Obedience matters. Within the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives a new moral code reminiscent of the Ten Commandments. Adherence to this new moral law is indicative of those that are “of His kingdom.” Living to please God should affect every aspect of our existence.

Matthew 5-7 powerfully, profoundly, and vividly portrays our King and His kingdom. The message inspires, challenges, stretches. For me, the message defines how I—as a child of God—should live and work and interact. It clearly outlines what the Lord expects from and has in store for those who love Him. May the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts and minds as He reveals Jesus and His glorious kingdom.

Apply It.

Read aloud and internalize Colossians 1:15-20 and Ephesians 1:18-23. Ask God to show you how Jesus’ authority, power, and supremacy should change you and the way you follow Him.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are: 

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1     

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2 

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king 

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit, backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

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