Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, September 24, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

07/15/12 Sermon

Mark 6:14-29


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer, Amen


Have you ever gotten pressured or goaded into making a bad decision? I can recall one time when I was about 13 years old when I was over at a neighbors house with friends jumping on a trampoline.


When suddenly a big, loud mouthed kid named Tommy and his friend (Alfred) came over and Tommy decided he wanted to jump on the trampoline at that very moment.


It really wasnt a big deal to me to let Tommy jump on the trampoline. It was clearly not the right way to come over and bully everyone but it wasnt worth fighting about.


That is until Alfred weighed in on the matter. Alfred wanted to see a fight.


So Alfred said "Glen, are you just going to let Tommy come over and do what he wants. Are you just going to let him push you around".


Well before I knew what was happening, Alfreds goading had gotten the others stirred up and the next thing I know I gave in to the pressure and was standing in front of Tommy with my fists up……..


A couple of seconds later I was covering up the new black eye that Tommy gave me.


It’s interesting how we can succumb to pressures and powers that lead us to make bad choices.


And that’s what we see in our scripture today.


 King Herod throws a banquet for his nobles and high military commanders. And when his wifes daughter puts on a pleasing dance for the guests, the lustful Herod flaunts his power and tells her that he will give her whatever she wants.


And so she asks for the head of John the Baptist which pleases her mother, Herodias who had been asking for Johns head when he had publicly criticized her and Herod’s immoral marriage.

But as we read, Herod had a reverent fear for John because he knew he was a holy and righteous man.


But because of the pressure of the promise he made before his peers he goes against his better judgment, and calls for John’s beheading.


You might say Herod lost his head under the pressure of this tough choice and as a result John the Baptist literally loses his.


So how does this scripture today speak to us?


Well, you know we all face tough choices everyday; choices that are subject to pressures and invisible powers of this world.


You see when we look at Herods choice, what we see is that there were forces at work behind his decision to execute John.


Invisible, spiritual forces that led him to go against what he knew was right.


And there are countless examples of these kinds of powers that influence our decisions…..


We see them in the news. Most recently the child abuse scandal at Penn St. University where an assistant coach had been sexually abusing young boys for years.


And yet the athletic department and university brass yielded like Herod to forces that made them choose to not do the right thing.


These forces pressured them to turn their heads to protect the football program and the university’s reputation as well as themselves.


Invisible, spiritual forces are at work all the time. They influence governments, corporations and all kinds of institutions; even religious institutions.

And of course we experience these same kinds of spiritual forces that pressure us in our daily lives.


Spiritual forces that influence us to give in to pressure to succeed that lead us to cheating and cutting corners.


Spiritual forces that work on our discontentment that pressure us to seek satisfaction in material things for ourselves or our children.


Spiritual forces that pressure us to choose work or our hobbies over attending our kids little league games or dance recitals.


Teenagers face pressure from invisible forces to fit in socially that can lead them to make poor decisions.


Spiritual forces are always working to influence us in our daily lives.

And of course the church isn’t immune.

In the church, spiritual forces lead congregations to fight over pew cushions, choirs yield to the pressure of performance. Church leaders succumb to individuals or groups that push an agenda and justify it with an excuse of keeping the peace.

I could obviously go on and on and on………….

But the point Im making is that like Herod we can yield under pressure from these invisible spiritual forces and make poor faith decisions.

So the question today is how can we stand up to these kinds of forces that pressure us to make bad decisions like Herod did?


How can we prevent losing our heads that can have bad consequences on ourselves and on others?


Well one of the most important things we need to do each day is to be aware of the spiritual forces that are working against us to make poor decisions in our lives.


Not only be aware of them but actually name them.


For example as we are rushing about, failing to spend time with our children or doing Gods work, do we see the spiritual force that is behind that? Can we name it? Is it the force to prove yourself? Is it the force of anxiety or an enslaving employer?


How about peer pressure for our youth?

When you are influenced to do things you shouldnt can we stop and see that it is the spiritual force of people pleasing or self-image?


Or when people come to us with gossip, innuendos, or criticisms of others. Can we name the destructive force at work inside these individuals and refuse to join in with them?


And then there are those spiritual forces that can seem good….


Like the temptation to keep the peace at any cost.


Often church leaders can yield to the pressure to avoid conflict by trying to not offend people. And yet behind this is the spiritual force of ungodliness, of indifference and a lack of commitment in our churches.


There are spiritual forces at work that want our churches to look no different than any other civic organization. And unfortunately we are yielding.

But John the Baptist stood up and named the ungodliness of Herod and Herodias ungodliness.


And though it cost him his life, he knew like the followers of Christ knew that if you dont speak out and name ungodliness then you’re not carrying your cross.


As Christians we need to be keenly aware of the spiritual forces at work in our lives.

We need to name them so that when we are confronted with their pressure, we wont lose our heads and yield to their power.


Now along with naming the invisible forces that are at work in our lives, another way we learn to make good faith decisions in our daily lives is when we learn to choose the kingdom of grace over the kingdom of ourselves.


When we look at this story of Herod and his bad decision we see that Herod had an opportunity to choose the way of grace. Instead he chose the way of protecting his own little kingdom.


He was more concerned about his self-image than in following the kingdom of God.


So many of our choices in life are grounded in our own wants and needs first and foremost.

We are so consumed with our own little kingdoms that we fail to live in the truth of the kingdom of God.


And so when our image of how people perceive us or what they think of us, or how we perceive ourselves is central to us, its hard for us to make good faith decisions grounded in grace.


As a result we continuously live in regret failing to live the life we know were called to live.

Herod was living his life looking over his shoulder. When he heard of Jesus miracles and power he wondered whether it was John the Baptist come back to life.


Everyday we’re confronted with tough choices to either serve ourselves or serve others.


Will we place our selfish desires as discontented little kings first or will we choose God’s kingdom of grace first in our lives?


You know, so many are imprisoned all around us.


The elderly who are alone, the youth who are disenchanted, the divorced who are broken, the grieving who are in despair.


We have an opportunity like Herod to choose grace and set people free, including ourselves, when learn to choose the kingdom of grace over the kingdom of ourselves. 


Now finally, along with naming the spiritual forces at work in this world, and choosing the kingdom of grace over the kingdom of ourselves, we also handle tough choices in our lives when we keep the hope of eternal life in our decision processes.


We live in a world where harsh terrible things happen. John the Baptists beheading was a needless, horrific thing. Children who are sexually abused, power hungry violence, people living in addiction,.and people we know who have been stricken with cancer.


All of this can cause us to live with despair. And as a result many of us can make poor choices in our daily life that are fatalistic.


Many see how things are in this world and they choose to self destruct. They turn to drugs or alcohol or sex or gambling.


Others are living in despair stuck in grief, spending all their time living in the past.


Then there are those who live with resentment and bitterness unable to forgive. 


And still many see how tragic things are in this world and they have chosen to just check out and mind their own business.


But when we look at this story of John the Baptist, were reminded that this really not a tragic story of despair…..

For tragedy means helplessness and hopelessness.

Instead, what we see is that we live in a fallen world. A world where dark forces of self-destruction and hate, power and lust and greed and pride run amuck because of the sinful choices that we human beings make.


It is sickening and enough to make you want to give up---- until we remember and understand that Jesus is the central figure in this story.


Jesus who came into this world with a power greater than any tragedy that can happen.

Jesus who stood before Pontius Pilate who also succumbed to the pressure of dark forces and crucified him.


But that so called tragedy led to the ultimate defeat of all dark powers: For our greatest fear in this world, the tragedy of death was overcome in Jesus’ resurrection.


And so as we face tough choices in life we need not ever despair, quit or give up.


Instead we can choose to live in faith and dignity as we witness to others who see how we live when difficult things come our way.


This past week a boy in Collierville TN by the name of Trey Erwin died of pancreatic cancer. He would have been 16 years old in 2 weeks.


In March of this year, when he was diagnosed, the whole area of Memphis TN had been following this teenager. The news media had continuous coverage.

 People from all over the Mid-South were praying for him, there were huge fundraisers.


But in the end, Trey died.


My wife Cindy who has been in Memphis, shared with me how much mourning there was in the city; how the media and community spoke of the tragedy of it all.


But Cindy said what they missed in all of this was how the boy lived. What many missed was his faith in Jesus Christ.

 When Trey had been asked about his cancer, he said -----"I'll be okay. I'll either be healthy here or healthy in heaven."

You and I will always be faced with tough choices in life. Some of you are facing that right now.


But the one thing we can always rest on as we face difficulties in our life is that Jesus overcame the invisible dark forces of this world and we need not EVER lose our head and live in despair or fear………..

 In closing this morning, we are being reminded that today and every day, we are faced with tough choices of how to live.


And at work behind the scenes are invisible forces that seek to influence us and pressure us to make the wrong decisions.


So ask yourself how am I going about making the tough choices in my daily life? Am I aware of the significance of whats going on?

Each one of us has the choice of Herod.

Will we lose our heads and cave in to the pressures of the world? Will we choose our little kingdoms over God’s kingdom?


Or will we choose to set people free and give them and ourselves life?


Jesus came to set us free from the dark powers that influence us. He defeated them and thru him we have been given the hope of eternal life.


Today and everyday, let us choose to make the tough choices in our lives with an eye on God’s kingdom.


 Let us not live in despair or regret.


Instead let us boldly stand up to the pressures of this world and choose the way of eternal life. 


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen