Monday, April 10, 2006

"Baking Cakes Without A Word" - a sermon by Dr Ern Baxter.

In light of the 'Worship Wars' breakout, prompted by Charles Colson's gaffe, this sermon has been on my heart to transcribe and get from tape onto screen for a few days. Ern Baxter preached it as a prelude to his series "The King, the Kingdom and the Holy Spirit" when presenting it in the USA in 1981. His text was Luke 10:38-42.

"The Four Gospels are a collection of reports on the life of Jesus Christ and His work on earth. John commented that we only have a small percentage of the things that Jesus said and did. That makes some of us curious - what was the criteria of things included in the gospels?

John refers to "signs" that stand for "something". He tells us that the miracles recorded are signs so therefore this event at Bethany involving Jesus' friends Mary and Martha has greater significance. Why has it therefore been recorded?

Martha Singled Out For Love.
It is interesting to note John 11:5; "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus". This is unusual - in light of the account in the text, wouldn't it have made more sense to pick Mary out? She sat at His feet after all! Even though Martha was formal, and picky and had faults and perhaps her priorities were wrong - He loved her. Martha was a common-sense Christian.

There was something about Mary on the other hand that was different. Mary "also" sat at Jesus' feet and heard His Word. Every time we find Mary, she is most commonly at Jesus' feet in some guise or another. John 11:32 - After Lazarus's death, Mary fell down at Jesus' feet. John 12:3 - Mary then anointed His feet.

Why His Feet?
The feet are a place of repentence, commital, worship and fellowship. It was a place of submission. He is higher than the one at His feet. There is a need to be sent back to the place where Jesus Christ is the centre. There is no project comparable to putting Christ in the place that He should be. Christ must be ultimate and highest in our lives.

She sat at His feet and "heard His Word". There is no conflict between sitting and serving. If you don't sit before you serve, your service will be improperly directed and this is a significant principle.

1. The Word is Basic.
"In the beginning was the Word". The Word must be in all beginnings or there is a problem. We are to disciple nations but must plan our lives down to the last detail by the Word. God is a God of weights and measures. The Word is basic and fundamental - the whole universe is built on a Word. Our salvation is built on a Word.

We so often try to do "nice things" for the Lord. We hold big rallys, huge conferences, big projects - but do we think to mention them to Him? He only blesses His ideas! David wanted to build Jehovah a temple - but it was David's idea not Jehovah's.

2. The Word is Action.
There is something better than doing things. We can do "good things". Or "God things". In the wilderness Jesus was hungry and was tempted to turn the stones into bread. He could have done it. He would have still been the Son of God after He had done it. But was this the desired end that the Father wanted? Jesus would not turn the stones into bread because the Father had not told Him to. Not to wasn't rational or logical but that was God's will. It was forbidden bread therefore.

John 12:49, 50 - How did Jesus speak things? He said it exactly the way that the Father wanted Him to say it. You have to stay very close to the Father in order to know what He wants us to say and do. If we are going to walk in the Word - we must walk very close to the Father and the Son. Have we therefore sat at Jesus' feet to hear His Word?

3. The Word is Informative.
Mary poured the oil because of His coming sufferings. How did she know of His coming sufferings? Because she sat at His feet and He probably shared these things with her. The disciples couldn't cope with hearing such news and therefore busied themselves with "other matters" such as ensuring that the collection box was full so that they could buy food and bread.

Does God speak today? The whole meaning of walking in the Spirit is to sit at Jesus' feet and listen. We are working by traditions, past histories, religion - the church is so divided - why? Because we are not sitting at Jesus' feet and waiting for the Spirit to speak.

The Holy Spirt and Christ have one mind and one voice - why are we all speaking about different things? Mary knew about the coming sufferings of Christ. Jesus didn't especially single her out - He had no favourites. Why did John lean on Jesus' bosom? Because that's where John wanted to be. The others weren't interested in doing that. They were too busy sorting out who was going to be the most important. Mary chose to lie at Jesus' feet and John chose to lean on Jesus' bosom.

"BUT Martha".
Jesus loved Martha - of that there was no question. She was getting lunch for HIM - not the devil! "She came to Him" (NKJ). "She burst in" (J B Phillips). "She blew her cool" (Greek). Mary couldn't notice Martha - she was oblivious to her huffings and coughings. She just wasn't interested because she was at the Master's feet. What should Martha have done? She should have joined her sister at Jesus' feet.

If she had, no doubt at some point, Jesus might have said, "Martha - let's eat". That would have been a Word-based operation. And it probably would have been twice as good! A "Word" generates enthusiasm and excitement. We're doing what the Master wants! Why do a lot of ministers have nervous breakdowns? Because they are doing projects that do not have a Word on it. If we are not coming from Jesus' feet in EVERYTHING that we do, we may indeed be involved in a lot of "good" projects but they are not God's projects.

As church leaders - you must constantly be at Jesus' feet. If we pursue our aims and ambitions we are baking cakes without a Word - and that is wrong. Martha asked "Master, don't you care?". It is so amazing how we will talk to Jesus when we don't sit at His feet and get rude! "Ask her to come and help me in my carnal pursuits!".

Jesus' Response.
"Mary has chosen the better dish" (Dr Moffat). Mary had chosen the good part "and it shall not be taken from her". Jesus will never give a bad Word and furthermore He will protect you as you sit at His feet. Sitting at His feet is never wasted time. There are very few Christians today that are sitting at His feet and waiting for a Word.

We are never going to see revival unless we become Word-based people. Revival begins from prayer meetings - not conferences or rallys or celebrations or business meetings - but prayer meetings where we sit at Jesus' feet and wait for a Word. I want to know what God is saying! I want to know what His Word is! Truth doesn't come from a spigot - Truth comes as rain.

In Conclusion.
Envision the People of God rising up from Jesus' feet as one corporate man world-wide and moving out to accomplish great things in the power of His Spirit because we are operating in the power of a Word from the Triune God. Let our prayer be; "Speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth".


jul said...

Thanks for this. It was so refreshing and such a good reminder to me right now. I am in need of more sitting at Jesus' feet, and that's putting it lightly. It's funny how I can know the truth about what's important in life, and still go on like the most important thing is to rush around the house worrying about how messy it is. I really want to get a hold of that word concept, so that I'm doing what God is asking me to do--nothing more and nothing less. I wrote this song not too long ago and I think it's a reflection of the same heart behind Ern's message. I was aware (and still am) that amything I let get in the way of this kind of sitting at Jesus' feet is wrong. Just beware, there's not much theological content involved!

I'm laying all my work down
Nothing's more important than you
I hear you call, I respond

Jesus I'm sitting at your feet
Jesus I need to hear you speak
My greatest joy, my greatest prize
Is just to be with you

Forgetting all my sin now
Because I've been forgiven by you
I hear you call, I respond...

Hugh Griffiths said...

Dan, I don't know you manage to publish such great transcripts/summaries so quickly. But yet again, many thanks for all your generous work. I have just referred your site to a contact in the US who is on staff for one of the major campus ministries so you may gather further appreciative readers.

Baxter's Boy said...

It's my absolute pleasure Hugh! I, for some strange reason, LOVE doing it! :) It's weird - I get restless very easily. I can't stand sitting in the same position for over an hour (probably why I'm a nurse!) but when it comes to transcribing I can sit in the same position for hours ...

Thanks so much for referring this site on - it thrills me beyond belief to know that Ern Baxter's ministry continues - and that while being in glory, he still speaks.

Jul ...

I think you've touched on something quite profound that I have been thinking for a while now. Just exactly HOW theological does our worship have to be? Now before that angry anonymous bloke returns stamping and screaming ... let me elaborate. One of the most beautiful pictures of worship in the Bible was when the woman anointed Jesus' feet. Yet the things that astounded me was not the fact that she stood at the Master's feet and expounded Berkhouff's ST - but the amazing thing was the EXPENSE of her worship. And the SIMPLICITY of her worship. Is the Master really that impressed at the vast amount of head knowledge that we can know and grasp about Him, if it doesn't touch our hearts?

So thank you for your beautiful song. It expresses a lot - in a few words.