Let us go somewhere else to the town nearby,
so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.
We love our expositional sermons, don’t we? We cherish the Christian books on our nightstands, the many devotionals we turn to every morning, and the myriad of Bible studies we attend. We have our favorite preachers, our favorite conferences, and our favorite study Bibles. Why? Because we love to eat spiritual food. We are sheep, after all, who love to graze on God’s Word.
But any virtue can become a vice.
More sermons, more studies, more books. It sounds so good, so appealing. But what you hear is the Siren song of Christian-consumerism—tempting us to fix our eyes on ourselves and ignore the spiritual needs of the people around us.1
Satisfied Sheep or Insatiable Hogs?
Let’s be honest. We are spiritual gluttons—fat sheep, waddling around, looking for our next meal. In fact, “sheep” might not be the best animal to describe us. We are hogs—insatiable hogs—butting our way to the feeding trough, readying to gorge ourselves on yet another serving of God’s Word.
We take, take, take—but are sure to couch our taking in Christian terms: we’re “being fed,” “being poured into,” “digging in,” “growing.” Feel free to supply your own Christian phrase.
Am I saying that sitting under expositional preaching, reading Christian books, and attending Bible studies is wrong? Absolutely not! “Reading, knowing, and believing God’s Word helps us mature in Christ. We need to drink in God’s Word and flush out the sinful toxins of fleshly thoughts and temptations.”2 I will even advocate for personal Bible study toward the end of this post (see “Read Often and Read Well”).
What I am saying, though, is that if we adopt the Christian-consumeristic criteria of measuring our spiritual maturity by how many expositional sermons we listen to, and how many Bible studies we attend, and how much Bible knowledge we have accumulated over the years while not feeding others; then the Siren has sung and we have followed her seductive voice to the rocky coast of Christian irrelevance.
“For That Is What I Came For”
The undistracted Christian turns a deaf ear to the Siren song of Christian-consumerism and instead models his life after the Lord, who said, “Let us go somewhere else to the town nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for” (Mark 1:38, emphasis mine). These words are not just for the preacher or the pastor, but present a pattern of life for every believer.
Have we forgotten what Jesus expects from each of His followers? He expects His people to sow the seed (Mark 4:14), “speak the truth” (Ephesians 4:15), and “entrust” the Gospel (2 Timothy 2:2). Each is a teaching responsibility for every Christian, built on the divine purpose the Father sent His Son to fulfill. Precisely what this teaching will look like will vary from person to person,3 but Colin Marshal and Tony Payne are right, “The New Testament envisages that all Christian disciples will be…speakers of God’s word, in a multitude of different ways and contexts.”4
Christ came to teach—and He expects His followers to carry on this same teaching task.
Jesus Has Left the Building
What gives Jesus’ purpose statement in Mark 1:38 so much punch is the context in which He says it.
Mark 1:21-34 describes a typical day in the life of Jesus, one filled with exorcisms (Mark 1:25-26) and healings (Mark 1:34). And so, it’s no surprise that when the next day dawned, a crowd mobbed Peter’s doorstep. You can understand why. The town wanted more miracles (Mark 1:37), and the people of Capernaum woke up early to get them. They brought their sick and dragged their demon-possessed to where Jesus was last seen. But Jesus was gone. Yes, you read that right: Jesus had “left the house, and went away to a secluded place” (Mark 1:35).
Commotion ensued, which is why “Simon and his companions searched for Him” (Mark 1:36). They could not understand why Jesus was gone. And when Peter finally found Jesus, he chided Him for His absence, “Everyone is looking for you” (Mark 1:37). Jesus, the entire town is waiting for You. The sick are there, but You’re not. The demon-possessed are there, but You left. They need you! Why are you not fulfilling Your divine mission? Didn’t you come from heaven to earth to deliver from demons and give health to the sick? Isn't that why the Father sent You?
But to the shock of the disciples and the dismay of the crowd, Jesus did not return. “He said to them, ‘Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for’” (Mark 1:38, emphasis added). Jesus knew His calling. The Father had not, primarily, sent Him to heal the physically ill. The more significant task the Father had given His Son was to proclaim His life-changing Word.
Driven by the More Pressing Need
Jesus knew that even if He healed every leper and paralytic, or cast out every demon, the crowd would still eventually die in their sins. A greater responsibility fell to Him, a more pressing need. The people of Palestine needed the life-giving Word planted within their hearts. Though many did not realize it, they needed Jesus to teach far more than they needed Him to heal. And Jesus refused to let anything, or anyone, deter Him from that primary task.
The Teacher, Par Excellence
Consider this: Throughout the Gospels, there are forty-two distinct titles used for Jesus,5 with the third most frequent being “Teacher” (used 69x’s, behind only “Lord,” 151x’s and “Son of Man,” 80x’s). He was called “Teacher” more than “Christ” (48x’s), “Son of God” (27x’s), and “Son of David” (17x’s). Astounding!
Jesus was a teacher par excellence. In large groups in the Temple or smaller groups in a synagogue, on a mountaintop with His disciples, or in a home sharing a meal, Jesus carried out His divine teaching task. He taught people of all ages and walks of life—friend and foe, religious and irreligious, the economically elite and financially poor.
Nowhere in the Gospels is Jesus called “Healer” or “Miracle Worker.” He was “Teacher”—because He heralded, proclaimed, and taught divine truth—for that is why the Father sent Him from Heaven to Earth.
How Christ-Like Are You?
How do you calculate Christlikeness? Does entrusting God’s Word into the lives of others factor at all into that equation? Is it too much to say that we are not Christlike until we are teaching (in some capacity) His Word to others?Martin Lloyd-Jones’ counsel is so pertinent, “We must not allow anything to deflect us from [the ministry of the Word], however good the cause, however great the need.”6 And even though Lloyd-Jones was writing specifically to pastors, as we have seen above, we cannot limit his guidance to only pastors. We, too (each believer), must feel the weight of his words.
Yes, we must study the Word; and yes, we must sit under expositional teaching; and yes, we must grow in our Bible knowledge. But we cannot stop there.
We must use the nourishment we receive from the Word as energy to teach, disciple, and instruct others—for that is what Christ has sent us to do.
Whether it be that new believer in your church, a member of your family, or an unbelieving co-worker, each needs you to be an undistracted Christian who deafens your ear to the song of Christian-consumerism and refuses to be deterred from your teaching charge—for that is why the Father sent Christ, and that is why the Son has sent you.
LIVING THE UNDISTRACTED LIFE
Read Often and Read Well
Personal Bible study is essential if you are going to entrust God’s Word into the lives of others. You can only refresh others if you have first drawn from the well of God’s truth. This means you must read the Scriptures often, and you must read the Scriptures well.
Read them prayerfully. This is the connection we see in Mark 1. Why did Jesus leave Peter’s house in the early morning? To pray (Mark 1:35). Why? Because Jesus was preparing to teach (Mark 1:38). Prayer and the Scriptures go hand-in-hand. “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18), should be prayed as often as the Scriptures are opened.
Read the Scriptures consistently. Know your patterns to maximize your reading efforts. Are you a morning or evening person? Set aside the most productive portion of the day for your time in the Word. Write “Bible Reading” in your weekly schedule (as a non-negotiable appointment). Allow only emergencies to interrupt this time. Silence your phone, close your laptop, and stop your social scrolling. Open your Bible and read.
Read the Scriptures slowly. Take in each word and ponder each paragraph. Notice the details the author includes. Pay attention to the verbs that drive the sentence. Observe the repeated words and trace the author’s flow of thought. Read the passage out loud. Read different translations. Mine the Word until you reach the author’s original intent.
Read the Scriptures theologically. Since the Bible is primarily about God, treat it that way. Ask yourself: What attribute of God do I see in this passage? How is the Lord’s hand of providence moving the story along? What new thoughts about God is the text teaching? How can I praise the true and living God in what I see? Each is a God-centered question that will humble us in obedience and raise our praise into the heavens.
Read the Scriptures personally. Since the Bible expects us to be doers of the Word and not hearers/readers only (James 1:22), do not close your Bible until you have allowed the text to probe your heart. Are there commands I must obey, or examples I must follow, or warnings I must heed? Are there sins I must confess? Are there convictions I must live by? Only after we apply God’s Word to ourselves can we help others apply it to themselves.
Look, Ask, Read
Be aware; the Siren’s song is subtle: You’ve read your Bible. You’ve done your study. You’ve personally applied God’s Word. Be satisfied with your efforts. You can stop here. But the Siren is wrong. Christlikeness requires entrusting God’s Word to others.
Think of someone from your work, school, or neighborhood (whether a believer or an unbeliever) and ask them to begin to read the Bible with you.7 A simple idea. Yet, one that could have multi-generational impact.8 Or, invite two others to begin a triad discipleship group, where more interactive discussion can take place.9 Or, ask a fellow church member to read a theology book with you.10 The options are endless. No one in your life is off limits. But you must look and ask. And then read—read the life-changing Scriptures together.
Trust Scripture and Watch the Spirit Work
Perhaps, right now, you feel paralyzed by inadequacy. You’ve heard the Siren sing, Who are you to disciple someone else? Why would anyone want to read the Bible with you? And in part, the Siren is right. We are wholly inadequate to change any heart. Every single one of us! But God’s Word is not.
The solution for these paralyzing doubts is to remember Scripture’s sufficiency—its power to breathe life into dead hearts (James 1:18) and shape saints into the image of Christ (John 17:17). It does what we are entirely incapable of doing. It stimulates lasting change (1 Peter 2:2), delivers heart-piercing conviction (Hebrews 4:12), equips for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and refreshes a weary soul (Psalm 19:7-8)—all in God’s timing and according to His will (Isaiah 55:11). And amazingly, if you are a believer, you are God’s catalyst for these divine works. Yes. You. Because “as the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21).
Do not be paralyzed by feelings of inadequacy. And do not be seduced by Christian consumerism. As the Siren sings her song, set your eyes on Christ, the “Teacher.” And teach as Christ taught.
1. This is part 2 of a blog series entitled, Undistracted (click here for part 1).
2. Mark Jones, Knowing Sin (Chicago: Moody Press, 2022), 190.
3. See “Look, Ask, and Read” below.
4. Colin Marshal and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine (Sydney: Matthias Media, 2009) 53.
5. W. Graham Scroggie, A Guide to the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), 519–20.
6. D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Preaching & Preachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1972), 23.
7. See David Helm, One to One Bible Reading (Sydney: Matthias Media, 2011).
8. “Imagine if all Christians, as a normal part of their discipleship, were caught up in a web of regular Bible reading—not only digging into the word privately, but reading it with their children before bed, with their spouse over breakfast, with a non-Christian colleague at work once a week over lunch, with a new Christian for follow-up once a fortnight for mutual encouragement, and with a mature Christian friend once a month for mutual encouragement….It’s an exciting thought!” Marshall and Payne, Trellis, 57.
9. See Greg Ogden, Discipleship Essentials (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2019).
10. Begin with Peter Jeffery’s Bitesize Theology—a short read that summarizes the essential doctrines of the faith in bitesize pieces. Then, move on to R.C. Sproul’s Everybody’s a Theologian. Pick up J.I. Packer’s Knowing God and Michael Reeves’s Delighting in the Trinity. I would then recommend John MacArthur’s Biblical Doctrine, Matthew Barrett’s None Greater, and John Piper’s Desiring God—each book offers God-exalting theological truth that will humble us into the image of Christ.