Well it’s about that time of year again. That time when time is usually on our minds. In just two short days it will be one year later than it was a year ago, which usually prompts us to look back over that last year and figure out what we liked and usually more often what we didn’t like that we want to change next year. My mailbox has already been flooded with flyers for local gyms trying to guess what those goals might be for me.
But never minding the failed resolutions that inevitably come out of this, the real problem with all of that is that it tends to have a failed focus. The things we are proud of the year before and the things we strive to change in the next… well… are they the right things?
Today, let’s look at what the apostle Paul had to say and consider our past and our future in light of those words that God had him write. At the beginning of our section he writes:
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
If anyone had reason to be proud and confident, it was Paul. He was a paragon of virtue. He was born of the right people, God’s own chosen nation. He followed every command from God and every tradition of his people. He was part of the moral elite, the Pharisees. If he was around today, he could be bragging on Facebook about how all three of his perfect children were excelling in their own extra-curriculars while showing photos from his last tropical vacation, the new house he’s building, the promotion he got this year, and how he hit his target weight in half the time expected.
And what does Paul say about all these things he should be bragging about?
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
And now what does he say about that life? He considers it a loss. He doesn’t just find that entire life to be worthless, he actually considers it detrimental to his life. In fact, he considers everything a loss when it is compared to the greatness of simply knowing his Lord Jesus Christ. Now, if you remember back, if you were here for our summer series on the book of Acts, you may remember that this was not a conclusion that Paul came to on his own. He didn’t suddenly realize that all that was wrong and worthless. God had to reveal it to Paul.
In that confrontation on the road to Damascus, God appeared to him and made Paul aware of exactly how wrong and backward his life had been from start to finish. God taught Paul that everything of his own he thought he should be proud of was in reality something to be ashamed of, and there was nothing good in himself. The house, the job, the vacation, the perfect life – those things were all hurting him, not helping.
Why? Because they weren’t good enough. They couldn’t save him. No matter how hard he tried to do everything right and have the perfect life and have people love him and all that, it wasn’t good enough for God. God demands perfection. What’s more, God requires that he himself be the focal point of our lives. That we do everything for him. Paul hadn’t done all those things for God, he did them for himself! Everything he thought was worth anything wasn’t just a waste of time, it was actively keeping him away from the God who could save him.
It was at this point, at the bottom of everything, when Paul had all hope in himself cut out from under him, that God showed him his mercy and grace in Jesus. And Paul understood the only thing worth anything in this life is Christ himself. Paul gave up hope in himself and clung to the hope of Jesus as his savior, trusting that Jesus alone is the only way he can possibly be rescued.
Now Paul’s experience may sound outlandish, and maybe the circumstances are. But those aside, this is the experience that every Christian goes through to come to a knowledge of their savior, the same Christ. Each one of us has to realize: I am sinful. I cannot save myself. I need Jesus. Only he can help me. Only he is worth anything in my life.
And so, the question now is, as I’m looking back over 2018 and looking on to my plans for 2019 – do my thoughts show that I’m convinced of this truth?
Do I really consider everything I have apart from Christ is a loss? Do we really “buy” that, or are we feebly clinging to the notion that some of what we have or do or are is worthwhile, profitable, useful? Sure, there’s plenty of stuff it’s easy to look at and identify as useless and harmful. We know that indulging our sinful temptations is harmful to us. Sin damages faith, it hurts our relationship with our God and it risks our eternal life.
But of course, God himself gives us great things to be used for our recreation and enjoyment…what about those? Even with those we must be cautious. These gifts are to be used to enrich our lives of service to him. They are a means to an end. They help us relax, recharge, lift our spirits so we can continue our work for God. But when the gift becomes the purpose, when all our time and energy gets poured into one hobby or recreational pursuit, it ultimately becomes a loss for us, because again, it is distracting us and taking us away from the only thing that is to our gain, our Lord Christ.
But even that doesn’t go as far as Paul was talking here. Remember he listed off all the great things about himself that he had claim to. Every achievement or source of pride – what did he say about them? He considered a loss. And for the same reason: they served to distract and take him away from our God. It is the same for us.
We need to see that there is no difference here. It could be the grossest display of sinful indulgence or it could be chasing a goal that isn’t our Lord or it could just be plain old pride in myself and my abilities and accomplishments. They all do the same thing: they lead us away from God. The best of who we are, the best of what we have and do in our lives…these too are a loss! Pardon me for a moment while I get a little complicated. They are a loss when we view them this way. Let me elaborate.
If I look see the best I have as the best I have, then where is the focus? If the best I can do I view as the best I do, then where is the focus? If I am proud of myself for my accomplishments, for the things I have done with the strength of my hands or the skill of my intellect, then I am worshiping myself and am taken away from God. Even if I take pride in all the good things I do for God, that I give him my money and my time without complaint, that I am a helpful member of the church body, then I am still worshiping myself for how great I am.
It doesn’t matter what does it, it doesn’t matter how it comes about, whatever it is, if our focus slips from looking ahead to eternity, then it is a loss to us! What is to our gain, what we do need is to keep our eyes forward, on Christ, as Paul tells us here. He had plenty to be proud of, plenty to indulge in, but his reaction was anything that kept him apart from Christ, anything that caused him to focus on himself or anything that wasn’t Christ was a loss to him. And why? Because only Christ had what he truly needed. Forgiveness of sins and the gift of righteousness.
This is why it is so dangerous to let the things of this life steal our focus away from Christ. Just like Paul, all the best we have… can’t save us. We do not measure up to God’s standards. Without Jesus, we are dead. We would be cut off from God and left to an eternity without any of his mercy or grace. There is nothing worse than that. There is no goal to set that is more important than avoiding that outcome. But we cannot avoid it ourselves. Nothing we have changes this for ourselves.
Only Jesus makes a difference. And it makes all the difference. Where we are unworthy and have nothing good to offer, Christ makes us worthy. His life of obedience is credited to us, and his innocent sacrifice on the cross eliminates the debt we owe our God. In Christ, and only in him, are we saved. We are declared innocent before God our Father and we are promised a heavenly home is prepared for us at the end of our time here. Through him we will, as Paul says here, obtain the resurrection of the dead.
When we understand and accept this dynamic between us and our God, it changes how we view our lives and it changes why we do whatever it is we do. When we recognize that nothing we have to offer is good in its own merit, we no longer do things out of pride or for praise or for any reward. Rather we do the good we do because God has made it possible. He gives us the strength, the time, the ability, and it’s the blood of Christ that washes our actions and makes them good for God. And we keep this attitude by keeping our looking ahead to Christ. With eyes on him, on what he’s done for us and on where he’s waiting for us – that sets our goals and mind straight for the coming year. As Paul concludes our section today:
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
As Paul says, we have not yet fully attained this goal of looking ahead to our God. We have not fully become as like Christ as we would like. But we do strive always to be better at it. Not by waking up each day and promising to “do better”, that will get us nowhere or even take us backwards. The way to pursue Christ is by renewing our focus each day on him. Learning from him, studying him, growing closer to him. That is what Paul is striving for here.
And when we do that, there’s a natural side-effect: Christ’s power will work through us to accomplish what we cannot on our own. We will grow to be more like him. Now, we recognize that this work will never be completed in this life. We will always have room to grow in him. But that is not an excuse for us to simply give up and say “good enough!” We should never be satisfied with how far our devotion to Christ has progressed! This should be our number one goal every year!
But if you look back over the last year and think: well I sure didn’t do that, then I have good news for you. Our devotion to God is not perfect and we should not despair when we do not live up to God’s standards. We strive, strive, strive… but never despair when we fail. It is because we fail that we have a savior. It is because we fail that Jesus died. And it is because of Jesus that our failures are forgiven. Forgotten. We show our love to God by showing him what he’s worth to us, but our expressions of love to God are simply that, they are not what keeps us in his favor, they are not what make him love us. There will be times of failure and every time we return to him, he has forgiveness for us.
Brothers and sisters, forget what is behind. Forget the things that drag you down to this world and hold you here. Forget your pride and yourself. And don’t look back with regret either. Forget your own failures; God already has. Leave the past in the past. Strain toward what is ahead. Look ahead to the prize that God won for you. Press on toward it. Make that your goal for 2019 and beyond. Reach for Christ every day like your life depends on it. God is reaching back for you, taking hold of you, guarding and guiding you every step of every day. Stay close to him, draw close to him. You are a forgiven child of God, you have absolutely everything to look forward to in him. Amen.
Disciple: The Call
Our new sermon series is all about the word “disciple.” The word is interesting. It’s simple meaning is “follower.” Look up in the dictionary and it refers to “one who adheres to the teachings of another.” So, it isn’t necessarily Christian, yet, it seems to be strictly associated with Jesus.
That’s probably because of the 12 disciples. Have you heard of them? The 12 disciples are a group of 12 men who followed Jesus during his three-year ministry. Remember their names? I do because of the well-known song:
Peter, Andrew, James, and John, fishermen of Capernaum,
Thomas, and St. Matthew too, Philip and Bartholomew,
James and Less and Jude the Brave,
Simon the Zealot and Judas the Knave,
Twelve Disciples here in all, following the Master’s call.
These 12 disciples made discipling famous.
But a disciple is more than just those 12.
A disciple is any follower of Jesus.
What’s it take to be Jesus’ disciple in 2018? That’s the goal of our sermon series. We will learn about being a disciple, as we look at how Jesus disciples his disciples. Before we begin, let’s say a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Story
The first lesson that we’re going to learn about being a disciple comes from a time before the disciples were disciples. Because before they could follow, they needed Jesus to tell them to follow. They needed a calling. And one of the very first instances come from Mark 1.
Picture Mark 1 opening up with a beautiful morning sunrise sneaking over the horizon of the Galilean Sea. Standing on the beach is a guy named John. He’s holding a cup of his favorite He-Brew blend coffee close to his nose and breathes it in.
“Caffeine and fish guts! Beautiful isn’t it?”
John looks to see his friend Peter smirking in his direction as he holds a bundle of thickly roped nets in his arms. “You don’t mind if I borrow them this morning.”
“Go ahead. Just be sure to give us a few of your catch as payment.” John’s brother James comments as he throws an oar into their boat. “Dad’s expecting that we have all our nets out on the sea this morning.” Peter nodded, took a swig of the rum bottle setting at the edge of the dock and went off.
Meanwhile James makes his way around to his brother, “Did you hear about the commotion downtown yesterday?”
“It’s that Jesus guy again. Apparently, he was outside the Capernaum synagogue telling a bunch of Pharisees to Repent! I wish I could have been there. It would have been nice to knock those religious zealots off their high pulpits. Apparently, he told them all that they too were sinners and they too were in need of a Savior.”
John shook his head as he threw another pile of nets into the boat. “Repent, huh? That sounds a bit like John the Baptist. Only John was at least interesting. He was homeless. He lived in the desert. He ate poached crickets for breakfast. This Jesus guy? He’s just a commoner. He’s a carpenter. I just don’t think it’d be worth following him.”
“Well,” James continues, “He’s got loads of people following him already. In fact,” he leans in real close, “I think I know the difference. John the Baptist proclaimed sin and the need for a Savior. This Jesus? He proclaims sin…and that He is the Savior.”
John pauses. “That is interesting. Interesting and foolish. How can a carpenter save us from sin?”
James shrugs. “I don’t know. But…there’s something about him…”
John returns to loading up the boat with buckets and nets. Only pausing to talk report to his dad about where they planned on fishing that morning and how much they expected to haul in. Just as they were about to push off…a commotion. Up the road, about 100 feet away, John could see a small group following a rather plain looking man. The man was teaching and talking as he went and the others were listening.
“Hey!” James whistles. “It’s that Jesus guy I was talking about.”
John leans closer, steadying the boat and straining to listen: “Repent! The Kingdom of heaven is near. Repent! For God’s kingdom is here. Repent to be saved from destruction. Repent and trust God’s Messiah – to be saved from sin.” (Mk 1.)
John watches as Jesus talks.
He certainly looks convincing.
He certainly seems to believe what he’s saying.
But…again…how could it be true?
How could some carpenter be a Savior from sin?
As John watches the group approach, the dynamic changes.
Jesus stops talking and turns towards the docks.
He turns towards some fishermen in the boats.
He turns…toward Peter.
“Come. Follow me.” (v.19)
John let out a quiet guffaw. He couldn’t be serious…Peter? He’s a bit gruff for spiritual work…He smelled of worm guts, four letter words and a bit of stale wine.
Peter wasn’t that foolish.
Peter didn’t like religious folk.
Peter would never follow a…
John’s thoughts were cut off. Because in less than an instant, Peter jumped over the boat and into the water. He waded as quickly as he could to the shore near Jesus. His brother Andrew followed – he docked the boat and approached on land – but he approached Jesus too.
They all shook hands.
And they followed Jesus.
They followed Jesus right over to the dock where John was.
And John’s thoughts started swirling. Me? He better not stop for me…Does he know who I am? I don’t have any religious credentials. I’m not a Pharisee; I’m a fisherman. And a sinner. I’ve got filthy language. I’ve been known to get drunk. And I’ve struggled with lusting after that servant girl on dock 9.
This Jesus is on a spiritual crusade.
This Jesus seems righteous.
This Jesus seems holy.
How could I ever fit in?
But…Jesus…as if reading his thoughts…smiled.
And stretched out his hand.
“Come. Follow me.”
John looked at Jesus.
He looked at James.
He looked at his net…and threw it to the ground.
He got out of the boat and followed Jesus.
He had a calling.
II. Notes on Jesus’ Calling
And there you have it. The very first calling of the very first disciples to follow Jesus. Peter, Andrew, James and John. But what I think interesting about this account is how there are quite a few things about Jesus’ calling of these disciples that are the same as when he calls you and me to be disciples.
No, we don’t all own boats.
And none of us smell like fish – at least I think.
But there are three important ways that our calling as disciple is the same.
1. The Call is Urgent
Note what it says that Jesus’ main message was very time sensitive. He said, “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (v.15)
Notice what he did not say – “The time is next week.”
Or, “The time is in a few years.”
Or even, “The time is after you have graduated college, found a wife, and started a career.”
Jesus’ call to the people was urgent.
The call of the disciple is urgent.
And Jesus’ call to you to be his disciple is urgent.
This is so interesting. Because 21st century humans are usually very urgent about things. We are always in a hurry – and this week with the snow – was tough for a lot of us – because we are always in a hurry.
We are in a hurry to get to work.
In a hurry to make money.
In a hurry to get the kids to karate.
In a hurry to make supper.
In a hurry to get the kids to bed so we can sit down and catch the latest episode of Fuller House on Netflix!
We are always in a hurry – except when it comes to Jesus.
I’ve been a pastor for 6 ½ years now, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone say:
“Sorry Pastor. No time to chat. We’ve got to hurry home and study the Bible.”
Or: “Pastor --- could you get that baptism scheduled soon! Let’s hurry it up.”
Or: “Pastor – can we start Bible basics at 6am tomorrow morning? I can’t wait to grow in faith.”
It just doesn’t happen.
Honestly, I don’t have the urgency I should when it comes to Jesus.
But we should.
Because Jesus is the only way to heaven.
The kingdom of heaven is near.
Meaning death is near.
Meaning our judgment from God is near.
Meaning our judgment from God that determines where we spend eternity is near.
I bet there are some people in Hawaii get this. Did you hear about it? There was an accidental nuclear warhead warning. For 7 minutes people thought that the island was about to explode, and their lives ended. They called loved ones. They hid where they could. They prayed prayers.
But it wasn’t real.
They didn’t die.
But eventually they will.
And you will.
This is urgent.
2. The Call is Hard
Jesus call was this: “Repent!” (v.15) Repent means to do a 180-degree turn.
It’s like Simon Says. Ever played that? Simon says what you are to do and you do it. Simon says, “Raise your hand,” so you raise your hand. Simon says, “blink your eyes,” so you blink your eyes. Simon says, “Repent,” so you turn around.
Jesus says repent and you turn around.
Not physically, but spiritually.
You turn from sin to Savior.
And this isn’t as easy as Simon Says.
Think about what Jesus is calling you to turn from.
Turn from selfishness. Stop worrying about yourself, stop the innate desire to make you # 1.
Turn from toxic friendships – particularly ones that selfishly won’t want you to leave
Turn from overdrinking – so challenging there’s chemical dependence struggling against you.
And that’s not all to turn from.
Turn from heterosexual lust.
Turn from homosexual lust.
Turn from hatred.
Turn from racism.
Turn from four letter words.
Turn from gossip.
Turn from greed.
Turn from pride.
Jesus is calling you, “Turn from following your sinful desires and turn toward following me.”
But oh so blessed.
Because what does following any random sexual desire lead to? Brokenness in family, guilt in your heart, and the cycle of trying to fill your desire with the next desire.
And what does overdrinking lead to? A headache, bad decisions, hurt friendships – even alcoholism.
And what does pride lead to? Missing out on key help, losing friends, and a loneliness when no one wants to be around you.
Following sinful desires leads to nothing good.
But following Jesus?
That leads to complete forgiveness.
That leads to peace with God.
That leads to eternal life.
That leads to joy everlasting.
Because when you follow Jesus, you’ll see that he followed the desires of his heart.
And the desires of his heart – were you.
It led him to the cross.
It led him to suffer on that cross.
It led him to die on that cross.
It led him to emerge from the grave victoriously – to save you from sin.
This is the good news that comes with following Jesus.
He is your Savior.
3. The Call is for You
This is important. Because it’s easy to think – these 12 disciples must have had something special about them.
They must have been a higher level of qualified than I could ever be.
They must have been perfectly suited for being disciples.
But look at this. Did you see verse 20? When Jesus had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them…
Did you notice that? “Without delay?”
There wasn’t a test.
Not even a Facebook quiz.
Jesus just calls…
Because Jesus calls sinners.
Are you a sinner? Jesus is calling you.
“Come. Follow me.”
But I’m pretty guilty.
But I struggle with homosexuality.
But I keep lying.
But I got a DUI once.
But I said some horrible things just last week.
But I’ve been divorced…twice.
Jesus still calls.
He calls you without delay.
Come. Follow me.
III. What Now?
1. Follow the Call
You have one. Whether you’ve never followed Jesus before or you’ve followed him for a long time. Follow him!
Because some of you might be thinking, “I’ve been following Jesus for a long time. I’ve already answered the call. I’ve already been following Jesus. What could God possibly be calling me to do?”
Easy. He’s calling you to follow Him more closely.
In fact, I saw a bumper sticker the other day. It was in fine print and you had to drive really close to see what it said. It said, “Are you following Jesus as close as you are following this car?”
But think about it.
Are you following Jesus so closely that you know the fine print of his desires?
Can you see his Word in every situation?
Follow him more closely. Heed the call.
2. Make the Call your Priority
Because I always think it’s intriguing that there’s a net involved in that fishing scene. Because nets always catch things. That’s why fishermen used them. Nets caught fish.
But this net almost serves to catch John that day and prevent him from ever following Jesus.
Think about it. That net represented a lot.
The work he had to do.
The money he had to make.
The family he had to take care of.
The mouths he had to feed.
The father he had to please.
But John looks at that net – and threw it down.
Those can wait.
Jesus is the priority.
What are your nets? What are the things that prevent you from following Jesus?
They are different in all of our lives.
A net can be family.
A net can be work.
A net can be money.
Drop that net.
There’s nothing it offers you that can’t find ultimate fulfillment in Jesus.
Drop you net…and follow him.
Joshua dabbed at the perspiration on his forehead.
They’re almost all here, Mr. Joshua Sir.
Joshua nodded from his seat behind a tree and took a sip of water. It was an important day. Joshua, the general of the Israelite army, was about to make a speech to tens of thousands of Israelites. They had gathered in Shechem – a place centrally located to the entire land of what – until recently – had been called Canaan.
Now it was known as Israel.
Joshua smiled at the thought. This is exactly what God had said. Over 500 years ago, God had promised this land would be theirs. God had said that he would give it to them. God had promised that he was going to do some awesome things to get them to this point even when they were slaves in Egypt!
And God had.
When they faced a roaring flood stage river and were unable to cross, God was with them…and split the waters in half for them to cross.
When they faced a gigantic 12-foot-thick wall surrounding the city of Jericho, God was with them…and knocked the walls at the sound of a trumpet.
When they were running out of daylight to defeat their enemies, God was with them and held the earth in its place, on its axis, pausing the universe to give them the land he desired to give!
The land was theirs.
It was all thanks to God.
But…recently…people seemed to be forgetting that.
He had overhead some of the soldiers talking about “What a great thing it was that they had done. And how they had won this land for themselves.”
He had seen fliers being passed around for a new group’s weekly meetings: the W.I.A.A.S. We Israelites Are Awesome Society.
He had noticed fewer and fewer people had been attending worship services on a weekly basis.
Even as Joshua watched the people file into the makeshift amphitheater, he could see signs of it.
The “Baal, golden calf god” t-shirts were speckled throughout the arena.
A tattoo could be seen that read “Praise to Asherah! The cool NEW god”
The look of annoyance on the teenager who could clearly be seen mouthing the words, “Why do we have to listen to what the LORD has to say? He isn’t relevant anymore.”
Joshua shook his head
And his eyes got a bit teary eyed.
How could they forget? How could they forget the LORD?
He got the signal from his assistants. The people were ready.
He took a deep breath.
He may have been old. He may not be hip. He may not be cool.
But he knew…EXACTLY what needed to be said:
Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served or the gods of the Amorites in whom you are now living. But…as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (24:15)
Today we look at the final chapter in the book of Joshua. We will unpack this statement from Scripture as we learn (1) why serving two gods doesn’t work (2) which household gods to throw away (3) which God to serve and (4) how to ensure that our households serve that God. Before we do that, a prayer: Strengthen us this morning by the truth, O God. Your word is truth. Open our eyes to see what YOU want us to see. Open our ears to hear what YOU want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what YOU would have us believe. Amen.
I. Is it Possible to Serve Two gods?
Maybe this seems a bit strange to you. Why is God so jealous? Shouldn’t he be content if people worship him sometimes? Think about it:
People have two dogs.
People have two cats.
People have two kids.
People have two Netflix series that they watch at the same time.
Why can’t people have two gods?
The answer lies within the definition of a god. A god is “whomever or whatever you love, fear, and trust the most.” Makes sense. God is who you view as most powerful. God is who you view as most protecting. God is the one to whom you are most thankful for things. God is the one to whom you turn when you are in trouble.
Notice. God is a superlative. He is MOST. If we think back to English class, do you remember what a superlative means? It means there is nothing that holds a higher content of whatever adjectival quality is attributed to it.
The spiciest chili pepper is the ghost pepper. Nothing is spicier.
The tallest mountain in North Carolina is Mt. Mitchell. No mountain is taller.
The best biscuits in Raleigh are at Rise Bakery. No biscuits are better.
When faced with a superlative, the reality is that there can only be one.
I’m a pastor. Pastors should be all things to all people. In other words, I want to enjoy the things people enjoy so that I can serve them with the message of God’s Word. That means I like coffee with the coffee drinkers and tea with the tea drinkers. It means I high five those who like high fives and shake hands with those who like to shake hands. It means I cheer for UNC with UNC fans and the Wolfpack with Wolfpack fans. I am neutral.
At least, in theory.
A couple of years ago the two teams were playing in a football showdown. I thought to myself, “I don’t know who I’m going to cheer for.” But as the game went on, I noticed something. There was definitely a team that was I was cheering for. There was definitely a team that I like better.
Now...I’m not telling which one. I don’t need to get mugged after this. But do you get the point? When pitted against one another, one team becomes more important than the other. You can’t have two superlatives.
And if that’s true for football teams, wouldn’t it be true with “god?”
Jesus said this, “You cannot serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Mt. 6:24)
Because when Jesus says, “Serve me only” and Allah says, “Serve me only.” You can’t serve one without immediately breaking the command of the other.
You can’t serve two gods.
II. Society’s Household Idols
That was the problem that ancient Israel was facing. There were a bunch of different options that were suddenly available to them in their new land. Joshua mentions the “gods of your ancestors and the gods the Amorites.” Those were the ‘false gods’ that were a part of their society. There were a few:
There was Baal – a bronze god that was ½ human and ½ cow.
There was Dagon – a stone gold that was ½ human and ½ fish.
There was Asherah – a formless fertility goddess that you worshipped by having intercourse in front of the statue.
They were new.
They were interesting.
They seemed to allow more “fun.”
The only problem? None of them were real.
Baal was a bronze statue.
Dagon was a stone statue.
Asherah a piece of wood that had etchings, paint, and a bit of glitter tossed on it.
How could any of these things be “most” powerful if they didn’t even come into existence without the artistic hands of the human being?
How could any of them be “most” loving if they couldn’t even have emotions?
How could you put their trust in any of them, if you got into a bit of trouble and, “Oh no, I left my god in my other pair of pants?”
Baal, Dagon and Asherah are not as popular today. (You might not have even heard of them until today.) But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of false gods in our society. Here are a few:
Have you heard of this god before? He’s very popular in our society. Sometimes he’s green with one dead president on it. Sometimes he’s a little piece of metal that fits in your pocket. Sometimes he’s just a bunch of numbers that appear in that frequently used banking app on your phone.
Money is not bad. We need money. But the problem is society tells us to trust money to fix our lives. And when we believe that, we start trusting money more than God.
Yes. I know God is there, but things are going well, because I have money. Thanks be to you, O money.
Things aren’t going well. It’s because I don’t have enough money.
If I want things to be good for my kids and for them to have opportunities, I’d better work more, I’d better make more money, because money will fix us.
Money doesn’t care about you.
Money didn’t create you.
Money was created in some US Government mint machine.
Money will not save you to eternity.
It will just get spent.
Don’t choose it for your household god.
Academics are a big deal in America. There’s all kinds of pressure to teach your kids lots of things and lots of stuff. The goal is so that they have a 5th grade education by the time they are five. We do it because we figure that they’ll get ahead. If they are only smart enough, then they get a job and life will be wonderful for them.
But what happens if we trust Academics as the key to a good life—more so than God?
Yes. Bible study is important, but if my girl gets a 4.0 then she’ll be set for life!
I’m sorry honey, there’s no time for devotion tonight; you need to be working on homework!
Yeah, I know…Sunday School and getting you ready for eternal life, but…this online course? It might get you to Harvard.
Academia is good, but Academia is also not god.
Don’t make it your household god.
I asked a mom what she had going on that weekend. She response that she was taking her kids to soccer in the morning, then get karate, then swim lessons, then chess club, and finally home for piano lessons. In other words – she was working for Uber.
But this is a common thing. The notion is that the only good parents are the ones that get their kids involved in at least seven extra curriculars. (And almost none of them are ever God related. Because God is the one extracurricular that society frowns on, but…I digress.) The point is that there’s this pressure to devote your life and your kids to extracurriculars. Because maybe they’ll be the next Lebron James…and then they’ll be set.
Extracurriculars aren’t bad. But when you start to devote more of your life to them than God then…there’s trouble.
School House Rock songs become more important than God songs.
Swimming lessons become more important than baptism.
Kids Cooking class becomes can’t miss while worship becomes…I suppose, if there’s time.
Extracurriculars are fine. They are also not god.
Don’t make them your household gods.
(4) Your Kids Themselves
That might be a bit strange. You might not label your kid as god, yet – we mentioned earlier a god is whoever you fear, love and trust most in your life.
Do you ever do something solely because you have a fear of not getting your daughter’s approval?
Have you ever not disciplined a kid for sin because you love their visible smile more than God’s invisible one?
Do you find yourself trusting that as long as my kid is happy (even if the happy is artificial flavoring induced) life will work out?
And suddenly we don’t feed God’s Word to our kids because – they really like it and I gotta keep them happy.
Here’s the truth: If you devote yourself to serving your kid’s desires instead of serving them the truth of God (and His Word), then you aren’t serving your kid.
Because happy people still die.
But people with faith in their Savior, live with eternal life.
And if you aren’t serving your kids a steady diet of their Lord, then…
You aren’t telling them about their Savior.
You aren’t telling them about his forgiveness.
You aren’t telling them about the peace he won for us.
You aren’t telling them about the One, the Only One who can get them into the promised Land!
III. The God who Serves You
Because he is the only option for household God – who has served you.
“I did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life as a ransom payment for many.” (Mt. 20:28)
Think about this. Jesus said that His purpose was not to be served. He didn’t come to earth so that his disciples could kiss his feet, set him up in a hammock, and start waving palm branches at him. He did come to earth because he needed us to sing songs to Him, give money to Him, and say prayers to Him.
He came to serve.
And not just a glass of Coca Cola – or a bowl of Tostitos.
He came to serve with his whole life.
Even giving up his life as a ransom payment.
Because there is probably nothing worse than having a part of your family kidnapped. Can you imagine that? If someone was kidnapped, one of your kids, and there was nothing but one of those notes with only newspaper cutout letters that said, “Bring me $1 million dollars by Wednesday or else, you’ll never see your loved one again,” that would be awful! You’d probably do anything to get that $1 million. Take out a loan. Call al your family and friends. Sell all of your stuff on Amazon. Whatever it takes to get back your family member.
That’s what happened to us.
We followed other gods.
We fell into sin.
We were trapped – ransomed away from God’s family!
Only the ransom payment wasn’t a million dollars.
It wasn’t a bag full of gold.
It wasn’t even a getaway chopper.
It was the death of God.
So that’s what God did.
He gave up his life to save you.
And as we were being released from our sins.
As we were being released from our imprisonment to guilt.
As we were getting ready to mourn our God who gave up his life for us…
…three days later? He rose! He came back to life! He not only set us free but defeated our captors once and for all with his life and death on the cross!
Which means he still serves us.
He serves us peace in His Words.
He serves us forgiveness with His Promise.
He serves us adoption papers with baptism.
He serves us daily – with his promise of protection!
Which leads to this important truth:
God wants us to serve him because then he is truly serving you!
If you don’t serve God – if you reject him – if you want nothing to do with him, all of his gifts mean nothing! You’ve thrown them away.
But when we serve God.
IV. What Now?
(1) Throw Away your False gods
That was what Joshua told the Israelites. Take those false gods. Pick up those stone statues. Take those wooden poles and…toss ‘em. Burn ‘em. Destroy ‘em. Have nothing to do with them ever again.
Today God is calling us to do exactly that. Take those false gods…take that false god love and throw it away. Throw it at the feet of the cross. That’s confession. Jesus will take it to the cross, beat it with a hammer, nail it to a few pieces of wood, then take it down and throw it away into a tomb.
And…here’s a thought. Is there something that is taking up all of your time? Is there something that is getting in the way of you and God? Cut it out. Maybe you think you can’t do that, well, then why not cut it back? Remove the false gods so there’s time for worshipping the real God. Because when you worship the real God – he will be serving you!
(2) Make the LORD Your ONLY Household God
Don’t just do this for you; do it for all of your house. In fact, make the LORD your only household God.
Because contrary to what society tells you today, God is all you need.
When there are family struggles, God is all your need.
When there is sickness, God is all you need.
When there is sadness, God is all you need.
When there is guilt, God is all you need.
When there is death, God is all you need.
That’s what Joshua knew.
It’s what got Joshua to the Promised Land.
It’s what got Joshua to THE Promised Land.
It’s what will get you and your family there as well. Amen.
My wife and I like to have fun with our dog. Sometimes when we come home (and discover that he has an obnoxious amount of energy) my wife will head up stairs and I'll head outside. Then, I'll call to him, "Come Clay!" and he'll run real fast to come find me. Then, as soon as he gets to me, my wife calls from the upstairs window, "Clay come!" He leaves and runs to her. This goes on for awhile until he get tired and finds himself running back and forth -- unsure of whose voice to listen to.
(The same phenomenon occurs when a bunch of guests come over at once. He runs around the room -- looking to be petted -- but unsure who the best option might be.)
It's hard to be a dog.
Then again, it's also hard to be a human.
If you’re a Christian in modern America, maybe you’ve faced situations similar. You know Jesus is calling you. But – there are lots of voices out there telling you to stop following him and start following them! These voices are tricky. Because when you don’t listen to them, they can get violent. They mock. They yell. They make you ‘uncool’ at school. They post angry messages on your blog.
And you start to think -- Is it worth it?
Whose voice should I follow?
We’re going to John 10 today– to listen to Jesus’ words as to why to follow his voice – the voice of the Good Shepherd. Before we look at his treatise, let’s say a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Danger of the Thief
The illustration Jesus uses in this section is one that would have been very common to ancient Israel – an agrarian community. Listen to the illustration:
Very truly I tell you, Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice. (John 10:1-5)
Notice to whom the illustration is given. It’s given to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a group of people who hated Jesus. They didn't believe in him. In fact, their mission during Jesus' life seemed to be intimidating people into not following Jesus.
In the chapter right before John 10, Jesus heals a man who was blind from birth. Instead of being amazed, the Pharisees arrest the blind man and charge him to badmouth Jesus. They insist there must have been foul play in this healing. (A satanic ritual or illegal drugs -- something!) But the man refuses. As a result, they throw him out of the synagogue because he is a 'no good follower of Jesus.'
It’s really interesting that this illustration begins with the illustration of the thief. “Anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” (v.1) If the guy isn’t coming through the gate, then he isn’t the shepherd. He goes to the side, because doesn’t have the key – or (if you live in a fancy, uppity shepherding neighborhood) he doesn’t have the keycode to open the gate.
And since he can’t get through the gate, he has to wait until night. He has to sneak.in. He has to climb over the fence. He grabs one of the sheep, jumps back out and the sheep are never to be heard from again.
If you haven’t guessed already, you are the sheep in this parable. I’m a sheep too. Jesus isn’t the thief; he’s the shepherd.
Who’s the spiritual thief then? The spiritual thief is the one who doesn’t come in from the gate. I think this is pretty interesting. If you jump forward to verse 7 Jesus defines the gate. He says, “I am the gate for the sheep.” That means the spiritual thief is the one who enters the sheep pen apart from the message of Jesus.
Do you get it?
Jesus was calling out the Pharisees! They weren’t leading people to the Gate! They weren't leading people to Jesus. In fact, they were intimidating people like the formerly blind man into denouncing the real shepherd.
They were the thieves.
The Pharisees as an organized group that are not around today. Are spiritual thieves still a problem today? Oh yeah. Here are a few common ones;
False Teachers. This is essentially what the Pharisees were. Instead of pointing people to salvation by faith in Jesus alone, they pointed people to salvation by doing Jewish thing...Lots of Jewish things...Jewish things that they were probably not going to be able to accomplish because they weren't awesome like the Pharisees
False teachers are still around today. You might find them on the radio, online or on TV. Listen to their message. All the fine sounding sermons and well dressed speakers in the world cannot make up for a lack of Jesus Christ. If they don't point you to Jesus, they aren't going through the Gate. They are robbers. Watch out!
Political Movements. Because Political movements have somehow become more important than following Jesus. Political movements (democrats, republicans and any other political movement) have plenty of non-Jesus like aspects to them. When these things enter through the side gate and steal you away from following Jesus – taking up all of your time reading blogs, posting things on the internet, and ignoring your Bible. You’re in danger; the thief has ahold of you.
Sexual Liberation Movement. Don’t get me wrong – sex is a good thing! God is not a prude. God simply wants to protect your heart and the hearts of others. That’s why God wants sexual relations practiced within the marriage covenant. But this movement proclaim “It’s your body. If it feels good, do it – Who cares about the consequences and who cares who I harm and who cares if I don’t follow God!”
But that line of thinking isn’t a Jesus line of thinking. Jesus cared whom he harmed. Jesus cared about following God. Meaning this current of thinking doesn’t come through the gate. It comes from hopping the fence! IT’S A THIEF! And if you’ve been finding yourself listen to that current of thought lately. You’re in danger; the thief has a hold of you.
Your friends. That’s a hard one to hear. But think about it. If your friend is making fun of Jesus…If your friend is making you question your faith…If your friend is leading you to do things outside of your…If your friend is ridiculing you and giving the impression that unless you give up your faith, the ridicule will only increase. YOU’RE IN DANGER! Your friend is a thief. Knowingly or unknowingly…they are leading you away from the only one who offers salvation.
Here’s the thing. The thief doesn’t actually care about you. The thief only cares for himself. He only cares about the money they’ll get from the wool or the tasty meat that’ll fill his belly later.
As for the sheep? Well…
He doesn’t care if he hurts the sheep.
He doesn’t care if the sheep bleat in terror as he loads them in the back of his truck.
He doesn’t care if the sheep get bruised as he stuffs them into the back of his truck and peels out of there not to get caught.
He doesn’t care if the sheep is absolutely miserable.
And the reality? These spiritual thieves do not care about you and your eternal good.
II. About the Shepherd
(1) He Owns the Sheep
But the shepherd isn’t a thief. The shepherd is a caretaker. The shepherd goes through the gate. Verse 2 says, “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the Sheep.” He’s got the keys. This is his field. He belongs here. In fact, the gatekeeper opens the gate for him. “Good to see you Frank! Things are going pretty well in the field over there. Do you want a cuppa Joe before you head in?” Everyone’s friendly to the shepherd because he belongs there. He belongs there because the field is his.
And the sheep are at ease. He’s there to check on them. To feed them. To give them water. To fix that break in the fence. To scratch the hard to reach spot behind their ears.
The motives of the shepherd are entirely different from the motives of the thief.
The motives of Jesus are entirely different from the motives of spiritual thieves.
The thief cares about himself.
The shepherd cares about the sheep.
The spiritual thief cares about himself.
The Good Shepherd, Jesus, cares about you.
(2) He Calls You by Name
And yes… I said you. That’s not a generic – “Pastor-is-talking-to-a-lot-of-people-here-but-probably-specifically-didn’t-mean-me” you.
It’s a You – specifically you – you. Look at verse 3 He calls his own sheep by name. He doesn’t shout “Here Sheepy, Sheepy, Sheepy!” like the thief trying to get you into the big burlap sack so he can run off to you. He calls out your name – specifically – because he means you – specifically - and he loves you – specifically!
That’s so different from the spiritual thief. The spiritual thief doesn’t care about your name. They think of you as a dollar bill. As a vote. As a notch in the belt. As a like on Facebook. As a building block to their own pride.
But your shepherd? He knows you intimately. He knows your name. He knows your middle name. He knows your last name – and how to pronounce it correctly. He knows your nick name; your pet name; and the super hero name you gave yourself when you were 7.
He knows all about you.
And he loves you:
He loved you enough to die for you.
(3) He Lays Down His Life for the Sheep
In John 10:11 Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep."
Because the reality is that we sheep got ourselves into trouble. Thieve, wolves, terrorists, and all kinds of awful were attacking. You might know them as sin, death, and the devil.
But Jesus picked up his staff. It looked stunningly like a cross.
He lived perfectly when you couldn't.
He died innocently in your place.
He rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of all of your sins.
He died for the sheep!
But unlike any other shepherd in history, the Good Shepherd also rose from the dead. He came back to life on Easter. That means he's not done with us. That means he has good places to lead us:
(4) He Leads the Sheep to Wonderful Places
That’s the final part of following this shepherd. Verse 4 says, He calls his sheep by name and he leads them…He goes on ahead of them.
Take Psalm 23 – it’s well known; we read it earlier says this:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me besides quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
Our shepherd does that for us. He makes us lie down in the nourishing greens of his word. He leads us to the trickling brook of his promises. He quiets our souls with the gentle words of his love.
This is key because sometimes life leads you to scary places. Places only described as “The valley of the shadow of death.” Places like financial barrenness. Places like cancer wards. Places like a turbulent workplace.
I will fear no evil. Your rod and your staff – they comfort me.
As in, your shepherd is with you.
As in, your shepherd he won’t leave you.
As in, your shepherd will lead you out of that valley of death and into the banquet of heaven.
In fact, that’s how Psalm 23 ends:
He spreads a table before me…goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.
Jesus is an awesome shepherd.
III. How Do His Sheep Respond?
(1) Listen to His Voice
Because sheep are used to the voice of the shepherd. They hear it call them for food. They hear his voice tell them where water is. They hear his voice call them and soothe them when they are afraid.
The sheep of the shepherd listen to the shepherd because it’s a voice they recognize.
The same is Jesus’ sheep. They recognize his voice.
It’s a voice that knows your name.
It’s a voice that loves you.
A voice that cried out in agony on the cross for you.
A voice that stopped working…and then 3 days later worked again.
When you don’t know where to go in life – how to act in a certain situation, listen for his voice!
You’ll find it in Scripture. You’ll find it in his Word. Find his voice. Find a section of Scripture that speaks to your life right now. Listen to it!
(2) Run from the Thieves
Verse 5 says this, The sheep will never follow a stranger in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize him.
It’s similar to a stranger at the mall with a scratchy, raspy, obviously bad news voice opening up his big white van and saying, “Hey kid – want some candy!” The sheep of the shepherd do not run to him; the sheep of the shepherd run away!
What’s that look like in your life? It means running away from the spiritual thieves!
Cut out the porn! In fact, get a filter on your computer and give a friend the password.
Stop sleeping with the person you aren’t married to.
Turn off the politics!
Get away from the negative comments and get off of Facebook. It’s ok. You’ll live.
Run away from these spiritual thieves. They steal your soul; lead you to sin.
And if you follow the spiritual thief long enough, suddenly you start to trust them.
You follow them willingly.
You wake up and realize that you don’t have any idea where the Shepherd is and you don’t know how to get back to him!
Maybe you’ve been lost.
Maybe you are lost.
Because the shepherd doesn’t let his sheep stay lost.
(3). Follow Him
In fact, Jesus tells the story of a shepherd who owns 100 sheep (that’s a lot of sheep). But unfortunately, he wakes up one morning, goes out and counts the sheep and realizes that he is down 1. There’s only 99. He counts them again. He starts to panic.
And he tells the gatekeeper to watch the sheep while he puts on his coat and puts on his boots to go out in the rain and find the sheep.
You’ve got 99 sheep sir! Why do you need to go get that one?
The shepherd answers – Because. I love her.
He goes out in the storm. He walks over hills. He chills his body to the bone. He walks through mud and thistles and searches and panics until: The sheep! Over there in the bramble. Bleeding. Unable to move.
He swoops in – tears in his eyes. He hates to see this sheep in pain. He takes out some snips. He cuts the sheep free. He grabs her in his arms and brings her home.
What was lost is found.
That’s your shepherd. That’s Jesus.
That’s someone worth following.
Ever been on a family vacation before?
It always sounds so nice. You get in the car, everyone has their seat and pillow from home. Dad’s driving. Mom has the directions. The bag with all the food is in the back seat for Brother to turn around and deliver snacks. Sister is in control of the DVD player. It sounds nice. The family on a trip together.
But then dad takes the turns on the highway a bit too fast -- Sister is feeling sick to her stomach.
Mom is distracted by sister and forgets to tell dad to turn on I-75. The car goes an hour out of the way.
Dad needs some trail mix to calm himself down, but there’s not any left. Brother ate all of it!
Sister won’t let anyone put any DVD in that isn’t an iCarly original – so that you hear the theme song in the back of your head the whole time.
Sometimes it’s easier to travel alone.
No one to complain about driving.
No one to give wrong directions.
No one else to eat the trail mix.
But what about following Jesus? What about spiritual travel? Is it nicer alone or together?
Today we’re continuing our series called Follow and we’re discussing what it’s like to follow together – as a church family. We will hear about some of the biggest threats to following together and be reminded of the blessings. Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Divisions in Corinth
Our lesson comes from 1 Corinthians 1. A bit of background – 1 Corinthians is a letter written to a young church that was in a city called Corinth. The Corinthians had first learned about Jesus from a follower of Jesus named Paul. They were the ones who told them that they were sinners; that they needed a Savior; that Jesus was that Savior.
At first, the people were so excited about this message. They loved having salvation. They loved having freedom from sin. They loved the peace of God.
But then…something happened.
Paul left. Another Pastor – Pastor Apollos – showed up and took their place. It doesn’t appear he taught a much different message. He taught that they were sinners; that they needed a Savior and that Jesus was that Savior. (Same thing; same message.)
But Apollos must have done things a bit differently. (Maybe he didn’t choose the same worship music as Paul; maybe he bought a different kind of coffee for morning fellowship – I don’t know). Regardless, it started to cause some people to long for their past pastor.
I really miss Paul. He was so sarcastic.The type of guy you could grab a beer with and still be convicted.
Ok sure. But I’m a fan of Apollos. He’s no nonsense and he’s getting stuff done.
But some of his ideas are different. He doesn’t do things the same way that Paul does things. He’s #NotMyPastor.
Speak for yourself – I’m an Apollos guy. Times are changing. His way is better.
Well, I’ll always be a follower of Paul – first and foremost. I’m not a follower of Apollos.
I am. You can stay stuck in the past with the Paul way of doing things.
And then – into that culture – somehow the church became familiar with the teachings of a guy called Cephas (aka Peter). Peter was one of the original 12 disciples. Peter spoke with Jesus for 3 years. Peter must have introduced himself to them. Told about how he saw the resurrected Jesus and shared his ideas for the church of Jesus going forward.
Picture Peter the accomplished author you might find down at the Christian bookstore. A group of people moved to the area from Peter’s church in Jerusalem, joined the church, and ran every idea from the church council by the Apostle Peter.
Putting the sermon after the Bible study? WWPD (What Would Peter do?) – I don’t know if he’d think it was a good idea.
Welcoming Gentiles into the same congregation as Jews? WWPD? I’m not so sure.
Chocolate chip cookies for fellowship! WWPD? I think he’d buy Oreos.
Suddenly a shift started to take place in the church. Instead of one united group, there were different groups. They weren’t united Christians. They were Paulians, Peterites and Apollosians. A group of Paul followers would gather over here and badmouth the Barnabas brotherhood. The Barnabas brotherhood would meet over there and discuss ways to stop Apollos’ outreach plan. And Apollos’ selected church people would snap Instagram photos with the #ApollosChurch until it was trending.
Word got to Paul – the guy who first told them about Jesus. There weren’t phones back then. There wasn’t Snapchat. He couldn’t just TWEET his displeasure. So, he wrote a longhand letter. These divisions are one of the first things he addresses.
10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”’ another, “I follow Cephas,” still another, “I follow Christ.”
I think this is interesting. Paul’s appeal is not for people to revert to doing things his way.
It isn’t for people to listen to all of his ideas.
It’s for people to stop be divided and started being united.
He asks some pretty poignant questions to get his point across:
(1) Is Christ divided? Are the Jews class A of Christians and the Gentiles class B? Did Jesus die once on a cross for the rich and once on a side street for the poor? Does John 3:16 say, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him and likes country music goes to heaven, but whoever believes in him and like rap music goes to a different heaven"? Not any worse, just not the same – not so that I have to listen to your country music the whole time I’m in heaven.
(2) Was Paul crucified for you? The quick answer is NO; he’s busy writing this very letter. Paul wasn’t crucified. Apollos wasn’t crucified. Peter, although some tradition suggests that he was eventually was crucified, was not crucified yet! And even when he did die – it didn’t have any incredible redemptive work. Ask the kids – Jesus died on the cross – not Paul, not Peter, not Apollos, not anyone or anything else.
(3) Were you baptized into the name of Paul? How would that have even sounded? “I baptize you in the name of Paul the Pharisee, Paul the persecutor, and Paul the reformed Christian missionary?"
And I love Paul’s parenthetical aside, “I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.)” Paul’s point isn’t that he didn’t want people to be baptized. (Baptism brings forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation. Things that Paul treasured dearly and dedicated the latter portion of his life preaching). Rather, Paul’s point is that people would have used being baptized by him as some kind of special badge that would have furthered division.
It’s like bringing home a gift for your kids. Maybe you get them each a PEZ dispenser. What if you got the PEZ dispenser for everyone in your family accept your middle child? How’s that go over? (“You love them more than me.”)
It’s the same thing with adults though. Imagine if your boss at work gives everyone a Valentine’s card with a PAYDAY chocolate attached to it. (Get it, PAYDAY?) What happens if you look around the office and you see everyone else has a delicious, chocolate, salty candy bar and you don’t? Division! You get angry. You whine.
Paul recognizes that – even with something as incredible as Baptism. As if people would wear ball caps that said, “Baptized by Paul” and others were visors that said, “Blessed by the hand of Apollos.”
TRUTH: People love taking good things and making them into divisive things. In the case of Baptism, they had taken something incredible – baptism – which unites you with God and with believers and they were now using it as a thing of division.
II. Divisions at Gethsemane?
Careful. Because the devil is still at work today. He is still trying to sabotage the church just as much as he did back then. He is still trying to sabotage our ministry here in Raleigh – just as much as he did then. By taking neutral things – even good things --- and making them into divisive things.
Here are three things that I think we have to be especially careful of.
Did you know it’s not sinful to engage in politics? It’s not sinful to watch political shows either. But what has happened is our country has such an incredible divide between the Republican and Democratic party – that we no longer view each other as people we politely disagree with. But people that we violently oppose! And let them know as much on Facebook and every other social media site we can get onto.
That can’t happen in this church.
That can’t happen when we are dedicated to sharing Jesus.
Jesus wasn’t Republican. Jesus wasn’t Democrat. (Neither of those were even around back then.)
Jesus is our God. He is our Savior. He is the Savior of your friend who votes in a different direction.
Don’t let politics get in the way and ruin the message of your Savior.
Culture is a great thing. It’s a view into God’s mind. That he created us so very different with so many different backgrounds, different food favorites and different styles of wearing our hair. It’s beautiful. Thanks to culture we have the ability to go to the Chinese restaurant on Monday, get Mexican on Tuesday, grab some soul food on Wednesday, try an Italian pizzeria on Thursday and finish it off with Japanese sushi on Friday.
Culture is great. But the temptation is to make it into something that divides – (See: Racism)
Racism has no place in the church. Jesus died for all. It says in the Bible Jesus died for Jews and for Gentiles – which means -- everyone who isn’t a Jew.
Don’t let culture get in the way and ruin the message of your Savior.
(3) Worship Styles.
I bring this up because we will be moving to two different services on Easter. Those two services may be different. One might be a more traditional style of worship (with robes and organ and old school hymns) while the other might be a more contemporary style of worship (without robes and with a band and new school songs).
Both are good. Both are different expressions of culture. Both share God’s Word.
Both could cause division.
Whether it’s “I’m a Traditional Christian” and "I’m a Contemporary Christian.”
Or whether it’s “I’m an early service Christian” and “I’m a late service Christian.”
Don’t let these causes division. Traditional worship didn’t die for you. You weren’t baptized into the name of Contemporary worship.
You were baptized into the name of Jesus.
III. Jesus Unites
In fact, Jesus died to stop division—division between us and God. Our sins had divided us from him. Read Isaiah 59:2 “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.”
There’s this picture of this big thick bulletproof glass. You can see someone on the other side. It’s someone you love. You wish they could hear you. You’re banging on the glass for them to hear you and notice you and let you in.
But they don’t.
That’s the picture of sin and God. We see him. We know his power. We see the value in being with him. But our sins separate us. In a cruel, cruel joke reminding us how unworthy we are to approach a holy, divine God.
But Jesus is like a wrecking ball. Jesus comes in and smashed through the wall. Jesus comes in and knock down our sins. Jesus comes in and removes what separated us from God. Jesus unites us to our Heavenly Father.
TRUTH: God is not a God of division. God is a God of unity.
Paul recognized that. Look at how he continues the letter: Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Look at that again – “The cross, the message that Jesus died for us, destroys our sin, and unites us with God the Father, is a message that divides.” Unbelievers call it foolishness. It doesn’t make any sense – some Jewish guy, a carpenter, died a few thousand years ago, and because of him I’m right with God?
But that same message that divides unbelievers is the message that unites us. It is the power of God.
It is the power for salvation for the Jew.
It is the power of salvation for the Gentile.
It is the power of salvation for the guy who got along with Paul.
It is the power of salvation for the guy who really liked Apollos.
It is the power of salvation for the girl who votes Republican.
It is the power of salvation for the girl who votes Democrat.
It is the power of salvation for the Italian, the German, the Iraqi, the African American, the Hispanic, and the Native American.
It is the power of salvation for the guy who likes guitars.
It is the power of salvation for the guy who likes organ.
It is the power of salvation for all of us. It is the one, incredible, power of salvation that unites us all!
IV. What now?
(1) Focus on What Unites
That’s such an easy thing for us to do. To point out what’s different. But there’s so much that’s the same. We all have eyes. We all have noses. We all have hands and feet. We all have a need to be connected with family and friends. We all have a need to be connected with God.
Check out verse 26: “Think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 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…it is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus.”
Paul is saying – Stop thinking about what makes you different. Think about what makes you the same:
Y’all were sinners.
Y’all were ignorant.
Y’all were in need of a savior.
And all y’all have a Savior. That Savior is Jesus. He is your wisdom.
(2) Boast in God
That’s Paul’s conclusion on this first chapter. He says in verse 31, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” Because what’s boasting? Boasting is speaking openly and proudly about something you like or accomplished.
The problem with boasting is that is usually causes someone to feel awful who hasn’t accomplished what you are boasting about.
Boast in Jesus. Don’t boast in your favorite style of worship. Don’t boast in your favorite political party.
Boast in Jesus.
Boast in God.
Boast in the one who actually and completely unites us in every way.
Then, you are able to follow together.
Then, you are able to follow peaceably.
Then, you are able to help each other on the road to heaven.
A brother of our passed away this past week. I won’t give every detail, but know that he was an older gentleman who had struggles with his lungs. He also didn’t have a lot of family in the area. He lived alone.
That’s a hard thing to go through alone.
I had gotten the message that it wouldn’t be much longer while I was in Arizona. It’s hard to do bedside ministry from Arizona. But…here’s where following together comes in.
Pastor Rockhoff helped with a visit.
One of our elders helped with a visit.
My wife graciously drove me late at night for a visit.
I wasn’t there at the exact time of his death. But one of our elders was. From what I heard about his final minutes – as he was struggling and life was leaving him – our elder was blessed to be able to share with him God’s Word. Literally – reading the blessing.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.
And the Lord gave him peace.
And the Lord brought him into peace.
And he now lives in eternal peace.
That’s following Jesus.
That’s following Jesus together.
Lord help us do that now and always. Amen.
Follow: Even When It Hurts
It’s still tastes good, doesn’t it?
Peter looked over at Andrew as he sat down with a bowl of fish stew and a hearty loaf of bread. He stuffed a bite into his mouth.
I mean: It was amazing wasn’t it, Peter? We had 5 loafs of bread. That’s it! That’s like barely enough for Simon to eat his fill. He’s a zealot after all. But somehow, all of a sudden, there’s more than five loaves. I didn’t go to the store. You didn’t go to the store. Suddenly, out of thin air -- there’s thousands of loaves. We feed all 5,000 plus of them. No one asks for seconds. No one goes hungry. In fact – we’ve get 12 baskets left over – and it’s still good! This bread from basket number is delicious tonight. Isn’t that right John?
John slapped Andrew a high five as he joined the two for dinner.
It was amazing. But that’s what Jesus does, right? Think about what we saw earlier today. A man – born blind – never able to see. And he calls for Jesus. Jesus comes over. Jesus doesn’t give him money. Doesn’t give him food. Doesn’t give him medicine. He gives him spit. On His Eyes.
And there’d never been a better gift. He can see!
Andrew agreed. He’s amazing, isn’t he? It’s so great that we’re able to follow him.
And…Just exactly who are you following?
A hooded figure emerged from the shadows. The fire identified him as this Jesus – the guy they were following.
Tell me, he said, Who do the people say that I am? Who do they think you’re following?
You mean – besides the Pharisees? They think you’re a blasphemer. They think you’re a liar. They think you don’t have powers – but I don’t see how you do that blind man thing or this bread thing without having some kind of divine power.
John continued – But as for the others: Some say you are John the Baptist – back from the dead; Others say you are Elijah – back from the even deader, dead. Still others call you some kind of a prophet – They think that you’re something special, they just don’t know what! (v.19)
Jesus nodded. John put another bite of bread into his mouth. The other disciples gathered around the conversation.
Jesus spoke again, “What about you? Who do you say that I am?”
It was quiet, except for the gentle noise of soft chewing that covered up the turning gears of the disciples’ minds. Eyes darted back and forth – Who would answer?
Peter stood up.
“You, Jesus, are the Christ. The Son of the living God.” (v.20)
There was silence. The words hung in the gentle hillside air. But judging by Jesus’ smile – Peter knew he was right.
Suddenly, shouts of “Amen!” and “Preach it!” began to drown out the chirping of the crickets. The disciples slapped high fives and praised God! Peter had it right. That’s exactly who Jesus was. Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus was the long awaited, promised Savior. Jesus was the fulfillment of every Old Testament prophecy that they had ever read.
And that was awesome. Because it meant parties. It meant royalties. It meant that they were kind of like his cabinet. They’d have t-shirts with their names on them. They’d be sitting in a palace soon sipping on Long Island iced teas and letting the little bubbles from the jacuzzi hit their calf muscles. Hollywood would probably make spin off television shows about all of them!
Jesus watched the excitement in his disciples’ eyes. He let them feel that joy for a moment. Then, he interrupted: “I am your Savior. But…Don’t tell anyone.” (v.21)
The hooting and hollering stopped abruptly -- Lord, why not? Isn’t that the point?
Because. It’s not time yet. You know – the Pharisees don’t believe I’m the Messiah. The fact is, they are so angry about it that they are plotting to kill me. But there will be a time to tell others I’m the Messiah. There will be a time when I tell them I am the Messiah. Then, I must suffer many things. And I must be rejected by the elders. And I must be killed. (v. 22)
Peter broke the silence again: Never Lord! Never will that happen! You’re the Messiah. You’re our Messiah! We’ll fight for you. We’ll help you take the palace that is rightfully yours. We’ll make sure that you get the glory you deserve and we get the glory we deserve too. We won’t let you die! I won’t let you die! (Mt. 16:22)
As Peter spoke, the gentle expression from Jesus faded. It was replaced with eyes blazing full of anger: Get behind me Satan! You don’t have in mind the things of God, but of men. (Matthew 16:23)
Because here’s the truth…I must suffer. I must bear my cross. It is an absolute necessity for God’s salvation plan. It’s absolutely necessary to save you. And… you will bear a cross too. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." (v.23-24)
Peter sat down. Embarrassment rushed to his face. The other disciples were silent too. The joy-filled aura from earlier had been replaced with a terrifying reality. As the words repeated:
If you want to follow me…
Take up your cross.
Come out of that story with me. The disciples go from the high of having identified the Messiah to the low of realizing what that meant. Our goal today – since we’re followers of Jesus too – is to understand two bitter realities of following Jesus and to learn one incredible truth that implores us to follow anyways. Pray with me: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. There’s a Cross for Jesus.
Here’s the first thing that we learn and I need you to write this down in your notes. Since Jesus is the Messiah, there needed to be a cross for Jesus.
Take a look at this Greek word up here. (The New Testament part of the Bible was originally written in Greek.) This is a key word in Luke 9:21. DEI. DEI means “it is necessary.” That means that it “has to happen.” It “must happen.” It means that if whatever it is that is necessary doesn’t happen, the whole things a mess.
Think of work. Your boss might tell you “DEI” it is necessary for you to come to work. If you don’t, he will fire you.
Or it might be “DEI” necessary that you get a report done for your superiors or you will lose the big account.
Or at the Theme Park it might be “DEI” necessary for you to be 5-foot-tall to ride Space Mountain or you will not ride Space Mountain.
Look what Jesus says it necessary, “it is necessary for the Son of Man, that’s Jesus’ name for himself, to suffer, to be rejected and to be killed.” (Lk. 9:22)
As in, without the cross there is no salvation.
As in, without the cross there is no Messiah.
As in, without the cross you do not have a Savior.
And understand what we mean by cross. This doesn’t mean that Jesus would get a beautiful, jeweled necklace like you can get down at Lifeway bookstore. The cross wasn’t wall art. It wasn’t fine craftsmanship out of olive wood from Jerusalem.
It was a horror. It was a torture device. It was a wooden instrument stained with blood, sweat, and the stench of death.
It was awful.
But it was also necessary.
Scripture says this, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 3:23) Jesus didn’t have sin. We did. He didn’t deserve death. We did. He didn’t die for himself. He died for us.
Jesus’ death was necessary for the payment to be made!
In a book, long before Jesus came to earth, Scripture says, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Deut. 21:23) Then, in a book written after Jesus came to earth and went up on that cross, Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
In other words – a bullet wouldn’t do. A mobbing wouldn’t do. Slipping on a banana peel wouldn’t do. In order to assure us yet again that Jesus was in fact the Messiah – it labeled a very specific kind of death at a very specific kind of time that just adds itself into all the prophecies that point to Jesus as the very specific Messiah that you need. Old Testament prophesied that Jesus would die on a cross therefore…
Jesus’ death on a cross was necessary to identify him as Savior.
And if you want to follow Jesus, so is yours.
II. There’s a Cross for You.
That’s exactly what Jesus said. “Whoever (notice he doesn’t say, “You Twelve who are here with me right now,”) Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
So…Where’s your cross? I don’t have a big pile of wooden crosses stored in that back room up here. That’s not what it’s for. If that were true, I suppose that every Christian would have died from crucifixion. That’s just not the case.
A cross is painful.
A cross is hard.
Our definition of a cross: It is something that is painful and hard.
Is a cross a splinter then? That’s painful. That’s hard.
Can a cross be a cold? I’ve had some head colds that are painful & hard.
There’s more to the definition than that. Jesus continued, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (v.24)
A cross is something painful. It’s something hard. It’s something painful and hard because of following Jesus.
It could be a splinter – If the splinter comes because you’ve been out building a tree house for the kids at Precious Lambs and so that more parents are impressed with the center, decide to bring their kids to Precious Lambs and learn about the salvation of Jesus.
It could be a cold – If the cold comes from spending a week in the preschool, exposing yourself to the germ sponges known as little children, just so that they might be exposed to their Savior.
A cross is something painful & hard because of following Jesus.
It’s not sleeping with your boyfriend, no matter how much the sexual tension burns, because you’re following Jesus.
It’s not yelling at everyone at work, keeping the anger & stress from being released, because you’re following Jesus.
It’s making a friendship uncomfortable because you can’t help but tell them about their Savior.
It’s giving a bit more money from your funds to the work of the Lord – even if it hurts – because you’re following Jesus.
Maybe you’re thinking: “This is hard. This isn’t what I signed up for. I wanted peace & joy & for life to be easier when I became a Christian. Can’t I follow Jesus without the pain & hardship? Can’t I follow Jesus without carrying the cross?”
Let me ask you this. Scenario. If I’m feeling super hungry, maybe I haven’t eaten for hours & mom sets some delicious, fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies onto the countertop. They smell delicious. Your mouth starts watering. But mom says, “Don’t eat them till after dinner.” And Jesus says, “Honor your Father and mother.” But you say, “Mom isn’t looking and I’m super hungry so, I’ll just take one.”
Who are you following?
It’s not Jesus.
You’re following yourself.
In fact, anytime you choose sin, you’re not following Jesus.
You’re not bearing your cross.
You’re setting it down, because “Man, Jesus this cross is too heavy.”
Here’s the problem. It says in verse 24, “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it.” This is intriguing. The very thing we want to save is the very thing we will lose! Because our trust is in our own life – which is the very thing in need of saving – how then can it do the saving?
That’s like seeing a kitten drowning in a raging river and shouting out to the kitten, “Can you help me tie my shoe?” It won’t happen!
And the one who is in the position to do the saving? The Savior, Jesus? “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the Holy angels.” (v.25-26)
Picture fire. Picture heaven. Picture glory. Picture Jesus but not coming for you…
…coming after you.
Don’t have Jesus coming after you.
Have Jesus coming for you.
Pick up your cross & follow Him.
III. Jesus Defeated the Cross
There’s a part of Jesus’ words that I think the disciples miss the first time. That Peter must have completely glossed over. Look at what Jesus said one more time, “The Son of man must suffer, be rejected, kill AND…on the third day rise again from the dead.” (v.22)
Here’s the deal. Jesus was right about the suffering – A crown of thorns pierced his head, fists punched his face, a metal laced strap of seven cut through his back, nails went through his hands and his feet, and his lungs slowly lost the ability to breath.
And Jesus was right about the rejection. It was the chief priests and teachers of the law – the very people who knew the Old Testament enough to identify Jesus as Savior – who convicted him, who stormed the Roman governor’s house, who sat on his lawn chanted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” until the government gave the go ahead for them to do so.
And Jesus was right about his death. Because the way he came down off that cross was limp, lifeless, dead.
Jesus was also right about his resurrection. Three days later he came out of his tomb – alive!
Jesus carried a cross.
Jesus defeated that cross.
Jesus will help you carry & defeat yours, too.
That’s the promise of heaven. Whatever you’re going through as a result of following Jesus, one day it will be no more.
There won’t be any hurt feelings from angry Facebook posts.
There won’t be any more struggles with finances from giving to Him.
There won’t be any more stress & struggle against temptation & sin.
There won’t be any friendships ruined because you were following Jesus first!
All of those crosses will be defeated.
Following Jesus, your cross will be defeated.
(1) Forfeit the World
What good is it in you gain the whole world, but forfeit your soul? (v.26)
Think of the scenario. What if you got the whole world – billions of dollars, a brand-new iPhone every time a new version came out, hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram, a clean bill of health & one of the little robots that does the vacuuming for you.
What good is it if you gain all that, but lose your soul?
Usually, it’s not even that much that we get.
What good is it if you gain a moment of sexual pleasure?
An extra dollar or two?
A better reputation among friends?
A release of anger?
The feeling of I showed him?
What good is it if you gain that minor moment of bodily happiness for an eternity of torture in hell?
It’s not good.
That’s like trading in your 1957 Chevy Corvette for half a chicken nugget. It’s a terrible idea! Don’t do it.
(2) Pick it up Daily.
What’s in your daily routine? Comb your hair? Brush your teeth? Put in your contacts? If you skip one of those, doesn’t your day feel incomplete? If you can taste the film from not brushing your teeth, you might try to scrub with your finger. Who wants to miss that?
What about picking up your cross? Same feeling.
Each day put on Christ. Each day live like a Christian. Each day prepare to let your let shine in a world where there isn’t a lot of light.
(3) See the Kingdom of God
Jesus concludes with a strange statement. Some of them wouldn’t taste death until they saw the kingdom of God. Probably doesn’t mean that there are disciple hiding out in some mountain somewhere never having died. In fact – in the coming verses a few of the disciples see God’s Kingdom in a glorious transfiguration atop a mountain. If that’s not what Jesus is talking about, maybe he’s talking about the apostle John seeing God’s kingdom in the revelation for the book of Revelation.
Regardless of what the exact reference is the result is not lost on us. Pick up your cross. Follow Jesus. And you will see the kingdom of God.
You’ll approach in awe.
You’ll see the joys of heaven.
You’ll set your cross down outside the gate.
Jesus will put his arm around you and say, “Well done. Put your cross down now & follow me.”
Follow: When No One Else Does
Today we’re continuing our sermon series called FOLLOW. It’s all about following Jesus in 2017. Today we want to talk about following Jesus when No One else is. We’re going to look at a very powerful piece of scripture. It’s only two verses long. But it’s two verses packed with a lot of meaning. Our goal is to hear from Jesus himself (1) two very good reasons to not follow him and then (2) one even better reason TO follow him. Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Two Good Reasons NOT to Follow Jesus
Today’s Scripture comes from the middle of the Sermon on the Mount – it’s a very famous sermon that Jesus gave all about what it’s like to truly follow God. We’re in Matthew 7:13-14. It’s near the end of the sermon and it’s kind of a good summation of everything that Jesus has been talking about in the two chapters prior to this. It does an excellent job of describing to us what following Jesus is like. He says,
"Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it."
(1) It's Lonely
Let me direct your attention first of all to the number of people on each road – the popular opinion if you will. One road has many on it; the other road has few on it.
This might be something called the Popular Principle. Think about that. If you were downtown Raleigh and there were a bunch of food trucks set up – one with a line of about 30 people and the other without anybody in line, which one would you go to? If you’re in a hurry, maybe the shorter line. But there’s something about the longer line that says to you, “That might be better food. If there’s so many people who like it, I might like it too.”
Well, what about Jesus? Was he popular?
Jump back with me to presumably a bit earlier in Jesus’ life. In Luke 4, Jesus is in Nazareth, the town he grew up in. He makes his way to their weekly church service at the synagogue and everyone’s excited to see him.
“My how you’ve grown. I haven't seen you since you were a young whipper snapper”
“I hear you’re a teacher now. I’m sure your parents are proud of you.”
“Do you remember that time when you finger painted with my son Ezekiel? It was so funny how your people looked just like trees!”
As the synagogue service starts, the people settle down and the local rabbi asks Jesus to come up front, read some scripture and share a teaching. The reading for that Sunday just so happens to be an Old Testament reading about the coming of the Messiah.
As Jesus spoke, they all smiled at him. What a nice young man. A rabbi is a noble calling. We are excited to hear his exposition – as in – we’re excited for him to say what every rabbi says about this part of Scripture: The Messiah is coming and we must prepare our hearts for his arrival.
But after Jesus gets done reading, after he rolls up the scroll, after he sets it back in its protective case, Jesus preaches a different sermon:
“Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)
As in, “The Messiah is no longer coming.”
As in, “The Messiah is already here.”
As in, “I am that Messiah.”
The people are shocked. Isn’t this Joseph’s son? Didn’t he grow up by us? How does he think he’s the Messiah?
And Jesus rebukes them. “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.” (Lk. 4:24)
And I am a prophet.
And you aren’t accepting me.
And you are sinning—You are rejecting your Messiah.
And do you know how the people respond?
No one claps.
No one says, “Amen.”
No one squeezes his cheeks, tells him how cute he is and hands him a lemon bar refreshment.
They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built in order to throw him off the cliff. (Lk 4:29)
Now Jesus escapes, but can you imagine the word that got around? Why would anyone want to follow Jesus if it meant you’d have to face an angry mob? Wouldn’t it be much easier to be a part of the angry mob? It doesn’t get any easier. There are hundreds, if not thousands, who shouted for his crucifixion just two years later!
It’s just what Jesus said, “Many and Few."
As in many don’t follow Jesus.
As in few do.
It was true back then, but is it true today?
Take a look at some research. This is from the Barna Pew Research group. From 2007 to 2012 they did a survey to discover the growth of certain religious groups. Check out some of the trends:
What’s the point? Christianity is declining. It is not the bandwagon anymore. To be fair, it may have been at one point – and maybe that’s why it was higher in the past. “I’m Christian. Why? Because everyone I know is Christian.” But it’s fading, quickly in the U.S.
But maybe you don’t need facts. Maybe you’ve noticed on your own.
Maybe you’re the only Christian at work, on your block, in your family, at your house!
It feels lonely.
It feels lonely when you’re the only one bowing your head for a prayer.
It feels lonely when your Jesus comment sits on Facebook without any likes.
It feels lonely when your minivan that sits 6 only sits 1 each Sunday…every Sunday…again & again.
It feels lonely to follow Jesus when no one else does…But understand it’s exactly what Jesus said it would be: “Many follow the other roads….Few follow Me.”
(2) It's Hard
But why? Why is it that so many people are not following Jesus? He offers forgiveness of sins, eternal life, & salvation! That’s sounds pretty good, right?
I suppose we could look at all the stats, pour over my Barna research polls, read book after book written on the subject. (There might be some value in doing so). But if you’re looking for the short, quick and entirely accurate answer. Look no farther than Jesus. Hear the second good reason not to follow Jesus.
For…broad is the road that…many enter through it. But narrow the road that... a few find it.
How many of you like going into a crawl space? It’s narrow. The ceiling is low. It’s easy to bump your head. You might even have to drag your knees across sharp gravel. Wouldn’t you rather pick a big door? Maybe one of those doors that they have at the mall where both sides of a door open up at the same time with plenty of room on both sides for you to walk, hand in hand, with a friend!
It’s the same spiritually. One is an easy walk. One is very challenging. That word narrow there means “hard pressed, squeezed.” Who likes being hard pressed? Who likes being squeezed? That’d be like going through each day while a professional wrestler is putting you in a sleeper hold! Who would choose that?
Jesus says that’s exactly why so few follow him. It’s not easy. It’s hard.
That’s what happened even at the time of Jesus. Look at John 6. Jesus had just gotten done feeding close to 10,000 people with a few loaves of bread and two fish. (A miracle). People were full. People were happy. Many wanted to make him their king.
But then Jesus began teaching again. He told people that “whoever believe(d) in him would never be thirsty.” (v.36) He said that “everyone who looks to Me and believes in me shall have eternal life and He would raise them up on the last day.” (v.40) He told them that “He was the bread of life & unless people ate his flesh and drank his blood, that would not have eternal life!” (v.53)
And the people said…
You’re crazy. Your flesh isn’t bread. Your blood isn’t drink.
You’re crazy. You can’t bring us back to life.
You’re crazy. You aren’t the Messiah. I won’t trust in you. I’m a good enough person on my own to get to heaven without – some carpenter from Nazareth!
v. 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
People who had seen the miraculous feeding of the nearly 10,000…People who ate of his bread and tasted the fish. People who saw the 12 baskets left over. People who had no problem taking his food – that was easy – found it too hard to follow him.
And they left him.
Isn’t it the same thing today?
Do you know what a MEME is? It’s a photo or graphic with a brief message on it. Some are funny. Some are interested. Some exist to make a point. And in our YouTube, I don’t want to read, show me a photo society – these one sentence picturesque memes are popular. They’re all over social media.
Some aren’t very flattering to Christians. Try this sometime. Google “Stupid Christian memes.” Make sure you put a filter on your search phrase though, because they can get very crude and profanity filled, very quickly. I found one that’s not super crass – but still makes my skin crawl. Ready for it?
Religion - Helping stupid people feel important since the dawn of man.
How’s that make you feel? Good? Do you like it? It’s ok to say “no who would?“
Here’s where the devil does his best work:
Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to be on the bandwagon?
Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just be quiet?
Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to not have to hear people call you awful names?
Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to stop following Jesus?
Here’s the reality. It would be.
It would be less lonely – There’s lot of people on the other road.
It would be easier – It’s wide and you aren’t hard pressed on any side.
Why, then? Why then would we keep following Jesus?
One reason. LIFE.
II. One Even Better Reason TO Follow Jesus
Read the passage from Matthew one more time. Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.
Zero in on that word destruction. Honestly there’s not a way that I can fluff up that word. There’s not any way to sugar coat it. That big road? The one that’s easy? The one that’s apart from Jesus? The one that lots of people are on and is such a nice & pleasant trip?
When you get to the end it stops being pleasant – real quick.
There’s the burning, incredible wrath of a sin-hating, all powerful, holy God.
There’s hellfire. Forever. In Hellfire.
But the other road? The one that’s lonely. The one that’s tough. The one that isn’t all that pleasant. The one that’s filled with ridicule and scorn and memes mocking you for taking the road?
That road leads to life.
As in, no destruction.
As in, no annihilation.
As in, no hell.
As in, eternal life.
As in, everlasting peace.
As in, glory — forever.
If you’re thinking that sounds crazy – remember that’s the very reason the road is challenging. It seems crazy.
Kind of like when Jesus said he would feed 10,000 some people with a few loaves of bread and two fish—and he did.
And kind of like when Jesus said they could kill him, but he would come back to life three days later – and he did.
The stark contrast in the two roads couldn’t be more clear.
One road seems nice but leads to eternal destruction.
The other road seems tough, but leads to eternal life.
If you’ve been following the wrong road.
If you’ve been choosing the broad road, feel your pulse. Your time is not up. There’s still room on the road to life.
Jesus walked a tough, awful, lonely road to get you back on the right road.
He was left behind by his followers.
He was betrayed by a dear friend.
He was beaten by the people he came to save.
He was crucified by the humans he created.
He died as His Heavenly Father forsook him & abandoned him because of our sins.
But he did all this to make you a path – the only path – to God.
A path of forgiveness.
A path of peace with God.
A path to heaven.
III. What now?
1) Watch Out for Bandwagonism
The Super Bowl is today -- and while I’ve gotten over the fact that this is #NotMySuperBowl – I’m still not certain who I’ll cheer for. I’ll probably just hop on the bandwagon of whatever team the majority of people at the Super Bowl party are cheering for.
What’s a bandwagon you ask? A bandwagon is…
Hopping on the bandwagon, then, is a phrase that means you will cheer for a team, not because you like the way they are coached. Not because you think they’re good. Not even because you think their mascot is cute. Hopping on the bandwagon means that you cheer for a team, simply because everyone else is.
And the bandwagon is fun! You get high fives from lots of people. You cheer with lots of people. You get to sample people’s hot wings & bratwurst – just cause “You’re a fan of my time.” No one mocks you. No one makes fun of you. You laugh together. You win together. You lose together.
It is much more difficult to go against the bandwagon. If you are the only one at your Super Bowl party today cheering for the Falcons & everyone else is decked out in Tom Brady jerseys – that’s not as much fun. You can’t celebrate with all the gusto you want. You feel like you have to smile politely when something good happens – that’s all your celebrations are limited to. You have to endure teasing & raucous cheering when things go bad. Essentially – you, by yourself – are the enemy.
Don't be a bandwagon fan when it comes to Jesus.
Don't do it just because your family did.
Don't follow just because your friends do.
Follow because Jesus leads to life.
(2) Remember the Goal
As Jesus watched the backs of thousands of people, people who had been sitting at his feet just yesterday – but now were leaving him because he was crazy. He looked back at his closest friends – Peter, Andrew, James and John – the men that he had called from the fishing boat “Follow me.” He said, “You don’t want to leave too, do you?”
It was quiet.
The men looked at each other.
All eyes focused on Peter.
He nodded his head and stood up.
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Peter was right.
There was no other road for him.
There was no other road for the other disciples.
There was no other road for life.
And even if it was hard, even if it was lonely. There was no way he was turning around.
May God impress upon us the exact same confidence to follow Jesus…even when we’re all alone. Amen.
Follow: to the Baptismal Waters
Today we’re continuing our series called Follow. It’s all about following Jesus in 2017. Since it’s Baptism Sunday, our goal is to focus on following Jesus to the waters of Baptism. One simple goal – to understand the host of blessings that God provides those who follow him into the baptismal waters. Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Water of Life
We’re beginning our study in John 4 – It’s a section of Scripture that is not directly related to Baptism, at least – not at first. But it continues the story from where we left Jesus last week. Remember -- he had been identified by John the Baptist near the Jordan river. He called the disciples to follow him by the Sea of Galilee. Now they want to get to Judea. In order to get to Judea, they need to travel through a place called Samaria. That’s about a 60-mile journey!
This long before the invention of the minivan. Can you imagine that? All the disciples piled in a minivan. Peter wants to drive. John is trying to change the radio station dial. Andrew is in back: “Are we there yet?” There was no minivan. There was no car. This wasn’t even by horse. This was by foot – which was Jesus’ preferred method of travel. Still that’s a long way to walk by foot. So the group stopped near the Ancient civilization version of the rest stop: A stone well.
Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said, to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
And the woman was startled. “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” Now that might seem a bit rude, but there were some cultural reasons for her surprise.
(1) He was a Jew. She was a Samaritan. Scripture makes this note (Jews do not associate with Samaritans). If you think relations in America are bad today, they were worse amongst Jews and Samaritans. Jews purposefully would not spend time with Samaritans. So…this meeting and Jesus’ greeting was strange. It might be similar to a man in a turban approaching a young white woman or an older white man talking with a young black woman. It happens. It even happens in this church – praise the Lord – that’s a good thing. But it’s not the norm and people might think it a bit strange.
(2) In addition, he was a man – she was a woman – and they were alone. People were a lot more polite back then. Women didn’t want to unwittingly cause a man married to another woman to lust after them. Men tried hard not to woo and flirt a young woman into his bed before they were married. In fact, they were so serious about this (and perhaps as a culture we could learn a thing or two from this – but that’s another topic for another day) they refrained from speaking with members of the opposite sex in lonely places. That way there wouldn’t be any temptation.
Racism. Temptation. Both reasons for a conversation between the two of them to be strange. But I’m not sure that either of those really get to the heart of her surprise.
(3) Look at the time. Verse 6 says that, “It’s noon.” That tells us that the majority of well-visitors had gone for the day. Usually townsfolk would get there first thing in the morning to draw water for the day's’ activities. They would each take a bucket, put it on their head, bring it to the well, chat about the latest gossip in town, fill up each bucket, and then make their way back with enough water for cooking, cleaning, and drinking the rest of that day.
The only people who came at noon would have been travelers, like Jesus.
And anyone who didn’t want to meet anyone else at the well like this woman.
Jesus responds to her concerns, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (v.10)
Living water? Seriously? Sir – you don’t have anything to get the water with. It’s deep. You need something to get the water out. You can’t just lean down with your hand and scoop me some water. Unless this is some lame attempt at a pickup line. I’ll tell you what. If you can get water without a bucket and a rope – if you can get “living water” out of thin air – then you must be pretty great. You must be a magician. A great magician – even greater than Jacob – the guy who dug this well for us!
“Everyone…” Jesus interrupted her train of thought…“who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (v.13-14)
And the woman turns around with disdain on her face. Sure dude. Get me some of that water. I’d love that water. I hate having to come out here, fill up the buckets and bring them back each day – only to do it again tomorrow. If you’ve got living water, give it to me. I’d be more than happy to never have to do this stupid job again.
The woman smirked. That should have been enough sarcasm to get him to shut up. She called his bluff and now she can go back to getting the water out of the --
“Go,” Jesus said, “Call your husband and come back.” (v.16)
Immediately, the nerves throughout her body tightened. This was the reason that she didn’t come with the other women earlier in the day. "I don’t have a husband." She spoke shortly. She spoke sharply.
“You’re right. You don’t have a husband. The truth is that you’ve had five husbands – and the guy that you’re sleeping with right now; he isn’t your husband. What you have just said it quite true.” (v.16)
The woman froze. She let the bucket drop. How did he know? She had worked hard to avoid the embarrassment, to avoid the shame, to avoid the guilt. That’s why she came to the well when she did! How did this foreigner know? Who was he?
Still – that was a conversation that she did not want to have. That was sins that she did not want to drag up. So, she dropped the sarcasm and changed the subject:
Sir, you must be a prophet of some kind. Can I ask you a prophet question? We Samaritans worship on this mountain. Jewish people worship in the temple of Jerusalem. Who’s right?
And as she finished that question – the woman breathed a sigh of relief. Crisis avoided. Her past avoided. Her sins avoided.
Or so she thought.
“Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. (The place doesn’t really matter.) You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. (As in God did miracles among them and revealed his saving plan to them.) Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth…” (v.21-23)
As in making their marriage commitments true – the first time, not just the sixth time.
As in sleeping with their husband, not some guy she has no intention of staying with.
Worshipers worship in truth. Because God is spirit and his worshipers worship in truth. (v.24)
At this point – the woman’s heart must have been pounding. Her eyes widening. Sweat dripping. These were her secrets. These were her sins. These were the things that she couldn’t wash off of her soul – off of her mind and off her reputation. These were the things that had mucked up her life so much that she had given up trying – simply succumbed to the sins – and tried to avoid any reminder of her wrongdoing.
She stared at the ground. The only hope she had seemed like a fairy tale. It seemed so far off. It’s something that she remembered from her few days of Sunday School. She fought back tears. It was the only hope she had. "I know the Messiah called Christ is coming – he will explain everything to us." (v.25)
At this, Jesus leaned in. He lifted her chin. He looked into her eyes: “I, who speak to you, am He.” (v.26)
Break from the story. Do you understand what that means? Do you understand what that means for you?
Because we’re exactly like that woman. We’ve got problems. We’ve got aches. We’ve got pains. We try to deal using earthly things – money, home improvements, friends, career status, raising kids to be better than us! And we try to deal using sinful things – too much alcohol, self-medication, lust, fantasy, writing angry bitter things on our Facebook status.
But here’s the thing – all that stuff is just like that water in the well. It fills you up for a bit. Then, it fades. The money stops coming in. Your friends leave you. You lose your job. Your kids move. The drunken stupor turns into a headache. The self-medication turns into the shakes. The pornography turns into a broken relationship. The fantasy turns into a broken marriage. The bitter things on Facebook leave you without any friends.
These things are nothing more than regular water. H20. Dirty, mucky, bottom of the well wet molecules that quench thirst for a moment – but then fades away.
He’s the Water of Life.
He says to you:
I am the One who will fix it.
I am the One who will clean your soul.
I will clean up your past.
I will clean up your present.
I will clean up your future.
I am the water of life.
And the water of life is water that lasts!
He quenches our thirst for righteousness with his true righteousness gifted to us through us perfect life.
He quenches our thirst for forgiveness with his incredible sacrifice that he made on the cross.
He quenches our thirst for peace with God with his blood, shed to make peace with God.
He quenches our thirst for immortality with his incredible resurrection from the dead.
In short – you’re forgiven.
In Jesus, you are forgiven.
In Jesus, you will find a constant, eternal, never changing, unending source of spiritual nourishment.
II. The Water that Connects us to the Water of Life
Now – I said this is a message on baptism but we are now 1800 words in and I haven’t even mentioned it! That’s because baptism gets its power from Jesus. Baptism without Jesus is just water. It’s just like taking a shower, washing your hands, spraying off your dog or running through the sprinkler on a hot day.
Baptism is just water, unless Baptism is in Jesus. Then, Baptism is water that connects you to the water of life.
Listen to what Jesus said about baptism in Matthew 28:19. He said, “Go and make displaces of all nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
I’ve been working on fixing up our new house recently. Part of that is painting. Usually we’ve been using latex painting which comes off fairly easy. Usually with just water – but maybe a bit of soap. The other day I was staining a piece of wood. I dipped my paintbrush in. I stained the wood. Then, I took it to the sink. The paint didn’t come off like it should. In fact, it was just causing it to congeal. I went to look at the can of stain – it wasn’t latex, but oil paint. The kind that you can only get off when you wash it in paint thinner.
Here’s the deal with sin. It doesn’t come off in just water. It doesn’t come off in water and soap. It doesn’t come off in paint thinner.
Sin comes off when you wash in the Father who pours out his love for us in the promise of a Savior.
Sin comes off when you wash in the Son who shed his blood through the nail marks in his hands to win your forgiveness.
Sin comes off when you wash in the Holy Spirit who floods our hearts with God’s promises in His Word.
Sin comes off in baptism, not because of the water, but because of the Holy, incredible, divine, everlasting, all powerful, all complicated, all mysterious, all loving, Triune God of heaven and earth.
That’s why baptism isn’t just water. But water that connects you to the water of life.
This water of life gives you three blessings. Three awesome reasons to be baptized. Three awesome reasons to give thanks for your baptism:
(1) Baptism Cleans
Acts 2:38 says this, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.” That’s a pretty powerful stand-alone statement on its own. God gives forgiveness of sins through baptism.
But it’s even more powerful when you understand the context. Because the guy preaching is Peter. The time he’s preaching is 53 days after Jesus’ crucifixion. And the people he is preaching to are literally people who stood in a crowd 53 days earlier and chanted “Crucify him! Crucify him!” about Jesus.
A bit earlier in this sermon Peter tells them that Jesus came back to life.
He tells them that this resurrection is proof that Jesus is God.
He tells them that this means they killed God.
And—not that we should rank sins – but let’s rank sins. Killing the author of Life himself is pretty high up there!
The people are hurt. The people are ashamed. The people are filled with guilt and cry out, “What must we do?” (Acts 2:37)
Peter’s response: “Repent – turn from sin and turn to God, turn from unbelief and turn to faith, And be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.” Even the sin of murdering Jesus.
That’s the cleansing power of Jesus in baptism. It washes you from your sins – no matter what your sin is!
Yelled at my wife to the point of her leaving me and now I have been bitterly blaming her for the whole ordeal and living a quiet angry, life on my own? Washed.
Baptism connects you to the cleansing power of Jesus.
(2) Baptism Rejuvenates
Titus 3:5 says this, “God saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal in Jesus.”
Because the truth is that sin is tiring. Feeling guilty is tiring. You and I – even if we’re Christians – still sin each day. At the end of the day, we’re disappointed in ourselves. We’ve failed. We may even be disgusted.
How awesome to hear: You are forgiven and be rejuvenated again.
Just like Jesus. He died. (out of energy) But three days later, Jesus came back to life. He lambasted the grave – he walked again!
By that same resurrection power, baptism resurrects you--- each day. It drowns the old, sinful you, but resurrection is the new you. The new man – the new woman – created to be apart from sin – created to live for Jesus.
(3) Baptism Uniforms You
The Super Bowl is next week. And each Super Bowl there are always people who don’t get their due. There will be lots of talk about Tom Brady and Matt Ryan. Talk about their coaches. Talk about their teams, their trainers, even their general managers. But not a lot of talk about their uniform specialists. That’s not fair. Without the uniform makers, we wouldn’t know who’s on who’s team! They wouldn’t know. The whole thing would be chaos!
Uniforms are important. Check out what Galatians 3:27 says, “All of you who have been baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ.” You are no longer on the team of sin. You are no longer on the devil’s side. You are no longer on team ‘you.’
You are on God’s team. You are wearing the "Team Jesus" jersey.
What a team it is! It’s a team that has people of all different background and all different experiences and all different ages on it. Black and white, Asian and Latino, elderly and teenage, male and female, Republican and Democrat, Raleighian and Durhaminian. All united in Jesus Christ. All united in his family.
All on the same team.
Can I show you one last interesting note on John 4? After the woman hears that Jesus is the Messiah Scripture says that, “She left her bucket.” Interesting huh? She came with the bucket because she needed water!
She left without it because she received so much more.
If you’ve been baptized, leave content! God has done amazing things for you. You’ve been washed clean in Jesus.
If you haven’t been baptized, what are you waiting for? Jesus offers amazing blessings – all the blessings you need – Blessings that well up to eternal life.
Follow: Right Now!
Have you ever asked your kid to clean his room in the middle of video gaming? It never works very well.
I’m coming. Just after this level.
I’ll be there soon just a few more minutes.
Mom! I’m battling Bowser for control of the Mushroom Kingdom! If I don’t help now, the toadstools will be under his control forever. How can you talk about dirty sneakers at a time like this?
Of course – the same thing happens when you’re a grown-up.
Ever heard of a Honey-Do-List? What amazes me is how long honey do lists can become. They become long for two reasons. (1) One spouse will keep adding to it. Fix the toaster. Paint the garage. I think the heater’s broken! Could you set up a hanger system in my closet for all of my pocket scarves? (2) The other spouse will come up with reasons not to fix it. I’m going fishing. I’ve got work to do. Somebody’s gotta watch this football game, it won’t watch itself.
It makes me think: Putting things off is human nature. Procrastination is a key part of being a human.
But what about when procrastination makes its way into your spiritual life?
No big deal thing?
Today we’re continuing our series called Follow. It’s about following Jesus. Our focal point this morning is urgency. We want to learn why following Jesus is so urgent and how we can be urgent about Jesus in 2017. Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Urgency of Near
The main lesson comes from Matthew 4. This takes place after our lesson from last week. Remember? John had pointed at Jesus and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) The heavens opened at Jesus’ baptism. A dove landed on his shoulder and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:15-17) Highlights.
That was a highlight for John. He had beheld the reality of his message – that a Savior was coming – with clear eyes. He must have felt pretty good.
Then, a lowlight. John, motivated by what he has seen in Jesus, keeps preaching. He preaches to the tax collectors. He preaches to prostitutes. He preaches to Pharisees. He even begins to preach to King Herod – the guy in charge of Judah. And Herod is interested in him. He wants to hear what this crazy preacher will say. He loves to hear him talk about those Pharisees. He loves to see those religious officials squirm. He loves John’s message.
Until – it hits home.
John turns and says to Herod, “And you? Stop sleeping with your brother’s wife. You aren’t married to her. She isn’t married to you. That sexual immorality. That’s one of the commandments: You shall not commit adultery. What you’re doing is wrong. It’s wrong and if you don’t change, you’re going to hell!”
Can you imagine Herod sweating? He’s embarrassed. (Thank goodness there wasn’t Twitter at that time.) He thinks it over. I can’t repent. That would make me look weak—like some crazy preacher has control over me. So instead Herod has John arrested and thrown into prison. Herod thinks, “There I’ve dealt with that. No more grand revolutionary spiritual voices for people to follow.”
And things are quiet.
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee…From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:12,17)
What do you know about heaven? The Bible doesn’t provide a full architectural schematic of heaven. There aren’t any illustrations. You can’t find heaven on Zillow. Google Earth does not allow you to zoom in and see Peter’s car parked on a side street near the holy donut shop.
But the Bible does say this: In heaven, there is no sadness. There is no mourning. There is no sin. There is no pain. There is no hunger. There is no thirst. There is no loneliness. There is no evil. There is no cancer. There is no AIDS. There is no terror. There is no racism. There is no death. (Revelation 21)
There is God. There is his love. There is joy. There is love. There is family. There is friends. There is a peaceful forever existence in the happiness of eternity. (Revelation 21)
Sounds awesome, right?
Ok Pastor. How do I get there? Again – Heaven isn’t physical. Rand McNally doesn’t know the way. You can ask Siri and she will not know. Heaven isn’t a place you drive to, walk to, or ride a motorcycle to.
Heaven is spiritual.
Heaven is invisible.
Heaven is a place you go after this life.
Heaven is a place you go when you die.
Heaven is place you go for eternity.
Which means – God has to get you there. And since God is the one who does the transporting, understand that God is the one deciding whether you can come or not.
It’s kind of like driving in a car. I know that some people have rules when you ride in their car. No sodas. No chips. No food and drink. No melty chocolate. Why? Well – they probably have had kids spill all over the carpets as they hit a bump on the road. They would like a clean car. It is their car, so makes sense that they get to set the rules for it. I remember once trying to get into the car of my friend’s mom and she wouldn’t let me until I took off my dirty, muddy, shoes. I couldn’t be mad. It was her car, her rules. God’s the same way. Although it doesn’t bother God whether or not you are drinking a Coca-Cola when he comes to get you. There is something that God doesn’t want in heaven:
Do not be deceived: Evildoers will enter into the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Back to Jesus. Jesus said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” It means this – Abandon sin! Turn away from sin and follow God. Stop following lust. Stop following greed. Stop following pride. Stop following gossip. Stop following your vengeful desire to yell at your wife. Stop sin and turn to God. Because sin has no place in the kingdom of heaven. God doesn’t want sin in heaven. If you have sin, God doesn’t want you in heaven.
Pause with me for a moment. Here’s what the devil tempts us to think when you see that: Ok. I’ll work on it – eventually. I’m sure I won’t die for quite some time. I’m a young person. I just reached the age that you’re able to rent a car. I’ve got a long life left. Now? I need to worry about this life. I need to work on my job. I need to work on money. I need to work on my house. I need to work on my family. I need to work on my retirement package. I need to enjoy retirement.
I’ll deal with God later.
Look at what Jesus said again. Notice he did not say, “The Kingdom of God is later.”
He didn’t say: It’s not even close.
He didn’t say: It’s way in the distance.
He didn’t say: Don’t you worry about it. You have plenty of time.
He said, “It’s near.”
As in, close.
As in, soon.
As in, you could die in the next year, in the next month, 15 minutes after worship.
As in you could choke on a cookie (God forbid) after worship in the fellowship hall!
You don’t know when it will be time. You only know that it’s near. That means you need to follow Jesus – NOW!
Do you sense the urgency?
II. The Problem of Procrastination
Maybe you’re thinking:
Pastor, this is a young person's’ thing. When people get older, they get wiser and they come to their senses.
Here's the thing. I’ve met people of all ages. Teens who have said, “Later.” People in their twenties: Later. People in their thirties: Later. People in their forties: later. People in their sixties: later. People at the end of life – at the retirement homes I visit – where I don’t even know if I’ll see them next week – that I ask to come learn about Jesus with - Later.
It’s always later. This means that the problem isn’t maturity.
A couple of years back I saw that a friend of mine on Facebook was coming to Raleigh. It was a friend from the Seattle area where I was an intern pastor. A pretty good friend. We had gone to their house and hung out — plenty of times.
But this time I only saw it on Facebook. She knew that I was in Raleigh so…why didn’t she reach out? I left a note on the Facebook wall – If you’re in the area, come visit! She said, “Sure. I might be busy, but maybe I can get away.” A week later I saw a photo on Facebook of her relaxing and drinking an iced tea at Beasley’s downtown – I left a passive aggressive comment, “That place is awesome.”
Nothing. No response. Didn’t seek to hang out. Didn’t come to church.
Suddenly, I came to a harsh realization. I just wasn’t that important. It wasn’t a matter of too busy or unable. But not important. It's the same problem when it comes to following Jesus. The reality is that if you aren’t following Jesus, then he isn’t that important to you.
You can say, I just don’t have the time. But if Jesus is important enough, you’ll make the time.
I don’t have the time for Bible study – He’s not that important.
I’m too busy for church – He’s not that important.
I’ve got too much going on to be baptized – He’s not that important.
If Jesus was important to you, you’d do everything possible to make time for him.
If you haven’t, it’s your fault. Not your boss’ scheduling. Not your health. Not the weather.
If you don’t follow God, you don’t value Him.
If you don’t value Him, that’s sin.
If you’ve got sin, you can’t get into heaven.
If you can’t get into heaven, repent!
If you repent, do so now – because the kingdom of God is near!
III. Near (Revisited)
Near. Let’s revisit that phrase, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” We’ve been talking about that temporally – in relationship to time. Any day. Any minute. Any hour. That’s exactly what Jesus meant.
But sometimes there’s more than meets the eye with Jesus. Sometimes Jesus means more. Sometimes the answer is so much closer than you think. Maybe you’ve heard this passages before: Jesus said, “I am the way – no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Put that next to the last passage. “The Kingdom of heaven is near.” Do you see it?
If you were the listening to Jesus speak, then, yes, the kingdom of heaven was near – you could die any time – it’s temporal. But it’s also spatial. As in – the entrance to the kingdom of heaven is a few feet in front of you. He’s speaking with you. He’s sitting by you. He’s Jesus.
Remember what we heard John say about Jesus last week – “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” That’s what Jesus came to do on the cross. Because the reality is that every human being has sin – sin that they can’t remove on their own – sin that disqualifies them from heaven.
Jesus came to wash us from our sins. Jesus came to clean us up. Jesus came to make us ready for heaven.
Here’s why: Jesus understood urgency. Jesus understood that if he didn’t fix the problem of sin then you would not make it to heaven with him. Jesus understood that he had to live perfectly when you couldn’t, die innocently in your place, and rise triumphantly for all of your sins. Jesus knew that he had to do this in order to get you into heaven. He knew it and in fact -- It was a priority to him.
You were a priority to him.
Do you believe this?
Do you believe in Jesus? Are you ready to follow him?
Then, there’s something very important that you need to hear:
If you haven’t made Jesus a priority, you’re forgiven.
If others things have been more important than following him, you’re forgiven.
If you follow him – even if you’ve never followed him til right now, you are forgiven.
You will be in his kingdom.
IV. What Now?
How do you react to this awesome message? How do you make following Jesus a more important part of your life?
(1) Be Willing to Leave your Nets
Look at the account that takes place right after we hear about Jesus’ ministry: 18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
Did you see that? They left their nets. That’s not a big deal if you’ve never touched a fish in your life and can’t tell the difference between a catfish and a guppy. But for these guys – it was everything! They left their nets – their livelihood. They left what made them money and followed him.
Do the same. Money is important, but not important enough to jeopardize your eternal future. Not important enough to jeopardize heaven.
If you are so busy, that you don’t have anytime to actively follow Jesus – make a change. Talk to your boss. Get Sundays off. Get a weekday off to join a small group. Turn off your work email at home and turn on your Bible.
Might you make less money? Might you not get promoted? Of course. That’s the reality of a world that doesn’t see the importance in following Jesus. But there’s eternal value in following Jesus. He will strengthen your faith in his Word. He will encourage you through his people. He will promote you – all the way to heaven.
(2) Be Willing to Leave Your Family
Look at the next verse: 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
These guys go a step farther. They leave their family – not that their dad was necessarily against their leaving or putting up a big stink about it – but it’s still a challenge to leave family. And sometimes family can be one of the biggest challenges to following Jesus:
You’re still believing that? I don’t like how it’s changed you. I think you should give it up.
You’re going to church? Can’t you stay home and have breakfast in bed with me instead?
You can’t come hang out because you’re serving God? That’s crazy! If that’s how you’re going to act, don’t bother spending time with me.
But God isn’t saying – Have nothing to do with your family. We can see them. We love them. They love us. But God is saying don’t make them more important than following Jesus.
Because they don’t love you more than Jesus.
Because they didn’t give up their lives for you, Jesus did that.
Because your family can’t get you to heaven, only Jesus can.
(3) Embrace your New Family
Still that’s hard. How do you do leave behind family?
With your new family.
That’s what happened to the disciples. They became brothers. They became brothers and sisters. That was key because they were travelling around Asia minor spreading God’s Word. We still use that today when we talk about each other.
This is important. Because if you’re the only one in your family who believes in Jesus – that’s tough. It’s hard. But you’ve got family here. People who love you. People who care about you. People who will encourage you to follow Jesus all the way to heaven. Lean on them.
And if you’ve got lots of believing family – understand that about people who don’t – it’s hard. They need you to be their family. You can come here and catch up with your family sure. But branch out! There are others here who need your encouragement. They need your uplifting. Be someone to lean on.
Hebrews says this, “Let us encourage each other—and all the more as we see the Day approaching.” Do you hear the urgency? It isn’t just in following Jesus, but urgency in encouraging one another…because you never know when Jesus will come back. Be ready. Amen.
Follow: A Lamb?
Who do you follow?
It’s interesting because thanks to Social Media, it is now very easy to see who you follow on Twitter or Instagram. If you looked at my profile, you’d find out that I follow a bunch of famous pastors, Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb (there's a lot of Packers), and like 17 versions of Jesus.
But the most followed people on Social Media? Kim Kardashian – probably because people like to see her fashion and learn what’s hip and in. Lebron James – because people like to get insights into the life of such an incredible baller. Taylor Swift-- millions of followers aiming to see what her latest music is.
And here’s something interesting – you can now advertise to get more people to follow you. For instance, you might be scrolling through Facebook and an ad will pop up of a delicious looking cup of coffee “Follow Sola Coffee and get a free coffee NOW,” or there might be a cute cat video, “To see more cute cat videos, follow cutecatvideos.com.”
Of course, what goes on in Social Media is just a minuscule version of what happens to each of us – spiritually. Lots of voices – each day – calling to us “Follow me. Follow us. Follow our way of thinking.”
And while following the wrong person on Social Media might mean a few months of lame jokes and some of your friends thinking you aren’t as cool as they thought you were, following the wrong one spiritually has much worse consequences:
It determines your relationship with God.
It determines the peace you have in your life.
It determines where you spend eternity.
Today we are going to begin a sermon series called FOLLOW. We’re going to discuss what it means to follow Jesus as a 21st century, millennial, Raleighian. Today, we want to start by sifting through the voices that call us to follow them. We want to (1) become wary of voices (even religious voices) that point us in the wrong direction and (2) hear Jesus’ voices – and the incredible results of following him.
Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Be Wary of the Voices
Our lesson today takes place in John 1: 29. A bit of background on John 1 – This takes place around 30 AD. At the time, the Roman Empire is in control of large portions of Europe, Asia, Northern Africa – and even Israel. But while the government was controlled by these foreigners, the day-to-day religious life was governed by the reflections and suggestions of the religious leaders – a group of men called the Pharisees.
The Pharisees were zealots. They loved God’s law. They loved it so much that they couldn’t help but improve upon it. God’s law said to wear a prayer shawl which were giant, jewel studded aprons. God’s law said to rest on Saturday; they made sure to not take more than 500 steps. God’s law said to give 10% of your income; they gave up 10% of their salt shaker – measuring it, funneling it, and taking it to the temple for all to see: “Here’s my ten percent of salt. Did you remember your 10% of salt? I’m just 10% of salt better than you at connecting with God.”
They sound like wonderful guys, right?
But honestly – they were viewed that way. The people at the time looked up to them. From the outward perspective, these guys seemed to have it all together. They had money. They had religious things to say. They looked like they knew just what it took to get to God and to heaven. So many followed them. They listened to them. They learned from them. They hoped to be them.
John was different.
John ditched the long flowing robes and prayer shawls for camel skin clothing.
He ditched the bread baked for the holy show bread table for locusts and grasshoppers.
He ditched the decadence of the temple for the desert.
He ditched the quiet argumentation of the wise at the synagogue for the loud, hellfire and brimstone of a sports fan who's had too much to drink!
John was different. Compared to the Pharisees he looked like a perennial homeless guy complete with wily hair and a pungent odor. You wouldn’t expect that many people to follow him on spiritual matters.
But people did. In fact, the Gospel of Luke says that there were “crowds of people coming to him.” (3:7) The word, in the singular, gives you a picture of a church full. A crowd. But it’s in the plural – crowds of people. Like a group gathering downtown at the amphitheater to listen to Taylor Swift – that’s the kind of crowds that John was drawing to him.
More importantly – that’s the kind of crowd that the Pharisees were losing to him.
So they went to investigate. Take a look at John 1:19. “The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask John who he was.” Follow that question – Who are you? Who in the world do you think you are? Knowing what we know about the Pharisees in every other part of Scripture, you almost expect an element of "What gives you a right to take all these followers away from us?"
And if you’re John – looking around at all these people – seeing how they hang on your every word -realizing that so many of them had left the flock of Pharisees to come and hear you – wouldn’t you expect a bit of pride to swell in his heart? Maybe a sarcastic answer:
I’m everything you guys aren’t.
I’m a better leader than you.
I’m the guy these people are following. Who are you?
But instead look at how John replies – He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” (1:20)
Let’s talk about that. Messiah is a Hebrew word. It means “Anointed One.” The Anointed One was a part of the Jewish faith. Thousands of years earlier God had promised Abraham – the man from whom the entire genealogy of Israel was based – that one day someone would come from his family – one anointed to bless all people. That promise was repeated by God, “The Anointed One is coming! The Anointed One is coming!”
Prophet after prophet came.
Prophet after prophet spoke about the Anointed One.
Prophet after prophet was not the Anointed One.
Now a group of people was convinced that John might be the Messiah. He spoke so powerfully and his message was so intriguing. Maybe he was the Messiah. Maybe he was the one to lead them away from Roman power. Maybe he was the one to save them.
John could have said, “Yes, I am. Give me your money. Get me a hammock. Get me some of those big bunches of dark purple grapes and a few beautiful ladies to feed me – and I’ll tell you what to do next.”
But he doesn’t. He confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” (1:20)
Ok. But he still seemed pretty important and they still wanted to follow him. Follow their train of thought, “Then, who are you? Are you Elijah? He’s a really famous prophet from ancient Israel. He’s dead, but…maybe you are him come back from the dead? We’ll follow you!"
Are you the Prophet? A prophecy about Moses – arguably the most famous prophet of ancient Israel and how a prophet would come that was greater than him! Are you that prophet?
Then, who are you? We give up. Tell us who you are and we can start your fan club.
John said this, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (v.23)
Do any of you have a GPS? What’s pretty neat about a GPS is it tells you everywhere you want to go. It tells you step by step, turn by turn directions on how to get to Cameron for a Duke game or PNC for a State game or how to get to Asheville to go skiing.
What’s also cool about a GPS is that you can change the voice of the one talking to you. You can have it speak with a pleasant Southern accent, “Ya’ll turn right.” A Northern Wisconsin accent, “You betcha that’s a left turn there.” OR you can even have it speak as Mr. T. “I pity the fool who don’t make a U-turn right now!”
But Mr. T doesn’t really know what all these directions. He’s not sitting in some suite in downtown Raleigh with a headset on, Google maps pulled up and giving you directions where to go. He’s simply a voice – telling you what he’s been told to say.
That’s what John was. He was a voice. A voice that had been prophesied about by another voice – but a voice nonetheless.
A voice who would come before the Messiah.
A voice who would point people to the Messiah.
A voice who was not the Messiah.
A voice who told people – I’m not the Messiah.
Of course, that’s not always how it goes, is it? People don’t always say, “Don’t follow me. I’m not the answer.” Oftentimes people give you the impression that they are the Messiah – or at least that they’ll fix all of your problems.
And I think there are three areas of society where this is especially true:
We just got done with a political season in which people put all their hopes and dreams on various political candidates. He’s my Messiah. No, she’s my Messiah. He’s going to make my life better. No, she’s going to change my world.
People follow them. People put their hopes in him. People think they are the one who are going to fix things for them and are horribly disappointed when they don’t.
Understand this when politicians are running for office they need to do everything possible to explain why they are the best person for the job and why they will be your personal Messiah – even if they know they can’t be.
What I mean is – it wouldn’t be a very good political campaign if I said, “Vote for Kiecker. I’m ok – not terrible, but not great either. I’ll try hard…most of the time. I probably won’t make that much change in your personal life anyways.”
In the end, politicians have voices. Their voices elevate themselves. But be careful. Political candidates are not the Messiah.
This is interesting. Because pastors are supposed to be voices pointing people to the Messiah. But sometimes it becomes all about them.
Sometimes, it might not even be their fault. Listen to that pastor. He has it all together. He’ll turn your life around and if he ever leaves, it’ll be a disaster again!
Sometimes, it is their fault. Here’s what I did in my life. Here’s why it worked. Here’s why you need to follow me and do what I did (and send some money my way in the process.)
But here’s the problem: The pastor is not the Messiah. I’m not the Messiah. Joel Osteen is not the Messiah. Joyce Meyers is not the Messiah.
There is not a pastor right now who is the Messiah.
If a pastoral voice tells you to follow the Lord, awesome.
If a pastoral voice tells you to follow himself, be careful. Be very careful.
And if I ever start doing that – somebody slap me.
And then, there’s probably the trickiest voice to deal with. It’s one that you’ve heard before. It’s one that has influenced you throughout your life. It’s one that I guarantee you struggle with.
Your own voice.
We are so cleverly, stupid:
ON. MY. OWN.
Here’s the reality that John the Baptist realized – he was not the Messiah (and he had crowds of people following him!) You don’t have crowds of people following you. You might have hundreds of people following you on Instagram, but guess what – none of them think you can fix their life!
You are not the Messiah.
So stop trusting yourself as the Messiah.
It will have eternal consequences.
II. Follow the Lamb
Who is the Messiah then? Who should we put our trust in?
Read a bit farther with me. In fact, it’s the very next day. The crowds have returned. Some are disappointed. John isn’t the one. They have to keep searching, keep looking, and keep hoping to find the Messiah one day. John sense their frustration. John himself has that same frustration.
But then…he sees him. Walking slowly. Head down. Covered up in a tunic. Unassuming and unimpressive.
But John knows him and John points: John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Look at the Lamb.
See the Lamb.
Follow the Lamb.
That’s a really interesting name for the Savior. Because Lambs are not really that intimidating.
There aren’t any NFL teams calls the Lambs.
There isn’t any professional wrestler called “Lonnie, the Lamb.”
Where you hear that word – it doesn’t strike me with fear. I’m not suddenly concerned that the Lamb is going to suffocate me with his wool.
Why would you follow a lamb? Wouldn’t you just be counting him jumping over the same gate over and over until you fall asleep?
Don’t tune out just yet. John gives three awesome reasons to follow the man referred to as the Lamb.
(1) He Takes Away the Sin of the World.
This one has a lot to do with the culture of Ancient Israel. In the Old Testament, God had people sacrifice animals. Sometimes out of thanks. Sometimes out of trust. And sometimes for the forgiveness of sins.
When it was for the forgiveness of sins, God was making something clear to the Israelites: I hate sin. I hate it because it wrongs your fellow brothers and sisters. I hate it because it wrongs my children. I hate so much that I must punish it with death!
When lambs were sacrificed for sins, it was a constant reminder to the people of the divine, eternal consequence of their sins.
The only problem? If you were an Old Testament Israelite you probably saw lots of lambs killed. A lamb for my morning sin. A lamb for my 2 pm sin. A lamb for my evening sins. Lambs for the sins that I missed last week. Lambs for your sins and my sins and lambs for Uncle John’s sins. Lambs here, there, everywhere, up, down and in between. Lambs everywhere that Dr. Seuss could think of to describe it!
The sad reality?
Animal blood cannot take away sin.
But Jesus wasn’t an animal.
He wasn’t an cute, fluffy lamb.
He wasn’t even a man.
He was God’s Son.
With his death, he would take away the sins of the world.
With his death, he took away the sins of the world.
That means this: When you follow Jesus, your sins are forgiven.
The sin that can’t seem to leave your mind? Forgiven.
That sin your friends won’t let your forget on Facebook? Forgiven.
That sin that cost you your job? Forgiven.
That sin you struggled with for the past twelve years of your life? Forgiven.
Forgiven because the Lamb of God gave his blood for you.
(2) He’s Been Around Awhile.
One of the key talking points in a political race is experience. How many years have they been in government? How much experience do they have serving people? How many years of tenure do they have under their belt?
Look at what John says about Jesus, "The one who comes after me (Jesus) was before me.” Literally, he existed long before me!
This doesn’t mean John was bad at math. Because if you follow the story of Jesus, John’s birth was announced about six months before Jesus’. John was ½ a year older than Jesus.
But Jesus was not just human.
Jesus was also God.
It means he’s been around the block. He’s been around since the beginning. He’s been around since the formation of the earth. He’s been around since an eternity and half before there was an earth.
Talk about experience. He’s seen it all. He’s been through it all.
Making him the perfect one to follow.
Think about what you’re going through. Jesus gets it.
Financial struggles? He’s seen that and helped people through it.
Relationship struggles? He’s seen it before and comforted through it.
Struggles with guilt and shame?
Nervousness about a sickness?
Problems at school?
Doubts about the direction of your life?
Jesus has seen it. Jesus has helped people through it. Jesus will help you through it.
(3) Awesome stuff happens around Him.
In fact, John lets us in on a secret - the reason he was so confident that Jesus was the Lamb of God and the one to follow.
He says this “I saw the heavens open up.” And can you imagine that? We’re not talking about the clouds parting and there being a sunny day. We’re talking about some incredible, divine, never before seen moment – the sky is rendered. There’s a glimpse into heaven. There’s a brilliant light that even sunglasses won’t allow you to look into.
And a silhouette – a divine dove – starts hovering down from the split in the sky. It hovers to the right. It hovers to the left. All eyes are on it. Until it comes to rest right on Jesus’ shoulder.
And then, a voice – not John’s voice – a voice – a booming voice – a voice – not coming from some microphone system because microphone systems didn’t exist yet!
A voice from God himself says this, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
It was a moment that made John go “wow.”
It was a moment that made everyone else who saw it go, “That was incredible.”
It was a moment that made people stop and think – This guy is worth following.
My prayer is that it makes you stop and think the same – This guy, this God, this Lamb is worth following.
Recommit yourself to following Jesus in 2017. Amen.