Follow: Jesus Says
Today is Back to Church Sunday. Many of you come back to church every week. It’s part of your routine. It’s a good thing. Many of you may be coming back to church for the first time in a long time. Maybe a friend invited you. Maybe you said you hoped the roof wouldn’t fall in if you walked through the door. Don’t worry. It won’t. We’ve been in this building for three months and a lot of people have walked through the door. If the roof hasn’t fallen in by now, you’re safe. And it’s a great day to be here. Stuart is starting a series called “Follow”. Regardless of where we’ve been, and we’ve all been in plenty of bad places, Jesus asks us to follow Him. The story starts with Matthew, a dishonest tax collector. Jesus saw Matthew and said, “Follow me.” Here’s what happened. Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?” Matt. 9:10-11 MSG Disreputable characters. Crooks. Riffraff. That’s a tough crowd. Jesus was comfortable in their presence. They were comfortable in His. That may surprise you. Of course, Matthew was probably surprised when he heard Jesus say, “Follow me.” You may hear more surprising things today. But first we want to say “Welcome back.” We’re glad you’re here!
Some fishermen are anglers. They fish with a pole and very carefully select lures to entice just the right type of fish. They go to special places to enhance their chance to catch exactly what they want. An angler isn’t looking for all fish; rather the angler wants only certain types of fish. In contrast to the angler is the net fisherman. The net fisherman casts out a net and scoops up whatever swims into it and hauls them all in. Simon was a net fisherman and on one particular day had not been very successful. Jesus came to the lake that day and told Simon to “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” And Simon’s answer was “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:4-5) Simon’s nets were filled and so his boat and then another boat was filled with the catch – filled to the point of sinking. The Bible doesn’t tell us what type of fish filled those nets; likely it was a variety of fish. Net fishermen collect many types, all kinds of fish unlike the fussy angler. Jesus gave instructions to Simon and his partners when they returned to shore – “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” And after that, “they pulled their boats up on the shore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:10-11) We too need to be net fishermen . . . for men, taking them all in!
Have you ever been literally frozen by fear? Some people find themselves not being able to move when they look down from great heights. Others become frozen at the sight of a snake or a spider. Each of us has to face our own personal fears. Fear rears its ugly head in our life at home, in social settings, and in the workplace. We are fearful of not having enough to provide for our family, of death, of loneliness, of failure, of rejection, of expectations of us, etc. Studies show that fear in the workplace brought on by a threatening environment leads to much less productivity, less personal interaction, and loyalty. Fearful employees simply wither away. Fear in all aspects of our lives produces the same results. Multitudes of people never fulfill what God has planned for them simply because Satan uses fear to stop them every time they begin to move forward. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” All of us must learn how not to fear things in our lives. Conquering fear comes through reliance upon God to handle the fight for us. Psalms 56:3-4 gives us these words to live by: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” God promises that he will deliver us from all the things we fear. We must simply trust and have faith in Him.
The alarm goes off. It’s morning already. We lie in bed, thinking about our day and one very important question always comes up: “What should I wear today?” We brush away the cobwebs in our heads. Get up and get our morning cup of coffee—just the normal routine. Then we decide on the perfect outfit and we’re off. What we wear is important. We all want to dress appropriately and look our best. When we believe that we look good, we go through the day with more energy and confidence. Who we display on the outside is usually a representation of who we are on the inside. In Colossians 3:12-14, Paul challenges us to change our spiritual clothes. In verse 12, He wants us to clothe ourselves with a heart of mercy. Showing compassion when we have the power to punish. If someone has done you wrong, you have the opportunity to forgive them instead, which is another piece of the clothing that Paul suggests in verse 13. Paul also recommends kindness, humility, gentleness and patience—putting others ahead of ourselves and being considerate while also treating them with respect and tolerance. We are all on this journey together, and none of us has reached our destination yet. We need to be understanding of each other’s imperfections. If our days are characterized by trouble, anger, hurt, or bad feelings, it’s time to invest in a new wardrobe. What we wear makes a big difference. So we should ask ourselves this question each day: What am I wearing today?
The Big Serve
“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no person can sincerely try to help another without helping him or herself. Serve and you shall be served. If you love and serve people, you cannot, by any hiding or stratagem, escape the remuneration.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson) Service Sunday is a fun day in the lives of the people at First Christian Church. It is a day dedicated to “serving the world” right here in our own community. We are making an offering of time and effort in order to positively impact the Kingdom of God. The Bible tells us the importance of serving others, and Jesus himself set the perfect example for us. In The Wisdom of Jesus, Christ is described as “the most generous-hearted person who ever lived. He never refused a request for help. Great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. He went out of His way to cross racial and religious barriers. He compassed the whole world in His love.” (1989, Publications International, Ltd.) Perhaps Jesus said it best in Luke: “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)
The Fine Print
You know the latest Xbox game is out and your son’s birthday is fast approaching. Is it really worth what the store is charging? The most up-to-date iPhone came out and you’ve just got to have it. Then you see the price! Is the latest technology really worth the time and effort it’ll take to pay for it? Everything we want carries a price and a question—is it worth the cost? Do you ask yourself the same question when you decide to follow Jesus? What will it cost you to follow Him? Your time? Your energy? Your money? A weekly night out on the town so that you have time to belong to a life group and learn more about Jesus? A weekend at the lake so that you can be at church on Sunday to serve in KIDTOWN? Your career when God says to serve Him full time in a mission field? Jesus told a crowd and His disciples in Mark 8:34 NLT what it would cost to follow Him: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” Why is it worth all that you may be asked to give up to follow Jesus? Yes, there’s eternity that you’ll spend with Him. But why is it worth it while you’re here on earth? Is it seeing God working in your life? Is it growing closer to Him as you walk along the path He’s given you? Is it receiving strength, power and wisdom from Him when you ask? Is it knowing you’ve helped someone come to know Jesus as their Savior? Whatever the cost for following Jesus—it is worth it!
What I Want to Want
Regardless of how much or how little time you’ve spent in church, you probably know this story. Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. (Matthew 26:14-16 NIV) What could Judas have possibly been thinking? He had followed Jesus for three years. He had witnessed the miracles, heard the teachings, seen the crowds, and enjoyed the fellowship. After all of the experiences, why would he choose a path that would make his name synonymous with betrayal two thousand years later? Maybe it was greed. Judas saw a chance to cash in. Maybe it was envy. Judas saw in Jesus a life he knew was far beyond his reach. Maybe it was timing. Judas saw a way to force Jesus to assume His role as king. The specifics are open to speculation. The concept is clear. Judas chose to quit following Jesus. He decided that his way was the better way. His agenda was the better agenda. Following Jesus doesn’t keep us from facing choices. Eventually, our agenda will clash with Jesus’ agenda. What will you choose?
Not everyone will look to the church to find leadership lessons. It is in the church where we have often heard the term “servant leader”. To call someone a servant leader seems to be an oxymoron; a term that contradicts itself. How can one be both a leader and a servant at the same time? Sometimes we see leaders as self-serving, defensive of their position or office, and working to stay in control with their eye on being in charge. Servant leaders usually see their position as being “on loan” not something that is a possession to hoard, rather a gift to share. How well we share as leaders matters greatly. A servant leader prepares others to carry on; they teach, train, and coach…and they lead and live by example. The legacy of good leadership is what is left behind in the hearts and minds of those who follow. One of the most significant examples that Jesus provided was that of being a leader. Leaders allow God to live within them, to reflect His way, and to bring glory to His kingdom. In their book, Lead Like Jesus, Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges said, “Throughout his life and leadership, Jesus affirmed that God is not looking for leaders but for servants who will let Him be the Leader and who will focus first on the kingdom of God.” Great leadership, servant leadership, is a tough task. It is not a destination; it is a challenging journey – “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Following Jesus gives us the chance to develop an overwhelming faith. But at times it can also be inconvenient, costly, and even embarrassing. Just as in all phases of our lives, there comes a time when we consider the question of whether there are greener pastures for us to set up camp? We’re taught throughout our entire lives that we should be recognized and have others pay attention to our wants and needs. When we become unhappy with how we’re being treated the human inclination is to seek out the grass on the other side of the fence. Because we have choices in life, we tend to become restless. We can’t settle on what we already have or to be satisfied with what we’ve got because we’re always wondering about the next big thing that can come along in our life to make it better. We think someone else is having a better time elsewhere and we make ourselves miserable constantly seeking what we think they may have. That’s the heart of “the grass is always greener” syndrome. We want to be the center of attention. We want to be comfortable. We want to determine what is best for us. We want to make this life all about us. These feelings can bleed over into our spiritual lives if we’re not careful. Nearly always we come to find out in life that the grass isn’t really greener on the other side. And when it comes to our consideration of eternity, the alternatives certainly aren’t greener. Let us remember the words that Jesus spoke in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”