Follow At All Costs
- today is day 50 of our 50-Day spiritual adventure
- we’ve been challenged to follow in Christ’s steps and ask in everything “What would Jesus do?”
- we’ve been asked to represent Christ’s interest in our community
- but as we come to the end of our 50-Day Adventure, I realize that there are many who will not make the decision to follow in Christ’s steps
- and it’s you I want to address this morning
- almost nothing I say this morning is going to be original
- this summer at a leadership conference, John Maxwell shared a message “The courage to lead at all costs”
- and what I’m going to do this morning is to preach it to you, challenging you to follow Christ at all costs
- this morning I want to read to you from Matthew 5
- but I don’t want you to open your Bibles, because I’ll be reading to you from Eugene Peterson’s translation The Message
- When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside, Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him.
- I want to make sure you got that statement, so I’m going to read it again
- When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside, Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him.
- not everybody went with him
- in fact, he left many, many people behind on this day
- only those who were committed to him climbed with him
- Arriving at a quite place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions.
- I have determined in my life that I want to be a climbing companion of Jesus
- I’ve determined that I never want to stay in the lowlands
- I want to pay the price, no matter what the price, to follow wherever God leads me
- what’s interesting is that he preaches this incredible message we’re about to hear
- and the only ones who ever heard his message were the committed, climbing companions
- here’s the message:
- “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
- “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
- “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
- “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
- “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being “care-full,” you find yourselves cared for.
- “You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and your heart – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
- “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
- “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
- when I read the Bible, I find it to be full of paradoxes
- Jesus said that if I want to save my life, I have to lose my life
- if I want to be lifted up, I have to humble myself; and if I want to be the greatest, I have to be a servant; and if I want to be first, I have to be last
- if I want to rule, I have to serve; and if I want to live, I have to put to death the deeds of the body; and if I want to be strong, I’ve got to become weak
- and if I want to inherit the kingdom, I have to be poor in spirit
- and if I want to produce, I have to die
- in fact, Jesus said:
- (John 12:24) I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
- (John 12:25) The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
- so if you’ll let me, I’d like to talk to you about death
- I’d like to talk to you about the topic “I Don’t Have to Survive”
- I’d like to talk to you about becoming that grain of wheat, and literally letting God take you through a process of death so you can have a resurrection
- I’d like to talk to you about brokenness in a God-way
- you see, there’s a difference between being broken and being beaten
- when God breaks me, I can honestly say in the brokenness that I care
- when I’m beaten, I basically will say “I don’t care”
- when I’m broken, I will say, “I cannot, but God can”
- when I’m beaten, I’ll just say, “I can’t”
- when God breaks me, in that brokenness, I say, “In my weakness I can glorify God,” but if I’m beaten, I glorify no one
- you see, what I want us to take out today is that God wants to break us in the right places
- we want to be broken because we’ve submitted and let God take us through a process of brokenness and death
- if I break myself, then I’m broken in the wrong places
- if I allow God to break me, then I’m broken in all the right places
- now the message I’m giving you today isn’t a popular message, I know that
- it’s not a happy message
- but I tell you, I’ve never seen anyone do anything great for God that hasn’t had to go through the process that I’m describing
- you see, in our journey, Good Friday always comes before Easter
- and our problem is that we love resurrection and life and victorious living
- and it’s wonderful to come to a point in one’s life when you have a wonderful, peaceful life, and spiritual growth and growth in the church and everything else
- but I want to tell you something
- we have to die first before we can have the resurrection
- we have to come to a place like the Apostle Paul
- (Acts 20:22) “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.
- (Acts 20:23) I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.
- (Acts 20:24) However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.
- when you read this passage, you realize the secret to the Apostle Paul’s ministry is that he didn’t have to survive
- I mean, what are you going to do with Paul?
- “Paul, we do not like the way you’re preaching. If you don’t stop preaching that way, we’re going to throw rocks at you.”
- “That’s been done before”
- “Oh, shut up Paul. Quit planting churches. We’re going to put you in jail”
- “Could I go back to the jail at Rome? I was witnessing to the guard the last time when they let me out.”
- “Paul, if you don’t shut up, we’re going to kill you!”
- “Would you please? I’m in this dilemma, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, could you just knock me off”
- what are you going to do with Paul? Nothing! Why?
- Paul doesn’t have to survive
- you can’t kill a dead man
- on the back of the door in my office, you’ll find a plaque with these words: “I Don’t Have to Survive”
- it is a reminder to me that I don’t have to make palatable decisions, I have to make right decisions
- and what God holds us accountable for is to do right, to live right, to be right
- it’s not an issue manipulation or even motivation and persuasion, it’s getting our lives to a place when we’re dead to ourselves and God can begin to do his work
- when we get to a broken, I don’t have to survive place in our life
- it’s a process we have to go through
- and my prayer is that God would unleash in this church people who can go out and live their lives not having to survive any more
- to follow Christ at all costs
- let’s think of some Biblical people who had to survive
- Abraham and Sarah, when they went to Egypt and he lied
- Lot when he divided the flock up with Abraham
- Jacob before he wrestled with the angel
- ten out of the twelve spies coming from Canaan
- these are survivors
- Solomon, who had to make so many alliances with nations instead of with God
- the rich young ruler, who had so much, and left with such a loss
- the man who buried his one talent was a survivor
- Peter, who had to deny that he knew the Lord
- and Caiaphas, the high priest
- and it just goes on and on
- and when you look at these people who had to survive, it’s obvious that they paid a horrible price for having to be a survivor
- I mean, just go ask Lot about Sodom
- ask the ten spies as the children of Israel do figure eights in the desert for forty years
- walk into Solomon’s life and ask him about the emptiness of a survival mode
- the rich young ruler who had so much to give, and went away sadly
- the one-talent man would talk to us about the Master’s wrath
- or Peter, who just looked at Jesus’ face after his survival course
- but the Bible’s full of non-survivors as well
- listen to this
- Abraham taking Isaac up to be sacrificed, saying “God will provide”
- Joshua looking at the children of Israel and saying, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
- Caleb, at 85 years of age, saying, “Give me that mountain”
- Job saying, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him”
- David looking at Goliath and saying, “Is there not a cause worth fighting for?”
- Elijah on top of Mount Carmel
- Daniel in the lion’s den
- the three Hebrew children
- oh, the Bible’s full of non-survivors!
- I love the three Hebrew children
- they say, “Look, you probably didn’t understand the instructions. What you’ve got to do is bow down”
- and the children reply, “Oh, we understood.”
- (Daniel 3:17) If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.
- (Daniel 3:18) But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
- John the Baptist, who said, “I must decrease, and he must increase”
- the widow who gave her two mites, everything she had!
- let me tell you just about a half-dozen things that keep us in a survival mode
- that keeps us from being broken
- the first thing that hinders brokenness in our life is just the fast pace of life
- we just get busy
- too busy to care, too busy to get involved in the lives of others, too busy to love
- through the stress of life, we tend to become hardened and callused
- the second reason is, we’re fearful of becoming vulnerable
- our lack of transparency and vulnerability
- C.S. Lewis said,
- To love at all is to vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wronged and possibly broken. If you want to be sure of keeping your heart intact, you must give your heart to no-one – not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries. Avoid all entanglements with others. Lock it up safely in the coffin or casket of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not become broken. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is hell
- number 3 is immaturity
- I think there are times in our life when we’re immature and we don’t want brokenness
- when we are broken, we become childlike
- we become vulnerable, we become trusting, we become dependent, forgiving, teachable
- when we are unbroken, we become childish
- and there’s a thin line in the Christian community between being childlike and childish
- and we want our rights, don’t we
- we have to learn that the process of growth in the Christian life is that we give up our rights
- unlike the world, leadership is servanthood, and if we’re going to be the leaders of the pack, the first thing we do is give up our rights
- too many churches are like country clubs with crosses on the top
- many times members join a church, and their first question is, “What’s in it for me?”
- Jesus told us we’re to be fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium
- most people in our churches are already educated way beyond the level of their obedience
- I heard a pastor talk about going in the church one day
- and a man stopped the pastor
- now this man that stopped the pastor was a huge giver in the church – he gave about 20% of the offerings
- he said, “Pastor, I don’t like what’s happening here. I just want to tell you that I’ve decided to withhold my tithe until things turn back to the way they used to be”
- the pastor said, “Well, don’t tell me, tell God – it’s his money. So let’s just pray together. Here, get on your knees. Repeat after me, ‘God, I’ve decided to rob you'”
- he said, “Wait a minute!”
- we’re talking about the immaturity, the selfishness
- if all the sleeping people would wake up, if all the lukewarm people in the church would fire up, if all the dishonest people in the church would confess up, and if all the disgruntled people in the church would sweeten up, if all the discouraged people in the church would cheer up and all the estranged people in the church would make up, and if all the gossiping people in the church would shut up, if all the dry bones in the church would shake up and if all the non-giving people in the church would pay up, we could have some church renewal
- number 4: isolation from the world causes us not to be broken
- we’re never around unbelievers and so we don’t care
- if you want an interesting Bible study, in Matthew 9 when Jesus went to the villages and was healing and felt a wonderful compassion for them, there’s a wonderful sequence there of having our heart broken for lost people
- and it goes like this
- Jesus went, Jesus saw, and Jesus felt
- our problem is we want to feel, see, and then go
- number 5 is misplaced priority
- somebody wrote,
I counted dollars while God counted crosses,
and I counted gains while He counted losses,
I counted my worth, my things gained in store,
and he sized me up for the scars that I bore.
I counted my degrees, and he counted the hours I spent on my knees.
I never knew until one day by the grave,
how vain are the things that we spend life to save.
- number 6 is satisfaction; our needs are met
- we’re like the church in Laodicea
- we’re not hot, we’re not cold, we’re just comfortable
- there’s a piece called “Disturb us, Lord”
Disturb us, Lord
When we’re too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams come true only because we’ve dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely only because we’ve traveled too close to the shore,
When with the abundance of things we’re losing our taste for God,
When in loving time we have ceased to dream of eternity,
And when in our desire to build on this earth we have lost our vision of a new heaven.
- everyone of us needs to come to a point in our lives when we quit playing games with God
- and we say, “Okay, God, I’m getting on the operating table, and I want you to work on me, and I’m not going to get off until you’re done”
- God wants to take a whole bunch of us and turn us into men and women of God
- who go out with a heart for people
- and we’ll become people who don’t have to survive
- and who will follow at all costs
- I want to ask God to raise up people who will go into our community and become fully devoted followers of Christ
- let’s determine to be men and women of God
- let me close with some words from In His Steps
- “If our definition of being a Christian is simply to enjoy the privileges of worship, be generous at no expense to ourselves, have a good easy time surrounded by pleasant friends and by comfortable things, live respectably and at the same time avoid the world’s great stress of sin and trouble because it is too much pain to bear it – if this is our definition of Christianity, surely we are a long way from following the steps of Him who trod the way with groans and tears and sobs of anguish for a lost humanity; who sweat, as it were, great drops of blood, who cried out on the upreared cross, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’
- “Are we ready to make and live a new discipleship? Are we ready to reconsider our definition of a Christian? What is it to be a Christian? It is to imitate Jesus. It is to do as He would do. It is to walk in His steps”