Follower's Are Netless Believers #4
Sermon preached at State College, Pa. At the Free Methodist Church
On Sunday, February 23, 1997
By Pastor Chester W. Marshall. Jr.
Series - Following Christ
(4) Follower’s Are Netless Believers
They didn't ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.
Then Peter began to mention all that he and the other disciples had left behind. "We've given up everything to follow you," he said.
How far do followers Go? Christ’s specific calls to follow are often dramatic and difficult. They beckon us from the most deeply rooted waywardness. They demand that we literally drop every personal agenda regardless of how unsettling that might be. Jonah was called to relinquish well-deserved hatred and bitterness for a higher, more compelling agenda.
His struggle is not uncommon. Fewer things are more demanding than our struggle to love and forgive those who have violated and abused us. Whether the issue is bitterness or some other tough assignment, how far do we go with Christ?
Then Peter began to mention all that he and the other disciples had left behind. "We've given up everything to follow you," he said. (Living Bible)
How far do followers go? Followers go all the way. Followers go wherever Christ leads them – and it’s “wherever” that is so challenging. John 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
In fact, Christ has a way of walking past all that is secondary and insignificant and asking us to follow Him in the toughest of arenas. We all know the feeling. We hear the call to intentionally commit ourselves to follow Him. All of sudden, we process thoughts like….
“Does that mean that I’ll have to stop…..” or “If I really get serious about following I will have to begin….” or “What about ….” or “I could loose my job!”
or “What will my friends think?” or “What about my wife? or
“My husband will never understand.”
These impelling forces of resistance are the pull of the nets that snag our good intentions and hinder our progress.
A friend of mine, pointing to the lines in the palms of his hands, asked me, “Do you know what these are?” “Things that palm readers study?” I quested. “No,” he smiled, “they are net burns!” It was his way of describing the tension of nets that pull hard on our hands.
What are those nets in your hands? What do you hold in your hand that stands in the way of non-negotiated followership? Let’s think in categories…..
1. People can be nets.
There are several ways that the people in our lives can hinder our followership. Maybe we are caught in the Jonah syndrome of knowing that followers are forgivers. Acting with compassion toward our enemies is an undisputed expression of the character of Christ that marks us as followers.
Perhaps the net is friends who live, walk, and play in paths contrary to the ways of Christ. While a follower would never desert a friend, what would happen if your followership caused that friend to no longer be comfortable with you? What if he or she was the only true friend? Could you drop that net for Christ?
Or is the net a person with whom you are having an affair? Could it be a person whom you refuse to love? Someone that you just don’t want to deal with? A husband? A wife? An in-law?
Prejudice is a people issue? Who isn’t “your kind” that you refuse to see as equal in intrinsic worth and value? What kind of people do you tell jokes about? Who do you feel better than? Who wouldn’t you want to help? Following Christ will take you to people you’ve never cared about before.
What types of people have you refused to forgive or refused to care for in terms of their soul?
2. Things can be nets.
Nets can be the possessions that have become symbols of our significance: a car, a house, a cottage on the lake, a wardrobe, a body, a club membership. It’s not that any of these are wrong if rightly gained and loosely held. But …..
What if they become more important than financial faithfulness to the Kingdom? Or more important than following Christ in service to the body of Christ. What if they are a source of pride?
What if we have put our sense of sufficiency and trust in them? What if we find our significance in that car, that house, that neighborhood, or that career instead of finding it in Christ and our relationship to Him?
Whatever things hinder or forbid our capacity to follow are nets that have entangled and perhaps even enslaved.
3. Plans and dreams can be nets.
Some of us are compulsive planners---or married to them. Perhaps you work for one of them. Planners dream about the future and then plant to guarantee that their dreams will come true.
O How are you going to put God first in your schedule? What God is saying to you and me is this: I want to be included in, I want to be part of your schedule.”
Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
I can remember as young boy, I would like to be doctor. In the first grade my teacher Mrs. Ammaule, ask all of us kids, what we wanted to be when we grow up. I thought it would be great to be a doctor.
Obviously, I never saw my plan actualized. And it’s a good thing! I can remember when Nathan had fallen and open a gash on his forehead. We could see that he needed stitches, so we took him to the hospital. They laid Nathan on a table in the emergency room and asked me to hold down his shoulders so he wouldn’t wiggle during the procedure.
Sandy was given a chair. I thought, Of course, this is what men are for—to face the gut and gore with courage. That one-eye doctor put 15 shots of the anesthetic directly into the wound, just inches away from my face.
Something began to happen inside me. Then he squeezed the wound and began piercing the flesh with the needle, stitching the gash closed. Now, the nurse looked at me and said, “Are you okay?”
She hardly gave me time to answer and I was ushered out into the hall. Where she sat me in a chair. I was pal and I thought I was going to pass out! God had a better plan for me than being a doctor.
I I don’t get sick when I preach. Others do, but I feel fine all the through.
4. Attitudes can be nets.
So much about following Christ starts with attitude. Attitudes of serving, caring, humility, understanding, tolerating, and trusting are all characteristic of the way of Christ that is to be replicated in us.
Yet we have learned to use lesser attitudes to manage our own lives and manipulate others. Attitudes that consider our own needs above the needs and concerns of others are nets that entangle us on the pilgrimage.
Attitudes that are insensitive, quick to judge, and always cynical and suspicious contradict the very spirit of Christ.
5. Money can be a net.
Money maybe the most troublesome net for many of us. When we consider all that money represents in our lives, it becomes apparent that it is an entangler of great consequence. While some simply like to accumulate money, most people see money as the key to success, significance, or fulfillment of dreams—the house, or the car or a Caribbean cruise.
The issue is rarely “Do we have enough?” Rather, it is “Do I have enough to do all I wish to do?”
Many of us are concerned that if we commit
ourselves as fully devoted followers, Christ will
threaten the treasury. He probably will.
That is why money is such a strategic net. When we are able to drop this net, other nets will drop with greater ease. Knowing of the grip money can have, Christ said more about it in His teachings than any other topic.
He proposed that trust in great matters is determined by how we handle the lesser things in life—which, in His view, include money. More pointedly, however, was His admonition about the difficulty of serving both money and the Master.
We can’t have it both ways. We either let Him be the master of our money, or our money will master us.
6. Secret sins can be nets.
The pull of secret sins that satisfy is extremely debilitating. That involvement with pornography, that quiet affair, that other life lived on business trips, that embezzling of funds, that stealing from our employer—whatever it is, it is a major snare.
Getting netless may mean confessing to God and to others concerned in the matter. It may mean making the sacrifice of giving up something that greatly satisfies.
The Heart Of The Matter:
Two observations are critical here. First, the nets Christ calls us from are not always sinful or degrading. He calls us away from everything that stands between us and Him.
He seeks to be the leader of your life, definer, and the guide over all of our existence. It is called a total surrender to Him.
Second, we do not leave our nets for a new career—we leave our nets for a Person. The disciples did not drop their nets in order to take up another job; they were casting their lot in life solely to Christ and His cause.
The songwriter Judson W. Van de Venter said it best when he penned.
All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
This is the essence of following. It is not project. It is a person. It in not a task. It is a tribute to the worthiness and trustworthiness of Christ and His cause. It is that and that alone.
Netlessness really boils down to a matter of values. Do we value our nets more than the Lord who calls us? Every choice we make in life is a graphic demonstration of the values that drive our lives.
Because the disciples dropped what they had thought was the best way to spend their lives and took up Christ’s way, you and I sit here redeemed. Only heaven will reveal the full results of the lives of these early disciples who became non-negotiated followers of Christ.
Becoming a netless believer does not mean dropping one net and being free forever. We will confront additional nets. The enemy will come along like a roadside merchant, he will hawk his wares in compelling tones, hoping that though we were netless once, we will be netless no longer.
Look at your hands, the lines in your palms. Are there rope burns from the strain of a net you have struggle to hold on to? Is there a net entangling your progress with Christ?
Drop it. He’s worth it. Life is ultimately better without it.