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Whould You Know A Follower If You Saw One #3

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Sermon preached at State College Free Methodist Church

Sunday Morning February 2,1997

By Pastor C. Marshall

 

Series

 

FOLLOWING CHRIST

 

Luke 9:23

Then he said to all, "Anyone who wants to follow me must put aside his own desires and conveniences and carry his cross with him every day and keep close to me!

(3)  Would You Know A Follower If You Saw One?

            Scripture is crystal clear about the profile of a true follower of Jesus Christ.  Interestingly, in the text in Matthew 4 that recounts the call of Christ to Andrew, Peter, James, and John, a different word is used to call them.  As we have seen, Christ’s call means that we are to “come after Him.”  The essence of that call involves the direction of our lives.

            The word that characterized the disciples’ response, however, was full of additional meaning.  It was a technical word used of individuals in that day who were known by their friends and others and around them as followers.  According to scholars, it reflected two basic suggestions. 

            First, a follower was one who had a growing and deepening relationship to the one they were following.  Followers do not characterize their following as a task or project or duty.  It is, first and foremost a relationship to this person who is being following.

            Second, a true follower is in the process of a radical reformation because of the influence of the leader on his life.  True followers do not remain the same once they start following Christ.  He is involved in a task of radical reformation in our lives in terms of both character and conduct. 

            Followers become imitators of the one they are following.  You know a follower because he acts and reacts like the one who is leading his life.  So in the of time of the  disciples, someone who called you a follower of Christ would expect to see your life busy about relationship and reformation.

            This identity  was so clear in Christ’s day that calling someone a follower would be no different from saying of someone, “He’s a trucker” or “She’s a doctor.”  It defined the privilege and responsibility of their role as a followers.  It spoke volumes about who they were and explained why they lived, thought , and acted as they did.

            The word for “follow” applied to Peter, Andrew, James, and John in Matthew 4:19-21 indicates a person who so longed to know the right way to live that he initiated a relationship with the local rabbi, knowing that the rabbi was the very summary of God’s truth about life as expressed in the Torah.

            The Torah contained God’s revealed definitions and directives for life.  It was God’s means of managing instincts toward what was not only productive and good, but also toward what would bring glory to Him.

            Followers in the rabbinical sense were those who had so longed for God and His standards that they moved in with the local rabbi as means of knowing and growing toward God. The closest you could get to God on earth was through the rabbi.

            So followers in the technical sense were those who attached themselves to the local rabbi.  They would serve the rabbi, sit at his feet, watch him intently, and seek, by following him, to go where their longing for life in God’s way could be satisfied.

            The follower in Christ’s day was clearly marked as one who had a personal relationship with the local rabbi.  And the relationship was the preeminent reality of his or her life.

            Christ is the local rabbi of our souls.  He personalizes our relationship with Him by initiating an interest in us.  He not only initiated a divinely authoritative call in our lives, but also brought us with the price of His own life on the cross.

            He lures us with persistent love into a deepening relationship with Him.  He is God, and a relationship with Him literally explodes with the love and leadership that we long for.

Following is, at the very heart of it all, a

relationship with One who highly values intimacy

with us and works to enable and empower it.

            And, thankfully, He doesn’t lead us down well-worn, traditional paths that we have long been accustomed to.

            For us then, who are followers…. Means to adopt Him as the local rabbi of our lives and surrender; to sit under His wisdom in order to learn from Him; and to serve Him in every way possible.  It means giving Him the highest priority.

            Illustrations…  Turning 40 as I did recently, was a real wake-up call for me.  I realized anew how much ground I still have to gain in my personal relationship with Christ.  After years of the fast-paced, hectic business of serving Him, I confess that I’ve spent far more time doing for Him than getting to know Him.

            If you like fishing, you know that casting a line toward the shore and pulling it back is essentially what it’s all about.  It is not the activity of going through that routine that counts, but rather, how you do it.  If the line is pulled back quickly, it covers a lot of territory but simply skims the surface.  If you slow down as you retrieve, it goes deeper and deeper, where in all probability the fish are.

            I have an unquenchable desire to slow down and find my life going deeper in my walk with Christ.  I want to meet Him in the depths of my soul, away from the stress and the press of everything on top. A relationship with Christ is the key to fulfilling our deepest longings.  We are built for a relationship with God.

            Some of you are searching to fill the void that sin and separation from Him have created within. 

·         You are filling the emptiness with piles of things.

·          Maybe you are filling that emptiness with customs and traditions.

Mark 7:1-13

One day some Jewish religious leaders arrived from Jerusalem to investigate him, 2and noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the usual Jewish rituals before eating. 3(For the Jews, especially the Pharisees, will never eat until they have sprinkled their arms to the elbows, as required by their ancient traditions. 4So when they come home from the market they must always sprinkle themselves in this way before touching any food. This is but one of many examples of laws and regulations they have clung to for centuries, and still follow, such as their ceremony of cleansing for pots, pans and dishes.)

5So the religious leaders asked him, "Why don't your disciples follow our age-old customs? For they eat without first performing the washing ceremony."

6Jesus replied, "You bunch of hypocrites! Isaiah the prophet described you very well when he said, 'These people speak very prettily about the Lord but they have no love for him at all. 7Their worship is a sham, for they claim that God commands the people to obey their petty rules.' How right Isaiah was! 8For you ignore God's specific orders and substitute your own traditions. 9You are simply rejecting God's laws and trampling them under your feet for the sake of tradition.

10For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: 'Honor your father and mother.' And he said that anyone who speaks against his father or mother must die. 11But you say it is perfectly all right for a man to disregard his needy parents, telling them, 'Sorry, I can't help you! For I have given to God what I could have given to you.' 12And so you break the law of God in order to protect your man-made tradition. 13And this is only one example. There are many, many others."

Col. 2:8

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

·         Some of us are filling our emptiness with earthly friendship.

·         Some of us are filling our emptiness with sensual encounters.

           

            Christ is the only one who can fill the emptiness in your heart.  Without a doubt, at the core of every believer’s life is a longing to know more of Him.  There is a reason that the book Experiencing God has sold over a million copies.  We all want to say, with the psalmist,

            Psalm 42:1-2  As the deer pants for water, so I long for you, O God. 2I thirst for God, the living God. Where can I find him to come and stand before him?

            Psalm 63:1  O God, my God! How I search for you! How I thirst for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. How I long to find you!

 

         We want to experience Him.  But moving from the desire to deepen our relationship to actually doing it is the challenge.  But somewhere something happened and we quickly have lost the glow and Christianity became increasingly routine.

         We have grown accustomed to Him and the sound of His anthems and sermons.  We are good Christians and do the Christians thing, but never seem to experience the intimacy with Christ that we long for.

         Many Christians today have a hunger to experience God.  In fact, many of us were attracted to Christ in the first place because we were told we would have a ‘personal relationship’ with Him.

         Yet if we are honest, we must confess that it is very different from any other relationship we have ever known.  Understanding a personal relationship with Christ begins by realizing it is supernatural, nonmaterial experience.

         We are so locked into earthly material experiences that we don’t easily appreciate the higher form of the world that is above, around, and in us. 

A personal relationship with Christ is found in His world.

That’s where He resides and where He will be found.

         The real world is not this upside-down, fallen globe that is controlled and manipulated by our adversary.  This is the short-lived, condemned world where truth and reality are contradicted and sometimes despised.

            The real world is Christ’s eternal home, to which we have been redeemed and permanently assigned Col. 1:13  For he has rescued us out of the darkness and gloom of Satan's kingdom and brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son.

 

         The question remains:  How do I shift from a dutiful, distant, one-sided relationship with Christ to experience a deepening intimacy with Him?

         There are at least six disciplines in our lives that will cultivate the ground of our hearts for growing a personal experience with Him.

1.     Open the door of your heart.   Revelation 3:20  is often thought of as an

invitation to our salvation experience, but the verse actually speaks to Christ’s persistent desire for intimacy with His followers.


            He pictures Himself as knocking at the door of our hearts, wanting to come in:  “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.”  And He gives us this assurance:

Rev. 3:20

"Look! I have been standing at the door, and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with me.

         Where is Christ?  Standing at the door, waiting for me to take the initiative to welcome Him to a relationship that He longs to have with me.

         It is our heart’s door.  This is the pivotal issue.  It we do not comprehend this, we will not get to know Him personally.

         In Scripture we discover that our heart is where we dream, deliberate, decide, want, and will.  It is Control Central.  No one invades it unless we give permission.  It is the core of who and what we are.  It is the real, authentic me.  After all the layers of the external camouflage have been removed, my heart is the naked reality of what I really am.

         This is the place where Christ wants to meet us, and He won’t meet us anywhere else.  We want to meet Him at the church, in our quiet time, at the safe and comfortable outer edges of what we pretend to be.

         But He meets us in our hearts.  If it is intimacy we want, then the relationship must happen where intimacy happens.  Christ is not interested in relating to the masks and the costumes and traditions.  He is not into camouflage.  He wants to know and fellowship with the real you.

         And we can be thankful for that.  Yet it is unsettling thought.  If He comes to meet you there…

¨      He will finds things that He will want to get rid of right away: that pleasure, that habit, that long-standing bitterness, etc,

¨      He will want to be in charge of me desires, decisions, wants, and will.  He is the sovereign God of the universe and rightfully holds complete authority.

¨      He will notice the clutter of irrelevancies and trivia.

¨      He will see me as I really am, including my fears about my lack of worth and dignity.

Christ is not interested in relating to the masks

and the costumes. He’s not into camouflage.  He wants to know

and fellowship with the real me.

            2.    Pursue Him.  Relationships are built on communication and closeness.  We cannot neglect regular conversations through prayer and exposure to His Word.

            We need to study His patterns of attitude, and action, and reaction in the Gospels.  Ask Him the tough questions and stay close until He starts to sort things out for you.  Memorize and meditate both His Words and works of His hands.

            James 4:8  And when you draw close to God, God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and let your hearts be filled with God alone to make them pure and true to him.

            3.    Put Him in His place.  Make it your heart’s desire that He is at the center of everything you do.

            Expel self, money, success, friends, pleasure, power and position, comfort and convenience, and anything else that usurps His place in the center.  Put Him finally and forever there.  Sincerely repent for putting whatever we have wrongly placed at the center.

            4.    Be where He is.  We don’t relate to Christ on our terms.  He never gets off track in order to fellowship with us where we have strayed.

            Calling,  “Lord, I’m over here in my bitterness and self-centeredness. Come!  What would you like with your tea?”  really doesn’t cut it if we are pursuing a personal relationship with Him.

            We fellowship with Him is acts of love, justice, mercy, humility, forgiveness, and righteousness.

            5.    Meet Him in the crisis.  Seldom do we have a better opportunity to experience Christ personally than those times when we face a wrenching crisis.

            He shows most clearly His grace, power, wisdom, and sustaining presence.  It was Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego who knew their God more intimately after their ordeal in the fiery furnace than before.  (Ironically, it was their unconditional obedience that caused their problem in the first place.)

            6.    See Him in His people.  Although He is not visible, Christ manifests Himself through His people as they interact in the reality of the character, actions,  and attitudes of His presence within.

            Sally lay awake in her room, afraid of what might be lurking in the dark.  Her father came into her room several times to tell her that the Lord was there with her and that she had nothing to fear.  Finally, in desperation she replied to her dad’s theology, “I know, but I want something’ that has skin on it!”

            Bobby knelt by his bed just before Christmas to say his bedtime prayers with his mother.  He mumbled through the rote prayer “Now I lay me…” and then blurted out, “and, Lord, you know how much I want a bicycle for Christmas!”  To which his Mom said, “Shhh! God’s not deaf.”  I know, but Grandma is.”

            What a change we would see in the fellowship of believers if we would all commit ourselves to being His hands, feet, heart, and voice to those around us.

            AMEN.

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