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Why Would't You Follow #2

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Sermon preached at State College Free Methodist Church

Sunday Morning, January 26, 1997

By Pastor C. Marshall

Series - Following Christ.

(2)  WHY WOULDN’T FOLLOW?

 

The fear of following does not always arise from rebellion; more often, it’s a matter of trust.  How do you unconditionally trust an authority figure when your deepest scars are memories of being abused by your parent?  How do you cultivate a concern for the direction your life is going when you don’t believe there is a future worth caring about?

            The reality this generation has inherited is the that someone has shrunk their world to the significance of the immediate.  And since there is really nothing currently to hope in or to trust, the question of what to do with rest of life is immaterial.

            There is a troubling paradox for those who are born into this generation.  Last year for Christmas someone gave a sweatshirt.  It depicted a face with the chin resting on the figure’s hand and under the expressionless look was the word “Whatever.”

            a That word seems to embody the feelings of this generation.  Happily, life is more than “whatever” when it is released to the dynamic direction that Christ can give.

            But without Christ as leader, “whatever” is the honest appraisal of life.  It is not just this generation that has trouble trusting.  How many of us have been betrayed by relationships into which we put our trust, or hurt by people whom we have been willing to follow?

            Politics, education, and even the church at large have all fostered a sense of distrust that has left us with little to trust in except ourselves and those who think and live the way we do.  No doubt most of us like the sound of trusting Christ as leader of our lives.  We know we need a leader and believe He could be the one.

            But we are stuck in places where we can’t see Him clearly enough; along the way, someone stepped between us and blocked Christ from view.  That someone may have been a parent who neglected or abused us yet was regarded by everyone else as a respectable Christian.

            That someone may have been a trusted spiritual leader who took advantage of us, or a Christian colleague who cheated or mistreated us or friend who claims to be a follower but bitterly refuses to forgive another.

            These failed trust relationships are like an eclipse of the sun.

                       

                        ó When the moon, which ordinarily reflects the light of the sun, gets in the way of the sun, everything turns gray, distorted, and cold.  We know the sun is there, but we can’t sense its reality or feel its beneficial power.

                        ó It’s like a bad seat at a ball game where our view is obstructed, we can hear the sounds, feel some of the excitement, watch others who see clearly and are absorbed in the game, but experience only a helpless sense of detachment.

            We can’t trust Christ while we’re in the shadows.  Christ calls us out of the shadows to see Him as He is.  Are you willing to step out of the darkness and into the brilliance of His warmth and care.  Are you willing to step out of the shadow of abuse?

            Are you tired of being disappointed by others who show you a distorted view of Christ.   How much can you trust a person? I think the answer to that question is, you can trust a person only to the degree that you know that person. By reason of the more you know God, the easier it is to trust Him.

            1.  Develop A Relationship.

            In order to trust someone, you must have three things in that relationship:

1.      The person you trust must tell you the truth.

2.      That person must be fair and always do what is right and just.

3.      That person must be reliable and dependable.

 

Now, Psalm 33:4 says that those three characteristics are actually attributes of God:  For all God's words are right, and everything he does is worthy of our trust.

            33:4 All God’s words are right and true—they can be trusted. The Bible is reliable because, unlike people, God does not lie, forget, change his words, or leave his promises unfulfilled. We can trust the Bible because it contains the words of a holy, trustworthy, and unchangeable God.

2.     Dedicate All Of Our Resources.   Luke 5:11  So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

            One of the more significant signs of someone  following Christ can be seen when He turns selfishness into generosity.  Turning water into wine is child’s play when compared to changing the hearts of human beings with regard to money and possessions.

            There a vast difference between Religions People and Kingdom People when it comes to giving. Let me show you the difference.

                        ó  Religious People … give to create an impression with others and leverage with God.  Jesus deliberately exposed the inferior motivation behind the giving of the Pharisees and religious authorities of His day.

            Matthew 6:1-4  "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

                        ó  Kingdom People… give because they are no longer building their private kingdoms.  Part of their worship involves continually transferring ownership of all that they have to their Master.  The more you see that it really is God’s kingdom you are helping build in hearts, and not man’s kingdom, the more your values change.

            Jesus applauds the practice of  “selling all that you have” in order to possess the pearl of great price.

            Matthew 13:45-46  "Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a pearl merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. 46He discovered a real bargain--a pearl of great value--and sold everything he owned to purchase it!

            It makes no sense to hoard and accumulate for time what you can give away and keep for eternity.  When the kingdom is the focus of a believer’s value system, the hold of wealth and possessions radically diminishes.  Jesus it this way:

            Luke 12:32-34  "So don't be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. 33Sell what you have and give to those in need. This will fatten your purses in heaven! And the purses of heaven have no rips or holes in them. Your treasures there will never disappear; no thief can steal them; no moth can destroy them. 34Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be.

            The early church “had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need” (Acts 2:44-45).  “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had… There were no needy persons among them”  (Acts 4:32,34).

            This is supernatural behavior.  It takes “much grace” for God to pry our fingers from their grip on the material substance upon which we base our independent self-sufficiency.

                        ó  Remember Zacchaeus, the skinflint?  He was a chief tax-collector and was wealthy.  And he wanted to see who Jesus was.  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore - fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

                        When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus, come down immediately.  I must stay at your house today.  And he came down at once and welcome Him gladly.

                        He didn’t have to give a alter call.  He didn’t sing the “Just as I am” or “I Surrender All”

                        ó  What was the evidence the Zacchaeus had repented and placed his life under new management?  In his case it was a new generosity, a new trust in God to meet his needs.

                        He gave half of his possessions to the poor immediately.  He committed himself to pay back four times the amount he had cheated taxpayers.

                        The spontaneous expression of this man’s surrender was his willingness to stop squeezing others for money and trust fully in the Father.  Generosity flowed from his surrendered heart.  Kingdom followers of Jesus do not calculate the cost. 

                        Their lives and possessions are laid at the feet of their King.

                        ó  The question that most challenges me personally is:  What does my giving tell me about my follwership of Jesus?  And is my generosity the kind of kingdom miracle that my Lord can use to attract new followers to Himself?

            3.  Delight In The Rewards.  Matthew 19:27  Then Peter said to him, "We left everything to follow you. What will we get out of it?"

            As believers, our true reward is God’s presence and power through the Holy Spirit. Later, in eternity, we will be rewarded for our faith and service. If material rewards in this life came to us for every faithful deed, we would be tempted to boast about our achievements and act out of wrong motivations.

            19:29 Jesus assured the disciples that anyone who gives up something valuable for his sake will be repaid many times over in this life, although not necessarily in the same form. For example, a person may be rejected by his or her family for accepting Christ, but he or she will gain the larger family of believers.

There is a special and certain reward for those who are willing to suffer for and with Christ.  To the believers at Smyrna, Christ said,

            Rev. 2:10

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

         Throughout the book of Revelation, martyrs and those who have suffered greatly are given special notice and stature. John writes,

            Rev. 7:13-17

Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes--who are they, and where did they come from?" 14I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. 16Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

          As a boy I often sang these words from a well-known hymn:

It will be worth it all

When we see Jesus,

Life’s trials will seem so small

When we see Christ;

One glimpse of His dear face

All sorrows will erase,

So bravely run the race

Till we Christ.

 

Let us remind ourselves that the Great Commission was never qualified by conditions calling for advance only if funds were plentiful and no hardships or self-denial involved.

On the contrary, we are told to expect tribulation and even persecution, but with it    victory in Christ.

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