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A Journey with Jesus: With

A Journey with Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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To follow Jesus, we must go with Jesus.

Dominant Thought: To follow Jesus, we must go with Jesus.
I want my listeners to understand the five different ways people view a relationship to God.
I want my listeners to choose to pursue life with God.
I want my listeners to identify one way to pursue life with Jesus.
Skye Jethani invites his readers to reimagine how they relate to God. In his book entitled, With, he describes five ways people relate to God. The five ways are: Life Under God, Life Over God, Life From God, Life For God, and Life With God. He writes, “Life Under God sees the world governed by the capricious will of God. Life Over God places immutable natural laws at the center. Life From God assumes the world orbits around self and its desires. And Life For God sees a divine mission at the core of all things” (page 100). Each of these four options are incomplete. One of the options, Life over God, is a form of atheism or deism at best.
A quick look at each of the first four options will show where they fall short in helping us relate completely to God. First, Life Under God gives God credit for the good things in life, but also blames Him for the bad things. In the model, many try to earn God’s favor. If I do the right things then God will bless me.
Jethani shares the example of Steve, John, wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills (page 27).
On November 28, 2010, the Bills faced off against their rival Pittsburg Steelers. The Bills ultimately lost the game when Johnson dropped a pass in the end zone during overtime. After the game, via Twitter, he publicly blamed God for the loss. Johnson wrote, “I praise you 24/73 And this is ho you do me4 You expect me to learn from this??? How??? I’ll never forget this!! Ever!! (NY Daily News, November 29, 2010).
While Life Under God sounds good. And, we must place our lives under the authority of the our heavenly Father, the Life under God model seeks to manipulate the will of God.
Second, Life Over God sees little need for God. This approach reads the Bible for principles and methods for success, but doesn’t engage God in relationship. This faith practice “has little room or need for God” (Jethani, p. 45).
Mark was a very well-read man. He devoured every business leadership book he could find, but he wasn’t a business leader. Mark was a pastor. We met at a ministry conference and shared lunch together. “The problem with most pastors,” Mark began, “is that they think they’re immune to market forces. They don’t understand the basic principles on which every organization rises or falls. They just don’t teach that stuff in seminary. “I can’t stand all the spiritualizing that goes on at these ministry conferences. We’re just coming up with excuses for being bad leaders—for not doing more. Do you think the managers of Walmart sit around and contemplate? Why do people expect us to sit around and pray all the time? I’m not going to let my church atrophy like so many others.” (Jethani, p. 4-5).
Third, Life From God see God as a cosmic slot machine. The goal for this approach is for God to give His people nice things. This approach to relating to God in its most extreme form is the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel. This approach sees God as the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1.17). It is true that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift, but the sole goal of Christianity is not pleasure or comfort which appear to be the supreme values of our culture today. Shopping and stuff has become the god we have created. In many ways, we create a god in our image instead of seeing ourselves created in the image of God. Jean Twenge and a team of researchers have also suggested that “consumerism is a major rise in mental illness. ‘We have become a culture that focuses on material things’ she [Twenge] said, ‘and less on relationships” (Jethani, p. 75, quoting Jean Twenge, “Today’s Teens More Anxious, Depressed, and Paranoid Than Ever, by Courtney Hutchinson, ABC Daily News, 12-10-09).
Fourth, Life For God describes my life an many points along my journey. After all, living for God sounds like what we are called to do. In fact, I have preached sermons that invite people to live for God and not for self. We invite people to follow God and to fulfill the mission of God. However, we must be careful that we do not put the mission of God ahead of God himself (Jethani, p. 87). We can become so enamored with ministry and serving God that we lose sight of God himself. Life For God shows up in the life of His people when they approach Bible merely as a textbook for the next lesson or sermon and don’t view God’s Word as a conversation between God and His people.
Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales describes his life as we lived in this arena of Life For God (Me, Myself, and Bob, p. 237. The following quote is found in Jethani, p. 90).
The more I dove into Scripture, the more I realized I had been deluded. I had grown up drinking a dangerous cocktail—a mix of the gospel, the Protestant work ethic, and the American dream . . . The Savior I was following seemed, in hindsight, equal parts Jesus, Ben Franklin, and Henry Ford. My eternal value was rooted in what I could accomplish.
So, if each of these four approaches leaves us with an incomplete relationship with God, then how should we relate to God. Jethani, suggests it with the title of his book, With. Consider Life With God. As we journey through Luke in this series, I called this series, “Journey with Jesus.” My approach to Luke in this series looks at the disciples interaction with Jesus and observe what is happening. I observed themes such as understand, leave, hear, deny, pray, but all of these themes are incomplete without time “With” Jesus.
Jethani describes the difference between the four incomplete approaches and the preferred relationship with God (p. 102).
But LIFE WITH GOD is different because its goal is not to use God, its goal is God. He ceases to be a device we employ or a commodity we consume. Instead God himself becomes the focus of our desire. But before we can really desire God, we must have a clear understanding of who he is and what he is like. The reason most people gravitate to one of the other four postures is because they’ve never received a clear vision of who God is, and so they settle for something less.
So, what does a relationship with Jesus look like? Let’s go to Luke 9 to see what it looks like. In Luke 9, I want to highlight two verses from Luke 9 where the disciples were “with” Jesus. Let’s look at Luke 9.10-11.
In Luke 9.10, we read, “he took them with him.” The words, “take with” represent one word in the original language. It is the verb, “to take” with a prefix of “along”. It could mean “to bring along” or “to learn from someone.” “Thus Jesus took His disciples with Him on various occasions, sometimes in order to teach them” (Derek Leigh Davis).
In Luke 9.10, the apostles return to Jesus and report to Him what they had done on the recent mission. They were “proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere” (Luke 9.6). I imagine they were quite excited to tell Jesus what they had done.
Then, Jesus took them with Him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida. Jesus wanted some time with just Him and His apostles. It sounds like a retreat. He simply wanted to spend time with them. He may have had a lesson in mind to teach them. Not exactly sure, but Jesus wanted to take them away from the crowds to spend time with them.
We have set a goal of leadership development this year at Berlin CC. I want to invite you to help us in this goal. One way we can achieve this goal is by living by this simple truth, “Take someone with you.” Last Saturday, I made a hospital call. I invited one of my deacons to come with me. We made the hospital call and watched God answer a couple of our prayers—to be able to make the visit, and a divine encounter with an opportunity to pray with one of the nurses. A couple days later, I was able to lean on that leader to make a hospital call in my absence. The deacon called another brother to go with him and those two made the visit.
I invited someone to come with me. He came and then was able to make the visit on his own with the help of someone who went with him. Something else that was special about that visit was the hour in the car that we spent traveling to and from the hospital. Take someone with you.
Jesus showed how to make disciples when He took the disciples with Him. Sometimes you spell the word “with” T-I-M-E. To be with someone requires time. Jesus entered Time and space to be with us. In fact, Matthew calls the name of Jesus, Immanuel which means “God with us.”
When you were a child, who did you want to be with? For me, one of those people would be my grandpa. When I was about 7 or 8 years old, I had the opportunity to spend most of a summer with my grandpa. During that summer, I remember helping my grandpa lay block to add on an addition to their house. I remember putting sheet metal on the roof of the barn, driving the tractor through the gate, using the acetyline torch. I had fun with my grandpa during that special window of time. Who is it for you?
Interesting the retreat that Jesus had planned with the apostles comes to a quick end when the crowds find them. They followed Jesus. And Jesus “welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing (Luke 9.11). I love that Jesus welcomed the intrusion of the crowds. Someone told me that Jesus had a ministry of divine interruptions. As your read the gospels, people interrupt Jesus all that time. What’s cool is that Jesus made time for those interruptions. Jesus welcomed, spoke, and healed them.
Once He welcomed them, He spoke to them about the kingdom of God. He reminded them of His reign, His kingdom.
I had the opportunity to hear Alex Kendrick speak on Monday evening at the Preaching-Teaching Convention. Alex and his brother make Christian movies. Some of their movies are: Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous, War Room and Overcomer. In his testimony about making those movies, he encouraged us to “Track with God in Prayer.” He warned not to jump ahead of God and don’t drag or lag behind God, but to track with Him in Prayer.
As you think about Life with Jesus, what’s your typical day with Jesus look like? Do you give Him much of a thought? Are you trying to coax Him into a blessing or a gift? Are you afraid you are disappointing Him or not working hard enough for Him? If those are your thoughts, then you may be missing the point of living with Jesus. You may be relating to Him in one of those incomplete ways. To Live with Jesus or walk with Jesus or Journey with Jesus, then time with Him is enough.
What would it look like if, morning, noon, and night, you talk with Jesus?
What would it look like if you allow Jesus to take you to a quiet place where the two of you could spend time together? You could tell Him about your day. He can show you something cool about His word or the World.
What would it look like if you joined others and watch Jesus welcome them, and teach them and heal them?
What would it look like if you were asked, what’s your most valued treasure in the world? Or, what is your deepest desire? And you answered, “Jesus.”
My friends, To follow Jesus, we must go WITH Jesus.
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