SENT OUT: to Follow

What do you seek? Why are you Christian? Why do you go to the church you attend? When was the last time you thought about the consequences to following Jesus?

Do you really like to be a follower? Or, would we rather be the one(s) in charge and receive the glory and recognition?

Last week we began a new sermon series called SENT OUT. We talked about how our identity as a child of God defines our purpose and gives us greater things to live for instead of our own comfort and our own preferences. This week, our focus is we are SENT OUT in the world to follow Jesus Christ.

I invite you to click on the link and take time to read John 1:29-42.

“Lamb Of God”

Disciples did not know what they were getting into when they said yes to following Jesus. Think about that for a second. Would they have followed a man who would end up at the cross? If we were in their position, would you? It may seem like a pointless endeavor to follow someone who would die just a few years later.

When John calls Jesus the “Lamb of God,” I’m sure the image of lambs in the Old Testament would have come into the minds of the people. Lambs were used for slaughter and sacrifice to “remove” the sin of the people. This is a great foreshadowing of what will occur to Jesus in the next three or so years. So basically John could have been saying “Here comes the dead man walking who will show you what it means to live fully in the presence of God.”

Later on in scripture, Jesus tells his followers they are to “take up their cross and follow him.” This means that he is calling us to be living sacrifices and deny ourselves for the grander purpose of the Kingdom of God. I love the following story of what “take up your cross” means to different cultures.

One market day in their village, two Chwang tribesmen heard a colporteur preach the Gospel. Then he began to sell Gospels, promising blessing to those who not only read but obeyed the precepts contained therein. Both men purchased copies, and taking them home, they read along till they came to the statement, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” In their desire to obey the Word of God, they made two crosses of bamboo, and tied them on their backs. (The Chinese translation of the words, “Take up his cross,” is “Bear his cross on his back.”) They carried these crosses as they visited the market or went about the country, and then carefully hung them on the front of their houses when they were home. Seeing their earnestness of heart, God did not leave them long in the dark. Soon a Chinese worker discovered them, briefly explained the Gospel to them, and advised them to go to Liuchow for further instruction. They did so, and after a week of instruction returned to their village and began to witness for the Lord. Several months later they went back to Liuchow, requesting baptism and further instruction. We were glad to grant both their requests as they exhibited an earnestness seldom seen anywhere. (Alliance Weekly)

“Come and see”

Jesus’ invitation to his new followers was not as gruesome as the death seen of the cross. Neither was it, “get your act together and then follow me.” Disciples asked Jesus,  “Where are you staying?” Jesus answered, “Come and see”

The invitation is to follow…we don’t have to be perfect. How does this make you feel? Aren’t you glad you do not have to be perfect before we accept the invitation of Jesus Christ?

Jesus did not leave the disciples in the place of remaining in their sin. Nor did he allow them to be the same. The imperfect disciples grew in their love and faith as they followed Jesus.

What does all this mean for us today?

S. I. McMillen, in his book None of These Diseases, tells a story of a young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application blank that asked, “Are you a leader?” Being both honest and conscientious, she wrote, “No,” and returned the application, expecting the worst. To her surprise, she received this letter from the college: “Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower.”

When we follow Jesus Christ, our actions change and what we have the heart of God for the least, the last, and the lost. We get to follow wherever Jesus is leading us in our lives. Keep in mind, this does not mean we are passive and do not take the lead. There are times, many times, that Christ calls us to lead people. We are able to lead better because we follow Christ.

So, what are some things we can do to tangibly keep our lives and church in line with Christ’s mission for His church? The challenge is that we will look at all of this and say “I don’t have time to do everything!” or “We’ve never done that / we’ve tried that before.” Or “Ok, if I do this, I’ll keep my place in heaven.”

What are some things you can see yourself / your church community doing to reach out into the world in the love of Jesus Christ?

  • Community missions such as food pantry, clothes closet, helping with utilities, etc?
  • Community (off church site) Bible Studies and times of prayer and worship?
  • Form or strengthen care ministries to the community of faith (homebound, nursing homes, hospitals, sick, etc) and to those in the community?
  • What else can you add to this list?

These are just a few ideas that will have lasting impact within the community and the church community which will end up spreading the love of Jesus Christ out into the whole world.

We do not do this alone! We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to go where Christ calls and do the work he calls us to. This is done because we are being leaders in our community (or faithfully being the helpers). We are able to do this because we follow the call mission of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8 as examples). It is ALL by God’s grace that we are able to do these acts (Ephesians 2:8-10).

We do not have to do everything; but we can ALL do something!

Are you ready to follow?

  • Bring people to faith in Christ by building authentic relationships and bring them to worship
  • Care for the sick and homebound (widows and orphans)
  • Find out what the community needs (from the community people) and find ways to make it happen)

Carry your cross on your back, check the box that you can follow and not have to lead…

Follow Christ to see where He is leading us in 2017 so we can continue to provide ministry through this church for the future generations (thinking for the next 100 years) to come to follow, know, and love Jesus Christ.

Let’s talk about the vision God is giving you for your life and His church.

New blog post: “Lessons Learned From 16 Year Old Me”

I know everyone can look back on their life and see the lessons learned over the years. As I look back on my life, I realize that it was God using those time in which I learned the most valuable lessons to shape me into the person I am today. I am still no where near perfect; but I hope I am closer to the person God desires me to be than I was last year.

When I was 16, I was going for my first paying job, outside of mowing lawns, etc. So like every good small town guy, I applied at Walmart. Thinking about this now, 20 years later, makes me laugh. I remember when I was under 10 years old that the teens worked at Walmart in my small Texas town. This was the place I thought everyone needed to work at when they became a teenager. The time came. I walked in for my interview (several people were interviewing at the same time. I sat down. Right after I left the interview I was disappointed. I didn’t get the job!

Lesson number one learned quickly, be sure not to put all hope or thought into one strategy without thinking about other options. I had to learn how to handle disappointment rather quickly. Another lesson learned was how to lead and follow. Finally, I can look back at the losses and realize I have thankful for my life and where I am today.

Handling disappointment is something we all struggle to learn as we age. We will not win everything and that is okay. We are not meant to win or get everything we want. If we did, we would be the most spoiled people and not care about anyone except what we want and not think about anyone else’s needs / wants. This is something that we just really have to learn. We should remember that God has a great plan for our life and I have noticed that the things in life we get disappointed over may very well be the things that God does not desire for us to have or experience.

I remember very clearly the interviewer asking me, “do you consider yourself a leader or a follower?” and I gave the best answer anyone would give to make themselves look good. Say it with me. “Of course I’m a leader!” Now, at the same time, I heard another teen answering the same question. His answer has stuck with me to this day. “There are times when I am asked to lead, or I step up to lead. But there are times when I know how to follow. So, I am a leader and a follower.” It seems that following another person and trusting they know what they are doing puts us in a vulnerable position. We would rather be in a position of authority and tell people what to do. But this is not what true leadership, or wisdom, is like. True leaders are willing to allow another person to lead. Truthfully, I still struggle with this; even in my walk with Jesus Christ. I like to be in control; but I know there are people I can learn from and people I should let take the lead because of the gifts they have.

Following is also a challenge because the leader will not do things just like you or I would. That is a beautiful thing because then we can show we are learning from everyone. It is too easy to tell the leader what they need to be doing and how to do it; but I have learned we can learn to appreciate different styles of leadership by letting the people do what they feel should be done. There are many times when people look at me, I look younger than I am, and assume that I do not have the experience or knowledge to get the job done. There are times this bothers me; but there is also wisdom to listening. Could we all handle our conversations better? Absolutely. People will always assume they know more than me; but I am learning to thank God for the wisdom and guidance they are attempting to give, even if it is done in an inappropriate manner.

As I look back on my life, I am grateful for the lessons I learned as a 16 year old. Praise God I am where I am today. I believe that if I had chosen different paths in my life, I would not be married to my wife, the most beautiful and caring woman, today. Nor would I have the 2 precious children either. I know I still have a lot to learn. If we ever get to a place where we automatically assume we know how it do it better than another person, or we are smarter, we can miss out on great opportunities to see how God is leading.

Everyone of us will have opinions on what I have just written. And each of us has learned lessons through the years. I invite you to take time and think about some of your most life shaping times in your life and find a way to praise God for the person He is shaping you to be. What have you learned?

To God be the glory. Amen