Followers of Jesus
We are in a series called Identity in Christ. We want our lives marked and defined by the things God does and says about us.
We were recently doing a family movie night and watched Jumani: Next Level. It’s about four high school kids who discover an old video game console, and when they turn it on they are sucked into it as a real-life game. They don't just play Jumanji - they live it. To beat the game and return to the real world, they'll have to overcome obstacles and defeat the bad guys. A key part of this is that they have to change the way they think about themselves. They are no longer themselves; they are the characters in the game. Their elderly grandfather has to realize he is now the super hero like Dr. Smolder Bravestone.
If they go up to the person and hit them on the chest it shows their avatars.
Dr. Smolder Bravestone. Courage, strength. No weakness.
Jack Black. Sand. Endurance in desert. Strengths: Cartography, Archaeology
Paleontology, Geometry. Weakness: Heat, Sun, Sand, Endurance.
Franklin Mouse Finbar. Hart. Zoology, Weapons Valet, Linguistics. Weakness: cake (Really!), Speed, Strength (Strength is his weakness. He doesn’t think that makes sense either. )
These avatars describe them and what they do, how they approach the challenges that will be present in the movie. In a similar way we are looking at things that should describe followers of Jesus.
Last week we saw we are to be worshippers. This week we see that we are to be followers. Followers and followers of God’s word. This should define us. Define how we think about ourselves, the world, who God is and what he is doing. Also define what we do and don't do.
We Follow God as Lord
We call him Lord. A Lord is one having legal power, master; one who is in control. Can be used as an address showing respect and honor to one who has power and authority.
God is my copilot. God is more than a copilot. Coworkers are on the same level.
Jesus is my homeboy. Jesus is a friend of sinners. He is a friend. That is true. But this doesn’t convey the honor and respect that is due to him. Homeboys have no obligation to each other. Don't submit your life to a homeboy. He’s just a person, like you, with nothing else to do. Jesus controls the wind and waves. He is in power.
My boss is a Jewish carpenter. Bumper sticker on a 1988 Sunbird; hit a bump and the windshield wipers would start going. Boss is to be master of or over; manage; direct; control. to order about, especially in an arrogant manner.
Lordship of Jesus. He is Lord. It means he is in control of all things. All things do what he wants. He is in authority; he tells people what to do and they answer to him. He speaks to us the norms that are to govern our lives. He will hold us accountable for what we have done. He is present, he is near and on the job. He is not away or unable to get to the phone. He is supreme in all of life. That means we follow him. His Lordship is absolute, so it transcends all other loyalties. Parents. Employers. Police. Presidents. Right to submit to them, but Jesus is the one we submit to above and beyond all others.
A Christian is one who has trusted Jesus as their Lord. Believe he is the creator and redeemer of the world. Believe he stands in authority and we will one day give an account to him. Believes he is supreme to all and is to be followed in everything. If he is Lord, then we are his followers.
What God says matters most to us!
Let me also say, I would not have had this as a main category before coming to replant. When I first moved to GA from DC people asked me what the difference was. I said well traffic has not gotten any better. But one of the things that really surprised me was the number of Christians. You feel much more of a minority in DC., but the second thing I said was how many people profess to be Christians but don't read their Bible, don't go to church, and are not telling anyone about Jesus. This became even more noticeable in that we had a lot of challenges in rebuilding, mainly from outside the church, and it came from people who professed faith. How can someone state so much great theology and do the things they are doing? It baffled me and showed me we really need to have an emphasis on living out our lives. I saw in a book that they emphasized being followers and I said yes, we need to include that in what we do.
Some people distinguish the difference today of not making converts but followers. Convert is someone who has cause to change in form, character, or function. And yes, in Christianity we want to convert people to Jesus. But the play on words comes when all you have is a convert without pursuit.
We Follow Him Sincerely
This passage contrasts true followers from false followers. There will be wolves in sheeps clothing. There is a duplicitousness in them.
There will be false prophets. There will be false followers.
Be sure to note that in the passage the contrast is not on those who are in the gathering of believers and those who are not in it. It is not those who are in the church and all the heathen out in the world. It is a contrast of those who are in the church. Much like Cain and Abel. It's not a matter of join the church and you are good. It's a question of how you are pursuing him.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
That is why we are including this passage in our journeys. It could be easy to just have passages that emphasize the warm fuzzies of the faith. Love and God loves you. There is a place for that. But you also have to see you have responsibilities, and these can be sobering.
Talk the talk, but does he walk the walk? I like to talk trash before I play basketball. Because once I start there is no point talking. Can talk taxes. I don't like it, but I can hang there for a bit, listen disinterestedly, until I can redirect the conversation to something else.
Do everything as serving the Lord and not people (Col 3:23). Not as man pleasers and for eye service.
You ought to be a good employee, and for that they need to be able to trust you. If you do something one way and then another way when people are not around you are just doing eye service. Integrity is being the same person when you are by yourself as when others are around.
Don't talk about religion in church and then do something else another time.
We will never be perfect in following Jesus, but we can be sincere. We serve him from the heart.
This also helps us to find the deep healing Jesus Offers. You can tell what is going on inside a tree by what appears on the outside. A tree is known by its fruit. You can tell the health of the tree by the quality of the fruit.
So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit (vs 17).
We are not after behavior modification. We are after changed hearts. Positive and negative reinforcement. A change in behavior without a change of heart is simply fruit stapling. Let me show up to church happy and excited and act like everything is perfect. That's not our goal. Our goal is to help people find the peace that Jesus offers. To really know one another.
Growing up, we were not very religious. Some family members would show up to events dressed up, as if they went to church, but didn't really go. Just wanted to look the part.
Don't just want head knowledge. Want it in my heart.
If we want to see people following Jesus from the heart, then it changes how we teach them. Can't just yell people into the kingdom. We want to share the truth with them, and let it absorb into their hearts like a tree absorbs fertilizer.
Want to help people know God’s word. To contemplate it. Digest it. Absorb it into their minds and hearts.
Sometimes the greatest distance for truth to travel is from the mind to the heart.
For it is not an abundance of knowledge that fills and satisfies the soul but rather an interior understanding and savoring of things.
We need to see that Jesus wants to change our hearts. Not just our behavior. To see he wants you to desire him, seek him, delight in him. He died for you, to show you what true love is, so that you would be satisfied in him and that you would desire from the heart to serve him.
Go through life seeking to address our heart’s intentions and designs.
Resolved, frequently means to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God's glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution.
- Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,- what sin I have committed,-and wherein I have denied myself;-also at the end of every week, month and year.
That is taking seriously one's walk with Christ!
Such thinking, “Jesus is simply reduced to our rescuer, who deals with God’s wrath for us and guarantees our future, effectively limiting his work to the past and future, and stripping the richness out of our relationship with and present experience of God.” 218, NSB. Gary Miller
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV)
Hardhearted to softhearted.
Brought into a deeper relationship with God and also other people. We connect on the heart level, knowing and sharing our fears, our joys, our sadness, our happiness, our guilt. Richness of relationships. The breakdown of the church community leads to a breakdown of mission. People are hurting. They are confused. When they come to our prayer groups and Bible studies and no one is honest about the hurt and confusion they have in life it tells them no one is like them. No one has any problems. Jesus isn’t relevant to me. If we don't take time to get to know others it shows we don’t really care about what is going on in their lives. Jesus was a friend of sinners and tax collectors. Will we follow him in knowing others?
Does anyone in your prayer group know the things you are going to counseling for? It shows we are more interested in putting up a pretense than following him from the heart. Your group won't know how to fix you. They can't fix you. But they can love you, pray for you, advise you, talk with you, cry with you, rejoice with you. They can help you see that even though you have problems you are still loved and accepted, and that is probably the greatest thing you need.
Are we following him wholeheartedly, seeking for him to change us, feel the change in the core of who we are?
Rhett to Scarlet. “You're not sorry for what you did, you're just sorry you got caught.”
We Follow Him Through Storms
Build his house on the rock. There is safety and security. I hit rock bottom and that is what led me to turn to Christ. I knew what I was doing was wrong. I felt it in so many ways.
When I started to read the Bible and apply it, life started to go better. I learned I needed to work six days and rest one. It taught me discipline. I learned not to lie. I wouldn’t deceive people. But also, if I said I was going to be there, then, I better be there when I said. I started doing better in school. I developed real friendships with people. I learned to care for others. Much of my pain in life was self-inflicted.
What are you building your life on? Is it able to sustain you? Does it make sense of who you are? All about science and facts? How are you emotionally?
Follow his word as a carpenter does his blueprint. I’m putting you first, Lord. Show me what to do. I want to know you and your ways. Different from getting into a predicament and praying/searching for a way out.
I'm seeking you, Lord. I don’t know what to do. Help me know your word. Know who you are. Know who I am.
Only God is able to sustain you. Only his word is worthy to build your life on. Only that is a solid rock that you can build on.
Let me also say this. You are going to have to follow him through storms. Winds are going to come. Don’t think that serving God means storms don’t come. They do, and often much stronger and terrifying than you could ever imagine. Proves the sincerity of your faith. If you only serve God when it is easy, you are not following him sincerely. You are following him because he is giving you what you want. Hardships show us what we are. He shows us what is important.
The greatest storm that can come our way is death. And it will come,but our hope is that as we are united to Christ through faith in his Lordship, he will deliver us from all things. Death is beyond our control, it is under his control. He holds the keys and can let in who he chooses. He has promised that if we submit to him and his Lordship we can find forgiveness and protection in him.
Response. The response to Jesus being your Lord is that you are looking to him for all you do in life. You are not content to just go along in life. You are not resting on your own ease and comfort. But you are looking to him.
People have great problems in life from not trusting God. They lack peace. They lack knowing what to do in relationships, in life. They fall and have tragedies. But there is something much worse ahead if you do not turn to him. All those trees that do not bear good fruit are cut down and thrown into the fire. The parable of the house ends with one experiencing a great crash. If we refuse God now there are great consequences for eternity. The most important thing that can happen in this life is that we bear much fruit to God. To refuse to build your life on his word and to have your heart changed is to ignore Jesus, his guidance, to ignore his counsel and yes to ignore his salvation. If you don't look to him as your Lord, you will not find him as a Savior.
“And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (v. 23).
Will you submit to him as Lord? Will you do it from the heart and not just in pretense? Will you believe he can heal you, change you, protect you?
In Jumanji, there are times when the character encounters something and it makes them go back to who they are. The avatar pops up and reminds them of their identity. They then know how to handle the situation. I hope that as we are followers of Jesus, we will wake up in the morning asking what is Jesus calling me to do today. What does his word say to me that I should follow?
We are followers of the Lord of all the earth. He knows all things, sees all things, will hold all things accountable to him and his word. That's who we are following.