The Way of Life
Today’s sermon marks the kick-off a new Sunday series: “The Way- Examining the Demands of Following Jesus.”
If you watched the series The Mandalorian, you were introduced to a mysterious character in the star wars saga called the Mandalorian who wears armor plated beskar mask, is highly skilled in combat, and lives according to a unique way of life. He always wears his face plate on and when asked why, he simply says, “This is the way of the Mandalorian.” When in a difficult place and his other Mandalorians show up to help, they simply say, “This is the way.” The phrase gets repeated over and over. It explains that there is an agreed upon way that his people live and it is this way that distinguishes them from others.
In the early church Jesus’ disciples were first known not as Christians but as followers of “the way.” While people didn’t understand their basic beliefs they knew there was a distinct belief and manner of their life that set these people apart from others. They were willing to follow Jesus no matter the cost. In this series we look at foundational aspects of Jesus teaching to see how it bears on following him today. There should be a distinct manner to our lives.
One that we are looking at today, is that Jesus is the way of life. If you want life it goes through him. And in order to walk in the way of life you have to give up everything else.
“After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:27-32 ESV)
1. Life is in Jesus.
Jesus said He is the way the truth and the life. Life with God is found only in him. He is the gate to that life. (John 14:6). He came that we may “have life, and have it to the full.” (Joh 10:10).
[For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. (Matthew 16:25 CSB)
Jesus has come that we might be well. He is the great physician. The physician of our soul. Doctors look at the body, but there is a deeper reality inside of us. It is the passions and desires that make up who we are. People are concerned with physical health. But how is your soul?
u`giai,nw be healthy or sound; literally, of physical and mental soundness be healthy, be well (Luke 7:10); figuratively, of doctrinal teaching be correct, be accurate, be sound
At the beginning of the Bible, God calls Abram. He tells him he is going to bless him and his family, and they will be a blessing to all the nations. God is bringing wholeness or shalom. We find glimpses of that in the Old Testament, but it comes to fullness in Jesus. The blessing we all desire is in him.
Jesus is here dining with a rag-tag group of people. Levi is a tax collector. Back in the day tax collectors were wealthy people who were not well respected. They ran a multilevel collecting scheme that would use any means necessary to get people to pay their taxes to Rome. And as long as Rome got what they wanted from an individual they didn’t care how much extra the tax collectors took for their cut. Related terms/people in the New Testament are tax collectors and prostitutes! This is not the company that you would think a religious teacher would keep.
Jesus is dining with tax collectors and sinners. Sin is doing something that goes against God’s will. So why does a religious leaders hang with those going against God’s will?
He wants them to experience wholeness. They have given themselves to the ways of the world and been left starving. Full bellies but empty souls. They are aching. And the wounds they have on their bodies and countenances shows that. Jesus has come that they might be made well.
They are not healthy. That is why he is with them. And notice, all Levi knows is that Jesus said to follow him. That is all. He is still a mess. But he knows the one who can put him together again. Jesus didn’t say “Get your life together, and then follow me” or “get your life together and then I will hang out with you.” He called Levi to himself. Levi followed, and Jesus was with him.
What would lead these people to live this life? Tax collectors were hated. Sinners were not respected. Probably entered this life because of no other opportunities. Man there is a lot of baggage, hurt, and pain in their lives. You may not want to look under the hood. Jesus says “Follow me!” and puts his arm around them.
Jesus looks past the mess to what it could become. Like the old saying of the sculptor who would look at rock: Everyone else would just see a rock, but he would look at it and say, “I see a lion inside and it needs to be let out.”
It is incredible grace. But it is not without cost. To walk with someone means you turn from other paths. To enter into a relationship means you spend intentional time with a person. To say yes to Jesus, they had to say no to other paths.
2. Leave everything.
Matthew could not follow Jesus and remain a tax collector. He left it all. The word means “to leave, abandon,” a finality to the decision. Jesus said follow me and he obeys, completely and immediately.
He left his job. Jesus was all he needed. He recognized Jesus was the source of life and not his tax collecting.
Now, to be sure this is not the calling of every person. When soldiers asked John the Baptist what they needed to do, John didn’t tell them to leave their jobs. He told them,
[Some soldiers also questioned him: “What should we do?” He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation; be satisfied with your wages.” (Luk 3:14 CSB)]
In other words, keep doing your work, but do it the right way. You have to leave behind everything that caused you to do work the wrong way. You may not have to leave your job, but you do have to leave the things that are controlling you there. It’s whats going on inside your heart, inside your head.
What would these sinners have to leave? Matthew is having a banquet, so he is having to explain to his colleagues, advisers, business partners, girlfriend, and family why he decided to leave his job and who this new friend Jesus is. He is having to explain what this guy has done in his life.
Are you ready for that?
Everybody likes Jesus. But that is not the Jesus of the Bible. This Jesus is audacious. Offensive. He loves like no one else you have ever known. He demands like no one else. Desires a loyalty that only God can have.
Leave everything. Leave those things that are controlling you. Leave your trust in money, people, job, reputation. Come alive to what God has for you.
You can’t serve Jesus and the world. Too many people think following Jesus is just praying a prayer. Jesus didn’t say pray a prayer. He said come follow me. Come do what I am doing. We have cheapened what it means to follow Jesus. Made it easy and made it mean nothing at all.
If people looked at you and your life what would they say is important? Would they see your life is committed to Jesus? Would they see that he is leading you? That he is the one you are looking to? Would they see you committed to making him known to others?
One of the big lies people believe today is that following Jesus leads to an easy, comfortable life. If you are comfortable you may not be following him at all. I think we need to pray for risks and hard opportunities. The times I was most comfortable were the times I was least productive in my walk. Comfort means we are not taking risks.
Comfortable is having ease and relaxation. The disciples had that in the sense that they found it in Jesus. They had no job, no clear path, no support structures in life, and they were at ease. If they sought ease in the world they never would have followed Jesus. They never would have taken one step in helping others to know and follow Jesus.
Most today have physical/economic ease, but spiritual poverty.
3. Leaving is a Way of Life.
Leaving everything is not a one time act. It is inceptive to the faith. That means it stands at the beginning. We can’t follow Jesus without leaving other things.
But I would also say leaving all is iterative in following. It denotes a process that is to be repeated over and over again. In the same way, registering for classes in college is just the inceptive step of taking fall classes. Studying and doing your homework is the iterative process that will help you master the material. If you are failing class by not studying, you don’t complain that you should pass just because you registered!
If you do something once, that is not a way of life. I nailed a shot on the basketball court from half court one time. I fixed the washer one time, but I am not a basketball star or a mechanic.
Following Jesus is a way of life. Leaving the world behind is to be a way of life.
-Five times in the book of Luke we see examples of this.
-At the end of the book of John, after Peter said he wouldn’t abandon Jesus and he denies him three times, Peter reinstated. He is told to feed the sheep. But Peter keeps asking about Jesus’ plans for another disciples. Jesus just says,
“If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (Joh 21:22 ESV)
-Book of Acts: they are selling everything to take care of the needs of others. They risk their lives for others. Peter has to leave behind his Jewish customs in order to enter the house of a gentile and share the gospel with him.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luk 9:23 ESV)
Jesus offers us life, and we have to leave everything to find that life. But you know the thing is, we are junk collectors, and we have to keep shedding the junk.
In college I would move from place to place and it would take me one load in my truck. When I got married, I used a big U Haul plenty of space. Then when I was married with kids, I had the biggest Uhaul you can find with every square inch filled. More stuff. Harder to move. More stuff. More to leave.
When we moved to Georgia we had to purge. It is so hard to get rid of stuff. We had a closet full of stuff people gave to us that reminds us of them. We might use it one day. And then we realize, all this stuff is weighing us down. Some of this stuff was junk people didn’t want so they gave it to us, and now we have the burden of holding onto it and keeping it??? We need to get rid of it.
Are you anxious in life? Perhaps you are holding onto things that can’t hold you. What baggage are you holding onto? It might be things people have said to you, ways they have hurt you, fear built up because of what others say or want. There is freedom in Jesus. When we know life comes from him we leave those other things.
Has your love of Jesus grown cold? Are you bored? It may be that you have ceased to follow him. Maybe you can’t find Jesus because of all the stuff in your life. You have no distinct way of life. You have ceased to let go.
1- If you are new to Christianity, and not sure what to do in life, you need to trust in and follow Jesus with all your heart. He will lead you. But you have to give everything up. Stop trying to be impressive in the eyes of the world. God is not impressed with you. He gave you everything you have. You need to serve him. There is freedom.
2- Those of you following Jesus. What is holding you back? Here is one of the things I have seen: The burden of carrying unmet expectations. I followed Jesus, put him first, and this marriage is not what I thought it would be. You carry that, you are weighed down. Is Jesus enough for you?
You followed him and put his church first. But it has been hard. You have been hurt. People have cut you. Is Jesus enough for you? Is he able to bring life. Why have the teeth of those unmet expectations sunk so deep. Holding on to resentment is holding you down.
Maturity vs. failure. Maturity means you see what you did and you have grown from it. Failure means there is nothing to learn from. There is nothing redemptive going on. Maturity means I’ve been duped once, but Jesus is giving me fresh eyes.
Failure has no faith. Maturity has fresh faith.
I’ll: Shed that old dead skin. You can’t grow if you don’t shed. New skin without losing old.
If you have messed up – ruined a marriage, ruined a relationship – I hate that for you. But know that Jesus can redeem it. Know that you can grow and change. But you have to look at it with maturity. God’s not finished with you. It’s going to be hard. But follow Jesus. Be open and willing.
Anything that is not propelling you forward is holding you back.
Where have you told God “no”? What opportunities do you keep telling him, “No, I won’t do that,” and make following him conditional. Maybe you’re saying, “God I will follow you again but you have to…” Levi didn’t get his requests. He didn’t make any. For him, it was Jesus and only Jesus.
Sometimes the very thing that leads to life is the thing that we refuse to do. Pride gets in the way. “No, I won’t apologize.” So is Jesus really your everything? How can you be a follower of Christ and not follow him in things like showing mercy, singing, praying out loud for others? Maybe you’re saying, “Well I just don’t do that.” Jesus did it. What about having people over to your house who are a mess? Maybe you are not comfortable being around people who are messy. Maybe you don’t like people who are messy because they don’t have it altogether. Read the word fervently. Share your faith. If our way of life is telling God no, then we are fooling ourselves. Finances used to make Jesus known. Community with others. Church gatherings to pray and encourage others.
Just follow Jesus.
Following Jesus, leaving everything, it means walking the path of repentance. If we are daily following him. We are dailying sharing the things we are trusting in.
If you feel hurt and wounded, the way you experience healing is through repentance. Have you trusted in the wrong things? Sometimes we think following Jesus looks one way and it looks another. The disciples got it wrong many times. Each time they got it wrong was another way to see how great Jesus was. He was greater than their expectations. But he had to obliterate their expectations to get them to see it.
What do you need to do to follow Jesus? I have a burden that we be a church that is taking seriously the need to follow Jesus. That there is a distinctive way of life we are living. To hear him through his word and respond. So easy to sit in a message and never do anything. You can always find a way to shrink from responsibility, but I’m going to make it hard, because I believe you will find healing when you do that.
What do you need to leave behind? I want you to take the first step in doing that today. What is holding you back. What are you holding on to? What has kept you from following Jesus? Write it down, and leave it behind.
About our Current Sermon Series: “The Way- Examining the Demands of Following Jesus”
Jesus’ disciples were first known as followers of “the way.” There was a distinct belief and manner of life that set them apart from others. They were willing to follow Jesus no matter the cost. In this series, we look at foundational aspects of Jesus’ teaching to see how it bears on following him today.