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The Not-so-easy Part of Following Jesus

posted on October 30, 2013, under Church, Conference by

by Mark Reams

Mark Reams, pastor for youth ministries at Forest Lake Church, Apopka, presented this message during the June 22 worship service. “What a down-to-earth description of discipleship,” said one listener in attendance. “The heart of his message should be shared with Florida Conference members.” A condensed version of the sermon is below. You can also watch or listen to Mark’s sermon on the Forest Lake Church web site.

Follow MeIf you auditioned to become one of Jesus’ disciples, what would the criteria look like? If I, personally, had to stand before Jesus and audition for a disciple position, would I have what it takes based on His qualifications?

Luke 14:33 gives us a start in knowing what this looks like. This is Jesus speaking: “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Now, that’s radical! Everything!

In case you think Jesus is just talking about stuff, let’s back up in Luke 14 to verse 26. Again, Jesus is talking: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross,” carry his torture device on his back, “and follow me, cannot be my disciple.”

To follow Jesus takes complete priority over all earthly relationships and all earthly possessions. He said, “You can’t call yourself a follower of mine if you’re not willing to give up all these things.”

That’s crazy, right? I’m curious how your audition is going now, because we’re going to get a little bit more uncomfortable.

Let’s turn a few chapters to Luke 9. This chapter has a subheading, “The cost of following Christ.” Look at verse 57. Crowds are following Jesus. “As they were walking along the road, a man said to Him, ‘I will follow you.'”

Hey, an eager beaver. “I will follow you wherever you go. I will follow you.” And Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Jesus is saying, “If you want to follow me, it requires complete dependence on me. There is no guarantee of comfort.” We find out, in Matthew 8, this eager guy is actually a religious leader.

Jesus warns about these guys in Mark 12, because they would attach themselves to some form of a religious teacher in order to promote or enhance their position, their status, or their career—to climb the ladder, so to speak. And here you’ve got a guy who wants to follow Jesus as a means to an end.

So many times I’ve heard Christian language that portrays Jesus as a means to an end. “Come to Jesus so that you can get forgiveness. Come to Jesus so that you can get your best life. Come to Jesus so that you can get heaven.”

You don’t come to Jesus to get anything else. You come to Jesus, and you get Him. He’s the end. He’s not a means to anything. He is everything.

Jesus tells this guy, “I don’t have a roof over my head. If you follow me, I’m all you’ve got.” Do you want that kind of Jesus? If you answer, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you wherever you go,” you have to ask yourself, “Do I want comfort or do I want the cross?” Because that’s where Jesus is going.

Let’s get a little bit more uncomfortable by reading Luke 9:59 where Jesus is talking to another man. “Follow me,” He says. The man replied, “Lord, first let me go bury my father,” and Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Isn’t that amazing? It seems as if Jesus is trying to talk this man out of following Him. Jesus says, “Don’t even go back to pay your respects.”

Now, there are scholars who debate this whole deal. Some people believe this man’s dad had just a couple days to live, and he wanted to spend those last couple days with his father and then give him a proper burial, which is obviously something he would want to do.

But even more than that, there’s a deeper religious obligation that a son honor his father in such a way. Others believe his dad had just died, and once he buried his father, he would come and follow Jesus.

We all celebrated Father’s Day last Sunday. I hope you celebrated yours, because I am privileged that mine is still alive. I know some of you have already lost your father. I was happy to spend some time with my dad. I could not imagine if my father was either on his death bed or already dead, and Jesus telling me, “Let someone else go bury your dad. You go proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Ouch! That seems cold, doesn’t it? Let’s be honest. That’s harsh. What is Jesus saying here? What is He doing?

He’s saying there is a responsibility and an obligation which supersede every other responsibility and every other obligation in this world, even the thing you would most want to do or need to do. Jesus says, “No, you go proclaim the kingdom of God. It’s far more important.”

The Church, individuals, and families will always face two options: maintenance or mission, status quo/business as usual or radical abandonment to proclaiming the kingdom of God. And if you answer Jesus and say, “Ah, yes, I will follow you wherever you go,” you have to answer yourself, “Will I choose maintenance or mission? Do I want comfort or do I want the cross?”

In Luke 9:61, we read about another eager person who was in the crowd who opened his mouth and said, “Oh, Jesus, I will follow you, but first let me go back and say goodbye to my mom and dad and my family. I will follow you, but let me go say goodbye.” And Jesus’ response to that was, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus was way ahead of His time. He said, “No texting and driving.” It will just mess up something. You can’t do that. Don’t even go say goodbye to Momma. Ooooo! That’s hard for some moms to hear.

Can’t you sense the indecision here on the part of this man? When Jesus tells us to obey, at least in my personal experience, I go through a series of justifying questions that may talk me out of it. Is it safe? Is it wise? Is it best for my family? Is it best for my career? Is it the right time? What will people think? How will this look? How can I even pull it off?

When Jesus says it, His follower does it. Period! Anything else is disobedient. Indecision hampers us from obedience to Christ.

What scares me is the implication of Luke 9. None of these three guys followed Jesus. What scares me even more is what we have done with what it means to follow Christ today. I wonder if Jesus would move right past us, and we’d still be standing there staring at His back walking away from us. That haunts me.

Am I a follower of Jesus? What does Jesus expect of us? What is expected of a Christian who lives in Florida? Sadly, not a lot really, not a lot. The bar is pretty low.

What is expected of a follower of Christ in Luke 9? Everything. What is expected of a follower of Christ in Luke 14? Everything. One hundred percent focus on Jesus. One hundred percent allegiance to Him. One hundred percent dependence. One hundred percent trust. One hundred percent undivided. Jesus is not willing to compromise for anything less. That’s what He wants. That’s what He requires.

Our hearts are like a pie chart where there are sections cut out to represent certain percentages for my career, certain percentages for my social life, certain percentages for the church thing, and God. See, God does not want a piece of your pie. He wants the whole pie, everything, undivided attention, and focus on what He calls us to do.

So, if you answer, “Yes,” and say, “Yes, Jesus, I will follow you wherever you go,” you have to ask yourself, “Will I be indecisive or undivided? Will I choose maintenance over mission? Will I choose comfort or the cross?”

These are the questions everyone must struggle with. When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He calls us to radical dependence on Him. He never promises this choice will be easy or comfortable. He never does.

What does He guarantee? There will be danger. There will be heartache. There will be loneliness and suffering. There will be confusion. There will be questioning and even doubt. And through all of that, Jesus says, “I will be with you even to the very end of the age. My presence is there. I am there with you.” To give up everything to follow Jesus regardless of earthly consequences requires absolute dependence on Him.

To live the gospel, you must first be a disciple. To be a disciple, you must hang on to Jesus for dear life, regardless of the consequences, because there will be unknowns that take place. There will be danger that makes you one hundred percent dependent upon Him.

Go through the questions once again, “Will I choose comfort or the cross? Will I choose maintenance or mission? Will I be indecisive or undivided?”

Could you imagine this Church—this body of Christ—moving in the same direction and saying with conviction, “We are true followers of Jesus Christ willing to surrender all.”

Are you willing?

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