Luke 9:51-62; Galatians 5:1, 13–25
Being a follower – or using the word “follower” these days – seems to be a big thing on the internet. For instance – if you’re on Twitter you want to have people follow you on Twitter.
If you are a blogger – and for those of you who don’t know what a blog is – simply put, it’s short cut language for web log—or blog for short. And a blog is a website that a person or a group of people create where they can write – the technical word here is post – where they can write or post their thoughts and opinions on whatever subject they want to write about. But it does a blogger no good to write anything unless he or she has followers – people who will log onto their blog just to see what they have to say.
By the way, I’m not on Twitter, and I don’t blog. Things I read tell me that as a pastor I should take advantage of these media in order to reach out with the Gospel to people who are beyond these walls. Well – one thing at a time. Let me see to it that Zion gets a Facebook page first. Kurt Schlewitt, our Youth Director, is working to get a Zion Facebook page up and running. So shortly you’ll be able to follow us on Facebook – although I guess the proper term is to “friend” somebody on Facebook. But the idea is that once we get our Facebook page up and running with all kinds of cool pictures of things that are happening around here – the idea is that you will invite your friends to check out our facebook page – and they’ll invite their friends – and on and on – and maybe what we have to say around here will go viral – and get exposure to a wider audience.
The whole idea is not to get people to follow me – or Kurt – or anyone else around here – except as way to invite people to come and follow Jesus. Because – let me tell you – that’s really what we’re all about here. Following Jesus and inviting others to come and follow Jesus too! Especially people who might not really be too much into Jesus these days. Following Jesus is more than just doing a Google search on Jesus Christ – or liking Jesus on Facebook. By the way – did you know that Jesus has a Facebook page? Yup! Turns out He’s got lots of them. So if you want – anyone can go on Facebook and LIKE Jesus!
But rather than talking about liking Jesus – let’s talk today about following Jesus – and what that might mean for you today.
I guess the first question we could ask is does Jesus even care? Does Jesus care – is he concerned about whether people follow him or not? What do you think? Well, Yeah! And more to the point – I also think Jesus is concerned about what kind of followers follow him.
Our Gospel reading today tells of three men who come to Jesus as he’s walking along – and all three want to come and follow Jesus. The first man said, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Another said, “Lord, first let me go bury my father.” And another said, “I will follow you Lord, but first let me say farewell to those at home.”
To the three he says, you will be homeless, your family will be left behind, and your past life is over. As you can imagine the three, who were at once so certain, now aren’t so sure. SO what I want you to see is that this story – and the message I want to give to you today – is that following Jesus is all about commitment or – in the case of these three guys – the lack thereof.
You see – it’s pretty clear that Jesus questioned just how serious each man was about wanting to follow. Being a disciple is serious business. In fact, two of these guys offer excuses. It’s like they’re saying, “ I’ll follow you Jesus, but right now is not a really good time.” Now his responses might seem rather harsh to us – but they show us that Jesus is serious when he calls people to follow him. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next year. But now! Today!
Let me share with you a story from the life of Dr. Clarence Jordan. I think I’ve used this once before, but if it’s good once, it’s good a second time. “Jordan is known for his version of the New Testament called the ‘Cotton Patch Gospel.’ In the racially segregated south in the 1960's he attempted to build a Christian community across racial lines. He established the famous Koinonia Farms to help poor southerners, black and white, establish cooperative farms. His critics used every legal trick they could to stop his work.
“For help in these matters, he turned to his brother Robert – a distinguished attorney. They had both accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior –were baptized – and joined the Baptist church on the same day.
“Something interesting happened when Clarence Jordan asked his brother Robert for his help. His brother recently had been nominated to the Georgia Supreme Court. Robert told Clarence, ‘I’m sorry, I just cannot do it. You know my political aspirations. If I represented you, I would lose everything.’ Then he said to Clarence, ‘You see, it’s different for you.’
“Clarence said, ‘Why is it different? I remember, it seems to me, that you and I joined the church on the same Sunday as boys. And I expect that when we came forward the preacher asked me the same question that he asked you, ‘Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ What did you say?’
“Robert said, ‘I follow Jesus up to a point.’ Clarence replied, ‘Would that point by any chance be the cross?’
“‘That’s right,’ said Robert. ‘I follow him to the cross, but not on the cross. I am not going to get crucified.’
“Then Clarence said, ‘I don’t think you’re a disciple. I think you are an admirer of Jesus, not a disciple. I think you ought to go back to our Baptist church that we belong to and tell them that you are an admirer of Jesus, not a disciple.
“Disciples are called upon to do more than be just an admirer of Jesus. To carry the cross is a distinguishing mark of a disciple.”
Maybe that’s a question that we should all be asking ourselves. “Do I admire Jesus? Or am I a follower – a disciple – of Jesus?”
Folks – Jesus wasn’t looking for fans. He wasn’t looking for admirers. He was looking for followers. And that’s still true today! Jesus has lots of fans. He doesn’t need any more fans, he doesn’t want any more fans. He isn’t looking for people to like him on Facebook. What Jesus wants is people – men, women, children – who will walk with him. Every day.
Folks, this is a daily decision. A daily choice. Day after day after day after day. I hope you know by now that being a Christian is more than just going to church on Sunday [Saturday night.] It’s more than just hoping to go to heaven some day. Being a Christian – following Jesus – is a way of life. Choices that we make every single day about how we are going to follow Jesus today. Regardless of what’s happening. Regardless of the circumstances. How am I going to follow Jesus today?
And yeah – sometimes – maybe a lot of times – it means turning our backs on the old way of life. Especially that old way of life that just might not be working for you anymore.
I can’t close this message without directing you to our other reading this [evening] [morning]. Look at what Paul says in Galatians 5. I want you to take your bulletins home so you can look this up when you get home. In verses 19-21 he lays out what the old way of life for some might have looked like. Take a look at them with me on the screen.
19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it! Hey – I’m not here to point fingers; I’m not here to scold. These are just examples of things that people choose to follow – a way of life – choices that lead away from Christ.
But now here’s the good news for those who genuinely desire to follow Christ. Verses 22 and 23. You know I love talking about the fruits of the Spirit– and one of these days I will get this memorized in the right order.
22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
In other words – Paul is contrasting what an old way of life once might have looked like – vs. what the new way of life in Jesus Christ is like.
Let me go back to talking about blogs for a minute. If you Google “put Jesus first,” you will find a blogger, who identifies herself only by the title of her blog, “Grace for the Road.” She wrote that the Sunday school advice to “put Jesus first” lulled her into a “blissful spiritual sleep.” She added, “I thought it was a one-time decision. Will I put Jesus first? Yes. I will. So what did I think I meant?’
“She said she started reading some of the harder parts of the Bible. And Grace realized that putting Jesus first was about where her heart was. She said, ‘What he really wants is my heart, not my decisions ... for me to want him so much that the other stuff becomes secondary. And for me to actively want that every day. It's not passive. It's not coasting. But it's also not drudgery. We love him. And so we get out of bed, and we follow.’”
Folks – I hope you’re seeing that this is a matter of the heart. It’s a daily thing. It’s a “following Jesus is an everyday – get out of bed in the morning – determination to live as Christ would have you live.” And you know what? As Grace says, it’s not drudgery. Yeah, it can involve some tough choices – but let me tell you – it’s worth it! It is an adventure! Following Jesus is a great way of life.
So let me ask you. Are you ready to be Christ’s man, Christ’s woman? Followers? Not fans? Can he count on you?