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Do you want to follow Jesus?

June 30, 2013

Following

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.  And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you,  saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?  If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.  In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

Luke 14:25-33

Following Christ or a discipleship of Christ, cannot take place without a certain amount of effort. It does not simply involve following someone blindly. It is an active work where we have to invest not only money, skills, gifts and talents, but also our entire personality, idealism and energy (v 33). At the same time it can mean pain, for following Him will always require making decisions, and in some cases decisions against people and things that are dear to us (v 26). We have to separate ourselves from the things that were dear to us in order to be in a position to make good on our decision to follow Jesus. The consequences of refusing to follow Jesus may seem harmless. Some people may make jokes since we have not calculated the costs, but at first nothing serious will happen. However, we will ultimately miss the path to God.

Unamuno, the Spanish philosopher, tells about the Roman aqueduct at Segovia, in his native Spain. It was built in 109 A.D. For eighteen hundred years it carried cool water from the mountains to the hot and thirsty city. Nearly sixty generations of men drank from its flow. Then a recent generation said, “This aqueduct is so great a marvel that it ought to be preserved for our children as a museum piece. We shall highlight its’ centuries-long labor.”

They did; they laid modern iron pipes. They gave the ancient bricks and mortar a reverent rest. And the aqueduct began to fall apart. The sun, beating on the dry mortar, caused it to crumble. The bricks and stone sagged and threatened to fall. What ages of service could not destroy, idleness disintegrated quickly.

And that is the meaning of our life: to serve Christ. Being Christian is not an ornament we have in our lives, such as having a career, a study or craft. Being Christian is a way of being and living. No one can be Christian once a week or, even worse, once a month. To be Christian is to be Christian every minute of every day. From the moment we decided to accept and believe in Jesus Christ and commit our lives to him, we begin to live as Christians. Belonging to a particular church all our life does not necessarily make us Christians. Most of us gathered here today have inherited Lutheran or Christian faith from our families who have likewise inherited it from their ancestors. This is very beautiful. We think of our parents as Christians and therefore they also educated us as such. But this is no guarantee that we are also Christians. Regardless, we have to tidy up our relationship with God. We must ensure that we are His children too. Remember that God has children, but no grandchildren. At the moment, we are clear that we have decided to be Christians; that is, we have accepted Christ as God, as our Lord and Savior and we have committed to accepting him and his church and have put him and his church at the centre of our lives. If we have done this, then we can say that we have decided to start to follow Him.

Following Jesus Christ may involve sacrifices, it may involve uncomfortable situations, it may involve separation from more of our money or material goods, it can mean giving more of our time and it may mean that even after serving Christ and his church for our whole life, we may not be recognized by people in the manner in which we would have liked. Those are the challenges and sacrifices of which Christ is speaking about in today’s text.

I remember once, when I was talking with a member of my former congregation, that he said to me: ‘I feel bad because the church does not acknowledge me. They are not treating me like I deserve. They do not realize that I worked all my life in this congregation and for twenty years I was a member of the Church board.’ At the time, I made the mistake of staying quiet and not saying anything to this person. But then, another day when this person started with this speech again, I said: “It does not matter how many years you have worked for God. Probably it is only he who knows, and in any case, He will reward you as He sees fit. But one thing I’m sure about, God cares about everything we do with love for Him and not because we seek recognition from people. If you are looking to be recognized in front of people, then you’re not doing this for God, you are doing all this for the people and that does not bring blessings into your life. On the other hand, you know what is most important to God?” ‘What?’ He asked me. “The most important is the present moment. What are you doing for him today? What are you doing for Him or for His church right now?”

Some time ago a pastor and his wife participated in a mission of evangelization in Scandinavia. They stayed at the home of a businessman for a few days and they had “a conversation” with broken bits of English from their host, little bits of Swedish from the missionaries and many hand gestures. The husband asked their host what he did. With a very heavy accent, this cute and affectionate gentleman replied:

-I am a Christian, sir.

Thinking he had misunderstood the question, the pastor asked again.

-Friend, I didn’t ask what church do you belong, or what is your faith. I ask about your job, your business, your career.

Without blinking, the man stared at him and replied politely but firmly:

-I am a Christian, sir. I buy Ford trucks to pay the bills.

Without a doubt, this man had found the key to his discipleship.

It is true that there are times when you can work and do a lot more for God, such as when one is more vital, more energetic and younger. But the truth is that what God is most interested in the current time. Ask yourself what am I doing today for God and for the church? If you do not know what to do, ask the pastor and he will answer you with how you can help and assist in the church even though you no longer have the physical strength that you may like. Perhaps we can mention the examples from the text.

One of the first things that God asks you to do is pray for the church. I trust that every one of us, as members of our church, is trying to pray every day for one minute at 8pm. That’s very noble and God will reward us. But we need more people praying. Are you praying for the sick; for the weak; for those ailing spiritually? For the members of your family, maybe they are not demonstrating a good life of faith? A minister found out that after scoring all the prayer requests that he made to God and recorded in a small notebook, that over time God had answered 90% of the requests on his list of his prayers! Get a notebook for yourself and write down all the things you want to ask of God, then pray and ask and you will be surprised at how quickly God answers. You can pray during the day as well. Strengthen yourself as a Christian and as a member of this church; be prepared spiritually to answer God when God asks you to help someone from the faith. Read the Bible. How many minutes are you reading the Bible every day? Perhaps you do not understand what you read in the Bible? Then buy a good modern translation and ask your pastor questions about what you do not understand. Read good Christian books. Participate in all services that you can. It’s only once a week. Give generously to the church. The church is always in need of money and we are the members of it and are responsible to support it financially. Do you want to do even more for the church, to commit yourself more to God as a good follower of Jesus? Invite people that seem to you to have a spiritual need. They need God; be engaged and invite them to your church. If you’d like, ask the pastor or members of the church council for material to help Christians reach out to people that seem to have a sincere need of God.

Start talking positively about the church. This is a great challenge and a great way to evangelize and show that we are followers of Jesus. Satan is the one who comes and places negative, pessimistic thoughts and these thoughts bring defeat into our lives. Remove them from your mind and don’t bring them to church either. There is an excellent author from the USA. She says that the Christian battlefield is mostly the battlefield of the mind. If you can filter out all the negative and defeating thoughts Satan puts in your mind and you are able to speak positive and get in line with  the faith that moves the mountains of which Jesus speaks, then we have all need in our church.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus, we want to be your sons and daughters. We confess that we believe in you but we also want to follow you. Following you involves commitment. Being a Christian means being committed to a physical, visible and concrete church and being part of what we call a community or congregation. Help us to pray, think and speak positive, to come to church, to give big-heartedly, to read the Bible and to invite others. Every one of us can do that. Let us show our commitment with these little, everyday things. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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