Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

                                                                                                               10-23-04

Christians really living for Christ

Text: Luke 9:18-9:26; 57-62


                                      Introduction

There is a great old chorus that I love to sing.

Maybe you know it.

It goes like this:

“I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
No turning back, no turning back.”

Do you remember it?

There are some other verses.

“The world behind me, the cross before me.”

“Though none go with me, still I will follow.”

You get the picture.

Well, it’s mighty easy to sing that song, but let me ask you a question: are you serious when you sing it?

Are you really ready to follow Jesus, no turning back?

Are you really ready to leave the world behind, to really follow though none go with you?

I ask myself, and quite frankly, I don’t like how I answer it all the time.

We are going to look at the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke this morning as we look at the issue of truly following Christ.

My purpose this morning is to get us to take a fresh look at what it means to give it all over to Jesus, and not just talk about it.

I need to tell you that this is not an easy lesson for me to teach.

I might very well step on some toes today; including my own.

I would rather stand here and teach a nice lesson about love and happiness, or something flowery like that.

But God has laid this on my heart.

No one wants to hear about the costs of discipleship.

We don’t want to hear that it’s not always easy to live for Christ.

We’d rather hear that it’s nothing but a bed of roses.

I know that’s what I would prefer!

I’m a wuss, when it comes right down to it, folks!

But it is not always a bed of roses. It certainly can be at times, but God has not promise it will be that way all the time.

Let’s see what it says in the text for today: Luke 9:18-26.

Once when Jesus was praying in private and His disciples were with Him, He asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?


They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

“But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.

And He said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Then He said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”-

Then, let’s skip down to verses 57-62.

As they were walking along the road, a man said to Him, “I will follow you wherever You go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”

He said to another man, “Follow Me.”

But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Still another said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

To me, this whole thing boils down to one word: Comfort.

It’s my personal opinion that comfort is one of the church’s biggest problems.


We are much too comfortable in our walks with God, and today we will look at three areas in particular where comfort gets in the way: our OUTWARD LIVING, our OUTPOURING in worship, and our OUTREACH to those around us who need Jesus.

Let’s start off by looking at COMFORT IN OUR OUTWARD LIVING, and quite frankly, this is where we will spend most of our time this morning.

The first thing to consider is Comfort in General.

By this is meant, mainly, our material comfort, though we will look at other areas as well.

Before I get too far into this, I need to say that I am a big fan of comfort.

I like living in a house that shelters my wife and I from the elements.

I like eating my fill at a good meal.

I like driving a vehicle in which the air conditioning and heating actually work!

Having said all that, let me state what I see as the problem:

In our pursuit of comfort, the Church of Jesus Christ has allowed a form of materialism to creep in that has gained such a foothold that it interferes in the spiritual growth of many people, it interferes with worship, and it interferes with evangelism.

We (and I say “we” because I am guilty as well) are so caught up in being comfortable and looking good doing it that pretty soon little else matters.

Let me give you a couple examples:

I am NOT a morning person.

I would love it if I had a job where I could go in at say, 10 or 11, and leave about 3 or 4.

I am naturally a very lazy person.

But, when I worked, I went to work at 6, not 10.

And, if I wanted any time with God in His Word and prayer, I had to get up very early.


That is NOT comfortable for me, and I thank God for the guy who invented coffeemakers.

I NEED that time, so I am willing to get uncomfortable to get it.

Second example:

One time I had a job where my bosses asked me to do something that was unethical.

I simply could not do it, and I had to tell them.

Let me tell you what it was about.

Business was down, and the owner said that everyone had to take a 15% cut in pay.

Then they came to me and said that I wouldn’t have to take a cut, but if asked I would have to say I did.

I replied, “But I can’t lie, because I am a Christian.”

I took the pay cut, and I am glad I did, because I was NOT comfortable doing that, but it needed to be done not only for the sake of my reputation as a Christian, but more importantly, so that the name of Jesus would not be slandered because of me.

Wouldn’t it just have been easier for me accept their offer?

Yes, but that is not what Christ wants.

It is not always easy to live a life of Biblical conviction, especially in the workplace.

How about in our relationships with our neighbors?

When you spend time with them (and I think we should), do you join in their unbiblical activities, or do you refrain?

It is many times easier to “not rock the boat” than to say, “No, thank you,” when invited to do something you know would not honor Christ.

By the way, I am not saying you should cry out in proud indignation every time you see something you don’t like.

You don’t win many to Christ by shouting, “Away from me, Satan, and take your devilish brew with you!” when you are invited for a friendly gathering.

It is possible to be with them and not join in all the activity.

Remember, Jesus was a friend of sinners.

Secondly, I want you to consider Comfort in entertainment.

What do you watch on TV? Do you watch wholesome television, or are you trapped by the entertainment industries standard of “good television.”

This is a struggle for me.

I like action movies.

I generally wait until they are on television, because I don’t want to pay what they charge in movie theatres.

But have you noticed how LITTLE editing goes on in movies these days?

People cursing, talking about sex outside of marriage as easily as they talk about their favorite pizza, and you name it.

It is getting increasingly harder for me to watch these, even though I no longer have to worry about my son or daughter being exposed to it.

I have to ask myself, “What would my kids think of me watching this?”

Would it make them think less of me, in light of everything I have tried to teach them about Jesus?

That question is another way of stating this: “How does what I am doing reflect not just on me, but on Christ.

An honest answer to that question will go a long way to helping us conform our entire lifestyle to one that honors Him, not just gives Him lip service.

Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

We could go on for hours about getting out of our “Couch Potato Christianity.”

Now, third I want you to consider that there’s Comfort in avoiding persecution.

I mentioned earlier that we are often afraid to “rock the boat” in living for Christ.

We have it real easy here in the South when it comes to living for Christ.

We don’t face the persecution that others do.

About the worst we come across is someone possibly making a snide comment teasing us about it, although I do know of instances where the person was rejected by family and friends.

But we don’t face hatred and torture for our faith in Christ.

Listen closely, folks.

Today, men and women in other parts of the world will DIE for no other reason than they serve Christ.

No other reason.

In countries such as China, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia, you will not find Christians who just go to church on Sundays and pretend the rest of the week.

In those countries, to become a Christian is an all or nothing deal.

There is no holding back, because they know it could cost them their very lives.

They know what they are getting into.

They know Jesus’ words in John 15 when He says that people will hate them because they hated Him.

Yet we are so comfortable here in the good old US that we forget that it is STILL an all or nothing deal.

Jesus did not promise an easy life for His followers.

Remember His words back in verse 23 to “take up his cross daily?”

We tend to think of that phrase to mean that we need to put up with something we don’t like.

But guess what?

The cross is not an instrument of hardship; it’s an instrument of DEATH.

Jesus is saying we need to be willing to go all the way to our deaths if necessary for Him.

And as I just mentioned, some will do that this very day.

Comfortable Christianity is nowhere in Scripture.

I wish it was, but it’s not.

We have looked at comfort in our outward living, so now let’s take a brief look at comfort invading our outpouring in worship.

There are 2 main areas that I want to touch on here; worship styles and giving.

First, let’s look at comfort in our worship styles.

We get so comfortable in how we “DO” the worship service, we are afraid to look at new ways to express our love and praise to God within the service


I am not advocating any specific way to hold a service.

I am not a fan of one style of singing over another, or whether you should use one type of hymnal over the other.

I am saying that oftentimes our comfort forbids us from exploring new ways to worship.

Allow God to open your hearts and minds to other avenues, and see what happens.

If our pastor wants to change things, allow him to experiment with stuff.

The attitude should be, “Let’s give it a shot! It might be just what we need!”

By the way, just because something is new, that doesn’t make it right. 

By the same token, just because something is old, that does not make that right, either.

I see an attitude infiltrating the worship service that goes something like this: “I’ll go to church as long as it doesn’t get in the way of what I want to do. I mean, after all, I have to relax sometime, right, and what better way than to relax in front of the tube, especially when the Panthers are on!”

“Knock it off, Tom; you’re getting personal, now.”

To that I would say, “Tough.”

THE SECOND AREA IS IN OUR GIVING.

You probably knew I was gonna get to this, didn’t you?

Did you know that giving is an act of worship?

Really!

We worship Him with our offerings as an outpouring of our love for Him.

And not only that, but God uses those gifts to impact His church and the world.

It is my personal opinion, and I know that others share it, that if everyone who claimed to be a Christian actually gave as the Bible teaches, we would not have to worry about government programs to meet the needs of our society.

It was originally the church’s job to feed, clothe, and shelter the poor.

But the church has defaulted on that charge, and now we have to rely on the government to do it.

But let me be quick to say that the people of God have led the way in reaching out to the needy.

Christians were the ones who started the soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and orphanages.

But it needs to not only continue, but grow.

THE LAST AREA OF COMFORT WE WILL LOOK AT THIS MORNING IS THAT OF OUR OUTREACH TO THE LOST.

This comes in two forms: lifestyle and actually telling others about Christ.

It is NOT very comfortable to tell people about Christ.

God has given me the gift of evangelism, and I’m still uncomfortable doing it.

But the point is this: we are all called to witness for Christ, in our lifestyle AND in our witness.

We would rather leave that to “the professionals,” wouldn’t we?

After all, Ephesians says that God has given SOME to pastors and evangelists and teachers, right?

True, but read the next verse.

He has given those people for what reason?

To prepare God’s people for works of service.

And those works include sharing the gospel.

Sometimes we are ashamed to identify ourselves with Christ because we are embarrassed by the words or actions of other Christians.

One way out of that is to admit it when you are talking to people.

“I have to admit that even though I am a Christian, that person’s actions are a bit of an embarrassment.

The Bible says that Jesus is nothing like that person, and we are to live to reflect Him.

Boy, I sure hope you can separate Jesus from some of the people who call themselves Christians.”

It is okay to be embarrassed by people, but we are not to be embarrassed by Christ.

Look again at verse 26.

“If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him.”

If you are embarrassed by Christ and living for Him, ask God to help you overcome that.

And we need to TELL people of their need for Christ.

Tell them what the Bible says about taking Christ for their Savior.


We don’t need to be ashamed.

The Bible says that the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.

Reach out to those who need Him.

We talked about people who will die today for Christ.

But there will be people in this area that will die without Christ.

Reach out.

Reach out.

                                 
                                Conclusion:

Well, I’ve kind of hammered a bit this morning, and I’m sorry if it seemed a bit heavy.

But God has been laying this on my heart for quite some time, and I can’t get past it.

“If anyone would follow Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

I am convinced that if the Body of Christ would take this passage and others like it seriously, we would see a revival in this country like we haven’t seen in the lifetime of anybody here, and we will have a huge impact in this world.

Why is that, Sister Mildred?  It’s simple.

If people see Christians really living for Christ, they will get past their excuses and disappointments with the church, and see how God moves when His people are sold out for Him, amen?

Now before we dismiss, I want to take just a few moments to talk to those here who may not know Jesus as their personal Savior.

We have talked a lot about the fact that it is not always easy to live for Christ, but I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it!

There is no life like the life in Christ, because even though He does not promise an easy life, He does promise a full life.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy. But I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.”

Jesus is offering you a full life.

And that’s not even the best part.


Jesus offers you the opportunity to spend eternity with Him in heaven when you leave this earth.

The Bible says that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We deserve hell, but Jesus offers heaven, to all who will take it.

The Bible goes on to say that if we confess with our mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

And that all who call on the Lord will be saved.

What a wonderful promise!  Call on Him, won’t you?

Call on Him to forgive your sins and help you turn from them.

Call on Him to give you eternal life beginning right now, so that you can know from THIS moment on that you will go to heaven.

We are going to pray here in just a moment, and if you want to take Jesus as your Savior this morning, you will have the opportunity.

But before we do that, I want to point out that there is another verse to the song I mentioned at the beginning.

“Will you decide now, to follow Jesus?”

Won’t you do that today?

Every head bowed, every eye closed.

We are going to say a prayer for those who want to accept Christ as there Savior, and then we will pray for those who want to rededicate their lives to truly following Christ.

Let’s pray.

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