September 12 , 2004: What Does Christ Mean When He Says: Follow Me?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that our discipleship cost You Your life.  It cost You blood, sweat, and many tears.  And yet, it also brought You great joy and tremendous satisfaction.  For thereby You gained a whole new family, the family of faith, us.  Today remind us that those same truths and the same results apply to each of us.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF OUR SOULS!

TEXT:  Hebrews 13: 1-8

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

I was in a bookstore this week and I was amazed at all the books that deal with personal fulfillment.  If the sheer volume of books on self-help, diet and exercise, marriage enrichment, hobbies, and how to be happy in your career are any indication, America is a land filled with unfulfilled people!

All of these books have colorful covers.  They often have catchy titles.  No doubt, much of what they contain is pure common sense.—A friend of mine once summed up Dr. Phil’s credo as simply: “Eat less, exercise more!”  And if you remember that you’ll save yourself $20!  A closer look at them shows that they all stress independence and individuality  from the masses (as if following a best seller is being independent or expressing your  individuality?).  And all that got me thinking: “How are the human ideas of both independence and individuality different from Christianity?”  Well, since our text outlines some of those differences, today I want you to ponder this question:

WHAT DOES CHRIST MEAN WHEN HE SAYS: FOLLOW ME?

I

The modern view of independence is freedom from all restraints.  We hate to be told “no.”  Our flesh chaffs under such archaic notions as the 10 commandments.  Any idea of control either by another person, the government, or God is to be discarded.  You see this epitomized in that famous 1960’s statement: “If it feels good, do it!”  And “do it” we Americans have done!  Marriage has gone from a sacred bond between a man and a woman to homosexual coupling.  Today divorce is taken for granted.  I’m told that many young people today even view their first marriage as a “starter marriage” which both expect to end after a few years until they find their “real” partners!  On Friday I heard on the radio that the Mass Millions lottery game is now ended after about 10 years.  During that time it took in over 1 billion dollars!  Obviously a lot of people are so unfulfilled in their lives that they spent this huge amount to garner a few moments of great expectations.  Unhappiness and the lack of fulfillment in the career sector has also shown itself in people’s sexuality.  The rise of multiple partners and internet porn is a clear indication of this.  So, too, the epidemic of AIDS and herpes, notwithstanding drug, alcohol and even child abuse.  The real problem can be traced back to the faulty human understanding of those words: independence and individuality.  The world views independence as freedom from something.  Whereas God views it as freedom for something.  The world views individuality as life for oneself; while God views it as life for others.   So, what does Christ mean when He says: Follow Me?

II

Note how this lesson starts.  It begins with the presupposition that you’re already actively living God’s world view and practicing it.  That you’re already finding true fulfillment in doing things His way instead of simply following the herd.  “Keep on loving each other as brothers.  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. (Think Abraham when Christ and two angels came to visit him at his tent.)  Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Again, this was written at a time when countless believers suffered prison and worse for their faith.  So, keep all such folks in mind.)

Caring about other souls is one of the hallmarks of being a Christian.  And God’s way is to care about them, not for what they can do for you, but for what you can do for them.  For that’s what Christ is all about.  He freely gave His life for us, even though He knew we could do nothing to balance the scales.  Being kind and hospitable to strangers, making contacts which you can later use to talk about your Savior, to let your light shine, that’s another hallmark of a Christian.  Remembering prisoners, the neglected of society, is also an avenue to express your freedom for something wonderful: genuine kindness.

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”  All the folks I’ve ever dealt with who broke their marriage vows have also suffered broken hearts.  All those who thought sex before marriage was o.k. have had to live with a certain lack of self respect.  But all those who repented found that God truly mends broken hearts with forgiveness in Christ and reforges respect through the power of the Spirit.

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’  So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?’”

Remember that old saying: “Everyone has their price?”  In other words, you might not steal a car for 50 thousand dollars, but if you would receive a million or 10 million eventually you would?  So, what’s your price?  In what ways do you let the love of money compromise your morals or principles?  The only way out of this inflation of greed isn’t to embrace the attitude exhibited by Donald Trump or found on “Survivor.”  No, the only way to retain true self-respect and God’s respect is to be content.  To appreciate what God has given you and to use it wisely not only for yourself but to help and assist others.  And lest we worry that we’ve given too much of ourselves, the writer of this epistle adds that God will never leave nor forsake us.  He’ll never leave us in the lurch.  For what really counts in life are those fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  If, by His grace,  you possess those you’ll be rich and fulfilled beyond all measure.

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

The same Savior Who blessed Adam and Eve after they spit in His face.  The same Savior Who watched over David and forgave Him after He committed adultery with Bathsheba and covered it up with murder.  The same Savior Who plucked Peter from obscurity on a lakeshore and Who made Paul’s life do a 180 degree turn—that Savior hasn’t changed.  He’ll never change.  He’s still filled with love and compassion for you and me.  He still reaches out in love to correct us when we stray and to enrich us with true joy when we follow Him!  So, continue to follow Him by putting your pride in your pocket and handing Him your self-doubt.  In your marriage, in your friendships, in handling your possessions show the independence of self-giving love and the individuality of being truly care free!  For as St. Peter writes, we Christians have the awesome ability and power to: “Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you!”  Amen