I Have Decided to Follow Jesus! Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
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 often times 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.
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 their Savior, and then we will pray for those who want to rededicate their lives to truly following Christ.