Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sunday, September 4, 2016

I Have Decided To Follow Jesus....Or Have I?

My scripture today can be found in Luke 14:25-35
Several years ago in Kentucky a man walked into a Dairy Queen, placed his order and then paid for it with a $200 bill. The cashier gave him $198 in change and he drove away. Some time later in the day I guess the manager noticed that something didn’t seem right about this $200 bill, maybe because it had a picture of then-president George Bush on one side or maybe it was the picture of the Whitehouse on the back with an oil well in front and funny signs in the lawn. Police were able to track down the man and he was arrested for theft by deception.  As you probably know, real U.S. currency has a number of features designed to make it harder to counterfeit. If you have a ten or twenty dollar bill you are welcome to take it out and look at it. If you hold it up to the light you will see that there’s a strip embedded in the paper that has the denomination of the bill printed on it. That strip also glows under UV light. There are several features that you need a magnifier to see as well. All of these things are included to distinguish the real bills from the fakes and also to make it harder to counterfeit. The reason is that when you have that $20 bill you need to be sure that it’s real; that it’s really worth $20 .   The same is true for most successful products. The idea is that when you see that logo or name, you know you’re getting the real thing, the genuine product. So these same companies spend lots of money every year to keep others from duplicating their product or their identity. Today, however, one of the big problems is copycat products being produced in Asia that are trying to imitate the genuine product. Authorities have found clones of a popular brand of down jacket for sale on the internet. When the jackets were tested, it was discovered that they were not filled with down at all but with all sorts of other things, like chicken feathers (and other parts) swept up from the floor of a poultry factory. This can pose a real health risk by carrying bacteria and disease.   In the same way that we can be fooled by counterfeit products or money, we are also in danger of counterfeit religion as well. To be more specific, we are in danger of having a counterfeit faith, of believing in a fake Christianity. We are in danger of worshiping a plastic Jesus.   So what do we mean by “plastic Jesus?” What exactly is a counterfeit faith? Where does this fake Christianity come from and how do we recognize it? More importantly, how do we make sure we don’t fall for it? Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters— yes, even his own life— he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ’This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not 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, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure heap; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.  I don’t know about you….but I believe that this passage deserves a second read or even a third. If I had to name this passage I would call it….‘when the warm fuzzies end’…or the rubber hits the road. When we become Christians, or when we claim the faith we grew up with as our own it often begins with ‘warm fuzzies’. We discover the tremendous love of God, an awareness of what Jesus did for us and a great sense of hope. Hopefully this knowledge will bring us joy throughout our whole life. However there comes a point when (as with all relationships) we realize that a relationship with God is a two way street. God gifts to us forgiveness and eternal life but a true disciple of Christ must make a response. God asks of us a willingness to change; a willingness to submit our selfish desires to something higher. Jesus modelled this to us. His response to God was obedience and sacrifice. Thankfully our response doesn’t come with the pre-requisite of a Roman crucifixion but it does ask us to willingly crucify our own selfish desires. What is most precious to us? For most of us it our families, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers. It is no coincidence that Jesus uses these most precious relationships as an allegory for discipleship. We should be so devoted to God that in comparison our devotion to our families is like hatred of them. This should cause all of us the question our current devotion to God. How much of my time is devoted to prayer and worship? How much of my time and money is dedicated to Gods service? How much of my talents and skills are used in Gods service?  We live in an age of consumerism; and this is painfully true amongst Christians. We judge our churches by how well they feed us, or how good the worship is, or whether I feel accepted. We pray fervently to God when we want something but spend very little time in relationship prayer. We consume God and his church like a commodity. But this was and is not Gods design for his people. Instead we are called to count the cost of our decision to follow Christ. Being a follower of Jesus will sometimes cost us our precious days off, our sleep ins, our flash money, it will demand integrity in our relationships, faithfulness in our marriage, forgiveness toward those who hurt us whether they are sorry or not. To be a disciple of Christ will sometimes ask you to go to uncomfortable places, do uncomfortable things and possibly to hold firm to beliefs which are in conflict with the prevailing society. Being a Christian will make you accountable for the poor, the lonely, the oppressed, the sick, and the imprisoned. Sometimes being a Christian will not feel good nor will it be easy. Sometimes the warm fuzzies are replaced by weeping, suffering and rejection.  Are you feeling a little uncomfortable yet? You should be, I was so uncomfortable as I wrote this sermon.  I was able to attend a run through of the Celebrate Recovery at First Church Wedowee that kicks off on the 8th.  As I listened to their purpose and their calling I was touched to my core.  Then I was asked to participate as an attender….it felt odd being there as someone who was a recoverer….yet….we all are recoverers….of something. Back to the task of my sermon….there is a silver lining to be found in our scripture and here it is:  You see we are not alone in this endeavour and Jesus, who calls us to this rigorous job knows we will fall short of it. HE KNOWS!  So we as Christians must strive toward this goal of true discipleship because this honors God. However we must not feel condemned when we fall short of it because the grace of God is willing to forgive those who seek him. Count the cost of being a follower of Christ; if you are only in it for the warm fuzzies than it is not God you serve but yourself. My suggestion is….give…then give some more, change then change some more, love then love some more.  Will it be easy….probably not….but it will be worth it!  I promise you that.  I have decided to follow Jesus.....what about you?


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