Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sermon from Sunday: Simple.Discipleship

Simple.Discipleship (Luke 14:25-27)
            I want to introduce you to someone.  Someone I love and someone that is always positive and uplifting and doesn’t expect anything of me.  I would like to introduce you to my Jesus (hold up talking Jesus doll).
  “The mountains and hills may crumble but my love for you will never end.”  Thank you Jesus.  In case you didn’t hear him, Jesus said “The mountains and hills may crumble but my love for you will never end.”  Lets see what else he has to say.  “Your life matters so much to me.”  Wow, I’m so glad my life matters to you.  Isn’t that sweet?  This is my Jesus and he never says anything I don’t want to hear.  Lets listen to one more.  “I knew about you before you were even born.”  Okay, anyone else saying that and it would be creepy, but since Jesus said it it’s true and I am thankful.
            Would the real Jesus please stand up!  Right.  I mean, c’mon.  Jesus said some wonderful things that give us hope and comfort in times when we need them.  But Jesus also said some things that I don’t want to hear.  This Jesus doesn’t say anything I don’t want to hear, but the real Jesus, when the real Jesus talked about discipleship we said some things that just seem downright harsh. 
This morning we are keeping Discipleship simple and we are keeping it about what Jesus really said.  Discipleship assumes that someone is doing the discipling.  Right…like a teacher student relationship.  You’ve got the disciple – the one doing the discipling and you have the disciple – the one being taught, being led, being discipled.  Jesus is the one who does the discipling and we are the ones trying to be like him and we do that by being His disciple.  To be his disciple we are to be like him.  Jesus talked quite a bit about what it means to be his disciple..  That’s where I want to start.  What does the one who we are trying to emulate say about what it means to emulate him.  About what is means to be his disciple.
I thought I was going to share several scriptures with you about Jesus talking about discipleship and share them with you but I got to the verse we are looking at this morning and didn’t get much farther.
So here it is…lets look at Luke 14 starting in verse 25.  Jesus has just been teaching in the house of a Pharisee and he actually heals a man on the Sabbath and he’s challenged but then he gets out of it and continues to teach on the Pharisees attitude of superiority.  The text when we get to verse 25 just says that large crowds were traveling with Jesus.  So he has left from the Pharisees house and this message about discipleship is for everyone in the crowd…it’s not for a select group of people…Jesus wants everyone to know that to be his disciple this is one of the things that means.  Starting in verse 25 (Read 25-26)
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “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.
There are two things Jesus says about being his disciple.  The first one is unless you hate your father and mother and even their own life…unless you do that you cannot be my disciple.  Let me tell you up front what Jesus is not saying.  He is not literally saying we should hate our father and mother, that would directly violate the 5th commandment and Jesus being a good Jew and Rabbi – a jewish teach…he is not going teach something to his followers that would violate the 5th Commandment nor any of the other commandments. 
The idea here that Jesus is stressing is where does your primary allegiance lie?  Is your allegiance first and foremost to Jesus…if so then that may cause some tension within your family.  Think about the time this was written.  In the culture Jesus speaks you were either Jewish or Gentile.  That’s it.  No other distinctions.  A gentile was simply someone not a Jew.  Jesus comes along and says all these strange things and does miracles and heals people and starts a new movement…a new type of Judaism.  So that the common categories of Jew or Gentile now have been thrown off balance.  It’s not that simple anymore. 
If you were a gentile and started following Jesus, Jesus was a rabbi, does that mean you were now Jewish.  If you were Jewish and you started believing in Jesus…the Pharisees didn’t like him or believe in him, the Sadducess didn’t like him or believe in him…this was a threat so you were isolated as a Jew if you believed in Jesus.
Jesus gets right to the point with the crowds.  Where does allegiance lie?  If I don’t come first, If I am not primary in your life, if I am not the top priority, then you cannot be my disciple.  That’s the point he’s making.  He does it first by talking about something people love…their families.
Over in Luke 9 we see something similar.  In Luke 9 We see how personal relationships can conflict with the call of discipleship.  There, Jesus asked someone to follow Him, but the man responds with this excuse: "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." (Luke 9:59)
Right there, a conflict arises. If He is truly Lord, then He is first, not us. This man was essentially saying, "Lord, let me wait until my parents grow old and die. I don't want to create any conflict. I'll follow You at a more convenient time."
Jesus answered: "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:60).  It sounds harsh.  Now just to be clear, when the man talks about burying his father…it’s probably an ossuary that he’s talking about.  Most likely the funeral already happened and he had a time to grieve and what they did in this culture is wait until the body was mostly bones, then bury those bones in a final resting place called an ossuary.  So Jesus isn’t being quite as harsh as we think, but he is still making a bold and deliberate point with dramatic flare that discipleship is about allegiance first and foremost to me.  And if your allegiance isn’t first and foremost to God, to Jesus, to the Spirit, then you cannot be His disciple. 
            He doesn’t stop there.  He doesn’t just say unless you hate your family…he says your own life.  Discipleship must involve dying to ourselves.  In John 12:24 Jesus said it this way.  We see it in Galataians 2:20 and 5:24.  We see it in 1 Peter (2:24) and 2 Cor. 5:17.  There is this idea throughout scripture that to be a disciple of Jesus something in us must die.  And I believe that something is our natural tendency towards selfishness.  So that the opposite of selfishness is selflessness.  That as we grow in our faith and get to know Jesus we become more and more like him and more and more others-centered instead of self-centered.  When you are others-centered, when you are selfless, selfishness in you has died.  Selfishness must die so that the Holy Spirit can replace it with selflessness.
            I don’t know a better place where this is seen than in marriage.  Billy Graham said “Salvation is free but discipleship costs everything we have.”  It reminds me of the difference between falling in love and staying in love.  Anyone can fall in love, right.  It’s easy.  You meet each other and are physically attracted to one another.  You get to know each other and you share similar values and goals and interests and all of a sudden you have fallen in love.  The more time you spend together the more you love the person.  And it’s easy.  It just happens from hanging out.  Then you get married and it’s  beautiful ceremony and for the first couple of yeas those giddy feelings are still there and you couldn’t be happier. 
            At some point in marriage those giddy feelings subside and that’s no longer the glue that holds your marriage together.  The glue now, is that holy covenant, that commitment you made to be together for better or worse.  Often times what you used to love about your spouse becomes annoying.  You used to love his high ethic.  Now, you just wish he would stop working so much and spend some time with you and children.  You used to love the fact that he was so masculine and manly and now you don’t understand why all he ever does is give you solutions to your problems instead of trying to understand where you are coming.  Men: you used to love the fact that she was so dependent on you.  Now, you just wish you could have some you time when you aren’t at work.  You used to love her sense of humor, now it just gets on your nerves.  Marriage all of a sudden becomes hard work.  You fell in love, that was easy, but staying in love, working on the marriage relationship intentionally and deliberately, that hard.  That takes effort and discipline and work.
            Guess what word comes from discipline that we are talking about today: disciple.  To be a disciple takes discipline.  It takes reading the word and being consistent in worship services and praying and going to Bible studies and deliberately and intentionally growing your faith.  So that you can continue to understand what it means to die to yourself.  If something in you doesn’t die when you get married, it makes marriage that much harder.  One of the last things I say at a marriage to the couple is to commit to lay selfishness at altar and commit to be selfless…because it is absolutely essential for a healthy marriage.  And the ideal in marriage is that you are serving one another.  In Ephesians Paul says “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  If you submit to each other, guess what you are serving each other constantly.  And if you are serving each other constantly, you are being selfless.  Now what’s cool about that in marriage is that if you are serving each other you are also being served and who doesn’t want to be served?
            That’s how discipleship is.  If you don’t deny yourself, if you don’t die to yourself, if you don’t work on being selfless instead of selfish you cannot be a disciple of Jesus.  In Luke 9:23 Jesus says it this way “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”  This doesn’t sound easy does it.  We haven’t even talked about what it means to take up your cross, in the Luke 14 text, that’s what Jesus says next…”whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”  I wanted to talk about that but I don’t have time.
I want to ask you something, if discipleship is about dying to ourselves (and denying ourselves and being selfless purposely and deliberately) then the question is this: what needs to die inside of you?  Where have you been selfish and self-centered?  Is in a relationship with your husband or wife?  Is it in a relationship with your children?  Is it a friend or a co-worker?  What inside of you needs to die?  Because unless we ask that question and really seek out the answer, Jesus says, we cannot be his disciple.  Keeping this simple…discipleship is an intentional dying to self so that we can be more like Jesus.   
Salvation is free and it’s easy and wonderful and glorious…discipleship is hard.  So pastor, why do it?  Why pursue this life of discipleship if it’s hard and if it takes so much work.  Because Jesus also says in Luke 9 “whoever loses their life for me will find it.”  In John 10:10 Jesus says I came to give life and life in abundance.”  When you lose your life by becoming a disciple of Jesus…it may be hard and involve work…but what you experience is the fullness of joy and the radicalness of grace and the consistency of hope and the wonder and power of sacrificial love.  It’s worth it.

Friday, October 11, 2013


The audio messed up on here's the manuscript:
Simple Church – John 20:19-23
We are starting a new series today that I’m simply calling “Simple.”  Human beings are so good at complicating things.  Our family recently helped my grandmother get into an assisted living facility in Mocksville, NC.  So for outgoing calls – my uncle got her a cellphone.  When I visited my grandmother she showed me his directions for her to make a call on the phone.  And it was crazy, I couldn't even follow the directions.  The phone itself has a green button and red button and a middle button…and around the middle button if you push it a certain way it takes you to the menu.
Now, I’m sitting here trying to follow my uncles instructions on the phone and I can’t do it.  This is supposed to be something really easy and simple for my grandmother to use.  Why can’t they just make a phone for people who are not tech savvy that just has a big button that goes directly to the Contacts and lists the contacts and then you just choose the contact and it dials it for you.  Her phone, you have to go to menu, then contacts, then you press “enter” on the contact then you choose which phone number you want to dial and press enter or the green button to dial it.  You get my point, right, something that’s supposed to be simple, making a phone call, is made difficult for my grandmother.  We often make things that should be simple…complicated.
I think about when I mess up in my relationship with Chrys.  Instead of just saying "you were right I was wrong, I’m sorry, will you forgive me and lets make this right," I argue and I banter back and I don’t admit that I was wrong.  Why?  Because I’m a guy and I have pride and I don’t like being wrong…neither does she.  So instead of just simply sucking it up and apologizing, I make it into this complicated argument that’s really senseless.  I want to see some wives poking their husbands with their elbows…all men do this.
We do the same with spiritual things.  We complicate matters.  Today we are talking about the Church...specifically Simple Church.  We have complicated church.  Period.  We have committees for this and committees for that and Charge Conference paper work and end of the year paperwork…of which 90 percent of it nobody reads.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed…but I’ve really tried to simplify the services and streamline them and keep it simple. 
Lets talk about the church…what is it and how do we keep it simple.  Church is not about your preference or my preference.  Church is not about the music.  Church is not about the preaching or the preacher.  Church is not about the socializing.  Church is not about the offering or the prayers.  So what is church about?  Church is about being God’s people.  Being the body of Christ, Paul describes it well in 1st Corinthians 12.  I’ve preached on it before.  The church is about being the body of Christ.  Being the hands and feet of Christ on this earth.  Doing on this earth what Jesus did on this earth when he was alive and doing ministry.  That’s what it means to be the church.  We complicate it.  Church is about doing what Jesus did on this earth when he was a live and doing ministry. 
Look at John 20, our scripture, verses 19-23.  The disciples are tasked with doing what Jesus did when he was alive.  As the father has sent me, I am sending you.  In other words…What I did on earth, that’s what you are supposed to do on earth.  My ministry should be your ministry.  I healed people.  I want you to heal people.  I offered forgiveness to people, I want you to forgive people and offer them forgiveness in me.  Don’t take verse 23 literally, about if you forgive sins their sins are forgiven, he’s saying, offer them forgiveness in me.  This is giving them a task.  A responsibility.  And it doesn’t sound like an option.  He says, I am sending you.  Jesus intentionally spent time with sinners to offer them a better life.  Jesus intentionally spent time with children and widows and orphans to tell them about the truth of who God is.  Jesus intentionally engaged in conversations with people to challenge what they thought and to lead them to truth.
You want to know your purpose as the church?  Our purpose as the church.  Our purposes to collectively do what Jesus did while he was on earth.  To eat with sinners.  And be in ministry with orphans and prisoners and widows.  To offer people the truth.
Let me ask you something.  When is the last time you led somebody to Jesus?  It’s a hard question for me to ask myself.  Because it’s been awhile.  Oh, I preach and offer discipleship and counseling and care and all that is part of growing in our faith.  But when is the last time you led someone to Christ?
Okay, you might that’s not a fair question.  How bout this?  When is the last time you shared your faith with someone for the purpose of leading them to the truth?  That’s a fairer question.  When is the last time you shared your faith with someone for the purpose of leading them to the truth?  To Jesus?  “Well I don’t have many opportunities to do that because I’ve already shared my faith with everyone in my circle.”  The disciples had a circle.  Guess what Jesus did…he sent them outside of that circle.  You have to be intentional about sharing your faith.  And as a confession, I haven’t been intentional either.  And I’m going to work on it.
Being the church is ultimately about bringing people to Jesus.  It’s about being a blessing yes, it’s about meeting social and physical and emotional needs, yes.  But all of that blessing people and meeting needs should lead to us having a conversation with some of those people we are blessing that allows us to share our faith with purpose of bringing someone to Jesus Christ.  That’s what the church is ultimately about.  Yes we take care of each other and love each other that’s assumed and it’s comfortable for us and we’re good at, we are…but what about all those people that don’t know Jesus and are going to hell.
Do we even care?  Do we.  I think that’s what it comes down too.  If you don’t care then of course you aren’t going to share your faith.  If you do care, then you will share your faith even if you are afraid…if you care and love enough, that love will overcome the fear and you will share you faith.  And look I’m not talking about being annoying, I’m talking about sharing your faith and if the person says “no”…it’s not your fault…it’s theirs.  Even if you just plant a seed, your job is to be obedient and share you faith, in love and with care and with patience.  And sometimes it means you listen first.  But…share yout faith, just do it.  Just be the church.
Simple Church…doing what Christ calls us to do and doing it together.  What does Christ call us to do…”As the Father in has sent me, I am sending you.”  To do what Jesus did.  To lead people to the truth of who he is.
Church is not about what I want or what you want…its not about our worship preferences…it’s not about saying the apostle’s creed every Sunday or the Lord’s prayer every Sunday…it’s about what God wants for this earth.  And we pray it every Sunday…God wants his kingdom to come on this earth.  And we haven’t been very good at that.  We haven’t been good at bringing new people into the Kingdom of God and that’s why Jesus came.  His message, his first public teaching, was “Repent for the kingdom of God is near.”  He came preaching and teaching repentance and the kingdom.  To join the kingdom of God a person has to repent and seek forgiveness in Jesus Christ.  It’s that simple.  I think it’s time that we at Catawba UMC repent…that I repent…that we confess that we haven’t been who God wants us to be.
I’m going to ask you to do something I’ve never asked you to do…get out a hymnal.  We are going to enter a time of Holy Communion.  And we are going to start on page 7.  Will you say the Apostle’s Creed with me and will you offer repentance and confession to God and seek his will for you life.  In forgiving us he calls us to with joyful obedience.  

Communion: Let coming to the table of our Lord be your commitment to a renewed purpose of sharing the love of God with someone this week.  I want you to be intentional about sharing the love of Christ with one person…just one person…one person that you’ve never shared your faith…share it with them out of love and concern and care.  Let coming to the Communion be your commitment to do that this week.  Because offering the kingdom is why Jesus came to this earth and we are sent to do what he did.  In Communion we are reminded that we are in this together and that it is up to all of us to share the faith.  The best advertisement for anything is word of mouth.  So share your faith.