445:  What it Means to Follow Jesus

445: What it Means to Follow Jesus

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, His initial message was the same as John the Baptist.  He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).  And throughout the next three years, one underlying theme in His teaching was about life in His Kingdom.  When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach His message, He said, “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’ ” (Matt. 8:11).  Jesus even told those close to Him why He spoke to the crowds in parables.  And His answer had to do with concealing from some the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven.  He said, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Matt. 13:11).  Which begs the question, what does it mean to follow Jesus?  And what is life like in His kingdom?

Finally, He shared parables specifically pointed to revealing what the kingdom of heaven, His Kingdom, was like.  He said it was like a “man who sowed good seed in his field” (Matt. 13:24).  Or, it was like a “mustard seed” which, being small, grew into a tree “so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches” (Matt. 13:31).  Jesus likened His Kingdom to “leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened” (Matt. 13:33).  And to express how wonderful His Kingdom is for those who possess it, He said it was like a “treasure hidden in a field” (Matt. 13:44) or a “pearl of great price” (Matt. 13:46) that was worth all one had on earth.

Jesus then asked His disciples, “Have you understood all these things?”  They said to Him, “Yes, Lord” (Matt. 13:51).

I wonder what our answer would be today?  Do we understand His Kingdom?  Do we fully know what it means to follow Him?  Can we honestly say we are proficient in following Jesus?

I’m not so sure.  And maybe you aren’t either.


What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus and Live in His Kingdom?

Let’s just take a flyover view of the first few chapters in Matthew and see if we can determine some principles and instructions for what it means to live in the kingdom of heaven.  And then compare them to what we teach in church today, and I think you’ll be as shocked as I was.

Blessed… or Not So Blessed – Matthew 5:3-12
Self Identity – Matthew 5:13-16
His Standard of Righteousness – Matthew 5:20
Anger – Matthew 5:21-26
Lust and/or Sexual Sin – Matthew 5:27-30
Marital Relationships – Matthew 5:31-32
Oaths and Dishonesty – Matthew 5:33-37
How to Respond to Evil – Matthew 5:38-42
How to Respond to Haters – Matthew 5:43-47
Be Perfect – Matthew 5:48
Self-Promotion – Matthew 6:1-4
How to Pray – Matthew 6:5-13
How Much Forgiveness? – Matthew 6:14-15
Fasting and Other Disciplines – Matthew 6:16-17
Our Life Focus – Matthew 6:19-21
Everyone Serves Somebody or Something – Matthew 6:24
Worry, Doubt, and Fear – Matthew 6:25-34
I’m Right and You’re Wrong – Matthew 7:1-2
I’m Good and You’re Bad – Matthew 7:3-6
What is a Life of Faith – Matthew 7:7-11
Treat Others Like You Treat Yourself – Matthew 7:12
Turnstile or Interstate – Matthew 7:13-14
Fruit Inspector – Matthew 7:15-20
Doing and Not Just Talking – Matthew 7:21-23
Don’t Be Stupid! – Matthew 7:24-27
Minister Within Your Reach – Matthew 8:1-17
Everything Costs Something – Matthew 8:18-22
And so much more!

Remember, following Christ means to forget everything we think we know about everything but Him, and simply trust in child-like faith.  Our entire reality now changes, as citizens in His Kingdom, to something incredible and supernatural.

Do you want to learn more about what it means to follow Jesus?  If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on What it Means to Follow Jesus.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

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427:  Are You In?  Or Are You Out?

427: Are You In? Or Are You Out?

There comes a time in each of our spiritual lives when the Lord brings to us His divine interruption that always comes with a choice.  And that choice, other than obedience, seems to focus on our willingness to let Him move us into an area that we are totally unfamiliar with.   Or will we choose to remain where we feel safe and comfortable?  The choice is either to follow Him into the deep or remain in the kiddie pool holding fast to our water wings.  And as always, the choice becomes a matter of faith, of trust.

After all, we sing songs about Him being a “good, good Father.”  Do we really mean it?  Or is that just for church?

The question or choice is simply this:


Are you in?  Or are you out?

If you look at the major faith personalities in the Bible, you will find every one of them had to ask themselves the same question.   Every one of them was faced with a choice that comes with a set of troubling questions:  “Do I continue in the course that seems right to me?  Or do I trust I actually heard from the Lord and go in a direction totally unfamiliar to anything I’ve ever done or known?  How much faith do I really have?”

We call these moments Divine Interruptions.

In this message, we’ll look at these interruptions from the vantage point of:

David
Paul
Mary
Matthew
James and John and Peter and Andrew
Moses
And finally, Hosea.


A Personal Note

And I will share with you the divine interruption I received this week while preparing for this message from Jude.  In fact, in the weeks to follow I will share more about the changes the Lord has brought in my life regarding what His will is for me and this ministry.  And I rejoice in that.  Why?  Because He has simply answered a prayer I have prayed for almost two years in a most profound way.

But we’ll talk more about that at a later time.

The following is a study on Jude 1:1-3.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

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423:  The Breathtaking View of Christ

423: The Breathtaking View of Christ

One of the major failures of the church today is to downplay the place of Christ when we come together to worship.  Yes, you heard right.  We, hopefully unknowingly, often relegate Christ to the back pew or the second chair.  And who do we elevate in His place?  Usually the pastor or, often, the worship leader.

And when we come together as a church we have a tendency to preach on the “what’s” and “why’s” of the Scripture and seldom the “how’s”.  Think about it.  We know we are commanded to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1-2), but are never told exactly how to do that.  Did you ever wonder why?

We are commanded to “walk according to the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16), yet are never instructed on how to do that.  We know what it means and why it’s important.  But for some reason, our pastors fail to take our hands and show us exactly how to accomplish this command.  Why?

Is it because practical Christianity is not in vogue today?  Or could it be we have become a church made up of those who can tell us what to do but have never experienced it themselves?  Are we more like cowboys driving cattle from the rear than a shepherd leading from the front?

What are we to do?


Seven Things the Church Failed to Teach Me

Recently I was reading a blog by Frank Viola that shared these seven things the church never taught him.  And I couldn’t agree more.  Consider the following:

  1.  How to practically live by the Christ who dwells inside me.
  2.  How to practically learn how to hear the Lord’s voice beyond “pray and read your Bible.”
  3.  That church-as-we-know-it is drastically different from church-as-God-would-have-it.
  4.  What the gospel of the kingdom is and how radically it can alter a human life.
  5.  How deep the tentacles of the world system go and how to break free from them.
  6.  That God’s presence is extremely subtle most of the time.
  7.  How to find Christ in the Scriptures, including the entire Old Testament.

So in 2019, I have committed to teach the church I pastor the “how’s” of the Christian faith and to answer these, and other, practical questions about living for Him.  Will you join with me as we explore the breathtaking view of our Lord together?

The following is a study on the Breathtaking View of Christ found in Colossians 1:15-19 and 2 Colossians 2:9-10.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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417:  Do the Next Right Thing

417: Do the Next Right Thing

You want some great advice?  Good.  Then “do the next right thing.”

When we’re faced with depression, chilling disappointment, or numbing loss, what are we to do?  What happens when all our dreams come crashing down around us like Jenga pieces scattered on our dining room floor?  What happens when the intimacy we once felt with our Lord evaporates right before our eyes— and we don’t know why?  What do we to do when the only voice we hear is our own doubt and paralyzing fear?  What happens when our pain compels us to sleep 18 hours a day, and we forget who we are and Who we serve?  What are we do to then?

“Do the next right thing?”  Simply stumble forward.


Stumbling Forward

Do you realize that if your goal was to run 5 miles and all you could do was stand and then fall flat on your face, eventually you’d get there.  One body length at a time.  That’s exactly what our Bible heroes of old did.  They stood on their feet and did the next right thing.  They chose to not doubt in the dark what they believed in the light.  After all, truth doesn’t change.  But our circumstances do.

What did Moses do when decades passed and it looked like God had forgotten and forsaken Him?  He did the next right thing.  And remember Elijah, who was struggling with self-doubt and depression to the point he wanted to die.  What did God say to him as they met at the mouth of the cave?  Essentially this, “Do the next right thing.”  How about David when he learned his son was dead due to his own sin with Bathsheba?  What did David do?  The next right thing.

The Scriptures are full of those, just like you and me, who stumble forward in the dark faithfully doing the next right thing, even when they didn’t know why or how.  They just did what was right.  And they made sure it was the next thing they did.  Do you want to know more about putting one step in front of another and doing the next right thing?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on being faithful and doing the next right thing, no matter what.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

Download this episode (right click and save)

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10 Reasons Why Many Christians Rarely Experience True Worship

10 Reasons Why Many Christians Rarely Experience True Worship

The ladies in our church are going on a women’s retreat in a couple of weeks and the theme of their study will include the abundant life found only in Christ and the idea of true worship.  And, as would happen, just today I discovered a blog post by Jeff Kinley that addressed some of the issues I have personally struggled with when it comes to true worship (as compared to the lame stuff we call worship today).

I pray this will be a blessing to you as you prepare this Sunday morning to worship our Sovereign God.


Read ‘Em and Weep

The following are 10 reasons many of us rarely experience true worship.   See if you can relate to a few of these.

1.   While most Christians struggle with the challenges of life, many live defeated lives, never achieving the “more than conquerors” victory that Scripture claims is the normal experience of those who have been redeemed.

2.   Many professing Christians simply stop growing after an initial burst of interest and enthusiasm.  Bibles gather dust and heart-fires start burning out.  As a result, the process of sanctification (becoming like Jesus) is often short-circuited, fueled by sin, Satan or self.  These people end up as spiritual children living in adult bodies.  Churches are FULL of these folks.

3.   Many have never taken the time to really understand salvation— studying what actually took place at the cross, contemplating their dark, sinful condition and future outside of Christ, and learning to regularly bath in the infinitely deep ocean of God’s grace and love.  Understanding how and why God saved you is the key to contentment and joy in life.

4.   Most Christians have little clue about how great their Lord is.  I mean, how could they?  They rarely, if ever, crack open the only Book God wrote to reveal Himself to them.  Ignorance of the mind-blowing truths in Scripture concerning who God is and how amazing His attributes are is a guaranteed one-way ticket to Bland Land.  Bank on this: true theology and doctrine is never, ever boring.  Rather, it infuses our hearts with awe and wonder, inspiring pure, explosive heart-worship.

5.   Face it.  We like comfort and often choose the path of least resistance when it comes to our faith.  Living for Jesus is hard, and few American believers have the lungs for the long, uphill race.  So we rest comfortably by the wayside, occasionally admiring those “Super Christians” who run by on their way to maturity.

6.   We refuse to exercise faith in the daily challenges of life, and almost never branch out and trust God for something truly supernatural, especially if it could cost us a bundle.  We treat sacrifice and suffering like tax season— with a sense of dread and avoidance.  Fear rules many of our life decisions, not faith.  Safety and security becomes our style, influencing everything from friends to finances.  And that makes Heaven yawn… and grieve.

7.   We love the idea that God is loving and compassionate, but fail to grow past those sentimental attributes.  Godly discernment, on the other hand, may lead us to actions that others may interpret as unloving.  So we continue enabling people in their immaturity and sin— and do it all in the name of love.  But in reality, hidden behind this “love” is simply a weak and impotent heart. Boring.

8.   We ignore the direct application of God’s Infinitely-Wise Word where it really matters— on the job, at home, in our marriage and in our parenting.  And we wonder why we’re so screwed up.  We trust in ourselves because having faith seems to be complicated and intangible.  We settle for “what works”— expediency, pragmatism and peace.  And when we do look for advice and counsel, it’s usually from someone just as messed up as we are.  Logical?

9.   The average American Christian checks into church 2x a month, way too little for it to ever have any real, life-changing impact on their lives.  Like working out 2x a month, there is never any real progress or growth.  Truthfully, there’s always a “good reason” to prioritize something else over gathering with your spiritual family – sleep, work, friends, fun, movies, sports on TV, etc.

10.  Honestly, we want a God who entertains and serves us.  We prefer that He act like we want Him to and at the time of our choosing.  And when He fails to deliver or meet our expectations, we lose interest and become bored with His “ways”.

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Do any of these resonate with you?  They do with me.  Ask our Lord to give you His “living water” and teach you to be the kind of worshipper He seeks.  And remember these wonderful words of Jesus to the Samaritan women He encountered at the well:

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when (who) the true worshipers will worship the Father (how) in spirit and truth; (why) for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must (what) worship in spirit and truth” – John 4:23-24.

Strive to become the worshiper the Father actively seeks to worship Him.  Because that, my dear friend, is the abundant life in Christ (John 10:10).  And begin that faith journey with Him today.

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You can find more about Jeff and his writings on his blog.  You can also read the rest of Jeff’s post here.  And rest assured, Jeff is one of the “good guys”.

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