Have you ever gotten yourself into a situation that you
weren’t really prepared for? We do it
all the time. Whether it’s a class
that’s harder than you expect, a job you aren’t quite ready for, or even a
relationship, we start things all the time that are more difficult than we
For me, I often find myself in home repair or improvement
situations that I’m really not prepared for.
I’ll think I am, but truthfully, I am not. When Amanda and I moved to Kilgore, we bought
our first house. We were so excited; we
were finally homeowners. We felt (and
feel) genuinely blessed because the house we bought should not have been in our
price range, but for a multitude of reasons, was available and we bought
it! The problem was we had no idea what
kind of commitment home ownership required and we bought a 60-year-old
house. Now it’s a nice house, but it’s
60 years old. So we started home
improvement. We’ve painted, replaced
floors, painted, done some landscaping, painted, refinished a counter top, and
painted some more.
One of my least favorite projects involves plumbing. We’ve had to replace a couple of different
sections of sewer line that have broken, but the best story comes in the form
of re-setting a commode. We replaced some
of the flooring in the 1st floor of our house. This involved the kitchen and downstairs
bathroom. In order to properly lay the
new floor we had to pull up the commode and then put it back down. We finished the project and congratulated
ourselves on its relative ease. Then the
problems started. The downstairs commode
wouldn’t work. It would overflow. It wouldn’t flush. Some days it simply wouldn’t do anything at
all. We pulled it up and reset it
probably 6 different times. We replaced
the flange that goes into the floor, replaced the bolts, got thicker seals,
everything we could think of.
One of the most memorable moments in this process was the
day I was up on the roof trying to unclog the vent. I had run a water hose down the vent (because
I read it on some DIY website) and my dad had turned the water on to try to
flush out the “clog.” He came running
out of the house telling me to pull the hose out of the vent because the
bathroom and closet were flooding. I’ve
never gotten off of a roof so quickly in my life (no, I didn’t fall). As an aside, that’s a great way to clean out
a closet because you have to throw away things that are ruined. Eventually, we just bought a new
commode. There was absolutely no reason
the old one shouldn’t have worked, but since my dad and I installed the new
one, we’ve had no problems at all.
I tell that story not to illustrate my incompetence in home
repair or the fact that I’m cheap (although both of these are probably
true). I tell that in order to make the
point that we are often not prepared for what is going to be required of us
before we do something. In just a couple
of weeks Amanda, Paige, and I are travelling to Lima, Peru to join a group on a
mission trip at the La Roca School a little way outside of the city. The past few weeks we’ve been trying to
gather as much information as possible related to the trip so we can be
prepared. This involves making sure that
all of our immunizations are up to date, reading about the weather (which will
be in the 70s for high temperatures), and making sure about baggage
restrictions. Going into a foreign
country can be a lot of fun and we are all excited about this trip, but we have
to be prepared.
As we look at our topic this morning it strikes me that when
we look at following Jesus we are often not prepared for what he asks of
us. I remember asking Jesus into my
heart when I was six years old. I’ve
worked with students over the years that have an encounter with God at Disciple
Now or Youth Camp and they want to become Christians. While I think experiences like this are
valuable and while I also think that encounters with God change who we are
inside and out, I also believe that we as the church are responsible to teach
people what it means to actually follow Jesus.
Jesus addressed the crowd about what it took to follow
him. This was either another instance of
Jesus feeding a large crowd, or it was simply Luke’s version of the story. Jesus had just fed a crowd of 5000+. Afterward he speaks to the crowd about the
cost of discipleship. These are the
first words out of this mouth: “If
anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily
and follow me.” He goes on to say that
if you try to save your life you will lose it, but if you lose your life you
will save it. What is Jesus asking for?
Let’s look at his words.
“Deny yourself…” A fan will long
to accept the invitation to follow Jesus, but will want to hold some things
back. Jesus says that if we are to
follow him, we must first deny ourselves.
Why are these words first? Let’s
think about the concept of “follow.”
When you were young did you ever play “Follow the Leader?” How does that game work? In order to be successful, you must do
exactly what the leader does, right? If
the leader flaps like a bird you have to flap like a bird or you’re “out.” Kindergartners get this game. It’s incredibly easy to understand. In order to follow, you have to turn from
the path you were on. If I’m playing
“Follow the Leader” and the leader’s flapping her arms, I can’t hop like a
bunny. Why? That’s not following.
Why is “Follow Jesus” a different game, then?
Jesus says “Deny (yourself) and take up (your) cross daily
and follow me.” We say “I don’t really
have to take up my cross. I’ll just do
it in my heart and everything will be ok.”
We say “I don’t really have to deny myself at all. I just have to go to church and do some good
things and I’ll be fine. Jesus didn’t
really mean me.” So “Follow Jesus”
becomes a different game. It becomes
“Kind of Follow Jesus When You Feel Like It or Isn’t Inconvenient.” When Jesus says “lose your life,” we say
“that doesn’t literally mean to lose my life.
It’s more like ‘be a good person and be nice to the checkout person if
they deserve it.’”
For all the word-play we can come up with, it seems very
obvious what Jesus is saying. If we are
to truly follow Jesus, we must turn from the path we are on and follow
him. We must deny ourselves. We must surrender what we want for ourselves
and exchange it for what he wants for us.
For the past two years Amanda and I have gone to the
RightNow conference in Dallas. The
mission of RightNow is to match potential ministers with ministries all around
the world for either short- or long-term mission projects. This conference has been instrumental in
helping me define what and who we’re supposed to be as the church. In 2009 we first heard of the concept of
being a Trader. We’ve mentioned this
idea a couple of times before, but I think that coupled with our topic today,
this is the perfect time to bring it back up.
We’re going to watch a video that will hopefully help cement this idea
for you a little bit. We’ve watched this
one before, but I want you to pay attention to exactly what the video is
The definition of a Trader is “a person who trades in the
pursuit of the American Dream for a world that desperately needs Christ.” We’re talking about surrender today. This isn’t a concept people particularly like
because it has to do with giving something up.
In this case, it has to do with trading something in. We’re familiar with the concept of trading
in. Whenever we want something we must
trade in money to get it. Depending on
what we’re buying and how much it costs it’s either a good trade or a bad
trade. For example: $25 for a hamburger to me is a bad trade, but
(depending on the particular cut and the quality of the meat) that same amount
for a steak might not be a bad trade.
Why? It’s all beef, right? The difference is the quality and cut.
This past year at RightNow we got to hear a pastor named
Pete Briscoe. Briscoe is a pastor in the
Dallas area who presented a message entitled “Is It Worth the Trade?” Using Ephesians 3, he began to talk about
Paul and the things he traded his former life in for. The first one he mentions is Christ
himself. Jesus is what Paul traded his
life in for. Jesus is what he got in
return for his life. Briscoe told us
that he read one commentator who described Paul as a Christ-intoxicated man.
Last week we read from Ephesians 5. In verse 18 Paul reminds us to not be drunk
with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.
Be intoxicated with the Spirit.
Lose all control to the Spirit.
Briscoe makes the claim that if all Paul got in exchange for his life
was Jesus it would have been a good trade.
Dictionary.com defines “surrender” as “to yield to the
possession or power of another or to give oneself up to some influence, course,
or emotion.” Jesus demands
surrender. If we are going to be
followers, we must turn from our present course and follow the one he has
marked out for us. I think that
sometimes we believe the Christian life is not a good trade for us. We think that we’re getting shafted. What more does Jesus want, after all?
I’ve found myself from time to time asking that of
Jesus. “What more do you want?” I’ll often scream in my mind (or out loud if
I’m by myself in my truck). I wonder sometimes
if Jesus is amused or frustrated by my query.
After asking that question I often get the distinct impression that
Jesus is saying back to me “What do you mean ‘what more do I want?’ It’s obvious that I want all of you.” Then I ashamedly acknowledge that and promise
myself that I’ll do better.
As we go through this series, there seems to be a cumulative
effect. We asked a couple of weeks ago
“If all you got out of being a Christian was Jesus himself, would that be
enough?” Now we’re faced with that
proposition again. Surrender. Give up your desires and wants for the path
that Jesus has marked out for you.
Recently we read this encounter with the rich young
man. I don’t want to go all the way
through what we’ve already discussed, but I do want to address a couple of
things. This man wanted the benefits of
being a Christian without the cost of being a follower of Jesus. He wanted to earn his place in heaven, but he
didn’t want it to require anything of him.
We mentioned that his failing was not that he wanted to know what it
took to get to heaven. His failing was
that he was unwilling to pay the price.
He was unwilling to part with what it would cost. For him it wasn’t a good trade. Why?
His wealth defined him. His very
identity came in what he had. We even
know him by the name of “rich young ruler” or “rich young man.” We define him by what he had. Jesus wants us to be defined by who he is.
Are you a Christ-intoxicated person? As we read the story of the rich young man
one thing is striking. Jesus told him
that if he wanted to have treasure in heaven, if he wanted to make it to heaven,
he must give up his former identity and follow Jesus. Matthew says is verse 22, “When the young man
heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” The man walked away. He wouldn’t allow his life to be defined by
following Jesus. We still know him as
the rich young man.
This is a cautionary tale for us. We won’t be able to take the path of
following Jesus unless we first walk away from a different path. We can’t choose to follow Jesus unless we
deny ourselves, unless we change who we once were, unless we turn from our
former path. Quoting Kyle Idleman:
Followers are willing to deny
themselves and say, “I choose Jesus. I
choose Jesus over my family. I choose
Jesus over money. I choose Jesus over
career goals. I am his completely…I
choose Jesus over my freedom. I choose
Jesus over what other people may think of me.”
A follower makes a decision every day to deny himself and choose
Jesus…even if it costs everything.
Idleman also tells of a news story he saw describing a new kind
of vegetarian called a “flexetarian.”
These are people who are vegetarians who eat some meat. These are vegetarians who eat only vegetables
unless they really want meat. What’s
wrong with this picture? They aren’t
vegetarians at all. They just like to
call themselves that. If there’s bacon
on the menu, however, their commitment can be adjusted.
This brings us back to the discussion we started with. When we bought our house we didn’t fully
understand the commitment it would take.
We’ve adjusted to that, although I still don’t like mowing my lawn. As we look forward to our Peru trip, we’re
trying to prepare ourselves for everything.
I’ve been looking up luggage restrictions, potential diseases, and I’ve
also discovered that, being on the Pacific coast, there is a potential for
earthquakes. It’s important to be
As a Christian, too, it’s important to understand the costs
involved. Jesus tells us that we must
deny ourselves. We must leave behind
everything we once were and embrace everything he has for us. For far too long I think churches have had
the mindset of “whatever it takes to get people here let’s do that.” The problem is that perhaps we have diluted
the gospel of Jesus to an extent. The
Bible would (and frequently does) describe a follower of Jesus as a slave. Today we’re talking about surrender. What are you holding on to that Jesus is
asking you to let go? What is it that’s
keeping you from completely giving over to Jesus everything that you are? I think most of us would happily give up many
things to follow Jesus. Jesus is asking
us to give up everything to follow him.
What’s holding you back?
What won’t you surrender?
The definition of a Trader is a person who trades in the
pursuit of the American Dream for a world that desperately needs Christ. What are you supposed to trade?