Called To Serve
1 Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, 3 but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior; 4 To Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.
Before I became a pastor, I was in management. In those years I helped hire many people. During that time, we never hired anyone just to give them benefits. We hired them to do a job that would benefit the company. Once they were hired and began to work, they did however receive many benefits. They were provided with Health insurance, Dental insurance, Vision insurance, Holiday pay, paid vacation and several other benefits.
Each week they received a salary that enabled them to Pay their mortgage, purchase a car, put gas in it, maintain it and insure it. Because of the wages they received they could feed and clothe their children. But ultimately, they were hired to do a job.
For those who are children of God there are many benefits. We are provided with salvation and eternal life, we have a relationship with the Father, we are adopted into the family of God, we are joint heirs with Jesus, we have a home in Heaven and we have the opportunity for an abundant life while we are here on earth. These are just a few of the benefits of being a child of God.
But God did not just save you and I to keep you from Hell. He did not redeem you simply to give you a home in Heaven. Our ultimate purpose in this life is to bring honor and glory to our Heavenly Father. If that is true (and it is) then it is safe to say that you were CALLED TO SERVE!
If you look at the life and ministry of the Apostles, it becomes clear that Jesus had a plan for them. Yes, they received many benefits from following the Savior. But they were called, commanded and commissioned to share the Gospel for the remainder of their lives.
In our selected text we find that this was not just the case for the original 12. It is the case for everyone who is "in Christ". I would like to look at the first four verses of Paul's epistle to Titus and see that we are "Called To Serve". In this passage we see that…
1)Paul was saved to serve. 2) Titus was saved to serve 3) You & I were saved to serve.
Let's begin in verse 1 and see that:
1 Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness.
Paul Was Called To Serve - In the church's infancy there were not many people who were feared more than a man named Saul of Tarsus. He was a devout Jew... a self-described "Pharisee of Pharisees". He spent his days persecuting Christians and seeking the complete destruction of the Church. When Stephen was stoned to death, Saul/Paul was there consenting unto his death. What Saul of Tarsus did not know was that God had chosen him for a specific task. He would soon become one of the greatest leaders & missionaries in this church that he fought so hard to destroy.
Paul's Calling - v1a Paul, a servant of God
Paul refers to Himself as a "bondservant of God". The Greek word is "doulos", meaning a slave. Paul's proclaims that his life was no longer his own. He belonged to God and his Savior Jesus Christ. How did this happen? What brought about this transformation? Well, back in Acts Chapter 9, this great persecutor had an encounter with the Savior. Saul was headed to Damascus with the intentions of bringing Christians bound back to Jerusalem in order to persecute them. There on Damascus Road, Jesus appeared to Saul and changed his life forever!
Why did Jesus confront Saul? It was not to give the churches rest from their persecution (though this was one of the results). In Acts 9:15 Jesus shares His plan with Ananias. Jesus said "(Saul) is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel"
Acts 9:15 (ESV)
15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
Do you see that? Paul was CALEED TO SERVE and serve He did. In fact, millions of people all over the world are still benefiting from his service. After he was called, Paul spent the remainder of his life serving Jesus Christ.
Let's examine that for a moment. Consider:
Paul's Ministry - v1b an apostle of Jesus Christ
An Apostle speaks on "one who is sent". Specifically, one who is sent by Jesus Christ. Jesus chose 12 men and entrusted them with the organization of the Church and the proclamation of the gospel. We know that Judas betrayed Christ and eventually killed himself. I believe it is evident that his position was filled by none other than the Apostle Paul.
In 1 Corinthians 15:8 Paul says that he was…
1 Corinthians 15:8
8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
"one born out of due time." This means that Paul was placed into this position in a different time and in an unusual manner. After he was called Paul traveled for the remainder of his life preaching the gospel that he had tried to destroy!
The Bible tells us that he ministered in places such as…
Arabia, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tarsus, Antioch, Seleucia, Cyprus, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Syria, Macedonia, Troas, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, Greece, Tyre, Caesarea, Rome and beyond.
Paul went to these areas preaching the Word, he established new churches and strengthened others. Innumerable souls came to Christ because of his ministry and many others matured in the faith as well. But Paul didn't just preach... he suffered! He was constantly arrested and imprisoned. He was beaten, stoned and eventually gave his life for the cause of Christ. He faced all of these hardships willingly. Why? Because he knew that he was CALLED TO SERVE!
Saving faith, moves us to a full knowledge of the truth, This… results in a new life of godliness. Christians are to live sanctified, holy, pure, righteous and godly lives. When the truth of the Gospel impacts us, others will see Christ in and through us.
Paul desired to see the new convert mature in the faith. His epistles teaches us, how to live in Christ. He not only planted new churches, but he longed to revisit them and help to strengthen them in the faith. This was his hearts-desire.
- As we move into verses 2 & 3 we see:
2 in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, 3 but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior. 4 To Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.
Paul states that we can be confident and secure in Christ. How is this possible? It is possible through God's promises. God cannot lie... If He said it, THAT SETTLES IT. Paul even proclaims that the promise of eternal life was given before the world began. He was confident in God's promises. He found assurance in God's Word. The message that Paul shared was God's... not his own. Therefore, those who Paul ministered to, could have that same security in God's promises. And we can have that same assurance as well.
It is evident when you look at Paul's calling, ministry, and his desire that he was CALLED TO SERVE. It is also evident in this passage that:
II. Titus Was Called To Serve - In fact, Paul's story and Titus' was intertwined. It seems that Titus was converted as a result of Paul's ministry. Notice that:
Here Paul introduces us to the recipient of this letter. His "fellow laborer" a man named Titus. Titus was a non-Jewish convert to Christianity. Titus was what we may call a "strong man" or an "enforcer". We will see in verse 5 that Paul instructed Titus to "set things in order" in the local church. Titus was also instrumental in correcting the errors of the Corinthian church. It is evident that Paul had great confidence in him to get things done.
These two men shared a common faith. Their experience was the same. Titus may not have been a great persecutor of the church as Paul was, but he was saved the same way! He was transformed by the power of the Savior. Titus soon realized after coming to faith in Jesus that he too had been CALLED TO SERVE! His was not simply faith in word only... but in-deed and action!
Surrendering to Jesus is more than a prayer of faith. It is complete submission to the will of God. Titus surrendered himself completely to Jesus Christ. Notice that Paul uses the phrase "LORD" and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus was Titus' Lord, his ruler, his Master, Jesus was the supreme authority in his life, and he dedicated his life to serving his Lord.
Titus was with Paul and Barnabas at Antioch, he was influential in reaching Gentiles with the Gospel, he was also with Paul and Timothy at Ephesus and Paul sent him to minister at Corinth for a time. At this point in his ministry, Titus was instrumental in the organization of the church in Crete. Paul left him there to "set things in order". He spent his life sharing the good news to lost man and helping to disciple new converts. Titus truly was saved to serve!
5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you.
Paul & Titus were very different men with very different backgrounds. But they both came to Jesus the same way and for the same purpose. If you are born again, you were saved the same way that they were. And if you are saved you have an obligation to serve the Lord!
I would like to conclude by examining the fact that: You Were Called To Serve!!!
- Adrian Rodgers (Southern Baptist Pastor) used to say that "many church members come down the aisle of the church, get baptized, then come Sunday after Sunday and just sit, soak, and sour. God did not call you to sit, soak and sour...HE CALLED YOU TO SERVE!"
Like Paul & Titus: You Are Called To Be A Disciple…
2 Timothy 1:9
9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.
11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.
Consider for a moment the difference between a convert and a disciple: Converts are believers who live like the world. Disciples are believers who live like Jesus. Converts are focused on their values, interests, worries, fears, priorities, and lifestyles. Disciples are focused on Jesus. Converts go to church. Disciples are the church. Converts are involved in the mission of Jesus. Disciples are committed to it. Converts cheer from the sidelines. Disciples are in the game. Converts hear the word of God. Disciples live it. Converts follow the rules. Disciples follow Jesus. Converts are all about believing. Disciples are all about being. Converts are comfortable. Disciples make sacrifices.
We are seeing some amazing things take place in our assembly. Can you imagine how much more we could do if we have more faithful servants? Are you faithful to the Kingdom work?
If you have a position in the church, are you devoted to it? Can others depend on you to carry out your responsibilities faithfully? If you neglect your responsibilities you are not only letting the church down...You are not only letting your brothers and sisters in Christ down....You are saying to your Lord that serving Him is not as important as whatever is keeping you from doing your duty. There is a job for you to do.
You are either obeying the command of Christ, or you are living in open rebellion.
1) Paul was saved to serve
2) Titus was save to serve
3) You & I were saved to serve
God has given each and everyone of you a talent…before the beginning of time. Don’t miss out on experiencing Gods best. When you are doing something for the Lord…you are actually doing it/serving side by side with the Lord. Like I always said…when I’m up here preaching, doing Bible study, evangelizing or playing the drums, that is when I fell His presence the most. You know why??? Because I cannot do those things on my own. For those of you who know me well, you know what I mean. It has to be the Lord.
12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work.
Every act, word and thought will be credited by Christ. “each one will receive his/her own reward according to their labor”. When one knows and serves God, every product of his/her life will be rewarded, either in this life or in heaven. God watches over all our ways, and he has promised to perfectly reward us. All those who are “CALLED TO SERVE”.
“Be Anxious For Nothing”
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Even though God counts every hair on our heads (Luke 12:7) and promises to take care and do good to those He calls His own (Romans 8:28) we as Christians can’t help but worry about our present and future circumstances! While we know that trials and tribulations are meant to be viewed as a source of joy in our lives because when persevered they lead to spiritual maturity, for most Christians they are nothing more than the source of great anxiety.
Anxiety wanes and eventually disappears when we take our concerns to God, who has the power and the wisdom to take care of them, believing that He always has our best interests at heart.
Even though God tells us that our worry and concern cannot add a single hour to our lives (Matthew 6:27) we are often consumed in “care-full” laboring to control our circumstances while living in this fallen world. Foolishly one thinks “if I plan better” or “if I work harder” I can purchase for myself an easier path to travel than the one I am currently on! When we fail to obtain this easier path, we feel anxiety and as a result plan and work even harder. Apostle Paul told the church of Philippi the only way to get out of this anxiety spiral is through prayer and trust in a sovereign God.
This sermon is going to focus on Paul’s five steps to curing anxiety: living by grace, replacing anxiety with prayer, telling God everything, having a thankful heart and by receiving the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
Anxiety – Care-Full Statistics
Even though we are under the providence of a sovereign God this does not stop Christians from becoming so full of care (care-full) for the needs of this mortal life that it consumes everything they think or do! For instance, it is hard when looking into the eyes of one’s spouse not to think about how fragile marriage is when four out of ten marriages end in divorce. Or how about caring for a loved one that is sick with an illness. How about the financial worry, how can I get ahead so that I can say that I’m comfortable. (Trust me when I say, that there is no such thing. We will always want more) Relationships, school, career, work and so on.
Believers Only Antidote (Cure)
While the world offers many ways to reduce anxiety and stress such as exercise, taking supplements, reducing caffeine intake, spending time with friends and loved ones, laughing, taking yoga classes and/or practicing mindfulness; these “natural” or “worldly” methods are pale in comparison to the real cure of baptizing every anxious thought through prayer into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Does it not make sense that He who created and knit humanity into His own image (Genesis 1:27; Psalms 139) is sovereign and the only one who can strengthen, sustain and provide peace to our fragile hearts of clay? (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)
Faith in God is a cure for anxiety only when one has a relationship with His Son. Nonbelievers who cry out during calamity will not have their prayers heard by God because they do not have belief in the only way to approach Him, through belief in the atoning sacrifice of His Son
Since unbelievers have not made Jesus the rock of their salvation (Psalms 18:2), they should be anxious in the face of trials and tribulations because their “house” of “certainty” has not been built on a firm foundation (Matthew 7:24)! Christians on the other hand have put their trust in a sovereign God whose promise to take care of and do good to them will never fail to be their reality! (Romans 8:28)
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Step 1: Living by Grace (verse 4-5)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
The first step in overcoming anxiety for a Christian is to live by grace. Even though a born-again believer has the Spirit of God living inside of them does not mean that God always hears their prayers. When a believer cherishes sin in his/her heart God promises He will hide His face and not hear his/her prayers…
If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
We are told in Scripture to hate evil and every wrong path…
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
confess our sins (1 John 1:9)
1 John 1:9
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Paul told the Christians at Philippi that they were to feel joy in the face of their intense hardships and persecutions by remembering the grace they had received in the resurrection power of Christ. The “ongoing presence of Christ in the believer’s heart” whom has received forgiveness, grace and comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-5) should naturally have a gentle attitude towards others.
Instead of insisting on their rights or seeking retaliation they are to live by grace and as such have a gentle attitude of forbearance towards all others, even their enemies! This does not mean that believers are to be “immune to sorrow or insensitive to the troubles of others” but are to at the same feel unspeakable joy knowing that the Lord will soon return, and they will see God face to face (1 Peter 1:18)!
Anxious thoughts soon melt away when we remember He who raised us from spiritual death and granted us life will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)
Step 2: Replacing Anxiety with Prayer (verse 6)
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
The antidote for anxiety is prayer. Anxiety is counterproductive to living one’s life in grace because it “betrays a significant failure to trust in the Lord!” Spurgeon states “it is that cage of carnal trust, and that box of seed that we are always laboring to fill, that make the worry of this mortal life.” As Christians we are not supposed to be so filled with care, “care-full”, that life becomes nothing more than roller coaster ride of worry tossed from one tribulation to another!
With the “same trustful spirit as children show when they ask their fathers for things, we are to bow our knees and make our requests known to God. It is precisely in our commune with the Father that we realize He who feeds the birds and clothes the grass with flowers (Matthew 6:26-32) is sovereign and willing to grant any request we make when it agrees with His will (Matthew 7:7; John 14:143).
Prayer is not apathy or inaction nor is it the “last resort” to escape tribulations but is the “passionate and persistent integration of human hopes and fears into the redemptive purposes of God in Christ!” Anxiety dissipates the moment we trust that His care is more than sufficient to either endure or escape the most difficult of storms in life.
Step 3: Telling God Everything (verse 6)
In every situation we are to make our requests known to God. Even though this world of ours might seem like one insignificant “sand on the seashore of this vast universe,” the “all-knowing, all-foreseeing, all-planning, all-governing God wills for your Christ-exalting prayers to be the occasion of His action.” One can rest assured that He who created us in His image (Genesis 1:27) and loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for us (John 3:16) loves and will grant both our “small” and “large” requests so that He might fulfill His promise to do good to us (Romans 8:28).
Whether one is troubled with “work, family, the future, money, sex or happiness” God invites us to tell Him of our issues not because He does not know of them but so that our faith might increase when He grants our requests. Also, don’t forget to pray for others (Ephesians 6:18-20; 1 Timothy 2:1).
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
1 Timothy 2:1
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.
The “prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16) for it “allows us to share in the blessings He gives to others and delights in using our prayers as a means through which He operates.”
Let me illustrate this truth with a story:
“More than a generation ago a man named Hotchkiss went to Nigeria where he spent over forty years as a missionary. One day he was late for a service he was to have in a village located across a large plain. There was a rule in Nigeria in those days that no one ever crossed a large open space for fear of stampedes by the herds of wild game that roamed at large in the country. A safe path always passed within a short run of the trees. Hotchkiss was late, and he knew the quickest way to the village was to go directly across the plain. So he started across it. Halfway across the worst happened. He heard the thunder of rhinoceros hoofs, and as he looked up he saw a herd of the monstrous animals headed toward him. There was nowhere to go, so Hotchkiss knelt down in the middle of the plain, clasped his Bible to his chest, and prayed, “Lord, here I come.” An eternity passed as the roar grew louder and then faded away into the distance. At last all was quiet and Hotchkiss arose. He was standing in the midst of the plain marked with the hoofprints of a hundred or more rhinoceros. But he was alive, and he went on to his meeting in the village.
Years later, a couple from Ohio visited this man in Nigeria. In the course of their conversation the husband said to Hotchkiss, “I had a most unusual experience once that concerned you. One night I woke up suddenly with an irresistible urge to pray for you. And I did, committing you to God’s safekeeping.” Hotchkiss asked if he remembered when it was. The man had written it down that night in his Bible, and when they compared the times, it was on the same day and at the same hour that Hotchkiss had been spared on the Nigerian plain.
Someone may argue that God would have saved Hotchkiss anyway, even if the man had not prayed. Probably. But the point is that in God’s marvelous working he moved a man halfway around the world to pray for Hotchkiss in that hour”
Step 4: Having a Thankful Heart (verse 6)
The kind of prayers that eliminate anxiety are those that are given out of a cheerful, joy filled and thankful heart! I believe every prayer should not start until one has spent time reflecting on all the times God has saved and blessed one in the past.
Was not God the one who transformed you from being dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) into being His very own child (John 1:12)? Was He not the one who helped you during your financial crises, ailments, moments of fear and difficulties in your marriages?
Did God ever ignore your cries for help, even when they were at 2 in the morning? Every time we count a blessing God has given us it reminds us we are to go to God in prayer not with commands or demands of a spoiled child but with humble requests and faith that He who can do more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) will either give us the strength to persevere or a way to escape whatever difficulties we face!
Apostle Paul often paired thanksgiving and prayer together (Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17–18; 1 Timothy 2:1; cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:9–10) because he believed with all his heart that in response to his prayers God would not give him a stone (Matthew 7:9-11) but bread and living waters that would quench and satisfy his soul! Prayer is to be given with the following paradox of Christian living in mind: when I am weak, I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9) for that art with me, my Rod and Staff (Psalms 23)!
Step 5: Receiving the Peace of God (verse 7)
7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Once we learn how to live by grace and are taking everything to God in prayer with thanksgiving the final step is to have our anxiety replaced with His peace! This is the kind of peace that is unfathomable and immeasurable because it comes from God who knows the end from the beginning and is unruffled but firmly in control of all things seen and unseen (Colossians 1:16).
This is the kind of inward peace that is grounded in the promises and healing presence of God that fills the heart with unspeakable joy and the overwhelming knowledge that no spiritual harm will befall those who commit themselves into His tender care!
Above all this is the kind of peace that is not humanly devised or achieved but granted, an unshakeable foundation made perfect by the blood of the cross…
20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
This this does not mean prayer ends all strife and trouble in a Christian’s life but that during the raging storms of tribulations Jesus Christ will guard a person’s heart and mind so that anxious worry and care cannot enter. The cure for anxiety is to surrender that which one cannot keep, one’s very life, to obtain that which one cannot loose, eternal peace and security of being a child of God!
The Cost Of Discipleship
57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” 61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
If you are familiar with the stories in your Bible, you would know that…it is not easy being a follower of Christ. What if being a disciple came with a warning label. Well…the Bible is clear that it will cost you a lot to be His disciple. You know when we evangelize and tell people about Jesus, how come we only tell them the good part, like forgiveness, salvation, eternal life and so on. How come we don’t ever tell them what it will cost to be a follower of Christ.
What if…we were to tell them…evangelize to them the dangers of being a disciple? What if, after we tell them about Gods gift of salvation through Christ, then after we tell them the cost. For example…your sins can be forgiven, you can have eternal life in Christ, but after you are saved, you will face some troubles. You will be hated, persecuted, you may lose everything that you have…even your life. Would you still like to follow Christ?
If anyone knew about counting the cost, Jesus did. In this chapter, we see that Jesus “set His face to go to Jerusalem.” Thus, we know that Jesus was fully aware of what was waiting for Him. He was living each day in the shadow of the cross. Each step was one step closer to the agonizing punishment that awaited Him there. Yet he pushed forward.
How appropriate that this was the setting for these three encounters about which we have just read. In this text we see that Luke shared three encounters from Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem to teach us the cost of following Jesus. From them, we learn an important lesson for today. Two thousand years later, Jesus is still calling us to count the cost of following Him. The question then is what do we need to know about this cost? In each of these encounters, Jesus gives us a lesson to be remembered.
First, when counting the cost, we must remember the reality of the consequences…
57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
We have to assume from the text, that somehow, some way Jesus knew something about the man in this first encounter that we do not know. We know that he took the initiative to offer to follow Jesus. From the response he received… it would appear that there were consequences that he had not yet considered. Jesus says to him, “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Well, we know from John chapter one that Jesus was not “homeless” in the traditional sense. Yet his response tells us something about Jesus’ attitude about the things of this world.
There was nothing that Jesus possessed, neither was there an area of His life, that had not been totally surrendered to His Father. The basic, fundamental consequence of a person’s decision to follow Jesus is a complete yielding of everything one would otherwise call their own.
The Bible is full of what the consequences will be for following Christ. Jesus says in Matthew 10:22…
22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
We also have the example of the early church. The apostles followed Christ to martyrdom. They were beaten, persecuted, and ridiculed. Paul even went so far as to promise Timothy that the righteous would suffer. It is altogether naive to follow Christ without considering the consequences.
What might those consequences be? How will it cost you, you ask? It will cost us our service. It will cost us our time. Energy will be depleted. relationships occasionally will be severed. We will have to sacrifice financially and materially. Our reputation may suffer. Our pride will be trampled. These, and so many more, are the results that await us when we choose to follow Jesus. We must consider the cost. Why would anyone endure such a price? Does it seem that the cost is too high?
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Not only are we to remember the reality of the consequences, but...
59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
Wait-wait-wait… At a glance, it might seem this lesson is contradictory to the first. While we are to consider the consequences, we are also to make haste. Indeed, this is one of the most difficult of Jesus’ teachings. This time Jesus took the initiative to call upon one to “follow Me.” His response seems reasonable. It appears that his father had died and he first wanted to honor him through proper burial. But we really do not know. We can question whether his story was valid. Perhaps it was simply an excuse. Personally, I believe that his father was aging, and he wanted to be around until he had died.
But however, you interpret his request, Luke’s emphasis is not on the man’s excuse, but on Jesus’ response to that excuse. We see that response in verse sixty. “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” It seems Jesus was saying to him that there were “spiritually dead” people who could bury his father. However, God was calling him to a task that the “dead” could never do, and that was to preach the kingdom of God. He, on the other hand, was waiting for a convenient time.
For him, Jesus’ message was “Don’t delay” but “Go!”. Most of us are familiar with another man in the New Testament who waited for a better time. His name was Felix. For the large part of his life, he really believed he was complete. As a Roman governor, he had honor and authority. People knew him as he passed by in his royal clothing, surrounded by his personal guard. yet, something was missing. He never could put his finger on it, until he met a man named Paul.
The apostle Paul. How strange that a man who stood before him as a prisoner had something to offer him. I imagine he spent many days thinking upon the time that chained prisoner joyously shared his personal testimony in his court. To the eye, Paul seemed weak and oppressed. But Felix saw an inner strength as he spoke with boldness about what God had done for him. In fact, he was so impressed by what he heard, he couldn’t resist but personally bring Paul back on another occasion just to hear him say more about Jesus.
His interest turned into conviction. Conviction turned into trembling. Finally, he spoke those fatal words, “When I have a convenient season, I will call for you.” He was waiting for the perfect time. Acts 24:27 reveals that such a time likely never came as
27 But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.
Likewise, the man in the second encounter with Jesus had fooled himself into believing that one day, his excuses would run out. One day, everything in life would fall perfectly in order and then he would follow Jesus. One day his family’s needs would all be met. One day, other duties and obligations would be over. But there is a dangerous argument in such reasoning. It assumes that if such a time did come, you would still be willing to respond.
This is why it is so important to respond immediately when God’s Spirit is calling you to be saved. Just as the thorns rise up and choke the seed planted into thorny ground, even so do the cares of this world suffocate the desire of one to come to Christ when a willing heart delays to respond.
This man’s willingness to serve was rejected by Jesus because it contained a qualifier: “First”. “Let me go FIRST...” Is there a qualifier in your life? Are there any “firsts” that would keep you from following Jesus? “First God, let me get through school, then I will follow you.” “First God, let me settle down and start a family, then I will follow you.” “First God, let me get the kids through school.” “First God let me get that promotion, reach that retirement.” “First God, let me...bury my parents.” See how it happens?
Until your first interest is God’s only interest, you will never experience the joys of the Christian life. There is an urgency that must be heeded. It is not enough to respond tomorrow. Jesus says “Go!” Respond immediately.
When following Jesus, we must remember the reality of the consequences, the need for immediacy, and... The danger of looking back.
We learn this lesson from Jesus’ third encounter on the way to Jerusalem. Again, one approaches Jesus promising to follow him. Again, there is a qualifier, similar to the last man we discussed. He wanted to bid his family farewell. Then he would be willing to follow. And again, Luke’s emphasis is not on the excuse, but our Lord’s response. We see it in verse sixty-two. It is a warning against looking back.
61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
A farmer’s plow had only one handle. By placing all of his weight against the plow, and by pressing forward with his body, he was able to move forward. This would not be physically possible if he was looking back. It wasn’t a matter of whether or not the farmer could plow straight. If a farmer looked back, he couldn’t move forward. If he didn’t move forward, he didn’t move at all! The work could not be done. What a wonderful demonstration by Jesus of what happens when we accept Christ. When we look back, we cannot move forward spiritually.
For most of us, the greater the sin in our past, the more difficult it is not to look back. When we choose to follow Jesus, we must do so surrendering our past as well as our future. Not only is meditating on the past harmful, and detrimental, but sinful as well. When we look back, we become unable to see ourselves from God’s perspective.
For this third man, not looking back meant he had to sever ties. However, it may have many ramifications for your life. It may mean seeking God’s help to overcome guilt from previous sins. It may mean forgiving someone who has harmed you. But for everyone, it means letting go of an old lifestyle.
It means surrendering and ending the life we once lived apart from Christ. I want to encourage you this afternoon and say that there is not a single thing in your past that will cause God to reject you. There is not a single thing in your past that must keep you from God if you will bring that past to Him.
The same warnings Christ spoke to these would be followers two thousand years ago, He speaks to us today. But to really understand His message to us through these encounters, we must see the bigger picture.
Here is the good news about the cost of following Jesus. What he taught us about the cost on the way to Jerusalem, He demonstrated perfectly when He arrived. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and took into account the reality of the consequences of the cross. The drops of sweat, as they were blood, served as a cruel reminder of the blood soon to be shed for us. He also made haste, and was immediate in His obedience to the Father. He did not delay.
As the soldiers arrived for his arrest, He responded, “The hour has come...Rise, let us be going.” And finally, our Lord refused to look back. “For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross.” He continued to press forward until He could legitimately say, “It is finished!” If we are to become followers of Jesus, we too must remember the reality of the consequences, the need for immediacy, and the danger of looking back. Your past and mine… “It is finished”
Having now a better idea of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, can you say that you are a follower of Jesus? God wants you first of all to follow Him as Savior and Lord. But also, He wants you to follow Him on a daily basis as your life is surrendered to Him.
Because Jesus paid the cost for us, it is now possible to know Him personally. Jesus was willing to follow the will of His Father all the way to the cross. In light of all that He has done for us, how can we not heed His call for us to follow him?
19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Many may ask “how do I know if the way I worship pleases God?” Scriptures can give us guidelines, other that Old Testament regulations for the Mosaic sacrificial system. But remember at all times, God looks at the heart of worshiper.
Jesus always emphasized the worshiper’s heart. He felt disgusted by those who displayed their devotion in an attention seeking manner. What did you expect when you came here today? Many people come to church on Sunday for a time of spiritual refreshment. A time when the worries and concerns of the world, the struggle of the other six days of the week can be put aside and sense of peace can be regained. You have come to re-energize yourself, to gain strength from being in the presence of God with other believers and ready to go out into the world for another week.
Some may come to church out of a sense of duty. Coming to church is a part of your life and you just don’t feel right if you don’t do it. For some it is the one place in your life where everything does not seem to be in turmoil.
Some of you came because you like the feeling of community, of being a part of something bigger and better than yourself. You appreciate being a part of something where you know you will be accepted.
Some have come for less noble reasons. Some of you are here because your life is in a mess and you think maybe being here will score points with God. Some of you are here solely due to the insistence of your parents, your spouse or your children.
Although some of those reasons have merit, none of them should be our reason to be in a worship service. There is a huge difference between attending church and coming to worship. We should have come here today quite simply to worship. Because you are a worshipper.
“Everyday… all day long, in every place you worship. It is what you do. It’s who you are…. Should you for some reason choose not to give God what He desires, you’ll worship anyway – simply exchanging the Creator for something He created…. Worship is our response to what we value the most.
Whatever is worth the most to you is …. what you worship…. So how do you know where and what you worship? It’s easy. You simply follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money and your allegiance. At the end of that trail you’ll find a throne and whatever, or whomever is on that throne is what’s of highest value to you.
In countless Churches in our country today congregations struggle with the question of what constitutes appropriate worship. Younger people want something contemporary while the older folks defend the traditional forms. So… who is right?
This afternoon, we are looking at a very familiar story about a Samaritan woman. Jesus met the woman at the well in Sychar and reached out to her with a love that was great enough to reach over all the barriers in her life and lead her to faith in Him as her personal Savior. This afternoon lets revisit this story to see what Jesus reveals to her as important truths about worship.
First… Worship Begins As A Response To Contact With The Living…
19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
This Samaritan woman by the way she reacted to Jesus helps us to realize that worship has to do with real life. As Jesus talked with the woman she has come under deep conviction of her sinful lifestyle. It is possible that her questions concerning worship are just an attempt to redirect the conversation to something that is not so uncomfortable.
But it is also possible that her conviction has led her to realize that she has a need to get right with God. Since she perceives that Jesus is a prophet, it would only be natural to assume that He would be able to help her understand when, where and how she should approach God.
The Bible says it this way…
16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
Simply put, you and I were made by Him and made for Him. You exist for one purpose alone – to reflect back to God His matchless glory. If then the entire universe lives to worship God and you were made to worship God, then you need to know something, if you are not worshipping God you cannot be really living.
Not Only Does Worship Begin As A Response To Contact With The Living God but…Secondly, Worship Is Not Limited To A Specific Location…
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
Jesus says the time has now come when worship will no longer be associated with a place. Not Only Is Worship Not Limited To A Specific Location but…Worship Is Only As Valuable As Who And What It Is Based.
Notice if you will in verse twenty-two that Jesus says, “You worship what you do not know”
It was good that they were worshipping the true God, yet it is tragic that they did not know what they were doing. The Samaritans accepted only the first five books of the Old Testament, and thus cut themselves off from much truth about the God they worshipped.
A tragedy of our day is that can also be said that many modern worshippers “worship what you do not know” The demands of truth require that after everything is done to be gentle and sensitive and respectful of other people’s religious beliefs, the time eventually comes when you have to say, Only worship that is based on the Bible is true worship. It does matter what you believe and all roads most certainly do not lead to Heaven.
Now the Lord shifts the attention of the Samaritan woman (and the reader) from the place of worship to the manner of worship. Not ‘where’ but ‘how’?
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Not Only Is Worship Only As Valuable As Who And What It Is Based On but…Worship Is All About The Attitude Of The Heart…
Jesus is saying that before He arrived on the scene there may have existed some reason for conjecture as to the proper place of worship, but His coming has put an end to the old ways. The coming of Jesus and His death upon the Cross has but an end to all the old ways of worship.
When Jesus died on the Cross the veil in the Temple was torn from top to bottom and it was at that moment that worship was changed forever. From now on He says, “true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” “Some have thought that “spirit” here refers to the Holy Spirit, but this seems unlikely. It is true that the Holy Spirit is involved in our worship. But this is not what Jesus is speaking of. He is surely referring to the human spirit and saying that true worship can never accomplished in what is merely outward.
Verse twenty-four says that acceptable worship is “in spirit and truth.” In-other words Jesus is not saying there are two things we must do, worship in spirit and in truth. Instead it is one complex idea we must worship in spirit and truth. The two go together and make up the one acceptable attitude. What it means is that…you are not doing it for show…to attract attention, to make you look like you are so holy. It is true worship that comes from the heart.
When we try to worship God with an attitude that is all about us, we find ourselves coming to the service focused on the music, or the instruments, or on who is doing the preaching. We come like Olympic judges ready to rate the event.
Sometimes it can be difficult to not focus on ourselves because we come so broken and worn down by life that we can see only our own need. We feel so empty and so shallow that we look only to how we can be helped by God. But in worship the aim is to so lose ourselves that we will be filled. For it is in worship where we forget ourselves, we will be restored. It is true that we find ourselves re-energized by worship – but it is not the reason that we are there.
Listen Carefully To What God Is Trying To Say To You Through The Message…
The truth is that true worship is not measured by Your level of entertainment. Your personal satisfaction. Or, Your level of comfort. In fact if you walked away from a worship service voicing criticism of what you did and did not like about that particular service it is fair to say you did not experience worship. If on the other hand you walk away from a worship service saying as the Psalmist (48:1) did…
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised
In the city of our God, In His holy mountain.
“The perfect church service would be the one we were almost totally unaware of; our attention would have been on God.” (CS Lewis)
Nothing escapes the loving and sovereign eye of the Lord. Are you noticing what is important to the Lord? That’s right! Always and ever the heart of the worshipper. Whether praising, praying, giving thanks or singing, the issue always comes down to the matters of the heart.
Let us pray….
Prepare for the Lords Supper:
Pastor Richard Santos
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