Following Jesus

Sermon Delivered January 14, 1998

by Pastor Donald Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Bible quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Wait in '98

Two men met in a railroad station in Austria. One of the men who was a drunken wino was begging for money for his next drink. The stranger asked the man who was begging, "How did you get into such a condition? You seem like a man who has fine abilities."

"Ah," the beggar said, "you don't understand. The cards have always been stacked against me in life. My mother died when I was very young. My father beat me up a great deal. In the war I was separated from my family and I never saw them again."

"That's strange," the other man said. "My background was very similar to yours. My mother died when I was very young. My father also was brutal to me, and I was separated from my family in the war. Because of my adverse circumstances I thought I should try to do the best I could to make something of myself."

As the two men continued to talk they discovered that they were brothers! One of them had become an alcoholic and spent his life as a drunken vagabond. The other had risen to a significant place in society. Both had come from the same circumstances. (Alfred Adler story)

Each of us has some type of a cross to bear in life. Jesus makes an interesting statement concerning this: LUKE 9:23- "Then he said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'"

Every one of us have a cross. Both brothers in our story had a cross but only one took it up. I have a cross to bear. You have a cross to bear. The verse is very clear on this point. Verse 23... "he must deny himself and take up his cross ....

Your cross could come upon you when you are very young or in mid life or towards the last. You might be adopted and never know your biological parents bearing the cross of the unknown. Or maybe you lost a mother or father early on.

My own father had a bad ear ache when he was two years old and someone poured boric acid into his right ear to help him. It ate up his ear drum and more. He lost all hearing in that ear from that day to this. Stereo means nothing to him. Daddy can't tell which direction a sound is coming from.

Then when he was just a boy of 10, he lost his dad due to TB. A few days after the funeral their home burned down. The poor family of 5 had nothing. They had to live in the barn of a relative for some time. All the coal was shoveled out of the coal bin which became their kitchen. Death again struck the little family when one dark night. My father's only brother was killed on his bicycle.

Some time later something snapped and he became permanently dizzy. Every moment for years and years, his head was spinning with dizziness.

Yet my father took up each cross and allowed God to make something beautiful out of his life. He went to church, worked hard and kept sweet, stayed in school. My father is one of the most lovable Christian saints I have ever met. He has been that way all his life.

Galatians 6:5 "For everyone will have to bear his own load of responsibility" (James Moffatt translation)

Please recognize the burdens that a fellow believer might be carrying. Be quick to sympathize and slow to criticize. You don't know the pain or cross they are trying to carry.

Don't be afraid of your cross. We all have a cross to bear. The cross is not just an inconvenience but it is the method of our strength. Properly seen, the cross is a stepping stone to greatness. It helps us get our priorities straight. Jesus did not come to make life easy but to make men great.

LUKE 9:23 "Then he said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'"

Notice FIVE STEPS in Luke 9: 23-25:

  • DESIRE. If anyone would come after me.... How do we get the desire to be saved? If you are out in the world of sin having a big time, how will you desire heavenly things? Even the desire for good must come from God. So how does an evil person start desiring Godly things?

    The shopping mall has the answer. Often until you see something, you didn't even know you wanted it. All those displays and store windows fuel your desire. It is when we see JESUS that we desire Him. He will give us a new heart and a new purpose. These new desires we call the new birth. John 3:3 "Except a man be born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God."

    The true worth of a man is to be measured by the objects he pursues. I remember seeing the Little Rascals. They hitched up a goat to a cart and had a carrot hanging from a fishing pole in front of the hungry animal. He pulled the cart trying to get the carrot. So often we pursue what is immediately before our eyes. Let's lift up our eyes and look to Jesus. Our pursuits will take a quantum leap in the right direction.

    It seems that more people today have a greater desire to live long than they do to live well. By looking to Jesus, by seriously contemplating His life and death, we will be changed.

  • DENIAL LUKE 9:23 "If anyone would come after me, he must deny (deny and keep on denying) himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

    Here is the other half of the cross. The crucifixion of self. Denial means surrender. We must submit our life to Him. All sin originates from a love of self. Human EGO is the foundation of all wickedness. We crucify self and this permits Jesus to take command of our life.

    Self crucifixion is an absolute requirement. Luke 14:27 "Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."

    It is not easy to shoulder your particular cross but with Jesus strength you can achieve it. Total surrender clears the way for burdens to be carried.

    You can't lose, giving your heart to Jesus. Tomorrow the super bowl will be played. The winning players will each receive $48,000. The losing players each receive $30,000. No one loses! When you give away to Jesus your heart, you can't lose either. With Jesus there are no losers.

    Denial or surrender is the key to spiritual victory.

    Mountain goats live at high altitudes and walk icy paths. Danger is a daily hazard. If two goats meet each other on a path 2 or three inches wide on a high cliff what do they do? They can't back up. They cannot pass. If they were to butt each other, both would fall into the abyss thousands of feet below. Nature has taught one goat to squat down and let the other pass over his body.

    Jesus says to be spiritually successful we must deny self. An Adventist church in the Central states was split over a great issue. The older men of the church had the money and wanted to construct and pave a badly needed parking lot. The younger element wanted to build a church school. Sparks flew for months.

    The minister met with the younger group and said: you will never get anything unless you give up, just surrender. So, the next board meeting the leader of the younger element stood up and said: OK, we give up... you can have your parking lot, but will you please help us a little?

    The wealthy leader of the maturity group requested to see the plans for the educational building. After several weeks they cut down the size of the parking lot and trimmed the size of the school and came up with a brand new plan which included both at a cost of $1,000,000. Today both are built and the church is jubilant.

    Jesus pondered the cross and said: Matthew 26:39 "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Jesus denied self and yielded to God.

    You know that geese can fly so much further in formation because it is aerodynamically efficient. A flock can go 70% further on the same energy. Geese fly in formation because they have a long-distance goal to reach. If each goose will surrender his desire to go zooming off on his own journey, and will follow the leader, he will get there faster and with much less exertion.

  • DAILY - LUKE 9:23 "If anyone would come after me, he must deny (deny and keep on denying) himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

    There must be a daily self denial of self. Continuous surrender of selfish worldly ways. I was in Lenoir North Carolina doing a religious house-to- house survey. I asked one lady, Are you saved? She was standing in the doorway with tobacco juice running out the corner of her mouth. She grinned an almost toothless smile and said: "Yes! I was saved way back in 1960 (or whatever it was).

    Denial is not just a once in a life time event. You don't make a single commitment to Jesus and consider it a "Done Deal". In Luke Jesus calls us to a daily surrender. I do it every morning. I enjoy giving my heart to Jesus. I would not even think of starting my day without this commitment. It isn't something I did way back in 1980, I did it this morning. So the cross does not terminate with the death of Jesus. It is ongoing in each believer. It is impossible to be a Christian and avoid the cross.

    The paradoxical thing here is that we find our life by losing it. By giving it away to our God. When you die to selfishness you find rebirth into real life. The old man or old nature is replaced by a new person in Christ Jesus.

  • DEVOTION Here is where the FOLLOWING comes in. We are so devoted that we follow Him wherever He leads us. Many people follow Jesus much the way a man follows a wheelbarrow....he is pushing it the way he wants it to go. Lovers pattern or model their life after each other. Jesus said: "If you love me, keep my commandments."

    Following is dangerous because following changes the follower. Remember Jim Jones and David Koresh, etc. So be judicious in choosing who you follow. Matthew 4:19 "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."

    Our part is to follow..... And if we follow, He will do the MAKING! Jesus empowers each follower with strength to keep following. Follow close in Jesus' footsteps. There is no such thing as a distant follower of Jesus.

    Matthew 10:38 "and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

  • DEATH Matthew 10:39 "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." The smell of death runs through these verses. It talks about losing life. It talks about our cross.

    Mark 8:35-37- "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?"

    Jesus talks about losing our life even our soul. I understand that Jesus is my example in many many ways: --Jesus is my example in perfect submission to the will of the Heavenly Father. --Jesus is my example in prayer. Jesus went to church on the Sabbath day.. --Jesus died on the old rugged cross... so do I have to do that? Yes! Jesus is my example in death! Christians die daily. We Die to self. Romans 6:6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-- 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. In my ministry I have met and heard about many seriously handicapped people. Worral had been stricken with rheumatoid arthritis at age 15, and when I met him 30 years later, he was totally paralyzed except for one finger, could barely speak and was totally blind. But he had a string tied to that one mobile finger that could turn on a recorder. He wrote for national magazines, authored books and led a happy and influential life from his bed. This was possible because after initial prayers brought no healing, he accepted his cross graciously and said, "Well Lord! If this is the size plot in life you've staked out for me, let's you and me together show the world what we can grow on it." Down the path of humble acceptance, Worral achieved a happier and more useful life within the limitations of a very restricted circumstance than most people ever will manage with excellent physical health. Cliff, however, had been a powerfully built construction worker, but at age 18 he fell from a dirt-moving vehicle and a huge wheel ran over him, shearing his spinal cord just above his hips. Doctors explained to him after saving his life, "You'll never walk or sit up in a chair again." But Cliff insisted "God never intended anyone to live like this. With Him all things are possible, so I'm praying for and expecting `my miracle' and one of these days I'll walk out of this hospital; and when I do I'll thumb my nose at you unbelieving doctors who said it would never happen." Over the years he never yielded that determined goal, which consumed all his energies and efforts. No healing ever came. Cliff grow despairing, critical and bitter as his life wasted away in futile insistence upon "Changing what cannot be changed." The bottom line is to pray for healing and at the same time patiently accept the limitations that God allows, and with God's help live the best life we can within them. Like Jesus, let us take up the painful cross that is ours to bear. 2 Cor 12:7 Paul said: To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. There can be no meal without a mill, no throne without a thorn, no gain without pain, and no crown without a cross. Take up your cross and wait for the Lord's will to be done and you will be great in 98.

    Opening Hymn: 154 When I survey the cross
    Scripture Reading: Luke 9:23-25
    Closing Hymn: 476 Burdens are lifted at Calvary
    
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