April 15, 2012

Pastor Joe Wittwer

Not a Fan!

#6—Come after me: A passionate pursuit

 

Opening:

    Did you know that on an average day, 3,502 fifth graders fall in love?  So I thought it would be good to get some wisdom about love and marriage from these 10 year-old experts.

HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHOM TO MARRY?

  • Alan: You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.  

  • Kirsten: No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with.  

WHAT IS THE RIGHT AGE TO GET MARRIED?

  • Camille: Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then.

HOW WOULD YOU MAKE A MARRIAGE WORK?

  • Ricky: Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck.  

Ah, love.  Did you know that God compares our relationship with Him to a marriage?  He loves us like a groom loves a bride, and wants our love in return.  Today, we’re going to talk about Jesus’ call to “come after Me”—following Jesus is a passionate pursuit.

 

Introduction and offering:

    Thank you Kayla for sharing your story with us.

    This is part 6 of the “Not a Fan” series, based on this book by Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan.  We are looking at the difference between being a fan of Jesus and a follower of Jesus—many people are content to just be fans, but Jesus calls us to follow.  Someone asked me if fans go to heaven.  That’s beyond my pay grade—I leave those calls for God.  But I think you have to take the question seriously when you read the words of Jesus:

Matthew 7:21–23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Jesus makes it sound like there will be people who thought they were in, but weren’t.  I don’t want to be one of those people.  I want to be a full-on follower.  When I stand before Him, I want to hear Him say, “Well done,” not, “I never knew you.”

    We need to let Jesus define the relationship; we need to let Jesus tell us what it means to follow Him.  He said:

Luke 9:23 If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

We are taking four weeks to break this verse down and talk about what it means to follow Jesus.  Last week, we saw that He invites anyone to follow; anyone means anyone; anyone means you!  “If anyone would come after me.”  What does it mean to “come after” Jesus?  It refers to a passionate pursuit.  

The Big Idea: Jesus calls us to “come after” Him with the same passion that we would pursue someone we love.

Before we dive in let’s receive the offering.  I’ll give a heads up for the:   

Central American partnership offering on April 29.

  • Nicaragua: two orphanages.  Help buy a van to transport 5-12 year old orphans to and from school and orphanage.  $18,000.

  • El Salvador: Iglesia Elim Church.  Start a restaurant that will fund a feeding program for hundreds of undernourished children.  $28,000.  Provide a computer center with 10 computers to train high schoolers and grads with skills for the job market.  $14,000.

  • Mexico: Penasco Christian Fellowship.  Build 3 houses for a training center to send church planters across Mexico.  $30,000.

 

1. “Come after me”: a passionate pursuit.

    What do you think of when you hear about someone “coming after” another person?  It could mean violence: “I’m coming after you, sucker.”  I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant.  Or it could refer to a romantic pursuit: I decided to come after Laina.  (More about that later.)  

ILL: The King James version of this verse reads, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  I was talking once with a young single woman who offered to tell me her favorite verse.

    “What is it?” I asked.

    She said, “Luke 9:23.  ‘If any man would come after me, let him.’”

    She was hoping a man—any man—would come after her!

We all want someone to come after us, someone to pursue us, someone to want us.  

ILL: Laina and I watched “Downton Abby”, which is a really well-written, well-acted, high-class British soap opera set in the early 20th century.  It’s about life in a British country home, a landed estate, and the relationships between the aristocracy and the servants.

    Daisy, a kitchen maid, agreed to marry William, another servant, as he lay dying from his war injuries.  She did it only to make him happy; she didn’t love him.  After William died, his father invited Daisy to tea.  She didn’t want to go, and did so reluctantly. Over tea, William’s father told her that she was all he had left in the world.  Would she let him treat her like a daughter, and have a special place in his heart?  Daisy’s face transformed and she said, “I’ve never been special to anybody.”  

    I turned to Laina and said, “That’s what everyone wants—to feel special to someone.”

I want you to know that you are special to Someone—more than you know.  There is Someone who is pursuing you with passion.  More about that later.

    “Come after me.”  It’s a passionate pursuit.  

I honestly don’t know if that’s exactly what Jesus meant by “come after”.  The English words “come after” may have the sense of passionate pursuit; I’m not sure the Greek did.  But there are many other places in the Bible that make it clear this is what Jesus expects. I’ve listed some of those on your outline.  We’ll read just a few of these and I think it will be clear that God wants us to pursue Him with all our hearts.

Deuteronomy 4:29 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.

How does God want us to seek Him or pursue Him?  With all our heart and soul.  Passionately.  Enthusiastically.  

Deuteronomy 6:5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

How should we love the Lord?  With all our heart and soul and strength!  We’re to love God with all we’ve got!

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

When will you find God?  When you seek Him with all your heart!  When you pursue Him with intensity.

Psalm 27:8 (ESV) You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”

God invites us to seek His face.  This is a call to face-to-face relationship with God.  It is an invitation into intimate and honest relationship.  “Let’s have some face-time.”  That’s His call; what’s your answer?  I hope it is, “Lord, I’m coming; I’m seeking your face.”  

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

How are we to seek or pursue Him?  Earnestly—the Hebrew word literally means “early”.  I’ll get up early, I’ll stay up late; I’ll do whatever I have to do to know You.

ILL: My freshman year in college, the donut man stopped by our dorm every night around 10:30.  Guys would take a break from their studies and buy a couple donuts for the late night studies.  

    One night, my friend Tom Baker took a donut break.  Later, sitting in his room eating his donut, he realized he hadn’t read his Bible or prayed yet today.  He thought, “I’m just too busy.”  And he heard God whisper, “You weren’t too busy for a donut, but you’re too busy for Me?”  Tom put his studies aside and opened his Bible and prayed…while he finished his donut!

Think of all the excuses you make for not seeking God, then read Psalm 63:1 again:

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Do you seek him earnestly?  Do you thirst for God like dry land thirsts for rain?  Do you long for God like a thirsty person longs for water?  One more:

Matthew 22:36–40  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus is asked what is the greatest or most important of all the commandments, and He selected Deuteronomy 6:5, which we read a moment ago.  Love God with all you’ve got.  Love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.  God doesn’t want a half-hearted love, a lukewarm love, a leftover love—He wants our best.  A passionate pursuit.

    So, I can’t make an airtight case that this passionate pursuit is what Jesus meant when He said, “come after me”, but I think it’s clear from the rest of Scripture that it’s what He wants from us.

    If you’ve ever been in love, I want you to think back to the chase—the pursuit of the loved one.  You did some crazy things for love.  Kyle tells the story of wanting to see DesiRae so badly that he borrowed a cheap bicycle and pedaled across 80 miles of Kansas—practically killed himself!  Crazy!  People in love do crazy things.

ILL: The fall before Laina and I got engaged, I discovered that she loved the Bernina sewing machine she was using in a college class.  I decided to show her my love by buying her that Bernina for Christmas!  It cost $400.  At the time, I made $100 a month as a youth pastor.  You can do the math—that’s four months worth of salary!  I didn’t have a savings account for the simple reason that I didn’t have any money.  So I went to Noel and explained what I wanted to do.  I asked if I could eat at his house for free and borrow his car for free.  He agreed, and for the next four months, I saved every penny I made.  On Christmas day, Laina opened that Bernina sewing machine—was she ever surprised…that it wasn’t an engagement ring!  No, she loved it.  For me, it was the most extravagant gift I’d ever given anyone.  

Spend 1/3 of your annual salary on a single Christmas gift—crazy!  We do crazy things for love.

    Do you have any stories like that with Jesus?  Have you ever done anything crazy for Jesus?  

ILL: In college, I led a bunch of students on a spring break outreach.  We spread out all over town sharing the gospel and inviting people to a service that night in a high school gym.  At one point, I couldn’t find anyone to talk with, and I was so excited about Jesus, that I started flagging down passing cars.  One car with an older couple pulled over; she rolled down the passenger window and asked if everything was ok.  I said, “Great.  Do you know Jesus?”  She looked at her husband, rolled her eyes, rolled up the window, and they rolled on out of there.

Crazy!  I quickly realized that it really was crazy and did something else.

ILL: Early in our marriage, I was struggling to find time to pray.  Our dog often wanted out in the middle of the night—tiny bladder.  I thought, “I can pray now.”  It worked so well that I started setting my alarm for 3 AM.  I would let the dog out and pray from 3-4, before catching a couple more hours sleep.  “I will seek you early.”  

Crazy!  I’ve got stories of giving all my money away, and taking crazy risks—all for the love of Jesus.  

    Do you have any crazy stories with Jesus—anything you’ve done for love that others would say, “That’s crazy”?  That’s the passionate pursuit—come after me!  We do crazy things for love!  Let’s look at a Biblical example given by Jesus.

 

2. A Biblical example.

Matthew 13:44–46 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Two stories with the same message: the Kingdom of heaven is worth everything you’ve got!

    In the first story, a man is working in a field when he uncovers a treasure.  People often hid things in the ground.  A man leaving for war might bury his riches for safekeeping.  If he died in the war, the treasure remained buried and forgotten until someone stumbled upon it.  In this story, the man who discovers the treasure reburies it, and then buys the field.  What did it cost him?  All he had.  He sells everything: his house, his oxen, his cart—everything.  His friends and family begin to talk; they think he’s lost his mind.  It’s crazy.  But he has to get that treasure.  It was worth everything to him.

    In the second story, a pearl merchant finds one of great value—an exceptional pearl of rare beauty and great value.  He too bought the pearl, and what did it cost him?  Everything he had.  He sold everything he had—his lake house, his Ferrari, his Rolex, his iPad 3—pearl merchants did well—he had to have that pearl.  It was worth everything to him.

    Contrast these two stories with the rich young man who wanted to follow Jesus.  Jesus told him, “You lack only one thing: sell all you have and give the money to the poor and come follow me.”  The young man went away sad—he couldn’t let go of the money.  He was a fan.  Jesus wasn’t worth everything to him.

    This is the passionate pursuit.  Is Jesus worth everything to you?  Is He worth getting up early to pray or read the Bible?  He is worth spending some time with each day?  Is He worth obeying when He asks you to do something hard?  Is He worth letting go of some of your money—or all of it if that’s what He asks?  Is He worth giving up a bad habit, letting go of a wrong relationship?  Is He worth humbling yourself and admitting that you need Him desperately?  Is Jesus worth everything to you?  

    For fans, Jesus is more of a casual weekend thing.  They don’t get too carried away with it.  Fans might show up at church as long as they don’t have something better to do.  They might even throw a few bucks in the offering or volunteer to help occasionally.  But that’s the extent of it.  Fans don’t want to get too carried away, but followers understand that’s not how Jesus defined the relationship.  Following Jesus is a passionate pursuit that requires everything we have.  

ILL: Kyle tells this story in the book:

Several years ago I heard the testimony of an elderly missionary who was returning from the foreign field to the United States to live out the days he had left with his married daughter in the Midwest. Upon arriving on the California coast he boarded a bus to begin his trip across the country. The first night the bus stopped in Las Vegas. He had been out of the United States for more than thirty years. He had never been to Las Vegas. He checked into a hotel and took a walk down the strip. Although it was close to midnight, it looked like midday, because of all the lights. As he walked down the strip he heard the loud music, saw the amazing hotels, and even went to a car show where he saw the world’s finest automobiles. He saw the games being played in the casinos and heard the money coming out of the slot machines. He saw the marquees announcing the amazing entertainers. He saw the drink specials announced and the amazing food advertised in the restaurants. Eventually he went back to his room in the high-rise hotel where he was staying. He entered the room but didn’t turn on the light. He walked across the room and opened the curtains; he got on his knees in front of the window, looked down at the Vegas strip, and prayed this prayer, “God, I thank you that tonight I haven’t seen anything I want more than I want you.”

Is there anything you want more than God?  Because there is nothing that He wants more than you.

 

3. The ultimate “come after” story.

I told you that you are special to Someone—that there is Someone who is pursuing you.  And that Someone is Jesus.  He said:

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

This is why He came.  He came to seek and save the lost.  

Jesus said this after stopping in Jericho to have lunch with Zacchaeus.  Remember last weekend we said that Jesus invites anyone to follow, and that anyone included Matthew, a despised tax collector.  Zacchaeus was also a tax collector, and when Jesus went to his home for lunch, it created a huge buzz in Jericho.  Everyone was upset.  Of all the people Jesus could have lunched with, He chose Zac—a traitor and cheat!  Of course, this encounter with Jesus transformed Zac—he became a new person, and a follower of Jesus.  It was at the end of this encounter with Zac that Jesus said, “I came to seek and save the lost.”  

    Jesus came on a search and rescue mission.  He came seeking lost people. He once likened it to a shepherd who had 100 sheep, and one got lost.  He left the 99 in the sheepfold and searched everywhere until he found that lost sheep.  He could have said, “Sucks to be you, stupid sheep.  I’ve got 99 more—I won’t worry about you.”  No—he searched everywhere until he found it—a passionate pursuit.  Then he carried it home and through a party for all his friends.  “Rejoice with me!  I found my lost sheep!”  He came to find the one lost sheep—He came to find you.

    Think about that.  Think about Him sacrificing everything to find you.  Think about Him being beaten, mocked and spat upon; think about Him being flogged and crucified—all to find you.  The man gave all he had to get the treasure in the field; the merchant gave everything he had to get the pearl; Jesus gave everything to get you.  

    This is the ultimate “come after” story.  God came after you.  Jesus came to seek and find you, and gave everything to do it.  That’s how much you mean to Him.  

    Everything He calls us to do, He’s already done.  He calls you to pursue Him passionately—He’s already pursued you that way.  He’s only asking you to love Him back the way He loves you.  When you understand what you mean to Him, it changes what He means to you.  When you know how much He loves you, you want to love Him back.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

But what if you’ve lost that loving feeling?  I know some of you are hearing this, and still really don’t care.

 

4. What if you’ve lost the passion?

    In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, Jesus sends letters to seven churches.  In the first letter to the church in Ephesus, He praises them for their hard work, endurance and orthodoxy.  Then He says,

Revelation 2:4–5 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

They had forsaken or left their first love.  They didn’t love like they used to; their love had grown cold.  

    This happens.  We see it all the time in marriages.  If couples don’t pay attention and work to keep their love alive and growing, it slowly settles into boring disinterest.  And we see it spiritually.  People who were once passionately pursuing Jesus cool off and become fans.  

    The desert fathers in the fourth and fifth centuries feared the sin of acedia.  It is a Greek word that became the basis for one of the 7 deadly sins known as sloth.  Sloth makes us think of lazy.  “Dear, could you hand me the remote from the coffee table?”  We don’t want to get up to change the channel; we don’t want to even move to get the remote!  But acedia was more than laziness; it was apathy.  You reach a point where you simply say, “I don’t care.”  God loves you and sent His Son to die on the cross to forgive your sins, and you shrug your shoulders.  You hear that you are special to Him, and you don’t care.  That’s acedia, and it’s an epidemic among fans!  The passion is gone. There’s no pursuit.

    It was an epidemic in Ephesus, and Jesus gave them a prescription to renew their love.  He called them to repent, remember and redo.

    Repent: turn from your apathy and turn to God.  Repent means doing a 180.  It means change. Insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results. You can’t stay where you are, and keep doing the same things.  Repent—turn to God.  Make a change.

    Remember: remember the height from which you have fallen.  Remember your first love.  Remember what it was like when you were passionately pursuing Jesus.  

    Redo: do again the things you did at first.  If I want to keep my love for Laina alive, I keep doing the first things.  We go on dates.  We go for walks and hold hands and talk.  We have fun together.  We pursue each other.  And if I want to keep my love for Jesus alive, I remember that He is still pursuing me and I pursue Him.  I do the things I did at first: read the Bible, pray, share Jesus with others.  

    You don’t have to live in bored apathy!  Jesus is calling you to come after Him, to pursue Him with passion.  Is He worth everything to you?