Follow (part 3) Sermon Audio

On Sunday, August 27, 2017 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Matthew 9:9-17.  This message was part 3 in the “Follow” series.  Below you will find the audio from this message to listen to or share.

 

To listen offline, click the link to download:

Follow #3 8.27.17

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

Follow (part 3) Sermon Questions

On Sunday, August 27, 2017 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Matthew 9:9-17.  This message was part 3 in the “Follow” series.  Below are a series of questions related to this message for personal reflection or group discussion.

 

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read Matthew 9:9-17
  3. Imagine that you are one of Jesus’ disciples and MATTHEW is added to the team.  What do you think they were thinking?  Have you ever had a challenging situation with someone joining a team you were on that you had a bad history with?
  4. “Understanding our sin is a prerequisite for us knowing Jesus as our Savior.”  What do you think this previous sentence means?
  5. Do you have a small group or community this fall where you gather around Jesus together?  If so, what led you to join that community?  If not, why not?
  6. What are some of the things that you tend to find your hope in BESIDES Jesus?  What does it mean for you to find your ultimate hope in Jesus alone?
  7. Have you ever demonstrated love to someone and because of that demonstration been looked down upon by other Christians or religious people?
  8. What is one particular application you took away from this passage/message?

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.

Follow (part 3) Sermon Preview

2,000 years ago Jesus walked the earth.  He really was born in Bethlehem.  He really did spend time in Egypt as a toddler.  He really did grow up in Nazareth with His family.  He really conducted a public ministry that included miracles and teaching with authority.  He really cast out demons.  He really died on the cross.  He really rose from the dead.  He really is the Son of God!

In His very real life, Jesus interacted with very real people.  He talked with fishermen, business people, and tax collectors.  He interacted with men and women – young and old.  He spent time with people of the majority ethnic group in the region where He lived, as well as minorities.  He talked with the sophisticated and the simple; hung out with religious leaders and notorious sinners; had friends from red states and blue ones and who “voted” for all kinds of political candidates.

As He interacted with these diverse groups, there was a powerful consistency to His message.  Everywhere He went, He invited people to simply, “Follow.”  In Matthew chapters 8-10 alone, there are eight references to people following Jesus or Jesus asking people to follow Him. 

Since Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we can expect a consistency to Jesus call in our own lives.  In a very real way, He is inviting us to “follow Him.” 

Like those in the first century, Jesus is issuing this call to “follow” to a very diverse group of people.  Men, women, young, old, white, black, rich, poor, white collar, blue collar, upper class, middle class, Democrat, Republican, Independent, Sooners, Cowboys, and Longhorns . . . we all receive the same call from the Savior . . . come and FOLLOW JESUS!

  • Sometimes we think we are too old to start following Jesus – that we do not have enough time left in our lives to begin following Him.
  • Sometimes we think we are too young to follow Jesus – we will get around to it later.
  • Sometimes we think we are too broken to follow Jesus – we feel unworthy because of past mistakes.
  • Sometimes we think we are too independent to follow Jesus – we are intent on making our own way.

Whatever our excuse, we need to look back on the pages of Scripture and see all the people who followed Jesus WHO WERE JUST LIKE US.  As they got up from their past and followed Jesus into their future, we can find divine inspiration for our own lives. 

This Sunday at Wildwood Community Church we will be continuing our “Follow” series by looking at Matthew 9:9-17.  This great passage sees Jesus invite a surprising group of people to Follow Him . . . including the author of the Gospel of Matthew!  In this invitation, we find hope for sinful people like you and me.  Make plans to be in our 8:30, 9:45, or 11:00 service as we “Follow” Jesus together.  See you Sunday . . . and bring a friend!

Follow (part 2) Sermon Audio

On Sunday, August 20, 2017 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Matthew 8:18-34.  This message was part 2 of the “Follow” sermon series.  The audio of the sermon is available below to listen to or share.

 

To listen offline, click the link below to download:

Follow #2 08.20.17

 

To listen online, use the media player below to listen:

Follow (part 2) Sermon Questions

On Sunday, August 20, 2017 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Matthew 8:18-34.  This message was part 2 of the “Follow” series.  Below are a set of questions related to the sermon for personal reflection or group discussion.

 

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read Matthew 8:18-34
  3. What are examples from your own life where something much smaller has eclipsed your desire to follow Jesus?
  4. What is some of the cost you have endured because you are following Christ?  Think about Christians around the world today.  What are some of the challenges they face BECAUSE they follow Jesus?
  5. What are the current circumstances in your life that are preventing you from having peace?  How does knowing Jesus is “in the boat” with you change things?
  6. What are some areas in your past or present where you choose your “pigs” over following Jesus?  How does this illustration help you see the folly of that decision?
  7. Forgiveness is available in Christ!  Hope is available in Him.  Let’s fall at His feet and not allow anything in our lives to stay eclipsing the Son for long.
  8. What is one particular application you took away from this passage/message?

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.

Follow (part 2) Sermon Preview

Three weeks ago at Wildwood, we celebrated the baptisms of 15 individuals.  These 15 were some of the over 80 who have been baptized at Wildwood in the past year.  At Wildwood, when we baptize people we allow them to share their stories of how they came to faith in Jesus Christ, and all that Jesus has done and is doing in their lives.  (See highlights here, and testimonies here.)  These services are very encouraging times and a celebration of some of what God is doing. 

At our baptism services in July, we had nearly 1,000 people come and hear the stories of the greatness of Jesus.  Most of us even applauded again and again as an act of celebration and worship as people came up out of the waters of baptism, thanking God for His grace. It is hard in that setting to NOT say “YES!” to Jesus and desire to follow Him.  But what happens when we leave that service?  What happens when we leave that room?  Will we follow Jesus consistently in our own lives? 

I want to assert today that in the 19 days since that baptism service, all of us who applauded saying “YES JESUS!” in that moment, have said “NO” to Him in another.  Sure, for some in attendance who are still exploring the claims of Christ, their “no” or “not yet” is a consistent expression of the process of discovery they are on.  But I want to suggest that all of us – even those of us who have been a Christian for decades now – amazingly have said “NO” to following Jesus several times in the last few weeks.  Don’t believe me?

  • Jesus invites us to forgive those who have wronged us, but have we followed Him there?  Some of us have said “NO” to following Him down the path of granting forgiveness.
  • Jesus invites us to share the Gospel message with those who don’t know it, but have we followed Him there?  Some of us have said “NO” to following Him down the Roman road of evangelism.
  • Jesus invites us to be pure in our thoughts and actions, but have we followed Him there?  Some of us have said “NO” to following Him there and fed impure thoughts, motives, and actions.

Why do we do this?  Why do we say “NO” to Someone so great?  Well, we are going to talk about that this Sunday at Wildwood Community Church as we talk about what it means to “Follow” from Matthew 8:18-34.  Our strange pension to say “NO” to Jesus in different areas of our lives is mirrored in the lives of those who gathered around Him in the first century during Jesus’ earthly ministry.  We will look at some of their struggles and make parallels in our own life.  We will also talk about the forgiveness found for all of us in Jesus, AND how we might say YES to following Him more this week.

Make plans to join us this Sunday in our 8:30, 9:45, or 11:00 service!

Thoughts on Charlottesville . . .

Like many of you, I am saddened and angered by the events of Charlottesville last weekend.  Not only was this event sickening in its own right, it also serves as a mirror exposing the flaws in our own society that we sometimes ignore.  Turning on the news or logging in to social media over the past week prevents us from pretending that this ugliness does not exist.  Like a person who has had food in their teeth all day, but did not realize it until looking into the mirror, so these events remind us of a blight that still mars our society and darkens the hearts of way too many men and women.  I have spent a fair amount of time over the past few days pondering this issue, and want to share a few thoughts here.

First of all, I want to acknowledge that this problem is big and this blog post is small.  I am not trying to be comprehensive here.  Much has been written about the topic of racism that is far superior to my comments . . . I merely want to add my perspective to the conversation, and attempt to shine some light from Scripture on this issue.

All that said, I want to share 5 thoughts with you here:

Thought #1:  Racism is Sin. 

Racism is wrong and counter to the will of God.  It is not primarily a matter of politics or history or sociology (though it impacts and exposes itself in those things).  Racism is primarily an expression of humanity’s rebellion against God.  God created ALL PEOPLE in His image, regardless of race, gender, or any other expression of diversity (Genesis 1:26).  We were created in His image and in His image equally.  It is this revelation that informs us that all human life has equal dignity and value from conception to the grave, regardless of the color of skin. 

We also know that because sin has entered the world, so ALL PEOPLE have equally fallen short of the glory of God regardless of skin color  (Romans 5:12).  There is no superior race.  All have sinned (and keep sinning).  When it comes to a “righteousness” beauty pageant the Bible would say that it is a 1,000 way tie for last (“no one is righteous, not even one” – Romans 3:9-18).  It is this revelation that informs us that all human life has equally fallen short of the glory of God and is in equal need of God’s grace to transform, regardless of skin color. 

Additionally, we see God’s desire to redeem people from every race based on His grace (not our performance – Ephesians 2:8-9).  This redemption (that is found only in Jesus Christ) has global implications.  Jesus commissioned His disciples to go “into all the world” and make disciples in His name (Matthew 28:19-20).  We know that this great commission will ultimately yield people from every race populating heaven (Revelation 5:9-10).  Heaven would be hell for a racist, as they would be in the presence of people of all skin colors forever.   It is this revelation that informs us of God’s desire to redeem by His grace in Christ people from all races. 

At its core, racism seeks to elevate one race over another, and in the process denies at least one of these three core truths. Racism is sin, and it is a particularly divisive and destructive sin with far reaching societal implications.  It should not be tolerated and should be rebuked everywhere it is found by Christians.  

ACTION:  Search your own heart to see if the sin of racism is hiding in any corners.  If so, repent of that sin.

 

Thought #2:  Racism effects Real People. 

I am a white man.  I live as a member of the majority race in my country.  Try as I might, I will never fully know what it feels like to be a member of a minority here.  But the best thing I can do is to listen to those who are suffering.  As I listen to those living as minorities in our TOWN, much less our country, I realize that racism hurts.  I think it is partly because of this that it hurts the heart of our Heavenly Father.  I heard the spoken word artist Propaganda (an African American Man) recently at an event and he said something very powerful.  He was asked what he thought about people who say “All lives matter,” when asked about “Black lives matter.”  Propaganda said, “We need to stop and think for a moment about a society where it is necessary to have a movement reminding people that black lives matter.  No one needs to be reminded that white lives matter, but we need to remember our country’s history and the attitudes still harbored by some, denying that black lives matter as much as white lives.”  Propaganda’s comment has stuck with me.  We need to remember the pain that racism has caused and is causing, listen to the experiences of others and try to understand them, and respond with compassion to those who are feeling its effects.  Too often people talk about racism like it is a subject in school like Algebra.  Algebra never hurt anyone.  I can complain about “x” and solve for “y” without hurting anyone, but I cannot escape the emotional component of discussing a topic like racism, so I must proceed with grace, compassion, and a listening ear.  “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” – James 1:9.  Racism sins against and hurts our neighbors, which is a direct violation of the greatest commandments (Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind AND love your neighbor as yourself) – especially when we see how Jesus illustrated who our neighbor was with a story (The Good Samaritan in Luke 10) that focused on people of different races being “neighbors!”  Let us love and listen well.

ACTION:  Talk with a friend from a different race and ask them about their experience.  If your friendships are mostly with those of the same race, reach out and begin to get to know someone new!

 

Thought #3:  Racism is a Symptom of a Problem all of us Have.

Now I am not saying that all of us would grab a torch and join that mob in Virginia.  As a matter of fact, a very small number of people (thankfully) would be added to their number.  However, racism is a symptom of a much larger root problem:  sin.  Romans 3:23 tells us that “All” have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  All means all.  Sin shows up in the adulterous spouse, the wall street embezzler, the self-reliant church goer, and the racist protester.  It is the same sin nature that has enslaved us all, yet expresses itself with diverse (yet consistent) ugliness.  Interesting enough, Romans 6:15-23 pictures our flesh like a slave master forcing us to works unrighteousness.  I need to remember this, because as I watch this ugliness play out on television, I am tempted to feel self-righteous and morally superior to these racist protesters.  I can be repulsed by their expression of sin, but I also can be reminded the ugliness of their behavior shows up in me in other ways and areas.  We all are in need of God’s grace and a total transformation.

ACTION:  Confess your sin to God and find forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

 

Thought #4:  Jesus is the Answer.

There is an old story about a child in Sunday school who always wanted to give the right answer.  The teacher asked the child, “What is small, brown, and furry and eats lots of nuts?”  The little boy (wanting to be right and righteous) blurts out – “I think its a squirrel, but I’m going to say ‘Jesus.’”  Given the complexity of race relations, it may sound trite to you that I would suggest “Jesus” as the answer to the problem of racism, but this is exactly what the Bible tells us. 

We sometimes think that racism is an American problem, or that it is a new problem.  Racism is not a new or American problem.  It is an old human problem. 

In the first century, Jesus came as a Jew, and ministered His entire earthly ministry inside of the nation of Israel.  Was there a “racism” problem there?  Why yes, there was.  There were two groups of people:  Jews (ethnic Israel plus a few proselytes) and Gentiles (everyone else).  This divide was very real and revealed itself in a variety of ways in their society.  When Jesus called the disciples to go into “all the world,” it took a while for His followers to “get it.”  In fact, it took a few decades.  Jesus gives His disciples the great commission at the time of His ascension.  15 years later, there is still a strong divide between Jews and Gentiles, so Jesus gives Peter a vision in Acts 10 and guides him to Cornelius’s home to witness the conversion of a Gentile.  Yet Peter still struggled to understand (the preconceived notions he had been taught from youth were hard to “unlearn”).  Five years after the events of Acts 10, Peter still was treating Gentile converts in an inferior way and has to be confronted by Paul in Galatians 2.  It is in part because of their struggle with this particular form of racism that the Spirit prompts Paul to write “He Himself is our peace, who has made us both (Jew and Gentile) one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross thereby killing the hostility (Ephesians 2:14-16). 

The hope for the divisions of people in the first century was found in Jesus Christ . . . and that is the same today.  The hope for peace and unity is found not in government (though they should be pressed to establish fair laws and keep the peace.)  The hope for today is found in Jesus Christ.  Let us not allow the sinfulness of this season to distract us from the true answer to life’s biggest dilemmas.  Like Paul in the first century, we know the answer to this question.  Let us call people to Jesus (with grace and boldness) and see Him unite us in one body.  This is the only ultimate peace and unity that will last.

ACTION:  Pray for unity among Christians in your community, regardless of race.  May the divisions of race NOT divide the church in heart or spirit.  We are a part of the same Body!  Read John 17 and the book of Ephesians or 1 Corinthians as reminders of this truth, and be a bridge builder in your community in the name of Jesus.

 

Thought #5:  There is Hope for All (If We Trust in Christ)

One conviction I have concerning sin is that I never want to talk about it as a “them” issue.  Sin is an “us” issue.  As we have previously established, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God.  Therefore, I want to acknowledge that the mirror of these past few days may have revealed some racism in our own hearts.  In fact, you may be reading this right now and coming to grips with your own sinfulness.  If so, what are you to do?  Too often, in posts like this, Christians feel the need to simply point out the sin, without also pointing out the Savior.  I do not want to do that.  Yes, racism is sinful.  BUT, if even the most ardent neo-Nazi or KKK member turned to Jesus, they too could find their sins forgiven and their lives transformed.  There is hope for all of us, and it is not found in our righteous past or present, but in Jesus’ righteousness and grace.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said, “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, not thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).”  Paul could just as easily have added “racist” to that list.  If this is a sin you have struggled with, hear the Word of God . . . “And such were some of you.  But you were washed.  You were sanctified . . .”  Hope for all sinners  is found in Jesus Christ.  As fellow sinners, let’s pray for the salvation of those enslaved by racism’s nasty yoke.

ACTION:  Pray for the salvation of those who do not know Christ, and (as God gives you opportunity) share the good news of Jesus with those around you.

 

Conclusion:

Daily newscasts are like a mirror revealing to us something about ourselves.  Let’s allow the truth of God’s Word to shine brightly on us and reveal any blights from which we need to repent.  Then, let’s walk away and (in the words of James 1:22-25):

“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.   For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

Follow (part 1) Sermon Audio

On Sunday, August 13, 2017 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Matthew 8:1-17, 9:1-8.  This message was part 1 of the “Follow” series.  Below you will find the sermon audio to listen to or share.

 

To listen offline, click the link to download audio:

Follow #1 08.13.17

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

Follow (part 1) Sermon Questions

On Sunday, August 13, 2017 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on Matthew 8:1-17, 9:1-8.  This message was part 1 in the “Follow” series.  Below are a set of questions related to the message for personal reflection or group discussion.

 

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read Matthew 8:1-17, 9:1-8
  3. As you look at your schedule/plans for this fall, are you feeling excited?  Overwhelmed?  How does your walk with God factor into your life plans this fall?
  4. What were your first thoughts of Jesus, the first time you learned about Him?  How have those thoughts changed over the years?  Do you find yourself more drawn to follow Him today or less drawn to follow Him?  What has led to the change?
  5. What are ways in which you KNOW you NEED Jesus today?  How do you express this need to Jesus on a regular basis?
  6. What are some of the reasons why God does miracles (as demonstrated in today’s Scripture passage)?  Have you ever seen God do a (what you would consider to be) a miracle today?
  7. How does remembering that Jesus is God help encourage you to FOLLOW HIM this year?
  8. What is one particular application you took away from this passage/message?

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.

Follow (part 1) Preview

OK.  You have a busy day.  One of those days where you feel like there is no way you can get everything done that you need to do.  Your calendar is crammed . . . every minute is accounted for.  You know days like this . . .

Now, think about this – who has the power to disrupt your schedule on a day like that BY YOUR CHOICE?  Who has such an influence on you that you would rearrange other priorities to make space for an unexpected visitor?

For most of us, those with the power to override our schedule fall into one of three categories:

  1. Someone we love. I may have a lot going on during a busy day, but if my wife shows up at the office, I am glad to see her.
  2. Someone we need.  Many of us have had the experience of waiting for results from a medical test.  Regardless of what else is happening, when the phone rings and the doctor’s office number shows up in the caller ID, you interrupt your regular scheduled program to answer the call.  If you have no current medical emergency, you probably let the doc leave a message.
  3. Someone we revere.  Regardless of political affiliation, if a current or former President of the United States stopped by your home, you would invite them inside.  Regardless of school affiliation, if Bob Stoops invites you to dinner, you probably say “yes.”

Knowing that there are those with the power to tear up our “to do” list, I want you to think about the year you have in front of you.  No doubt, it is full of a lot of things.  You have a lot projects at work, activities for the kids, classes to study for, events to plan and attend, etc., etc.

Now, before you get totally stressed out with the items on your calendar, I want to let you know something amazing.  Someone we love (and who loves us), someone we need, and someone we revere is standing on your today and inviting you into tomorrow.  In fact, it is the same Someone for each of us.  It is the person of Jesus Christ.  He has promised to be with us always . . . even today.  His invitation to us is the same today as it was 2,000 years ago – “FOLLOW ME.” 

As people with busy schedules, it seems tough to think of following Jesus.  Especially if we assume it is just another thing to add to our “to do” list.  To be fair, following Jesus will impact your calendar . . . but it is FAR MORE THAN THAT.  Jesus wants to walk with you through your work week, be with you in your family life, join you in your volunteer commitments.  He is with us ALWAYS.

So what does it look like for us to follow Jesus?  Over the next 7 weeks at Wildwood we will be starting a new school year by talking about what it means to “FOLLOW.”  This Sunday we will kick off this series by looking at the identity of the One we are invited to follow from Matthew 8:1-17, 9:1-8.  I hope you make space in your calendar to join us at Wildwood this Sunday in our 8:30, 9:45, or 11:00 service as we fix our eyes on Following Him together this year.  Join us, and bring a friend!

The 7 weeks of this series will focus on:

  • August 13: The One We Follow  (Matthew 8:1-17, 9:1-8)
  • August 20: Why Don’t We Follow? (Matthew 8:18-34)
  • August 27:  Who Can Follow? (Matthew 9:9-17)
  • September 3:  Faith to Follow (Matthew 9:18-34)
  • September 10:  Inviting More to Follow (Matthew 9:35-10:15)
  • September 17:  Fear of the Follower (Matthew 10:16-33)
  • September 24:  Reward of the Follower (Matthew 10:34-42)