Andrew Fountain - Why follow Jesus?

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Sermon notes - Why follow Jesus?

Purpose of today

  • Help you focus on the most important question you could ever ask:
    “Why Follow Jesus?”
  • Give you some clarity and focus around the answer

Why Follow Jesus?
Outline:

  1. Tell five stories (including my own)
  2. Ask anyone here to add their stories
  3. Discuss what it means in practice

Story 1. The big story of the Bible:

  • Who is your allegiance to? -ask for definition of allegiance
  • Who are you going to follow?
  • The Big Story of the Bible:

Everything started to go wrong when Satan persuaded Adam & Eve that they couldn’t trust God, they should trust him instead.

God could have destroyed Satan immediately, but he began a massive project, culminating in Jesus coming to earth, to prove that he was the one we should trust.

For thousands of years God demonstrated that he would care for those who trusted him, and trust in anything else would lead to disaster.

This culminated in God himself coming in the form of a human, Jesus. He gave us the ultimate reason to trust him—he loves us so much he would die in our place.

But not only that, he’s building together the people who trust him to be the leaders of a new universe when this present one is destroyed.

  • If we get this, we’ll understand the point behind all the stories in the Old Testament
  • Not about being perfect and never sinning, but who has your heart
  • E.g. Abraham
  • E.g. David or Saul
  • E.g. Nation of Israel (Judges, later kings, captivity)

Story 2. Here’s a story from the Old Testament

Naaman

Naaman

Image source: Sweet Publishing

2 Kings 5:1-19

  1. Now Naaman, the commander of the king of Syria’s army, was esteemed and respected by his master, for through him the LORD had given Syria military victories. But this great warrior had a skin disease.
  2. Raiding parties went out from Syria and took captive from the land of Israel a young girl, who became a servant to Naaman’s wife.
  3. She told her mistress, “If only my master were in the presence of the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his skin disease.”
  4. Naaman went and told his master what the girl from the land of Israel had said.
  5. The king of Syria said, “Go! I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten suits of clothes.
     
  6. He brought the letter to king of Israel. It read: “This is a letter of introduction for my servant Naaman, whom I have sent to be cured of his skin disease.”
  7. When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill or restore life? Why does he ask me to cure a man of his skin disease? Certainly you must see that he is looking for an excuse to fight me!”
  8. When Elisha the prophet heard that the king had torn his clothes, he sent this message to the king, “Why did you tear your clothes? Send him to me so he may know there is a prophet in Israel.”
     
  9. So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood in the doorway of Elisha’s house.
  10. Elisha sent out a messenger who told him, “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan; your skin will be restored and you will be healed.”
  11. Naaman went away angry. He said, “Look, I thought for sure he would come out, stand there, invoke the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the area, and cure the skin disease.
  12. The rivers of Damascus, the Abana and Pharpar, are better than any of the waters of Israel! Could I not wash in them and be healed?” So he turned around and went away angry.
     
  13. His servants approached and said to him, “O master, if the prophet had told you to do some difficult task, you would have been willing to do it. It seems you should be happy that he simply said, “Wash and you will be healed.”
  14. So he went down and dipped in the Jordan seven times, as the prophet had instructed. His skin became as smooth as a young child’s and he was healed.
     
  15. He and his entire entourage returned to the prophet. Naaman came and stood before him. He said, “For sure I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel!”

17 “…please give your servant a load of dirt, enough for a pair of mules to carry, for your servant will never again offer a burnt offering or sacrifice to a god other than the LORD…”

  1. Elisha said to him, “Go in peace.”

based on NET Bible


  • Can anyone suggest why God wanted to heal him by washing in the river rather than the way he was expecting?
    • He was expecting a witch-doctor or powerful magic-man
    • Not a God whose presence is everywhere and can see him and act directly without any human agency
  • Why did he change allegiance?
    • It was an act of trust, not great works
    • God demonstrated that he looks after those who trust him

Story 3. Here’s a totally different story from the New Testament

  • Again, it is about what caused someone to switch from not following Jesus to following him

Luke 23:33-47

  1. So when they came to the place that is called “The Skull,” they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
  2. [But Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”] Then they threw dice to divide his clothes.
  3. The people also stood there watching, but the rulers ridiculed him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, his chosen one!”
     
  4. The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,
  5. and saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!”
  6. There was also an inscription over him, “This is the king of the Jews.”
     
  7. One of the criminals who was hanging there railed at him, saying, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
  8. But the other rebuked him, saying, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
  9. And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.”
  10. Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.”
  11. And Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
     
  12. It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon,
  13. because the sun’s light failed. The temple curtain was torn in two.
  14. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And after he said this he breathed his last.
     
  15. Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent!”

based on NET Bible


  • The account seems to be picking out different reactions to Jesus on the cross
  • How many different reactions can you see?
  • Why did the Centurion praise God that an innocent man died such a horrible death?

Story 4. Sarah

Story 4. Sarah

Image source: veritas.org

  • Continuing our theme of “Why follow Jesus?”, here is a very recent story

Sarah Irving

“My identity lay in academic achievement, and my secular humanism was based on self-evident truths. As an undergrad, I won the University Medal and a Commonwealth Scholarship to undertake my Ph.D. in History at King’s College, Cambridge. King’s is known for its secular ideology and my perception of Christianity fitted well with the views of my fellow students: Christians were anti-intellectual and self-righteous.”

  • The problem of Human worth

“A vexing problem in relation to the issue of human worth: The natural world yields no egalitarian picture of human capacities. What about the child whose disabilities or illness compromises her abilities to reason? Yet, without reference to some set of capacities as the basis of human worth, the intrinsic value of all human beings becomes an ungrounded assertion.”

“With an awkward but humble reluctance, I opened a book of sermons by philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich. As I read, I was struck at how intellectually compelling, complex, and profound the gospel was. I was attracted, but I wasn’t convinced.”

  • She became a history professor at an American university
  • Relocated near an active church

“I was able to see an active Christianity in people who lived their lives guided by the gospel: feeding the homeless every week, running community centres, and housing and advocating for migrant farm laborers.”

“One Sunday, shortly before my 28th birthday, I walked into a church for the first time as someone earnestly seeking God. Before long I found myself overwhelmed. At last I was fully known and seen and, I realised, unconditionally loved – perhaps I had a sense of relief from no longer running from God.”

Christianity, it turned out, looked nothing like the caricature I once held. I found the story of Jacob wrestling with God especially compelling: God wants anything but the unthinking faith I had once assumed characterized Christianity. God wants us to wrestle with him; to struggle through doubt and faith, sorrow and hope. Moreover, God wants broken people, not self-righteous ones. And salvation is not about us earning our way to some place in the clouds through good works. On the contrary; there is nothing we can do to reconcile ourselves to God.

Christianity was also, to my surprise, radical – far more radical than the leftist ideologies with which I had previously been enamored. The love of God was unlike anything which I expected, or of which I could make sense. In becoming fully human in Jesus, God behaved decidedly unlike a god. Why deign to walk through death’s dark valley, or hold the weeping limbs of lepers, if you are God? Why submit to humiliation and death on a cross, in order to save those who hate you? God suffered punishment in our place because of a radical love. This sacrificial love is utterly opposed to the individualism, consumerism, exploitation, and objectification, of our culture.

  • This reminds us of the Centurion who was so impacted by the radical love that he saw.

Just as radical, I realized, was the new creation which Christ began to initiate. This turned on its head the sentimental caricature of ‘heaven’ I’d once held as an atheist. I learned that Jesus’ resurrection initiated the kingdom of God, which will “bring good news to the poor, release the captives, restore sight to the blind, free the oppressed.” (Luke 4:18) To live as a Christian is a call to be part of this new, radical, creation.

  • Read the full story is online
  • We can ask what it was that caused Sarah to trust in Jesus?
    1. It made sense (but more than that)
    2. She encountered Jesus through the Scriptures and she took the step of turning to him
    • Just like Naaman, no-one in Syria could answer his problem. His old way of thinking about the gods didn’t work anymore
    • He took the step of trusting in the true God
  • There are two parts to the process that goes on in us
    1. Deciding that it makes sense
    2. Actually doing it
  • For example, I could convince you that you would be better off living in Australia...
    1. You might do the research and end up agreeing
      • Financial, health, friends, natural beauty, long term security
    2. But it’s another thing to actually do it
      • For me there were many years between the two
  • One of my problems was that I thought I had to have an encounter with God before I trusted him
    • But I had more than enough reason to trust him
    • Once I took the step of making him Lord of my life, then I had an encounter with him

Story 5. Why do I trust in Jesus and give him my allegiance?

  • Many of my reasons are similar to Sarah’s although she is coming at it as a historian, and me as a scientist.
  • Makes sense of the universe (science, the created world)
  • Makes sense of humanity (human behaviour)
  • Makes sense of me (my inner struggles and dreams)
    • Materialism makes absolutely no sense!
  • The Bible—great objective evidence
  • But more than that, there is Jesus. I want to follow him because he is so amazing
    • It is not hard to want to follow this God!

Anyone here like to give their reasons for following Jesus?

  • Recap:

Why Follow Jesus?
Outline:

  1. Tell five stories (including my own)
  2. Ask anyone here to add their stories
  3. Discuss what it means in practice

3. What does it means to give Jesus your allegiance?

  • “Jesus is Lord”
  • Doing his will is my purpose for living
  • My goals and his goals become the same thing
    • Career, relationships, finance, use of time
  • I can relax and trust him totally because following him I cannot fail!
  • How to become a Christ-follower? -Bill Hybels uses this term – in many ways a much better word than Christian
  1. Stop following other things, and acknowledge their uselessness and your helplessness
  2. Commit to giving Jesus your allegiance, and trusting him with your life and eternity

Updated on 2017-09-04 by Andrew Fountain

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