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To Lead the World We Must Follow Christ

 

Jim Davis

 

Matthew 8:18-22; Romans 8:6-8; Luke 14:16-24

 

There is a question hounding us throughout the majority of our lives. The question is stated in different ways at different intervals of our lives. When we are young the question is, “What am I going to do with my life?” In middle age we begin to ask, “What am I doing with my life." If we fail to answer this question properly we will come to a point in our lives where the question turns to, “What have I done with my life?” Wherever you are, whichever question you are asking, remember it is not too late to surrender your life to a higher purpose.

 

When the question becomes troublesome for us to live with the call of the flesh is heard the loudest. It calls many to max out their credit cards. Some find a new hobby to fill the void. Some take up a new sport. Others seek new relationships. Some look for a new job. A majority bury their heads in the television set, which leaves them delusional.

 

We will never discover a realistic mission purpose for this church until we have accepted Christ’s mission for our personal lives. Christ must become the driving force of our lives. The challenge for each of us is to conquer the fleshly desire to live according to the standards of this world.

 

Romans 8:6-8

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. NASU

 

Have you been wondering why the world is becoming such a deadly place to live? Paul gives us the answer—the mind set on the flesh is death. The darkness sweeping over this world—over the church—is the result of the darkness within the human heart.

 

Think about what has happened in the last couple of weeks.

 

12 year old girl abducted and murdered this week.

14 year old boy killed his best friend in a school restroom.

Two twelve years old boys dragged a 12 year old girl into school restroom and sexually assaulted her.

 

This is the result of the world’s deadly focus. Paul says the mind set on fleshly desires brings death. Our fleshly desires refuse to summit to God, the flesh is not able to do so, and furthermore the flesh doesn’t know how to please God.

 

Jeremiah 10:23

23 I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own;

it is not for man to direct his steps. NIV

 

We live in a confusing world. We may convince ourselves we are following Christ, when in reality we are following our own selfish interest.

 

At the Heart of Following Jesus Is Surrender

 

The church is experiencing the result of living in a dark world as leaders are wondering which way the church should go. Should we stay where we are so as not to upset the older Christians? Should we take a new direction to reach this new age? Many see the church in a dilemma. The only dilemma facing us today is our willingness to focus our lives and mission on Jesus Christ.

 

Matthew 8:18-22

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."

 

20 Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

 

21 Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

 

22 But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." NIV

 

Surrender is at the very heart of following Christ. Surrender is not a foreign concept. We do it every day. Some surrender to temptation. Others surrender to drugs. Young people surrender to peer pressure. Astonishingly, surrender always demands total commitment for it involves yielding or handing ourselves over to that which we are surrendered. We give control of our lives to whatever we surrender.

 

Romans 6:15-16

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? NIV

 

Surrender is not optional for we will become slaves to whatever it is we obey. There are only two choices—the flesh, or the Spirit. Whatever choice you make you choose to give your life to it.

 

We should never worry about the cost of surrender, for either way surrender will cost you your life.

 

There is no way for Christ and his kingdom to come in second place in your life without it retarding the growth of the church.

 

What Is the Drawing Force of Your Life?

 

Our lives are naturally drawn toward the choices we make. Jesus was raised up on the cross to draw us to him. The hardest challenge is to not allow our fleshes desires to draw away from God.

 

Luke 14:16-24

16 Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.'

 

18 "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.'

 

19 "Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.'

 

20 "Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'

 

21 "The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'

 

22 "'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.'

 

23 "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'" NIV

 

The Jewish religious people had already been invited to the feast, but they were too busy with their own agenda—they rejected the Messiah’s invitation. So Jesus turned to those uninvited and compelled them to come.

 

Do you know how Jesus compelled the multitudes to follow him—it was the drawing power of his life that drew them in. He drew them into his kingdom because he was a great leader with the heart of a servant. He focused on their needs.

 

Jesus exemplified what he taught in his life. The last thing Jesus did for his disciples before he was crucified was wash their feet. Do you know the first thing he is going to do when we meet him in heaven? He is going to dress himself like a servant and serve us as we recline at the table in his kingdom.

 

Luke 12:32-40

32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

35 "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." NIV

 

Jesus will be dressed to serve us when he meets us. He will invite us to recline at his table. Do you want to change the focus of your life—sell all your earthly goods? Sell them and give the proceeds to those who need them.

 

When Jesus’ Life Becomes the Driving Force

 

What happens when Jesus becomes the driving force of our lives? We will become as bold about our Christian lifestyles as MTV was about displaying hedonism at half-time during the Super Bowl. The sad part is it takes place every evening in the majority of homes. It is hard for the pulpit to compete with such performances. I can tell by our lifestyles that they are winning our minds. Those people only live to please themselves. They are proud of it, until they are afraid it will cost them revenues.

 

Our world is seeking a life of pleasure as it seeks to avoid pain—it is seeking a life of hedonism. Hedonism is totally a self-centered approach to life. We are seeking to believe in our selves. We pursue our personal dreams. We create our own agenda for life. We work hard with a determination to never give up. Many times we are successful but miserable. It’s because we have missed our purpose in life.

 

I was speaking to a person in charge of the Pinellas County schools athletic departments for the county Friday afternoon. He said that he was surprised at what some of the schools encouraged their teams to do to win. He said they are really not winning when they cheat to win. I agreed that at the most it was an hollow victory. Our world says win at any cost. When you have to cheat to win it leaves an emptiness inside—or it should.

 

The world’s philosophy leaves us empty because life isn’t about us; it is about God. There is something from within each of us seeking to point us to God. It’s prodding is the sharpest when we become successful but feel a great emptiness within.

 

Jesus Presents Leaders with a Dilemma

 

We need to study the scriptures so thoroughly that we see the reflection of Jesus Christ in every passage. The Scriptures will forever remain confusing until we can do this. There is too much study for knowledge sake—we must study them until we see Jesus. We must study them until we begin to live as Jesus lived.

 

The great leaders of the first century digested the message of Christ for themselves until Jesus was reflected in the way they lived. They knew there was no other way to lead others to be committed to Christ.

 

When Jesus called the future leaders of his kingdom they pulled their fishing boats up on shore, they left everything on that beach and boldly followed Jesus. I have always wondered what happened with all the fish they caught. Why didn’t they sell them first?  They had families they were concerned about and responsible for. But they left it all and at once and followed Jesus. These are the men who became great leaders in Christ kingdom—they were the apostles.

 

We need leaders like this to rise within the ranks of the church today. You don’t have to have anyone’s permission to lead. The apostles didn’t need the religious hierarchy’s consent—in fact they considered them ignorant and unlearned, but they turned the world upside down for Christ.

 

Just do it; others will appreciate it--as long as you are doing it to build Christ’s kingdom. People will know whether you are trying to build a church around yourself or around Christ. They will appreciate you leading them to Christ.  They will eventually recognize you as their leader. This is the only honorable way of becoming a leader in the Lords kingdom. If you are never honored as a leader, continue to do all you can to serve others to bring them to Christ. The Lord will honor you in the end.

 

If you desire the noble task of leading God’s people—your desire should be revealed by engaging in the work of a leader—simply demonstrate your desire. Let people see you growing spiritually, let them see you are more concerned about their needs than you are about getting your own way. If you do this God’s people will eventually recognize you for what you desire to be.

 

1 Timothy 3:1-4

3:1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. NIV

 

1 Timothy 3:7

7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. NIV

 

Don’t worry about what others think, or what others are doing. Simply rise to the task. Don’t be afraid others will out do you as you seek to lead. You want those around you to excel you. That’s when the kingdom expands. You can’t lead while holding others down. You can’t hold others down without holding yourself down.

John 14:12-14
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (NIV)

Jesus is not afraid that he is going to be out done, why should you be afraid you are going to be out done. The humble are exalted as they allow God to be glorified in their lives. We should be proud of this fact. Jesus says, "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father." When Christ empowers the weak, it glorifies God. He is more than happy to glorify your sincere efforts.

 

Jesus knew his church would never go forward until leaders from within his kingdom rose to the call of putting first things first in their lives. Great leaders keep their eyes on Jesus Christ; they are able to say with Paul, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV).

 

Conclusion:

 

The church really is in a dilemma today—it needs its members to follow Christ. We need leaders out front who are following Christ.

 

We need to remember our baptism was about dying with Christ to arise out of the grave of baptism empowered by the Holy Spirit to follow Christ.

 

If you haven’t decided to follow Jesus—it’s not too late. You can come to Christ confessing his name accepting Christ as Lord and ruler of your life as you meet him in his death in baptism to have your sins taken away. Christ will meet you in your baptismal death to give as the Holy Spirit is implanted in your heart to raise you to a new way of living.

 

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