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Skip Heitzig - #followme

Skip Heitzig - #followme
Skip Heitzig - #followme

Would you please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16, as we learn what Jesus says it means to follow Him. The message title is #FollowMe. Let's see what Jesus says about that. Now as you turn there, I want to take your minds back to 1987, a classic American film called The Princess Bride. Any of you remember that? So in that movie, the chief bad guy was a guy by the name of Vizzini. He was a short little balding man who said a word over and over again. It was the word inconceivable. Remember that? Something that'd happen he'd go, that's inconceivable.

So in one part in the film as it's being set up, Vizzini and company is being followed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. And the ship gains on the other ship and finally Vizzini and his guys climb up a rope on a very, very sheer cliff. When they get to the top, they see that Dread Pirate Roberts is also climbing the rope. So Vizzini cuts the rope thinking that he would fall. He doesn't fall. He's actually climbing now on the rocks. And Vizzini looks over and he says, what, he didn't fall? That's inconceivable.

Just then, another actor who is Inigo Montoya in the film, Inigo Montoya says, you keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means. And I like that scene because I think a lot of people use words that they really don't understand the original meaning of the word. Whether it's inconceivable or some other word. And that's because words, well, they change over time. The original meaning can get lost and language is fluid, it's dynamic. So certain words, they can morph.

For example, there was a time when the word bad meant something was wrong. It meant the opposite of good. It meant something was of poor quality. Today, in modern parlance, the word bad actually means good. So you might hear some young person go, man, that's bad. And you're going, what's wrong? Nothing's wrong. It's good. There was a time when the word ill or the word sick meant ill. Somebody said, that's sick. It's like, oh, I'm sorry. How can we give it medicine? But today, the word sick means great. The word has changed its meaning, or amazing.

And part of the problem is our social media. Social media can be a change agent to language itself. Let me give you some examples. The word like was a word that originally meant to enjoy someone or something. I like that. I like you. I enjoy that. It doesn't necessarily mean that today. In social media, to like someone means I acknowledge someone electronically. It's all it means. I acknowledge you electronically means I like you.

The word friend, at one time, was an actual person that you actually had a relationship with. There was a mutual affection built in. Today, a friend is somebody you add to a list of contacts. There was a time when the word follow meant you walked behind someone or you travel after someone or you subscribe to the belief system. Now, follow means you get electronic updates. That person may not follow you. That person may not like you. But that person likes to keep track of you. Sort of like cyber stalking. Cyber voyeurism. I want to look into your life, but I don't like you and I don't follow you. But we use those terms.

You could even get apps on your mobile device that will help you get more followers. And other apps that will help you keep track of the more followers that you get. And so businesses will say, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or on Instagram. You see, I actually believe that when you change the original meaning of words, you are draining the word. You are robbing the word of the impact that it was supposed to have in language. So if like doesn't mean like and follow doesn't mean follow and bad actually means good and sick actually means great and awesome. Who knows what that means? People just use that as a fill word these days. We've got a problem.

Like in Cool Hand Luke, what we have here is failure to communicate. And there is a failure to communicate even with the word follow me. By the way, that is a hashtag that is popular. In Instagram, it is used about 300,000 times, people would post, follow me. But don't you think that as followers of Jesus Christ, as likers of spiritual truth, that we ought to get back to the original idea? Because if we don't, we have a situation like this.

I found this little cartoon. Perhaps you've seen it? Jesus sitting next to this guy on the bench. Can you see what he's saying? No, I'm not talking about Twitter, I literally want you to follow me. Here's how I see it. Jesus has a lot of fans. I don't think he has as many followers as you might think. Fans, yes. Followers, not so much. So what I want you to see with me is what Jesus says it means to follow Him. Don't you agree that if you're going to follow Jesus, you need to follow Him on His terms?

Well, let's look at His terms. Matthew chapter 16 beginning in verse 24. Then Jesus said to his disciples, if anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up this cross and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it. For what prophet is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his father with his angels and then he will reward each according to His works.

Now, you will notice that it begins by saying Jesus said these words to his disciples. But Mark's account and Luke's account of this event, it says Jesus spoke these words to his disciples and to the multitudes. Why is that important? Because if it was just to those 12 men, you might think that Jesus is saying, this is what following me means to, I don't know, pastors, deacons, missionaries, the upper echelon we might think of of the Christian people. But this is really for any one, for every one, for all normal believers. Jesus spoke these words to his disciples and to the multitude. So we have then a description from Jesus himself of what it means for all people at all times anywhere who are going to follow him.

As we go through this, let's take a test. Shall we? Let's actually ask ourselves based upon what we discover, am I really a follower of Jesus? Am I just a fan or am I truly a follower? And why is that important? Well, Paul, the Apostle, in 2 Corinthians 13:5 said this, examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.

So what I want to show you is five steps on the pathway to following Jesus. Right from this text itself. Five steps. The step of desire, the step of denial, the step of death, the step of devotion, and the step of destiny. Let's begin with the first step and that is the step of desire. Jesus said to his disciples, verse 24, if anyone desires to come after me. It all begins with a desire. In fact, everything begins with desire. There would be no progress in the world without a desire. We would still be living in a primitive age unless people had a desire to improve their lives. It's a motivating force in the world. Humans wouldn't get very far unless they had a desire for something.

Well, so it is with salvation. Salvation begins with a desire. And you might argue and say it actually begins with God's pre-elected choice and I wouldn't argue there, but from a human perspective, it begins with desire. That is, we discover that we have a need and we desire or we crave a different way of life. Now for some people, the desire begins with guilt. A person is aware that there are a sinner. They want to be forgiven. And so they desire to follow Jesus because He promises that if you follow Him, He will give you forgiveness.

For still others, the desire begins with an emptiness. They realize their life is not fulfilling. It's not satisfying the way it is. There must be something more to life than what I've already experienced. So I want to follow Jesus to take care of that. For others, the desire begins with a yearning. They hear about life after death. They hear about living with Jesus and his Father in heaven and the glories of heaven. The glories of that heavenly reward and so maybe they're getting closer to the end of their life and that yearning causes them to have a desire to follow Jesus. Now, all these things are God given. All of them are God given because He puts those experiences and feelings in us so that we will desire to follow Him.

Now look at the word desire. It's a word, fellow is the Greek word and it means to choose or prefer something. To will or to want something strongly. According to, some of you know this, Abraham Maslow, Remember he's the guy that created what he called the hierarchy of human needs? And he categorized human desires into five levels. The first level, the most basic level, said Maslow is the desire we have to live. Just to live life. That's the most basic desire.

The second desire is for safety. Once were alive, we want to make sure that we go on living so we want to build safety into our lives to keep them going. The third level, according to Maslow, is the desire to belong and to love, to build community, to build out from ourselves. Fourth, is the desire to be recognized by other people. Now the bonds are getting stronger. And the fifth level, according to Abraham Maslow in his hierarchy of needs or desires, is the greatest level. And that's the level, the highest level of fulfillment. I want to be fulfilled. I want to be what I was meant to be. You've heard people say that. This is who I am. This is who I'm meant to be.

Well, Jesus knows that fulfillment is found in Him. That the highest level of having your desires met or found in a relationship with Him so He allows you to experience guilt and emptiness and yearning. So that when that desire is formed, you will make the most important decision of your life. You see, without desire, there's no decision. Without desire, there's no discipleship. Desire, then, is the seed that grows the tree that produces the fruit of discipleship. So that's the first step. Desire. If anyone desires to come after me.

Second step is denial. Now it gets tougher. Then Jesus said to his disciples, if anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself. Now, that word deny means to disown, actually. Very strong to disown or to repudiate or to separate yourself from someone else. It's the very word used of the apostle, Peter, when he was in the courtyard of the high priest and it says he denied Jesus Christ. He denied, he disowned publicly that he even knew him. Here, Jesus said, if you're going to follow after me, you need to deny yourself. Now notice how it's worded. He didn't say, if you're going to follow after me, you need to deny things for yourselves. Or taking people and things to yourself. No, he said deny yourself.

See, Jesus is not advocating giving up something for Lent. That's what some people do every year. They say, I'm going to give this up for Lent. I'm in that season before Easter and so I'm giving up this luxury or this frill and I'm going to deny myself. No, that's denying something for yourself. Jesus said deny yourself. Deny you. In other words, to deny yourself is to reject the worldly philosophy of self importance, self indulgence, self will, self fulfillment, self sufficiency. In other words, selfish living. It's where you come to a point in your life and you say, you know what, it's not about me. And for most people, it is all about them.

So if you have a desire to follow after me, you have to realize you need to deny your self. You have to give up your right to run your own life and you have to be willing to surrender, to submit, to an alien will. It is the opposite of independence. It is, in fact, total dependence. It is in the words of Andrew Murray who wrote that fabulous book, it is an absolute surrender.

I found an article. I've had it while. It's called "The Art of Being a Big Shot." It was written by Howard Budd. Listen to a portion of it and I'm quoting, "It is my pride that makes me independent of God. It is appealing to me to feel that I am the master of my fate, that I run my own life, that I call my own shots, that I go it alone. When I am conceited, I am lying to myself about what I am. I am pretending to be God and not man. My pride is the idolatrous worship of myself and that is the national religion of hell."

What did Paul the Apostle say to the Corinthians? He said, for you are not your own. You have been bought with a price. Jesus paid for you with his own blood. You are not your own. So here is Jesus saying to the disciples and of the multitudes, if you have that first step of desire, please understand that you don't own yourself any longer. You deny yourself.

If you ever sell a car to somebody, you don't just sell them the car. Along with that car, with the sale comes a little piece of paper called the title. We used to call it the pink slip in California. Where's the pink slip? That shows who owns it. It gives the right to run and control that vehicle from that point forward. So when you sell the car and you give up the title, you were giving up your right to drive that car any longer. It's the new owner's. When you give your life to Jesus, you're given the pink slip of your life. You're saying Jesus, I'm hopping in the backseat. You drive this baby. It's yours. I deny myself. You take over. I surrender to you. That's the second sample following Him.

So the first step is desire. The second step is denial. Here's the third step and it gets even narrower now. The step of death. If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross. Now, we have to understand the context here. You know, I always love to do that. Because I've said before, any text out of context becomes a pretext. You can make it say anything you want.

So the context here is this. Jesus has taken his disciples away from Galilee where His headquarters is. He's taken him far up north to a town called Caesarea Philippi at the foot of the highest mountain in the Middle East, Mount Hermon. It's cooler up there and He's up there with His disciples and He asked them a question one day. He says, who do people say that I am? And remember, they had all sorts of different answers. And then he said, who do you say that I am? And of all the disciples, Peter had the right answer. He said you are the Christ. You are the, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

And Jesus responded to him. He said blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah. Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my father who is in heaven. Peter got an A on the test. But then something happened to Peter that is sort of unfortunate for Peter because it went to his head. It's called a compliment. Jesus paid him a high compliment. Blessed are you, Simon. You didn't come up with that answer, my father revealed it to you. You know that Peter must have stood a little straight at that point. Like a little, did you hear that, guys? James, John, I'm blessed. He didn't say you were. He said I am. Said, blessed are you, Simon. That's me. I'm the blessed guy.

And why is that important? Because the conversation continues. I want you to look at verse 21. I've summed it up for you up to this point. Verse 21. From that time after that revelation, from that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed. He's telling them this before it happens. And how was He going to be killed? On a cross. And be raised the third day. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him saying, far be it from you, Lord, this shall not happen to you. But he turned and said to Peter, get behind me, Satan. You are an offense to me for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.

Question. Why was Jesus so harsh with Peter? OK. Peter had a Pope complex. He thought, I'm infallible now. I can say anything and it's going to happen. We're not going to let this happen you, Jesus. Get behind me, Satan. What happened? Peter's suggestion was serious enough to elicit this kind of response. Because Peter was advocating a cross-less Christianity. Let's take the cross out of it.

And that's something that Satan tried to do to Jesus a couple years before. You remember, Jesus was tempted by the devil in a high mountain out in the Judean wilderness. And Satan came to Jesus and he said, Jesus if you would just worship me, just indulge me, and just worship me for a moment, I will give you all the kingdoms of this world for they are mine and I can give them to whoever I want. State knew that Jesus came to purchase the souls of men back to his father by the cross, by a sacrifice. He knew that. And what he is suggesting is you don't have to go the way of the cross. You don't have to go the hard way. You came for the kingdom's of man, the souls of men, I'll give them to you. If you just indulge me and worship me.

So when Peter says, far be it from you, Lord, we're not going to let this happen. It's as if Jesus said, I recognize that voice. I know that philosophy. I've heard it before. Get behind me, Satan. You're an offense to me. You're not thinking like God thinks because the plan of Jesus announced by him to Peter and the disciples was to go the way of the cross. You see Christianity without a cross is not Christianity. It's a cheap substitute.

Here's the problem with us. We hear this and we don't get the same impact in our ears as those Jews 2,000 years ago in Israel heard what Jesus said. You see, a cross to those people was not a little emblem you put on a gold chain. It was not a cool tattoo you put on your arm. It was not an icon on the front of a church. It was an implement of torture and death. That's what a cross was. It was what the Roman government reserved for the worst criminals ever. Put them on a cross.

So the equivalent to our ears would be something like this. Hey, if you want to follow me, you're going to have to deny you and take up your electric chair and follow me. Or, if you want to follow me, you're going to have to deny you and take up your lethal injection and follow after me. That would be sort of the equivalent. Take up your cross.

I've heard that so misinterpreted over the years. I've heard it like this. I bet you've heard this, too. Oh, we all have our crosses to bear minus my husband or my wife or my job or this physical illness that I have. That's my cross to bear. Oh no, no, no, no. That's not what he meant. He didn't refer to a cross as just a difficulty in life or a hassle or a problem. It means, if you're going to follow Jesus, you've got to follow him where He went. And where did He go? To the cross. You take up your cross. What begins with a desire that includes a denial, put you on a death march. A willingness to give up life itself, if need be.

As some of our brothers and sisters around the world are killed, are persecuted, because they believe in Jesus. So when you follow Jesus, what you are saying is, I am now ending my life of self and beginning a life of sacrifice and service to the Lord, Jesus Christ. Let me jog your memory. Romans 12. You know that? Some of you, it comes immediately to mind so I may need a little more help. I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present yourselves a living sacrifice wholly and acceptable to God which is your reasonable service. You hear that little phrase? Living sacrifice. What's wrong with that phrase?

Well sacrifices in the temple weren't living. There were dead. You kill that animal. You shed its blood on the altar. Ah, but a living sacrifice, see, living sacrifices are trickier. Living sacrifices want to squirm off the altar. But Paul says, I want you to live that way. Live a sacrificial life. A living sacrifice. But again, they want to squirm off the altar. Lord, I give you my life, but then next week, I don't know about that. I might want to take it back this week. Kind of do my own thing for a while. That's a living sacrifice problem that we have.

For some of you to deny yourself and to take up your cross means that you might have to abandon a personal ambition, a personal goal, a place to move, a place to live, a possession you want. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said when Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die. Or in the words of the hymnist, must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free? No, there's a cross for every one and there's a cross for me.

This is Jesus saying what it means to follow him. The step of desire, denial, death. There's a fourth step. Devotion. Devotion. And that's with the words and follow me. If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. The word... Can you say that 10 times? If this were Greek social media, it would be hashtag... Follow me or I follow. And that word means to walk the same road as someone else. Walk the same road as someone else.

I want to read verse 24 to you in total in what's called the Wuest translation of the Greek New Testament. If anyone is desiring to come after me, let him forget self and lose sight of his own interests, let him pick up his cross and carry it, and let him be taking the same road with me that I travel.

Remember those two disciples on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus after Jesus had died and risen from the grave? They didn't know it was Jesus. And the Bible says Jesus himself drew near and went with them. I love that. Jesus loves to walk alongside of us in fellowship. Do you love to walk alongside of Him in fellowship?

Let me get more personal. Do you invite Jesus to be a part of your day? Do you invite Him on projects? Do you take Him on vacation? You go, I'm on vacation. Put the Bible away. I don't need, I'm on vacation. Is there any place you go, is there anything you watch that you would be embarrassed to have him along? As you're walking down the road of life and you come to an intersection, do you say, Jesus, would you just stay right here at the intersection? I'm going to go walk this road for an hour or two. I'll be right back, then we can continue. Or do you invite Him along?

I'll ask it to you this way. Are you a traveler or are you a tourist? There's a difference. Now, I'm stealing that question from a book. The book is called Your Church is too Safe written by Mark Buchanan. Your Church is too Safe. And in that book, Buchanan talks about the difference between a traveler and a tourist. And Buchanan says the word traveler literally means one who travails. One travails, suffers, endures. A travailing. A traveler says Buchanan, is somebody who goes to another place, another culture, immerses himself in that culture, learns of the language of those people, dresses and adopts a lifestyle like those people, eats what is set before him, and is gone a long time. That's a traveler.

A tourist is different than a traveler. The word tourist literally means somebody who goes in circles. It describes one who was simply taking a detour back home. That's a tourist. So he goes to a place, but passes through briefly. Might sample the food, but longs for McDonald's. Buys souvenirs and then at night retreats to the safety and protection of the hotel room. Might learn a word or two of the language, that's it. Then goes home with pictures and t-shirt in hand. And says, ah, it's good to be home. I've been gone a whole week.

Listen up. Jesus is looking for travelers, not tourists, who are at it for the long haul. Who will walk with Him in fellowship along life's journey. Now, some of you are listening to what I'm saying here and, along with me, going through these words that Jesus said. And you're going, you're not stating in a very appealing case here for becoming a Christian. This is not a very appealing case. Maybe you thought the preacher should say, follow Jesus and you'll just have a smile plastered on your face all the time and life will be woo! I could say that, but I'd just be lying through my teeth and violating the text of scripture.

But before you think it's not a very appealing case, you need to keep reading because there's a fifth step and that's called destiny. That's what happens afterwards. Verse 25. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it or find that life. For what prophet is it to a man if he gains a whole world and loses his own soul? What will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man, that's Jesus, will come in the glory of his father with his angels and then he will reward each according to his works. Ah.

There's a payoff to this. There's a someday. There's a reward waiting for followers of Jesus. Remember as a kid, we'd say finders keepers, losers weepers. Which usually meant, you know, I found that $10 bill, it's mine. Even though I saw it fall out of your pocket, I found it. Finders keepers, losers weepers.

It seems that Jesus doesn't buy into that philosophy. It seems if I'm reading this correctly Jesus is saying finders are weepers, losers are keepers. We live in a society of keepers. We desire to follow no one. We deny ourselves nothing. We dabble in spirituality from time to time as it suits our schedule and purpose. OK, I'll go to church today. Or, I'll read my Bible. Whatever suits us as long as we don't go too overboard in it. That's about it. That's a tourist.

The paradox of following Jesus is this. You save your life, you lose it. If you lose your life for my sake, you'll find it. You see, in trying to keep your little life in such tight, narrow confines like that, you could actually end up losing it. Because one day, God will review every single life and reward or rebuke every single life.

So Paul said, Romans 14, verse 12, so then each of us will give account of himself to God. So be careful before you say, I have faith in God. I have faith in Jesus. Because there is a faith that saves and there's faith that doesn't save. And saving faith begins with a desire and the desire leads to a denial and the denial to a death and a devotion and a demonstration that is shown by your work's, not saved by your works, but shown by your works.

So are you a fan or a follower? You a fan or a follower? You a traveler or a tourist? Do just like Jesus? I'll push the Like button. I like Jesus. I'll follow Him on Twitter. Or you a listener, a learner? Because be careful as you say, I'm a follower. I follow Jesus. I love to follow Jesus. Follow, follow, follow. You might be hearing a voice saying, you keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.

This is what it means. This is what the master himself said it means when he said follow me. Much more than a hashtag. Anyone desires to come after me, let them deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. And in giving up that life, you're going to gain life and you'll be rewarded in the end.

Father, we come to this very compelling text where Jesus spoke to his followers and to those who had gathered around, the multitude who had been around listening, and what Jesus said is far different from what some of us have been led to believe it means to follow Jesus. So Lord, we want to take this opportunity as the Apostle Paul said to present ourselves before you a living sacrifice, wholly and acceptable which is our spiritual active worship, our reasonable service.

Lord, we realize that unless you put that desire, or whatever it is that causes the birth of that desire within, unless you put that there, it's impossible. We believe we're cooperating with the divine work of You choosing us. Like You said to your disciples, you didn't choose me, I chose you. I ordained you.

Lord, thank you that you chose us and yes we desire to follow you. And even though we are imperfect followers, we do rely upon your grace to give us what we need to be able to come face to face with ourselves, and to say, I deny you, self. I repudiate you, self. And I give my life in service and sacrifice to the living God. That is my priority. To be His follower. To walk alongside of Him in every circumstance. And to look forward to that ultimate reward in Jesus' name. Amen.

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