"In Pursuit of the Master" part 1
Fully Devoted Followers of Jesus Christ
by Greg Hanson

[PowerPoint] In 1914, the Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton set out with a team of men with the goal of crossing Antarctica on foot… a total of about 2400 km. It was a very dangerous mission to be sure, and things didn’t go exactly as planned, as you may already know.

[PowerPoint] Shackleton began the mission with a team of 28 men, plus 68 husky dogs which had been shipped from Winnipeg. And they all set sail together on a ship called the “Endurance”. But as the ship approached the point where the foot-part of the expedition was to begin, it became caught up in the ice. [PowerPoint] In fact, it was stuck in the ice at sea (the Weddell Sea) for about 11 months, until finally the ship was squashed by the ice and sank to the bottom. [PowerPoint]

So where did that leave Shackleton and his crew? Well, they had to abandon ship and were stranded on the ice floes. [PowerPoint] Five months they spent on the ice. Fortunately for them, it was during the summer months. So they were even able to get in some hockey and football, as you can see [PowerPoint].

Of course, it leaves one to wonder how they survived. I mean, what did they eat? I assume much of their provision went down with the ship. Interesting that there’s no dogs in that photo, isn’t it? I’m just saying…

Well, the expedition was to take them to Antarctica. But the whole time they were on the ice floes, they were drifting away from the continent. But they did have some luck, because after spending 497 days at sea, both on the ship and on the ice, they were finally able to lower their three lifeboats [PowerPoint] into open water and travel to Elephant Island.

But oddly enough, there were no elephants on Elephant Island. In fact, there were only a few penguins and seals there for food. Shackleton and his crew were still in a bad situation.

So Shackleton and five others set out on a small 22-foot boat… look at the size of that [PowerPoint]… and miraculously crossed over one of the most dangerous sections of ocean in the world, and landed successfully on the island of South Georgia. But that was not the end, and there was no time for dillydallying. [PowerPoint] They still had to travel over rough terrain and glaciers and mountains. No one had ever successfully crossed the island that way before. But they pressed on, until they reached a whaling station and were able to get help. Even then, it took four attempts over the course of 3 ½ months, but a rescue ship [PowerPoint] was finally able to reach Elephant Island and rescue the other survivors, capping off one of the most successful failures of all time. In fact, the 95th anniversary of that rescue was just a couple months ago (August 30, 1916).

Chuck Colson’s BreakPoint, August 30, 2002]

It was a dangerous mission right from the start. So how did Shackleton recruit the men who would risk their lives and accompany him? Well, that’s a good question, and there’s actually a lot of debate about it. But according to some, the men who joined him volunteered to do so as a result of an ad Shackleton had placed in the newspaper. Some say it's just an urban legend, but this is supposedly what the ad said…

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”

In response to that ad, men came from all over to sign up and join the crew. And before they set out, Shackleton made them a promise. He promised them that none of them would die, and then told them, “Follow as I lead, do what I say must be done, and I’ll get you home.” It took him two years to do it, but he did it. Not one member of the crew perished.

You do understand what he was asking of the crew, don’t you? He was asking them to trust him. He was asking them to follow his instructions. He was asking them to place their lives in his hands. He was asking them to give him their all… 100%. And if they would do so, he promised them that he’d get them home.

Well, that reminds me of something Jesus said…

Mark 8:34-35 (NLT)
 “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.”

Jesus says, “Trust me. Listen to my instructions. Give me your all. Place your life in my hands, and you will find true life. Follow me, and I'll get you home.”

And understand, Jesus issued a warning of His own. Like Shackleton, He said right up front that it wouldn’t be easy. He said it would cost something. He said there could be danger and persecution around every corner. He didn’t pull any punches. He laid it right out there.

Why am I talking about this? Because today we're starting a new series that will take us through until January. [PowerPoint] We're going to talk about what it means to really follow Jesus. We're going to talk about what He expects of us and what it takes to grow as a Christian and to not just be satisfied going through the motions.

And I'll warn you right now, today is going to be the heavy day. In the weeks to come, we'll talk about habits and practices that will help you grow and develop in your faith. But today... today's going to be heavy. I'm going to talk about what it's going to cost you to follow Jesus. Because if you're serious about your faith, you're going to run into trouble. You're going to run into opposition. Things won't always be rosy for you. In fact, there will be people who insult you and persecute you, who think less of you, who penalize you because of your faith.

There. You still want to sign up?

There are plenty of benefits that come from living for Jesus--and we do spend a lot of time talking about those here--but there are also lots of challenges. The Christian life is not an easy one. It's a joyful one, but it's not an easy one.

So the question this morning is, are you serious about following Jesus? Or are you just a Sunday morning Christian... one who shows up to church just to make an appearance, but the rest of the time your faith doesn't really matter... Jesus doesn't matter... you just kind of push Him to the sidelines until you need Him again?

There's a group of guys that I run into at the coffee shop all the time. And we're friendly, we'll have some casual conversation, but they're also some of the crankiest, most negative people I know. Sometimes when I'm sitting a couple tables away and I overhear their discussion, I can't help but shake my head. They complain about everything and everyone, they swear like sailors, and they're like that every time I see them.

This week, they targeted their priests and pastors. So you understand, my ears perked up. And I listened as they went on a rant about a variety of things but specifically about how long the sermons are.

Now, sometimes I go a bit longer than I intend to. But as I listened to that group this week, the thought crossed my mind that maybe the sermons they're hearing aren't long enough. Because obviously something isn't getting through. They go to church... some of them even sing in choirs... but Monday through Saturday you'd never be able to tell it.

[VIDEO - Calendar Christians]

For them, it's all about their religious duty to attend church. As long as they show up on Sunday, then they figure they've done their part.

But the Christian life is so much more than that. It's about walking with Jesus daily, not just talking about Him on Sunday. It's about a way of life, not just a Sunday morning ritual. It's a complete worldview that defines you as a person and guides everything you do, not just a moral lesson to listen to once a week. If you are serious about your faith and about living for Jesus, then it's going to affect your attitude toward others. It's going to impact the way you talk and the words you use. It's going to be reflected in the level of love and compassion you exude from your life.

Faith that makes no difference in your life is not faith at all. Following Jesus is not something you do on your own schedule, whenever it's convenient. It's 24/7. You live for Him everyday in every way. You strive to serve Him and worship Him and grow in Him. And sometimes that can cost.

Do you think I'm overstating that? I'm just taking my lead from what Jesus said...

Luke 14:26-27, 33 (NLT)
“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple... So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”

Jesus also warned...

John 16:33 (NLT)
“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

And this is what Jesus said it would be like for Christ-followers everywhere as the End Times approach...

Matthew 24:9 (NLT)
“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers.”

There. You sure you want to sign up?

Because those weren’t just words Jesus was spewing. For many believers, those words have been literal. Just in the past 100 years, over 35 million followers of Jesus have been martyred. Last week was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, in recognition of the millions of believers worldwide that are persecuted, tortured, and even killed because of their allegiance to Jesus.

Back in 1956, five men risked everything to reach one of the most violent tribes in the jungles of Ecuador. Those missionaries made contact, and were slaughtered by that tribe. Those missionaries knew the risk; They knew that there was a good chance they wouldn’t survive. In fact, one of them, Jim Elliot, once said…

“If that’s the way God wants it to be, I’m ready to die for the salvation of the Aucas.”
~ Jim Elliot

How could Jim Elliot display such courage… such resolve… such dedication? Because he knew Jesus meant it when He said…

Matthew 10:39 (NLT)
“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”

You still want to sign up?

Or how about Rachel Scott? Rachel was a 17 year-old high school student who had plans to become a missionary to Africa, but one fateful morning in her Columbine high school she was shot in the back. And as she laid face down on the ground one of the shooters picked her head up by her hair, held a gun to her head, and asked her if she believed in God. She knew that she would either have to recant her faith or die. She chose the latter.

In 2006, four missionaries in China were arrested for what was called “superstitious activity” and were tortured because of their faith. One of the female missionaries even had her hair ripped out.

Two years ago, a Wesleyan volunteer on a humanitarian aid trip to Afghanistan was captured and killed by the Taliban. She knew the risks, but she was willing to face it in order to express the compassion that comes from Christ.

We’ve even had a missionary speak here at Sunrise whose name we couldn't publicize or post on our website because it might endanger his life. It’s a dangerous world in which to be a disciple of Jesus.

Today, during this hour, there will be 20 Christians martyred for their faith. One every three minutes. Most of that takes place on other continents, but it's my sense that there's a growing culture of intolerance toward Christ-followers even here in North America.

Do you still want to sign up?

In the Bible, in the Old Testament, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego came face to face with that question. They were given the choice between…
• obeying the king and worshipping a golden statue, or…
• being faithful to God and possibly losing their lives because of it.

And what did they choose? They told the king…

Daniel 3:17-18 (NLT)
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

They knew what was at stake, they counted the cost, and they chose to sign up anyway.

Now, let me reassure you that Jesus loves you. He really does. And He wants the best for you. But He also expects a lot of you. Being a disciple… being a Christ-follower… will cost you something. I don’t know what and I don’t know how much, but it will cost you. What you get in return will far outweigh anything it could ever cost you, but it will cost you.

Take a look at these verses...

Luke 9:57-62 (NLT)
As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, "I will follow you wherever you go."
But Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head."
He said to another person, "Come, follow me."
The man agreed, but he said, "Lord, first let me return home and bury my father."
But Jesus told him, "Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God."
Another said, "Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family."
But Jesus told him, "Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God."

Jesus has all these people say they wanted to follow Him, and each time Jesus warned them about the costs. He wanted to make sure they understood the implications of their decision. And I'm sure that some turned away because they weren't willing to pay the price. So in your notes, let's lay it out…

Following Jesus Means…

1.    Accepting the future regardless of the cost.

Luke 9:57-58 (NLT)
As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, "I will follow you wherever you go."
But Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head."

Jesus talked in those verses about how He Himself would travel around and wouldn’t necessarily have a place to stay on any given night. So he warned those who wanted to follow Him, "Listen, you can follow me if you want... if you're really serious about it. But understand, it's going to cost you. You may not know what they next day will bring. You may not even know where you're going to spend the night."

For you, understanding that you may not know what the future holds, will you choose to follow Him anyway? Will you willingly give up that control? Will you trust Him and follow Him no matter what?

2.    Leaving the past regardless of the pull.

Luke 9:59-60 (NLT)
He said to another person, "Come, follow me."
The man agreed, but he said, "Lord, first let me return home and bury my father."
But Jesus told him, "Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God."

One guy who wanted to follow Jesus wanted to bury his father first. Which might not seem that unreasonable, but it's quite possible that the man's father wasn't dead yet. It would have been customary for children to remain at or near home until after their parents passed away, so Jesus told this man following Him might mean letting go of the past in order to pursue His calling as a Christian.

Or think about those first disciples of Jesus. Several of them were fishermen. That was their livelihood. It was all they had ever done; it was all they knew. If I were them, I think I would have been a little more hesitant to leave all that behind, to always be on the road, and to be apart from family for long periods of time. But look what those fishermen did during their very first encounter with Jesus…

Matthew 4:19-20 (NLT)
Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.

They left their past behind them in order to follow Jesus.

3.    Seizing the moment regardless of the inconveniences.

Are you willing to be inconvenienced for Jesus? When He asks you to do something, are you going to be distracted by other things? As Jesus said...

Luke 9:62 (NLT)
"Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God."

Or as Paul wrote to the Christians in the city of Ephesus…

Ephesians 5:15-17 (CEV)
Act like people with good sense and not like fools. These are evil times, so make every minute count. Don't be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do.

If you’re going to follow Jesus, it’s going to take everything you’ve got. He's asking for 100% commitment and He won’t settle for anything less. He’s either Lord of all, or He’s not Lord at all.

So will you live for Him? Will His priorities be your priorities? Will His values be your values? Will His instructions be your marching orders? Will His Word be your life manual? Even when no one’s watching, will you live with integrity before Jesus? The choice is yours.

Do you want to sign up?

Because if you do… and if you mean it… there’s no limit to what God can and will do through you. John Wesley recognized that, and he said…

“Give me 100 men who love God and nothing else, who hate sin and nothing else, and I will change the world.”
~ John Wesley

Jesus asks for all of you. He demands your undivided loyalty. You can’t serve two masters. Will you, as a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ, give Him everything you’ve got?

[SHOW VIDEO – Wholeheartedly (SermonSpice)


Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson