You Asked for It Part 2
The Cost of Following Jesus
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 10, 2003

 

Main Passage: Matthew 10:34-39 (NLT)

 

Let me ask you something… when you think about Jesus, what are some characteristics that come to mind?

PARTICIPATION

(Loving, gentle, kind, forgiving…)

That’s the Jesus most of us think about. That’s the Lord and God we want to know… one who’s compassionate, caring, understanding, generous. And I would say we often think that’s all there is to Jesus. And we forget or ignore that there’s also a very demanding side to Him.

But then we get hit up the side of the head with a passage like we read earlier from Matthew 10. It just doesn’t seem to fit with who we normally think of Jesus to be.

This is our second week in our August series of messages entitled, “You Asked for It.” And I invited you to let me know if there were any passages or topics you wanted discussed here on a Sunday morning. This passage was one of the ones requested. And I can understand why… it can be a confusing passage, especially if you’re just casually reading through the book of Matthew and you come upon it. What was Jesus really saying?

It would appear to say that he came to bring us conflict. It would appear that He’s telling us to hate our families. It would appear that Peace is not something He came to bring.

But how does that fit with the rest of Scripture? You may be familiar with several other passages like:

Isaiah 9:6 (NLT) where Jesus is called the
“…Prince of Peace.”

Luke 2:14 (NLT) where the angels are telling the shepherd about the birth of Jesus and they say…
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favours.”

Matthew 5:9 (NLT) where Jesus is speaking and He says
“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”

Romans 5:1 (NLT) where Paul writes…
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

Ephesians 2:14 (NLT) where Paul tells the church in Ephesus…
He has brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and to us Jews who were near.

Romans 12:18 (NLT) where you are instructed to…
Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible.

But then we hit this passage in Matthew 10 where Jesus says:

Matthew 10:34 (NLT)
“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, I came to bring a sword.”

And then He goes on to talk about turning a man against his father and a daughter against her mother. How do you rectify that with the rest of Scripture? How does it fit with everything we’ve come to know and understand about Jesus? This morning I want to talk about what Jesus was really saying, and what it means for us today. We’re going to look at four notes on living for Jesus. You can use the outlines provided in your Sunrise Update to follow along and fill in the blanks as we go.

 

Notes on Living for Jesus:

 

1. Spiritual Peace does not equal social or political peace.

It was a spiritual peace Jesus came to bring. He came to offer forgiveness and a restored relationship with our Creator.

In your notes…
"Jesus came to offer peace with God."

Think back to some of the prophecies of the Old Testament. Remember how they talked about Jesus coming to set up His kingdom? The Jews of the day thought that meant that Jesus was going to come overthrow the Roman government and set up an earthly kingdom. Even His disciples expected Him to do that. But that wasn’t what He was all about. He came to set up a spiritual kingdom, not an earthly one.

And it’s the same way with the Peace He came to bring. He came to offer us peace with God, not with everyone else. He did instruct us to try to live at peace with others as far as it depended on us, but He never promised that we wouldn’t have conflict during this life.

In fact, check this out. We already read from Matthew 5:9;

Matthew 5:9 (NLT)
“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”

But check out the next two verses:

Matthew 5:10-11 (NLT)
“God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers.”

We are to try to live at peace with others, but we need to stop short of compromising on our faith. Remain true to God, and if your are persecuted because you are a Christian, that’s fine. In fact, the next verse says:

Matthew 5:12 (NLT)
“Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted, too.”

Finding peace with God does not mean that you find peace with everyone else. In fact, quite the opposite can be true…

 

2. Not everyone will be happy that you live for God.

Why? Because the message of Jesus is offensive.

Ever think of it that way before? But it is. It tells us that there’s something wrong with us. It tells us we can’t do it on our own. It tells us that we’re not perfect. It tells us that we’re sinful. It tells us that because of what we’ve done Jesus had to die. It tells us that we need God.

It’s an offensive message, and the people who can’t deal with it or can’t recognize and admit their need of God will react against it. It’s not really you they’re rejecting… it’s God. He’s thrown them a rope to save them, but they won’t grab hold. They think they can make it without Him. And they’d rather die than admit they need God.

Some of you are familiar with the passage in Revelation 3:

Revelation 3:17 (NLT)
“You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”

Because some people won’t recognize that they are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked – because they won’t recognize that they need God – they reject Him and reject you. They may express it be being cold or indifferent, or they may even become hostile.

Jesus said:

Matthew 10:34 (NLT)
“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, I came to bring a sword.”

It wasn’t His desire to bring conflict, but He knew it would be a realistic response of some people to His message. He wasn’t saying that it was His objective to cause conflict; If you take the whole of Scripture together, it tells us that Jesus came to bring life, He came to bring peace between us and God, He came to restore our relationship with our Creator and give instructions on how to live in everyday life. But it also says that some people would not accept that and that it would result in conflict.

 

3. Love your family, but love God more.

Matthew 10:37 is included in your notes. It says…

Matthew 10:37 (NLT)
“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.”

I want you to underline or circle some word in that verse… First, circle the words “more than you love me”. And later in the verse, circle “more than me.”

It’s pretty clear in this verse that Jesus is not talking about hating your family… He’s just talking about keeping Him first. It’s an order of magnitude. Yes, love your family. Be devoted to them. Care for them and keep their best interests at heart. And hopefully you’ll never be forced to choose between them and God. But if there ever comes a time when they want to lead you away from God and His will for your life, keep Him first. Love your family, but love God more. And as long as you keep God first and have a growing love for Him, you will see your love for others growing and expanding, too.

“When I love God more than I love my earthly nearest and dearest, I will then discover that I am loving my earthly nearest and dearest more than I did before.”
~ C. S. Lewis

Let’s go a little deeper. If you are committed to Jesus and your spouse doesn’t like it, that can be quite a strain on your relationship and it can be a very difficult thing to deal with. When Shera’s parents first became Christians, there were members of their family who wouldn’t speak to them for years. And it was very tough on them.

But if you’re in that situation, let me encourage you to keep God first. You don’t have to go out of your way to cause conflict, don’t walk around acting self-righteous, and don’t brow-beat your spouse or try to punish them for not sharing your belief in God, but also don’t compromise your faith. As much as it’s possible, seek peace, but not peace at any price. Not peace at the expense of your relationship with God.

If you are in a situation where you have chosen to live for God and that has caused conflict in your family, here’s my advice. Live out your faith in everyday life. Be compassionate, be gentle, be loving, be devoted, be faithful, be a person of integrity, apologize when you lose your cool, and don’t try to rationalize away times you sin and do things that are against God’s will… and allow Christ to work in and through your life transforming you into the person you were intended to be. At first, your family may think it’s a show and may not take you seriously or may even insult you. Don’t lose heart. Keep on living for God, and over time they will be forced to recognize that your faith is very real and they will come to respect you for it. They may even come to share your faith.

As for friends, it’s the same thing. God wants us to have strong, healthy relationships with our friends. And He wants us to have lots of friends. But we can’t allow our friends to ever take the place of God in our lives. Keep Him first.

 

4. The Christian Life is not easy.

What are some of the demands or challenges of living for Jesus?

PARTICIPATION

(witnessing, putting others first, being discriminated against, putting God’s will ahead of your ambitions, being lumped in with hypocrites…)

Matthew 10:38 (NLT)
“If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.”

The Message version of the Bible puts it this way…

Matthew 10:38 (MSG)
“If you don't go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don't deserve me.”

Jesus talks about taking up a cross. And Jesus knew what a cross was all about. Crucifixions were fairly common in His society. When He was a young boy around the age of 11, a man named Judas the Galilean led a rebellion against Rome. He and his followers invaded the royal armoury at Sepphoris. Sepphoris was only about six kilometres north of Nazareth where Jesus grew up. In fact, Sepphoris was a major city and Nazareth was more of a suburb of it.

(PowerPoint – map, picture on hillside, view from Nazareth)

Judas the Galilean lead a rebellion and attacked the royal armoury in Sepphoris. And the Roman vengeance was swift and sudden. Sepphoris was burned to the ground, its inhabitants were sold into slavery, and 2000 of the rebels were crucified on crosses which were set in lines along the roadside as a warning for others tempted to rebel.

Jesus had most likely witnessed this mass execution. In fact, there’s speculation that His father Joseph who was a carpenter may have helped in the rebuilding process and Jesus may have accompanied Him. So He would have been very familiar with these crosses along the side of the road.

Jesus knew what crosses were all about. Plus, he could see what was coming down the road for Him and how He would be nailed to a cross Himself. For Jesus, the cross was a symbol of rejection, humiliation, and total submission. A lot of people today wear crosses as jewellery and don’t think anything of it… others know exactly what it means. For Jesus, His cross meant that people would laugh at Him and scorn Him. It meant that He, the Son of God, would be viewed as a criminal. It meant physical, mental and emotional anguish. Jesus had all the qualifications of Deity… He was God. But He gave up all His rights and comforts as God for the cross.

Why? Because that was His mission. And no amount of discomfort or ridicule or abuse was going to deter Him from it. He knew what was right.

How about you? What does it mean for you to take up your cross and follow Him? Does it mean enduring some difficulty, some hardship, some insults and persecution? Does it mean that some people won’t like what you stand for? Does it mean you give up certain rights and privileges in favour of following God’s leading in your life? What does it mean for you to take up your cross and follow Him?

“There are no crown-bearers in Heaven that were not cross-bearers here below.”
~ Charles Spurgeon

Just a few verse earlier in Matthew 10 at verse 28, Jesus told His disciples:

Matthew 10:28 (NLT)
“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill you. They can only kill your body; they cannot touch your soul.”

Being killed for any reason isn’t exactly a pleasant prospect. But if I ever have to choose between my relationship with God and dying for my faith… well, I hope by God’s grace I show myself worthy to be His disciple. Because there’s a great promise in verse 39:

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


Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT)
“The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way. But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it.”

Living the Christian life is not easy. You may have to make some tough choices. It may cost you in ways you didn’t anticipate. But the reward will always far exceed the cost. To be in the center of God’s will is worth any sacrifice you have to make, because there’s no better place to be. And if not during this lifetime, you will enjoy the rewards in Heaven as you remain faithful to Him.

 

I want to share one more quote with you as we wrap up here this morning. It’s a quote from William Booth. Some of you may know William Booth as the founder of the Salvation Army. He lived one of the most remarkable Christian lives of anyone in history. In fact, he had a whole list of “rules for Christian living” which I included in the Sunrise Update this morning. But one time he was asked what the secret of his amazing Christian life was. His response? He said,

“I told the Lord that He could have all there is of William Booth.”
~ William Booth when asked about the secret of His amazing Christian life


How about you? Will you give all there is of you to Jesus Christ this morning? He gave all of Himself for you.

Would you close your eyes for a couple minutes? I want to give you a time to reflect. We sang a song earlier called “Above All.” Is that who Jesus is for you? Take these few moments of silence to reflect on who Jesus is to you. Is He number one in your life. If so, how do you know? How has it affected the way you live?

If Jesus comes first for you, reaffirm it this morning and let Him know you love Him. And if He doesn’t, perhaps you want to let Him know this morning that you are deciding to put Him first starting now.
 

 


 

 

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