Follow (Week 7): “Following Jesus Transforms Everyday Life!”

Main Scriptures:  Mark 1:17, 1 John 2:6, & Mark 5:1-20
 
Big Word #2 is “FOLLOW!” A guiding image of this series is the children’s game: “follow the leader.”  
 
Who are we to follow? A politician, a celebrity pastor, a sports hero or famous actor, a favorite author or musician… There is no end of the list of people who want you to “follow” them, but there is only one invitation that transforms everyday life. There are so many people making promises, but only One who can deliver on all His promises! Listen to Jesus’ invitation to FOLLOW. Listen closely because it comes with a promise: “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men'” (Mark 1:17).  
 
Jesus invites us to become His disciple/apprentice/learner. Jesus’ call to those original fishermen was pretty obvious. Jesus stood there and looked them in the eyes… in response they dropped their nets and followed Jesus, meaning they walked where He walked, learned what He taught, ate what He ate, and tried to do what He did. A disciple is a person who FOLLOWS Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.
 
We see this clearly taught by John in 1 John 2:6, “By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:5b, 6).  
 
To follow is to be on a journey with Jesus, one step at a time. In the church, we call this discipleship. Discipleship is simply the process of becoming… of being under construction… Discipleship is a life-long journey of a person following Jesus to become more and more like Jesus Christ from the inside out. The invitation of Jesus Christ is to “Follow Me” and the promise of Jesus is that He will transform us along the way. Jesus transforms us as we follow Him, but He also transforms the world around us [how?] through us!
 
Following Jesus transforms everyday life! Last week, the elders discussed with us the importance of leading like Jesus Christ. They talked about how we are to lead like Jesus in the church, but they also talked about how we are to live like Jesus in everyday life. Scott Underwood, one of our elders, introduced three points about what it looks like to walk like Jesus. Jesus is practical, intentional, and relational as He walks with us.  
 
Following Jesus transforms everyday life! We live differently when we are practically, intentionally, and relationally following Jesus Christ. Because every time you attempt to practically follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit asks you do something for someone in the real world. Because every time you attempt to intentionally follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit is going to lead you into a very real situation to show that God is real too. Because every time you attempt to relationally follow Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is going to ask you to love a real person who you can see and touch, and who is possibly not as easy to love as the God you cannot see but claim to be following. The rubber must meet the road somewhere and with someone if we are truly following Jesus.
 
Following Jesus transforms everyday life! Now, let’s take a snapshot of Jesus’ life to see what it looks like to be practical, intentional, and relational. Please turn with me to Mark 5 to watch Jesus at work.  
 
Read Mark 5:1-15. Jesus starts by meeting the practical needs of the man who was stuck in his lifestyle. This means we practically meet people in their daily needs and concerns. In the counseling ministry that I am blessed with here in New Castle, this means that when I can I help people with their “presenting problem” before I go to their deeper need. We all have “presenting problems”, but we don’t all have the same ones. I very intentionally try to help people where they are. Yes, all people are in need of Jesus, but let’s treat them like individuals (relationally) and build a bridge (intentionally) into their lives because each person is made in the image of God who deserves basic human dignity. People feel looked over when we go straight to our evangelical agenda and don’t meet them where they are.
 
Let me illustrate from Mark 5 by looking at what Jesus did in this story: “Presenting problems” can be ugly! The needs of this man were very off-putting (to anyone!). Mark 5:2-5 describes, “When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.”
 
The “presenting problem” was dealt with as evidenced by Mark 5:15: “They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the ‘legion’; and they became frightened.”  
 
You’ve heard it said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. It’s true! This is why we must be intentional. We must know why we do what we do. We are building stronger bridges between us and others for Jesus!
 
Listen to the story as it continues, from Mark 5:16-18, “Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine. And they began to implore Him to leave their region. As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.” While the city was more concerned about the swine and their economic well-being, Jesus had a bigger purpose in mind. Jesus got a foothold (e.g. D-Day beach head) into the town that rejected Him. He left as they asked him, but not in defeat or by their leave! Jesus left the man behind to do that which only a man of the town could do (This was D-Day and Jesus knew V-Day was coming). Just because you aren’t called to the other side of the globe doesn’t mean you aren’t called to the work of missions.
 
You have heard me say that the Kingdom of God is a relational kingdom. Did you notice that Jesus sends us to do His work even in places He has been disinvited? Listen to the conclusion of this story from Mark 5:18-20, “As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. And He did not let him, but He said to him, ‘Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.” But this is not the real end of the story! Jesus did not deny this man’s request out of exclusion, but for the sake of this man becoming a human bridge between himself and others for Jesus! He was the foothold!
 
This one formerly demon-possessed man would go on to impact his town and the whole region. Matthew 4:25 teaches us that later, “Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan” (cf. Mark 7:31-37). You are called to transform your everyday world by being practical, intentional, and relational. What does this look like? Husbands help with the dishes. Wives say thank you and tell them they did a great job. Children love your parents. Parents listen to your kids and do not provoke them to anger. We are commanded to love one another in practical ways. You can make a difference!
 
The mission of God may begin around your kitchen table, but it must leave the building. Just like at church, the mission of God may begin with the people in your pew or small group, but you shouldn’t contain your love for Jesus by keeping it inside the four walls. Christ sends us to those in our homes, churches, workplaces, schools, sports and hobbies, neighborhoods and communities. There are no boundaries for Jesus when He has you! You are the foothold in the schools, workplaces, government, clubs and organizations, families…
 
As we leave the four walls of our homes and churches, go and love your neighbors by being a blessing and not a curse. Bring thriving to our community be helping people along the way. Show the world that God loves them by you loving them in practical, intentional, and relational ways. Keep your eyes open to the needs that are presenting themselves. Meet “presenting problems” in order to build a strong bridge into the person’s life.
 
Let us, the people of God, build stronger bridges, not higher walls.
 
Why?
 
Because that is what Jesus Christ did for us when He went to the cross. Jesus is the bridge back to God. He is the mediator between sinful humanity and a holy God. As we follow Jesus, let’s strengthen that bridge by the way we follow Jesus in everyday ways.

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Follow (Week 3): Pray Like Jesus!

KEY VERSES:  Mark 1:17 & 1 John 2:6
 
Big Word #2 is “FOLLOW!” A guiding image of this series is the children’s game: “follow the leader.”
 
It’s important that we review some of the basics. Not just for those who are just joining us, but because there are basics that we all must be reminded of every week. Such as answering the question…
 
Who are we to follow? To whose invitation are we responding?
  • A pastor, a worship leader, a personality or a style…
  • A group of friends… A cultural (tribal) pressure…
  • A denomination or brand loyalty… Family and tradition…
  • A cause to champion… A bandwagon to jump on…
 
We are invited to FOLLOW JESUS CHRIST! Listen to Jesus’ invitation to FOLLOW: “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men'” (Mark 1:17)

 

What does it look like to follow Jesus?

 

Jesus invites us to become His disciple/apprentice/learner. Jesus’ call to those original fishermen was pretty obvious. Jesus stood there and looked them in the eyes… in response they dropped their nets and followed Jesus, meaning they walked where He walked, learned what He taught, ate what He ate, and tried to do what He did. A disciple is a person who FOLLOWS Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.
 
We see this clearly taught by John in 1 John 2:6, “By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:5b, 6).
 
To follow is to be on a journey with Jesus, one step at a time. In the church, we call this discipleship. Discipleship is simply the process of becoming… of being under construction… Discipleship is a life-long journey of a person following Jesus to become more and more like Jesus Christ from the inside out. The invitation of Jesus Christ is to “Follow Me” and the promise of Jesus is that He will transform us along the way. This is the promise of the Holy Spirit who we learned last week is our Helper. As Jesus taught in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” The Holy Spirit has some tried and true ways to do this work in us and Jesus modeled it for us. He led the way. We are invited to follow Jesus…
 

Jesus modeled definite patterns of prayer in his life and ministry.

 
The goal of our prayer life is not to gain credits to our account. Never forget, God credits (imputes) his favor to your account by grace, not by works. When you accept the invitation to follow Jesus, you come into relationship with Him. Now, prayers are one of the ways to know Jesus better, to talk to Him. You know what it is to want to talk to someone when you are in love; prayer has the same heart, the desire for intimacy—to know and to be known.
 

Over 45 passages in the Gospels record how Jesus often slipped away to pray and there are four simple principles about prayer that can be learned from Jesus’ definite patterns of prayer. Always remember that our goal is to develop a lifestyle of prayer in which we continually share our heart with God; to know Him better.

 

1. Jesus prayed before the important events and decisions of His life.

The Gospel of Luke 6:12-13 records, “It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles.”

Are there any decisions we should make apart from prayer? What is the role of prayer in every aspect of your life, your work, and the places of your responsibilities? How do we make it a pattern of our lives to pray before we make decisions?
 

2. Jesus prayed after the significant achievements of His life.

The Gospel of Matthew 14:22-23 witnesses of what Jesus did after the miracle of feeding the five thousand, “Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.”

Do you pray as much after the time of crisis or achievement as before the events? Do you schedule special times of prayer after you have fulfilled significant responsibilities? Why is this important?
 

3. Jesus prayed when life was unusually busy.

The Gospel of Mark 1:35 demonstrates, “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.”

Professor at Moody Bible Seminary, Dr. Bill Thrasher states, “Time alone with God can be one of the greatest time-savers of your life.” How does your personal experience line up with this sentiment, if not practice? What happens to you when you let your busyness take over your heart and mind? How do you invest your time? Do you know the difference between what is urgent and what is important?
 

4. Jesus prayed when He was overwhelmed with need.

The Gospel of Matthew 9:35-38 illustrates Jesus’ lifestyle of prayer and how we are to imitate Him by His own command, “Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’”

No one ever just decides to be a person of prayer. God awakens people to this lifestyle through their sense of needs and through a burden or broken heart for the needs surrounding them. Has God awakened this in you? What burdens you? Where is God breaking your heart?
 
 

Following Jesus means we press into the lifestyle of Jesus Christ. We are to imitate Jesus, and this includes in our most private and personal of places, including our prayer life. Let us end our time this morning by praying together as the Lord Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV): “Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”


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