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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