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Is This Really the Right Road?
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Being a follower of God requires faith, patience, and perseverance. Even when we are disoriented and confused, our best hope is to continue on the path He has chosen for us.

I. Introduction
  A. Reader’s Digest story: A soldier in the army was driving a big vehicle to a new location. He pulled up at “Checkpoint Charlie” and exploded to the MP at the gate. “This bozo behind me is driving like a maniac! Going too fast, cutting corners, clipping hedges. Plus he’s been tailgating me for the past 20 miles.”
    1. He hopes the sentry will go back and shoot the guy – or, at a minimum, issue a general court-martial.
    2. The sentry looks hard at the second truck, trying to see what kind of idiot is driving the thing. “Sir, you’re towing that vehicle.”
    3. Oh. Never mind.
  B. JOKE: A young lady is driving in unfamiliar snow country, in a blinding white-out storm. No chains, visibility five feet, a winding road. She remembers that her grandpa had said: “Find a snowplow and just stay right behind him. Their big snow tires will carve out a path for you; also, they have those piercing headlights.” She spots one and jumps right behind him, turning where he turns, keeping at his speed. The road is more winding than she remembers, but she gamely follows close behind. Suddenly he stops; the driver comes back to where she is parked. “Lady, what in the world are you doing? Are you with the FBI or something?” She explains her grandpa’s theory.  “I hope you don’t mind if I just follow you.” He shrugs.  “Suit yourself. I’m done clearing the Wal-Mart parking lot; now I’m heading over to Albertson’s. Be my guest.”
II. What is it Like to Follow?
  A. What did it mean for Matthew, Peter, James, John to be Jesus’ disciples and follow Him?
    1. These men were not “towed”; they had to voluntarily leave fishing nets, tax books, other interests and obediently swing into line behind this new Leader.
    2. This was a monumental decision, a make-or-break moment for each of them
  B. Sometimes those of us who have been on the Christian freeway for half a century forget what it’s like to be a new member, just merging onto the highway to heaven, looking for the lead car in the caravan.
    1. Some things that are instinctive for saints, a new Christian has to really think about on a daily basis.
      a. Where is Jesus taking us?
      b. What direction is the church leading us toward?
      c. What do I do now with this temptation or that fork in the road or some certain lifestyle choice?
  C. What happens in the physical act of following?
    1. You’re in the woods on a church hike
      a. You don’t know the way; this is unfamiliar terrain
      b. The person who knows the way leads . . . you follow
      c. What does that mean? What do you do?
    2. Peter writes in his first epistle about pain and suffering Christians endure
      a. How should we respond?
      b. To this [suffering] you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His footsteps. (2:21)
    3. Sometimes others in our church community go through hurts and trials we don’t know anything about
      a. People with emotional burnout
      b. People with moms in the ICU unit
      c. People waiting for a critical diagnosis
      d. People whose children are experiencing trauma
    4. We want to say to those struggling: “We love you. This is your family. Come here to church and let us love and care for you.”
      a. At the same time, the Bible tells us there will be problems and hard times landing in our laps
      b. We follow Jesus by dealing with them cheerfully
  D. If we think, “I’ve already had my share of troubles; I’ve already robustly fulfilled this verse,” check the context of Peter’s essay.
    1. He’s writing about slavery!
      a. In that culture people had slaves
    2. Some of those Peter writes to actually were born-again slaves at that moment
    3. He writes: “Hang in there. Jesus suffered unjust pain, undeserved rebukes, unfair criticisms.”
    4. Even if you’re a slave – which is wrong, evil, wicked – just keep smiling and know that one of these days you’ll be set free and live in a mansion.
    5. Actually, even now, your master is a slave to sin and you’re free in Jesus Christ.”
III. The Footprints of Jesus
  A. Picture His footprints; how do we follow in them?
    1. In the woods and it’s dark and forbidding, you stay as close to the leader as you can
      a. You don’t lag behind and let 300 yards separate you
      b. You maybe even hang on to his shirttail
      c. If you’re crossing a dangerous river, you even see where he puts his feet and you put yours there too
      d. You keep him within visual range all the time
    2. Isn’t this our goal as we follow Jesus?
    3. We keep Him in our sights daily
      a. Let’s get past the idea that Sabbath is Jesus’ day and that this church is our little “God location” and that this one hour is our weekly “God shot.”
      b. We need to see our Savior moving before us, and we need to make that something we do seven days a week
  B. How do we keep Jesus in view?
    1. Some ways are natural and easy, others hard
    2. Some involve going out of our way to be able to visualize the life and practices and example of Jesus
      a. If you have a 30-minute commute, and you spend ten of those minutes listening to a Scripture-narration CD instead of the morning news, that’s a new hard thing
      b. Pop music is easy; Christian songs are hard
      c. In the evening, TV is easy; reading your kids a Bible story is hard
    3. But if you want an on-fire life, a passion for the kingdom of God, you can’t get that in just one hour a week at church.
    4. So often in this treacherous journey to heaven, we might not look up at our Guide for days or even weeks!
      a. That’s not safe
      b. I’ve done it; you’ve done it – but we’re being shortsighted when we purposely or carelessly go the secular way.
  C. Peter: “Follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Put your feet where His were. Do what He does.”
    1. Peter himself learned the only way that this is the only way to proceed
      a. Eyes on Jesus every single day
      b. Jesus trusted in God and humbled Himself; Peter was a show-off and sank like a stone
      c. Jesus was faithful unto death; Peter ran out of Gethsemane like a scared rabbit and denied Jesus three times
      d. Not until after Calvary did Peter decide to just do what Jesus did, even if it involved a second crucifixion
  D. One practical way to follow: C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity
    1. He advises the Christian follower: “Put your beliefs in front of you each day.”
      a. Look at Jesus
      b. Look at what you believe about Him
      c. Look at the doctrines of the church
      d. Read the Bible to discover how Jesus lived, spoke, acted, treated people
  E. An investor reads something about market forces and trends almost every day
    1. It’s even more important if you’re investing in heavenly real estate
    2. Educating your soul and mind in the ways of Jesus needs to be a daily thing if you want to be a passionate believer
IV. The Lord's Supper
  A. Here is a divine act where Jesus shows His disciples key principles of the Christian faith
    1. Put others first
    2. Think of yourself as a servant
    3. Don’t keep score
    4. Don’t have a pecking order
    5. Take in the body and blood of your Savior
  B. John 13:12-15: When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
    1. “An example of love” says another version
    2. Message paraphrase: “I’ve laid down a pattern for you”
  C. The disciples thought it would demean them to wash even the feet of their peers
    1. Jesus is proportionally higher above us more than anybody here is higher than the poorest, loneliest, most uneducated, broken-down, beaten-down, sinful person on any skid row within 50 miles of this church
    2. And yet Jesus was a servant
    3. He invites us to just watch, to contemplate, to “get” the message
    4. Every time we wash feet and take bread and wine, we are opening up our eyes to the realities of how Jesus works and does His ministry
V. Following "Completely"
  A. An Old Testament verse, I Kings 11:6, is both bad and good news
    1. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord COMPLETELY, as David his father had done.
    2. What does “following completely” mean?
      a. Closely; you stay as close to the pattern as you can
      b. Thank God He loves us despite the wide gap that exists, but the pattern or goal is: follow in all details.
      c. We follow steadily – no detours down this road or that
      d. You stay on your Guide’s heels all the time
    3. People wear WWJD bracelets now; it’s kind of trite
      a. But if something around your wrist would really jolt you several times a day, so you ask: “What Would Jesus Do?”, with the point being to “go thou and do likewise,” more power to you!
      b. We aren’t a church where we wear little gold crosses around our necks, but if it made us into truly focused followers, we would probably buy them out of our church budget.
VI. Listen to the Guide
  A. With many of you, I’ve learned to listen when you speak
    1. When (Mr. X) speaks on (topic), I know to pay attention!
    2. When (Miss Y) shares her thoughts on (topic,) I’ve learned it’s worth hearing
      a. If there’s a difference of opinion, she’s probably right and I’m wrong
    3. Some of you know so well how to draw people together, to temper and refine our ideas and suggestions
      a. There’s an abundance of collective spiritual wisdom here right now
    4. Many times in my life (both hiking and spiritually) a mentor has said to me, “Step over here; it’ll go better.” Or: “Watch out for that overhang. With this warm sun, there could be rattlesnakes up there.”
  B. When we have good guides, we should seriously heed what they have to say
    1. Old advertising line: “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.”
      a. At this church we need to cultivate an attitude of wanting to hear from Jesus
      b. Being hungry to know His will and His plan for us
  C. King David, despite his public failings, is still described in that OT verse as a leader who followed his Lord “completely.”
    1. Even when he committed grievous sins, through his tears of repentance, he still held onto the goal of totally following God.
      a. Psalm 119:116: I wait for Your salvation, O Lord, and I follow Your commands.
VII. Two Hard Aspects of Following
  A. These are even difficult and even distasteful – especially when you’re out there and it begins to rain and it’s cold and dark and discouraging
  B. FIRST, when the person at the head of the line begins to take you down a path you just plain don’t want to walk on
    1. Rapids are really roaring through that ravine
    2. You’re sure you’ll slip and drown
    3. Leader: “Well, this is where we go.”
      a. What?! Not here! No way, man. This is not good.
      b. Uh, boss, we’d rather go up the slope a ways and try to cross there.
    4. Guide: “No. This is the place. I’ve been here before; this is the right path.”
      a. What do you do?
    5. This happens on a daily basis for most of us
      a. You’re going to sense this moment
      b. God calls us to a hard road and we don’t want to go
      c. Isaiah 30:21: This is the way; walk ye in it.
    6. This “way” involves financial sacrifice
      a. Or a good deed you’d rather skip
      b. Forgiving someone – and you don’t want to
      c. Returning good for evil
      d. Coming to church on a hot, or cold, or rainy, or sleepy, or World-Soccer-Cup-on-TV Sabbath morning.
  C. STORY: On Everest, May 15, 2006, David Sharp was a dying hiker. Dozens of people just went past him and cruised to the summit. Italian climbers went by, claiming they didn’t English – it turns out they did. There was no chance they would risk oxygen bottles and their $65,000 climbing fee to jeopardize their own selfish adventure. A couple weeks later, an Australian climber named Lincoln Hall was perishing in the death zone; two athletes plus their guide, Dan Mazur, just hours from the top, sacrificed their own dream of a lifetime to save a life.
    1. They did the right thing even though it was costly  beyond comprehension
    2. The world hails them as heroes, but there was an agonizing moment when they were called to an ethical road that was painfully hard to walk on.
  D. When that kind of tough choice comes to us, let’s move ahead in confidence, knowing that when Jesus calls us to a hard path, it’s the right hard path.
  E. Dilemma #2: what if we’re not even sure this is the right path
    1. What if we begin to lose confidence that our Guide is even right?
    2. Jesus heads off in a certain direction; it’s dark over there
      a. We can’t see where the trail comes out
    3. True, Jesus’ leadership has been all right up till now, but everyone makes mistakes sooner or later.
      a. This has got to be the wrong trail; do we speak up or simply park by the side of the road or what?
    4. This is the great dilemma of being a Christian: we don’t know all things.
      a. There are hard matters in the Bible
      b. There are issues we can’t sort out
      c. There are new scientific discoveries and new trends in society that make holding onto the Word of God an increasingly hard thing to do.
    5. Kevin Phillips, historian, political scientists, author of American Theocracy
      a. Through the centuries, he portrays religion as a twisted, benighted, evil force ruining one society after another
      b. People who believe in the Bible invariably “reject science”
      c. They try to tell everybody else what to do
      d. They end up trying to take over the world
      e. They’re all followers of Pat Robertson, plotting to shred the U.S. Constitution
      f. After reading from ad admittedly brilliant author, you begin to say: “Man, am I just being suckered in here? Am I part of a local yokel Bible belt nut-case cult?”
  F. What do we do . . .
    1. When there are things we don’t understand?
    2. When there are beliefs that are unclear?
    3. When there are principles our finite minds cannot completely sort out?
  G. Do we dare to keep following God when our own moral equilibrium is confused and out of whack and we don’t know which way is up?
    1. Airplane pilots get “vertigo”; their sense of balance completely deserts them
    2. Down feels like up and up feels like a plummeting nose dive
      a. The instrument panel says they’re level, but the fluids in the inner ear are screaming, “Pull out! Pull out! You’re diving into a mountain!”
    3. Do we keep trusting those instruments? Or that leader in the control tower?
VIII. The Experience of Job
  A. In the Old Testament, Job loved God and God loved Job
    1. Job often saw the loving hand of God
      a. He experienced God’s protection, blessings, guidance
    2. One day his world suddenly caved in
      a. Everyone he loved died; his crops were wiped out
    3. He didn’t know God and Lucifer were playing a huge, hidden game of cosmic chess and Job was one of the main pieces on the board.
      a. He didn’t know what God was doing
      b. It looked like God had pushed him, not onto a bad road, but right into the ditch
    4. Job’s three secular, cynical friends posed a question: Should you keep following a Leader who seems to be lost Himself?
  B. This story is one of the Bible’s greatest sagas of followership
    1. Job 19:25, 13:15: I know my Redeemer lives. I know I’ll dwell with Him someday. In the meantime, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”
    2. Not just when the Guide’s leading seemed wrong, but when it seemed nonexistent.
    3. Job didn’t understand these trials
      a. He had no clue that God and Satan were dueling over him
      b. He didn’t know he was part of the focal conflict of all the ages
      c. He just knew he was covered with boils and had recently buried all seven sons and three daughters in a mass funeral service
    4. Despite his lack of understanding, even though the moral landscape was as black as midnight, Job kept on following.
IX. Peter and Jesus by Galilee
  A. At the end of the book of John, Jesus tells Peter how his life and ministry will end
    1. Peter will end up on a cross like his beloved Master
      a. That is okay; Peter is finally ready to be a complete follower
    2. He’s still a nosy guy; he likes to know about everybody’s business, not just his own
    3. He asks Jesus, “Uh, how will John end up? Since You know everybody’s future?”
    4. Jesus says to His friend, kindly but firmly, “I’ve got news for you; that’s none of your business. That’s not for you to know.”
    5. King James: What is that to thee?
      a. Then these three words: FOLLOW THOU ME.
X. Challenge
  A. Be a follower of Jesus under all circumstances
    1. Good roads and hard roads
    2. When it makes sense and when it doesn’t
    3. When your Bible questions get answered and when they don’t
    4. On good Sabbaths at church and on lackluster ones
    5. When things go well and when they don’t
  B. Listen, Jesus has proved Himself enough for everybody here
    1. If for some reason, you feel He hasn’t blessed you much lately, He’s blessed one of your brothers or sisters here
      a. He has blessed me plenty; I can tell you that!
    2. He’s been right enough times that I have made a permanent, irrevocable, everlasting decision that I believe He is right 100% of the time.
  C. One of the longest poems in the world is by H. M. S. Richards, Sr., of the Voice of Prophecy radio program
    1. On every program he finished with a new set of lines
    2. Here is one for us:
      a. Have faith in God when storms clouds fill your day. Have faith in God when you can’t see the way. Have faith in God; He promises to stay. Have faith, dear friend, in God.
 
Submitted by David B. Smith. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines.



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