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Following Jesus

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well it's new it's a new year and and that's a time for reflection hopefully not for regret although sometimes that happens you know but reflection and and it's a time for what do they call them resolutions resolutions I saw a news clip about interviewing a guy who owns a oh it's a health club and he said oh yeah we're getting ready for the January first avalanche so we got to put on extra staff because they just come flocking in but he said it only lasts till about the second week in February and then things are back to normal so there you go in reflecting about the past year and and of course I have a lot of years a lot of years to reflect on so but anyway in reflecting I just I was thinking that tomorrow morning tomorrow morning January 1st 2018 actually begins the tenth year of me sending out a daily devotional called grace notes I started on January 1st of 2009 and as of today completed nine years of that I didn't realize that's what was going to happen when I when I started I was doing up through the Bible in a year reading plan and I thought that it would be great if I would share someone with some with others and so I had this little email list and and started doing that and and it's just been going some of you some of you here in this room have been with me for the whole ride the whole nine years and but but the thing is tomorrow morning start something new for me I've always like I said I use a through the Bible in a year reading plan and I would have everything laid out I'd have a chart with what I was gonna read what day and everything was laid out before I even started the year and this year it's just not gonna be like that I am a new focus for me on the life and Ministry of Jesus and that's what it's going to be for grace notes devotionals in 2018 and I struggle with this a little bit I'm just gonna start in reading the book of Matthew and I'm gonna read some verses and and when I hear something when I see something there I'm gonna think it through and share it through through grace notes and so I don't know what its gonna be like but if you want to join me I mean some of you are already on the right but but if some of you want to join me in this new look new style new approach to grace notes just go to resource ministries org slash devotionals before midnight tonight and sign up and you'll see it in your inbox tomorrow morning email available on on Facebook and on Twitter and also on my LinkedIn Network the life and Ministry of Jesus that's just kind of been consuming my thoughts for some time now and so let's dive into that a little bit Jesus was a carpenter by trade but but in his teaching ministry he used a lot more metaphor a lot more illustrations from from agriculture on the carpentry construction side he talked about two men building a house one building with a foundation one building without a foundation and and what the consequences would be of those choices and he talked about a guy that decides to build a big mansion but in the planning he forgets to count up how much it's gonna cost and he's not able to finish and so it sits there unfinished and he is embarrassed and so but but more than that he talked about he talked about farming and agriculture he talked about trees he talked about good trees bad trees good fruit bad fruit much fruit little fruit talked about pruning vineyards he talked about growing grain about planting and harvesting about about what to do if somebody comes along and and plants a bunch of weeds in your in your grain field and how that sorts itself out and he talked about vineyards he talked about pruning the vines and about sting the grapes and about making the the new wine but you know it seems to me that that in all of his teaching that Jesus favorite metaphors his favorite word pictures of spiritual truth came from the sheep industry he he loved to talk he told a story about a man having 100 sheep a man has a hundred sheep and and one of them gets lost and this man doesn't just love the flock of sheep he loves the Sheep and so he leaves the 99 and he goes through hard terrain and and risky search and he finds the lost sheep and rescues it and brings it back to the fold he talks about the final judgment the final judgment he says is going to be like a shepherd separating the sheep and the goats he just it seemed like it was a important picture to him there's this idea of sheep and shepherds in fact in fact he calls himself the Good Shepherd he says of himself I am The Good Shepherd I know my sheep and they know me just as my father knows me and I know the father so I sacrificed my life for the Sheep Jesus was um he was a teacher he was a burette a rabbi that's what they called teachers but he was an itinerant teacher didn't have a local like a local Bible School that he was associated with he was an itinerant teacher who was not who wasn't aligned with a particular Jewish denomination I mean there was the the Pharisee denomination and the Sadducees nomination and the Essenes and there was the the zealots but Jesus wasn't aligned with any of those Jewish denominations he was just him teaching the words that the Spirit of God gave him and made real to him as he full fulfilled his mission in the earth and and when he was in town he didn't have a place he but people would come and listen to him and and they gather on a hillside or they gather in the marketplace and and listen to his teaching and and and hopefully you see a miracle in fact I bet his crowds his crowds really increased when he started giving out free fresh fish and chips for lunch you know and but but when he moved on from your town when he moved on you couldn't sign up for his podcast and or you couldn't subscribe to his newsletter or watch his services online if you wanted to hear the next thing Jesus had to say you had to follow him to get the next episode I don't mean follow him on on Twitter or Facebook I mean I mean you had to actually follow him if you wanted the next episode you had to grab your gear and head out on the road and actually go where he went in fact here's the pattern I see in the way Jesus acquired a group of followers it's not a rule okay it's a pattern kind of pieced together the stories in the Gospels - in order to see this so here's how it would work people would become aware of Jesus they'd hear about him they'd be in the marketplace and they'd hear him teaching or or he'd show up at their synagogue and they'd hear him teach our friend a friend who was visiting from another the town would say hey I heard this teacher Jesus you ought to hear this they would come to his gathering when he was in town or or lying the streets to hear him one guy even climbed up in a tree so he could see in here what Jesus had to say and then if there was something that connected if there was something that pulled at them that stirred something in them when they heard what Jesus had to say then then they took the next step and they used their vacation time to go in here and see him example Jesus met Peter Andrew James and John he met them down in in Judea at the Jordan River when Jesus are sorry when John the Baptist was baptizing there and they had come to hear John and Jesus was there and and then after that they they met they seems like they spent a day together and then they went back home to Galilee 90 miles or so to the north of there and then weeks or so later Jesus was up in Galilee and and let's pick this up from mark chapter 1 here it says one day Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water he wasn't seeing them for the first time okay he'd met them before and and for they fished for a living Jesus called out to them come and follow me and I'll show you how to fish for people and they left their nets and followed him left their nets at once and followed him a little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee's sons James and John in a boat repairing their nets he called them at once and they also followed him leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men they saw something they felt something they experienced something when they heard Jesus teaching all weeks before down there in Judea and then he comes along and they responded because they had an encounter with him and and and conversation and then weeks later he's up in Galilee and he's seeing them again second time third time he's seeing them again and he calls them to the next level they've already been interested enough to go and hear him but now he calls them to follow him and they literally followed him backpacks on their back headin down the road and and then over time for some of them the ones who followed him like that Jesus stepped it up again and he chose some of them to send them out and to do what he did it says here in Luke six one day soon Jesus went up on a mountain to pray and he prayed to God all night at daybreak he called together all of his disciples all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles he chose twelve of them to be messengers to go with his message and his authority to say the things and do the things he was doing okay they followed him he called them they followed him some more he stepped it up again and they continued to follow him so so 20 centuries later 20 centuries later we're still using the same terminology where we're talking about I mean the leaders of churches we call them pastors or Shepherds Jesus is the Good Shepherd we say if you want to be my disciple disciple means the person who follows and learns we call ourselves Christians we call ourselves Christ's followers so we're still using the same terminology that Jesus used when he said I am The Good Shepherd I'd like to explore a little bit of what that actually practically means by the way we've tended to focus a lot of attention on making a decision on making a decision about choosing to invite Jesus into your heart about about praying a prayer we sometimes we call it getting saved that is really really good because that's becoming aware of Jesus and that's taking a step of response it's a start but listen what it means to follow Jesus is that it's a journey it's a journey and it's a process and it lasts your whole life long it's it's kind of like you remember this one your honor on a trip in the car and the kids are in the backseat are we there yet are we there yet well yes and no when it comes to following Jesus yeah no yes you're there you're on the journey no you're not there yet because there's still the day-by-day life to live are we there yet yes or no some days I mean this this following Jesus thing it really be honest with you it can have its ups and downs I mean there are days as a Christ follower that you're feeling like man I feel so good I'm doing so much better I I think I've got this I finally got this Christian thing and then there's days when when you're not doing so well and your attitude stinks and and and you start thinking about what it means to be a Christ follower and you think I'm toast I am burnt toast there's um and you think I've messed up so many times I might as well quit you know listen whether you're making what whether you're in a weather today or this season whether you're making lots of progress and it just seems like you're on a roll or whether it seems like you're in a season where it's it's two steps forward and slide one step back I want to tell you that the main thing is not how fast you're going the main thing is which direction you're facing the main thing is when you when you take two steps forward and then you mess up and you slide two steps back or one step back it's when you get up which way you're gonna face are you gonna face Jesus and keep on stepping that's the important thing and and that's why that's why in all of the teaching of Jesus and all the teaching of John the Baptist before him and in the teaching that we get through Jesus followers in the new in in the New Testament there's a word that comes up over and over again when it comes to following Jesus that word is repentance and and we've tended to make that word about an emotional thing when you feel guilty about your sin and so you confess your sin and ask him to forgive you which he does so gracious and gloriously and then you just get on with your life well the thing about repentance is that it's not so much about emotion it's about your mind it's about repentance is about changing your mind it's about a shift in direction and this word comes up over and over again and when you're following Jesus you may be repenting a whole lot because you may slip you may drift off to the side you may slide back a little bit and you have to you have to get up and you have to determine to face Jesus to go toward him to choose it to choose that to make that choice if you if you've been a reader of grace notes you know that repentance happens pretty often for me it's it's because I'm pretty honest in in the devotionals that I write and it's something that's very much a part of my life and and and and repenting repenting is how you follow Jesus on this journey um pastor Steve mentioned about Jeanne and me about being lifelong learners I so respect people who learn I so respect people who have a hunger and a thirst to learn but I want to tell you something if you haven't changed your mind in the past weeks months or years about stuff about how strongly held opinions that you have even about some of the things you believe about how Christianity ought to work then you've stopped learning because there's so much to learn anyway I've got to move on here here's the next thing is is that after after changes you gotta want to follow Jesus I mean you'll have to get up off the couch and see God takes an initiative God took the initiative he sent his son he sent his spirit he sent his followers he sent someone who made you aware of who Jesus is who he claims to be the truth about Jesus he sent someone to you think about this here we are this morning in this room we've been singing we've been praying we were giving worshiping we're listening to someone teach from the Bible but we're here today because there have been two thousand years of someone's that received the message and passed it on to someone else we're here because of two thousand years of someone's that God has sent to us interesting thing interesting thing if you choose to follow Jesus responding to to what someone said to you or did to you you will be someone else's someone it's like it's like you take that step because someone spoke to you and so you showed up or you or you prayed a prayer or you went to church or you talked to a friend about faith and so you took a step it was your move because he reached out to you and so you responded and then and then what happens is that God takes another step and he caused you to follow he calls you to make some changes he calls you to begin a journey and you do it and you might do it enthusiastically you might do it reluctantly you might do it cautiously or you may just jump all in unreservedly unreservedly but you follow and you keep following and you become the someone that he sins to someone else to to allow them to begin the journey and here's here's here's the next thing is that there will be some changes I just got I just got to be honest with you on this now if you're gonna follow Jesus there will be some changes you'll realize that there you got a lot to learn you will realize that that some of the stuff maybe a lot of the stuff anyway some of the stuff that you do maybe even some of the religious stuff you do is counterproductive to following to actually following Jesus you'll take steps you'll take steps to to learn more about what Jesus taught what do you what he said he said you're my followers if you do what I say in fact he said it this way he said you're my followers if you keep my commands oh well what are they what what what does it mean to keep the commands of Jesus well he didn't give a lot of commands in fact he gave two commands he said love God with all your heart and love other people as much as you love yourself that's simple but that's not easy but those are the commands that Jesus gave us as followers and so then you'll start thinking okay okay am i making progress am I am I more or less selfish than I used to be do I actually think about other people a little bit more you'll you'll you'll have these contemplative moments when you think am I more or less kind and patient and understanding with other people then I used to be yep still got a ways to go don't we still got a ways to go you'll think how you'll think this right now because because I want to raise your awareness on this you'll think how often is God in my thoughts when I'm in trouble oh yes absolutely when I'm in trouble God's right there number one what I'm getting ready to go to church God's there briefly I wonder what the sermon is going to out they sing the songs I like you know God's there but what will happen when you choose to follow is that your god awareness will increase and instead of thinking about God on a Asians God will begin to fill your thoughts you'll see other people and instead of judging and criticizing them for the outward thing you'll think I wonder what's happening in their life I wonder what God wants to do to help that person you'll you'll build some practices into your life praying praying whether whether you have a systematic pattern for prayer or whether you're praying is God helped me I'm in trouble here but but you'll you'll pray because you're aware of God you'll do some Bible reading and some in some form because God speaks to us by his Spirit from his word and so you'll incorporate some form of Bible reading you'll spend time with other Christ followers because you'll realize that we weren't called to do this just Jesus and me lone ranger kind of thing we were called to follow Christ in company with other people and so maybe you'll get into a small group and maybe it'll be a men's group or a women's group or or something but you will you will get involved with some other people and you'll talk and you'll pray together and you'll you'll be honest together and and and that'll help form both you and the others in that group and and you'll find a friend and this is a challenge but you'll find a friend you can trust and you might get burnt a time or two before you find that one friend you can trust but don't give up because there's a friend there for you that you can be honest with that you can that you can share the deepest things in your heart with and that'll be part of for you of following Jesus if you want to join me in 2018 if you if you go to that that website there resource ministries org slash devotionals before midnight tonight you can give give me your email address and and we can do some of this together because there's a way you can reply there anyway but you'll make a step and you'll do it soon and you'll make a step that connects you you'll watch other people who are a little further down the road you'll ask them questions you'll imitate the things their behaviors and practices because that becomes important to you and then the last thing I want to leave with you is is in this following Jesus thing he leads I follow I mean there's only one person driving this bus there's only one person that's in charge and that's Jesus um picture here on the screen of Jake the dog I want to tell you a little story about Jake the dog oh what a good dog when we got Jake a couple of years ago when we got Jake he was 10 months old he was a two-time loser when we got him and but and he was so full of energy and he came to live in the home of these old people Gina and me and and so and so we started taking him out and exercise and we walked him on a leash in the neighborhood actually he walked us you know it was one of those kind of deals and I don't think I ever walk so fast in my life as when I was walking Jake around the neighborhood and we led him on these walks with the leash and we let him in places that minimize the potential for disaster we even went to dog will beat we took him to dog obedience school found out that dog obedience school is actually people obedience school and it's mostly about learning to walk your dog without disasters happening so anyway and so we learned how to avoid potential conflicts and whatnot so that we could lead him out or where he could get some good exercise and and you know I would see other people walking their dogs walking their mature dogs and I would see him I would see him they had the leash leap looped around their hand they'd have their hands in their pockets the leash would be slack and they'd just be walking along the sidewalk there the dog would be just you know I thought Oh God is there ever gonna be a time when I can walk Jake with a slack leash you know what we kept at it a little bit here a little bit there day after day and most times we're on a slack leash now I'm still leading I've still got the leash but we've developed a relationship and we took him to the off leash dog park and that's that's a big step because you don't know how he's gonna relate to the other dogs and it's a new level and you don't have the control you got boundaries but you don't have the controls and it's some freedom and that was good but but then we graduated to what we like to do Jake likes to do anything we like to walk out in the desert so we go out east of town and we've got a place that we walk out there or we can Park and walk into a large BLM area and and so there's no leash and and we walk and he runs he runs like a crazy dog I mean here we're walking along our little trail and he's over here and then he's over there and then he'll be back there and and but the thing we've noticed is that because of the relationship because because he wants to be with us now because we're his carers and his providers and and there's a relationship that grows better all the time he's always checking to see where he is in relation to us if he ever loses sight he goes into panic mode until until he finds us and it doesn't take long but but in a way and you know we just want him to have a good time but we know a lot of stuff he doesn't know we know stuff that he wouldn't know what to do with if he didn't know it and so he's just got to trust us and that's what happens but as he trusts us the relationship gets stronger and we can trust him and the more he trusts us the more freedom we can give him that's an amazing thing if you think about it it's kind of like that the same thing is true for you and me our loving father our Good Shepherd knows a lot of stuff we don't know a lot of stuff we don't know and and it's good for him to know that because we wouldn't know what to do with it if we did so so like any metaphor my Jake the dog story is gonna break down at some point if you get too technical with it but it's true it's true for you and me in our relationship with Jesus it might be true for you very especially today like if you think about them what picture best represents your relationship with Jesus maybe you're still in the dog shelter and and he hasn't rescued you yet I want to tell you one thing he is coming for you and you will be so glad when he does when he gets you and rescues you and maybe it's still an on leash thing maybe you're in that stage where you really need some some structure around you in your relationship with him where maybe you're in the off-leash dog parking and there's boundaries but but listen to me following Jesus is the development of a relationship so you can go off-road off leash and just go with him where he's going you trust him and he trusts you and and I want to ask you what's the next move when you think about your relationship with Jesus what's the next move is it his move well you're here he sent someone you're here maybe it's your move if it's your move what's the next step this is what this is what I think our next step is and that's to tell him Jesus I want to follow you I just want to follow you I don't know I know some things about it I know it's a journey I know it's gonna require some changes I know that you lead but I want to follow oh I wrote a prayer I've been thinking about this for a few days and I I wrote a prayer for me and I prayed this last night and I want to pray this prayer I want you to listen as I pray this prayer and just listen to what I say and then I'm gonna ask you a question about it here's my prayer dear God thank you for sending Jesus to be my Savior and my Shepherd I want to follow Jesus this is me signing up show me what to do next in jesus name amen so here's the thing if that's a prayer that you can pray you may have prayed lots of prayers before but if that's a prayer that you can pray today from your heart I'm gonna ask you to pray it with me I'll say it again you can pray it after me but that might be your next move so here we go dear God thank you for sending Jesus to be my Savior and my Shepherd I want to follow Jesus this is me signing up show me what to do next in jesus name amen amen listen if you've got some things that that you're dealing with some things that you'd like to tell someone about so you'd like to have someone pray with you there's gonna be a team over here by that wall where it says prayer go over there when we dismiss go right over there there's someone that you can talk to that will pray with you if you've got some great ideas about 2018 and you'd like to share a thought with someone and have them agree with you in prayer that's the thing for you after we dismiss and so happy new year god bless you were dismissed

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