False Expectations

This message is a part of the new sermon series for 2016 at King’s Grant Baptist Church, taken from Luke 14:25-35. Here is the video of my message.

There was a debate perhaps 25 years on the meaning of salvation. At that time I discovered a tremendously insightful resource by John MacArthur called, The Gospel According to Jesus. It changed my life. This is what it was all about…

As Baptists we understand that salvation by grace through faith. No one earns salvation through their deeds. But can someone be saved and not follow Jesus as a disciple? Can Jesus be your Savior without him being your Lord? Can you pray a prayer as a younger person, and because Baptists believe in “once saved always saved,” it matters not that you never grow in maturity?

Let me tell you a story about someone coming to Christ while I was out witnessing with my pastor; this was my first full-time staff position after seminary. The pastor and I went out visiting and this young man, likely a senior in high school, sat and talked with us at his kitchen table. I sensed that the guy was not buying what we were selling, but before we left, he was on his knees praying the sinner’s prayer with my pastor. My question after that evening, after it was all said and done was, “will we ever see this guy get involved in worship, Bible study, or have any desire to grow in spiritual maturity at all?” Did he mean it? Was he ready to accept the challenge of following Jesus?

What are the expectations that WE have of Jesus and Christianity? What are the expectations that Jesus has of US?

When Jesus left the Pharisee’s house, great crowds followed Him, but He was not impressed by their enthusiasm. He knew that most of those in the crowd were not the least bit interested in spiritual things. Some wanted only to see miracles, others heard that He fed the hungry, and a few hoped He would overthrow Rome and establish David’s promised kingdom. They were expecting the wrong things.

Jesus turned to the multitude and preached a sermon that deliberately thinned out the ranks. He made it clear that, when it comes to personal discipleship, He is more interested in quality than quantity. In the matter of saving lost souls, He wants His house to be filled (Luke 14:23); but in the matter of personal discipleship, He wants only those who are willing to pay the price.

A “disciple” is a learner, one who attaches himself or herself to a teacher in order to learn a trade or a subject. Perhaps our nearest modern equivalent is “apprentice,” one who learns by watching and by doing. The word disciple was the most common name for the followers of Jesus Christ and is used 264 times in the Gospels and the Book of Acts.

Jesus seems to make a distinction between salvation and discipleship. Salvation is open to all who will come by faith, while discipleship is for believers willing to pay a price. Salvation means coming to the cross and trusting Jesus Christ, while discipleship means carrying the cross and following Jesus Christ. Jesus wants as many sinners saved as possible (“that My house may be filled”), but He cautions us not to take discipleship lightly; and in the three parables He gave, He made it clear that there is a price to pay.

We are going to dive in to what it means to love Jesus Christ supremely and to carry one’s cross.

  1. Jesus’ Instruction concerning discipleship (Luke 14:25-27)
    1. In regard to the candidate’s family (Luke 14:25-26)
      1. Jesus was still traveling toward Jerusalem, and large crowds had joined him.
        1. Perhaps all these casual followers considered themselves “disciples” of this popular teacher.
        2. Perhaps they thought he was the Messiah and wanted to be there when he inaugurated his kingdom.
      2. Jesus needed to explain that following him did not mean receiving goodies, like the expectation of so many children.
        1. He wanted to explain what it meant to truly be his disciple. So he turned and spoke to them. His disciples had to hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself.
        2. This may be the only verse that teenagers will enthusiastically quote and follow, after all, Jesus said that I am to hate my parents.
        3. Certainly this caused a stir among the people. Who would possibly ask his followers to hate their family members and life itself? The point is not to HATE, but to LOVE others less. Your love for Jesus must be so strong that any other relationship of LOVE would look like HATE in comparison.
      3. Jesus never contradicts himself. Never has Jesus advocated “hatred”—in fact, he even commanded his followers to love their enemies (Luke 6:27, 35).
        1. In these words Jesus was not going against his own commands of love, or the fifth commandment to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12).
        2. Instead, the word “hate” is a Semitic hyperbole—an obvious exaggeration to make a point (see Genesis 29:30–33; Proverbs 13:24). Their love for Jesus should be so complete and wholehearted that their love for family members, and for life itself, would pale in comparison, to the point of being like hatred. In first-century Jewish family settings, deciding for Jesus could mean alienation from the family.
        3. Jesus warned the would-be disciples that they must be clear about their true allegiance. Jesus’ point was that those who wanted to be his followers would have demands placed upon them. The task would not be easy. Sometimes relationships would be severed, and his followers would have to turn away and remain with Jesus (12:51–53). Those who cannot make that kind of commitment cannot be his disciple.
    2. In regard to the candidate (Luke 14:27)
      1. Besides being willing to love Jesus more than any others and more than life itself, the true disciple must be ready to carry the cross and follow Christ.
      2. Jesus’ audience was well aware of what it meant to “carry the cross.” When the Romans led a criminal to his execution site, the criminal would be forced to carry the cross on which he would die. This showed submission to Rome and warned observers that they had better submit too.
      3. Carrying your cross means daily identification with Christ in shame, suffering, and surrender to God’s will. It means death to self, to our own plans and ambitions, and a willingness to serve Him as He directs (John 12:23–28). Bearing a “cross” is something we willingly accept from God as part of His will for our lives.
      4. Jesus gave this teaching to get the crowds to think through their enthusiasm for him. He encouraged those who were superficial either to go deeper or to turn back. Following Christ means total submission to him—perhaps even to the point of death.
  2. Jesus’ Illustration concerning discipleship (Luke 14:28-35)
    1. A disciple must be like a man preparing to build: the example of the unfinished building (Luke 14:28-30). The story has a couple interesting observations.
      1. Adequate Resources – mockery – a landmark of foolishness. If a person could not finish what he started, the community would mock him, and his unfinished building would be a testimony to his lack of following through.
      2. Adverse Reality – the calling to follow Jesus deserves serious thought and contemplation – the example of John Mark leaving the missionary journey (Acts 12:25-13:5, 13:13). The glamour and newness wears off and reality sets in. The young man did not count the cost of following Jesus and serving God as a companion of Paul.
    2. A disciple must be like a monarch preparing for battle: the example of a unsuccessful war (Luke 14:31-33) – To rush out with his soldiers, without first discussing the options, would invite disaster for any nation. It is far better to think it through beforehand. So those who want to follow Jesus should carefully consider their decision.
      1. The Christian life is a battle, if it was easy, everyone would do it.
      2. Satan is the enemy and our adversary, who seeks out downfall. He is the god of this world. Spiritual warfare is not a minor endeavor.
      3. For some, giving up everything may be literal, such as the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18–23 and many of Jesus’ early followers; for others it may be a willingness to hold loosely to material possessions.
    3. A disciple must be like a maître d’ preparing for a banquet: the example of an unsavory condiment (Luke 14:34-35)
      1. The maître d’ handles the reservations and preparations, so many Christians blend into the world and avoid the cost of standing up for Christ.
      2. But Jesus says if Christians lose their distinctive saltiness, they become worthless. Just as salt flavors and preserves food, Christ’s disciples are to preserve the good in the world, help keep it from spoiling, and bring new flavor to life.
      3. This requires careful planning, willing sacrifice, and unswerving commitment to Christ’s kingdom. Being “salty” is not easy, but if Christians fail in this function, they fail to represent Christ in the world. The person with ears should be able to understand these words and apply them.
        1. Salt without flavor is good for nothing; it has no purpose at the dinner table.
        2. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

What are those “costs” to believers? Christians may face loss of social status or wealth. Family and friends may hate or avoid you. We may have to give up control over their money, time, or career. It is not like living overseas where Christianity is illegal, and may cost your freedom or your life.

Following Christ does not mean living a trouble-free life. All people must carefully count the cost of becoming Christ’s disciple so that they will know what they are getting into and won’t be tempted to turn back when the going gets tough.

The title of this message is False Expectations, so let me wrap this us by sharing with you what I would call one of the most haunting verses in the Bible is Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ Talk about false expectations. Those who expects “well done, good and faithful servant,” heard Jesus say, depart from me, I never knew you.”

Discipleship is serious business. If we are not true disciples, then Jesus cannot build the tower and fight the war. Oswald Chambers wrote, “There is always an if in connection with discipleship, and it implies that we need not [be disciples] unless we embrace this. There is never any compulsion; Jesus does not coerce us. There is only one way of being a disciple, and that is by being devoted to Jesus.”

IF we tell Jesus that we want to take up our cross and follow Him as His disciples, THEN He wants us to know exactly what we are getting into. He wants no false expectancy, no illusions, no bargains. He wants to use us as STONES for building His church, SOLDIERS for battling His enemies, and SALT for bettering His world; and He is looking for quality more than quality.

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem when He spoke these words, and look what happened to Him there! He does not ask us to do anything for Him that He has not already done for us.

To some people, Jesus says, “You cannot be My disciples!” Why? Because they will not forsake everything for Christ, bearing shame and reproach for Him, and letting their love for Him control them.

Will you be His disciple?

Next Steps:

  • How possible are this conditions for you?
  • What has it cost you to follow Jesus?
  • What cost of following Jesus seems too high for you?
  • What relationships of other loyalties do you need to pray about to strengthen your loyalty to Jesus?
  • In what area of your life can you have a deliberate effect for Christ this week?

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Church Guests Have Questions

It’s important to encourage attenders to join our church — because they’ll NEVER grow spiritually without a commitment to live out what the Bible teaches while in a relationship with others.

As we encourage church membership, it’s important to keep in mind these five unspoken needs that prospective members are looking for our church to meet.

  • Will I be accepted at this church? – We meet this need best by establishing affinity groups within our church so that people with similar ages, interests, problems, or backgrounds can find and relate to each other. Everyone needs a niche, and small groups play a crucial role in meeting this need. We must show people that we have a place for them. Our Sunday and Wednesday opportunities are great because they can get involved, and if they have children, there is a quality and comprehensive process for discipling kids.
  • Will I find friends at this church? – People are looking for opportunities to develop relationships within our congregation. People aren’t looking for a friendly church as much as they’re looking for friends. The most common feedback we get off the Connection Cards and e-mail surveys is that we are a friendly and welcoming church. Let’s NOT just be polite but bring people in to our circles of commitment.
  • How will I make a difference at this church? – People want to make contribution with their lives. They want their lives to count. They want to feel that they matter. When we can show people that they can make a difference with their gifts and talents by joining our church, they will want to get involved. What can we dream up to get people involved, that will need all sorts of talents and abilities — not just singers, ushers and small group leaders. Take a look here on ways to get involved.
  • How will I benefit from joining this church? – We must be able to clearly and concisely explain the reasons and benefits of membership. Explain the biblical, practical, and personal reasons for membership. We have put together a simple brochure on what membership is so important.
  • What will be expected of me at this church? We must be able to explain the responsibilities of membership as clearly as we state the benefits of it. People have a right to know what is expected of them before they join. The Connections Class is a great way to get to know people who are on a similar life journey and to understand what King’s Grant membership is all about.

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Causes of a Broken Marriage

Many people enter marriage expecting “personal payoffs.” Eventually, these unrealistic expectations become lost hopes and dreams that grow a root of bitterness. Hebrews 12:15 states, “See to it that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

Couples expect marriage will always provide:

  1. Love and acceptance
  2. Affection and sexual intimacy
  3. A loving family
  4. Rescue from present circumstances
  5. Financial security
  6. Social acceptance
  7. Protection from loneliness
  8. Time to change a mate’s behavior

When these unrealistic expectations are unfulfilled, many spouses say:

  1. “Life is too short to live like this. We’ll both be happier apart.”
  2. “This was not a marriage made in heaven. We should never have married.”
  3. “I’ve tried everything—our situation is hopeless.”
  4. “You’re wrong. You’ll never change!”
  5. “Everybody’s getting divorced—marriage doesn’t matter anymore.”
  6. “It’s better for the children if I leave, to protect them from the arguing.”
  7. “I’ll never be happy here, but I’ll try to stay until the children are grown.”

Instead of living with unrealistic expectations regarding what you don’t have, be grateful to God for what you do have. First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

The Key to a Biblical Marriage?

Mutual submission is based on your love for the Lord and your desire to do His will. Because of your love for God, you both must learn to defer to the desires of each other. Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

This is information I discovered from June Hunt, the founder and CEO of Hope for the Heart.

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Pursuing Excellence

I’ve read that leaders pursue excellence. They lead their organizations, their families, their businesses, and their lives striving for their best. No one wants to settle for second best. Check out what was said about Jesus…

They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything He does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.” — Mark 7:37

I sense that Jesus was committed to excellence. We read in John 3:16 that God gave his very best–his Son. Likewise, as Mark reminds us, God’s Son gave his very best–his life (Mark 10:45). He prepared the best food (Matthew 13:19-20), made the best wine (John 2:9, 10), and the arms He healed were completely restored (see Mark 3:1, 5). Since we are to be in the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) we should do no less. Less than our best is inadequate, considering the fact that God gave us His very best.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Whatever our role, our position, our organization, or our lot in life, we must strive for our best. The measure of our success is not attached to our career or what we earn but to our character and what we give back.

From my days as a basketball player in school, excellence does not mean you’ll always win, or being the best, but it means being your best. Just as sanctification is becoming more like Jesus every day, excellence is being better today than you were yesterday.

I’ve heard it said that some people have fame thrust upon them. Think about it, very few men have excellence thrust upon them. Excellence is achieved and earned. So, what changes do you need to make so that people may say of you, “Everything He does is wonderful” (Mark 7:37)?

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In His Steps

We are called to follow the example that Jesus set for us. I remember the classic book by Charles Sheldon called, “In His Steps” which describes how the Reverend Henry Maxwell and his congregation were forced to consider the question, “What would Jesus do?” and its consequences. No one in town was left untouched by this brief and probing question. These people learn the answer is to walk in In His Steps.

Opening Questions:

  1. Growing up, who was the authority figure in your family?
  2. How was disobedience handled?
  3. In this section, we will see that the saints have various duties toward the government, their work and suffering.
  4. What does Peter say in 1 Peter 2:11-12 that helps to set the stage for this passage?

Reflecting Questions:

  1. Think of a fellow believer whom you greatly admire. In what ways would you like to model your life after that person’s example?
  2. Why didn’t Jesus feel any need to seek revenge? You may want to read an additional passage about Christ’s willingness to suffer (Isaiah 53:1-12).
  3. Why is it important for us to lead good lives?
  4. Why should we yield to authorities?
  5. What happens when believers endure suffering for doing good? Additional passages to explore include Matthew 5:11-12, Romans 5:1-5, James 5:10-11.
  6. What can we learn from Jesus about responding to unfair treatment? You may want to review some times when Jesus was unfairly treated in life as well as death – He healed a man, but was criticized because it was on the Sabbath (John 5:7–18); several times the Pharisees set out to trick him (Matthew 22:15–21; John 8:2–8).
  7. How do we tend to react when others hurt us?
  8. In what way does Christ’s example affect the way you view your problems and pain?
  9. How can our emotional wounds interfere with our spiritual growth? How do emotional wounds affect our ability to trust? to love? to obey? to hope?
  10. In what circumstances is it tempting to retaliate?
  11. When has God helped you forgive someone who hurt you deeply?
  12. How can you fight the urge to get back at people who mistreat you?

For more Bible passages on following Jesus’ example, see John 8:12; 12:26; 13:15; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1–2; 1 Thessalonians 1:6.

Here is an uplifting thought from Max Lucado:
The disciples are annoyed. As Jesus sits in silence, they grow more smug. “Send her away,” they demand. The spotlight is put on Jesus. He looks at the disciples, then looks at the woman. And what follows is one of the most intriguing dialogues in the New Testament.
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel,” he says.
“Lord, help me!”
“It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs,” he answers.
“But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ tables,” she responds.
Is Jesus being rude? Is he worn-out? Is he frustrated? Is he calling this woman a dog? How do we explain this dialogue?…
Could it be that Jesus’ tongue is poking his cheek? Could it be that he and the woman are engaging in satirical banter? Is it wry exchange in which God’s unlimited grace is being highlighted? Could Jesus be so delighted to have found one who is not bartering with a religious system or proud of a heritage that he can’t resist a bit of satire?
He knows he can heal her daughter. He knows he isn’t bound by a plan. He knows her heart is good. So he decides to engage in a humorous moment with a faithful woman. In essence, here’s what they said:
“Now, you know that God only cares about Jews,” he says smiling.
And when she catches on, she volleys back, “But your bread is so precious, I’ll be happy to eat the crumbs.”
In a spirit of exuberance, he bursts out, “Never have I seen such faith! Your daughter is healed.”
This story does not portray a contemptuous God. It portrays a willing One who delights in a sincere seeker.
Aren’t you glad he does?

(From In the Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado)

Bible Study Questions:

  1. Find several examples of submission in this passage. What is difficult about each?
  2. How are Christians to act toward governmental authority? Why are they to treat governing leaders with respect (1 Peter 2:13-15)?
  3. When the word “submit” is used in the New Testament, it is voluntary in nature. How is this different from other interpretations of the word today?
  4. How could the teachings of 1 Peter 2:16-17 keep you from being a “muddy doormat” to the government?
  5. What connection does the text point out between Christ’s suffering and a Christian’s submission in the situation of slavery (1 Peter 2:18-21)?
  6. What is Peter’s response to one whose master is not a Christian or is just a difficult person (1 Peter 2:18)?
  7. What are the effects of Christ’s suffering (1 Peter 2:22-25)?
  8. Jesus “entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). How might a similar trust in God help you to submit to the necessary suffering that has come into your life?
  9. Slowly read the words of 1 Peter 2:24, substituting your name for the appropriate pronouns. In what specific ways have you seen Christ’s work here played out in your own experience?
  10. How does Christ’s death result in both an ending and a beginning in our lives (1 Peter 2:24)?
  11. In Peter’s day, persecution and slavery made submission to authority difficult. What conditions today make it difficult?
  12. How can Jesus’ example help you face hardships you can’t change?
  13. What should people do whose rights are being violated by authority gone bad (accept, suffer, insist on justice, sue, confront the authority)? (see also Mark 11:15-16, 15:1-15, Acts 16:35-37).