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The Bible

4) Following
2002-07-26

Audience: Awana Scholarship Camp, grade 6-12 who know the Bible really well
Goal:. That they will surrender their old life of sin.
Props: Pieces of fire paper, nails, cross, hammers

OUTLINE

- Jesus says, Cost of following
- Guy willing to follow, God asks for everything.
- I always wanted to be a man of faith. When I was little would practice preaching on my parents. Wanted to be like those guys in Heb 11 . Walk on water. 15 started ministry.
- Paul, wanta fight, thinking it through
- stories of martyrs, columbine, DC talk book
- So appeared before Paul
- Read Heb 10:32 ff, context of chapter 11, I think this is what it was refering to
- But something happened within me, started to grow restless
- Story of Briercrest, wanting to quiet the faith.
- What it all came down to was that Jesus said take up your cross and follow me
- Jesus saying, Follow me, forsaking all, repenting and turning to Him.
- When we cross over we are giving up that old side, burning it out.
- And what shall we do? Read Heb 12:1-3
- a nail, symbol or write things holding you back and throw it into the fire


Review and Introduction
Last night we explained salvation as a bridge that unites us back to God. We said that in order to be saved we needed to get onto the back of Jesus so we could enter into the relationship with God that we hunger for. But what I did not mention last night was that salvation is a two sided coin. On one side we are coming over to a new side and beginning to walk with God. On the other side, and this is what I want to focus on today, we are leaving behind that old life. Faith and repentance go hand in hand then. Faith is looking towards God and repentance is looking away from our sin. It is impossible to have one without the other.

In Luke 14:26 Jesus makes a very bold statement: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters yes, even his own life he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."

Notice the word "cannot" which is repeated in this passage. This is incredibly important. I don't think Jesus is saying that unless you do things He won't let you be one of His followers - a disciple. What I think He is saying here is that anyone who does not put God first then other things will get in the way and you will not be able to follow Him. Jesus says, "anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple". Now the only people who used to carry crosses back in those days where people who were going to die. This is the attitude we must have as His followers, my old life is dead and now I live for You.

It is not easy to be a follower of Jesus, it will cost you everything. I heard a story of a man who heard that Jesus was offering peace, love, joy, everlasting life and he asks, "How much?" God replies, "Lots". Can I afford it? Yes everyone can afford it. "But I thought You said it costs lots?" It does, it will cost you everything. Let's make a list. "Okay, well I have $10,000 in the bank." Is that all? "No, I have, $120 in my pocket" Is that all? "Well I have my house?" Write that one down too. "But where will I live, in my camper?" You have a camper, write that one down too. "But what about my family?" I'll take them too. "But I'll be left all alone them." No, I want you too.

The point of this little story is simple. God wants everything. He wants your money, your family, your friends, your choice of music, your sports, your hobbies, your future. He wants to be in charge of everything. No more rebel standing on the other side of the bank yelling at God, "I'll do it on my own!" You'll still get to use these things for a time but whenever God needs one of them or wants to change the direction of your life you must give them up since He is the owner.

Now I became a Christian when I was four years old. It was Easter Sunday and after the service I prayed with my mom and I asked Jesus to forgive me for the bad things I had done and make me a Christian. Even from a young age I set out to follow God and walk with Him. When I was fifteen I was baptized. Now baptism is incredibly important in a believers life. All throughout your life you will have ceremonies that remind you that you have transitioned from one stage to another. Birthdays remind you that you are now a new age. Graduation symbolizes your passing from a life of childhood to adulthood. That is why people do things like have a marriage ceremony. That way when they get into a huge fight down the road they remember their ceremony and how they took each others hands and promised to be faithful till death do us part. Sadly many are taking these things too lightly. Baptism also is a ceremony. I was fifteen, Dec 29. I stood up before the entire Church and I shared how I became a Christian. The pastor put one arm behind me and with the other he took my hands and lowered me under the waters. Now this is a symbol that I have died with Christ. Romans 6:3 says, "Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" I was proclaiming that my old life of fist raised to God saying, "I'll do it on my own God!" is dead. It is like taking a missile launcher and roasting that old kingdom I used to live in so that I can never go back. Then the pastor pulled me up again and it symbolized that I had been risen to a new life. Gal 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." That day was like sticking a flag in the ground and whenever the Devil comes by and tries to tell me I am not a Christian or I should give up on God I just look back on that flag and see it waving. That question has already been settled and I am not turning back. My life belongs to God now!

So I went to school and looked around and was disappointed. So many kids knew nothing about God's love, they were so sad and hopeless and going to hell. I was going nuts inside. So I looked for ways to reach my school, here are some ways I tried. I started making friends with all the other kids who were new or the ones who did not fit in or the ones who looked lost and started bringing them out to youth group and telling them about Jesus. I was scared out of my mind to talk about God, mind you, I used to sit in the library reading the Bible hoping someone would see me and ask what I was reading so I could share the Gospel with them but at the same time hiding it whenever someone went by. Or the time I tried to use my creative English assignment to talk about God, I was so scared for that presentation. Still, God wanted to use me even as He wants to use you in your school. And all these kids started coming out to youth group and grow in their faith. I was known all over the school as a Christian. Some thought that was cool, others hated me for it.

Like this one guy Paul. He knew I was a Christian and he hated me for it. He used to sit there in French class and shoot spit balls at me till my sweater was covered in white. Or worse he would shoot sticky gum balls at me and get them stuck in my hair, do you have any idea how hard that is to get out? He had a little gang in town with his own personal arsenal and drug ring. His twin brother was later charged with murder when he shot at a man downtown and killed the one beside him when a drug deal went bad. These were not the kind of guys I wanted to be messing with. So one day he corned my friend Nico and I by the library. He was doing this thing, "You wanna wrestle? You wanna wrestle?" "No" said Nico. He would not give up so I suggested they arm wrestle. Nico knew better than to get started with Paul but I was young and inexperienced so I arm wrestled instead. I beat him too. But after that he would not let go. He just kept holding onto my arm. So I picked the guy and spun him around my head and put him down. My brother came by and broke us up and I made my exit.

That night I was so worked up I went for a walk around the streets to calm down. I was so frustrated I was shaking. I mean this guy would call at all hours of the day and night and harass us and walk around outside the house and threaten us. I had to do something. I had to communicate with him and I had to communicate with him in the only language he knew. I had to knock his socks off. And then there was this voice, you know that voice don't you and to top it all of it was from Scripture, "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also." (Luke 6:27-29 a)

"But God how can I love him, I have tried and it just does not work"
"Love your enemies"
"But he will not understand"
"Turn the other cheek"

And so it went on and I wrestled with God trying to get Him to understand I was right and He was wrong in this case but of course you know who won.

So I happened to phone an older friend of mine from the Church, for that is what the Church is for isn't it, to support each other. He told me that he used to have this Paul in his cub scouts class and that while on a canoe trip one day he had led Paul to the Lord. Paul? A christian? Wow. So my friend brought over a letter to give to Paul and a bunch of Gospel pamphlets.

The next morning I awoke, today was the day. Okay God, let's see what you are going to do.

I went to school and during French class I talked to Paul, "Paul, we have to talk"

"Talk, ya I'd love to talk to you. Fist and face. Fist and face."
"Later."

Then there was recess and lunch and finally we came to Math class, the last class of the day. All day Paul had been waiting for this and right in the middle of Math class he turns to me and says, "Now, let's talk" "After class"

After class came, my heart was thumping, we went outside, the crowd began to gather. Paul was getting himself ready. I looked at him and the boldness of the Lord came over me and I said, "Paul, I'm sorry about what I did yesterday, picking you up and all. As a Christian I need to love people no matter what. Here, your old cub scout leader wanted me to give you this."

I gave it to him and we stood there for a moment and then we both walked away. And since that day Paul has respected me because I stood for what I believed in.

I had the chance to visit him some years later. His brother was standing trial. Paul was all broken up. We sat by the lockers and talked, this time for real. Since then I have lost contact but I pray he has set things right with God and is walking for God - but you never know how others will respond. Our job is simply to be faithful.

But I have not always stood for God and carried my cross. There was a time when I wanted to through it all away. It was my first year of Bible college. All summer I had struggled like crazy in my faith. I was serving at a Bible camp as a councellor but all the while I was not sure if God even existed or if I was going to follow Him. I needed to get away and work it out. So I set for Bible school to find answers, really, one answer - would I follow God or throw it all away?

I asked a lot of questions like, "How do I know for sure God is real?" And "How do I know which God is God?" but there was something deeper brewing inside that was about to come out. So I kept going to Church and chapel and seeking God and trying to come to peace with all these doubts and questions. Unfortantely I tried to do it alone, I was afraid to let anyone know. How much I could have used their prayers and love for Satan was working overtime trying to get me to turn away.

One day I was at this special service where we get together and sing songs to God. I was in the back way up in the balcony so I did not have to get too close to God but God had other plans for me that night. They started singing this song and it was titled in big black letters, I stand in awe of you'. The words came up and the leader asked everyone to sit down. Now, I know I was struggling with God but the one thing I could not stand was hypocracy. I mean how can we say, "I stand in awe of you God, the great and wonderful God" How can we talk about standing when we are sitting on our backside. I could not contain myself, I stood up and started to preach. I told them all it was a bunch of lies to do that and we should not dishonor God like that. The speaker tried to explain but I would not listen, I was too mad (later I learnt that it was their tradition to sit for the first part and then to all stand when they came to those words and so there really was no problem there).

Still I was mad and I went out for a walk. My friend Terry walked with me trying to convince me that was not the best thing to do. After a few blocks he started to realize I was right but that did not matter anymore to me because I started to realize something more important, that I was in the wrong - not about the song but about my life. I was the hypocrite. I was the one saying I was Christian but doubting if He existed. O come on, admit it Chris. That is not even the question. The real question is something much deeper. You are only putting on this show about doubting God as a smokescreen to hide the even more, less spiritual struggle within you. You know God exists even as a goldfish knows there is water - you have been swimming in it all your life and it is so much a part of you that know nothing different. The real struggle can be summarized in this one sentence of Jesus, "Follow me" (Lk 9:23 ) or in it's fulness "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

"You want all of me, don't you Jesus." Here you are standing there for the last few months calling me to follow you. Calling me to give up everything and admit that you are the Lord of my life. You want me to give up all these sins. I am caught. The reason I am struggling is I really want to go out there in that world and find out if there is anything I am missing. To find out if you are hiding something from me To find out if this world has anything to offer. Something within me just wants to go nuts and have my life and sin, doesn't it? But you want all of me. You don't just want half my heart or half my allegiance. You want to come first in my life don't you? Above all my friends, and family and hobbies and lusts. You want to be number 1. You want me to follow and stop looking back."

And so I stood there before God, He had drawn a line in the sand and challenged me to cross it.

So I got down on my knees in Terry's room and I poured out my heart to God. I told Him that I was struggling that all this questions was just a fraud and my real issue is I was not sure if I wanted to follow Him. Then I started confessing my sins, one by one they came and for each one I confessed it was God said, "forgiven" The tears poured down my eyes and I started wailing, not just crying but wailing before the Lord. I had made up my mind I had decided to follow Jesus and there was no turning back.

And that day I stuck the flag in the ground and gave my life to Christ again. And since that day I started to grow. I would literally walk away and come back an hour later and would be closer to God. It is now almost 7 years later and I am still walking with God. Sure I have stumbled and falled more times than I remember but each time I turn back to God and He picks me up and we walk again - growing even through the failures.

You see, no one says the Christian life is going to be easy. In fact Jesus promises that you will be persecuted. People will hate you if you choose to live for Christ. Some of you will be made fun of, some of you will be spat upon, some of you beaten up and some of you might even have a gun held to your head but Jesus never said it would be easy. Just that we need to perservere.

What I want to do tonight is I am going to draw a line in the sand. Perhaps you are struggling tonight. Perhaps you have been holding onto that old life, afraid to give God everything. Why not stop fighting tonight? Why not give God all those things that are holding you back? I am going to place a stack of paper here and some pens. If you need to do business with God, if you need to give up some of your sins, if tonight is the night to come home or to give Him all then what you need to do is get up and cross this line. "Ya God, I'll follow you" Then write down on this sheet of paper all the things that are holding you back. Maybe God is telling you about some of the music you listen to, or games you play. Maybe you need to change some friendships. Maybe you have a hidden sin that you don't want to give up. Maybe your angry with God because someone you loved died or you got hurt. Write it all down, it is time to give it up to God.

Then fold it up and take one of these nails and nail it to the cross. Give it to God.

Part way through I am going to ask the counsellors to come forward and to begin to pray for you. Please feel free to stay up here and be prayed for and then begin to pray for others around you.

When we are all done tonight we are going to light all these things that are holding us back on fire and this will be a symbol that God has taken them away, they are gone. No more.


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