Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Follow the Way of Jesus

sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 05/13/2012

a video recording of the sermon is available at


Last week: together we.

This week: together we follow the way of Jesus.

[example of my mom…]

What does it mean for us as a church that together we follow the way of Jesus?

It means that for us Jesus is where it’s at. He’s the center of the action. We are defined in relationship to him. If Jesus is ever off our radar screen, we’re off our rockers. We’ve lost the plot. But if Jesus is in view, no matter how bad things look, we’re right where we are supposed to be.

It means we are on the move. Or preparing to move. Or ready to move. Or watching for Jesus to move.

Which means we haven’t arrived. Which means we should never take our shoes off and put our feet up. Or feel smug. We’ve got a long ways to go and a lot to learn.

It means we are on a journey to somewhere that Jesus is leading us. From somewhere else, somewhere that Jesus has been as well.

It means that the question that matters, no matter where we happen to find ourselves, is "what is our next step?"

It means the thing we are helping each other do is figure out our next step and take the next step.

It means it's never that complicated, really.

16As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18At once they left their nets and followed him.

19When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Mark 1:16-20

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

John 10:3-4

Consider this:

Following the way of Jesus starts with his invitation to us.

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said…

Without delay he called them…

He calls his own sheep and leads them out…

We all have that in common. Jesus found us where we were, doing what we were doing, and said, “Come, follow me.”

The path we are on is a path of discipleship. A journey Jesus has initiated for each one of us and is personally in charge of.

The way of Jesus isn’t like U.S. 23, where everyone is on the road for their own reasons, heading to their own destinations, doing their own thing.

Which changes how we see one another along the way of Jesus. Which is as brothers. Sisters. Family. Teammates. Everyone joined together with us on his way was handpicked by Jesus. He sees something in each one of us. If we were smart, we’d learn to look closely enough to see that too, and trust his eyes when we still can’t see it.

There’s no competition. No needing to get there first. No cause for road rage. Nothing lost by stopping to help someone fix a flat.

Consider this:

On the way of Jesus, Jesus goes ahead of us. The way is marked out by him, and the path he already followed to the cross, leading to resurrection.

Nowhere that the way of Jesus leads is territory Jesus hasn’t already journeyed.

If it leads us to suffering, it’s suffering he’s already experienced.

If it leads us to joy, it’s joy he placed for us there.

If it leads us to forgive, he’s already forgiven.

If it leads us to surrender, he’s already surrendered.

If it leads us to bear burdens, he’s already borne burdens.

If it leads us to die, he’s already died.

If it leads us to life, it’s the life he has already within himself.

Which means we can trust him. We can trust his way, no matter what we learn of it.

Pray for the sick? We can trust him.

Cast out demons? We can trust him.

Live in dependency on God instead of on our own strength or resources? We can trust him.

Love our enemies? We can trust him.

Forgive those who have wronged us? We can trust him.

Confess our sins? We can trust him.

Turn the other cheek? We can trust him.

Care for the poor? We can trust him.

Welcome the stranger and the outsider? We can trust him.

Use our power for the powerless? We can trust him.

Bank on love always winning? We can trust him.

Practice radical generosity? We can trust him.

Maintain a posture of humility and service all the way to the end? We can trust him.

Don’t prepare defenses for ourselves? We can trust him.

Take off our masks and vulnerably be ourselves before others? We can trust him.

Express gratitude and praise even when storm clouds are closing in? We can trust him.

Leave everything we’ve known behind and be willing to start fresh with nothing but what God provides? We can trust him.

Consider this:

On the way of Jesus, we follow expecting to be sent out.

Because on the way of Jesus, it’s not just about us. It’s about all those whom Jesus loves and is extending his invitation to.

Some of us will be sent to the disfavored, the discounted, the disconnected in our community.

Some of us will sent to particular people in particular moments.

Some of us will be sent to other parts of the world.

Some of us will be sent to plant churches.

But wherever we go, Jesus is with us through his Holy Spirit.

5“All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:25-27

Finally, consider this:

Our most important skill on the way of Jesus is the ability to hear and recognize the voice of Jesus.

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

John 10:3-4

I know for many of us, this can seem intimidating. What does Jesus’ voice sound like? It seems so spiritual, mystical.

But the picture Jesus paints isn’t an intimidating picture. It’s sheep. Recognizing the voice of their shepherd. It’s like how kids recognize their mom’s voice. It’s like how we still do recognize our mom’s voice. It’s the voice of the person who loves us, and always has, right from the beginning.

Perhaps this will help.

Every inclination we have, every thought, impulse, desire, drive, motivation is a response to one of two voices. The voice of fear, or the voice of love.

Fear is the way of the world, but love is the way of Jesus.

Fear says get what's yours, no one is looking out for you, you're all alone, you'd better go along with the crowd, don't trust anyone, hide, go back, live in anticipation of the worst. 

Fear drives us like a slave master, a whip at our backs.  

Fear makes us retreat into temporary comforts.  Comforts that come at a cost to others. Because fear is a thief, and it is robbing this world blind.

Love isn't like that. 

Love says receive the gifts I've prepared for you, your Father is looking out for you, you're never ever alone, be who you were made to be and both you and the world will be better for it, trust God and fear him alone, stand confidently in the open, move forward, live in anticipation of the best.

Love leads us by the hand. 

Love leads us into temporary discomforts, even suffering, even death.  But it is discomfort, suffering, death that paves the way for blessing for others. Because love is a shepherd, and he is laying down his life of his own account, only to take it up again, in resurrection form. Along with all who follow him.

[The story of Israel coming upon the borders of the promised land – Caleb and Joshua vs. the others, the voice of love vs. the voice of fear. Wandering and death is always the price of listening to the voice of fear. Joy and life is always the reward for the listening to the voice of love.]

Practical Tips…

1. Face a fear with love at your side. Go face something you are afraid of with someone who loves you. Pay attention to what fear sounds like and what love sounds like and how they are different.

2. Decide to follow. Make a commitment to Jesus to follow him, instead of just believing in him. Do it out loud or in writing.

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