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Friday, October 12, 2012

Fan or Follower?



We are in the midst of a nine-week sermon series at church that is perhaps the most personally challenging series of messages or lessons I ever have presented.  The title of the series is, “Am I a ‘Fan’…or a ‘Follower’?  (The title…but not the substance of the messages…came from a book by Pastor Kyle Idleman entitled, “not a fan”.)

Each time we prepare to start a new sermon series, I share the idea and vision with the church through a brief written introduction.  Here’s what I wrote for this series:

Some 600 years ago, a humble follower of Jesus Christ wrote these words:

"Jesus has many lovers of His kingdom…but few bearers of His cross.  He finds many companions at His feasting…but few at His fasting.  All want to rejoice with Him…but few are willing to endure anything for Him.  Many love Jesus as long as no adversities befall them.[The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a’ Kempis]

You and I face the same situation today, don’t we?  It is so much easier to be a “fan” of Jesus than to be a “follower” of Jesus. 
 
Being a fan is fun and exciting.  Being a fan is about winning and losing.  About the adrenaline rush of the big play; the come-from behind victory; the stunning upset; the post-game celebration. 

Being a follower certainly has moments of great joy, but the life of a follower is different.  Following Jesus means we look beyond the adrenaline rush and we allow Him to invade the everyday, ordinary aspects of life and transform them.  We allow Him to fill our work and chores and relationships with spiritual meaning.

But there is more to being a follower, because Jesus wants all of us.  He wants our minds, our hearts, and our souls.  He wants to be the priority in our lives and – at times – move us beyond the comfortable routines in which we live.  He wants us to be willing to be inconvenienced in order to grow in our faith, because He is more concerned with our character than our comfort. 

Jesus wants to give us His best, and He only can do that when we give Him our best.  

So…are you ready to take a step of faith?  Are you willing to invest more of yourself in your relationship with Jesus?  Through this series of messages and LifeGroup discussions, He is extending each of us an invitation to become less of a fan…and more of a follower. 

The message this past Sunday (part four of the series) was on the cost of following Jesus.  In Luke 14:25-35, Jesus invites us to make a life-altering decision: to love Him more than anyone or anything.  He says that this should be our goal if we want to be a disciple.

I find the Lord’s invitation to be exhilarating, challenging…and oh, so convicting.  Because I recognize that there are things about this life and this world that I love, and – at times – I allow them to inhibit my faith.  At times I knowingly, willingly, choose to invest my time in activities that are not harmful…but neither do they enrich my spiritual life.

Sometimes I play a computer game, read a book, do a crossword puzzle…and then tell myself that I did not have time to meet with the Lord in prayer.  What am I actually saying to Jesus in that moment?  I’m saying that I prefer these other activities to spending time with Him. 

When I see this attitude in myself it pierces me to the heart, because it is the attitude of a fan, not a follower. 

I recognize that I always will fall short in this life, but I also know that my love for Jesus should be reflected in my priorities.  While there is nothing wrong (and much value) with taking time for some enjoyable rest and recreation, I cannot do these things at the expense of my spiritual nourishment. 

Marriage is such a wonderful picture of my life with Jesus.  I don’t need to spend every waking minute with my wife to demonstrate my love for her, nor do I need to spend every conscious moment talking to Jesus or thinking spiritual thoughts to demonstrate my love for Him.  But both my wife and my Lord need to know they are a priority in my life. 

And Jesus – my Savior, my Lord, my God – needs to be my highest priority. 

So I am praying and pondering what it means for me – as a husband, a father, a pastor – to love Jesus more than anyone or anything.  Each day.  In the myriad decisions I make about how to invest my time. 

Because I never want to be just a fan of Jesus…I want to be one of His faithful followers. 

-      Bruce