Sunday, June 17, 2012

Following Jesus: We Call Him “Lord”

(A sermon based on Luke 6:46-49; this is the first in a summer series on "Following Jesus.")

Jesus asked his disciples, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?”

It’s a very good question.

Over the next few weeks we are going to be talking about what it can mean for us to follow Jesus. I hope that we will give much thoughtful and prayerful consideration to what it might mean for First Baptist Church as a body and for each one of us as disciples if we ask the Holy Spirit to help us to understand what our Bibles tell us about who Jesus is and who we might be if we follow Jesus. I furthermore hope that we will ask God to give us faith and strength to act on what we discover.

Let me confess right up front that there are some things about this I don’t know and so I can’t tell you. I can’t tell you everything there is to know about who Jesus is. I can’t tell you what your particular following of Jesus should look like. I can’t tell you exactly what way this church will go as we attempt to find and follow the way of Jesus for us.

Let me also lay on the table right up front some important pieces of my perspective; think of them as my assumptions. Piece #1: we all want to follow and obey Jesus. Piece #2: some of us take such following and obedience more seriously than others and there are lots of reasons for that. Piece #3: we all have a long way to go. Piece #4: we will never obey and follow Jesus fully. Piece #5: we can make a lot of progress. Piece #6: following Jesus is the way to have a full and abundant life, to have the life that God made us to have.

With all of that in mind, let’s return to Jesus’ question: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?”

We do call him “Lord,” don’t we? What do we mean when we call him “Lord”? We mean that Jesus is the ruler not only of the universe but of our lives—and frankly it is easier for us to affirm the first part of that statement than the second part. After all, we can say “Jesus is Lord of the universe” without thinking about the effect of that truth on our lives; we can’t say “Jesus is Lord of my life”—really say it, now—and think about anything else other than the effect of that truth on our lives.

After all, we know more about Jesus being Lord than those disciples listening to him on that day knew. They knew that he was something special; they knew that he was a most insightful rabbi who seemed to embody grace and truth in a way that gave him a special authority. We know that he is the Son of God who came to take away the sin of the world and that he is the resurrected and ascended Lord. As Paul put it, “God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

When we say that Jesus is Lord, we are saying that he is the ruler of our lives; we are saying that his life is the determinant for how we are to live our lives; we are saying that his way and his way alone suffices as the model and standard for our lives. We are saying that wherever he leads we will go. We are saying that his way of obeying God is the only way of obeying God that God approves and will in the end vindicate. We are saying that given the choice between his way and other ways, we will choose, by God’s grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit, his way. We are saying that we will not regard his way, difficult and challenging though it may be, as optional, but will instead commit ourselves to persevering in the pursuit of that way until the very end. We are saying that we will do the prayerful and thoughtful work of discerning his way so that we can follow his way. We are saying that we will settle for no less than making progress each day in finding and following his way.

Of course, we are also acknowledging that we will do all of that as the people that we are, not as some kind of supermen and superwomen who are not subject to the foibles and failings of those who live in real bodies in the real world in real relationships with real people.

Still, we are appropriately haunted by the words of 1 John: “By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, ‘I abide in him,’ ought to walk just as he walked” (2:5b-6).

So, since we do acknowledge Jesus as Lord, why do we not do what he tells us?

We don’t because we think it’s too hard to live like that.

The truth is, though, that it’s too hard not to, because living like that is the only path to real life.

And that’s what we’ll be talking about for the next few weeks…

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