First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, February 20, 2022)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“No More Excuses!”
A cartoon showed a church building with a large billboard in front that proclaimed: “The Lite Church.” This is “lite” not “light.” The billboard continues to say, “The Lite church: 24% fewer commitments, home of the 7.5% tithe, 10-minute sermons, 30-minute total worship service; we have only 8 commandments—your choice and everything you’ve wanted in a church … and less!”
Sadly, there is more truth than fiction in that cartoon! Many churches are lowering the commitment level to attract attenders. They’re afraid that if the real gospel of Christ is preached, it will offend some folks, so they focus on the positive and avoid speaking about what the gospel of Jesus Christ is really about. As a result, we ended up with millions of churchgoers who call themselves “Christians,” but who are not fully committed to Jesus Christ and the gospel. Because the “Lite Churches” are all over the place, we ended up with many churchgoers, but few disciples.
This morning we continue our sermon series on discipleship. In our text today, Jesus makes some radical demands on His followers. Interestingly, just two verses later, in Luke 10:2, Jesus laments the fact that “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” If Jesus had hired a marketing consultant, he would have said, “Lord, if you want more workers, you’re going to have to be a bit more flexible. Ease up. You just lost three good volunteers because you demanded all or nothing!” All or nothing – that’s the keyword in discipleship.
All or Nothing
Jesus didn’t lower the standard, though. Someone said, “Following Christ is like taking a class on the pass/fail system.” There is no curve. You either make it or you don’t. Jesus requires that you devote everything that you are and have to Him or nothing at all. Simply, the Lord draws a line in the sand: The only way to follow Jesus is totally. All or nothing.
In our Scripture passage this morning, we encounter two people who volunteer to be Jesus’ followers and another one whom Jesus calls to follow Him. We don’t know whether these people responded or not, although the sense I get from Luke chapter 9 is that they did not. Luke doesn’t focus on their response because he wants us to focus on our own response today to Jesus’ invitation, “Follow me!”
Over the next three weeks, we will be examining in more details each of these three individuals and what we can learn from their responses. For this morning, I would like to share two things that these three individuals had in common. Two things that stood between them and the life of discipleship. The first has to do with the difference between interest and commitment and the second deals with the discipleship sense of urgency.
First: Take Your Interest to the Commitment Level
None of these three individuals that Luke mentions in chapter 9, turned down the invitation of Jesus. In fact, they would tell us it’s a great thing to do. They were not hostile toward the radical demands of discipleship. The first and third person showed great interest to follow Jesus; and Jesus must’ve seen some interest and protentional in the second one, so he decided to extend him an invitation. The problem of these three people, and most of us today, is that we don’t take our interest to the commitment level.
You probably remember the old English proverb, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” means that it is not enough to simply mean to do well, one must take action to do well. A good intention is meaningless unless it is followed by a good action. Following Christ is not about being “interested,” rather, it’s about making “a commitment” to make it happen.
Second: Discipleship Immediacy
The second challenge in pursuing discipleship is its sense of urgency. Don’t delay. The difference between those who followed Christ and those who didn’t is the immediate response. The gospels tell us that Matthew, Peter, Andrew, James, John and many other, “immediately left everything and followed Jesus.” Each one of the three people we see in Luke chapter 9 gives a reason, a valid reason, not to follow Jesus right away. The problem is that you and I know when we delay things, most likely, they will never get done.
Our problem is very often we bargain with God about partial or delayed obedience. This is why German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” The three examples in Luke chapter 9 didn’t put off the call to discipleship. They wanted to follow, but not yet. All of them wanted to follow, but not now.
Friends, what are we waiting for? Is it for all your doubts to disappear? Are you waiting because you think at a later season of life, following Jesus will make more sense? Does it just feel inconvenient right now, and you think it might feel less inconvenient later? Over the years, I have met people who put off Christ’s call for a latter time. “Once I finish school, I will follow Christ.” “Once I get married, I will commit my life to God’s work.” “Once my kids get older, I will go and serve the Lord.” “Once I get settled in my career, I will do more for God.” The excuses are endless.
Let’s remember today that delayed obedience is disobedience. Pay attention to the voice of Jesus. Pay attention to the promptings of the Spirit. Pay attention to the opportunities that the Father is putting in your path. How is Jesus calling you to follow Him in this moment, right here, right now? Don’t delay. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Leadership: A Practical Journal for Church Leaders. Summer 1983 (Vol IV, No 3), page 81.
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