Following Christ

Following Christ

from sermon series
“Learning from Isaiah”

by Pastor Dave Strem

Used by permission

There is another ending to that story.  It is where the son realizes how much his father loves him and that he wants to be in the father’s presence, to walk with his father, not away from him.  Which kind of child are you?  Jesus gave us that illustration because we can relate to it on a personal level and he wants us to personally be like the son who says, “I want to be back with you.  I do not simply want your blessing, I want your presence in my life.  I want your guidance.  I am willing to be your son, not a man in rebellion to you.”

Remember the story of the prodigal son?  If we were to flash forward a year and see the relationship between the father and his son, what would we see?  What is the son doing a year later?  Is that son’s attitude any different than it was before he left?  Wouldn’t it be tragic if we see the son still rebellious toward the father and still wishing that he had his father’s money to spend on riotous and self-indulgent living?  Wouldn’t that be a tragic end to the story?  But is not that how many Christians live their Christian lives?  “Hey,” they might say, “I have a ticket to heaven, I am forgiven and so I can do what I want.  I can live the way I want because I am taken care of, my sin is forgiven.  I am fixed.”  Are you living that way?

Living in light of the cross means three things.  First, we are to take sin seriously.  Sin does not go away when we become Christians.  We can still rebel against God’s plans for our lives.  We may accept His forgiveness and recognize His person, but we still want control over our personal lives.   Sins can still be part of our character unless we submit to the Father and say, “Lord, I do not want to live that way.  Strengthen me, guide me, help me.”  Sin is still serious.  Beware of thinking that because God forgives you can live the way you want.   God does not forgive you just because He loves you.  That would be like God saying, “It does not really matter, I accept you anyway, you can do what you want.”  Divine forgiveness is not cheap.  God forgives you because of the cross of Christ.  He sent Christ to the cross because of His love for you.  But His holiness demanded that justice for sin be paid and He paid that price for you on the cross.  He forgives us because His Son took the penalty.  Sin is still a problem.  He does not wink at it or sweep it under the rug.  He does not say, “Well, never mind, it doesn’t really matter.”  Do not continue to pierce the heart of God with your rebellion.  God still hates sin.  Calvary is the spectacle of that hatred.

We need to regain the conviction of sin.  Being under grace, receiving the grace of God does not give you license to sin against God.  First Corinthians 6:19 is very clear, it says, “You are not your own, you are bought with a price.  Therefore, honor God with your body.”  With your body, with your life, with your essence, with your strength, with all that you do, honor God.  Rather than being abandoned to your old nature and habits, God says, “I have put in you a new nature.  You have a choice.”  He strengthens our hearts and spirits with His spirit so we are no longer slaves to our selfish nature.  We can learn to choose to listen and trust His urgings.

Secondly, His grace should inspire our mercy toward others.  His grace should inspire our graciousness.  Remember the older brother of the prodigal son.  He did not have that characteristic, did he?  It was not fair that the father received the son back from such riotous living, he thought.  Jesus made it perfectly clear.  In the Lord’s prayer He said, “Forgive and it shall be forgiven you.  Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Forgive as you have been forgiven.  He says very plainly, “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive their sins, your father will not forgive your sins.”  Are you holding any grudges?  Are you waiting for your day of revenge and retribution?  And maybe you are not going to do anything, but you are thinking, “I am waiting for God to get him.  It is only fair.  I am not going to do anything to him, but God get him.”  Don’t let that bitterness destroy your heart, because it will.  God says, forgive them.  Let it go.  Has not Christ done enough for you and forgiven you enough that you can let it go?  God wants you to experience not simply being forgiven but the joy and restoration that forgiveness can bring in your own life.   Micah 6:8 says clearly: “No, O people, the Lord has already told you what is good, and this is what he requires: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  Let His grace inspire your mercy, your graciousness, and then walk humbly with Him.

That leads us to the third point.  We are to delight in walking with God.  He has good things planned for you, a wonderful adventure ahead.  There may be trials, persecutions, and hard times but if you stay by God’s side, He will give you rich and wonderful experiences and opportunities to serve Him.  A couple years ago I rode a horse into church to teach a spiritual point.  The point of doing it was to show how two different beings could interact together to accomplish great things.  To go when God says to go.  To stop when God says to stop.  To turn when He says to turn, otherwise you are of no use and He will put you out to pasture.  Do what God says so He can use you, so He can lead you on wonderful trails, so He can trust you in desperate or difficult situations.  Let Him be the master.  He knows where to go.  He knows what you need.  He will care for you every step of the way.  Delight in walking His route.

Right now do you feel like God’s asking you to do something too hard?  “Oh, I don’t see anybody else having to do that.  Lord, why are you making me do it?  Why do you want me to do that?”  And we start whining at God.  Jesus did not do any whining on the cross.  “Oh, they will not really appreciate this anyway.  They will just take advantage of it—why do I have to do this, Father?”  He stepped to the cross in loving obedience to the Father, trusting Him and you can trust Him as well.  Do you take the cross of Christ for granted?  If you do, then you do not see it clearly.  The Cross is where the same Person who inspired the angels in Isaiah 6 to shield their eyes and cover their feet out of reverent humility, exchanged His heavenly robe and glorious throne for a crown of thorns and cross made of wood.  This One who sat majestically on a heavenly throne only He could sit on was nailed and fasten to a wooden cross previously used to punish thieves and murderers.  Live in light of the cross.  Live as though it means everything to you.  Live as though it was central to all your actions and attitudes.  Value it as God the Father values it.  To Him it was the central event in the history of the universe, because by this event He will redeem sinners and remake the universe into a place of beauty free from death and destruction.  Follow Christ by living in the light of the Cross!

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