Greg began a new sermon series on discipleship with this sermon. A natural progression from his sermons on love, discipleship is the concrete manifestation of love. It is about what love looks like in day-to-day life.
This morning Greg started a new sermon series on discipleship. Greg shared that this new series is a natural progression from his sermons on love. Discipleship is the concrete manifestation of love. It is about what love looks like in actual life.
In this first sermon of the series, Greg focused on the characteristics of American culture that challenge a life of discipleship. As a way of introducing this, he recalled Curtiss DeYoung’s sermon from last week where Curtiss called for all people to come together at the Cross. Greg exhorted the congregation to take seriously this challenge. The sin of racism persists in America. To combat it effectively means not only building relationships across lines of race and ethnicity, but it also involves learning about the historical injustice that people of color have experienced in this country. In other words, an effective approach at bringing the healing peace of Christ entails a focus on individual relationships and larger systemic concerns. However, the church in America has largely resisted engaging in this issue. Instead, many have become co-opted by a culture that puts a premium on what will build the biggest church with the best programs. Furthermore, church growth studies have shown that the fastest way to grow a church is with people who are largely similar in race and socioeconomic status. However, the mandate on us from God is that we are to be ministers of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:16-21). Jesus Christ through his death on the cross has reconciled us to God, and has now given us this ministry. God expects that a reconciled church will take the lead on this (Eph.2:11-18). Jesus’ prayer for the Church was that it would be one, just as he and the Father are one (John 17). Clearly, God calls the church to be faithful to this command despite the difficulties and challenges.
What is it about American culture that stifles a life of discipleship? First, we do not like commands. Instead, we like to have as many options as possible. In fact, society has enshrined having choices as a human right. This thirst for options enslaves us. We become addicted to acquiring things. We confuse wishes as needs. We demand instant gratification. However, this system destroys the soul. The question for followers of Jesus should not be, “What’s in it for me?,” but instead, “What does God require of me?” Jesus’ words of self-denial and sacrifice are, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).
The second reason that American society stifles a life of discipleship is that the church has largely accepted as normative this culture of selfishness. As Greg shared, “The church becomes a ‘seller’ of religious goods to religious consumers.” This breeds competition between churches as they market their particular programs in order to stand out from the rest. Instead of supporting and uniting the Church, this mentality ends up dividing it.
Jesus calls his followers to a different lifestyle. In Luke 14:25-27, 33, we find his jolting call to discipleship. His use of hyperbole throughout this passage teaches us that nothing should compete with following him, neither our closest relationships nor our possessions. Discipleship means “disciplined by.” Our culture responds with a resounding “No!” to Jesus’ call to submit. What society fails to realize is that when a person asks first, “What does God require of me?” that person ends up finding the answer to “What’s in it for me?” A life marked by faithful discipleship is difficult because it is countercultural, yet it also promises to bring joy, peace, and meaning that nothing in this world can match.
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