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John part XX

John XX              Submit, don’t quit

John 6:60-71

I can tell you that my heart breaks no greater than when I hear of someone who has drifted from the Lord.
I think we can all think of people who we know, friends or family we care about, who walked with the Lord… & now they don’t.
You’ve heard the sad words, “Yeah, he doesn’t go to church any more… she has really fallen away”
When I was growing up as a child, I was blessed to have parents who took us to church every time the doors were open. And I accepted Jesus into my heart & life at the age of 9. I really tried to live for Jesus. And when I got to Middle School, those were some tough years as they are for many people as you are trying to figure out who you are & where you fit in.
And for me, High School didn’t really get that much better. There were lots of cliques & I didn’t seem to fit into any of them… the jocks, the preppies, the stoners, the geeks who were smart, the popular & pretty people… & then there was everyone else & I was everyone else.  My two closest friends were also in that category & we referred to ourselves as social outcasts.
Though I really enjoyed sports, at a Class B school, I wasn’t close to good enough to making any teams. I didn’t fit in, I didn’t date much & nothing seemed to be working for me on the surface level. But, I still tried to live for Jesus.
Eventually, I slowly started to drift from the Lord.
I mean, why bother living for Jesus when nothing seemed to go in the direction I wanted them to go?
It seemed like everyone around me was not living for Jesus & they were going in the opposite direction I was going.
I was tired of moving in a direction that no one around me was going… & I blamed God.
Which is a bit silly to think about it now… it wasn’t God’s fault I didn’t have any ‘game’ on the court or off the court.
And for all intents and purposes, I turned & walked away.
It took about 6 years before I finally surrendered to God’s will & God’s way & took responsibility for what hadn’t been working in my life.
I recommitted my life to Jesus after graduating from College & stopped walking away & started walking toward Him.
People stop following Jesus in our world for a variety of reasons, but did you know that there were people who were actually following Jesus who stopped following Him?
         It’s been a while since we have looked @ the book of John, but the last time we were looking @ chapter 6, Jesus was saying some pretty radical stuff.

Jesus had been teaching on how He was the bread of life & how He had come down from heaven & He was in essence claiming to be God & that if they would believe in Him they would have eternal life…
This was some radical stuff Jesus was saying.
And as you can imagine, not everyone got on board with that.
John 6:60 “Many of His disciples said, ‘This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?’” (NLT)
Now, they weren’t saying they couldn’t comprehend what Jesus was saying…

what they were really saying was what Jesus was teaching was hard to accept.
Jesus was doing what every pastor should do, “To comfort the afflicted & afflict the comfortable.”
And then we jump down to…
John 6:66 “At this point many of His disciples turned away and deserted Him.” (NLT)

         Can you even imagine many of the people who had been following Jesus just stopped? They just quit?
         Now, up until this point in the ministry of Jesus, the crowds had gathered to follow Jesus & listen to His teachings & to see the miracles.

And as the miracles increased, the crowds increased…
But when Jesus explains the miracle of the loaves & fish, His explanation creates division among those who were following Him.
All of a sudden, the size of the crowds are going to decrease.
The crowds decreased, but why?
What caused people to stop following Jesus?
What causes people to stop following Jesus today?
         When Jesus was performing miracles & feeding empty stomachs, there was excitement… there was a lot of buzz.

But, when Jesus started to teach some tough truths…
some of His followers drew a line they would not be willing to cross.
You ever draw a line in the sand?
I’ll do this… but I won’t do that.

You tell Jesus, I’m willing to do this… but I won’t do that…

When I finally stopped running from God’s call to ministry, I remember telling God, “Ok, I’m willing to be a minister for You, Lord. But don’t ask me to be a missionary.”
What would cause me to tell God what I would do & what I wouldn’t do?
What would cause any of us to tell God what we would be willing to do or what we would not be willing to do?
He is God & He knows far better than I do what is best for me, I just have to be willing to submit to whatever He wants for my life.

Sometimes it is hard to follow Jesus, isn’t it?
         So, Jesus is teaching these tough truths & many of His disciples say, “I can’t get on board with what you’re saying Jesus” & they turn and walk away.

What Jesus was teaching was not something they couldn’t understand.
What Jesus was teaching was not what they were expecting.
What Jesus was teaching was not in line with what they believed.
If you’re not familiar with Jesus’ teachings, they caused division…
And nothing much has changed since John wrote these words…
Of course Jesus’ teachings are divisive… they force us to choose to accept them or reject them…
Jesus gives us no opportunity to stand in the middle…
You’re either in or you are out… there is no in between…
What I have been wrestling with for the past couple of weeks as I have worked on this message is this, “What was it specifically that caused these disciples… these followers to throw in the towel?”
And then my next thought was, “What causes people today who just stop following Jesus?”
         Is it possible, that part of the reason we avoid or reject some of Jesus’ tough truths is because we are afraid of what other people will think of us?
It is possible that we are afraid of how others will respond to us if we are “all in” with Jesus & we don’t want to lose their friendship?
Is it possible that we just want people to leave us alone so we only follow some of Jesus teachings?
         So you & your friends pile into a car & decide to go to a movie & as you’re driving there, all of them want to see this movie that everyone knows pushes the every moral boundary, even for Hollywood… & everyone turns to you… what are you going to say?
It’s hard to live for Jesus when everyone is moving in the opposite direction, isn’t it?
         You don’t want to lose your friends… you want them to like you… so even though you know you would watch that movie with Jesus, it’s too tough to follow Jesus so you turn & walk the other way…

Being a Christian is easy until someone questions you or makes fun of you.
Being a Christian is easy until you are faced with a decision to do what feels good or do what God wants…
         What did Jesus say that created such division?
Jesus claimed to be the Son of God!
         Jesus just got done saying that He was the living bread that came down from heaven & whoever eats of that bread will live forever.

When Jesus was just a teacher, everyone was fine with that.
When Jesus was filling everyone’s stomachs with bread, they were fine with that.
But, when Jesus claimed to be God… oh, no He didn’t!
Some of the Jews who were following Jesus were not okay with that.
You know what? There is still division over Jesus & His teachings!
There are some who believe He was who He said He was.
Others say He was an excellent teacher or a prophet or a dynamic moral speaker who said a lot of good things… but not God in a bod.
Mention Jesus’ name & there will be division.
Dear ones, if we will avoid… or reject Jesus’ tough teachings, folk will leave us alone.
But, whenever we clearly & boldly claim Jesus was & is God & embrace all of His teachings, we will face opposition & persecution.
Like anytime we talk about Jesus dying on the cross for us…
John 6:51 “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is My flesh.” (NLT)
         Jesus is talking about offering Himself & dying so that we might live. As long as we just talk about Jesus as a healer…

As long as we just talk about Jesus as a teacher…
As long as we just talk about Jesus as a prophet…
As long as we just talk about Jesus as being a great example to follow after…
no one will ever get upset… no one will turn away…
But, as soon as you start to talk about Jesus dying for the sins of the world, all of a sudden… the conversation changes… the mood changes…
The questions are raised… the emotions rise…
There will be a reaction… it is a hard saying…
To say that Jesus died as a payment for your sin & mine…
To believe that Jesus shed His blood & somehow in the shedding of His blood, there is atonement for all who will believe in Him… that is a hard saying…
It is a tough truth that Jesus is the only way to heaven…
That means if I haven’t asked Jesus to forgive me of my sin & believe in Him, I am going to hell.
That is a tough truth!
Saying that God is Sovereign is a tough truth…
I believe that with all of my being…
And I’m not going to say that I understand it completely…
God didn’t cause what you are facing today, but He does allow it…
How do you reconcile that tough truth?
I believe we have to do our part, but also that God is in control of all things.
         But, I don’t believe we are robotic in nature, blindly carrying out a plan for humankind where we have no choice… we have no volition… where we are just pawns on a massive chess board for God’s choosing…
         But, I can’t believe in God if He is not in control of the mess we have made of this world nor can I believe in God if He doesn’t have the ultimate say in what goes on in this world of ours.

It is hard to reconcile those two things & I think we find evidence for both of them contained in the pages of Scripture…
But, I also believe that we are finite & flawed human beings & God is God.
There are eternal truths & concepts that in our 3-D world we cannot nor will not understand or comprehend… but God does…

And I believe in a God who has it all figured out, even when I can’t make sense of it.
I believe that because I have found God’s Word to be true & trustworthy & without error & when I live according to what it says, my life is so much richer, fuller & sweeter. And it is God’s Word.
So when there are matters in this life or the life to come that I cannot wrap my mind around, I trust that God can when I can’t.

But, when Jesus said that He was sovereign, people stopped following Him.
This happens yet today… something happens in someone’s life…
Life doesn’t take the turn they wanted it to…
& they blame God & they stop following Him…
So, we’ve established that it is not an easy thing to follow Jesus.

And that some people will chose to stop following Him for a variety of reasons…
But, what does Jesus say about following Him?
Luke 11:27-28 “As He was speaking, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘God bless your mother – the womb from which You came, (and the breasts that nursed You)!’ Jesus replied, ‘But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’” (NLT)
         Jesus is saying you’re really blessed if you follow Him & His teachings.

And that’s true…
but notice that Jesus says that we’re blessed if we do His will.
Notice what Jesus doesn’t say…
He never says it is going to be easy to follow His teachings…
In fact, He said that the path of following Him is going to be a less traveled path. What we need to do is submit & don’t quit…
We need to submit to His leadership in our lives & don’t give up… don’t quit following.
Matthew 7:13-14 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (NLT)
         You want to talk about tough truths…

Living for Jesus is anything but easy…
We need to submit & not quit…
Trusting that the very narrow & difficult road that few ever find is the best way to live… His way to live… if we will submit to His teachings & not quit following Him.
Matthew 10:38 “If you refuse to take up your cross and follow Me, you are not worthy of being Mine.” (NLT)
Jesus tells us we have to take up our cross & follow Him…

That doesn’t sound easy, does it?
That sounds a lot like I’ve got to make some sacrifices for others & for Him like Jesus made for us & for the Father…

Dear ones, as much as we may not want to hear the tough truths of the Bible… but we can’t avoid them…
they are tough, but make no mistake, they are true…
We need to submit & not quit…
Following Jesus is not easy, but it is the best way to live.
And we need to trust that He knows best when the way gets tough…
When His teachings get tough…
When the road gets tough…
It’s the same thing that with a 3-year-old…
They have to trust their parents even when it isn’t the path they want to take.
Picture the 3-year-old who doesn’t want to go to bed when they are told to go to bed.
They are playing & having fun & they still have energy…
They’re thinking, why go to bed now?
I’m having a blast! I don’t want to stop having fun & playing with my toys.

But what happens when they run out of gas? It’s not pretty!
Is the parent making them go to bed because they no longer want to enjoy watching their 3-year-old have fun? No.
The parent knows that rest is vital to growth & that if there is an energy crash, it’s going to take a toll on everyone…
So, with our heavenly Father, we need to submit & don’t quit following Him…
Even when we are tired…
Even when it isn’t the path we want to take…
We need to submit to His will & His way & His teachings because they are best for us… so don’t quit… keep following…
What would it look like if we stood our ground while the rest of the world was going in the opposite direction?

I think it would make a huge impact… because when I stopped following Jesus in high school, I was amazed at the number of people who I thought didn’t even care or better yet, made fun of me, seemed disappointed that it was apparent to them that I had stopped following Jesus… cut up Jeans, Aerosmith concert shirt… hair below my collar… just outward evidences of a heart that had turned away from Jesus…

So, if it was that evident that I had turned from God, it was evident that I had been faithfully following Jesus when I had… our lives make a difference!
People are watching…
So, what would it look like if we really got to the place where we really trusted Jesus & trusted ALL of His teachings as what is best for our lives?
Don’t you kind of think that everyone going the other direction would notice when we weren’t moving in their direction because we really believe what Jesus said?
What would our lives look like if we really got serious about Jesus?
What would our families look like if we lived with fearless faith… willing to stand…

I kind of think our kids would be more likely to have a fearless faith…
I kind of think our neighbors & friends would be more likely to want to hear about Jesus…

Friday, I took Jack to a college visit @ Asbury University & it was a great trip. We picked my niece up in Indianapolis who is interested in Asbury for Art & equine.
She was scheduled to meet with an art professor, so Jack & I tagged along because he isn’t quite sure yet what he wants to do… probably not art, but I thought it would be good to listen in & get a better feel for the school.
The art professor was great at talking about finding God’s will for your life & what Asbury could do to help them find a place of ministry in this world of ours.
He talked about how he sells his art on the side and as he has networked, he has been able to sell to art collectors all over the country from New York City to Los Angeles. And because he views his art as a ministry to serve Jesus & reach people for Him, which we all should not matter what we do in life, he believes everything he does matters.
He does his best & treats people as Jesus would want Him to.
And he shared an amazing thing. Some of his art collectors from Los Angeles who he has established a business relationship, who has been collecting his art, have actually called him out of the blue and said: “There is something different about you. You have something that no one we know has. Can you tell me your story?”
Now, how many people do you know are asking you or me to share our testimony with them? 
So, what would our families look like if we lived with fearless faith…
Like this art professor, I kind of think our our neighbors & friends & business acquaintances would be more likely to want to hear about Jesus…

That day Jesus taught some tough truths & many of His disciples stopped following Him.
But take a look @ the ones who stayed & followed Jesus’ tough teachings…
The ones who stayed were the leaders of the early church… they captured Jesus’ teachings by writing the Gospels… they brought thousands of people to know Jesus…
All because they were willing to submit & not quit…
In the culture we live in today, if it is easy for you to live for Jesus, you’re not doing it right.
What would it look like if all of us would be fearless in our faith?
What would it look like if all of us would submit to His will & His way & His teachings & keep following Him?
What would it look like if we were following Jesus even though most everyone else if moving in the opposite direction?
I think we could do what the early church did with the disciples who kept following Jesus…

People were saved…
Lives were changed…
And they literally turned their part of the world upside down…
If we would be fearless in our faith…
If we would submit & keep following Jesus…
Let’s pray…

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