THE DECEPTION OF BELIEF
Matt 7: 21-23
I was just 26 years old when I went to Haiti for the first time….I went to an orphanage called “Christianville, about 6 miles outside of Port-Au-Prince (that six miles took over an hour). I took five adult sponsors and 16 students…And we were working with a Johnson Bible College couple named Paul & Rachel Ronk. We stayed in the compound, worked with the children…I got to preach at a pig give-away…part of Christianville’s ministry was agricultural…they were teaching methods of recovery and farming to the people…to receive a pig…you came and listened to a sermon, took part in worship…and then got your piglet…any preacher that thinks it’s hard to communicate the gospel with crying babies…try to preach, with an interpreter, with 30 squealing piglets as your choir.
I met Maxwell John Baptist early on….He was 16….and he had made a decision to follow Christ as his Lord and Savior….He was loving, helpful, genuine…I connected with Maxwell almost from the start…His story was remarkable…His father was a Voodoo High Priest, His mother a priestess…His entire family, like many others in Haiti practiced this dark religion…A religion of death, a religion that delved into the dark spiritual world…In Haiti it had assimilated parts from other religious, part catholic, part Voodoo, part alcohol…I remember seeing one alter that had a shot class….filled…a deck of cards…and other worldly trinkets laid before their helpful spirits…Voodoo believes that all nature is controlled by the Spirit world…so you evolve spells or rituals to bring mostly good…but sometimes harm…
When Maxwell heard the good news that Jesus died for his sin, that he rose again to bring him life, his heart was cut…He surrender in baptism…He gave his life…and his father and mother immediately said they would kill him…16 and a contract on your head for your faith…He gave up his home…his family in his life.
You see you could have told Maxwell a lie…like Jesus ask Jesus into your heart with a prayer…or just get baptized and you become a Christian…or
You could tell him the truth…God is calling you to die…to die to his life, to die to his family to die to his friends…to die to his future….and in dying, to live…to conquer new life, new hope, a new purpose and mission…Maxwell was one of the most effective Gospel sharers in the Christianville Community and surrounding areas…why? I don’t think you even need to ask…Jesus doesn’t ask you to take that risk…to answer His call without providing the power to impact your world…
It’s been true since the beginning of Christianity. Staring with…
FOUR FISHERMAN BY THE SEA
Immediately after Jesus is baptized by John the Spirit sent Him into the desert…for 40 days he fasted, and was tempted by Satan…After John the Baptist was put in prison by Herod Antipas Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God…listen
Mark 1: 15-20
Four fishermen, by the Sea of Galilee….Casting their nets…or fixing them after a day’s work…It’s the life they knew…it’s their father’s life…it’s the family business…and Jesus calls them from it…FOLLOW ME
“Leave behind your profession, your possessions, dreams, ambitious, family, friends, safety and security….Abandon everything.
Follow me and I will make you fishers of men…
His call is one to abandon everything…He’s clear when he says, “If anyone [male, female, young, old, rich, poor] is going to follow me, he must “deny himself”…”Jesus said over and over again take up your cross” …there is no other way for that to be understood than “Slay Self” in a world where everything revolves around pleasing self, protecting self, entertaining, comforting self, promoting self, taking care of self…Jesus says, “KILL SELF” .
And that’s exactly what happened to these 4 fishermen according to scripture and tradition…they paid a steep price for following Jesus…Peter was crucified upside down, Andrew was crucified in Creel, James had his head cut off, and John was exiled.
Yet they believed it was worth the cost…these 4 men found someone worth losing everything for…Jesus showed them a love beyond comprehension, a satisfaction that did not depend on circumstance, and a purpose that was so enormous it transcended every other pursuit in the world.
They willingly, eagerly and gladly lost themselves, their lives to follow in his footstep and proclaim the “good news”…His Gospel.
So, has the church wondered from that path 2000 years later, and if so…how far? Somewhere along the way…it seems the church has minimized Jesus call of abandonment…and churches are filled with supposed Christians who seem content to have a casual association with Christ while giving nominal adherence to Christianity –Although a countless number of men, women, and children have been told that becoming a Christian simply involves acknowledging certain facts or saying certain words, or doing certain things…it’s not true…Disciples like Peter, Andrew, James & John and Maxwell show us that the call to follow Jesus is not simply to say a pray or “get baptized”, it’s a summons to lose our lives.
The question isn’t just what we let go of, but also who we hold onto…what does it really means to die to ourselves and to live in Christ.
You see if we seriously take a look at what Jesus meant when He said, “Follow Me!” We will experience something much more powerful than the offer of a onetime experience of salvation…we’ll experience the same things that those four followers and Maxwell experienced…in eagerness, willingness to gladly lose our lives so we can know and proclaim Jesus.
CHRISTIANITY ISN’T ABOUT DOING OR SAYING SOMETHING
I had a woman with 2 of her children show up one evening here at the church building terrified.
she wanted to be baptized and she wanted her 9 year old and 12 year old to be baptized…why was she terrified, because she sincerely believed something bad was going to happen to her, and her family….Neither of the Kids had any idea about what Christianity really meant…So for the next hour or 2 I tried to teach what this commitment to Christ was all about…That baptism wasn’t the “get out of hell free” bath…it was only part of the process in scriptural obedience, an important part, but only a bath if you were not truly surrendering your life, your all for repentance and renewal through forgiveness and the gift of the Holy spirit…after the teaching time I said, do you understand and if you really do I’ll baptize you into Christ, but I’ll see you and the children Sunday for your growth….I baptized her…I’ve never seen her or the children again…I just have this great fear that culturally people believes if I do this or say this I’m saved!
Scores of people around the world culturally think they are Christians when biblically they are not… because they’ve said something or have done something at one time in their lives….A relationship with Jesus as Savior and Lord is essential.
I NEVER KNEW YOU!
This scripture rips my heart apart…It’s not spoken to irreligious, atheistic, agnostic people…it’s spoken to believers, who do a lot of ministry stuff, but although they assume that their eternity is safe and one day they will go to heave…they will be shocked to discover…Jesus sends them “away, as evil doers.”
David Platt in Follow Me expressed this truth: “There is a pandemic problem across contemporary Christianity. Masses of men, women and children around the world put themselves comfortably under the banner of Christianity but have never counted the cost of following Christ.”
Many never desire or commit themselves to entering through the small gate (Jesus) and walking with Him on…
THE NARROW ROAD
It’s critical we hear Jesus’ words in Matt 7. He exposes the human tendency to gravitate toward that which is easy and popular. Hear His warning.
Matt 7:13, 14
In other words, there is a broad road that is inviting and all-inclusive…it’s nice, it’s comfortable, and it’s attractive and accommodating. (It’s dressed up…nice and pretty)…the only thing that’s required of you is a onetime decision for Christ. You don’t have to worry about His comments, His purposes for saving you, His glory or living for Him, after making the decision…Your sin will be tolerated, along the road because you said and did the right thing onetime in your life.
The cross isn’t easy, gently, or comfortable…But it’s the only thing we should brag about in Christ…
[Do you remember when Peter confessed that Jesus was “The Christ, the Son of the living God!!!(Matt 16:16)…He saying, “Jesus your are God’s Messiah!”
But right after that Jesus rebukes Peter for missing the magnitude of what that meant like many people today…Peter wanted a Messiah without a Cross.. He wanted a Savior without suffering…So Jesus looks at Peter and the others…and us and says “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me…For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it .” (Matt 16: 24, 25)
Shortly before Jesus went to the Cross Jesus told his disciples “You will be handed over to be persecuted: and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”
The teaching is clear…”WALK on the narrow road with me and be prepared to die.”
There is power and joy on this road, but I have experienced anger, hatred, and persecution in opposition to this message…”Being a disciple, of Jesus isn’t a onetime event…it’s a lifetime journey!
It’s costly, hard and sometimes painful…you cannot follow Jesus and yourself at the same time…listen to these words…
Luke 14: 26-27, 33
That’s crazy right? At least the world would say so. But we as Christians know they are the words of life! The call to follow Jesus above all others and beyond all things…no matter the cost…Give up everything.
Let me end this morning by challenging scripturally.
THE DANGEROUS DECEPTION OF BELIEF
An intellectual belief that Jesus is truly the Son of God doesn’t save you…
But doesn’t Jesus tell Nicodemus…”God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever BELIEVES in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)
Paul and Silas told the Philippians jailer…”Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”.
And according to the book of Romans “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9) piece of Cake, huh….that’s all it takes to get your ticket to heaven punched huh? But Biblical belief is much more than intellectual acknowledgment…
For Nicodemus, the Pharisee to be born again—it would spiritually involve an entering new life…when the Philippians jailer makes this commitment he knows he and his family are joining a community of Christians who has been beaten, flogged and put in prison for their faith.
Paul tells the Roman Christians that to believe in the living resurrection of Jesus from the dead is to confess his sovereign Lordship over their lives!
The Bible teaches over and over again that belief in Jesus for salvation involves far more than mere intellectual assent …even demons “believe” that Jesus is the crucified and resurrected son of God, and clearly that belief doesn’t save them. (James 2: 19)
Matt 7 has dammed people…Many shouting Lord, Lord, and Jesus says “Not everyone who confesses that enters the Kingdom of Heaven, but only He who does the will of my father in heaven”…Claims don’t save..Obedience saves.
[4 out of 5 Americans identify themselves as Christians. Less than half of this group are involved in church on a weekly basis…Less than half belief the Bible is accurate, and the overwhelming majority do not have a Biblical world view…half of this group identify themselves as…”Born-Again Christians ( I didn’t know there was any other kind!)…But within this group who say they have made a public profession that Jesus Christ is their Savior…many believe both Christians and Muslims worship the same God, that Jesus sinned while he was here on earth, and that they have earned their way into heaven through good works. Truth that doesn’t impact your soul…is still truth, but having it in your head without applying it to your heart and hands is deception…and it saves no one.