23 Matthew 8:18-27 - What Keeps Men from Christ Part 1

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Title: What Keeps Men from Christ Part 1 Text: Matthew 8:18-27 FCF: We often struggle following Christ for various reasons Prop: Because following Christ will change us forever, we must choose Him over all else. Scripture Intro: [Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew chapter 8. Last week we saw Jesus healing several people, realizing of course that these were all attempts by our gracious Lord to display Himself as the promised Messiah who came to make everyone new. They should have seen Him as the answer to the question, how can I be perfect while spiritually bankrupt? Because He is the guilt offering for many. He trades His perfection for their depravity. Yet they missed it. And we could have easily missed it too. We could have talked about ministering to outcasts or helping the hurting. But instead, we, I hope, saw the Messiah, the anointed one of God who bears the sin of all mankind. Today – Matthew shows that some are starting to get it. He will bring three separate examples to us to show that people are starting to see Christ revealed. But in that revelation He will also show what keeps men from Christ. Today specifically we will see that Fear, comfort and peace all keep people from following Christ. And if you are not careful, they may prevent you from following Him too. I am in Matthew 8 and we will start in verse 18. I am reading from the NASB but follow along in whatever version you prefer. Sermon Intro: [Slide 2] Everyone here as seen cop dramas probably. I think my first one ever was law and order. It was on Law and Order that I was first exposed to the Witness protection program. If you’ve never heard of it, let me briefly explain. Our law enforcement agencies are designed to make sure that the law is abided by people. However, there is a general understanding that if given the opportunity, our justice department will sacrifice the prosecution of a lesser criminal if they will help to incarcerate a more dangerous criminal or criminal organization. Of course, sometimes when these small timers agree to testify in court against these bigger and larger organizations, there is a very real threat that, if discovered, they may be harmed, killed or otherwise convinced not to testify. That is why the US invented the witness protection program in the 1960s. This program protects these witnesses by relocating them, giving them new identities, new careers, in some cases they even protect the family members of these witnesses. For some it is a lifetime commitment since the criminal organization would still exist after the trial. So a witness is offered a choice. They can either stay and possibly be harmed or killed for considering testifying against someone else. Or they can give up their life, possibly forever, to start a new life somewhere else. Some of them even undergo plastic surgery to change their appearance. So not only do they adopt a new name, but they adopt a whole new person. But the choice isn’t much of a choice. Either they stay who they are and lose their life. Or they lose everything they are and live. Either way they lose everything. Perhaps you are already picking up on the correlation here. Matthew has just demonstrated to us that Jesus is the answer to how we can be pure in heart yet spiritually bankrupt at the same time. How can we mourn our sin yet be hungering and thirsting after righteousness? These seeming contradictions are harmonized by Jesus taking our place, bearing our shame, and becoming a guilt offering for us. Therefore the gospel, the good news is not what Jesus can or even has already done for you… the good news is Jesus. He is the one pursuit of Kingdom citizens. So what we have in the section to follow are examples that all communicate a sad list of things that Keep men from Jesus. As we explore these today and next week – we will be challenged to see and understand that like a person in witness protection, following Christ means that we will be changed forever. But also like the person who chooses to go into witness protection… there really isn’t another choice. Transition: In the next 17 verses we will see men faced with the other option besides Christ. And most of them, maybe all of them, choose unwisely. We would do well to listen and learn from them. Look with me at verse 18. I.) Following Christ has a cost a. [Slide 3] 18 – Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea i. Of the sea is correctly added by NASB to help us understand that the North Western end of the Sea of Galilee is where they were and they were going to go to the eastern side or south eastern side. But why? ii. He saw the crowd around Him. Jesus is Agoraphobic? Does He fear large crowds? iii. It all comes down to His mission and His purpose. He came to proclaim the gospel, but with such large crowds surrounding Him, begging Him to do miracle after miracle– and furthermore – not listening to His preaching – He seeks smaller encounters with people who are ready to hear and listen to what He says. b. [Slide 4] 19 – Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” i. So before they are able to get into the boats, Jesus is taken aside by three people. ii. The first of these is a scribe. A scribe is basically a lawyer of God’s law. We might call him a theologian. He was supposed to be proficient in the interpretation and teaching of the law of Moses. iii. He calls him teacher. This is not slighting Jesus in any way. In fact, it seems that the scribe is willingly placing himself under the authority of Jesus. He is an instructor himself, but calls Jesus his teacher. So we see humility from this scribe. Something that scribes in the New Testament are not really known for. iv. He shows belief or dependence. He seems to understand that where Jesus goes, is exactly where he needs to be. v. But he lacks something. Something that only the Son of God could see in his heart of stone… c. [Slide 5] 20 – Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to law His head.” i. Foxes and Birds – creatures that you could probably go your whole day and never notice, even they have places to lay their heads at night. They are provided for. ii. But the Son of Man has no such guarantee. And neither does any who follow Him. iii. The Son of Man is Jesus’ most used title for Himself. It emphasizes the human nature side of the God-Man, but receives divine overtones from Daniel 7 which speaks of the authority that God will grant to the victorious Messiah. iv. So what did Jesus see in this man? He was humble. He even understood that Christ was the answer. What He did not understand that the way was perilous. He did not understand that they weren’t going to be staying in five star hotels. He did not understand that it was not the path to glory, fame, or political triumph. He was not the Son of Man who would be given the sovereignty over the nations yet. Perhaps Jesus saw this scribe thinking He was going to get in on the ground floor of the fall of the Roman empire at the hands of the Messiah… v. To him, Jesus said – That is not the path. The way is perilous for me, and is subsequently perilous for all who follow me. You must count the cost before you enter. Because you will finish the path a different man than you came in. d. [Slide 6] 21 – Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” i. Whether this is one of the 12 or another person who had been following him up to this point, we cannot be sure. It does not affect the interpretation, since all the 12 disciples’ faith is questionable until after the resurrection. ii. This no doubt is a euphemism, not to bury his father per se, but probably to receive the inheritance that his father would leave him once he was dead. iii. Perhaps he overheard that Jesus had no place to lay his head. So he thought a cash infusion would allow the ministry to go ahead. e. [Slide 7] 22 – But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead” i. Jesus sees through this and cuts to the chase. ii. Only the spiritually dead would allow such a trivial thing to prevent them from following God. iii. Let those who’s destiny is destruction care for others whos destiny is destruction. As for you… follow me. iv. To this man, who perhaps understood that the way would be perilous, Jesus communicates that the gate is narrow. That there is no room for a dependence on money. You must only depend on Him. v. And I’d like to think that this is one of the 12 disciples. Do you know why? Because if it was – he obeyed Jesus. He followed. He didn’t wait for his father to die to fund his trip… He came anyway. f. [Slide 8] The final person who speaks to Jesus is not recorded in Matthew but is in Luke. In Luke 9 the same events are recorded and are almost verbatim except for 1 additional interaction which Luke records. i. A man says that he will follow Christ, only first, let him go and say goodbye to his family. ii. Jesus tells him that a man who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God. iii. In this encounter, Jesus confronts again that the gate is narrow. iv. He corrects the man who thinks that saying goodbye to his family is a reasonable excuse not to follow immediately. What better testimony it would have been to have said, I’m sorry I didn’t say goodbye, but I just couldn’t keep my feet from following Him. The gate is narrow, and last goodbyes and family and friends cannot go through with you. v. Then Jesus uses an illustration that we may miss. A person plowing a field by hand but looking behind them. vi. A close comparison would be someone mowing their lawn while staring at what they have already mowed. It is a sure-fire way to have wavy lines in your yard. vii. The gate is narrow and it will demand your full concentration. There is nothing worth looking back for to enter Application: [Slide 9 (blank)] We’ve talked about this before, so I don’t want to labor long on it. But the one thing that easy believism and prosperity gospel teachings have in common is that they reject Jesus’ words from the sermon on the mount, and have great difficulty understanding why Jesus is frequently chasing people away from following Him. Why? Because Prosperity Gospel is the scribe. They see what they can get from a life devoted to Christ. The great life they can live NOW because they serve this powerful miracle worker. They will get wealth and prosperity. And one offshoot of that is what we dealt with a few weeks ago – which is this humanistic gospel that we hear preached all arounds us. Advertising and marketing the great benefits it is to serve Jesus. One popular Christian writer once said “What you win them with, is what you win them to” If you win them with promises of an easy life with money and prosperity, then that is what they will pursue until it eludes them, they quit, or until they tragically find it. In the same way if you win them with promises of love and acceptance from Jesus, then they will pursue that until they find passages in scripture where Jesus is chasing people away – intentionally speaking parables to hide the truth, and actively judging people for their sin, or calling them to radical change. Then they will conclude that it is all lies, they will throw scripture out of their bibles, or worse… they will reinterpret it to mean what they want. And People are already doing this within Christianity to accommodate homosexuality. Because after all Jesus is loving and accepting. And just as prosperity and me-centric gospels are the scribe, so Easy entry belief and no cost faith are the man who had to bury his father and the man who had to say goodbye to his family. When we sell the gospel as a free gift that all you have to do is simply reach out and take it… it undermines what Jesus teaches. If that were all the gospel was, Jesus would have said to this man “don’t worry buddy, all you have to do is believe and then go back to your dad and wait on that inheritance. Listen… when you are ready to get serious about serving me, then I’ll still be here. But let’s make sure you are going to heaven first. “ But Jesus told him forget the money. Let the Spiritually dead worry about that kind of earthy stuff. Follow me and live. Depend on me and me alone! But today – what this looks like is a man who has heard the gospel and they protest by saying “You know I want to get saved I really do, but I can’t serve God until I get out of college. I just need to be in a better financial position before I go all in you know?” And do you know what churches mere miles from here would say to this man? They would say, “Don’t worry about that right now buddy. Just believe on the name of Jesus and He will save you, and then He’ll lead you to what He wants you to be and to do” But if it were today, what would Jesus have said to this man? Let me translate it for you. “I don’t want your money I want you. All of you. Now. You can serve me with or without a college degree. You can serve me with or without a wife. You can serve me with or without money. Let the unsaved worry about college degrees and petty cash. You Give me your heart and you give it to me now. Repent of your wickedness and depend on me” Based on Jesus’ example, we should recognize that a man like this who understands what Jesus will demand of Him but looks back from the plow to care for a few things first, does not understand what salvation is. Jesus says they are not fit for the Kingdom. Not yet. He is close. But he does not understand the urgency that it is to stand before a Holy God condemned – because when you catch that truth – there is nothing on earth that is worth taking care of first. Illustration: There was a young man, fresh out of college that came back to his home church to teach what he had learned at bible school. So the leadership was quick to put him with the AWANA kids for a lesson on salvation, hoping that something he said would strike a chord with the youth. And it did. The young man was full of all kinds of insights and delivered the gospel message almost perfectly to this group of young children. After the lesson was over, he asked if there were any who wanted to spend a little more time talking about the gospel. Several hands shot up. Some did not. The ones that did not raise their hands stayed in the class room and the others were asked to follow the young man to an adjoining room. The young man again, presented the gospel as clearly and concisely as he could, but still felt as though there were some young children there that were there for the wrong reasons. So, before inviting them for some kind of decision, this young man, hearing the shouts from the gymnasium across the hall, made one final offer. He told the kids that if they wanted to, that he had a little bit more to tell them about Jesus and what He had done for them, but, time was running out and that there was a kick ball game going in the gym next to them that sounded very fun. He then said to the kids, if you want to, you can go ahead and leave and go play kickball. Several of the kids got up from their seats to go play kickball. Only a few remained to hear more. Afterward, an observing volunteer in the church came up to the young man, and expressed her concern for his methods. She, almost scolding said, that he shouldn’t have chased off kids who perhaps, could have gotten saved. The young man replied, “If they cannot choose Christ over kickball, then they were not ready for salvation in the first place.” And this is, in a sense, what Jesus said to the second man. If you cannot choose me over riches, then you don’t know what it means to follow me. And He is saying it to you too today… Transition: So following Christ will cost something to start and to continue. But not only will it cost you something, maybe everything – but it will also change you forever. You’ll be different. And one crystal clear example of how his disciples didn’t quite catch that yet, starts with a storm. II.) Following Christ means faith overrules fear a. [Slide 10] 23-25 – When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold there arose a great storm on the sea so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And from Mark “Don’t you care that we are perishing?” i. This is probably the 12 disciples who got into his boat. Mark tells us that others came out in other boats too, but in His boat it was probably the 12 disciples. ii. Fierce and sudden storms are somewhat commondue to the sea of galilee being several feet below sea level. But even experienced fisherman were having issues with this storm. iii. Jesus is unmoved by the storm. He is the example. There is no fear in Him. He knows that the storm is coming even, and yet He is sleeping. iv. Save us, don’t you care we are perishing? v. An interesting question. Did Jesus care that they were perishing? I’d say Jesus cared a great deal that they were dead. His mission was to make them alive again. And the mode would be His substitution and their faith in Him. vi. Their faith in Him would save them… but it would need to be a certain kind of faith. A desperate faith. A wild faith. A faith that discarded experience and recklessly believed. b. [Slide 11] 26 – He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” and from Luke “Where did your inferior faith go?” and from Mark “How is it that you have no faith?” i. You see the faith necessary to rescue them from the death of their sin, was a faith that they did not have. ii. Their faith was deficient. It was ineffective. And it was proven deficient because it had evaporated. iii. Their faith put experience ahead of theology. They claimed they believed He was the Messiah, but lived as though He wasn’t. iv. Afterall, would God allow His Messiah to die in a freak storm before He accomplished His mission? v. Looking at it in hindsight, I am sure they felt quite ashamed. vi. Their faith evaporated when experience told them they were doomed. c. Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm i. The creator of the universe called on the carpet the forces of nature. ii. I am your God – STOP –From Mark - Hush – Be still. d. [Slide 12] 27 – The men were amazed and said, “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” from Mark - They were afraid – “who is this that the winds and sea obey Him” and from Luke –They were fearful and amazed “who is this that he commands the winds and the water and they obey Him” i. Wonder and Fear is their response 1. They were absolutely mystified. No one can say to the wind and waves stop and it happens. 2. They were absolutely terrified. If he can say to the wind and the waves stop and it happens, he is no mere man. 3. Matthew points that out by his inclusion of the phrase “what kind of man is this” ii. Command over the wind and the waves = deity iii. Wonder and Fear does not necessarily equal faith. Application: [Slide 13 (blank)] Our faith is challenged every day. And I am not talking about the pagan down the street or the atheist who challenges the legitimacy of the scriptures. I am talking about living as though all of this is true. That this book is true. That this God is real. That this Christ has done all that He claims to have done, that He is all that He claims to be, that this gospel is all that is says it is. Every day we are confronted with experience after experience telling us that such things to believe are incompatible with how life actually is. That God must have gotten something wrong - or perhaps this book is outdated to the extent that things are different now. [Slide 14A] We fear failure at work or in our homes. We fear being poor husbands or employees. We fear losing our jobs and homes. We fear raising kids who have no ambition or drive. We fear failure even though in Christ we have been made more than conquerors. That in Christ we can pursue the things of the Kingdom and not of this world. In Christ we find love, support and forgiveness. In Christ we find power, and self control. So why fear failure? [Slide 14B] We fear lonelieness. We fear never marrying or worse, marrying someone who will grow distant from us, captivated by other things. We fear growing old and outliving our friends and family. We fear losing a spouse and dying alone. We fear never having a legacy, never leaving a footprint on this world, and having our name forgotten. But we believe that our names have already been erased. That our kingdoms have crumbled and His kingdom put in its place. WE believe that he is always with us because He lives in us. We believe He gives us power and love. How can we fear loneliness? [Slide 14C] We fear rejection of men. We fear what others may think. We fear how others will perceive our parenting and our choices. We fear what they will say about our movies and our standards. We fear what they will say about our ideas and philosophies. Yet we believe that we are not of this world. WE believe that they can’t understand us – because We look less and less like them every day and it is in that difference that they will be confronted with their own wickedness. We believe that we are peculiar. Yet we fear being so? [Slide 14D] We fear physical harm and financial distress. We fear thieves to the point that we develop well crafted action plans for killing them if they should attempt to take our tvs. We paint it in language of self-defense, but is it? We fear tiny microscopic monsters that could possibly snuff us out before our time and leave our family destitute. Yet we believe that our Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills. We believe that if we pursue His Kingdom first he will supply our needs and we believe that He is sovereign over life death, nature and all things. Yet we fear losing our jobs? We fear thieves breaking in and stealing? [Slide 15] Fear and faith are incompatible friend. Even fearing the Lord does not necessarily lead to faith, which we will see next week. To those who do have saving faith, The Spirit God that is placed within us when we believed is not a fearful Spirit. It is the Divine presence of the 3rd person of the Godhead who is full of power and love and able to keep us under control. It made no sense for the disciples to fear that day… and it makes even less sense for us having been illuminated and changed by the power of the Spirit of the Living God. Transition: So let’s try to synthesize what we have learned today and figure out what it means for us. Conclusion: [Slide 16 (blank) (end)] We all know that it is by grace we are saved through faith. Meaning of course that God acts on our behalf to grant us favor that we did not and could not earn. That is how our salvation is achieved. Therefore it is of God. That grace is given or imputed to us through faith. Faith is pipe by which God’s grace is delivered to us. But what is clear in the pages of the gospels and specifically Matthew, is that this is no run of the mill, bargain barrel pipe. This faith is a faith that can move mountains. It is a faith that can conquer fear. It is a faith that considers the cost and pays it gladly. The Kind of faith that saves is a faith that recreates you. It is reckless. It is wild. It is devastating. This is the faith that sleeps on the boat during a catastrophic storm. It is the faith that finds power in the pain, gives love through the tears, and is self controlled though the battle rages around them. It is a faith that would forsake country, family, friend, comfort, power and honor if asked to do so. It is a faith that is focused and single-minded on Jesus and Only Jesus. But in a Christian climate where any old faith will do, these teachings are cast aside in favor of seeing the wisdom of the teacher, and not the wisdom of the teaching. Jesus through riddles, parables, and difficult expressions is leading us to the truth about His mission. And it was to show us what it means to follow Him. But I fear we have cheapened it. Jesus came to change destinies not destinations. He came to transform not simply transport. He came to kill off sin and raise up His righteousness in us. Do you see a growing hatred and sorrow over you sin? Do you see a growing thirst for righteousness? Is your faith what determines how you live, or is it your fears? What do we do with a message like this today – I think the most basic thing to do is to examine ourselves to see if we entered the right gate. Did it cost us something to get in? We must examine ourselves to see if we are on the right path. Is living the Christian life an easy life for you? Finally I think we need to examine ourselves to see if our faith overrules our fears. Because our theology should govern our experience, not the other way round. When was the last time you wept over life not matching faith and begging God to keep you centered on His truth no matter what you feel. But all too often we allow our fear, our anger, our rage, our sadness and our selfishness to rule over what we say we believe. God cannot possibly love us because we are in this situation. That’s Blasphemy! How dare we question God’s love because we are suffering! God can’t possibly be in control because I lost my job. Hersey! How dare we blaspheme for something as petty as a forced career change. Jesus is giving us a portrait of His Kingdom, and who live there. Is it you? There are many things that keep men from Him. Fear, family, comfort and peace are only a few that we saw today. Next week we’ll see another big one. But for today – ask yourself – are your eyes fixed on the King? Or have they been diverted by a soft couch or tired knees? Are you running toward the finish line? Or have you stopped to check your balance at the ATM? Are you trusting the Spirit of power, love and self control within you, or are you afraid of all the storms around you? Kingdom citizens have one pursuit and it is their King. And nothing else matters. If that is untrue of you today. Maybe you should speak to God about that. Put aside these silly things. And follow your King. Maybe, for some of you, it will be the first time.

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