2 Corinthians 6 Part 2: Followership
Paul says to the Corinthians, “we have opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding affections from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange- I speak as to my children, open wide your hearts also.” Paul speaks a father to his children, who have robbed him of their love.
Last week’s lesson was entitled: Are you Sincere? Are we sincere when we say we love the Lord?
If the greatest command is to love the Lord thy God with all your heart, then what happens when you rob God of your love, is your heart has become divided. The thief has stolen your love of God and replaced it with the things of the world.
I approached the pharmacy one rainy Saturday to pick an Rx. Just as I was walking up, they were closing the window and would be closed for an hour for lunch. I called to them to wait, I need to pick up a Rx. Sorry, and we close for an hour for lunch on Saturday. Pointed to the sign. I felt this was rude and disrespectful to me personally. I was indignant. I was angry. I was frustrated. Can you imagine how Paul felt with all he had done for these people and they had shut him out? Has this happened to you before? Now imagine how much your Heavenly Father has done for you, all of the sacrifices He made for you and imagine how He feels when you shut Him out. When you do not return His love.
Thus comes Paul admonition to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. To be separate and come out from them. To not touch any unclean thing. Paul is not talking about isolation from the world; he is talking about separation unto God. Paul is linking the reason the Corinthians are withholding love for him is they have divided hearts. They love the things of the world.
Do not take this to mean we are not to reach out to sinners. For Paul has just told us we are to be ministers for reconciliation , that is to say, offering the peace with God through the finished work of Jesus Christ. We are to be ambassadors. An ambassador is loyal to the leader of the country he/she represents. Their loyalty is based on their love of the country and the one who leads it. An ambassador follows his leader.
God is love. We cannot imagine how much He loves us. He created us in order to love us. He made us for love, gave us the power to love and it is this same love of God’s which sustains us, keeps the earth in its orbit, the stars in their place and the tides from overflowing.
As His ambassadors we are to follow Him. Yet, it seems we pray to Him almost as if we expect Him to be following us and providing what we need and taking care of our problems.
Following Christ is the beginning and the end of what it means to be a Christian. Everything in between is measured by it.
Following Jesus is not easy. To start with our old sinful nature loves itself. The world wants to conform us to love the things of the world. The Lord in His Sermon on the Mount told us the Way of Christ is hard to follow.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew7: 13, 14)
“Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that Day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many might works in your name? And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7: 21-23) Those are scary, sobering verses.
Do you see what has happened to our culture? Everywhere we look the traditions of our culture are being lost, replaced by a mindset of doing what is right in one’s own eyes. Our culture is unraveling before our very eyes. Here in the beginning of the 21st century, we must realize the foundation for the 21st century was laid in the 20th century.
Now I understand why many people are doing what they do, for they realized something was missing in their lives which gave it meaning. But when we look at the world today, we realize the ‘lead-your-own-life’ culture is unhappy, dismal, disappointed and their frustrations are turning to anger and depression.
Paul told us in his letter to Timothy: “But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- having a form of godliness, but denying its power.”
Let’s look back at the call of the disciples from the combined accounts in Matthew 4 and Luke 5.
In the account in Matthew 4 read of his calling of the first disciples, Peter, Andrew, James and John. Now John will tell us in the Gospel of John, how he and Andrew had been introduced to Jesus by John the Baptist, the day after John the Baptist had baptized Jesus. John the Baptist told them Jesus was the Lamb of God. They followed Jesus that day and spent time with Him and went home and told their brothers James and Peter they had found the Messiah. They spent some time with Jesus and then Jesus left, being led by the Spirit to fast in preparation for the beginning of His ministry. He is tempted by the devil and it is after spending 40 days in isolated preparation Jesus returns and begins His ministry and the calling of the disciples. By reading both accounts we learn Jesus comes by the Sea of Galilee as the Peter, Andrew, James and John are finishing a night of fishing. They are cleaning their nets, mending them and getting ready for the coming night. They fished at night we learn from these accounts. They are getting off work and making sure all their gear will be ready when they return to go out that night. Jesus has a crowd following Him and Jesus asks Peter can he use his boat as a pulpit to enable the people on the shore to hear him. They agree and Jesus speaks to the group. Then in Luke 5 we read: “When he had finished speaking, Jesus said to Simon: “Put out into the deep water, and let the nets down for a catch. Simon answered, ‘Master we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” We read they caught a record catch, so large, the signaled for James and Andrew, their partners, to come help them and they filled both boats.
“When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus knees and said, “Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man. For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken.” Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid, Follow me and I will make your fishers of men. So they pulled up their boats on shore, left everything and followed Him.”
I know you have heard this so many times in the invitation to come to Jesus. The preacher will often say, ‘invite Jesus into your hearts, into your life.’ Do you see in these verses what took place? Jesus invited them into His life. This is what He does; He invites you into His life. To share His life with you.
His invitation to us today is the same as it was when the two young me, John and Andrew asks him where He was staying, and Jesus said, “Come and See. “
When Christ called Peter, Andrew, James and John, He interrupted their lives in every way- their careers, their daily routines. To follow Him, meant a change of direction. To follow Him, meant to leave behind everything to physically accompany Him for the next three years of their lives. In Matthew 4: 20, we read: “At once they left their nets and followed Him.”
What did those “nets” represent to these men? They represented their way of life, their careers, their way of providing a living, a lifestyle which they had probably learned from their parents.
These are our safety nets. They are our comfort zones. They are our nests.
Nets represent anything that entangles us, which keeps us from following Jesus wholeheartedly.
So we drop our nets and follow Him. For a while, but the urge, the temptation to pick them back up again is strong. It is tempting. We controlled it, or thought we did.
I remember when I left the company I had worked for – for years. Sometimes I would leave my house in the morning and before I realized it I was driving back to my old workplace.
We sing ‘wherever He leads, I will follow’. But do we?
WHAT ARE THOSE NETS IN YOUR HANDS?
- People can be nets. Surely some of the people the Corinthians were fellowshipping with were old friends. But what if those old friends were not believers, and refused to believe, despite your witnessing. What if you found yourself laughing at their off-color jokes, laced with profanity and the Lord’s name in vain? Our children can be nets. I wonder what you would think if your children were called to the mission field, which would mean not only seeing them for months and even years, but also not seeing your grandchildren for years?
- Things can be nets. Things can be anything from our careers, homes, hobbies, exercise and any number of things which consume our time, money and thoughts.
- Our plans and dreams.
- Money can be a net.
- Secret sin can be a net.
Now the nets Jesus calls us from are not always sinful, or degrading. They can simply be things which capture our attention.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A FOLLOWER?
I believe this song captures it:
“All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him, I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.”
It is not a project you are committing to- it is a Person.
Henny Youngman was an old- time Vaudeville performer who had a long career. He told one joke after another in rapid succession.
Here is one of his jokes: “A fellow at work ask me the other day, “How is your wife? I said, “Compared to what?”
Comparison provides contrast and contrast provides clarity.
Compare anything Christ asks you to drop and ask yourself what this is worth compared to having Christ? Compared to Christ- no contest!
I do not know what you struggle with- but the Lord knows. Whenever the temptation arises, do you try to resist based on fear of the consequences, guilt or shame? Those are certainly truths to consider.
But…what if we avoided them because we love Jesus more than we love the indulgence of this temptation.
Would you choose _______________ over Christ? Put in that blank whatever net is entangling you.
“Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.” Separated unto the Lord.
“Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters. (2Cor. 6: 17, 18)
“Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”(2 Cor. 7:1)
Peter sums up what life lived without Jesus turns out to be “We have worked hard (toiled) all night and caught nothing.”
Ever feel like you have worked hard all night and caught nothing? The athlete, who wins the championship, finds the thrill soon wore off and they were emptier than ever before. The multi-millionaire who has accumulated a fortune, but lost his family due to neglect finds money a poor replacement for the love of others. They climbed the ladder of success only to find out they leaned it against the wrong wall
The secret to Christian living. It is real simple. “Follow Me. “It is here you will discover the meaning of life- in ‘followership” We were created to be followers.
What are those ‘nets’ in your hands?