This morning we conclude our series on “Not a Fan,” where we have been examining and hopefully all of us reflecting on the difference between a fan and a follower of Jesus. The first week we examined the story of Nicodemus along with some others, and how fans are those who wish to admire and perhaps even love Jesus, but are unwilling to make the sacrifices that come with truly following him. For Nicodemus it was at first his career and his reputation. We looked at how those who truly followed Jesus, the disciples and apostles, were those who were truly willing to go wherever, whenever, and do whatever. That first week we discussed what wherever truly means, and how to be followers we must be willing to risk it all by bringing him everywhere we go, and by going wherever he calls us, to be a witness at any given place, even if it’s not comfortable, even if it’s somewhere we may not want to go. Last week was the second w, whenever, in which we took a look at a couple of would-be followers, fans who wanted to follow Jesus on their time, when it was convenient for them or when they were ready. Hopefully the point was made that the deadline to do, or to go where Jesus is calling you, is today, that we are not to treat him like the diet or workout program we promise ourselves we’re going to start.
This morning in our conclusion of the series, we will dive into that third, and perhaps the most essential, or at the least the most tangible w, whatever. Before we hear from our scripture I want to tell of a story that Kyle tells in his book, one some of you may have heard, that of William Borden. His story is quite long, as well as both fascinating and inspiring. But I’ll give you the short version of it. Born in the 1800’s to an incredibly wealthy family, he was sent to get his education from both Yale and Princeton. He was well on his way to being an incredibly successful businessman. His parents sent him on a tour of the world, where he began to feel God’s calling to reach out to people who have never heard the gospel. He began that work at Yale, starting some incredible ministries that would reach thousands of people. While achieving his undergrad from Yale, his father died, making him the heir of a significant fortune, as well as a dairy company that is today worth billions. But he felt led and called to share the gospel. So he headed off to Egypt to learn languages that would help him take the gospel to the Kansu people in China. But he never made it. While in Egypt he caught spinal meningitis, and died one month later at the age of 25. After his death, there were three phrases written in his bible. No reserves. No retreats. No regrets. Question for you all this morning, what do you think about the decision he made? What do you think about the trade William decided to make, giving up a fortune and likely a long prosperous life, for a short life with what was likely a painful ending? Did he make the right choice?
Luke 9:23-27 Jesus addresses the disciples, those who have been with him since the beginning, the most dedicated people to him, who he himself chose, and says *Read Scripture. I think William Borden died with no regrets, knowing he made the right choice, despite what it was now costing him. Famous missionary Jim Elliot who also gave his life bringing the gospel to the untold world echoes the words of Jesus “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Anything we trade, anything we give up to follow Jesus, to heed his call, is worth it. On the flip side of that nothing we seek to keep to ourselves, nothing we ever keep from Jesus, nothing we are ever unwilling to lose will ever be worth it. William’s story is not unlike the story of Elisha in 1 Kings 19: 19-21. To have 12 yoke of oxen meant you were doing pretty well for yourself, it was certainly a sign you were fairly well off. But did you hear what Elisha did? He slaughtered the oxen, and lit a fire using all of his equipment to host a barbecue. He burnt it all, he knew he was making the decision to follow, to become a servant of God and there was no going back, he made sure of that. William, Jim Elliot, Elishah, true followers who understood what whatever truly means.
Fan’s on the other hand, want to hold onto certain things. During a very strange and bizarre practice, the knights of Templar would be baptized holding their swords. The church allowed them however, to hold their swords above the water while the rest of their bodies were immersed, as if to say “You can have it all Jesus, except this one thing.” Clearly they missed some of these not a fan talks from Jesus. Like Later in Luke, chapter 14 Jesus turns to the crowds of people following him and says “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, brother and sister, wife and children, and yes even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. So therefore none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” My guess is that this wasn’t exactly a morale booster, and that at least some turned and left, those who were more fan than follower decided they didn’t want to pay the price, that the cost was too high. Poor, poor fools, trading what cannot be lost, for what cannot be kept.
When anyone says they will follow Jesus, they say to Jesus “I’ll give you whatever” and Jesus then points to what they're holding behind their back or what their holding above the water and says “what about that?” To be a follower means we don’t choose the where, and we don’t go only where is comfortable. To be a follower means we don’t get to choose the when, and only the times that are convenient for us, and in that same manner we don’t get to choose the what, we don’t get to decide how much is enough, we don’t get to pick and choose what we give up and what we don’t, what we are willing to lose and what we’re not, what stays above the waters of our baptism. I don’t think Jesus asks us “What will you give up? What will you lose?” We could probably come up with a list of things we could live without and we’d be willing to lose. Instead, I think often Jesus asks “What WON’T you give up? What AREN’T you willing to lose for my sake?” And then he promptly asks us to give it up, just as he did to all those people in the crowd. Not for the intention of making anyone miserable, not to make people poor, not for the sake of giving things up, but because more than likely whatever you are unwilling to lose or give up, whatever sacrifice you are unwilling to make, is likely what has taken his place in your life, is likely what you have traded down for from truly following.
It goes without saying that finances are included in this, Kyle notes in his book that a big indicator of your willingness to sacrifice is in your wallet or your checkbook. I’ll admit, when I first read that I thought ouch, that’s a little rough, and if it sounds that way to you do what I did, turn to the gospel, turn to what Jesus says about wealth, and money, about giving. Read what he says about giving it all up. Look at the rich young ruler in Luke 18, who obeyed God faithfully, who followed and upheld the commandments, but went away sad, because Jesus called him to relinquish it, to give all that he had away. I think that man would have been willing to give up SOME of what he had, but not all of it, and so his unwillingness revealed his heart, and unfortunately that is the last we hear of him. To follow Jesus means nothing comes before him, nothing comes before serving him, it means whatever, which truly means whatever. It means no reserves, it means no retreat and no looking back, and when we have that level of commitment and willingness and sacrifice, it will mean for us, as it did William Borden, no regrets.
Kyle remarks in his book something everyone who has ever been in a romantic or committed relationship will likely be familiar with. There comes a time in which two people have to define the relationship. They have to talk discuss where their relationship is, and where they want it to be, it’s time to talk about where it’s going. My wife Nicole and I were high school sweethearts, together since 2008, but were friends even before that. I think somewhere around the 7th year of us being together, after she had graduated college I was starting to get the define the relationship talk, and half of the time not even from her. I remember hearing the question from others “What are you waiting for? You’re going to lose her!” Jesus wants us to define the relationship, he wants to know if we are a follower, whether we are all in, committed for the long-haul no matter what that means, no matter where, no matter when, and no matter what. My hope is that through this series you have at least begun taking a look at your life, and are ready to answer the question. Fan? Or follower? Now lest we forgot, let me tell you what I’m not asking. Kyle lays out a few. The question is not do you own 3 or more bibles? It is not: do you go to church? It is not: did you get a purpose-driven life in 40 days or less? It is not: do you listen to worship music most or all of the time in your car? It is not is there a fish on the back of your car? Instead, the question is closer to: Does wherever, whenever, and whatever truly mean what they are supposed to mean as committed followers and disciples of Christ? The question is what or who is first in your life? It is where are you willing to go for Jesus, and are you willing to go now? It is what are you willing or not willing to lose so that you can follow Jesus with your whole heart? If following Jesus right now would cause you serious discomfort, force you away, and cost you everything, would it still be worth it? Would you still choose to follow? I don’t think I have to tell you, that as much as it will cost, it will be more than worth it, that nothing we can hope to gain from holding back, is worth the trade.
Several times in this series we talked about the amazing commitment and dedication of the disciples and apostles, and how through them, and many others, the gospel would be spread to the entire world, something many would have thought impossible, many were certain it was a phase, something that would eventually just go away, that the candle would burn out and die. But it didn’t, and while Christianity and faith in this country may be declining, in other places in the world it is rapidly growing, thanks to a handful of people who chose to commit themselves, who were willing to go the distance, who chose to be followers.
Let me share my vision with all of you, what I think can still happen should we all choose to define the relationship, and choose to follow Jesus closer and deeper than we ever have before. I see us gathering around in amazement at how many people we have brought to Christ this past year. *Coaldale: I see us no longer being concerned about closing or having enough finances for another year but looking to launch another ministry or another service, or breaking ground on a new building.* I see us being the source, the foundation of a revival in our community. I see true wonders and miracles following us because we chose to follow Jesus. We may think that out of reach, but so did the disciples, so did so many at the time of the forming of Christianity and the early church. Before Jesus is crucified he tells the disciples they will do greater works than he did because he is going to the Father and he is sending the Holy Spirit, the advocate.
All of this I believe can come to us, because it is promised to us. But it will not, cannot be done through half-baked discipleship, it cannot be done by practicing in moderation, it cannot be done by holding anything back from Jesus, but all of us, everyone of us, surrendering our all to him, in other words it will not be done by a handful of fans, but it can be done through even just a handful of followers. It can be done if and when we come to that place where we hold nothing back, where we are willing to go into work, into the grocery store, wherever we are called, and invite people to church, share our faith with those who have never been told of the God we serve. This can all be done when we surrender our time to him, and when he calls us, each of us, like the disciples we immediately leave everything behind, and follow him. This can all be achieved when we are willing to put all that we have on the line, willing to risk all that we have, for all that we can keep, when nothing we have is being held above the water, behind our back or up our sleeve.
Jesus this morning call us, once again, he asks us “Do you love me? Will you follow me? Are you a fan of mine? Or a follower willing to go the distance? Willing to go wherever, whenever, and do whatever?