I want to challenge your thinking this morning by asking you a multiple choice question. The question: in daily life terms, what is the purpose of life? Rank these five options with number one being the highest option:

Achieving success

Taking care of your family

Achieving a desirable lifestyle

Enjoying life

Serving God

I ask you to rank these items privately, in your own mind, with no one knowing your list. All I ask is for you to be honest with your own heart and mind. In your own mind and heart, list each with number one your most important consideration and number five your least important consideration [in this list].

  1. Now that you have made your selections, I want to read some New Testament scriptures for you to consider.
    1. Each of these statements was made by Jesus either to a group listening to him or to his disciples.
      1. I realize that each scripture must be studied in its context with serious consideration given to Jesus' point at the time.
      2. I am not going to discuss each scripture, but I hope to call your attention to a single factor all these scriptures have in common.
      3. As we read together (you are encouraged to follow each reading on the screen), ask yourself what do these scriptures share in common.
    2. Scriptures:
      1. Matthew 8:19-22 Then a scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." Another of the disciples said to Him, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead."
      2. Matthew 10:24-28 A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
      3. Matthew 16:24-27 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds."
      4. Mark 8:34-38 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
      5. Luke 9:23-27 And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."
      6. Luke 12:4-7 I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
      7. Luke 12:49-53 I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.
      8. Luke 14:25-33 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions."
      9. Luke 18:26-34 They who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" But He said, "The things that are impossible with people are possible with God." Peter said, "Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You." And He said to them, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life." Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again." But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.
    3. What do all these passages have in common?
      1. There may be more than one thing they share in common, but one thing is obvious to me.
      2. The obvious: Jesus did not ask people to follow him because it would be to their physical advantage.
        1. Jesus' call to discipleship never included promises of "here and now" physical prosperity as a part of the call.
        2. He called people to a sacrificial existence, not to a prosperous existence.

  2. In his ministry and his teachings, Jesus redefined the meaning of following God.
    1. Jesus redefined following God in a religious society composed of people who were convinced that they were following God.
      1. Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees had their definition of what it meant to belong to God.
      2. Each of their definitions included:
        1. Prosperity
        2. Power
        3. Prominence
        4. Prestige
      3. Jesus said, "No! Belonging to God, following me involves sacrificial service."
    2. These people who considered themselves to be God's personal representatives did much more than disagree with Jesus.
      1. They did not like his emphasis!
      2. Jesus' emphasis was the exact opposite of their emphasis!
      3. His emphasis was too expensive; it meant they were mistaken about God!
      4. So they killed Jesus thinking they would shut him up, but they just verified the truth of what he said.

  3. The conflict between godliness and evil in this world is very real--all the time!
    1. The older I become, the more profoundly I believe that is the truth.
      1. We live in a world where God and Satan are at war.
      2. This is the last battleground--the judgment that will come when this present physical world ends will also end the war.
      3. Of this each of us can be certain: following Jesus Christ will cost us.
    2. My enormous fear for me, for you, for the church is founded on the fact that we have swallowed the great deception without so much as blinking.
      1. We believe that we can combine being Jesus' disciples with enjoying what we consider to be the best that this world has to offer.
      2. We see no conflict because we believe life's purpose is pleasurable happiness.
      3. Thus when crises come, we conclude that either our God or our faith has failed.

It is difficult to exist in a prosperous society dedicated to pleasure and live for God's world to come. It is too easy in a prosperous society to blame God for Satan's actions.

The question: whose world do we live for? Have we considered the cost?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 2 June 2002

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell