The Journey of Grace – The Compelling Invitation

I’m going to start this new sermon series by addressing some criticism. It’s not personal to me or to our church, but rather criticism some folks have about the Christian Faith and Christian churches. The top criticism not believers and non-church goers have about church is that it’s filled with hypocrites. We hear this frequently, however this is not constructive criticism. The people who give this give no suggestions on how to fix this problem nor do they want to be part of working on the problem with the church. They are just venting. 

This issue may come up as we go through this series, but this is NOT the key criticism I want to focus on as we begin this series. The one I want to talk about actually comes from believers. The criticism is a bit complex, but usually it is also not constructive. The giver of the criticism doesn’t really want to repair what they presume is broken. They just want to vent. Here it is.

“The Bible tells us to go and make disciples, but I don’t see that happening.”

That might be putting it softly. How about, “We stink at making disciples! We aren’t doing this?” 

And if the criticism remains unconstructive, we don’t ask what needs to change to facilitate.

But if you are a process oriented person: you see a problem, devise a plan to fix it, implement the plan and hopefully resolve the issue… you come out with things like this.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com – Not actually books on discipleship. Just used here for illustration.

These are books, helpful ministry tools to be sure. They talk about evangelism – soul winning, they talk about discipleship – moving people further in their faith.

The problem lies when we use one of these books (or all of them) Their methods therein and believe that’s going to fix the discipleship problem. Pastor’s monthly report to the district will start having big numbers of salvation, baptisms and new members. Small groups will burst at the seams if we just read this book and do it.     (Each one – win one, Disciplemaker – group of 12, Just walk across the Room). 

These are tools to be sure, but taken as quick fixes – they don’t touch on the deep down issues the Christian church has with disciple making. Rather it feeds the beast.

You see, when confronted with this criticism – “We aren’t good at making disciples. Then we go “How can we make disciples?” We approach this like a Math problem or scientific process.

2+2=4    H202 or Hydrogen peroxide loses an oxygen atom due to exposure to the sun – turning it into H20 or water – though you might not want to drink it.

It can be as simple or complicated – but we feel accomplished when we toss a process at a problem.

What we are starting today is not a spiritual math problem, it’s a paradigm shift. Today we begin to look at discipleship as a Journey of Grace.


Situation

35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

John 1:35-42 NIV

Story time

Sam was a young adult in his early 20’s. He was into music – he played in a band and had lots of sound equipment. He attended a small rural church in Illinois, where he participated in a School class. The class was led by a man named Sid. Sid was a caring Sunday school leader, making time to talk when his students needed guidance. Always keeping them in His prayers.
Their church was having revival services. Who spoke and about what…are details lost to time. But something got a hold of young Sam and wouldn’t let him go. One evening thoughts started to toss around in his head. He wasn’t sure what to do about these thoughts and feelings. So he called up Sid. After talking on the phone for a little while, Sid believed that the Holy Spirit was dealing with Sam about something. Even though Sid had work the next day and it was getting pretty late, he invited Sam over to his house to talk and pray.
After Sam came over, Sid explained what Sam was facing was conviction from the Holy Spirit. Whatever was going on in Sam’s life, The Holy Spirit was driving him to a moment in time where he would need to make a decision. 
Sam had gone to church, I knew all this in his head, didn’t know it in his heart.
Sid asked, “You want to pray right now?”
Sam looked around Sid’s home. It didn’t look like a church. There wasn’t even a prayer altar. 
“You can make an altar out of anything,” Sid told him. They knelt down beside Sid’s couch to pray. Sam wrestled with God and prayed until he had prayed through. Received assurance from the holy spirit of this salvation. He felt relieved. When he got home he told parents about his conversion experience. Their response?  “Oh, that’s nice.”
The Next Step for Sam was to stand up in church and share this testimony. God had done a mighty work in him, but Sam was nervous the whole time.
At some point, he questioned whether it was just a whim – the new shiny excitement in his life. The Holy Spirit assured him it wasn’t a whim. It was the Grace of God…and it was real.
The Holy Spirit didn’t stop working on Sam. He felt directed by God to stop drinking alcohol and quit chewing tobacco. He did and never looked back.

This story I shared is a true one. I called Sam up this week and asked him to fill me in on the details of his conversion story. Sam is someone who’s life, by the grace of God, I personally found compelling. You see, Sam was my youth pastor in my home church. The same home church he went to as a young adult, he later returned as the youth pastor. He had gone away to bible college, served in a few churches before making his way back to Marseilles.

Both Sam and Sid impacted me and my walk, my Journey of Grace as God began and continues to make me into His Disciple. They are part of the story that led me and my family here, serving alongside y’all in Vernon County.

There’s a song, “Life is a Highway.” Well for the purposes of the next 6 messages and small group materials, life is a Journey. A Journey that we are all on. The Book, “Way Truth Life” 

  • …describes discipleship, or the way one becomes more and more like their leader – Jesus, it best describes this as a Journey. Journey language is so important.
    • Think about Jesus – at one time he let some wanna be disciple know “foxes have holes to live in but I’ve got nowhere to call my home. I travel around – God provides for my needs and I do His will.”
  • For Jesus, becoming conformed into the image of God wasn’t like a math equation. It wasn’t an instant thing. It was a journey. A journey of Grace. His disciples did a lot of silly things along the way. He didn’t give up on them. He kept guiding, correcting, teaching, and most importantly loving them. 

Overview of the scripture (in a nutshell)

Let me just run back real quickly through our main scripture passage so you can see this very unique journey from its onset.

  • Johnny B-> pointed his disciples to Jesus
  • Andrew was one of the two that followed Jesus
  • Andrew compelled Peter
  • Peter was greeted by Jesus with a pronouncement. 
  • Peter ended up being the leader of faith

The situation all started with an invitation. It was an invitation from a trusted someone. But like with anything worthwhile, complications are inevitable.

Complication

Trouble is coming—but don’t worry! It’s a good trouble. 

  1. Following Jesus begins at the point of invitation. It’s a simple “come and see.” 
  2. Jesus understands that no person follows him long without being confronted by the need to make a series of decisions. 
  3. Following Jesus isn’t an extended spectator sport
  4. There is a moment when “come and see” becomes “follow me.” 
  5. “Come and see” is about becoming acquainted with the journey. It’s about getting close enough to explore, even as a person is trying to decide if it is for them.
  6. But eventually a decision is required

Before you make the decision, there are a few things you must know. 

  1. Your decision is made possible through the extension of God’s grace. 

My what now?

Have you ever stopped to think about that? Your ability to accept God’s grace or reject it, is only an option because of the prevenient Grace of God? The grace went before and blessed you with the ability of free will. I truly hadn’t thought about it in these terms before. 

  1. This grace is personal but not private. It will meet you in your uniqueness. It will challenge you on a deeply personal level.
  2. This grace is also costly

Potential Costs

If you are on the the Journey of Grace, you’ve accepted his compelling invitation…what has it cost you? No really, what has it cost you? [Write a Comment in the section below]

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If you can’t think of anything, speculate on how others in the world may have paid a price for RSVPing to Jesus.

  • They might have lost their whole family Family. They can’t go home. Speaking of which, they might have lost their home. God tells you to go across the country and live out of an RV, or maybe even less than that. What about loss of income? Worldly possessions, your health, your life?  Let’s take a look at an example of this in action from Luke 9:57-62.

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:57-62 NIV
  1. First and foremost, following Jesus on the Journey of Grace will cost you Courage.

It takes courage to leave all you know and follow Jesus. It takes courage to share your experience of Jesus’ call on your life. It takes courage to keep getting up every morning and putting your hand to the plow – eye straight ahead all day long. 

Resolution

  1. This journey is deeply compelling and personally costly, but if you heed the call, it will transform you powerfully. 
  2. It starts with “come and see” and moves to the challenge of “follow me” but is evidenced in the promise of Jesus that “you will be”—made radically different.

Those who take seriously the journey of grace will be thoroughly transformed.

  1. It is often said that Jesus loves us enough to meet us where we are—but he also loves us too much to leave us there. 

Pastor Sam was and is very instrumental to me growing up in church. I didn’t know it at the time, but Sam had spent time studying at bible college, working in and outside of church ministry and then he moved his young family – his wife and their 3 young boys, to our small, little town. He came and led our youth ministry, introducing gospel illusions to help teach, and illustrate the point of the message. He cared about the kids as much as he did the teens and he ushered in an approach to worship music we hadn’t seen in our church. 

Most importantly, he was available to me. When I had faith questions – especially about accountability and holiness, he met and talked and guided. Pastor Sam prayed for me and set an example for me to follow as I went into children and youth ministry. He was an example in preaching, as I realized the way a preacher spoke didn’t need to be the typical: 3 points a prayer and a poem.

His ability to still serve the Lord in the church, even after he stayed full-time in work outside the church, gives me encouragement for serving the Lord in the bi-vocational ministry reality in which we live. He could have walked away from the church, having been requested to file his credentials. He could have shunned family members when their lives diverged away from a journey with Jesus. He was and is on the Journey of Grace and he showed grace to others at every step. Sam made a difference in my life and still does today.

The scripture passage  we read at the verry beginning is so funny. It’s a little like a game of telephone. Johnny B points his disciples to Jesus. They become Jesus’ followers. One grabs his bro and says , “You gotta meet this guy!” and that one fella named Peter is then called and spoken over by Jesus. He Called these guys and 

  1. A natural outpouring of following Jesus is to draw other’s to him, or at least arrange an introduction.

In Matt 4:19 Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, “I will send you out to fish for people” They were training to be fishers of fish. Jesus transforms them into fishers of people.

Celebration

I will send you out to fish for people!” This statement from Jesus points to a beautiful truth of the journey of grace: 

  1. Follow Jesus long enough, and you will be called and commissioned.
  2. It starts with “come and see,” moves to “follow me,” promises “you will be,” and then commissions with “go and do.”

Earlier we said that this work is personal but not private. 

The journey of grace is compelling not only for us but through us, to others. 

We are afforded the opportunity to join Jesus in partnership in his mission. 

This is a great opportunity to celebrate the ways in which this journey will fill our lives with meaning and purpose.

In the comment section below, write the ways you celebrate the Journey of Grace.

Series based on "Way Truth Life - Discipleship as a Journey of Grace" by Dr. David Busic. Original sermon series resources, outline and themes by Jeff Stark. Material and stories compiled and presented by Rev. Matt Angell at Viroqua Nazarene. 
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