“Is it Time to Change?”
**OPENING VIDEO CLIP
A number of years ago when I was going through a transition, a dear friend of mine told me, “Change is costly.” And, no doubt, I found that to be true. It is costly to change houses or to change cars or to change your cell phone, or a number of other things. It is expensive and it cost us something to go through some transitions and changes in life. And that's just the way it is, it costs us something. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He encountered a number of people, and He encouraged them to change their life. He encouraged them to go through a transition and make some adjustments. Some of the people He encountered were sinful, some were disobedient, some were rebellious, some were full of pride. And He wanted them to make those changes, but at the same time He told them it would cost them something and no doubt it did. Oh, some people did not want to make those changes. They did not want to pay the cost. But others of them did make those changes, and it cost them something. They had to give up the things they were doing in order to embrace a new life. Perhaps some of them needed to cut off some relationships that were keeping them from walking with the Lord Jesus Christ. As we think about being a follower and a disciple of Jesus today, we are constantly making changes. We change and we make adjustments in the way that we live from day to day, so that we can be acceptable and pleasing in the sight of our Lord. Yes, being a follower of Jesus does not demand that we stand still, but that we continue to grow and mature and change, so that we can walk with Him the way He so desires.
If there are some changes you need to make in your life, I would invite and encourage you to do so, even if it costs you something; but, know that that cost is well worth it for the blessings and the promises that await you in the end.
Hello. Welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Brett McCasland. Change is hard. Whether we are talking about changing one's phone number, career or vacation plans, change does not come easily. In many cases it requires a great deal of effort, and oftentimes it costs us dearly. Well, sometimes the changes we make are not very significant, but at other times those changes are a big deal. In our lesson today, on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will focus on some changes Jesus calls upon us to make. For some they are quite challenging and cause us to ask some important questions about our commitment to Him. For others, those changes are reminders of how important it is for us to draw closer to the Lord. I suppose that is what each of us would like to do; we want to make sure we are walking with Him every day and doing what it takes to become a true disciple. As we look at several of Jesus’ statements, we will consider what these changes look like. We will think about making some hard decisions or adjustments in our spiritual life. We will also consider the joy and the blessings that come as we make them. As we open our Bibles today and study from them, I trust we will listen to and carefully consider these most important words from Jesus. I invite you now to join us for the lesson entitled, “Is it Time to Change?”
On several different occasions throughout Jesus’ ministry, He spoke to His followers about the importance of becoming His disciples, and He did that because being a disciple is different than simply being a follower. Oh, many people followed Jesus out of curiosity. They wanted to be fed miraculously. They wanted to be healed of their sickness and disease. Some of them wanted their family members to be raised from the dead. Others of them followed Jesus from a distance. They watched very closely every move He made, and they listened intently to every word He said, trying to catch Him in some kind of mistake. Yet many people were not really interested in applying the things He taught to their individual or personal lives. Oh, those people were not making any big or significant changes, but rather they were content to follow Jesus from a distance while still being attached to the world. Well, a disciple on the other hand is quite different. A disciple is one who is truly committed to putting Jesus first in his life. He or she is willing to make those sacrifices in order to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus described what His disciples look like in the Gospel of Luke chapter 9, verse 23. <Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me."> Three specific things are found here in Jesus’ statement. Number one, disciples deny themselves. In other words, disciples of Jesus Christ put other people ahead of themselves. They think about the wellbeing and the interest and the desires of others before they think about those things in regard to themselves. A friend of mine described denying yourself like this, one day. He said, “A disciple of Jesus is content with being at the back of the line.” Now, think about that for a minute. Oftentimes, we always want to be at the front of the line, don't we? We want to be at the front of the line as we check out our groceries at the store. We want to be the first car at a traffic light. We may always want to be in the front of the line at the church pot-luck dinner. But that's what Jesus says; if you want to be My disciple, then you're not first, but rather you deny yourself. You think about the interest and the concerns of others before thinking about your own. But then secondly, we notice Jesus states, “Disciples take up their cross daily.” Over the years we have tried to simplify, or perhaps even soften, that statement by saying that this refers to bearing the uncomfortable trials or problems in life that we might experience; yet, it is so much more. Jesus did not have that in mind at all. Oh, the cross, in the day of Jesus, symbolized death, and Jesus is referring to a commitment to Him that might even require death. Bearing one’s cross involves following Him, even if it doesn't make much sense to do so, and even if there is some kind of danger involved. Oh, sometimes it may not be easy or pleasant to bear our cross, just like it was not easy or pleasant for Jesus to bear His cross. And yet, the demands of discipleship call for us to do just that, to be willing to follow Jesus even to the point that it would require us giving our life. The third thing Jesus mentions here in verse 23 is that, “If you want to be My disciple, then you will follow Me.” To follow Jesus is to make Him one’s priority in life. It is to follow Jesus and to walk in obedience to His commands. It is to walk in His footsteps with a spirit of humility and service. When we think about that, we are reminded of the apostle Paul's statement there in Philippians chapter 2, when he writes about Jesus, who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped or held on to it all cost; but rather, He emptied himself, He took on the form of a servant, He was born in the likeness of man here upon the earth, and He came in a spirit of humility to serve people. He came in a spirit to minister to those who were around Him, even willing to die up on the cross, as Paul writes. Well likewise, as disciples, we are to have that same kind of attitude of humility and service and being willing to give our life, even to the point of dying for the cause of Jesus Christ. Let's continue on here in Luke chapter 9 and notice what He said in verses 24 and 25. <“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”> At least six times in the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, these words from Jesus are recorded. In a world where many were trying to gain as much as possible for themselves, Jesus turns that idea around. Many people could not trust the Roman government to provide for them and so they tried to gain as much and accumulate as much as they could in order to take care of themselves. And yet, Jesus is saying that's not the way disciples do. He is clear in stating that nothing in this life is worth keeping if it means losing eternal life. That invitation is hard to hear, but great blessings wait for those who do hear and respond to it. Well, five chapters later, in Luke chapter 14, Jesus addressed the people following Him, and He told them about some changes that they might need to make if they truly want to move from simply being a follower to becoming a disciple. Again, listen to these words to those who were following after Him, beginning in verse 25 of Luke chapter 14. <Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He said: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters -and yes, even their own life- such a person cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple."> Those words are hard to hear, aren't they? They require a total commitment to Jesus. And the word hate seems to be strong, but Jesus uses it to emphasize the importance of being His disciple. Oh, being a disciple of Jesus calls for one to place Him as their priority, even above one's own family members. And that is the point that Jesus is making. Give Me your first attention. Give Me your first priority, even above your own family. Well, Jesus illustrates that by offering two examples that immediately follow. Notice, beginning with verse 28, what He says: <“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will you not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and was not able to finish.’"> Jesus did not want His followers to take lightly His appeal to them to become His disciple. It requires one to ask perhaps some very hard questions; like, “What kind of sacrifices do I need to make?” or “What changes need to take place in my own personal life or in my relationship with other people, or maybe even in my relationship with God?” Today, it might be easy for someone to, as we say, give their life to Jesus Christ. It might be rather simple for someone to say, “Well, I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. We simply turn away from the sin in our life. We are baptized into Jesus and have those sins forgiven and forgotten and we are now in Christ. We are a part of God's family.” The question then comes, what now? Where do we go from here? Well, we are to understand, that is only the beginning, and Jesus calls upon His true disciples to follow Him until the very end. We give Him our total attention. We give Him our total devotion, as He becomes our primary priority. Well, another illustration is found in the next passage here, beginning with verse 31: <“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be My disciples."> Well, the point Jesus makes is obvious. Being one of His disciples requires living a sacrificial life. Think about what Jesus had to give up. Think about the sacrifices He made; He gave up living in heaven with His Father, and He came to this earth in the form of a human being, and He gave up His life by dying upon the cross. And now, He asks us to do the same thing. He asks us to die to ourselves, and we give up anything that takes the place of Jesus being our first priority. Well, I want to look at that from one other passage of Scripture. It is found in the Gospel of John, chapter 12, verses 24 and 25. <"Truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life."> Again, that is the essence of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. It includes dying to ourselves so that Jesus can use us to be a blessing to other people. Remember, His attitude was one of self sacrifice. He was willing to lay down His own life so that we could experience the abundant life which He offers. And therefore, we do not live a self centered life either. We live for the sake of Christ. We live for the sake of other people. And when we give up our own interest and desires to pursue that deeper relationship, especially with the Lord, then we will be blessed. And so again, becoming a child of God is only the beginning of the process, as we continue to grow and to mature and move from simply being a follower to being a disciple. And so as one considers what it takes to make that change, we realize it might be a challenge. It might be a little bit difficult, and some of the changes that He calls upon us to make might not be that easy. It begins by changing one's attitude. Being a disciple of Jesus involves living in submission to Him and to His teaching. It calls for an attitude of humility. It calls for a willingness to give up what we might consider to be important and to pursue that which matters to Him. Oh, other changes may also need to be made. And in several passages, especially written by the apostle Paul, we find a number of changes that are to take place among those who are making that transition from a follower to a disciple. He writes about the process of putting to death, or putting away, certain things or attitudes or behaviors in our life and then replacing them with something that identifies us as a disciple; putting on a new spirit, a new attitude. We find a good example of that in Galatians chapter 5. Notice, beginning with verse 19, how these are some things we are to put away. Paul writes: <The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.> Paul includes a list of some 15 things that are to be put away from our life. We are not to practice these things. These things are not to be a part of our every day behavior; but, we put them to death, we eliminate them from our life, they are no longer describing who we are and what we do. And then Paul has the warning there: If these things persist, if you do not get rid of them, then you will not inherit the kingdom of God. That's difficult, isn't it? And it might be hard, the challenges to remove some of those things, or other things that perhaps are not even listed. But yet, if we want to be a part of God's kingdom, if we want to truly be a disciple of Jesus Christ, these changes are to be made. Well, once we put off these things, we are to replace them with something else. And that's where Paul goes next, here in Galatians 5, beginning in verse 22: <But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.> If we belong to Jesus, Paul writes, we put away those fleshly desires and those fleshly interest and we allow the Holy Spirit to work within us. And Paul lists some nine things, here, which are the fruit of the Spirit. These things become evident and become alive in our life when we get rid of the things of the flesh. And once these things are there, then other people will recognize that indeed we are making that move from simply being a follower to being a disciple. Well, obviously most of those changes do not happen in one day. They don't take place overnight. It is an ongoing process of becoming more and more like Jesus Christ, each and every day. I want to share with you an example of what that looks like, an example of being a true disciple of Jesus. I know a man, he's a friend of mine, who is totally committed to Jesus. He is devoted to Him. He is one of His disciples, and he is not ashamed to make that known. A few years ago he was living out his faith. He was sharing the Good News message of Jesus Christ with many people who had never heard it before. And as he was doing that, he was attacked by five men. Five men did not like him. They did not like his message. They did not like the fact that he was sharing the Good News with other people. They attacked him, they beat him, and they left him right there in the midst of those people; they left him for dead. Well, his friends, to whom he was speaking, gathered him up and took care of him, and made sure that he was going to be okay; and, he was. But after that time of recovery, he returned to the very same place and began to speak to some of the very same people about the very same Jesus Christ, and His salvation. And some of the people who had attacked him originally were there, and they heard the message once again. But this time, they asked this man to forgive them of what they did to him, and they asked God to forgive them of the sins which they had committed. They changed their ways, and they were then baptized into Jesus Christ. Isn't that a great story, a true story, a friend of mine, and it happened to him. But that was a result of one who really knew what it was to be a disciple, to deny himself, to be willing to take up his cross, even to the point of being persecuted and almost put to death, to follow Jesus Christ. That man counted the cost of what it meant. And even though He had to experience a great deal of pain and suffering, the Lord still provided for him, and others recognized that devotion. They recognized what Jesus had done for them, as well, and they responded; and, they too became disciples of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. When I think about the process of becoming a disciple, I want us to understand that Jesus never, anywhere in Scripture, promised that being His disciple would be an easy thing to do. He never promised that if we devoted our life to following Him, that we would experience no pain and no hardship in this world. That is not found anywhere in Scripture. He did, however, promise that if we are willing to lose our life for His sake then we will gain an eternal home in heaven. With that in mind, let me close by offering this question for our consideration. Am I willing to move beyond being a follower of Jesus to become His disciple, and am I willing to pay the cost to do just that? My prayer, my hope for you today, is that you will make that move, and know the joy of becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
Thank you for tuning in to today’s program, entitled “Is it Time to Change?” Oh, change is difficult to talk about, and even harder to do. That is especially true in spiritual matters. However, as Jesus pointed out, it may be necessary. If you would like to hear or view this message again, it can be found on our website, keytothekingdom.com. A number of other lessons are available there as well, and you can have access to any of them without any charge or obligation. There are a variety of other things on the website which might be of interest, also. Daily devotional thoughts and short two minute videos might be helpful in your walk with the Lord. They offer some practical ideas on living out your faith in Jesus, in today’s world. Our purpose statement and updates on our work in India might be of particular interest. Oh, I hope you will take a few minutes to learn more about this media ministry. Many people are finding us on Facebook®. Every week new videos are uploaded that offer spiritual encouragement. If you use this popular social media outlet, I hope you will find, like, and then share us with others. I also hope you will download our free phone app onto your smart-phone. It takes you directly to our website and to some of the other things I have mentioned. Finally, if you would like to call the number on the screen and leave a message, we will be happy to return the call. We would welcome the opportunity to visit with you personally, about any aspect of this ministry. Thank you again for being our guest today, and I do hope you will join us again next time as we continue to study the Bible, on “Key to the Kingdom.”