Pieces Part 2: What’s in it for me?

The cost of being a disciple of Jesus is extremely high. Yet being a disciple is not without its rewards.

Pieces Part 2: What’s in it for me?

The “Piece of this, piece of that,” series came into being because there is so much more to grasp in a teaching that it requires more exploration. In the series of Warning to Disciples, Part Three Get Real about counting the cost of being a disciple of Jesus we said that Salvation is free but discipleship is costly. Jesus tells his disciples to expect to suffer, expect oppression, expect martyrdom as some of the costs you may encounter by following him. Here’s what a disciple should expect: “it’s going to be hard.”

I felt I needed to bring this teaching to our remembrance because of the sales pitch we often hear about “accepting Jesus as your savior.” Believe and things will be great. That’s not what Jesus taught. Jesus taught that trouble will follow with your commitment to discipleship. But being a disciple is not bleak by any stretch of the imagination.  Today I want to explore the fruit of following Jesus. There are some incredible things that are made available to the disciple, some to be experienced here and now and others, greater things, to be experienced in the future. We have looked at the costs, to bring balance we need to consider the benefits, what is in it for me?

A few weeks ago I tried to tell a joke. If you catch my opening monologue during the live stream you probably realize I need to keep my day job. Anyway, I said that a good sermon needs to have a very good beginning with a very good end well and the beginning and end need to be as close together as possible.  In preparation of this teaching I explained how a person is a sinner and how to restore a right relationship with God. I am going to skip that portion in this presentation but you will be able to read it in the manuscript and maybe I will make a stand-alone video and put it on our website www.hbcc.life . With that said allow me to help you answer the question “what’s in it for me?” If I make a life commitment to being a disciple of Jesus, “what’s in it for me?”

- - - -
[Inferred from scripture there is a kind of formula, a ritual transaction that moves a person from being estranged from God into a reconciled relationship. Like with every ritual in order to truly experience the reality of what the ritual represents we have to fill full the ritual with its intended meaning. The ritual I am speaking about is what is called the sinner's prayer.

Before you can capture the truth of the sinner’s prayer you have to realize that you are a sinner. That’s a tough one today. What is sin? Sin is anything, by anything I mean thought word or deed, that prevents, damages or destroys a healthy relationship. To use a spiritual word, a righteous relationship. By righteous, we mean as intended, the way it is designed to work. Sin created estrangement, what was once good is no longer good. If you can think of a relationship that is not as good as it was, then you may consider yourself to be a sinner. That puts us all in the same proverbial boat, and the scripture proclaims: “…all have sinned…(Romans 3:23 (NIV). Because of this sin problem, the scripture reveals the human predicament

Romans 3:10-12 (NIV)
"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless…”

That no one is righteous means that there is no one who is as they were intended, or to use another spiritual word, created to be. We all are living lives of frustration trapped in a prison of wrongness. We may not be able to put our finger on what exactly is wrong but we know, deep down, that things are not how they should be. We’ve been hurt, we are hurting and we tend to inflict hurt on one another. 

But it’s worse than the obvious, for the same scripture proclaims the destiny of the unrighteous, the sinner is in an eternal existence in wrongness, in separation and isolation:
Romans 6:23 (NIV)
“… the wages of sin is death…”

Death, though its speculation on my part, I believe that human beings were not meant to be subject to physical death. I like to imagine that we were created to be immortal, like Tolkien’s elves. Physical death is a sign to us that we are in a broken condition, that we are unrighteous, that we are sinners. Physical death is a prophetic word to us that there is also spiritual death. This spiritual death is symbolized in many ways, but one that is prominent is being exiled from the community, or as scripture puts it, cast into hell.

Matthew 10:28 (NIV)
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

This exile, this hell, manifests itself in what we can call our mortal lives. The life of a sinner is characterized in scripture by “trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions…” Galatians  5:19-21 (MSG)

To such a list I would add regrets, heartbreak, betrayal, lies, infidelity, violence, hatred, vengeance, oppression, injustice, and all the emotional and physical symptoms caused by all that negative energy inside you.

If you have experienced any of this they all serve as signs that you are stuck in the human predicament. You are a sinner, and a sinner needs salvation.

 This is where the good news of the gospel comes into play.

1 Corinthians 15:3, Hebrews 2:17 (NIV), 1 Peter 3:18 (NIV)
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins…that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

Because this has been done the scripture confides to us that “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
Acts 10:43 (NIV)

“…to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
John 1:12 (NIV)

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Romans 10:13 (NIV)

From this we infer the ritual of the Sinner’s Prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen

Simple as ABC—acknowledge that you are a sinner, Believe that Jesus saves you from your sin and commit yourself to be his disciple.

Jesus called the deal he created for us the New Covenant. A covenant is like a contract. Instead of being signed in ink, this is signed in blood, Jesus’ blood. It’s s deal not to be entered in lightly, not to be entered into without counting the cost, because to break the contract that is signed in Jesus blood may be like slitting your own throat. ]

- - - -

When you make a commitment to be a disciple of Jesus there is the forgiveness of sin, reconciliation of the estrangement between you and God, and new lease on life. There is becoming alive to spiritual reality, empowerment for you to cancel the debt of others, forgiving those who sinned against you, seeking forgiveness from those you have sinned against. There is power to live in harmony with the earth, the symbol not only of the natural planet but also the material possessions you draw from it. As you mature in your faith you become comfortable with the person you are, rightly understanding your strengths, weakness, and value as a human being. You become real.

That’s in it for you.

Your life fills with “affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. [You] develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion …”
Gal 5:22 (MSG). Love, Joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, self-control become the defining characteristics of who you are. You become strong in character, gentle of heart, with a clearer sense of what is right and what is wrong for living in accordance with your new nature.

That’s in it for you.

You begin to experience being loved and the capacity to love others, you experience acceptance and you realize you belong in a new community of others who also have come to Christ for salvation. There is tranquility of soul and a confidence that all will work out. You discover you have meaning to your life, that your existence has a purpose. In other words, you live your life to the full.

That’s in it for you.

You are privileged to gain new companions on your journey. You become part of a spiritual family composed of others who have made the commitment to be disciples of Jesus. Within the family of God, one finds camaraderie, mutual support, encouragement. All my closet friends are in the family, truth is spoken, care is given, mirth and joy are found. I am taught, I am challenged, I am cheered. I am not alone, I belong, I am valued, I am strengthened. Within this company, I find people I can depend on, folks I can trust, and the wisdom gleaned from the life experiences of others. What cannot be accomplished through individual efforts finds attainment as the many come together with singular purpose.  It is through these brothers and sisters that Jesus proves His love for you.

That’s in it for you.

Those are some of the things that happen now as you add to your “good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others” 2 Peter 1:5-7 (MSG)

What’s in the future for you? What’s in it when you depart this life and enter eternity?

Last week we discovered God wants to be your ultimate hope because the world is full of goodbyes, all relationships end. There will come a day when I will look back at all the goodbyes, and consider them light and momentary heartaches (2 Corinthians 4:17) fading from memory as I enjoy the forever hello’s of life fully lived in the Kingdom of God, in the world restored, in a new body, yes this body restored to how it was meant to function (2 Corinthians 5:1-5), together in community with my brothers and sisters in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:17)

That’s in it for you.

The cost of following Jesus is high, it requires everything, including your very life to be placed somewhere behind your loyalty and fidelity to the God who saved you from hell. When Jesus made that clear, it freaked out his disciples.

Mark 10:28-30 (MSG)
28 Peter tried another angle: "We left everything and followed you."
29 Jesus said, "Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message 30 will lose out. They'll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life!

As a disciple of Jesus, you will lose things along the way, you will have to sacrifice things along the way, what you lose in the process of following Jesus will be restored with interest, what is lost is restored many times over. Faithful service results in rewards.

Matt 5:11-12 (NIV)
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In the original language that word reward (μισθός mis-thos) can also be understood as a wage. The behavior that earns a reward, that earns a wage, is sacrificial service. Wages are given for what you did by and through your love to others.

On the lips of Jesus we read these words in the last book in your Bible:

Rev 22:12 (MSG)
Yes, I'm on my way! I'll be there soon! I'm bringing my payroll with me. I'll pay all people in full for their life's work.

Rewards for the righteous things you have done will be paid.

That’s in it for you.

One more, the best is saved for last. We can call it the restoration of all things. Restoration, or restoring, in making what is broken, used, dilapidated new again. My brother-in-law Dennis found a rusted hulk of a 68 Ford Cougar. There were weeds growing out of it; no wheels, rotted interior, broken windows, truly and completely trashed. He restored it. He made it like brand new. He was offered $30,000 for it at a car show. He still drives it around and it’s a head turner for the car aficionados out there. Restoration is making something old, new again.

When I think of what is in it for me one of the things that bring wonderment to me that sparks my imagination, and gives me ultimate hope is God’s promise of restoration.

For some reason, many Christians believe we are going to leave this world behind and enter into some heavenly eternity. Heaven, it’s up there. Scripture proclaims something better.
Revelation 21:3-5 (NIV) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"

We don’t go to heaven, heaven comes to earth. We don’t go to dwell with God, God comes to dwell with us and in the process, He restores everything, makes everything like it was in the Garden in Eden.

That’s incredible. Have you ever been someplace unspoiled by human meddling and just soaked it in, like something righteous resonates within you? The ocean, the mountain lake, a walk through the Olympic National Park and just feel the rightness of it, how it touches you deep within, how it whispers this is how it’s supposed to be. That’s how it’s going to be.

Romans 8:18-19 (MSG)
That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next.

That’s in it for you.

Well, the beginning and the end of this teaching are a little further apart than I prefer. So let’s conclude with this. What’s in it for me? Ephesians 3:20  “…far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” 


Popular posts from this blog