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"Jesus was never interested in having fans. When he defines what kind of relationship he wants, "Enthusiastic Admirer" isn’t an option. My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him. The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them." Kyle Idleman "Not a Fan" p. 25
THE RED BARON AND TEMPTATION
Manfred, Freiherr von Richthofen was a famous German First World War fighter pilot.
He was better known as the Red Baron because he flew a distinctive a red Fokker aircraft.
He shot down more combat planes than any one else on either side in the first World war
His known kill tally was 80.
On 21st April 1918, he began chasing a Canadian plane - that was trying to escape the battle over the Mor-lan-court Ridge, near the river Somme.
As the Red Baron pursued his prey, he strayed behind Allied lines.
He dived too low into the enemy lines
And he also he missed a Canadian pilot (Arthur) "Roy" Brown coming up on his tail to help his comrade.
We will never know whether it was a shot from the ground - or a shot from Brown that killed Richthofen.
But what we do know is that the "Red Baron" came to his end because he made the mistake of pursuing that Allied 'plane "too long, too far, and too low into enemy territory" (as one report so succinctly put it)
And many committed Christians have been shot down because they have followed temptation for too long, too far, and too low into enemy territory.
And as with Richthofen -- they are then caught unawares and then have to deal with the conseqences.
THE LUKEWARM SHEEP
Now, for the sake of my illustration, I want to break a flock of sheep down into 3 groups.
1. The first group of sheep had DECIDED to look to Shepherd & follow Him wherever He leads.
These are the "Good sheep" who follow the "Good Shepherd. Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27 KJV
2. The 2nd group wants nothing to do with the Shepherd. They want to run their lives their own way and they deliberately DECIDE to walk away from Him. These are the pagans and atheists of society. They don't want to hear Jesus' voice... they don't want to follow.
3. But the 3rd group DECIDES that they like the Shepherd. They want to hang out with Him... but they don't want to get TOO close to Him. They still want to keep their options open. They want to look for their own grass once in a while. They want to nibble at a little of this and a little of that....
George Orwell once observed: "On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time."
That's the problem with this 3rd group of sheep.
They like being close to Jesus... just not too much, and not just all the time. And because they have this "loose" connection to the shepherd they're the ones who end up wandering off. They're the ones that end up getting lost. They're just close enough to the Shepherd to feel secure. And just far enough away to not hear His voice.
"My sheep hear my voice... and they follow me." says Jesus. John 10:27
And so, they wander off into their own little world, and they end up getting hurt and making bad decisions. And those bad decisions cause them pain and heartache.
As Proverbs 13:15 says, "...the way of transgressors is hard." (KJV)
Because they've chosen NOT to listen to the Good Shepherd and to follow Him closely, they are without the protection of that Shepherd and open to the attacks of Satan and this world.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13:8
CYMBALA'S EASTER STORY
Jim Cymbala preaches at a church in the slums of New York. He tells the following story: It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people.
As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?”
We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”
He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. I asked him, “What’s your name?”
“How long have you been on the street?”
“How old are you?”
“Thirty-two.” He looked fifty--hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed.
“Where did you sleep last night, David?”
I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking; I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat.
I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.”
I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels.
But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”
Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I...
HISTORY IS STORY OF UNFORSEEN
In the introduction to his A History of Europe, H.A.L. Fisher writes:
"Men wiser and more learned than I have discovered in history a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern. But these harmonies are concealed from me. I can see only one emergency following another, as wave follows upon wave--there can be no generalization. There is only one safe rule for the historian--that he should recognize in the development of human destiny the play of the contingent and the unforeseen."
— Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations —
This illustration concerns an incident one day when C.S. Lewis was in the tool shed in his garden. He noticed a sunbeam shining across the shed. It was showing up the dust particles. He must have seen the same thing many times before, but this time he was captivated by it.
He traced the beam of light to the crack at the top of the closed door of the shed. But what struck him was that although it appeared to be coming from the crack, it was really coming from a blazing star 90 million miles away! Squinting up the beam carefully so as not to burn his eyes, he followed the beam through the crack in the door, through the leaves of a tree outside and beyond to its magnificent source. Lewis thought to himself how different it was looking along the beam to its source than it was looking at the beam in his tool shed.
As we join Lewis in his tool shed, in our mind’s eye, we cannot help but notice that the thin beam is so small and weak by comparison with that great burning nuclear fire that is the sun. Just looking at the beam alone tells us so little about its great source. You have to look along the beam to see that. The little beam is beautiful certainly, but it source is magnificent and awe-inspiring.
(Source: from a sermon by Will Langford, "How to Better Understand the Bible, Part 1" 7/16/08)
Bernard Martin, writes the following story in his book If God Does Not Die.
One day a pastor was called from a children's party at the Sunday school to visit a young woman whose world had collapsed into an acute depression following the death of her husband in an auto accident. She had withdrawn from everyone and shut herself in her bedroom with the blinds pulled, and she didn't communicate with anyone, including her children, because she said they reminded her of her dead husband. The minister left the party in a show of confetti which the children had thrown at him. He brushed it out of his hair and from his coat as he prepared to call on the depressed woman.
When he arrived at the woman's house, he entered her darkened bedroom and told her who he was, but there was no response. He could faintly see her pitiful form lying motionless on the bed. He tried to carry on a conversation with her, but she was unresponsive. He reached out to touch her hand, but it lay lifeless in his. So he just sat with her in the dark silence for a time.
Then he decided to act. He wanted to see the woman face to face,
to read Scripture and pray. So he turned on the bedside lamp.
The woman blinked and stared at him blankly. As he took out his Testament which he carried in his handkerchief pocket of his jacket,
and opened it, confetti fell from it all over the bed. After an anxious and flustered moment, the minister burst into laughter.
And that did it. First a smile appeared on the woman's face, and then she broke into quiet laughter. She reached out her hands to the minister in the joy of resurrection. They prayed together and she left her darkness to return to the light.
THE REFINER'S FIRE
The story is told of a group of women that met for Bible study. While studying in the book of Malachi, chapter three, they came across verse three which says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." This verse puzzled the women and they wondered how this statement applied to the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out more about the process of refining silver, and to get back to the group at their next Bible study.
The following week, the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him while at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest, beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.
As she watched the silversmith work, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire, where the flames were the hottest as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot, then she thought again about the verse, that "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."
She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the entire time the silver was being refined. The man answered yes...
70% of American adults identify family or family members as their most significant connection. 33% gave their entire nuclear family this status while 22% conferred it up on their spouse and 17% their children. 29% of American adults say their church is their most significant group affiliation. 18% say this about people they work with, 14% friends that regularly get together, 12% a hobby club or social group and 7% people in their neighborhood. People 25 or younger listed friends as their most critical network while church ranked 5th. In contrast, adults over 25 ranked church as their key social group, followed by their work relationships. 74% of evangelicals said their church was their main social network.
(Barna Update 3/17/08)
CHARACTER: PROTOTYPE PLUS PNEUMATIC FORCE
Jesus is the very imprint or prototype of God’s essential reality. The word used in the Greek here is pronounced "kah-rahk-TEER" (sometimes "kah-rahk-TAYR") and it is the word from which we get "character." In the original Greek usage, it meant an imprint or reproduction of what something or someone looked like. The image of an emperor or king was imprinted on coins to show by what authority the money had been minted and the stamp, die, or press that enabled the image to appear in the metal was the "character."
I remember working in a tool and die shop when I was in college. Aluminum in a roll would reel through these giant machines and great pneumatic engines would thrust a die down into the unformed metal—cutting, shaping, and bending the raw metal into the washers, gaskets, louvers, and grills we made for aircraft. Yes, even this guy in front of you was allowed to work the little punch press machine that made washers used in the Apollo space program. And yes, before you smart-alecks make a comment about what a crummy mechanic I am, they MIGHT have gone on the Apollo 11. But it was amazing! These machines would force the impress down upon the metal and out would come a product conformed to the design.
Now, bear with me. Character could also refer to a tooled prototype that served as a model for the Greek and Roman craftsman to build or sculpt something. By measuring their work against the character, the prototype, the essential design, they were able to build an accurate construction.
In the same way, it is only as we open our lives up to the influence of the PERSON of Jesus Christ that we are able to conceive of what God wants from us. He is the prototype of what God wants a person to be, the metric against which we are measured. So, when we fail, we are able to let our Creator (Jeremiah’s potter) as we know God in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit keep shaving off the problems to make us conform to the prototype, the character of Jesus.
But we can’t follow the prototype alone. We can’t manage the transformation needed to be what God wants us to be by ourselves. We need the pneumatic force of God’s Presence in the Holy Spirit to conform us to God’s Will. And when we allow that to happen, we actually begin to take on the shape of "sons" of God who are becoming and acting more according to the character of the Son of God.