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Summary: Following Christ means, among other things, putting God first and prayer

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RG/KB 27-06-2010

This morning, I would like to look at one verse from our Gospel reading – verse 59 where Jesus said: "Follow me."

In Mt 16, Jesus elaborates on what he means by following him when he said: If any one would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Mt 16:24)

And in those words you find the heart of the Christian Gospel.

In the Great Commission of Mt 28, Jesus tells his church to go and make disciples – that is people who will follow him

Keith Green, the late husband of Melody Green who wrote our second hymn: “There is a Redeemer” once said this:

“Going to Church no more makes you a Christian than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger”

What makes you a Christian is the desire to FOLLOW Jesus.

So what exactly does following Christ entail?

There are a number of things but I would like just to look at two

1. Putting the things of God ahead of our desires and

2. Prayer

Let’s look at the first

1. Putting the things of God ahead of our own personal desires

Sounds good doesn’t it – but what exactly does that mean?

There is certainly something of self-denial there.

If you think St Paul was an ivory tower scholar in his following of Christ, just listen to what he had to go through to follow Christ:

“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.

25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,

26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.

27I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Cor 11:23-28)

Being a Christian is not easy, because we adopt standards that are not this world’s standards.

Story: There was a vicar last year who advocated that if people are poor they should steal from the supermarkets.

But that is not following Christ because it breaks the 8th commandment:

“Thou shallt not steal” (Ex 20:15)

It can cost us to follow Christ and to do what is right.

2. Prayer

The second action I believe following Christ entails is prayer. Because prayer is talking with God.

And the Christian faith is all about RELATIONSHIPS

Jesus prayed a lot. We read in Mark how Jesus prays in a Solitary Place

35Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35

Prayer requires a lot of commitment

There are two types of prayer that I think we can get a handle on.

The first is simple prayer and the second is prayer of the ordinary

1. Simple Prayer

Strange title – what is simple prayer.

Dom Chapman summed it up well when he said: “Pray as you can, not as you can’t”

Many people think you can’t pray until you have the right MOTIVATION and SERIOUS and IMPORTANT THINGS to trouble God about.

But simple prayer is childlike prayer

We all come to God with mixed motives

As Richard Foster puts it

“The Truth of the matter is, we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives – altruistic and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter. Frankly this side of eternity we will never unravel the good from the bad…”

For me that was a real eye opener – because God loves us because we are his children. He knows our motives – we can’t kid him – and all he wants us to do is to come to him!!

Simple prayer is talking to God as we might our best friend

Foster gives good advice:

Don’t give up praying because you are struggling with evil, anger hurt etc. Rather pray while you are struggling with evil.

Simple prayer can also be self-centred prayer – a conversation of the heart.

Foster writes this:

In the beginning we are indeed the subject and centre of our prayers. But in God’s time and in God’s way a “Copernican revolution takes place. Slowly, almost imperceptibly there is a shift in our centre of gravity. We pass from thinking of God as part of our life to the realisation that we are part of his life.”

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