Summary: If we are truly Christians and not simply churchgoers - this has real implications in our lives

NR/IC 01-07-07

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 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”

You can go to Church every Sunday and take communion whenever it suits you, but that isn’t a divine insurance policy against the fires of hell. Indeed some people make an idol of Holy Communion – which Jesus NEVER EVER intended it to be!

Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong in taking communion, - in fact it is very good to do that - but that in itself doesn’t make you a Christian.

You can even become a vicar and know how to do all the right religious things and be pastorally very caring - but still not enough to be a Christian.

Let me give you a couple of examples from history:

1. John Wesley had been an Anglican clergyman for many years before he became a Christian. He had been a missionary in Georgia – and still was not a Christian.

His conversion experience happened on the evening of 24th May 1738. Wesley had gone very unwillingly to a non-conformist meeting in London where someone was reading Martin Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans.

Let me read to you what Wesley himself wrote about the transformation that occurred as he listened to Luther’s preface:

“About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation: and an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."— The Journal of John Wesley.

2. You might find this hard to believe but one vicar, William Haslam became a Christian through his own sermon – and from that very experience the 19th Century Cornish Revival was born

William Haslam was a high church Anglican vicar in Cornwall in the 19th Century.

In 1851, he had gone to stay with a friend of his, Mr. Aitken who had challenged Haslam that he wasn’t a Christian - that is tht Haslam wasn’t converted.

During that week, Haslam was so shocked that he had nothing to offer his congregation.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday of that week passed and on Sunday Haslam was so distressed that he was quite unfit to take the service.

Let me read you Haslam’s own words

“Mr Aitken had said to me: ‘If I were you, I would shut the church and say to the congregation: ”I will not preach again till I am converted. Pray for me!”’…

The sun was shining brightly and before I could make up my mind to put the service off, the bells struck out a merry peal and sent their summons far away over the hills.

Now the thought came to me that I would go to church and read the morning prayers and after that dismiss the people.

There was no Holy Communion that day and I had deputed the clerk to elect the hymns, for I was far too ill to attend to anything myself.

The psalms and hymns were especially applicable to my case and seemed to help me so that I thought I would go on and read the antecommunion service and then dismiss the people.

And while I was reading the Gospel, I thought, well, I will just say a few words in explanation of this and then I will dismiss them.

So I went up in the pulpit and gave out my text. I took it from the Gospel of the day “What think ye of Christ” (Mt. 22 v. 42).

As I went on to explain the passage, I saw that the Pharisees and scribes did not know that Christ was the Son of God or that He was come to save them….. Something was telling me, all the time: ‘You are no better than the Pharisees yourself- you do not believe he is the Son of God and that He has come to save you, anymore than they did’.

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