Have you gotten tired about the performance mentality that we have in America? I sure have. We are all guilty of this plague. We are taught this philosophy on “how to perform” from kindergarten on to college and later. It’s all about grades, achievement and accomplishment. Who won first place, who won the championship, who has the biggest numbers, who performed the best? What were your grades on your report card? Look how many parents push their children with this drive to succeed. It’s no wonder that many American church-goers think they have to earn their way (perform better) into heaven. They’ve been taught this mentality all their lives in secular society. It leads to a ME FIRST OUTLOOK AND PRIDE in front of everything else. Let me tell you that it’s caused a lot of dysfunction.
A performance mentality has led to some deception.
“Consider this: there are three of you. There is the person you think you are. There is the person others think you are. And then thirdly, there is the person God knows you are and can be through Christ.”– Billy Graham.
Let me ask you this, is it easier for you to pretend to be a Christian or to be an authentic
Christian? That is, an authentic, close follower of Christ. That is what a disciple is.
For most of us, something gets in the way to prevent us from following Jesus the way He wants us to.
Let me ask you this. Are you following Christ closely when……
You find yourself taking part in a conversation with a group of people gossiping about your boss?
Your good friend at work takes the Lord’s name in vain and you don’t say anything?
You ignore a “tap on the shoulder” from the Lord to help a homeless person you meet on the sidewalk in downtown Chicago, but you walk by?
You want to get revenge from a person who wrongly accuses you of something?
You exaggerate your tax “write-offs”?
You “secretly” resent your friend who lives in a bigger or nicer house than you do?
You plagiarize a term paper and get away with it?
You know the right thing to do, but you ignore it because you are in a hurry?
The above list is literally endless of ways that we fall short.… cause that’s what sin is.
Following Christ, the way Jesus wants you to follow Him, isn’t always easy. There is no magic formula. But if we would think of ourselves as a particular animal, it might help!
The good news for us is this: God wants us to follow Him just like we are SHEEP. That’s right….I said SHEEP. (Ezekiel 34:31 You, my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are people, and I am your God) He completely takes the pressure off of our performance mentality that says we always need to be better to be accepted.
King David gets it right in Psalm 100:3– Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His, we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
By calling us sheep (Ha!Ha!), the Lord tells us what we are REALLY like. (He knows us best)
Eight Facts about sheep according to the dictionary– 1) They are slow, weak, and defenseless 2) Left to their own devices, they would starve. 3) They are easily panicked by predators 4) They follow one another blindly, according to an unthinking “herd instinct” 5) They cannot cross deep water without drowning 6) They are particularly vulnerable to parasites and disease 7) They tend to overeat, then lie down and can’t get back up, but most importantly 8) Sheep follow their shepherd!
Look at John 10:26-28….. Jesus said to the religious leaders, “But you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.
God wants us to follow Him just like SHEEP. That’s it. Many of us have followed Jesus in a way that He did not intend:
There are three of these ways: #1) Superficially following Jesus–Matthew 8:1 “large crowds followed him”… He was attractive, amazing, and provided food in miraculous way. Many of us are in this boat. #2) Following Jesus “at a distance”–Peter did this when it looked like the end to Jesus.—Luke 22:54. Many church attenders are in this category. #3) Emotionally following Jesus–Peter in John 13:37. “I’ll lay my life down for you.” Jesus knew better, though Peter eventually did lose his life for Jesus. These folks fall away when times are tough.
Bottom line: To be the follower of Jesus whom He wants, we are simply to LISTEN TO HIS VOICE! Here are some tips of how to listen:
Start Each Day with the Lord– Psalm 143:8- “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.”
The discipline of meditation and prayer– Psalm 46:10 Cease striving, and know that I am God. We are too busy. Simplify! Practice the silence of solitude- Luke 5:15-16– Jesus went to lonely places and prayed Matthew 14:22-23– Jesus went up to the mountainside by Himself to pray. Jesus saw the importance of solitude in His relationship with God. After dealing with 100’s and 1000’s of people, He enjoyed getting by Himself to pray and meditate. Practice the silence of speech- Matthew 6:3-6,18– let your giving be in secret (don’t brag about your giving) Cultivate your inner life- Psalm 37:7-Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him, Isaiah 30:15– in quietness and trust is your strength
“I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds….Satan is quite aware of the power of silence”- Jim Elliot, beloved South American missionary and Wheaton College graduate. Put on your new self each and every day– Ephesians 4:22-24, Paul says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Every day we wake up and put on our clothes and go to work. Similarly, every day, we need to “put on our Christian walk” and adjust our attitudes to conform it to Christ’s. Philippians 4:9 reminds us to “put into practice what we have learned”. Remember Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
Live by the Spirit– Galatians 5:16-17 and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. It’s the Holy Spirit who empowers you to follow Jesus closely.
Pursue the spiritual disciplines– 1 Timothy 4:7– train yourselves to be godly. Exercise the fruit of the Spirit. 2 Timothy 3:16-17-know the Word Luke 11:1-4-pray 1 Corinthians 12:7-serve Him for the common good Psalm 95:1-2-worship Him Acts 2:46– have active fellowship with other believers and James 5:16-confess your sins so that you may be healed.
There is a Cost of following Jesus– Matthew 8:18-22 Jesus teaches that there is a cost of following him. Jesus’ command to Peter, as He tells him that he will have to die for Him, is “follow me”–John 21:19. But this cost is nothing compared to eternity SPENT WITH HIM.
We like sheep have and are going astray. Let us submit to the Great Shepherd’s care, who calls us by name, leads us, protects us, and gives us pasture. (John 10:1-18)
Next Week: The Abundant Life: How To Possess It
Reference: Life Application Bible, NIV version, 1991