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So I remember when I moved to Blenheim in year 12.  Up to then I’d lived in a little place called Gore where they roll their Rs and where they have small school.  My school was year 7-13 and had 350 kids, total.  My school in Blenheim had 1500 GIRLS.

So in my first week I got lost, a lot.

I remember getting assigned to this peer support leader in my class and she would show me on the map where I was meant to be or escort me to class. I remember distinctly getting lost on my way to math class one day though.  Which was fine, as I didn’t like maths, but the math teacher was the meanest teacher ever and super strict and was the netball coach. Why is that important, because in my first class at math she asked me if I played netball and I was like no way, I hate netball.   Anyway, my peer support person was named Mary.  She was about yay high with brown bobbed hair.  Along with about 628 other girls at my school and she said follow me when it was time to go to math.   We got out into the corridors  where its squishy and busy and lets just say I had a height disadvantage.  One minute I saw mary the next minute all I see is white shirts and backs.  Because I’m short.  So we get outside, take a breath of fresh air, because hello, hair spray, deodorant and coconut oil…. And then I saw mary in the distance and so I followed her.  Round the corner, up the stairs, down the hall, all the way to French class.  Not math class.  Because that was not mary.  It was some other yay high brown haired girl with a bob.

I had been following the wrong girl.  And I ended up in the totally wrong place.

 

At the very start of the year we want to talk about what does it look like to Follow Jesus for real.  Sometimes we can have our good ideas, or no idea, but what does Jesus, the One who is setting the course of our life say what it means to follow him.

You see being a chrsitian isn’t about being a nice person, or being kind, or friendly, or even isn’t about coming to church and reading the bible and knowing stuff about Jesus it is about knowing Jesus as a saviour and a friend and a lord and following Him, letting Him set the path for our life, knowing God and making Him known.

 

In John 14:6 Jesus says I am the way the truth and the life.   John 14:6

I am the way.  Follow me.

I am the way the truth and the life, No one gets to the Father, to God apart from me.

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So I say, live by the Spirit, 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. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.    Galatians 5:16-17

Matthew 16:24 [ Take Up the Cross and Follow Him ] Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

when i became a christian i didnt know this verse – i didnt know any of the bible.  but somewhere deep in my mind i thought that if i gave my life to God that it would mean for the rest of my life i would have to be boring, good, nice and wear gray.  and listen to amy grant.  but yet, because i had jsut discovered that God was real and that i had to respond to that and that he was awesome and had died to save me and give me life here on earth and for all eternity and that he loved me and had a plan for me… i was willing to wear gray and be boring.  forever.  the exchange was worth it.  imagine my delight and surprize to discover that being a child of God ment more adventure and blessing and satisfaction than i could ever imagine! 

yet.  there is that passage.  in black and white.  take up your cross and DENY yourself. 

it doesnt conjure up images of delight and dancing. 

it brings to mind death and suffering and sacrifice and hardship.

but it doesnt mean wearing gray and living a boring life.  it doesnt mean that we need to take a sledge hammer to our tv, melt our cds, burn our clothes apart from the really fugly ones, have only 1 pair of shoes, eat stale bread and sardines, no social life, no friends, no fun…. 

it does mean we need to be discerning and choose to live according to the ways of God – ways to bless us and keep us safe and ways that lead us into the adventures of God and His love.

sometimes we need to turn the tv off and keep a clean heart.

sometimes we need to reign in our materialism and be generous.

sometimes we need to make choices about relationships that distract and lead us astray.

but the reward is so good.

when we choose the flesh we reap death.  when we choose obedience we reap spiritual rewards.

its about perspective.  we need to shake loose that idea that the stuff we’re denying is good and good for us.  its not.  really, its not.  we need to get in our heart that the reality is that God’s ways are sooo good and living for Him and living close is sooooo the way to live.  the world doesnt offer even a fraction of what God offers.

 

“In a day when believers seem to be trying to please both the world and the Lord (which is an impossible thing), when people are far more concerned about offending their friends than offending God, there is only one answer… Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him!” — Keith Green, No Compromise album, 1978.

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Matthew 9:9 As Jesus was leaving he saw a tax collector called Matthew sitting at a place for paying taxes. Jesus said to him, “come with me” and matthew got up and went with Him.

I read this and began to think (always a good thing when reading the bible!) Perhaps Matthew, sitting in his tax collector booth witnessed the whole miracle and forgiving sins of the cripple man. perhaps he heard Jesus teaching. perhaps he wished that he could be new and clean and have his sins forgiven too. perhaps he was wondering who this man was that forgave sins and made crippled men walk.

Jesus saw matthew and called him to follow Him. a tax collector! the scurge of society in israel! dispised and outcast!

matthew didnt appear to be a candadiate for discipleship. he wasnt holy or respected or wanted.

but jesus called him and matthew left his lucrative tax collecting business and lifestyle to follow Jesus.

jesus was matthews saviour and healer too.

it gives me hope, because Jesus calls me too.

The gospels are scary, because if you follow them, you just might become a Christian, and that’s a tough road. —Garry Wills (from “What Jesus Meant”)

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