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The Path of Faith


Recorded on April 11th, 2021

  • Video Version
  • Audio Version
  • Sunday Full Service

Sometimes faith means stepping into a situation where uncertainty is the only thing that is certain.

Transcript of Sermon:

We are continuing our journey through the book of mark we are in mark chapter 8 verses 34 through 38. i encourage you to read along on the screen or in the bulletin which is in front of you the scripture tells us then he called to the crowd then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and he said whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me who for whoever wants to save their life will lose it but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it what good is for someone to gain the whole world yet forfeit their soul or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul if anyone is ashamed of me or my words in this adulterous and sinful generation the son of man will be ashamed for them when he comes to his father’s glory with the holy angels this is the word of god for the people of god thanks be to god i have to tell you that i was probably the most difficult well i was a difficult teenager to parent let’s just say that i had started working at the age of 12. and before that i was a babysitter and a nanny and when i started working i was working at an ice arena that i was taking lessons at i worked regularly and once i started working i was required to start paying for my own clothes for any food that wasn’t given at my house and i was required to really start taking care of myself and i was already a stubborn human being i was already certain that i knew everything i needed to know and i was already certain that i was smarter than most of the adults around me by the age of 12 you know because that’s the way i was and maybe still am a little bit but that was who i was and working and making my own money and buying things for myself just made it that much worse i was pretty self-righteous if i was going to buy my own food and then eventually i borrowed money from my boss to buy my car and i was really responsible for my own being then i could make all the decisions i wanted for myself i should not i didn’t think i had to be held accountable to anybody because really i was taking care of myself so i really didn’t think anybody especially a parent had any right to hold me accountable to anything which really isn’t fair it really probably wasn’t fun to parent i really feel badly for my mother at the time who gosh hmm i yeah sorry mom um i was not a fun person to parents i was certain that since i was doing it all that i should be only accountable to me and over time that didn’t get a lot easier i continued to work i continued to take care of myself i paid my way through college or debted my way through college i borrowed my way through college i should say and i was continually caring for myself so i continued to think that i was only accountable to myself and as i became a follower of christ in college that was the first time i really started to feel this pushback against this idea that the only person i was accountable to was me in fact i started to realize as i grew in my strength and grew in my faith and became a pastor and started walking with other people in faith i started to realize that i actually wasn’t that unique even if people had didn’t have to care for themselves when they were young there becomes a point when we think that we should only be accountable to ourselves there comes a point when we as adults think i’m an adult i should only be accountable to me or maybe me and my spouse but that’s about it and at some point all of us humans struggle with this control with this accountability with this this is my life you’re not going to tell me how to live it i’m going to choose how to live my life but with faith with a relationship with christ there is a necessary letting go of that control and accepting accountability to somebody bigger than us and for me that has been part of the hardest piece of my faith journey and i think it’s part of the hardest things for lots of other people in their faith journey letting go letting god be in control of not just the small things or the big things but of everything and what we see here in this scripture passage is jesus talking specifically about that kind of relationship the way that we are supposed to follow in the footsteps of jesus right preceding this moment jesus had explained to the disciples that he was going to have to die and then in three days be risen again and they didn’t understand what that meant they didn’t understand why jesus would have to die in fact peter rebuked him saying that’s crazy pretty much saying that’s stupid but saying that’s crazy but jesus said not only do i have to die but those who want to be my disciples those who want to be my true followers are going to have to do three things this passage says they’re going to have to deny themselves they’re going to have to carry their cross and they’re going to have to follow me you see what jesus is saying here at the before he’s even died and been resurrected what jesus is saying here is recognizing that as humans we’re going to struggle with this what jesus is saying here is that you and i have to recognize that there is a difference between accepting jesus as our messiah and savior and being a disciple of christ there’s a difference between accepting jesus into your heart and being a follower of christ just because you’ve accepted jesus in doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a disciple just because you’ve said the prayer and accepted jesus’s forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re a disciple there are two different steps in our faith journey and both are necessary if we want to accept or to live into the fullness of what of what god has available to us as believers and so let’s look at what this means because jesus says we have to do these three things and jesus recognizes that what we do is we want to try and save our lives as humans you and i are trying to create this life we especially in america are born with this idea of the perfect life and it looks different for a lot of people but there’s some similarities especially here right we have to make a certain amount of money we have to have a certain type of house we have to have some cars we should definitely have a 401k or some other type of retirement we should go to college or a trade school we should have a steady job we should have kids and a spouse we should be fruitful in our careers we should have a career you know we should have a path to be on we should be chasing a dream and we often try to chase that and create it for ourselves as early as elementary school we start to wonder what should i be when i grow up in fact maylie is currently struggling with that idea she’s 10. i’ve told her over and over again you don’t need to figure that out yet but for some reason she already thinks she has to have it figured out it’s because of the world that we live in right in the world that we live in there’s this pressure to be somebody to prove you’re somebody to have all of these boxes marked off in your journey through life by the time you’re a grandparent you should have a great retirement you should be able to provide for not only your children but your grandkids you should be able to do all of these things you should have accomplished certain things you should have left a legacy where it is that you’ve left working people should still know your name but who says that who’s decided that for you a lot of what we choose or think we want in this world is because of where we’ve grown up who we’ve grown up with where we worked who we grew up around not because it was god’s best path for us and jesus says for those of us who want to try and save our lives with all of our might and all of our control and all of our ability which is my go-to i’m a control freak i’m going to control myself into any situation i’m going to tell you how it’s going to work i’m going to tell me how it’s going to work we’re going to have a plan we’re going to go from here to here to here to here and it’s going to work by golly but that’s not the way that we’re meant to live once we follow christ we’re meant to give that up you see as we are called once we give our life to christ we’re called to give all of it all of our hopes all of our dreams were meant to give back to christ and let god choose the rest of our journey for us for whoever wants to save their life will lose it but whoever loses their life for me will gain it so how do we do that how do we lose our life for christ well there’s three things we have to do the first one is that we have to deny our life we have to deny ourselves what does it mean to deny ourselves in this world we’re told never to deny ourselves we’re told if you want it get it we are told if it feels good do it but jesus says the exact opposite jesus says in order to experience real fulfillment in order to experience real joy and happiness in life in order to experience full discipleship you must learn to deny yourself and what denying yourself really means is to submit yourself to the authority of somebody else and that somebody else isn’t just anybody it’s god if we want to be true disciples if we want to go from being just somebody who has accepted christ into our life to be somebody who’s really a disciple who’s really a follower we must submit our life submit our path to the authority of jesus and that looks like a million different things and for me in my journey some of the easier things some of the biggest things some of the ways that god has helped me the most has given me some big yeses some big journeys to say yes to one of those was being baptized that was a big yes first i had accepted christ into my life and then years later in 2005 i was baptized that was a big yes that was a big moment that we put a flag in the sand and we said i’m choosing jesus those were two big different moments for me and then god called me to start working at a church for free as a pa as a staff person not just a volunteer but as a staff person for free with real responsibilities had to show up every week and on the same day he called me to do that joe lost his job literally we were sitting down at a table i was saying committing to this work that i was gonna do for free and i get a call from joe saying i have lost my job out of the blue that was a big moment of saying yes and then i was called to like not just work at a church but called a ministry called to go to seminary and called to do these other things and that’s not everybody’s path right not every follower is going to be called to ministry but every follower is going to be called to some big yeses in their life and when we say yes to those big yeses that seem impossible but god shows up and provides it becomes clear that god’s not crazy i’ve said that to myself so many times boy this seems crazy and then when it works out you go wow god isn’t crazy huh one of the biggest ones for our family was our call to adoption we knew for certain that god was calling us to adoption we had never thought about adoption we thought we were done having kids we were certain we were done having kids and it was god made it clear that there was a daughter out there that she was ours that we were meant to start the process and we knew we could not afford it not only could we not afford it we were terrified of what that would mean for our lives because our life was going pretty well things were smooth we could afford the boys we had we could manage life it was two on two what would happen when was three on two and what if it was really hard what if our little girl had issues that made everything harder for the boys what if everything turned upside down and we what if ourselves to death and then one day i was sitting in church and this scripture was read this specific scripture and i started bawling my eyeballs out because from the bottom of my toes to the top of my head i knew god was telling me alyssa you are doing everything you can to try and save this life that you have right now you are doing everything you can to try and control yourself into the future but i need you to let go i need you to trust me i need you to believe that i am bigger than any of your fears and your doubts and that my plan for your future is better than anything you have planned for your future and from that moment on joe and i were all in and for those of you who have gotten to meet my family you know how glorious that adoption was for us you know how beautiful that turned out our lives are a million times better because of our daughter i can’t even imagine life without her so those big yeses have taught me that god is trustworthy but you know what i struggle with today i struggle with the small yeses i’m like a teenager who would rather ask for forgiveness than seek um a yes ahead of time there are some things that i know i should probably pray and ask god about but i don’t want to hear no so i just ignore it i’m a pastor for god’s sake and i do that i know that i should probably ask him if it’s okay that i should do this or that but i’m like oh what if he tells me i can’t do it and i really want to do it and so i don’t because i don’t want to hear the answer we have to submit everything to the lord and trust that even if we hear no that what we have on the other side is better than what we think we’re gonna get this goes for eating food drinking things that may not be the best for us for shopping some of us really like shopping some of us are being destroyed by our shopping this goes for the way that we love or not love our neighbor forgive or not forgive those who have hurt us and we know we should connect to god about it but we think oh gosh if i do god’s going to tell me do something i don’t want to do so i’m just going to ignore that we have to deny the life we think we want the thing we think we want and submit to the authority of the one who created us who has a plan that we can’t even imagine for us we must submit trusting trusting that god has a better plan then we have to pick up our cross and carry it and boy boy boy do some christians not like to talk about this you go turn on the tv on some sunday mornings and there are some pastors who want to tell you that following christ is all about the good stuff there’s only good if you follow christ it’s only going to be good you’re going to have 10 million dollars you’re gonna have a jet everything’s gonna be prosperous and life is gonna be great and you know what life will be great but you’re still gonna have ups and downs life is still gonna be hard you’re still gonna live in the world that we live in today the difference is is that god’s gonna be with you in the process the difference is you’re gonna see beauty in the midst of really difficult things the difference is you’re gonna find peace in times when there should be no peace because god is with you we’re still gonna struggle christ tells us that because i had this pain in life you will also have this kind of pain in life don’t be surprised when you were persecuted don’t be surprised when life is painful know that it’s going to come and trust me in the process see you and i try and get out of pain as fast as we can instead of digging in and seeking god in the process we need to deny ourselves we need to carry our cross and then we need to choose to follow christ now a lot of us think we’re following christ but really we’re just willing to follow christ we’re not doing the actual intentional work of day by day following the path that christ would have for us of seeking the path that christ has for us of wondering who it is that christ created us to be not who it is we want to be whether we’re 80 whether we’re 10 that’s a question we should be asking ourselves every day what does christ want me to do how am i supposed to be the light in this world because the darkness is real but we you and me we’re called to do something about that we’re called to make a difference in this world and this world can be different we can experience the goodness the fullness of god on earth as it is in heaven but you and i have to step up to the plate if we want to feel that if we want to experience that so the question we have before us today is are we willing to not just be believers in christ but to be followers to be disciples of christ are you willing to submit all of those things that you think you want out of this life to christ and to see what happens on the other side i have created for each of us a card and on one side it has the scripture from today and on the other side it has the words choose life for me when i am struggling to stay on the path when i’m struggling with small decisions big decisions that matter i have to remind myself that there’s two choices i can make i can choose life or i can choose death when i choose life i choose to believe that god’s plan for me is bigger than any plan i have for myself i choose to believe that by giving the thing that i want over to god and trusting that if i get it or if i don’t get it it doesn’t matter what matters is the plan that god has for me when i choose life i pray over big decisions and small decisions i pray when i open the refrigerator i pray when i turn on my car and i start driving because some of us have trouble in that car just some of us i mean i pray when i go to work and i struggle with my co-workers i pray when i go to family functions and i ask for help with those family members that i really struggle with i pray about everything submitting my wishes my hopes my dreams to god and seeking god’s answer in return that’s choosing life because when we do that we receive life by giving over everything on the other hand when we forget to do this or when we intentionally choose like sometimes i do not to ask because we’re afraid of the answer we’re afraid of a no or a yes we choose death and it doesn’t mean immediate death it means not experiencing the fullness that god has available for us and i know when i do this i end up in one of these mind spaces where i really dislike myself where i’m uncomfortable in my own skin where i don’t like being around people because i am really unhappy with who i am and it that comes from a series of these decisions and i know it i experience it time after time again when i have gone through a season of just kind of being disobedient to what it is that i’m supposed to be doing and when we don’t like ourselves when we’re not happy with ourselves we think that accomplishing something will make a difference but that’s not it at all it’s surrendering something that makes a difference it’s giving our life back to god that makes a difference choose life so i’m asking you to take this card and it has the scripture on the back so you can read it so you can sit in it so you can memorize it i say this to myself when i’m smart enough to remember to remind myself of what life really is of what it means to deny to carry to follow deny carry follow equals life i encourage you to put it on your bathroom mirror to put it on your dashboard if you’re one of those people who needs it in your car to put it on your cubicle at work wherever it is or your desk i’m going to encourage you to take one or two or three we have plenty here if you’re at home i encourage you to take a three by five card to write choose life on one side and on the other side put the scripture from mark 8 34-36 choose life and then the scripture from mark 8 34-36 and put it in the places that you need to be reminded that life is good that choosing life is really the best thing not the other thing that’s our challenge for today that’s the way that you and i are gonna make those small choices those big choices that get us from being a mere believer to a disciple one who gets to bear light in this world who gets to make a difference by the way that they are following christ my life today looks nothing like i thought i wanted it to look it bears no resemblance to what my teenage self wanted it bears no resemblance to what my college self wanted and i’m going to tell you it bears no resemblance to those things because there’s no part of me that could have dreamed that this type of life was possible i didn’t know that what i’m doing today was possible i didn’t know that the way that i live and move and breathe today could happen and it’s not perfect trust me ask my husband ask my children i’m not perfect we’re not perfect but the way that god has shaped our lives and been a part of our lives is so much further from what i had expected of my life it’s beautiful and that’s only been possible because god has brought me to places where i have submitted and i have chosen life so the challenge for us today is to choose life let us pray god i thank you for the life that you have challenged us to accept for the life that you have called us to as believers god i pray that you give us courage in every moment of every day of our lives to turn over every issue big or small to you submitting our whole lives to you being willing to accept your path your journey for us god we ask lord please help us to choose life and bless us in the process of moving from a mere believer to a full disciple it’s in the name of jesus we pray amen

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