The Word Of The Year

This sermon teaches us what it means and looks like to follow Jesus.

Scott Kelly
Jan 5, 2020    31m
In this sermon Pastor Scott Kelly shares scripture and explains to us what it means and looks like to follow Jesus. He explains that Jesus calls all believers to follow Him. He not only wants us to follow Him, but he wants us to lead others to follow Him as well. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Scott Kelly: 00:00 Now let me invite you, if you would, to take your Bible and turn to Matthew, Matthew chapter 4. We'll be in Matthew's gospel today, chapter 4, and we're going to read together verses 18 through 20. Matthew chapter 4 verses 18 through 20. It is our practice at Shandon to stand. So if you would please stand in honor the reading of the word of God. This is our way of standing under the authority of God's word.

Scott Kelly: 00:33 Matthew chapter 4, we'll pick up in verse 18 and read through verse 20. The word of God says, "While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him."

Scott Kelly: 01:11 Let's pray together. Father, thank you for the clarity and power of your word. So Lord, I pray that our hearts and minds would be open today, fixated on you, as we begin this new year. And Father, may you give clarity about what you're calling us to and may we be inspired to follow the leadership of your son Jesus Christ. For it's in his name that we pray. Amen. Thank you. You may be seated

Scott Kelly: 01:47 Well in each of the last several years, a number of national publications and media outlets select and then announce what they believe to be The Word of the Year. And as you can imagine, the word of the year often reveals something about our current social and political climate. Sometimes borrowing directly from the headlines, ,or a comment own emerging cultural trends. And in some ways the word of the year is like a walk through recent history. A few examples I'll give you, 20 years ago in the year 2000, the word of the year was Chad. As in hanging Chad, some of you remember that. In the year 2004 it was the word blog, with the advent of the blogosphere. In 2007, the year the iPhone was introduced, the word of the year was the word app. As in, there's an app for that. In 2008 it was bail out. And in 2012, 13, and 14 it was the words hashtag, selfie, and vape. And two years ago the word of the year was actually two words, many of you recall the words fake news. Anybody remember that one? That one is still a little bit fresh, I think.

Scott Kelly: 03:12 Well based upon searches on its website and current social trends, recently announced their 2019 word of the year, and the word that they selected was the word existential. How about that one? I'm sure that's a word you dropped at every single Christmas party you went to last month. Right? Because we all know that a Christmas party without eggnog and sausage balls creates an existential crisis in our lives. Well just for fun, let's define the word existential. It's an adjective of course, and it describes that which is concerned with the nature of human existence as determined by an individual's freely made choices. Thank you for that. We're excited. But you know, if you think about it, in a year that featured an overabundance of news stories that focused on natural disasters, human violence, and divisive politics. Well, maybe existential is a suitable adjective to describe our collective angst.

Scott Kelly: 04:23 Well, in Matthew chapter 4 in the passage that we read a few moments ago, Jesus introduces us to a better word, a more important word, a word that transcends the existential concerns that we may have. It's a word that's both an invitation as well as an identity. It appears 77 times in the gospels alone, and it appears as a noun, a verb, and a couple of times as an adjective. It's a word that summarizes the life of one whose past experiences, present reality, and future destination are informed and defined by a relationship to Christ. And that word is the word, follow. Follow. Now to magnify the importance of the word follow, Christian author Dallas Willard once wrote, "There is no problem in human life that following Jesus cannot solve." There is no problem in human life that following Jesus cannot solve. You name it, greed, racism, injustice, divorce, assault, abuse, neglect, addiction, bitterness, anger, loneliness, grief, and even death, there is no problem in human life that following Jesus cannot solve. Now I know right now some of you are pushing back against that. Perhaps you're crossing your arms and saying, Scott, do you really believe that? Are you telling me, that if I just follow Jesus, all of my problems are going to go away? Is that what you believe? Well, here's the deal, human problems cannot be solved by human means. Human problems cannot be solved by human means, and I think we're all aware of this. Technology cannot solve all of our problems. Education cannot solve all of our problems. A record high stock market cannot solve all of our problems. A national championship cannot solve all of our problems. Some of us would be satisfied with a bowl game, but that's for another day. I think we all know, human problems persist because human nature is always present. Human nature is always present, and human nature is our biggest problem. Because you see the most persistent, existential threat that you will experience in your life is not something that's out there, the Bible says it's something that's in here. And the only antidote to human nature is Christ and following Him.

Scott Kelly: 07:18 So for the rest of our time together this morning, what I want to do is I want to look closely at the passage we read a few moments ago, specifically verse 19. Because embedded in Jesus' invitation to Peter and Andrew, is a threefold template for the life of faith. And while it doesn't say everything that needs to be said about being a disciple, it's broad enough and clear enough to describe and define the life of one of a believer, as well as I believe the ministry of a local church.

Scott Kelly: 07:51 So before we dive in, a little bit of context so we can set it up for you. In Matthew chapter 3, Jesus is baptized in the river Jordan by John the Baptist. And in chapter 4, he is led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for 40 days. And after emerging from the wilderness, Jesus launches his public ministry. And in verse 18, he approaches Peter and Andrew and he issues a life changing invitation. He simply says to them, follow me. Follow me. Now, I think this is in some ways extremely simplistic, but I think it's designed that way. Because let's be honest, most of the simple actions related to our walk with Christ are in fact the most difficult. Perhaps attending church was difficult for you this morning, or perhaps reading your Bible, or maybe praying, or tithing, all of those simple steps in the life of faith can at times be difficult for us.

Scott Kelly: 09:01 And following is a great example, because sometimes our culture will hijack and obscure the real meaning of what Jesus intended when we choose to follow him. And that's certainly true here, because today in our culture, the idea and practice of following has been hijacked, reduced, and redefined as a social media activity. Now, I don't know who you follow. But if you look at the top 10 accounts on Twitter and Instagram, you'll discover that they are made up, almost all of them are made up, of entertainers, politicians, and athletes. Or perhaps in some cases their politicians trying to be entertainers, or maybe entertainers trying to be politicians. I don't know who you follow, but the top four accounts on Instagram have a combined total of nearly 700 million followers, that's on Instagram. And the reason I point that out, is because that's more than double the population of the U.S. The top accounts on Twitter, the top 10 accounts have a combined total of nearly 1 billion followers. Imagine the power of that, that's huge. So the practice of following celebrities, and following athletes, and perhaps following politicians on social media is pervasive in our culture, and it makes it clear that we live in a celebrity driven culture. And there's a huge price to pay for this, because sometimes our culture trains and conditions us to follow others and what they say and what they do without any reference to truth, morality, and sometimes can we just be honest, common sense. I mean one celebrity revealed recently that she can't remember the last time she took a bath, not something I would disclose to 100 million people, that's something I wouldn't want to share. And now as an act of solidarity and support for this, hundreds, even thousands, of her followers are refusing to bathe until she does. This is what celebrity-driven culture will do to us, and sometimes there's a disconnect, because the fact of the matter is we've been seduced into believing that visibility equals value. That the more visible a person is, the more valuable they are in what they say and what they do.

Scott Kelly: 11:31 Some of the most valuable people that serve here at Shandon, are people that you never see, you never see them. People that are serving now, back in our preschool and our children's ministry, those who serve our middle and high school students, those who walk alongside our college students, even our production team who if weren't here serving, you could not hear or see what we do in this service on a Sunday morning. All of these people serve the kingdom in very invisible ways, and yet we've been seduced into believing that someone's value is directly related to their visibility.

Scott Kelly: 12:11 And so Jesus extends to you and me this invitation to follow him. He's not just asking us to like, or approve, what he says and what he thinks. He's asking us to give up the very leadership of our lives, hand it over to him, falling close behind and imitate and incarnate everything he says and everything he does. Now, this is a highly relational, deeply personal, invitation that Jesus extends. Because you see, following Jesus is more than just believing in Jesus. Jesus didn't approach Peter and Andrew and just say, believe in me, that's not what he said. The Bible is very clear, the devil and his demons believe in Jesus, but they don't love him and they don't follow him. If you want a working definition of faith, faith is simply belief that follows, it is belief that follows. But let me be clear about this idea of following, about what it means to follow Jesus. It's not just an activity, it's not just a function, it's not just a lifestyle, it is in fact an identity. Following Jesus is an identity, because the story of a follower's life is not about the follower. Followers don't make Jesus a character in their story, Jesus makes his followers a character in His story, in the narrative that we call the gospel. Once we choose to follow Jesus, perhaps you're answering that question today, but once we choose to follow Jesus, we no longer play the lead in our own story, in our own narrative. Because keep in mind, Jesus did not go to the shores of the Sea of Galilee looking for leaders, he went to the shores of the Sea of Galilee looking for followers. Jesus' first followers, were followers first, and that's what he is calling to us, to follow him. So Jesus approaches Peter and Andrew and issues the same invitation that he does to you and me, follow me.

Scott Kelly: 14:24 But then secondly, I want you to notice there's a promise. There is a promise in verse 19, Jesus says, follow me, and then he says, and I will make you. And I will make you. Now it's important to pay close attention to what Jesus does not say here. Jesus does not approach Peter and Andrew and say, I will take you. Isn't it fascinating? Jesus never tells Peter and Andrew where he's going, or where he's taking them. Bible scholars don't believe that Jesus mentioned the cross or Jerusalem until about two years later, they followed him, and yet they had no concept of the destination. Following Jesus is not about our destination. Now, for those who have received Jesus as their Lord and savior through repentance and faith, we know that our ultimate destination is of course Heaven.

Scott Kelly 15:22 But if you follow Jesus, there is no telling where you may end up in this life, because following Jesus is not about our destination, it's about our transformation. That's why Jesus says, "And I will make you." Because it describes a process, it's a story, it's a journey, to summarize your road to transformation. And notice there's no promise of overnight success, there's no instant gratification, there's no immediate relief, there's no blank check, Jesus promises change if we follow. And here's the beautiful thing, don't miss this, Jesus assumes the burden of responsibility for your transformation. He assumes responsibility for your change, "And I will make you." This doesn't mean our faith is passive, because our responsibility is to follow. But if we follow Jesus, promises change. Because you see we're not only saved by grace, we are transformed by grace, "And I will make you."

Scott Kelly: 16:40 But I should be quick to point out the disclaimer, the small print if you will, in order for Jesus to change us, in order for him to make us, in all likelihood he will have to break us in the process. All of us. You say, Scott, what do you mean by break us? Sometimes God has to hold up a mirror to reveal and disclose our flawed, outrageous humanity, our human nature, our biggest existential threat. And he has to hold it up and show it to us. And he did the same thing with Simon Peter, because you see from this point forth Simon Peter followed Jesus. And he did for over three years before Jesus was crucified, resurrected and ascended, and then Peter became the face and the voice of the early church. But in those early years, those first three years, Jesus had to break Peter over and over and over again.

Scott Kelly: 17:44 Most of you know that in the garden of Gethsemane, on the night before Jesus was crucified, when he was arrested, all of the disciples scattered, they ran for the hills. And in Matthew 26 verse 58 it says, that Peter followed Jesus at a distance, lurking in the shadows. And at the most critical moment, we all know this story, Peter denied that he even knew who Jesus was. It's pretty clear if we try to follow Jesus at a safe, comfortable, or even an inconspicuous distance. When the critical moment comes, and believe me it will come, we will deny that we even know who Jesus is. And Peter was absolutely crushed, this crushed him. But the good news is, as we all know, Jesus restored Peter. Well, how did he restore Peter you might ask? Well, many of you know this story, but I need to add some commentary here. The very first recorded words of Jesus to Peter are here in Matthew chapter 4, "Follow me." And the very last recorded words of Jesus to Simon Peter are not feed my sheep, because that conversation continues. The very last recorded words of Jesus to Peter were, "Follow me." in almost exactly the same place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Scott Kelly: 19:13 Let me tell you what that means for you and me. If you have failed, if you have been broken, if your life has taken a critical, terrible turn in some way. Perhaps you're suffering under the weight of guilt and shame and hopelessness in your life, 2019 was a terrible year. Jesus does for you, and he promises to you, the same thing that he did for Peter. He will pick you up, look you in the eye, and he will very simply say, "Follow me." That's Jesus' invitation to you and me.

Scott Kelly: 19:53 Have you ever wondered why the first commandment, the first of the 10 commandments, is in fact the first commandment? Have you ever wondered about that? Well, in Exodus 20 verse 3, the first commandment is this, "You shall have no other gods before me." You see the question behind the first commandment is this, who are you following? Who are you following? Because if you get that right, everything else will follow. If you get that right, then God can take you where he wants to take you. Because you see the deepest sin, the greatest tragedy in your life and in my life, is holding on to the right to lead my own life rather than following Jesus. To write my own story, to choose my own destination, because there's something in every of us that needs to die. There's something in every one of us that needs to be taken to the cross every single day. Jesus says, it's time to stop climbing ladders, and it's time to start carrying crosses. And what we all need to know is this, what we strive to make of ourselves may be, may be, the least important thing about us.

Scott Kelly: 21:16 So Jesus issues an invitation, and he follows it with a promise. Follow me, he says, and I will make you. And then he delivers the objective, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." Fishers of men. Now Peter and Andrew, as you probably know, had been fishing their entire lives. They learned this from their fathers, and they had been fishing for all of their adult lives. But from now on, according to Matthew chapter 4, they would be fishing for men, and this plays out in their lives. You see, the fundamental meaning of this particular phrase, is that Jesus was giving them a new purpose in life. Fishing was a metaphor that Jesus used to transform private careers into personal vocations, a calling, if you will. Because the supernatural outcome of a life that is spent following Jesus, and being transformed by Jesus, is a life spent telling others about Jesus. That is the supernatural outcome.

Scott Kelly: 22:25 This means that our life's work, and our churches ministry, can no longer focus on self-seeking, self-promoting, self-serving objectives, but on the spiritual wellbeing of others. Shandon, this is why we can never be fixated on being the best church in our community, we should be fixated on being the best church for our community. One is about our brand, the other is about our brokenness. That we are so convinced of our desperate need for Christ, that we can't help but share the love of Jesus with others in our community. The fact of the matter is, if we're not fishing, that means we're not following. Because Jesus' definition of a follower, is that followers of Christ make more followers of Christ. His definition, not mine.

Scott Kelly: 23:30 Well, on the grounds of Oxford University in England, there is a footpath that loops around the water meadow on the North end of campus. The path is called Addison's walk. And what makes this footpath noteworthy, is a conversation that took place there in September of 1931, and nearly everyone in this room has been influenced by this conversation. You see, three professors had eaten dinner earlier in the evening, and the conversation that they were having focused on the meaning of Christianity and what it meant to be a follower of Christ. Well, one of the three professors was in fact a skeptic. He was a man who outright rejected Christ, rejected Christianity, he was not a follower by any sense of the word. And who could blame him, he was born in Belfast, Ireland, and at the age of nine his mother unexpectedly passed away. Well, his father not knowing what to do, sent him away. And after bouncing around to several boarding school, and suffering outright and even sometimes subtle forms of both physical and social abuse, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the army and sent to the front lines of battle in World War One. And there, in the trenches, he witnessed up close, the horrors of war. He lost his best friend, and was wounded in battle twice, before finally being sent home.

Scott Kelly: 25:14 Well, he completed his studies, and in 1925 he joined the faculty at Oxford as a professor of literature. A year later, in 1926, he met a more tenured faculty member who would providentially and instrumentally change his life. And the two men that I am referring to, of course, C. S. Lewis, the skeptic, and the more tenured professor, J. R. R. Tolkien. Well, over the next several years Tolkien and Lewis forged a critical friendship, and one that often focused on the truth and the coherence of Christianity and what it meant to follow Jesus. And on September 19th, 1931, following an extended dinner, Lewis, Tolkien, and a third professor Hugo Dyson continued their conversation on Addison's walk. At three o'clock in the morning, Tolkien finally made his excuses, and the men dispersed. But it was here, according to a letter written to another friend, that Lewis in his own words says, "On this night I passed from a prevailing skepticism about Christ, to following Jesus." Well, of course it didn't end there, and for the next two and a half decades, Lewis and Tolkien and a handful of others met weekly to challenge, to encourage, to debate, and to support one another. And those weekly gatherings formed a community from which two have the most widely read works of literature in the 20th century were produced, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia.

Scott Kelly: 27:02 Their relationship was not perfect, in fact, it was competitive at times. But it's no exaggeration, no exaggeration, to say that Tolkien was fishing for Louis. Not just once, not just twice, but for more than five years he fished for Louis. And he finally removed the final obstacles that stood in Lewis's path to his conversion and his decision to follow Christ. And countless thousands, some would say millions, have been influenced by the works of C. S. Lewis. Fishing for men, followers of Christ, making followers of Christ.

Scott Kelly: 27:51 So Jesus approaches you today, the same way that he approached Peter and Andrew. He issues an invitation, and then a promise, and finally, an objective. Follow me, he says, and I will make you fishers of men. So a question for you, what's your word in 2020? What's it going to be? Because you see, Jesus is inviting you today to follow him. And following Jesus, following Jesus, is the one thing that changes everything.

Scott Kelly: 28:33 Let's pray together. Father, we know that your son paid the ultimate price for us to follow him. And Lord, for those in the room that don't know what it means to have a relationship with Christ, much less to follow. Lord, I pray that the message of grace and mercy would resonate in their ears, and in their hearts. Father, on this new year, many are making a decision. Am I going to return to church? Am I going to follow Jesus? Lord, I pray that the truth of what your son offered to Peter and Andrew, would be received willingly and joyfully. And Father, may we never reduce our relationship to Christ to just an ultimate destination, but Lord, that we would be transformed. So Father, thank you, thank you for your son, the clarity of his word, of his invitation. And Father, we know that we will have to be broken in the process, we know that in order for Jesus to make us to the person that he's called us to be, there will be some difficulties. But Father, there's always grace, there's always mercy, and your son looks us in the eye and simply says, follow me. So Lord, I pray for our church, I pray that we would not be fixated on being the best church in our community, but the best church for our community. Father, our love for you, our desire to follow you, would echo everywhere we go. Father, thank you for your love and your grace, we're grateful that your son has issued this invitation, has made this promise. Father, he also makes it clear where we're going and what we're doing. Father, thank you for the people of Shandon who have gathered to worship today, may our eyes and our hearts and our minds be focused on following your son Jesus. For it's in his name that we pray. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206