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Deserving a Sergeant's Stripes
Jesus calls for our total allegiance and obedience. Giving Him both is easy when we realize what He has done in our behalf.

I. Humor: Classified ad in local PennyShopper: “Used Tombstone, perfect for someone named Homer Bergen-Heinzel”
  A. Why original Homer didn’t need the tombstone anymore, we don’t know, but this might be a bargain opportunity
  B. Humor: Someone with a bit of philosopher had carved on their headstone: Remember, friend, when passing by; As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, soon you will be; Prepare for death and follow me.
    1. That caught the fancy of someone passing by; they added a Post-It note: To follow you I’m not content; Until I know which way you went!
II. We Must Always "Follow the Leader"
  A. Stephen Ambrose’s book, The Wild Blue, about young American men serving as pilots on B-24s during World War II
    1. Huge, unprotected, lumbering, vulnerable bombers would go up into German skies in freezing cold weather, 50 below zero, no food on board, no latrines
      a. Deadly odds facing you at all times
      b. Men had to fly 35 missions before returning home
      c. With a 4% chance of getting killed on any one flight, odds were less than 50-50 that you would survive the war
    2. Everything hinged on the quality of the squadron leader, the pilot
      a. They were just kids: 22 years old
      b. Now thrust into a situation where a crew of 20 put their lives in your hands
      c. The experience, judgment, courage of the senior pilot was the factor that spelled the difference between survival and a fiery-ball catastrophe
      d. A young George McGovern was a brilliant leader; he later became a distinguished senator and candidate for president in 1972
    3. Somehow American military made sure its pilots/leaders were top-quality men
      a. Superior across the board
      b. You could willingly follow them into battle because they would bring all their wisdom, character, inner goodness to every fight
      c. Some were brilliant at unifying their crew into a solid team
      d. They would send personal hand-written letters to the parents of everyone in their squadron, praising the men, building morale
      e. The leadership qualities of these American men was a key reason the U.S. won the war
  B. Following the leader is one of the vital principles drummed into the troops
    1. Here in church, members promise to obey whatever Jesus Christ asks them to do
      a. If it’s in the Bible, if Jesus calls us to a duty, if the Christian faith says “go,” we’re going to go
      b. We treat as holy the things God says are holy
      c. We commit to accepting the practices Jesus invites His disciples to accept
    2. This is Rule #1 in Basic Training: you obey orders
      a. When the sergeant says move ahead, you do it
      b. Advancing or retreating, dropping the bombs or not dropping them, crossing a muddy river because the orders are there
      c. Military success happens when people know to follow the chain of command
    3. Wrenching to watch a grieving Cindy Sheehan protesting the Iraq War and mourning the loss of her son, Casey, who was killed in combat after volunteering to be part of a Quick Reaction Force
      a. None of us can imagine a mother’s heartbreak
      b. Mrs. Sheehan has undoubtedly earned the right to speak of her emotions
      c. The opposing reality is that her son enlisted in the military TWICE
      d. When a person joins the armed forces of his country, he agrees to follow the orders of the Commander in Chief and go where he’s sent: to the causes that look right and to the ones that don’t make sense
      e. This is what the military is based on: following the command of the person over you
III. An Upgraded Calling
  A. A young Leader named Jesus says to Peter and Andrew: Come along with Me and I will show you how to fish for the souls of men! (Matt. 4:19, Living Bible)
    1. Later Jesus gives the same invitation to James and John; they follow as well
    2. In Mark, Jesus says to a tax collector named Matthew: “Come, follow Me.”
      a. Matthew’s in his IRS booth, TurboTax CD ROMs all around, people’s money in his cash box (and some in his pockets as well)
      b. Jesus says: “Don’t do that for a living anymore. Come follow Me instead; I’ll show you how to give people a heavenly refund!”
  B. We are often fishers of fish; Jesus invites us to be fishers of men
    1. When God uses our efforts to help Him “reel in” new people for His kingdom and this church, that is an upgrade in our calling!
    2. It’s okay to catch fish; it’s more wonderful to be used by Jesus to show an interest in someone, develop a friendship, bring them to a fellowship class, give them Bible studies, and stand by their side when they are baptized.
  C. If you have an inner drive to succeed in things, that is wonderful and good
    1. To run a good practice
    2. To succeed in marketing or investing
    3. To have a happy home
      a. That is a God-given desire
    4. But Jesus is in the business of upgrading your calling, of inviting you to follow Him in doing higher things that are more lasting
      a. He wants us to move from fishing for fish to fishing for souls
      b. Dentists can go from filling cavities to filling lonely hearts of those on the fringes of our church community
      c. That could involve emotional Novocaine, cleaning away of our own plaque – meaning too-busy lives, too many personal irons in the fire
      d. Jesus says to us: “I want to upgrade your ministry, call you from secular to sacred, from mundane to eternal.”
    5. Are there ways where we are still on the “fish” level instead of at the “heart” level?
      a. Are there ways where Jesus is saying: “I want you to step it up a notch”?
IV. Easy Following vs. Hard
  A. Peter did leave his nets and follow Jesus; that was good
    1. For 3½ years, his following was predicated upon aligning Jesus’ interests with his preexisting ones
      a. Peter just followed when it suited him, when the “twin goals” lined up nicely
      b. Following Jesus gave Peter healing power and notoriety; he liked that
      c. Following Jesus helped him feed 5,000 people and get a taste of possible political power; that was extra good
      d. Following Jesus got his own relatives healed on a Saturday night; no problem there either
    2. But when following Jesus meant stepping away from his own will, denying himself, declaring loyalty to Jesus when it might mean a fourth cross on Calvary, Peter wasn’t ready.
      a. Peter was like an army private who would only follow his sergeant to the PX, a nightclub, or to an easy, not-very-risky military option
      b. Lieutenant McGovern called those “milk runs”
      c. When the battle was bloody, Gethsemane time, D Day, your B-24 bomber was facing a dark sky filled with deadly German antiaircraft flak, planes on both sides hurtling to the ground in flames, the entire crew perishing, Peter wasn’t ready to go when Jesus said, “Follow Me.”
  B. Not until after Jesus came out of the tomb were the eleven remaining disciples finally prepared to be fully obedient
    1. I Will Follow Thee, My Savior by James Elginburg
    2. Five verses: four of them begin with “though”
    3. Here are some hard assignments coming your way
      a. “Though the road be rough and thorny”
      b. “Though I meet with tribulation”
      c. “Though Thou leadest me through affliction”
    4. The encouraging thought: our Savior endured the same difficulties we do, and He triumphed over them
V. Jesus is Qualified to Lead
  A. Sometimes an untested leader is placed in a position of command over you
    1. You haven’t faced machine-gun fire and neither has he
  B. Natural, instinctive obedience comes when you follow into a battle a commander who has earned his stripes
    1. They’ve been in combat before
    2. They’ve qualified for leadership on their merits
    3. The stars on their shoulder epaulets prove they have qualified themselves with blood and sweat and fighting experience
    4. They’ve earned the right to say “Follow me” – even into the hottest battle
  C. This is true in daily lives
    1. We all follow other people in various ways: if they’ve proven themselves
      a. Their years of experience give them the moral authority to say to us, “The right path is just over here; follow me.”
  D. In a church board brainstorming meeting, someone proposes doing a public seminar on vegetarian cooking
    1. But a church can only have credibility in the community when we excude the spiritual elements of a healthy church
      a. Visitors need to come – and find themselves blessed and surrounded by healthy spirituality in areas where they have needs
    2. I encourage you to do your part to make our church a healthy body so we can say to people in the areas of prophecy or parenting: “Follow us!”
      a. If the church looks healthy at 11:00 a.m. Sabbath morning, with a vibrant core of people here, ready to go, ready to worship, ready to love others, ready to praise, ready to study and grow...
      b. There will be people who will stay for lunch and then for the afternoon seminar on Daniel and Revelation
  E. Hollywood actor Bruce Marchiano wrote a book: In the Footsteps of Jesus
    1. He played the part of Jesus in a four-hour miniseries based on Matthew
      a. A life-transforming experience for him, walking where Jesus did, seeing our lost world through His eyes
    2. After the filming, Bruce traveled the world, promoting the project and meeting audiences
    3. In South Africa he visited a prison filled with convicts: stony, cold faces
    4. They didn’t want to listen; what could this Hollywood celebrity possibly have to say to them?
      a. He pointed out: every hard thing they’d been through, Jesus had endured too
      b. Some of them had been abused; Jesus too
      c. Some of them had their paternity questioned; Jesus did also
      d. He was beat up, spat upon, misunderstood
  F. When we face any spiritual battle, we can march right ahead, knowing Jesus has been there first
    1. He’s earned the right to be our Leader and ask us to be His followers
      a. In I Will Follow Thee, My Savior, Stanza #2 begins: “Though the road be rough and thorny; Trackless as the foaming sea, Thou hast trod this way before me, And I’ll gladly follow Thee.”
  G. In a beautiful irony, those who follow Jesus into all things, even danger, are actually guaranteeing they won’t lose their lives in the end, that they’ll live forever
    1. You’re in perfect safety in any way that you follow Jesus Christ
    2. C. S. Lewis once wrote whimsically about being a Christian soldier marching cheerfully into combat
      a. Your life is his with Christ; even if a bullet temporarily strikes you down, your next conscious moment will be in Paradise with the Lord
VI. Pratical Following
  A. Matthew 5-7: Jesus delivers the Sermon on the Mount
    1. For 107 verses He tells us to do certain things; we’re instructed to follow Him in doing certain things
    2. He does them; He wants us to do them too
    3. If you love Me, then please do what I instruct you to do.”
    4. It’s very practical stuff
      a. Be a witness for God
      b Don’t harbor anger
      c. Reconcile with your enemies
      d. Keep your heart pure
      e. Turn the other cheek
    5. In Los Angeles, a major sports team owner is always doing charitable deeds – and announcing them with full-page newspaper ads
      a. Jesus tells us to just quietly do good deeds and don’t ask for headlines
      b. Don’t put up posters about them
      c. Jesus Himself often healed people and quietly said, “Say nothing. Just go to the priests and get your health card signed off.”
    6. Jesus lived a certain way and says to us: “Follow Me. You live this way too.”
  B. Does it work? Can we follow Jesus into battle?
    1. The Christian faith has been here for 2000 years; it spans the globe
    2. It’s the most successful movement in the history of Planet Earth
    3. Does Jesus have the street credentials to say “Follow Me”?
      a. Is His Magna Carta one we should follow?
      b. The evidence is plain to see!
VII. Jesus in Charge Forever!
  A. Isaiah 9:6 Handel’s Messiah): For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
    1. This is the Man we will always follow at this church; He is our Commander in Chief
  B. There’s one more line: Of the increase of His government and peace, there will be no end. The government will be on His shoulders.
    1. The reality is this: someday we will live on this planet, renewed, reborn, remade . . .
      a. There will be no presidents in the White House
      b. No kings on thrones
      c. No dictators living in the Middle East
    2. There will just be Jesus!
      a. The Bible is crystal-clear about this
    3. Jesus will sit on a throne and rule the world – and we will be living under His loving protection and authority
      a. Will there be a “Constitution”? We don’t know
      b. Maybe only the Sermon on the Mount
      c. Some of us may be senators and governors, under Jesus’ authority, but He will be in charge
  C. Are you willing for that to happen?
    1. Are we willing to abandon democracy where we can impeach presidents and override them with vetoes?
      a. Do we want to live in a land where just one Man always gets His way?
      b. Where we do all things, not our way, but His way?
  D. Augustine said that perfect, mature discipleship would find you with your will so perfectly aligned with Jesus’ will that you would always be happy just doing things His way
    1. No Thursday night clashes in Gethsemane where Jesus says “a” and you want to slip off and do “B” instead
    2. Augustine: “Love God and do as you please”
    3. When you and I really understand and embrace followership, it will please us to do just what pleases Jesus
Submitted by David B. Smith. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines.


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