Not A Fan
By the sports calendar we have finished college football and the NFL is in the middle of their playoff’s. College Basketball has started conference play and the NBA is starting to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Last week the NHL finally agreed to end their labor dispute and will play a 50 game season. Pitchers and catchers report in 28 days, and MLS starts March 2nd.
Now for most of us those dates mean something, because we all have this affinity for sports. Whether it’s the gridiron or a clay court there is something we enjoy about seeing men and women entrenched in competition on the field of play.
While some fans are moderate, we watch the games on TV, or will check the scores on the internet when we get a chance, others are pretty radical. I know folks who have mortgaged their homes so they could buy a RV just to tailgate in the parking lot before the game. I know folks who have a special t-shirt that can only be worn, and must be worn on game day. I know folks who have named their children after their favorite sports hero and in the great state of Alabama, people have been shot depending on the outcome of a certain football game played in November.
Fans gather in a stadium with 10,000 of their best friends to cheer their team to victory when things are going well, or criticize every play when they are losing. Fans come in frenzies. They feed on the excitement and vanish when the difficult times come.
Fans like to talk about what we did, and what we accomplished. Monday night my Facebook blew up with friends of mine saying “We are National Champs, or We beat the Irish!” But really what did they do besides buy a t-shirt. None of those folks on Twitter or Facebook ever made it to a practice. None of my friends ever played a down, made a tackle, a catch, or a block. To be honest, none of my friends were actually ever involved. They merely watched, and received without ever adding anything to the outcome of the game.
I am starting with this analogy this morning because there is a discussion we must have as a church. Last year while I was on my sabbatical I read a book by Kyle Idleman entitled Not a Fan. While I am not going to preach the book to you, over the next few weeks there are some points that I would like to bring out; points that I believe are very important for this body as a church.
I really believe that we need to have an honest discussion about our relationship with Christ. I understand that there are some of you here this morning that are kind of on a first date with Christ, you are feeling this whole thing out; trying to decide if this is a relationship that you would like to pursue. I think that great, try Jesus out and when you find that He is faithful then I invite you to dive into a deep relationship with Him.
But there are some of us here this morning that have been on that first date for far too long. I really believe that there are many of us in this room and watching from the internet this morning that need to make a decision about where we stand with Jesus. It’s a decision that Jesus calls us to make time and time again.
If you have your Bibles with you this morning I want you to look with me at Luke 9. In this chapter we see that the mystique and legend of Christ is growing. He sends the Apostles out to proclaim the good news and they have returned telling all of the wonderful things God did through them. The talk about Jesus is so great that even Herod has heard about Him. The crowds are flocking to see this new rockstar.
When we get to verse 23 Jesus says that it’s time for the Apostles to make a decision. They have seen all of these great things, they have experienced the food and the miracles, But now they need to decide is this just a show, or is it something else. Jesus is telling them that they need to decide if they are going to move past the casual and past the convenient into something more devoted, something more committed. Let’s read what Jesus actually says in Luke 9:23-27. (Read Text)
There are too many people in the crowd that think that Jesus is this nice guy. They like the church, it gives them something to do on the weekend, they like the fact that they can come and sip coffee and eat donuts. They like the fact that there are kids that their kids can play with, married couples that they can go watch a movie with or grab a bite to eat. Too many people just see this just another of the million options that they have in their life.
In our text this morning Jesus is challenging that attitude. Church, and worship is not just another option in your life, if you are going to be a Child of God then Church and worship must become your life. We all have to make a decision of wether we are a fan or a follower and understand that we cannot be both. I know that some of you are thinking, well I’m a follower because that’s why we’re here. But don’t jump to your answer too quickly.
The word fan is defined as an enthusiastic admirer. We’re all fans of different things, right? Many of us are sports fans. We watch the games. We cheer on the team. Some of us own the jerseys of our favorite players. We understand the concept of being a fan of sports.
The concern that Jesus seems to have is that He understands that the church has the potential to very easily become a stadium full of fans. Honestly, Jesus never cared about having fans, He wanted followers. As you read through the Gospels you will find example after example where Jesus puts people in a position where they must choose. Sometimes there were large crowds following Him like in Luke 14 and John 6; in these texts we see that Jesus would preach a sermon so people in the crowd would determine if they were fans or followers.
Jesus was never impressed by the size of this crowd, it’s the commitment level that he cares about. A concern I have with our churches today is that when we gather together, I think there is the possibility that instead of a community of followers we are nothing more than a stadium full of fans. While we may wear a cross, we won’t bear the cross. You can come to church, know all the songs, open your Bible and take notes, walk out to your car with a Jesus fish on the bumper and say grace before lunch, but that doesn’t necessarily make you a follower.
I’m afraid that we have a tendency to come together once a week and be fans of Jesus. We sit down in our seats and we watch what’s going on and maybe participate in the clapping or singing, bow our heads while someone else prays and then leave somehow thinking that’s all there is to do until the next Sunday rolls around. We get in the car and we evaluate the sermon, and we kind of give the service and song selection a thumbs up or thumbs down. And we come back and do it again the next week.
And I get the fact that some of you are really big fans. I mean, you’re really into all of this. You know all the songs and you don’t need the page number for the Bible. You know where to turn. You’re pretty fast, and you kind of look around to see how much faster you are than everyone else, keeping your Sword Drill abilities in shape. You’re big fans of Jesus. And being fans feels pretty good.
We can feel pretty good about ourselves because we’re these great admirers of Christ, but once again we read in our text this morning Jesus never cared about having fans. So if we’ll be honest with ourselves, if we’ll really search our hearts and begin to define our relationship with Jesus, there are three questions we must answer.
The first question is: Why Are You Here?
If you read through the Gospels, Jesus, at different points in His ministry, would draw a line in the sand and He would separate the fans from the followers.
That’s what He did in our text this morning. Another time He draws a line in the sand in John 6. Jesus is in the height of His ministry and we read that large crowds were following Him. He was very popular. He was doing the miracles. He was providing food from just five loaves of bread and a few fish, and a lot of people were in the crowd following Jesus.
Jesus knew why they were coming, in verse 2, it says they were coming because of the miracles. The main reason the crowds were showing up was because of the show. They didn’t care as much about the teaching, about the life changing lesson. They were there for the show.
So, why are you here? What is your because? Is it because you like the free coffee and food? Is it because you think the seats are comfortable, or you really like the music? Is it because you like the chit chat and your kids can make friends easier than at school? Is that why you’re here?
I mean, that’s great for a while, but at some point we have to move past the first date kind of attitude and decide if we are willing to be more. In John 6 Jesus challenges the fans to a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him, and in verse 66 we read these sad words: From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
A lot of them went home because Jesus says, you must give it all or go home. At the end of the day they were not interested in what He offered, they just wanted the show. As difficult as it is for me to say, I wonder if it is time for some good people just to go home, because you’ve come for a while and you understand things and yet you’re coming in more for the show, more for what Jesus can do for you. And you have no desire to put anything back into this relationship. You have come to take and not to give, and Jesus demands His followers have a deep relationship with Him.
The second question we need to ask ourselves is: Are You All In?
Being a follower of Jesus requires complete commitment. A follower of Jesus will do whatever it takes to follow Jesus. They’re absolutely loyal, completely committed.
On the whole, we don’t do too well with absolute commitment, do we? I think that we prefer selective commitment. Simply put, we customize Christianity. Oftentimes, we look at our relationship with Jesus and say, I’m going to follow Jesus, but I’m going to kind of pick and choose the areas in which I will follow Him.
So you say, I’ll follow Jesus, but don’t ask me to forgive the person that hurt me. I’m not going to let go of that resentment. I’m not going to let go of that bitterness. I deserve that.
I’ll follow Jesus, but don’t talk to me about my money. I work hard for that money.
I’ll follow Jesus but don’t tell me to abstain from these sexual desires. I can’t help the fact that I have these desires. Don’t ask me to abstain, to tell myself no.
I’m a follower of Jesus, but that won’t stop me from getting what I want. So it’s this customized Christianity that says, Well, I follow Jesus, but only in the areas that are comfortable, only in the areas that I agree with. I’m a Christian but I’m not all in.
Well, then you’re not a Christian. You’re just a fan. There is not an option of selective commitment. It’s not a possibility. There is no bargaining. When you decide to become a follower of Christ, you’ve got to go all in. And fans, they don’t like the idea of going all in. They’re not wild about having to make sacrifices, or about having to deny themselves of something they desire or crave.
But if you’ve answered why you’re here, then it will be pretty easy to figure out if you’re all in. If you weren’t here for the right reasons, chances are you won’t be willing to go all in.
Finally we need to know Have You Made It Your Own?
Many of us started going to church because of a parent. Mom made you. Dad said you had to. There wasn’t an option. Or maybe you started coming because of a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a spouse. You came because they like it when your here. You came because it appeases them.
For those of us who grew up in the church, or who attend church in order to appease a significant other or relative, it can be really easy to become a fan. It’s like riding the car with someone who listens to a type of music you’re impartial to. When I take the boys to and from school, most of the time we listen to Radio Disney. It’s not a channel I listen to when I’m alone, but it’s what they like to listen to, so I let them make that decision.
Now honestly I don’t hate the artists they play on Radio Disney, but I don’t really like them either. But this strange thing happens every now and then. There have been days that we have been riding in the truck and Adel, or Ross Lynch will come on the radio and I start to sing along. I’m pretty indifferent about their music, but I am familiar with it.
That can happen to us in church. We keep coming to appease someone else, and pretty soon we get into the flow of things. We know most of the songs, and we even recognize the stories or the teachings, and we’re get familiar enough with what’s going on that we become fans of Jesus. But that can be the most dangerous situation to be in. If your faith isn’t your own, if you aren’t pursuing a relationship with Jesus, and you keep coming week after week and begin to create a faith that was someone else’s in the first place, you’re just numbing yourself to the real thing. You’ll become numb to real faith, comfortable with a few songs and a few favorite verses, none of which requires any sacrifice or personal change.
You have to make your faith your own. Jesus isn’t looking for a relationship between you, your mom, and Him. He’s not looking for a relationship between you, your wife, and Him. He’s looking for a relationship with you.
It’s time that we begin to expect the same thing that Jesus expects from His followers, and that is to put Christ above and before everything else as we strive to be like Him. So I am asking you to search your heart these next few weeks as we ask, are you a follower of Jesus, or are you a just a fan?
Questions To Consider
If Jesus were to ask you why are you here? How would you respond?
What did Jeremy say was the difference between a fan of Jesus and a follower of Jesus? (a fan is defined as an enthusiastic admirer, while a follower will deny themselves)
Read Luke 9:23-24
If you are going to be a follower of Jesus you have to be willing to follow Him on His terms, no matter the cost. Does that sound like the invitation you heard when you first responded to His call?
So what needs to change in your life for you to truly follow Jesus?
How would you define your relationship with Jesus.
What is the standard or measure by which you determine commitment to Jesus?
According to what you read in Luke 9:23; how does Jesus define the commitment of one of His followers?
To some degree we all are living lives of customized Christianity, choosing how we will follow Jesus and which areas of our lives we are willing to surrender to Him and which areas we are not. For you to truly become a follower of Jesus Christ what needs to change and what commitments are you willing to make to Him today?