Not A Fan
Fall is that wonderful time of the year when high school football, college football and the NFL is in full swing. The Presidents Cup is going on right now, the playoffs in Major League Baseball will begin this week, and two weeks the MLS Cup playoffs will begin. College basketball began practice last week and the NBA is already in preseason. While some people believe that Christmas time is the most wonderful time of the year, There are those who truly believe this is the most wonderful time of the year. Our country has an 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.
Some fans are moderate, they will watch the games on TV, or check the scores on the internet. Other folks are pretty radical. I know people who took out a second mortgage so they could buy a RV just to tailgate in the parking lot before the game. I know others who have a special t-shirt that can only be worn on game day. I know folks who have named their children after their favorite sports hero. One of my first memories of living in the great state of Alabama is that the first year we lived here the news reported that two people were shot after Auburn won a certain football game played in November.
Living this close to the Talladega SuperSpeedway you know full well how our community is going to change in 12 days when 78,000 fans descend on our town to cheer their favorite driver to victory. I have already been told numerous times to go ahead and stock up now, because no one wants to go to Walmart, Target, or Publix on race weekend.
Fans feed on the excitement of the moment and often like to talk about what we did, and what we accomplished. Saturday night’s in the fall my Facebook feed is filled with friends of mine saying “We beat…” or “I can’t believe that we lost to…” And I understand the language, they are my team, I am invested them, I have claimed them, I bought a t-shirt or 50, and even have a tie with my teams colors. I have been to some of the games, or all of the home games over the last 20 years.
But am I really a part of the team??? The truths that none of those folks on Facebook ever made it to a practice, or ever played a down, made a tackle, a catch, or a block. To be honest, none of my friends were actually ever involved in the outcome of the game, no matter what superstitions they hold. They merely watched, and received without ever adding anything to the outcome of the game.
This morning I want us to start a new conversation that I believe is important for us as a community of believers. Earlier this year I had the chance to attend a Bob Russel retreat, a ministry of the Southeastern Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Kyle Idleman serves as a minister for the congregation and in 2011 he wrote a book entitled Not a Fan. One the week I was on the retreat several of us discussed the book and I believe Mr. Idleman makes some points that we need to discuss as we continue to think about how we can be a community where everyone is welcome to come to the table. While I have no intention of preaching 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.
It is important that everyone of us here this morning and those watching on the internet stop from time to time and 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’s 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.
If you have your Bibles with you this morning I want you to open to the text that was read for us this morning from 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 the Apostles 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, the convenient fandom, into something more devoted, something more committed.
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 cookies in the foyer before worship starts. 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 in the crowd considered this new option just another of the million options that they have in their life.
But Jesus is challenges that attitude. Christianity is not just another option in your life, if you are going to be a Child of God then Christianity must define 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 before you answer we need to do a little unpacking about what Jesus was actually asking his disciples.
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. Have you ever noticed that Jesus didn't care 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. One of the biggest concerns for churches today is that when we gather together, 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 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.
Some of you are really big fans. I mean, you’re really into all of this. You know all the songs we sing, even the newer ones. You don’t need the page number for the Bible, you know where to turn without those little tab things on the pages. You’re big fans of Jesus. And being fans feels pretty good.
It’s easy to feel good about yourself because we’re these great admirers of Christ, but remember Jesus never cared about having fans. So this morning I want you to be honest with yourself. I am going to ask you a few questions and I want you to search your hearts and see if you are a fan or follower of Jesus.
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. (read verses 1-2)
Jesus is in the height of His ministry and large crowds were following Him. While He was very popular, He knew why the folks were coming. In verse 2, it says they were coming because of the miracles. The reason the crowds were showing up was because of the show. They didn’t care about the teaching, about the life changing lessons, the call to love. They were there for the show.
I wonder if you have ever considered why you are here this morning? What is your because? Is it because you think you are supposed to be here, or do you really like the show? Philip does a great job with the music. Is it because you have friends here, or your kids have friends that go here? Is it because this is where your family goes and it is expected? or maybe this is your habit? Why did you get dressed and show up here this morning?
There were lot’s of people gathered on that Mountain who wanted to see the show, or they where their with their families. But at some point we have to move past the first date kind of attitude and decide if we are willing to be more. If you continuing reading in John 6 you will see that Jesus challenges the crowd to move to a deeper more intimate relationship with Him. Picking up in verse 60 we read… (Read to verse 66)
A lot of folks 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 believe that Jesus has the same message for the church today. I believe that Jesus says hard things and a lot of good people will hear the call to be fully invested and just go home. Morally good folks who have come and sat in a pew but have no real interest in being deeply invested. You have bought into this idea that this whole relationship is based on 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 sacrifice everything for the kingdom. So when you are faced with the cost of belonging to Jesus, you realize you are just not that dedicated and just go home.
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; they are completely committed.
On the whole, we don’t do too well with absolute commitment. I think that we prefer selective commitment. Another way of saying that, is we like to have customized 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, and you can ask me to.
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’ll follow Jesus, and even show up here for worship. But I get to pick and choose who can come here and be accepted and who has to stay away. After all I am not comfortable with folks who are LGBTQ, or Democrats, or LSU fans, or what I would consider unworthy.
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. You claim to be a Christian but you are not all in.
If that’s your stance, I need to tell you that you’re not a Christian. You’re just a fan. There is not an option of selective commitment. It’s impossible. 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 truthfully answered why you’re here, then it is pretty easy to figure out if you’re all in. If you are not 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 our parents dragged us to church. Mom made you. Dad said you had to until you were 18. This isn’t an option, and it just kind of stuck. 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 the boy’s get in the truck with me and take over the radio we listen to the Christian Hip Hop Channel on Amazon Music. 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 the channel, 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 Andy Menio or Lecrae 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 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?