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The Cost and Joy of Putting Christ First: Matthew 10:32-39 Pastor Matt Kang

The Cost and Joy of Putting Jesus First: Matt Kang

Matthew 10:32-39

Even today, heaps of people reject Jesus – because of fear! They KNOW that following Him will mean REJECTION by those around them! Because we live in a world that doesn’t really LIKE Jesus and his teachings very much. So, choosing to follow Him can come at a very high cost.

And Jesus KNEW that… that’s exactly why in our first Bible reading from Matthew chapter 10, he said:

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”

You see, when a person chooses to follow Jesus, it can really rock the boat. In a family… in a workplace… in a group of friends. It can mean disappointing people. It can mean losing their respect. Being seen as UNCOOL… or STUPID… or even OFFENSIVE.

For some it may mean becoming the butt of jokes. And for brave Christians in some parts of the world, it may mean severe persecution… or even death. And who wants any of that? I mean seriously… who wants ANY of that? I mean after all, it’s perfectly NORMAL of us to WANT people to LIKE US, right??? Sure it is!

It’s just that when we want THEIR APPROVAL more than GOD’S APPROVAL – that it becomes a problem. When we’re willing to disobey God’s word in order to keep someone else happy. Because ultimately that’s giving THAT person – GOD’S RIGHTFUL POSITION in our lives. Treating them – like God.

But there IS only ONE GOD. And Jesus demands our FULL allegiance if we claim to follow Him. And that CAN be really, really hard.

I remember a few years back now, a young woman from my church… and she seemed to be going really strong as a Christian. But then suddenly, without warning, she backed right off! And she started missing church… and small group… and other church activities…. And when I eventually asked her if there was a problem, she told me that she had developed all these DOUBTS – as to whether the Christian message was really true or not. That’s okay… that’s normal… doubting is normal… these things happen sometimes!

And so, I organized to meet up with her! And I remember beforehand, sitting down and writing out my TOP TEN reasons for why I personally can’t HELP but believe that Jesus REALLY REALLY IS Lord and Saviour – and not some fairytale! So, we sat down at some café, and we went through it together. And it was obvious that she couldn’t refute any of the ten reasons that I showed her.

But there was still this coldness towards Jesus. A week later, I learned the reason. …she had started dating this non-Christian guy. And suddenly I realized that her backing away from Jesus had nothing at all to do with the evidence! And everything to do with this guy! – and her desire to have him in her life! Church, you see, she realized that she couldn’t please both Jesus and this guy. So, she chose the guy.

Christian, who would you give up Jesus for? Who’s love… who’s respect… who’s PRAISE, and affirmation could DRAW YOU AWAY from Jesus? Your parents? Your friends? Your boss? THAT GUY? Or THAT GIRL?

Church don’t let that happen. We need to be on our GUARD. There’s just WAY TOO MUCH at stake.

And you know while the story of that sister saddens me greatly… thankfully I can tell you heaps MORE stories of people in our circles… and IN OUR CHURCH - who ARE putting Jesus first. – even when it IS really, really hard.

Like I could tell you the story of one woman – who told her boss that she wouldn’t work on Sundays anymore, because her going to church is IMPORTANT to God. And who then, when the boss continued to try and roster her on for that day… she stayed true to her convictions! – politely, but firmly.…saying no.

Or I could tell you the story of some Asians – who have respectfully refused to bow down to ancestor idols, despite GREAT pressure from their relatives, these people who they love SO DEARLY…. Or I could tell you of individuals in our church who have PERSEVERED as Christians despite the on-going derision and disappointment and mockery of their parents.

I could tell you about WIVES who KEEP TRUSTING in JESUS – despite the scorn of their non-Christian husbands. I could tell you about a girl I know who refused to stay silent when a bully at work started mocking Jesus and His followers.

And in contrast to my previous story, I could tell you about the single woman who keeps refusing the advances of her attractive, non-Christian co-worker – because for her, pleasing JESUS is way more important than a relationship.

Church, Jesus is very clear. We’ve got to make a choice. In our first Bible reading today we saw Jesus say: “whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

And so, you see, each and every day, we need to keep putting JESUS FIRST. – DESPITE the cost! We need to keep seeking HIS APPROVAL – ABOVE the approval of people! …as many of us are already doing. PRAISE GOD!!

And as Nabeel Qureshi… eventually came to do too. This zealous young Muslim man… had suppressed the truth about Jesus – for fear of hurting those he so dearly loved! – in particular his mum and dad. But over time, he came to the PAINFUL REALISATION that if Jesus Christ really IS God the Saviour… then he too needed to make a choice.

In an interview with Christianity Today a few years ago, Nabeel said this:

I began mourning the impact of the decision I knew I had to make. On the first day of my second year of medical school, it became too much to bear. Yearning for comfort, I decided to skip school. Returning to my apartment, I placed the Koran and the Bible in front of me. I turned to the Koran… but there was no comfort there. For the first time… the book seemed utterly irrelevant to my suffering. Irrelevant to my life. It felt like a dead book. With no-where left to go, I opened up the New Testament and started reading. I began reading fervently – reaching Matthew chapter ten! {our first Bible reading today} -which taught me that I must love God MORE than my mother and father.

But “JESUS!” I said. “ACCEPTING YOU… would be like DYING!” “I’m going to have to give up EVERYTHING!” The next verses spoke to me. Saying: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

Jesus was being very blunt. For Muslims, following the Gospel – is MORE than a call to prayer. …it is a call to die. I knelt at the foot of my bed and gave up my life.

A few days later, the two people I loved most in the world – were SHATTERED by my betrayal. To this day, my family is BROKEN by the decision I made. And it is EXCRUTIATING! – every time, I see the cost that I had to pay. But Jesus is the God of reversal and redemption. He redeems sinners to life by his death! And He redeemed MY SUFFERING by making me RELY upon HIM for my EVERY MOMENT! BENDING MY HEART TOWARD HIM!

It was there in my pain – that I knew Him intimately. It was there that I found Jesus. To follow Him is WORTH giving up EVERYTHING.”

Would it be worth it to pick up my cross and be crucified next to Jesus? If he is not God, then NO. Lose everything I LOVE… to worship a FALSE GOD? A million times over, NO. But if He IS God. Then Yes. Being forever BONDED to my LORD by SUFFERING ALONGSIDE HIM??? A million times over… YES!

Friends. To follow Jesus is worth giving up EVERYTHING FOR.

Nabeel Qureshi died 3 years ago – to cancer - at the age of 34 and He is now rejoicing with His Master in heaven.

I can’t imagine the joy and delight he must have felt when he heard Jesus say to him: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”

Friends. To follow Jesus is worth giving up EVERYTHING FOR. So for those of us who are already Christian, let’s make sure that it’s JESUS’ APPROVAL that we are living for.

In our work, in our relationships, in our marriages, in our money, in our evangelism, in our private times, let’s make sure that it’s JESUS’ APPROVAL that we’re living for.

And you who have yet to put your trust in Him, Friend I IMPLORE you today. I URGE YOU TODAY. To not be like those religious leaders in today’s passage. But to be like Nabeel Qureshi. – who see the overwhelming evidence, that Jesus really is the Messiah from God, the one who came to save YOU.

And I urge you…. Give your life to Him today.

Let’s pray. Our Gracious God,

We thank you so much for sending Jesus into the world. Lord we thank you SO MUCH for the testimony of His life… and for the miracles… and the testimony of the Old Testament scriptures. We thank you for the testimony of godly men like John the Baptist… All of which so clearly shows that Jesus really is YOUR SON… the Saviour of the world. Lord please reveal to us – if we’ve let anyone else take your rightful place in our hearts. Please help us in the way we now live to always seek first YOUR APPROVAL.

Lord, we pray for those we know who have seen the evidence for Jesus but have yet to put their trust in Him. Please give them the courage and the humility to follow you – whatever the cost. For you are the one and only God. The only one WORTHY of giving it all up for. And the one to whom belongs all the glory. In Jesus name, we pray. AMEN.

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The School of Faith is a ministry of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations within the Uniting Church in Australia


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