Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then He said to him, “Follow Me!”
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow Me." ~ John 21:18-22, NIV
It was an extremely busy time at our church this morning. Besides our usual three service times, we had baptisms during two of those services, a reception in between to honor and say ‘thank you!’ to a wonderful woman who has served God by teaching our church’s 2-3 year olds in Sunday school classes for over 50 years (can you imagine?) and then a special and very important Congregational Meeting at the end.
To be honest, I always seem to get anxious whenever there’s a lot scheduled to take place at church -- no doubt a spiritual warfare tactic straight from the enemy of my soul. Because that anxiety I begin to experience then generally translates into my battling to attend church that day. Yes, I admit it -- there are times I don’t WANT to go to church (GASP!). Sometimes, that battle takes place at home; sometimes, it takes place in the parking lot of my church. Yet, I’ve always found that whenever I choose to respond to Jesus’s still, small voice and the offering of His love and perfect peace over the enemy’s great big mouth and his offering of nothing but chaos and anxiety by walking into the building and taking a seat, I come away blessed beyond measure. I find there is always some particular, hand crafted message from Him awaiting me somewhere.
Today, I received it through a sermon and the celebration of baptism.
Our pastors wrapped up a sermon series entitled ‘Wake Up!’ This morning’s ‘Wake Up To Purpose’ sermon centered around John 21:18-25, where, after Jesus tells Peter to “Follow Me!”, Peter kind of side-steps the invitation and seems more interested in what’s going to happen to the young disciple John instead.
The message --
That life is about more than just ourselves and what we can gain
That Jesus’s call to “Follow Me” is specifically, tailor-made for each person
To make the decision to listen to and go where Jesus leads us, remembering Who the Leader/Teacher/Lord is and who the follower/disciple/servant is
To relinquish our quest for control, because our life is not our own
To STOP comparing our lives with someone else’s and START following Jesus
-- was distinctly personal and extremely convicting for me (and this was just in the first service!). The sermon was not the only place I heard this message in recent days. I’ve been bombarded by it in songs and two very different books I am currently reading, one fiction and one non-fiction, as well as the Bible itself.
During the second service, the same Scripture verse was referenced, but our senior pastor shared these three points with us, complete with questions about how this was being lived out in our lives:
Do we -- do I -- love God enough to obey Him and follow Him however, whenever and to wherever He leads? Again, serious questions I’ve been bombarded with again and again recently.
All this leading up to the baptisms…….
Just for the record -- baptism itself does not save. I’m sure most of you know this, but for years, I DID NOT know this truth.
Being baptized is simply an act of obedience to God (Jesus Himself was baptized in the River Jordan by His cousin, John), as well as an outward sign, a public announcement, if you will, to everyone that you have already made a sincere decision AND a heartfelt commitment to follow Jesus. During baptisms, our pastor has often described it as akin to his wearing a wedding ring, which is an outward sign to the world that he has made a serious life commitment of love to his wife. The ring itself doesn’t make him married -- it’s merely a sign, a public declaration that he ‘belongs’ to someone.
So, choosing to be baptized is a step of obedience and our public declaration that we too ‘belong’ to Someone -- Jesus Christ. It’s an outward sign that reflects the change within us, and symbolic of having our sins cleansed or ‘washed away.’
Our church has held baptism services several times a year for many years, and in our worship folders, the names of those being baptized has always been listed. Lately, though, that has changed. While there are always those who have called the church and asked to take part in a particular baptism on a particular date, our pastor has recently begun to open it up to anyone THE DAY OF the baptisms who has made a commitment or a recommitment to love, obey and follow the Lord and who feels moved by Him to come up to the altar and be baptized.
Today was one such amazing, incredible day. Young, old and in between came up this morning to be baptized. Some shared inspiring, touching, tearful testimonies that left many of us weeping tears of joy right along with them, while cheering loudly for them as they came up out of the water. It was something to see and to hear how Jesus had relentlessly pursued them. Even though not all shared their stories, it was obvious to me that each one had heard and heeded the voice of Jesus saying “Come, follow Me!,” and were now showing their love for Him by stepping out in obedience.
One young man really captured my heart and the essence of responding to the call. His name is Brian, and I’d never seen him nor his girlfriend at church before (our church is rather large and I don’t always stay for both services). Both stated that neither of them had come to church this morning with the plan of being baptized. Brian could barely contain himself as he stood behind his girlfriend, watching as she struggled to speak through her tears. At one point, he covered his face with his hands, weeping. It was very moving.
When his turn came, he was laughing and crying, shaking as he stood in the water while our pastor held onto him. The joy on his face was apparent, a reflection of the change that had, at some point, taken place in his heart and in his life.
And then, Brian spoke the words that pretty much brought down the house.
When our pastor asked him if he had planned on coming up front and being baptized this morning, Brian said no. And that really, he had only gotten up during the service just to go to the bathroom, and the next thing he knew, he was up in front of the church, getting ready to be baptized!
So humorously ironic, isn’t it? One minute, this guy’s responding to nature’s call. And then the next minute, he’s responding to Jesus’s call (who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?).
Hmmm…..so I guess after all of this rambling on, my whole point in feeling lead to share and post this today is for us to realize and remember that Jesus CAN and WILL speak to us even in our most mundane, commonplace moments and very often, in the most unexpected of ways, calling us to follow Him in loving obedience
And to wherever He leads.
We need to STOP comparing ourselves with everyone else. We need to STOP worrying about what He’s doing with our brother, our sister, our friend, our neighbor or our coworker. Basically, what is that to us?
It should be nothing to us.
Because Jesus says: “YOU must follow Me.”
I have decided
To follow Jesus
I have decided
To follow Jesus
I have decided
To follow Jesus
No turning back,
No turning back.....